Thursday, May 28, 2009
About the Author
Emmet Penney ’11 grew up just outside Chicago. He reads, writes, records, studies Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and watches UFC with his little sister. One time, his mom asked his first grade teacher how good his prose was.
Jeez! Did I really ask that? To a 1st grade teacher? What a striving lunatic snob he had for a mother, for God's sake. Well, he did get published, right?
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Take for example the Pull Ups sponsored "Potty Project" featuring real families toilet training their toddlers. Any parent will tell you, potty training is a pain in the ass. Yours, not the kid's. For one thing, it's hard to know when you are being appropriately firm and when you're inflicting serious psychological damage. Entire books have been written about the traumas that result from poorly handled potty training.
So, is a topic like potty training TMI? No, for the reasons below.
Here's when personal information is compelling in a culture:
1. It teaches. The trials of the families featured are instructive.
2. It forms shared social bonds. Most of us don't live in extended families. We rely on the Web and other parents, sometimes older sibs to show us the way.
3. It's relatable. Marketing and advertising must make the shift with the rest of the culture. We live in a world where what's relational trumps what's aspirational.
4. It's funny. Kids, potties, anxious parents...it's an inherently comic mix.
5. It's cultural bedrock. Face it. Potty training is a rite of passage. No matter how much change we experience, things that are bedrock in the culture will endure.
When you got your morning coffee, if your date is on time, and if your shoes match your pants-- who cares? Nobody. Unless you're Lindsay Lohan. But tackle a high stakes issue that people struggle with and you've got content that creates meaning in people's lives.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"What's the easiest way to get the attention of creative people?"
The answer is simple. Fill in the blank. That is, create a way for users to add their ideas or lend their voices. Offer then an empty canvas. Let them do what they do best--be creative.
Miracle Whip is staging a comeback. So it created a cute little web-app for Facebook to help users drop in dialogue bubbles. Bubbles are branded with recognizable Miracle Whip "blue" from the product label. Otherwise, it's a fun give away.
In another example, Areej Khan is helping Saudi women protect their right to drive. It's not illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia--it's just culturally taboo. Areej used to dress like a man to be able to drive in her native Saudi Arabia. Now, an MFA student at the School of Visual Arts in New York, instead of covering up, she is encouraging women to stand up for the right to sit behind the wheel. It's all part of Khan's master of fine arts project. Through downloadable dialogue bubbles people participate in the "We The Women" project by putting their own thoughts into the bubbles.
Both are examples of how a campaign can facilitate the three things the RenGen value most:
The fact is that people want to speak out. They love to publish online, even if it's as little as 140 characters a day on Twitter. Offering creative vessels that make it simple for people to express themselves, and do so with flair or conviction, is the killer app for engaging the RenGen.
Hat tip to Steven Heller for turning me on to "We the Women"
Monday, May 18, 2009
You are cringing right now, aren't you? Probably because cold calling is stressful, loaded with frustration, not to mention rejection. Frankly, it'd take a freak of nature to dig the process. I am no such freak. But I have taught myself how to take the chill out of cold calling.
Let's start with your mind-set. Lighten up. People make cold calling disagreeable when they use the call itself to sell. The reason to cold call is to learn whether it makes sense to communicate further. In my experience a bright and breezy cold call can be pleasant for both parties if you adhere to the following rules:
Cardinal Rules for Taking the Chill Out of Cold Calling
1. Be prepared. The most common mistake is to assume you’ll get voice mail. When you actually connect with a human being, you fumble the call because you’re not ready.
2. Be real. Act as if this is someone you already know so that your voice takes on a more natural quality.
3. Listen. Actively listen and take notes.
4. Keep your energy up. Energy is attractive. Induce it if you have to with chocolate, hot tea, lit candles, whatever works for you.
5. Never push too hard. Speaks for itself.
Friday, May 15, 2009
What's truly authentic? Like pornography, I suppose we know it when we see it. Rehearsed or impromptu, it sparkles with genuine feeling.
Because most of us spend our days persuading, pitching, exhorting, and otherwise spinning content to make it look like it's well, authentic, I wanted to share this brief little vid. It features Anna D. Shapiro from Steppenwolf Theatre Company accepting her Tony Award for August:Osage County. And it's a gem.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
As I glance around my writing studio, I see books piled everywhere. Their presence is comforting. They define me. Pixels don't. A screen may thrill. It may invite our attention. No matter. I predict there will remain a fetish for the book. No matter how much change floods our lives, books will find their place. Here's why:
1. Books serve multiple functions: A book delivers a tactile emotional bond. They are cultural artifacts that deliver a sense of identity and emotional stability. It's harder to shed something that delivers on multiple levels-- education, imagination and emotion.
2. When people adopt a new technology they abandon the previous technology because it lacks utility: inconvenient, clunky, hard to maintain, breakable, costly. Hence the death of the 8-track tape.
3. There is a societal infrastructure to support books. Libraries, bookstores, book groups all form an eco-system in which the book survives. Books may go on the endangered species list after a period, but will never be extinguished.
Of course, change can be expected from the publishing industry once it awakens from its coma to discover that the rules for intellectual property have been re-written by technology. That may throw a wrench into things, but I doubt it.
Still, books are the most reliable analogue system going. This spoof on a medieval help desk shows why.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
So I've rebooted the boot camp content. More trends, more about where to spot opportunity, and much more about how to stay focused when everyone else is freaking out. Let's face it. The people who make things happen in any economy maintain an outlook that inspires hope. No optimism, no sale. It will be interesting to see how these messages are received in a city that is the emblem of changed times. Start your engines.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Last summer, I came off an 11-city book tour for RenGen fat and breathless. Over half my wardrobe no longer fit. Furious at myself, I headed to the gym. With gritty persistence, I clawed my way back to some level of fitness. Six months into it, I felt great, but little else changed. Rather than give up the work outs, I gave up caring about my looks. I just kept dragging my sorry ass to the gym.
Nearly a year later, I have results. I feel stronger and have more staying power. Great! But my fascination is more about the working at it. Challenging myself. The results are gratifying, don't get me wrong. But I'm more proud of the effort.
David Brooks takes up the issue of genius in a recent Op-Ed. Brooks debates the merits of pure talent versus hard work to produce extraordinary results. He considers also that genius may be divinely inspired. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert, gave a rousing speech at TED this year on divine inspiration that holds a message for all creative souls.
Like most people, I'm no genius. And while I have a relationship with my God, in my experience, divine inspiration is rarely available on demand. Instead, I've learned to rely on effort. The work is what I control. By staying everlasting at it, a lot of regular folks like me can achieve things that make us proud.
A grey linen suit sags at my hips. I feel proud. And now to the tailor.