Monthly Archives: May 2008

I fix!

When I was a kid, my friend “T’s” Mom drove a Citroen. Actually, she never called it that – she subbed in an “sh” for the “c”, which delighted us a lot (probably why I named my youngest daughter after her – another long story). If you know anything about cars, this is a fine example of something that was over-engineered, incredibly complex, and bound to break constantly. It was also a damn fine ride when it worked but that was infrequent enough so as not to care.

The Citroen!

In the late 1960’s, this was not a car one could take just anywhere to be repaired. In fact, you couldn’t take it anywhere – no one knew how to fix the damn things. So every time it would break, T’s dad would call Nicholas. How he found Nicholas is long gone. What Nicholas did for a living is also a mystery, as was English to Nicholas. But he knew the only phrase that mattered: “I fix!” And so he did, in his MacGyver-like way.

Which makes me think of two things.

First, how easy it would be today to find Nicholas – in fact, the problem is more about the fact that we can’t sort through all the repair options we’d surface in a simple search and making information more accessible is really the single biggest challenge for content companies and marketers. Sort of why the semantic web is going to be important.

Second, no matter how good you may be at most things, you’re probably not great at everything. T’s Dad built a beautiful brick wall in his back yard and added on to the house but couldn’t fix this car. That’s why people like me are here: to fix your ride so you can get back to doing what you do best. The trick is not to wait until it breaks down!

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A lesson on public speaking

I’m not sure how many of you know who spoke before Lincoln at Gettysburg (Edward Everett) nor that he spoke for two hours (yawn). Lincoln then got up and, in 272 words, delivered one of the most moving pieces of oratory in the English language.

Believe it or not, I had time to think about that today at the arts awards ceremony today at my daughter’s school. Most of the department heads – art, band, choir, etc. – got up and explained for what the awards were being given as well as, in 15 seconds, a bit about each recipient and why they were being given the award. A lot to get through, a lot of kids, but it was sailing along smoothly.

Until one department head, whom I won’t embarrass here, got up. Then, the assembled multitudes were treated to 3 minutes explaining her program which, frankly, is exactly what you’d expect it to be from its name. After the introduction, which, thankfully, she had written out, she called each of the 10 kids up who were award recipients and spoke for at least 90 seconds, without notes, about each one, including the kids who weren’t there to get their awards. She rambled. She “ummmed”. It was, in a word, paniful. Oh yeah – she then concluded with 3 more minutes about the program (again, written out). Her 8 awards took as much time as the entire music department, which presented awards in 5 areas to 25 kids.

I’ve given a lot of speeches in my time and this was a textbook example of what NOT to do:

  • Don’t talk to an audience at length about a subject in which they have no interest. An audience coming to hear about digital media doesn’t want to know about my golf round last week; no one wants to hear about a kid other than their own at great length.
  • Don’t speak extemporaneously unless you’re Robin Williams. Use notes – scripts may not be better since they can cause you to lose audience contact. But don’t ramble. Organize your thinking!
  • Pay attention to the audience – she seemed oblivious that there was a constant stream to the doors after her first 6 minutes – and I feel badly for the two areas that had to follow her because those kids should be recognized in front of everyone, not just those who hung around.
  • Know when to stop talking! Just like I know to stop writing (which is now).

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It’s all too easy when you’re dead tired and facing an impossible situation at work to get angry and give up.  Someone else can handle it.   I quit (at least mentally and emotionally).  What if quitting isn’t an option?  Ever?

Let me give you all the same clue I found:  we don’t know jack.

So today’s post is going to be a link, mostly, to a piece written by a former colleague and current friend who explains how he has turned maybe the most difficult situation into something totally beautiful.  I hope it affects you the way it did me and reminds you of the things that really matter (and in general, work deadlines aren’t on the list).  Thank you, Russell, for bringing me back to reality.

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Low and Slow

This weekend is sees the celebration of the Memorial Day holiday here is the US. Traditionally, this weekend marks the start of Summer (OK, maybe that’s July 4th but I love Summer, so…) and that means it’s time to fire up the smoker. While one can achieve great BBQ on everything from a Weber kettle to rigs costing thousands, my preferred weapon of choice is the Bandera, which used to be made by The New Braunfels Company.

We had a bunch of folks over to enjoy ribs, smoked turkey, beer can chicken, the odd bit of smoked bratwurst (I couldn’t find a Hebrew National baloney to smoke which, as an aside, is the closest thing I know of to meat candy when spiced and smoked). The thing they all were wondering about was why does good “Q” take so long. Those of you with a love of smoked meat know that “low and slow is the way to go” and that getting the temperature in the smoker above 225 F is a formula for shoe leather.

Which, of course, got me thinking about how many people seem to do business today. Just as one cannot make BBQ in the microwave, fixing problems via the proverbial microwave for a quick fix is, in my mind, not getting you where you need to go. Now, some folks insist on cooking ribs for 8 hours; I think I’ve proven you can have damn good results in 3.5 – 4. However, I am talking about using the right tools, taking the right amount of time, and, if you can, using the guidance of someone who has been there before (I ruined a lot of racks and quite a few briskets in my day until I got it figured out).

There is a Slow food Movement of which you may be aware and I love what they have to say. However, sometimes you’re late for work and DO need to toast that Pop-Tart and go (eeew). Sometimes problems won’t wait. But I think many operations would be a lot better off if they made the quick fix the exception rather than the rule.

And now I’m off to enjoy some leftovers!

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Luck is the residue of design.

Luck is the residue of design.

The Mahatma

Branch Rickey, Lecture title, 1950

US baseball administrator (1881 – 1965)

This post isn’t about baseball or diversity, although The Mahatma, as Mr. Rickey was known, was an expert in both. Hard for someone who is a lifelong Yankees fan (stop it – I can hear you from here) to admit, but true.

Nope. This post is about the start of the Stanley Cup Finals and one of my former employers, the NHL. The NHL has set a number of records on the business side this year – higher TV ratings among them. There are some who say that the outdoor game (Winter Classic – sorry!) and its huge TV viewing (for something not football) on New Year’s Day distorted the season’s numbers. There are others who say that the good fortune of having Detroit, Dallas, Philly, and the Pens in your final four, all teams with good Canadian appeal yet no Canadian team to hurt US TV, was a stroke of luck. The fact that the US teams are from BIG markets and not smallish ones helps too. Lucky!

Well, to quote an expression that was more popular in Mr. Rickey’s time, pshaw. In general, pro sports teams ARE in big markets and the past few years have been the aberration. Giving fans an alternative to college football, even on its biggest day, isn’t a bad idea and hockey doesn’t need huge numbers to be successful.

How about we all acknowledge that this “luck” may be due to solutions that reflect careful thinking and long-term planning? It’s very easy to duct tape something together and say it’s fixed. Really fixing things takes time and maybe the odd banged thumb here and there. That’s how we try to approach solutions with our clients.

With no team in the Final from west of the eastern time zone, the scenario isn’t perfect but the residue of design that’s ready to start is pretty appealing none the less.

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Welcome aboard!

So, here we are. Welcome aboard.


I’d like to take a few minutes and explain where we’re going to be traveling over the next little bit, so sit back, make sure your belts are securely fastened, and relax.

My name is Keith, and I’m a guy who works with companies on using media to grow their businesses. It could be that nasty old traditional stuff like radio and TV or it could be that newfangled stuff like social media. Either way, bubba. Since it’s not about the channel.

That’s the first stop on our trip and we’ll be visiting it often. the one where companies mix up their technology, their marketing strategy, and their business. Yes, I’m talking about advice that’s probably older than you are (and only barely younger than I am) . But you would be surprised how many folks I’ve met over the years do something because it’s cool (or kewl in the last few years) rather than because it ties in nicely to their business goals, strategies, and tactics.

So that’s what we’ll look at in this blog, with a particular emphasis on the emerging media business as well as sports. I’ll probably throw in a few food tips as well since we can’t be all work and no play.

Feel free to hang out!

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