Breaking news! 2016 Presidential campaign to be decided by graphic designers. – SCN Encourager

The traditional clout of spin doctors is fading away.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.34.57 PMChalk up yet one more “disruption” to social media.

Our heightened preference for appealing visuals is impacting every domain.

Including politics.

And what a week it was!

In Michigan we saw the push for Proposal 1 rev up.

This visual sums it up well.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.30.53 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this Encourager isn’t about Proposal 1.

It’s about the how quickly the snarky critics (albeit kinda humorous) can mobilize, visualize, and go on the attack.

If Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio were hoping that the public release of their logos this week would call attention to the serious issues facing our nation… well, they’re probably disappointed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 7.51.52 PMWithin hours of their unveilings, all kinds of folks armed with their own home-grown graphics were tweeting away like crazy.

Adweek even had a big article about it.

If you click over to the article, I’m sure you’ll wonder as I did if the publication will give as much space to any candidate’s stated positions and proposals later.

No doubt there’s a lesson in this mish-mash for us in some way, especially when you think about the time and effort most of the critics put into sharing their graphic re-designs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.13.08 PMMarco Rubio also announced his presidential bid this week and the reaction to his logo was similar to Hillary’s.

Marketing Dive labeled the combined guffawing about Hillary’s and Marco’s logos “logo lunacy.”

It didn’t say whether it was the campaign strategists for both camps who were the lunatics – or if it was all of the people (frequently like us) who enjoy making molehills out of an anthills.

I didn’t re-read the article to find out.

I’m not sure I really want to know.

I’m always afraid I’ll be challenged to “look in the mirror” and assume some of the blame somehow.

At any rate, I think the Clinton and Rubio campaigns served up a new 21st century graphic design strategy.

A strategy that’s both do-able and fairly cheap.

(And who wouldn’t vote for that combo?)

Let’s say you’re in the midst of a school district re-branding campaign and you need a new logo.

Time is tight and so is money.

Given all of the Clinton and Rubio ballyhoo, I’d now recommend that you just throw a new logo together on the fly (any kind will do) and then make a big public unveiling and announce about how awesome and amazing it is.

Your critics will be watching, of course.

But soon a ton of new logo designs will come flooding your way speedy-kwik – and you’d soon be able to choose a suitable replacement for your “logo bait” original that someone actually put a lot of time and talent into.

C’mon.

You tell me this wouldn’t work!

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Even beyond the wide gap in marketing savvy, fortune, and fame – SCN Encourager

There’s a big reason why Seth Godin and I aren’t alike.

I rely on gut instinct.

Godin Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 9.45.13 AMHe backs up his observations with science and logic.

Before I give you an example of what I’m talking about  (the science and logic thing, that is… not my gut!), I’d like to re-affirm what a joy it is to read Godin’s ideas about marketing, education, our choices, and life.

As many of you know, his daily blog is a treasure chest of thought provocation.

I’m no slouch at “thought provocation,” either, if I do say so myself, but Godin has legions of followers who will publicly testify his prowess; I only have Cindy and our daughters.

Godin’s blog yesterday was entitled, “Are you feeling lucky?”

He wrote how we – as consumers and choosers – try to factor in the potential risk involved whenever we are called up to make an important decision.

Apparently, the great majority of us will typically choose a “lesser” option if it is perceived to be the more clearly defined and known than the potentially much more beneficial option, even if the odds of the beneficial option actually happening are pretty good.

This phenomenon perhaps explains why average class size and other straight-up “hard facts” are such a big deal for many school choosers.

They – like us – will usually lean toward the known and away from the ambiguous.

Godin tied all of this to a long-held theory called The Ellsberg Paradox and he provided a link to a complete explanation of it.

Being the conscientious communicator and scholar that I am, I clicked on the link.

(Why not? A little life-long learning now and then never killed anybody, right?)

The article about The Ellsberg Paradox offered the following math calculations.

math


And you betcha! These figures sure look correct to me!

Godin’s been proven right yet again.

Who could ever select the dreamy pie-in-the-sky option when you’ve got “hard data” like this in front of your nose?

Not me.

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Do you usually share your quiet moments of personal triumph with others? – SCN Encourager

If I had some, I’d share ‘em … No doubt about it!

But at last!

I now have one to crow about!

Rocky BalboaAt first I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it.

I was just going to e-file my taxes over the weekend and be done with it.

But now I’m feeling pumped up like Rocky Balboa.

Who among us would’ve imagined that three or four hours of plodding along on TurboTax could conclude with such an uplifting experience?

Amazing.

I’m no longer even upset that TurboTax wouldn’t let me enter “upcoming wedding expenses” as legitimate tax deductions.

Oh well, at least I’ll (er, Cindy and I) will receive a refund of more than $200.

And I’m sure I’ll (er, Cindy and I will) get an even larger refund next year… if only I can convince one of my daughters to have her wedding ceremony and honeymoon in a state designated renaissance zone.

There’s got to be some big time tax credits associated with that, don’tcha think?

So, even though it’s “Tax Day,” I’m in a fantastic mood.

Here’s why.

When I finished e-filing my taxes on Sunday night with that one final “click” – this final screen from TurboTax popped up.

It told me that I should not only blast out my tax filing success on social media, I should also “share my tax triumph with my friends.”
Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 7.03.05 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Shazam!

I can’t believe this had never occurred to me before.

I just thought you filled out your taxes forms every 12 months and then moved on to the next item on your list.

The next time I see one of our new school parents waging battle with our lengthly enrollment form, I’m going to suggest they tweet out their triumph to their friends immediately upon completion.

They’ve got to.

It’s the 21st century way.

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Today’s Tech Tip is a “Terrific Tweener!”

It’s nestled comfortably in-between Prezi and PowerPoint

choiceAnd it’s a great alternative –

when you’re tired of PowerPoint, but can’t seem to fit your presentation into the right Prezi?

So, give Emaze a go!

After hearing about it, I read a Geektime review and had to try it out for myself.

It said that Emaze features online, sharable, moving components similar to Prezi and is easier to use than PowerPoint.

I found the review to be spot on and I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this new-found treasure.

Follow along in this brief introduction and try it out to see what you think.

I think you’ll see why I’m definitely adding Emaze to my presentation tool kit!

Holly's emazeIt was easy to make this basic presentation as well.

I included a few of my own pros and cons for you to ponder.

See what you think.

I’ll keep exploring Emaze and if I dig up something new to share, this is where I’ll post it.

Stay tuned!

Following March Madness and Spring Break, we’re now in our stretch run – SCN Encourager

How do you keep all of your spinning plates aloft while zipping from here to there?

spinning platesThese are crazy busy times in our schools.

How do you look up at your plates while also looking down to see what you’re about to step in?

From implementing new standardized test procedures… to planning year-end school events… to budget and staffing prep for fall 2015… it’s understandable if many in our tribe are starting to feel “the overwhelm” set in.

It would also be understandable if you were one of them, fueling your forward progress with your own concoction of grit, experience, good humor, creativity, and prayer.

I know I’m one of them.

These are crazy busy times in our schools.

I can’t tell you how many times my fretting over district projects has overwhelmed my connection to our district’s purpose.

I can’t count ‘em up because I’m the same guy who’ll let cake in the break room distract him from both projects and purpose!

John WoodenBut this quotation from John Wooden (1910-2010), the famous men’s basketball coach at UCLA who won 10 NCAA championships, is helping me cut through the fog.

“When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.”

I love how this observation crystalizes the critical role everyone involved in public education plays.

We’re the ones charged with ensuring that when opportunity comes knocking on the doors of our students in our care, they’re ready.

However “the overwhelm” makes us feel at times, it’s worth it.

Plus, the quote is true.

And I’m told this is a good thing, too!

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There’s really no perfect time to wrestle with “harsh truths” – SCN Encourager

But at least it’s Friday!

What could top baseball ice cream?

What could top baseball ice cream?

Personally, I’d rather have ice cream than hard truths.

But these hard truths might cause you to assess your website in a different light.

In a good way, of course.

These real-world pokes come from VolumeNine, a Denver based marketing firm dedicated to helping optimize the websites of businesses and non-profits alike.

After conducting hundreds of individual website audits, they believe that the willingness to take an “honest look” is the first step to improving any website.

If this belief doesn’t seem like a harsh truth, that’s because it isn’t one.

Here are VolumeNine’s harsh truths.

#1  Visitors to your website are concerned about one thing – themselves! If you don’t think so, consider how you surf the web. You too, largely pursue only your interests, needs, and wants.
Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 9.00.31 PM

 

 

#2  Your website must be highly useful and beneficial to keep readers coming back. That’s highly useful and beneficial for them, not you.

I know this sounds like a simplistic repeat of Harsh Truth #1. But maybe that’s what makes it a harsh truth in the first place.

#3  Just as your website visitors care more and more about themselves, they care less and less about you (your organization). And no list of message points will alter this. Words only go so far. You must be remarkable.

#4  And to throw one more monkey wrench into the works… if you’re going to try being “remarkable,” make sure you’re authentic about it. Today’s generation of parents are skilled and practiced “BS” detectors.

gift#5  Plan on making your website a one-way street. You must be prepared to GIVE… because today’s website visitors are definitely looking to RECEIVE.

#6  And if you want to inspire people to communicate to others about your organization online, VolumeNine says there are only two ways for you to make this happen. Be super amazing or be super awful.

Ouch.

Why couldn’t that harsh truth had given us a third option?

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Most of us shudder at the thought of being tagged a salesperson. We shouldn’t. – SCN Encourager

This Encourager from May, 2013 merits this “spring break” reprise.

“It’s time to give up Caveat Emptor.” (Buyer beware.)

And it’s not me saying this – it’s author Daniel Pink in his book “To Sell is Human.”

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

I always make this clarification right away, so I don’t have to respond to those “You’re just not making this up, are you?” emails.

Daniel Pink presents a number of points you’ll connect with in “To Sell is Human” – especially if you view yourself as a non-salesperson.

We school folks don’t mind being called marketers, communicators, leaders, crisis responders, letter writers, video creators, meeting facilitators, outreach specialists, word-smithers, website managers, idea-generators, newsletter photographers, bulk mailing specialists, fact-checkers, spin doctors, tour guides, proof readers, event planners, event-setter-uppers, and event-cleaner-uppers.

Dang, we’ll even respond when someone yells, “Hey, you!”

But please… just don’t call any of us a “salesperson.”

We’re not in sales.

We don’t want to be in sales.

And rest assured, whatever skills are listed as part of our school job descriptions, none of them coincide with those found on the job postings for obnoxious carnival barkers or tire-kicking used car salesmen.

"I gotta great deal for you!"

“I gotta great deal for you!”

But Daniel Pink would advise us to come down off our high horses.

We’re all in sales.

If you represent anything at all (at home, school, or business), you’re in sales. Even moms, dads, and teachers are in sales, particularly as they model values, behavior, and social standards.

There’s a “sales” component in most everything, from church to the local sports bar. 

Simply stated, sales is about identifying problems, coming up with practical options to remedy the problems, getting people to buy-into the proposed remedies, and then implementing the remedies in a way satisfactory to all involved.

Simply stated more simply: sales = good relationships

So here is Daniel Pink’s flip-flop on “Caveat emptor.”

Pink says that for thousands of years – from the exchange of that very first apple in the Garden of Eden to the handing-over of keys in the automobile showroom – the maxim of “buyer beware” was true.

Buyers did indeed have to be wary of the slickster salesman, schooled in the “bait-and-switch” and other manipulative tactics.

The internet and social media has turned this upside-down.

What? This school only offers Latin, Spanish, German, and French? We better keep looking.

What? This school only offers Latin, Spanish, German, and French? We better keep looking.

Today it’s the “sellers” who must be on guard because most buyers can easily educate themselves to know more about a product or service than the person actually “selling” it.

So who holds the advantage now?

According to Pink – it’s the buyer – especially the one who has become skilled at comparing and evaluating real-time information from multiple sources.

If you help plan the communication outreach strategies for your schools, it might be worth discussing how to get people in the community to “reach in” to your schools.

The difference between “reaching out” and grabbing people VS. inviting people to “reach in ” to connect with you is critical.

And first, you’ve got to accept the fact you’re in sales.

(Tag you’re it. A salesperson!)

I’ve had to accept this, too. But moving away from old practices won’t be easy.

Pink’s book came a little late for me. I’ve still got 163 toasters to give-away from last fall’s “enroll today” promotion.

Tom Page, SCN

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car salesman

Cindy has warned me about dispensing marriage advice. But what the heck? – SCN Encourager

This Encourager is about marketing, not marriage, anyway.

Cindy must have a 6th sense.

I don’t know how she does it.

sixth senseSomehow she can tell whenever I use the word “marriage” in a paragraph.

And within seconds – with pursed lips and a disapproving look to boot– she’ll issue a caution about the direction she thinks my writing is about to go.

“Shouldn’t you write about something else?” she’ll wonder, not all that silently. “Why not choose a topic you’re an expert in?”

She has a point.

But I keep this fact buried deep within.

Besides, if I only wrote about topics I was “an expert in,” I never would’ve started writing these daily Encouragers in the first place.

At least I wasn’t a guest on the “marriage and marketing” panel discussion I heard in a podcast a few days ago.

But this would’ve been a good weekend for me to have been invited to participate, though.

Cindy is going on an overnight shopping trip with her mother (and maybe one of the girls) and I could’ve fit it in without her 6th sense kicking into gear once again.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

The panelists claimed that two women in particular, who were quite famous in the 20th century, would’ve been spectacular 21st century marketers.

They touted Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Elizabeth Taylor was married 8 times.

Not to be outdone, Zsa Zsa was married 9 times.nn

Zsa Zsa

Zsa Zsa

Dang, between the two of them, they were married enough times to be the basis of a real-world math problem on Michigan’s new M-Step test for 3rd graders.

The panelists contended that today’s best marketers need to move through marketing tactics the way Taylor and Gabor moved through husbands.

“You just can’t consider marketing like a marriage,” one expert said. “The name of the game in marketing is not to be wedded to the same tactic forever. No more one and done. You need to always be ready to play the field. Marketing is about effectiveness, not endurance.”

Hmmm. I think I get it.

But, oh boy, I sure was relieved that Cindy wasn’t riding in the car along with me to hear this one.

She would’ve loved turning that statement on its head.

That’s her 7th sense.

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marriage cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

Become a downloading freeloader using YouTube. This tech tip will show you how.

youtubelogoNo, Ma, I’m not THAT kind of freeloader!

Really, I’m not.

Deciding what type of music to play in a school video can frequently be something to worry about..

Neophytes to the communication business may cry out for Taylor Swift and include some Pitbull. Older geezers like me will stomp their feet for Clapton and just reach for the Redbull.

But there’s always that sticky issue of ownership.

And the last thing your school district needs is a lawsuit right?

YouTube provides a great solution that allows you to download loads of tunes at no cost.

And it’s perfectly legal.

I surmise the reason behind YouTube’s benevolence is its desire to cut down on all of the intense monitoring of online music it must do to ensure that artists get their fair share.

So I can imagine the YouTube version of a school communicator verbalizing this sound bite:

“Let’s give the masses all these free, approved soundtracks to tinker with. If a dufus wants to download It’s All About That Bass for a video, he has to agree that IAATB ads will be popping up on HIS video to generate money for Meghan Trainor’s private jet.”

Okay, maybe YouTube wouldn’t exactly say it this way, but does it matter?

We should all be elated to have all of these tracks available for free downloading!

Take a peek how to do this in my video:

Please tell me what you think at [email protected]

What’s the Web 3.0? (How ’bout a visit to SCN’s Spring Break archives?) – SCN Encourager

What’ll bridge the great Web 2.0 – Web 4.0 divide?

In a TED video last month, a presenter described the history of communications since the beginning of time – or basically the last time the Detroit Lions have won a championship.

He pointed out that the Web 1.0 consisted of one-sided, one-way internet communications.

He said Web 2.0 communications moved us toward real “two-way” internet conversations and he predicted that Web 4.0 would involve multiple conversations relying on multiple language translations in real-time.

The Ted presenter didn’t mention the Web 3.0 at all.

Good!

This provides me with a blank canvas for defining what I think the Web 3.0 is all about.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 4.41.19 PMIn his book published in 2013 called “Marketplace 3.0,” Japanese CEO Hiroshi Mikitani tells how companies and organizations today are about to experience the next “digital sea change – an evolution driven by personalization, intelligent search, and user behavior.”

Mikitani doesn’t say that organizations and businesses should see the world his way. He just believes that conventional wisdom is under severe stress today, and that for his 7000 employee company (Rakuten) to survive he must wrestle with several entrenched Japanese traditions and customs.

In order for Rakuten to grow into an international marketplace leader, it must be well-positioned for success in a  Web 3.0 environment.

So Mikitani set in motion a strategy that stunned me a bit as a school communicator, something I couldn’t imagine happening within our own organizations without controversy.

And usually the media can satisfy its appetite for controversy without any help from me!

Mikitani’s first step was to mandate that Rakuten would be an “English only” company and that every employee would have to pass a tough English exam – both spoken & written. Every employee would have to do this within two years or risk any hope of future advancement or perhaps even lose their job.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 4.43.30 PMHis rationale was simple: “English” is the international language of business agreements and transactions. And it also provides the clarity of meaning sorely needed by 21st Century collaborative partners.

Mikitani said that in Japanese, you could ask a co-worker inside your office if it was raining outside, and the co-worker could respectfully respond to you with “I hope the sun will be shining tomorrow.” Obviously, you were not ignored. Certainly, you got an answer. But the whole exchange was void of any real meaning that you could use to move forward.

This kind of ambiguity common in the Japanese language drives Mikitani bonkers.

So, at Rakuten, he buttressed his uncompromising English only mandate within Rakuten with a sizable investment in English language training programs, software, classroom teachers, and individuals tutors.

And he made them all available 24/7.

I was relieved to read later that nearly 95% of Rakuten’s sizable workforce achieved Mikitani’s directive for English proficiency and avoided pink slips and sanctions. In fact, morale as improved.

As the company discovered unparalleled growth, the previous anxiety widespread within the ranks evaporated as workers experienced increases in job security and pay.

Rakuten tackled the Web 3.0 challenge, but it wasn’t been easy.

Was it organizational force, job threats, and the possibility of more pay that prodded the change?

(The ol’ paycheck has my vote!) 

Or was something else in play, too?

It’s possible that because Rakuten’s employees already had familiarity with the English language in their earlier school days, they were better suited to acquire and develop new language skills.

In a short paragraph summarizing a recent language study by the University of Luxembourg, it was underscored that bilingual people (including those categorized as only “minimally bilingual”) consistently demonstrate higher cognitive function than those who only speak one language.

I know I often “connect dots” in ways that defy logic and the laws of physics, but this language study makes sense.

Mikitani’s tactic might have also upgraded the overall skill base at his company without him knowing it.

In other words, he caught a break.

I think I can. I think I can.

I think I can. I think I can.

His employees already possessed a high propensity for learning that fast-tracked his “English only” mandate.

So, there it is.

Web 3.0 is the explosion of communications (largely in English) now exploding through the international marketplace.

Not that the mystery of the Web 3.0 is solved, I’m moving on to other priorities.

Knowing that English is “the language of business agreements, transactions, and provides the clarity of meaning needed by 21st Century collaborative partners,” I’m going to work on passing those English proficiency exams I’ve been putting off.

In about two years, think about what a great writer I’ll be.

There’s hope, folks!

Tom Page, SCN
(This Encourager was originally posted in April, 2013.)

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