Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Revolution Will Be Blogged...And Maybe Published

As visitors to this blog know, I lead something of a double professional life. (What can I say, I’m a Gemini. As is most of my family. When I was a child, we had “Gemini parties”. I thought everyone did.) On one side, I dwell in the literary world, exploring the overlap of writing and psychotherapy through The Therapist’s New Clothes and continuing similar preoccupations in a novel, a love triangle in Freud’s Vienna (based on my grandmother’s psychoanalyst who was a member of Freud’s inner circle. My grandmother, Charlotte, was a gifted painter who dabbled in alternative healing. Yes, she was a Gemini.) Then, I’ve been writing and reporting on new economic models, looking at the nexus of the environment and economics. I’ve linked to some of my pieces, but didn’t know how to make topics like the social cost of carbon and ecosystem services relevant to therapy or my publishing experiment.

Last week I attended a conference on Slow Money, a growing movement I wrote about last fall. Let me try a flash explanation like I gave a friend earlier on the phone: Today money is rushing around the world becoming increasingly abstract and chasing bigger and faster profits. Money, which is simply a unit of measure and means of exchange, needs to be slowed down and brought back to earth so as to build actual, as opposed to illusory, wealth. Buy or invest locally, and the money stays local and provides jobs. Buy or invest in chains, etc. and the money gets whisked out of town to corporate headquarters and into the speculative market. Profits go up while our communities, health, and quality of life languish. The Slow Money approach is to keep money real, starting with investing in small, local food enterprises that nurture the soil and communities.

The event, at Shelburne Farms, VT, gathered a group that you never would have seen together ten, even five, years ago: financiers, investment professionals, environmentalists, farmers, chefs, and community organizers. I was struck by how folks from such disparate universes milled about affably, chatting and exchanging ideas. I felt a camaraderie borne of a shared understanding of just how out-of-whack our economic system has become, mainly because what’s most important to all of us is outside the market, and thus not valued. I mean, would BP have been so cavalier about drilling if it were common knowledge that the Mississippi Delta’s natural assets are estimated at between $330 billion to $1.3 trillion? As this piece in The Solutions Journal notes, that greatly exceeds BP’s market value before the spill. There is a kind of exhilaration that occurs once you stop denying a problem, which releases energy for solutions—solutions that are beginning to spring up and which make me feel more optimistic and inspired. I’ll post articles as they’re published.

One challenge is that my success as a writer depends on the system—even as some of my work is critiquing aspects of it. I think this is where my ambivalence about marketing sometimes comes from. Do I want to wear myself out to get my message heard, and shout along with everyone else trying to get heard? If money has gotten too fast, marketing has gotten too “loud”. As usual, the only satisfying answer I can come up with is to do my best. In my fiction (the novel I described and another I’m working on) I like to write about people trying to figure out their lives amidst tremendous change. If I could choose, I’d rather write novels about people in times of upheaval rather than grappling with upheaval myself. But we don’t always get to make those choices, do we? As a writer and as a person, the best I can do is to be open to it.Tony found this Luna Moth outside our bedroom window. Once they sprout wings, these beautiful creatures only live for about one week.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Marketing As Theater: Meet Kevin Daum

So I’m in a marketing funk, and then I remember this guy from a panel at the American Society of Journalists and Authors Members Day, Kevin Daum, author of Roar! Get Heard in the Marketing and Sales Jungle. He radiated such energy and enthusiasm about marketing I felt if I could bottle a fraction of it, I’d be in great shape. Clearly this fellow was a marketing maniac—and of course I mean “maniac” in the very best sense. I caught up with Kevin while he was on the road (where else?) and tossed him a bunch of questions.

JDS: Your book, Roar!, an Amazon #1 best-seller several times over, is, improbably, a business parable based on the four sons we meet at the Passover Seder. I’ve always wondered what they were about. Who are they?

KD: The four buyers you as a marketer need to reach: the Wise Buyer, the Cynical Buyer, the Simple Buyer (who just knows what he wants) and the Buyer Who’s Unwilling to Ask Questions. Your job as marketer is to draw these buyers by offering them an Awesome Experience—which is the convergence of need, entertainment and the unexpected.

JDS: You have a degree in Theater Arts and have been involved in numerous theater productions. When I learned that you found a connection between theater and marketing, I assumed you were referring to marketing as a kind of acting or performing. But it seems that’s not it.

KD: No, for me it’s not about getting in front of an audience. I’m not interested in the validation of me. What matters is the validation of the book. If I have ten standing ovations, that would do nothing for me. If I die and have ten best sellers to my name, then my life would have been complete. My point was that what you learn in theater, compelling messaging, intentionality and delivery, are crucial to marketing. Everything you need to know about marketing is taught in every college in the country, but in the theater department, not the business school.

JDS: You seem incredibly driven. How do you keep yourself motivated?

KD: I love sharing my ideas. There’s also fear: I’ve got to earn a living. In addition to writing books I had a very successful company, and in the 2008 downturn got completely wiped out. Twenty-five years of work gone. I had to reinvent myself. I knew it would take two years before I had money, and I thought: if I’m going to get myself up every morning, I’d better love what I do. When Wiley published Roar!, I decided that more than anything in the world I wanted to have a NYT bestseller. So I got a tattoo that says “NYT bestseller”. This way I’m always reminded of the challenge I set for myself. Recently a CEO wrote to me and said, “We love this book. Can you talk to us?” I drew up a proposal and just sealed a $10,000 deal. And I’m talking to a Major League Baseball team. Now, I started from scratch. I had nowhere to go but up. And the fun of having a Major League Baseball team wonder, “Where the heck did this guy come from?” It doesn’t get any better than this.

JDS: Unlike many writers, you don’t seem cynical about the publishing industry. Why?

KD: I’m passionate about the publishing business—whether or not the publishers actually know what they’re doing. One of the problems is that most people under 45 don’t know anything about marketing in a down market. It’s about how do you use the tools available to you, and getting the people at the company energized about that. The publicist says, “You can’t do that—no one’s done it before”. My reaction is, “Great! Then we don’t know that it doesn’t work.” I like to think of the publishing industry looking at me and saying, “Where did this guy come from?”Kevin and his awesome tattoo--designed so he can read it in the mirror.