|"The struggle is important, |
but I got what I came for."
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
|"Tell me more about how much you|
like my ring tone."
I had already dropped three quarters into the meter before I saw the flashing message: “No parking. Construction only. You will be towed. January 2, 2007.”
It had taken me 40 minutes to find that spot. There was no construction nearby. And I was pretty damned sure that it was 2015. That is until I heard the theme song from “The Little Rascals” coming from the suit pocket of the guy sitting at the café I was parked in front of. At that point, boiling over with rage at this effed-up city and temporally unhinged from the anachronistic no-parking notice, you might have convinced me that it was 1969 and I was sitting in the big red chair in my mom’s living room, playing hooky and watching The Little Rascals.
The guy let the song play out its natural break before he answered (wouldn’t you?), staring at me with that “dig me” look that this town is known for. Rather than irritate me, the guy’s ring-tone home-run trot actually reminded me of a very important lesson about successful communication that I’d been meaning to talk to you about.
On October 24, 1936, Hal Roach released “Pay as You Exit,” The Little Rascals 148th and arguably most important short comedy film. You see, the 74-year-old “Pay as You Exit” short actually holds the secret to successful communication in the 21st century—it is better to give THEN receive.
The plot of the show is simple: in order to attract an audience to their production of Romeo and Juliette, Alfalfa invites everyone to see the show for free and tells them to pay as they exit only if they enjoyed the performance.
And it is precisely that simple formula that is separating the communication winners from the losers on the Internet. Organizations that freely give away their best material are attracting people who are interested in their key issues—some of whom would be willing to pay for a deeper dive in the info pool.
Those who are still hoarding their cache of information in hopes of attracting pay-to-play customers are becoming increasingly irrelevant in a world where knowledge is free. Sure, your organization may be the uncontested champion of the arcane details of your “highly specialized” field, but if you are hiding that info behind membership dues, outrageous download fees, or other monetary considerations, you won’t be the champ for long. People will find a free way around you.
You will fare much better giving away as much information as you can, attracting those interested in your topic to your helpful, free platform, and developing a reputation as the go-to resource on your given issue. If you’re content is as good as you think it is, you’ll have plenty of people paying as they exit … and even more when they tell their friends about your amazing website.
A little known fact: The actual title to the Little Rascals’ theme song is “Good Old Days,” which presumably referred to a simpler pre-20th century era—a time before people viewed information solely as a commodity. Back in the 20th century, nobody gave away information. (You think Hal Roach let his audience “pay as they exit”?) So when we start giving away our content, we are not marching forward into some brave new world. We’re actually returning to a much more natural way of communicating with people.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
|"And don't forget to look both ways before |
you cross the ... oh, to hell with it."
The Montgomery County, MD parents who were accused of child neglect for letting their 10-year-old son and six-year-old daughter walk home from a park unchaperoned were found responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect” by the county’s Child Protective Services.
Can you imagine what the charges would be if those parents let their kids chase the mosquito man truck down middle of the street in a blinding fog of DDT ... like our parents did?
Friday, January 30, 2015
|"The spoon thing? Bag of shells. But for the |
life of me I can't cancel my Comcast service."
One of the least vulgar Urban Dictionary definitions of "comcastic" is "something that is not merely horribly bad, but actively offensive in some universal way," as in “Comcast’s customer service is comcastic times xfinity.”
The latest chapter in their saga features a “rogue” employee who renamed one of their customers “a**hole” over a billing dispute. But this employee isn’t alone. Comcast seems to be a veritable rogues’ gallery of vindictive “customer service” reps.
And it apparently starts at the top.
Steve Kipp, Comcast’s regional VP of communications who’s doubling as road manager on this most recent apology tour, was himself Comcast’s “Rogue of the Month” back in May 2011.
The cable exec's swan dive onto the hard slab of public opinion was prompted by a tweet that expressed appropriate—and pretty much universal—disgust that the FCC Commissioner who voted to approve the $30 billion Comcast/NBC merger "is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!?" (sic) Much to Kipp's chagrin, the tweeter was Reel Grrls, a nonprofit that teaches media production to young women, and which is funded in part by Comcast.
So Kipp fired off this email:
"Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. ... I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding ... I respect your position on freedom of the press. However ... I cannot continue to ask [my bosses] to approve funding for Reel Grrls, knowing that the digital footprint your organization has created about Comcast is a negative one."
For this digital dressing down, Kipp received the widespread condemnation that Comcast seems to court on a regular basis But he also gave us the opportunity to review a few basic PR commandments:
- Don't cite your respect for the First Amendment just before punishing someone for exercising their First Amendment rights.
- If you're a multi-billion-dollar corporation with a reputation so compromised that your marketing slogan is commonly used as an insult, don't threaten charitable nonprofits.
- Before you hit “send,” take a breath and consider what Mickey Rourke said to William Hurt in Body Heat. “Any time you try a decent crime, you got 50 ways you're gonna [screw] up. If you think of 25 of them, then you're a genius … and you ain't no genius."
Sunday, January 25, 2015
|Bert G. channeling Charlie D.|
Either way, I would be a less than hospitable host if I failed to offer my assistance to this inquisitive soul. So I am reposting the article in question in hopes that our mutual friend will see that, indeed, I did not falsely accuse acclaimed Charles Dickens scholar, Bert G. Hornback, of anything. I simply posted his email to me in which he admitted being ... let's just say, inappropriate. My contribution to this post was to simply offer context--the hard times I went through, if you will--and additional insight where it was lacking.
I also note that it is exactly one week shy of a year since I originally posted that piece. In honor of the occasion, I think I'll have a drink. The only question left--olive or twist?
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Want to kill a kid’s interest in something he enjoys? Make him take lessons “to get better at it.”
When I was a kid, I liked to swim. My technique was appalling but I could cut through the polluted water at Ideal Beach with no effort at all. And whenever I stepped on a crab, I was a regular Mark Spitz.
But apparently this wasn’t good enough for my mom, who signed up the four of us kids for swim lessons at the Red Bank YMCA.
Everyone who takes swim lessons at the Y starts as a Pollywog before advancing to Minnows, Flying Fish, and then the ultimate achievement—Sharks. Being a Shark in and of itself was pretty cool. But they also got to use the high dive, so you just had to get to Sharks.
First, however, you had to graduate from Pollywogs by demonstrating that you could swim … their way. Apparently, what I was doing did not qualify as swimming, so I got stuck with the five-year-old Pollywogs while my brother and two younger sisters advanced to Minnows. I was 12 years old.
It gets worse.
Before they even let me paddleboard with the other kiddies during free time, I had to demonstrate that I knew how to hold my head underwater without breathing. To do that, they had me bend at the waist with a paddleboard in my outstretched hands, take a breath, put my face in the water, exhale, turn my head to the left to take in a breath and repeat the process 10 times.
I couldn’t do it. For six weeks I couldn’t do it.
Those six weeks passed slowly. I’d watch as nervous new kids—“fish” we called them—entered the pool for their first day of swim lessons. And then, when they learned their lesson, I’d pat them on the back and wish them well as they advanced to Minnows. Sure, I was envious at first. But I knew I was never getting out of that hell hole so—over time—it made me happy to see those little tykes get over the wall, so to speak.
As the summer--and our swim lessons--were coming to a close, I asked my instructor in a final act of desperation if I could turn my head to the right to breathe. “Sure,” she said. “A lot of good it’ll do ya.”
Well, it worked. I could swim—their way. In one day, I graduated from the Pollywogs, blew through Minnows and became a Flying Fish. By the end of the week, I was a Shark.
But now I hate to swim. And I’m afraid the same thing is happening to people who enjoy telling stories. You can’t swing a life guard’s whistle these days without smacking into some self-described expert who wants to teach you how to tell a story.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you already are a great story teller. Sure, there are ways you can improve your unique technique, as you’ll see in this video*. But when it comes to telling stories, you’re incredible. A regular Mr. Limpet.
* This video originally appeared in our QuASAR Method Video Series.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
|"And these stones were imported from ... |
try to keep up with me people. There's
still more to see on the tour."
Years later, we hoodlums would line up empty Knickerbocker Natural beer bottles on the sewer grate near Marius Overhand's house and throw rocks at them until the cops drove by, which usually gave us about five minutes of bottle-smashing time.
The most hilarious sewer-moment of my life actually involved Marius. After a night of drinking (a lot of) Knickerbocker Natch', we convinced ourselves that all of the coins we had dropped down the holes in the manhole cover on Bayberry Lane were still there and that it only made sense to get a crowbar, lift the manhole cover, and scoop up the loot.
Once we lifted the cover, Marius jumped in and climbed down. To our great disappointment, there wasn't any money down there. To Marius' greater disappointment ... well, I'd better let him tell the story. But remember, we had drunk a LOT of Knickerbocker Natural.
But I've matured some since then and am now putting sewers to a far greater use--as the centerpiece of a lesson on how to connect with your audiences. You can check out the video here.
If you didn't already, check out the Knickerbocker Natural link above. It is a bizarre--yet strikingly accurate--super-8 portrayal of young men being idiots in the early 70's. It made me a little verklempt, not gonna lie.
Also, if you have any sewer-related tales, share them with the class in the comments section.