Monday, April 20

Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail: Nevada Needs A Plan

On April 7, I wrote a well-reasoned letter to Nevada State Governor Sisolak and shared that letter with several elected officials and representatives. All of them, except Governor Sisolak, responded.

All of them, except Governor Sisolak, acknowledged its merits.

In sharing this letter, An Open Letter To Governor Sisolak Regarding COVID-19, almost 2,000 Nevadans also took the time to read it. Many of them also acknowledged its merits while several asked that I might write a letter for them. I am sharing a second letter (below), one that outlines what has gone wrong and why Nevada needs a plan.

 While some might say this is a heavy-handed letter, it's purpose is far simpler. I would encourage anyone who wants to write the Governor to copy this letter as their own and remove or add any points they would perfect over those I've included below. Email the letter to the Governor (email here) and make sure you also send a copy to your State Assemblyman/woman, State Senator, Country Commissioner, and City Council member (find them here). These representatives want to help, but they need to know you stand by them and want them to help. God bless and good luck.

Dear Governor,

A crisis is like a glass of water. The longer you hold it, the heavier it gets. While you claim to be the only person who can hold it up, all Nevadans now feel the full weight of it. It is crushing us.

The time for you to relinquish exclusive oversight and allow local leaders to step up and hold up the weight is now. The time to acknowledge the following errors in judgment is now.

• You have refused to protect civil rights as afforded to all citizens of the United States, calling for the State of Emergency but failing to set reasonable parameters that define the end of that emergency. *

• You have failed to provide equal representation and have neglected to call the Nevada State Legislature to meet for a special session during an emergency. *

• You have created new offices and task forces, hoisting up unelected decision makers who meet in forums devoid of any public record. *

• You have disavowed the good faith efforts of local leadership to alleviate the mounting pressures of uneven, unfair, and arbitrary state mandates. *

• You have closed businesses that are capable of meeting CDC guidelines and cut off our trade, thereby disrupting supply lines and sending people into poverty. * * *

• You have encouraged residents not to pay their rent or mortgage, but failed to provide them a remedy to pay back deferred payments and/or be protected from future rent spikes. * *

• You have turned local police departments against us, putting them into a position to release criminals while seeking out and fining otherwise law-abiding citizens. * *

• You have encouraged the closure of public parks and lands, denying all access, which negates the purpose of those public assets. *

• You have disrupted the court system, thereby denying the proper pursuit of civil and criminal justice. *

• You have failed to recognize that while at-risk people are dying in Nevada, so too are those who are losing their savings, businesses, fitness, and mental health. *

• You have turned neighbor against neighbor by further polarizing and politicizing the pandemic — claiming it to be a choice between money or lives when it the fact is the unfortunate choice between lives or lives. *

• You have closed schools but failed to provide remedies for all children to have equal access to a complete education. *

• You have inadequately provided for the mental health of citizens who are forced to live in relative isolation. *

• You have failed to provide responsive unemployment for those who are forced out of work by your mandates, largely because you did not plan to accommodate for the tens of thousands you put out of work before putting them out of work. *

• You have resisted any semblance of a recovery plan that would provide citizens hope, business owners the ability to survive, and students an opportunity to enjoy their best years. *

• You have conspired to rewrite voting laws, making it easier to fake and defraud upcoming elections.    *

• You mocked Nevadans by posting pictures of yourself getting a haircut while people go hungry in their homes and fear for their future. *

• Your inaction has resulted in a growing number of protests, which further puts Nevada in jeopardy as protestors express their right to peacefully assemble out of frustration for your inadequate leadership. *

• You have not demonstrated any agility in mitigating the medical crisis, forcing members of our medical community to be furloughed. *

In every stage of your oppressive actions, myself and many Nevadans have petitioned for redress and your response has only been that failure to comply will result in more punishment and greater injury with harsher mandates. Such actions can only be characterized as the definition of a tyrant, one who is unfit to lead the free citizens of Nevada alone.

Governor, I and my fellow Nevadans call on you today to release the reins of oppression and begin to move in a manner becoming of the office.

We call on you to restore our representative government. We call on you to develop a recovery plan that minimizes the risk to at-risk people (not just a testing plan) while also affording healthy people the ability to resume their lives. We need a plan that recognizes that there are businesses beyond our resort corridor (although many resorts are stepping up too). We call on you to allow local leaders — counties and cities — to better manage our recovery starting today. We call on you to adopt the guidelines set forth by the White House and being enacted by many states across our great nation.

Governor, set down the crisis. Nevada needs a plan.

Respectfully, [Your Name]

Tuesday, April 7

Writing: An Open Letter To Governor Sisolak Regarding COVID-19

Red Rock by Richard Becker


Dear Governor Sisolak,

As the parent of a softball player, the story of Jo’VInni “Jo” Smith really hit me today. Jo Smith was a young softball player who died from stress issues related to COVID-19 in California. She committed suicide.

Her story truly underscores the mental health issues taking hold in our communities as everybody handles isolation differently. It’s also the reason I decided to write to you today.

I appreciate the stay-at-home order and several things you are doing in the face of the coronavirus, including the COVID-19 Task Force, BattleBorn Medical Corps, and request for the National Guard to assist our state with logistics. I have even promoted these initiatives and plan to lend more support in those areas. So yes, I understand the seriousness of the situation and can appreciate, if not imagine, the challenges you face as Governor.

However, the time for our state to have a plan for recovery based on clearly defined parameters is NOW if for no other reason than to give people hope. Yes, I know there are many variables, but an “if this, then that” plan could provide people with a light at the end of this tunnel, which is so badly needed for so many Nevadans, especially those with mental health issues.

I also believe this plan should be created before any budget cuts as it could provide insight into possible revenue projections before they are necessary, especially with the consideration of something like a state lottery. In addition, a plan before cuts would allow Nevadans a breath between what has been a constant barrage of negative "not-good-enough" announcements.

Once the plan is announced and the defined parameters are met, the state could begin to loosen the stay-at-home order, in stages, for manufacturing, limited store visits beyond groceries, limited seating in restaurants, etc. This creates a positive, forward motion that people can get behind and will alleviate some stress and mental health issues.

Likewise, in the interim, I think talking more about how well Nevadans are doing great would be more effective than highlighting only the ones breaking the order with threats of increased punishing restrictions, which only amplifies the growing tension and mental stress of the crisis. Evidence suggests Nevadans are following the order better than most states. I respectfully encourage you to talk about what we are doing well, as most people are staying home for Nevada.

Please also know, while I appear critical of your performance during the crisis, my criticism of your performance (or the performance of any previous Governor for that matter) has never outweighed my love for Nevada. This has been my home since the 1970s, and I have served in many public and private leadership positions within our state for more than 30 years, in addition to teaching and building a small business.

That said, please do take care, keeping in mind that the best messages transform “you” and “them” into “we” for Nevada. Nobody wants to see people die of COVID-19 in Nevada, but neither do we want to see children commit suicide because of stress related to COVID-19.

Please do the right thing. I know you will.

 Sincerely,
 Richard Becker

Wednesday, December 11

Writing The Iceberg: Advertising And Content Marketing Depth

I was a junior in college when I took my first formal copywriting class. It was taught by the creative director at what was then one of the three largest advertising agencies in Nevada. We never hit it off.

We never hit it off because he always presented himself as cool and aloof, even showing us the couch where he would nap away the afternoon at the advertising agency where he worked. The nap idea was a remnant of how advertising agencies worked during the golden era of advertising. Whatever got the creative juices working was all right by the account and accounting side of the house.

I wasn't bred to be that kind of creative. I was more of a workhorse, spinning clever ideas out of nothing (a few of which he riffed for his own work). Half the time, I didn't think he noticed my work. He and everyone else always praised the kid who would turn every ad a motocross analogy. Boring.

It wasn't until my final that this professor left me a cryptic half compliment on my final assignment (we were asked to produce advertisements for ten different organizations, most of which were real-life accounts for his agency). "Rich. You're the only one in this class who will make it as a copywriter, but only if you learn that clever is not enough. Advertising is hard work. These ads are just clever. A+" Maybe you can see why I was happy to be done with him at the time.

Advertising And Content Marketing Needs Depth 

It wasn't until years later that I understood what he really meant. Had I known then what I know now, I would have appreciated the depth behind his cool facade and recognized his persona was an analogy for the work. Advertising and content marketing doesn't have anything to do with being clever, even if the deliverable — the concept, creative, copy, content — seems to prove otherwise.

I would have better understood this point had my teacher had the tools to explain it better. He might not have known it, but he was talking about Hemmingway's Iceberg Theory.

“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows," said Hemmingway. "And the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them."

While Hemmingway's words are generally confined to creative writing and not business writing, the observation is transferable, if not even better suited to advertising and content writing. The clever headline or image you see in an advertisement that works is only the smartly distilled tip of an iceberg.

Below the surface, there resides a massive collection of customer research, organizational history, brand value, reputation management, mission, vision, values, testing, measurables, competitive analysis, core message, and scores of crumpled paper balls (most of them virtual nowadays).

So if you are wondering why marketers who jumped on the bandwagon to produce variations of Maurizio Cattelan’s “masterpiece” of a banana taped to a wall (which sold for $120,000 and was then eaten by another artist in the name of performance art) get a failing grade, now you know. All those in-the-moment social media mocks are akin to being cliche because it's all surface ice with no substance beneath it. Maybe it's worth a chuckle, like, share, or whatever. But beyond all that, it's just another message that distracted from whatever you want consumers to know.

Tuesday, November 19

Marketing Integration: Times Are Changing; So Is Education

Integrated Marketing Communications
Total global advertising placement is projected to exceed $716 billion next year, with as much as 70 percent of that total (exclusive of production) is being spent in North America. Marketers are investing more than 25 percent of this mix in digital advertising and social networks, and almost half invested in websites, branding, and strategy. 

These were the same kinds of numbers I considered a few years ago as enrollment in the Public Relations Certificate Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) began to evaporate. Fewer and fewer working professionals were interested in a certificate program that seemed to exist within a vacuum, especially as public relations worked overtime to "own social" and thereby became owned by the strategic arms of marketing and communications.

While some saw the decline as waning interest in communications, I saw it as an inevitable shift away from public relations and toward integrated marketing communications‚ a field of study that was better equipped to address the challenges presented by digital advertising, social networks, shifting media patterns, and divided consumer attention. Yes, public relations in its purest form can still be invaluable, but continuing education students need to consider something more practical.

Retooling Integrated Marketing Communications at UNLV

For the better part of a year, several respected communicators in the field have been working with UNLV to develop what the next generation of integrated marketing communications might need. The resulting pinpointed four core classes and a variety of electives that could introduce or upgrade new skillsets for working professionals and small business owners.

Fundamentals of Integrated Marketing. Examine the core elements of integrated communications, including marketing research, segmentation, positioning, branding, analytics, and promotions.

Digital and Social Media Marketing. Learn key concepts of on- and offsite SEO, paid search marketing, online advertising, web analytics, email marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management.

Consumer Behavior & Market Research. Examine why consumers behave the way they do and understand the practical marketing implications of that behavior. Use advanced market research methods to inform decisions.

Writing & Content Creation for Marketing. Communicate effectively by mastering the varied skills necessary to write for departments, businesses, and organizations across a variety of media.

While there about a dozen electives to support these core classes, these four provide enough of a foundation for those hoping to enter the field, those keeping up with trends, or those attempting to define their marketing budget. (The average successful company, by the way, invests 6-12 percent of their revenue into marketing.) And it's my hope anyone who enters the program will learn how precise, consistent, and persuasive messages to the right audience at the right time.

Once they have a foundation, professionals are always in a better position to discuss where technology intersects marketing and communication. In fact, just by looking at the twelve skill sets that are now in high demand for 2020, it becomes crystal clear where the brightest minds want to take communications  — a place where analytics reimagines messaging and technology reimagines message delivery. It's an exciting time. Goodnight and good luck.

Friday, November 1

Marketing Content: If You Write It, They Will Not Come

Art by Jenna Becker
Some people will likely tell me that my headline is all wrong. Maybe they're right. Why would anyone want to read an article about why content marketing doesn't work? And if they did want to read an article about that, then why wouldn't they pick something pithier like "10 Common Reasons Why Content Marketing Isn’t Working for You?" These are two very good questions.

The truth is that content marketing does work. It works extremely well. And the dividends content marketing pays will likely benefit your business far longer than you'll enjoy contributing to it.

What won't work, outside of the ten tips Neil Patel points out, is producing content for nobody. Yet, that is what most content marketing campaign startups attempt to do. They provide content before anybody is listening and then step back and act surprised, especially if it's really great content.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, nobody cares. 

Most people have heard the philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. The problem, as posed by Scientific American, was: If a tree were to fall on an uninhabited island, would there be any sound? The exercise usually leads people to speculate that sound is reliant on something's ability to pick up its vibrations.

In other words, if a speaker delivers an amazing speech ten times to an empty room, no one will know what they spoke about. And while we wouldn't expect any measurable results from an audience that doesn't exist, that wouldn't make the speech any less amazing. It simply means the ratio of ten speeches over zero listens is still zero responses.

If both of the above sentiments are true, then it stands to reason that content marking works the same way. If nobody is around to consume the content or even knows you produce content or even knows who you are, then chances are even the best content will go nowhere because nobody cares. Or, more precisely, nobody is around to care.

The simple truth about content marketing is you need an audience. 

In the last decade or so, I've worked on hundreds of content marketing campaigns (including some that were covered by CNN and the New York Times) and I've come to the conclusion that having an audience in place (or not) is the number one reason content marketing campaigns succeed or fail. The problem most small business owners or startups have is that they don't want to invest in the objective to build an audience before the objective to have an audience read and respond to produced content.

It doesn't even matter what industry or market. An author hoping to market a self-published book, an entrepreneur who wanted to start a Kickstarter campaign, a Shark Tank startup that wanted to launch a new niche social network. All of them were advised to share short content and curate topic-related content, but all of them resisted because they don't believe building an audience leads to direct conversions. News flash. Producing content for no one doesn't lead to conversations either.

If you or your small business is hoping to have a successful content marketing campaign six months from now, the time to start building an audience or a community is right now. That way, in six months or three months or however long you have, there will be people waiting to respond to the content, listen to your speech, or hear a tree fall in the woods. Goodnight and good luck.

Saturday, October 19

Rekindling Creativity: Live, Learn, Leap

When automaton drives marketing, creativity can take a back seat. There is only one problem with it. A world run by algorithms is impossibly predictable. You look up product support, and you're subjected to a series of advertisements for a product you already own; only it’s broken. 

Predictably isn’t only inherent in computer programming. It becomes part of our daily routines. We wake up, get ready, exercise, have coffee, take breakfast, commute to work, check email, work on priorities, have a meeting, eat lunch, take another meeting, wrap up deadlines, transport kids, have dinner, watch television, go to bed, and then do the whole thing all over. 

Sure, everybody’s routine is probably a little different, but you get the point. You have a routine, and the better it goes, the more likely you feel content. The price you pay is not being present. 

The less your present, the more predictable our reactions when exposed to programming. The busier we are reacting to stimulus and situations or policies and politics, the less likely we are to take actions that move our lives forward. Sure, routines can be useful but they can also cause paralysis — in both marketing and our daily lives. The only problem is that some people grow so accustomed to contentment, they forget how to rewrite an increasingly scripted world.

Live. 

The first step toward rekindling creativity is to live with intention. Much like animals, people are hardwired to filter out unimportant details. Since we are bombarded by neural input, our brains tend to ignore the expected and notice the unexpected. This is the very reason even fitness trainers tell people to keep your fitness routine fresh

Life is exactly like that. You have to keep changing the stimulus so your brain doesn't slip in and become stuck in sameness. Make time for weekend retreats, walk somewhere new, drive a different route, skip your daily routine once a week (e.g. don't open email until noon or try a no-meeting Monday, have lunch with an old friend, perform a random act of kindness, or flip a coin to make some choices. You get the point. Do something different. 

Learn. 

I have always been a lifelong learner. I read books. I go to events. I listen to speakers. I take online courses. My lists for inspiration are endless. You don't have to start with any of them. But I did want to share that it was through one of the venues that I discovered the genius of David Lynch. 


He ties living and learning together perfectly. His concepts of capturing ideas literarily changed my life. The two-and-a-half minutes I'm sharing here will introduce you to a sliver of his understanding of consciousness. I'm calling out the time for a reason. Most people tell me that time famine is the number one reason to avoid learning. You have to find the time. I listen to audiobooks when I drive anywhere. Most Ted talks are only 18 minutes long. The very notion that you cannot afford to invest five or 20 minutes to improve yourself should be an indication that you probably need to more than anyone. 

Leap. 

Creativity isn't only about input. It's about output. In fact, the root meaning of the word “creativity” is “to grow.” To truly benefit from creativity, you have to turn new and imaginative ideas into reality. The idea doesn't only apply to arts or marketing. It applies to education. It applies to science. It applies to IT. It applies to business. It applies to finding a sense of purpose in our lives. 

One of the recent changes I've made in my life is to finally set time aside to work on writing fiction. I originally set a goal of writing one short-short (a story of 50 to 1,500 words) once a week and a short story (3,500 words or more) once a month. The leap to do so came from author Joyce Carol Oats whose class reminded me that feedback helps fuel writers. Right now, I share these stories at byRichBecker on Facebook. 

More importantly, the infusion of creativity in my life has awakened a passion to produce great things. While I've always enjoyed being on the leading edge in my field, writing fiction has elevated my work in advertising and marketing. It's made me more open in observations and making connections within the world. It's increased my sense of purpose and added excitement in everything I do.

And the reason I want to share this has very little to do with me and everything to do with providing some evidence for you. If you really are looking to rekindle your creativity, start by turning off those distractions and making small changes in your life, learning more about those things that interest you, and then transforming the ideas that start to come your way into action. Give a try. Try it for two weeks (or a month). And if you wouldn't mind, drop me a note and tell me how it worked out for you. I'd really love to know.
 

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