Showing posts with label public speaking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public speaking. 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 MMORPG.com, 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, July 24

Networks Drive Discussions. People Drive Networks.

Everything you think you know about social media today will be obsolete in the next five years. This assumes you are lucky. It's equally likely that everything you know will be upended in the next six months.

This concept of temporal acceptance, perhaps more than any other, is a critical component of any discussion I lead or give about social media. There is a risk in introducing the idea, even if it is the most honest observation someone can make about social media. Most people don't like change.

Instead, most people want to hear about new technologies because the tools tend to drive most discussions. They want to know what these new tools are, how to use them, and if there are any emerging techniques that will give their organization an edge. Those kinds of discussions are useful, sure.

And yet, change has always been the driver of all communication-related fields. We all know it. Marketing, advertising, public relations, and corporate communication have always been in a constant state of change. What social media has done is move them forward at a faster pace, primarily because social media has attached itself to the rapidly accelerating pace of technological advancement as opposed to a singular technology like a radio or television set. This is a space that changes in a blink.

I don't even lump technologies together anymore. I tend to define them as tools (hardware), applications (software), and networks (platforms) with each of these overlaying sectors capable of disrupting the other. In fact, there are so many that no one person can possibly keep track of them all. There are thousands upon thousands of them; ideas that could be the next disruption force in communication.

How do you reconcile this as a communicator today? You don't necessarily have to think about tools.

When people talk about social media, they mostly get it backwards.

When I spoke with the Council Of School Board Association Communicators a few days ago, I anticipated one of the first questions asked in relation to my presentation. How do you, as a communicator, prioritize which technologies to use to reach your audience? They could answer the question themselves. It was easy.

I handed out sticky notes and asked the attendees to write down two of their favorite social media networks, the ones where they spent the most time. Then, while I shared my background, one of the attendees volunteered to sort and stick their responses to the wall in clusters.

There wasn't any surprise, Facebook and Twitter were the most popular. Pinterest was a distant third, but still a noticeably pronounced cluster compared to the rest. There were several dozen others selected by one or two people, ranging from Tumblr and Goodreads to intranets and association forums.

"There is the answer," I said, pointing to the wall. "If I wanted to communicate to this group, then I would prioritize my communication presence much in the same way. Social media is driven by people, not technologies."

Assuming I already had a space to introduce new content and make announcements (blog, website, etc.), my social network assessment priorities would begin with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (but not necessarily exclusively). As long as I had a plan and the right assets for each priority network, these are the ones I would tap first (e.g., if I did not have enough visual content, Pinterest would not work).

After establishing planned communication on these networks, I would learn more about the other networks on the radar, even if only one or two people selected them. Each one would be considered based upon their ability to help me effectively communicate about common objectives that the organization and specific audiences share.

Tumblr might make an excellent place for a school board association to reach students. Goodreads might be an excellent network to develop a list of books reviewed by teachers and administrators. A network like Meetup could effectively be used by administrators or unions. There are many more examples in the presentation, specific to school board associations.

Even if only a few members of an audience are already members of these niche networks, the organization may be able attract more people over time. People will mostly be willing to join any network where an organization they know or trust has developed particularly strong assets.

For example, many grandparents joined Facebook not because they liked it but because they wanted to see pictures of their grandchildren. Most people join Kickstarter and other niche networks for the same reason. They are not attracted to the platform as much as the content someone has place there (like a crowd-funding campaign).

The same holds true for all new networks and platforms that are introduced over time. Communication professionals have to assess each potential network on how effectively it can communicate common objectives. Popularity can also be assessed, but mostly as it only relates to sustainability. Networks have to reach some critical mass to survive. Not all of them do.

Building social media into communication plans and measurement. 

Once communicators appreciate that social media does not exist in a vacuum, it becomes significantly more manageable. Rather than break out the entirety of social media into a separate section within a communication plan, each social media asset becomes a contact point along with any traditional communication.

In other words, if a school board association wanted to work with school administrators to establish a stronger academic foundation, social media tools like LinkedIn or Meetup would be included alongside any newsletters or grassroots outreach. Doing so also makes measurement much more effective. Using the principles behind Return On Communication, the measure of success would be based on successfully changing the academic foundation (with a secondary objective that it improves student performance).
 

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