Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Verb-al Planning

In Tips on November 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Next year will be here before you know it. The holiday season will soon end. Resolutions will be made. Gyms will be crowded. The “new you” will launch into 2011 with vision and vim to last … oh … at least three weeks. In this time or reflection and renewal for next year, here’s an exercise that might help you distill more meaningful plans and purposes for the “new you”.


Imagine your personal mission statement in terms of verbs.


Start with a list of all of the verbs you can think of that might reasonably relate to your life’s work. Be generous here. Include things like “inspire”, “explore”, “discover”, “feed”, “heal”, “achieve”, “win”, “rescue”, “harvest”, “divine”, “write”, “conquer”, “listen”, “speak”, “lead”, “follow”, “promote”, “love”. Don’t stop until you’ve got at least 200 verbs.


Then narrow your list. Identify 10 verbs that stand out the most to you. Mull them over. Imagine them each as your life work. Imagine people saying, “He builds…”, “She promotes…”, “He teaches…”. Then choose three verbs that resonate most deeply with your talents, desires, personality and vision.


If your plans for the “new you” in 2011 aren’t achieved by those three verbs, rethink your plans.


This exercise could take a while. It might take a week just to dream up 200 verbs. It might take another week to choose your top three. Take your time. It might be a good topic to mull over on that long drive or flight to holiday festivities.


This process of expanding and contracting, brainstorming and then distilling, is similar to the messaging workshop I teach for REACH clients. It’s also the model for successful creative thought according to some neuroscience researchers. It’s a model that can be used over and over again for all kinds of creative endeavors.


And, yes, I believe good planning is a creative work.

Prescription for B.S.

In Tips, Trends on November 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm
For Part One of this three-part series of entries on Busyness Syndrome, click here. For Part Two, click here.

Ironically, I think the answer to BS is not less stuff. I don’t believe less is more. I don’t think we can actually have, do, and be less. Instead, I think the answer is choosing the right stuff.

A counselor of mine used to say, “Empty places long to be filled.” You’ve got 24 hours in your day today. You can’t bump that down to 23 so you won’t have as much to fill. You’re going to spend 24 hours on something. The answer isn’t doing less. It’s doing the right things. What if one of the things you chose to invest in today was something that restored you rather than drained you? What if you engaged something sheerly for its beauty and not for its utility? What if you went for a walk?

I’m not condoning laziness. I’m from the Texas Panhandle. Farm country. We believe in good old fashioned American work ethic. But we also understand fallow and Sabbath.

The problem with fallow is that it requires sacrifice. That land could produce a crop one more year. Letting land lie fallow, letting your business take a Sabbath, seems like throwing away money. And maybe it is, for the short term. But another friend of mine likes to say, “Every time you say ‘Yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘No’ to something else.” The cure for BS is identifying the best things to say “Yes” to.

The good news is that corrections can be made gradually. Our course in life is determined by millions of tiny choices we make day-by-day, hour-by-hour.

Is your schedule full of BS? Do you have trouble getting out of the right column on the busyness chart? What is one choice you can make this week to throw off the tyranny of the urgent (say “No” to something unimportant) and give yourself to what’s important?

Diagnosing B.S.

In Tips, Trends on November 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm

For Part One of this three-part series of entries on Busyness Syndrome, click here.

So how to you know if you’re infected? How do you diagnoses Busyness Syndrome (let’s call it BS for short)? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What gets your first attention – urgent things or important things?
  • Count the number of people who are expecting something – product, presence or communication – from you today. I don’t mean blog subscribers, employees or Facebook friends. I mean how many people do you need to talk to or work for one-on-one today in order to be caught up?
  • When was the last time you were caught up?
  • How many requests for your time have you denied this week?

I think what happens with BS is similar to what happens to addicts. The addiction escalates until what used to feel good (important, successful) doesn’t work any more. The addict needs more drug to reach the same high. We need more production, more awards, more success to feel good about ourselves.

The next thing that happens with BS has been defined brilliantly by Charles Hummel in his book Tyranny of the Urgent. Divide your life’s tasks and relationships into four quadrants:

The healthy person spends most of his time, resources and care in the top half of that chart, but also takes time to tinker with unimportant stuff occasionally. But the BS victim can’t get out of the left column. His time, thoughts, energies, resources and affections are sapped by the urgent. Urgency becomes the only trigger for action. Importance becomes an afterthought.

This is why men build great empires, but raise lousy kids. It’s why pastors grow megachurches, but let their fidelity to personal commitments crumble. It is why politicians manage approval ratings rather than spending. It leads them to be followers, not leaders. It leads us to be reactive, not proactive. It leads us to look at next steps (or worse – the last step) rather than new horizons.

Too Busy to Be Productive

In Trends on November 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm
For me, the holidays are a time for slowing down, refection, evaluation and planning for the new year. If that’s true for you, consider the question I’m mulling in my evaluation of 2010 and plans for 2011:

Are you too busy to be productive?

I am. I work late hours, skip meals, rush and race all in the name of getting more done. But the irony is that my quest to cram more in is the very thing that keeps me from actually producing what I set out to produce – the best quality work I can deliver.

I’m not alone. How many times this week has someone told you they’re busy? We’re all busy. Even when the economy is slow and orders are sparse, we find ways to make ourselves busy – to fill our schedules with busy work.

We Americans wear our busyness like a badge. After all, if someone is busy, they must be important, right? If they have a lot of people wanting to get on their schedule, they must have something to offer those people. Our entire culture has bought into this idea. It’s a social axiom that no one dares deny – the busier you are, the more important you are. Who is the busiest person in America? The president, of course.

This week, Newsweek released a story about just how busy the president is. How much does the president have on his plate? So much that he needs 469 employees to help him.

What’s more, busyness spirals. The more important a person gets (translation: “higher ranking” – we also confuse rank with importance, but that’s another blog entry), the more that person is expected to weigh in on various matters. And the more matters he’s expected to address, the more busy he gets.

Busyness is an epidemic. And while we all acknowledge that we’re too busy and should probably slow down, none of us seems to be very serious about actually doing it.

It has not always been so. In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt started forming the first presidential cabinet – six aides to help him handle the workload imposed by the New Deal. Before 1936, President of the United States was a one-man job! What has changed? Is the growth in White House busyness from six to 469 staff simply a function of population growth? Of faster and better communications? Of trickier political and policy challenges? I don’t think so. I think White House busyness is spiraling out of control for the same reasons our personal busyness has spiraled. We don’t recognize it for the threat it is. And we don’t have a model for slowing down.

To CMS or not to CMS?

In Tips on November 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

It happens to us all the time. A prospect asks to meet with us regarding a new website. One of their requirements is that they want the site to be dynamic and engaging. And one of their issues is that they haven’t set a budget for their project. Those two things clash when the discussion comes around to developing the website. And the biggest decision our prospects face is whether to use a CMS or not. Below are three tips for making this decision, but first let’s define the terms.

A CMS (content management system) is a framework for adding content to a website. It provides a user-friendly interface so that someone without any training in website code can make updates and minor design changes to the site. The most prolific CMS in the world is WordPress. REACH uses one of two CMS to build website, depending on the project requirements: Wordpess and Typo3. CMS are convenient if non-developers need hands-on access to the site. So does your site need a CMS? Ask yourself this:

What’s your budget?
Integrating a CMS can increase the cost of development by as much as 75 percent, but it may save you expenses in the long run for updating and changing the site.

Will you pay the price for dynamic content?
Fresh, dynamic content is vitally important to a successful website. It’s the first step in attracting new visitors and retaining regular visitors. But it’s not easy. Someone has to take time to create and upload new content on a regular basis. Before you spend the money on a CMS-designed website, get honest with yourself about website updates. Will you really ever get around to them? Are they really important to you? Is a dynamic website a vital part of your business plan? If you can’t answer yes to those questions, it might be best to accept your website’s role as a static, online brochure.

Will you stay with your developer?
CMS frameworks make it easy for websites to get passed from one developer to another. If you have a good relationship with the vendor who is developing the site and you feel confident that that agency will meet your needs for updates and changes going forward, then save some money and let them develop it with HTML or however they feel comfortable. But if you suspect that you’ll outgrow their services or availability, a CMS will make it easier to “port” the site to a new provider.

Consider these issues before undertaking your next website project. They will save you time, money and headaches.

What has been your experience? Are you familiar with any CMS? What’s your favorite?

Ogilvy On Tracking

In Tips, Trends on November 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

A friend tweeted a link to this video from the legendary David Ogilvy this week. It’s worth a look. Even if you don’t agree with everything he has to say, it’s refreshing – in a world of constantly changing media platforms and seat-of-the-pants marketing approaches – to hear from someone who is “all in” with their marketing philosophy.

While it’s hard to disagree with David Ogilvy, I do. I think he’s right that direct response, targeted marketing is indispensable. It should come before brand building, public relations or other forms of promotion. I agree that marketing should be tied closely to sales. But I also think there’s a place for unmeasurable, un-trackable, free-for-all, brand-building marketing. The trick is to know the difference. Don’t try to measure responses or impressions from TV ads or Super Bowl halftime shows. It’s tempting to try because the numbers are there (for instance, 106 million people watched the Super Bowl last year). But those numbers are mostly meaningless. They could be much too low because the ad or halftime show was so phenomenal that it got discussed and replayed hundreds of times. Or they could be much too high because (as is usually the case) there was nothing in the presentation to keep people in front of the set instead of in front of the fridge. (You can see why, regarding unmeasurable media, the quality of the creative product has such a great impact on the campaign’s success.)

This paradigm applies to a smaller scale as well. Don’t expect direct returns on the golf tournament sponsorship or the newspaper ad. On the other hand, don’t neglect to build in tracking mechanisms (like unique phone numbers or landing pages) for campaigns that are measurable like email, display ads or direct mail.

The lesson here is simple. Know what to expect. If you’re not sure what to expect, try some things out. Or, better yet, talk to a marketer who has experience with the medium you’re considering. If you can find someone as smart and charming as 1950s David Ogilvy, all the better.


What’s your take? Have you had success with direct response media? Have you tried?