Making an ...



Stay in Your Lane

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The headline – “I Was Prince’s Private Chef” – sucked me in, like so many other productivity-killing internet clicks had before. What I was hoping to learn (Prince and I like the same food!), I’m not quite sure, but it turns out an important business tip was on the menu.

The chef, Margaret Wetzler, shares the story of the Purple One requesting a chocolate fountain. “When I asked where to put it, he looked at me, waited a beat, and said, ‘I do the music.'”

Prince-MainA diva comment? Absolutely, but also one to remind business people about understanding their true value. In a never-ending quest to satisfy others, too many people dilute the individual gifts they could be offering in an attempt to bring all things to all people. As author Stephen R. Covey wrote, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Ambition and stretching beyond traditional comfort zones are admirable, mostly positive business traits, but not when they cause big picture focus to be lost. There’s a reason accountants don’t also offer catering services, even if it might please a particular client, just as employees shouldn’t try to solve every department’s problems in an effort to be a “team player.”

Better to have more impact in less places than be a jack of all trades and master of none.

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Drinking on the Job

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I drank a (tiny) bottle of tequila at work today.

Patron

Truth be told, I’d been planning to do it for quite a while, but the time never seemed quite right. I hadn’t won a significant award, landed the account that would propel my business to dizzying heights, or had any one moment that would signal that Stu Opperman and Impact Players had arrived! So the celebratory bottle remained unopened, a dust-gathering reminder that I hadn’t yet reached the destination known as  “success.”

Finally, as one year became the next, I began to rethink my position on this type of workday drinking. While business remained more stable than spectacular, events outside my office changed who and what I was. Colleagues lost jobs they had dedicated years to, couldn’t find work, and struggled to reinvent themselves in an increasingly entrepreneurial economy. Even worse, a business mentor that had found his niche passed away suddenly, leaving a young family and a legion of friends asking “why?”

Still, despite the front-row seat to professional and personal mortality, I continued to resist, clinging to the ideal that there would be some obvious flashpoint that would justify drinking on the job.

Stu and Patron2

Today, I’m happy to report, I gleefully chugged that bottle like a frat boy during Rush Week. The reason? It was the 6th anniversary of “Liberation Day,” the faux holiday I created to commemorate my last day as someone else’s employee.

It wasn’t the fireworks moment I envisioned, but more the realization that earning a living by making a difference for others — while doing it on your own terms — is the working equivalent of winning the lottery.

So, I drank to that, and I’m glad I did.

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Twitter and Quality Writing Don’t Have to be Mutually Exclusive

Posted by & filed under Blog, Writing.

marketing_content_produciton-e1418183010135The written word, at its best, does many things. Informs, persuades, motivates, brings laughter or tears . . . and that’s just the short list. It takes readers places they’ve never been, connects them to those they’ve never met, and puts them center-stage at events that may or may not have taken place in the past, present, or future.

Great writing is rarely produced by most of us, and that’s OK. We’re not out to be best-selling authors and are more likely searching for business impact by sharing ideas with audiences of value. With social media and networks, its never been easier to publish.

The increased number of outlets for our words comes with a price, however, and it’s the short attention span of the readers we desire most. We now live in the 140-character world — equal to the previous sentence — of Twitter, which demands McNugget-sized bites of copy heavy on abbreviations and light on punctuation. #thestruggleisreal, dear readers.

Still, not everything about the social site, which passed 500 million accounts in May of this year, would make your old school teachers squirm. Tweets require their authors to incorporate writing strategies that should be utilized regardless of who is being communicated to and in what manner:

  • Brevity is always best – Constantly edit copy to delete any extraneous words or thoughts that don’t support the main idea.
  • Have a strategy – Is it to inform, educate, or share a point-of-view? What’s the call to action?
  • Know the audience – What motivates readers and/or why should they care?
  • Tailor writing for different formats – One size never fits all.
  • Maximize the opportunity – What’s the next step that would lead to a real connection?

140 characters may not be nearly enough to say what you want, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons it can teach us.

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Celebrity Speakers Bring ROI to Events

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While there are surely worse things in the world than a boring event, try telling that to attendees looking at their watches, playing games on their phone, or constantly checking social networks.Microphone-at-conference

Whether a corporate outing, nonprofit fundraiser, team-building exercise, or other planned gathering, organizers owe it to those who’ve committed their time and resources  to deliver value in return. So share the quarterly sales projections elsewhere and focus on the bigger picture of inspiring, motivating, exciting, and making better use of the forum available to you.

A celebrity speaker — like those that are part of the Impact Players Speaker’s Bureau — can share stories from their unique lives, lessons learned, and take audiences on a journey of discovery. Often those moments, combined with meet & greets, photo opportunities, and one-on-one interaction, are what leave audiences buzzing with excitement.

Jeff Conine (All-Star Game MVP)

Our speakers have been World Series champions, All-Star game MVPs, and ‘Ironmen’ (and that’s just Jeff Conine), NFL Pro Bowl players and restaurant entrepreneurs (John Offerdahl), National Championship-winning coaches (Howard Schnellenberger), and center stage for the Miami HEAT’s championship seasons (Eric Reid). These celebrities, and others on our roster, have lots to share and are able to tailor their presentations specifically to individual audiences.

Take the first step to elevating your event from good to great by connecting to learn more about the Impact Players Speaker’s Bureau and how our celebrities can make a difference in your world.

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Like Facebook’s Relationship Status, with Trump, It’s Complicated

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Before he was a presidential candidate, hosted “The Apprentice” on TV, or became known as “The Donald,” Donald Trump was a sometimes spectacularly successful New York-based businessman who spoke at an event I attended in the city.young Trump

Back then, he wasn’t nearly the bombastic — a word that seems like it could have been invented especially for him — figure you see today. He was loud and opinionated, no doubt, but he kept his remarks focused on business, a place he had legit street cred. Trump spoke in general terms about success and the mindset he believed was required to achieve it.

His messaging ranged from the motivational . . .

  • Stay focused, and don’t lose your momentum.
  • Think big. Do the big job.
  • Create your own luck by working harder than the competition.
  • To be  a winner, you have to think like a winner. See yourself as victorious.

to the practical . . .

  • Go with your gut, as long as there’s some real intelligence behind the decision.
  • Enjoy your work. Never quit.

and didn’t shy away from confrontation . . .

  • A little paranoia, if it means watching your back, isn’t a bad thing.
  • Get the best people and trust them, but watch them closely
  • Get even.

PGA Grand Slam of Golf Site Announcement at Trump LATrump was then, as he is now, a larger-than-life character who can bring the bitter with the better. Either way, he can teach us things, on both the positive and negative side of the ledger.

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An Open Letter to Britt McHenry

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britt-mchenryDear Britt,

While I’m far from proclaiming the ‘incident’ the best thing that could have happened to your broadcasting career,  I’m also equally distant from those who believe this is something you’ll never be able to overcome.

I’ll admit the videotape of you, an on-air talent at ESPN, verbally berating the cashier at a towing company makes you seem like a sorority girl pissed to be missing the big mixer with the Thetas. You insulted the woman’s appearance and what you perceived as a lack of education in an ugly rant that the suits in Bristol decided merited a one-week suspension.

While your behavior was certainly cringe-worthy and not something I’d condone from my own child, you don’t need to be the parent of a high school student to know this type of condescending attitude isn’t all that unusual. Not acceptable, but also not uncommon.

Which brings us back to your future in broadcasting which, if you listen to the social media lynch mob, would conclude is non-existent. I respectfully (learn the meaning of that word) disagree.

The statement you posted on Twitter could be the start of your comeback. You covered some of the crisis communications bases, writing that you were sorry for your actions and vowing to learn from what you called “a mistake.” While some have dismissed your words as  insincere, PR-driven, or both, the fact is you apologized, a little  bit, and it will shorten your time as the Internet’s favorite celebrity punching bag.

(By the way, you neglected to say you were sorry to the employee you abused. Go do that now . . . I’ll wait here).

brittmchenry-400x356The bigger picture as far as your career at ESPN is that your tirade pales in comparison to actual criminal behavior exhibited by talent currently on the air at the network (I’m looking at you, Ray Lewis). Additionally, if you keep your potty mouth in check moving forward, you may find audiences can be very forgiving, especially for an incident that, while regrettable, is something anyone who has had a car towed and paid an exorbitant fee to get back can relate to in some way. Also, you’re very attractive which, as you know, doesn’t hurt.

The upside in all this is that your name recognition, of considerable importance in your line of work, is at an all-time high. Not gonna lie, ESPN is my go-to channel and I’ve got friends at the network, but I’d never heard of you before your little hissy-fit.  Not the best way to introduce yourself, but it does make your return must-see TV, and attracting viewers is all your bosses really care about. I’m sorry did you think they hired you because of your college degree?

I know you must be busy, the editors at Maxim are on line one, so I’ll let you go. While things may seem dark for you right now, you may ultimately look back on this as a career-making opportunity, and, hey, at least you got your car back.

Sincerely,

Stu

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(How to) Get in the Game

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I was recently the featured speaker at a networking event for business executives. The topic was media relations and my objective was to provide enough of the basics for them to make a legitimate attempt to pitch and place something news or feature worthy from their company in an outlet or two that matters to them.

The intent wasn’t to be overly strategic, integrate tactics, or take a comprehensive approach to public relations, which are things we do at Impact Players. This was more a ‘one-off,’ an opportunity for a small to medium-sized business that wasn’t looking to engage a firm to still reach a target audience with information they thought had value. A sort of media relations for beginners, if you will.

The information maybe helpful to your organization as well, which is why I’m sharing the outline here.

I.   Why is Media Coverage Important to Your Business?

  • Reach, influence potential/existing customers
  • Positions brand
  • Establishes expertise, industry leadership
  • Earned media brings (3rd party) credibility
  • Opportunities to repurpose for other audiences

II.  Which Media Outlets are Important to You?

  • Those that deliver target audiences
  • Mainstream (print/broadcast), online, industry, vertical markets

III. Which Editorial Contacts Might be Interested in Your News?

  • Identify by beat
  • Read recent content they’ve written/posted
  • Follow them online (blogs, social networks, etc.)
  • Engage with comments and further discussion
  • Connect

IV.  What’s News or Feature Worthy?

  • Answer “what’s in it for them?” question
  • Unique, one-of-a-kind
  • Industry trend
  • Big impact on audience
  • Can you teach audience something that can be used in their business?

V.   What do You Have to Offer?

  • Senior-level interviews, access
  • Photos/video
  • Background info
  • Statistics
  • Insider access to your facility
  • Product sample
  • By-lined column, Letter-to-the-Editor

Thanks for your time and attention – let’s connect again soon.

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Hey Hey Hey

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young cosby

Like many of my generation, I grew up appreciating Bill Cosby. In my childhood, he was one of the first standup comedians whose work I knew and many a Saturday morning was spent with “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.” Years later, he became Cliff Huxtable and brought more joy to my TV. Cosby was a ‘star,’ equally effective pitching Jell-O pudding or a socially-conscious agenda.

Celebrity can be a fickle mistress, however, and today the mention of his name brings a far different reaction. Multiple women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, with some of them detailing the alleged incidents in graphic detail. Each passing day seems to attach more tawdry revelations to someone who was once one of America’s most beloved figures.

Given the statute of limitations, the criminal justice system may never determine whether Cosby has been rightly or wrongly accused. As for the court of public opinion, it’s already in session. court of public opinionJudging is done during each news cycle, with “evidence” often nothing more than what someone says or how those at the center of the crisis seem to be handling their circumstances. Fair or not, it’s where reputations and careers can be saved or killed.

It’s a place that Cosby finds himself, a situation practically begging for comment, especially from someone often cited for his eloquence with words. So now, at what are likely the most critical moments of his life, Cosby’s response to all this has been . . . (silence).

older cosbyReally? Is there no one in the Cosby camp that understands crisis communications? Can they really believe an attorney saying, “Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment” and “There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives” – statements that have since been removed from billcosby.com – are an appropriate response to the avalanche of negativity currently burying the star’s career?

Cosby and his lawyers may be concerned with civil suits, and they should be, and none of this makes him guilty of what he’s been accused of. There is always a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise and no one is advocating a mea culpa just to satisfy fans and a salivating media, especially if Cosby believes he has been falsely accused.

Other than “no comment,” however, there’s no quicker way for a celebrity to ruin their credibility/marketability than to say nothing in their defense while others are on the attack. While Cosby may or may not have his day in (real) court, the strategy he’s currently pursuing, or lack thereof, may be a death sentence for his career long before he ever gets there.

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Learning Lessons from “The Boss”

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“Are you ready to be transformed?”

springsteen concert4

That’s the warning shot Bruce Springsteen greeted his audience with at a recent show I attended. Not “are you ready to have a good time?” or “it’s great to be back in South Florida,” but an unspoken promise to deliver a life-altering experience. The ultimate concert ROI in six words.

Apparently, “The Boss” didn’t sign off on ‘underpromise and overdeliver’ in his own company.bruce-2016-3056-wallpaper

Springsteen is many things — global icon, a generation’s Dylan and, apologies to the late James Brown, the hardest working man in show business — but he’s also, as the nickname implies, a powerful businessman. One whose performance has stakeholders clamoring for more, even after more than 40 years on the job.

While some see Springsteen’s success as an unduplicatable phenomenon, the CEO of the E Street Band actually provides a nightly tutorial for professional services providers about the mindset that should be brought to their own business interactions. Attitudes that have the potential to attract, reward, thrill, and retain audiences of importance:

  • Have fun at your job and don’t hesitate to let others see it
  • Never lose your sense of wonder
  • Don’t be afraid to stretch from your comfort zone, or fail
  • Meticulously prepare, and then don’t hesitate to ad-lib
  • Age means nothing . . . you can either deliver the goods or you can’t
  • Don’t leave anything in the proverbial tank

A ‘rock star’ continuously works to surpass the highest expectations of his or her audience, but you don’t need to play guitar or entertain millions to be one. Just follow The Boss’s lead.

bruce-5100-3418-wallpaper

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Are You Buying What the Suits are Selling?

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The perception of ESPN and the UFC may vary by audience, but there’s no denying they’re both using the same playbook when it comes to staying on top of the news cycle and the social media/network activity that swirls around whatever story is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame. In the span of a few days, both the ‘worldwide leader’ and the dominant promotion in mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting pounced the same way to extend publicity opportunities that were either wholly fabricated or the obvious result of their own actions.

youre-welcome-lebronDan LeBatard*, a Miami-based host of ESPN television and radio shows, was the brains behind a stunt that successfully attached itself to LeBron James‘ coattails, giving life to the faux controversy of the NBA superstar not publicly thanking his former home (and, presumably, its fans) for the success he had four years after taking his talents to South Beach.

Trolling for reaction is a tool often used to generate what used to be called “water cooler conversation” (back when people actually spoke directly to each other), so LeBatard shouldn’t be faulted for feeding our pop culture-obsessed society what it likes to eat. But that’s exactly what the network did (wink wink) by announcing it was suspending its employee two days for actions that didn’t properly “reflect ESPN’s standards and brand.” Not coincidentally, their manufactured outrage helped prolong the story’s lifespan and take it to audiences far beyond those who follow the NBA or its teams in South Florida and Ohio.

Meanwhile, at the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it’s time to promote (read: sell tickets and pay per view buys) UFC 178, which is being headlined by a championship bout between Jon “Bones” Jones and Daniel Cormier. To do this, the promotion sets up a photo op known as the ‘stare down,’ where the two fighters literally get nose to nose while cameras record and breathless media pontificate about the intensity of the encounter. jones-cormierAs you can probably guess, sometimes one or both of the combatants take offense with the actions of the other and, being fighters, respond in a physical way, which is what happened between Jones and Cormier. The ensuing melee spilled off the makeshift stage, knocking over banners and chairs to produce video that would make even Don King or the WWE proud.

Nothing sells in combat sports like the belief that real hatred exists between fighters and the UFC has marketed that, whenever possible, since its earliest days. That’s why their reaction following the incident — that Jones and Cormier violated the organization’s code of conduct (no fighting unless we’re getting paid, the code must state) and that they were “prepared to levy sanctions to reinforce the appropriate behavior” — is nothing more than an attempt to raise awareness of the bad blood between the two while customers are deciding whether to spend on UFC 178.

By feeding media’s need for content and providing online audiences the materials to post, share, tweet, and comment on, the two sports-focused entities bought themselves at least another ’15 minutes’ that will be repaid many times over in larger audiences and advertiser/sponsor revenue.

An effective promotional strategy to be sure, if not the most honest. LeBatard, for his part, didn’t overplay the charade like his employer did. “This is a publicity stunt disguised as a movement. Please don’t tell anyone there is no actual movement.”

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 * Full disclosure: I’ve known and worked with Dan LeBatard since the late 1980s, when he was a Miami Herald reporter and I was producing shows at WQAM, South Florida’s first all-sports radio station.