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posted by Will Weatherly Jul 21,2016 @ 12:51PM

Businesses Are Just People Too

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For nearly a year, social media mogul and notorious speaker Gary Vaynerchuk has been honing a message. Infamous in marketing circles for his long history of brash, profane, egotistical-at-first-listen presentations near the cross streets of culture and marketing, Gary’s newest barb is as pointed as always. But now, alongside the release of his new book, he’s jabbing it at individuals not industries.

His point?


Self-awareness.

In his words…

 

“There is something that is rarely talked about in the business world and I want to start building more attention for it.
 
That thing is self-awareness…
 
… Self-awareness allows people to recognize what things they do best so they can then go hard on those aspects of their life. It also helps you accept your weaknesses.What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I want people to learn to be at peace with themselves, to understand what they can offer, because everyone’s got something. The key, however, is learning how to find it.
 
Self-awareness can help you do that.
 
Self-awareness is being able to accept your weaknesses while focusing all of your attention on your strengths. The moment you decide to accept your shortcomings and bet entirely on your strengths, things will change. Trust me.”

 

Now, with this idea, Gary openly aims to poke holes in the mythology of entrepreneurism that’s being inflated by the business community, its incubators, accelerators, and startup weekends.

But that’s not what’s interesting to me.

 

What’s interesting are the implications for business.

See, I’ve come to believe businesses are just people too.

Businesses have life in them. When they’re young, they need nourishment and protection to grow. They need relationships with people that love them, who are willing to buy. They need unique parts of themselves to get along with each other, teams to keep things functioning and life flowing. These are all essential to survival.

But what if a business wants to do more than survive?

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What if a business wants to achieve as much as possible? To contribute something incredible to the world, something special, something unique, something only that business has the physical and conscious makeup to create?

 

What might it take to self-actualize such a thing?

Maybe first, it would take esteem.

Maybe first, it would take self-awareness.

The concrete, confident knowlege of what that business does best. To have crystal clarity on its strengths. To embrace its flaws and own its weaknesses. To see vividly into its blind spots. To regularly reflect inward. To understand when, where, and why its elements are not aligned.

If that’s what it took, how might a business get such self-awareness?

Dig around “GaryVee” long enough and you’ll find his best piece of advice for people is to… ask.

So, maybe that's good advice for business too. 

 

Ask who?

Ask the people who love you. 

Ask every part of yourself. 

Ask some strangers.

Triangulate.

 

 

posted by Kevin Smith Jul 14,2016 @ 04:09PM

Loving Your Work

Our annual 24-hour pro bono marketing marathon, CreateAthon, is in the works again. We are receiving applications now for our nineteenth CreateAthon. While skills-based volunteerism existed fifteen years ago, it has been heartening to see it evolve from a concept embraced mostly by lawyers into a national business movement.

Part of that momentum is being driven by A Billion + Change, an organization leading efforts to expand the number of companies committed to skills-based and pro bono service. To date, they have engaged more than 5,000 companies of every size, industry and geography to donate over five billion dollars worth of services. The vision of A Billion + Change is to transform business culture so that all companies in America will respond to the needs of their communities.

The benefits of skills-based volunteerism are many: building morale, improving community relations and fostering leadership skills. Every year, I’m amazed at how staying up all night actually reenergizes our company. (After a recovery weekend, of course.) In fact, when I consider all that CreateAthon has meant to our business, it is difficult to imagine why one wouldn’t lend their skills to a cause. Yet I understand the excuses. “We’re too small.” “We don’t have time.” “What we do doesn’t translate well to volunteerism.”

I thought of these excuses, and how each one applied to “Get Fit for Good,” an effort by Matt Potts, a college student and trainer at Fit Columbia. “Get Fit for Good” is a pay what you want, twice-weekly workout class with proceeds benefiting Innersole, a charity providing athletic shoes to children who are homeless or in need. It’s one guy spending an hour a week doing what he loves, helping people get fit, all the while raising money for kids. Matt reminds me that many times excuses are just that, and you can usually find a way to make pro bono work.

Most companies have charitable programs in place. From blood drives to fundraising and corporate giving, it’s always meaningful to give back. But there is a unique satisfaction in knowing that the skills that provide for your family can provide for someone in need as well. It reminds you of what drew you to your field, and provides a renewed sense of energy and purpose to the work at hand. If you love what you do, figure out how to give it away ­– for good.

posted by Jillian Owens Jul 06,2016 @ 04:33PM

Interacting Out: Channeling the Power of Experience in Social Media

Even the most antisocial introvert requires some sort of interaction in their daily lives. We have to interact with the cashier at Publix, otherwise we don’t get to gnaw shamelessly on a wedge of gouda later that evening. We interact with coworkers, family members, acquaintances and friends. If you stopped to count every time you connected with another human in some way, no matter how miniscule, you’d probably be surprised at how high that number was.

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We recently launched an interactive campaign that challenged fans to declutter a room in their homes and share their successes. By gamifying a tedious chore, we increased engagement and donations for our client, Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina.

 

But what percentage of these people do you truly interact with in a meaningful way that you remember for a long time afterwards? It’s probably not that huge of a number (unless you’re just one of those delightful/delighted people that find joy in every connection in which case I envy you and want to know your secret or what meds you’re taking).

All interactions are not created equal in real life, so why would you treat all of your social media interactions as though they were of equal value? The conversation you have with the guy at the deli probably isn’t as meaningful as a heart-to-heart with your best friend.

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The campaign was a success! The client saw a 42% increase in engagement on Facebook & Twitter, and a whopping 270% engagment increase on Instagram (compared to passive content).

 

A new study by Content Marketing Institute reveals that creators of interactive content experiences are shaping the future of digital marketing. And that’s a great thing for our clients and their customers.

In the past, a lot of digital content has been passive. Think of display ads, blog posts, pop up ads, video ads, etc. Like an in-person one-sided conversation, it can be a turnoff. Brands spend at lot of their resources talking at their audience, rather than fostering valuable and memorable experiences for them that lead to brand recognition, loyalty, and ultimately conversions. 

There is a glut of digital content out there and customers are getting fed up with it. They don’t want your content unless it’s helpful, entertaining or both.

Facebook’s recent announcement that it would continue making changes to the news feed ranking to favor updates from people rather than pages has put the importance of referral traffic at an all time high. One of the best ways to do this is by tapping into that part of human nature that wants to interact. We’re kinesthetic. We want to do.

What types of content are interactive though? Quizzes, surveys, calculators, contests, infographics with embedded interactive features (like the CMI one you just clicked on earlier), as well as games are all great examples of how brands can educate and engage with their audience in a meaningful way.

Stats don’t lie.

A conversion study by Demand Metric shows how dramatically more effective interactive content is at educating an audience than passive content.

interactive-content-more-effective-than-passive-content_1.pngI was out for an evening with friends a few weeks ago. When a stranger discovered I was a marketer, he asked me what “the next big thing” is for digital marketing.

My answer?

Brands are going to have to learn how to connect with their customers in increasingly life-improving ways and help them have a little fun by adopting gamifaction strategies in order to remain competitive.

We have be creators of experiences, not just content.

posted by Kelly Davis Jun 22,2016 @ 01:56PM

The Story Behind the Story

I recently read an article on AdWeek.com titled, “How Social Media Could Have Changed the O.J. Simpson Trial.” Inspired by the recent FX mini-series, “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” the author, Josh Rosenberg, points to the trial’s role in the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, reality television and participatory journalism. Rosenberg also raises the specter of what the trial experience would have been like for both the viewer and the people in that courtroom in 1994 “if the world had been watching in real time with a mobile phone in hand.”

Certainly, we now live in an “always on” world – a world in which it is difficult to hide from the onslaught of speculation, opinion and commentary. It’s a world very different from 1994.



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As Rosenberg writes, “Today, all of us have a very loud microphone in the palms of our hands, and every time we share a thought, use a hashtag, communicate with a like-minded individual or get through to someone who doesn’t share our own belief, we are harnessing a power no one could have dreamed of in 1994.”

I would contend that not only could we never have dreamed of today’s technology twenty two years ago, neither could we have dreamed of the ability that technology provides us to share with the world a comment, observation or criticism of the actions of those around us – sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes carelessly. Generally speaking, while advances in communications technology have opened up a world of human connection and interaction, they have also closed our minds and hardened our perspective on the events and actions taking place around us.

How often have we seen – or posted ourselves – a video of something we’ve observed in a public place, or a video of a complete stranger? From concerts and parties to interactions with store employees, these slice of life videos seem to be permeating our society and generating opinion and commentary on a daily basis. We have to assume that there is always a camera present.

The challenge is that the very moment in time you captured is just that – a quick snapshot often shared without any further context. We may not know what happened before or after, or from a different angle, or behind the scenes. All we have are those few seconds and perhaps the commentary of the person who filmed the event. However, the instinct to post and share every moment now means that individuals who weren’t present form a perception of the event based on those few seconds of shared video – and not on the full reality of the experience.

While social media and our “always on” world certainly create opportunities, they also create great disconnects when it comes to human interaction and compassion. It has become so easy for us to handle our dissatisfaction with a negative customer experience with harsh words and a stealthily filmed video – shared not with a person who could have helped improve our experience, but with a random group of people who were not present and who are only seeing the event through our narrow lens.

What if instead we slowed down, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and thought before we posted? What if we quietly ask to speak to someone in charge to express our concerns? What if we ask how we can help? I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t call out a company when your experience doesn’t meet your expectation. I do believe that there is a better way to find a resolution.

Brand marketers instinctively look for the story behind the story. The next time you’re faced with an opportunity to “film and post,” try to do the same. While your instincts may tell you to jump to judgment, perhaps the better course of action is to dig a little deeper. We hold in our hands a little piece of technology that has the power to impact human interactions and to influence others’ perceptions of people and brands. The onus is on each one of us to approach this responsibility with compassion and discernment.

Kelly Davis, APR is the Public Relations Director at Riggs Partners. Read the AdWeek story referenced here.

This article originally appeared in the May 21-June 19 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report.

posted by Michael Powelson Jun 13,2016 @ 09:24AM

Boxed in? The stakes of commercial activism in local business

As I type this, the internet radio says they’re burying Muhammad Ali.

For twenty years, some of the fiercest men on earth failed to put Ali on the ground, and now a handful of heartsick ones will put him in it. Time is, indeed, the conqueror.

It’s been decades since time and illness scored their first victory over the former heavyweight. Parkinson’s disease, doing what opponents, critics and even the United States government could not, silenced him in the mid nineties. And this is perhaps the larger shame. After all, so much has been made of the fighter’s verbal brilliance, his unique ability to speak truth to power and an unflinching will when his principles demanded great risk.

Call it another crown in time’s trophy case: the ironic twist that all the things which made Ali a pariah in the mid sixties — the unapologetic autonomy, social activism and conscientious objection — are precisely the reasons he’s now one of the most inspirational sports figures in history.

But it’s not the sporting, or even the cultural context of these triumphs that interests me here. It’s the professional one. You see, in 1966, Muhammad Ali wasn’t just a prizefighter or folk hero. He was also a business. Big business.

 

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Behind the championship belts and mesmerizing interviews, there was an enterprise. It employed people. It supported families. It provided a living that soared beyond the wildest expectations of a black man from the Jim Crow south who barely graduated high school.

And yet Ali proved willing to lose it all for his convictions.

In response to the Justice Department denying his conscientious objector status and sentencing him to five years in prison, Ali said, “I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars…So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

I can not think of a contemporary parallel.

Yes, we live in an age of greater corporate social responsibility. Today, firms all around the world, including my own, believe it’s imperative to do good in addition to doing well. And this is clearly a positive evolution in what it means to be a decent business. But risking everything it is not.

Yes, Target, Starbucks, General Mills and many other national brands have enacted internal policies or consumer facing communications to promote a more charitable, tolerant and just society. Some have even faced resistance from the fringes of their customer bases. Still, I’m doubtful that any such actions were taken before cost/benefit analyses and public opinion polling showed the reward outweighed the risk.

Please don’t mistake this for criticism. I don’t believe good works are any less good when they also happen to be good business. I’m simply curious about the times they’re not. What do smaller organizations in markets like ours do when they feel compelled to right a perceived wrong, but lack the scale to weather a backlash?

Recent history has offered no shortage of cultural flashpoints. Flags. Bathrooms. Background checks and marriage licenses.

What business are these of our businesses? And, regardless of your stance on any of them, where is the actionable tipping point for you? When does something become important enough to risk everything?

I like to think I have an answer, but I’d be lying if I told you I was one hundred percent certain.

What I am certain of, however, is the hope that you and I and every other businessperson never have to find out. That we’ve learned to respect one another and work together to find equitable solutions to the differences we face. I hope no one reading this is ever forced to risk everything for the ability to live with themselves afterward.

But I also hope that those who were, and did — “The Greatest” among us you might say — are forever championed.

Time the conqueror be damned.

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This piece first appeared in the June 13th edition of the Columbia Regional Business Review

 

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