Thanks (but No Thanks) for Sharing

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Most of us, according to Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post, share content without reading. 6 in 10 people don’t read what they share.

Few of us write original content, most of us share after reading only a headline, and most of us have become headline cataloger robots.  

It’s understandable.We’re going back to bad habits because we don’t have a handle on the fast-paced, fast-changing online world and we hope that by filling up feeds with keyworded headlines and our avatars we’re at least shining the light on ourselves — in hopes that the audience will spot us. This is a form of (bad) top of mind marketing. It’s a broad light shining in a random direction.

How can we take the time to speak to our audience coherently when we haven’t made sure, first, that they are listening?

We need to go back to basics.

1. Your mission statement should help you out.

If you’ve crafted an honest, direct and bullshit-less mission statement, then it should answer the question: what do we aim to do for our customer and how. Use this to put a fence around your content world.

2. Know your audience. Again.

Just because you’ve identified your audience in the past doesn’t mean you have a lock on things. Your audience’s habits identify them, and they are acting differently as technology changes, so for our purposes as marketers, they need to be re-identified. So back to basics — who needs what you have and what is your audience’s relevant human attributes?

3. Clear your throat and keep talking.

It’s a conversation, yes, but stay firm in your message. Regardless of who is reading, speak to the one who really needs your product or service.

The One-off

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It’s that one flyer, that one special event, that one piece of signage — you know, the one we try to make special by making it different. We spice up the design, or change our logo a bit, we use new fonts. We want it to stand out and be different than our ‘everyday’ brand.

And sadly, we create a disconnect where we’ve tried to create excitement. We’ve taken our audience away from, rather than toward or brand…by creating a culture clash.

It’s subtle, and sometimes it takes a critical eye, mind and heart to recognize a deviation from our brand culture, and reign things in, but if the goal is to create a strong brand presence, then it’s important.

Respect your brand in the work you do and the people you hire, but also in the art it represents, and that is found in it’s voice, it’s visual representation, and the power of consistency.

If Everybody’s Doing It

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When everyone is doing the same thing it’s time to do it better, differently, or do something new. One approach is to relax and be yourself. Be your brand.

When you follow the crowd, the crowd just gets bigger. But what a creative thinker, a strong leader, and a great salesperson all know is that when you focus on what makes your brand unique (ie, your core strength), you have much better odds of connecting with someone who needs and appreciates what you have to offer. And it’s the only chance you have to make something better than all the rest.

I sell fruit but you might like these socks.

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Social Media is no different than any other marketing channel. It should be focused on your brand, product, or service. In some way.

And that’s where we get stuck. Social Media forces us to think about our audience interests, our industry, related topics and categories, and even current news and events. It’s our job to decide what stories, information and memes fit our brand and how far afield we should cast our net in an effort to grab attention.

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If social media posts were like products on a market shelf, we would find that some brands are running a convenience store, with aspirations of becoming Walmart. They stock everything. They post anything. Their messages sometimes seem related but sometimes seem random or obscure. Continue reading

Oh, Your Listening Ways…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about listening lately. It’s an art I used to do much better. Now that I’m older and wiser, it’s hard to listen to someone without the filters of experience and ‘been there, done that’, not to mention keeping my mouth shut and not sharing my self-perceived most-valuable wisdom.

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But I know listening well can take me past the limits of my own wisdom, a wisdom defined by my own limited life, and spark new life through connection to others. So I’m thinking about ways to listen, and the ways in which we don’t listen.

The look on your face: you don’t just listen with your ears, you listen with your mind and eyes — and the look on your face. A listening face isn’t scowling or distracted. It’s focused and interested. Continue reading

2016 Rising Stars Awards

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Despite an electrical outage, this year’s event was fantastic. In fact, the dim lights during the first half of the show created the perfect ambiance for the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble, our spoken word performer, Jada Imani, and our Alumna speaker, Lia Lacy at the 3rd Annual Rising Stars Youth Awards. This is a BOSS Program you should know about — the full event video tells the story…

We had several surprise cash gifts for our Youth Awardees, a trend set off by our keynote speaker, Peralta Community College District Chancellor, Dr. Jowel C. Laquerre, who pledged $500 on the spot for whoever raised their hand first to attend his college. And of course, there was plenty of love and recognition. Continue reading

Do we need Giving? Or Sacrifice?

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It’s easier to ask people to give, share, and be a part of something than it is to sacrifice.

When we sacrifice, we don’t take it lightly, because we are losing something in hopes of a good result. It requires thought and commitment. Giving is easier. We give so all can benefit. We help our neighbors by giving what we have an abundance of, knowing that they will do the same. This is life. This is community.

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Keep this in mind in making charitable requests, or really any request of others. Life is ALWAYS a circle, and never a straight line.

So, rather than ask people to give something up, ask them to move in your direction with their giving, and remember to close the circle by appreciating, thanking, and truly respecting the giver, the decision to give, and the gift.

And then give back.

Institutional Heart

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They say institutional memory is important, but in practice it’s only important until it’s not. New people with new systems can obliterate the need for it. This can be a good thing: growing pains; or not, producing loss of quality and other baddies.

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But institutional heart is another matter. It involves the memory of what caused an organization to became successful. It’s the memory of those tiny slices of life — the interactions and the feelings behind them that resulted in strong connections to a target audience.

When organizations grow and lose their institutional heart, they can become hated instead of loved. This is often viewed as a necessary evil of growth and aggressiveness in business — but it just ain’t so. All it takes is the identification of the people in the organization who are perceived by the customer or community as the heart and soul of the organization — the ones who make us remember why we’re here in the first place. I’d bet that nine times of out ten these people pull their weight and are loyal to the cause. These are the folks who should be protected when change is in the air — the babies in the bathwater.

Who holds the heart to your institution? If you don’t know — ask a customer — they do.