Reading Resources that have impact

Great reading resources for your stocking in 2014.

Reading is a passion for many of us and this year was no different. I’ve been swept away to distant and unique lands with Lev Grossman’s wonderful Magicians Trilogy; enchanted by the events in The Night Circus; and educated by Joseph Boyden’s 2014 Canada Reads winner The Orenda.

It’s the schooling aspect that this blog will focus on – the books that most impacted my thinking and development in 2014.

With so many great works this year, this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, just those that I’ve read, executed on, re-visited and referred to others (in some instances on numerous occasions).

The six titles embrace not only the business world, but opportunities for personal growth in addition to building skills for business applications. Not all of the titles were released in late 2013 or 2014. Some have been business standards for awhile and I found myself referring to them this year to help guide clients in their search for answers. So here in release order are my 2014 reading resources that I’d highly recommend to anyone (no affiliate links).

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: April 2012, Free Press; McChesney, Covery and Huling:

Definitely a book that I’ve returned to on numerous occasions and a constant challenge for clients and others I’ve met over the year. A great many people have wonderful ideas. They can effectively communicate those ideas to others and build a following or interest. And then, for some unforeseen reason, the idea doesn’t bear fruit. The main reason is typically that the great idea was poorly executed on. If you have a team, whether they be full time employees, part-time collaborators or contracted help, success will depend on your ability to provide the right environment to achieve success. The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a guide to help you identify and achieve the “Wildly Important Goals” that you’ve set out for your organization. The author’s have laid out the book in three sections. The first is what the 4 Disciplines are. The second, how to instill the 4 Disciplines with your team to create a great culture. The third, how to instill the 4 Disciplines in your whole organization. As Alex Azar (The president of Lilly USA, LLC), noted in his letter discussing his introduction to the 4 Disciplines as a new Lilly VP:

“I often look back on the decision to attend that initial meeting, and more important, on the journey we’ve made to create not only great business results but also a high-performing culture. It was a pivotal decision for me – one that changed the way I lead forever”

My clients are not large organizations, but struggle with very similar issues. A not for profit leader that I consult with has found great results when she has implemented the formula with her team. They’ve grown in size and are well on their way to making a major impact on our culture here in Ontario. As Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”.

Give and Take: April 2013, Viking Press; Grant, Adam:

Grant’s look at “A Revolutionary approach to success”, is indeed truly that. We’ve all heard Leo Durocher’s famous quote “Nice Guys Finish Last”, then along comes Grant to illustrate that the quote is not true. Throughout the book, he gives clear illustrations of not only doing the right thing, but what on occasion looks like business suicide. Grant defines the three personalities the “giver”, the “taker” and the “matcher”. In today’s collaborative environment, it helps to understand who you are and who you’re dealing with. A gifted researcher and storyteller, the book is not only informative but highly entertaining as well. It is well laid out and I particularly liked the actionable items included at the end. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, this book provides the guidance and resources to help you shift, if even slightly, in your orientation to a “giver” style. An important read, if only once for everyone.

I worked with a business owner that would shake his head when I’d recommend a WordPress site for a small business so that they could control their own website, be coached and encouraged to make minor changes, all updates, and write their own blogs. He was certain that they’d never buy from us again. Instead we increased sales 4x over some of our other clients, because they called on our expertise for the bigger items, more consultation on strategic and integrated marketing initiatives. We gave them, with no additional cost, the ability to be independent and agile, in return, they trusted that we indeed had their clients and their best interests at heart. Give and Take illustrates the advantages of a “giver” mentality.

Finding Your Element: May 2013, Viking Press; Robinson, Ken with Aronica, Lou:

I first learned of the work of Sir Ken Robinson from a Canadian National radio program Q, when he was in shortly after the release of “The Element”. The Element was about understanding “where natural aptitude meets personal passion”. The radio program lead me to his acclaimed Ted Talk: How schools kill creativity (located below), along with 30 million other views. I was hooked on his work and went back to read “Out of Our Minds” on creativity. In 2013, the authors took their work a step further and released a reading resource to help you learn “How to Discover your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life”. It is a refreshing read and a guide to help you discover where your aptitude and passion intersect. Since hearing Joseph Campbell’s famous quote “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls”, many have been on the pursuit of finding their passion. But it is not that easy, as we occasionally mistake what we’re good at for what we should be doing. But as The Element reminded us, you should love it as well. After doing the circuit, Robinson notes that he was frequently asked how one could find their element. Thus this sequel, companion. It is inspiring and easy to read. Filled with wit and intelligence, it is a great read that you’ll find yourself returning to time and again for the practical guidance, resources and stories that the reader can relate to.

If you are seeking, I hope you find some answers here to help you on the right path.

Maximizing Your Social: September 2013, John Wiley and Sons; Schaffer, Neal:

Billed as a “one-stop guide to building a social media strategy for marketing and business success”, Maximize Your Social lives up to it’s billing. Schaffer has provided a step by step guide to building a social media strategy. In the next few chapters he relays solid tactics to employ to achieve your goals. Having said this, some of the tactics are already slightly dated due to the change in platforms. However, the underlying principles are sound and it’s one of the strengths of his work.  Schaffer was a successful business professional before becoming a social media writer and teacher (a common thread in the authors and specialists I follow). The work demonstrates best business practices in networking, client service sales and marketing. The fundamentals are easy to find and then applied to the social media universe, no matter the platform. I’ve liked and followed Neal’s work and presentations for a while and would encourage you to do so as well. In addition, the book covers the analysis you’ll need to ensure that your strategy and tactics are on target. As Winston Churchill was quoted as saying “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”. With this book, you’re given all the guidance you’ll need to cover it all. (Note, I received my copy of Neal’s book as a gift from Hootsuite in a random draw).

Social Media Explained:  January 2014; Schaefer Marketing Solutions; Schaefer, Mark:

One of the most common issues I see my clients struggling with (and in this, size does not matter) is understanding social media. It seems to be such a common issue that it drove Schaefer to write Social Media Explained. Unlike most other books in the social media spectrum, it does not focus on the “how to’s” of any one or multiple social media platforms, but focuses on the business trend as a whole and how business can successfully adapt it to their communication, networking, marketing, service and sales strategies. The book is divided into two segments, the first is the “five most important things you need to know”. Secondly, the “five most important questions you’ll face”. Schaefer creates a modular exploration of the “five foundational strategies of social media marketing“, that take the reader step by step into clarifying and demystifying social. A part of that is advising the reader that there are three key elements to any successful social media effort.   They are: Targeted Connections + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness = Business Benefits.  After which he tackles the five most common questions/objections to social that hold companies back from success. Issues like, how to measure social media success, how much to invest in advertising on social platforms vs traditional sources and more. I’d recommend (and have) this work to anyone interested in applying social to their business. Especially to those that feel they have to be there, but haven’t the foggiest idea. This work will help you understand why you’d want to invest and apply resources to develop a sound social media strategy for your entire organization. As Albert Einstein once noted; “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding“. Develop your social media skill to bring peace to your client, staff and business relationships.

Everybody Writes: September 2015; John Wiley and Sons; Handley, Ann:

I recently touched on this work in my blog Struggling with Content Creation, so won’t spend much time on it here. Everybody Writes; is an essential go to guide for anyone looking to improve their writing abilities. It’s never been easier to share your thoughts and feelings, or to share your knowledge with a much larger audience than before. Because of the advances in technology, it’s become harder though to stand out in the crowd. In Content Rules, with C.C. Chapman, Handley illustrated the need to create good content that serves your audiences’ purpose. In Everybody Writes, Handley takes the reader deeper into the how to(s) of successfully writing good content. It’s a step by step guide for the budding or experienced author to get the most from your efforts. The book debunks some traditional rules that may be holding you back from sharing your ideas. At it’s best, it is an encouraging friend that you can return to time and again to dig deeper, take the next step and know that it’s alright, you indeed can write. The book promises to be “Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” and it delivers. As Benjamin Franklin shared; “Either write something worth reading or do something worth reading about“. With this guide book by your side, you just might do both.


List of 6 reading resources had an impact
2014 Reading Resources

Additional Resources:

Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk:

Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk, How school kills creativity 2006.

 The Tao of Twitter, Revised. by Mark Schaefer. The best resource I’ve seen for effectively using Twitter.


Haiku Deck, Presentation Poetry

Haiku Deck presentation softward

One of the discussions that I’ve had with clients on a regular basis, is to take advantage of SlideShare. The power of SlideShare is in the visuals, how easy it is to share your ideas with others. The presentations can be shared via your social channels or embed into your blog efforts.  The concern most frequently expressed by clients, was the time it would take to find suitable images, build the presentation in PowerPoint and then upload it to SlideShare. In reality, it doesn’t take that long, but if you’re not familiar with the software, it can seem daunting. I’m excited to say that now, it’s even easier to build great looking presentations that you can share with your audiences and extend the life of your content, thanks to Haiku Deck and it’s partnership with SlideShare.

Not long ago I received an invite from SlideShare to take advantage of a new partnership they’d entered into with Haiku Deck. Curious I popped over and took a look. I built my first deck within SlideShare using Haiku Deck (the example is below). There are some really useful demonstrations and tips to help you navigate through the build. There are some limitations as well, such as, the number of images (you can upload your own), fonts and colour selections. But I enjoyed the process and have subsequently shared it with others.

One of the things I learned quickly was that once built and uploaded in SlideShare, you can not edit the presentation (I wanted to add a final slide with contact information). This is not a problem in the Haiku Deck sight itself, only if you’ve uploaded it to SlideShare. The other at the moment is that the mobile version of Haiku Deck is only available for the iPhone and as an Android user, currently not available to me. I understand that this will be corrected, but have not heard when. However, you can create your presentations on a laptop or desktop with ease.

Recently, I’ve read a lot of blog posts noting that to be successful with our online efforts going forward, we’ll need better visuals in our content and marketing efforts. Haiku Deck certainly gives you the tools to help you achieve that end. For the general user; as Canva has done for graphic design, Haiku Deck will do for presentations. It truly is the art of building poems with images.

Currently the site is free to use, but will eventually have a paid portion (premium design elements).

Haiku Deck Resources and Demonstrations:

My first foray with Haiku Deck:

Marketing Plan Template – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

10 Tips to Transform your Presentations by Haiku Staff:

A Stunningly Simple Path to Creative Business Presentations by Mark Schaefer {Grow} blog December 5, 2014

Note: this blog was revised after Mark Schaefer’s post came out. Mark does an excellent job of highlighting the pros and cons in his post (above) and I saw no need to duplicate them here.

Interacting with Slides by Jerry Weissman from Blog 2009

Struggling with Content Creation.

Struggling with Content Creation, What to Write
Struggling with content creation?

As a consultant, my focus is on helping small and medium businesses (SMB) find, attract, and convert customers.  As a result, you’d think that I would be all over creating original content. In my business, I’ve encouraged and coached others to do just that. To balance content curation with creating their own content. I’ve helped clients take stock of the material they have already on hand. Then used that material to generate useful information for their audience and created processes (content calendar, etc) to consistently develop and distribute their message. I’ve sourced tools to help with the creative tasks (Canva, PowToons, Snag-It, Haiku Presentations, etc.) or introduced them to appropriate professionals (video, graphic design or in-depth SEO) when they need more. It’s what I do and enjoy doing; yet I’ve not delivered on creating consistent content for myself and those that I serve.

So why am I struggling with content creation?

It might be easy to frame the issue with, I’m a sole-proprietor and there are only so many hours in the day. But, I’d expect to be called out on that. I’m the biggest proponent of utilizing time appropriately and focusing on what matters most. So does that mean that I believe blogging (or content creation) is not a fundamental part of digital marketing. No, that would be highly hypocritical of me. After all, I speak about it constantly in my social posts. I invest time daily reading and sharing what I learn from respected specialists that I and my audience can learn from. For the most part, my efforts to date have been curating the good work of others. However,  I know it’s not enough, yet I’ve not maintained a consistent blog effort – why?

There are likely a few causes, and some were driven home powerfully in the last few months.

First, I recently read a wonderful guest blog post by Besty Kent, on Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog. Entitled “Impostor Syndrome, How I finally learned I was Smart“, her post resonated with me.  It wasn’t so much that I felt unintelligent. I just questioned why you would read what I have to say. Especially when you could just read the works of talented folks like  (insert your favorite resource/author/”thought-leader” here). Ms. Kent’s post reminded me of many things. The biggest being that I have different frames of reference. I learn from my “virtual mentors” but frame the lessons based on my own experiences and environment (as we all do).  And thus, have something different to offer from my talented colleagues.

Secondly,  I started reading Ann Handley’s latest book, Everybody Writes. To understand why this is significant, you have to understand I was in the same class with some highly creative and talented artisans (now a world class playwright, a successful film director/producer, a published author and more). I stood in awe of their skills and still do. But Ann’s book reminded me that we all have the ability to write (even if some require a good editor – like me). Working through her book, I’ve felt encouraged to spend time regularly at my craft. To quote Allan Iverson “we’re talkin’ about practice”. More importantly, to allow myself the opportunity to find and develop my voice. I know my “why” to write – it’s always been to be of service to others. My favorite stories with clients always center around helping them first develop their definition of success. Then to work with them as they get on the right path to it and achieve results along their journey.

Lastly, the work of two bloggers who are kindred spirits; Stephen Lahey and Beth Browning. Lahey’s Small Business Talent, is a podcast focused on sales and marketing for small businesses. Each episode is also a useful blog as it includes a complete transcript of the conversation*,  thereby becoming a valuable resource to return to. Browning is a  very good SEO consultant/trainer (direct feedback from my clients that she’s worked with). She consistently produces for both her professional and personal blogs, despite a hectic schedule.  I can relate to Beth having watched her overcome the ongoing battles of sole-proprietorship and the stress that goes with it. If your interested in SEO, and you should be; follow Beth’s Discover Your Customers blog. It’s good to have other voices that are up and coming.

So if your struggling with content creation, these resources might well get you back on track. Please consider investing your time in the resources above. Since I’ve come across them, they have helped me refocus and strengthened my commitment to blogging consistently and well.   Like you, I’m working on my plans for 2015, what areas I’ll focus on and share.  I know that I want to focus on micro and small business, they are of real interest for me, doing as much good as you can with limited resources. To that end, I’ll continue to curate and share the great resources that I come upon. It’s my hope that my efforts to curate and generate content will allow you to get useful information and help you achieve your goals.

Thanks for reading.

Struggling with Content – Resources to help you get back on track:

Schaefer’s: What would I do if I were starting my blog from scratch? Nov. 25, 2014

Diverse Messages: Why You’ll Want a Content Calendar 

Content Marketing Institute: 5 Mistakes that hold back Content Marketing 

*Other Podcasts that include full transcripts: Marketing Profs, MarketingSmarts and Rich Brooks, The Marketing Agents podcasts.

Ann Handley: This Simple Strategy will Stuff Your Business…


 Hemingway App – Help make your writing clear, reduce complex sentence and know what reading level your post is aimed at.

Smart Easy Content Creation

Creating content for social
Imagine what it was like.

In my talks with clients and future brand advocates, a central theme for the vast majority of them is their concern around their limited resources. Specifically, the time they will need to invest in creating content for their website, blog and social platforms. It is a somewhat valid concern, as content creation can be time consuming if you don’t plan ahead. However, once you’ve done your planning, you’ll have a clear idea of what you want to create (theme), where you want to share it (medium) and for who (which segment of your audience).

Lately, I’ve seen some exceptional examples of content creation that is full of useful information, easy to produce (no big elaborate budgets) and material that is easily consumed, then shared by the audience with their friends and followers. I’d like to highlight a few of my favorite resources and examples of content creation. A good example was demonstrated on this blog in our last post. Mark Schaefer’s re-purposing of a chapter from his latest book, into a powerful ebook that he shared on SlideShare and distributed through his various social channels. At the end, I’ll share more links of rich media (podcasts) from some of my favorite content creators.

Video Examples:

Social Media Today, provides excellent materials to browse on a multitude of topics about Social Media. Recently, they’ve added some powerful short videos with leading knowledge specialists. A great example of the power of these quick chats in “SMTShorts” are the two recent additions with Ted Rubin. As a passionate social media/business advocate, Ted brings insight, hands on experience and authenticity to his appeals for us to all be more human. The nice aspect of these is that they are under 2 minutes, have a clear focus and answer questions that a great many are likely asking.
The first video discusses the best platform for the consumer. Be sure to heed the advice at the end.

The second video, how do you get an audience to engage with you on Twitter. Again, listen to the end.

Both videos provide great insights and may not have taken all that long to shoot and edit.

For another example, Jay Baer (Convince and Convert) recently launched his “Jay Today” segments on his YouTube channel (in addition to iTunes, Stitcher and his own website). Jay is a generous sharer of content, the author of “Youtility“, and has a lot of great content on his YouTube channel already, but these quick videos deal with one topic and he’s promised to keep them to around 3 minutes. In this episode, Jay shares the key to being a successful blogger (and a tip on how this video was created).

These are some quick examples of what you can do to be of service to your audience and become their favorite content creator. To plan for these very useful snippets of information, talk to your client facing staff and find out what questions they are getting from your clients and prospects, then shoot a quick video to provide them with the answess.  Check out this resource from Wistia to set up your own “DIY Office Video Studio”. The keys to good video; a key message, good lighting, and good sound.

Now as promised, the links to some of my favorite content:


I generally listen to these over lunch, at the end of the evening before turning in for the night or when on the road. Most are under 1/2 hour and all have provided great information that I’ve used personally in my business or shared with my clients (listed alphabetically).

Fan-Dam-Tastic Marketing Show – Host Mack Collier, Author Think Like a Rock Star, Host of Twitter Chat #BlogChat

The Marketing Agents PodcastRich Brooks of Flyte Media. Focus on small business primarily.

The Marketing Companion Show – Hosts Tom Webster and Mark W. Schaefer – Been listening since inception.

The Marketing Smarts Podcast – Hosts Kerry O’Shea Gorgone. Full of great guests, topics, humor and usable tips.

Small Business Talent Podcast – Host Stephen H. Lahey. Focus on networking, sales and marketing for small biz.

There are many more entertaining and informative podcasts out there, what’s your favorite?


Using Automation and Building Engagement

Automated Robot

In our attempts to be more “social”, there seems to be an ongoing discussion / battle around automation and engagement. Is it okay to automate some, all or none of your social media activities? I’m aware of folks that have totally abdicated the responsibility of their social media efforts to either automation or a consultant/agency. Conversely, I’m aware of other folks that struggle mightily on a daily basis to create “original” content and manually post to all of their social platforms, in many instances becoming so overwhelmed they abandon their efforts. In both of these cases, the individual/team are operating without any real strategy as to why they are posting, to who, on which channel and when.

First, let’s examine what is meant by automation.

The dictionary (Random House) defines automation as: the technique or system of operating a mechanical process by highly automatic means, as by electronic devises, reducing human intervention to a minimum.

And therein lies a portion of the issue, in our efforts to reduce human intervention of repetitive tasks, some have approached social as a mechanical process (think, I must post five times a day or my boss will be all over me). The difficulty is that most relationship building endeavors, are anything but mechanical or routine. Each of our audiences are unique. Sure, we can categorize them into similar groups or buyer personas based on interests, needs or geographic location, but those are meant to be guidelines to determine what we need to communicate at the right time and place to solve a particular issue, not a sum total of any one person.

In her excellent post “How to use Social Media Automation to Enhance (not hurt) your Social Media Strategy“, Kristi Hines covers the good and the bad of social media automation. Like Ms. Hines, I agree that a preferable tactic is to vet the posts that you are going to schedule for the day/week or beyond (I personally only post out about a week ). As she notes; “By automating (to an extent) the content that you share, you will keep your profiles up to date while opening up more time to do more personalized interactions (read engagement)”. You only have so much time to invest in your efforts (thus why it may make sense to outsource your community management, but that’s an entirely different conversation) and it’s important to be spending it where you’ll get the best return (measuring your success, yep, another post), that I’m sure you’ll agree will be in chatting to your future and current brand advocates. By using automation effectively, you should have more time to engage with those in your community (future clients, clients, influencers, vendors and as importantly employees).

Our goal in automating certain tasks should be to allocate more time to making those meaningful connections that can lead to both tangible and intangible returns (part of the measurement chat). I believe that by fully automating your social; “so it looks like your active” and not engaging with those that connect with you is a drain on the little financial and time resources you commit to it. In his book “Social Media Explained“, Mark Schaefer outlines three key elements behind every successful social media interaction that he studied or was informed of;  “Targeted Connections + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness = Business Benefits”. As he clearly illustrates in the book, building relationships, nurturing those relationships and being helpful, leads to returns – tangible (a speaking engagement) or intangible (an introduction to a new connection that leads to other indirect opportunities).

As noted by Schaefer and fellow marketing authors and leaders Bryan Kramer and Ted Rubin, we’ve moved away from the traditional Business to Business (B2B), Business to Consumer (B2C) to a more personal relationship of one to one, or as Kramer notes Human to Human (H2H – title of his new book). By fully automating your social efforts; especially automated replies on Twitter (DM and tweet), you are demonstrating, or at the very least implying that you are not truly interested in engaging with those that engage with your content. Find the right balance for yourself and build meaningful relationships.

As Ted Rubin noted in a recent Instagram/Facebook post and quoting Maya Angelou:


Ted Rubin Instagram post
Ted Rubin Instagram post


How to Use Social Media Automation to….” Kristi Hines post on iAquire blog, published June 5, 2014.

Ted Rubin Straight Talk – Blog

Rich Brooks interviews Ted about “Being Human in the Digital Age”

Is Social Automation the future of Social” Matthew Sweezey post on ClickZ published June 26, 2014.

“Be Relevant or Die: The New Nature of Nurture”. Will Spendlove post on Marketo Blog published June 26, 2014.