Ready to go again.

I have been up now for I don’t even know how long. It feels like 100 hours. It feels like two hours. CreateAthon is drawing to a close for another year. This year a record number of volunteers did a record amount of work. It feels like we did so much but had so many more ideas that could have come to light if we’d only had just a little more time.

I have no big takeaway from the past day. Just that I cannot wait to do it all over again next year.

CreateAthon 2011

Today I am in the WECO with 33 other creative professionals who are all working on behalf of CreateAthon, the marathon pro-bono effort created by Riggs Partners 14 years ago. What’s more, there are national partners scattered all across the US who are doing exactly what we are doing in their own communities.

Creative team at work at Riggs Partners CreateAthon

I am struck by the tasks that lie waiting and the sheer volume of work and ideation that will be come to life today. Even us seasoned volunteers will admit to being afraid. But there’s no time for fear. We face a long day and night.

It’s not so much that there’s work to be done, there’s so much good to be done.

I am lucky to be a part of this. Please follow along on our adventure on Facebook, Twitter and on the CreateAthon blog.

A sharable moment.

I was in the grocery store the other day when something that caught my eye. My oldest son had found a kid-sized display at Piggly Wiggly where a child could put his face in and “be” the pig. At the bottom, they suggested you take a photo and share it on Facebook. In other words, they created a sharable moment within the everyday confines of a trip to the grocery store. Pretty smart.

What a smart thing to think about when planning an event or even an annual marketing calendar. What can you do to create sharable moments for your customers or guests?

Brevity is bravery.

When I heard Teresa say that during a conference call the other day, I wrote it down. She credits it to Doyle Dane Bernbach founder Bill Bernbach, but no matter who said it the message is clear.

Marketing is not cheap. Unless it’s CreateAthon, where, in that case, it’s free for nonprofits. There’s a temptation to speak to everyone and tell everything all in one sitting. Don’t let your communications fall prey.

Speak to one audience.
You probably have multiple audiences, but your audiences have very different needs, varying interests. Make your work resonate by speaking to your most important audience. Don’t forget your other audiences if they are important, too, just speak to them in another way.

Make one point.
In some cases, bullet points are perfectly fine. Just because we have them doesn’t mean we need to use them. If your main message cannot be stated in one sentence, you haven’t worked hard enough on it. Editing is one of the sharpest tools communicators have. Wield it like a hungry pirate.

Make it fast.
Today’s communications move quickly. Audiences are bombarded with messages. Get in, get out and give yourself a chance at being remembered.

DDB has a wonderful recap of the many keen insights of Mr. Bernbach here. The next time you’re at a meeting where everyone is stuck on the fence, prod the herd for the good of all. That’s what Mr. Bernbach would have done.

 “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.”

Nobody says it better. What motto would you share with Mr. Bernbach?

“Handwrite” for more meaningful digital interactions.

When I came back from SocialCrush I had a letter on my desk from Lisa Gergely of Emulsion Arts. The address on the envelope was handwritten and inside was a handwritten note card thanking me for having lunch with her last week. It’s a tangible reminder of a company I enjoy working with. It punctuates the fact that they are talented people who care about their craft and their customers.

It’s ironic that I have just come back from a fantastic, two-day onslaught of social media training and education only to blog about a handwritten letter. But this is what all that social hub-bub is all about. Relationships and meaningful interaction.

Many scoff at social media saying it’s a way to avoid contact and conversation. And they will continue to say just that. My mindset is different. For me, social media is another door to get to know more people and gain exposure to new information and ideas. While at SocialCrush I met people I already “knew” on Twitter: @colacitygirl, @techherding, @egw74, @ryalcurtis, @nicolebcurtis, @RickCaffeinated, @willimac and others. I had many face-to-face conversations that were made possible by Twitter.

Nurturing personal relationships with customers, clients and co-workers is far better for business than starting a Facebook page or a blog. Trust, attention to detail and simple interactions like this letter are the ultimate plug-ins.

Be sure they are part of your business strategy.

Take it to 11.

New stamps from the United States Post Office

While recently dangling my feet in the kiddie pool and devouring a copy of Real Simple, I read about some new stamps the United States Post Office was offering — Pioneers of American Industrial Design. They are so beautiful and simple. As a Mid-Mod-ian, I love everything about them including the fact that they are forever stamps.

New stamps from the United States Post OfficeWhile digging around on the Post Office’s website, I came across some other great stamps, too. I don’t send many letters or envelopes anymore, but when I do I like to spice it up. In my career, there have been times where we’ve used a particular stamp design to add an exclamation point to a concept or even created a special mark for a postal machine.

A waste, you say? A stamp’s a stamp? Look at that Russel Wright Pinch flatware on that stamp. That’s just a fork, yes. A fork that’s got a place in the Museum of Modern Art.

When you send a handwritten letter these days you’re already doing something to stand out. Add an exclamation point by bypassing commodity postage and using a stamp that says something about you or your company.

It’s small, poignant detail that few people take the time to think through in our email world.

I am not a mathsmith.

The upside of owning your own business is that you’re your own boss. And what that means is you own a business: yours. So, for the most part, your success or failure depends on the choices you make. Like right now. I would love to watch the season finale of Glee. Or, the Justin Timberlake-Lady GaGa Saturday Night Live from this weekend. But here I am writing a blog post for wordsmith. And that’s what I need to do rather than swoon over Blaine and the rest of the McKinley High Glee Club.

This very grown up insight follows a very educational meeting with my accountant, wherein he reassured me that I am not failing miserably as an entrepreneur. Wordsmith is actually clicking along very, very well. What I found so interesting about the meeting was his sheer command of the tangled mess that is tax law and business finance. In these two areas, I freely admit I have zero expertise. None. And that’s why I got help from someone who knows this stuff. He patiently answers my many (some outright laughable) questions and at the same time gives me the Business 101 class I never took or tuned out.

I’ve worked for twenty years, but there’s so much I’ve never had to think about before. You never realize how much there is to “working for yourself” than writing. Thankfully, there are smart people and smart software out there who can help with all that.

So you can get on with the business of being successful at what you do. Or watch the Glee finale. It’s up to you.