Creating Sustainable Marketing Practices


In late October we started looking at how we create content for social media. Making a list of all the places we were posting was a wake up call. It was taking a huge amount of effort, and the conversation was scattered all over the place.

As our product offers have grown we thought it would be easier to break off our newest work and put it on a separate website. I post my artwork on my own blog.

The only way I can keep up with it is if nothing happens. No unexpected things that need attention. Those weeks are rare. So I end up working way too many hours trying to keep up.

What sucks up the time?

I need to redesign the way I relate to social media. While it might be ‘better’ to have separate parts of the business with it’s own special messages and branding, I am clear I can’t keep that up. We are too small a company to sustain it.

I enjoy searching out resources and pointing them out to my networks. It can be a slippery slope. I can justify aimless internet wandering as searching for content.

I think of myself as an artist, but in reality I spend most of my time writing. Is there a way I can get more balance between the visual and verbal?

Consolidating and Restructuring

I’m restructuring how our social media and communication happens. I’ve merged newsletter lists, so I am sending out one every two weeks to everybody. We are redesigning our webpages and consolidating our blogs.

We’re deep in the design cave, so you won’t see as many posts as usual.

I’ve found myself trying to follow advice of social media and marketing experts. Only thing is when I do there is no time to do all the other things I need to do to keep the whole business operating. I’m rethinking what sustainable practices look like for MY business. Looking at the metrics. What actually drives revenue? And what are things that might feel good, but don’t help move the business forward?

Hope we’ll uncover answers in the coming weeks……


Creating content for social media


Social media is like a nest of hungry birds that need to be fed constantly

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog. I was feeling badly about it, so I started to look deeper at why it was happening. It’s certainly not for lack of things to talk about. We have new products, improvements, and stories to tell.

I started to make a list of all the places I was producing or finding content for.

  1. The VisualsSpeak biweekly newsletter
  2. The Exploring New Options newsletter
  3. The VizPeeps Community newsletter
  4. The VisualsSpeak blog
  5. The Exploring New Options blog
  6. My Christine Martell blog
  7. The VizPeeps community blog
  8. my Facebook page
  9. The VisualsSpeak Facebook page
  10. my twitter 
  11. VisualsSpeak twitter
  12. Our print gallery
  13. Our Zazzle gallery
  14. Google Plus
  15. my Linked in page
  16. iPad for Art page
  17. Creative Facilitation and Coaching page
  18. Unstick your Stories Using Visuals page

This does not include the work I create for our products, classes, workshops, and presentations.

What am I thinking?

I like social media. I enjoy connecting with people all over the world. I love to spread the word about what my fabulous customers and colleagues are doing. I know it’s a way to reach out and market my products and services.

It’s also incredibly time consuming. While I can produce images pretty quickly, words come much slower. I can almost keep up if nothing out of the ordinary happens and I work seven days a week. Of course things out of the ordinary happen all the time, and I get really grumpy when I try to work that much.

I am not superwoman

Now I have to stop trying to be. I’ve got to find a way to consolidate and simplify. While it’s nice to have topics on separate blogs and in different newsletters, I’m looking for a way to integrate them. I don’t know how yet. I just know I need to find a new way.

How do you manage all your social media channels?

I’m using tools to help me like Hootsuite, Diigo, and Timely. It feels like I need to rethink the whole system, to look at a system where I can be consistent that is sustainable without spending so much time.

Have any suggestions? How do you think about managing social media on top of running your business?


Learning Styles- Fact or Fiction?

NPR had a segment recently, Think You’re An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It’s Unlikely

The point is that the idea of learning styles does not hold up in scientific studies. In so far as individual learners having a style that serves them best, or that they need in order to learn. What does hold up, is delivering learning in a variety of ways.

I’m torn when I read things like this. Yes, I can learn from traditional lectures. In order to do so, I have to write things down. I may never look at it again, but it greatly increases my ability to remember it. That sure feels like I have a need to make things visual. So I’d need to see more about what they were looking at in the studies before I completely abandon the idea of learning styles.

As a learning designer, I absolutely think all learning should include as much delivery and engagement variety as possible. Even though I create visually based tools, the engagement also uses verbal and kinesthetic elements. The strength does not merely rest in the visual, but in the flexing between the various modalities.


Swimming with Great White Sharks

Mmmm, good

I just got back from a trip to the East Coast to visit with some friends. I spent a few days on Cape Cod and on one of these days I went to Lighthouse Beach in Chatham. This area is getting a reputation for having a group of Great White Sharks returning each year. They have gotten so numerous that town officials have closed down a number of beaches to swimmers.

The reason the sharks have been hanging out here is that about 10-15 years ago a colony of Gray seals established themselves on Monomoy Island, which is adjacent to Chatham. The number of seals has grown and is now in the hundreds. In the last 10 years, juvenile Great Whites started showing up to enjoy the, err, menu. By the way, a juvenile white is in the range of 8-10 feet. Now, sharks are being spotted that are around 14 feet. Duh, duh…Duh, duh…Duh duh… Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh…Duh Duh DUH!

From a shark’s perspective with all these seals swimming around, can you say yummy?

Stupid is as stupid does

Stories about the Great Whites are being reported in the papers, on TV, YouTube and are the talk of the town. There are signs on the beaches as well as lifeguards flying do not swim flags. At Lighthouse Beach, there is also a patrol boat cruising up and down the beach trying to spot any sharks entering Pleasant Bay, so that the setting for Jaws 5 doesn’t grace these pristine and money-spending touristy waters.

Having said this, I can’t understand what a young couple were thinking when they decided to go for a dip. There were a few other people in the water just past their ankles, but these two decided being in the water over their heads and about 30 feet off the beach was a prudent thing to do. And if you are 30 feet from shore when a big shark shows up, you might as well be a mile from the beach for all the good it will do you. Did I mention that there were seals continually swimming by heading into the bay forming a moving buffet line?

I know what you’re thinking

You’re thinking this is a story about a shark attack. Maybe it is, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out. You also might be thinking that if it is about a shark attack, you’ll be too horrified to read further, but you’ll do it anyway. Like when there is a car accident on the highway and everyone slows down not wanting to see but hoping they do. And you say to yourself that when you get to the scene you won’t look but drive faster to help get traffic moving again; but you still drive slowly anyhow.

Help me!

Culling the herd

To be honest, there was a part of me that hoped a shark would show up and entertain the thought of having these two for an afternoon snack. I mean what kind of idiots go swimming in an area where sharks are known to be? And not just any sharks but Great Whites, the most terrifying predators in the sea. Duh, duh…Duh, duh…

I hung out watching the two swimmers for a while waiting to see if they would be on the menu. I mean wouldn’t it be better if they never had a chance to reproduce? It’s not like we need more stupid in the human gene pool. And don’t pretend like these thoughts would never have gone through your head. Remember the traffic accident? :>)

Stupid is as I do, done, did

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit irritated with these two knuckleheads. I also knew that there was a story in the experience, but I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with my business or myself. But then it dawned on me that I’ve had more than just a few getting in the water with White Shark experiences in my life.

There was that time in Bangkok when I interrupted the nice organized crime fellow as he was trying to con the young European couple. The reason I knew it was a con was because I had almost fallen for it a few weeks before.

The ‘salesman’ warned me several times to mind my own business. I persisted. He then made slashing movements across his throat and told me I was dead. I still persisted. Even when he got right in my face and I pushed him so he landed on his derriere and his three, un-before noticed, ‘colleagues’ jumped off the bench and headed my way, I still didn’t run for my life. OK, so I made my way back to the hotel in a roundabout fashion and hid in my room until it was time to catch my flight.

Let’s not even talk about all the dumb things I did in my teenage years. How much time do you have? I suppose in all the hard earned wisdom I have gained over the years, the probability is still quite high that I’ll do some more knucklehead things. Oh, the humanity.

Sorry I couldn’t report on anyone getting chewed on. But then again, I left before the two swimmers got out of the water…
Duh, duh…Duh, duh…Duh duh… Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh Duh duh …Duh Duh DUH!

When have you gone swimming with the sharks?

So, fess up. What are those stories from your life when you have suffered from knucklehead-itis?



Instructional Design Guru for iphone


Connie Malamed has released a new reference and performance support app for instructional designers. It defines 450 terms all related to developing learning. Here’s what Instructional Design Guru looks like:

I don’t know about you, but I’m always rustling through my bookshelves trying to remember which book explained a term or theory. Now it’s at my fingertips. At $4.99, it costs quite a bit less than one of those books.

Instructional Design Guru is available on the ITunes app store.


The Mensch Factor


A 1941 Mensch exampleAh, if one could be a leader by just experiencing goodness and light. If every team member were Mary Poppins and every CEO were Dumbledore. If a lively happy tune were played every time the leader entered a room.

Well, that last one might get old pretty fast. Although the President seems to enjoy it (Bill Clinton once said it was the hardest thing to get used to after being president — he kept waiting for the music to start when he’d get someplace!).

Of course, none of these things are reality. In fact, often the measure of a good leader is more what s/he does when times are difficult than when times are good and the livin’ is easy.

Enter the Mensch

Mensch is a Yiddish word that, loosely, translates to a “real man” or a “stand-up guy.” But I mean it in a gender-neutral sense. A leader who scores high on the mensch factor is one who is upfront, honest about bad news or negative tidings, and who is direct. That’s not an easy skill to acquire, and it’s easy to slip up.

The most common way that leaders lose mensch points is through avoidance. And technology helps with this quite a bit. Have a bit of bad news? Sure, you probably should tell someone face-to-face, but why not just send an e-mail? After all, that means there’s a record of it, and the recipient can always refer back to it. Or maybe, a bit sneakier, call the person after hours and hope to leave a voice mail message. Either way, it’s the same thing: avoiding the issue.

Another method of building up a mensch deficit is through mealymouthing. By this, I mean sugar-coating something to the point that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. So if a leader is trying to address a performance problem, the message “Your work isn’t working because of X, Y, and Z” becomes “This approach may not be the best,” which then becomes “As you work, you might think about some other ways, too” which then becomes “Be sure to be thoughtful about your approach.” By the time you complete the coating, it’s all sugar and no content.

The Band-Aid Theory

Sometimes, it’s like the best way to get a Band-Aid removed: you just have to rip it off. Yes, it may sting for a few moments, but then it’s done and you can move on. It’s just the same thing with menschy leaders. They know that the news or feedback or content is important and that people need to know. So they deliver the information. That’s just how it’s done. And then it’s done.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean being rude, or being abusive. Those are on the other end of the spectrum, and also lose you points on the mensch factor. People who are accused of being too abrasive or rude will sometimes justify their actions by saying they “just give it to ’em straight with no sugar-coating,” but that’s not really true. Those folks are into shock therapy, and that’s rarely the right approach.

Instead — and it’s a really novel concept — approach the conversation on a person-to-person basis. Be firm, be direct, but be kind. Those aren’t mutually exclusive characteristics.

And they’re just what you need to be a real mensch of a leader.


Are Fairness and Power Mutually Exclusive?


In the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, a team of folks wrote a piece about Why Fair Bosses Fall Behind. It is, for the most part, an interesting and well-sourced read.

In brief, the authors’ position is that two otherwise equivalent managers will be seen differently if one is “demanding and occasionally abrasive” and the other is respectful. The latter may be more admired (especially by members of her team), but the former will be seen as more powerful — and will be more likely to get picked for a top spot.

Of course, in the anecdotal example that the authors cite (they also incorporate some more scientifically-conducted experimental data), the end result is no good: the more “powerful” person gets promoted to the top spot, a bunch of promising executives that were mentees of the respectful manager left, and the powerful big boss gets forced out by the company’s board a few years later.

Throwing an Elbow on National TV

It may be an apocryphal story, but the legend is that basketball player Bill Russell — an amazing talent on the court — was having lots of trouble in the paint because he didn’t want to throw an elbow. He was, in our analogy, the respectful manager. So the team’s owner, Red Auerbach, sat him down and told him to throw the elbow — just once — on national TV.

So that’s what Russell did. And it was an elbow seen around the world — Russell got left alone after that. It only took one.

In the HBR article, one of the experiments cited showed that participants’ opinions about who was more powerful, the respectful or the abrasive, were shaped by only a single incident. They saw one being respectful, the other being abrasive, then “worked for them” each displaying respectful behaviors. Yet the one-time abrasive manager was rated higher.

Impressions Count

So perhaps the moral of the story is that it’s useful to have some balance — an occasional edge along with a more rational and supportive center. Or maybe it’s that a little theater can be helpful when leading teams.

Either way, consider the impression you leave on others around you. Working toward the longer-term success of being respectful and kind may be more difficult than surrendering to a baser instinct to be abrasive, but it will certainly pay off in the end.


Marketing Intentions versus Customer Realities



I ‘ve had great plans of all the inspiring blog posts I would write. Interviews with people who are using visual tools to gain insight. Posts where I would share what I know about using visuals so you can do it too. I would plant flowers for all of you. They would bloom profusely and be weed free.


One set of stories: I now have four sites that need content. I have an old computer which does not run some of the software I need for video and editing. Editing is way more time consuming that I anticipated. I just can’t write as fast as I need to for all of this. We are working with technology. It fails. On a regular basis beyond my control.

Another set of stories: Customers need a lot of support when they are learning a new set of tools and processes. This is one of the most important things to me. It takes time.  I’ve been invited to a couple of weddings. Being present for those I love is extremely important to me.


I can set an ideal. Then life happens.

The choices I make in those moments make all the difference. It’s never my intention to not communicate regularly. When it comes to writing regular blog posts or keeping social media updated, those are the things that I often choose to let slide. Because my customers, friends, colleagues are really important to me, and I don’t want to let them slide.

Sometimes I forget. I get consumed with trying to share the idea that visuals can change how you see the world.

How do you do it?

There are way too many things to do, life is so delicious.  What do you let slide? What do you protect?

How do you decide where to put your focus?



Risk, Loss, and Reward

A 2nd-Century Precursor to Twombly

A 2nd-Century Precursor to Twombly

It was a week ago that Cy Twombly died. If you’re not familiar with Twombly, a 20th-century artist who used painting and drawing, along with scratches and etches, to make his art, it’s worth taking a minute to look him up. The evolution of his work is fascinating.

So is the evolution of the reception to his work.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, critical reception was, to put it mildly, not welcoming. As in some other fields, critics took Twombly to task not only for the perceived quality and artistry of his pieces, but also for how he lived. He decided to move to Italy when the art world was fleeing The Boot in droves. The horror!

But Twombly’s style, with graffiti scrawls and mixed techniques, was always something a bit different. A risk. And for those initial decades, it seemed to many that the risks just didn’t pay off. It remains unclear what the artist thought, as he virtually never wrote or talked about his own work or its critical reception. Given that he iconoclastically kept painting, however, one imagines that he was relatively unfazed.

Fast forward to the late 1980s. Cy Twombly is around 60, and has been an artist for decades. And people begin to ramp up their appreciation. Museums and galleries open wings to showcase his work. His paintings begin selling for $1 million and up at auction. And the tide has turned.

The Virtue of Patience

It’s certainly an object lesson in the virtue of patience. But also the value of pursuing a passion despite the external voices telling you that your work isn’t worthy.

What’s more, the life and experiences of Cy Twombly speak to the shifting sands of public opinion. What is considered passe or superfluous or tedious or ugly today may be the aesthete’s masterpiece of tomorrow. Or the Next Big Thing, to use the language of tech innovation.

Popular culture seems to love the idea of an Overnight Sensation. As far back as the myths of anonymous girls being discovered right off the bus at Schwab’s drugstore in Los Angeles — and probably back to ancient times! — the idea of being plucked from obscurity to fame and fortune is a collective fantasy.

But the reality, as proven by the life and work of Cy Twombly, is much different. Persistence, effort, some selective listening to the voices around you, and passion — not necessarily in that order — are much more likely to get you where you want to be. A little “right place, right time” doesn’t hurt, either. But it’s never enough without all the preparation that comes beforehand.


Customizing Our Work


SaladAs consumers, we want what we want. Many successful companies that sell to consumers have capitalized on that very thing. Take, for instance, Burger King’s “Have It Your Way.” Or the way Subway and Chipotle will each make your food exactly how you want it while you watch. All of these are great examples of leveraging customer choice. (All are also food examples — can you tell it’s almost time for lunch?)

Some authors have even extended this logic to people seeking work. Elizabeth Wagele and Ingrid Stabb wrote a book on how to find the perfect career based on your personality, as one example of many. (Recently, Wagele has been following it up with posts on the Psychology Today blog.)

Check It At The Office Door

So why, then, are we so often forced to abandon choice when we become employees? Why do managers of companies and organizations large and small so often expect that staffers will be happy when all the meaningful occupational choices are given to them?

It is all too frequent that employees in the workplace begin to feel marginalized — out of the loop and stuck in a rut, to combine two apt metaphors. This can stem from a fundamental lack of choice. (It can also stem from actually keeping people uninformed or outside of key decisionmaking processes, but that’s a different post topic.)

One of the amazing things that we’ve witnessed when teams use the VisualsSpeak facilitation processes is that previously marginalized team members start to emerge. They often bring new ideas and new perspectives that were simply swept off to the side before. Sometimes, after feeling constrained at work for so long, people just shut down and stop offering new insights. Effective facilitation starts to reverse that effect.

Making It Better

Of course, sessions with tools like the VisualsSpeak team-building or leadership development sets are only one component of empowering the workforce.

Another good place to start is a little empathy. Put yourself in the place of each member of your team. How would you feel in that position? What would you want to see change? Certainly, people react differently to the same situation, so it’s important to verify your reactions with the team members, but it’s a helpful launching point.

Then start a dialogue — sometimes, even just getting the conversation going will relieve some of the pent-up frustration about people’s roles and their confinement. (Again, we have tools to help that.)

Regardless of how or where you begin, begin. If you have people working on your team and you can increase their choice and their satisfaction even a bit, you’ll see a measurable increase in both productivity and longevity. And that’s certainly worth it!

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