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Voicemail Greetings for the Troops

Over the past several months, I’ve been honored to assist entrepreneur Frank Catalano with product development and marketing for CanaryVoice. One way we are building awareness for this unique way of using voice greetings to celebrate special occasions, is to create public celebrations like the one we announced today. Since Veterans Day, we have been inviting the public to phone in messages to honor the U.S. armed services, and today we launched the first-of-its-kind audio greeting card for the troops, giving them the ability to hear firsthand how much their service is appreciated this holiday season.

Our “Voices of Gratitude” holiday album for the troops is still accepting messages. Anyone can listen, add a message and easily share the album via email, Facebook and the web, all free of charge. To contribute a message, simply call this number: (847) 598-3466 (Mailbox: 2710 and Pin: 9801).

Even if you decide not to leave a message, we would appreciate if you would share the album to your Facebook wall, so others may have the option to listen, contribute or share. The completed “Voices of Gratitude” album will be available on the CanaryVoice site and CDs will be mailed to the public information officers of each branch of the military and to select military support groups, publications, media outlets and blogs. For complete details about the “Voices of Gratitude” campaign, or to create your own voice album, visit www.canaryvoice.com.

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5 Ways to Connect and Energize Your Brand

Warrior-Preneur Ann EvanstonOne of the joys of independent consulting is the opportunity to learn from a wide range of companies and the many solutions providers who stand ready to serve them. For startup CanaryVoice, we identified that social media savvy moms are likely to embrace its unique voicemail greetings service, leading us to explore the “momosphere” and participation in the BLP CONNECT! conference where “warrior-preneur” and marketing consultant Ann Evanston gave an inspiring keynote on “The Power of Connecting.”

Her request for audience feedback on the meaning of “connection” elicited a wide range of responses, including: growing relationships, personal converstions, face-to-face meetings, follow-up, support, cameraderie, resources, interest and attention. According to Evanston, connection means “creating an energy that draws people to you.” Pull not push marketing. Inbound, not outbound marketing. Energetically, YOU are what creates your brand, which is distinctly unique from the product you sell. YOU make your brand unique and special, and as such you can program marketing activities to create an energy that attracts customers to your brand.

While the emphasis of Evanston’s talk was geared toward an audience of women entrepreneurs and guiding their use of social media, every marketer can benefit from thinking more about ways to energize and connect with their audiences, no matter what the product or the size of the marketing budget. If the word for 2010 was “authentic” and in 2011 we are talking about being “transparent,” the word for 2012 will be to “humanize” your brand, according to Evanston.

So how do you go about humanizing, connecting and energizing your brand? Here were my take-aways from Evanston’s motivating talk:

1) Create polarity in your marketing. Ho-hum marketing is average and safe — be brave, be memorable and be yourself!

2) Understand that multiple “buying types” exist and that you need to appeal to all of them while being ready to refine your pitch once you determine which buying type you are dealing with. Diversify how you connect by creating different ways to tell your story.

3) Think with abundance, not in scarcity mode. Doing so will help you attract like-minded people who want to do business with you. You will create connections you never thought possible, that will lead to an even greater number of customers, referral partners and promotion opportunities.

4) Let go of the fear. Fear of success, fear of the money you can really make, fear of polarity, fear of that first Tweet. Don’t let fear hold you back from getting the things done you need to do to drive your business forward.

5) Create a step-by-step plan comprised of systems and processes that develop revenue…and, of course, give Ann a call to help!

There is nothing more powerful than the energetic connections an entrepreneur can make when she tells her story with authenticity, honesty and fearlessness. Whether it’s in a selling situation, a speech or social media marketing, let go of the fears that are holding you back. There is a world of partners, customers and advocates out there just waiting for you to make powerful connections that will help you grow your business.

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ad:tech SF 2011 – Arianna Huffington keynote

I’ve been thinking a lot about cause marketing lately, and based on her recent IMPACT post had fully expected Arianna Huffington to touch on the subject during her keynote address at ad:tech San Francisco. What I didn’t anticipate was to hear so much passion and such a commitment to connecting journalism and online advertising to a higher calling for humanity. 

In an inspiring speech that quoted great poets and thinkers, both dead and alive, Ms. Huffington plainly laid out the case for embracing cause marketing, capitalizing on the power of local media and reminding us all of the importance of disconnecting for our own health and productivity.

Just as Shakespeare kept to the formal constraints of the sonnet, she suggested that today we must find ways to use the tools of social media to tap humanity and the noblest part of ourselves. Echoing Guy Kawasaki’s talk the day prior about moving from engagement to enchantment, she encouraged us not to dwell on those things that are disfunctional and suboptimal in our world, but to focus on the what is being born all around us today that allows us to connect at a deeper level than ever before.

As an example of cause marketing, she cited the Chivas Regal “Live with Chivalry” campaign where the value of nobility is used to sell whisky. If marketing and advertising is a leading indicator of what’s happening in our culture, we need to identify its meaning and tap into this large and profound trend.  We are moving to an era when doing good is not just good for humanity, but also good for the bottom line — where it doesn’t just affect our business, it affects our lives.

Expressing disappointment in the mainstream media, she spoke of how they have let us down by not focusing on solutions and placing too much emphasis on what is not working rather than so many things that are. Whereas mainstream media suffers from ADD by only covering a story for a brief time before abandoning it, in digital we have OCD and the ability to cover stories obsessively until there is a solution.

This is made even more powerful when we engage our communities at a local level. Local, she said, will bring together communities at a time when the media is increasingly more disconnected than ever from our lives. All human existence is local, and that’s where people trust what’s going on around them and feel empowered to get things done.

Taking pride in quoting will.i.am and Shakespeare in the same speech, she referenced a comment he made about how in “the olden days” we consumed news on a couch — today we consume it on a galloping horse. Reinforcing this idea at the local level, she spoke about plans to replicate a popular Greatest Person of the Day feature on the Huffington Post by creating the Greatest Person of the week throughout Patch sites in more then 800 cities. We are longing to connect with each other as human beings at the same time there is a greater explosion of everything life, and that’s why AOL is betting on local.

Finally, she spoke about the need to disconnect from our hyperconnected existence and to unplug and recharge. We can start by simply getting enough sleep and cited “overwhelming medical evidence” about how essential it is for our health and our creativity — likely a tough concept for the always-connected ad:tech crowd.

In closing she cited third century Greek philosopher Plotinus and his teaching about knowledge, wisdom and creativity. And knowledge has three degrees: opinion, science and illumination. The Internet has addressed opinion and science, but not illumination. Many of the leaders running our government, media and financial institutions have very high IQs and access to all of the data and information in the world. What they are missing is illumination, which is ultimately about wisdom.

“My crystal ball sees more explosive wonder, combustible energy to more truth, transparency wisdom, enchantment…and much more digital advertising!”

The entire speech is available online here:

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Venture Capital Investment Up in Q2

pwc logoAccording to a report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters, venture capitalists funneled $6.5 billion into 906 startups in Q2, an increase of 53 percent over the same period in 2009. The software industry led the way with 229 rounds of funding, but clean tech led financing with $1.5 billion going into 71 deals. Internet-specific companies received $879 million via 212 deals in the quarter. TechCrunch has a good graphic of funding by category and quarter-over-quarter trends.

What does all this mean for the Southern California technology sector? According to SoCalTech.com, we’re tracking second only to Silicon Valley in year-to-date funding, with $857 million going into 91 investments in Q2, nearly double the $451 million put into 69 deals in Q2/2009. Among the largest Southern California firms receiving funding were Miles Electric Vehicles and Tri Alpha Energy. Redpoint Ventures and Steamboat Ventures were the most active Southern California firms involved in transations nationally.

All in all, it sounds like positive signs for the economic recovery, innovations in technology and the growth of Southern California’s software, clean tech and Internet industries.

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Bill Clinton’s Win-Win Philosophy

clintonI attended a talk by the 42nd President of the U.S., William Jefferson Clinton last night at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. Packing a wealth of stories, stats and a good sense of humor, he promised and then delivered a framework we can all use to make sense of today’s complex world in which we live. Wondering about what caused the financial meltdown of September 15, 2008? How about our education crisis (according to Clinton we slipped from first to tenth in the past decade)? Or how we’re to “win” in Afghanistan?  For most of us, it takes every bit of our energy to deal with life’s immediate challenges, let alone trying to sort fact from fiction from all the information we’re bombarded with in today’s fragmented and often biased media ecosystem. His talk gave a fresh perspective on how to interpret the world today and some guidance on what we can do to affect change.

The number one definining characteristic of the 21st century is our global interdependence.  The result of our diversity and new technologies like the Internet carry with it both good and bad consequences. Posit for a moment that we know the good things, namely technology. Most of the bad consequences of our interconnectedness are defined by inequality and instability.

Inequalityis presented primarily in education and income. One billion people live on less than $1 per day, one billion people will go hungry tonight and one billion don’t have access to clean water. One quarter of everyone who dies on the planet this year will be due to tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS or dirty water. And of the dirty water victims 80 perent will be under five years old. In the U.S., 90 percent of our growth in recent years has gone to 10 percent of the population.

Instabilityis created by how quickly thing can spread, from terrorism (easy access to information) to Swine Flue (permeability and uprootedness) to the world financial crisis (inter-connectedness of financial systems). Even with $3 trillion in cash, a whopping 2 million factory workers in China are unemployed because the rest of the world is not buying as much of their exports.

In light of the complexities in our interconnected world, we need a framework from which to act. How do we respond to these many challenges? Not more liberally, but in a more “communitarian” fashion — more succinctly put, by focusing on creating win-win situations. For every situation or decision, he asks “will this  bring us closer together or tear us further apart?” 

Prime examples where “win-win” has worked are in Iraq where the people ultimately declared a common enemy in Al Qaeda. In Tanzania where our continued efforts to finance AIDS and Malaria relief have demonstrated our commitment their children. And in Rwanda, where the Tutsi leader insisted his post-genocide successor be a Hutu, and engraining in his people the need for win-win by granting land to those who would live next door to someone from the rival tribe.

Another timely example of searching for win-win was through a clear explanation of health carereform, including the back-story on “death panels,” and distinctions between terms like “public option” and “socialized medicine.”  Every year we spend 17 percent of our income on health care– money consumers aren’t investing in other things, which gives other countries that much more of an advantage over us on the world economic stage.  The bottom line: if you’re not for some kind of change in health care, you are a proponent of win-lose, not win-win.

One of the things that stood out for me most was Clinton’s commentary on the differences between being a sitting president and a former president. “The good news is, you can say anything you like,” he said. “The bad news is that nobody cares about what you have to say…that is, unless your wife happens to be Secretary of Sate.”

While this was met with laughter, it was obvious everyone should care about what this former president has to say. He is using his clout and connections through the William J. Clinton Foundation to make a difference in the lives of millions through several thoughtful initiatives. And while he has raised hundreds of millions from the wealthiest people in the world, he stressed the importance of each individual being called into service in some way. He spoke of the secret of the U.S. economy having always been the strength of our middle class, and how this group must now stand and help the U.S. regain its footing in our inter-connected world. “It’s not enough to work and pay taxes, raise a good family and show up to vote.” There are one million public service groups to which we can donate our time and expertise, over half of which were started in the last year.

While it’s of course possible to donate to the Clinton Foundation, he did not make a direct pitch but rather spoke about Kiva.org, where for $25 you can make the difference in the life of someone anywhere in the world whom the group has already vetted as qualified for needing assistance.

Something else that resonated with me personally, and I don’t think he would have said as president, is how we treat others is dependent upon our own identity and what we think about ourselves. Identity is highly complex, but we need to realize how much we are all alike. In fact, the argument in genomic circles is whether we are genetically 99.5 or 99.9 percent alike. By continually forcing ourselves to communicate with the other side we become more comfortable with one another. When we see how alike we are, we eventually decide that it’s less costly to work with together than to keep killing each other and we collaborate in the interest of finding win-win situations. It is imperative in the modern world that we leave the door open.

While everything President Clinton had to say was in line with my own opinions, I hope his thoughtful presentation gave those of every political persuasion a new perspective on tolerance and possibility. It was awe-inspiring for me to hear this brilliant mind, speaking in his familiar and reassuring tone of so many examples of hope and of what is possible if we work together and apply ourselves to overcoming our collective challenges, be they local or global.

Think win-win and dedicate yourself to some form of public service. And when you do, I hope you’ll let me know about it.

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