Category Archives: Communication

“Best damn marketing tool and it’s free”

Business books

I talk with clients about their book marketing strategy and there’s always the question of blogs. Should you blog, should you not blog? Some people think blogs are passé. Some think they’re not worth the effort you have to put into them. Inasmuch as I’m a great believer in blogs, I can’t tell a person how to use their time. Only they can judge that. Only they know what is most important to them. The fact is, it takes time to write a good blog post, but I think it’s time well spent.

So rather than talking about blogs in an abstract sense, I started looking around at some well-known business-book authors to see what they’re up to. Three that come to mind for me are Tom Peters (who I worked with for a number of years), Seth Godin, and Dan Pink. (Seth and Dan I know from interviews I did with them for the “Cool Friends” section of tompeters.com.)

Dan began blogging at a site called JustOneThing.blogspot.com. As the name suggests, he wrote about one thing each day. (I think you can still find those blog posts at that URL.) That began early in 2002 and ended after about a year and then he began blogging at danpink.com. Meaning he’s been blogging in one form or another for more than 10 years. Dan recently stopped blogging. (I think I read this in his newsletter.) Instead of blogging he’s posting regularly at Twitter and Facebook. And perhaps more importantly, his site, danpink.com is now a repository of resources: pdfs, videos, interviews, links to helpful articles. Dan has earned his way out of blogging, though, as I said, he’s still active in social media. He also does a monthly radio call in show, which allows anyone to ask questions directly of Dan and his guest in real time.

Seth Godin has been blogging forever and continues to blog. (It seems that Seth, too, began blogging in January of 2002. At least that’s when the archives begin at his site, sethgodin.typepad.com.) He posts every day, seven days a week. He only uses Twitter and Facebook to link to his blog. His blog is everything. No comments. He doesn’t want to be distracted by them. Neil Patel has written a blog post about the ten things you can learn from Seth about blogging. Seth posts a blog every day but that doesn’t mean he’s writing a post every day. He may write five to ten in one sitting and then queue them up for the following days. You don’t really want to find yourself in the position of having to get up in the morning and write a blog post before you do anything else. (That’s why you’ll find editorial calendar plug-ins or add-ons for some of the more popular blogging platforms.) Of course, you still have to write them.

By doing this and doing it every day and being consistent and smart and providing content that you can apply to your own life, he’s gathered hundreds of thousands of followers and with a crowd like that, it’s easy then to go on to do other projects. Which he has done. Unlike Dan Pink, who has moved away from blogging but substituted other ways of talking with his audience, Seth has stuck with the blog. In a way, he is the master.

Then there’s Tom Peters. He began blogging in 2004. Tom really embraced blogging. I remember some of those days early on when he produced half a dozen posts or more. And I’d say, “let’s save some of these for another day” and Tom would say “no” and we’d post all those and then he’d write a bunch the next day. Eventually he settled into a more or less “one a day” routine and that went on for years. I remember hearing Tom tell someone that “if you’re not blogging you’re an idiot” and that “it’s the best damn marketing tool and it’s free.”

Over time Tom began to blog less and less. But blog posts still appear now and again and whenever he speaks, his slides are posted, something we started doing at the original Tom Peters website in 1999. But an interesting thing happened with the advent of social media. Tom got turned on to Twitter and has really taken to that platform. While he shares links to information, Tom primarily converses with other people there. Most of his posts are in direct response to someone who has reached out to Tom at Twitter to ask him a question or to comment on something he has tweeted about. And people love that. Tom now spends less time writing blog posts and more time communicating directly with people.

The point here is that you’ve got three well-know business authors who’ve all used blogging as a primary means of marketing their books and their speaking. And over time, they’ve gone in different directions. But I would maintain that their blogs laid the foundation for whatever it is they’re doing now online.

So if you’re working on a business book and want to begin marketing it, and you should be doing that before you’ve published it, blogging is still the best way of putting your message out there. The problem is, is that it is the foundation. On top of your blog you have to build Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or all three or at least two. You get the picture. But your blog is still home base.

Becoming the change I want to see

Keep Jumping Red, End Up Dead

Flickr photo courtesy of Kaputniq

My new cause is for bicyclists to stop at stop signs and red lights as if they were a motorist. In Massachusetts, and perhaps elsewhere, it’s now a law. If you go through a red light on your bicycle, you can be ticketed. I shouldn’t get self-righteous here because I’ve bicycled through many a red light in my time. But now, my feeling is that if bicyclists will stop at red lights, then car drivers might respond to them differently; rather than as pesky lane swervers, motorists might see bicycles as legitimate vehicles, almost like another car. And I think that would be helpful for all of us. I’ve got to believe that that state of affairs would help cut down on car-bike accidents. And I believe that bicyclists have to make the first move. Because they have the most to lose; car drivers are never hurt when their cars collide with a bicyclist. (Please let me know if I’m wrong on this one.) Bicyclists think car drivers should shift their attitude, but that’s not going to happen. Cars are in the majority, cars rule the road. Our society reveres cars and car transportation; bicycles and their riders are second-class citizens at best, rebels, outliers, socialists at worst.

This past weekend a group of bicyclists passed me as I was returning home from a ride. There were six of them; one of the guys was not wearing a helmet, which is just downright stupid. They moved ahead of me and then there was a red light ahead. I was trying to catch up with them, but they slowed for the light, checked that no cars were coming in the cross street, then sped through. I called out half heartedly for them to stop and then I waited for the light to change. And then, well, I just got pissed off. I don’t know what it is. Why couldn’t I just let them go on their way? I poured on the speed and caught up with them at the crest of the next hill and as I passed I looked over at the two leaders, Mr. No Helmet and his friend. “I really wish you guys would stop for red lights!” I yelled as I continued on, pedaling hard. I was sort of hoping that the next light would be red and I’d be stopped and they’d have to make their way around me in order to go through the light. But it was green.

I just kept going and then there was my left turn light ahead. It was red, though for the two travel lanes the light was green. I stopped, and I was standing there with my right foot on the pavement, when Mr. No Helmet whooshed by screaming at me, “The light is green!” as he flew down Beacon Street. His glee! He was so thrilled to be able to “get me back.” I was startled at first, then realized in that moment the folly of my ways. (Though of course I wish I had had the wherewithal to reply with some snarky remark like, “You may be stupid but at least you’re not colorblind!”)

I’m not going to get bicyclists to stop at red lights by yelling at them after they’ve gone through one. At least I could approach the discussion differently, perhaps a reserved, “Have you thought about stopping at red lights?” as I pedal along beside them. Maybe I’ll do that, or maybe I’ll just continue to stop at red lights and let the other bicyclists do what they will. Perhaps in time I’ll serve as a role model. Maybe some other bicyclist will think, “Hey, that’s a good idea.” As I slowly made my way home, it was then that I truly understood the oft-quoted line from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So for now I’ll stop screaming and just do.

But I do think of places like the Netherlands where drivers are trained to open their car doors with their right hands, reaching across their bodies, turning themselves to the left, forcing them to look back at the road, thus enabling them to see any bicyclists who might be coming their way. (I’ve been “doored” by a car driver. It is no fun. Knocked me out of commission for a couple of months and to this day I have a left shoulder problem associated with that accident.) Meaning that we could find ways to accelerate a melding of the minds between car drivers and bicyclists. Hopefully that day will come in my lifetime here in the U.S. of A.

Post script: was visiting some friends who were sitting out on their front porch last night. (It was a beautiful evening.) Got talking about bikes and red lights with this friend who has taken up biking later in life and who I often see Sunday mornings making his way home from the store where he’s just bought fresh bagels. He told me that because of my example he is now stopping at red lights and stop signs. Not always, and not consistently, but he’s doing it more and more. All I could say was, “My work here is done.”

Well, if not done, at least a beginning.

Lights, Camera, Action

Or, “Lights, Lights, and Lights.” A two-minute-twenty-second video about advantages of daylight light bulbs when making videos of yourself.

The warmth of paper

My mother recently died. This post, however, is not about her death. It’s about others’ reactions to it. My wife has a colleague who I know and who I often find irritating. No big deal, just an annoying guy. He’s smart, he’s good at what he does, but he has a habit of getting in your face a little too much at times. To be fair, he can also be quite funny.

Without telling me, my wife let him know about my mother’s passing.

A few days ago, an envelope addressed to me arrived at our house. At first—and this is how sad our world is—I thought it was one of those direct marketing appeals where they imitate handwriting on the envelope. Right? Because how often do you get a handwritten envelope these days? A few at your birthday and at the holidays, but as for the day to day, not many at all. I didn’t recognize the last name on the return address. For that matter I could barely read it, it was written in such small letters.

Turns out it is a handwritten note from my wife’s colleague. Sincere. Heartfelt. (He had lost his mother not that long ago.) And on nice quality paper, cotton fiber, watermarked, ivory in color. It’s the kind of paper you enjoy holding in your hands. It has weight. It has meaning in and of itself. And all of those qualities translate into warmth and concern.

And in that moment, as I read his words, I realized I had to totally revise my thinking about him. I’ll forgive his brashness, his aggressiveness. Just because he took the time to write a handwritten note. On good paper.

(The image above is a picture I took of part of the letter. The actual color does not translate into the photo, unfortunately.)

Speaking soon?

Mark Hurst, from "What Matters Now"

Looking through some e-books for some ideas on look and feel, I came across this page in What Matters Now, a pdf compilation of one-page statements from dozens of folks and compiled by Seth Godin and his team. It originally came out in December, 2009 and is available over here. I liked what Mark Hurst had to say about preparing for a talk. Click on the image above to see a readable version of the slide. An excerpt below:

A few weeks before the event, when you start preparing the talk, write out everything you spend your time doing—professional work, side projects at home, everything.

Now pick the one thing you’re most excited about.

Now consider: why is that so important to you?

Design your talk from that point, as if you started by saying, “My name is X, and I’m passionate about XYZ because…”

There’s lots of other good ideas in the 82-page booklet as well.

Speaking of Mark, here’s an interview I conducted with Mark about his book, Bit Literacy, over at tompeters.com in 2007. (That sounds like a lifetime ago…)

Twitter: @markhurst

Speaking to and engaging with

These days, if you’re an author, you’re a speaker. (That notion definitely pertains to business authors and probably most non-fiction authors as well. Fiction authors, well, not yet, though I know a writer of young adult novels who makes most of his income speaking.) And if you’re going to speak, you want to connect; and one real good way of making a connection is to get the audience involved beyond just sitting in their chairs. Here’s a link to Nick Morgan’s podcast about how to engage your audience when you’re giving a talk. And he doesn’t mean Q & A. (As he says, that’s so 20th century.) Well worth listening to. Eight minutes; four ways to get audience to do more than just listen. (Nick is an author, communication theorist, and coach. If you’re going to speak, and I think we’ve already ascertained that you are, you should check out his website: publicwords.com.)

One way to engage your audience not covered by Nick is singing. I recently attended a book reading at the local Brookline Booksmith for Caitlin Shetterly who read from her book Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home. After she finished reading, she handed out photocopied lyrics to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” and asked us all to sing along. She references the song in her book, but the version we sang included a more political verse about private property that did not make it into the popular version that we all know so well from our grade-school days. To sing along with friends, neighbors, and book lovers was really phenomenal—and completely unexpected, thus memorable. How many book readings that you’ve been to have stuck in your mind? Not many, I’d guess. Want to have a memorable speech, talk, book reading? Engage with your audience.

Information from wikipedia about “This Land is Your Land.”

Does your “About” page tell a good story?

Found this post from Amanda, who was blogging for CreateSpace.com at Book Expo America this week. The post is about “Brand You” for authors, all worth reading. But scroll down a bit, to this headline: The New “About Me”: Why Every Blogger Needs a Bigger Story. This is good material and focused on one piece of web presence—the “About” page—and as it turns out, the second most visited page at your site after your home page. So make sure it tells a good story.

Related: this “about us” page tells a good story.