Creativity is King, but Planning is the Queen


LEGO

LEGOs are awesome.

My son has just made the jump from the Duplo sets to what he calls “little LEGOs” and I have been sucked in as well.

With a pile of multicolored bricks of every shape and size strewn across his playroom, we begin shaping creations only limited by our imaginations.

But as the constructs become more complicated, daddy realizes the most amazing builds need to be guided: with a plan.

Same goes in the business world. You can’t possibly accomplish something without thinking it through and devising a plan first.

So here’s what building LEGOs has taught me:

1. Understand what you want to accomplish. What are you trying to create and why? What should the finished product look like and how much room do you want/need to leave for spontaneous creativity? In my world, balancing planning and unforseen opportunities for creativity is a good mix.

2. Have the raw materials and the time you need to do the job. Do you have what you need to make your vision come to life? Can you create what you need to in the time allotted? Do you need to make changes based on either of these criteria, and will the changes negatively affect the final product?

3. Sketch out the final product and the steps needed to get there. Before you put the roof on the house (or the satellite dish on the moon base) you need walls, doors and windows in place first. Those walls need to be strong enough to support what’s being piled on top of it, and they need to stand up straight.

4. Execute with joy. Get to doin’ and make your thing. Keep moving ahead; don’t get stuck on a detail or you will never get to the end. Quality check every step. Have fun as you go, otherwise you will rush to the end and make mistakes along the way.

5. Share and make them happy. There’s nothing more satisfying than giving your creation to your little construction buddy for him to play with. Similarly, deliver the fruits of your labor to your client. Savor the smile.

How do you balance creativity and planning?

(P.S. Why is Planning not the King? Because everyone knows the Queen is the one who is really in charge.)

“So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star…”


SEO

I find myself engaged in a lot of SEO work recently, and it’s pretty interesting.

Watching how what you do online changes how search engines find you is fascinating to me. And I think it’s legitimate for us PR folks – along with marketers, managers and personal assistants – to want to engage in a sincere degree of positive online postings and placements to help boost someone’s reputation, including online. After all, we are paid to promote people.

Of course, there’s a dark side to this, as there can be to just about anything in life. And I’m not endorsing anything that’s disingenuous or an outright lie. But honest, positive promotion is what any of us who live in the public sphere (and who work with others who want the same) are after.

So it’s serendipitous that I ran across this from our friends at Social Media Examiner, about “Three Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry” and thought it would be perfect for this Friday ShareDay.

Happy Weekend!

Ask, and Ye May Receive. But Stay Silent And…


Handing Out Literature 2

I don’t understand the evangelists who stand at my train station every morning.

That’s not to say I don’t like them. They seem like sincere, polite people, attempting to spread their faith in their particular religion. But in the seven years I have seen them standing there with their reading materials, whether they are wearing brightly-colored sun bonnets or skull caps and down coats, they have never once offered me a pamphlet or even tried to engage me in conversation.

Now granted, perhaps I am not their target demo. In fact, my physical presentation makes me quite sure of that. And if they did ask me a question or hand me a pamphlet, I would politely decline and wish them a good day.

But here’s the thing: they’ve never even tried. And by not engaging with me, they don’t even know whether I would be receptive to what they are offering.

The same holds true for business: if you don’t ask, you are certain to not get. And no business can survive on that strategy.

Damn, I Wish I Had Said That


PR Disaster

So much of what we do as PR people isn’t about message – it’s about good advice.

And good counsel shouldn’t be relegated to press releases and placements. We need to help people think through challenges and problems and help them find their way to their goals.

When clients make bad decisions – and worse, when they make those bad decisions because we didn’t help them make a better one – is when the ground falls out from under them. And from you. And pulling things back together can be very, very messy.

So for Friday ShareDay, here’s a great article – that frankly, I wish I had written myself – about “When PR overshadows the problem” by Phil Rosenthal.

Happy Weekend!

Stop, Look, Listen and Enjoy


StopLookAndListen

It’s been quite a work week for me.

I had the privilege of organizing two very important media events that I know you have heard, seen and read about by today. My team did an amazing job with each assignment and I am very proud of the work we produced. The reporters, producers, photographers and cameramen we worked with gave (for the most part) wonderful and smart coverage. They are the best in the business and were an absolute pleasure every step of the way. (Hey, this is New York City; you don’t get here with second rate skills).

So as I stare out the window of my morning train to work, I reflect on the amazing experiences that I – and indeed, that all of us – have, not just today but every day. And I think about how so much of it can just pass us by if we don’t stop, stand back, look at it and take it all in.

So for this Friday ShareDay, rather than give you someone else’s content, I share with you my own thoughts:

“We each have an amazing story to tell, people with whom to share the journey, and much to contribute before we get to the end of our run on this planet. Don’t waste a minute.”

Happy Weekend!

Mandatory Can Be Good For You


Compost

Reading a story this morning about Mayor Bloomberg’s new composting initiative, which right now is voluntary and encouraged, but some media opinion writers suspect may become mandatory, and that the motives aren’t entirely, shall we say, “selfless.”

The piece rightly points out that there were similar (though not identical) efforts to ban smoking, trans-fats and even sugary drinks – all of which have run into criticism and roadblocks. (Opinion: I like all these ideas, because they make us healthier and cut into problems that are draining our public resources and putting us in early graves.)

And it got me thinking that, while mandates are often unpopular (and can even be unfair), sometimes they are needed.

Take exercise: I should probably mandate getting my flabby butt out of bed and going to the gym.

Take blogging: I don’t like that my posts here can be infrequent, and I should probably mandate at least two hours a week where I shut everything off and just write for this site.

Take work: we could probably all use a little more mandated time spent on important projects each week. Time to think and plan for projects that are down the road. Time to devote some energy to housekeeping, whether building our contacts, organizing files or updating our own social media profiles and offering counsel to clients about a theirs.

All this in the pursuit of something that’s good for us, even though it might be hard to find that initial motivation.

Mandate: it may not a bad word after all.

Thank You


20130610-211512.jpg

It’s the little things that point out a person’s true character.

As the father to two little people, I am constantly trying to teach – in the simplest of ways – life’s basic rules: Be nice. No hitting. Hold my hand, we’re in a parking lot. Say please and thank you.

It amazes me how some adults forget that last one. Some people always say it. Those are the people you’d do anything for.

The ones who forget it make me want to forget them.

Be The Ball


Be The Ball

Every red-blooded American man’s favorite comedic movie (or darn near close) must be Caddyshack.

Among all the classic scenes is the one where Ty Webb instructs a young Danny Noonan to concentrate and just “be the ball” in an effort to help him become a better golfer.

The results were more comedic than impressive, but the lesson is a good one, no matter how far Danny’s chip shot landed from the pin. (“Right in the lumber yard.”)

And it came to mind as I crashed a project this week: a speech for a client that needed a top-to-bottom rewrite in just hours.

I was able to pull it off, to the client’s great delight, because I allowed myself to “be the ball.” I knew this person, cold: his logic, his voice and his factual information, to the point where I felt as though I was writing for myself. I put myself in the room, at the podium, speaking to the group of people he will address. I turned off all external inputs – save for spellcheck – and just wrote what needed to be said.

He was so happy he even allowed me to take a second pass at it this morning, and the results are.. well.. we’ll see tonight when he’s at the mic reading the words I wrote for him. But I think it’s gonna be just fine.

What are your best ways to write?

Action Begets Action


ACT

I recently conducted a media training session with a client.

After taking her through the one hour tutorial, we branched out into other topics, and landed on her question to me about how often her group should send out news releases. They’re a grassroots organization dealing with a current political issue and looking for lots of attention to drive their agenda. We’ve already helped them be successful, and they are looking to build on it.

We had a spirited conversation, and it led me to codify a few key ideas:

1. Make your communications actionable. Everything you send should say “here’s our thing, and here’s what you can do with it.” Whether a news release, a pitch letter or an e-blast to your subscribers, always have an actionable embedded in the communication. Otherwise it’s destined for the trash.

2. Don’t do quotas. While you want to make your communications frequent enough to keep you and your group in the front of people’s minds, don’t set up an artificial threshold that compels you to send useless information. It will dilute your message and your credibility.

3. Drive the cattle back to the ranch. Whenver you communicate, include links to information and other sites that are helpful and that expand on your message. Sending people to your Facebook page will get them to your community where they can interact and share. Linking to your YouTube channel will get them clicking on your video content where they will learn more about you. Send people to places they will get fast, useful and (here’s the trick) entertaining information that they will want to consume.

4. Act, yourself! Don’t be shy about following up with people if you’ve asked them for a response and they havent given you one. And when people respond on your blog or Facebook, acknowledge them somehow, even if it’s with a “Yes! Thanks for commenting!” or favoriting their tweet. Engage with them and retain their interest and spur future activity.

5. Build your tribe. This is the whole point of communication. Collect email addresses, Facebook likes and twitter followers. Get people to carry your water (ie, your message), and contribute to what you are doing. Expanding your footprint will also make you more credible with media when you go to interact with them.

What are your thoughts for how and how often to communicate?

Xbox One Isn’t the Only One


XboxOne

The unveiling of the Xbox One has got my inner geek pretty stoked.

Tear it apart any which way you want, but this new console it represents a terrific leap forward in the way we experience and share media in our homes: music, movies, games and TV. The new functions look very cool, especially the improvements in Kinect. I will be getting my hands one as soon as possible.

It’s probably not the elusive “all in one” box that Microsoft claims it is, but I frankly don’t think we will ever get there, because we really don’t want to. As consumers, (especially us geeks, who thrive on variety and shiny new things that replace and outdo the old ones) we don’t like limiting ourselves to just one platform or one way of doing things. We like to integrate our systems together and make them do unique things that serve our purposes.

The Xbox One is also a good example of how we – as communications professionals and PR people – need to constantly keep up with evolving technology that affects our business.

I was a semi-early adopter of social media, and saw its potential for one-to-one, human connectivity right away. And while I’m better at it than most, I’m far from an uber-user or an expert by my definition of the word.

Part of the reason we fall behind is because things evolve so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. And yet, that’s also part of our business: recognizing the changes afoot and evolving our tactics with them. We need to take time out – hard as it can be – to experiment with these technologies and make them work for us.

Take time to turn off all your inputs and just experiment, at least once a week. Part of keeping up is making sure you do it with the frequency to make it effective.