Thursday, December 2, 2010

Positively Soapbox

Time to get on a soapbox for a minute about, well, getting on a soapbox. (yes, it’s an old-fashioned cliché: learn about the history of the term here.) Most often, someone who “gets on a soapbox” is viewed negatively – they’re preachy, pushy and annoying. OK, guilty, not guilty, and guilty as charged.

But sometimes, the “soapbox” allusion is used to simply refer to making a public statement, to get up in front of the world and tell them about a new approach worthy of consideration. That was the case on December 1 in downtown Cleveland when about 200 people gathered for the unveiling of the Manufacturing Mart at the Galleria.

A nice concept – build on the region’s manufacturing legacy to provide a new service that’s part incubator, part matchmaker and part marketplace. It remains to be seen whether the Manufacturing Marketplace can scale up quickly to attract innovators, producers, distributors and consumers of new manufacturing technologies, but it seems like an earnest and worthwhile effort. Congrats to Mary Kaye Denning, President of Capital of Know-How, the creator of the concept.

The most interest we saw at the event was in the display at a company called Silca System from Alliance, OH. The company’s president, Bart Stuchell, demonstrated some recently-patented technology that allows elevated decks to be safely and economically paved with concrete pavers, bricks or stones. No more ugly, gray, splintery wood deck surfaces, all made possible by a unique honeycombed polymer construction – a great example of Ohio’s polymer expertise in action.

And maybe that technology (or a simple soapbox, if you could find one) could be used to create an elevated platform to enable the stand-up audience at an event like this to see the speaker. You hear a voice welcoming you and explaining the event’s purpose, but you need to crane your neck and dodge and weave and tiptoe in order to see what’s going on.

Do you have something the world needs to hear about? Great. Don’t be afraid to tell the world, and don’t be shy about stepping up on a soap box to make sure your message gets out loud and clear.

Microphone? Check. PA systems? Check. Video to capture event? Check. Soapbox (speaking platform)? Check.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don’t oil it up

When personalizing a direct mailer, few mistakes will come across as being more “greasy” than that created by misspelling someone’s name.

A company (and its agency or design firm) spends a lot of time and money creating and sending items like this with the intent of creating good will and of course, sales. But when my name is spelled incorrectly, it didn’t just earn a “no sale” from me. It's not neutral - it's "negative:” they are less likely to get business from me as a result. I don’t hate the company for errors like this – but I won’t even consider their services in the future.

OK, maybe it’s just me and my quirky last name (that’s capital “O” and capital “H” and that “comma thing” between them is called an apostrophe), but nothing is more personal than a name. And when it’s spelled incorrectly, it tells me that you don’t really know me and that you don’t really care enough to get it right.

It’s not just one of the first precepts of journalism – it’s also one of the fundamental rules of good personalized marketing:

Whatever you do, spell the name correctly.

Got that, NTG? (stands for, "Not Too Good"). Oops, I spelled it wrong, NTB.

Jim O’Hare

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is this bud for you?

Here it is – the perfect discussion for the middle of a “good old fashioned” Midwest winter, smack dab in the middle of the not-so-good, new-fashioned “Great Recession.”
So, when does a recovery actually begin, anyway? 
Learning how to perfectly time and execute a graceful, productive recovery is of keen interest in this harsh winter, this harsh economy. It’s especially top of mind for me; just yesterday I learned of a serious illness that a seriously good friend of mine is facing– more on that later.
Regarding all recoveries, it seems they share these traits:
  1. They begin immediately after everything seems like it can’t get any worse; be aware, though, this typically doesn’t mean that improvement comes dramatically. It usually does mean, though, that on average next week will be better than last week, and so on. Small solace, perhaps, but it often is enough to begin the healing in earnest.
  2. Recoveries begin by honestly acknowledging the situation; until you face all the facts head on, you really can’t go anywhere.
  3. Action and attitude are equal partners in accelerating and sustaining the recovery. Without both, your recovery will be shallow and short.
The best illustration of the timing of a recovery comes from nature. Most of us first notice signs of Spring in March, after the first warm day. We hear birds singing and in particular, we see new buds on trees.
Those buds, however, actually began forming on the tree way back in November, even before that last leaves fell. Next season’s fruits were already in place, gathering form and nutrients before the shortest day of the year. Already, nature had laid the groundwork for a recovery before the shortest day of the year, before the humbling storms of January. Likewise for us, our recovery must begin even before we’ve hit bottom.
And so to my "bud" Michael, even though your surgery is over a month in the future, you might say “this bud’s for you” (even though we’re typically partial to stronger libations). Your attitude and your actions are signposts of a strong recovery that is already in progress.
May the process that all of us need to go through, both personally and collectively, be as full of laughter, commitment and energy as is your recovery.