Once upon a time, many years ago, I sat at a conference table in the middle of the afternoon with a man named John. We were in the meeting room at the Hillsborough County, Florida chapter of the American Red Cross; I’d been volunteering as a Public Affairs correspondent for a number of months, writing pieces for their newsletter and generally supporting their local outreach programs.
Today I was sitting with John, interviewing him for the front page article of our quarterly, the glossy color version of the newsletter that went out to Red Cross donors, supporters, and various politically-connected folks. We had decided to start doing profiles of people who had gone through our First Aid and CPR programs.
Even over fifteen years later, I still remember talking to John like it was yesterday. He had a great story.
So recently I was targeted by a certain sales rep with a certain prominent company that does inbound marketing software – basically, marketing automation that relies mainly on social media and pay-per-click campaigns. They stay in business because people hate to cold call. I’m not going to name names, but if you work in marketing today, you almost certainly have seen this company around.
I’m a writer. I communicate for a living. I work with engineers, tech companies, and marketing firms, charged with assembling written marketing collateral for outfits that make complicated, practical things.
For what I do – and for many of the companies I work for – there is very little value in making things sound sexy. The things we sell work for a living. They do stuff. They are needed, and they are worth the money. Most of my job is listening to very smart people, and then getting that bottom line value across to other very smart people.
Looking back, it’s easy to remember forms of webtalk in days gone by and think, that’s quaint. Geocities comes to mind. MySpace. Even – as much as I hate to admit this – UseNet newsgroups. And one day, Facebook and Twitter will likewise go the way of Gopher, supplanted by some new and more efficient way of getting info out there.
When we talk with clients about their social media presence, occasionally we’re still asked about RSS feeds. RSS isn’t nearly the hot marketing medium today. Should we care about ensuring that our website has an RSS feed available?
And to that I say, absolutely yes.
So in my travels this morning, I crossed paths with this article over at Indiewire about a professional conflict between Steven Spielberg and special effects master Rick Baker back in the early 1980s. It is an interesting story about never-before-seen photos of intricate alien creature sculptures that Baker designed for a dark Spielberg sci-fi film that never ended up being made. The long, weaving tale casts some light on Hollywood business dealings, professional mistrust and the various legal maneuvers behind some of the biggest films of that decade.
The part I found most fascinating, however, was the light it shed on the messy aspects of the creative process.
I was talking this morning with an old friend, and we were commiserating about the lives of busy people – busy marketing managers, specifically. The average marketing manager today seems to be single-handedly juggling what would have required a full team just five years ago. Deadlines are shorter, emergencies are more common, and stress levels are higher than ever. For every one marketing professional who loves their job, twenty others seem trapped on the hamster wheel today.
One major downside to all this busyness – besides, of course, the eventual burnout of good people – is that the great opportunities that advance careers and markets are easily overlooked.
Second probably only to the President himself, the White House press secretary has to be the toughest, most stressful job on Earth. We’ll probably never know exactly what tipping point finally drove Jay Carney to step down today, but it isn’t hard to guess. Anyone in the public relations or marketing game – for an entire nation, a small business or somewhere in between – has to keep a lot of plates spinning at once. And they have to do it with a relaxed smile.
It’s not hard to see why Fast Company in 2007 called the CMO the “most dangerous job in business”.
Anyone who knows us folks at LBC really well knows that we have an affinity for our toys. Personally, I’m a madman for a good upgrade; going back to my early days as a coder and tech writer, I can’t resist filling my spare time with the neverending, quixotic chase after better ways of doing more for less cost. Every step forward in simplifying, extending and flattening our tech infrastructure means being able to deliver better service on a more versatile basis. Ultimately, it means cutting overhead and energizing growth. We love it.