Monday, February 28, 2011

Break the Rules: How Creatives and Sponsors are Innovating New Business Models

Artists listen up. It's no longer enough to be a talented and hard working. You also have to be a business strategist. From music to publishing, anyone making their living from their creative talent now faces the additional hurdle of re-inventing the business of the business--from production to distribution and marketing. The economy is forcing artists to become business leaders in ways unexpected.

A while back, the Black Eyed Peas caught my attention for their innovative work with sponsors. The band embraced corporate sponsorship without alienating their audiences or losing control of their brand. In fact, sponsorship has helped elevate their brand with additional media. How'd they do it?

Here's the recipe for Black Eyed Peas Sponsorship Stew:
1. Set up a 501-c-3 foundation to create a cause-marketing platform.
2. Seek charitable partners to extend messaging into their communities.
3. Sign up sponsors for charitable tours and events.
4. Require sponsors to help with free media and co-promotions to drive consumer transactions to support the cause--including MP3 downloads and concert ticket purchases.
5. Set up a website that brings sponsors into the Black Eyed Peas community as cause-related partners.
Heat, stir and serve.
Easy, peasy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is Power for Men Only?

I like men. Truly, I do. But lately, I’ve begun a little experiment to track their predominance in the professional world. Oh, it’s really a tally list I keep next to my laptop. Every time I encounter a website, for example, I scan the list of senior managers or directors. I’m just stunned at how often the leadership roster is 100% male.

Take Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, for example. The Center is engaged in a very exciting project to explore the potential of a developing a National Digital Public Library. On the Steering Committee are some very bright people, several of them women.

But as I clicked around the Berkman Center’s website, I noticed the Directors are all men. I add another tick to my running list of organization with only men at the top.

I don’t mean to pick on the Berkman Center. It does some extraordinary work, to be sure. But I do mean to begin calling out this sad reality in American life—for a progressive country we have utterly regressive power structures.

The facts are plain. Women constitute 51% of the population. Many more female experts exist than ever before, so there is no lack of talent. So what’s up with this lack of diversity?

And what will happen if we fail to rectify the imbalance of power?

The protests rippling across the world all speak to the cry for balance. Not gender equity per-se, but the balance of power.

Creating more parity is a path toward stability in the 21st century. And if the world headlines tell us anything, it’s that you can choose to create balance—or it will be thrust upon you.

Here’s to the sanity of choosing to do what’s right.

Monday, February 21, 2011

3 Ways to Make Your Pitch Click

If you’re wondering about your next sponsorship deal in this economy, a little perspective goes a long way toward succeeding in your next pitch. The first thing you need to understand is that sponsorship is a team sport. That means a group of decision makers will sit in on your pitch.

It’s natural to feel panicky about what you imagine as a steady flow of sponsorship seekers parading before hard-boiled decisions makers who call the shots. And yes, if you let them, they will be. But while they need to learn about what you have to offer, you need to learn about them. You need to figure out their Switch. I’m talking about that universal must-have that flips on the green light. The trouble is, each person at the table sees it and expresses it differently. But it’s not as tough as you think to discover it. You just have to get them talking.

Here are three tips that will greatly improve the meeting you are about to have:

1. Know what you are walking into.
Gather some data about how the meeting will be handled. Will it be structured or unstructured? Ask the person who invited you into the pitch to “coach” you on who will be at the table and what purpose each person plays. In a structured pitch process, every person sitting in on your presentation has a pre-determined role they play. They’ve made an effort to direct the meeting to get their questions answered and avoid stepping on each other’s toes. In an unstructured meeting, the participants may approach the process more creatively. They value ideas. It will feel like a free-for-all. They may not have read any of the materials you’ve sent. It’s personality driven. They may be wondering - will it complement their culture?

2. Understand that your strategy dictates structure.
In a structured pitch, assume they’ve read your stuff. Be succinct. They’ve taken the trouble to orchestrate a process to avoid wasting time. You should follow their lead.
The strategy is to be friendly, frank and focused. They will introduce themselves and explain what they do at the company. Then you jump in: “Thanks for inviting me in. I know your time is precious, so I’ll get right to it.” Using Power Point? Do the intro remarks "About" in three slides or less.

In the unstructured meeting, there will be a longer ice-breaker. People will chat with each other and you. No one has been given guidance about what to ask. They’re winging it, so
you'll need to gently take control of the meeting. First ask, “It would help me enormously to hear a few comments from each of you about what you do and what you need to get out of this meeting.” Listen. Take notes. Give meaningful eye contact. Next, ask permission to pitch: “Would it make sense if I shared a bit about myself and our organization?” And prepare them to listen. “This will take 10 minutes.” This is the prelude to the pitch, and it lets people take you in.

3. Share their goals.
The goal of the meeting is see if you have a fit. You’ll discover that by getting people to talk. That’s true whether it’s a structured
or unstructured process. This might strike you as a bad idea--if they’re doing most of the talking, they aren’t learning about what you have to offer. But unless you vet the various people at the table, and gauge their interests and personalities, you will fail to find the Switch. Each one of them will express it differently, filtered through their various personalities. Without this insight you cannot discover how each decision maker interprets the Switch. No insight, no sense of fit, no deal.

Next week, I’ll list some common creatures of the pitch process and offer tips on the types of questions that will help you discover their particular view of the Switch.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Do You Love Where You Live?

Photo by NguyenTrung
Do you love where you live? Some people feel the sense of place more than others. For me, people matter more than place. But the recent juggernaut of Chrysler’s Eminem ad for Detroit has made me reconsider my sense of place.

I like cities. I like Chicago, where I’ve lived for 20 years. But I confess to feeling envious of all the buzz I heard while doing business in Detroit last week. When I asked about the Chrysler ad, people gushed. I guess it’s pent up pride. It's been a long time since people got the chance to say nice things about their city.

The authors of The Power of Pull seem to think people ARE the place. They consider the human dimension foundational to a city. Why? Because where you live puts you on a path of destiny via serendipitous encounters with people who can help you. For that to happen, people have to be out—at events, on the street, hangin’ out.

Does that describe your city? Is it a place where people encounter each other and share ideas? If so, you’d better love it.

Can you change the human dimension of your city? Yes you can. It means having to stir things up. Make things happen. This year, that’s what I’ll be researching--upstarts. People who are changing their communities. In particular, I’m focused on what it takes to move from whiteboard to Board of Directors to win allies and attract support for an idea.

I’m unearthing the real life stories about what it takes to make a place reborn. Please let me know if there is someone you think I should interview.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Proposals that Pull Also Get Emotional

What makes a good sponsorship proposal?
What makes a bad one?
And how do you know when you’ve got it right?

These questions come up occasionally in the Sponsorship Boot camps I teach. I’m sorry to say I don’t have any easy answers. The honest truth is, I struggle with proposal alchemy myself.

On the one hand, proposals seem like the least important part of the selling process: Shouldn’t you have gained enough excitement in your offer to make the proposal more like gravy? Not in every case.

Keep in mind that finding a sponsor for your idea is not like selling a widget. You’re pitching a concept. Which means you must persuade on three levels: imagination, emotion and logic.

You entice with imagination—those intoxicating visions we sniff before ordering the bottle.

You sell on emotion—that outpouring of words, feeling and impressions that inspire investment.

You justify with logic. These days, sponsors buy in teams. You need logic to quell naysayers on the periphery.

I once desperately wanted to create a proposal that was purely logical. I was pitching a software developer to sponsor a C-level retreat. I admit it now. I was intimidated by the technical bent of the buyer. Naturally, the proposal was heavy on features and benefits. Apparently,it landed on deaf ears.

I sought feedback from the rejection as I encourage my students to do. My heart sank when I heard the reason—“There was just no thrill.” I was incensed. Not at the buyer--at myself. I knew better, but my intellect over ruled my gut.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, let me use this lesson to inspire you. Never mind what you learned in business school or in the school of hard knocks. People want to feel excited and engaged in business transactions. I encourage you to put more heart into your proposals. The power of words can make a sponsor fall in love your idea.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Found Art: The Origin of Life and Death

I stumble across amazing pieces of art on a regular basis and thought I should start sharing these as part of a few "Found Art" feature that I'll post on Fridays.

Here is the first: a wonderful animation piece by James Simpson, a student at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
'The Origin of Life and Death'

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Should We Be Sharing What Works?

Photo by Toban Black
This fall, I had a great opportunity to work with some thought leaders in the philanthropy world in tackling a problem that foundations are just starting to recognize.

Picture this: you’re a foundation with a specific mission and you give a grant to an organization to do some research that has the potential to really make an impact in your area. The organization does the research, applies the results to the work that it’s doing, and writes up a final report for you, the granting foundation, on what it learned and how the research has changed what it does or how it does it for the better. Then what?

The “then what?” is the problem we set out to tackle. What would happen if an organization could share its research with anyone else who might benefit? What if the foundation helped to disseminate the new knowledge that emerged from their initial investment? What if the impact of the grant could be magnified by all of the organizations that want to answer the same research question?

Rebecca Thomas of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and I wrote an article about the benefits of sharing for the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week. Our first shared research collaboration, the ebook Tipping the Culture: How Engaging Millennials will Change Things, was based on research done by Steppenwolf Theatre Company and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Grant-makers and grant-seekers, what benefits do you see to sharing?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Update: Five Rules of Courtship in a Digital Culture

I'm in Detroit this week. It's where I grew up. This time last year, I sat down with Paul W. Smith at WJR Radio in Detroit to discuss rituals of love in a digital culture. I've tweaked the list. With Valentine's Day nearing, I thought I'd revisit the topic.

5 New Rules of Courtly Love in a Digital Culture:

1. Pre-commitment. We live in an age of distraction. It’s tough to commit to anything for longer than a few minutes. With the help of Dan Ariely, we uncovered a trend we call “pre-commitment” where people purposely prevent themselves from acting on their sexual impulses. Online dating coaches (yes, there is such a thing) advise their clients to refrain from sex with a new partner anywhere from 6 to 18 weeks. One young woman reported that she wears her rattiest underwear on a first date to prevent getting too intimate.

2. Cuddle-swapping. Hi-tech hi-touch has entered a whole new realm. The people most steeped in the digital culture are inventing a new emotional currency for getting the affection they crave. Consider this from a programmer who “traded a day of computer assistance for a couple of hours of hugging, in bed…both of us clothed. I’m convinced that prolonged cuddling triggers some kind of happy hormone. I needed it.”

3. Love in the workplace is no longer taboo. Productivity is at an all time high in America. That's because people who do have jobs are married to them. And hey, it’s how Michele met Barack. We found that HR directors are flocking to webinars on how to train people to “better manage” their love relationships in the workplace.

4. Online laws of attraction. Online dating may have its own courtship rituals. But when Jonathan Harris and Sep Kemvar tracked online daters from around the world, they found this: what’s old is new again. People are still turned on by a few human basics:

Top turn ons: Can you guess?
1. Smarts
2. Confidence
3. Nice smile
4. Sense of humor
5. Good kisser

(NB: My friend, Jennifer, the married yoga instructor, thinks this data skews female. Jen argues that men, in her experience, would not rate "smarts" as a top trait in a partner. What do you think?)

5. Giving good analogue still rules. Texting your sweetie, “I love you” is common—but people tell us it’s done several times a day. Maybe the assumption is that it’s a weaker form of communication and needs to be reinforced. But when it comes to expressing true love? Serious lovers still give good analogue. Flowers, lingerie and chocolate will still do the trick…but in a fragile economy and time pressured world we’ll see more people offering to bake for, massage or just snuggle with their loved one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Five People You Meet in Sponsorship Pitch

Forget the idea of sitting across the table from a Chief Marketing Officer to pitch your sponsorship offer. Today, deals are made by teams. As in most meetings, each person brings an agenda. Often times, it’s filtered through their personality. If you expect to succeed, you’ll want to find their “switch”—it’s what flips on the green light. Doing so requires that you engage them before pitching by asking a few well thought out questions. Over the next few weeks, I'll identify some of the most common creatures you’ll encounter, and provide tips for how to uncover their switch:

Echo Chamber Ellen
Ellen’s agenda is fairly obvious. She wants to fit in, especially where her boss is concerned. She’s a pleaser. Her desire to conform is so great, she’s a walking dictionary of corporate speak. Her questions are phrased in slogans: “What I’m not hearing here is, does this drive our vertical.” Huh?

Level of power: Low
Level of Influence: Lower still.
Power style: Passive aggressive

Reason for being at the table: Other people can dump work onto her. Watch, she’ll be asked to do a write up of the meeting or some other mundane task.

The “switch”: Irrelevant. Ask her anything. She will play along with whatever the prevailing mood is in the room.

Perhaps the best thing about Ellen is that she throws off lots of body language. When you direct questions toward her, observe where her eyes go. That’ll tell you who the Alpha in the room is. She’ll glance at the ultimate decision maker first before answering any of your questions.

Next, I’ll introduce you to Alan the Alpha.

(originally posted 2010)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pepsi Dumps Super Bowl—Doubles Down on Pepsi Refresh Sponsorship

Photo by Manuls
I’m a Coke drinker. I became loyal when I consulted on Coca-Cola’s first literacy promotion with Reading Is Fundamental and Harry Potter—the first book. I know, I know—ancient history.

But Pepsi’s recent decision to forgo a pricey Super Bowl ad to pour the money into projects that improve communities has me ready to switch brands.

The Pepsi Refresh Project has been a colossal success for the brand. It’s viral, it’s humane and it delivers one key ingredient to the Pepsi brand: a new generation of young people. They are the heart and soul of the Pepsi brand.

The New York Times reports that Pepsi’s decision to withdraw from the Super Bowl was prompted by an understanding that Millennials want to make their mark—especially to improve their communities.

Sometimes, it takes brands a long time to catch up to where the culture is going. Most stay in a rut. But Pepsi innovated its brand message by taking small steps, and sticking with it.

Forgive me if I take a moment to revel in Pepsi’s decision. For years, I stood before marketing teams to pitch cause-marketing campaigns. I secretly called them “murder boards” where hard-boiled marketing executives, many of them male sports fans, would grill me with tough, nasty questions. The idea that even a dollar of the sports sponsorship budget might be redirected was like taking away the playground toys.

It seems a new day is dawning. Brands are waking up to the power of harnessing their marketing dollars to empower consumers to make a difference in the world.

“This was not a corporate philanthropy effort,” said Shiv Singh, head of digital for PepsiCo Beverages America. “This was using brand dollars with the belief that when you use these brand dollars to have consumers share ideas to change the world, the consumers will win, the brand will win, and the community will win. That was a big bet. No one has done it on this scale before.”

As they say at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, made famous by SNL, “No Coke. Pepsi!”

Source: The New York Times

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Discovering Where I Belong: The Journey Ahead

Photo by gags_d_rebel
I ended 2010 feeling exhausted and brainless. Thank goodness for a cozy holiday season that recharged my spirits.

As 2011 gets rolling, it’s shaping up to be brighter, and more promising. So far, I found time for a physical. Yeah! I’ve read three good books, William Taylor’s Practically Radical among them, which I highly recommend. And pretty much, I’ve been making it to the gym consistently.

There’s one goal I’ve set for myself that’s not so easy to check off my list. It’s a simple question with big implications.

Where do I belong?

The past five years I’ve packed and unpacked my household 4 times. Not because I’m an itinerant personality. Previously, I lived in the same house for 15 years. But family obligations were the prevailing winds of change in my life.

That period is ending. As it does I’m feeling a bittersweet mix of excitement at my prospects, and anxiety about having to choose at all.

I’m thinking it’s time to reinstate an early practice of this blog. Beginning in February, Weekend Personals are back. It’s where I share the nitty gritty of life’s challenges as I face down this next part of the journey.

The rules are simple. I get to let my hair down and tell it like it is. You get to learn from my mistakes, which I promise to share freely. 


Friday, February 4, 2011

Cybersexism Meets Its Match: High School Girls Demand Respect

Photo by Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
The girls at my local high school are fighting back in outrage over a Social Network-style website that rates girls using sexually explicit and racist remarks. Their counter movement, RESPECT, is making headlines. Because many boys joined in solidarity with the girls, the ruckus says a lot about the future of gender politics in America.

Let me explain.

Hundreds of Oak Park-River Forest High School students donned black T-shirts with the word "RESPECT" on the front, and on the back a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

A total of 800 shirts were ordered, the next morning another 300 were ordered after the supply fell far short of demand. Large black and white RESPECT banners appeared in hallways and gathering spots.

Over the last few decades, it seemed as if feminism had lost its oomph. Its been noted that Gen X women felt anxious about the F word, and sought to separate themselves from the label.

Some pundits proclaimed feminism dead. The RESPECT uprising says otherwise.

According to recent Census data, women constitute 51% of the overall population, with a 57% presence on college campuses. Notoriously, women still earn less--81 cents on the dollar. They hold fewer positions of power, while multitasking frenetic career and child-rearing lifestyles.

As the economy haltingly recovers, it's clear that men and women may have a new level of economic interdependence. Survival may depend on new norms of socialization based more on collaboration than dominance/dependence.

The RESPECT skirmish tells us that cone of silence on sexism is being lifted by a rising generation of females, and males. After all, many boys helped the girls fight back.

Feminist author Susan Faludi observed in her controversial book, Stiffed, that men had been equally harmed by societal norms that contorted what it means to be a man. The future, she theorized, would be won by men and women working together.

Now that's an idea worth respecting.

This blog appeared on The Huffington Post.

More on RESPECT from the local River Forest newspaper.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to Seed a New Idea—Selling Your Idea Series

By now you’ve heard of the slow food movement. I’m riffing on that to share a few tips on what it means to slowly build momentum about the idea you want to sell. It starts by planting seeds.

Networking is a great way to begin seeding an idea. It’s also a great way to gauge first-blush reactions to hone your pitch.

The actual nugget of your idea needs to be brief, compelling and pose and solve a problem in 30 words or less. Try writing it on the back of a business card.

But that’s not all.

You—who you are—sells the idea. In fact, my recent interview with Ken Davenport—Broadway’s latest hot rock--reinforces this notion of the “You” factor.

In essence you must be impressive.

Here’s how:
—Be passionate, without over-selling
—Be a crusader looking for the right allies, not just anyone
—Be ready-- to have another conversation, meeting, next step
—Be innovative, reveal something new

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day

The storm blew through.

Everything's quiet.

It's a snow day.

I've lit a fire in my studio.

Having coffee and thinking I'll read and write...all day long.

And you?