Tag Archives: Communications

The Building Blocks of Success- Entrepreneurship as Growth

17 Aug

I’ve always been interested in a variety of industries and just generally in how businesses are built successfully.  So, after hearing some positive things about a local company here in Minneapolis and its team, I set out to sit down with Mike Rynchek and get to know him a bit better.  In chatting with him, it became extremely apparent to me that he’s one of those people that was really predisposed from birth to create and seek to build.

When I sat down with the July/August edition of Inc. Magazine I couldn’t help but catch the cover featuring a bold headline of “Bring on the Entrepreneurs” and it got me thinking again of the need to create and build successful, creative business models in the communications and marketing industries.  The traditional agency model, if not broken, is certainly in need of some good maintenance work as fewer companies are seeking single agencies to handle all their needs.  There is so much specialization needed that selling a one-size fits all model doesn’t make sense.   I again thought of my conversations with Mike and asked him to share a little more about his background and thoughts on building a business that is conducive to ongoing growth.

Q: What attracted you to the concept of starting and running your own business?

A: Two words, flexibility and opportunity. Since childhood, I’ve always wanted to be a CEO and I truly enjoy the power of marketing. Put them together and I found my passion.

Q: What can marketers/communicators learn from entrepreneurs in other industries that should be applied to this industry?

A: Marketers, much like entrepreneurs in other industries, should always be looking for inspiration. Now, with the advancement of technology, both entrepreneurs and marketers have the freedom to be creative and innovative in ways never thought possible.

Q: When you think about the creative process, what stands out you and what do you try to do at Spyder Trap to create an environment that is unique for your clients?

A: Consistency is key in any creative process, while forward thinking is crucial in defining our objectives. In combination, these elements help to capture the core needs of our clients. Additionally, our clients provide an external viewpoint for inspiration.

Q: How would you describe the business community in the Twin Cities? What have you found helpful, and what has been challenging?

A: The business community is lively in the Twin Cities offering an abundance of social engagements and community events to engage in. From simple coffee shops to extravagant galas, there is always something social happening in the Twin Cities business community. Social networking helps to establish, to connect, and to build upon professional relationships. One challenge I encounter is time; there is never enough time in a day. I often find myself needing to be in two places at once, if only I had a clone!

Q: A lot of entrepreneurs mention a constant nagging feeling of wondering what’s next. Do you experience that and how do you channel those thoughts into a productive model or path for new experiences?

A: “What’s next?” is a common question among entrepreneurs. This is a question I ask myself everyday! I have found that the best entrepreneurs are perpetually striving to find the pulse for what’s next in all areas of their business and environment. In my experience, the question of, “what’s next” has had a positive impact in aiding my growth as an entrepreneur. I am confident this question drives the growth and innovation necessary to remain successful in marketing. Larry Page and Sergey Brin had to be thinking, “what’s next?” before they launched Google in 1998.

Q: Who has served as an inspiration/mentor for you as you looked to build a successful business?

A: I am fortunate to have numerous mentors in my life who inspire me daily. As long as I can remember, I have found it important to gain insight from people in all areas of my life ranging from high-level executives to family and friends.

Recently, I have been incredibly inspired by philanthropic events that I am involved with, as I have learned that giving back is truly humbling.

I appreciate Mike’s help on this post and sharing some of his thoughts. I’d also like to hear more from the community on taking on an entrepreneurial mindset and what you believe is critical in creating companies that raise the level of quality in a creative manner. How do we collectively break into a new level of achievement that benefits clients and the organizations we serve?

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Before You Hit Send

20 Jul

Photo courtesy of jannemei via creative commons

Email has been a truly transformational tool in the business world. Information sharing is fast and much more efficient than anything that came before it.  Some of you can think back to the days of faxing documents with hand-written changes back and forth to update materials in development.  Email is also a great too as you can select every word and know it will be delivered exactly as you want.

But, will every word be *read* and interpreted exactly as you want?  Probably not. Every recipient of an email has a unique perspective based on their role, their relationship with the author, and environmental factors including whatever else is happening in their world.  It can be a challenge to effectively use email with larger groups to deliver a message that you’d like received and understood in a singular way.

I had an interesting experience discussing this issue based on how members of a group read the same message with entirely different interpretations.  While email is a simple tool, before blasting out that next message to a large group, remember to consider a few essential elements to avoid pitfalls within your audience.

  • Timing: Be mindful of the timing of the message as one sent at a time that can be viewed as inappropriate can create significant problems.  If sending a message to a large team, the day before a deadline isn’t going to endear you to them.  If the message is in response to something that happened recently that should be done differently in the future, be aware it may be viewed as a direct correction to someone who took action and it can generate a response akin to “ooh, who did that?” or “Dave’s in big trouble for that one.”
  • Role of the author: Every organization has a different culture but there are some core similarities.  If the president/owner sends out an email, it is viewed as a big deal regardless of the topic.  Whenever leadership communicates something to team members it conveys the message that this is the official position of the company.  This can be a good thing, when it reinforces the culture and style you want to have in the organization.  When Woot CEO Matt Rutledge send his letter to employees about becoming an independent subsidiary of Amazon it was in a style that fit with the culture they’ve established.  Or it can create a storm of new fires for the company like Dan Gilbert’s letter as owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. (and I didn’t even mock the fact it was comic sans font)   So, when determining who the author should be, take some time to decide if it really needs to be from the top of the  organization or if another member of the team might be more appropriate.  You are delivering a message before readers ever get to the content.
  • Tone:  This is a given but often where everyone struggles due to the nature of email communication.  It’s never good to let someone sit down and fire off a snarky message to everyone because of frustration.  It’s not helpful and will likely just reflect negatively on the author and hurt the success of the team. When communicating with others in the company the tone must remain professional (you must remember how easily these can be forwarded), but think about what the tone should be based on the content.  Does it need to be inspiring and motivating?  It is to solicit feedback?  Policy memo and you don’t want feedback?  All have very different styles that should be used in getting the response you want.

All-in-all, email is a great tool.  However, it is not a cure-all for communicating.  Be mindful of what you’re trying to achieve and evaluate the good and bad that goes along with email to decide if it fits or if you’re better off delivering the message in another manner…maybe even (shudder) in person.

The Growing Pains of Growth

3 Jul

I’m going to go way back in my bank of stories for this one but that’s part of the point. In one of my high school history classes, which is getting far too long ago for my comfort, I had a teacher that would push us in all kinds of ways.  He was a former member of the military and you’d better believe that you *were* going to listen and behave in class.  If not, you could wind up standing with a foot in a garbage can during class, perhaps doing push-ups, or (my personal favorite) running laps around the parking lot…clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on the day of the week and you got it right or you did it again.  He could be both extremely funny and brutally tough on you as well.

One day in class, he was looking for a response on the War of 1812 that he wasn’t getting.  A few people threw out guesses but nobody had struck on the right approach to get the answer he wanted.  Eventually, after thinking for a while, I got a bit tired of the silence and thought I’d give it whirl.  The question?  Who was most responsible for the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.  My answer- Napoleon.  Well, his response was enough to make a relatively quiet student like myself squirm more than a little bit.  In a tone eerily similar to Jim Mora’s famous “Playoffs?” rant, I received “What, Napoleon is French?!?”  How could he be responsible for the war?

At that point, I began mumbling my rationale and was summarily cut off with “France wasn’t even in the war.  You awake over there?”  The nervous teen embarrassment heartbeat began.  Not sure what the pulse rate was but I’m sure it’d be the equivalent of a great workout today.  My already dim dating hopes dashed, surely my academic future was now on thin ice,  perhaps I’d wind up in a garbage can for such crazy thinking the rest of the hour.  Some of my other classmates then tried jump in and save me, throwing out other names to move the discussion along.  Each one shot down as the teacher went through the events of the war.  I was hoping for the bell to ring soon, kind of like a beaten boxer just hanging on to survive.

Finally, after seemingly four hours in a 45 minute class, he came back and said “You know who was responsible for the war?” Everyone was more than ready to take our lumps and move on…”Napoleon.”  He looked and smiled a bit at me.  At that, a chorus of “he said that” went up to the heavens.  For goodness sake, why had we all (and mostly me) been subjected to the torture and embarrassment for an extra ten minutes??

The teacher wanted us to think critically and be confident in our opinions.  It was another in a long line of tests and challenges that we needed to meet.  I *had* the right answer but he could tell I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my view.  How was a guy not directly involved with the war responsible– well, my thinking had something to do with destabilizing a region and then encouraging the upstart U.S. with trade agreements and support.  However, the most important lesson I learned that day of challenging each other and how we think is one that applies equally well today in the business world.  It’s not easy, really it can be agonizingly difficult like those moments I sat sweating out my high school future and reputation as the “Napoleon idiot” from history class.

Challenges help us grow.  And, in an era of shorter attention spans and more distractions than ever, spending a little more time thinking critically and challenging how we think is essential to advance the work we do each day.

P.S.- I have a story about this teacher and nearly having to wash a car too if you’re interested. ;)

Adapting for Success

2 Jun

I’m a huge fan of nature and often times see things very differently by simply observing.  Now, let me be clear before any of you really outdoorsy types start inviting me on a major hiking, camping or exploring adventure: I like being out in nature and enjoying the beauty…then going home to high-speed Internet, air conditioning, and running water.   =)  Anyway, I believe there is a tremendous amount that can be learned by watching how the world moves without us impacting it.   Observe how all kinds of creatures fit into the world and how the ecosystem has a natural rhythm to it.

However, what I noticed last week had nothing to do with a natural setting.  I sat at a drive through bank waiting for the teller to send me a receipt via that amazing wonder of the world known as an air tube and noticed a small bird flying above me.  I watched him fly into the overhang above.  His feet hopped deliberately from the broad girder to a thin piece of metal tubing running downward for several feet to reach a platform below.   He remained there a moment, picked up some sort of twig, and returned in the same focused manner to the overhang above while chirping happily.

What was it about this that made it stand out and stick with me so clearly?  And, how in the world does this relate to communications and PR?

This little bird has adapted to the environment around it which is by no means typical or natural for him.  In the heart of downtown Minneapolis this bird has created a home surrounded by concrete and steel with a constant hum of traffic moving past it each day.

Public relations as an industry must find ways to  successfully adapt to a changing world.

  • PR practitioners must thing critically to understand the goals of the business.  We cannot depend solely on media relations to validate our existence.  The environment is changing and the barriers to traditional media are being dissolved.  Anyone with a computer and a little creativity can find ways to get information to media outlets.  Maintaining a list of contacts isn’t good enough.
  • PR pros have an ever-increasing list of tools available to us that connect with key audiences. We should take the time to expand our own skill sets to understand how social media, geolocation applications, and customer created content on Yelp or blogs impacts our organizations/clients.
  • For the good of the industry, PR must take an honest look at the traditional models of how we measure success.  Does the typical client/agency model still work?  I don’t know.  What is the value proposition for organizations like PRSA and IABC?  Access to thought-leaders is far different thanks to technology versus 10 years ago…how do we need to provide opportunities for continued learning?

I will never pretend to have all the answers but would sure enjoy hearing what others think on the issue of adaptability for our industry.  Change isn’t always easy but a little birdie showed me that it is possible.

Hubris Always Ends Badly: Will Facebook Fall?

4 May

It’s a lesson as old as the days of the great Greek civilization. Hubris.  Exaggerated pride or self-confidence clouds vision, creates a focus centered on self more than on community and others. I’ve been wondering lately if we may be seeing the signs of a pending fall for one of the giants in the social media world in Facebook. 

For the last several years Facebook has been fighting a battle around how to monetize its business while facing the ever-present rumors about adding user fees and creating backlash that comes and goes. Mark Zuckerberg and company have managed to continue to grow the base of users despite the flare-ups.  However, I’m starting to wonder if the shine is beginning to fade a bit. Facebook has become a haven of Farmville, Mafia Wars, and fan pages for everything.  (Who isn’t a fan of “eating” really??) It could just be my perception but more and more I hear from friends, colleagues, and contacts in my community that Facebook is no longer a “must visit” for them. 

The last straw for many could be the constant privacy creep that continues to erode user control of their data. Now, many users were never savvy enough to control their data in the first place which led to many of the significant “fired because of Facebook” headlines over the years. However, recent changes that limit the option for even advanced users to control aspects of their use and the Social Graph concept are pushing the boundaries of creepy big brother control.  I tend to agree with Dan Costa on his interpretation of the privacy issues around the concept of Facebook providing such detailed history of “likes” with other sites.

Where does hubris fit into this? In recent comments from Zuckerberg, it’s very clear that Facebook will not go out of its way to protect its users’ privacy. When leadership no longer cares what is important to the audience that feeds its own success, I believe you’ve lost sight of your own place in the world. You’ve crossed a line when you believe you’re untouchable. There seems to be a growing sense of invincibility coming from the Facebook folks. A belief that users should “just trust us, we know what you really want.” That is what concerns me as an outsider looking in. Hubris. 

Maybe I’m entirely wrong. Perhaps enough users will continue to love the game apps that Facebook offers regardless of privacy.  Maybe there are enough true Facebook loyalists who will never leave.  However, I wonder how the giant in social media will maintain its position. And what happens if the floodgates open and 400 million users becomes 300? If the walls start to crumble and some leave, the experience for those remaining is diminished.  If your friends aren’t on the site, your experience is less rewarding as you aren’t connecting.  What is the tipping point? Are there enough new users still coming into the funnel to replace the ones that are tiring of stale info and constant changes designed to make the site a more open data source for Zuckerberg and crew to sell? Maybe for a while but somewhere there’s a bright creative student creating the next big thing for consumers like Facebook was…four years ago.

Photo courtesy ajh1963 via Creative Commons