It’s time to think beyond the bear in the trail.

I am a long term thinker. I view lives and careers as long journeys with lots of transformation along the way. I expect to drive my own change and growth. Which comes through a combination of planning and action. Or what might be called plaction.

The Bear In The Trail

However, the COVID-19 crisis has caused me to take my eye off of the long view. Over the past several months I have focused almost exclusively on short-term thinking. It’s as if I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and suddenly encountered an ornry bear blocking my path. Instead of focusing on reaching Mount Katahdin, I needed to focus on the bear-virus, and live to hike another day. As result, true long-term improvement initiatives have been on hold for months. Darn you bear-virus.

Back In The Saddle.

But today my team at The Weaponry will gather again to think about our long term vision for the first time in months. We will open our planning and improvement session by describing what the fully formed version of our advertising and idea agency looks like. Then we will focus on what we need to do to close the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and the organization that exists today. However, we will have nothing to do with The Gap closing at your local mall.

We then assign each person a set of tasks, or rocks, to complete over the next 90 days to help us improve our organization. This approach, which is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) outlined in the book Traction by Gino Wickman, has proven to be a highly effective way of helping us grow and progress. Because it ties our vision to meaningful and fruitful actions. Which helps us gain traction towards our goals.

Traction
This is a great resource to help you drive continuous business improvement.

Thinking Long Term

To achieve your long term goals you can’t remain in survival mode for long periods of time. You have to work with purpose towards your vision. You have to recirculate the ideal vision with your team and consider the next actions necessary to reach your vision.

This approach is valuable for organizations. And it is valuable for each of us as individuals. We need to know where our own north star is, and navigate towards it. Even in challenging times. Evn in bad weather. And even after wrestling angry bears.

Starting The Second Half

As we start the second half of the year, remember what you planned to do 6 months ago, before COVID-19 blew you off course and threw you into survival mode. If your original 2020 plans no longer apply to the new world reality, make new plans now.  What can and should you do now to progress over the next 6 months? I know this may be challenging. But in the inspirational words of Arthur Ashe:

‘Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’  -Arthur Ashe

Key Takeaway

Move forward. We have been doggy paddling long enough. it is time to reimplement some time-tested swim strokes. Remember where you are headed. Or, if you haven’t determined where you are going, now is the time to decide. Determine the short term actions that will lead to your long term goals. Be purposeful. Be consistent. And you are sure to be closer to your ideal 6 months from now.

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

An important spark on my entrepreneurial journey.

Today I am at the beach vacationing with my family. I am also working. This is the reality of entrepreneurship. When work needs to be done you do it. Even if you are at the beach. Even if it is your birthday. Even with a fox or in a box or wearing socks.

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The sunrise this morning from my balcony as I write this post.

The Night Shift

On Sunday night, Father’s Day Night, I worked until 2am. Late in the night when my family was asleep, and my keystrokes were the only noise in the hotel room, I was reminded of a story from 6 years ago.

Cathy Maas

In the spring of 2014, my great friend Cathy Maas contacted me. I worked with Cathy, who is everyone’s great friend, for several years at Engauge. She is an excellent brand planner. And by 2014 one of the world’s greatest food companies had snatched her up and made them their Director of Consumer Insights.

One of the brands Cathy worked on needed some strategic concepts written for an upcoming round of new product research work. I told Cathy I was happy to help. Although when I discovered the timeline I realized that the whole project would need to be completed while I was in Florida, on spring break with my family. I took on the project anyway.

The Taste Test

On that vacation, my family and I had fun each day on Marco Island (which was also one of Cathy’s favorite places). Then, each night after my wife and 3 small kids went to bed, I would fire up my laptop and work on my side project like Rumplestilskin.

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My babies on Marco Island back in 2014.

I loved everything about that project. I thought the work was fascinating. I loved feeling like I was the head of my own ad agency. Albeit an ad agency of one. And I loved that the money I was being paid for the project would pay for our family’s vacation.

Start Me Up

That experience lit a fire in me. It gave me a glimpse of how I could create an advertising agency, develop great work for great clients, and provide for my family without being someone else’s employee. The door had opened just a crack. But all I needed was that little crack. Kinda like Whitney Houston.

George Mort

At the end of my vacation, I had lunch with my snowmobiling buddy George Mort. George had moved from Wisconsin to Marco Island. I was inspired by my freelance experience, and I told George that I was seriously thinking of starting my own agency.

George is a wise guy. I don’t mean he’s a mobster or a dude who gives frankincense and myrrh to a newborn. But George is a genuinely wise guy. And I remember George’s response to my entrepreneurial plans like it was yesterday. He said matter-of-factly, ‘This is the time to do it. It’s now or never.’

It’s Go Time.

I knew George was right. So I got to work. And less than 18 months I had planned out my agency in detail and landed my first client.

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My family and George Mort at his home in Marco Island in 2014

Today

Six years after Cathy Maas sent that spark project my way, The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, is 4 years old. We have offices in Milwaukee and Columbus. I am working on vacation. And I couldn’t be happier. Over the past few days I’ve been swimming and boogie boarding and enjoying time with my family. I have also been working on clients based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas and Milwaukee. Because I chose now over never.

Thank You

Thank you Cathy Maas for providing a spark. My journey has been propelled by hundreds of important and inspirational events. But this one was special. It allowed me to see what the future might look like if I started my own agency. And today, that future looks exactly the way I thought it would back in March of 2014 during those late nights of work in a hotel room on Marco Island.

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

The touching story of a repurposed billboard.

The week of March 16th was like nothing I had ever experienced. That Monday morning The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, met with the University of Wisconsin Credit Union about updating their outdoor billboards and TV commercials in response to the emerging COVID-19 crisis.

By the end of the day, The Weaponry presented a whole new billboard campaign. The new outdoor boards were up practically overnight in both Madison and Milwaukee. In the process, The Weaponry set new turnaround expectations that are likely to haunt me for the rest of my career.

Standing Together

I was very proud of the new work that we developed in a single day. I especially loved the billboard that said, ‘Even when we’re apart we, stand together.’  It was a great way to express UW Credit Union’s promise to be Here for every you. During that time of growing isolation and uncertainty, as our community faced both a health and financial crisis, the message was spot on. And true.

UWCU-Together-Milwaukee-Bulletin copy
Rome was not built in a day. But a new UW Credit Union billboard campaign was.

George Floyd

Two months later, just as our nation was beginning to emerge from the COVID-19-induced isolation, George Floyd was killed by police officers, and our country found itself deep in another crisis.

In the days since George Floyd’s murder, people across the country have searched for ways to express their outrage and create change. Some have found powerful forces for progress. A few have engaged in more divisive actions. Unfortunately, the media coverage of the divisive has far exceeded that of the progressive. Because flames, shattered glass, and unpaid for merchandise with legs make for more interesting video than peaceful demonstrations.

Back To The Billboard

Early Tuesday morning I received an email from Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer at UW Credit Union. She had received an update from Adams Outdoor, the billboard company in Madison, Wisconsin. As the Adams team (no relation) arrived to do a scheduled replacement of the We Stand Together billboard they discovered the billboard has been spray-painted with the words George Floyd. They took a picture of the graffitied billboard and shared it with us so we could see what had happened.

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The George Floyd Board. It features a curious extra E, removed by Yellow-Out.

Wow

Anne and I were both struck by how powerful the graffitied board was. And we thought it would have been better to have simply left the billboard and its modified message in place. I suggested that we share the George Floyd board via our social channels.

Anne suggested an even better idea. She asked what I thought of putting the graffitied board back up. I thought it was an excellent idea.

The Reposting

Yesterday, on June 3rd, UW Credit Union reposted the George Floyd Board. Except this time they had it posted in one of the highest visibility locations in Madison, on the top of the Adams Outdoor building, beside the highly trafficked beltline. Because you know that a good billboard company always saves the best location for itself.

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The new home of the George Floyd Board. (Try saying George Floyd Board 10 times fast.)

Proud Partner

I am extremely proud to partner with UW Credit Union. It’s an organization fully committed to the communities it serves. I am proud of Anne Norman for making a courageous decision to repost this billboard, a billboard that no longer features the UW Credit Union logo, in support of George Floyd, the Black community and the Black Lives Matters movement.

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This is how Anne Norman shared the story in her own words. She uses the word ‘We’ a lot, as does everyone at UW Credit Union. But know that she was instrumental in making this happen. 

Key Takeaway

Do what you can to make a difference. Stand together. Work together. Support each other. Always do what you know is right. Like my friend Anne Norman and millions of others across America who are determined to leave this world better than they found it.

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

4 things I have done wrong in my first 4 years as an entrepreneur.

After 19 years of working for other advertising agencies I started my own business 4 years ago this week. As the Founder & CEO of The Weaponry, I have made some good decisions over the past 4 years. But I have also made mistakes. As I look back at the past 48 months here are 4 things I did wrong that I will try to get right in the years ahead.

4 Things I Did Wrong Over The Past 4 Years.

1. I didn’t think big enough

My goals are big. And hairy. And audacious. To achieve them I need to push myself more. I recently read Grant Cardone’s book The 10X Rule. And I know my next challenge is to think and act bigger on a daily basis to accumulate the progress it takes to get to Goalville. I also know that if we don’t stop sheltering at home soon I will be 10X-ing my body fat.

2. I didn’t start a newsletter.

We launched The Weaponry’s first real website in the fall of 2019. (Yes we waited 3 years to launch a real website. You can read about that here.) I knew the next thing we should do is launch a newsletter. It would offer us a chance to regularly share additional value with our clients and friends of The Weaponry. We planned it all out. In fact, we have had our first edition 90% created for 6 months. We bought our Mailchimp subscription in the fall. And we have paid for it every month since, without sending a single email. Booo. We have been extremely busy over that same time period and haven’t made it a priority. But we will. (If you send your email address to info@theweaponry.com I will create a special first newsletter for you.)

3. I didn’t take enough chances.

Entrepreneurship requires you to take a fairly significant leap of faith. I had no problem Carl Lewis-ing into this adventure. And right or wrong, I am comfortable betting on myself. But I I have been conservative with our investments.

Specifically, I have been slow to invest in additional team members who would allow us to expand our offering, our impact and our t-shirt wearing population. It has helped put us in a confident position during the Corona-cootie crisis. But when I turned 40 I realized I didn’t want to lie on my deathbed and regret not starting my own business. Now I don’t want to lie on my deathbed and feel like I wasn’t brave enough either. Fortune favors the bold. So do barbecue sauce sales. And I want to be much bolder between now and next February 29th.

4. I didn’t offload enough responsibility 

When you first start a new business every box on the org chart has your name in it. Eventually you erase your name and put someone else’s name in that box. Over the past 4 years I certainly have moved many of my responsibilities to others. But I am still handling more than I should. Which means that I should be transferring more of my load to others, and hiring additional people power. This would allow me to focus more time and energy on the things that would have the most positive impact on our clients and on our own business. Plus, I am pretty sure there are lots of other people who can buy stamps and bottled water as well as I can.

Key Takeaway

I am thrilled to have started my entrepreneurial journey. I know that The Weaponry has become a valuable resource for many. But there is so much more opportunity ahead. It is important to recognize the positive things we are doing first. To give ourselves credit for the attempts and the accomplishments already in the books. But if we want to be great we have to push ourselves. We have to give ourselves a regular performance review from our deathbed to see where we should focus our time and energy while we still have the chance. It turns out I still have a lot of work to do.

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

The top 4 things I have enjoyed about entrepreneurship.

For many years I dreamed of owning my own business. Like Bruce Springsteen, I loved the idea of being my own boss. I liked the idea of making my own money. I thought that starting your own business sounded badass. Because that entrepreneurial leap seemed like Evel Knievel jumping a whole fleet of school buses on his motorcycle. And I wanted to try it myself to see how it felt.

My Leap Year Leap

4 years ago this week I did it. I launched the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry.  And the leap certainly has offered an Evel Knievel-type thrill. Yet with very little risk of broken bones. Which is nice.

However, the things I have enjoyed most are not being the boss, making my own money, or feeling like a badass. In fact, I could not have predicted the things I have enjoyed most ahead of time. They are benefits that you have to take the leap to discover. Unless of course someone takes the leap, writes those things down, and shares them with the world in a blog post. Like I am doing right now. 

The Top 4 Things I Have Enjoyed Most About My 4 Years of Entrepreneurship  

1. Getting To Say Yes To Anything.

People long to get to a position in life where they can say no to things they don’t want to do. But that is small thinking. When you own your own business you get to say yes to anything. Kinda like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.  If an opportunity comes along that seems too small, too crazy, or needs too be completed too fast I can say yes to it anyway. In fact, I can decide to work on anything that interests me. The budget can be small, or nonexistent. And I can still say, ‘Yes, we will help.’ In business, that is a super power. 

2. Paying People.

I always imagined that making your own money as an entrepreneur would be amazing.  What I couldn’t imagine was the feeling of sharing thousands of dollars with others for their hard work. And then tens of thousands of dollars. And then hundreds of thousands of dollars. The first day that I noticed The Weaponry had paid people over a million dollars I just stared at my Quickbooks screen and smiled, like a perv watching online porn. Ironically, the payouts have been the great reward in the adventure. Because I know we are positively impacting many lives. Not just mine.   

3. Creating A Valuable Tool.

Early in my career I was in a focus group full of power tool enthusiast. And when asked what his favorite tool was, one Tim Taylor-type said, ‘My favorite tool is the right tool I need right now.’ Then he grunted.

I’ll never forget that.  Over the past 4 years we have developed The Weaponry into a valuable problem-solving tool. Our clients turn to us because The Weaponry is the right tool they need right now.

This business is a valuable tool because it helps convert opportunity into reality.  It helps make the invisible visible. It opens new paths. And it magnetizes brands and helps draw people to them. When clients call us they are saying, you have the tool our business needs right now to be successful. Which makes building and owning that tool extremely rewarding.  

4. Having Wet Clay.

Before I started The Weaponry I thought of a business like an office with people and desks and a logo. But once you create your own company you realize that a business is really wet clay. And as an Entrepreneur you have the ability to shape and reshape the business any way you want. In fact, it is your responsibility to continuously reshape the clay to improve and optimize it. As businesses respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we are all reshaping the clay to make sure we are prepared for what the world needs today, and tomorrow. Because the world needs small businesses. 

Key Takeaway 

Entrepreneurship offers one of the greatest adventures on the planet. It is empowering,  rewarding and infinitely creative. It offers the opportunity to positively impact others in ways that are hard to imagine before the journey starts. Thank you for sharing in my journey. I can’t wait to see where we go next!

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

The top 4 sayings I lean on to make difficult decisions.

Four years ago this week I started my entrepreneurial adventure when I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. It truly has been an adventure. Every day presents a new set of opportunities and challenges. Even more so since COVID-19 became the hottest thing on the planet since Gangnam Style.

My self-appointed title at The Weaponry is Founder & CEO. Which means that I have 2 main responsibilities. As Founder, my job is to find the business. As CEO, my job is to not lose the business. The first job is already done. The second will never finish.

Decision Making

It is a significant challenge to make all the decisions that a business leader must make. You are typically working without all the information you would ideally like to have. That’s why I have developed a core set of questions and reminders to help guide my decision making.

Top 4 Sayings I Turn To To Help Make Tough Decisions. 

1. Always do what you know is right.

This is always my #1 reminder. It taps into my most basic sense of right and wrong. If I  adhere to this I can live with any decision. Even launching New Coke.

2. Don’t worry how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow.

If you are a business owner you are going to lose money. Sometimes in small ways. Sometimes in big ways. But you can’t live and die with each dollar you make or lose, or you would soon find yourself crying in a puddle of milk on the floor. You have to think big picture. And remember that as long as you are able to earn more money in the future, without taking your clothes off, everything will be alright.

3. We’ll do it this way until we know better.

Developing a great business requires developing great processes and procedures. As we develop The Weaponry Way we don’t set our process and procedures in stone. There is too much pressure on that. Instead, we believe in moving quickly, and establishing rules that guide us today. But we always remain openminded to adjusting and improving our approach as we learn more. My cousin Brooks Albrecht imported this approach from his time at Amazon. And things seem to be working out for that little bookstore.

4. What would I do if I was trying to beat me?

If you really want to make great decisions, think about each issue from your competitor’s point of view. Which is what Mr. Miyagi tried to teach Daniel San in The Karate Kid. It forces you to think of better, more aggressive approaches. It makes you think about meaningful differentiation. Which always elevates your thinking. And leads to better final outcomes. #WhoNeedsABodyBagNow

Key Takeaway

Good decisions fuel success. Yet we often lack the information we want to make the best choices. So develop your own decision making prompts and reminders to help you focus on what is most important and most valuable to you. It helps speed your decision making process. And leads to greater comfort with uncomfortable decisions.

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

The Weaponry turns 4! Here are 4 things I have done right along the way.

This is a big week in my world. On Sunday my family and the rest of the Christian Club celebrated Easter. Which is like Christmas for us sinners. But this week we are also celebrating the 4th birthday of The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I founded, on April 12, 2016.

When I first launched The Weaponry I was living in Atlanta. If you would have told me then that 4 years from now The Weaponry is thriving, with offices in both Milwaukee and Columbus I would have been thrilled. But if you would have then told me that no one actually worked in either of those offices I would have given you my best Whatchu-Talk’n-Bout-Willis look.

Celebrating our 4th birthday during COVIDPALOOZA makes for an interesting time. All of the Weapons are working together apart right now. But the business is well positioned during this unusual time. Which provides me an opportunity to reflect on the past 4 years.

Top 4 Lists

This week, to celebrate The Weaponry’s 4th Birthday I will share Top 4 lists. To begin, I am taking a look at what got us to our 4th anniversary and put us in a good position to weather the Corona-Cootie storm.

4 things I did right to help us get to our 4th anniversary.

1. I Took Action. 

Everyone has a dream. And I dreamed of starting my own advertising agency for a long time. But to actual start your own business you have to move beyond dreaming to doing. Starting in the fall of 2015 I took an endless series of small actions that led me to today.  So if you want to make sure you don’t die with your dream still inside you, take action to make it real.

Suggested readings to spur your action:

2. I Saved. (Not Like Jesus)

As a professional creative thinker I take lots of risks with idea exploration. However, I am fiscally conservative. I have been cautious with our expenditures, our office space and our staffing size. I have been conservative about leaving cash in the business, versus taking it home as part of my return. As a result, The Weaponry has strong reserves to outlast this downturn.

3. I Planted Seeds.

Business development is critical to creating a pipeline of opportunities. Over the past 4 years I have stayed in touch with old friends. I’ve made hundreds of new friends. I have had phone conversations, chocolate milk meetings and lunches. I have volunteered my time, I have guest lectured and given talks. I write a blog. I have given interviews and served on committees and boards.

All of those things are like planting seeds. You never know when they will sprout or what they will turn into. But over the past month, since we have been working from home, I have had 5 new seeds sprout into either new business opportunities or actual new clients. So keep planting seeds and watch what happens. #AndyCohen.

4. I delivered

The best source of new business is a happy client. And you develop happy clients by delivering for them. We have grown by keeping our clients happy, and expanding our work with them. We are also expanding by having happy clients leave for new jobs and bringing us with them to their new companies. We have had that happen multiple times already in 2020. I have a really great team. And I appreciate all that they do for our clients. It is why we are still here, and still growing strong.

Key Takeaway

To develop a successful business you have to take action. Without action you are just a dreamer. You have to save money so that you are prepared to weather the storms that will surely come. You must keep planting seeds by creating and nurturing relationships and providing value to others. Then you must deliver the goods. Nothing grows a business like happy customers. None of it is easy. And none of it is that hard. It is simply the price you have to pay to get what you want in life.

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

The most important thing to remember during difficult times.

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.

My Goal

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.

The Coronavirus

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.

Key Takeaway

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.

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.

Ray Davies
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

photo of woman in pink long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown sofa with her eyes closed
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.

I always wanted to create an editorial cartoon. So I did.

When I was young I always loved editorial cartoons. They were like my favorite people,  both funny and smart. I loved the very simple package they came in, which was usually just a frame or 2. But they packed a sharp commentary into a simple piece of intellectually humorous art. I felt like my brain was wired to enjoy those cartoons. The same way it is wired to enjoy chocolate milk, Zucker Brothers movies and videos of people falling down.

Finding Time

For many years I have thought about creating my own cartoon. I have had no shortage of ideas. It is time that I have been lacking. Then COVID-19 showed up on my doorstep, like Ed McMahon with a van, a bouquet of balloons and a mandate for us all to stay home. The lockdown caused by the corona cooties has enabled me to finally spend time exploring this passion project. #silverlining

Dan Koel

On Friday I reached out to my great friend Dan Koel about the cartoon project. He was excited to explore it together. DK was my original art director partner at the ad agency Cramer Krasselt, where I first started my advertising career. Dan and I worked together for 10 years. And we have partnered on many side projects ever since, including the Adam & Sleeve t-shirt brand. Dan will drive the look for the project.

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That’s me on the left, and Dan Koel on the right. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I have a hard time telling us apart.

Kirky Cartoons

Dan and I have committed to making 66 Kirky Cartoons. Why 66? because behavioral research shows that by the time you have done something 66 times it becomes a habit. You are highly likely to perform a task automatically after that. So this will be an interesting creative experiment. As well as an experiment in human behavior.

Why Kirky?

When I wrote down the name The Weaponry as I was looking for a name for my advertising and idea agency, I instantly knew I had the name I was looking for. The same thing happened when I wrote down Kirky for this project. The name sound like a mix of kookie and quirky. Which are two of my favorite things.

But there is another reason for the name. Dan and I had a great friend named Kirk ‘Kirky’ McDonald. Spending time with Kirk was always a bright spot in the day. Kirk passed away in 2017 at the age of 43, after battling brain cancer for 2 decades. Now, Dan and I hope we can make Kirky a bright spot in the day for everyone who reads it.

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Kirk McDonald (He’s the one in the middle).

Exploring like Dora

Below is an exploration Dan and I did for a March Madness idea. It seemed like we should get this one out while it is still March. We looked at this a few different ways.

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A. Very Simple

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B. More elaborate, with callouts around the globe.

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C. Many more callouts of the madness.

Please help us with our research by letting us know which one you prefer: A, B, or C. This project will evolve and improve with your feedback. It take a village to raise an editorial cartoon. And we’ll take all the help we can get.

Key Takeaway

If you have a passion project you have always wanted to do, do it now. We all have a little additional time in our schedules. Take advantage of it. As Kirky taught me and Dan, life is short. Take advantage of the time you have. And make someone smile if you can.

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