Archive for February, 2011

Fortune Article Illustrates Power Of Contrast In Storytelling

Fortune recently covered Jack Dorsey’s latest venture, a service that promises to cause heartburn for the banking industry by essentially transforming the smartphone into a credit card reader.

From a communications perspective, the following visual caught my attention.

fortune credit card article

Click here for a larger version of this graphic.

The illustration reflects a classic storytelling technique we’ve touched on before, communicating the difference between “what was” and “what is” (or “what will be” if you allow me to go Beatles on you).

In the case of Fortune, they use the terms “Traditional Model” and “Square [Dorsey] Model,” but the concept is still the same. The greater the delta between the old way and the new way, the better the story.

That’s what generates the drama.

One final comment -

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Fortune wouldn’t include this illustration in the online version of the article. The art department has already done the heavy lifting. Why not leverage the work in multiple channels, not to mention enhance the online version?

If you have a take, please weigh in with your perspective.

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Q&A With The 85-Year-Old Voice Behind “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Part II

millie garfieldI’m not a fan of the phrase “be authentic.”

It sounds too clinical.

Can’t we just say “be yourself.”

That’s exactly how Millie Garfield approaches her blog, which has served the 85-year-old blogger well.

Millie was kind enough to talk with me about her writing. I published the first half of the interview yesterday; here’s the second half of the conversation:

Q: I noticed that you typically post once per week. Do you have a routine?

A: My routine is to write for the blog on Sunday. Sometimes I write on Saturday. Then, Steve [son] will take the post and make it look good with formatting and photos.

Q: So Steve is an integral part of the process?

A: Yes, one of the best things about blogging is it’s something I do with my son.

Side note: Steve Garfield is a nationally known video blogger and author of “Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business.”

Q: What do you think of Twitter?

A: I don’t use Twitter a lot. Steve does a lot of tweeting. I enjoy reading his tweets so I know where he is and what he’s doing. A few months ago I tweeted about “Mad Men.”

Q: Is there a post that you’re particularly proud of?

A: “My Trip from 65 to 81.”

I  just reread it – That one took more thought and time than any other post I ever made. I really told it just the way it was.

At the age of 77 I started blogging. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would enrich my life the way it has. When I was a child I was this shy little girl and look at me now! I’ve been on TV, been written up in newspapers and made speeches!! This all came about because when I asked my son, “What is Blogging?” I took the challenge and started a whole new chapter in my life.
                    MY TRIP FROM 65 to 81
                    “My Mom’s Blog,” January 16, 2007

Q: You often write about things people can relate to, like hospital food.

A: That’s how I look at things. That food was horrible … but I’m not a complainer. I figured out ways to survive like ordering two entrees which increased the likelihood of getting something decent.

Q: What do you enjoy about blogging? Is it the opportunity to express yourself?

millie garfieldA: That’s true.

When I’m writing no one interrupts me. I can get out what’s on my mind.

When I’m talking with someone, sometimes that person can start talking before I’m finished.

But blogging is more than writing.

Q: What do you mean?

A: It can be a form of storytelling to share who you are with your children and grandchildren.

My mother or father didn’t share much about their youth.

And I didn’t ask questions.

Before they were parents they had a life.

But I don’t know much about that life.

My kid sure knows about his mom’s past.

Q: Any closing thoughts we didn’t touch on through the questions?

A: More seniors should blog. Don’t be afraid you’re going to break something. There’s nothing to break.

Like I already mentioned, blogging enriches my life.

Here’s one last thing.

millie garfield

I wanted to print all of my posts but my printer wasn’t working. Steve said he would make copies with his printer. Every so often I would ask him about it. I didn’t want to push. Then my birthday arrived and he gave me one of the best gifts I’ve ever received -

All of my posts put together as a hardcopy book called “My Mom’s Blog.”

It had me in tears.

Photos courtesy of Steve Garfield.

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Q&A With The 85-Year-Old Voice Behind “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

millie garfieldSpend 10 minutes cruising the Net on what makes for a winning blog and you’ll find the same advice repeated again and again.

Develop a distinctive voice.

Share personal experiences.

Communicate a point of view.

And, of course, the mantra of the digirati: Be authentic.

If you want to see these theories put into practice, bookmark “My Mom’s Blog.” I had the pleasure of talking with Millie Garfield, the 85-year-old voice behind the blog. Like the interview with Master Swisher, Millie offered a mix of insights, wisdom and common sense that can benefit any blogger.

Q: What was your inspiration to start blogging?

A: My son Steve. He said I should I try it. He gave me an old computer and two weeks later I was blogging.

Q: So you didn’t have a computer before you started blogging?

A: No. I wasn’t even on e-mail.

Q: Did you start your blog with a particular audience in mind?

A: I didn’t know what to expect – Who the readers would be or if they would even be interested in what I have to say.

Now I know who they are, what they like to read about – I can tell by their response to my posts. They like personal stories, movie reviews, simple recipes, funny experiences, down-to-earth life experiences.

The good news is that I’m walking around like a teenager. Well, not really like a teenager, but walking without any pain. Now that I have a new hip, I can think back to what it was like before the surgery, and it was painful. After the surgery I had no pain. The nurse asked me on a scale of 1 – 10, if I had any pain, I told her “0.” Then she said I couldn’t get any pain medication. Well I wanted pain medication when I did my therapy. So I told her “three.”
                    I’M HOME: 8 Tips to Surviving Hospital Food
                    “My Mom’s Blog,” June 6, 2010

Q: I noticed in your early posts that you would ask readers for comments but no one was responding. How did you cultivate engagement with readers? Did you get frustrated?

A: I did get a little frustrated. Finally, I asked in my blog, is there anyone out there? I mentioned I was a 70-something-year-old blogger, which got some attention.

Later, Ronni Bennett noticed me. She’s been a producer for TV shows and works with celebrities. She wrote about me so her readers became interested in me. That was my big break. To this day, I stay in touch with Ronnie who’s a friend.

Q: So that got more of your readers involved with your blog?

A: That’s right. On my last birthday, I got so many comments posted on my blog.

Side note: Millie’s blog is a poster child for engagement. What I especially admire about Millie is she continues to push forward with experiments. Her latest is a twist on advice columns called “Dear Millie.”

Q: I know you’ve been in magazines and on TV which also generates attention and more readers.

millie garfieldA: Sure.

Even Ellen DeGeneres’ people called me. They wanted me to come out to the West Coast, but the timing didn’t work out.

I don’t watch her show anymore. She comes out on stage and people applaud for five straight minutes, which isn’t very entertaining.

Q: But you’ve been on TV.

A: When CBS interviewed me, the main point that got on the air was my life would be boring without blogging.

Here I am going out with friends who might not know how the TV business works. I don’t want them to think they’re boring. Fortunately, they understood the situation.

Blogging enriches my life, but it’s not the only thing.

Q: How do you decide what topic to write about on your blog?

A: When I first started blogging, I spent most of the time talking about my youth. But after so many years, I ran out of youth stories, so I needed to be open to other topics.

Q: What posts generate the most interest from readers?

A: It’s definitely the personal stories … the background stories in my life. That’s what people enjoy the most.

People like the humor.

I didn’t know I was funny until I started blogging.

Today I was just thinking about all the men in my life. Now let’s see—
I have an internist in MA, an internist in FL.
I have a periodontist in MA and one in FL.
I have a pediotrist in MA and one in FL.
I also have a gynecologist, gastroenternologist, oncologist, optician, dentist and an opthomologist.
In the Jewish religion you have to have ten men for a minyan. I have more than enough!
PS I could not have made this post without spellcheck
                    I WAS JUST THINKING
                    “My Mom’s Blog,” August 7, 2004

Q: Are there any writers you admire?

A: I’ve read all of the LaVyrle Spencer books. I didn’t care for the Swedish guy.

Q: You mean the Stieg Larsson trilogy?

A: Right. I pushed my way through his first book but that was it.

We’ll publish the second half of the interview with Millie tomorrow (Wednesday).

You’ll learn about her favorite post, a trick for improving hospital food and more.

millie garfield

Photos courtesy of Steve Garfield.

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The Relationship Between Storytelling, Social Media And Age

We’re working with one particular client which targets an older demographic.

They were convinced the “older crowd” does not participate in social media.

Just for the heck of it, we took five current customers and plugged their names into LinkedIn.

It turns out four of the five had LinkedIn profiles and two of them also had Twitter accounts.

Hardly scientific, but we also shared the Pew research showing folks 50 and older are jumping on the social media bandwagon.

older internet users

Does age impact how folks embrace social media?

Of course. I suspect Four Square hasn’t made inroads with the 65+ demographic.

Drilling down another level, does age impact how folks blog?

I’ve been thinking about this question since the holiday break. Through weird serendipity, I had the opportunity to interview successful bloggers at both ends of the spectrum.

The interview with Master Swisher who created “Good Morning Geek” at 10 and is now hitting his stride at 12, appeared last month. No question, youth breeds a certain fearlessness.

My interview with Millie Garfield, the 85-year-old voice behind “My Mom’s Blog” will appear next Tuesday. The opportunity to draw from a reservoir of life experiences is tough to match.

Here’s the thing.

After reading the interviews side by side, Max and Millie share more common ground than you might expect.

I hope you tune in on Tuesday.


Georgia Chooses Numbers Over Narrative

Advertising, not public relations, embraces storytelling techniques.


I came across an ad for the country of Georgia with the headline:

Georgia, The World’s number 1 in fighting corruption.

While not a fan of Styrofoam-finger advertising, this sounded promising.

Anytime you have good fighting evil, a potential story lurks around the corner.

Unfortunately, the people behind the Georgia ad decided to pummel us with stats, starting with the opener:

According to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer by Transparency International, 78% of Georgians think that corruption has decreased over the past three years.

You impressed?

I thought so.

The body copy goes on to share that only 3 percent of Georgians who had contact with various public services reported paying a bribe in the past 12 months (no detail on whether this includes the DMV).

And the numbers drumbeat continues.

georgia corruption ad

I have to say, I question a value proposition that plays off Bud Light Commercials:

Less Bribes, More Business

It also strikes me as a platform that would gain greater credibility in PR form.

If you insist on going this route, at least put together a story with drama and the good guy winning.

Because numbers by themselves don’t move people to buy.

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