Friday, April 20, 2007

Laugh Out Loud? No - seriously!

Maybe its because a week's vacation is beckoning me? (and I really need it even though its nothing exotic) Maybe its because Robyn McMaster salutes the mature mind here? Perhaps its due to a chapter on laughing in Dan Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" about right-brainers ruling the future world (brief review) ? Or how about David Armano writing on old brains? It could be just because I want to laugh.

Robyn lists these tactic to increase serotonin via Dr. Ellen Weber at BrainBasedBusiness. Serotonin is a fancy word for connections between your brain and nervous system that make you feel good!

  • Stop to smell the coffee brewing
  • Listen to your favorite music on your way to work
  • Laugh at everything today -- especially at yourself
  • Look at art around you as the artist might enjoy it
  • Go for a walk at lunch
  • Invite an old friend for dinner
  • Give away one of your most successful strategies to a fellow worker
  • Stretch...move...breathe deeply
  • Remember a time when you were good to you - and repeat it
  • Snack on trail mix or something for good energy
  • Tell a story or invite one from a younger, less-confident worker
  • Plan one thing you most enjoy to do today after work
This morning - knowing the day before vacation is busier than most - I determined to have fun with it. Put on the coffee, inhaled deeply, and stepped into the morning air. My walking partner, another Bob, have practiced laughing for no reason whatsoever. It works - try it...c'mon...loud enough for somebody to hear. It works!

Our organizations can function better. Our communities can grow. Our humanity can flourish.

Those of us with lists of stuff to do, with plans, with appointments, with deadlines and demands...wait a sec! - thats all of us. We'd all do well and remember to exercise a couple of these tactics. What a great day!

Not that I'm an expert...Drs. Kataria are the ones to visit.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What is it you care about?

Dr. Margaret Wheatley is on tour - not quite the same as Dylan, the Rolling Stones, CSNY or Iggy and the Stooges. Much as I'd pay to see BobbyD (within reason, of course) its better for my ears to listen to her. Her dreams and vision of community and organizations are part of a new story we can share. I think and write a lot about the journey we're on. Its a journey with many paths. If she's in your town, check it out!

I was privileged to hear Meg speak Friday afternoon. President Emerita of The Berkana Institute, I was introduced to her work 5-6 years ago through the book "Leadership and the New Science". If I were to review this book in one sentence - "We live in a world of chaos becoming connected". She's an extremely readable author especially for the non-scientist - me. Dr. Wheatley has newer books that taking her beliefs deeper and broader - so dig in. You should dig somewhere else if you prefer technical business, economic, leadership or marketing reading though. If your looking for answers all I can say is expect questions.

Her current slide talk begins with this quote:

"There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about".
As I sat in the law building lecture hall (she was the first to point out the irony of the set up as all good conversation happens in a circle), it struck me that discovery is constantly evolving. A community (insert organization anywhere you feel like it) no sooner gets what it wants then its on to the next thing. Its through this action where we engage each other. The relationships we develop during this evolution are what allow us to discover our true humanity. It is the people and the connections who make the community powerful. And the community is not a flow chart but a mish-mash of interconnections. I kept thinking of all the directions blogging and linking can take us. The image in the upper left reminding me of spheres of influence conversation in August and January. Its part of the story.

Wheatley talked about leadership principles that are found in healthy communities. Think about these as you build conversation and community on your blog. Think more critically about the principles as they impact your organizations.
  • People only support what they create. We have a strong desire to belong to anything we had a part of building. It begins with relationship. We are creative by nature but deny it too often for any number of reasons. Let it flourish.
  • People only act responsibly when they care about the community. When people care about the success of the organization they act as if what they do really matters. How they act, what they say and how they think. When a community is lead by loving and caring it is healthy.
  • Depend on diversity. The greater number of eyes, ears and voices - the better. Who is missing? Widen the circle by learning more stories. You can't dislike someone once you know their story. Its loud, its messy, it works!
  • Listen - listening is healing. Try to listen and not preach. Who fights that one? I know I do. Remember we are weaving and reweaving relationships of success and influence one comment at a time.
  • Everybody is an expert in something. You never know who will be critical to success.
  • The solutions to the problems are already here. They just haven't been re-discovered
  • Expect leadership to emerge from anywhere. Expect to be surprised when you see it.
  • Learning must be the primary value. We never stop learning from our experience. Problem is we forget what we learn too often. Ever do the same thing expecting something other than the same result?
  • Recall people to purpose. Why do we do the things we do? Why is it worth it to pour your heart into the work? Remind each other the reasons. I'm going out on a limb here. At least one purpose you blog is so your readers find occasional value in your thoughts and ideas. You have many others - what are they?
Remember that whatever the problem might be - community is the answer. We have the chance to make community the norm in our organization. Speak out on the issues you care about.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday thought - fueled or fired?

Too often I just shut up. Sometimes you can't stay quiet. I've never listened to or seen Don Imus. Only briefly seen Howard Stern. They're in the same league as Rush Limbaugh in my book - name-calling, offensive, impolite, rude, arrogant, witless media personalities. They must have their fans as evidenced by ratings and the $$$ they command. Imus for certain has some new enemies. The rats are jumping ship.

All of these on-air personalities are protected by this little thing we call "free speech". I continue to try and make sense of the senseless. I probably feel its a bigger deal than some and a smaller deal than others. Sadly, its what we are as a citizenry - at least in current US culture.

It's hard to put into words how deplorable and uncaring his recent comments are to me. I can only imagine how it feels to be a young woman on the Rutgers basketball team. The public uproar will quiet him for a while. Given the benefit of the doubt, his apology is sincere. More on that later. He's horribly confused trying to equate being a "really nice guy" with being racist. They are not even remotely connected. The main story should make us all stop and think.

MSNBC fired him - or won't co-broadcast him - whatever the hell that means. Soon every major broadcast (NBC? CBS?) company will ditch him. Sponsors and advertisers are running like mad. Should he be fired? Probably. Will he find work again? Undoubtedly. Should he be made to shut up? Nope.

Here's what I'd like to happen. His face to face meeting with the team goes well. He should be nervous as hell. He realizes, through conversation, that he's part of a big racial wound in the world - and particularly the US. He goes on to be an advocate for understanding differences and sensitivity toward one another. We all become part of the solution to actually living what we believe to be true in a democracy - that all are created equal. That gender, race, color, creed makes no difference. It's hard work and we don't care for the really hard work.

Update: From AP on Friday AM . There is also a Friday PM story from the AP via the SF Examiner which I'm not going to link (copyright and all that jazz) - you can read it in the paper in the morning :) - or online right now at your favorite newspaper site.

Essentially, the team accepted Mr. Imus apology and is in the "process of forgiving". As I rambled on above, this singular incident is not only an individual problem for Don Imus but societal as well. I am eternally hopeful that somewhere in the mess is a spark toward change. Alas, there are many who feel firing was too harsh. I say "tough".

And here's a fine blog entry on MP's Daily Fix by word wizard, Eric Frenchman, long time Rutgers Women's Basketball Team fan.

What do we want to learn?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Are marketing blogs positive or negative?

Kevin Hillstrom has a keen analysis on the MineTheData blog today. I picked it up from a post on JaffeJuice. Bless those feed readers :) Kevin digs into The Viral Garden's top 25 Marketing Blogs by creating 9 categories to analyze. He's trying to find out whether his hypothesis - that top marketing bloggers are negative toward brands - is true or false. Not to spoil the fun - you need to read, it's good - he concludes his assumption is false. He does discover some key differences around brands between the 1-10 group and the 11-25 group.

What grabbed me about his analysis is the recognition of "perception" at the very start. We all live with biases and perceptions. When we recognize them, it takes effort on our part to make sense of them. In addition, he uses a tool that is often overlooked in this age of technology - paper and red marker. He clearly spent some time with the exercise. It reminds me of a statement often made about the press - specifically newspapers. Some people say "They're too liberal". Some say "They're too conservative". Ever notice how its always "they'? It gets loud and rowdy along the spectrum at times. It swings back and forth. In 2000, I got tired of hearing it and decided to "analyze" the columns we ran in our paper. Can you guess? Almost 50-50 - a slight tilt toward conservative. Good enough for me to consider it balanced.

Kevin's 9 categories of posts can generally be used to analyze the blogs I read for positive/negative comparison. I had never thought of looking at them through that lens. But it does beg the question: In addition to links from other blogs and staying power (longevity) - what drives the really good ones to to the top 25, 50 or 100?

And this is totally subjective but I'd classify Kevin's post as a positive comment on the marketing blogosphere :)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Got Conversation?

How about the desire to contribute to the dialogue? Or the urge to build stronger community? Gavin Heaton and Drew McClellan have imagined a way to share the collective knowledge of 100 excellent bloggers. Plus make the world a better place! You can click on either link to their original posts for more detail.

In a nutshell, the concept is for 100 of us to craft words - or images - about "The Conversation Age" as it relates to our exchanges through these blogs. Yes, the very same blogs you spend untold moments writing, reading and reflecting on. It's a broad and diverse topic. The project will gather these 100 pages and publish in ebook form. We'll attach a small fee to purchase with all proceeds - this I really like - contributed to Variety International. Variety is a child centered international charity begun in 1927.

Here's what Drew writes:

"Who is our audience? Our intended audience is anyone who has to create marketing tools in this Conversation Age. It might be a small business owner, a CMO, a marketing student, an agency type, a marketing blogger, or even a professor who is teaching tomorrow's marketers".
To participate and join the conversation - click on the balloon at the top right of this post. Go to The Marketing Minute and send Drew an email - he's the co-organizer of this herd.

Here are the contributors to date:

Why not become a contributor in the expanding conversation? Submissions are due by the end of April.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Who Reads Newspapers Anymore?

It looks like a few people with blogs sure do! Let's start this with my standard disclaimer - I work for the local newspaper. I'm biased. And I love any talk about - for or against - newspapers. I don't write for the paper - I market it. Mark Goren at Transmission Marketing posted on an award-winning newspaper ad campaign and asks the question

"But did it sell any newspapers?"
According to Mark's sources the answer is a resounding "no". Not a surprise, as newspapers have watched circulation decline for a couple decades. Since I was in circulation for most of those 20 years, I've often asked the question, "Why did my boss keep me around?" :) David Reich at my 2 cents - whom I've shared comments with (if you haven't checked his blog - just do it) - posted about Mark's piece. He asks the question:
"Any other ideas to help newspapers grow their readership, whether in print or online?"
The three suggestions mirror Mark's and he gets comments from Lewis and Cam. Lewis is a newspaper guy and has added to my perspective. While I've not talked directly with Cam (about newspapers anyway) his comment goes directly to an online newspaper question - "Do you drive the reader from print to online or from online to print?" Then he suggests a more capital friendly approach to readers who get free content. I'm going to assume that means "Why not charge for the content?" And David follows up with a "what if" a newspaper website posted capsules of the story and pointed to the "full story" in the print edition. That would sell a few more single copy. You can read all this if you go to David's post.

Allow me a little ramble here. Its not my intent to be simplistic or presumptuous. But I do speak with pride. I think newspapers too often get a bum rap. Let's assume we all want a perspective on local news. It's what has sold the newspaper since the turn of the 20th century when more and more publishers got presses. For the purpose of this post, I'm talking US newspapers. Prior to that most of the news came from the big cities via transportation like Pony Express, the Union Pacific, etc. People got the news from the "national" viewpoint during the western US expansion. It provided (and still does) a daily history. I've recently read 3 books - Team of Rivals, Devil in the White City, and The Worst Hard Time - and am astounded at the local newspapers that are cited in both the prose and the bibliography.

But more than merely wanting a perspective on local news - we want to be part of the community. We want to know what's going on around us. As intelligent humans, we have a strong desire to help create a thriving environment where we exist. A local newspaper provides an "avenue of discovery" we can travel down. We want to be part of the solution - not the problem - and a good newspaper reports on the community. Good news and bad news - 365 days a year (366 in leap year) - and now, with online websites, 24/7.

Altruistic? Probably - and still circulation declines - one subscriber at a time. Readership is another measurement altogether. Some recent research shows total newspaper readership - which counts online - among 25-34 year olds is up 15% (source:Scarborough 2006) . A recent story in Editor & Publisher (industry bias to be sure) says the same thing in a different way. What we do here is give full online access to home delivery subscribers. We call it added value. You can subscribe online only for $7 a month - but I get home delivery so haven't paid real close attention.

If you are a local newspaper reader - Bravo - keep reading! My guess is that most of you are. When you get a chance - visit the paper in Spokane (links are everywhere on this blog:). Most of the website is accessible. Tell me what you think - or not. We have a long way to go in exposing the overall value of newspapers.

Here's an informative page -regarding advertising - from the Newspaper Association of America.

And thank you David, Mark, Lewis, Cam, Cord, and Robyn for carrying on the newspaper conversation. As our editor says - News is a Conversation.