Showing posts with label about us. Show all posts
Showing posts with label about us. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 8

Why I Want To Tell Writers To Stop Aspiring At Comic Con

The title of the panel that I'm participating on at Wizard World Comic Con might be entitled Calling All Aspiring Writers! The New Writer's Survival Guide, but I'll have a different message this time out. I'm going to tell them to stop aspiring all together. Very few aspiring writers ever become writers.

People who write become writers, which is why there are just as many accidental writers as there are writers who had always dreamed of becoming one. You have to aspire to be something more — a freelance journalist, copywriter, communication specialist, author, etc. — that makes more sense.

Most writers develop an affinity for one writing discipline over another and then invest less time into writing and more time into everything else around it. Very few have the time, talent or desire to weave in a bit of everything into their careers. Even closely related styles are surprisingly divergent.

Not many copywriters can write a press release (nor would they want to) and not many public relations practitioners can write advertising copy (no matter how hard they try). Even journalists who write for newspapers or magazines approach the craft differently, with the latter often lending more color, life, and perspective to their stories than the former with crisp graphs filled with facts. Most broadcast journalists admit to being further removed. And authors, especially novelists, have bigger challenges than many other career paths. Most of them have to balance their passion with a paycheck.

This is also one of the reasons I'm especially excited to be part of this panel. 

Genese Davis has assembled a diverse ensemble of writers to share their experiences and expertise to participate in an open-ended conversation that will flow and evolve with the panelists as well as the audience. What is especially interesting about the four of us is that we mostly break the convention of specialization mentioned above in favor of being creatives who happen to write about what they love.

Genese Davis is the author of The Holder's Dominion, a thriller about a young woman who joins a massive popular online game called Edannair to escape the pressures of college and the tragic death of her father. While her plan works at first, one of the game's elite clans has taken to coercing members into taking offline dares.

Along with her novel, Davis is a featured columnist at, the founder of The Gamer IN You, and an iGR Woman of the Year award recipient for her outstanding efforts in debunking stereotypes related to gaming. All of these experiences helped lay the foundation for her first novel.

Pj Perez is an American editor, writer, and musician best known for his reports on the Las Vegas culture for publications such a Rolling Stone. He has written for dozens of periodicals in Southern Nevada too, including Las Vegas Weekly, CityLife, and Vegas Seven. He currently writes for a variety of Wendoh Media publications and the MGM Resorts M Life magazine.

About six years ago, Perez relaunched his comic book and pop culture website, Pop! Goes the Icon, a boutique publishing label and online publishing house. It specializes in comic books, graphic novels, webcomics, and other forms of graphic literature and pop art.

Maxwell Alexander Drake is an award-winning science fiction/fantasy author and graphic novelist, best known for his fantasy series, The Genesis of Oblivion Saga. The epic series spans six novels that take readers deeper and deeper into a world of their own as the Talic'Hauth and follows the lives of its people over thousands of years.

He also teaches creative writing at schools, libraries, and writer's conferences all around the country. He is frequently a featured speaker at events such as Comic-Con International in San Diego, Gen-Con in Indianapolis, and Origins Game Fair in Columbus.

The accidental career path that afforded me a little bit of everything. 

As the fourth panelist, my place may seem a bit oddball in that my creative writing is only slowly starting to take shape after more than 25 years as a commercial writer — copywriter, journalist, content marketer, executive coach, political campaign strategist, and business communication strategist with award-winning work in everything from script to screen. Most of it happened by doing.

The truth is I never intended to become a writer. Although my first fictional story was serialized in a junior high school newspaper and my first poem appeared in print before that, I never intended to become a writer. I originally majored in psychology, believing art had limited career opportunities.

After studying psychology for a year at Whittier College, I learned the field primarily branched into two paths — listening to people's problems or teaching mice to press bars for cheese. It felt limited.

So I opted out of the program in favor of attending the University of Nevada, Reno with an intent to major in art and minor in psychology. The idea was to bring the two degrees together to begin a career as a graphic artist.

The university had other plans. The Reynolds School of Journalism recruited me into an advertising section of a journalism program that ranked fourth in the nation. They taught me how to channel artistic creativity into words instead of art, nurturing dual skill sets as a copywriter and journalist.

Upon graduation, I followed a girl back to Las Vegas rather than take any number of journalist job leads afforded to me by my mentors. I freelanced with a foot in two fields, writing advertising copy and collateral for agencies and articles for newspapers and magazines. Doing grew into a business.

Within a few years, as most entrepreneurs find out, growing a business is a different cut from freelancing. So while writing remained central to my career (about 15,000 words a week), new responsibilities required new skill sets — business management, creative direction, message development, strategic communication, platform architecture, public policy, and publishing among them. There were so many tasks that needed doing, it started squeezing out the creativity at times.

At one time, there were 40 full-time, part-time, and freelance writers and designers on our books. But after selling my first publication and surviving cancer more recently, I rewrote the business plan. And today, I only work with a handful of select clients while reviving my creative roots by doing.

In fact, there is only one thing more important than doing. You have to stick with the business of living. In other words, much like writing, you have to find an active voice instead of a passive one. Active living is where most writers find the inspiration to turn aspiration into action. Good night and good luck.

Wednesday, December 19

Sneaking Peeks: Copywrite, Ink.

For the last month, we’ve been making changes to the Copywrite, Ink. site, gearing up for a great 2008. Some changes will begin spilling over here to our blog, while others simply demonstrate our continued experimentation with the integration of social media.

We’re not done.

But sometimes sharing works in progress helps inspire other people. And that is what I hope to do today. You see, there is one question I’ve learned that needs to be asked about social media by people who hesitate to include it into their marketing mix. The question isn’t “why?” The question is “why not?”

Why not begin to introduce videos using Revver or YouTube to introduce yourself or your work or something else?

Why not forego static profile pages and instead link to Linkedin, where clients and contacts can connect?

Why not skip those same old “menu bars" and make a Web site a gateway to everything else?

So that’s what we are going to do. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be asking “why not” a lot more often. Sure, our experimentation with integrating social media into a traditional Web sites will not work for everyone.

That’s the beauty of communication. One size does not fit all.

Of course, if you’re thinking this comes from someone who doesn’t understand the difference between small business and large corporations, please don't allow my sometimes relaxed nature fool you. It's exactly the opposite. We've worked behind the scenes with the 9-1-1 National Emergency Number Association, American Greetings, Fidelity Investments, GMAC, McDonalds, and the United Sates Air Force (to name a few).

Combined, our experience spans more than 1,000 accounts. Or, as we like to say, 1,000 secrets that very few people know about. Some of them do. And those that do also know our secrets can tip the balance between landing an account and seeing it slip away.


Monday, December 17

Sharing Acts Of Kindness: Bloggers Unite

We purchased five books yesterday. And randomly selected five different cities. Within those cities, we chose five random addresses. And today, all five books will be packaged and placed in the mail. Five random acts of kindness.

Like messages in bottles cast out into the sea, we have no idea where they might go from there — or whether they will be read, or if they will be enjoyed, or if they will be shared as we intend — or even what their fate might be.

All we know is that somewhere in the weeks ahead, five people will each receive an anonymous gift, our random acts of kindness. And within each book, they will find an inscription that asks them to pass it along when they are done, from person to person, until the margins are filled with people who shared it.

Five books. Five cities. Five strangers.

Massachusetts. Someone in Boston will receive The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. It’s a story that reminds that reminds us that our lives are often interconnected in ways we never imagined.

Colorado. Someone in Fort Collins will receive The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. Warhol imparts a great deal of pop philosophy and little bits of wisdom on the world.

New York. Someone in Rochester will receive We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Zamyatin’s book left a watermark on Western culture and the world, inspiring everyone from Aldous Huxley to George Orwell.

Illinois. Someone in Evanston will receive the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. It’s meant less as a statement for Taoism and more as an opportunity to share a charming and thought-provoking little book.

Arkansas. Someone in Fayetteville will receive Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman. His anecdotes add something more than an autobiography.

The inscription.

“You are receiving this book as a random act of kindness. Read it, enjoy it, inscribe it, and pass it along to someone you know so they may do the same.

Knowledge is the one gift that no one can take away. So we hope this book delivers something you are looking for, and if not, then perhaps for the next person you pass it along to. Until one day, this book may find its margins filled with the inscriptions of all those who shared it.”

Pay it forward.

The concept is not new…

“When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.” — Benjamin Franklin

… just the choices we make to make the world a better place. And today, those choices have made an impact as bloggers share their “Acts Of Kindness” stories from around the world. Amazing.


Wednesday, December 5

Sharing Acts Of Kindness: Bloggers Unite

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” — Mark Twain

There is something to be said for this often cited quote from Mark Twain, which is why there is something to be said about the newest Bloggers Unite challenge led by BlogCatalog members. On Dec. 17, bloggers will share stories about varied generous acts of kindness that they performed in the days and weeks leading up to the event, many of which are occurring around the world right now.

It doesn’t really matter if these “acts of kindness” are simple, smart, quirky, silly, serious, or something in between. Individually and collectively, they mean something; at least they do to me, and I hope to you too.

You see, a single act of kindness or doing the right thing, whether great or small, always takes less effort and produces greater results than struggling to be right as some people often do. As one of my favorite stories illustrates …

A myriad of bubbles were floating on the surface of a stream. “What are you?” I cried to them they drifted by.

“I am bubble of course” nearly a myriad bubbles answer, and there was surprise and indignation in their voices.

But, here and there, a lonely bubble answered, “We are this stream,” and there was neither surprise nor indignation in their voices, just quiet certitude. — Wei Wu Wei

Sure, most people are content to fight to be right and place their mark on the map of social media with as much indignity as they can muster. There’s nothing really wrong with that, except it is equally worthwhile to remember that compassion is effortless.

For the last few days, some bloggers have taken the day off to sign on to Bloggers Unite, with each act of kindness to be shared in a post, photo, or video on Dec. 17, adding value to the world online and off.

For our part, we’ll be adding our own story to the stream this Dec. 17 and have joined with BlogCatalog to assist in judging hundreds of submissions. More than 20 bloggers receiving prizes and recognition for their work. We'll also profile the top three submissions in each subcategory — post, photo, and video — beginning in Jan. 08.

See? Effortless. For details, visit the Bloggers Unite mini-site. Or, just do something nice today — even an unexpected compliment might go a long way.


Thursday, November 15

Evolving A Blog: Social Media ROI

The debate seems endless. The argument circular. And the affirmation echoes apparently tied to technologies like Google PageRank, Technorati authority, Alexa traffic, Feedburner subscriptions, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, return visitors, comment counts, and any combination of the aforementioned.

We may as well be counting column inches and trying to convince clients that public relations can somehow be equated to paid advertising space of roughly the same size; count total mentions in tier one publications (whatever those are); or assign erroneous values to stories that are positive, neutral, or negative despite knowing that negative stories carry eight times the weight.

While these measures might be valid in some cases, they are not valid in every case. Neither is the abundance of technology-based measures being pushed in social media. They are the measurements of activity and/or popularity, which is often contrary to the proven concept that the true purpose of any communication is to change opinion or behavior. So the question remains...

How do you measure the return on investment of social media?

Simply put, social media measurement depends on the ability of the communication to meet defined objectives. In other words, much like public relations, the intent vs. the outcome is the ROI.

Even the evolution of this blog works well as an example because its purpose has shifted three times since its launch in 2005 (we had run several experimental “ghost” blogs prior to launch). Each time, regardless of rank, authority, etc., it met its objectives.

I’ve broken the transition into three shifts for simplicity, even though these transitions were not hard changes. A parsed overview follows...

Copywrite, Ink. Blog 2005 – Augment Instruction

The initial purpose was simple — augment my classroom instruction with observations, including comment on communication examples in real time; develop handouts for classroom discussion; and evaluate the potential business applications of blogs for select clientele.

While the objectives were not earth shattering, they were met. In addition, as I was the only communication person in market experimenting with blogs, it led to a speaking engagement for the local chapter of IABC. (Today, that first PowerPoint presentation is a snapshot of social media history, back when 90 percent of bloggers were ages 13-29.)

Copywrite, Ink. Blog 2006 – Education And Promotional

While the original purpose did not change, this blog began to evolve from its early academic function to a dual-purpose communication vehicle. On several occasions, prospective clients had visited this blog from a Web site link and selected us based in part on what they read. We knew because they mentioned specific posts.

• Augment educational instruction for public relations certificate students at UNLV.
• Evaluate and experiment with new technologies so we weren’t asking our clients to test them.
• Promote select experience, especially because it changes too frequently for other communication vehicles.
• Reinforce our mission to produce the most effective communication possible by composing powerful messages across all media.

Meeting these objectives expanded our knowledge base about blogs and others trends in social media, including spotting convergence earlier than most after of a chance discussion with AT&T. In addition to the above, it provided a communication vehicle for non-news direct to the public. (Unlike some in public relations, we don’t spam the media with non-news).

We also secured several accounts that we may not have secured without the benefit of the blog because our strategic communication skill sets became more visible. It also helped expand our out-of-market clientele base.

Copywrite, Ink. Blog 2007 – Education, Experimentation, Engagement

As a sub consultant for advertising agencies, public relations firms, etc., we really cannot afford to share as much as I would like because, frankly, many accounts we work on are not our clients, but accounts served by our clients. Sharing insider information is unethical.

However, by the end of 2006, we noticed that there were ample case studies materializing on the Web where CEOs and communication professionals seemed baffled by the outcomes, despite the fact they seemed obvious to our team. So we shifted our objectives once again by taking strategic communication principles well beyond the classroom and into the real world with a bigger audience.

• Augment educational instruction to prepare students for a communication landscape that has changed.
• Experiment with new technologies, gaining insight and understanding in how they may impact communication.
• Engage in the conversations presented by colleagues to assist in deepening the fundamentals of social media without losing the proven principles of strategic communication.
• Demonstrate experience and a value proposition by presenting insight into living case studies that represent best and worst practices rather than talking about “us” all the time.

In evaluating the parsed objectives above, you might notice that they cannot be measured by Google PageRank, Technorati authority, Alexa traffic, Feedburner subscriptions, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, return visitors, comment counts, and any combination of the aforementioned.

On the contrary, the measures are based on how well students are prepared for social media; how much we understand new media trends as they relate to communication; whether we deepen conversations on select topics; and if, as a byproduct, we are able to develop and nurture long-term relationships with clients and colleagues by sharing knowledge.

It’s about that simple, or perhaps, that complex.

One blog. Three different communication purposes. All successful based upon the stated objectives. And not even one purpose is tied to “activity” measurements. In fact, if we begin to measure success based on activity and not intent vs. outcome, we risk allowing the message to manage us rather than us managing the message.

More tomorrow, despite breaking the short post rule once again. Ho hum. Now I have to go wait in line at the DMV. Measuring "activity" there is futile too.


Friday, September 28

Thinking Arrows: CBS Corporation

Steven Mallas with the Motley Fool called it right. Les Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corporation, sees CBS as a content king.

However, Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, recently said, because of social media (Jericho specifically), “…So I think we are looking at a shift and a change." And with the EyeLab concept, which will give consumers the ability to create short-film clips by editing content from CBS shows, some insiders are calling CBS a “next-generation studio.”

So which is it? Consumers are asking. Some are speculating.

“I do not think CBS even has people in place to evaluate and determine whether or not an opportunity is good for them,” commented Jericho fan blogger Terocious in response to our Tuesday post. “I think the company's success with new media must be coming from a small minority within the company who sees the possibilities and is pushing for them.”

Small minorities who see possibilities and push for them.

I agree. This seems to be happening inside CBS. But will that work?

Let’s imagine Moonves as an archer. He wants to hit the bulls-EyeLab for viewers, critics, shareholders, and, well, lots of different publics. If he does, then he is an expert. The ratings come in. Fans love the company. The stock soars. Everybody makes money, a portion of which is invested to make even better content.

Of course, it’s not that easy. There are a great number of variables, just like archery. Maybe the archer needs glasses. Maybe the environment is bit windy and could blow some arrows off course. Maybe the best arrows are too expensive so some of his arrows are slightly inferior compared to others.

Add to all these challenges: arrows that have minds of their own. Right. Unlike real arrows, each CBS arrow represents a small minority of people within the company who want to fly in a slightly different direction because they see a better target or want to adjust for the wind or whatever the case may be. Well, your chances of hitting the mark are suddenly pretty thin.

Successful communication requires one archer with great vision and unwavering arrows.

Companies that win have a quiver full of arrows that will always fly in the same direction. They will likely hit the mark, every time. Or, maybe they have an archer who is intuitive enough to listen to what the arrows are telling him or her and adjust. Either way, it works.

Some people like to tell me this is impossible, especially with big companies like CBS. They tell me that building internal consensus within a big corporation is an impossible task and maybe a waste of time. But that’s not exactly true. We do it all the time.

Teaching archers and arrows to work together and hit the mark.

A couple years ago, I was hired by a major utility to help create a graphic standards manual so its identity would always have some semblance of consistency (eg. no pink logos). The challenge, I was told, was that everybody — some 40 stakeholders within the company — all had different ideas about the company’s identity. (In other words, lots and lots of thinking arrows.)

What I really wanted to do was to use our core message process because one of the benefits is consensus building. But the utility wasn’t really interested because, they said, the geographical distance between several divisions was too far. So, even though we could not use a core message process, I applied a similar method that did not require all 40 stakeholders to be present at once.

I surveyed the arrows, um, stakeholders by e-mail; and then I followed up with interviewers. By the end of my research, I came across a surprising conclusion and laughed out loud.

All 40 stakeholders believed they were the only ones who understood the identity of the company. However, all 40 stakeholders had the same view. They just didn’t know it!

While that doesn’t always happen, it put us in the position to develop graphics standard manual that the arrows felt pretty good about. They liked the diection. Even better, the archer (the communication director in this case) felt very confident in being able to hit the mark every time, no matter who held the bow. They did.

The best external communication works from the inside out.

In sum, all this means is that for companies to succeed with communicaiton, the archer and all the arrows have to agree on the mark and the direction they must travel to hit that mark.

Or, in other words, if they can agree internally, then it’s easier to move a consistent message out into the mainstream. Unfortunately, especially with the advent of social media, more and more companies are sharing their internal opposing viewpoints with the outside world.

The result is mixed messages that leave consumers confused, frustrated, or worse, disenfranchised because nobody believes what the company is saying half of the time. From what consumers are telling me, that is what is happening at CBS, most major networks, and too many companies on or off the net.


Thursday, September 27

Thanking Bloggers: Copywrite, Ink.

While there are thousands of bloggers who deserve a ton of thanks as the Bloggers Unite campaign unfolds today, I wanted to thank a few who took the time to help promote Bloggers Unite and Copywrite, Ink.’s “Blog For Hope Competition” in cooperation with BlogCatalog. Many are BC members; several are not.

Jim Stroud. Jim is a "searchologist" and presently serves Microsoft as a technical sourcing consultant and is a regular contributor to Microsoft’s Technical Careers blog.

Idea Grove. Idea Grove (and the Media Orchard blog) is led by Scott Baradell, a former Fortune 1000 media company executive and award-winning journalist. He often brings reality to the public relations industry by pointing out what so many forget.

Jericho Monster. Jane Sweat is one of the leading fan advocates for the return of the television show Jericho. Since she started, she has become an expert in consumer marketing.

National Business Community Blog. Sure, the National Business Community Blog is a Copywrite, Ink. program but Kim Becker has taken over the management of it. Frankly, I don’t thank her enough.

A Piece of Peace by RubyShooZ. At the end of her post, Ruby placed one of my favorite quotes from Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

My Super Amazing Blog of Everything by TriblyKat. Tribly Kat is a personal blogger who writes about, well, everything she finds interesting. She not only joined Bloggers Unite but also created a Topix post for people to leave their links outside of BlogCatalog.

Ramblings From the Mermaid Tavern. Poseidon’s Muse is a personal blogger with a profound respect and fascination for world culture, art, literature and religion.

Blog Village News. Rosemary says she is retired, but she and her family maintain several antique and collectible shops that sell everything from advertising collectibles to sports memorabilia.

A Bunch Of Wordz, a personal blog/Ezine writer who picked up on the buzz “Saving The World One Blog At A Time.”

If It’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother and The Crone’s Daily Groan and Living On The Edge of Madness. Bairbre Sine’s pre-post promotion across three blogs made me laugh with the suggestion that someone might consider posting about Republican abuse.

365 Dias. Fabio Santos is an online marketer from Brazil who promoted the event, and the “Blog For Hope Post” competition we’re sponsoring, yesterday.

Radio Free Jericho, Jericho Rally Point, and Nuts for Jericho are three Jericho fan forums that have dedicated some behind-the-scenes time to support this effort, as has the Jericho fans who frequent the CBS Jericho site.

Recruiting Bloggers. Recruiting Animal, who runs the site, has always been great to allow me to add the occasional Maybe It Pays To Blog For Good do-good post. Ditto for Jason Davis at RecruitingBlogs too.

Contest Girl is a directory of online sweepstakes, contests, and freebies. Linda’s is also one of several contest sites that have promoted the contest portion of Bloggers Unite.

I know I missed a ton of people, including all those who supported a Technorati WTF and Digg as well. Thank you all so very, very much for supporting this effort. And of course, Antony Berkman and the BlogCatalog team. You guys rock!

And if you haven’t posted about abuse today, don’t forget that there is still time to do so. Any blogger who participates has until Oct. 10 to collect some measurements and send their link to For details, visit our original contest post. We have more recognition to extend in the weeks ahead.


Blogging Against Abuse: Bloggers Unite

Let's Stop Abuse

Depending on how fast you read this post, about 25 children will be abused, assaulted, or caused severe physical and emotional harm. Many of them by people they trust — their moms, dads, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, guardians, teachers, coaches, ministers.

That’s one child, every 11 seconds. One right now.

Those are the obvious cases, statistics and reports chronicled by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which is a federally sponsored effort that collects and analyzes annual data on child abuse and neglect. One right now. You can find one of the most recent summaries from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services here.

As defined, these children — one right now — are only counted if the act or failure to act on the part of the parent or caretaker results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation (or failure to act, which presents imminent risk of serious harm). That doesn’t count every child — one right now — whose abuse will never be identified, recorded, or reported.

That’s 3.3 million cases reported every year. One right now.

In other words, while newspapers and public opinion might be swayed by these numbers — the real numbers that go unreported, hidden away, and sometimes even blocked by the survivors of abuse are much larger. Equally alarming are those cases that do not even qualify as abuse — one right now.

Somewhere in America, for every one of the approximately 90,000 children who will be sexually abused this year, there will be thousands more who are told they are “worthless,” “lazy,” “ugly,” “bad,” “just like their bum father,” and many other disparaging labels assigned to them by the most trusted source of information — a parent.

One right now.

Parents, in fact, account for more than 90 percent of the perpetrators of abuse, many of whom are ignorant of the outcome that is sometimes spurred on by their own feelings of inadequacy and lack of control. This post won’t change that. But maybe it will help one child, one right now, for some parents to know that how they were raised isn’t the only way. Without any judgment whatsoever, maybe it’s fair to simply point out that their justifications are incorrect. Here are some less obvious forms of abuse.

• Name-calling, putdowns, or assigning statements like “why do you always embarrass me” can work their way into your child’s self-esteem. One right now.

• Discounting major accomplishments because you are too busy on the phone or computer to hear what happened during their day erodes their self-worth.

• Declaring, sharing, and apologizing that you just don’t know why your children are “pigs” is really a form of public humiliation. One right now.

• Threatening body language such as towering above them, raising a hand, or displaying weapons like belts and cooking spoons.

It’s these little injuries delivered sometimes every day — one right now — that shape these children into the people they will become long after the parents’ responsibilities end. Even the best parents might pause now again to ask themselves simple questions: do you spend more time on your commute to work than you do with your child? One right now.

The image above is a reworked billboard from our participation in a campaign for United Way of Southern Nevada several years ago. It caused a lot of controversy because I had only included “dads” as the perpetrators, but it brought attention to where attention was needed.

Of course, even I knew then that while issue ads can be striking, the United Way needed a message that was more apt to raise funds to solve the problem. The following year, we helped them launch their “Great Results Start With U. United Way” campaign that later became “Great results start with you.” It was the longest running, most successful campaign in their history.

I wanted to mention this campaign today because it lends well to the concept of “Bloggers Unite because great results really do start with you. One blogger. One post. One right now. One topic. At a time. One right now.

Please take a moment to read and submit your Bloggers Unite post against abuse to our competition, win $250 for a charity (among other prizes), and receive some well-deserved recognition that will inspire others to lend their voices against abuse; which is important to them. One right now.

You can also purchase a T-shirt with the image above from the Bloggers Unite store. Proceeds from that item this year will be donated to Prevent Child Abuse. Proceeds from other Bloggers Unite items will be donated to aid against animal abuse as requested by our friends at BlogCatalog.

Later today, I will be adding a thank you for all those who came out early to support our "Blog For Hope Post" competition that is underway and BlogCatalog in this very important effort. If you haven't joined this effort today, there is still time. It only takes one.


Friday, September 14

Making Changes: NBCB

Since April 2005, our company has hosted and administered the National Business Community Blog, which is a national news feed that focuses on businesses doing good.

Today, we gave the blog the first phase of a long overdo face lift. More work needs to be done (and we have yet to add every state), but it's a step in the right direction. Everyday, we publish one example of best business giving practices with the hope to inspire more companies to engage in community service.

In other words, we're always looking for best business giving practices from small businesses and large corporations across the nation. We'd be more than welcome to consider your business giving news; just send a release to the e-mail identified on the site.

In addition to sharing business giving ideas, the blog also benefits Nevada Volunteers (The Nevada Commission for National & Community Service), a state commission that administers AmeriCorps programs and generally works to increase volunteerism in our state.

I've been privileged to serve as appointed state commissioner for several years now. You can learn about the latest commission news here, including the recent announcement to name Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons honorary chairwoman.

There are other state and national non-profit organizations as well. And that doesn't count more than 300 acts of business kindness we're collected on the site. Drop by some time and let us know if you think we're moving one of our other blogs in the right direction.


Thursday, August 16

Turning Sweet 16: Copywrite, Ink.

“I don’t see the connection … it can’t be done … we don’t have time … we’ve tried that before … I can’t be bothered by those things … there is no value.”

And so goes the growing list of comments that some social media practitioners say they hear when they talk about social media. Are you surprised? I’m not. These communication killers have been around a long time. I don't expect they will be going away anytime soon either.

We’ve heard them often enough over the last 16 years, starting the day I founded our company with nothing more than a monochrome Mac Classic (yep, the one in the picture) and a fold-out card table set up in the kitchen of a one-bedroom apartment. It won’t work. It can’t be done. Nobody will take you seriously.

Sure, it wasn’t always easy. I’ve had some hits and misses along the way. But nonetheless, despite any naysayers, our company turned sweet 16 yesterday and I took time out to answer Eight Random Facts About Me after being tagged.

One random fact I didn’t share is that I have faith in underdog ideas: anything from social media as a viable tool to meet strategic objectives to the convergence of broadcast and the Internet. Everything from engaging consumers (like Jericho fans and Veronica Mars movie advocates) to encouraged consumer marketing.

Why? Because I believe well-grounded ideas that are backed by ample passion and persistence will work, provided they have the right message. In fact, in working with countless startups, the only good ideas that seem to fail are those where the "idea people" never perfect the message beyond the choir and/or give up before they do.

Social media is a great example. For the most part, practitioners have not proven its potential beyond themselves, possibly because they are too close to the source. This error was made apparent to me once again on Linkedin.

I asked “What is the one social media question that you feel has not been adequately answered by communication experts in this area?” Josh Weinberger, an independent writing and editing professional in New York City, was first out of the box.

”I'd like to see more coverage of how social media is enabling ‘regular’ businesses to conduct their traditional activities.”

His response strikes at the very core of where today’s social media advocates are going wrong. Web traffic? Page rank? Power lists? Social connections? SEO? Comment counts? Global exposure?

None of these hot topics resonate with 'average' businesses. So what we are seeing is that all too often, social media practitioners are providing second-tier and third-tier answers to a first-tier questions.

What can social media do for my business? It depends on the business. And here are a few examples:

• A professional practice (attorneys, accountants, medical practitioners, image consultants, etc.) can employ social media to expand and reinforce their expertise in the field. Blogs, in particular, move the conversations away from talking about ourselves and toward taking about what matters to our potential clients.

• A retail outlet can employ social media to communicate product reviews, shopping tips, and promotional events. If I were calling the shots for Wal-Mart, I would have already budgeted for an online home decorating show, which could help sell products as well as improve the company’s public image.

• An organization consisting of members can employ social media to reinforce online networking, promote upcoming events, and cover topics that are relevant to their membership without spamming their e-mail.

• A large corporation, such as a utility, can employ social media on an Intranet, encouraging departments to learn from each other and develop a consistent internal message prior to presenting rate cases.

• A recruiter could position themselves as an employment expert by not just talking about the industry, but by also developing a online publication that aims at providing tangible career advice to any industry in which they wish to specialize.

Social media may have changed the communication landscape, but it did not change the strategy behind it.

What is the situation? What is the objective? How will we achieve it? Who is the audience? What is the measurement for success? Unless we answer these questions, making sure social media programs are grounded in strategic communication, then all we are producing is entertainment.

Why is Copywrite, Ink. celebrating its sweet 16? Talk less. Ask more. Because if I have learned anything it is that when you ask the right questions, you can gain deeper insight and provide much more meaningful information.


Friday, June 29

Surviving Social Media: IABC/Las Vegas

A little more than two years ago, I posted my confession that it was my partner (not me) who said Web logs (blogs) were going to have a lasting impact on the communication industry in late 2003.

Fortunately for me, despite my skepticism, I approved what became a yearlong study on the patterns, perceptions, potential, and business application of blogs. The early work led me to speak at an International Association of Business Communicators/Las Vegas (IABC/Las Vegas) luncheon, were I concluded: no matter how you felt about it, social media was influencing the public and the media about products, services, policies, daily operations, and a company's bottom line.

Was I right about social media?

It resulted in the Singapore government paying out S$150 million to about 330,000 low-income workers five days before an election. It underpinned the biggest television show cancellation protest in history with Jericho fans shipping 40,000 pounds of nuts to CBS. It was behind the move by shareholders to oust JetBlue’s founder as president. It thrust the local Towbin Hummer flag controversy into the national spotlight. And, it is the reason behind Wynn Las Vegas becoming the first resort casino to have unionized dealers.

Amazing to me, despite the fact that social media has changed the communication landscape, most communicators (and even some bloggers) remain in denial. They say social media is a fad or not to be taken seriously. But the truth is (much like your message): if you don’t manage social media, social media will manage you.

On Friday, July 13, I've been asked back to speak at IABC/Las Vegas to present on a slightly different topic: what does it take to make social media work for you and not against you. While I'll touch on how to determine which tools — blogs, podcasts, digital media, and even PR Newswire releases — might work best for your company or clients, I'll also provide an inside look at some of the case studies we've covered and why this blog became the top ranked communication blog in Nevada.

Host: IABC/Las Vegas
Date: Friday, July 13
Time: 11:30 a.m. (networking)
Location: Las Vegas Country Club, 3000 Joe W. Brown Drive
Cost: $26 for IABC members and students, $30 for guests
RSVP: Visit by July 11

While some readers know I have social media experience — contributing to, participating on SpinThicket, assisting on a BlogCatalog project, working to partner with The Buzz Bin to develop something on myRagan, and launching three blogs for various clients — social media is only some of what we do (although some days, I wonder. Ha!)

So, in the hope of promoting this IABC/Las Vegas program to social media skeptics, I'm also an accredited business communicator who has worked on more than 1,000 accounts, written hundreds of magazine articles, contributed to five books, and scripted a documentary for PBS. I currently serve as an examiner for the IABC International Accreditation Board; governor-appointed state commissioner for the Nevada Commission for National & Community Service (AmeriCorps); honorary member of Les Clefs d’Or; and Educational Outreach instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Within the past three years, I've also served as an international research committee member for the IABC Research Foundation; director of public service for the Las Vegas Advertising Federation; director of public relations for the Business Community Investment Council; and in several other positions to assist nonprofit professional and community service projects. My work has earned numerous awards, including several Addys, EMAs, and Quills for writing, creative, and strategic direction. I've been honored as IABC/Las Vegas Communicator of the Year, WIC Agency/Production/Public Relations Principal of the Year, with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Community Achievement Award, and others.

Prior to Copywrite, Ink., I was creative director at an advertising agency in Reno and worked in the corporate communication department of a major utility. I'm a proud graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.

I don't blog in pajamas or bathrobes (not that there is anything wrong with that), but some people might be surprised by the caliber of our clients (small and large) and, even more so, the results we've helped generate for people, products, companies, and even elected officials. So, if you're in Las Vegas on July 13 (and you've RSVPd by July 11), drop by for a few hours. We're even going to give away some quirky Jericho-inspired Copywrite, Ink. "blog promo" T-shirts.


Friday, June 1

Digging Jericho: Jericho Fans

This is an unplanned post, but I really want to give shout out to the fans of Jericho. On Tuesday, I wrote a post entitled "Marketing Jericho: Season Two" and the fans decided to digg it. They are not the only ones.

Since, the original post has popped up on some pretty unexpected places, including the wildly popular, which is a news aggregator and an edited social networking news site. Every day Fark receives 2,000 or so news submissions from its readership.

Since I'm no power blogger by any stretch, I've found the results of your efforts pretty impressive and amazing. The one aforementioned post has been viewed 10,000 times since Tuesday. And that does not even count any other post related to Jericho. Considering the average blog reader shares what they read online with 3-10 people offline ...

More importantly, many of these 10,000 unique visitors were not Jericho fans, per se, so you've done a tremendous job continuing to promote your efforts to more people. It certainly lends well to Solution 2 in yesterday's post. It also demonstrates the sheer power of the fan base beyond the numbers we usually round up: almost 34,000 pounds of nuts (from NUTSOnline); almost $10,000 for Greensburg, Kansas; and 100,000 signatures. If you're new to this story, visit Jericho Lives.

With all these numbers, one might expect Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., to pay attention and perhaps read my post on Frontline Communication to brush up on his reflective listening skills. But no matter. As I said yesterday, it's not the job of the fans of Jericho to convince CBS to want them, it is the job of CBS to convince Jericho fans to want CBS. Nuts!

Thanks again for all your comments. Just remember I don't think for a minute that I'm a hero. It's the opposite — you're the heroes and I'm your fan. Without all your hard work and countless hours invested, there would have been nothing about Jericho to write about (something I wish more journalists would keep in mind). Tomorrow's post will reflect that. Until then, all my best — Rich


Monday, May 28

Giving Thanks: Memorial Day

While we are covering several evolving case studies, I would be remiss not to remind everyone that today is Memorial Day, which commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.

Without their sacrifice for this country, none of us would be enjoying the freedoms we have today — to spend time with family, to send nuts for Jericho, to raise money for a nonprofit, to post an entry on a blog. Sure, you can do all these things today, but please remember to pause for the people who gave their lives so you could do it.

Years ago, I was asked by a city government to write a tribute speech for American War Mothers, whose members are mothers of children who have served or are serving in the armed services during a time of conflict. The speech won't fit into a blog post, but I thought I'd paraphrase a few lines:

I am the American soldier

The same day I enlisted in the armed forces, my mother volunteered to assist food conservation and war relief work so she could help, my regiment, and our Allies win the Great War. 1917.

A few years later, I was back in Europe fighting a very different war — this time as a gunnery sergeant aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress. With bombing raids in the afternoons and early mornings, my mother knew as well as I did: most would not come home. 1943.

We won, but our celebration was premature. It wasn't long before I found my squad on a roadblock about 11 miles south of the Sudan in North Korea. It wasn't a popular military action, but my mom's belief in me never wavered. 1952.

Our faith and freedom was soon tested again. As I took cover in the dense underbrush of Vietnam, she found that her words—that there really was a war over there—fell on deaf ears. It took time before people listened, but she never gave up. 1968.

Since Vietnam, there have been dozens of different conflicts, military actions, and wars — so many that sometimes people take me, the American soldier, for granted. And all too often, our country forgets who served, who fought, and who died in faraway places like Grenada, Kuwait, or Baghdad. It's okay. People forget, except one person. The American War Mother. Sometimes she alone ensures our sacrifices, so others may live free, will never be forgotten.

Some of the inspiration for the lines that made up the entire speech came from reading hundreds of real letters by American soldiers, sent home to their mothers. As you might suspect, these women, whether their sons and daughters came home or not, will never forget. Please don't let them remember our fallen alone. Take some time today to honor our armed forces.

Sure, I know some people will have you believe that today is a political hot button topic, but don't believe that for a minute. When you're a soldier wounded in a foreign country or a mother anxiously waiting for the next letter of hope, there are no politics.

May they all come home safe, these brave men and women. Good night and good luck.


Thursday, May 10

Remembering A Friend: Nelson Ellis, Jr.

There will be no posts this Friday. No comments. No famous last words.

The silence is for my friend and personal trainer, Nelson Jackson Ellis, Jr., 38, of Las Vegas. He died on Sunday. I found out two hours ago. His memorial will be held tomorrow. My intention is to get up early, complete some work, and attend.

You know, a lot of people talk and talk about what makes a great client or a great vendor on blogs and in articles and in books. This measurement and that measurement. That quality and this quality. One style and another style. Most is baloney.

The perfect client-vendor relationship transcends labels, terms, and measurements. There are no formulas, methods, or processes. All there is are people, each providing a beneficial presence for the other. That is what I found with Nelson Ellis.

It did not matter if I arrived late (because of a job overrun) or if he had to call off our session all together (because he was training for another job). We always made it up to each other somehow. I didn't press which exercises I liked or disliked as some of his clients did, because I recognized him as the expert. Likewise, he didn't press me if my I wasn't 100 percent, spotting me a little more than I wanted him to (and he didn't think I noticed. Ha!). But more than all that, we became friends.

When I first met Nelson (my first trainer had left for another gym) we set an objective: he was supposed to train me for six months, well enough, that I would not need him after that. But then, something happened. We enjoyed each other's company too much to let it go despite achieving the objective. Sometimes, there wasn't even a session. We worked out together. And there were plans to do some adventurous things this summer like repelling, sand surfing, or whatnot.

We listened to each other too. More than most people do nowadays. And because we did, he could tell if I had a "bad post" day or whatever and I could tell if he had a bad "date" or complaint about his other job. He would listen to a gripe, offer some thought, and then smile ... "hey, how's your baby." Gripe solved. Or, I would listen to his gripe, offer some thought, and ask "so what happened with that girl" ... or "how's your son" ... or any number of questions I knew to ask to move beyond it.

We talked about serious issues too. It was safe to do. And it didn't matter what it was: professional, personal, politics. (Nelson found it funny that I was a member of NAACP for a few years. He was an African-American, which I mention only so you appreciate why he thought it was so funny.) And here some people thought I just fire off ideas about racism. Nah, I often asked him what he thought first. In fact, some of what I've presented on this blog on that issue is his as much as mine.

Maybe he had a different view because he served in the U.S. Army. At least that's what he told me. There are no racial issues in a fox hole, he said. Maybe that's what it takes. Or maybe it just takes two guys who choose to refuse to accept what's presented to them as "fact." Much like client-vendor relationships, most of the stuff on race is baloney.

Nelson Ellis was my friend. He made a tremendous difference in my life. I think he knows it too. He will be missed, but not just by me. He is survived by his son, Devante; father, Nelson J. Sr.; and mother, Jacqueline D. Green. Dozens and dozens of signatures grace the poster that will be given to his family tomorrow.

Sorry this post is not what you came for today, but I'm a writer first and foremost. And that's the way it goes with us.

Until Monday. Good night and good luck.


Monday, April 16

Giving Back: National Volunteer Week

This week, April 15-21, is National Volunteer Week, which is about thanking America's most valuable assets — volunteers — and calling the public's attention to all that they do to improve our communities.

Sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and supported by USA Freedom Corps, this year's theme is "Inspire By Example." Copywrite, Ink. has long encouraged the businesses we work with, and communication-related companies within our field, to find new ways to give back to the community. We try to lead by example.

While we are currently engaged in several non-profit ventures, I would like to highlight just two projects today...

The first is our support of the National Business Community Blog, which is a nationwide community web log and news feed for businesses releasing information about their non-profit contributions and volunteer efforts.

Originally, we developed the blog for the state of Nevada, but recently decided to expand its exposure. As some of the most inspiring stories and charitable ideas from businesses (that could be implemented in Nevada or elsewhere) come from all over the country, it made sense.

Now, every work day, we share one example of a business giving back to its community or communities. Today, you can even learn more about National Volunteer Week.

The second, which will officially launch May 1, is our new agreement with the Volunteer Center of Southern Nevada (Volunteer Center) to provide a merchandise fundraising solution. As a sponsor of the Volunteer Center, we are developing a merchandise product line to help raise funds for its great work in Nevada. A portion of all proceeds from merchandise sales will help support the organization.

We encourage you to visit its Web site. The Volunteer Center helps people deliver creative solutions to community problems through volunteerism.

They will be one of two non-profit organizations that will benefit from our online mall concept. Once both non-profit organizations are added, we will be inviting others to participate as well.

The basic concept is to provide product lines for several companies and non-profit organizations and highlight them all within one online store. Since each organization will assist in driving traffic to the site, all participating companies and organizations will receive greater exposure and a greater fund-raising potential.

We have already amassed a team of more than 20 designers, beyond our in-house team, who are willing to participate in developing products for non-profit organizations. Each of them will receive recognition for their work as their designs are accepted.

In conclusion, I will be posting again on National Volunteer Week this Friday, specifically addressing how business giving has a tangible ROI for businesses, regardless of size and resources. Until then, I ask that everyone take a moment to stop and recognize some volunteers that you know this week. There is no doubt that they make the world a better place.


Monday, April 9

Chatting With Animal: Copywrite, Ink.

On the last day of my "Writing for Public Relations" class at UNLV (a few weeks ago), I mentioned to my public relations students that I would be a future guest on an online talk radio show. Talking about the show made sense because it fit within the framework of our discussion: industry trends and the impact of social media. This show certainly qualifies.

They seemed very excited by the prospect that I would be actively engaged in what I talk and teach about (teaching is only a sliver of my time) and several of them asked for a time and date. "But wait," I said, hoping for a drum roll before revealing the details. "I haven't even told you whose online radio show... it's ... are you ready ... it's The Recruiting Animal Shooowww!"

Their enthusiastic expressions quickly turned to looks of sheer terror and inexplicable horror. Surely, their instructor had not lost all his marbles and taken to open discussions with someone who bills himself as "neither man nor wolf." Obviously, it must be a mistake. After all, experimenting with Recruiting was one thing, but to openly engage the same person who, in their minds, vilified me with the moniker "Mr Moustache" ... well, that was something else all together. "Don't do it!" They warned.

Of course I will! Why not?

The topic, time, and date are set:

The Recruiting Animal Show.
Topic: Does bad publicity exist?
NOON EST (9 a.m. PST) on Wed., April 11
Call to talk: (646) 652-2754
Listen On: Windows Media
MSN Messenger:

On the show, I will attempt to answer the question "Does bad publicity exist?," strike a blow at the very heart of this erroneous myth that "all publicity is good publicity," mention the difference between publicity and public relations, and talk about a few publicity examples discussed on this blog, including (but not limited to) the public relations nightmares experienced by Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster (it is a recruiting industry show, after all).

Can I do it all or did I set myself up like the fine folks at JetBlue, with too many exceptions and not enough time to deliver?

I don't really know. I guess we'll find out this Wednesday. Whatever does happen, I'm almost sure it will be entertaining if not educational. In fact, the only thing I can be 100 percent sure of is that as much as I have grown very fond of the infamous character that is The Recruiting Animal, I'll be packing some silver. (You can never be too careful these days. Ha!)


Thursday, March 22

Receiving Recognition: Kamikaze

The reason we're sometimes referred to as hired guns in communication-related fields (advertising, marketing, public relations, political campaigning, publishing, social media) is because we're very adept at meeting specific needs (filling niches no one else will) under the umbrella of strategic communication.

Some advertising agencies hire us for copywriting, creative direction, and public relations support; some public relations firms hire us for advertising support and overflow work; some companies hire us direct to fill mini-niches for departments or to provide overall communication consultation and implementation, helping top executives align their communication.

It seems like a mixed bag to be sure, but I like to keep things interesting. I also fully admit it sometimes mangles our message (are you a public relations firm ... um, no, but we can support your public relations efforts), but we've grown comfortable with front-end confusion in favor of serving select clients. (Don't get me wrong. We have a message and you can find it at Copywrite, Ink.) The result is always interesting and the diversity of work keeps things engaging.

Kamikaze provides an excellent example because, for the most part, they feel very comfortable in managing most of their communication (eg. they designed their Web site). However, they wanted some very specific help in developing a new logo and stationary package.

When judged by major market advertising agencies, they said my work with Seattle-based designer Curtis Sharp was spot on, earning a Bronze Addy Award last Saturday at the Las Vegas Advertising Federation Addy Awards. We're honored, mostly to maintain our presence in the market and to provide our client additional exposure.

To appreciate the logo, it might help to know that Kamikaze is the divine wind of worldwide entertainment, aerial acrobatics, camera mounts, and rigging. The mark is the culmination of "flying people, the rising sun, and the first letter of the name." The mark can also stand alone, works in one color, and easily imprints itself as a recognizable icon.

More importantly, Trent Sherrell and Virginia Reddin are great people. In fact, they were one of the first to fly in on our online merchandise concept Back Lot Projects, allowing us to add their logo to giftware. The store is still in development, but we already have signed a sponsor agreement with a very visible in-market non-profit organization.

We're about a month out from adding five designs to help them raise funds; tomorrow I'm meeting with another not-for-profit prospect. As the product lines grow so will the potential for all our participants.

All in all, regardless of the strategies and tactics we're asked to assist with, there are common denominators that stand out. We apply strategic communication to everything we do (whether or not we tell the client that is what we are doing). That means everything from designing a logo with an assist from an out-of-market designer to developing what we call a core message system that would make tactical decisions (like how to employ social media) super easy.

In closing, I would like to again thank Kamikaze for being a great forward-thinking client and receptive to a brand-driven mark that drifted away from some early ideas. Also, a big kudos to Sharp for not exhibiting any designer ego in jointly developing this logo that will help take Kamikaze internationally. Great ideas. Great results. That's what it's supposed to be about. Thanks and congratulations!


Wednesday, March 14

Answering Questions: Richard Becker

As an optional assignment for students of my "Writing for Public Relations" class, I offered to become the subject of their project by answering 10 questions (with 5 follow-up questions as they deemed necessary). From Internet research and answers to these questions, the assignment was to write a 2-page news or feature release about me or the company.

The assignment presents an interesting opportunity to practice a real life client-story exploratory, applying economy with interview questions, working around communication and time limits, building a story from interview answers, additional research to fill in blanks, and, of course, writing a news or feature release while adhering to AP Style, etc. In sum, it's not an easy assignment, but certainly a worthwhile instructional exercise.

At the risk of publishing an overly gratuitous post, I thought I would share the first round of questions and answers, edited a bit to make the session more palatable. (By the way, the boon for the student is that I doubt I'll ever forget her after she took on an extra assignment for the sake of learning.)

Q: Did you open Copywrite, Ink. in 1991?
A: Yes, but not as Copywrite, Ink. I originally entered the Las Vegas market, after returning from Reno, Nev. as a freelance writer because advertising agencies in Las Vegas, impacted by a recession, were not hiring copywriters or creative directors with a writing background. They were more interested in account executives and graphic designers who understood the computer graphics programs that were coming out at the time.

My first client was Collins Communications. I had worked in-house with Cathy Collins for about two months. We decided we liked each other's work, but could not coexist under the same roof, mainly because she wanted an account executive too. Collins started her business after leaving R&R Advertising (now R&R Partners). I still miss working with her (may she rest in peace) and sometimes wonder what would have happened if I took over her agency like she hoped I would one day.

Anyway, the name Copywrite, Ink. was introduced in late 1992 because a production company I worked with suggested "freelancer" meant "looking for employment." Turns out the producer was right. A few years later, we incorporated.

Q: How many awards have you won?
A: I've made it a point never to count awards because I believe that awards should be the sequel, never the pilot. That is my cute way of saying that the goal should always be about results for the client before anything else. I do know, however, we've won more than 100 awards in every medium, from news releases and articles to television commercials and total integrated communication plans. I've been honored with some professional awards too, over the years.

Q: Are there any you are especially proud of?
A: If I had to choose, I would have to say the Community Achievement Award from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce because it recognizes professionals for contributions in their community as well as their profession. I received that in 1999, which seemed like a considerable accomplishment given my age and the caliber of the other nominees in my category.

The other one that always comes to mind is Outstanding Small Chapter of the Year from the International Association of Business Communicators. The Las Vegas chapter received the award after my term as president (for my term). I appreciated it, not for me as much as for the board. Every one of my board members met every goal we set and then some, moving the chapter from small to medium in the course of a single year. This was also important because it helped reinforce that Las Vegas did have credible business communicators at a time when this community was not taken seriously in the field.

Q: What was your first award?
A: My first award was in Cub Scouts, but I think you're asking about those related to the field. My first advertising-related award was for a traffic safety poster contest sponsored by the City of Las Vegas in 1986. I didn't even know I was going to pursue a career in advertising or communication, but it was still a pretty big deal for a high school senior. We were taken to lunch and met the mayor.

Q: Why do you think you are so recognized?
A: Well, every award program has different criteria (some even dedicate entire workshops on how to prepare a work plan), so it would take considerable time to explain in some cases. However, I can safely say it has NOTHING to do with the budget.

That aside, I can also say that I am blessed to work with some of the best people in the business — clients and vendors alike. As with most things, the better the team, the better your chance to produce results. For example, we're up for an award
this weekend. I teamed with a designer in Seattle to do it. We blended our ideas, he executed some drafts, and I refined it. We also had a client who was very receptive to ideas despite a small budget. The end result is a powerful logo that will help the client meet his objectives. Teamwork.

Of course, this assumes you enter. We work with several clients who enter awards programs. Surprisingly, we don't enter too much; our clients do. However, when we do enter, we do it to as a means to earn recognition for our clients and vendors.

Q: Is there a certain person in your field that you admire?
A: I have always been fond of David Ogilvy for two reasons: he believed that every advertisement is part of the long-term investment in the personality of the brand; and one of my professors, years ago, was Bourne Morris, a former president of Ogilvy & Mather.

If you want me to pick someone closer to home, I have to recognize Keith Sheldon, ABC, APR, who was largely responsible for encouraging me to go beyond advertising and begin thinking in terms of strategic communication. He pointed me in a direction that changed the way I think about communication and perception in general. If I quote anyone in class most often, it would be him. Besides that, he's a fun person to travel with while in Mexico.

Q: Has there been an award that you received that you felt should have gone to someone else?
A: No, but mostly because most advertising/communication award programs are not structured to only have one winner. The work competes with nothing but the judges' sense of what is considered best in the field.

However, going back to the Community Achievement Award, I was in a category with Michael Berk, producer of Baywatch. To be honest, I didn't think I had a prayer. (He received an award in a different category the following year).

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: Good question. I think the answer to that rests on the integration of technology. I believe that we are moving to have all communication and entertainment devices combined into one media. If we continue on the path we are on and people can tune into a blog or vlog as easily as they thumb through cable stations today, then I think we're headed for a real shake-up of how we perceive traditional media. The future applications of social media are just being written today.

Of course, I'd like to continue working with the clients we have, even if we eventually relocate to another city. Thanks to the Internet, location is becoming meaningless. Right now, about 50 percent of our work is out of market. New Hampshire and Washington are among our top picks. But that's a few years down the road. We contribute to whatever community we live in.

Q: How do you give back to the community?
A: Currently, I serve as a governor-appointed state commissioner, accreditation examiner for IABC, part-time instructor at UNLV, and co-sponsor of the Nevada Business Community Blog to name a few. Traditionally, we've donated our time to improve communication for various nonprofit and professional organizations locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Since 1991, we've probably assisted 30+ organizations. Recently, we signed an agreement with a non-profit organization to sponsor a product fund-raising idea for them in the near future, but we're not ready to release the details. Regardless of the effort however, I have always felt giving back to the community and profession is essential. It's just part of who I am.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently in regard to your career?
A: Yeah, yesterday would be nice to do over. Ha! I'm joking. Look, I used to think that I would like to do a lot over again, but I don't anymore. There is no right and wrong to any decision, provided we learn something from it.

I mean … would I like to have $50,000 in cash rather than $50,000 in worthless stock from one company I did work for? Or would I have liked two subsidiary ventures to survive after 9-11? Well, yeah, I suppose so … but then again, if I didn't have those experiences, maybe I would not be where I am today. I like where I am today and where I am going, so I guess I would do it all over again the same way. You know, it might have been nice to learn some mistakes don't mean the end of the world (even though it feels like it) much earlier in life, but that's part of experience. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Might as well enjoy it.

Good job, Tracy. Only a few were closed, potentially yes or no answers. Look forward to seeing what you do with it.


Wednesday, February 21

Chasing Tails: Schrödinger's Cat

Every now and again, I reference seemingly unrelated topics (psychology, philosophy, quantum physics, and even theology among them) and then attempt to apply them to communication. To me, they fit together. Others disagree, and that is okay.

Recently, I referenced quantum physics in a response to someone who asked, basically, whether bloggers were obligated to contact the people they post about, especially if there is a perception that the post is critical. It's a good question.

In response, I posted that as someone who has worked as a journalist beyond social media (and occasionally still do), I have often asked myself the same question, but eventually reached the conclusion that no, that argument, while valid, doesn't hold up. From a strict communication perspective, I likened blogs to op-eds, where observations/opinions are made and anyone (on most blogs) have an opportunity to comment (agree/disagree) with equal space or comment (agree/disagree) on their own blog if they prefer. (Besides, I imagine it would be a public relations nightmare to field calls from hundreds of bloggers.)

But I also alluded to the prospect of quantum physics as part of my rationale without explanation. I'd like to take a stab at tying that in, recognizing I am a mere novice on the subject by comparison to probably anybody in that field.

In simplest terms, quantum physicists have long asked whether or not the observation of science could potentially impact the results of what is observed. In other words, does the observation of the atom and its components, quantum and whatnot, alter what they do?

In attempting to address this question, Schrödinger's Cat, proposed by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, demonstrates the conflict between "what quantum theory tells us is true about the nature and behavior of matter on the microscopic level and what we observe to be true about the nature and behavior of matter on the macroscopic level." Part of the lesson is referred to as the quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox: the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that it can never be known what the outcome would have been if it were not observed.

Applying this to communication, I submit that the more direct interaction between a blogger and the subject matter, the more likely the blogger could potentially alter the outcome of any communication study. Sure, I know what some people are thinking right now: if that is true, then could the post itself alter the outcome? Absolutely, but with some limitations.

With the advent of social media, posts are already part of the equation just as traditional media always has been. So, while a post after the fact may or may not alter the outcome, the same information shared privately before any action occurs would almost certainly change the outcome, perhaps negating the future post.

For example, purposely avoiding mention of where this conversation came up, let's say I sent John Edwards an e-mail (I didn't) that said "John, what gives? Your only way out of this communication mess is if the bloggers resign." Let's say he took the advice to heart and those two bloggers resigned the next day, negating the need to send out that ill-advised statement. That would have dramatically altered the case study whereas what I did, write about that case study in real time with my comments bearing no more weight than any others, was simply part of the total communication equation.

So without question, the side effect of transparency or being a public figure changes behavior. Imagine for a moment, Schrödinger's Cat placed in a glass box with hundreds of people shouting conflicting messages that the cat understood. Surely, that will cause a different outcome than Schrödinger prescribed. Yet, in the study of communication and transparency and being a public figure, this is precisely the the environment in which studies are conducted.

Here's another example: will a teenager left alone with a can of beer react differently than if left alone with friends who drink beer or differently if he is left alone with parents who discourage drinking. You bet the outcome will be different, but it will be even more different if we tell the teenager exactly what we intend to do. It is also a possibility that the teenager who learns they were observed after the fact might react differently the next time out, but that is the very essence of a learning process.

Please, if you are one of the handful of people who regularly read this blog, keep in mind that I rarely if ever have any opinion about a subject beyond their behavior unless specifically noted. Case in point: whether Verizon is a good company or bad company is irrelevant on this blog (though I am a Verizon customer with no cause to change plans). What is relevant is that I disagreed with certain aspects of the company's communication, which I write about here for very specific reasons, including: public relations students who attend my class or anyone hoping to glean a different, hopefully interesting, perspective on communication.

In simplest terms, I believe there are two ways to learn something. One is the hard way by doing and making mistakes (or perhaps doing it right). One is the easy way, which is by learning from others who already did it the hard way. It is my hope by focusing on best practices and more often worst examples that more people can learn the easy way.

In conclusion, if you or your company is the subject of a post here, you are welcome to post comments or e-mail me (if you prefer private correspondence) like anyone as I will not be contacting you (simply put, pre-post advice is reserved for clients). However, I am always happy to correct any misinformation, clarify a point, listen to your opinion, or whatever; whereas I am equally obliged to disagree if there is cause under certain circumstances.


Friday, February 16

Making Radio: ProComm

Nobody likes to give away all their secrets, but I'm about to give one away: ProComm.

ProComm, which is located in North Carolina, is often my first choice among radio and voiceover production companies. (Yes, we might be based in Las Vegas, but we really, really like ProComm.) So do a lot of other people: Time Magazine, Disney, and MasterCard among them.

ProComm was one of the first production companies to pool its voice talent from other markets like Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Miami, and Atlanta and then offer clients (people like me and my clients) an opportunity to screen them online. All the production participants (technicians, talent, and producers) are then patched in from various locations, allowing people like me to call in and effectively produce a national-caliber spot (whether it's local, regional, or national).

You never really appreciate such a tool until you have a very bad cold like I did about a month ago. We had a very busy production schedule with eight spots as part of a multi-market campaign for one of our favorite clients. At a walk-in studio, I would have had to reschedule the entire job or send someone else to produce the spots and hope for the best. Not so with ProComm. I climbed out of bed for a few hours each day and got to work — at home.

The quality is outstanding. Time after time, ProComm has demonstrated it keeps pace with our scripts. In fact, just last night (although I was teaching), the same client I was producing spots for about a month ago was recognized for its "Summer Gas Prices" spot that aired last summer. It received an IABC/Las Vegas Bronze Quill award for communication excellence in radio.

The client is Black Gaming, better known for its three resorts CasaBlanca, Oasis, and Virgin River located in Mesquite, Nevada, which is about 90 minutes north of Las Vegas. It's owned by Randy Black, one of the nicest and most authentic resort owners in the gaming industry (he also plays himself in the spots, which were recorded locally by Dave Martin).

The spot that won last night was the joint concept between myself and Scott DeAngelo, vice president of marketing for all three resorts. Scott noticed a trend last summer that people where reluctant to travel as far due to the perception that gas prices were just too high (prices were well over $3 per gallon in Las Vegas). So, based on that idea, he let us run loose to write, cast, and produce several spots that pitted Black, the "people's resort owner," against "greedy oil companies" who were, in effect, preventing people from taking a vacation. Add to this concept three great resorts for the right price, and you have everything you need to produce results.

While I won't share the entire case study here, I will offer up that the spot drove occupancy to record levels (about 10 percent higher) than previous years during the same tracking period and received some fine compliments from, believe it or not, other resort owners and marketing directors. Unlike many competitions, results are an important factor in the IABC/Las Vegas Bronze Quills.

So, kudos all around. A great product, a top marketing guru, creative scripts, great production, solid talent (including Randy Black and ProComm professionals), and a smart media buy (also DeAngelo's handiwork), and it's easy to win. No, I don't mean win awards: I mean win customers, which is really what it is all about.


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