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What CEOs need to learn from Michael Cohen and AT&T

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One of my all-time favorite political campaign books is The Selling of the President.

Written by Joe McGinnis, the book covers the story of how Richard Nixon was repackaged and reshaped for the American public as a candidate for president in 1968. Eight years after Nixon’s losing presidential campaign and his lackluster television performance at the Nixon-Kennedy debate, he faced all the old image problems.

Nixon hired then 28-year old Roger Ailes to remake his image. An image that would win at the ballot box, and more importantly, on television. Ailes created television moments that made Nixon, not smart, not knowledgeable, but well-liked. Ailes created television moments that engaged numerous constituents on their terms.

1968 was no time for policy, it was a time for charismatic personality and shared values.

McGinnis’ book makes clear, presidential candidates can be rebranded and remarketed. Television does not expose and demystify the powerful. Instead, it makes personality stronger. Television ensures style is substance.

David Miller, of the legendary political consultancy Sawyer Miller, saw how television and mass communications would change not only candidates but commerce. He wrote in an article for the Yale School of Organization and Management that just like candidates, if done correctly, corporations could use the tools of television and campaign management to ensure market size and good paying consumers.

Miller wrote: “Corporations must recognize that it is now in their long-term self-interest to develop much more democratic relationships with all of their shareholders, community members, and the public at large.”

Miller foresaw how the corporate world was quickly resembling a politician’s world and how a politician relates to constituents. 

As information channels increase, multiply, focus on niches and distinct tastes and thoughts, corporations need to forge an emotional bond with their various constituents - just like a politician.

The only sensible and meaningful way to do is - establish a relationship and commercial transaction based on shared values.

Today’s masters of the universe CEO is poor decision away from disrupting a relationship based on shared values. Corporations can no longer control the flow of information and can lose control of the narrative within hours.

Corporations are under assault from government regulators, reporters, shareholders, and employees all demanding style that supersedes substance. 

CEOs today need to woo their customers, engage regulators, listen to shareholders, reinforce employees, and make their case daily. CEOs need to communicate more often, on more platforms, and more broadly. Sawyer believed CEOs needed to define themselves before someone else set them - just like a candidate who works like they are up for reelection daily.

As all significant institutions continue to lose sway and influence, the pressure on corporations and CEOs to fill this void increases daily.

For AT&T it wasn’t the paying for access, advice, and public affairs expertise which was a bad idea, it was that they paid an individual (Michael Cohen) who was out of step and not in line with the shared values of AT&T’s numerous constituents.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said as much in a memo distributed to employees last week.

“Our reputation has been damaged,” Stephenson wrote. “There is no other way to say it—AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”

Companies need to sell worthwhile goods and services - this for sure will continue to matter. But the transaction now has an emotional connection as well.

As pointed out in Edelman's 2018 Trust Barometer: "A good reputation may get me to try a product—but unless I come to trust the company behind the product, I will soon stop buying it, regardless of its reputation.

63% of those surveyed agreed with this statement.

The Edelman Trust Barometer provided a clear directive for today’s CEOs - building trust is job one.

Winning commerce of the future will happen when a company is trusted, provides high-quality services and products, and where business decisions reflect shared values.

AT&T hiring Michael Cohen is losing commerce.

It is not essential to much to be smart and knowledgeable, but it is necessary to be well-liked.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Brand marketing in a direct marketing world

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Pop quiz: What was the top Super Bowl 2018 ad according to USA Today’s Ad Meter?

Heck, if you can name one of the top ten, I will give you bonus points.

The reason you can’t remember the best ad or any ads from the big game, it’s not the best tool.

It’s not the best tool because it doesn’t connect, make an impact, or leave a mark. 

You see brand marketing doesn't work in the direct marketing world.

Brand marketing is from a different age. A different business environment. A different communication era.

Brand marketing was created when John Wanamaker’s statement “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half” worked because it could work. 

It could work because advertisers created a mass broadcast communications environment to serve its needs.

Radio was created to sell ads.

Television was created to sell ads.

Brian Millar, co-founder of the Emotional Intelligence Agency, writes "traditional advertising went after ‘share of mind’–the idea was to get you to associate a brand with a single idea, a single emotion. Volvo: safety. Jaguar: speed. Coke: happiness. The Economist: success. Bang, bang, bang, went the ads, hammering the same idea into your mind every time you saw one.

"Advertising briefs evolved to focus the creatives on a single unique selling position and a single message. Tell them we’re the Ultimate Driving Machine. Tell them in a thrilling way. It worked when you saw ads infrequently on television, in a Sunday magazine, or on a billboard on your morning commute."

This type of advertising worked because it was a communications environment of one to many with only a handful of vehicles to reach an audience.

But that is not today.

Today we are living in a direct marketing world powered by the WWW.

Now we have micro-media and personalized broadcast communications environment which serves the needs of the end user.

The internet was not created for ads.

The internet is not mass media.

To better understand this new communications environment the Emotional Intelligence Agency conducted a study to understand what kind of content works. The firm found communications which used funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring content delivers the best results. Not surprising the most successful brands do all four.

Also not surprising these are the adjectives used by any top storyteller. She knows they are best words when executing micro and personalized communications.

Yet most of us communicate using only one type of emotionally compelling content - if at all - employing brand marketing techniques that are closer to the days of Mad Men them to the present day of Laundry Service.

We still communicate like once a day, or worse just a few times a month. Instead of using tools that follow and engage our most active supporters in their media diet.

When it comes to the WWW and the direct marketing communications environment, being multidimensional beats being single-minded. 

Surprise beats consistency. 

Emotion beats fact.

Funny beats dour.

Useful beats sales. 

Beautiful beats boring. 

Inspirational beats directional.

The best communicators have always understood this instinctively.

By the way, USA Today’s Ad Meter ranked Amazon's "Alexa Loses Her Voice" as the best 2018 ad.

I don't remember the ad either. But I do remember my friends telling me a story or two about Alexa that used funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring words to describe their experiences.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Make the choice

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Desiree Linden is an American marathoner and could be the most inspiring runner I have ever known.

In 2017 it appeared she might have peaked.

Instead, in 2018 she became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years, finishing the race in 2 hours 39 minutes 54 seconds.

Linden, a two-time Olympian, placed fourth at the 2017 Boston Marathon and was burned out on the sport. And tired. After three marathons in the previous 14 months: the Olympic Trials (second place), the Olympics (seventh place), and then that fourth at Boston. She didn’t feel like running again until the end of September. Five months off, during which, she said, “I hated everything about running.”

But she wanted to win the Boston Marathon, and she made no secret of that goal.

Her desire to run the course in Boston was the reason she started running marathons in the first place. She has a golden retriever named Boston and had another named Miles who died last year.

So last Monday, she was back on the course in Boston attempting to complete her goal.

But before the race more hurdles, as Linden thought about dropping out as she wasn’t drinking enough fluids and was afraid of getting cramps in her legs. Add a weather report of strong winds and the coldest temperatures in 30 years, this year's Boston Marathon would be even more challenging than usual for her and the rest of the field.

Linden now lives and trains in Northern Michigan and resides closer to the North Pole than the Equator. So the NorEaster that bore down on the course in Boston with its horizontal rain and freezing temperatures is ordinary training weather for many months in the Great Lakes state, but many runners found this climate to be the worst running weather in decades.

Linden's ability to persevere and succeed in exceptionally miserable physical circumstances is remarkable. 

Linden's ability to persevere and succeed in exceptionally challenging mental circumstances is remarkable. 

To succeed in 2018, Linden had to find a deeper gear to compete.

Her pinned Tweet displays where she finds this deeper gear:

"Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.

My advice: keep showing up.

#MondayMotivaton #TogetherForward"


I don't think any advice can be more profound.

Make a choice to show up and keep showing up.

You might just achieve your goal.

-Marc A. Ross

The 5G Race: China And South Korea Are Winning

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The 5G race is being won by China and South Korea, according to a report conducted by research firm Analysys Mason and released today by CTIA, America's premier wireless industry association.

According to the research, China is in the lead, followed by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. Germany, the U.K. and France are in the second tier of countries in terms of readiness.

America lags in “5G readiness” due to reliance on private providers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- to build antenna infrastructure. China’s wireless providers, on the other hand, are streamlined by government mandate. 

Why this matters - 5G systems support 1k more devices per meter than 4G, using higher frequencies and secondary antennae to relay signals. It also eliminates the transmission inconsistencies and slowdowns caused by buildings, mountains, and crowds.

The global competition is propelling 5G development much faster than was originally expected, with carriers and some cities moving quickly to install infrastructure, said CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker, a former FCC commissioner.

The Trump administration see this situation as a threat, especially from China.

Last month the administration blocked Broadcom's proposed buyout of Qualcomm on national security grounds. The administration also fears that Broadcom's business practices would weaken Qualcomm's and the U.S.'s 5G position — allowing Huawei a bigger advantage.

Key findings by Analysys Mason include:

All major Chinese providers have committed to specific launch dates and the government has committed to at least 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 2,000 MHz of high-band spectrum for each wireless provider.

Countries around the world are moving quickly to make spectrum available for 5G. This year alone, the U.K., Spain, and Italy are all holding 5G spectrum auctions.

At the end of 2018, the U.S. will rank sixth out of the 10 countries in mid-band (3–24GHz) spectrum availability, a critical band for 5G. The U.S. joins Russia and Canada as the only countries currently without announced plans to allocate mid-band spectrum on an exclusive basis to mobile by the end of 2020.

Countries like the U.K. and regions like the European Union are taking significant steps to modernize infrastructure rules to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks.

Read can read the report here: http://bit.ly/2HFbTqA

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Go back to school

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One of the best thought leader, low hanging fruit techniques is to get reconnected to your school - be it high school, college, or graduate. 

You need your schools.

Over the last few days, I have been down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina attending alumni weekend festivities for the Kenan-Flagler Business School. I was fortunate to be asked to speak with two marketing classes of current students on the intersection of the retail sector and public policy as well as lead a lecture on retail disruption for the alumni back on campus. You can see the decks here: retail politics and retail disruption.

Talking with students as they are about to embark on their careers is a fantastic opportunity. To answer their questions and share your experience I find to be a most wonderful exchange for all involved. Also, you need to be on your game as your audience has immediate access to the WWW to challenge your ideas in real-time, or worse, you are white noise as they tune you out, so they update their Pinterest pages.

Speaking with the alumni, be it 2017 MBA graduates not even 365 days out of college, or older students who departed the school in the 80s, 70s, and even 60s can't be beaten as a venue to present your ideas. This type of cross-generation audience fosters an exchange of experience and knowledge that is a challenge to replicate on a daily workday.

As you think about upping your thought leadership game as a means to improve your experience and knowledge, think about going back to school. Reach out to that alumni director, speak with a former teacher, or find conference taking place on campus.

The ability to share ideas, speak with students, engage alumni from decades past in a safe and friendly environment is a powerful tool that will help you expand your thought leader capabilities. 

Are you listening to Richard Sorge?

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He is out there. He is speaking to you. He is sending you the signal.

But you fail to recognize him. You can't hear what he is saying. You think it is all noise.

Richard Sorge was Soviet agent operating out of Tokyo in 1941. Sorge repeatedly warned the Kremlin that Nazi Germany would soon invade the USSR. 

On May 15 he predicted that the invasion would come on June 20-22. 

But Sorge’s information displeased the big boss - he didn't want to hear it.

At the time, Stalin was then still in alliance with Nazi Germany. Even though Hitler had advocated the conquest of the USSR as early as 1924 in his book, Mein Kampf, Stalin famously believed Hitler to be the only person he could fully trust.

Stalin dismissed Sorge as “a little shit who has set himself up with some small factories and brothels in Japan.” 

How could someone operating in such an environment know what Nazi Germany was planning? 

Stalin knew best. He was the big boss in Moscow after all. He wasn't running in the underbelly of Tokyo. It didn't matter what was written in 1924.

Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi German codename for the invasion of the USSR, commenced on June 22, 1941. 

Launched by someone Stalin trusted entirely and against the terms of the existing non-aggression treaty, Hitler was doing what he always believed and was doing what some lesser person said he would do.

Are you listening to Richard Sorge?

Is someone telling you something that you don't want to believe? 

Is someone telling you something that goes against your station?

Are you overwhelmed by the noise and failing to hear the signal?

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

How to think about communications + content + commerce and why thought leadership is important

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Today the customer is in control.

Full stop.

Just this week, Snapchat, United Airlines, and Toys R Us were discounted, disrupted or defeated because customers took control.

No longer is the seller in control of the sales process, and hard sales are losing effectiveness daily. 

Gone is the day when the seller could show up, make a presentation, offer some price reducing inducements, close the deal, and move on.

Next time you are in a retail store see how people are using their smartphones. Some are taking notes to generate ideas, some are snapping photos to develop a wish, and some are even purchasing the same product from an online competitor.

For those selling services or subject matter expertise, before buyers even buy your offering, they go to your website, view your Instagram account, check out your LinkedIn page, read your blog posts, and of course do research to see what others in the same space charge.

So what is a seller to do? 

A seller must think thought leadership.

With so many goods and services available from providers around the planet, this abundance of choice can be a thought leader's differentiator.

Buyers want to be led. 

They want to be informed, guided, and managed in a respected manner that makes them feel like they are part of a special cause bigger than themselves.

Enlightened organizations that embrace thought leadership from the start can develop lasting relationships with customers. Such a relationship which is shaped by forwarding thinking leadership will move a buyer to new thinking, a unique viewpoint, and a new paradigm.

Thought leadership is a choice and is not off is some inaccessible Ivory Tower. 

We all have the power to be thought leaders.

Thought leadership demands merely that we are committed to working with customers and clients in a respectable manner by creating value in every step of the buyer's journey and thinking long-term.

But many of organizations continue to struggle with how to do that and connect in a meaningful manner.

As a first step, organizations must abandon aggressive sales behaviors that buyers are resisting and employing behaviors shaped by thought leadership management.

Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, I have seen first-hand leaders who do create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce are thriving and making a difference.

To harness the power of thought leadership to foster sales in this new environment, employ strategic thinking and thought leader tactics.

Use a strategy that thinks education, experience, entertainment, and easy.

Use tactics that reinforce, reward, recognize, refresh, and supported by research.

Let me know how you are getting on or have examples of organizations and individuals using thought leadership to generate revenue and make a difference.

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in developing winning communications, content, connections, and commerce for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Social media, what is it good for?

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Social media marketing has been the hottest marketing concept for the past decade. And why not?

With just a little effort, the marketing machine complex has amazingly shifted the production and creativity to a workforce that does all the heavy-lifting for free.

Free.

Consumer generated content, for free.

Direct to consumer engagement, for free.

Friends and family telling what to buy, where to eat, what to watch, all for free.

But is social media marketing losing steam or are we at the pioneer stage of these tools?

This week Pew Research is out with their annual report on Social Media Use in the United States.

And to no one's surprise, a majority of Americans use Facebook and YouTube, and young adults are unusually heavy users of Snapchat and Instagram. The survey of US adults finds that the social media landscape in early 2018 is defined by a mix of long-standing trends and newly emerging narratives. 

As has been the case since the Pew began surveying about the use of different social media in 2012, Facebook remains the primary platform for most Americans. But the social media story extends well beyond Facebook. The video-sharing site YouTube is now used by nearly three-quarters of US adults and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds.

But there are pronounced differences in the use of various social media platforms within the young adult population as well. Americans ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter even when compared with those in their mid- to late-20s. 

As was true in previous surveys of social media use, there is a substantial amount of overlap between users of the various sites measured in this survey. Most notably, a significant majority of users of each of these social platforms also indicate that they use Facebook and YouTube. But this “reciprocity” extends to other sites as well. For instance, roughly three-quarters of both Twitter (73%) and Snapchat (77%) users also indicate that they use Instagram. 

This overlap is broadly indicative of the fact that many Americans use multiple social platforms. Roughly three-quarters of the public (73%) uses more than one of the eight platforms measured in this survey, and the typical (median) American uses three of these sites. 

As might be expected, younger adults tend to use a greater variety of social media platforms. The median 18- to 29-year-old uses four of these platforms, but that figure drops to three among 30- to 49-year-olds, to two among 50- to 64-year-olds and one among those 65 and older.

So is social media marketing still a thing?

Yes.

But what does this social media thing mean for marketers, communicators, and advocates?

A few ideas.

Americans might say in polite company they don't love social media, but their activity says otherwise as they use these tools and use them a lot. Second, social media users take advantage of multiple platforms and embrace their unique tweaks. Finally, it may be early days of social media, but there is a lot of content and distraction out there - and frankly, most of it is junk food for the brain.

For marketers, communicators, and advocates to take advantage of these tools they must think reinforce, reward, recognize, refresh, and research.

Also, your content must be outstanding because the consumer has multiple channels for distraction, others want your audience, and if the user doesn't feel special, someone else will give them a home.

And most importantly, more and more content is being produced daily. Just like this Ross Rant, content will be easily created and then placed on a minimum of six social media and digital platforms.

So keep on using social media marketing but make sure your content and engagement reinforces, rewards, recognizes, refreshes, and is well researched.

If you want more, you can access the full report here: https://goo.gl/rWdo9g

Marc A.Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in global communications and thought leader management at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps leaders create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce.

The horse race reporting that is American technology vs. Chinese technology

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The media love these stories as the easily play into the horse race narrative of US vs. China - especially in the tech sector. You can see a whole new batch below:

Economist: How does Chinese tech stack up against American tech?

McClatchy: China sets goal of rapidly surpassing US as artificial intelligence race heats up

NYT: The US-China rivalry is, more than ever, a fight over tech

WSJ: Why Washington is so obsessed with China’s Huawei

In the recent past American media only saw Chinese tech firms at best as copycat producers and at worst as industrial spies. However, the narrative is now shifting to a new dynamic as America's technology sector fears that China is reaching tech parity. 

In reporting recently, McClatchy added this spicey sentence to its article comparing the AI efforts of China and the United States: "It set up a broader race between China and the United States over artificial intelligence, a competition that could mold the future of humankind just as the widespread arrival of electricity did in the last century.

The conventional wisdom for editors and headline writers is that such language drives clicks, makes globalization a simple win-loss transaction, and ensures there can only be one winner when it comes to global technology. 

Let's remember competition is good - it is good consumers, it is good for companies, it is good for countries. 

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in global communications and thought leader management at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps leaders create compelling communications, focused content, and engaging presentations.

American Politics: Trump’s economic policy toward China receives mixed support from Americans

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A poll shows US adults split on whether closer economic ties between Washington and Beijing is a good thing. A 37 percent plurality of US consumers believes Trump is taking the right approach to Washington's financial relationship with China, while 35 percent disagree, according to a recent poll. Thirty-six percent of independents said the president is taking the wrong approach, compared to 12 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats who share that view.

Of course, what Americans think nationally doesn't matter as much when you have an election process for President that based on securing electoral college votes from states - and not securing a popular national vote. States like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are filled with voters demanding stricter trade and economic actions forcing a reset of America’s commercial relationship with China.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio believes the administration has “fallen far short” of his expectations on the trade front. “The problem in the White House is whispering in one ear are some people who are right on trade like (US Trade Representative Robert) Lighthizer and (US Commerce Secretary Wilbur) Ross,” Brown said in a Feb. 6 interview. “And in the other ear, you’ve got all of the Wall Street executives, in his other ear, whispering.”

You can read the full poll from Morning Consult here: https://goo.gl/DFYMYE 

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Brigadoon and specializes in global communications and thought leader management at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps leaders create compelling communications, focused content, and engaging presentations.