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Two years ago, I changed career paths:  from leading in-house communications and marketing teams at major global companies to working as a consultant to start-ups and C-Suites at big brands.  I was filling a need for corporate clients who needed experience, outside perspective, insight and leadership and giving start-ups access to an experienced CMO/Communications leaders that would otherwise be out of reach. 

As a result, I've been fortunate to work with some of the most stalwart, established brands on earth -- helping them move more quickly and nimbly, or offering essential outside perspective.  And I've enjoyed the head rush of launching more than a dozen start-ups.  I've had a blast helping early stage companies get to the next level, build their in-house teams and pairing brands with the right outside agencies.  What could be more gratifying?  

I'm about to find out.  With my partner, Matt, I'm about to launch my own 'human' start up.  We are preparing to bring our first child into the world.   And I'll be focusing in coming weeks on what could be my biggest project of all and taking leave until this Spring.  That'll explain why I may not be responding to emails with modern economy speed.  And why -- to steal a phrase from Andreesen Horowitz's Ben Horowitz:  I'll be acting like a typical start-up CEO:  sleeping like a baby & waking up every two hours for crying.  

 Cheers, 

Jeanne

 

 

Cars: We're All Wasted

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It's amazing how wasteful our car-driven (pun intended) economy has become.  We're all so entitled, and I'm as guilty as the next person.  But a new project I'm working on has inspired me to take a hard look at justifying being a car owner in New York City vs. giving up ownership for car sharing services like Car2Go and ZipCar, the odd Uber ride and of course more public transportation.  

I own my ten year old BMW X3 outright now, but pay to insure it and -- since I live in now officially gentrified North Brooklyn, I pay for parking tickets and to throw it into a lot at times.  Oh the outrage!  I use it mostly for weekend jaunts with bikes and friends in tow (yes, I drive 100+ miles some times just to...bike).  During the week, I mostly am chased to move it around by alternative-side-of-the-street parking regs.  

The average American individual drives the equivalent of 13,500 miles -- a couple round trips between LA and New York -- each year.  (I'd be surprised if I rack up a quarter of that).  And yet, the typical American car spends 96% of its time parked.  Not moving at all.  Now THAT's a stat I can relate to, and that's where I begin to see how wasteful our society has become about maintaining the privilege of driving around -- often solo -- in a metal box, often stuck in traffic and/or circling a block to find a place to...park.  

More alarming stats about the good ol' gas-guzzling combustion engine (yes, that includes cars that get 'great' gas mileage).  Because of factors like aerodynamics, inertia, idling and engine loss, a full 86% of fuel never gets fully utilized.  And, although it's hard to imagine if you've ever been stuck on the FDR for eons, but the average American road reaches peak traffic load only 5% of the time -- and even then, only 10% of its surface is covered with cars.  

What's equally amazing is the speed at which industry is (ahem) driving change, with even greater consumer uptake of car-sharing (especially by younger consumers), more infrastructure and choice being added to the electric and hybrid car system, and more data and technology to help improve how we move and get around urban areas.  

I'm delighted to be working with a stealth start-up that is addressing all of the issues related to the people and businesses that rely on operating more than 1 billion vehicles around the world today.  Stay tuned for more!

Thoughts on Secret

Another digital supernova has faded.  I found the news this week about the Secret App folding to be a perfect moment to reflect on some of the trends I'm feeling, seeing and hearing about.  I'm referring to the often ridiculously high expectations some consumer-facing brands have at launch, and how their marketing and operations plans are, in turn, a bit short-sighted and not built to sustain post launch.  

I remember my first Secret encounter:  SXSW 2014, and me, probably queued up at some food truck.  I was using spare moments (when I was not being assaulted with some Task Rabbit trying to give me swag) observing which Supernovas-in-waiting were working SXSWi Nation to get noticed, catch fire and launch into the collective consciousness of the Digerati.  Who would become this year's FourSquare?  Or, more likely, which (choose one) App/Wearable/LiveStream/Business/SaaS/SocialPlatform would become this year's Color?  

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Secret was last year's Meerkat.  I remember downloading it on a Friday night, and being informed that "3 people in my network" were 'members.  That number upped to 20 of my pals (all anonymous, but I could guess pretty much who my fellow early-adopters were) by Sunday and kept exploding.  I found it somewhat entertaining, dishy, voyeuristic and a huge time-waster.  I'm pretty sure I was representative of much of the Secret universe in that I quickly lost interest in the content, which was heavy on inside-baseball Silicon Valley, porn, misogyny and Uber-driver-Google-bus horror stories.  It was the equivalent of a piece of sour hard candy w/artificial sweetener -- it smacked you in the face but went fast and left me with an unpleasant aftertaste.  

I'm working with a few under-wraps brands, and pleased that they're on board with more slow-growth, substantive strategies.  The trick is:  how to balance the urgent need to speed to market when the competition's fierce and the need to offer a valuable product?  I'm baffled why more innovative (and well-funded) start-ups don't build in some scenario-planning that goes beyond 18 months post-launch.  

The current formula seems to be: launch-->tweak (or pivot)-->repeat.  And recognize when it's time to hit that reset (or 'game over') button.  

I think Marc Andreesen may have summed it up nicely today on Twitter about the 'nobility' of shutting down.

At least Secret made a pre-emptive strike.

 

 

Introducing Alignment Artist Capital

They say dynamic, disruptive marketplaces are a great time to launch a new business venture.  Enter:  Alignment Artist Capital -- they're an influential and innovative new breed of financial firm aimed at established music industry artists, producers and songwriters.   They've partnered with BlackRock, Inc. -- the world's biggest asset manager -- to help artists realize their business goals and build their audiences at a time when conventional music business models don't fit some more unconventional ideas.  

Watch This Space partnered with Alignment for its launch, brand identity, social media and strategic marketing and communications efforts.  You can learn more about Alignment Artist Capital on their website, including some great stories about them in outlets like Billboard and Forbes. 

Check out their launch press release here.  

My Thanksgiving Playlist

I love Thanksgiving, but as a cook, what I love most is the pre-game part:  planning, stops at the farmers market, flower district, etc. and getting serious in the kitchen.  This all requires inspiration and seriously good tunes.  

Here's my annual Thanksgiving Cookin' playlist, updated for 2014.  Enjoy!  

Thanksgiving Cookin' playlist on Spotify.

Massive Attack – Be Thankful For What You've Got
The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket
The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar
Wilco – Heavy metal drummer
Liquid Liquid – Cavern
Sly & The Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Single Version
The Turtles – Happy Together
Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk
Dido – Thank You
Hank Williams – Hey Good Looking
The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
The Smashing Pumpkins – Today
Sia – Sweet Potato
Ray Charles – Sweet Potato Pie
Robert Johnson – Come On In My Kitchen
The Cranberries – Dreams
Squeeze – Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Simmer Down
Sufjan Stevens – All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Wilco – Heavy metal drummer
Norah Jones – Creepin' In - feat. Dolly Parton
Sound Masters – University of Missouri (Missouri Fight Song)
Fred Astaire – The Yam
Pharrell Williams – Happy
Ohio Players – Jive Turkey
Johnny Cash – Thanks a Lot
Daft Punk – Burnin' / Too Long
Bing Crosby – Thanks
Booker T. & The MG's – Green Onions
X – Soul Kitchen
Oasis – Champagne Supernova
Ike & Tina Turner – Come Together
Blur – Coffee & TV
Belle & Sebastian – I Don’t Want To Play Football
Darius Rucker – Kick Off
Iggy Pop – I'm Bored
Hot Chip – Hold On
Seu Jorge – Queen Bitch
Trombone Shorty – Hurricane Season
Pete Rodriguez – I Like It Like That
Elton John – Tiny Dancer
Tom Waits – Chocolate Jesus
Arlo Guthrie – Alice's Restaurant Massacre
Waring's Pennsylvanians – Let's Have Another Cup Of Coffee
Don McLean – American Pie
Wilco – The Thanks I Get
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Give Thanks & Praises
Sly & The Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Single Version
Grateful Dead – Sugar Magnolia (Remastered Album Version)
The Contours – Do You Love Me
Jackie McLean – Yams
Capital Cities – Safe and Sound


Put Yourself Out There -- Or You'll Never Know

Many of the companies I advise have founders who are perfectionists with high standards.  As a result, they can sometimes be barriers to their own success because they're a bit afraid to put themselves out there in the public eye every single element of their branding and positioning and identity are perfect.  It's got to be:  ready, aim, FIRE.

While that's an admirable trait with bigger brands backed by a track record and resources, most start-ups today cannot operate on the principal of perfectionism as it relates to their company's brand, messaging, and indeed, the functionality of their product or service.  Success now often requires a more iterative process more like ready, FIRE, aim.  Test and tweak.  

It often takes the intestinal fortitude to take calculated risks and the cajones to put something out in the marketplace to get important feedback and inform your direction.

It takes guts and willingness to occasionally jump into the abyss.  Take an example from a personal hero of mine, Rebecca Rusch:  endurance athlete, world champion mountain biker, risk-taker, author and entrepreneur.  I was fortunate enough to get invited along with another media colleague of mine to attend one of her Mountain Biking camps leading up to the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Marathon race in Sun Valley.  I've been a huge cycling buff, but more of a 'roadie' and triathlete -- I'd been on a mountain bike maybe twice, but there was something about Rebecca made the prospect of trying something new super alluring.  Part of that was she made the whole process less intimidating and scary, and set us up with some terrific expertise over the course of a few days.  The end game was to be entering the race itself -- a 50 mile 2-loop, rocky, steep and technical course up and down Mount Baldy in Idaho.  Did I know what I was doing?  I had a hint, but knew that the real wisdom would come only if I took that risk, and put myself out there.  Cut to:  nearly 7 hours later, I finished, bearing scrapes and caked with dirt and a huge grin on my face.  And even eeked out a spot on the podium (points for showing up and finishing can sometime mean bling!).

Rebecca's approach to life and her profession is both inspiring and informs her many other pursuits.  For example, she seized an opportunity to organize a major event designed to attract a range of cycling afficianados to her adopted home town of Ketchum, Idaho (adjacent to Sun Valley) for an epic adventure called Rebecca's Private Idaho:  a gran fondo-style group ride through the breathtaking, wide-open spaces and often challenging terrain of Idaho, followed by an equally epic party.   She secured sponsors like Specialized Bikes and Patron.  Hundreds of riders registered.  Charity benefactors like World Bicycle Relief and People For Bikes were lined up.  Rebecca reached out to many of her professional cycling colleagues, like Levi Leipenheimer to participate.  

And then the terrible fires that raged in the area last summer threatened to cancel this inaugural ride and the area's annual Wagon Days.  While the fires slowly being contained in the area, and the thick smoke was starting to dissapate, Rusch and her fellow organizers had to make a call:  cancel the event to avoid the small chance that fires would spark again?  Or push forward, knowing the need to get visitors to the area would be a powerful boost to the area?

The ride went ahead.  The event was a total success and a huge morale boost to the community.  It inspired hundreds of happy participants to become informal Idaho ambassadors after returning home.  This video might tell the story best.  

And round two is happening this weekend, bigger and better.  I can't wait to see what happens.

So put yourself out there.  It may not be pretty and you may not 'succeed' in the traditional sense, but you'll absolutely gain knowledge -- and doesn't that qualify as a win by any measure?


7 Ways To Own It.

Greenpoint Lifestyle Labs, aka Watch This Space Brooklyn Office

Greenpoint Lifestyle Labs, aka Watch This Space Brooklyn Office

It can be the most effective way to build an audience and engage with a customer base.  It's mostly no- or low-cost.  Its messages can get right to intended public(s), without the dilution of a filter.  Then why aren't more companies making better use of their 'own' communications platforms -- blogs, newsletters, social media?  

Because churning out consistent, high quality and relevant content that audiences really give a fig about is HARD.  

The New York Times has 3,500 employees cranking out articles and analysis and Op-Eds and photo spreads every day, but for most other businesses, the care and feeding of dedicated communications platforms fall to a handful of people.  (In the case of some entrepreneurs, or sole artists, that's, um, usually the founder/CEO/chief cook and bottle washer.)

If you've ever started a blog -- for fun or business, you'll recognize the pattern:  you enthusiastically dive into picking templates, using plug ins and setting up house.  You write some epic, labored-over pieces to kick things off.  You pledge to contribute a couple times a day.  That turns to once a week, and often diminishes to...wow, the memory gets fuzzy and that wordpress or Tumblr or SquareSpace sandbox starts getting lonely.  Cue crickets.  

A lack of dedicated resource is no excuse.  Building and maintaining your OWN communications ecosystem --  blogs, email newsletters, social media, etc.-- is possible to pull off with just a few minutes every week.   It can be done solo, and it can be done without being a huge time suck.  

It's kind of like setting up a garden:  it requires some upfront work and infrastructure to get the bones in place (totally okay and even smart to call in the experts at this point if you aren't up for a DIY approach).  Add the big structural plants -- stuff that's gonna thrive in your local climate.  Fertilize.  And just remember to weed and water it every few days.  It'll bloom.  You'll maybe feel up to inviting guest over.  And when you need reinforcements -- pruning, planting big signature item, putting in pretty annuals -- you can ring up the experts a couple times a season.  

Here are 7 simple ideas that will help you OWN your OWNED media ecosystem:

--a blog entry doesn't have to be a 1,000 word opus; it can be as simple as an image and a couple lines of commentary;

--take a minute to tie your platforms together.  Let the ecosystem feed itself.  Use the plug-ins to import your Twitter or Instagram feed into your blog.  If you're time-pressed, link your Facebook and Twitter accounts together.  Fire off a LinkedIn post that's also suitable for Twitter;

--Invite your customers or staff -- in their own voice-- to contribute from time to time.  Put it in your calendar and ask 'em to do it once a month.  

--Can't think of anything to write?  Collect a couple of other news bits or blogs you think are worth noting and re-blog.

--You have the time:  Feed that garden on the fly with a quick dispatch from your smart phone.  As a New Yorker, I call that "back of the taxi" activity.  Instead of stewing about how long the queue is at Whole Foods or the airline check-in, I often use this time to stitch together quick posts from images I've taken and notes I've saved for later (for me or for my clients).  

--Book a meeting with yourself every week -- 15 minutes will do the trick.  What are three areas of focus for your business this week?  Launching new features or displaying new goods.  That's fodder.  Getting ready for a big trade show?  Travelling to see clients?  Good material.  Now, see if you can tie that back to something that makes your business unique, and you're REALLY owning it.  

--Still find this too overwhelming?  Call in some reinforcements who can help you create a roadmap and content ideas that can be built into your existing business calendar.

Own it.  Feed it.  Reap the benefits.  Ping Watch This Space if you want that nudge.