The Weaponry turns 5 years old!

I always wanted to start my own business. Not because I was an unhappy employee or a free spirit who couldn’t stand to work for The Man. I just like a good challenge. And everything I ever heard about entrepreneurship made it seem like it was the career equivalent to bull riding. Or free solo climbing. Or streaking at the Super Bowl. I knew it was dangerous. The likelihood of failure was very high. But if you are successful, there are few endeavors as rewarding.

On the set of a recent TV shoot with Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. I tried to steal his necklace, and he tried to defend it. It was all very subtle.

Some Fun Entrepreneurial Facts

  • There are 31 million businesses in the United States
  • 90% fail within the first 5 years
  • Only 4% ever make $1 million a year.
  • The average age of startup Founders is 42 years 
  • A first-time entrepreneur has an 18% chance of succeeding
  • 70% of entrepreneurs were married when they started their first business
  • 60% had at least one child
  • 44% had two or more children
  • 66% of start-up founders pay themselves less than $50,000
  • 69% of American entrepreneurs start their business at home
  • 80% of small businesses are non-employer businesses. 
  • 51% of small businesses make less than $100,000 in annual sales. 

Riding The Bull

With these facts in hand, I launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, in 2016. I wholeheartedly believed that we would succeed. The statistics didn’t scare me. They motivated me to prove that I was one of the few, the proud, the elite non-failers. Although I am sure the failers also felt confident when they first started out. After all, you don’t jump out of an airplane unless you are highly confident your parachute will open. Unless maybe there were snakes on the plane.

A constant reminder in our offices to think.

Turning 5 Years Old

Today, I am thrilled and proud to say The Weaponry is 5 years old! We gave grown significantly each year. And despite the global pandemic, 2020 was our best year yet. Now 2021 is off to a strong start. We continue to add to our team. And we have added 2 new clients in the past 2 weeks.

From a trip to India in 2018 to work with our clients Fifth Third Bank and SLK Global Solutions. I didn’t get the White Shirt Memo.

Funner Entrepreneurial Facts

  • The Weaponry has offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus.
  • We have 24 clients
  • We have clients in all 4 US Time Zones.
  • We have clients in 3 countries: The United States, Canada and India.
  • We offer Health Insurance and Dental Insurance
  • We have a 401(k) plan with a 4% match
  • We have two red refrigerators
  • Both of our offices are in Suite #206 (Although the signs say Sweet #206. Because I thought that was funnier. Those are the kinds of dumb things you can do when you start your own business.)
This is where the magic happens.

What’s Next?

I feel as if we have only just begun, like Karen Carpenter. We have much more to accomplish. We expect us to grow and expand significantly. It is clear that we are having great success with happy clients who have hired The Weaponry 2 and 3 times as they have changed jobs. Which I think is the best compliment a client can give you.

Our 3 Pillars of Success.

Before we won our very first client (Global Rescue), I declared The Weaponry’s recipe for long-term success. And unlike that finger-licker Colonel Sanders, I am happy to share it with you.

  1. Great Creative Idea
  2. Excellent Customer Service
  3. A Fun Experience for Everyone Involved.
Me and Dan Richards, CEO of our first client, Global Rescue. We were trying to look tough while wearing polos.

What’s Next?

If we continue to deliver on these 3 points we will enjoy perpetual success. And while I am very thankful to have made it to 5 years, I believe the job of leadership is to keep a business in business forever. To do that we will have to continue to listen, learn, adapt and improve. I am fully committed to it. Just like a streaker.

Key Takeaway

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. In fact, it offers one of life’s greatest challenges. But if you want to try it, I highly encourage you. It is extremely rewarding in more ways than I have room to share in a concluding paragraph. To dramatically improve your chances of success start a business doing something you know well. Choose work you love to do. And you will have the intellectual equipment and the magnetic pull to get you to 5 years and beyond.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Hey big-picture thinkers, is it a 10,000, 30,000 or 50,000-foot view?

I like to think of myself as a thinker. I think all the time. If I was a cartoon character I would be Thinker Bell. If I was a pop star I would be Robin Think. And if I was an assassin I would be John Thinkley Jr.

I think about small details. I like to consider all the little things that matter. Because, as the band Bush sang, it’s the little things that kill. I also find great value in big-picture thinking. It is immensely valuable to be able to step back and see an entire system, business, system, or opportunity.

As a professional ideator, I spend a lot of time in both micro and macro-thinking modes. It is important to be comfortable in both. I am also quite comfortable at mecro thinking, which is what I call the medium view. Or at least I have been calling it that since the last sentence.

However, I have noticed that big-picture thinking suffers from a branding consistency issue. People can’t seem to agree on a standard elevation for big picture evaluation. I have frequently heard people refer to this as the 10,000-foot, 30,000- foot, or 50,000-foot view. I would prefer not to have to develop 3 different calibrations for big thinking. So I am hoping we can settle on one standard. Like VHS.

10,000 feet

10,000 feet sounds nice and clean. It uses a nice, round, large number. So there is good rationale for using it. Plus, it’s a 10-base number, which makes it like the metric system of big views.

30,000 feet

The 30,000-foot view sounds pretty random. Like a 32-degree freezing point. Or 212- degree boiling point. However, I fly a lot. Correction – I used to fly a lot. #covid I know that airplanes typically fly in the 30,000-foot range. So it is the highest view I have ever really experienced. It looks a lot different than the 10,000 foot view. Plus, the tallest mountain on Earth, Mt. Everest, is just about 30,000 feet. And the view from the top is amazing. (I’ve never climbed Everest, but I was a long-time subscriber to Outside magazine.)

50,000 feet

The 50,000-foot view is interesting. It is the highest of the 3 options. So, therefore, offers the biggest picture view of all. Although I have never seen the world from 50,000 feet. So I have more of a guess as to what it would look like. Perhaps at 50,000 feet, we have gone too high. There is a good chance that this elevation pushes things too far to be useful. Like 6 Minute Abs.

My View

I have chosen my default big picture elevation. But I feel like I am being constantly overbid or underbid on my view, depending on whether we are playing Big Picture Christie’s Auction House or Big Picture Name That Tune. (You should be able to tell from my last statement which elevation I use.)

The Question

So what is the correct standard for big picture thinking? I want to hear from you. How high do you go? And if you know why you choose that elevation I’d love to hear. After my ears pop that is.

*If you know someone who thinks big, please share this with them so we can all get on the same altimeter.

What really happens when you share your content.

Content is the marketing buzzword of the millennium. If Jan Brady was alive today, (and was a marketing expert), she would be exclaiming, ‘Content, content content!’ instead of, ‘Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!’

Experts say that both personal brands and business brands need to put out content to draw more attention. It’s easy to understand why Netflix, Hulu and HBO need content. It is the product they sell. But why do non-entertainment brands and individuals need content? Inquiring minds want to know.

Connect The Dots

Think of life like a giant game of connect-the-dots. When you share your content you are enabling others to connect to your dots. Your dots may be your ideas, products, services, advice, knowledge, experience, expertise or friendship. All of those things have value in this epic game of connect-the-dots we are all playing.

A Recent Example

Last weekend Angie Eger from Columbus, Ohio posted a picture of her son on Instagram. And when she did, a curious chain of events happened.

I thought about Angie for the first time in quite a while. Angie cut my hair from 2009 to 2014 when I lived in Columbus. Then I remembered that I have a problem. I need a haircut. However, I have a bigger problem, which is that my hair person in Milwaukee, Sara Holzem, moved to Naples during the pandemic. And I have only had my hair cut once since. The cranky woman who cut my hair did a good job, but the experience was poor. And by the looks of it, she has been fired by the hair place where I saw her. It’s likely because her cranky pants were a violation of the salon’s dress code.

As I read Angie’s Instagram post I realized that I would be in Columbus, Ohio the following Friday. So I sent Angie a note through Instagram asking her if she had any spare hair time on Friday. Luckily for me, she did.

This is Angie, with a mask, for safety.

So last Friday morning I got my hair cut by Angie for the first time in 7 years. It was a major win-win. Angie offered a great solution to a problem I was struggling to solve. My fresh new hairdo looks a lot better than my expired one. I got to start my Friday morning catching up with an old friend. And Angie increased her business last week, by re-attracting a lapsed customer. As a result, she made money doing something she loves.

Share Your Content

This transaction only happened because Angie posted a picture of her son on Instagram. I was connecting dots, and she put her dot right where I needed it. Which meant that I connected Angie’s Instagram-post dot to my hair-problem dot to my trip- to-Columbus dot. Problem solved.

This is the image of Angie’s son on Instagram that started it all. Happy Birthday Cole!

Key Takeaway

Keep sharing your world with others. Every piece of content you share has the potential to help someone. It makes you or your organization top of mind when others are trying to solve a problem. We are all playing a giant game of connect-the-dots every day. So add your dots. And help others win.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How the fun UW Credit Union commercials with Jonathan Taylor happened.

Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has been the talk of the sports world this week. He lit up the NFL on Sunday, rushing for a Colts record 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He completed the regular season with 1169 rushing yards, 3rd best in the NFL in 2020. He also used his remarkable speed, agility and hand-washing skills to avoid covid all season long.

Taylor’s standout NFL season comes on the heels of a record-setting college career.

Jonathan Taylor highlights at the University of Wisconsin:

  • 1st running back in college football history to rush for 6,000 yards in 3 seasons.
  • 6th most rushing yards in college football history, despite only playing 3 seasons.
  • Winner of the Doak Walker Award as America’s best college running back in both 2018 and 2019.
  • 2 time unanimous 1st-team All-American in 2018 and 2019
JT talking about colts and cowboys.

Marketing Opportunities

In 2020, as Jonathan Taylor began his NFL career, he also began a partnership with UW Credit Union. Taylor first became a member of UW Credit Union his freshman year in Madison. It was the first bank account the Salem, New Jersey native ever had. In fact, it was Taylor who first approached UW Credit Union about a possible partnership, noting the strong connection he felt towards the brand.

The interview portion of the program.

Starting and Stopping

The first scheduled collaboration between Taylor and UW Credit Union was supposed to happen back in March of 2020, just before the NFL draft. JT was hosting a series of football camps for youth in Milwaukee and Madison that was sponsored by UW Credit Union. But the camps were scheduled for March 14 and 15th. Which was the weekend the coronavirus pulled the plug on all fun and games in America.

Not only were the camps canceled, the entire country went into lockdown-mode for the next 2 months. The only sports happening in America were toilet paper hunting, cleaning supply gathering, and an epic game of covid dodgeball.

JT demonstrating the no-look one-handed catch.

One Last Chance

By the middle of summer, we had all settled into the new normal. Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union approached our team at The Weaponry about the JT partnership again. She asked us if we thought we should still try to create some new content with Jonathan if logistics would allow. We said absolutely. So we contacted Team Taylor and Everett Sports Marketing, JT’s marketing agents, to see what if anything was still possible.

Good News

As it turns out, Anne’s call was well timed. JT needed to report to training camp with the Indianapolis Colts the next week. As luck would happen, he was going to be in Madison a day before that to pack up his apartment, move, and enjoy some Toppers Pizza. So we had one day to capture what we needed. However, we had less than a week to prepare.

This meant we had less than a week to figure out what we were going to do with JT, where we were going to do it, and who we were going to work with to film and photograph him. Under normal circumstances, this would be a very tight squeeze. But during the covid-era the opening was so small we didn’t know if even JT could run through it.

The Location

The location was difficult to find. The University of Wisconsin was in full lockdown mode, and wouldn’t allow anyone on campus, including the athletic facilities. Dane County put tight restrictions on gatherings of non-household-sharing humans. So we were in a tough spot.

Jonathan Taylor and Adam Albrecht in pre-game warmups.

Finally, we found a high school that would allow us to film on their football field. It is probably more accurate to say that they said, ‘We don’t want to know anything about this, but the gate might not be locked, and you might be able to get on the field if you are all masked and socially distant.’

The Crew

We found a Milwaukee-based film crew that had safety protocols in place and could run a safe covid-era shoot. We tapped our good friend and great photographer Lucian MacAfee for photography duties. Now we just needed scripts to film and ideas to photograph.

This was the first time in my career that my team had locked in a shoot location and both film and photo crews before we had any ideas about what we were going to create. But then again, this was also my first pandemic.

The socially distanced film set.

The Ideas

Our creative team of Kevin Kayse and Kristyn Lilley fired off a barrage of potential video scripts for JT to deliver for social media and the UW Credit Union website. But our timing was limited. And we didn’t know how JT would be on camera, or whether he could deliver humorous ideas. Plus, we couldn’t shoot other actors with JT. To their great credit, the UW Credit Union marketing team trusted that we would come up with something. And we did.

JT and his lucky Bucky Badger debit card.

The Shoot

Despite all of the twists and turns we had experienced since March, on the day of the shoot everything went according to plan. Everyone showed up at the right location at the right time. Everyone wore masks. We used long lenses that allowed JT to be a significant distance from the camera. And we rolled film.

JT was great. He was as good at working with the teleprompter as anyone I have ever worked with. He was extremely coachable and took direction well. We were pleasantly surprised that he was able to deftly deliver the light humor several of the videos required.

In fact, while we were planning on creating a series of online and social videos, we were so pleased with how they turned out that we decided to turn the videos into TV commercials as well. And the response to the spots has been great.

Here is the first commercial to air.

We had a little fun with this spot. Fun fact: It is my voice that talks to JT from off-camera.

Here is the second commercial to air, which focuses on UW Credit Union’s mobile app.

Wisconsin has 2 NFL rival teams. We played off of that in this commercial.

Thanks to UW Credit Union for the opportunity to create this work. Thanks to Anne Norman, Becky Hubing and Jill Rickert of UWCU for your help at the shoot. Thanks to Rachel Everett and ESM for all your help. Thanks to producer Mandi Nodorft for pulling things together. Thanks to Lucian McAfee for all the great photography. And thanks to Jonathan Taylor for being great to work with, and funny too.

JT with Rachel Everett of Everett Sports Marketing. ESM encourages all of its athletes to focus on the brands they have authentic, credible, significant relationships with. Which is a very good philosophy for brand partnerships. Which is why they have also attracted other top NFL players, including Nick Chubb, Tee Higgins and D’Andre Swift.

How to stand out in a crowd using your unique identifiers.

There are a lot of people to compete with on this planet. If you are looking for a job, a significant other, or a great opportunity, it helps to stand out from the herd. Or so I’ve heard.

Only You.

In advertising, we are always looking for that thing that only our brand can say. We were the first brand to do ________. We are the only brand to offer ________. We are the only brand that does __________ in Dallas, besides Debbie.

What we are doing is creating a clear and distinguishing image of our brand without an equal competitor. To do this, we create evaluation criteria that we naturally win.

Your Personal Brand

You can do the same thing for your personal brand. To do this, simply find something that makes you stand out. Use the following question as your guide.

What is something you have done that you are fairly confident you are the ONLY person in the considered set to have done?

The considered set means you are the only person in the room, at the party, in the new business pitch, or being interviewed who could say this. When someone asks you to share a fun fact about yourself, this is what they mean. I always think this would be a really fun game to play in prison.

Your Unique Identifiers

This question offers you an opportunity to become unforgettable. It allows you to reach into your bag of uniqueness and pull out that crazy fact, that interesting experience, that crazy condition, that remarkable accomplishment, and hold it up for everyone to see. Like when Anthony Michael Hall holds up Molly Ringwald’s underwear in Sixteen Candles. When you do, you have created your own Unique Identifier.

Your Unique Identifier serves as a valuable story that dramatically increases your memorability. And if you want opportunities to come your way, it helps to stand out from the crowd.

Some Unique Identifiers I use:

  • I once pet a hummingbird in the wild.
  • I once got stuck in a Murphy bed in Germany.
  • My Mom is one of 9 kids and my Dad is one of 12.
  • I lived in 5 states by the time I was in 7th Grade.
  • Me and Danica Patrick once filled a Prevost motorhome with ping pong balls.
  • My older sister Heather and I have the same birthday 2 years apart. And my 2 younger sisters, Alison and Donielle, have the same birthday 2 years apart.
  • In high school, I broke the state record in the discus 8 months after having my ACL reconstructed.
  • I launched The Weaponry because I had two different clients call me the same day and encourage me to start my own advertising agency.

Key Takeaway

We all have Unique Identifiers. Think about yours. Write them down and keep them handy. Use them at parties, on dates, and in interviews. They give others something interesting and differentiating to remember you by. Just ask Mikhail Gorbachev.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

It’s time to enjoy a taste of the holidays, with Sprecher.

Sprecher Root Beer is the best root beer in America. That’s not just my opinion. The New York Times said that. (And so did my kids, over and over.) Because Sprecher root beer is just that good. But like wassailing and dressing like an elf, Sprecher root beer is even more popular at Christmas time.

That’s why Sprecher Craft Soda approached The Weaponry about creating a new ad campaign to run throughout the 2020 holiday season. Now it’s the holiday season! So hoop-de-do and hickory dock. And don’t forget to hang up your sock so Santa can stuff it with Sprecher.

The Insight

Sprecher sodas taste great every day of the year. But research reveals that Sprecher lovers strongly link the great taste of Sprecher to the holidays. For anyone who grew up drinking Sprecher, there is a great sense of tradition, nostalgia and comfort in these brown bottles of deliciousness. When creating the new work, we tapped into that feeling like a keg of root beer.

One of the new ads, featuring the Family Truckster and a big ole bottle of Sprecher Root Beer.

Delish You A Merry Christmas!

If you have never had a Sprecher, Sprecher is to root beer what Krispy Kreme is to donuts and HoneyBaked is to ham. Once you’ve had one, it will spoil you for all other root beers. Which is why I believe Jesus wants me and my family to have Krispy Kreme, HoneyBaked and Sprecher on our table on Christmas Day. #WWJD

The More The Merrier!

Families have celebrated the holidays with Sprecher sodas for decades. But it’s not just the root beer. The Cream Soda is smooth, like a Barry White Christmas. The Orange Dream is, well, dreamy. And both the Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer leave your mouth ting-ting-ting-a-ling too. (Sorry, there is no Mary Ann Ale, Gilligan.)

The Secret Sauce

Why is Sprecher Craft Soda so darn good? First, it is made with honey. How cool is that!?! Then, they brew the soda, like beer. It’s the fire-brewed caramelization process that really adds the flavor like Flavor Flav! #YeahBoy!

I have to leave 2. Or 3.

The Backstory

We have Randy Sprecher to thank for these great flavors. Back in the late 1900s, Randy traveled to Germany and fell in love with the taste and craft of German beer brewing. Apparently the Germans have the beer thing figured out. Hence the giant steins and gemütlichkeit .

Randy came to Milwaukee and began brewing world-class beer under the Sprecher Brewing Company banner. But at home Randy applied the same brewing techniques to the special homemade root beer recipe he created for his young daughter Kecia. Once Sprecher began serving Randy’s root beer in the taproom, sales took off. Today the root beer sales even outpace the award-winning beer.

Yule love it. And so will Yul Brynner.

The Next Chapter

At the beginning of 2020 a team of investors, led by CEO Sharad Chadha, recognized the enormous untapped potential of Sprecher sodas, and decided to invest aggressively in growing Sprecher sodas on a national level. Their renewed focus on promoting the brand through strategic marketing and sales efforts is already on display this holiday season.

The Campaign

The holiday campaign features a combination of billboards and mobile display ads that are served up near retail locations through the end of the year. The ads tap into the strong connection the brand already has to holiday celebrations.

The campaign provides a simple reminder that while there are many traditions that simply aren’t available this year, we can still enjoy a Sprecher with our families. And it’s those little things that make the holidays feel, and taste, like the holidays.

These are Sprecher’s Gold, Frankincense and Root Beer.

If you can’t find Sprecher at a retailer near you, you can always order online at sprecherbrewery.com. And if you can’t find it there, it’s because I bought everything they brewed. Sorry.

Roll The Credits:

There is a great crew at Sprecher who have been supporting this effort including Sharad Chadha, Kecia Sprecher, Craig Burge, Jenny Nyquist, Tom Aslin, Doug Cullaz, Katya Alexeeva, Lauren Price and guest star Carl Cahill.

The Weaponry team behind the new work includes Kristyn ‘L-Lil’ Lilley, Joe Kayse, Simon Harper, Adam Albrecht and Cat Boland.

In The Wild

Santa knows, Sprecher Craft Sodas always make a great stocking stuffer.

Right after Labor Day is the best time for all professionals to do this.

Labor Day 2020 is in the books. We have put away our white pants, our seersucker suits and our inflatable pools. Summer is now history. This is the time that Don Henley sang about in Boys of Summer. But don’t look back, you can never look back. Because it is time to look forward to crushing the rest of the year.

It is September and you are ready to fully engage. You’ve adjusted to the new normal of life in the Covid Cabana. So let’s make the rest of 2020 great, just like Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters did.

Take Your Best Shot

Now that Labor Day is past, the first thing you should do is get new headshots of yourself. Right now you are tanned and healthy-looking from all that summer sun. You are still at your summer weight from all the warm weather activity you’ve been doing.

Let’s immortalize this version of you with a camera. Do it now, before the shorter days mean you get less sunlight on your skin than Boo Radley. Before you start replacing your summer fruits and vegetables with Halloween Skittles and Starbursts. Before Thanksgiving has you butterballing. And before Christmas time has you looking, well, jolly.

Look how good she looks!

Pre-Resolution You

There is a good reason we make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Because the next 3 or 4 months of the year have a way of adding to your weight collection. Which means it may take you until next June or July to look and feel the way you do now. So let’s get those new pics scheduled today!

Taking Care Of Business

Last September my whole team at The Weaponry got new headshots. Photographer Lucian McAfee did a great job. In fact, Lucian always does a great job with headshots. Or any other shots you ask him to take. Even Jagermeister.

Headshots should be fun.

Need Help?

If you would like advice on how to get great new headshots taken for you or your team, let me know. (If there is enough interest The Weaponry may put together a shoot day for you to join in Milwaukee)

If you are a photographer who loves to do headshots (or what professionals may call portraits) leave a comment on this post letting people know you can help them capture their best 2020 look. I suggest you write, ‘I can help people in (YOUR CITY HERE) get spectacular new headshots.’

If you know a great photographer, please share this post with them so they can use it to remind people that now is the time to get shot in the head with a camera.

If you know someone whose bio pic and social media photos look like they were taken during the dial-up era, consider sharing this with them too.

Soon, his fleeting handsomeness will begin to fade…

Key Takeaway

So remember, by the 21st night of September, you should get some new headshots taken. Capture how good you looked at the end of summer in 2020, despite all the craziness of the year. A few months from now you’ll be happy you did when you look great on social media, on your website, on your business cards or on your favorite dating app.

*If you know someone who could benefit from some new pics, or who would like to take some new pics, please share this with them.

Are you too vanilla to be successful?

I recently got a phone call from a CEO. He told me that he was worried about his organization’s brand. The company had hired another advertising agency to jazz up their image. But he felt like what they came back to them with was very vanilla. I pondered the idea of very vanilla. As if there was mediocrity, and then there was extreme mediocrity.

He knew his business couldn’t win against formidable foes with vanilla. He knew he couldn’t motivate his considerable team with vanilla. And he knew he couldn’t recruit top talent with vanilla. Vanilla is flat. Undifferentiated. Forgettable.

person holding vanilla ice cream on cone
In business vanilla is the kiss of death. Or maybe it’s the lick of death.

I knew I could help him. I have spent my career helping brands find their flavor. And vanilla is simply not on the menu.

We spoke for an hour. I shared how my team at The Weaponry would approach their brand development needs. Which included developing differentiated processes, products and services so that they truly had something interesting and ownable to talk about. Even if it didn’t exist today.

I enjoyed our conversation. But I was curious how he found me. And why he thought I was the right person to call.

Then he shared the following.

‘Adam, I don’t know much about The Weaponry. Or the type of work you usually do. But I saw you speak several months ago. And I remember you not seeming very vanilla. And I figured you could help us seem not vanilla too.’

Key Takeaway

If you want to be remembered you can’t be vanilla. You have to differentiate yourself in positive and meaningful ways. You can differentiate your personal brand by doing things differently. By breaking rules. And adding extra-anything to your personal recipe. Like energy or thoughtfulness. Or excluding a common ingredient altogether. Like shaving, laziness, alcohol, or pants.

Your business can differentiate itself with personality, product or process. You can stand out because of your pricing or packaging. You can be remembered for your people or your promise. Or simply be doing unreasonable things on behalf of your customers. But whatever you do, don’t be vanilla. Vanilla is the flavor of the crowd.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

9 Tips on how to give a great TV interview from home.

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.

Prison interview
Just because you are doing an interview doesn’t mean you are getting out.

Air Time

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.

You can see the working from home interview here.

You can see the track team reunion interview here.

Here’s a dumb video of a guy inhaling over and over again that is trending at my house. 

You May Be Next

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.

woman in gray sweater taking selfie
Adjust the camera height so that the camera is at eye level.  If your eyes turn this color you did it right.

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.

person taking photo of stage stadium presentation
This is how you and Montell Jordan do it.

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.

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You want your interview to turn heads. But don’t turn your head during your at-home interview.

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.

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Ray Davies knows things.

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.

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An example of my pre-interview notes. What does #13 say?

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.

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This would be wrong. Beautiful, but wrong.

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

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Channel your inner Bob Barker and make sure the light is right.

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.

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You can change your background to suit the interview. Here I was interviewed about a crop circle I thought I saw. It turns out it was running track.

Key Takeaway

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.

Want to be great at marketing and sales? Think like a college coach.

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.

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This is the kind of image the word ‘storytelling’ often conjures. And it is not very businessy. Unless you are in a really weird business.

Reframing Storytelling

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

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.

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My college track and field coach, Mark Napier. 

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.

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I helped Coach Napes recruit my teammate Jeremy ‘Shakes’ Fischer, from Los Angeles. Shakes was a 7’4″ high jumper in high school. He is now one of the world’s best jump coaches.

The Prospective College Athlete Hot Buttons May Include:

  • Academic quality and reputation
  • Facilities
  • 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
  • National reputation
  • School size
  • Proximity to stupid high school girlfriends or boyfriends.
  • A particular major or program
  • Family tradition
  • The conference you compete in.
  • Good looking girls
  • Spring training trips
  • Travel schedule
  • The coaches track record of success
  • Ass-Kicking-Ness  (You can tell this by smelling their shoes) 
  • Someone just like them in the program
  • Acceptance/Belonging

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I recruited Napes to have dinner with me in Punta Gorda, Florida.

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.

The Results

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.

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A bunch of college basketball coaches, all trying to figure out what they are going to tell some 17- year old kid to make him want to come to their school. #UmmWeHaveGreatPizza

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:

  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Human Resources

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.

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I recruit to my team at The Weaponry by telling people they will smile a lot at work.

This is where the story starts.

Create a persona of the target audience you want to recruit. Understand them in detail.

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Geography
  • Hot Buttons
  • Pain points
  • Needs
  • Wants

Once you know who you are trying to reach, you talk to them about the things they want to hear.

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Style
  • Quantity
  • Fun
  • Innovation
  • Service
  • Community Member
  • Organic
  • Cool Kids
  • Smarter
  • Money Making
  • Satisfaction
  • Track record of Success
  • Happy Customers
  • Ease of Use

Strategy

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.

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I still hang with a bunch of impressive Badgers who apply what they learned about college recruiting in their professional careers.

 

Key Takeaways:

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.