Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Did I mention Penelope Trunk?

Here's a great post from Penelope from a couple years ago.

It's not just about the mechanics kids . . . It's about having good ideas and how much you care.

Specialty of the Pragmatic Alternative?

Career counseling and entrepreneurship for the 14 - 30 set.

Best of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to you and yours in 2009, and in years to come.


Benefit from blogging without spending tons of time

A few months ago, I was interviewing this guy, Ben Casnocha.

The first thing you need to know about Ben is that he started a company when he was fourteen. And it's still around today, four years later. Ben doesn't run it, but my point is that it's a real company.

But no, wait, that's not my point. This next paragraph isn't my point either, but I'm going to tell you anyway: Ben's company, Comcate, helps governments do stuff online. Nothing particularly notable about that except that it's exactly what my second startup did. So while my own governments-go-online startup was going bankrupt in the dot-com crash. Ben was in his sixth grade classroom making a success of that very business.

Ben does not know this. I nearly fell on the floor when I was on the phone with him, and it was all I could do to keep the interview going. But now, whenever you see me grandstanding about my three companies that I started, you can recall that I'm also the one who was outmaneuvered in my business by a kid in junior high school.

But anyway, I digress. Ben is a very humble and interesting guy, and he's hard to not like. So during the interview, I asked him how he meets people to mentor him. This is what he said, "Mostly face to face. Not through the more traditional ways like blogging."

TRADITIONAL? I had to pick myself up off the floor again.

But you know what? That was eight months ago. And I've been blogging for a while now, and Ben has a point. It is very, very easy to meet people through blogging. And it's very efficient — you never have to leave your computer.

Some of you are thinking you have no idea where to start. So look, here are the easiest instructions for starting a blog. Some are you are thinking it's too time intensive. But you can grow a useful network efficiently from a blog that you post to only once or twice a week.

I think the networking benefits should be enough reason for you to be posting twice a week. After all, if you can't afford two hours a week for networking, your career is in trouble. But here are three more benefits to blogging — these are goals you should have for your career anyway, and they're goals you can reach by blogging only a handful of times a month:

1. You will force yourself to specialize.
You can't really write a blog about everything. Well, you can, but it will suck. So you'll need to pick a topic and stick with it. And just the act of doing that is good for you because specializing is good for your career. After all, you can't be known for something if you are not specializing in something. And once you are known for something you have a lot more leverage to get the kind of work you want to be doing.

People who want flexible work schedule often think that being a generalist will give them a lot of wiggle room. In fact, it's the opposite. A generalist is easy to find, so no one needs to bother giving you a flexible work schedule to keep you. But if you specialize you are not so easily replaced, so you can ask for more flexibility at work.

2. You will let people know you have good ideas.
One of the biggest complaints people have about their work is that no one listens to their ideas. Everyone wants to be a creative thinker, but not everyone feels like that sort of work is open to them.

With a blog, though, you show people your creativity. Got a lot of ideas? Good, because there are a lot of days in the week for you to fill on that blog. And instead of you running around the office complaining to people about your stifled potential, you can show people your potential by broadcasting your ideas. The best way to get hired to spew ideas is to spew them and get people interested.

3. You will show passion and commitment.
There is a lot of evidence to show that, all things being mostly equal, we have a proclivity toward hiring people we want to have sex with. But we also have a proclivity toward hiring people we like. And after all the Ford Models are out of the interview cue, the most appealing people are those who have passion and commitment.

Of course, if you have read any how-to-interview advice, you know you should always say you have passion and commitment. But people who have it exude it. And if you are a blogger, and post at regular intervals, you don't need to tell people about your passion and commitment - it's right there on the page.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

. . . aaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnddddddddd . . .

We're back!

Missed us, didn't you?

How could you not.

Back from taking some needed time off with daughter and friends.

Not that blogging isn't a full-time job.

It is, so that's not it.

But time off is time off.

In the meantime, through Seth through to Pistachio, through to Shel Israel, I came across Penelope Trunk, who's doing marvelous work in alternative, and not so, career counseling, on her blog and with her company,

Wow! I'd advise anyone looking for great career advice to check in with Penelope.

The thing I love most about Penelope's blog is that, along with her very practical advice and insights, she offers her real travails and concerns. You know, the kind of thing I've been covering on ReInventing Myself!

What, you didn't know?

No way. You're kidding me.


I'm just saying . . .

(Establishing ethos, establishing ethos).

I've already written her and thanked her for her great template of topics--blogging, career fulfillment, college students--some of the first things covered here at the PA, and only the first three listed on Penelope's which I know will guide me as I continue to establish myself as a great coach, career counselor and oh yeah, teacher.

Typing all this while listening to Laura deliver her Keynote in Montreal about using Twitter, and why to.

Gotta work up some backlog, so I can publish daily . . . You, too . . . House still needs cleaning.

Neil was write, "A ma-aa-aa-an / A man needs a maid . . . Just someone to keep my house clean, fix my meals and go away . . ."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Favorite Commercial of All Time . . .

Love YouTube! More to come . . .

I remembered this commercial slightly differently. Nice that there's a video record. As Warner Wolf used to say, and probably still does somewhere: "Let's go to the videotape!"

Here's the set up:

It's summer of '93. Michael Jordan has just led the Chicago Bulls to their third straight NBA championship, astutely dishing off to an open Steve Kerr, who whooshes the winning shot in Game 6 vs Barkley's Suns.

Jordan is the best. He shoots tons, plays 48 minutes of out-of-his-head defense--every game, feeds assists. "Da Bulls, Da Bulls, Da Best!" the fight song goes.

But Jordan always knew a lot of hard work went into becoming "the best."

That's why we see Jordan, all alone, practicing that most basic of basketball plays, the foul shot. Again, and again, and again.

Jordan can imagine failure, being "just a basketball player" (Hey kids! Note embedded quote!), so he takes arms against it and that. Deliberately.

Because at the end of the game, 80% of the time, foul shooting makes the difference.

Reading Geoff Colvin's new Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else last night at Barnes and Noble,Rio is what sent me looking for this commercial.

Highly recommended.

His thesis is supported by research that shows that greatness is within reach, but getting there won't be much fun.

It takes what researcher K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University calls "deliberate practice," whose key components -- designed specifically to improve performance, easily repeatable, provides an ongoing feedback loop, demanding mentally, and ain't much fun -- are quite easy to understand.

But there is that bottom line on the road to greatness: It ain't all grins and giggles.

But the upside is huge, says Colvin, senior editor in chief at Fortune where this excerpt was published in October, 2006:

"Maybe we can't expect most people to achieve greatness. It's just too demanding. But the striking, liberating news is that greatness isn't reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone."

Words to grow on, kids!

Monday, December 22, 2008

About the IdeaVirus: Well, Let Seth Tell It . . .

Hope I get this write: The following content comes directly from Seth Godin's blog, also known simply as Seth's blog.

I did not write any of this post, other than this brief introduction, but share it here today and give Seth Godin and Seth's blog full credit for all the content posted below.

Last week I mentioned Seth's Unleashing the IdeaVirus, and that I planned on releasing it here on The Pragmatic Alternative.

Maybe Seth's a reader, 'cause he's not only re-released Unleashing the IdeaVirus in his latest blog post, he's also reflected on its relevance 8 years later, and reemphasized just what makes an IdeaVirus an IdeaVirus.

Enjoy this great post, and read Seth's blog everyday.

I do.

It's appointment web.


What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing is an idea that spreads--and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause.

Two kinds of viral marketing: The original classic sort in which the marketing is the product and which a self-amplifying cycle occurs. Hotmail, for example, or YouTube. The more people use them, the more people see them. The more people see them, the more people use them. The product or service must be something that improves once more people use it.

A second kind has evolved over the last few years, and that's a marketing campaign that spreads but isn't the product itself. Shepard Fairey's poster of Barack Obama was everywhere, because people chose to spread it. It was viral (it spread) and it was marketing (because it made an argument--a visual one--for a candidate.)

Something being viral is not, in an of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? It didn't market you or your business in a tangible, useful way.

Marketers are obsessed with free media, and, as is often the case, we blow it in our rush to get our share. We create content that is hampered or selfish or boring. Or we create something completely viral that doesn't do any marketing at all.

I wrote the first mainstream book about viral marketing. It's free (still) eight years (and millions of downloads) later.

Download 2000Ideavirus.pdf

I haven't updated it or made it pretty, but I think the core ideas stand up pretty well. (I even talk about the Zipf's Law and the long tail, but didn't realize it at the time).

Here's how the book itself is an example of viral marketing:

1. I posted the PDF for free. Three thousand people downloaded it on day one.

2. The file is small enough to email to your friends. I encouraged people to do just that.

3. Some people mailed it to fifty or a hundred people. It spread.

4. That's just viral. The marketing part? I released a $40 souvenir hardcover edition. People knew the idea but didn't like the format or my design skills. So they paid a lot for a book they had already read. It went to #5 on Amazon (#4 in Japan). We sold the rights in dozens of languages. And the paperback rights. And it helped me get speaking gigs.

BUT! 5. That's not why I did it. If I had done it as a clever way to sell books, it would have failed. It would have failed because I would have somehow tried to track it, or added friction, or tried to profit in some way from the idea. I was way too dumb at the time to have done it right if my goal was to do it 'right'.

The critical element of viral marketing is this: it's built in. It was built into Hotmail and built into YouTube. The more people used the camera on their cell phones, the more the idea spread, the more people wanted a camera.

If you want to do viral marketing, you can try to come up with a viral ad, but you'll probably fail. You're better off building the viral right into the product, creating a product that spreads because you designed it that way.

Viral marketing only works well when you plan for it, when you build it in, when you organize your offering to be spreadable, interesting and to work better for everyone involved when it spreads. If I don't benefit from spreading it, why should I spread it? I won't. If you don't benefit from your users spreading the idea, it might spread, but it won't help you much. So both elements have to be present.

The reason for this post is that viral marketing is getting a bad name, largely from clueless marketing agencies and clueless marketers. Here's what they do: they get a lame product, or a semi-lame product, and they don't have enough time or money to run a nationwide ad campaign. So, instead, they slap some goofy viral thing on top of it and wait for it to spread. And if it doesn't spread, they create a faux controversy or engage a PR firm or some bloggers and then it still doesn't work.

Being viral isn't the hard part. The hard part is making that viral element actually produce something of value, not just entertainment for the client or your boss.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's not whether you have the answers . . .

. . . It's whether you know the questions. The Book of Hep, 2/25/1980

And now the answers to last week's fun quiz:

A. False. Marketing isn't everything. Love is everything. Love is the why which powers the how.

B. True. Everything is marketing.

Oh, and if both are true, "Marketing is everything" clearly takes "Everything is marketing."

Everybody knows, Love and Only Love will endure.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I'm learning about TrackBack, and you should, too.

Here's a definition, from the Andy Wibbels classic--almost three years old now!--BlogWild!:

"A TrackBack links to another blog that is referencing that particular post. Her's an example:"

I was reading Seth's blog today, and he mentioned several interesting things, in two separate posts.

First, I read about a woman named pistachio, who offers micro sharing, macro results, who's raising money for clean water for the kids in India, via twitter.

I read Wibbels yesterday, on mind reading, and Mitch Meyerson's Guerrilla Marketing Coach site. Note at the latter that two of the three blogs on the guerillamarketing coach blogroll have already been mentioned here as key influences.

And in Seth's blog the other day, a brief writing lesson.

Yeah, pretty sure that's TrackBack.

Question is: How many of these TrackBacks will link directly to articles sighted?

We'll soon see . . .

Key is connecting to particular posts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When I Write Curriculum . . .

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."
- Ernest Hemingway

. . . every student will write a blog on a schoolwide, maybe systemwide network.

Nothing wrong with literary analysis, but not always relevant in day to day communication needs.

What is needed are . . .

. . . strong, active verbs that show, not tell

. . . disdain for simple "to be" verbs, and passive voice

. . . imaginative word pictures, i.e. similes, metaphors, personifications

. . . sense words: smell those french fries, taste that cotton candy, feel that sandpaper, hear that train whistle, see those stars and stripes . . .

Another long term project--developable over the course of a student's school career: create your own Squidoo lens!

Write about something you can write about, about something you care about. Write it better and better. Add in graphics, widgets, an estore, you name it. It can be done. I've only got one so far, MeMBA but am planning on building a few real soon, before year's end.

Squidoo is the brainchild of Seth Godin--Hey, wait! You've heard of him!--I've got one minimal lens there, and have several ideas for more.

By writing for publication, students will learn to take more responsibility for their content. No one writing for publication wants to look bad. Connecting the goal of better writing to completing the writing process sets the expectation that writing needs to be readable.

People are actually going to read you.

But too many students have become disconnected from process's end.

This isn't news. Nancie Atwell has been working this idea very successfully since the mid to late 1980s, as detailed in her books, In the Middle, and Lessons That Change Writers.

And she's coming to Baltimore this spring.

See you there?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 10 Reasons YOU Should Blog!

#10 You're writing for publication.

#9 Because you're writing for publication, you're paying attention to your punctuation. No sense looking the total dumbass.

#8 Not wanting to look the total dumbass, you read over what you've written, to listen for, locate, and place the commas, the semi-colons, the periods.

#7 You're now proofreading. You're paying attention.

#6 Because you're paying attention, seriously considering what you're writing, your writing is improving.

#5 Because your writing is improving, you may be taken more seriously. Your opinions may be more respected. You may actually be supporting your opinions with facts, relevant anecdotes, statistics, empirical data, research. You know, the whole cause and effect situation.

#4 I'm just saying.

#3 Writing all the time in your blog not only improves your writing skills through constant practice, it also improves them by constantly consciously running your processor, aka your brain.

#2 From Ted's Take, blog of Ted Leonsis, owner of Washington Capitals, among other things: " . . . happy people find outlets for personal expression . . . I think the pursuit of happiness, which is an American ideal, is a large contributor to the explosion in blogs that we’ve seen over the last few years."

And the #1 Reason you should blog:

When you get to college, you won't be paying anyone not to give you credit for learning what you didn't bother to learn in high school.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Life in Marketing, Part 2: My Marketing Library

Because I know how much it matters to you all, I thought I'd let you know when I first got interested in marketing.

(Establishing ethos, establishing ethos).

Uncharacteristically, I don't remember.

I do however, remember the day I bought my first marketing textbook.

It was July 28, 1982 at a used book store in Durham, NC. I was on my way to Chapel Hill, via bus, because I'd never been there before, and I thought it was time, since I was so close. The book was Principles of Marketing by Jay Diamond and Gerald Pintell, two professors at Nassau Community College on Long Island. I've still got it.

The next marketing book was Guerrilla Marketing Excellence by Jay Conrad Levinson. This book is still a revelation. 50 of the best marketing tools as propounded by Levinson, or as he puts it: "the fifty golden rules for small-business success."

Highly recommended if you can find it. Levinson has updated his approach, of course. He wouldn't be much of a marketer if he hadn't, and he is.

Currently, I own only one book by Seth Godin, Tribes. other than the previously mentioned, co-written with Levinson, Guerrilla Marketing Handbook, and the previously available as a free download, Unleashing the IdeaVirus.

In addition to those mentioned, I recommend Godin's The Dip, Purple Cow, Survival is Not Enough.

Next, why good writing is the key to strong marketing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Life in Marketing, Part 1 . . .

A long, long time ago, over 25 years now, I embarked on my First National Tour.

Having worked as a canvasser for Clean Water Action and League of Conservation Voters, and having worked door to door for Fuller Brush, and yes, even Avon, I saw the door to door model as one that suited my skills and services perfectly.

Unlike your average street corner troubadour, I couldn't play much.

But my songs and singing were right entertaining if I do say so. And I do. That's the marketing.

marketing: letting people know what they can do with their money or resources, and why they should

So, after learning how to reach out door-to-door for support of safe drinking water and environmentally visionary leaders, I sallied forth on my First National Tour, selling performances of such legendary tunes as "Dogs in Durham," "Movin' to LA," and She Didn't (Want My A** Like I Wanted Hers). The last listed reminded listeners that "sushi" rhymes with "Belushi."

And so, stranded in Middlebury, VT, where my dog was surviving a run in--literally--with a '65 Buick LeSabre, I drove up the road to Burlington, natal home of the door-to-door guitar tour, and knocked on my first door at 6:30 pm, June 26, 1983.

My rap went something like this:

Hi, I'm Jay Hepner. I'm a singer-songwriter working my way to California by playing songs I've written. I'm asking a dollar a song, or three songs for two dollars. May I play you one?

And if they liked the one, I'd always repeat the three for two offer.

Made $44 dollars that evening and the next day in Burlington, VT, and a marketing mode was born.

Now did I max out this marketing technology?

Sadly, no. I did not secure a record deal. Nor did I find a band to support my singing and songwriting, even though that is what I'd advise anyone in similar circumstances to do today.

But I did manage to play my way from Vermont to California, with a couple stops here and there to work for Clean Water Action or the League of Conservation Voters.

Point is, at every front porch or living room venue, I left my patrons with a promissory note, "Good for one free concert," each one signed and dated, in expectation of my hitting the big time.

I may not have hit it yet, but that's what backing bands are for.

Who'll be my Station Wagons?

As Johnny used to say, "More to Come . . ."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Take My Fun Quiz!

True or False:

1. Marketing is everything.

2. Everything is marketing.

If both are true, how does that affect your choice of channels or methods?

If neither is true, do you even play?

Which one, if true, most negates the other if the other is also true?

Is the quiz no longer fun?


Back Monday with more good times!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Taking My Own Advice . . .

. . . After all, if I've got something of value to add to the conversation, I might start simply by taking my own advice.

Let me explain.

Last night I ran into a former student, currently out of work, a little distraught, as you may imagine.

"I'd love to get into graphic design. I wish I'd studied it in high school. I wasn't encouraged, but I wish I'd done it anyway.
"I also really like animals," she continued. "I have an interview tomorrow for a job in a vet's office. It doesn't pay great, but it's working with animals, and that's what I really want to do."

"More than graphic design?" I asked.

"I think . . ." she hesitated. "Yes, more than graphic design. I volunteer to care for the adoptable cats at PetSmart, and I just adore cats. I know I oculd do great work if only I could work with cats all day, every day."

Then, since I have long fancied myself something of a career counselor, I started in.

"Let me tell you what to do with your life," I began. "Only please don't notice I've done nothing with mine." (I kid because I love.)

And you know, there've been some hall of fame coaches who weren't all that as players. (Establishing ethos, establishing ethos.) Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver, Tommy LaSorda and Tony LaRussa in baseball. Joe Gibbs and John Madden, Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi weren't superstars in the NFL. Red Auerbach, no ace on the court, did OK coaching and managing the Boston Celtics.

But I digress. (I digress, therefore I am.)

Point is, you can't make someone talented, but any coach who adheres to Morgan Wooten's 3 Rules, and more importantly, gets their clients to, too, will go far.

So will their clients.

Those three rules?

1. Work hard.

2. Play smart.

3. Have fun.

So, here's what I told my former student:

* Go online

* Find an expert on your passion, cats.

* Join the conversation, then . . .


* Read what they write. Listen to their podcasts. Note who they refer to. Read and listen to them, too. But mostly, above all else . . .


In three months, you'll be ready to respond intelligently -- not only to your expert, but also to someone who has the power to hire you. Or you'll feel confident enough to start your own blog, or even . . .

. . . your own business, doing what you love, what you want to immerse yourself in every day, living your passion, your dream.

Making A Living Without A Job, as my good friend Barbara Winter, the person who first whispered in my ear, and established a templste for self-employment.

Because her advice was -- and is -- so pragmatic. so alternative.

Because the deal is making a living.

The real deal is enjoying making a living.

Barbara advises setting up profit centers. Seasonal work and side work, a variety of both. All adding up to a full year's income, fully engaged.

That's making a living without a job.

PRAGMATIC -- Making a living

Without a job -- ALTERNATIVE

I hope my former student's listening.

More about Barbara Winter -- and the other experts I've been listening to these past few years -- along the way.

Please stay tuned. . .

Joy, Jay