What Will You Do When Everything Changes?

What will you do when people stop using text to input and receive information from the Internet? How will you deliver information to people who can’t read beyond a fourth grade level? How will you collaborate at the office together?

You may think it’s far-fetched to ask these things; however, we can be certain that media technologies will evolve. In fact, media evolves quicker with each passing decade. When those changes occur, the way people interact evolves, too.

Just think about the way smartphones have changed our lives, both at work and at home. Phones have brought our jobs home, creating new concerns about being on the clock 24/7 and work/life balance.

Instead of calling a woman or man of romantic interest to ask them out, we text them. Worse, we also break up with them via text (By the way, I still don’t get this. As an older man, ending a relationship via text seems like a cowardly thing to do).

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Generally speaking, the smartphone has already begun to erode traditional literacy. With texts, emoticons, and a new reliance on visual media, we are seeing a rapid transformation in the way people are consuming information.

The Medium Always Transforms

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You know how I feel about social network specific-strategies. In a literal sense the “message is the medium” approach to marketing is a failure waiting to happen. Marshall Mcluhan was right, though, at least in the sense that media is transformative. It changes the very fabric of our lives.

Said Mcluhan, “Each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects which are its unique message. The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”

As the Internet progresses it affects every kind of related media, from email to video. It changes the very way we interact, learn, and progress. It is inevitable that this transformative change will continue, and it will do so with more and more speed.

In turn the need to evolve our skill sets at work and at home will increase. At a minimum, media evolution will bring periodic disruptive changes that demand quick evolution. To deny this impact is to deny everything that’s happened to our world since the Internet took the consumer world by storm in the nineties.

The question isn’t what will change. Instead the question is what will you do when it happens? Will you be flexible and open to change? Will you evolve? Or will you suffer the pain and consequences of entrenched thinking and denial?

Being an Influencer Is Not a Top Priority

Many people engage in online media to promote their services. The idea of choosing between becoming an online influencer or a communicator probably doesn’t occur to them. After all, they just want to win a few clients and projects.

I reached a point where I needed to prioritize my own online interactions versus a desire to do the work, scale a business, and maintain balance in my personal life. Some are able to build larger agencies and businesses that coincide with significant online profiles, but I struggle to do both. So a choice was needed. In many ways, it is a living decision, one that I constantly need to reinforce.

Last week, a top 100 influencers metric came out, as usual based on Twitter reach, though this time it measured the reach of persona’s following, specifically “how many people are following those followers.” I guess that’s potential RT reach? Anyway, I am not sure how that translates to influence, but many friends whom I do consider to be influential were deservedly on the list. My congratulations to them.

As I watched the usual accolades posted on my social streams, I grew jealous. I could have been on that list if I’d only chosen to focus on my personal network growth over the past few years. But then I reminded myself about my choices. I was able to detach.

How This Choice Impacted Me

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I secured an opportunity for my client Cade Martin serve as the primary portrait photographer for the NBA Wives Association (Behind the Bench) black tie gala last weekend. Cade is photographing MLB great Prince Fielder here. Check out all of his shots.

Many who have known me over the past 10 years would agree that I am not as prolific as I used to be online. I am a practitioner now, not an uber-influencer on the social media conference speaking circuit. Ratcheting it back was necessary to achieve those other objectives.

Instead, I am present enough to contribute to the larger conversation and market my business. Further, I use the tools to demonstrate competency with social media, particularly with my photography.

Frankly, I feel like online tools like Twitter, this blog and others are awesome, but they can blind you. You think the attention is necessary to succeed, but it takes a lot of energy and time to keep that influencer flywheel turning. Plus the necessary, um, political schmoozing is not my favorite activity. So I made and continue to make the choice to focus on other things.

This decision hasn’t been unkind to me. I earn a bit more than I used to, and I have better family relationships.

Having attained the right balance, I believe I am still credible to clients. At the same time, my intent is to promote them first, and not myself. I guess that’s old school, the client should be in the limelight, and not me.

Perhaps I have become just a member of the community rather than one of the top voices. Others have taken the mantle, and today, it seems some leaders are newer voices, at least to this old man. I kind of like that. Perhaps it is time for the next generation of influencers.

Me, I just want to build a good business, and do what is necessary online. My time as an uber-influencer — real or imagined — has passed.

RFP: Request for Pain

Having done two mandatory tours of duty in the big agency world, I understand the RFP process. It’s a necessary evil to win most large accounts. However as a small business, I find them to be downright painful. An RFP ought to be called a Request for Pain.

As a small business owner, RFPs are extremely taxing. Consider that in a large or mid-size agency you have business development and senior staff dedicated to winning this kind of business. In a small agency like mine, you are basically pulling time from a very limited resource pool. Instead of focusing on local networking events, phone calls, building relationships online, and developing useful content, you spend 20, 40, 60 or more hours building a proposal and pitch.

The odds of winning RFPs are not good when you are small. I would say the same thing for a large agency, but is easier to dedicate the resources and mitigate the risk.

You almost always have to have a prior relationship, and get the RFP written to you, or intelligence to help you shape your pitch. There is almost always a favorite or two in the dance.

If you do not have a prior relationship, question whether it is worth your time. Many times the third through fifth firms have been referred as good agencies that might be able to do the job, but the odds are long. In the cases were the RFP is hard-wired, some or all of players three through five are asked because they can’t win. They have a glaring flaw.

In the case of a small agency, size is almost always in issue. In a wired RFP, a small agency is an easy kill. Scaling questions must be addressed to the client’s satisfaction. Sometimes this is overcome with a focus on niches, such as community management or social media content. With larger contracts, though, even the ability to scale quality niche work becomes an issue. Most large companies don’t want to deal with a network of consultants and small boutiques to achieve scale. Can you blame them?

People do business with people they like. So if there is no relationship, you have to become the darling of the potential client very quickly and get the same type of intelligence that the favorites receive. That can be hard to do. If the client is cold and distant during the initial RFP process consider it a clear warning that you are wasting your time.

I almost always decline to participate in RFPs because of these many issues. The pain is not worth it. At least for a small firm like mine. My time is better served networking and building relationships for projects and winning business with people that know and trust me (and my firm).

What do you think of RFPs?

So Long, Summer of 2014

It’s hard to believe, but this is the last week of unofficial summer. Labor Day is just one week away, and the official autmun grind begins.

Personally, I feel like the summer ended somewhere in July. Work has gotten very busy, unlike any summer in recent memory.

At the same time, I had some great experiences this summer, including watching Soleil sprout up even more and get taller. Here are five memories I won’t forget anytime soon:

Soleil, the Jaguar Girl

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There comes a point where your kid becomes much more sociable and fun. Soleil is becoming quite the young lady. She knows what she likes, including face paint, painting in general, all things pink, trains, horses, dinosaurs and just about any live animal. She even likes taking photos now, and will tell me to set up the camera so she can point and click. This “girl jaguar” face paint photo was taken at the Central Park Zoo.

New York, New York

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You never know where business is going to take you, and little did I know this summer would involve some significant travel to New York City. And I love New York, so the trips made me happy. Two thumbs up!

3) Rocking the Full Frame

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Part of my summer activity included fundraising for and launching my 365 Full Frame project with my new Nikon Df camera. This has been immensely fun, and I am learning a ton. Now I also am getting mentored by my new client Cade Martin. Heck, I even started shooting in studio last week.

4) Business Is Red Hot

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About mid-July we started winning what would be a string of four new clients and one new business partnership (to be announced soon). Tenacity5 went as long as we could without hiring, but it became apparent that we needed help, so Jessica Bates has agreed to join the company, and will manage several clients for the company.

In addition, I signed a book deal in mid August for my third novel (it will be a present day novel, not one from the Fundamentalists series). This will be released in early 2016.

5) OMG, the Nats Are Serious!

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I was at that heartbreaking Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against the Cardinals. Ever since then the Nats have been a bad case of unfulfilled potential, that is until this summer. They have been red hot, and it has been great enjoying my partial ticket plan with my wife Caitlin, Soleil and friends. Playoffs here we come!

So those are my five big memories of The Summer of 2014. How about you? What will you remember most?

Finishing Is Underrated

We live in a now world. If we don’t get what we want, we leave. The tyranny of now is particularly true online where a simple touch or click lets someone exit stage left at the slightest whim. Yet, this axiom also holds true in the real world.

Consider how many people start projects and never finish them because its too hard or unpleasant. Or they can see a losing effort in a game and quit. Or they find work is difficult, so they stop putting in the effort. One could go on and on with hypothetical examples.

For whatever reason, many people don’t finish. It’s a world of instant gratitude.

That’s too bad because finishing is underated today.

Finishing signals to those around you that you are reliable.
More importantly, it’s one of those character building traits that separates you from the pack, reflecting who you are. You see things through when others tank at the first sign of discomfort.

Finishing the War

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I am toiling through the final chapters of The War to Persevere, a book I should have finished last winter. There is a great sense of relief as I pen the final chapters.

People seemed to like Exodus, and asked when the sequel would come out. I promised a release at some point this year.

I began drafting The War to Persevere last fall during NanoWriMo and continued into the New Year. I was 2/3 of the way through the drafting process when my grandmother died at the end of January. That set off a series of events that basically distracted me from any extra curricular activities. Then work got crazy — the usual conference season stuff — which left me exhausted every night to the point that from a creative standpoint I could shoot phots, but was not able to write fiction.

June rolled around and I hadn’t picked up the book. A friend nudged me. The excuses were there. I could say forget it, it’s just a novel. Afterall, I don’t make any money from it and I’m really enjoying photography right now. But I know better. Not only had I committed to my novel readers, I had promised myself that I would finish the tale.

So I made a commitment to finish the book. I started drafting again during my vacation last month, and have not looked back. I write four or five days a week, and will complete the first draft by the end of the week. Most importantly, I will meet my commitment to publish this year.

Finishers Believe

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Image by Philo Nordlund

I had a friend who said that suiting up and showing up no matter the circumstance is half the battle in life. I have to agree. Showing up at the virtual till every single day is what lets you finish things.

One of the toughest things I experienced in life was completing my Masters degree. It took me four years attending school part-time while I worked a full-time job. I almost didn’t make it thanks toa dot bomb experience in California. Yet, finishing that degree was one of the most beneficial experiences of my life. Not only does the degree (Communications, Culture and Technology) still impact my work today, the thesis writing — an arduous process that required daily attention for months on end — showed me how to write a long-form piece, such as a book. I am amazed at how important my Master’s was from a character building standpoint.

Once The War is completed and published, I will have successfully written five books. That’s something that no one can ever take away from me.

When I finish things feel good about my efforts. I believe in myself, and know I can accomplish more. That’s why finishing that 10k, going back to school, completing that project gone bad no matter how effed up it is, finishing the novel, wrapping up that degree, etc., etc. is so important.

What do you think?