Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blurbs Shoudn't Blather

At the 1907 convention of the American Booksellers Association, a speaker handed out copies of his new book with a fake jacket covered with fulsome praise. He borrowed the layout of a toothpaste ad for the back of the jacket, and gave the model in the ad a name, Belinda Blurb.

Hence the word "blurb" was born.

The blurb is every marketer's mainstay. But too many marketers fail to leverage these sweet-talking charmers.

Instead of keeping them brief, punchy and authentic, they pile them with clichés no real customer would mouth:

We have received a robust product, customized to our specific needs, which meets our requirement and which has received the endorsement of the president. Our team was extremely satisfied with professional interactions, the speed and efficiency with which you provided feedback and a positive response to all our queries. Having spent much time with you reviewing the product as we have progressed with the development, we are convinced that we have incorporated a highly complex concept into a simple, user-friendly application and we cannot think of any issues that have been overlooked or missed. Without a doubt your team has provided us with a comprehensive evaluation tool that has received the full support of everyone who has tested it, so we have no reservation in confirming you. We are certain that we now have a unique performance evaluation tool, specific to our current needs, but with enormous scope for the future as we move forward with our talent management plans. It has been such a pleasure to work with your team on all levels, your patience with our requests has been exemplary, and we thank you for your dedication to our project.

The marketer could have published instead:

You've created a simple, user-friendly performance evaluation tool that leaves nothing out. As a result, you've won the confidence of everyone who's tested it (even our president loves it). Thanks to your team, we're ready to move forward with our talent management plans.

Take it from Belinda: blurbs shouldn't blather.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Make Your Mark

Pear and squash (Charcoal on paper)
I can never accomplish what I want―only what I would
have wanted had I thought of it beforehand.

― Richard Diebenkorn

Drawing classes have taught me something.

A plan means little, unless you make your first mark.

The plan says, "This is about perfection."

The blank sheet says, "This will never work."

The hand says, "This is beyond me."

The brain says, "This is embarrassing."

But as the generals know, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

You will never accomplish what you want; but what you want doesn't matter.

Your first mark matters.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Know Nothings

Every once in a while, crusading nativists have their day. But it's only a day.

In 1854, the “Native Americans,” a political party better known as the "Know Nothings," skyrocketed to national prominence, capturing scores of congressional seats, state legislative seats, and governorships. The party so grabbed headlines that candy, tea and toothpicks named after it suddenly appeared on grocers' shelves.

Party members were doggedly anti-immigrant, begrudging in particular Irishmen, who were streaming into the country by the hundreds of thousands to escape famine. But members denied the fact, claiming they "knew nothing" about the secret anti-Irish rallies they loved to stage.

The officials the Know Nothings put in office hoped to take steps to purify the nation of any influence by the Irish, who they labelled "foreign criminals and paupers." But they accomplished little—except to stir violence. Catholic churches were burned and deadly riots broke out in Baltimore, Louisville and New York (the latter the subject of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York).

Because it was ineffective, the Know Nothing Party's life-span was brief. Within only a year, its members found themselves at odds over slavery; most defected to the newly-formed Republican Party. Their presence in the new party troubled one member, Abraham Lincoln, who wrote to a friend:

"I am not a Know Nothing, that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty, to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Your Bad Marketing Content is an Eye-Sore

At a point in The Accidental Life, writer and editor Terry McDonell compares bad marketing content to "joke taxidermy."

When it's bad, it's really bad.

Good content marketers are publishers.

By way of example, consider the blog post "
Say 'So Long' to Silos" (from e-learning provider Cornerstone).

The post's author immediately lets readers (HR managers) know she's trustworthy, by acknowledging that, in truth, silos are natural, inevitable outgrowths of any organization. She goes on to list the costs silos impose (low productivity, high turnover, etc.), and offers tips for curbing those costs. She closes promising more tips in a follow-on post.

Good content marketers have learned to be publishers―a necessity in today's digital-first marketplace.

Bad content marketers are joke taxidermists.

Bad content marketers stuff their content with feature-talk, keywords and dubious links, barely departing from old-school advertising.

By way of example, consider the blog post "How to Organize Your Docebo LMS Users for More Targeted Learning" (from e-learning provider Docebo).

Without a beat, the post's author plunges into feature-talk. He tells readers they can build an organizational chart with his company's software, but not how; and devotes the rest of the post to a bulleted list of more features, linking every item to a page on his company's website. He closes by telling readers to "Start your free trial."

Bad content like this isn't only a throwback to
interruption marketing; it's an eye-sore.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Corporate Cargo Cults

If you've spent any time inside an American corporation lately, you've seen the executives abusing their young employees.

I refer, of course, to the damage being done by hotshot leaders bent on manufacturing cool corporate cultures.

They're victimizing the youths they recruit, in the same way European colonizers did many natives in the South Pacific during the years before World War II.

Unprepared for their encounter with wealthy and powerful white men―just as many of today's college grads are―those natives took refuge in bizarre religious cults anthropologists later called "cargo cults."

Although differing in local details, these cults all advanced one central prophesy: the world is about to experience a terrible cataclysm, after which dead ancestors will reappear and usher in paradise, by giving all the survivors electrical appliances.

Today's executives aren't manufacturing corporate cultures, but corporate cargo cults.

The natives, given their pitiful wages, can only pray the appliances will arrive soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ashley is Done with Your Stinking Personas

Human beings are too important to be treated
as mere symptoms of the past.
― Lytton Strachey

Persona-based marketing―marketing automation's linchpin―is kaput, says Ernan Roman in CMO.com.

In 2016 his research firm witnessed "a surge in the number of companies disappointed by the lack of a significant increase in response and engagement from their traditional persona-based segmentation."

Customers are knottier than marketers allow―which comes as no surprise.

Roman quotes a Fortune 1000 CMO: “We are using new CRM technology to automate old bad behaviors. The result is irritating and brand-damaging spray and pray.”

Persona-based marketing is flawed, Roman says, in large part because it ignores customers' opinions about competitors' offerings.

Marketers' crude attempts to apply personas to personalize communications irritate customers, waste marketing dollars, and tarnish brands.

It's time for them to nix their trite imaginings and "establish human partnerships and relationships" with customers, Roman says.

"Consumer relationships require authentic and relevant communications and interactions.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hard Rain

When words are used as words should be, they are tools of thought. When their proper usage is neglected, they tend to become the masters of thought.
— Harold N. Lee

I don't know about you, but I hate when the weatherman's "alternative facts" convince me to leave my umbrella home, and it pours.

Governing is no place for alternative facts or "truthful hyperbole.” Leave those to the copywriters.

The problem alternative facts pose for me is simple: I don't know where bluffing ends and bullying begins.

Lots of Americans are asking what to do about it.

I suggest you carry an umbrella.

Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

12 Hairy Hints for Better Blog Posts

Nearly 3 million blog posts are published every day. How can you assure yours will be noticed?

Take these 12 hints to heart:
  1. Tackle an evergreen topic. (Readers never tire of fundamentals. Good to Great is 16 years old; How to Win Friends and Influence People, 81).

  2. Seek to be of service to a target audience.

  3. Write a brief, quirky headline that promises you'll solve a problem.

  4. Write a short, informative lede that grabs readers' attention.

  5. Use a simple style.

  6. Use research to prove your points.

  7. Use visuals to engage readers.

  8. Include outbound links to authoritative content.

  9. Seek to produce something better (more readable, current, accurate, in-depth, practical, original, targeted) than the million other posts on the topic.

  10. Write a post that's no longer than it needs to be.

  11. Proofread your post.

  12. Above all, make readers feel good.
PS: Deep dive into better blogging by reading Nadya Khoja's remarkable post, Increase Blog Traffic And Boost Engagement With These 37 Proven Methods.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Thrill Ride

Today, another ride begins.

David James and I launch our direct marketing agency.

Everyone who's tried the entrepreneur's path knows how it differs from a job.

A job is a merry-go-round; riders must wear a smile at all times.

Self-employment is a roller coaster; riders must wear a blindfold at all times.

As Seth Godin says, "Heads, you suffer; tails, you endure a journey filled with unpredictable outcomes."

Wish us fun.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

All Hands on Deck

We're sinking. Fast.

That's according to Edelman's newly released 2017 Trust Barometer.

Trust "is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function," says Richard Edelman, president and CEO.

And trust has a gaping rip in its side.

According to the survey, 53% of people distrust institutions;and 32% are unsure of them. Over 75% believe they serve only the rich.

"Trust in institutions has evaporated to such an extent that falsehood can be misconstrued as fact, strength as intelligence, and self-interest as social compact," Edelman says. 

The root causes are globalization and automation, which continue to eliminate jobs.

Can someone save our ship?

Edelman believes business, "the one institution that retains some trust," can.

But "business must get out in front and become an effective advocate on policy, moving away from lobbying toward direct public discourse that provides context on trade, immigration and innovation, outlining both benefits and disadvantages."

He also thinks social media can rescue us.

"Company-owned social media channels should supplement mainstream media to educate and to encourage dialogue. Business should provide citizens with platforms that invite them to help shape policy—giving them a positive outlet for their views and fears."

I'm not so sure. For my money, I'd bet our rescuers will be:
  • Entrepreneurs, whose aim isn't to shed jobs, but create them
  • Teachers, whose aim is to produce useful citizens
  • Writers, whose aim is to inform
  • Artists, whose aim is to inspire; and
  • Philosophers, whose aim is to help us distinguish truth from lies
Who do you count on?

Saturday, January 21, 2017


On Inauguration Day, I joined the thousands of "DisruptJ20" protesters massed in Washington for street demonstrations.

I hurried along with the vanguard of one group as it ran amok through the downtown streets. They used hammers and metal ramrods to smash plate glass windows, car windshields, and ATMs; hurled every object in sight through the broken windows or into the middle of the street; and set small fires inside trash containers and limousines. They endangered a lot of bystanders, who looked on haplessly and in shock.

You haven't lived until you've been in the center of a cyclone of armored police, spraying mace and tossing concussion grenades into the air.

But anarchists have no place in my world. They have no right to trash my home town and terrify my fellow Washingtonians. 

Call me a fogey, but you can count me out.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lunch Bunch

If you want your content consumed by one in three executives, serve it on Mondays and Fridays during lunch.

Grist asked top executives at 200 large companies when they're most likely to read, watch or listen to "thought leadership" content. 

More than one-third said 12 to 2 pm. More than two-thirds also said Mondays; and more than half, Fridays.

Executives' stated preferences don't jibe with most content marketers' belief that mobility means content is consumed "anytime, anywhere."

The survey shows it's actually consumed—by top executives, anyway—over lunch at a desk.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Set This House on Fire

In 1862, Northern soldiers torched Virginia's historic White House—where George Washington had married Martha Custis—merely because it belonged to the wife of Robert E. Lee. As they watched it crumble, the Yankee vandals thrilled to the feeling they were taking down the Southern elites.

One hundred fifty-five years later, we put a vulgar and vain man in our White House. What's the similarity? The same visceral joy that drove those Yankees in 1862—Schadenfreude. Only this time, the vandals aren't blue-clad Yankees; and the victims, Confederates. This time, the vandals are blue-collar workers; and the victims, Metrosexuals.

"Schadenfreude occurs when envied persons fall from grace," according to the authors of "When Your Gain is My Pain and Your Pain is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schadenfreude."

The authors, six neuroscientists, studied the brainwaves of 19 subjects:
  • First, each was put inside and MRI and told a story about three job applicants. One of the applicants was competing for a job against the subject, and had much better qualifications. The more the subject reported feeling envious of the competitor, the more brain activity appeared in the region called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, an area that lights up when we experience pain.
  • Next, each subject was told a story about a reunion with the same three people a year later. This time, all three were suffering misfortune. The more the subject reported feeling joyful at the news, the more brain activity appeared in the region called the nucleus accumbens, an area that lights up when we experience pleasure.
  • Finally, the authors compared the spikes in each subject's brainwaves during the first and second stories. They found the more envy felt about a competitor, the more joy felt when that competitor suffered.
"We are usually motivated to maintain a positive self-concept, and we feel discomfort when our self-concept is threatened by others who outperform ourselves," the authors say.

"Envy is a condition in which information recognized by social comparison conflicts with positive self-concept. Experiencing discomfort motivates us to reduce it."

When we take down advantaged others, pain is reduced, and joy, induced.

Let's set this house on fire.

Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lend Me Your Time

Content creators don't ask for much. They only want you to lend them your time.

It's unlikely you'll ever get it back, but, hey, what would you do with it anyway?

The Ancient Romans endured an era, known as the "Silver Age," that was not unlike our own.

The Republic had fallen, enlightened governors giving way to tyrannical emperors, and it was no longer safe to discuss many topics in public. Training in rhetoric—once the key to a career in politics—no longer had value, because public offices only went to emperors' cronies.

The Silver Age was the era of the "pointed style" in writing, which embraced careful wording and brevity. Writers of the era gave public readings, and were judged by their ability to win applause after every sentence.

The pointed style also embraced a conversational tone, and favored things like rhymes, puns, alliteration and storytelling.

The pointed style is the ideal one for our times—so much like those Ancient Romans'. We have to be on our guard—especially in the battle for customers' attention. 

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your time!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Department of Redundancy Department

As an extra bonus, she presented me with the free gift of a tuna fish.

— George Carlin

Comedian George Carlin once wrote an essay that challenged readers to "Count the Superfluous Redundant Pleonastic Tautologies."

As his title suggests, Carlin was spoofing the use of redundant phrases, or pleonasm (from the Greek for "too much").

Pleonasm is fine, if you're Shakespeare (who called Caesar's stabbing by Brutus, "The most unkindest cut of all").

It's not, if you're not.

A micro moment sounds silly, not brilliant. So does a digital app.

We don't see it as such, because pleonasm is so common in English.

Every day we encounter it in phrases like armed gunman, convicted felon, famous celebrity, head honcho, unsolved mystery, foreign import, backup copy, safe haven, ATM machine, PIN number, complete satisfaction, totally sure, exact same, overly paranoid and 100% right.

Silly as they are, we don't give those phrases a second thought.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Where Should CMOs Invest in 2017?

How should a CMO invest her budget in 2017?

Forbes asked seven ad agency execs for recommendations. Their answers were:

Video. Video drives brand engagement and can boost conversion rates on landing pages by 80%.

Digital. "Customers in 2017 will be digital; be there," said 
Craig Cooke, CEO of Rhythm.

Employee engagement. Invest inside, and turn every employee into a sales evangelist.

Social. Social is the most organic way to market your business. But it takes work, so hire someone outside to do it.

Website. A content-rich website improves SEO, boosts traffic, and keeps audiences on your site, rather than some network.

PR. "The art of great storytelling through media isn’t going away," said Nicole Rodrigues, CEO, NRPR Group.

Content. "Content shock" makes quality content today's key differentiator.

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Forbes polled only traditional and digital agencies, omitting the experiential. So, I'll add:

Events. Done well, nothing―absolutely nothing―accelerates brands faster. My humble opinion? Move events to the top of your list.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Up, Up and Away

The most basic form of human stupidity is
forgetting what we are trying to accomplish.

― Friedrich Nietzsche

My New Year's resolution is to avoid continual balloon rides.

I refer to conversations that dwell on prospective (not actual) followers, easy money, vaporware, and the idiocy of competitors.

The same holds for conversations that dwell on illness, banking, airlines, politics, and other broken systems.

Though fun while they last, balloon rides suck up time and take you nowhere near your destination.

HAT TIP to Richard Hendrickson for the breezy metaphor.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What Can You Learn from a UX Writer?

With all the talk about UX strategy, it's timely to ask, "What can you learn from a UX writer?

A lot, it turns out. 

UX writers are wordsmiths who, in the words of Google's HR department, "advocate for design and help shape product experiences by crafting copy that helps users complete the task at hand."

In simpler terms, they write product instructions.

UX writers preach a 5-point gospel:
  • Say it simply. "The words you use need to be as easy to understand as a green light," says UX writer Ben Barone-Nugent. Users won't pause to ponder complex sentences. You need to let them barrel through.

  • Say it economically. Brevity is simplicity's kissing cousin, and comes from omitting the obvious. "I happen to know that it's an actual fact that Procurement orders extra accessories the department doesn't need at least on a weekly basis" simply means "Procurement orders unneeded accessories every week."

  • Use graphics. "You want your users to be able to wield your product without even thinking," Barone-Nugent says. "This means you need to help them move beyond the words you write." The right graphics will do the trick.

  • Focus on impact. "Content doesn’t exist, only experiences do," Barone-Nugent says. Words and sentences aren't important. Instead of calling attention to themselves, they should "meld with your product and go unnoticed."

  • Test. Don't roll out writing without an advance review. Ask others to read your writing before you send it to the intended audience.

Friday, January 13, 2017


When advised to make an "easy change" to some piece of software, developers will respond, "Sure, it's just a SMOP."

A Small Matter of Programming.

Wikipedia defines SMOP as "a phrase used to ironically indicate that a suggested feature or design change would in fact require a great deal of effort; it often implies that the person proposing the feature underestimates its cost."

We're about to install a regime with no experience outside business. It plans to make the easy changes that will make America great again.

It's just a SMOG.

A Small Matter of Governing.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sorry, Charlie, You were Ahead of Your Time

While Charlie Manson may soon depart us, his legacy won't.

It's woven into the fabric of American business, perhaps for decades to come.

The man whose name is nearly synonymous with cult, Charlie mashed Dale Carnegie, L. Ron Hubbard and The Beatles into a world-changing pseudo-philosophy that hypnotized the naïve suburban kids he recruited. He called his cohort "The Family," and their compound "The Cave," and kept his minions spellbound with large doses of LSD.

Today's cult leaders—tech-company CEOs—use names like "The Team" and "The Campus," and dispense chocolates instead of LSD.

Charlie, of course, was Charlie, not a CEO. He pimped girls, not software; lived in Death Valley, not Silicon Valley; and landed in prison, instead of a mansion.

Sorry, Charlie. You were ahead of your time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Americans still read books, according to a new Gallup poll.

In fact, they're reading books at the same pace they did 15 years ago, before the onrush of mobile gadgets.

Nearly half (48%) of Americans read from 1 to 10 books last year; 35% read over 11.

The findings suggest "book reading is a classic tradition that has remained a constant in a faster-paced world, especially in comparison to the slump of other printed media such as newspapers and magazines," Gallup's analysts say.

While young and old adults read slightly more of them, books are read by all age groups (kids were excluded from the poll).

The majority (73%) of Americans read printed books; only 20% read books on e-readers.

If you're at a loss for a title to select, consider one of David Bowie's Top 100 Books.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Pundits call ours the post-truth era.

I think it's the post-competence era.

In fewer than 10 days, we've seen:
  • Mariah Carey botch lip-synching before 11.6 million viewers on live TV

  • Walt Disney recall 15,000 Minnie Mouse infant sweatshirts due to a choking hazard

  • Express (published by The Washington Post) illustrate its cover story on the Women's March on Washington with the male symbol

  • Yahoo Finance Tweet "Trump Wants a Much Bigger Navy" using the "N word"
Dan Lyons' 2016 memoir, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, provides a strong clue for why we're engulfed in post-competence.

Taking his cue from Steve Jobs, Lyons calls it "the bozo explosion."

Bozos explode in companies when "B players hire C players, so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players."

Of course, there's another, more powerful force in effect: companies' drive to profit at their customers' expense.

That drive manifests itself every day in companies' ready willingness to subject customers to post-competent employees—and to the fiascos they create.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Both Sides Now

CMOs who hope to keep their jobs must use both the left and right sides of their brains, according to Forrester's 2017 Predictions.

Those who can't—the "analytics-only" and the "brand-only" CMOs—will be pink-slipped.

A CMO's right hemisphere "designs experiences to engage customers." Her left "masters technology and analytics to deliver personalized, contextually rich experiences."

“'Whole-brained' CMOs are in the minority—but they will soon be the competency standard for both B2C and B2B companies," the report says.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Release the Kraken!

Every new technology will bite back.
The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused.
― Kevin Kelly

Futurist Brian Solis warned us: the stuff in the cloud is mighty.

Every day, millions of people share experiences on line, recycling others' content and creating their own.

"This content doesn’t self-destruct like SnapChat images," Solis says. "Shared experiences build upon one another, forming a collective repository in the cloud that’s indexable, searchable, and influential."

All those millions of blustery pre-election blog posts, Tweets, videos and memes were shared among the mortals, darkening their minds and eclipsing traditional media.

Who of us knew the Russians were seeding the cloud? But that's beside the point.

Zeus, the cloud gatherer, has released the Kraken.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Welcome to The Puritan Tyranny

An amoral and self-indulgent elite is peacefully ousted by a new gang of autocrats who are devoted to "schooling the world with considerable austerity."

Welcome to The Puritan Tyranny―how 2017 looked to H.G. Wells when he published his 1933 novel, The Shape of Things to Come.

"The Tyranny," as Wells named it, "tidied up the world" and "altered the human face forever."

Under the Tyrants' rule, reprobates and oddballs of every kind disappear.

So do introverts.

But, wait, there's more.

"History becomes a record of increasingly vast engineering undertakings and cultivations, of the pursuit of minerals and of the first deep borings into the planet," Wells says.

"New mechanisms appeared, multiplied, and were swept away by better mechanisms. The face of the earth changed. The scientific redistribution of population began."

In the name of progress―they prefer the term "business"―the Tyrants also "invent work," Wells says.

"Earth became an ant-hill under their dominion, clean and orderly, but needlessly 'busy."

The Tyrants tear down everything in sight.

They destroy "the huts, hovels, creeper-clad cottages and houses, old decaying stone and brick town halls, market houses, churches, mosques, factories and railway stations," replacing them with stark and sterile buildings.

And the Tyrants censor books, known as "fever rags" for their ability to incite people to doubt, complain, laugh and have sex.

"You may call it a tyranny," Wells says, "but it was in fact a release; it did not suppress men, but obsessions."

Friday, January 6, 2017

Size Matters Not

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?
― Yoda

Content marketers, make a New Year's resolution to ignore the idiots who tell you content length matters.

The thousands of snake-oil salesmen like
James Scherer who promise, "Scientific research tells us how to write the perfect blog article," leaning on vendor data that "proves" long (1,600-word) posts yield higher rankings, greater sharing, and larger readership.


It's quality alone that counts.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Little Mystery Goes a Long Way

The statue on the altar is never reverenced by him
who knew it as a trunk in the garden.

― Balthasar Gracian

Transparency's in vogue, but a little mystery goes a long way.

Sometimes you have to leave home for your talents to be appreciated; sometimes you have to appear foreign.

You're respected in a new place when you come from afar, because you're seen as ready-made and perfect; and respected by the folks back home, because you're seen only from a distance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cashing in on Events

Bloomberg is doubling down on events, according to Politico.

The business media giant has hired veteran exec Stephen Colvin to expand its two-year-old global events division.

"As with many media companies striving to develop new revenue streams, events are becoming a more prominent component of Bloomberg's journalism lineup," says Politico's .

A spokesman for Bloomberg says the company is "well positioned to be the leading convener of business and financial events around the world."

Sponsorship revenue from Bloomberg's five events is up 30% from 2015.

When will associations cash in on events?

Failure to Communicate

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion
that it has taken place.
― George Bernard Shaw

Clarity is king is my tagline, because communication and comprehension are different things.

In Harvard Business Review, business professor Donald Sull tells the story of a CEO who held monthly meetings to communicate strategy.

The CEO was pleased with herself after an employee survey showed 84% of her managers agreed with the statement, “I am clear on our organization’s top priorities.”

But when a follow-up survey asked the managers to list the top five strategies, fewer than 33% could name even two.

When the same survey is conducted at other companies, results show, on average, only 55% of middle managers can name even one company strategy.

That figure plummets to 16%, when frontline managers take the survey.

Why does communication so often fail?

Sull gives three reasons. CEOs:
  • Dilute the message. One company he studied has not only a long list of corporate strategies and objectives, but a list of corporate priorities, a list of corporate values, a list of core competencies, and a dictionary of strategic terms.

  • Change the message constantly.

  • Measure communication of the message by inputs—documents, e-mails and meetings—instead of understanding, "the only metric that actually counts."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Events are for the Rest of Us

Most companies aren't great; indeed, they struggle to stay "good."

And that average ordinariness is what events are for.

Gartner Group upset the apple cart in 2011 when it predicted that by 2020, thanks to martech, B2B customers would manage 85% of their relationships with suppliers without ever interacting with a human being.

But in the years since, the event spend has grown by double digits. Last year alone, it grew by 6% (today, events are used by 73% of B2B marketers.)

So did Gartner get it terribly wrong?

Advocates of events say, yes: Gartner's prediction will never come true because we crave contact.

I think there's another reason for B2B events' enduring popularity.

The reason's economic, and lies in average ordinariness.

While the owners of the overwhelming majority of companies would love to lay off everyone, they can't afford best-in-class martech. They're good, but not great.

But the overwhelming majority can afford events... and that's okay.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Long Halloween

The threat to man does not come at first from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already affected man in his essence.

Heidegger said technology would either crush or uplift mankind, depending on our response to it. 2017 may be the year we learn which.

A minority of spiteful and uninformed voters has elected a Commander in Tweet. Every day, he dispenses candy-coated lies, for which we're to be grateful. Every day is Halloween.

And what costume are you wearing? Stormtrooper or Rebel?

Assist or resist; there's no middle ground.

NOTE: Opinions expressed on this blog are my own.
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