post

What’s the Future of Communications? A Trifecta to Remember

As I put on my future-focus lens for our annual Red Sky Summit (an event bringing clients, partners and peers together to inform, improve and inspire) earlier this month, several key themes emerged.

One being that as we approach 2016, we’re still waiting for several of the predictions for 2015 to emerge:

  • The impact of the IoT (Internet of Things) on our health and home, and how technology communicates with us, for us and about us
  • Mobile ubiquity and how the mobile-first approach to digital design and development is impacting our channels of communication
  • The Millennial effect, and how this digital-native generation is driving change in buying behavior, brand loyalty and communication

In looking toward 2016, it isn’t so much about the widgets we can identify as gaining relevance, but rather the sentiments and motivators driving how communication will evolve. Let’s call them the ABCs:

Authenticity and transparency

Brand purpose

Compelling content

Get ready, folks. There is a word that may soon become as annoying to the masses and those of us who inhabit the communication world as #blessed has become to me.

Authenticity

In any of its various forms — authentic, authenticity, authentically — it will infuse our vernacular even more in the coming year as individuals, brands and organizations strive for deeper, more meaningful and more relevant connections and content.

The rise of authenticity and its partner, transparency, stem from the access we are continually gaining to nearly any information we want at any time. With this access comes an expectation of being able to see behind the curtain, to get the full story, to learn what a product or company or person is really about — but on our terms and on our schedule. To fully embrace the expectations with transparency we increasingly have, companies will need to get comfortable with pulling back the curtain, over-communicating and doing so clearly and concisely.

As Hubspot CTO & Founder Dharmesh Shah shared,

“Today, power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.”

Brand Purpose

Authenticity and transparency are tough to put into action if you’re not clear about who you are. In the wise words of Simon Sinek, start with “why.” People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So what’s your “why?” What is your brand purpose? What is that compelling reason you or your organization exist in the world? It’s more than a product or service, and it should inspire an emotion or reaction and infuse everything you do.

Compelling Content

Discovering that purpose, your epic cause of existence, helps with the last component of what’s impacting the world of communication going forward. If the early part of the decade found everyone embracing all the bright, shiny objects that the digital realm dreamt up, 2015 was the year of content overload. As we head into 2016, the focus will be on making that content more compelling — and creating opportunities for brands to be publishers, for traditional media to work hand in hand with brands and for consumers to have multiple organizations competing to be their trusted source and curator.

“We see what you’re trying to share with us, but why does it matter? Give me context, give me a compelling reason to click, consume and care about it.” 

Admittedly, the word “content” has always gotten stuck in my throat because “storytelling” has always felt more genuine and natural in regard to how we communicate and connect. And while I’m a big fan of acronyms that make sense and a believer in the power of alliteration, I still hold true to the axiom: all stories are content, but not all content is a true story.

Brands as Publishers | Publishers add Branded Studios
We’re seeing a shift in action. Brands are becoming their own publishers. A few examples we showcased at our Summit were Chase and its news and story platform, MakerBot’s video story series, and Goldman Sachs’ Our Thinkingchannel (particularly the Millennial interactive infographic). The traditional media is also jumping into the fray and establishing content studios to further blur the lines between news and advertising. These outlets include the Associated Press Content Services, New York Times T Brand StudioForbes Brand Voice, TheAtlantic Re:thinkConde Nast 23 Stories and CCN’s Courageous Studio.

While some see this as hell freezing over, I’m with Lewis DVorkin of Forbes who noted,

“Audiences want and value informative content from knowledgeable parties — that includes journalists, topic-specific experts and marketers. By clearly identifying the source you enable the reader to understand the filter through which the content was created.”

As for those competing for the filter and curator crown, Twitter finally launched its Project Lightning (called Moments), Facebook is upping its Instant Articlesgame, Apple is trying to keep pace with its reworked News, and now Google is getting into the mix with its Accelerated Mobile Pages Project.

The reason everyone is striving to be our source is because we are evolving to become “liquid consumers” of information. As Randall Rothenberg described in AdWeek,

“ The consumer is no longer grounded in one spot, one medium or one homepage — but has become a “liquid consumer” that demands “liquid creativity” from marketers, publishers, agencies or anyone who wants to find them.”

It’s a fascinating, challenging and amazing time to be both a consumer and a creator. While our opportunities to connect and make an impact grow, so do the barriers and challenges to cut through the noise with stories that matter.

I say: Bring. It. On.

post

What a Decade It’s Been

That word – decade – seems to carry so. much. weight.

When looking forward, it seems an eternity. When looking back, it often feels like it flew. 2004 was the year I made the jump from my first love – journalism – to my second career – public relations. And a decade ago today – December 15, 2004 – the place where I cut my PR teeth opened to the world.

tamarack

Tamarack Resort, billed as ‘the world’s newest all-season destination’ featuring mountain, meadow and lake, made a big push to snag the spotlight on its opening day and the years after. And for many in Idaho and across the Northwest, the high-speed quad ascent and downhill slide for the resort has played out over the decade in just as big a spotlight.

TamHeadshotTo have a front-seat to a startup like Tamarack is an experience I would never trade. (Well, maybe I would have traded in that sweet sweet ‘blonde in front of a fireplace’ headshot.) For two years I was part of a team of marketing and PR consultants who helped shape and share the message. Then for two more years, I was in-house holding on as Tamarack grew in that hockey-stick shaped way that startups often do.

The Tamarack story was never just about an outdoors playground. It was about rural economies, community development, history, construction, investment and financing, environmental considerations, celebrity, global brands …oh, and golfing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and boating.

FullSizeRender[5]

Source: New York Times, Tim Neville

And more than anything, it was about the melting pot of people that came together to try and bring it to life – from lifelong Valley County residents to risk-takers from across the globe. The business owner and communication strategist I am today, and the leader I try to be, is all shaped by the lessons I learned on the Tamarack journey. Lessons from the people who poured their hearts and souls into making something happen in this beautiful part of the world, as well as those who led it astray and whose decisions negatively impacted its success.  And now, those brave ones who have hung on and believed and are helping Tamarack enter its newest chapter.

Among the lessons I’ve gleaned:

  • Those visionaries who bring forth a great idea and inspire people to jump on – aren’t always the best to lead when a startup enters its operational stage.
  • When you build a team and delegate, make sure you’re not just giving them responsibility but also authority to act.
  • While there is comfort in structure, there can be danger in too rigid of a hierarchy. Your team should feel safe in challenging ideas and bringing forth concerns and questions. With the changing dynamics of workplaces, and the generations entering the workforce, hardcore hierarchy won’t cut it.
  • The power of communication – both positive and negative. It was communication that drew the spotlight and kept it shining bright. But great communication is never just external facing. Your people can be your greatest advocates and evangelists if they are kept informed and engaged.
  • The strength of a team that believes in something bigger. In the great words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Through the ups and downs of Tamarack, there have been the believers. Those individuals who always thought this journey was about more than a real estate deal or an investment, but had vision and belief in the potential of this place and wanted to share it with the world. To create something that spoke to the beauty of Idaho and the adventure and risk-taking nature of life here.

Yes, I do realize that what happened at Tamarack is also a textbook example of the hubris of that time. Those pre-2008 days when money was being spent and decisions were being made in heady moments. But I also know that good people put blood, sweat and tears into the startup… people whose names and faces we don’t usually hear about when the rapid rise and fall occurs with a startup. In the history of great destinations that are household names to many – there have been quite a few falls and rises.

To those people…who I was honored to call friends and colleagues… a toast to the journey we were all part of, to believing in the ‘why’ of a place and the dream of what it could be, and to the next chapter for Tamarack.

FullSizeRender[4]

Source: Los Angeles Times, Amanda Jones

FullSizeRender[3]

Source: USA Today, Gene Sloan

FullSizeRender[7]

Source: Bloomberg Markets, Anthony Effinger

 

 

 

 

 

post

Manifesto: It’s Not the Critic That Counts

Not sure if Theodore Roosevelt’s poetic words technically count as a Manifesto, but his Man in the Arena hits home for me so often. When I need a shot of confidence, when I need that extra oomph, when I need something to think instead of spouting off at competitors and doubters. These are the words I turn to…

il_570xN.422855711_6c9t

post

Manifesto: My First

You always remember your first. In this case, my first glimpse at a manifesto. Thanks to Brooklyn design studio Holstee for these words – crafted to inspire people to live mindfully.

What resonated most with me…. Do what you love, and do it often. Stop over analyzing. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself…go out and start creating.

fullsize-holstee-manifesto

post

Manifesto: Expert Enough

For all those suffering from Imposter Syndrome (you know who you are!), this week’s manifesto is for you… Corbett Barr’s Expert Enough.

Expertise doesn’t come from a piece of paper.
Life is richest when we become good at a lot of different things.
Know-it-all, Jill of All Trades, and Renaissance Man are compliments.

ExpertEnough

post

Manifesto: A Credo for Making it Happen

Pulling again from the speakers I was fortunate enough to witness at the 2012 World Domination Summit, this week’s manifesto comes courtesy the amazing Danielle LaPorte - A Credo for Making it Happen.

Don’t let perfection become procrastination. DO IT NOW.
Launch + Learn. Everything is progress.
The universe is always expanding, and that includes YOU.

a-credo-for-making-it-happen_colour

post

Manifesto: Daring Greatly

All hail the manifesto!

Maybe it’s the typeface, or the layout. Or the bite-sized inspiration these one-pagers bring. Whatever the reason, and despite Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ imprint on the term, ‘manifestos’ have always stirred something in my soul and pulled me in. I tag them, bookmark them, print them, tack ‘em up and use them as visual reminders in my office.

So, why not start aggregating the ones I love here?

As mentioned in my New Year’s ‘Seed Sower’ post, I’m a big Brene Brown fan. So who better to kick off this manifesto binge! Here’s Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto

We are hard-wired for connection, curiosity, and engagement.
We crave purpose, and have a deep desire to create and contribute.

DaringGreatly-LeadershipManifesto-8x10

post

I am a seed sower

bigstock_One_plant_in_female_hands_on_w_18867938This is not my blog confession that I’m leaving the word world to go elbow deep in dirt (although I must admit, that does sometimes sound tempting.)

This is about a recent revelation I made about a principle and purpose in life, and the path of how I got there.

Over the past several months, I’ve been privileged to be part of the CEO peer advisory group Vistage. In a fortuitous twist of fate, my membership in an Idaho Chief Executive Group began the month that my agency co-founder decided to leave the business.

If there ever was a time for peers to provide counsel and insights – this was it.

Boiling the experience down to its essence – it was raw, emotional, scary, infuriating, eye-opening, empowering and…ultimately uplifting.

I have found that often when we are the most vulnerable, we gain the most insights into our strengths. A tip of the hat to the amazing Brene Brown for sharing that truth and that, “Vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence.” (If you haven’t experienced her Power of Vulnerability TED Talk, go there now.)


During our Vistage Group sessions there was frequent talk about identifying and staying true to your North Star – that point beyond your horizon that guides your day-to-day actions and aspirations. Admittedly, I struggled with this concept. It was difficult to raise my head up and think beyond the immediate business opportunities and obstacles in front of me.

And I truly felt that my personal North Star needed to be something more. More than just a reflection of my company’s business goals and brand promise.

Then in a bit of serendipity, I found it.

I am forever in debt to the leader of one of our community’s non-profits, who when we met for a casual conversation stated, “We invited you here because you’re a seed sower in this community.”

A seed sower.

Like pulling on my 16-year old pair of Frye boots, trying on ‘seed sower’ just felt right. And as Prasaid Kaipa wrote about North Stars for wise leaders, it felt like it embodied a noble purpose,

Smart leaders make New Year resolutions and set quarterly milestones, charting progress against ambitious plans and goals. Wise leaders, however, take a different approach: they root themselves in a noble purpose, align it with a compelling vision, and then take action — not just for that year, but for the rest of their lives. That noble purpose becomes a North Star, giving direction when the path ahead is hazy, humility when arrogance announces false victory, and inspiration when the outlook seems bleak.

I am a seed sower…

….of stories that highlight community and potential

….of ideas that spark and inspire

…of connections and relationships that lead to something more

…of opportunity for those around me

Seems like a damn good purpose for 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year.

tumblr_mfwq49Hh4Y1qfvq9bo1_r1_500

post

Manifesto: 10 Commandments of Epic Business

Thou shalt do Epic S#@! that actually matters.

Thou shalt have a Strategy but be open to Serendipity.

Thanks to Jonathan Fields for the much-needed reminder as we head into 2014.

10Commandments