STORYTELLING is a CRAFT...you have to have a PASSION for capturing, telling, and sharing stories. This blog is dedicated to that craft. What is your story? We are listening.

Archive for May, 2011

Getting Organized…

Yes…I am getting organized and bringing more focus to my writing. I have been really working on the future of my company and the future of my family. As you know, I am having a little girl this coming Fall. With this new addition, I am going to be witnessing some evolution to my business as well. With all these changes and growth in my family, my writing is evolving.

So this is what I am doing. I have three main areas that I am writing:

1) My business blog, which is here. This blog is going to help me tackle and articulate the business and stories of both my clients and the climate my business represents. I will continue to tackle new media, video, storytelling, and emerging technologies as topics in this blog. I will also use this platform to tell the stories of my clients and the surrounding context. It is my belief that I want to reinforce the idea of storytelling and how we can use this practice, and the technology that supports it, to generate natural movements of change.

2) My personal blog, which is located at http://bobbyrettew.com/personal-blog/. This blog will be tackling personal issues from my family, becoming a father, and also political/human advocacy issues that are the foundation of my belief system and moral ethic. As a former journalist, documentary storyteller, educator, and as an advocate, I have found myself voicing my opinions and beliefs that necessarily do not fit congruently with my business blog. So I found creating a new space to allow my writing to naturally grow, separating it from my business practices. Sometimes you will see me writing about similar topics in both places, but only when they naturally find a match.

3) A personal journal, which is private place. This is where I am tackling personal struggles and issue that have plagued me from growing up in a divorced family, the death of my mother-in-law, and the miscarriages for three little ones. These were tough times in my life, so finding a place to write privately will be a true platform for reflection, healing, and growth.

These areas of writing are going to help me with a few long term goals that I have on the horizon. I have always wanted to complete a PhD and write a few books. I am going to use these various platforms as places to write and research topics that I find interesting and could potentially bring deeper exploration for academic growth and intellectual stimulation. There are also some documentary ideas in the works that I will be using these platforms to flush out various ideas while generating business plans based on community interest.

Today’s business world has taught me to become organized, especially when it comes to our writing and how we articulate our ideas. This separation is also a test. I am interested in testing some validity in the dichotomy between a blog meant to generate revenue/business development and a blog for creative and passionate inquiry. As my writing has grown, so have my interests. This shall be a fun test!

My wife and I have been cleaning out our attic and working on the baby room. I found an old picture from 1998 when I attended the NPPA Oklahoma Workshop for News & Video. NPPA stands for National Press Photographers Association, which is a group of people who believe in one common goal, telling a good story visually. So why do I bring this up in my blog…well, it goes the very foundation of my business.

As a young journalist, the NPPA along with many workshops like Poynter Institute in Florida, I learned how to listen, capture, and craft a compelling story. From technical proficiency, which included using camera, sound gear, and our linear edit bays to visual storytelling that believed in capturing the moment. These skills have stayed with me over the years and influence how I approach every project I work on today.

Being a good storyteller is a subjective trait…many different people have different approaches. Some use writing, some use photography, some use technology. I use my cameras and my digital knowledge. I have learned how to transform that storytelling, journalistic approach into a marketable business in today’s economy. Now what does that mean?

Every project I work on whether it uses video production, new media, teaching, or coaching…I work to find the story in each context. I use a stoytelling approach to each and every project that crosses my desk. I was trained as a journalist to listen for the stories. Yes….listen for the stories. When I would go into a breaking news scene, we were trained as photojournalists to listen visually. Carry our cameras on our shoulders and our microphones in front of us and listen for the stories.

We would capture images from the field during hurricanes, conventions, fires, events, etc. and listen for the story. Listen for people talking and those colorful metaphors that painted the picture. We were trained to look at every situation and then turn 180 degrees to find those who were describing the story. Why…what better way to capture a story than through the eyes and ears of the people who are experiencing the situation. We resist writing voice-over in our scripts…it signifies we did not do our job collecting quality interviews and moments. We aim to allow people to tell the story, not some third party voice-over.

So how does photojournalism and storytelling translate into new media including blogs and social outlets? Storytelling is an amazing tool. It gives us the opportunity to tell stories, third person accounts through outlets like video, blogs, journals, and other new media tools. It allows us to capture other peoples’ thoughts in a way that we can share them others to enjoy. It provides and opportunity to bring the audience into the context and see thing through someone else’s lens. It also provides and ethical approach to content creation. We learn to honor those whom we are using to tell stories, to represent their interests along with ours as well.

We have an opportunity to take a project, a blog, a video, a message and bring the audience into a theater, our digital theater. We have a chance to see something through another lens by using words, video, pictures, sounds, etc. We have a chance to stop writing corporate copy, generating brand messages…instead craft a story that can translate to the people around us.

One of my favorite things to do on a project is a little ethnography project. When I first start working with a group, I like to emerse myself inside the story. I like to find myself inside the context, then start capturing the sights and sounds of the message. Their are many ways to tell a story, but I chose to tell it through another’s viewpoint…to capture reality for others to enjoy. Content can be king!

I had the greatest opportunity to chat on the phone with Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson from Seattle Children’s Hospital…and it was a treat. First of all, she is a very busy woman, not only as a physician and a mother but also as a thought leader  when it comes to physicians communicating through social outlets. Her message that I thought was very profound, and I am paraphrasing…”I have this IVY League education and I want to find every way possible to use it to empower and educate my patients and the people around me.”

She is obviously a smart lady that found something unique through her blog and twitter. She can tell stories and empower the people around her using her knowledge, her experiences, and her background so they can make better decisions as parents. She takes pride in her writing and is very passionate for the purpose behind the message. In the thirty minute phone conversation with Dr. Swanson…it was everything I could do to soak-up all her passion and knowledge.

Early on when the blog started, she found a need. She found that she only had roughly 15 minutes in the room with her patients. With the demands of her job and the need of seeing as many people as possible, she could only provide so much information. She found herself writing her blog as an outlet to provide more information beyond the 15 minute consultation. From video blogs to analyzing the latest research, she takes time putting the patient first when speaking through her message.

She feels like this is the new way to get back to the days of small town physicians, where you can build a personal relationship with your patients. She uses her blog to share her love for children, passion as a physician, and willingness to educate people as much as possible. She can take those questions that might not get answered in an exam room setting, and articulate them via her blog. She can spend more time addressing research, trends, and answer questions through the discussion of each blog post. She wants to bring that small town reality back to the exam room, but do it in a way that meets the needs of the patients of this digital age.

She does not spend time looking at metrics, clicks, and hits (The Digital ROI)…she focuses on the questions and concerns of her patients. She also focuses on the trends and research plaguing families. I know as a parent-to-be that my wife and I are bombarded with new trends from SIDS to what to feed our newborn when she arrives. I think Dr. Swanson has found a way to reach people (like my wife and I) that few doctors have been willing to do…speak passionately online.

If I was in Seattle…I would want her to be my child’s pediatrician. I am fortunate I was able to spend 30 minutes on the phone with Seattle Mama Doc…I think her name matches her style!

You can find Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (Seattle Mama Doc) in the following places:

Her Blog: http://seattlemamadoc.seattlechildrens.org/
Her Twitter Account: http://twitter.com/SeattleMamaDoc

***Image Credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital and Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson

It was not too long ago that I was in Chicago at SOBCON2011, listening to a great speaker…Tim Sanders. He really has me thinking lately and his book is the next on my list to read: Today We Are Rich.

Sitting in a room of close to 130 people at SOBCON, not knowing a sole, not evening knowing the background of most of the speakers…there were some passionate connections. Tim Sanders is one hell of a storyteller! His story began with a picture, one of his grandmother. His grandmother raised him and she is his inspiration today. He inspired me to think…to dig deep, and find my passion.

Here are the bullet points that I was jotting as he was speaking.

  • If you take the foot off the gas…you will go sideways.
  • Have to believe there is enough to go around.
  • You have a finite mind and use it accordingly.
  • You should be as judicious on what you put in your mind as you put into your mouth.
  • What do you park at the front door of your mind? Do you store lessons or successes?
  • Re-live a high-def experience where you succeeded.
  • Declare offline zones!
  • Get up and wait 30 minutes before getting online. In the first five minutes, spend time thinking of two people that you are grateful for from the day before.
  • Don’t believe your lucky.
  • Go create a ripple…integrate giving into what you do.

Tim’s Rules
1) Feed your mind good stuff
2) Take care of instrument
3) Exercise your gratitude muscle
4) Give to be rich

Lots of good stuff! Check out Tim’s Book by CLICKING HERE…I am looking forward to starting it!

*Image is from Amazon.com

Recently…I have become increasingly irritated with rubric’s and how-to’s that are consistently floating around the social space. It is driving me up a wall. Most of this is inside the world of blogging and the social space…that we must find a way to create a path for the perfect blog, that we must create the perfect social “strategy”, and there is a formula for social media messaging.

It is my humble opinion that those that are preaching these strategies, rubrics, and methods are in the business for their checkbooks. Each time I watch the tweets come down the timeline, “5 ways to do…”, “how to measure…”, the perfect blog must have…”, it is all about generating revenue for the person writing the posts.

Writing from the heart and creating great content is not “BS”. You cannot put a path to success when it comes to writing, connecting, and building an online community around a social outlet. There is no magic cookie cutter. Anyone that is selling this, pushing this, or tweeting this is selling it to generate their own income streams and not bringing value to this initial open source community.

If you do not have a passion for writing…then while the hell are you blogging? If you do not have a passion for exploring ideas, generating genuine creative thoughts, and connecting with others online…then why are you interacting in the social space.

I have read more and more tweets and blogs screaming to re-define the word marketing in this social space or 3.0. Many of which are searching to create a whole new space based on consumer trends and big company strategies. Why are they are re-defining this…well it is helping them land the next retainer deal, speaking engagement, big corporate marketing gig. But those same folks who surround themselves in chats an online discussions pushing what they deem is innovation…well they are actually trying to put this social space of user created content into a cookie cutter, placing a marketing dollar to each tweet, blog post, youtube video, and Facebook update.

These same “innovators” are actually stifling the social space right back into the same old marketing channels. Each of these spaces are becoming distribution points of corporate generated content specifically geared to track and generate a metric. Why, because the CEO’s and the VP’s of Finance who sign-off on these initiatives need a metric. We are right back where we started when the social space was beginning to appear.

Twitter is now the AP Newswire, Facebook is the new email chain, and YouTube is now our living television set. Just distribution points for those pesky marketers to generate a strategy for ads, product placement, and sponsorships. WTF…hashtags that are sponsored? Great…can’t wait. Sign me up.

Phil Baumann is right as he writes in his latest post: “Are Healthcare Marketers Destroying Twitter?

“Because hashtags are important, packing tweets with them defeats their purpose. It muddies communication – of all people, Comms peeps should know the vitality of clarity, and the cost of clutter and noise. Why so many Healthcare pros don’t understand such a simple concept is beyond me, but I digress.

I’ve thought to myself: you know, Twitter once had so much promise, and now it’s becoming all serious business and so-called marketing. What a shame. We’ll all lose in the end.”

Thanks Phil, I do not think we will all loose…but there is a big ole shift.

Several months ago, I was talking with a very smart lady, Robbin Phillips after she came and spoke to some students at Clemson. She says it so nicely…(i am paraphrasing): “there is just so much noise out there in this space.” I have to agree.

I blame us…us marketing people have gone out and screwed it up. We had to find a way to put in some sort of cookie cutter system so we can track it and metric the crap out of each profile and communication channel online. Hell, we are even spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars for companies like Radian6. We want to track those conversations. And we will pay top dollar to analyze the heck out of those conversations.

All of this stifles innovation. It stifles passionate writing. It stifles true connection. It prohibits individuals to use places like blogs, YouTube, and other creative outlets to become pioneers. We want each of them to think there is a rubric for using these channels then track the success. Why can’t success be simply creating content, writing passionately, making a cool video. What if the only person that you were communicating to was just one person. If that person read it, listened to it, connected with the message…then led to see life through the authors eyes…then success? Right?

I remember when I was working on my thesis for graduate school and some of the many academic articles that followed. Each person in the academy I spoke too told me that getting an academic thesis or academic article approved was like jumping through hoops. My mother calls it “Hoop Dreams.” Yes…it was almost like social construction of knowledge. My genuine ideas were shaped to meet the expectations of those academic gate keepers whose agenda’s were played out in each word that was written. Some argue this process is necessary to form true scholarship…to meet the expectations of the academic world. I see the value in this process, but I also see the value in allowing true innovative writing and thinking to shine.

The connection here is that regardless where we go, where we write, what we create….someone wants to fit it into a cookie cutter paradigm. The social space is starting to shape-up to be just that. We marketers and new media people are trying to force clients, organizations, and small businesses into a framework that meets the needs of our pocket books. Why not just teach the technology and how them to utilize this framework as a place to share our inner thoughts, a place to express our inner beings.

Content is King. Communities grow as content and ideas are created. In order to connect we must share our thoughts and communicate.

I think there is a true progression in the way people create innovative content and connect through their ideas.

Idea —> Content Creation –> Content Shared —> Ideas Consumed –> People Connect … then the cycle starts over again.

A blog is just a place to hold thoughts. A video is visual representation to share motion, action, sounds that represent our creativity. These are just technological theaters for others to engage with our ideas. If we are thinking, writing, sharing in a way that the people that are truly interested in reading, listening, watching, understanding…then their peripheral vision will disappear and become completely engaged in the passionate content we create!

To hell with SEO…sometimes?

Can you do it? Can you spend one week not looking at hits, clicks, followers, “Likes”, etc? Can you do it? Can you stop tracking for one week how many people from some geographic location clicked your blog post. Try it…it is liberating.

We have succumb to content creation based on metrics. Yes, all those tracking mechanism we pay for, install, monitor…any thing with numbers. Those numbers influence the content we create. Yes, if we see a post, an update, a spike…then we re-focus what we are creating to try to generate the same if not bigger spike.

How about this, spend a month not looking at these metrics and write, tweet, connect, “Like”, record content that is inspired from within and a community around you. Now some may argue that the community influences the content creation based on the metrics and numbers recorded. JUST SAY NO!!!! HELL NO!!! Lock that idea up for a few weeks.

Have you ever watched the show “Undercover Boss” where a companies’ leadership wears a disguise and immerses themselves inside their company. The purpose is to really see and hear what is truly happening inside the company. Many major company bosses do this to listen inside the community they lead. I like this idea.

What if we as content creators took this approach and immersed ourselves in the places where our inspiration drives our content. Not in the numbers, almost like and ethnographical study. Get away from the blogging, writing, video creation that is driven by metrics and immerse our creativity with the community were are seeking to connect. Listen and engage. Create content with them not for them. Hell, let them create the content for you.

We must challenge ourselves as marketers to step away from the metics and numbers and allow community inspiration drive our content creation and innovation.

The video above talks about my buddy Marty Boardman and how he is using his blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to build his real estate investment business. He has done this through writing great content, storytelling, and keeping a focus on his mission. Ultimately his passion shines through these social outlets.

About two years ago he had hit rock bottom with his real estate business, after generating millions in business. He and I are very close, he was best man in my wedding. So I taked with him about using a blog to start taking control of his message and use it as a focal point to educate the public about his business. Every two weeks on a conference call, we would chat about his successes. He started using his blog to write passionately about real estate investment, his business, and his goals. He started using Twitter to build relationships online and research other real estate investment news and opportunities. He started using Facebook to build a community of people with the same interests and used YouTube to show his properties and also as a video blog.

By writing and generating great content, writing passionately, connecting with others…he has leveraged these tools as a major business focus. Via these tools, he has built quality relationships that have led to over $250K in investment opportunities over the last year. He is a storyteller and he used his storytelling skills to engage his audience with passionate writing and focused content. Because of this content, the community found him and engaged with his passion.

Hats off to you Marty Boardman! To see his blog, go to http://freerealestateeducation.wordpress.com/ or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/freerealestateeducation. You can also find him on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/MartyBoardman



This post is in response to a great post by Margie Clayman’s Post: “Does Passion Pay The Bills?”

It was also feature as a response to her thoughtful post!

For over four years now, I have been preaching to my clients and my business relationships to write passionately. I have been writing in my blog about passionate writing for close to six months. I am a firm believer in passionate writing and telling rich stories. Do I think passionate writing in the context of a blog secures business…maybe yes and maybe no. There is no universal right or wrong answer. But I know this…my business is built around clients and relationships who have the same passion and fire for the advocacy we choose. I write with heart and passion and I encourage those I work with to do the same. I encourage them to dig deep and find the stories in their organization that brings passion to their readers and audiences.

Passionate writing and storytelling does a few things. First, it allows our audience to see the world through our lens. For that moment in time, they can see life through our senses. We want to help our audiences, our communities see our view as if they were sitting in a theater and their peripheral vision disappeared, fully engaged. This is true sensory engagement, allowing the audience to feel our vision.

From a business standpoint, passionate writing via a blog is a credibility piece. When we meet someone for the first time, they go out and “Google” us. They look at our digital resume. Our blog is a part of that digital resume. We want potential business relationships to make the right choice by wanting to work with us. This passionate writing allows those potential clients to see our viewpoints, understand our positions, relate to our business practices. As entrepreneurs, we want to work with people that are equally as passionate. So this allows potential business relationships have a barometer on our business practices. Writing passionately, with focus, allows potential relationships make an informed decision.

I do not think writing passionately is this new digital discovery that is going to break open the spectrum of blogging. Blogging is just another tool that allows readers to connect with our thoughts. Why not use it a way to reveal the true editorial side of our business. It is the place where we can communicate in our own voice…that is how blogging began. Writing about the topics that make us get up in the morning and enjoy life is what fuels our fire. And if people connect with us through our passion, then it is time well worth it…IMHO.

Passionate writing in the blog paradigm is a no-brainer.

I was working with a group the other day around topics for their blog and ways to tell passionate stories for the audiences. We were listing topic areas, stories, and putting a rough schedule together to build consistency in their writing. They were extremely focused on the schedule so much so that they were worried about breaking outside of that schedule of writing. I have a few points to make here that will yield to my thesis that writing passionately yields community writing.

I told them that this schedule was just merely a barometer, and when you find a compelling story to tell…sit and write. Share your story and share it often. I think about writing for my blog almost like the way I began dating my wife. When, I first met my wife in graduate school…I fell in love. I knew I was going to marry her. It just took me two years for her to agree. As we began dating, we would go out, talk on the phone, meet for coffee, and learn to get to know each other. I had the three day rule.

The three day rule meant that after we would go out, I would not bother her for three days. I did not want to encroach on her space. I valued her friendship and I wanted to get to know her. But, I did not want to push her away…I wanted her to want to enjoy our time together. I was passionate about our relationship. Overtime we grew closer and the three day rule slowly disappeared.

Writing passionately is sort of the same concept. I try to build a relationship with the people that read my blog. I may not be the best, but I try. I try not to write too much to overload the “Internet” space and the people that receive my blog via email and Google reader. My wife is my barometer with this rule. She has been writing for close to five years on her blog. She writes about the following topics: life after her mother (who died of breast cancer), fighting infertility, against cause marketing, and her family. She writes about these topics and she writes passionately. She writes when she is inspired. Sometimes she writes everyday, and sometimes she writes after a month off.

She has built a pretty good community of readers. She has attracted successful authors and other bloggers like herself to share in her mission. But here is the thing, she is now writing with them. What do I mean by that? She will write about a topic, people will comment, she will respond, she will read their blog posts and respond, then she will write another post sometimes based on how her community is writing or responding to her. She has built a conversation around her blog, a community of people that have common interests and passions. She gets regular emails from her readers.

How does she do this? Well, she has a focus for her blog and she shares with her community. She writes straight from the heart…when she feels led to write.  There is no set schedule, there is no checklist…just a passion for her topics and for the people that respond in her community. She regularly is reading her friends blog and genuinely responding to their posts. She is building a community and this community’s writing is influencing each other in a way that they are writing for each other.

So here is my point. Writing for a blog has three elements: Focused Content, Passionate Writing, Engaging with Your Community. This is a barometer that I think will lead to a community of people that share your same interests.

Last week, I posted the first part of my Skype interview with Greg Hartle and his Ten Dollars and a Laptop Project. So I thought I would post the whole interview in a playlist for you to enjoy. It is broken into six parts. I had originally said that it would be seven parts, but I decided to combine two sections. The playlist will allow you to watch the video in sections, since the whole interview is close to 45 minutes long.

Part One – Who is Greg Hartle and what is TenDollarsAndALaptop.com.
Part Two – Tthe pivotal point behind his decision to do this project.
Part Three – Greg Hartle discussing the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Part Four – Greg’s journey across America and the life of the project.
Part Five – Greg’s drive behind this mission and project.
Part Six – Greg talking about “Living in the Present”.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable interview, one that I am glad I took the time to learn more about Greg and his passion to share the entrepreneurial spirit.

Google Analytics Alternative