So, this will totally be unbiased, right?

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Look, I love Coke. I used to cram my dorm room mini-fridge with the 12-packs, and hoarded those precious, precious buy-one-get-one-free coupons like Smaug hoarded gold. I mean, me ‘n Coca-Cola go way, way back.

But I haven’t been drinking as much of it lately. Because…calories. And high-fructose corn syrup. And beer. Look, you live in the same town as Cobra Brewing and try not to enjoy that deliciousness, ok?

Turns out, I’m not alone in cutting back on the soda. In the U.S., consumption is down for the tenth straight year, with more folks drinking water, even sugary water-type beverages, than diet pop.

But hey! No worries! Sure, we’ve all been told both diet and exercise contribute to health and well-being, but there are some researchers out there saying that what you eat and drink really isn’t that big a deal!   Continue reading

So, ready to get your graphics on?

 

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As anyone who’s ever seen me try to decorate a cake will tell you, I am not a graphic designer. At all. And if you’re wearing a lot of hats in your small- or medium-sized biz, I’m guessing you’re not a designer either (unless you run a design firm, in which case you don’t need this post). But not being a graphic guru is bad news for both of us, buddy, and I’ll tell you why.

Gmail grid view.

Now, I’m not saying that those three words should cause you a bowelquake of panic. But I am saying you should check it out.  Continue reading

So, what do you do when you really screw up?

 

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In my last couple of pieces, I’ve pointed out some examples of what not to do. Like, ever. Under any circumstances. There was a key and creepy difference between these two examples, though.

Both started out as honest, if incredibly short-sighted, mistakes. But one screw up was followed by a sincere apology. The other? Not so much.

It might be instructive to talk about how to say you’re sorry. Like all forms of communication, that’s storytelling. And because it deals with emotions and disappointment, it’s important that it be respectful storytelling.   Continue reading

So, here’s Thought Experiment #11

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

You don’t have to be Lamont Cranston, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, in order to see if something’s wrong at work. If you have a business, or run a department, or supervise anyone or anything at all, you know that one of your responsibilities is to shore up the weak and make best use of the strong. That could mean people. That could mean processes. That could even mean weird directives handed down from the home office/upper levels that make no real-world sense. So here’s my question to you. Do you know what the weak parts are?

In other words, if you were the bad guy, all nefarious and mustache-twirling, how would your take down your own biz?

Maybe you’d approach a dissatisfied employee who’s vital but feels under appreciated and has been more negative than usual recently. Maybe you’d exploit a manufacturing inefficiency. Maybe you’d develop a social media strategy for your competing company that whupped the pants off what you’re currently rocking.

What’s really important is that you take stock. New year, new start, right? Like Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Why would I ask this?

Because as you let your inner evil genius out to play, it ought to occur to you, buddy, “Hey, now I know what parts of my sky-writing firm/jelly bean factory/envelope licking service need to be fixed!”

Go on. Take a look around. See what you find.

So, here’s Thought Experiment #10

 

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

Philly’s favorite son John Wanamaker is one of the fathers of modern advertising. He was the first to buy a half-page newspaper ad, the first to buy a full-page newspaper ad, and — more near and dear to my heart as someone who thinks writing is an art, dammit — the first to hire a full time copywriter.

But maybe most famously, he’s the cat that said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

So here’s your task, my little tater tot. Let’s say your marketing budget gets slashed in half. Boom! 50% gone like Gone Girl. Pop quiz, hot shot. What do you do? What do you do?

Do you pull a stunt and try to go viral? Skywriting? Maybe a street campaign with clever flyers optimized for Instagram and reaching out to influencers on social media? Or do you whittle down and dig into data and try to figure out where each of your dollars really does the most good? Maybe both?

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, should be considering how to blow past setbacks.

Wrap your brain around it. See what you get.

So, what are your competitors doing right?

 

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I know, pumpkin. I know. You don’t want to think about those big meanies. Or hey, maybe you work in one of those cool market segments where friendly competition is the norm, and you don’t need to dwell on those folks. But on the off chance you have competitors, and you want to make sure you’re meeting or exceeding their efforts, how do you do that voodoo you need to do so well?

I think it is time, padawan. I think you are ready. This is an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. This…is close reading.   Continue reading

So you wanna set the mood, baby? Part 3

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Have you done something different with your hair? It looks nice. Touchable. And that color really brings out your eyes. Here, let me top off your drink, darlin’. Time to talk about mood again.

Mood happens. Whether you are conscious of it or not. So it makes sense to be aware of it, mm? So you don’t, say, write a really chipper blog post about cremation, or melancholy web copy for a party planner. And we establish mood with setting, diction, and now tone.

Setting was pretty straightforward, diction a little less so, and tone is the most elusive. We’ve sort of been building up to the biggie.

“But Steph,” you say, because you are a smart little tomato, “Isn’t tone the same thing as mood?” Kinda. But no. But yeah. But not really.   Continue reading