This blog post talks a lot about fear, but it’s really about opportunity, hunger, and career path. I’ll explain…
As a writer, few things in this world rattle you to the bone worse than a blank screen, cursor blinking at you, mocking your paralysis. I’ve set out personally and professionally to obliterate this fear in my writing, a desire borne out of a love for quality content and improving people’s lives through creation. But regardless, this post almost had me. The need to meticulously convey exactly why I’m joining HubSpot drove me to draft paragraph after paragraph, delete the first one, rework the second, start all over, and scrap it all in the end…only to start again.
But here we are: I’m joining HubSpot, and I couldn’t be more excited to be their Content Team Manager.
I’ve been incredibly lucky early in my career. I interned at ESPN. I started off my full-time journey at Google. I led the content team at a startup (Dailybreak) that handed me the reigns to build something from nothing. And if you asked me to write about why I loved any of these opportunities, the same horrifying, blinking cursor would have laughed in my face.
So, I’ll avoid writing all about my interest in HubSpot here. You all know most of the company’s redeeming qualities anyway: ESPN-big media aspirations, a Google-great culture, startup-style challenges, and some of the smartest people ever assembled. (If you’re new to HubSpot, as some of my non-Boston connections may be, you can learn about us here.)
Instead, I think Grammar School Jay could sum up nicely why I’m so excited by the prospect of turning HubSpot into THE biggest and best marketing content hub in the world. A quick story about that young buck, in a day before all the sarcasm and hair gel…
For the next several months, I will be blogging exclusively in two places in an effort to produce more quality content regularly (rather than stretch myself thin and weaken that content across all outposts).
My first and primary blog will now be the industry association which I co-founded: Boston Content. The posts there will center around building community (which I’m discovering is quite a tall task, but a fun one). Specifically, this community focuses on content industry professionals - those who plan, create, launch, and analyze content for business purposes, as opposed to media companies whose product is content.
And the second will be my startup Dailybreak’s blog called “Actions Speak” - an homage to our belief that, for brands, actions speak louder than followers, even if most marketers are overly obsessed with amassing social media followers without thinking of business results.
If you’re wondering why I’m doing this, it’s because I’ve learned that multi-tasking is overrated. If you’re going to make a splash in anything, it’s gotta be with a singular focus. Multi-tasking, despite the notion that it’s a skill set, actually doesn’t help anyone accomplish more.
Questions? Comments? The best outlet to use is Twitter, where you can follow me here.
Originally written for the Dailybreak blog.
The Content Marketing Institute recently discussed a huge initiative from Coca-Cola called Content 2020. One concept in particular should resonate with any marketer is the idea that content can and should drive customers. That’s right – the wholesome, upbeat notion of creating quality media for people to consume can not only act like an ad but can drive even more loyalty and stronger emotional ties to a brand.
The analogy used by Coke’s VP of Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, Jonathan Mildenhall, is that good content consumed by prospects and customers fills their “emotional well” – this idea of a customer’s need for emotional connections to things that they allow into their lives, which includes products and services.
Admittedly, driving customer acquisition via content consumption isn’t something that happens overnight, nor is it something that most content marketers enjoy measuring. It’s too easy to focus on consumption and not customer acquisition metrics, after all. But content can change the conversation in a powerful way, and we as marketers all realize that the public perception, conversation and emotional association between brand and consumer can lead directly to increased sales and loyalty.
But this can’t be done in one, neat campaign summed up by a media buyer and presented on a handful of slides. This is a process and ties to the larger brand, so the knee-jerk reaction is to claim that content can’t drive success.
Continue reading on the Dailybreak blog here.
I originally wrote this post for Adotas, an interactive marketing media outlet that publishes top content on online advertising trends, strategies, and news. The entire post is below.
Engagement marketing campaigns are by their very nature consumer-initiated, but too often this sort of campaign lacks results. In years past, dozens of vendors and platforms addressed the need for engagement by offering tools to structure a campaign, market to an audience, and measure results.
Campaigns like video upload contests fell short, however, with brands receiving a few dozen responses out of thousands or millions of people “reached” on publisher sites or Facebook.
Those results typified the lack of engagement at scale that campaigns received. No matter how “cool” these experiences were built to be, they lacked the right audience – one that matched both the demographic profile of a brand’s customers AND the engagement profile (i.e. an audience likely to engage rather than view, watch, read, but never make the bigger commitment to interact).
We believe the second wave of engagement marketing is quickly arriving today, one where we’ll see engagement campaigns receive participants at scale.
Below, we’ll break down the challenge facing marketers and use an example of how to overcome this challenge using a campaign run by Dailybreak and a major auto brand.
When you’re a content professional, whether you’re in content marketing, social media, native advertising, entertainment or content strategy, you’re constantly faced with the task of turning creativity into business results.
It’s no small task, especially as the days on the calendar tick by. After all, there’s only so much content you can create that’s original and qualifies as “thought leadership” around a single product or brand.
Therefore, we need to step beyond the idea of creativity as “light-bulb moments” and start accepting it as something that can be practiced, measured and improved just like any other skill set. “Making is a muscle,” as Todd Henry often says (he authored the book, The Accidental Creative, which every content professional should read).
When you view creativity as a practice and a craft to be carefully honed (vs. some fluffy, abstract notion that some people are gifted by a higher power), then you need to start by fostering the right work environment to allow ideas to flow. Content all starts with an idea, after all, whether that’s your original idea to solve a problem or your company’s ideas on marketing your product, product development, or thought leadership.
(The following is either quoting or paraphrasing Linkner…)
A recent article from Harvard Business review stands out to me as applicable to Dailybreak’s day to day evolution and growth: The Radical Beauty of Three Simple Management Practices
They are, in summary:
1) Establish Targets
2) Establish Incentives
3) Monitor so you can improve!
At Dailybreak, we’re slowly growing into our own, from early stage, scrappy startup to a later-stage company in need of process, management, and an understanding of how to improve its employees.
While we’re still a startup and can’t lose that willingness to do whatever it takes, it’s a REALLY interesting time for all of us - sort of a tweener stage. You notice that the founding team starts giving way to those with tons of experience, while still maintaining their overall vision for the company. You see a lot management ideas and philosophies thrown out there.
Above all, keeping it simple to start has proven useful for us.
Also making my list, mostly tactical:
- Set up regular 1 on 1 meetings between managers and reports
- Introduce a feedback system - 3 questions (what is X doing well; what can they improve; what do they do to make you smile/improve your work daily?)
- Discuss the moving pieces BETWEEN teams and where they overlap, so you can coordinate workflow between teams effectively when projects change hands (you suddenly find yourself in need of this process when the teams begin to grow individually - it’s no longer “just turn and ask the guy next to you” here at Dailybreak…too big!)
The scary part about a startup in growth mode is that the lovable underdog mentality and culture are still valuable, but so too are the stuffier, more established practices found at larger corporations. The idea of “going corporate” is reason for plenty of entrepreneurs to jump ship, and yet plenty of startups would save already-scarce resources if they just adopted a few lightweight practices and processes.
As Dailybreak grows, our plan is to create an environment that fosters career growth and efficient work (process-driven stuff) while still maintaining and hiring the right type of person for the culture of the company (which is, as co-founder Ryan Durkin puts it in this article on BostInno, “a blue collar work ethic in a white collar.”) As my time at Google helped me learn, the people are really the driving force behind maintaing the culture of any company.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Google+. I was working at Google in sales and had been called to NYC with a few representatives from various sales teams globally. My guess is that we were about 40 strong, each with varying levels of interest in social media. But the bottom line was that we were about to see something new.
“The next phase in the Internet’s evolution,” stated Google’s SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra. Vic was always a smooth speaker who seemed to have his entire life together. He’d deliver speeches and handle questions without so much as the faint hint of stress.
That wasn’t the Vic that spoke with us during this New York session. He was video conferencing in from Mountain View, where he’d had nary an hour or two of sleep.
“Larry called an emergency Hangout using Google+ of all the heads of departments late last night,” he sighed. He looked tired and stressed. I didn’t think it was possible.
The product wasn’t called Google+ then. It wasn’t called something I can’t state publicly. Seriously. They made us take a sarcastic oath. We laughed, but I got the feeling they were fairly serious. I mean, we raised our right hands and repeated after Vic.
There were already rumors that Facebook had stolen features from this new Google social network. Facebook called them Groups. Google+ (or whatever it was called then) was calling them Circles internally. So the last thing Google needed was a bunch of loud-mouthed sales people running around the Intertubes, the office, or an advertising agency blabbing incorrectly about [insert G+ codename here]. And as it turns out, a few of the product folk had to convince senior leaders that salespeople were needed on the project at all.
I just felt lucky to be there.
As I watched Vic and others leaders working on “G+,” from Product Manager Christian Oestlien (we’d later share a drink - it became clear he’s critical to Google+) to a few sales managers-turned-product specialists, I felt the energy pulsing through me.
The features were slick, even in alpha. The vision was huge, even for Google. The initial launch would be small (the +1 button, some social updates to Search, an early social network), even though they knew (and said they knew) that the press would crush Google for it. Between the failure that was Google Buzz and the behemoth that is Facebook, even a company as large and beloved as Google was bracing for media backlash.
I didn’t care.
I was part of something potentially awesome. Something great. “A paradigm shift,” Vic repeated several times.
I could see the evolution of my career unfolding. I returned to the sales office jazzed up, ready to educate both teammates and clients as the product slowly rolled out to the public.
But no on cared. Not a single person on my team or the greater team seemed to have any inkling that social was important, or any desire to know more about social media. (This was all taking place in 2011, mind you - not 2005). Then, for reasons too numbered to explain here, I left Google shortly thereafter to build a startup. Suffice to say, it was a risk. I was a top-performer and had seen “the light,” so it was a massively tough choice for me to leave. But the pros of building a startup and creating something myself outweighed the pros of POTENTIALLY making G+ my full-time gig at Google. (Senior leaders assured me I could do so, but I’d need to wait years. Being in my late 20s, I don’t think I have years to wait, then try a startup when I’m also starting a family. I had to make a move.)
WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?
I’m planning on migrating all my long-form publishing from here to Google+ as part of a 30-day experiment, and I wanted you to understand how invested I am in G+ first. The experiment it this: is blogging exclusively on G+ a better approach for me? Given my goals for my writing (adding value, receiving value, starting conversation), it seems to make sense.
It’s not a black or white decision, mind you - there are plenty of pros to using a blog you own, and the debate rages among bloggers. But just look at the comments around my blog here versus the discussion I got going on this very topic on Google+ here.
If you’d like to continue reading my writing during the next month, please add me to a Circle by visiting my profile here and doing so in the top right of that page where it says “Add to Circles.” You should also be able to view all posts that I send out publicly, which will be most of them, without needing to use G+ yourself if you don’t wish to do so.
I love writing, I love people, and I love conversation. All three are occurring pretty steadily over on Google+. Here, I have the writing part. There, I can write, interact with my 12,500 followers and beyond, and use the great conversation features to both send valuable information and stories to others and receive the same back from others I admire, respect, or will meet.
So long for now, Tumblr. It’s been…quiet.
I get it from my mother. Whenever I have an opinion or feel strongly about something, I just can’t help myself: it comes out. Usually, this actually doesn’t bite me in the butt, despite the Sicilian blood that boils and the wild hand motions that illustrate, well, everything I say.
That’s because, amongst friends, my strong opinions largely don’t matter, since friends are most likely those people in your life who share your same viewpoints.
But then there’s the world of tech folk.
Technology is a game of speed, firsts, newness, uniqueness, and wow…umm…-ness? As a result, those who consider themselves tech enthusiasts like to let it all hang out and compare. It’s a gross, archaic, caveman-like contest of whose is better, bigger, and gets more action - you know, socially.
I’m talking, of course, about their social networks. (Why? What were you thinking?)
Anyways, back to my love of opinion-sharing. I worked on Google+ while at Google, beginning in January of 2011. I was invited down to New York to see the early product (before Google+ was the official name, before it was launched to early adopters, and before people knew that Google+ was a divisive subject that would become the butt of plenty of nerd jokes). As a result of my early exposure and love of my then-employer, I gravitated instantly towards this new social network with the slick UI and the big-picture potential that they pitched to us. (More on that another time.)
Since leaving Google, however, I can’t resist inserting my views of the network into conversations about social media. And of course, the rebuttals start coming. I’ve heard it all:
“Google+ is so quiet, it’s like a grave.”
“Google+ is such a stupid-head.”
“You use Google+? Ew, that has cooties.”
(I don’t have particularly clever friends in tech…)
But okay, dim-witted friends, I get it: you don’t need Google+. Facebook has all your friends, Twitter has all your instant updates from your professional circle (and famous people), and LinkedIn is where you upload your resume and occasionally spam others with intro requests.
But none of this should matter! Literally NOTHING should matter about any social network’s features or user base or the pop culture cache of using it. Nothing.
To a user, it shouldn’t matter that Twitter allows for 140 characters or following without follow-backs. To a user, it shouldn’t matter that Facebook has photos and friends. To a user, it shouldn’t matter that Google+ has video chat (Hangouts) or real-time comments.
Sure, we FOCUS on those things because features become the product and the product becomes the “what” - the “tangible” thing you can describe. But, like everything in life, all that SHOULD matter is the “why” - WHY do you use it? What should matter is whether the social network accomplishes the task for which you need it.
For me, all that matters with a social network is that “why” elemet: I use social networks to interact with interesting people and to learn stuff through others. And Google+ works quite well for this for me, as does Twitter. (My Facebook account has been relegated to engagement announcements, weekend photos, and the occasional funny video.)
If ANY social network you use is good at what you’ve “hired it” to do, then great! Use that network. It could be called KittenVille and force everyone to create feline avatars that congregate on Mars for all I care. If you can connect with interesting people and learn from that, that’s alllllll that should matter.
So I’ll continue to be loud about the opinions I have, including which social network I use. Because it doesn’t actually matter which network I use. All that matters is that, like any product, it succeeds at the job that I’ve picked it to do FOR ME.
Here’s a “Keep It Simple Stupid” rule for creating B2B marketing content. But first, some context (which, as you’ll read, is way more important than content):
Dailybreak has started to build some momentum behind our recent funding, new brand, new clients, new hires, and new hair-dos. (What? You don’t change up your look to get a boost of confidence once in awhile? So we did it as a group of 30 together, so what? That doesn’t make us weird…)
Anyways, because of this, we’ve started to churn out many more pieces of business-to-business (B2B) content, from an advertising page to a white paper I was lucky enough to write (tons of fun for me) to blog posts and PR. (I don’t wish to spam you, but since someone MIGHT be curious to see this stuff, here are the links: dailybreak.com/advertising or, for the white paper on user-generated content, dailybreak.com/advertising/resources.)
Now, there’s always a temptation with creating B2B marketing content to just sprint out of the gate and start busting out blog posts and ebooks. But it’s much, MUCH more important (and effective) to start with an understanding of your customer, their needs, their struggles, passions, likes, dislikes, etc. Then and only then can you start to create content that answers the single-most valuable question you can ask yourself when creating marketing content:
Does this help my customer achieve a positive or overcome a negative?
If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no, scrap it! It’ll just be noise that wastes your precious resources and your customer’s precious time, clogging their feed with junk they don’t want to consume.
Bottom line: the world is more full of noise than ever, so relevancy and the ability to resonate with someone is king of all kings. Forget “content is king” — CONTEXT is really king. Emperor, really. Or Grand Poobah. Or Grand Master Wizard. Whatever.
Therefore, if you create content that helps a customer either achieve something positive (How to Gain More User-Generated Content) or avoid something negative (Seven Conversion-Killing Mistakes eCommerce Sites Make), then you’ll GUARANTEE that your content is relevant to the customers you know so well.
Reading is the most underrated activity, period. In any discipline (or for your personal well-being), you should be reading. Do so carefully, because there’s a lot of crap out there you’ll want to avoid, but ultimately, if you’re not reading, you’re losing out on an easy and effective way to become a badass, top-tier [insert your goal here].
So, in order of how I read them, here are some of my favorite reads that have helped me in Startup Land.
Editor’s note: The Amazon links are not affiliate links. There’s no connection between this blog and the books listed here aside from the fact that the author enjoys them and wants to spread the good word.
Editor’s note #2: Wait, I don’t have an editor, so that was really just me writing in third person. Does that make me sound douchey? Whatever, just read the damn books below :)
Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk (Amazon)
Gary, a social media pro before there were social media pros, helps you understand how to turn a personal passion into a viable business. It’s practical and pretty inspirational, given Gary’s remarkable story. I turn to this book when I need a boost in my belief that social media tools (and my convictions and personal interests) can help me grow in my career. There are lots of skeptics, so this book helps me refocus sometimes. I’ve read it twice so far.
If you’re new to “Gary Vee,” you’re in for a real treat. This guy is a bit of a social media folk hero (and, as a result, a social media “influencer” with tons of cult-like followers). Gary created Wine Library TV, where he posted wine reviews in real, down-to-earth videos. He’s funny, scathing, swears a lot, and wants to succeed in business to buy the New York Jets.
But he used social media before lots of people knew what it was at all, and he used it to build multimillion-dollar businesses. I’d highly recommend his videos, too.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Amazon)
As I switched from a career in sales to a career, ideally, on the product and content strategy side of the startup world, I desperately needed something to lay the groundwork for thinking about product development. This book is a must-read for all entrepreneurs hoping to build products against all odds. If you have slim resources and/or have to create a product that is new or innovative, read this book.
“Lean” has become somewhat buzzword-worthy. Everything in the startup world seems to be “lean development” or “lean analytics” or “lean ribeye.” (Okay, so I threw one in there, but it’d be great if all of them actually applied.) Regardless of your discipline, there are now tons of meetups and resources to help you succeed and continually innovate in ways that don’t require tons of resources. Head over to the author’s website for more.
You may also find the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development helpful. It’s a complementary piece to The Lean Startup that condenses a lot of information into a small handbook. Particularly useful if you’re launching a brand new product or company, as it helps you understand the market (consumers) and how to build according to them.
Game Frame by Aaron Dignan (Amazon)
What if you could turn any task, from a meeting you hold to the task a user takes on your website, into something fun? “Game mechanics,” or taking elements from games like badges, progress bars, and points, has become somewhat overused and abused. But this book gave me an awesome, basic understanding of how to truly design for behavior and for fun. It breaks down why “play” is so important to the human experience, and why it’s viewed incorrectly in business as recess or after work activities. It also breaks down a handful of practical applications with supporting examples other companies use successfully every day.
This book is in my top three EVER for books I rely on in my work.
I also wrote a white paper for Dailybreak featuring some of the information from this book. If you want to download the paper (it’s free), visit this page and enter your info, or contact me directly via email here.
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry (Amazon)
Being ‘creative’ today means creating on-demand. Clients, colleagues, or your own personal goals demand that you come up with something brilliant, innovative, unique, compelling, and exciting for others to consume EVERY DAY. This book outlines some of the challenges facing “creatives” or those doing creative work (anything involving your thought process to solve problems — not just the Don Drapers of the ad agency world). It then addresses ways to structure your days with an eye to creating.
In short, the book is a guide to improving and conditioning your creative rhythm. It’s not just a process of sitting in a room until a lightbulb goes off. Being creative can be fine-tuned. This book is a guide to doing so.
You’re reading this post, so I can safely assume that (A) you know me personally or (B) you’re interested in the topics I post here. Either way, you’re reading something advice-driven or business-driven. But this book really drives home one important fact: you need a multifaceted, diverse, rich view of the world. Being creative means pulling from your experience of the world. What you put into your brain, you will eventually spit out in the form of work or creation. So, stay well-rounded in life, and you’ll stay creative.
Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (Amazon)
Regardless of your faith in religion or God, your lack thereof, or your confusion on the subjects, one thing remains the same for all of us: we need to have faith in people and occasionally refocus our lives on what’s truly important. Mitch Albom is most widely known for his novel Tuesdays with Morrie and his work as a sports journalist. This book, which I read just a week ago, really hits home for me. It’s VERY easy for me to be always on with my work, between how much I enjoy it and its very nature (startup, creative, etc.).
I loved this book for three reasons: it’s a necessary break from business-related reading; it helps you remember that there’s more to life than just your work; and it bridges all faiths and beliefs, whether those are based in religion or interpersonal relationships.
If you roll your eyes at this concept, I feel truly sorry for you. We need to believe in something in life, whether that’s music or God or the kindness of others. Any consistent pessimism will destroy you, especially as an entrepreneur. You need unrelenting positivity.
If you have any books you’d recommend along these lines, leave them in the comments or send me a tweet! Thanks for reading!
Context: In the last 15 months, I’ve met with about a dozen friends and former colleagues for one reason: they really don’t like their jobs. Most of them are lucky to work at awesome companies with very recognizable brands. Most of them are brilliant. I’m lucky to know them. HOWEVER…most of them never decide to take action to change their situation. Maybe sharing my quick story will help. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s honest.
Here’s that story…
Just over a year ago, I made a decision that, at the time, was pretty damn hard. I chose to leave Google. (Google! The food! The brand! All of that.) And the hardest part in a way was changing my stupid LinkedIn profile to read “CampusLIVE” - a young company with a young (read: not-so-great-looking) product and, let’s be honest, a pretty lousy name.
Looking back, the “risk” I took was really no risk at all. My mentality heading into the decision was just that, too. I remember thinking to myself, If this startup fails, I’ll at least learn a ton and meet some great contacts to expand my network. Plus, I’ll know definitively that I gave startups a try.
But through all the reasoning with myself, the fact remained that it was still an impossibly hard decision to leave a place like Google. Here’s the punchline though: it should have been easy. There was literally no reason for me to stay at my old job because I’d learned all I could there — at least for the direction in which I wanted to steer my career. (This is a positive, by the way. I learned a ton. I love that I could learn there, but I also felt the learning slowing down or even stopping. That’s a warning sign.)
Let me start by saying, Google was and is incredible. The people, the perks, the brand, and the energy make for the ideal post-college job. But, again, I’d learned what to do to succeed at a high level, and I felt my unhappiness clinging to me everyday. I knew my next move wouldn’t be available to me for some time due to HR policies. Plus, a job function I wanted wouldn’t be open for two years, and even then, it would not be located in Boston where I hoped to live for a few more years.
So, I sucked it up and found something to move towards (rather than moving AWAY from something — that’s a hugely important concept). And, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s what happened:
Again, this was my own personal experience of my transition from one specific job to a new one. This won’t be the case for everyone, I know. And this is most certainly not me painting a picture of Google. But I can tell from my talks with a few friends working across several companies that they’re in similar situations.
So, my advice is this: listen to the advice of others, but ultimately, just do whatever feels right in your heart and in your mind. Take that risk while you’re in your twenties, because the only thing that matters now is that you’re learning each and every day.
I know my friends. I know when they’re unhappy, it’s due in large part because they’re not challenged. Their brains atrophy. They don’t feel creative.
At the risk of sounding a little conceited, my friends are very talented people. They’re smart as all hell. (Again, I’m the lucky one to even know them. I’m not saying I’m they’re equal because, for the most part, I’m really not.)
These talented people have passions, energies, ambitions, and drive…none of which seems to be present or used in their current posts.
So, to my friends, my message is simple: please take action. Stop talking and go DO something. You’re young, smart, hungry, and destined to be really successful if you work hard enough.
Will it be easy to get things in motion? No. Will others judge? Probably. Is there risk involved? Not as much as you’d think if you’re finding new ways to learn while you’re still young.
If you finally stand up and decide to make a change, I promise you’ll look back in a year and realize something: it was the best damn decision you’ve ever made.