Bottom of the 9th creative

Is there a point where a strategic marketing campaign can become a belabored game of unproductive messaging?  Worthy campaigns are often won with consistent hit after hit, but nothing says success like a grand slam home run.  Well, it’s the bottom of the 9th.  And we need one.

Isn’t some of the best work created when we take our eye off the ball for a moment?  What if we were to stop looking at the pitcher for a minute, step away from the batter box, and look behind us and see the thousands of fans waiting for us to receive the next pitch, the next client request for a ‘creative’, our chance to deliver the next product launch in a truly noteworthy way?

Well, it seems to me they’re a bit tired of watching and waiting for something exciting to come along.   In fact, quite a few of them seem to have left the game after the 7th inning stretch to hang out socially (as in social media) in the parking lot.   How will we get their attention back?  How will we entertain them – and give them that one key message that will resonate?  Cause that’s all we’ve got.  One more strike and we’re out.

Our brand will forever be associated with this ball.   And, trust me, metrics will tell us, possibly even before our hit ball passes the pitcher (if we’re lucky) whether we’re on base, or, perhaps, as everyone hopes, we’ve delivered another home run.

You think we’re going to hit it out of the park without proper conditioning?  Without a good coach?  We need to turn our eyes back to that next pitch, keep our eye on the ball and bring everything we’ve got to delivering something that’ll have them cheering again.  We have a chance to make them fans for life.  Let’s not blow it.

Addendum:

Though I thought my initial draft sounded pretty good, I felt it was a bit convoluted and knew I was mixing metaphors.  Every writer needs an editor, and I have the benefit of a Business Partner who will be brutally honest with me.  Well, not ‘brutally’ so much, but….  he wrote:

I think it’s good but the message is a bit lost by the subplot (people socializing in the parking lot) and the incongruous methaphors. For example – you start with ‘messaging’ in a negative context (‘never ending) yet you go on to promote it? Metaphor – ‘take your eye of the ball’ followed later by ‘without focus’ you can’t succeed. Also, is it the ball or the hit that’s the brand? And is ‘luck’ or skill really what you want to hang your hat on? The ending is also blatantly salesy, not what you want from a blog. The content should sell the service. I like the story though!

And so the window has been opened a bit on how, by working together, we can better meet our creative challenges.  Thanks for the input, bud!

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No ‘maybes’ about it

I was raised to be polite.  In 10th grade, after I’d answered a teacher’s question with what I thought to be aplomb, the smartest person in class turned around and said, “You know what you are?  You’re obsequious.”

I thought of course that she was paying me a compliment, but I wasn’t quite sure.  She saw that I was smiling still and said, “You don’t know what that word means, do you?”

“Well…”

“Look it up.  You’ll see.”

And it was me!  I was in fact, ‘subservient to a fault’.  I still am.  I find it easy to put myself in a service mode – a parent, a client, and, as it turns out, even people working on my behalf.

Because of this blessing-curse, I found myself, as a Producer of corporate media, able to harness the talents of people – often much older than me – through the use of humble requests.   ‘If you have time, do you think you might be able to…’   It’s what I call the ‘little-boy-lost’ approach.  “Maybe you could help me…”  It worked beautifully for my sales efforts, and, I thought until recently, for carrying out my desires from those supporting my production efforts.

Well, as much as the idea of the ‘request’ (vs. an order) is still, in my view, the only way to engage others (respect for the individual and all that), I’ve recognized that I was taking this subservience to a level that was unnecessary, and, worse yet, counter productive to clear communication of my desired outcome.

Example: “Maybe you could spend an hour or two developing something…”

Maybe?  Perhaps?   I realized these simple words of politeness were leaving open the possibility that I wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to have that person do.

“I thought I asked you do that,” I’d say, miffed that my authority was being undermined.

But when I went back to the emails, it became clear.  I was leaving it ambiguous, giving the requestee an option.  Thanks to my Business Partner and other coaches, I’ve been issuing more direct requests; ones that allow me to hold the person more accountable and better insure that things get done.

“Can you please spend an hour or two…,” still sounds polite, but it forces the recipient to be accountable.

It’s semantics.  But, in communications, it’s usually the communications that are the problem.  As it is with so many aspects of life, directness in business communications can be a valuable trait.

Golf. ‘nough said?

Is there anything else that can be written about golf?  Let’s take a stab at it…

It was devlishly exciting for me to be able to tell my Father, who’s both a country clubber and golf course owner, that I’d joined a local ‘public’ course and how great it is to be able to change my shoes in the parking lot.  He hit me.

As we finished up the 17th hole at the same course, our prosthetic-enabled ‘ringer’ of a sales person shot his ball up above a retaining wall.  Had it been my ball, I’d have counted it off as ‘lost’, knowing I’d never be able to gracefully get my middling body on top of the stone wall.  My mouth was on the fairway as our buddy used one arm to mount the wall as if it were a pommel horse.  He proudly held up the ball as he now hopped off the wall, landing on one very strong leg, to resume play.  I’ve started going to the gym since.

A local political person who I’d expect would embrace golf and the opportunity it might provide for fundraising told me in no uncertain terms that he despises golf and anyone who plays it (it was clear he was only half kidding).  Perhaps he didn’t realize, I told him, that I was cursed to play the game by parents who’d named me ‘Chip’ ‘Green’; that I’d needed to develop at least my short game just to live up to the name.  The pol’s partner asked, “What’s a short game?”   I explained that it was like miniature golf on steroids (I overuse the ‘on steroids’ term, I know).  I tried to tell them it’s, “Like polo without a horse, croquet on a much larger lawn… It’s fun!”  No takers.   The world really is divided into those who golf and those who just don’t give two cents about the game, with both camps it seems gleeful about their positions.  I enjoy being an ambassador between the two.

Today, we’re venturing out for at least nine holes with a person we’re hoping will become more of a business partner to Green Ink.  How will he handle frustration?   Will he be a rule follower or, like some I play with, a proud flouter of rules such as putting order and pin pulling?  Of course, I know I talk too much generally and golf is a good place for my real friends to ask me to keep quiet for a minute or two.

Golf exposes us.  And, if we listen to what it tells us about ourselves, perhaps we can learn something.

Philanthropic muscle

I’ve been privileged to get to know a couple of families who have taken their unique challenges and turned them into blessings for causes they care about.

The Eva Fini Fund was started by Amie and Albert Fini of Goshen, NY.  Their beautiful fifth daughter, Eva, was born with a rare, debilitating disease called Rett Syndrome.  Most of us would use whatever energy we had just to deal with the huge emotional and physical toll it would take on us.  But the Fini family has found a way to turn their challenge into a triumph.

This past Saturday evening, family, friends, work associates and an extended community joined together for a world-class event at the Fini estate.  The Fini’s are, like most of us, guarded about their personal lives, but for one day each of the past three years, they’ve selflessly raised the curtain on the very private world that they and Eva go through every day, and, lead this year by the amazing talent of 10 year-old Gabriella Fini, they allow Green Ink to help them put together a video that shares Eva’s beautiful personality and the challenges she and her care givers face every day.  The result: close to $.5M raised for Rett research in just over two years.  From tragedy to triumph.  What an inspiration!

And, in the same town of Goshen lives Debra Randazzo, one of two sisters who have created a not-for-profit, Hailey’s Hope Foundation.  This cause is dedicated to helping families with premature infants to cope financially and emotionally with the challenges associated with having their pregnancy cut short – often by months.   Imagine thinking your wife would be working up until the ninth month only to find that now neither of you can be going to work because you can not NOT be there for your struggling infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Insurance and Ronald McDonald House can only cover so much.  It adds up: meals, parking, lodging, gas, babysitters…

The Randazzo family reaches out to their extended network and puts on a highly successful ‘Beach Bash’ gala event, and, this year, they’re putting together their first fund raising golf tournament.  They asked if I had any advice for them (I suppose since I’m a person whose name sounds like a golfer) and I suggested that they have a keg of cold beer at one or more of the holes and perhaps, as they had at the local scholarship fundraiser tournament I attended last week, Jello shots at the ‘closest to the pin’ hole in order to soften up the encouraged $20/per player donation to win the bag of clubs.

We all had a good laugh when Debra mentioned that the tournament they were creating would be a $5,000 per foursome donation and that they’d be having an open bar at every third or fourth hole.

“Nevermind,” I said.  “You know what you’re doing.”

Congratulations to the Fini and Randazzo families for all they’re doing.  May their work be as inspiring to other not-for-profits as it has been to me.

Just plain ‘social’

I saw this referenced in a LinkedIn group:

Study: Amateur User-Generated Video Held Attention Faster and Stronger Than Professional Video commpro.biz

As a ‘pro’, I was alarmed.  I read the earnestly written article and began to feel a bit like Jeff Daniels in those amazing first 15 minutes of News Room.  (OK, I’m not supposed to consider myself Sorkin level, but… how bout a cross between Sorkin and Sederis, taken down a notch?)

I posted the following hastily written comment:

Is it me or is there an overabundance of articles and posts that encourage us to throw out the conventional wisdom that’s been ruling the business world for 10, 20, 30 years and go for the social media equivalent of the lowest common denominator?  You don’t need to talk to someone to actually sell something these days. People will trust you with a tweet. You don’t have to spend money on a professional agency for your video, you can have your friend with his new HD camera that took those cool pictures at Disney help you create the hilarious, next-hit-on-youtube – video that’ll have them reading your blog in no time.

Well, I’m sorry. I’m skeptical. Sure, social media as part of the mix and ‘authenticity’ while shouting in public spaces are important, but at what point do we start to look at just plain ‘social’? And when do we remember that they call it production ‘value’ for a reason? If it looks cheap, it is. Sorry, but I’d like to see the two videos, as well as a multi-video comparison of the kind of videos a pro creative production team has delivered against the user-generated stuff, and then know the intended audiences. I mean, sure, I’d probably buy crayons from a cool teenager if I were five, but…

OK, so I cleaned up the text a little.   It was a rant, sure.

But, this and so many ‘studies’ look suspect to me and point to a cottage industry of ‘do-it-yourself’, self-proclaimed ‘experts’ online.   This so called ‘study’ was questioned by other media professionals as well. In fact, the discussion exposed me to an astute experienced DP in the Tampa area who let me joins his group where these kinds of self-promoting, ‘bogus’ studies are banned.  EFP Video Productions Workshop | LinkedIn

Lesson learned: more than ever, we have to be discerning.   But I’ve had another train of thought:  is there a place for the media-skeptical, socially old-fashioned person in the new mobile-enabled world?  It’s obvious that there needs to be a mix.  Generation We is a fantastic concept and I embrace it:  Rewriting the playbook for “Generation We” – Digital Age of Marketing

But, as alluded to above, let’s not forget the ‘social’.  This generation ‘we’ can’t be inside or plugged in all the time, or then it becomes Generation ‘Those Guys’ Who Stay Inside All Day’  – Generation IAD?

This past weekend, I befriended a boater who was being harassed by a local derelict (that’s a kind word).  I wanted to make sure he was OK and to know that New London really isn’t ‘that way’.  Sure we have our homeless but they’re generally pretty cool and we always have cops on bikes.  ‘I walk my dog here all the time’.  A real ambassador of my city I am.  As it turned out, we had a great chat later and he’s very interested in New London.  Has loved being one of the few boaters coming into New London’s downtown waterfront over the years, and he teaches Urban Studies at Columbia.  He’s sees ‘something happening’ in New London.  He gave me his business card and I told him I’d call him.

We exchanged some email, had lunch a couple days later with a friend I thought he’d appreciate (he did – in fact is talking to him about local real estate investments), and we enjoyed world-class Kareoke that night at my favorite neighborbhood latin place, Mambo.

I believe we’ve established a relationship that will strengthen based on shared appreciation for areas such as ‘aging issues‘, ‘latin music‘ and ‘urban development’.  He’s married to a politically connected woman, lives in a cool Brooklyn neighborhood…  Not just a Facebook friend, a friend friend.  And it was all social.  No media involved – except email and a couple texts – we weren’t that old school.

So that’s the easy argument – the social needs to be a mix of online and ‘real life’.  But now, how do we use the ‘social media’ to make the most of our meeting, and perhaps turn that into some kind of commerce for our businesses to keep the whole philanthropic vibe going?   To help create Smarter Cities?  And ultimately a smarter planet?

Now there’s a question for the interns!