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Stop and smell the Turkey

Today is the day we write pithy words of thanks and gratitude. Right before the mad dash that is the holiday season.

I, too, owe much gratitude to those around me for their kindness. Their time. And the opportunities I have each day. It’s remarkable what each of us have even when we’re clamoring for more. I have to remind myself of that too.

It’s no secret this has been a weird and trying year on so many fronts. For this day, though, a simple thank you. A chance to slow down and savor the moment. To breathe in the warm scents of a juicy, freshly roasted Turkey. Happy Thanksgiving all.

Transforming the Marketing Department into a Media Team – #IMCChat – December 10th

#IMCChat was originally a weekly chat that discussed best practices in Integrated Marketing Communications. Originally hosted by @BethHarte and @abarcelos a wonderful community gathered around to impart their hard-earned knowledge. Over the summer, a few of us discussed reviving the chat, and so, @cloudspark and myself (@pprothe) will once again host #IMCChat to continue the discussion twice monthly on the 10th and 20th at 8:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM Pacific.

Please join us Monday, December 10th where we’ll focus on Transforming the Marketing Department into a Media Team. We’ll center the discussion on the following five key points

  • The shift of communications, content and hyper personalized marketing
  • Who’s on the internal team
  • How to bring in external agencies to the team
  • Setting expectations when everyone is on the same team
  • Do we need new defined roles

Looking ahead to December 20th, we’ll start looking at Making 2013 the Year of IMC

  • Is your company ready for IMC?
  • First steps
  • Setting expectations
  • Common hurdles to getting started

We look forward to seeing you December 10th!

Marketing and the customer experience #IMCChat November 7, 2012

How many times have you seen a company spend a lot of money on a flashy advertising campaign but the actual product or experience didn’t live up to the hype?

How often do you visit a retail store and experience lackluster or even rude service? And let alone get answers to your questions! It’s certainly natural for marketers to focus on flashy campaigns. They’re exciting. They’re easy to wrap your head around. And they’re easy to point to as an example of the work you’re doing. The flash likely worked years ago when there were but a few channels and the conversation was one way. There were few opportunities for consumers to publicly complain.

Yet so many companies neglect the front lines of their businesses, staffing with poorly trained, poorly rewarded employees who are simply not invested in delivering a great experience. Which makes it almost shocking when you DO get good service.

Let’s face it, working on customer service is a tough, long-term endeavor reaching far beyond the marketing department. Yet the rewards are high.  Just not very flashy.

Join us on November 7th as we talk about the importance of the customer experience in marketing and how marketers can and should approach it to ensure that each marketing campaign can deliver better on it’s promise.

We’ll ponder the following questions but open the dialog to what’s top of mind for you in this area:
  1. What are some recent examples of companies that ‘get’ customer service?
  2. What are some horror stories (Need not name names)?
  3. How can marketing influence customer service?
  4. How can marketing help fix a bad experience?
  5. When can customer service become the marketing?

How to facilitate communication and collaboration in an integrated marketing team: #IMCChat, September 5, 2012

Integrated marketing communications reads well and the results of successful teams using IMC are well known. So you’ve read a few books or ventured onto a few blogs to get up to speed. Or maybe you’ve been working to build IMC in your own company. And then comes the challenge – opening the lines of communication and collaboration when people have “jobs to do.”

How do you build open communication and cohesive collaboration between marketing team members (and the broader organization)?

On the IMCChat hosted on Twitter on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern (5:00 p.m. Pacific), we’ll focus the conversation on creating collaborative communications to build strong and successful IMC teams. Guiding our conversation we’ll address the following questions:

  1. Do you have systems in place to build open communications among team members? E.g. Yammer, Basecamp, etc.
  2. What’s the biggest barrier to keeping everyone informed of all the “moving parts” of marketing?
  3. How do you encourage cohesive collaboration?
  4. How do you integrate new members into the team who may not be familiar with IMC?
  5. What tools do you use or recommend to open the lines of communication and collaboration?

Join the conversation on Wednesday, Sept. 5 on Twitter, follow the hashtag #IMCChat.

Building an Integrated Marketing Team – #IMCChat August 1, 2012

For the first edition of the reincarnated #IMCChat previously lead by Beth Harte and Anna Barcelos, we thought we’d focus on building an integrated marketing team and the challenges therein.

Digital offers so many opportunities to link and measure marketing efforts, yet it still comes down to the people on the team: getting them aligned, thinking strategically and focused on the RIGHT goals rather than the flavor of the month.

This applies not only to the internal team, but the external partners as well. To be most effective, you need people inside and out working in lock step each with a open spirit of collaboration and transparency.

Join us Wednesday, August 1 at 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT as we talk about how to build a high performance integrated marketing team – from both the inside and outside.

We’ll focus on the following questions:

  1. What factors influence team performance most?
  2. How do you hire for culture / fit – employees and agencies?
  3. How do you ensure smooth communication across inside and out?
  4. How do you achieve consensus while maintaining an open, flexible and responsive team?
  5. What are the biggest areas for growth in IMC?

Let us know too, what topics are top of mind for you and your teams?

2011 captured in an image and word a day

In 2010 I captured the sky each day from wherever I was. Last year I started posting one image combined with the word that image evoked over at Mundaily. It’s where I captured the random details of daily life – nothing fancy or pretentious. Just whatever I came across each day. All captured with my iPhone. A snapshot of each day to form a snapshot of a year. I’ve now put it all365  together in this little film:

It was hard to limit my thoughts to just one word, but that’s the constraint I put on this project. For 2012, I’m loosening that up a bit and participating in Cowbird. A storytelling platform by Jonathan Harris, creator of some pretty interesting projects. Everyday I’ll post an image and short – sometimes VERY short – story. The goal is to be spontaneous and free form – much different than my more business-oriented writing.

These little projects exercise and sharpen the brain. They force you to focus and think quickly. Keeps the brain nimble and I hope infuses my other work with more creativity and perspective.

Introducing Twenty Bridges – a Kickstarter Project

Anyone who’s known me for any length of time has seen me with a camera or two. Since I was given one at age ten, it’s been an integral part of my life. I’ve grown up seeing the world through a lens. I originally started out shooting nature, but a two-week workshop with the legendary Jay Maisel transformed my work. No longer content creating beautiful landscape imagery, I’ve been interested in capturing emotion and how the ‘hand of man’ impacts the environment.

Although I complain about our persistent gray skies and abundance of rain, I love Oregon. It offers an extremely diverse range of terrain from the rugged coastline and lush rain forest to the arid high desert of central and eastern Oregon. If you don’t like a particular type of landscape, drive awhile and it’ll change. Crossing the state on Highway 20 from Newport on the coast to the Idaho border is proof of the amazing diversity in Oregon’s landscape.

But it’s Oregon’s Highway 101 that dazzles with incredible beauty around virtually every bend. As a driver, it’s a tough road to focus on the task of actually driving as the eye is captivating by the crashing surf, jagged rock formations or monstrous sand dunes. The many waysides beckon you to pull over and to take it all in, reminding yourself how insignificant you are against nature’s power. Unlike many highways, there’s never a stretch of road that doesn’t delight the senses in some fashion. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It’s only of late that I’ve come to truly appreciate just how grand it is. Just how special. There’s something about its mighty power that lures me back and am always in awe of it.

There are 20 key bridges connecting the communities along Highway 101 from Astoria to Brookings.

On a calm day with soft coastal breezes lapping at your cheeks, you feel as if you’re on top of the world. These special bridges connect us and allow fluid travel to our next destination. Often, however, we don’t always notice them as we’re taken by the shear beauty of the natural environment. Look closer and you realize they’re not just utilitarian structures carrying us from points A to B to C and so on, but designed to delight the eye and complement the environment they inhabit each in their own way. 11 of these bridges were designed by world renowned engineer Conde B. McCullough and built in the late 20s and 30s. They allowed efficient travel as before you had to be ferried across. Sadly, the Alsea Bay Bridge, succumbed to the elements and had to be replaced in the mid-90s, however the new structure echoes the beauty of the original. The Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport – now 75 years old features concrete and metal arches dancing across Yaquina Bay like a pebble skipping across a still lake. Because he knew people would be below just as much as on his bridges, McCullough infused careful details in the understructure to please the eye. And he didn’t disappoint. Time Magazine once noted that it was one of the most beautiful bridges in the world – and most photographed.

Twenty Bridges is a celebration of these graceful structures that bring us closer together. I’ve tried to capture them in the context of their environment as well as the details that complete the whole. Each has many stories to tell of the people who’ve traveled up and down the coast. Residents and tourists. Kids and families. Couples on a romantic getaway. Starting with the Astoria-Megler bridge at the top of the state and ending with the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge crossing the Rogue River in Gold Beach, come along with me on a trip down the Oregon Coast.

Twenty Bridges will be a gallery exhibition in the fall of 2012 featuring a mix of large prints of each bridge and smaller prints that showcase each of these bridges in their environment. There will also be a finely-produced coffee table book plus a short film about driving down the Oregon coast. Your support will help cover the cost of film, high-resolution drum scans and gallery prints. Anything additional will go into enhancing the gallery show and production of the film. Below is a working cover and select images from the project along with links to each of the bridges I’ll photograph for the project. I aim to complete shooting by late Spring, 2012, working through winter and a mix of the always unpredictable coastal weather.

As always, I welcome your feedback, appreciate any support whether backing this project or simply sharing it with those you think might be interested. I look forward to delivering an incredible end product that shines a light on the brilliant work of the designers and engineers of these beautiful bridges.

The science behind viral content

Make WowEvery marketer’s dream is for their content masterpiece to go viral. They shout from the rooftops as loudly as they can, “Pick me! Pick me! Oh, Pleeeeze, won’t you please Pick meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” More than likely, said masterpiece suffers a quick, unremarkable death after a couple Tweets. Lost in the scrap heap of forgotten content. You just can predict exactly what’s going to go viral. No matter how hard you try.



Or can you?



Dan Zarrella thinks you can. In fact, in his latest book, Zarella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness, he outlines a scientifically repeatable process for creating and delivering content that has more than a fighting chance of sticking. While debunking a few myths along the way.

Social media is still a wild frontier that most companies don’t yet get. Yet like anything on the web, just about every interaction is measurable. Dan’s done a great job over the last few years analyzing and reporting on the science behind social media.

He developed a model for decision making before an idea is spread:
1. The person must be exposed to your content (i.e. be a follower or fan of you and your brand)
2. The person must be made aware of your specific content
3. They must be motivated to act in order to want to share it.

You can increase your odds of the above happening by increasing your reach, creating relevant, provocative content, and finally, including a valuable call to action. I recommend you grab his book to see how he dissects each of these areas. Just like in traditional advertising, the size of your audience matters.

What’s interesting, though are some of the myths he shreds in the book. Like it’s okay to call yourself a guru, expert, authority, etc. In fact if you do, you’ll have an average of 100 more followers on Twitter. This has been one of my hot buttons as I’ve often said that if you have to call yourself a guru, then most likely you aren’t. It’s the principle of show don’t tell. I always think it’s better if others figure that out for themselves. And he does clarify that just adding the word doesn’t make this happen – but having the confidence to do so (meaning you can back up your claim) – makes a difference.

Talking smack doesn’t work. In fact it pushes people away. People hanging out in social media want to be uplifted, helped. Not depressed. Plenty of other places to get the bad news.

Nor does talking incessantly about yourself. Quite boring. Instead, have a point of view and share it. That’s what people want.

If you get nothing else out of this book, what people want is interesting content to share with their followers. It makes them look good and enhances their reputation. No one wants to share what’s freely available. They want the scoop. They want to be perceived as breaking the news rather than rehashing it.

The more personal your content, the better. And think a lot about when you send your content. Turns out weekends are a great time to do so. Why? Less Clutter. And people have more time to snack on it.

“Messages sent over weekends had click-though rates twice as high as messages sent during the week. And the messages sent on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday had the highest unsubscribe rates.” – Dan said.

Don’t be stupid with your writing but don’t be pompous either. His research shows that the best content is simply written. Makes sense when you consider how little time you have to capture attention. If a reader doesn’t grasp your message quickly, they’ll move on to the next competing for their attention. Make your point and make it clearly. Don’t make someone work too hard to decipher it. There’s a difference between communicating simply and talking down to your audience. Treat them with the respect they deserve and give them credit. They’re not stupid.

If you haven’t read Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, there’s no time like the present to do so. The principles of reciprocity and social proof also apply to creating viral content. We’re imitators and tend to follow the crowd. People want to know that the content they share makes them look good and that it’s something others do to.

If you want something to go viral, you have to create something that’s relevant, compelling and newsworthy. Dan’s provided a good framework that gives you a leg up on most marketers who ignore the data and science, preferring to focus on chance. Because we’re irrational right? We may be irrational but people like Dan Zarella and Robert Cialdini among others have analyzed our irrationality and uncovered the patterns in our behavior.

It’s time to get strategic in how you develop content, using the data and frameworks available to give you a better chance of success.

The Collaboration Conundrum

Collaboration is good thing. You get people working together, you get a company aligned around shared goals and ultimately higher productivity. With collaboration, people are not pursuing their own agendas, wasting company resources and blocking important initiatives. Cross-departmental silos fall and you have corporate bliss. Or so we think.

Collaboration has a dark side too.

Projects can take longer or stall out while you seek buy-in from all of the stakeholders, and creative concepts get diluted in the process of making everyone happy to GET the buy-in. You can also, in the case of web and product design, end up with increased complexity and a diminished end-user experience. Everyone wants their idea included. Everyone wants their features. Everyone wants all things for all people. And collaboration can make that happen.

Problem is, you rarely end up with an elegantly simple solution or compelling creative. Collaboration has the tendency to dilute things. Imagine starting out with a cup of rich, French-press coffee and ending with reheated three-day old drip. That’s burnt from sitting the heat far too long. Not a tasty prospect.

Without collaboration, however, you get silos, political turf battles and wasted potential. When everyone’s focused on maximizing their department’s budget and objectives, you don’t often find a company focused on creating a magical customer experience.

So what’s the magic bullet?

Like anything, it’s balance. And that comes in the form of a strong leader who can pull everything together, get the needed alignment, but have the ability to break ties and actually make decisions in the best interest of the customer and thus the business. Note that I put the customer first because THEY pay the rent. Make them happy and the business can prosper. Ignore them in favor of your local spreadsheet and you’ll see them walk away.

That appears to be what Netflix did when they rolled out their new pricing strategy without communicating clearly – IN ADVANCE – with their customer base. They made assumptions based on what they thought would happen – and where they felt they needed to go to drive company profits. Their past success clouded led to arrogance and a more inward focus. What they should have done was talk to their customers, letting them know they needed to make some changes and why. Get the customers to see how it could benefit them, give them some notice and press forward. In short, collaborate a little.

Seems they also didn’t do their homework when breaking off the mail-order part into a new brand called Qwikster and doing the basics like checking availability of the Twitter handle. Oops. Nor thinking through the confusion with the name.

Now you have what appears to be an ill-conceived strategy building on an ill-conceived price change rollout. This is a case where collaboration inside and outside the organization could be greatly increased along with leadership that knows what business it’s in and can execute. Seems they’re still figuring that part out and have only further angered their once happy customer base.

One key t0 successful collaboration is recognizing that no matter what you do, you don’t have any control. It makes the inner conflict you feel when people just aren’t ‘getting’ with the program a lot less painful. You create your own reality just like everyone else does* Sure, you can put processes in place to make things more predictable but everyone brings a different set of experiences, judgments and agendas to the table. No two people see things exactly the same way. Acknowledging that control is an illusion and letting go, serving more as a guide can improve the collaboration. People dig their heels in when they perceive they’re being controlled or manipulated, but more easily connect when they’re valued, heard and respected. Not everyone will get what they want, but that’s life. Collaboration is messy because people are human and ultimately unpredictable. But that’s where the good stuff happens. Allow a little serendipity and creative solutions surface. Even the process may feel smoother with less politicking.

But when it comes decision time, a strong leader is willing to take a stand and own it. SOMEONE needs to own it, or you end up with sloppy wet milk toast. Too often leaders are more worried about being liked and over-collaborate. Again, it’s balance. Effective collaboration is an art form not a science. People are inconsistent. Irrational. You learn by taking chances. And being willing to fail and get back out there again. You might not be collaborative enough and people will let you know it and sabotage your project. So next time out you over do it and get something less than stellar. What do you do?

Get over it and get on with it.

*Read Are you ready to Succeed by Srikumar Rao for a good primer on this

Deep Thinking, Sharing, Lego, Action and the problem with Interviews

I’ve been thinking a lot about how our 24/7 connectedness is affecting our thought processes and interactions. Especially since reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr which delves into what the internet is doing to our brains, I’ve become much more aware of how technology influences my life. I can’t imagine life without it now that it’s here. Scott Belsky raises the issue of how such connectedness is limiting our time and ability to think deeply. To do the kind of thinking that yields the best solutions. The  innovation we need as a nation to power out of the major slump we’re in.  I encourage you to think deeply about this one.

Here’s a great primer on the sharing economy emerging around us. As we seek experiences over consumerism and economics force us to consider doing without major times like a car, more and more entrepreneurs are creating businesses offering the goods we need only when we need them. Not only does this save us money, but it reduces the clutter in our homes. The social web has now made such businesses possible and look to see this trend expand. Beyond this  article I also recommend reading The Mesh by Lisa Jansky which goes into further detail.

This collection of ads for Lego shows the power of simplicity and creative thinking, not to mention a willingness to take a risk with your creative. These are provocative and memorable. They cut through the clutter and make me want to go play with legos again – something I spent hours on growing up. To me the most important takeaway is to not be too rigid and conservative with your advertising. Doing so is just a waste of money – you’ll just be lost in the clutter. These push new ground and represent thinking and creative risk taking that many executives don’t have the guts for.

Simon Sinek outlines the model for leaders who inspire action – the kind that separates those that change the world from those that don’t. His model is dead simply which is exactly why it’s so hard. The crux is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So rather than go from What to How to Why, start with Why. This is well worth the 18 minutes.


I don’t know about you but I find the traditional resume a pretty tired, painful document as they all quickly sound the same. You hardly get a good sense for what a person is all about from that one or two-page outline of career accomplishments that talk about their ‘managing market growth’ or ‘driving performance’. It simply doesn’t tell much of a story, but you can discern whether or not they pay attention to details. But trying to pick the gems out of 200+ resumes is tough. So goes the traditional interview process in which we try to determine capability and fit. Few things are as important as hiring the right people for your team. Bring in one bad seed and the entire harmony of a small team can be disrupted. You don’t always know such things until after you’ve hired someone. Here’s an interesting take on how interviews provide TOO much information and what to do about it. It’s especially important to note how poor they are for making good hiring decisions. Particularly in our hyper-competitive economy, a key differentiator is your culture and the people you have on your team. Choose wisely.