In January of this year you probably set new goals for yourself. You thought about what you wanted to do personally and professionally. Businesses around the world introduced their 2020 goals to their teams. As we plunged into February the new year-smell was still in the air. Progress was being made. Then came March. COVID-19 forced us back into our caves. Suddenly it became much more difficult to make progress towards our goals. And even harder to choreograph new handshakes with friends.
As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency,The Weaponry, my career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel as if you are racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.
Pass The Test
If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly. Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. It will be the one who wants it more.
Today, as you confront your own COVI9-19-era challenges, I have a quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party, pull this quote out between rounds and use it as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.
‘Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing.’ -Abraham Lincoln
My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy brand, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.
These are challenging times. We are all being tested. We are all experiencing setbacks. Things are hard, and may get even harder. But keep doing the hard things. Keep fighting. Keep your eyes on the prize. Remain resolute. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
Today, nearly everything that is fun or interesting has been cancelled thanks to COVID-19. In this desert of action, the smallest activities you are doing appear fun and interesting to the rest of the stuck-at-home world. Which means that right now there is a better than average chance you will be interviewed by the news media. Even if you haven’t done anything truly interesting. Or illegal.
Your place. Not mine.
However, due to social distancing, stay-at-home regulations and lockdowns, no reporter will show up at your home or business to talk to you. And they aren’t going to invite you and your potential cooties into the news studio for a chat. Instead, you will be asked to give your interview at home on your computer, smart phone or tablet.
I have been asked to do 2 TV interviews in the past week. The first was with Julia Fello about how our team at The Weaponry is adjusting to working from home. The other was an interview with George Balekji about a video chat reunion that 16 of my University of Wisconsin college track teammates held last Friday to revive the camaraderie of our locker room during this time of social and physical isolation.
In case you get called by the local or national news to do an interview from home, here are a few tricks to increase the likelihood of you giving a great interview that will actually get used.
9 Tips For A Great Interview From Home
1. Find A Good Background
Find a simple, uncluttered place in your home to conduct the interview. To find an appealing background you may have to get creative. Prop your backdrop if necessary. In the Pro Tip below, my friend Katrina Cravy, a media training expert and long time news anchor demonstrates that the setting you choose sends an important message about your brand.
2. Adjust The Camera Height to Eye Level
Our computers and hand-held phone cameras are typically well below our natural eye line. Which means that we look down at them when we are in our normal operating mode. But for an interview it is much better to raise the camera up to eye level. This will make it look as if you are having a conversation with a real human, not your little digital buddy. Use boxes or books to elevate your laptop. If you have a music stand in your home, it will work perfectly to hold your smart phone at eye level. Best of all, it will prevent the rest of us from staring up your nose and seeing bats in the cave during your interview.
3. Go Landscape Mode
We naturally hold our smartphones vertically when we use them. Which is called portrait mode (named after Francois Portrait*). But a television has a horizontal orientation. To make sure your picture properly adapts to the TV screen, turn your phone sideways into landscape mode for your interview. It will look much better on TV.
4. Hold Still
There will likely be a lag in the video based on your technology, wi-fi strength or internet speed. So the more you move (like I tend to do) the funkier your interview is likely to look. Keep you body movements to a minimum in order to not draw attention to picture quality.
5. Improve the Sound
Bad sound will ruin an interview. If you have a good microphone, use it. A headset can work well too. Earbuds are good. Air Pods work really well, because they don’t dictate where you sit. Even better, they don’t have wires to dangle and distract viewers.
Ray Davies Tip: Remember to workout the kinks in your audio technology well before the interview starts.
6. Prepare Your Talking Points
TV news is all about the sound bite. So make sure you have some strong, simple sound bites to share. Before the interview write down your thoughts on the topic. Craft them into short, interesting or memorable statements. A unique, but easily understood statement makes for great TV. Keep your notes nearby to reference during the interview.
Pro Tip: Practice delivering your talking points before the interview. Write down the name of the reporter on your notes. If you are nervous, write down your own name too.
7. Properly Frame Yourself.
Position yourself within the picture so that you look great. You should be centered left and right. Don’t leave a lot of room over your head. If you notice the ceiling in your shot you are doing it wrong. If you can smell your own breath through the screen, back up. And have a mint.
8. Light It Up.
You are not in a perfectly lit studio. So you will have to control the lighting yourself. First, make sure there is enough light on your face so you don’t look dark and creepy. Natural light works great. If you can position yourself to get even light from a window it will make you look even more naturally beautiful than you already are. Then consider grabbing an additional lamp, especially a flexible, direct-able lamp to add additional light if needed.
Side Note: I believe in Crystal Light, cause I believe in me. #nowthatswhatIcall80s
9. Next Level Background
Zoom enables you to use a virtual background. To do this you will either need a very good computer, a plain wall, or a green screen backdrop. Grab a green blanket, sheet or towel, and hang it behind you to create your own green screen at home. On Zoom, go to Preferences…Virtual Background, and then manually pick the background color by clicking the small oval. Then click on your background to sample the background color your photo will replace. You can upload any photo to create your perfect backdrop.
This is a great time to share a little of your good news with the world. Make the most of your opportunity by preparing yourself ahead of time. A little planning will go a long way towards ensuring that you look good and sound good on TV. Good luck. And Stay Classy San Diego.
*Don’t waste your time googling Francois Portrait. I just made that up.
**If you know someone who could benefit from these tips, please share this with them.
Last week marked a major shift for our country. The mood changed. The rules changed. Which meant that many brands had to change their messages and tonality in order to sound in sync with the times. While other brands that had not been part of our collective conversation finally found their pick-up lines working like Joey Tribbiani’s best material.
This meant a McFlurry of activity at The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. While other business were grinding to a halt, our services were sought after like a jumbo pack of toilet paper at Costco.
Did I mention that my entire team also moved to our spring offices this week? Which is a fun way to say that we all worked from home. So did all of our clients. You probably did too.
Here are some of the highlights from our week.
We had our first client meeting at 9am on Monday morning.
In that meeting we planned significant messaging adjustments to respond to new social and economic conditions.
We spent the rest of the day ideating. It felt like we were in a movie about advertising. Complete with Glen Frey’s The Heat Is On playing in the background.
At 5pm we presented a new creative campaign for that same client we met with at 9am. Boom!
We added 2 news clients to our roster.
1 in Columbus, Ohio.
1 in Los Angeles
We had a kickoff meeting to get the L.A.-based client rolling. Because there was no time to waste.
I had a 2-hour video call with my CEO roundtable to talk with other business owners about what they are facing, and the challenging decisions that need to be made in response to the current uncertainty. Several of the member’s businesses were essentially stopped in their tracks by the current ban on gatherings. Which made me extremely thankful for the strong demand for our services.
We presented a new fully-integrated campaign for a new sponsorship that we created on behalf of one of our clients. The campaign included TV, outdoor, long form video, print, in-store displays, event activation, barn painting, social media, digital display and vehicle wraps. That was about it. #ThingsBubbaSays
We presented 37 new logos designs for a long-existing brand as part of a major rebrand initiative. Our 4 clients were all on video-conference, from home, while under house arrest.
Thursday night at 11pm I received an email from one of our clients inquiring about availability to meet the next day. They wanted to discuss ideas for a new promotion to take advantage of the new normal. I responded minutes later with a meeting time on Friday to kickoff the project.
We presented a new content campaign featuring online videos, ranging from 15 seconds to 4 minutes long.
Late on Friday afternoon we received client approval on a re-edit and new voiceover language for a television commercial. I contacted the recording studio to book time with them to record and master 2 new spots. They asked if I wanted to book time on Monday. I said no, I wanted time today, or tomorrow, which of course was Saturday. Since it was late in the day on Friday, and most people had gone home for the day, we settled for first thing Saturday morning.
My team, the audio engineer, voiceover talent, and editor gathered virtually to help speed new commercials to market to help our client respond to our current climate.
We sent brand new commercials to TV stations for immediate airing.
We took a deep breath, and were thankful for the ability to take deep breaths.
These are unique times. The rules, challenges and opportunities are different right now. Help your customers, clients neighbors, family and friends get through this and they will never forget what you did for them. Yes, the stage is different. Most of us are everything-ing from home. But what it takes to shine during these times is the same. So shine on you crazy diamonds.
We’re all experiencing some crazy right now. But if your biggest challenge is that your kids are home from school, demanding fruit snacks, and TikTok-ing around the clock, you are dealing with a great kind of crazy. Enjoy it.
Unfortunately, many business owners and leaders are dealing with a more challenging kind of crazy right now. For many, everything has gone off script. And now they have to figure out what to do next. Kind of like the fake wrestler who gets hit in their real face, with a real medal folding chair, and it really hurts. But the show must go on.
Right now leadership is all improv, all the time. In many industries business and revenue have been shut off like a water faucet. In times like this, entrepreneurship feels a lot less sexy, and I know it.
If you own a business, or are part of an organization’s leadership team, you are likely facing some very challenging decisions in the immediate future, or as part of your early planning for worst case scenarios (not to be confused with wurst casing scenarios at the sausage factory).
In your war room you will weigh the pros and cons of various decisions. You will model and remodel. You will debate and disagree. And none of it will be easy.
But before you make any final decisions, remember this:
A business leader’s primary responsibility is to make sure the business survives forever.
Do what you have to do to keep the business going. The difficult decisions you make now will ensure that once the current climate changes you will once again be able to provide great opportunities for great people and great partners.
*If you know a business leader facing difficult decisions right now, please share this with them.
I love books. They are like fertilizer for your brain. I like to read them and listen to them. I like to collect books and display them throughout my house. I like books that educate, inspire and entertain. And I just finished a great book that did all 3 of those things in one handy-dandy, hard-covered, Amazon-Prime-delivered package.
The 5-Day Turnaround
My great friend, former co-worker and serial (not cereal) entrepreneur, Jeff Hilimire, somehow stole enough time from his crowded calendar to author a book called The 5-Day Turnaround.
I’ll admit that when I first heard the title of the book I was quite skeptical. I mean, who needs 5 days to turn all the way around? I think the Earth itself only needs like 2 or 3 days to turn around, right?
When I dug into the book I realized it wasn’t about slow-turning humans after all. It was about how to inspire established companies to think more like startups. And how to get corporate leaders to think and behave more like entrepreneurs.
I found this book fascinating. And highly relatable. Because 4 years ago I went from a very large, publicly held organization to a startup. My own startup. And as I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I noticed how different the 2 organizations were in their approach to, well, approaching things.
Comparing and Contrasting
The 5-Day Turnaround captures the mindset, speed and aggressiveness embodied in a startup, and contrasts it with the cautious, conservative nature of a well established company. The book is written as a fictional novel. Which means that the reader follows the story, and through ahh-smosis, picks up on all the important lessons learned by the story’s floundering corporate character, Matt.
The Pitch. And The Proposal.
The book really kicks into action after an ad agency pitch, when the potential client (Matt), tells the agency that they didn’t win the pitch because their ideas were so good and innovative that the conservative corporation didn’t have the chutzpah to implement them. Which meant the company was likely to choose a lamer agency instead.
However, the agency’s leader, Will, comes up with a daring plan to help Matt transform from a beaten down corporate dog into a daring, entrepreneurial leader within his large organization.
The story is a bit like the Fairy Godmother turning Cinderella into the belle of the ball. Only Cinderella was a cautious middle manager, who became an aggressive, entrepreneurial executive. And in this story Cinderella kept both of his Allen Edmonds wingtips on as he headed for home, at midnight, in his Tesla.
The book is packed with relatable organization challenges. And Will teaches Matt how to overcome them all in just 5 days. Will does this using foundational fundamentals that help organizations and departments grow at startup speed. Which is only slightly slower than ludicrous speed. #wevegoneplaid
The book challenges the assumption that bad things will happen if you take a risk within a large organization. It walks through a worst case scenario to dispel the myth that bad things happen to people who stick their necks out. It encourages readers to become fearless in their thinking and actions. Which is a lesson that benefits everyone.
You Down With PVTV? (yeah you know me!)
The book walks through the importance of establishing your Purpose, Vision, Tenets and Values (PVTV). Which sounds like the local station in the Portland-Vancouver, WA metro area. It even guides you through a process to determine the PVTV for your organization or department. This alone is worth the read.
The book covers such important topics as:
The Do Or Die Mindset
Identifying the right and and wrong people for your organization, based on the PVTV. (I want my PVTV!)
Who Is It For?
This book is great for any leader interested in thinking and acting more like an entrepreneur, even if you never plan to start your own business. The entrepreneurial mindset is confident, inspired and fast-acting (like Tinactin). Which leads to more success, because it creates more opportunities for success.
The 5-Day Turnaround is not just a book you read once. It becomes an easy-to-use reference book that you can pick up anytime for a quick hit of inspiration. It provides a series of valuable guideposts to keep you on course. Plus, it is a quick, easy and engaging read that flies by, allowing you to digest a lot of new information in a short time.
I found a couple of other fun things in this book. A crazy, risk-taking example Jeff mentions in the book was inspired by a meeting Jeff and I had at Proctor & Gamble, that involved a surprise performance from an opera singer. It was weird, and fun, and memorable. #TakingRisks
One of the really fun surprises at the end of this great read was that I found my name in the acknowledgements section. It was the first time I remember receiving a literary shout out. I think the major contribution I provided was simply encouraging Jeff to write the book in English, and number the pages, in order, starting with the smallest numbers.
Thank for writing The 5-Day Turnaround Jeff. Thanks for sharing your insights, experiences and talent with the world. You have been a positive and motivational, and inspiration force for me and so many others. Now, you have inspired me to want to write my own book. I’m thinking of calling it The 4-Day Turnaround. Or maybe 6-Minute Abs.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this book, please share this post with them.
I was recently invited to speak at a Metro Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce event about storytelling. As the 3rd of 3 speakers on the same topic of storytelling, I knew I better take a unique angle on the topic in order to cover some new ground. I reframed storytelling in a different, perhaps more approachable or understandable context for business owners, small marketing teams and generalists. Here is the story I presented.
The Story on Storytelling
I have spent over 2 decades in marketing and advertising. About 10 years ago people started talking about ‘Storytelling’ like it was the hot new thing in marketing communications. But as the author of 23 years of ad campaigns and marketing programs, I’ll tell you that I don’t think about marketing in terms of storytelling.
The term ‘storytelling’ is weird for adults. If conjures images of fairytales, campfires, ghost stories, and once-upon-a-time-ness. It can be hard to connect the dots back to business and marketing. Unless, of course, you are Mother Goose, work at Disney, or are one of the Brothers Grimm.
If you are struggling with the idea of incorporating storytelling into your work, I want you to think about storytelling another way. I want you to think of business-related storytelling as Recruiting. Because marketing, advertising and sales is really just recruiting:
Recruiting customers to your store, show or restaurant.
Recruiting shoppers to your shelf.
Recruiting clients to your firm or agency.
Recruiting voters to the polls to vote for you or your agenda.
Recruiting attendees to an event.
Recruiting employees to work for you.
Where I learned this
Let’s go back in time to where I learned about marketing as recruiting. It wasn’t at my first advertising job. Or in my college classes. I learned about selling, marketing and advertising from an unexpected teacher: my college track coach.
Mark Napier, my coach at the University of Wisconsin, was a great track coach. But Mark Napier, was a world class recruiter. To be successful in college athletics you need to be able to recruit great athletic talent. And Coach Napes was masterful at it.
I have bachelor’s degrees in both journalism and psychology. But I earned a master’s degree in selling by studying how Professor Napier recruited. (He wasn’t really a professor. He didn’t even own any elbow patches).
The Essential Recruiting Technique
You know how Napes recruited top track and field athletes from across the country, the Caribbean, and Europe to come to Wisconsin? Where it snows from October through May?
He told stories. Stories that sold people. The most important lesson I learned from Napes was, know your audience. What do they want? What do they need? Because if you know what they want and what they need you know what to tell them to sell them.
It’s not you. It’s them.
But remember, don’t tell the story you want to tell. It is all about the story they want to hear. When it came to recruiting high school track and field athletes there were many different wants and needs. You had to do your homework to understand their hot buttons. You have to do your own research. You have to observe the athlete. Ask questions. And listen to what they say.
The Prospective College Athlete Hot Buttons May Include:
Academic quality and reputation
Proximity to home
The athletic program
Proximity to Aunt Deanie (my Aunt Deanie lived in Madison and was a draw for me. But many other kids have their own version of Aunt Deanie).
The town itself
Proximity to stupid high school girlfriends or boyfriends.
A particular major or program
The conference you compete in.
Good looking girls
Spring training trips
The coaches track record of success
Ass-Kicking-Ness (You can tell this by smelling their shoes)
Someone just like them in the program
Pushing The Hot Button
Coach Napes was masterful at discovering the hot buttons of each athlete we were recruiting, and telling them the story they wanted to hear. Or demonstrating it. Or making them experience it.
As a result were able to successfully recruit national champions from Southern California and from Florida to join our track team in Madison, Wisconsin.
In fact, my junior and senior years we were Big 10 Champions in both indoor and outdoor track. My senior year our team was 6th in the nation. I had 6 teammates who were Division 1 National Champs in their events.
Putting Recruiting To Work At Work
You can use the same approach to recruiting in your business. I want you to think of yourself like a Division 1 coach who is trying to attract 5 Star Recruits. For those of you who are sports illiterates, that means you are coaching at the highest level, and recruiting the very best athletes.
Departments or roles that should be recruiting for you:
We All Have Needs
It all starts with understanding your potential customer’s wants and needs. Know this and you will know what story to tell. Because in business the only thing that matters is what your audience wants or needs. And whether they think they can get it from you.
This is where the story starts.
Create a persona of the target audience you want to recruit. Understand them in detail.
Once you know who you are trying to reach, you talk to them about the things they want to hear.
Track record of Success
Ease of Use
Find the most compelling story you can tell to make people buy into you and your offering. That is your strategy. Then tell the stories that make you appear more attractive to those you are trying to recruit.
Storytelling in business is simply recruiting. It is sharing the great things about you, your organization, your products, and your services, with those you want to attract. Know your audience and what they want. And then show and tell them how you can deliver against their wants and needs. The End.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.
I often talk about work at home. I want my 3 children to learn as much about business and entrepreneurship as possible. In the same way languages are easier to learn when you are younger, good business lessons are easier to learn before you become a cog in a machine. I learned that from reading Rich Dad. Poor Dad. And from becoming a cog in a machine.
The Proposal Parade
My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, has been writing a lot of proposals lately. You write a proposal when a client or potential client wants to know how you would handle a specific project. The proposal, also called a statement of work (S.O.W.), includes a proposed course of action, timing and budget. It does not include getting down on one knee. #KaepernickCouldDoIt
Earlier this week I was telling my wife about an exciting new proposal that we were working on. My 9-year old son Magnus overheard the conversation. Mostly because I wanted him to overhear the conversation. #sneakydadlessons
When I tucked Magnus into bed that night he asked me, ‘Dad, is someone really going to pay your business Vague Large Sum of Money? I was glad he asked. Because his interest gave me a perfect opportunity to share a lesson…
The Bedtime Story
Me: Yes Magnus. Someone is really going to pay us Vague Large Sum of Money. But there is more to it that you should understand. Remember when we went to Dallas during spring break last year? And on the last day we went to Dunkin Donuts?
Me: Remember after we ate donuts, Mom dropped me off to have chocolate milk with my friend? Then Mom took you, Ava and Johann to some shops and to that park nearby where you played on that long horned cow statue?
Me: Well, after my friend and I caught up on what had happened over the past 13 years since we had last seen each other, he said, ‘I could use your help on some projects I am working on.’
Then he called me after we got home from vacation, and we set up a video conference meeting between our teams. We did 3 small projects together. And they really liked how those projects went. So they asked us to do more work for them. And we did a good job on those project too.
Because we did a good job on all those projects, now they are going to give us Vague Large Sum of Money to do an even larger project.
But, think of that money as a loaf of bread. They give us the whole loaf. And that is called Revenue.
But then we need to give slices of bread to the workers at The Weaponry who work on the project. And we have to give slices of the bread to the film crew and the photographers and editors who work on the project. And we have to give a slice to other companies, like the airlines and the hotels that we use when we travel to do the work.
After everyone else who works on the project gets their slices of bread, The Weaponry keeps a few slices for itself for helping to organize all of the work that needed to be done.
And those slices of bread that we keep are called profit.
Magnus: How much profit does the business keep?
Me: We like to aim for 25%. Or 1 out of 4 dollars. So if they gave us $100 our profit would be $25. (Profit is actually a bit more complicated, and depends on the project. But I was trying to keep things simple.)
Putting Math To Work
Magnus and I then applied the 25% rule to the Vague Large Sum of Money so that Magnus could understand what a project of that size represented after all of the work was done, and all the bills were paid.
The Lesson Learned
After completing Daddy’s Bedtime BusinessLesson, I asked, ‘So Magnus, what is the key lesson you learned here?’
And without a moment of hesitation, Magnus replied:
‘Have chocolate milk with your friends.’ -Magnus Albrecht (9 y/o)
Have chocolate milk with your friends. Or coffee, or beer or Kool Aid. Spend time with your people. Good things happen when you first develop and maintain good relationships. Even a 9-year old knows that.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.