Being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. Step beyond discouragement.
For the past 6 months, I’ve been thinking about my next book. I want to travel more globally, and I want to expand my speaking topics from pure branding to a message of motivation, self responsibility and personal empowerment.
As a keynote speaker and consultant a published book can open lot of new doors, generate new streams of income and be a platform for a plethora of media interviews that can help me meet my new goals.
This past week I believed I came up with my next big idea and title, something that I could sell to an international publisher. I drafted a 2 page summary that I had planned on sharing with my last publisher who has the first publishing rights on my next book.
I ran the idea by an editor, a former acquisition editor for Simon & Schuster, I’ve worked with on my last two books, Brain Tattoos and Brand Turnaround. She liked my idea and did a search on the premise and not much showed up with other published books. I was feeling really good about my idea, and I was anxious to start writing my proposal and get this puppy going.
As I was reading my draft summary one more time before I hit send, I tried a few more different key words and phrases similar to my topic and Holy Crap!, three books showed up. How could that be? I researched this topic several times and nothing showed up and now I see three, by credible authors on my big idea.
My balloon felt deflated. My big idea shrunk to a tiny crumb. I was so bummed. For a couple of days, I wallowed in my disappointment. Then a light went off in my head. I’ve been reading a really good book on creativity by Jonah Lehrer called Imagine. The book uncovers how big ideas get hatched, how innovation happens and how creators come up with killer stuff. Lehrer contends being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. And this state of hitting a wall helps lube creativity. He cites many cases of before the “brilliant next big thing” was a dark hole that seemed too deep to get out of.
I convinced myself his concept had merit. I also revisited the New York Times best seller list of books, and there was the proof. Nothing is new. Nothing is original. The winning horse prevails because they find a new way to spin an idea. They present it from a different perceptive. And they are resilient and don’t give up. For every best selling book on success, leadership and happiness, there are thousands of equally as qualifies works that never even get printed because those authors gave up.
I’m not going to give up. I’m going to go back to the drawing board, research the three similar books I found and find a way to present this idea in a compelling, different and better way.
If you are working on a project and got a little push back too, join me and leverage that temporary setback and invite your creative will to find a way to keep moving forward. I’ll keep you posted on my journey.
Like I mentioned last week, I attended the National Speakers Association’s annual convention and brought back a bunch of good ideas. Here are the remaining 19 tips. If you missed Part 1, you can read them here.
Social media was a big topic.
Social media take a way was from Philipp Riederle, a digital guru from Germany. Philipp was the youngest speaker ever to take the big stage at an NSA convention. Philipp, 18 years old, gave his first paid speech at 15. At 13, he broke into the biz after producing a podcast about how to hack an iPhone and soon had over 1,000,000 listeners.
13) The moral to this story, if you have a valuable message, it is never too early to start sharing it, and get paid for it, too.
14) People have more close friends these days. Before social media, most people had 4-5 close friends, with social media that number has increased to 8-10 per person.
15) If a company or brand is careless with their social media relationships a wicked Shitstorm will follow. (Philipp claims Shitstorm is a German word.)
16) A positive interaction in social media like a retweet, a friend’s compliment, or referral is viewed by Gen Y as an emotional experience, like a kiss or a hug.
Branding insight from Bruce Turkel, one of my favorite fellow branding buddies.
Bruce Turkel also wrote Building Brand Value, a book worth reading.
17) People don’t buy what you do. They buy whom you are.
18) 3 myths about branding from Bruce:
- Uniqueness does not make a brand
- Competency, being best, does not make a brand
- Mindfulness does not make a brand, who knows about you does
19) A good brand makes people feel good. A great brand makes people feel good about themselves.
20) Emotions are often hidden in the buying cycle. This is especially the case in B2B branding.
21) Buying decisions are rarely made on price, rather on priorities.
22) Emotional strategies sell products. 80% of all Nike products are bought by non athletes.
General motivation and business tips for anyone who wants to make money speaking.
The next set of tips came from former NBA star Walter Bond, also known as Mr. Accountability. This 6 foot 5 inch, powerhouse of inspiration had some awesome words of wisdom.
23) Don’t watch the news, it’s depressing and can be toxic.
24) Make sure your audience hears your voice in their heads long after you are finished speaking. This happens with a phrase or really strong message.
25) Your salary will be the average of your 5 closest friends. Not happy with your salary, maybe it’s time to get some new friends.
26) Limit pity parties, and feeling sorry for yourself to three days. PERIOD.
27) Likability is the secret to success in speaking way more than your content.
28) Always look as if you are successful.
29) All buts stink. (For example, “But, I can’t do that.”)
30) Kids like to be held because it changes their perspectives. Change people’s perspectives, lift up people every day.
31) Sell hopes and dreams, not products and books.
Time to practice all this good advice.
Till next week!
This past weekend I attended the National Speakers Association’s annual convention in Philadelphia. Talk about a room full of chatty, type As, the 1200+ person event had no shortage of big personalities, topic expertise and energy.
The convention chair was David Glickman, a fellow Florida speaker, who is a master of humor and built a name for himself writing and performing comedy and custom song parodies for corporations. So, needless to say, the event was packed with entertaining and educational experiences. Great job, David!
I learned a ton and was inspired by both the speakers who presented and the speakers I met. So, whether you speak professionally like I do, or speaking and presenting are an important part of your job, I hope you can apply some of the gems I took home.
Today’s blog (part 1) includes 12 tips focused on humor to help you be a better speaker and a few other random items from my trip. The balance will post next Wednesday.
How to add more humor to your presentations
1) Laughter is contagious and can have domino-effect.
When you get a laugh from your audience, tag it with another funny statement, facial gesture or physical movement. It’s a natural opportunity to build momentum with your audience because laughter is contagious and can have a domino-effect.
2) Research what’s funny with your audience before your speak.
Before you address a group find out what they think is funny in their industry or something funny that happened in advance of your talk. Building on this topic is usually a sure fire laugh.
3) Don’t over describe a humorous story.
This robs the audience from them filling in the blanks and using their imagination (see tip #8)
4) Self-deprecation is always good and do exaggerate your flaws.
5) Silence is powerful.
Don’t underestimate how a big pause of silence will help your point stick.
6) Use call backs.
A call back is when you get a laugh from something, a theme, a story, a phrase, and you repeat it again later in your talk.
7) Love every audience you address more than your pet.
This may not make you funnier, but it will make you a better speaker.
8) Before you give a presentation get in a peak zone, this means blood circulating and ample oxygen flowing by doing a physical activity like __________. I will let you fill in this blank.
9) Hangout with funny people, you will get funnier.
It pays to lighten up and be fun (Scott Christopher author of book The Levity-Effect). Here’s an interesting stat: 90% of employees said they will stay at a company if their boss is funny.
10) To make a point in a PowerPoint, don’t use the photo you have, use a really funny photo you find on Google.
11) Use goofy family photos in presentations too, they humanize the speaker and add humor, too.
12) Compare a photo of anyone (a co-worker, your boss, a client) with a famous person, this can be hysterical. My celebrity Heritage website has a database of over 4000 famous people to find funny matches for average Joe.
…To be continued! Watch for Part 2 for more tips.
Bonus – other random observations and lessons from my trip.
These days, an hour before flight time is not enough time to get through security and make a flight.
The past 5 times I’ve flown (non-holiday times) the airports have been jammed packed, all hours, all days. The $250 airline upgrade bought through a kiosk can prevent you from missing your flight. You speed through security in minutes, pass by thousands of other people and feel less stressed.
The Marriott in downtown Philadelphia does not make my top 1000 hotels I love list.
The food in their restaurant was consistency as disappointing.
If the airline can’t assign you a seat at check in, it’s very likely the plane is over booked.
If your schedule is flexible, once you get to the gate ask the attendant right away about giving your seat back. I ended up on the next flight out and got a free round trip ticket that I can use any time this next year. A nice perk for putting up with air travel.
Invest in an extra power supply for your phone. This device is critical for a road warrior.
Power plugs at busy airports are in short supply. This great device keeps you connected for hours after your phone dies.
If the senior market is important to your business, take note, the stereotype of today’s senior may be as out of date as the CD player.
This weekend I spent some time with my mom. She is 78-years young, lives in a senior community near Tampa and has for the past ten years. She’s healthy, spunky and represents a new breed of well aging consumers. And gives serious merit to the concept of “78 is the new 58”.
5 insights into the new senior consumer
1) The desire for fun does not lighten with age.
When I arrived, the first thing she tells me is: “I want to move. Not out of my community, but out of my neighborhood. Everyone here is too darn old,” she claims. “They’re sick, frail, grumpy, don’t take care of their homes and bottom line, they are not any fun!”
Seth Godin’s tribe theory remains true. Consumers want to be around like-minded people and age is not an accurate means to profile this consumer.
2) Chemical addictions don’t go away, they just change.
My mom has a hair color habit, she drinks sweet wine and even sweeter cocktails (I don’t remember her drinking until she turned 68). She loves a good chocolate fix a lot more often than just on Valentine’s Day.
According to The Wine Institute women drink the lion’s share of wine of the over 800 million gallons sold in US annually.
3) Have road will travel.
Fortunately, my mom and dad saved for retirement, so she has money to spend and she likes to travel. In the past 5 years, she’s visited at least 20 different countries and has covered even more tracks locally on her zippy golf cart. However, she also claims there are much faster models, and she wouldn’t mind having one.
4) It’s never too late to find your inner rowdy, party animal voice.
My mom loves sports, she knows the local team’s players by their first names and goes to lots of concerts and performances. I’ve heard her scream and holler at all of these events, something again I don’t remember from my childhood with her.
5) The fashion bug never flies away.
Frugal she is and also a card-carrying CCC (compulsive coupon clipper), but her annual spending on fashion, shoes and accessories could fund a small village.
Watching my mom enter her aging backwards chapter is quite entertaining as well as enlightening. As it reminds me how when brands are being built, we must remember all consumer segments, their values and buying patterns continue to change.
NOTE TO ALL READERS – Starting next week my blog updates ezine will hit your mail box every Wednesday. Instead of 3-4 posts in one mailer, it will only have one blog post per week, but will be on a regular schedule.
Call me crazy. Yes, I did. I said no to a luxury vacation in the mountains of North Carolina in a $2.6 million dollar, 5,000 square foot, McLodge just off Cedar Cliff Lake.
My boyfriend and his family rented this gorgeous place and invited me to join them and I opted out in the eleventh hour, even losing a $300.00 plane ticket. Why? Because the past 6 months, I have been super busy, and have not had my ample “just me” time, to think, write and create beyond my obligations, including my blogging. And as a creative, highly sensitive (HS) person this is like cutting off my oxygen.
I’m not complaining, I am grateful my life has been filled with giving keynote speeches on branding, working on a very exciting global brand transformation, enjoying two great relationships, one with a smart guy and the other with a very cute dog.
For years, I have felt this pressure, which often transforms into my most uncomfortable stress, and I didn’t know what it was or how to deal with it.
I recently discovered the work of Psychologist Elaine Aron in a Huffington Post article, called “Characteristics of Highly-Sensitive People.” I continued to learn more about this condition in her books and from other social science professionals’ works.
In her book The Highly-Sensitive Person, she claims that about 15 to 20 percent of the population is characterized as highly sensitive (HS).
She describes characteristics of highly sensitive people as:
1. Having great imagination
2. Having great intellectual abilities
3. Are creative
4. Having a curious mind
5. Are hard workers
6. Are good problem solvers
7. Are extremely conscious and compassionate
8. Are intuitive
9. Having a strong sense of aesthetic awareness
10. Respecting nature, art and music greatly
11. Having profound and intense sensations
12. Having the ability to access important information from the unconscious mind
13. Having a depth of understanding and feelings
14. Are objective and can see the bigger picture
This is me to a T.
Overall, she believes many of writers, creators, inventors, imaginaries, and people who have contributed greatly to this world may fall in the category of highly sensitive. If managed properly, these people can be big assets to society. If they don’t acknowledge that they are HS, they can suffer a lot of self-inflicted stress and frustration.
One way to manage HS is to have ample alone time, where the HS person manages their noise and other distractions. Aron contends physically, highly-sensitive people need time and space to be by themselves to process the amount of input they absorb. They may have a low tolerance to noise and anything too strong when it comes to sensations. They also seem to have more body awareness and can feel when their body is not comfortable in an environment. They also have to connect to nature and do regular exercise, relaxation, meditation and any other activities that go with their natural desire to calm themselves down and recharge after the over stimulation.
My work, and creating, is my greatest joy. Sufficient cave time and alone time often, without inner guilt or pressure from others, is the fuel I need to find this joy.
To my friends and family, thanks for understanding me.
More books on the subject of Highly-Sensitive People.
The Highly-Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide
There is no amount of butter that can help Paula Deen’s brand get out of this tight jam.
The past few weeks have not been pretty for Ms. Paula, the Southern belle, sweet potato, comfort food celeb. After being deposed in a lawsuit where a former employee alleged a culture of racism and sexual harassment, Paula under oath, admitted using the “N” word and I’m not referring to “Non-Fat.”
Her million-dollar empire went from deep-fried and happy to “where have all my sponsors gone?” Wal-Mart, Target, Smithfield Foods, Caesars Entertainment, The Food Network, Home Depot and even the drug maker Novo Nordisk all opted-out after the news broke.
Doing something bad is never good, but this situation went from bad, to insanely stupid, self-inflicted, career-ruining awful.
As a food professional, restaurant operator, chef or businessperson, take note of this very serious turn of events as a big-time foodie falls from grace and learn from it.
This week I did a couple of TV interviews on the subject of Paula Deen’s brand meltdown and share these tips with you on how to handle a very unfortunate event like this.
Depositions are public record.
What you say and how you say something can and will be used against you.
The bigger your brand, the more starving vultures are ready to pounce.
A big-personality, celebrity is a 24/7 walking target. It’s not small talk in Savannah.
Stay in front of the story.
Once you realize, you have said or done something that can be damaging to your brand, STOP, (seek professional help) and get in front of the negative story with your story. Your story needs to get out promptly, it needs to be credible and you need to take responsibility.
If you put out a youtube video, it had better be airtight.
There are no dress rehearsals in crisis management. Your video should be confident, no rambling on, no obvious edit cuts and honest solution to the negative event.
Put your big girl panties on.
Unless you are dead or in ambulance, if you commit to appear on a national TV show, like the Today Show with Matt Lauer, you’d better be there.
Or, if should you be so lucky like Paula was and you get a second opportunity with Matt Lauer, make it a story-changing interview, not a cry baby, dance around the real issue session.
I’m not putting any money on the “Comeback too soon Paula Deen” horse.
Paula and her posse had at least three opportunities to control the outcome of this landmine and they failed miserably.
Take a vacation. Think long and hard about how you can contribute to really changing the root of this situation with your brand’s stage.
If you do comeback, be relevant to the new age, the media and a diverse world of consumers and do manage your brand bumps better.
More articles on crisis management and brand turnaround you may find useful.
In a world with seemingly less time and so much more to consume I’ve identified three tighter, smaller and concise was of getting three important things done in my world.
1) Read theSkimm.com.
This daily feed of the top 3-4 news stories keep you informed even when your day does not allow any news reading, TV watching or much dialogue with your well-informed friends.
2) Weight train in 30 minute chunks.
For years I’ve tried, and then soon blown off, the hour-long weight training sessions with a personal trainer. I got bored. Most days after an hour, I was so sore, I never wanted to come back and the cost, in my mind, seemed excessive. A shorter 30-minute session is fun. I’m seeing the same results and I rationalize the expense as no different from a nice dinner out, but helps to reduces my waist line, not increase it. If you are in Tampa and need kick in the butt, and an inspiring trainer, I highly recommend Sasha Townsend.
3) Write shorter blogs.
Yes, in the beginning this will not seem like less of anything, because it is often a tougher task to get to the point with few words. Trust me, once you master the shorter, sweeter blog post style, it will mean you are a more effective writer and it is very likely, more people will enjoy your opinions, ideas and talents. I know I’ve been guilty. However, I am going to recommit to work this change into my blog writing. Sure, every now and then a “how to” branding subject or marketing issue will need or deserve a bit more detail, story or blah, blah, blah. That’s cool, but for now, I’m signing up to brief is better blog.
Got to go!
I’ve been suffering from plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition. Not sure why I have it. I’d like to think it’s because I’m such a competitive athlete. Which may be part of it or it could be my body is just getting worn down and aged.
What matters is not the origin of any challenge, but how do you play and win when you are in excruciating pain and not feeling your best.
I was down 5, 0. My opponent was hitting perfect drop shots. I was not able to move fast enough to get to them. I was very frustrated and mad that I was letting my brain think about the ouch in my heels and not what I needed to do to come back.
I needed to make some adjustments fast. Here’s what I did that help me turn this match around. These moves can help in business too.
1) Talk to yourself.
“What the hell are you doing, Karen, playing like a big loser, the victim. Get a grip. You beat this woman all the time. You are going to beat her today.” Self talk and verbal affirmations work. Practice this every day.
2) Control the story and outcome you desire in your head. And don’t believe everything your brain thinks.
I got so focused on the ball and my follow through, that the pain was not even on my radar screen any more. Tennis and business are a mental game and you decide a lot more outcome than most people think.
3) Play one point at a time. Make momentum.
When you start winning again, the points add up fast. Even if you are a visionary, play and work in the moment. Momentum is a powerful force and it starts with small baby achievements and mounts.
4) Don’t let being down, keep you down.
Come backs happen every day. Believe this. Have faith in you. Athletes perform miracles when there are only seconds left in the game. Businesses on the verge of bankruptcy turnaround and so can you.
5) Don’t bask in the achievement zone; get ready for the next shot within seconds.
Yeah getting a tough shot or business score deserves a little inner praise, but in tennis and business your competition does not care what you just did, they are there to win. Marvel your points and results after your win the match or earn your next million.
Many possess skills, talents and attributes that come easier to them than others. This stuff doesn’t feel like work, and it’s fun.
For some it is writing, rain making, negotiating, playing sports, singing, public speaking or even solving problems.
Many believe people who have these traits are considered naturals. They think gifts are included in the DNA, and are passed down when they got their set of genes. Or they are just lucky.
That may be true in a few rare cases. But I’m of the opinion there are no gifts of talent, and luck is extremely over rated, too. Gifts and luck happen, when you really love something, are passionate, invest in practicing a craft and continuously developing “the whatever”, they become a very natural, effortless act.
The origin of the gifts is really not so important. What you do with them is.
Here is the big, bad habit that will steal from your bank account every day if you let it.
Under valuing stuff you do that is easy.
- Discounting the value of your skills, attributes and traits, because it is not hard work.
- Don’t charge enough if you are in business or ask for enough when you work for someone else.
- Or you don’t get your fair share in a collaborative deal.
The value of your skills, talents and abilities and what they will earn you is partly up to the market. Will they pay and what will they pay? But, even more important is what you believe you and your stuff are worth as you control this part of the equation that often ends up in your bank account.
Don’t be guilty of under valuing stuff that comes easy to you. Be grateful it’s fun and do enjoy the experience.
Don’t short change your worth, your bank account or your future.
As outlined in my recent book, Brand Turnaround, through which I tell the stories of more than 75 brands, Game Changers are key concepts to brand transformation. If you’ve been following my article series on turnaround, you will recall that I’ve introduced you to six Game Changers: Take Responsibility, Never Give Up, Lead Strong, Stay Relevant, Keep Improving and Build Equity. In addition to these six, there is one last Game Changer—Own Your Distinction. And, for many brands, this is one of the most important strategies of them all.
In taking ownership of your brand distinction, your marketing dollars will be more effective because your investments link your product in consumers’ minds to recognizable and memorable proprietary tangible and intangible assets and attributes.
Brand distinction is defined as what makes you unique. It can stem from your offering, processes, packaging, persona or experiences but, in most cases, it comes from a combination of many. Once you’ve established distinction and own the turf associated with it, your brand increases in strength and is portrayed by consumers as an identifiable and memorable entity.
Distinction alone will not bring your brand back from a shake-up. The other Game Changers need to be addressed too. Your set of distinguishing factors need not only be uniquely yours but perceived as value-add and relevant to the market you are targeting. Once achieved, you will be in a better place to start your brand recovery, rebuilding your credibility, trust and authority in consumers’ minds.
Assess your brand’s level of distinction by answering these seven questions:
• Does your brand provide real substantive differences that are important to the customer?
• Does your brand provide convincing proof of these differences?
• Can you easily articulate your brand’s differences?
• Do your employees exemplify the brand differences through word and deed?
• Relative to the price difference, does your brand deliver substantially more value than does your best competitor?
• Does your messaging and communication exemplify your brand differences?
• Is your brand distinction easy to copy or are the barriers of entry strong?
While these questions serve as a good starting point to establish your brand distinction, there are some other things you need to do. You must demonstrate a great level of courage, display long-term commitment over short-term results and create an integrated brand messaging campaign. These things will help your brand to stand out among competitors and can also permeate to wide-ranging consumer touchpoints.
Ultimately you want to create your own exclusive formula whose components result in individuality. For example, Geek Squad, one of the cases in my book Brand Turnaround, did this through the use of humor, harmony, helpfulness and availability. Add to that, unique packaging, and a brand-centric culture that plays through the brand story and work environment, brand reach and communication, and you have a highly regarded brand.
Other brands that I admire and examine in my book who have established a strong distinctive market position include SunChips, Fizzies and Pee-wee Herman. These three brands not only established themselves as distinct as Geek Squad, but they also faced significant turmoil and brand bumps yet managed to bounce back due in large part to their unique and distinct brand story.
Whether your distinction is by being the “healthy” or “green” brand choice (as SunChips is), an innovative brand offering consumers experience through its use and a unique delivery system to accompany the product (as Fizzies is) or simply a very unique character persona (as Pee-wee Herman is), execute on a platform that you can own—one that has legs and that your competitors can’t copy.
If your brand manufactures baby food, you will have a far different formula of distinction than a brand selling tattoo ink. Clearly the two targets have distinct demographics and value systems. The method of standing out and sticking in the minds of the buyer should be as unique as they are.
Distinction planning involves two parts, first identifying your opportunities for difference (e.g., brand niches, personality, look and feel, physical size and stature, campaigns, pricing, delivery methods, locations, materials or brand stories) then you must own your distinction by articulating what makes you different, creating patterns of credible proof in all your touch points, translating your distinction to market segments within your fan base and leveraging symbols and messages in both internal and public communications.
Being distinct takes courage and commitment. While no one Game Changer will ensure your brand immunity to a shake-up, the combination of all seven will help contribute to your bounce back in the event you find yourself in choppy waters.
This article is based on content from Karen Post’s latest book, Brand Turnaround (McGraw-Hill).