Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

American Idol had it all wrong by asking contestants to sing Billy Joel tunes this week.  Even though he was 24 years old when The Piano Man was released, Billy Joel was not your typical 20-something – certainly not like this year’s Idol contestants.  By then, he had earned his stripes as a lounge singer, healing his wounds from a first album failure.

Plus, you have to consider the idea that Billy Joel’s ’24’ is not the same as yours and mine – that dude is an old soul with a lot of layers.  Which is perhaps why Garth Brooks performing New York State of Mind with Billy Joel and Barry White’s take on Just The Way You Are works…

Aside from wanting to share some old footage of Barry White, there is a marketing communications lesson here: don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.

American Idol tried to make its contestants (square peg) sing songs that just weren’t (in my humble opinion) suited to their strengths (round hole).  These contestants have some very strong voices – something that may be better suited for the likes of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Marc Anthony and the like.  You don’t need a powerhouse voice to perform a Billy Joel song – his music doesn’t require vocal gymnastic.  I believe that the more you add on, the less ‘Joel’ you get.

As a marketing communications pro, you should never try to fit your square peg into a round hole – epsecially if you’ve delivered at a  certain level on other projects.  Case in point: when I was in New York, I worked with this one guy who could write just about anyone under the table – he was fast, smart and very creative at re-working dull copy.  The one time we let him speak to the client was enough to give him the opportunity to decline future meetings – the dude was sweating, stammered his way through a few sentences and looked shifty.  He was so nervous that it just presented an inaccurate portait of his strengths.

Squre Peg | Round Hole.

This is not to say that you should stay in your square peg world.  Nay Nay.  You should definitely try new things and strengthen what weaknesses you may have.  But to put yourself out there as being able to perform at the same level with *everything* that comes with the gig…is…a…mistake.  Know when to ask for help; seek advice; get a mentor; and lean on your team.  That’s what they are there for!

So, when was the last time you saw a ‘square peg in a round hole’ situation?  Have *you* ever put yourself into a ‘square peg | round hole’ situation?


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Say What?


One of the biggest gripes I have with people (myself included) is that we aren’t the best at…well, expressing ourselves clearly.  We’re pretty good at things like naming what TV shows we like, what kind of foods we prefer and what movie may have seen over the weekend. 


But when it comes to telling our own story (especially in business), quite often what comes out is something close to the Charlie Brown teacher…



Just a lot of jibberish that only makes sense to those who are used to the internal shorthand of the team.  With friends, this kind of thing can pass – we all have our own little picadillos and nicknames that only make sense to our individual tribes. 


However, in the business of communications, how can we let this happen?  There are lots of websites, press kits, etc. out there that are about as useful as a floppy disk for an iMac G3 (internal dialogue: ‘NERD’). Like Peppermint Patty, did we fall asleep in the midst of translating the ‘kwaah-kwaah-kwaah’ (Charlie Brown Teacher speak) for the masses?


Quite simply, I believe that we’ve taken for granted that outside audiences will ‘get it’ when they read your materials – be it a website, a company fact sheet, a BIO, whatever.  But unless your external audience is comprised of people from your board room, it is safe to say that no one will ‘get it.’


It is with this in mind that I offer up three tips to keep in mind when helping your audience ‘get it’…


Take a Quick Look: take a look at what you have drafted up (be it copy for your client’s website, a press kit, etc.) and take a quick snapshot of one piece.  Does this one piece look like something that would make sense to your target audience? Is it filled with jargon or industry-speak that can only be understood by 10% of your audience?


Take a Breather: it’s quite easy to get so entrenched with your own work that your fuzzy parts start looking clear.  It’s kind of like working at a chicken farm or at a cattle ranch – pretty soon you forget about ‘the smell’ until some ‘city folk’ come in to remind you of the stench.  You need to give yourself a break to get some outside air and perspective.


Bring In An Outsider: be it someone from your team who’s not involved with the drafting of the ‘working documents,’ a colleague that’s familiar with your particular industry or a family member, give someone else a look-see. Having a fresh point of view on what you already have working almost always leads to improvements.


So, communicators: what do you think?  What other things have you done to help bring some clarity to your client’s materials?  What have you done to help people on the outside ‘get it’ for your clients?


This post was cross-posted on Waxing Unlyrical – a blog that is owned and operated by the wonderfully savvy and smart Shonali Burke.

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led zeppelinI’ve been thinking a lot about how so very exciting it is to be a communicator these days – with the proliferation of new ideas and methodologies (be it from Brian Solis & Deirdre Breakenridge’s new work to Richard Laermer’s 2011, or Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell) in this new millennium, this 21st Century network known as social media has only enhanced and extended the reach of these kinds of ideas.


Moreover, it’s pretty much opened up the idea (even though it was always there) and likelihood of multiple practices in communications to work together for one common goal.  Who knew…?  Changes are a comin’…quite frankly, it’s been a long time comin.’ 


But there are still some people that insist that we have this one-off approach where camps are sectioned off and people are ‘brought in at the right time.’  Seems like more ‘process’ than real action to me.


Funny enough, though, every time I think about this 21st Century version of collaborative communications, I think of a 20th Century band – Led Zeppelin.



Of course, I’m a little biased, but I see it this way:


Robert Plant (Lead Vocals) – Taking on the role of lead vocals, public relations can help define and lead the charge of a communications effort.  Like Robert Plant’s vocals in the beginning of Immigrant Song can help sound the charge of a new effort. 

Jimmy Page (Lead Guitar) – Like Jimmy Page, social media is helping to change the way things are being done in communications.  Engaging, fun, compelling – all cornerstones of a good social media campaign…and true descriptions of Señor Page.

John Paul Jones (Bass) – Gritty, driving and in-your-face, guerilla marketing can help move people in new ways to discover a product or idea.  Like John Paul Jones, this marketing tool is particularly versatile.

John Bonham (Drums) – Led Zeppelin’s drummer was a key element (both emotionally and in their sound), providing the solid foundation and backbone of the band.  Like advertising, his powerful beats and distinctive ‘feel for the groove’ made their sound that much more unique and impactful.


Now, this is just four tools in the marketing toolbox.  What other tools/practices would you include in this 21st Century scenario?  What other music acts would you compare collaborative communications to?

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