Happy 10th Anniversary My Fellow Capitalists ─ Let’s Not Do That Again

financial-market-crisis-3d-abstract-graphThe start of the global financial crisis began to show effects 10 years ago this month. Back then I had the good fortune to work with the Director of Market Research at Fidelity Investments, Jurrien Timmer, who offered his insights in this quarterly market analysis.

Here’s a look back at what the financial market did 10 years ago.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Financial crisis

Using a Creative Brief to Add Structure to Your Company Blog

By Paul Lombino

The Importance of Good Structure

The Importance of Sound Structure

The practice of blogging has become an integral part of many marketing communications’ programs.

Companies that publish 16 or more blog posts per month, for example, report almost 3.5 times more traffic than firms publishing 0-4 posts monthly, according to HubSpot. And although 60% of B2B marketers say blog creation is among their top priorities, only 30% admit their organizations are effective at content marketing.

While blogs come in different shapes and sizes, sound structure is always essential to help convey your marketing stories with the right mix of detail and pace. Rather than winging it, consider the advantages of using a creative brief as a blueprint for your blog objectives.

Creative briefs are as diverse as blogs themselves. Here’s one that I created. I use it as a starting point when seeking to generate feedback from clients and to gain buy-in from internal stakeholders. Feel free to add, delete or shift the components to adapt to your own communications needs and editorial-management style.

First ─ Get an Idea

My father, a carpenter by trade, offered me one bit of advice that I think applies here: “Before you do anything, get an idea.” So before you begin hammering nails into your next blog, take some time to complete your creative brief and explore ideas that better serve the needs of your company and customers.

Download Creative Brief Template.

Leave a comment

Filed under marketing communications

In Search of Intelligible Road Signage ─ in Panama and Boston

By Paul Lombino

It’s true ─ you don’t miss something until it’s gone. That’s how I learned to feel about road signage and tourist brochures.

Panama MapLast spring during an impromptu trip to Panama (Why Panama is another story), my three travel partners and I found ourselves at a car rental office in David Airport (pronounced “Da-veed”). Having just deplaned, we were preparing for the first leg of our Central America jaunt ─ a two-hour transmission-grinding drive through the northwest quadrant of Panama.

Our initial destination was the Volcan region where we were supposed to meet our “contact” at Romero’s supermarket at half-past dusk. (My wife had made our travel plans entirely via the Internet. What could possibly go wrong?) At this sight-unseen supermarket, we were to pick up keys and proceed to our jungle hideaway, which was literally carved into the side of a dormant volcano. This was to serve as our weeklong base for off-the-beaten-trail day trips to a Swedish-owned coffee plantation, an orchid sanctuary founded in the high hills by a 20th-century European philanthropist and a white-water rafting excursion run by the most laid-back Canadian expatriate you’ll ever stumble across in Barqueta.

However, finding these various locations would be easier said than done. Back at the car rental office we had just been informed by the desk clerk that there was no GPS service available in the mountainous countryside. And the only map he could muster had virtually no distinguishing markings representing the lush and meandering landscape. There was no marketing material to speak of and road signs were virtually nonexistent.

Overhearing our directional plight, a bilingual customer took pity on us and in broken English suggested we put our maps away and, instead, follow his instructions that began:

“When you pull out of the airport, take a sharp left. Ignore the arrow. Drive four or five miles until you see a prison on the right. Then bear left at the first fork in the road after the prison.”

We asked: “What’s the name of the road?”

He smiled and shook his head. “There is none. Just bear left.”

And, poof, he was gone. That’s how it went for most of the rest of the week. Ask directions. Drive. Stop. Return. Curse. Repeat. Don’t lose hope.

Eventually, we made it to our target destinations but never without getting head-scratchingly lost along the journey. For the first time in my life, I realized how much I missed road signs and promotional collateral.

After returning to Boston, I started to take more notice of our own street displays and ─ well ─ began to pity the poor tourists trying to interpret Bean Town’s unique visual customs. You can’t miss it.

Boston Road Sign

Cambridge Road Sign

 

 

 

 

 

Cambridge Tree Sign

Panama_Ed, Martha, Leslie, Paul (16)

Paul, Leslie, Martha and Ed (l-r) wandering the jungles of northwest Panama in vain search of road signage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Collateral

Let’s Wipe the Slate Clean for 2016

By Paul Lombino

We all want a fresh start. As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to purge the petty issues that have nagged us over the past 12 months. By writing them down, hopefully minor annoyances will be exorcised and make way for subsequent irritations in 2016.

Time to recycle lottery tickets. Bad enough when lottery players discard losing paper tickets on the street, but why do some gamblers feel compelled to rip them into tiny pieces before littering the sidewalk? What’s their rationale? Are they afraid their tickets may actually be winners? So by shredding themmm thennn ─ what? I’m lost. Am I’m over-thinking this?

Most unanswerable interview question of the year. During a phone interview last summer with the hiring manager of an insurance company seeking to fill a short-term copywriter project, I was asked: “If I gave you a book, how long would it take to read and write a white paper on it?”

Bam! My brain short-circuited. Was she actually expecting a number or was I being punk’d? The pause between her question and my response was palpable. During those ponderous seconds I had an out-of-body experience and was instantly drawn back to the Regents Exam, which New York State high school students had to take to graduate. One exam category titled “reading comprehension” had you read a paragraph followed by multiple-choice questions based on that reading. Choice “D” was always “Not enough information.”

So when she asked ─ “If I gave you a book, how long would it take to read and write a white paper on it?” ─ I wanted to blurt out “D. Not enough information.” Instead, I rolled my eyes (over the phone) and asked “How long is the book?” We never talked again.

Like they’re giving it away. I’m the principal food shopper in my household. So I speak with some gravitas when I make this unscientific observation. Roughly six out of 10 women shoppers in the checkout line ahead of me do not open their pocket books until their groceries have been fully tallied. Only then do they search to retrieve their cash or credit card. I say nothing, of course, but I’m always tempted to ask “Did you think it was going to be free?”

Even FOX commentators don’t believe it. Ever notice when Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly use network slogans ─ “No Spin Zone” and “Fair and Balanced” ─ they snicker. They don’t even believe it. Meanwhile, Greta Van Susteren is on her own trip featuring a segment titled “Off the Record.” If you’re speaking to a cable audience of two million, isn’t that “On the Record”? Get over it. It’s just one word.

What’s love got to do with it? My wife convinced me that Subaru’s marketing theme (Love. It’s what makes a Subaru ─ a Subaru) is a sham. Initially I had rushed to the Japanese automaker’s defense arguing that if a car is well-built, you buy it because you love your family and want to protect them. But the more I pondered it, the more exploitative Subaru’s claim seemed. Conflating love to any consumer company or product is a cheap magician’s trick. You wouldn’t say, “Love. It’s what makes a Halliburton shoulder-fired missile ─ a Halliburton shoulder-fired missile.”

While on the subject of cars. It happened again this year ─ I lost the second hubcap on my Toyota. Afterward, I began noticing other Toyotas. Based on my casual survey, I’ve concluded that more than half the silver Toyota sedans in the Northeast are missing at least one hubcap. What’s up with that, Toyota?

Opening envelopes at the wrong end. The longer you’re married, the more things roll off your back. Still, my wife continues to tear open envelopes at the narrow side rather than the wider horizontal side, which makes infinitely more sense. Don’t you think? Or should I let it go?

Have a Happy New Year and I hope to hear from you in 2016.

4 Comments

Filed under New Years Resolution

What do you want to hear from your bank’s marketing department in 2016?

By Paul Lombino

Dear fellow bank consumers:

Over the next couple of weeks, I need to generate story ideas for a series of articles for bank-industry marketers ─ the folks who want to know what consumers like you and I are thinking about when it comes to acquiring new banking products and services in the coming year. As an added wrinkle, the articles will focus on the media preferences of different generations.

If you are a bank account holder, I’d welcome your first-hand insights.

  • What financial service(s) ─ checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, safe deposit boxes, mortgages, credit cards, car loans, home equity lines of credit ─ do you want to hear about from your primary bank?
  • Through what channel(s) of communication ─ email, direct mail, social media, Internet advertising, telephone, mobile ─ do you prefer to receive information from your primary bank?
  • What pressing question would you ask your bank representative if they were in front of you right now?
  • What’s your generation?

Baby Boomer      1946-64
Generation X      1965-79
Generation Y      1980-99 (a.k.a. Millennials)
Generation Z      2000 and beyond

Thanks in advance for your thoughts. Happy banking.

Paul

Leave a comment

Filed under bank marketing

Meeting My Favorite TV Hit Man

by Paul Lombino

Writing inspiration comes in many forms. Mine came earlier this summer when I met my favorite “Sopranos” actor, Vincent Pastore. That’s a picture of Pastore and me outside the intimate Theatre at St. Clements on 46th Street on a magnificent Woody-Allenesque Friday night in NYC with family and friends. (My niece Jennifer took the shot with her cell phone.)

Me and Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore ─ photo by Jennifer Walsh

Me and Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore (photo by Jennifer Walsh)

Pastore, you may recall, played the lovable, yet homicidal “Big Pussy” on the groundbreaking HBO classic. He had just completed a live performance in “A Queen for a Day,” written by my brother-in-law Tim’s, brother-in-law Francis’, actual brother Michael Ricigliano, Jr.

On stage, Pastore played mobbed-up Pasquale Cinquimani, brother to Nino Cinquimani portrayed by fellow Sopranos cast member David Proval, who was the utterly irredeemable and sociopathic Richie Aprile until his Janice-induced demise in the cable series. For Soprano-philes like me, meeting Big Pussy was like dying and going to hit-man heaven.

After the play, the actors stepped out of character and greeted audience members in the intimate lobby. There was a large, festive contingency of women celebrating a birthday. This setting gave Pastore an opening to announce his arrival: “Hello Ladies! Big Pussy is here!” Immediately he was surrounded by a bevy of well-wishers.

The impromptu post-play party continued onto the street. This was my chance. I grabbed my niece and said, “You gotta’ take a picture of Big Pussy and me.” Jen positioned herself like a seasoned paparazzi and Pastore couldn’t have been more accommodating.

“Want a picture?” he bellowed. “Sure. C’mon!”

As our arms reached out for that first embrace, I said to him: “Not in the face, okay. Give me that?” He knew what I was talking about. Or at least he pretended to.

After the photo, Big Pussy, um, Pastore turned to the crowd, now breaking up, raised his paw and said: “Good night, folks.” With that, he turned and blended into the Manhattan night. Fade out.

Denouement

Manhattan is energizing. Before the play, I had my first “hookah” experience. As we walked up 7th Avenue from Penn Station toward our ultimate destination, my brother-in-law Tim Murray asked if I wanted to share a hookah.

I raised my brow: “We gotta’ share?”

His wife, my kid-sister Sally, smirked: “Not hooker.”

Oh. Sure. And we did.

But meeting Pastore that night was the peak. The whole evening inspired me to commit to completing a personal project ─ a screenplay ─ by summer’s end. I had started “Wait for Morning” in 2009. I’m hoping the odds of getting my script produced are about the same as meeting up with Big Pussy on 46th Street.

Not in the face, okay. Give me that? (Caution: Contains language and violence.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing inspiration

New “Screenplay” Category Added to Portfolio

by Paul Lombino

As a freelance writer, clients and prospects frequently ask about experiences with and samples for different editorial formats. While I enjoy working on a range of story structures, I’ve always found great pleasure in script writing.

hour-glass-7949981So, I’m pleased to announce the addition of a new category ─ Screenplay ─ to my website’s Portfolio page. If you’re curious (or are a movie producer or literary agent), I welcome you to take a look at my recently completed spec screenplay, “Wait for Morning.”

Action.

Please note: The script contains language that some readers might find offensive.

Leave a comment

Filed under screenplay format, script writing

“More probable than not” lowers the standard for “I’m pretty sure”

By Paul Lombino

Words matter ─ especially when twisted to accuse Tom Brady of wrong doing.

Love Brady or not, the language used by his accusers in the NFL’s formal report released this month was ─ at best ─ nebulous and inconclusive.

The New England Patriot QB is, of course, being fingered by league overlords as an active participant in the ongoing saga known as Deflategate. At this moment, a four-game suspension and monetary penalties are hanging over Brady’s head. But the loosey-goosey assertions made by NFL fact finders carry all the gravitas of a Dennis Rodman ambassadorship to North Korea, with all due respect to The Worm.

Consider the second paragraph of page 2 of the Executive Summary of the unartfully titled “Investigative Report Concerning Footballs Used During the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2015.”

“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

On three occasions, the authors employ the half-hearted phrase “more probable than not” to aver Brady’s culpability. For good measure, they toss in the equally ambiguous ─ “generally aware” ─ when linking the future hall-of-famer to “inappropriate activities” by others.

To many Brady-haters, Deflategate has been pumped up to federal crime status. That’s why such imprecise language cannot go unchecked. Here are several instances where a response of “more probable than not” will probably not meet reasonable-doubt standards.

When giving an oath. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Response: “More probable than not, your honor.”

Probable outcome: Contempt of court.

When used with a vow. Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?

Response: “More probable than not.”

Probable outcome: A holy beat down by your ex-future father-in-law and his drunken sons.

When replying to a state trooper’s request. May I see your license and registration please?

Response: “More probable than not, officer.”

Probable outcome: Step out of the car and place your hands on the hood.

When elevated to Obama’s presidential campaign slogan.

Response: “More probable than not, we can.”

Probable outcome: President McCain and Vice President Palin.

When quoting a famous letter-to-the-editor. In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon writes the editor of the then-New York Sun to ask an age-old question: Does Santa exist?

Response: “More probable than not, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.”

Probable outcome: One confused Gilded Age child.

When affirming a military command. It’s high ground by nightfall. Ready?

Response: “Sir, more probable than not, sir.”

Probable outcome: A week in the brig, joker.

When responding to a Jeopardy answer. It is the opposite of “no.”

Response: “What is, more probable than not, Alex?”

Probable outcome: Elimination from the Final Jeopardy round.

When substituting a musical lyric.

More probable than not, sir / that’s my baby
No, sir / I don’t mean Brady (I threw that in.)

Probable outcome: Fewer royalties.

When replacing Meg Ryan dialogue in “When Harry Met Sally.”

Response: “More probable than not. More probable than not. More probable than not.”

Probable outcome: I’ll have what she’s having.

3 Comments

Filed under Deflategate

And the answer is …

By Paul Lombino

With the Super Bowl less than a week away, the category is: Obscure Football Mishegas. Don’t forget to put your responses in the form of a question. Remember, questions get more difficult as dollar amounts increase.

  • For $200, the answer is: 12.5-13.5.

(What is the standard pounds per-square-inch of pressurized air in an NFL football?)

  • For $400, the answer is: Its punctured nickname was derived from a mid-’70s scandal that began in a Washington, D.C. hotel and led to the resignation of President Nixon.

(What is Deflategate?)

  • For $600, the answer is: Of the 12 Patriots footballs available for play in the AFC title game, this many were reported under inflated.

(What is 11?)

  •  For $800, the answer is: Too much.

(How much media coverage has been spent on Deflategate?)

  • To wrap up the category for $1,000, the answer is: What the Indianapolis Colts were actually doing during their 45-7 spanking in the AFC title game.

(What is checking their balls?)

  •  And the Final Jeopardy answer is: Four. 

(After next Sunday’s game, how many Super Bowls will Tom Brady’s New England Patriots have won?)

1 Comment

Filed under Deflategate

Take These Three Steps Before Writing Your Video Script

By Paul Lombino

A video can be a powerful and reusable marketing communications tool to convey complex ideas to a broad audience. Whether you’re targeting customers, vendors or employees, an effective video can …

  • enhance sales potential by featuring the competitive advantages of your products and services,
  • strengthen worker productivity and safety by illustrating training techniques and processes, and
  • improve employee knowledge of in-house policies and management procedures, and more.

Step 1: Draft a Logline

Even before you begin writing an easy-to-read script with visual themes that tell a compelling story, begin by describing your core business message in a single sentence. Think of it like logline for a movie review or TV Guide. I recently wrote a six-minute script for a global consumer-products client promoting a change to its executive incentive program. Here’s the logline I used as my beacon during the initial drafting stage when a range of story ideas from multiple and well-meaning staff members were being bounced around during weekly conference calls.

“Introduce eligible employees to the advantages of the company’s new financial incentive rewards program.”

Keep it simple. A tight logline is particularly helpful when filtering feedback from a diverse group of managers with different operational perspectives and needs. Reaching consensus on what information makes it to the final script and, eventually, to the screen is not often a straight path. When tangential ideas are presented, it’s worth asking in a constructive and congenial manner: “How might that information advance our message?”

Step 2: Test Your Idea

Test the logic of your logline by asking some basic questions:

  • Who is my audience and what is their knowledge of the topic?
  • What product or service features and benefits need to be highlighted?
  • What is the script’s call-to-action?
  • How many minutes do I have to tell this tale?

As you explore these queries, other questions will emerge organically. For example, what tone is appropriate? Where should I begin the story? How much emphasis does each area get?

Step 3: Follow a Solid Script Structure

A video script should offer a beginning-middle-end structure that flows from one thought to the next seamlessly. To help create a strong spine for your message, consider three basic structural targets:

  1. State your core message. (“During the next two to five minutes, this is what I’m going to share with you and why.”)
  2. Explain your core message. (“This is what I’m talking about. And this, and this.”)
  3. Repeat your core message. (“Let’s review what I just told you and why it’s important to your business. Oh, and here’s an action you can take to improve your current situation.”)

Final thoughts: I love script writing because it’s an actual one-on-one conversation. When it comes to the nitty-gritty of putting words down on paper, I try to start or end each sentence with a single, relevant thought with few clauses. After you’ve written a draft, read it out loud. If your tongue is twisting in the breeze, rewrite the line.

Every company and working group operates differently. Your planning-writing-review-revision-shooting process could span months to produce a minutes-long video that passes muster. If you’re the key decision-maker, make sure you give your team enough time to achieve success, especially if you have a hard-target due date. If you’re the writer, be flexible and maintain a sense of humor. Initially our script was targeted for two-three minutes ─ MAX! The final video clocks out at over six minutes. Under contract, I can’t show the actual video on my website, but you can view my redacted ─ it’s the first time I’ve ever written that word ─ script.

All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

On format: There are multiple video script formats to choose from. I prefer a simple two-sided page with “video” (what you see) on the left side and “audio” (what you hear) on the right side. You’re welcome to read my script to help generate your own ideas for your next video project.

Ready? Action!

2 Comments

Filed under Video Scripting