Monday, January 31, 2011

Rhetoric, But in a Good Way

I am reading a new book and, even though I am not even halfway through, I wanted to share my excitement with you. The book is "Farnsworth's Classic English Rhetoric," by Ward Farnsworth, a law professor at Boston University (

Rhetoric has taken a lot of abuse in recent years. The term "political rhetoric" has taken on a slanderous meaning that has tainted the true meaning of the word. Merriam-Webster defines rhetoric as, "the art of speaking or writing effectively." Previous generations learned rhetoric as an important part of a liberal arts education. But the "art of rhetoric" seems to be slipping away in an age of 140 character tweets and microscopic attention spans.

Which is why I am so enjoying Farnsworth's book. I make my living with words, and have great admiration for those writers and speakers who have the ability to make words, phrases and sentences bend and dance to their desired purposes. "Classic English Rhetoric" is filled with sparkling examples of the English language at its best.

There are passages from Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton -- the list goes on. Each drafted to inspire, entice and encourage action. The kind of writing that is all too rare today, but to which I constantly aspire.

I know it is not the latest Harry Potter, or Stephen King, or John Grisham. But if you get a chance to pick up a copy of "Farnsworth's Classic English Rhetoric" I think you may enjoy it as much as I am. All while learning something old that is new again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yellow Pages, RIP?

The Seattle City Council has passed an ordinance creating a “Yellow Pages Opt-Out System.” Once put into operation, this system will give city residents the option of declining delivery of once-ubiquitous telephone directories. No more phone books crammed into the mailbox or piled at the end of the driveway.

While the aim of the ordinance may have been to reduce environmental impact and clutter, there is a much deeper message here: the people of Seattle don’t need their phone books anymore.

Remember Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk,who danced about wildly shouting, “The new phone books are here!”? We really did used to get excited when the thick yellow books were dropped off. That’s how large a part of everybody’s life the Yellow Pages were. No more.

This does not bode well for those stubborn traditionalist businesses that dedicate large chunks of their marketing budget to phone book ads. I have been in the marketing game long enough to remember ad agencies that worked exclusively on phone book campaigns.

Why do the residents of Seattle feel comfortable in rejecting this traditional part of every home’s informational system? Think about it. When was the last time you reached for a phone book to look up information on a business? The first option now is to simply Google the company or conduct an on-line search for similar providers.

I have long argued with clients who continued to sink money into Yellow Pages that the only businesses that needed to advertise there were auto glass companies, plumbers, pizza parlors and personal injury attorneys. Today, even those stalwarts are better served investing in a website with strong SEO.

As has happened with so many trends that sweep across the nation, I believe that Seattle is leading the way. I think the days are numbered for Yellow Page directories across the country. Don’t forget, Starbucks got its start in Seattle, too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Think of Social Media as "Networking by Remote Control"

Despite the fact that Facebook recently surpassed Google in number of users, many business people are still reluctant to embrace social media. I believe that, for many, it is simply a case of unfamiliarity and a fear of the unknown. Others dismiss Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels as frivolous. After all, how serious could these tools be if a teenager can use them?

Let me try to frame this in a way that "slow to adapt" business professionals might understand.

Everybody knows that networking is an important part of marketing, particularly for those in professional services or sales occupations. You may not enjoy it, but you attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, participate in monthly lead sharing groups, show up for industry conferences and exhibit at trade shows; all in an attempt to connect with prospects and referral sources. You've probably developed a pretty good "30-second pitch," and always carry plenty of business cards.

Now imagine if you could do your networking from the comfort and safety of your office. If you could connect with colleagues, prospects and those all-important "key influencers" as often as you wanted. And if those connections could spread farther and faster than ever.

That's what social media allows you to do. Take LinkedIn, for example. A profile on LinkedIn is like your 30-second pitch, a brief overview of who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for. With very little effort, in the space of a few hours, you can quickly build a network of known colleagues, which can then spread farther and wider through shared connections. You've just "worked the room" with hundreds, even thousands, of people.

Facebook, Twitter and blogging offer similar possibilities, but with the added benefit of being able to share new and interesting information with your broad network of connections, all at the same time. And if you are smart about it, you'll take advantage of all social media channels and link them together, so that a new blog post instantly finds its way to all your LinkedIn connections.

Inexpensive. Instantaneous. Incredibly effective. What is not to love about social media marketing? Get with the program.