Why You Need to Hustle Content: A Lesson from The New York Times Innovation Report

May 19th, 2014 by ddeal

Innovation

The recently leaked New York Times Innovation report has become required reading because the document provides a candid snapshot of a legendary brand struggling to embrace the realities of running a business in the digital era. In unsparing language, the internal report indicts The New York Times for failing to master “the art and science of getting our journalism to our readers.” I believe The New York Times Innovation report offers many lessons for content marketers regardless of your industry. Among those lessons: it’s not enough to produce great content. You have to be a content hustler, too.

Content hustling means sharing an idea across multiple distribution channels ranging from a brand’s website to its social media spaces. Content hustling requires companies to empower employees to act as brand ambassadors, relying on their personal networks to share corporate thought leadership. Essentially The New York Times takes itself to task for being a woeful content hustler.

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Don’t Take No for an Answer: Career Advice from Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead”

May 15th, 2014 by ddeal

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If you want to get the job you really want, you can’t take no for an answer. Just ask Norman Reedus, who plays the popular character of Daryl Dixon in the AMC hit television series, The Walking Dead.

As Reedus shared in a recent Wall Street Journal Live interview, the role of Daryl Dixon didn’t even exist when he tried out for The Walking Dead. In fact, all the roles for the show had been taken. But he was so impressed with the show in development that he asked for the chance to audition, anyway.

“I said, ‘Let me come in and audition for anything,’” he told Paul Vigna of The Wall Street Journal. So he read the lines for a part that had been filled, already — that of angry racist Merle Dixon — hoping perhaps to be cast as an extra. His audition was so impressive that writers Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee, and Jack LoGiudice ended up creating a role for Reedus, that of Merle’s younger brother, Daryl. The tough, crossbow-wielding survivalist would go on to become so popular that he became a cultural phenomenon, with his own fan club, Dixon’s Vixens; merchandise; and strong media coverage.

Reedus himself has become a TV star. Because of his impressive portrayal, Daryl has been elevated from supporting role to a lead character on The Walking Dead, and Reedus has won an IGN “Best TV Hero” award. Producer Gale Anne Hurd says, “No one brings a compelling, albeit broken, character like Daryl Dixon to life like Norman Reedus.” He has a strong fan following across social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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If you’re looking for a job, or are an entrepreneur trying to land a client, you can take away three important lessons from this story:

  • Go for it even when you have no apparent hope of succeeding. Reedus could have focused his energies trying out for a different show when he heard all the roles for The Walking Dead had been taken. But he was so passionate about the show he tried out, anyway. I’ve been in his shoes, and I’ll bet you have, too. Even when you’re told, “We have nothing available here for you,” you might suggest an informational interview, just to introduce yourself. Meeting in person can plant the seeds for a position or an opportunity that your prospective employer or client hadn’t thought about until they had a face to go with your name. Witnessing a compelling skill set in person is a lot different than reading a list on paper.
  • But don’t be unrealistic. By the time he tried out for The Walking Dead, Reedus was a respected but lesser known actor best remembered for his performance in the cult favorite The Boondock Saints. He also had minor experience writing and directing. This might sound obvious, but when trying out for The Walking Dead, he stuck to his bread-and-butter skills of acting instead of trying to get on to the show by directing or writing. It’s one thing to try out for a long shot. It’s quite another to make unrealistic demands of yourself. Get your foot in the door doing something you know really well — and build from there.
  • Be bold. What I especially like about the Wall Street Journal interview is what happened after Reedus landed the role: he did not adopt a meek, “I’m just happy to be here” attitude. He took ownership of the character and fought to shape the role that he felt would work best. For instance, the creators of The Walking Dead originally suggested Daryl would be a racist like his older brother Merle, as well as a pilferer of Merle’s drug stash. But Reedus fought to make Daryl different from his brother — rough around the edges but ashamed of his family’s behavior rather than accepting of it. The elements of shame and a determination to make something better of himself have made Dixon a more rich and sympathetic character. When you get the job you want, being bold is how you make your mark.

Refusing to take no for an answer doesn’t mean you need to act like a pushy jerk. You can be persistent and polite yet assertive, too. A few years ago, a college student reached out to me about the possibility of being an intern for hip-hop mogul Jermaine Dupri, with whom who I was working at the time. Technically, Dupri had no internship program. But the student was eager to learn and to help, and gracious. A few phone calls later, she got the job — because she created it.

Have you ever created a job or landed a business relationship after being told no? Tell me your story.




How Hip-Hop Legend Jermaine Dupri Writes His Own Rules

May 1st, 2014 by ddeal

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In the world of hip-hop mogul Jermaine Dupri, building excitement for new music means creating his own rules for using social media to engage with fans.

Dupri, Mariah Carey’s manager and co-producer, has been a lightning rod for criticism from frustrated Carey fans who have wanted more information about her career moves (especially the status of her new album) than they have received. But instead of appeasing fans with social, Dupri acts like a boxer, sometimes quietly absorbing the blows, and other times trading stiff jabs and upper cuts as he did recently when engaging with impatient fans on Twitter. The way he sees it, frustrated fans are good business because they build anticipation for music.

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“If you’re going to be a music executive in the digital era, you need to try different approaches for running a business with social media,” he reveals in an interview with me. “Conventional wisdom says you give fans everything they want when they want it, like all the artwork and information about a new album long before release day. Fans today are buying the promotion that leads up to the music, not necessarily the music. But giving away too much to fans can actually ruin the game plan for someone like Mariah Carey, who is very protective of her music, her brand, and her mystique.”

Applying social finesse is one of the rules that Dupri lives by as he reinvents the role of the music executive in the digital era. Music industry honchos who first made their marks in the analog era, as Dupri did, have famously struggled to embrace digital (hello, Napster). Not so with Dupri. In the 1990s, he exploded on to the music world by breaking successful acts such as Kris Kross and Da Brat before becoming CEO of So So Def Recordings.

The 1990s were a long time ago, though. Then, artists could make millions by dropping CDs like manna from heaven into the hands of hungry fans. Digital downloading was not a threat. No one had ever heard of social media. But unlike many of his peers, Dupri has made the leap into the digital era by making digital — especially social media — the epicenter of a career in which he plays many roles, including CEO, czar of his own social media community Global 14, a popular DJ, and manager of a certain diva who has sold 200 million records.

Here are Jermaine Dupri’s rules for reinventing himself as a digital executive:

1. Build a Home Base

Dupri creates a flurry of activity on social every day, on sites ranging from Facebook to YouTube. One moment he’s tweeting information about a club appearance with Fabolous. The next he’s posting an Instagram of himself with Pharrell backstage at Coachella or a YouTube video about a moment with Mariah Carey and her fans.

“I create my own social whirlwind,” he says.

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How C2E2 Celebrates the Superfan

April 27th, 2014 by ddeal

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Three years ago, I blogged about the first time I attended the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, then in its second year. This fan culture event was overwhelming, and it was difficult to know where to begin talking about the experience. On April 26, I experienced C2E2 from a more personal perspective: my 12-year-old daughter Marion was among the throng of attendees who dress up as their favorite fictional characters ranging from Princess Mononoke to Dr. Who. Marion was adorned in a trench coat and black wings to honor Castiel, an angel in the CW Network series Supernatural. As I noted on a LinkedIn blog post, being with Marion helped me appreciate first-hand a superfan loyalty that is rooted in self-expression and spontaneous community.

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C2E2 has quickly become a premier destination for fans and companies to gather and celebrate each other over the course of one weekend. C2E2 attracted 53,000 attendees in 2013, up from 40,000 the year before, and the event has taken up more space in the Chicago McCormick Place convention center to accommodate the growing number of merchants and entertainment properties participating.

If you opt into the C2E2 email newsletter, your experience begins well in advance of the actual event. The pedestrian-looking newsletter and website serve up a steady stream of announcements about the show, such as autograph signings (for a fee) by comic book legends such as Stan Lee, a panel with Game of Thrones cast members, or the unveiling of an interactive booth for online game League of Legends.

But you really don’t begin to understand C2E2 until you walk into McCormick Place on the day of the show and take stock of your surroundings. Even before you enter the formal C2E2 convention area, you encounter the superfans expressing their passions. Read more »




How AC/DC Turned Loss into Triumph with “Back in Black”

April 16th, 2014 by ddeal

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The rock and roll world recently exploded with rumors that AC/DC was finally calling it quits. Unfortunately, those rumors included speculation that founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was suffering a debilitating health problem. The band responded with some good news and bad news. The bad news was that Young was taking a break from recording due to an undisclosed health problem. But the band also affirmed its intent to stick together and make music. In fact, AC/DC has endured through hard times before. Thirty-four years ago, one of rock’s loudest, badass bands taught creative minds everywhere how to turn loss into hard-fought gain with the release of Back in Black, one of the greatest rock albums ever.

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In 1980, AC/DC was on the ropes. On the verge of achieving global superstardom, the band suffered a devastating loss when lead singer Bon Scott died after a night of heavy drinking. Losing a lead singer would be a crisis for any band, and especially given the circumstances, AC/DC considered breaking up. Not only was Scott’s loss tragic, but his throat-shredding vocals had helped define the band’s raw, head-banging sound and appeal.  But the band, consisting of brothers Malcolm and Angus Young (who was quickly establishing a reputation as a scorching lead guitarist), drummer Phil Rudd, and bassist Cliff Williams, decided to carry on. And then AC/DC made two decisions that would change its fortunes: finding front man Brian Johnson and deciding to release a tribute album to Scott.

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How Coachella Creates a Digital Community

April 15th, 2014 by ddeal

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is the top music festival in the world, according to Billboard, grossing $67.2 million and attracting 180,000 people in 2013 over the course of two weekends. It’s also an elite experience for the affluent, with an expensive admission fee and amenities that include a furnished “Shikar style tent” with electrical outlets and two queen-sized beds at a cost of $6,500. I’ve been fully immersed in Coachella. I’ve discovered artists such as Haim and ASAP Ferg, re-kindled my love affair with the music of the Cult, and enjoyed the long-awaited OutKast reunion (warts and all).

Oh, and I’ve not even left my home in the Midwest hinterlands.

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My new SlideShare, which contains detailed speaker notes, discusses how Coachella creates a digital community for people like me (especially via a YouTube livestream) without compromising the appeal in-person event. As it turns out, digital creates a powerful network of brand ambassadors for Coachella.

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Coachella offers a lesson on how marketers can make an exclusive brand a bit more accessible without damaging your mystique. Luxury brands wrestle with this issue all the time especially as they court younger audiences who are on the cusp of being affluent.

On the surface, Coachella may look anything but exclusionary, especially when you consider that being there in person involves swimming a sea of dirty, writhing bodies baking in the hot desert sun. But Coachella is a luxury. As Todd Martens and Mikal Wood noted recently in the Los Angeles Times, “Coachella is now more like a spring break weekend at a walled-off resort than an edgy music festival.”

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Like Louis Vuitton, Coachella has aggressively employed digital to make its brand more accessible to wannabes like me who stand on the outside looking in with our noses pressed against the glass. Check out my SlideShare to learn more. And if you attend Coachella, tell me what you think of the event.




Do Wearables Have a Fashionable Future?

April 14th, 2014 by ddeal

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Roger Wood wants to turn wearable technology into a fashion statement. Wood is the founder of (ART+DATA) Design, and he recently joined OnBeep, a stealthy, secretive startup developing a new wearable device that will combine serious technology with fashion sensibility. Wood recently shared with me on LinkedIn how he and OnBeep plan to transform  notoriously ugly wearable technologies into something as aesthetically pleasing as a Rolex. The device, under wraps at OnBeep, promises to change the way people collaborate in groups. According to Wood, the spirit of the founders moved him to join the team: “Jesse Robbins and Greg Albrecht are passionate about software, and how it can transform the way we think about collaboration. Ideas are plentiful in Silicon Valley, but I knew within a short time that I’d want to work closely with them on something transformative and groundbreaking.”

The San Francisco resident has his work cut out for him: Forbes  recently declared that even the most appealing of wearables are too geeky and lacking in style.  There’s hope Roger might bring a fresh perspective to the process. He is the first senior executive to move from mobile to fashion, and back to mobile. He led design and brand ID work on the fifth-best-selling phone in history (Motorola iDEN), the successful luxury activewear collection (the Ralph Lauren RLX), then back to mobile with Hearst Corporation, where he worked on iPad and iPhone platforms in an aesthetically demanding digital media environment.

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An Immediate Impact

Roger is a user experience designer, trained in computer science, and possessing a strategic mind sharpened at Harvard Business School by famed Israeli game theory professor Elon Kohlberg.

In 1993, Wood jumped into the mobile industry with a splash at Motorola’s startup hit Nextel, where he led the design of the iDEN phone as product manager. The masculine design of the iDEN phones set a new standard, and the product became a global icon from Tokyo to Tel Aviv. The phones was a fixture in the country music and hip-hop scenes, and some of the biggest names in music used iDEN phones to stay in touch as they moved from one city to another. The iDEN phones appeared in more than 100 music videos and motion pictures, and became a cult product with 12-24 years olds.

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How Kiss Created a Great Brand with Rock Theater

April 10th, 2014 by ddeal

They finally made the hall.

After selling 100 million albums, reinventing the rock concert as theater, launching their own comic book series, and scaring the bejesus out of parents everywhere, Kiss was finally admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. But the band really belongs in a hall of fame of its own. More than 40 years ago, Kiss created a modern template for rock branding. As I discuss in my new SlideShare presentation, the band’s ability to create compelling rock theater was one essential element of the band’s blueprint for success.

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Kiss made memorable music in its heyday, but it built a true following by creating visual personas that inspired intrigue, derision, and fright — in other words, a reaction, which means attention. The four original members of the band — Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley — were more than a drummer, lead guitarist, bass guitarist, and rhythm guitarist. In public, they were known by the alter egos they created, each of which was expressed through elaborate costumes and face paint. If you grew up listening to rock and roll in the 1970s, you didn’t even have to like Kiss to know about the Catman (Peter Criss), Space Ace (Frehley), Demon (Simmons), and Starchild (Stanley).

No one had seen anything quite like Kiss. They created intrigue and curiosity, even fear that they were somehow linked with devil worship — all of which, of course, made them more appealing to record-buying teens. Onstage, the band’s four personas thrived like they could nowhere else. Demon, Catman, Space Ace, and Starchild were like three-dimensional performers, spewing blood, spitting fire, levitating from drum kits, and literally creating smoke from their guitars as they sang in their elaborate costumes (including exaggerated high heels). Although they were actually decent musicians, fans came for the experience.

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Their stagecraft earned them the scorn of critics, who viewed the pyrotechnics as a slap in the face of real rock and roll. But in reality, Kiss were adopting ideas that other bands were using, too, most notably David Bowie, Alice Cooper, the masters of shock rock, and Genesis. But Kiss made rock theater more accessible and fun — pushing the boundaries of taste without crossing over them as Alice Cooper did, and playing tighter songs than did Genesis.

Concerts made Kiss. The band actually struggled to sell albums until fans began to learn about them on tour. It was, in fact, a concert album, Alive!, that triggered a run of multi-million album sales that continues to this day.

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For modern rock bands, albums don’t sell: concerts do. The more established artists with bigger budgets have created fully realized theater. For instance, Roger Waters recently achieved massive financial success through the visually stunning Wall Tour. And U2′s 360º tour — the highest grossing of any rock band — was a theatrical tour de force that featured a massive “claw” structure that resembled a space ship.

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Today Miley Cyrus and Kanye West best exemplify the Kiss legacy of music as theater. Cyrus has been making headlines with her controversial Bangerz tour, which launched in February. She collaborated with several designers on costumes, including Roberto Cavalli, Jeremy Scott, the Blonds, and Marc Jacobs. Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi has created visual props, including “imaginative animals he’s made on his own.” Her tour has featured Cyrus emerging from a giant image of her face and sliding down a facsimile of her tongue; riding a giant hot dog; and wearing provocative sexually provocative costumes.

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Meantime, Kanye West has created his own brand of music theater with his on-again-off-again Yeezus tour, which features West performing (at times) in a bejeweled mask, massive, surreal stage sets, and elaborate choreographing. At one point, the show features the appearance of not one but two mountains, one of which splits in half and becomes a volcano.

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Jonathan Ringen of Rolling Stone describes the Yeezus show this way: “crazily entertaining, hugely ambitious, emotionally affecting (really!) and, most importantly, totally bonkers.” As for the bejeweled mask, Ringen writes, “OK, so yeah, he does wear bejeweled, full-face Martin Margiela masks for most of the show. And while on one level they suggest a supreme ‘look not upon the face of Yeezus, mere mortals; arrogance (which is so off the rails it’s kind of awesome), the masks also have real theatrical usefulness. Given that most of the audience is way too far away to see his face, they provide a vivid, readable visual.”

A “vivid, readable visual” — that’s how you turn an impersonal arena into your own stage. And Kiss created the model 40 years ago.




Emerging Artist Spotlight: Beatrice Brigitte

April 9th, 2014 by ddeal

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Beatrice Brigitte doesn’t like to follow formulas. The 25-year-old singer rejects the lush production and auto-tuned, anthemic vocals that rule the pop charts in the American Idol era, in favor of a simpler, more organic sound. On many of the songs she writes (such as “The Day”), her voice floats like a ghost through spare, quiet string arrangements.

Brigitte paints textured landscapes that combine a dreamy, otherworldly sound (think Mazzy Star) with lyrics exploring dark themes such as fear, personal betrayal, and suicide.  In these themes the listener can detect the imprint of one of her influences, Jim Morrison (“Ode to End,” which contemplates suicide, thematically evokes the death wish of “Yes the River Knows” by the Doors).

I discovered her music on Global 14, Jermaine Dupri’s social community where members share interests ranging from music to sports (and it’s an excellent platform for emerging artists). In the following Q&A, Brigitte shares her story and provides a glimpse into life as an emerging artist. Make sure you experience her music on Soundcloud and get to know her on Global 14 and Facebook.

Let’s talk about your background — who you are and how you got into music.

Who am I? Well . . . I’m me. An entrepreneur, an artist, spiritual-being, a wife, an old soul; I have many roles.

To me, music is more of an art form than a way to be famous. I come from two artists who were both painters, and I love painting. I was born in Berlin. My father passed away a month before my seventh birthday, and my mom moved me to San Diego, where she remarried. I grew up in sunny San Diego for most of my life, but my parents moved to Phoenix while I was in high school. At age 17, unlike your conventional rebellion as a teen, mine was discovering music and using it as therapy. I never partied, drank, or did drugs growing up. I was that kid who would be at each concert and festival, standing there in awe.

I have been writing forever, but I did not always want to pursue music. The turning point was watching the band Brand New live in Phoenix. The performance by their lead singer, Jesse Lacey, blew me away. His music was honest, with no bullshit, and very bold. The band’s guitar riffs were very emotional. The experience changed my entire perspective on music.

At age 19 I moved to Los Angeles to work for a tech start-up, which I was working nonstop. I was making a lot of money but not doing what I really wanted to do, which was making music, finding my true self. My first day off occurred when I was 21. I asked, “What the hell am I doing?” I realized how blinded I was by social constraints, and that I can’t be a follower.

I began my journey as a musician by experimenting with being in bands and creating an alter ego, and then concluding that I just have to be a solo artist . . . just to be me, not to hide behind a band or an alter ego. It’s been a great journey and growth process.

Who are your musical influences?

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A long time ago, I was really into Jim Morrison. I went into a whole Doors phase. He was into writing poems and turning them into songs, not writing lyrics in the conventional sense. And he has hidden meanings and analogies in his songs, which is how I write. I also enjoyed the melodies and organic pop style of the Spice Girls growing up. And Winston Churchill is a huge influence on everything I do. Yes, Winston Churchill. He was not only a leader — he was an artist, too. Did you know he was a painter?

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Why Your Brand Needs to Be a Youtility

March 27th, 2014 by ddeal

Ellen DeGeneres crashed Twitter with her Oscars selfie, but your business does not need access to Hollywood A-listers to make your own mark. On March 25, author Jay Baer and Anna Hrach of digital agency ethology showed how simply providing useful content can make your brand more valuable to your audience.

In their webinar “Help Not Hype: How to Create Content Your Customers Actually Want,” Baer and Hrach asserted that the key to creating customer relationships in the digital world is providing content that is inherently useful to people instead of pushing self-promotional advertising that might capture interest for a moment but fails to create long-term engagement. According to Hrach, formulating a strategy that balances the goals of your brand with the needs of your audience is essential to understanding how to support your business by providing content that your customers actually want and need.

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Source: ethology

Baer drew upon his book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype to state the case for why brands need to focus more on the unsexy attribute of being useful to hold the attention of your audience. Because both consumers and businesses are flooding the digital world with their own content, ironically businesses are competing with their own customers for attention. The solution for businesses is to avoid the temptation to simply stand out for a few seconds with marketing stunts and hype-filled headlines but rather become trusted utilities that people will want to come back to time and again for useful information that enriches our lives.

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Source: ethology

“You must do more than create content,” he asserted. “You have to make youtility, or content so useful that people would pay for it. Youtility is marketing that people cherish, not tolerate.”

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For instance, through its @HiltonSuggests Twitter account, Hilton Worldwide provides helpful tips to travelers such as the best places to enjoy afternoon tea in London. The account responds to Read more »