Category Archives: Marketing/Communications

Experiences in communications and marketing.

Divorcing Your Ideas

I’ve heard the term a few times, especially in writing: Don’t be married to your ideas. But so many times, I see the artist or creator confuse that sentiment with giving up your creative morals or principles. I was even confused by the term for a couple years. But as I grew to understand the creative process for myself and others, I began to realize the many levels of accomplishing a goal. And as I always tell my clients, design is ALWAYS subjective. There is never just ONE way to do something. Granted, some may be massively more successful than others…but I guarantee, no one EVER knows if their idea is going to be “the one.” You simply throw what you’d like to see, read or hear out there. And if you’re working with others, you try to find that synergy and reach a solution that everyone can be happy with.

Your idea is the baby of your creative world. You are the mommy and daddy, with delusions of knowing you have all the right answers for your baby. But if you ever work with anyone other than yourself, you may find yourself dealing with, what seems to you, a homewrecker. That insolent being that wants to come in, sleep with your wife and break apart the family that is your project. OK, maybe he’s the guy that just wants to convince you to have dinner with your wife. Either way, your ideal family is no longer yours. What to do?

Unless you’re paying for the project and get final say over the end result, remember one thing: The client is king…or queen as it were. You say, “But what about this?? What about that??” Yes. There’s exceptions to every rule. You have to use your best judgment on when and why to push back. The ideal situation? They absolutely trust you to do what you do best. Yay for you! But more likely, your client wants to hire you for your insight and skill set and then explain to you the vision they want you to bring to life. Because in the end…it’s their project. You may want this cool new opportunity to be the platform that propels you into the awards hall of fame. I’ve been there. And I’ve seen my vision changed into some of the worst choices in design simply because the client has a different vision in mind. So you have a choice. Abandon ship or help your client get to the destination they’re trying to get to, regardless of the end result. Here’s a great example:

Even better are those projects that are run by committee. I see these often with larger corporations. No way around that. You just need to make sure you set down guidelines before you start working so that you’re not trapped in that endless cycle of changes. Like this poor guy:

Haha! “…and our partner logos.” Both of these videos encompass the best of the worst experiences that every designer has gone through at some point in their career. And if you wallow in sorrow that is your vision gone awry, you will never be happy as a designer. Instead, follow that motto: Don’t be married to your ideas.

What does it mean? It means be open enough to understand that design is subjective. What may appeal to you may NOT appeal to someone else. And vice versa. I have a great interview with comedian/actor Robert Kelly that talks about that very same thing. He loves bold contrast and the basic color palette. I love other things.

Divorcing yourself from your ideas means to bridge the gap between what you see for your client and what they want. (And what they’re willing to pay for.)

Is Facebook Creating Pages For Us?

I’m definitely not a big fan of Facebook policy to change design and direction on a dime. There are actually a lot of issues with Facebook that don’t sit well. “Why do you keep using it then??” Because I’ve spent the better part of 2 years looking for friends, connecting with friends, and creating a network of people. I don’t want to spend another 2 trying to convince everyone to go over to Google+. But recently I began looking for family members I haven’t spoken to in a while. Most of my cousins seem technology immune, living in the desolate reaches of wherever they are. Just haven’t been able to find them. And then last night, one of them showed up in a Facebook search. So I clicked the link. I thought, “HUH! He finally got himself a page!” But something was amiss.

Is facebook creating profiles for us??

First of all, “my cousin” set up what looked like a professional page. “A FAN page?” I thought. OKaaaaay. Whatever floats your boat. (You see, he’s not a celebrity or public figure…so it didn’t really make sense.)

But then I thought..hmmm…maybe so! He’s a professional. Maybe he’s utilizing Facebook for his marketing ventures. Smart guy! But on closer inspection, I found that Facebook had created this page on his behalf. And I don’t think he requested it…or had knowledge of it in any way whatsoever (referring back to my comment of technological isolation.) Whether they went through the digital phone book or through their own members’ contact lists…I don’t know. Somehow my cousin, who probably has only heard of Facebook while walking by a conference or ordering a latte in a Starbucks, ended up on Facebook with a page that highlights his professional standing. Odd. How do I know he didn’t make it? Because why would you make a page that anyone could claim and edit?

Turns out, Facebook is kind enough to let you “notify” the owner of the page if you know them or claim it for yourself! Really? I can simply claim my cousin’s page?? What else can I do?

I can even edit the apparently public information.

Although not immediately obvious, this page does look like some kind of a business listing. But it comes with a Friends Activity page. So really, it’s my cousin’s business as an identity page. And if left unclaimed, COULD be used by unscrupulous individuals.

Pre- and post-internet, I guess you automatically get listed in the phonebook. But that’s because you have a phone. For a fee, you can even opt OUT of being in the phone book. Which was always a little odd to me. So, in this new digital age, does Facebook as our new private, expanded phonebook, get to create a page for you because you have an identity somewhere? Seems a little presumptuous of Zuck. What do you think? And what happens if you don’t make it in time to claim your identity?? Isn’t that identity theft? Even though technically, it was simply there for the taking. Makes me shake my head.


Bridging Gaps – Part 2

OK. Yay. You got to work in the field you wanted. But how? How did you bridge the gap between corporate communications and entertainment work?

Quick side note. I worked in the music industry for a little bit in L.A. and I would always listen to these stories of how writers, musicians and artists went from being broke to being successful. And 99% of the time, they skipped the part about how. I take that back. They always left out the details. The story always went something like:

I was broke and didn’t have a job. And I figured, no one is going to make my dream happen but me! So I worked hard and 1 year later, I landed my first deal. We went around the country playing small clubs and they got bigger and bigger until bam! Carnegie Hall! A great story. But if I want to follow in your footsteps, I’m going to need a little bit more info.

So here’s some more info. If you recall, I reached out, by accident, to the booking agent of a comedian that I wanted to work with. The world wide web was just emerging as a viable medium and I had just graduated from Future Splash to full-fledged Flash. The internet was finally able to handle some coolness and I was out on the cusp of its development. So I sent an email. The booking agent wrote me back with the simplest of responses: “Call me.”

So I did.

Here’s something you should consider before you run headlong into a working relationship. Know what you can get before you offer. You see, I had never been to a comedy club. I didn’t KNOW that often times the comedians simply hang out to talk. But to me, that was worth the design of a small website. And so I offered to design one with the promise that I could get some free tickets and meet the comedian backstage. Well, for a booking agent, tickets to ANY show of their client is like lint. Always available and they can produce them at any time. Insert Price is Right Fail music. So he hooked me up. And it was my good fortune to have accidentally emailed the BOOKING AGENT because now he had OTHER clients that could use my services.

Second note: When making sales calls, reach out to the people that have more contacts. While it’s great to be speaking directly with the end client, sometimes it’s better to set up a relationship with the guy who knows all the clients you’re trying to reach. For clarity: the booking agent works with a bunch of comedians. I wanted to work with some comedians. Had I reached out to ONE comedian, I would have relied on him to spread the word for me. Working with the booking agent, I could provide added services to his clients. Win-win.

Baptism by fire.

How did I gain these web and multimedia skills? Let’s start with web. I was a graphic designer. Knew Photoshop, Illustrator and Desktop Publishing. There was no web ability in there whatsoever. Not even an understanding. But my company didn’t know that. We were JUST starting to understand the web. So I jumped in with both feet. “I know how to design a website!” The marketing manager looked me for a second, knowing he had no other alternatives or budget to hire an agency. “OK.” So I got the gig. I went straight to the developers and said, “So…I’ve been asked to do this website. Do you have any resources you can recommend?” And they did. A great starter book. And so began my web design career.

I began devouring books. Watching tutorials. Found great CD-ROMs from Lynda! Eventually, I jumped into a couple classes here and there. All to expand the skills I knew would get me the kind of work I wanted to do. And the booking agent did his part. He recommended me to other comedians. They recommended me to each other. THEIR contacts wanted me to do THEIR websites. Eventually, I could barter my skills with favors from these entertainment professionals. What kind of barters? Here’s an example. I bartered a website for a promise that my client would read a new script I was working on. They loved it and passed it onto their son, a film icon back in the 80’s. THAT relationship sparked a writing partnership that would last 3 years. So I went from Corporate Communications to web design to designing for entertainers to becoming a script writer.

It’s how I tell people to use the side door.

Bridging Gaps – Part 1

I used to write a blog about being a writer in the entertainment industry. I have been, in one way or another, attached to the entertainment industry in whatever capacity I could. Whether as a writer, a producer, a designer, a developer, an animator, or whatever was the soup du jour. It was what I was pulled to. I LOVE the entertainment industry. It has neurotics, crazy people, driven people, some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, as well as some of the biggest jack asses. But all those experiences aside, it was a career path I wanted to pursue. But like the connections in your brain, if one way didn’t work, I’d simply find another.

Here’s the point. No matter what your passion, just because you can’t make it your full-time mission in life, doesn’t mean you can’t make it a part of your life. What I’m talking about here is the all or nothing mentality I sometimes come across. The “I worked in the film industry, but couldn’t cut it, so now I’m serving fries.” REALLY? You just gave up?

Now I’m not dumb. There are very real financial risks to pursuing your dreams. There are very heavy burdens that come from trying to pursue your dreams after getting married or having a family. But there are ALWAYS ways. Granted, some ways are not as fulfilling as others. But it depends on what your goals are.

I have set several goals in my lifetime, having reached all but one: getting a certain screenplay of mine turned into a major motion picture. That day is coming. I used the environment around me to kick in the side doors of an industry that may otherwise have been unavailable to me through the traditional paths that thousands take pilgrimages on every day. Be clearer? How exactly? (Yeah, I hate those guys that give you the life story of how they went from rags to riches, conveniently leaving out the details of exactly how they did it. So here’s what I’m talking about…)

My first goals: Work in the motion picture/TV industry. Specifically, I had in my head these three subsets of the goal. 1) Write a screenplay/teleplay and pitch it in L.A. or NYC. 2) Be able to fly to NYC on someone else’s dime because I’m being paid to be there on an entertainment-related gig. 3) Work with celebrities.

Yep. Got all three. And I was working in corporate communications at the time. Telecom even! AND, I live in the middle of the U.S.! So what did I do that was so different? How did I not have to go to L.A. or NYC to make these connections and break down the doors of an industry that usually caters to people who can hop in a cab and be in your office in half an hour or less? It was slow. I’ll admit. But it’s an incestuous industry. They work with people who’ve worked with people they know. And how did I work with the people they know? I sent an email.

Making the first connection

I LOVE the comedy business. Love stand up comedy, love the scene, love the guys behind it. So when one comedian in particular came along that I could relate to and really get behind, I decided to offer some of my design skills for free. That’s right. I said it. FREE. You see, I was willing to show them what I could do at ZERO risk to them in order to break down the door for things I wanted to do later. I didn’t rush into presenting my script ideas or asking for autographs. I simply said I’d do a website for him if you could get me and some friends into a club to watch him perform. It worked. One fortunate accident came out of that email to this comedian. 1) I accidentally emailed his booking agent. If there’s one thing you should learn first, it’s that bathing in a river isn’t nearly as satisfying as swimming in the ocean that it came from. Because you get access to all the other rivers! I have a favorite quote from “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton.” “Your odds go up when you fill out an application.”

So I filled out the app. And from that came gigs with other comedians. Like I said. Incestuous. I charged pennies at first. Then, as my reputation gained popularity in the circle, I branched out. Pretty soon, I was doing sites, flying to L.A. and NYC, and eventually parlayed all of that into other projects with the very celebrities I watched and admired on TV. Goals 2 and 3…check.

Check out my next entry when I talk about some of the challenges with bridging the gaps of your current skills sets to achieve some your goals in a different industry altogether.