Thursday, July 31, 2008

Goals - and sticking with the plan

Here is a nice note I got from a client after we had worked together. It underscores the value of setting goals and then "staying the course." (Shame that expression has become so tarnished of late)

In answer to my question:

Q. How well did we accomplish the goals you set for our work together?

A. "Extremely well. Although you laid out the structure and the “mini-goals”, it gelled in our final meeting beyond what I expected. As if it were a well told story and we came to the third act."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Improv techniques help creative people communicate their ideas better

Creative people are notoriously not-so-good at presenting their ideas. Pitches, conference calls, presentations, talking to clients – these are not their favorite things to do. But without successful communication their ideas have a hard time getting off the drawing board.

April Jaffe and Michael Pollock have discovered that the techniques and exercises used by improv actors can be enormously helpful to our creative clients. We are specially selecting and adapting exercises to incorporate into our own brand of workshops that we will be giving to teams at film companies, design firms and other creative businesses.

Last night we held a trial run with the help of improv star Rebekka Johnson. The session was attended by film editors, a videoblogger, a photographer, a documentary producer, an executive producer and ad agency creatives. It was a huge success, converting even those who were not sure that this was their thing. The group was particularly impressed by the value of techniques relating to listening, working towards goals, and managing difficult clients. Here is what one participant wrote to us this morning:

"I wanted to thank you for inviting us to what proved to be both a terrifying and incredibly enjoyable evening. Standing in front of a group of people or privately attempting to be creative is always a daunting task and the night's exercises provided a number of helpful tools and exercises from an unlikely source, improv."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Clients and the Creative Process

Thanks to Paul Cappelli for bringing this must-see video to our attention.

What if there were no STOP signs and a major corporation was charged with creating one...

Click here to see: The Creative Process

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Marketing/Brand Therapy

A Pollock Spark client - the artist/owner of a creative business - wrote, in answer to my question "Would you recommend (Pollock Spark) to others?"

"Absolutely and already have! I have said the experience was marketing/brand therapy. I hope we do another round 12 months from now. It's really as important to me as seeing your doctor regularly to check your blood pressure etc."

Carissa - onward to the Oscars?

"Carissa" was one of four short films selected out of 116 for the International Documentary Association's DOCUWEEK .

Carissa is a moving and informative film by David Sauvage about child prostitution and homelessness that we were able to help get made. It will have theatrical distribution at the Arclight Cinema during the last week of August and will therefore qualify for Academy Award consideration. Historically, a very real percentage of DOCUWEEK films get nominated.

Here are its recognitions to date:

Carissa officially premiered at the beautiful and aptly named Premiere Theater on the Lucas Arts Campus in San Francisco on March 18.

Here is a list of its awards / film festival selections since then. This list does not include the festivals named above.

Winner, Jury Prize, Best Documentary Short, Newport Beach Film Festival
Winner, Jury Prize, Best Short Film, New York City PictureStart Festival
Winner, Jury Prize, Best Documentary Short, Connecticut Film Festival
Winner, Audience Award, Documentary, Fresno Film Festival
Official Selection, Bermuda International Film Festival
Official Selection, Trenton Film Festival
Official Selection, San Francisco Frozen Film Festival
Official Selection, Landlocked Film Festival
Official Selection, Iowa Documentary Film Festival

Its two most impressive appearances in the press have been:

Good Morning America

USA Today
Carissa also appeared on CNN Newsroom a few weeks ago, discussing the nationwide crackdown on child sexual exploitation by the FBI.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What your network says about you

What does your social network look like?

This remarkably beautiful image represents my own network of LinkedIn connections.

My genius friend Erich Morisse, who made this image, is developing products that quantify and value social networks. Here is what he told me:

"Social networks are as individual as we are, our own fingerprints of interaction with society. Turned into images, they remind us of everything from supernovas (see the concentrated brighter areas in this person's network) to beds of sea anemones (this one has many outliers, each with their own radiance).

Supernovas have the ability to get big and great things done with their close knit social group, but need to work hard at finding new ideas and opportunities.

Sea anemones are entrepreneurs, always finding new ideas and opportunities from their breadth of contacts; they have to rely on their contacts to find the right people to get big things done.

So which are you, are sea anemone or a supernova? And what do you need to change about your social network to meet your personal goals?"

Dear Sparkings: Why aren't my calls returned?

Q. "I keep calling and leaving messages for the ad agency producers I sell to - but no-one ever returns my calls. What am I doing wrong?"

A. Oh my dear unrequited - you must be losing your touch! What did your message say? Did you give them any good reason to pick up the phone and call you back? Would that message make you call you back? Could it be they don't have anything to say to you? Something to think about.

Though it does seem surprising, because I've heard that agency producers have been set a goal of returning 20 sales calls a day - perhaps you were their 21st call. (Are you sure about this? Editor)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ira Glass on creativity and persistence

Ira Glass tells us here just how hard it is for a creative person with taste to get their work to be as good as they want it to be. He says just do lots of work and keep on doing lots of work and eventually you will get there. He bravely plays his early work and tears it apart! (Many thanks to Erich Morisse for finding this gem)

Dead ends are illusory

"Dead ends are illusory. When did you ever let a 'Do not enter' sign keep you away from anything? Go around the brick walls. When you can't go around, climb over or dig under. Just don't give up."

This is a quote from Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez, physicist and inventor, in The Cuckoo's Egg, Cliff Stoll's wonderful account of chasing computer hackers and spies in the 80's when networking was young and network security had barely been thought of.

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Whatever happened to client loyalty?

"Whatever happened to client loyalty?" is a cry I hear over and over again from clients in the advertising field: especially from the creative shops that sell to ad agencies: film, music, editing, design and so on.

Well, sorry guys, loyalty is not even a relevant concept here. If you give them better than they expected and they keep wanting the same thing – then they might just come back. But that is not about loyalty, it’s about their own self-interest. For these ad guys who are buying your services, novelty rules. Your typical creative client is always in search of new sensations and lives in hope that the next company will excite them in some new way. And there are no metrics to hold them back.

Of course since the marketing directors keep changing and the economy is tough - the ad agencies are constantly pressured to find a new magic bullet to move the needle - no client is satisfied with the status quo.

So none of this has anything to do with loyalty. Don't even think about it. Sorry.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Treat me rough, coach!

Before I start work with a new business-coaching client I ask them how they want me to work with them. Here is a selection of recent responses:

"I don’t want any gloves on. If I decide to work with you is because I chose to, I know what I want out of it and I will get it."

"Please be very rigorous! I’m determined to make progress … I want to gain some insights, I want to evolve as a businessman and grow as an artist."

"More of a football coach vs. a yoga coach"

"Don't leave any marks"

And my personal favorite:

"If you were a dish in a Thai restaurant, you’d be the jungle curry – very rigorous."