On Writing Bones and Great Springs

On Writing Bones and Great Springs

Natalie Goldberg has a new book out called The Great Spring. It's wonderful.

Those who love to write likely remember the breakthrough book called "Writing Down the Bones." It came out in 1987. It was a quiet debut, but after being handed along from writing friend to writing friend, the book became a phenomenon.

Goldberg is like the Doctor Ruth of writing -- she gives us permission to just do it. Just do it, enjoy it, talk about it, practice it, make mistakes, have successes, and overall just keep experimenting and having a great time.

Goldberg also elevates writing practice to another level, where a daily writing practice resembles a sort of spiritual discipline, a la Zen meditation or zazen. But frankly I tend to overlook that bit. I love the juicy part of the practice: the rush of opening the mind a certain way, the feel of the pen, the urgency, the focus, and the exhale that comes after.

I wondered, what would a workshop with Natalie Goldberg be like?

Well, recently I was invited to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Writing Down the Bones with Natalie and about 300 of her friends at the fabled Mable Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. It was a full weekend of festivities, readings, speeches, shares, warmth, humor, meditations and more. The events culminated in a writing workshop, my first.

If you get a chance to attend a Natalie Goldberg workshop -- do it.

I've made a living via writing for many years but never attended a writing workshop. "I don't like groups," I thought. At least, I imagined I didn't learn well in a classroom, that writing is best learned by -- well -- writing. But that was misguided. A writing class, it turns out, is like an exercise class. Sure, you can do yoga on your own, but your postures are a little more crisp, the workout a little more thorough, and the satisfaction at the end a little more validated somehow in a room full of people doing it along with you. There's more of the juicy bits: there's more focus, more urgency, more rush. And more results.

I felt a new confidence as a writer after the weekend. I felt more solid, more centered in the process, in the work. All this surprised me.

So if you've never been, try a workshop with Natalie Goldberg. It's instant return on investment. Her books are mini-workshops, also a good investment. But the workshop is really special.

A public reading, similar to how a workshop looks -- until you break off into groups...

A public reading, similar to how a workshop looks -- until you break off into groups...

If you're a writer or know someone who is -- definitely give the gift of Goldberg.

What Girls Want

What Girls Want

It was fun!

In late January, advocates for women and girls gathered in Santa Fe as NewMexicoWomen.Org held their annual legislative reception. Attendees numbered about 250. It was a lively, friendly, delightful atmosphere and an inspiring, informative evening.

Here are some notes from the sold-out, at-capacity event.

A prominent male politician took the stage and said, "Let's face it, patriarchy can't solve the problems it created. Our best strategy is to promote women, immediately." -- from the Keynote Address *
       The room listens to Teresa Younger, CEO and President of Ms. Foundation for Women

       The room listens to Teresa Younger, CEO and President of Ms. Foundation for Women

Notes collected from all speakers --

As a society we need:

  1. To be investing in women and girls
  2. Not just jails and housing for the needy, we need health, education, opportunities
  3. To get together and actually talk about issues that matter
  4. To hear from women who are at meetings like this
  5. To hear from women who are not at meetings like this
  6. Community advocacy
  7. To provide life stuff: reproductive education, reproductive control, education, physical safety
  8. As importantly, we need to allow women and girls to create art. They need art supplies.
  9. Healing
  10. To talk to women and girls
  11. To listen to women and girls
  12. To trust women and girls

What women and girls want:

  1. Bus fare -- to get to events, to work, to learning centers
  2. Resources -- housing, food money, and other basic safety nets
  3. Community centers
  4. Diapers, healthy food, babysitting
  5. Notebooks, pens, paper, paints and paint brushes
  6. Science magazines
  7. Beautiful fabrics
  8. Time to sew, to read, to research
  9. Computer lessons
  10. Safe places
  11. Spiritual and social encouragement
  12. To be talked to
  13. To be heard
  14. To be trusted
  15. And, again, bus fare.

More here.

    Senator Soules listens to Roberta Duran, Deputy Director, New Mexico Dept. of Health

    Senator Soules listens to Roberta Duran, Deputy Director, New Mexico Dept. of Health

Some specifics:

Keynote speaker Teresa Younger, Ms. Foundation for Women President and CEO, flew in from New York and spoke beautifully, powerfully about the benefits of supporting girls and women in the modern era. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, treat yourself, she's wonderful.

Special guests included the sparkling, effervescent Dr. Patricia Trujillo, Associate Professor of English and Chicana/o Studies at Northern New Mexico College, and the beloved poet Andrea J. Serrano, also Deputy Director of Olé New Mexico Education Fund.

Partners from OLÉ Education Fund, Southwest Women’s Law Center, Tewa Women United and Young Women United were there, also the SouthWest Organizing Project’s Con Mujeres campaign.

NewMexicoWomen.Org (NMW.O) employs a three-pronged strategy to advance opportunities for women:

  1. Educate: NMW.O brings public attention to the issues affecting women and girls with an eye towards influencing policy and philanthropy
  2. Lead: NMW.O facilitates alliances among non-profits, funders and other sectors in order to concentrate resources and foster collaboration
  3. Invest: NMW.O leverages philanthropic investments in programs serving women and girls statewide through our donor education and strategic grant making efforts

To donate, or to find out more about NMW.O, visit this page.

     Ted Harrison, President & CEO of the New Mexico Community Foundation, listens

     Ted Harrison, President & CEO of the New Mexico Community Foundation, listens

To get involved, to give, or to get inspired -- contact Women in New Mexico.Org here, or the Ms. Foundation for Women here. Your involvement can facilitate change.

It's what girls want.


* The quote at top is paraphrased from Teresa Younger's keynote address. For more info, contact her office.

How To Promote a Book: Appearances II

How To Promote a Book: Appearances II

So you're promoting a book. Congratulations.

Now, what do you do when a bookstore manager has handed you some unhappy, fluorescently-lit little nook with a confusing and untidy background as a stage for your author event? Some folks asked for specifics on what to do.

Below is our 10 step guide to overcoming this obstacle.

Typically, you won't find out what your author's stage looks like until you arrive ten minutes before the event. 99% of the time the stage is a visual disaster. It's as if bookstore managers have never attended an event themselves. Cramped quarters, bad lighting, terrible seats... it seems designed for discomfort and little else.

So as manager of the event, take matters into your own hands. A tidy environment is a life changing thing. So first of all, insist on a tidy, uncluttered area. Consider renting comfortable chairs, too.

Do visit our previous post on what NOT to do. In it we discuss why coverage of the event is more important than the event itself. Remember, it's a book promotion event. It's not a project management meeting.

Seriously: prepare the set as if it were a film set or professional photo opp for the author, keeping in mind that celebrities on the red carpet are photographed in certain places and at certain angles FOR A REASON. Allow the author the same opportunity.

How to set up an author appearance

Follow this 10 step guide:

  1. Remember that the point of a book promotional event is to get good pictures of the author (and the venue) so the images will be shared on Facebook and other media. If you do not think that is the entire point of the event, then you need to hire a new promotional team. See previous post, which explains why the point of a book reading is to get good photos and have them shared on Facebook.
  2. Prepare days or even weeks in advance by surveying the scene. Go to the venue. Work with the bookstore / gallery manager to address lighting & backgrounds and other details. Don't worry, you will be better at it each time.
  3. Consider bringing your own lighting for the nook or podium where they will be placed while reading. Example: a $50 floor lamp from Staples (with flexible heads) can do wonders, similar to a spotlight. Better, borrow a spotlight from a photographer. Rent one. Whatever, get one.
  4. Insist that inspiring but unobtrusive music is played while the audience filters in. Try something ambient. Without flute. Please.)
  5. Ask if you can, set up a photo area, where attendees can have their picture taken with the author. This would be after the Q&A, maybe during the signing process. Let all attendees use the area, as both model and photographer. See, this way you control somewhat how the photos are taken. Make sure the lighting and angles in the photo area are such that everyone looks their best in the photos. (Stand by to help folks use their iPhones to best effect during this phase of the event. If you don't have basic iPhone photo skills, hire someone who does: a local high schooler if nothing else. iPhone photos are basic, essential stuff in publicity / social media today. Example: try using the Chrome filter, and always, always hold the camera up high when taking pictures of people, it makes everyone look thinner and it hides excess under-chin baggage, along with other benefits.)
  6. House lights go down while author reads or while presentations are made.
  7. Lights stay down during Q&A, people are more apt to speak up in low light.
  8. The music / lights come back up after the Q&A.
  9. Arrive an hour and a half early to the event itself. Don't show up ten minutes prior and expect the set to be dressed, the music queued and the floor manager to be prepped, even if it was promised. Just plan to do it yourself. Be realistic.
  10. Video of the event is another subject, but with similar principles. Flattering lighting, pre-planned good camera angles, etc. To all this you must add "top quality audio." Spend money on microphones. It's well established that a viewing audience will forgive bad video quality, but will not forgive bad sound. Think about it, hollow, cheap audio is worse than, or just as bad as, lighting that makes you look like a ghoul.
  11. Again: encourage your client to engage the services of a stylist. Even if that stylist is a niece or granddaughter with some contemporary flair. Note: with hair and makeup, less is more, but some is better than none. A good piece of advice is: spend two hours on hair, makeup and wardrobe -- with the goal of making it look like you spent no time at all. Hey, I'm just an observer, I don't make the rules. This is what works!

It's time to raise the curtain

In the days when book readings began, there would be a curtain raised and theatrical lighting and so forth. These tricks (costume, hair & makeup, designated photo area, placed extras, etc.) are not new. They are of course used at the Academy Awards and at every event in the known universe... except, it seems, for authors at book readings / workshops.

This is not fair to authors.

If authors have to get out and mingle and read and promote their own work, make it worth their while. Bookstore managers, come on! Let's not pretend it's 1891 and that all that matters is that you have a bookstore. Mark Twain is not coming to town. Folks are waiting at home to read on Facebook whether or not the book is any good and whether your bookstore is a place they want to visit. So help them answer, "Yes." They need to see the pictures. And the pictures need to look good.

The good news: if you wrote a book, it's easy to stand out if your promotional person is the only one paying attention to this stuff! You'll be the only one shared on social media and in regular media. So hire a promotional manager who pays attention to this stuff.

Did you ever notice that no one, ever, posts pictures of book readings on Facebook? And rarely in newspapers or on CNN?

That can change.



How To Promote A Book: Appearances

How To Promote A Book: Appearances

You've written a book. A bookstore has scheduled a promotion. How should you prepare?

The takeaway: coverage of the event is worth more than the event itself. Like the Oscars: without TV cameras, photographers, commentators, bloggers, newspaper and magazine write-ups, the Oscar ceremony is just a dinner party. But the coverage is gold for the stars.

And so it should be for literary events. Coverage is gold for the authors. So here's the thing...

Set the stage

This post came about because we attended a reading for a respected literary launch at an esteemed bookstore. We left grumpy. See, we'd tried to take pictures of the reading, of the audience, of the bookstore, to help promote the launch on this blog and on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

It seemed the organizers of the event were opposed to marketing. Did they not want us to photograph the event? Were they hoping no one would snap a photo and share it on Facebook with 1000 people?

Because every photo we took make the event look boring. Imagine if you watched the Oscars and no one dressed up, the lighting was the worst it could be, and there were no "photo spots" for photographers to get a good angle? l

Our several hundred photos were useless. The event looked like the most terribly-lit, boring, I-don't-want-to-go-there event of the season. We never posted a single image or even mentioned the thing again.

Until...  one author contacted us and asked for a picture for use in their own promotion. Fair enough. (Smart author! Yes!) However, we had nothing to share, even with a combined 30 years of Photoshop experience, the images were useless. That's when we realized something must be said about marketing a book reading, or any promotional event like it.

Let's take it backwards. Imagine a photograph of the last book event you attended. You'll have to imagine it because if you bothered to take a photo at all, you didn't keep it, and you definitely didn't post it on Instagram or Facebook for all to see. Because everyone, including the author, looked ugly and uninspired in the photo.

Get things started

Typically, a book event photo looks like a bunch of grey haired people sat in a cramped, badly lit second-grade classroom and they aged a couple of years while they were there. The uncomfortable chairs make the audience sit uncomfortably. Everyone looks old and tired, and this is because of the lighting, not because of the people. No one appears interesting, engaging or engaged. Pictures of the author are equally as withering. The lighting is cruel. There's no music, and you can tell.

Anyone on Facebook would choose to look at a cat video instead.

Remember, there's a lot of competition for attention these days. And those cat videos are well thought out and carefully edited. At this point, pretty much everything on the internet is.

So you have to at least try to be interesting. Viewers can tell when you didn't try.

Put on make-up, light the lights

A million dollar tip for authors: stage these workshops / reading events FOR PHOTOS. To be shared. On Facebook. And in magazines. And in blog posts.

Coverage of the event is the point of the event itself. Consider: this is a modern-day author appearance. This is exciting! Yay! There should be a red carpet, dammit, if you've ever tried to write a book you will agree. Publishing a book is a big deal, and it's awesome.

But remember: this is not an an old time Grange Hall lecture in Victorian times. Please think about that. Everything about this book-reading event must photograph well. Because it's 1980. No wait! It's 2016!

Here's what's needed:

  1. Dramatic and flattering lighting for the author
  2. Dramatic and flattering lighting for the author
  3. Please, dramatic and flattering lighting for the author
  4. An uncluttered, organized, nice-to-look at background behind the presenters / authors
  5. All signage should all be evaluated. Example: did the store manager write the book title in pink chalk on green chalkboard? Just say No! The writing will be illegible in photos, therefore any post on Facebook will not include any data, like the name of the book or author.) (See photo at bottom for example of what not to do.)
  6. Good looking, younger people as extras should be hired, and/or coerced into attending, and should be sat in the audience and told to look eager. Let's not pretend that a hip and attentive looking audience does not matter. If you see a picture of a concert, say, and all you see in the audience are dispassionate, retired people... then you are going to click on that cat video over there. Fast.
  7. The press should be invited.
  8. Special, excellent angles / areas should be set aside for photographers, even for amateur photographers, or jees, especially for amateur photographers. But remember, if the local newspaper can't get a good photograph, i,e, if the author doesn't "look cool," the paper is not going to run much story about the event. They can't -- or they will be fired; they have to sell subscriptions. So provide a press box!
  9. Photos and social media shares should be encouraged. The event manager must tell people attending, specifically, "Yes! We want you to take pictures!"
  10. Remind people in the audience that they may be photographed, as they are in a public place, if they have a problem with this find a seat in back. A lot of times those of us wanting to snap and share pictures feel we're intruding, or not allowed. "Please take pictures and share them on Facebook" is perhaps the most important thing to tell event attendees, and arguably the most important aspect of the event itself.
  11. People who are attending want nothing more than to be associated with this author (or poet), they WANT to promote both the book and the venue on Facebook. So let them!
  12. If it's a workshop or similar private event, you may want to disallow photos, but I recommend instead you allow photos to be taken, say, on just one evening, for a certain period, perhaps from 6-7PM in a properly-lighted and definitely-staged corner of a lovely room during the Welcome cocktail reception, for instance, when people are already dressed up and generally ebullient and excited. (Excited energy translates well into photos.)
  13. Consider helping the "stars" of the show with hair and makeup, any teenage daughter can help. Even minimal, simple clothes that are not faded or wrinkled would be a good start. And posture is key. Practice. Try to stand like a rock star. Practice what postures and angles work best.

It's time to get things started

Begin right away: an author must get used to having photos taken. Read on the internet what types of colors (never white) and fabrics (never wrinkly fabrics) photograph well under spotlights. No photos of the under-chin. Ever. This is basic stuff.

Again: lighting and clothes and makeup are your friends. All this will pay off when a photo of the author presenting makes them look intriguing, competent, and surrounded by a gaggle of other, nice-looking and interesting people. It's the old popularity thing. The author must be presented like a person that the average potential buyer of the book will Like.

When you see the picture at bottom, you will understand what NOT to do.

If you put a photo like this (below) on Facebook, it gets two Likes and is forgotten before most see it to begin with (Facebook has an algorithm that buries not-popular material). However, if you put a picture of a good-looking author photographed well and reading at a well-respected venue -- even a small bookstore -- it should get a hundred Likes. And shares. And multiply this by the 50 people who attended...

There is nothing shareable about this photo (below), and no way to make it shareable. As such, the event almost may as well have never happened. Except for the people who went there, no one is ever going to know about it. And those folks would have bought the book anyway. So what was the point of the event?

And do not ever let this happen:

ZZZZzzzzzz.  Be honest, do you have any interest in what's going on in this picture?

Caption: "Think I'll watch a cat video."



What's the Architecture of Your Marketing Content?

What's the Architecture of Your Marketing Content?

When you design a marketing campaign, think of it as architecture. Think of your communications pieces as having an architectural style.

This way you can stick with a theme. For example: modern architecture. This would be similar to the clean, short bursts of information a la Seth Godin, when it comes to written content, and a la Apple when it comes to everything (images, color schemes, video, written content, overall feel, etc).

Consider which style you most relate to:

Rococo: the somewhat indulgent yet stately and luxurious feel of brands like Jumeirah and Valentino
Victorian: the conservative, buttoned up yet decorous style of Liberty or St. Pancras Train Station or arguably (although it's technically Queen Anne Revival but close enough for this discussion) Harrods
Craftsman: a new world blend of function and form, with an "outdoors" timbre, like the marketing style of Ralph Lauren
Glamping tents: Higher end outdoorsy brands like Patagonia (so-called "Patagucci")
Southwestern: not overwrought, desert tones, and with slightly rugged structure, sometimes with decorative nods to Native cultures, a la the Taos Pueblo and Georgia O'Keeffe's brand

Of course there are many more. Hone in on one style you like -- and stick with it.

Rococo style images and communications would be bursting with detail, use sumptuous wording, and end in luxurious flourishes.

Craftsman messages would be warmer, shorter and to the point.

You have the idea.

Just continue to build on it.

Japan: Gone Whalin'

The brain trust at www.willustration.com published the following earlier:

1. There is an open logo competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
2. Japan has resumed whaling today.
3. Coke is a proud sponsor of the Olympics.

So here is the willustration entry for the logo competition. Introducing Harpoony the Whale!!

Feel free to share. Spread the word! Image credit goes to www.willustration.com.




The Feeling Tone

The Feeling Tone

What's the feeling-tone of your enterprise?

Imagine a chord played on a guitar -- what's yours?

Have and name a feeling-tone for your brand or company mission.

Then know and name the emotional tone of each communications piece -- does it rock-the-boat? Soothe? Excite? Provoke? Inspire?

Does the chord evoke sexy or calm? An A-minor or an open G? In general, keep the feeling-tone of all your marketing on one note. If that can't work, use three chords that complement each other. Insist your communications developers name that tune.

How To Capitalize a Headline

How To Capitalize a Headline

This is the best approach to writing headlines.

Capitalize the first word of every letter except articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions of three letters or fewer. There’s one exception: Any word that is the first word in the headline or the last word should be capitalized, regardless of its part of speech. So that last headline, in AP style, would leave one “to” lowercase and capitalize the other:
Knowing Which Loved One to Make Your Will Out To
The biggest problem writers have with this simple system is remember that is and it, unlike in, are not prepositions. Is is a verb and it is a pronoun. So they’re always uppercased in AP style headlines. -- Grammar Underground

I literally have this printed on a piece of paper and pinned to a wall. It's from Grammar Underground. It's perfect.

Jail: A Collision Story

Jail: A Collision Story

The current talk track against incarcerating criminals needs to be elevated. Here's how.

Tell a "collision story."  A collision story is a tale that comes on like a rushing wave -- directly opposed to what's been sitting as fact.

Take "criminals should go to jail." Most people believe that. A collision story takes the wind out of those sails. Consider this, it's how the Babemba tribe of South Africa deals with offenders of their tribal laws.

The accused individual is placed at the center of the village circle, which is comprised of all of the inhabitants of the village (including young children). Each member of the tribe speaks in turn, recalling positive encounters that they have had with the accused. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited in detail and at great length.
This ceremony often can last for days, after which the circle is closed amidst great celebration, and the accused is welcomed back into the village. - Wink Franklin, in a review of Jack Kornfield's book, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace

Meanwhile, in the United States, we incarcerate the largest percentage of our population of any country. Might there be another way?

Sometimes a collision story can break open a concept we've taken for granted, like the importance of punishing and shaming "bad guys." Consider using a collision story to bring life to your cause.

 -- More about the Babemba tribe here and here.




The Projection of Language

The Projection of Language

What we see in the world is heavily influenced by language. Consider the thoughts of Benjamin Lee Whorf, a chemical engineer by profession who studied linguistics at Yale in his spare time.

Whorf took a special interest in the Hopi language. One of Whorf's most interesting quotes shows how language defines our world, our reality, literally what we experience when we walk out the door or watch a movie or have a conversation.

We say "see that wave"-the same pattern as "see that house." But without the projection of language no one ever saw a single wave. We see a surface in ever-changing undulating motions. Some languages cannot say "a wave"; they are closer to reality in this respect. Hopi say walalata, "plural waving occurs," and can call attention to one place in the waving just as we can. -- Paper published by Standford University

Thing is, there's no such thing as a wave separate from other waves. But in current American culture, we believe in such separations and this is reflected in tiny aspects of our communications.

When you're writing, talking or even thinking -- consider what overall impression you want to give (wholeness? don't refer to a singular "wave"). Find another way to express what you mean to say. Words can and must align with concept.

Maybe you have one voice that speaks in distinct entities and separation (wave), and another that never does (water). Maybe you start every blog post or advertising piece or soliloquy with waves -- and end in wholeness.

It's up to the writer. The interesting part, the fun part, the meaningful part is to use language on purpose.

Finding A Company's Communications Style

Finding A Company's Communications Style

How do you find your style as a company?

Here are key elements:

  1. First, know and name the emotional tone of your primary communications -- if you don't know, name the emotional affect of, say, your website. Does it upset? Soothe? Inspire? Does it evoke sex (beer ads) or a calm moment (sleeping pills) or both (chocolate)? Does it evoke love (greeting cards) or activism (charity)?
  2. Know your narrative -- your company (or your idea) is a place where something happens. A simple example: "Kathleen started her own agency so she would have the flexibility to move out west." Know your story, Keep it simple, memorable.
  3. Be visual, even jarring -- see image at bottom. Use images and words that are unsettling... and then calming. A good example is almost any photo from the edge of the Grand Canyon.
  4. Make sure that each ad, each image, each written piece strikes your emotional tone. And make it dovetail with your story. Make each item jarring enough to be memorable, but soothing at the finish.

This image is a wonderful example of these principles. I was passing a gallery exhibit at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport last year. I simply snapped a photo of a woman who was having a moment looking at art. What a composition! This image does everything a communications piece should do. It's slightly unnerving (is the woman looking at an ovary or is that a bald man? Wait, is that a real woman or part of the exhibit?). It's also inspiring (wait, are all those forms feminine?) And the more you engage with it the more a theme emerges.

Our minds love it when a theme emerges, a resolution. It's called a "payoff" in plots and in scriptwriting. It's a release. It's easier than you think to do this with your communications pieces.

If you can't quickly name your company style, collect images that arrest you then settle you, as the one above does for me (and for my target audience of educated, artsy, feminine-appreciating, well-traveled individuals).

Pin images that do this for you to your wall for two weeks.

You'll start to see your style. Then you can create an entire communications program around it, and your communications will start to make sense, from the inside out. By their very nature such communications will attract a certain audience. There are things you can do to reach out to that audience, sure, but do begin with a core style.


How To Use Compliance and Stewardship in Marketing

How To Use Compliance and Stewardship in Marketing

A company's compliance and sustainability efforts have impact in the world, sometimes immediately, sometimes over time, sometimes both.

So why not create a communications campaign around changes in processes and products you've made and will continue to make? Stewardship is here to stay. World leaders -- from top scientists to President Obama to the Pope -- are calling for resource conservation. Platforms and policy and papacy push toward cleaner air, more responsible products, forward-thinking design, greener processes, and materials recycle and reuse.

Public opinion will reflect that of world leaders. So jump out ahead. Consider compliance mandates or stewardship best practices you already employ and tell people about them. Publicize what you're doing -- and what you plan to do.

Your message will basically say: "We are aware we're not the center of the universe." How about that? It's refreshing. And honest. And real.

Is your business trying to command the attention of other businesses (B2B)? Or are you trying to win the confidence of a consumer directly (B2C)? Either way, your compliance history and your environmental strategy can be woven into your marketing and communications to help earn trust, credibility, and, ultimately, more business from your audience.

Keep your message lean and clean. Simple is powerful. Have a plan in place on how to get your message out, it can be simple, it might be just sending a simple email to a list of customers or simply updating your website with a new article, or a new second-tier tagline.

Make a "Clean Power Plan" for your company's stewardship message!

Bon chance and bons mots.

What Is Sustainability?

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability is perspective.

                                                                                                                                Source: Fatina Saikaly

                                                                                                                                Source: Fatina Saikaly

This illustration challenges what we really believe. It also sets the vision for long term risk mitigation. The question is, what's your company's perspective? It might be helpful to draw it out, as above.

For a Sustainability Officer presenting to a Marketing group (or Sales group or even C-suite), it might be interesting to have attendees draw their own view, also what view they perceive the company as having.

What Marketing believes the company is about will seep into all communications. So it's important to, as it were, share a perspective.

A Little Patagonia Love

A Little Patagonia Love

Patagonia: great clothes, peerless marketing.

Patagonia's marketing

Like their apparel, Patagonia's marketing is top quality, thoughtfully designed, well-edited and highly functional. I recently received an irresistible email from them that brought me to a web page.

The web page is simple. It's a blog post that is mostly pictures. The piece tells the story of a Patagonia trip across the USA in a van. The van stopped in various towns en route, where Patagonia agents solicited clothes that required mending. People brought their clothes to the van for fixes. Simple story.

The article and photos showcases the journey and the interactions with customers who love Patagonia clothes. You get the sense of a company that cares about its community. You get swept along in the feel-good nature of place and person encounters. And of course, everyone enjoys the free-spirited flavor of a road trip.

You can't help but feel good reading it. You kind of wish you'd been there. That is good marketing!

Small business notes

The Patagonia piece does something else, something often overlooked by even the best online marketers. Patagonia hired a great photographer (D. Hedden) to go on the trip and take outstanding pictures.

Standout images are critical for every company's website, emails and brochures. It's true at every revenue level. It's even true on Etsy! Here's an example.

A woman sells inexpensive items on Etsy. She makes $1 million per year. True story. Alicia Shaffer is the owner of ThreeBirdNest, an Etsy shop selling "bohemian women's accessories." Last year she made $960,000. She reported $128,000 in sales in the month of January 2015.

And what's her secret? Good pictures are her secret! In her own words:

It all comes down to photography and the way you style your items, Shaffer says. ThreeBirdNest’s items are among the top hits for an Etsy search of "lace headband," and the images are among the only ones that are well-lit, featuring a professional-looking model. -- Fast Company

That's it! That's the million dollar difference! "Good lighting and a good model." Because all of us will click on the best looking image. That's a fact. Yet so much online marketing continues to use mediocre images. Usually with "good-enough" staging done by non-creatives -- all nested in lazy writing that an intern churned out in 45 minutes, after an all night fraternity event.

That is not a million dollar revenue ladder.

That's as far as you can get from what Patagonia and Alicia Shaffer are doing.

The good news is, it's easy to stand out. Good taste goes a long way these days. Hire creative professionals. Even if you think you're pretty good at it.

It's a simple story

In Patagonia's case, they used world-class, standout photography documenting the journey, along with excellent writing and a simple story. Here's their simple story:

"We went across the country to meet our customers and to mend, for free, any holes or wear & tear in the products they bought from us; here's who we met and what we saw."

Any company could do it on a smaller scale. Meet with customers in your state. Maybe this:

"We met with people in our home state who use our products. We bought them a slice of pizza, snapped a few photos of us joking around, and we talked about why they like our stuff; here's who we met and what we saw."

Augment that with great photos. Use short and sweet writing. It's a memorable and shareable marketing message. We'll want to go along with you. That's good marketing! Even if it's the only blog post you ever do.

What's your company's message? Would an article like Patagonia's work on your website? Or perhaps your enterprise would benefit from simply finding a standout photographer in your area and serving up compelling, one-of-a-kind images that make your audience want to connect with you. For example, just pictures of aircraft perform very well in terms of people's attention. Pictures of mountains are also popular. And there are other tricks to use that keep your web page, content and even printed materials "sticky," meaning that people will engage with them longer. 

Contact us to have a discussion about what might work for you.


The Secret to Standout Marketing

The Secret to Standout Marketing

The secret to standout marketing is... good taste.

Good taste is what distinguishes your business. It's how you stand out from every other company that has a website, a blog, a newsletter, email campaigns and a trade show booth. Yours can have that unique look and feel. That sense of Quality. That je ne sais quoi.

Your marketing service provider should of course deliver analytics on a responsive and mobile friendly website, memorable ads & collateral, a tasteful and reliable social media presence and a content strategy that includes professional looking (and sounding) website copy and blog articles. Most marketers can provide most of this.

The difference is taste. Your marketing service provider must deliver it.

Your audience knows quality when they see it. Whatever is tasteful to them is what will make your brand stand out.

Is your business trying to command the attention of other businesses? Or are you trying to win the confidence of a consumer directly? Does your target audience respond to glib one-liners (if so, they must be genuinely funny to a number of taste levels and not offensive to any). Does your target trust and share think-pieces on aspects of your industry? Or do they simply get excited about a coupon with a cheerful exclamation point?

Is your target likely to vacation on a little-known Caribbean islands? Or seek adventures in a private floating vessel? Or in a timeshare on Myrtle Beach? You need to know. And either way, who you attract is a matter of how tastefully you present your company to any of your groups or subgroups.

Make sure your marketing talent is able to elevate your message. Good taste cannot be taught in a marketing course. So make sure you hire the marketing folks who have it.

Poignant marketing doesn't have to cost more; it doesn't have to use big words or excess images or more video.

It just has to be right.

Film in New Hampshire, How To Get Involved

Film in New Hampshire, How To Get Involved

Because I'm in media circles in my hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I am asked a lot about the film "scene" in this beautiful state. So recently I asked Matt Newton, the Director of NH Department of Television & Film how to best answer that query.

How to approach the NH film industry

Start by connecting on Facebook  and Twitter and Twitter again. If you're looking to make a movie in NH, contact Matt Newton directly using the information at the bottom of this page or via his Twitter.

Here are other points of interest:

  • Cast and crew opportunities, along with other news, screenings and upcoming events are posted at http://filmnh.com.
  • There are industry meet-ups listed here, lower half of page. The next big meet-up will be sometime late summer (2015). Meet-ups pick up again in the fall.
  • There's also a monthly Film Office discussion series at New England College in Concord. Smaller group, pretty much a free-for-all in conversation. Again, these will pick up again in late August / September. Info about these events will also be posted on social media sites and http://filmnh.com.
  • Like on Facebook: http://facebook.com/filmnh
  • Follow on Twitter: http://twitter.com/nhfilmoffice
  • Follow Matt Newton on Twitter: @mattnewton

Matt's always looking to connect with other filmmakers, so don't be shy.

How to introduce yourself

Aside from attending events, if you're looking to network with other film types, specifically professionals, take a look at the directory at http://nhfilmdirectory.com.

Here's what I would do. Make a list from that directory of entities that spark your interest. Send each a short note. Create a boilerplate message but definitely personalize it for each recipient.

Do it methodically and keep track, on a spreadsheet or even handwritten list, of who you've sent notes to, who wrote back, and dates of contact of gist of conversation. Landing a gig is a numbers game, so keep trying. Also, the spreadsheet helps you later in developing your network. "Oh hi, John, I'm Sue, we corresponded about the ___ awhile back."

People get involved at every age. If someone is still in high school, you may want to participate in the annual high school short film festival. This year’s was a HUGE success. More at http://nhstudentfilm.com.

Of course, all hands are on deck for the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth in October. It's kind of a big deal in this part of the country. Anyone looking to get involved should start there. Volunteer here, starting in August. Volunteer to usher, or to do anything. The jobs are easy - they need bodies, not genius. You'll make contacts and hear about upcoming projects just by being there.

Matt Newton (Director of the NH Film & Television Office) usually holds one panel discussion there; you can meet him, for instance.

What not to do

The first tier of advice is to read Craigslist ads with skepticism... there are modeling scams too numerous to mention. And probably everyone should see the documentary Hot Girls Wanted, there are short term jobs in illicit film that do a career (and a person) more harm than good, best to avoid those.

Some legitimate film opportunities are posted on Craigslist, however. Usually these are unpaid. But it can be a good way to get started. If you have some free time this summer, why not sign up to be an extra? Or run errands for a film set as Production Assistant? Or driver? It's a good experience, and you'll find out if you love it or... not. Be sure to check for opportunities in neighboring states on Craigslist, too (especially Boston, but again, look out for scams and x-rated solicitations).

Hope this helps. Comment below to add or amend anything I've written. Contact the NH TV & Film office for more information.


Matt Newton


State of New Hampshire

Film & Television Office

19 Pillsbury Street, Concord, NH 03301

Phone: 603-271-2220

Email: film@nh.gov  Web: http://nh.gov/film


They Bought an Island

They Bought an Island

This morning I saw the perfect marketing piece.

It's presumably a paid and "placed" piece, and not cheap. It came up on the Yahoo Top Stories bar on the Yahoo home page. It's a quick story about a couple who bought an island. 136 words total. Quoted here in its entirety:

Who: Melita Koulmandas Hunter, co-owner of Song Saa, a stunning private-island resort in Cambodia

Where: Cambodia

Why: My husband and I moved to Cambodia in 2005 for a 12-month adventure and ended up staying 10 years. We are both originally from Sydney, Australia, and met in Auckland, New Zealand, where Rory was working at Saatchi and Saatchi, and I had my own organic design business. We fell in love and planned on moving to New York City together. Just before we moved, Rory was offered an opportunity to run an advertising agency in Phnom Penh. As a designer, I have always been drawn to Southeast Asia, so we decided to take 12 months out and have an adventure, before taking on the bright lights of New York City. Ten years later, we haven’t moved to NYC… yet.
— Yahoo Travel profile

It's short and sweet. Got their story across. And made you -- as a consumer, frustrated voyager and would-be island-owner -- want to be part of their story. You want to hang out with them. You want to meet them. You kind of feel like you already know them.

That is great marketing! 

And the photos: snapshot-style picture of the couple. Shots of the resort, meticulous and spectacular. They staged the resort. They waited for the right shot. They got it. (It's surprising how many real estate marketing efforts miss this simple thing: get the right pictures. It's just critical in today's internet world where image is king.)

All marketing should revolve around design, great images and good, quick content. People's attention is too valuable for anything else. 

The perfect marketing piece. It's here (or was at this posting): I Bought an Island in Cambodia

Can't believe I'm going to say this but, Thank you, Yahoo!

Photo credit: that's actually Jamaica, not Cambodia, photo by KM Hurley

The Brand Listener

The Brand Listener

Awhile back I was looking for someone in my network who might be -- not just good -- but exceptional and modern when it comes to focus groups and market research. I found this. This is from Brand Listening: How to Listen to Experiences, Not For Answers. It's an interview actually, with "Brand Listener" Peter Spear

One of the first things I was taught was that [consumers] do not have answers. Consumers have experiences.... Yet most research approaches people as if they were a source of reliable answers to our questions. This is a disastrous misunderstanding.

I do men and women’s groups separately, partly because all categories are gendered, partly because men and women communicate differently when they’re in the company of the other. I recruit and re-recruit to make sure that I am talking to people with real category or brand experiences. I do not have anyone introduce themselves at the beginning of groups, to avoid the creation of a social hierarchy that arrives as soon as you know what neighborhood someone lives in, or job they have.

See the whole piece here: Peter Spear discusses Market Research

If you're looking to do a focus group or other market research, talk to Peter Spear. He calls himself a Brand Listener. He does Strategic Qualitative Research & Brand Consulting. Peter's consulting agency is a go-to partner of this firm (K.M. Hurley & Associates). Spear has such a smart take on market research. On focus groups. On what to do, what not to do. And on how to really hear customers (and prospective customers). 

He rehabilitates employees, and trains companies. (That's a nod to Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer)

Prince Albert of Monaco Wins 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Award

Prince Albert of Monaco Wins 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Award

In Sustainability news, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry will be awarded at this year's Peter Benchley Ocean Awards ceremony in Washington, DC. This prominent ocean honor is named after the late author of "Jaws" and lifelong marine conservationist Peter Benchley.

Recipients will be honored at the 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 14 at the Carnegie Institution for Science at 1530 P St., NW, Washington, DC. U.S. Senators Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii will be award presenters. John Kerry is unable to attend.

Prince Albert will be present. He will receive the Award for Excellence in National Stewardship.

Prince Albert can

H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco is a 4th generation champion of ocean health. He frequently takes part in marine scientific expeditions to observe pressing related challenges.

He is the only Head of State ever to travel to both the north and south poles. Like!

In 2006 he established the Prince Albert II Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the ocean and the environment, as well as addressing key threats such as climate change and ocean acidification.

"Prince Albert has played a vital role in supporting scientific research expeditions and high level collaborations around the important issues of overfishing and climate change," said awards program co-founder Wendy Benchley. "He has advocated for protection of the high seas and promoted healthy ocean policies in many forums that influence decision-making on a global scale."

For more on the awards ceremony, try this link: 


The Ghosts of Chichen Itza

The Ghosts of Chichen Itza

Some things are more than you expected.  They need to be experienced to be believed. Seeing the pictures really is nothing compared to the sheer sensory experience – the sense of being transported through time and space and "other stuff" – that you get from being there.

Sedona, Arizona is like that -- photos show a desert but it's a lot more when you go there. Another place like this is Chichen Itza, Mexico.

You're walking through subtropical jungle – past mounds of rocks and weed and undergrowth. It's very ordinary. You almost don't notice you've arrived at "the place" described by guide books. You're just walking a wooded path. Then you're in a wide open courtyard.

And all at once you're staring at It. This out of place structure that seems to belong there. The temple of Kukulkan. It's not an abrupt experience. It's gentler, like when you see a beautiful, standout cloud.

You stare at it because it pulls your eyes – not as a monstrosity, but as a delicacy, as a rainbow makes you look. Something that seems bigger than it ought to be, or emanates when it shouldn't. 

You have to go stand near it to get a sense of it. And what you "get" perks you up. Something's happening here. It's the strange way the stones are laid. The singular way time has dressed them. The smell of earth-between-stones that has been there for a thousand years. 

If ghosts are stories that cling to the fabric of spacetime, the closest we get to the ghosts of a place is by going there. Listening. Summoning. Magnetizing stories, asking for ghosts to whisper, noticing when they do. In some places, you can't help but notice.

The overlapping other-worlds feeling of a storied place like this old temple is very real.

Chichen Itza is an easy place to sense the overlaps.

Beautifully, however, all of the world – every place – transports you if you let it.

It's just that certain places – and maybe certain words – teach you better how to notice.