Word Problems – What do you know?

I volunteer at my kids’ school (more last year than this).  Math just gets more, ahem,  interesting the older the kids get.  But right now, I can still provide some help.  And children doing word problems always need help.     math 4

My standard line with word problems is, “What do you know?”  That’s when the kids underline, circle, or in some way indicate the FACTS that are contained in the problem.  (Ex. Billy has 75 cents.  Pencils cost 10 cents each.  How pencils 2many pencils can Billy buy?)

I tell the kids, until you separate what you KNOW from what you NEED to KNOW you can’t work the problem.  Once you have your facts you look at the question.  That will tell you what action you need to take – add, subtract, etc.

That’s pretty much the same path you take before you write a, well,  whwriting 1atever.  Until you know your facts (Who is it for, What is the goal, etc.) you should not create that content.

Once you know your target market and the communication goal the TYPE and METHOD of communication should become clearer.  You still have to solve the equation but now it should be a more direct process.

FWIW – Billy can purchase seven pencils and still have five cents left.  You’re welcome.


A Rose by Any Other Name…

Today I heard an interesting discussion on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR (National Public Radio) that was about Net Neutrality.  Now, whatever you think about the topic, I have to say the moniker, “Net Neutrality,” really does not describe it well.

Think about it.  I’m sure I have a few more geeks here than me – but doesn’t the name Net Neutrality sound like THEY(the people who know what fashion is IN and what words are passe) are attempting to do away with people posting strong opinions on the internet?  Am I right?

Instead, it’s really about not letting corporations decide if we can download music, kitten videos, and medical research at the same speeds or if the internet gods will slow down our surfing to make more money.

If they want us to get all puffed up about the topic, they (the infamous THEY again) need to come up with a better name.  What gets your feathers ruffled?  Does Internet Chokehold make you angry?  Does Surf Shackling sound ominous?  How does Data Trickle grab your psyche?

The great bard (William Shakespeare you cretin) once wrote, “What’s in a name?  Would not a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?”  To which I respond – well yes, and no.  The gorgeous red bloom might have a heady aroma – but if it was named Stinkbloom how many of us would pick it up and sniff?

If you’re launching a new product or business take a few minutes to contemplate the name.  Are you releasing a rose or a stinkbloom?


Old Dogs and New Tricks

I have an old dog.  He’s 14 and nearly decrepit but he still gets his daily walk.  Today he decided to take a different route from usual.  Rather than go around the block, he wanted to hill 2go up a hill. I was dubious that he would be able to walk the whole way, but he really wanted to go. So up the hill we went.

And do you know what?  He was so happy and enthusiastic to take a new direction, to smell new smells, to see new sights, that he seemed younger for just a few minutes.  There was more pep in his step.  He had more vitality and interest in the world around him.

What does that have to do with you and your business?

I offer you Neuroplasticity - or how the brain creates new neural pathways.  Scientists cake 2used to think that once you were an adult your brain was finished forming – like a cake once it’s out of the oven.  But now scientists say you can improve your brain function and form new neural pathways any time.  And one of the ways you form them is through new experiences.

So have a new experience today.  Learn a new skill even if it’s not business related.  Take a different route to the office. Try a new restaurant or a new dish in your old restaurant. Form a new neural pathway.

You may have fallen into the rut of doing and seeing your business practices in the same old way.  I challenge you to take a new metaphorical or literal path today, to look at your business from a new vantage point.  And you may just find a shiny new aspect you’ve overlooked.  Or you could rediscover why you love your business.  Perhaps, like my dog, you will become a bit more vital and enthusiastic yourself.

And that enthusiasm toward life and your business is what will draw clients to you, like a moth to a flame.

The Matter of Manners

Manners matter. They matter professionally and they matter personally.

Last week I had a quick project meeting at a coffee shop to discuss a website we’re developing.  (By the way, I have a great guy if you need web design help.)  networking 6 As we were shaking hands goodbye I saw a fellow across the section who made eye contact with me.

As I live in a smallish town, I figured we had met previously and I just couldn’t place him.  That happens a lot.  I attend school, church, professional, and networking events regularly.  I meet a LOT of people.  Being polite, I walked over and asked how his day was going.

The man stayed seated and proceeded to ask me out on a date.  O—kaaayy…

I nicely explained that I’m married and wished him well.  But after I left I realized I was actually offended that this guy thought he could pick me up – without even getting out of his seat.  That’s right, he didn’t even have the most basic manners to stand up when a lady approached his table.

There’s aopen door 2n old story George Burns used to tell about Gracie Allen.  Back when they were first married they went to a restaurant.  George opened the door and went in.  Gracie kicked him in the shin and told him she was an (expletive) lady and to open her (expletive) door.  He never forgot to open her door again.

Take a moment to brush up on your professional manners people!  Make eye contact, employ solid handshakes, remember to make introductions, say please and thank you, etc.  The details matter and they tell people wplease and thank you 1ho they’re dealing with.  Example: Are you the kind of person who pays attention to THEIR details or will you let them slip through the cracks?

You don’t want them walking away feeling insulted because you missed a simple step.

A Little Perspective

I took a few minutes today to look over the Financial Times and the Japan Times online editions. It’s always interesting to remind myself that there are other points of view out there. Today there was a blistering editorial in the Japan Times about Putin and his actions in Crimea.

As I read it, I remembered the protests that occurred regularly in front of the Russian Embassy in Tokyo.  You could walk peacefully down the road Monday through Friday.  But once the weekend hit, your eardrums were going to ache and your trip would be much slower via that route. Protests heated up whenever Russia was in the news.  Sometimes there would only be a few individuals holding signs and chanting.  Other times there were japan riot police 1so many protesters the Japanese riot police would surround the embassy to keep the Russian diplomats safe. On busy weekends -  protesters brought bullhorns, air horns, and signs.  Chanting was not unusual.

The embassy was located on a beautiful, leafy, residential street.  And I always wondered what the local inhabitants thought of the goings on.  I assume residents hated the noise and the disruption to their lives.

But that leafy street was perfect for the protesters.  Since it was a residential zone police walking tokyo cherrycould easily block it off and protesters were safe from drivers.  The trees gave excellent shade during the hot Tokyo summers.  And, it’s been awhile, but I think public transportation was nearby, so getting there was simple too.

So what does this little stroll down my memories have to do with your business?

I’m so glad you asked. Perspective is the answer.

The protesters had one perspective.  And they maximized their experience through their choice of where and when to stage protests. The residents had a different perspective.  Their lives were disrupted because of where they lived.  The riot police had another perspective as well.  They probably enjoyed the overtime but resented missing their family time.  And the diplomats working in the embassy certainly had their own perspective.  Maybe they enjoyed watching the show.  Perhaps they felt frightened and threatened.  But they had a response and a point of view.

Because there are so many digital/ social/ media platforms to choose from today I think many marketers have forgotten that their message is only part of the message.  They have forgotten the perspectives of the audiences.expose-yourself

Are you maximizing your exposure – or only exposing yourself?


Minding Mind Set = Improved Client Communication

Communication theory lays out four goals of communication: to INFORM, to SEEK information, to PERSUADE, and to ACT. (For us research animals – some textbooks have removed ACT and added EMOTE. Seriously here, why?)

This core theory provides bread and butter for advertising, marketing, and Public Relations professionals worldwide.   All communications professionals claim the ability to influence magic 3consumer opinion or even change consumer buying habits through the magic we weave.

Words like matrices, demographics, SEO, and influencers provide science to back the art.  But the best corporate communicators provide, well, magic.

But there are some topics or opinion groups that simply defymindset 1 communication theory the way a two-year-old refuses to eat broccoli.  Here’s an excellent article from Slate about the futility of attempting to change anti-vaccine advocates’ minds. No matter what approach the researchers tried (information, fear mongering, etc.) they could not persuade this group that vaccinations are safe or to vaccinate their children. But hope remains.  Additional research suggests that framing an argument in positive terms aids in mind/opinion shift.

Soooo… Back to you.

If you’re not getting the response to your sales and marketing efforts that you think you should, perhaps you’re not using the proper communication tool.  Perhaps your market needs to be INFORMED about why your goods and services are superior before they will give you a try.  Perhaps your sales force should be SEEKING more information to tailor your offering to customer needs.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve hit a mental brick wall and you really don’t see a way over, under, or through it.

There’s always wall door 1 as an option.

Utilizing solid, targeted, communications opens literal and mental doors.

Claiming Your Digital Rewards

Last year Gartner released its U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Report.  Wow!  If you have a marketing budget then this should have been of interest to you.

Because I’m such a nice person, I’ll break it down for you.stats 3

  • Companies spend over 10% of revenue on marketing…and those budgets increased over 5%.
  • Over 40% of digital marketers reinvest savings from using digital marketing.
  • Over 40% said corporate website, social networking and digital advertising were key to their marketing success.
  • Digital marketing spending averaged 2.5% of company revenue…and budgets increased 9%.
  • Digital advertising accounted for 12.5% of digital marketing budgets.
  • Up to 50% of digital marketing activities were outsourced.money 6

In other words, marketing was important enough to increase corporate spending and digital marketing provided a high return on the investment.

So ask yourself these questions: What percentage of your revenues did you spend on marketing last year?  Do you know?  What’s your plan for 2014?

Are your getting all the BANG you want for your marketing buck?


A Healthy Discussion

Soooo… How are those New Year’s Resolutions working out for you?  Are you sticking to your exercise and diet plan?  The number one resolution is weight loss.  So you’re in good company – 45% of Americans make resolutions and 64% of those keep the resolutions for gym people 1at least a month. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that there’s a new government healthcare initiative underway. When you combine the two aspects you get increased personal interest in healthcare.

So what does this have to do with YOUR business?  Well check out this wonderful post from Forbes: The Future Of Consumer Health: What The Goliaths Can Learn From The Startups.

Yet again, the story IS the consumer connection.  They may call it, “The Experience,”  but really when you get down to the nitty gritty of it – It’s The STORY.  The story is building a community.  And the community is leading behavior/lifestyle change.

Hmmm… Change?  change 3

Like changing a consumer’s preference from Brand X to YOURS?  Like changing consumer action to purchase YOUR service?

Have you changed what or how you communicate with your customer base?  Maybe that should be your resolution.


Guest Blogging Dead or Alive?

When we lived in London I loved to go to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  Absolutely speakers corner 2anyone can tell their story and attempt to persuade you to their beliefs.  In this space, I’ve been persuading you that your best marketing and PR approach is to Tell YOUR Story. Tell if often and with original content.  When your story is compelling and unique then, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, “Write it and they will come.”

When you add in the changes in SEO algorithms the case for original content gets stronger and stronger.  It’s difficult to output new and compelling content every day.  Your marketing department wears a lot of hats, right?  Enter guest blogging.  Guest blogging is putting someone else’s content in your blog.  Your company may hire an outside consultant to create a steady stream of content under the company name or it can repurpose work from other sites. The reasons for incorporating outside content range from increasing the veracity of your claims (aka: show your data or cite your source), to keep your site fresh, or to bring in their traffic.

But then Monday came Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts who announced that Guest Blogging was Dead. (As you can see I’m happy to bolster my arguments with outside wisdom.)  He set off a firestorm among the blogging community. Search Engine Land compiled several bloggers reactions.

I’ve nicely copy 1boiled it down for you here. Don’t be a schmuck and continually ride other bloggers’ coattails.  That’s like copying their homework with no reciprocity.

But content is still king. Keep telling your story.

(Dance and blog like no one’s watching.)

Jargonish Much?

I’m a free form reader.  I am only of the only people you will run across who didn’t hate research papers in college.  The research aspect was fun and the writimedia 4ng provided late-night opportunities to enjoy the computer lab.  (Enjoy is sarcasm.)  But I voraciously devour all sorts of news.  The topical, the offbeat, the trending…  It’s like the internet was invented just for me to continue my higher education.  But I digress.  There is a business reason for this ramble.

Just yesterday I read an article online (Huffingtonpost) about how lovely and useful ISH is as a describer.  I love ISH when talking to friends.  The problem with ISH is that it’s overused, imprecise, and lacks gravitas.  Therefore my takeaway was – use it in personal chats but not in professional (and certainly NEVER written) discourse.

Today I found an infographic for the 50 most overused words in press releases.  Talk about serendipity!  In just two days I’ve discovered several words to relegate to the back of the figurative verbal closet.

So if you have ever wondered why your press release or website just didn’t receive the attention you thought it warranted, review them.  Perhaps you did the equivalent of telling the world your business or service is ok-ish. Unless you’re the OK Corral that’s never good.