On Wednesday, we will feature articles from some of the most inspiring personalities in various creative fields. Watch out for excellent posts by leaders in photography, business and social media marketing.
Linus had his blankie – I used to carry Steve McCurry’s Portraits everywhere as an aspiring photographer for months on end. Every night, I would flip through the pages in awe of the intensity of each photograph – how Steve, famous for his portraiture work, including the epic Afghan Girl photograph, has somehow captured the secrets of each character with his camera. I swore one day I would work and learn from the master of portraiture. Guess what? It came true and I was lucky enough to work for Steve. I attribute the success of my own portraiture work to my invaluable term as Steve’s assistant. Here, the master muses on his craft.
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Post + Photo By Steve McCurry
“A true portrait should today and a hundred years from today, be the testimony of how this person looked and what kind of human being he was.” – Philippe Halsman
As human beings, we are all fascinated with each other and how we look. Diane Arbus talked about the gap between intention and effect as revealed in portraiture. People put on make-up and adorn themselves because they want to create an effect and give a certain impression, but often, other people look at them and say it’s tragic or comical or curious or funny or odd. Arbus photographed a woman on Park Avenue trying to make a statement with her appearance, but in fact, we see through it, we see the folly. Portraiture can be that kind of sharp critique.
We go to another culture to observe how other people live. Sometimes, you look at somebody on the street and they just seem to have a strong presence, a look, a certain kind of attribute that comes out in the face.
Most of my portraits are not formal situations; they are found situations. In Tibet, for instance, where people have a great sense of style, an innate fashion sense, they come out of the mountains wearing these outlandish hats, make-up, jewelry in their hair.
The Jains in India have exalted and highly revered monks who are naked because they consider the sky to be their garment. They are detached from material things and being naked is a symbol of their renunciation. The nuns and monks wear masks to ensure that no germs or insects creep in. How did they arrive at that, as opposed to Islam where they go to the other end of the spectrum to be covered in flowing robes?
A good portrait is one that says something about the person. We usually see parts of ourselves in others, so the good portrait should also say something about the human condition.
I’ve learned that humor is universal. You do a little bit of mime and people laugh. It’s very easy to use humor to connect to people in any culture.
Part of what I’ve done is to wander and observe the world. What else is more interesting than that? Sometimes I think it’s good to observe our planet as though we were dropped down here to make a field report on Planet Earth.
Social media is pretty new for me. I’ve been blogging forever, but I never understood the total impact of it on business and personal relations until I got acquainted with Brian Solis. A marketing and social media guru, Solis also wears many hats – author, speaker, writer, host, entreprenuer – but I bet most of you didn’t know he is known in Silicon Valley as a published shutterbug of business events and figures. You may recognize him by his distinctive style – he afterall looks like Armand Assante in the movie, The Mambo Kings. Still, his greatest achievement is not his sharp tailored suits – he is one of the loudest and *clearest* voices in social media today, and anyone looking to learn more can always be inspired by Solis’ exceptional insight. This article is reprinted with permission from Brian Solis.
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Attention PR and practicing Social Media professionals, step away from using “messages” to target “users” and “audience.” They are no longer filling the theaters, stadiums, and auditoriums to hear from marketers.
I’ve been in tech PR since 91 and have been also guilty of using such terminology. Back in the day, users really were users in the tech business and when we were researching who they were, they would ultimately become the audience for our marketing initatives. Not everyone (aka potential customers) was tech savvy at the time, so referring to “people” just didn’t cut it. And, it was never intended to be naive nor deragatory, it simply was a specific and effective category.
Fast forward to now where the net reaches over 80% of the U.S. population, we now find that users are a series of collective groups of people across different walks of life. But please, don’t call them “users” or your target “audience,” because they are also the people formerly known as the audience.
Josh Bernoff of Forrester recently wrote a great post on the subject where he declared, “I’m sick of users…The more I write and read about social media, the more frustrated I get with the term ‘users.’”
The web sparked a revolution in PR which set the stage for an overdue shift in how PR pros approach marketing. Now in the dawn of Social Media, PR has no choice but to embrace something it resisted for far too long, transparency and participation.
Discussing marketing in terms of audience and users implies a one to many approach, whereas focusing on people begets a one to one communications strategy – shifting from monologue to dialog.
But it’s much more powerful than simply focusing on individuals. We can expand out focus to reach different groups of people that are linked by common interests.
When we look at groups of people respectively, we’re forced change our migration path to them. Each group is influenced, inspired and driven by unique channels and communities. Figuring out who we want to reach, why they matter to us, and why we matter to them, is the ante in order to buy into this game. Then we reverse engineer this process of where they go for their information and discussions to learn about how to reach them. And, while there may be several horizontal mediums that overlap, the vertical avenues are dedicated.
And while we’re deleting words from our vocabulary. Let’s go ahead and eradicate “messages” when discussing customers and people. They don’t want to hear messages, they want to hear how you can help them do something better than how they do it today or how this is something that they couldn’t do before, taking into specific account, their daily regime.
Messages are not conversations and there is no market for them.
Here’s an example:
Hi, my name is Brian and I’m an innovative, visionary and captivating person who is trying to revolutionize the world of communications so that the industry can monitor the evolutionary paradigm shift occurring as the democratization of information and user generated content spans across the chasm, while riding the cluetrain, influencing early adopters, energizing the market majority and the engaging the global microcommunities that define the long tail in this Web 2.0 world.
Ugh. Let’s move on, quickly.
Ok, so the next step is to listen and read before you engage. There’s much to learn about each of the conversations, information and communities you wish to jump into. You’ll find that more often than not, you’ll change your story based on the insight garnered from simply observing. It’s the difference between speaking in messages and relevance.
This entire process is invaluable to the new world of marketing, traditional and social media alike. It forces PR to think like a customer instead of competitor or a marketer.
Update: Doc Searls includes a portion of this post as part of his a “Quote du jour” series and includes a link to an article he wrote in 1998 for Web Informant entitled, “There is no demand for messages.”
Joe has been a mentor to me for many years starting back to the days we worked at Getty Images together in New York. Joe has had the sort of gigs bright-eyed photography students dream about – LIFE, National Geographic, the list goes on. Despite his enormous success, he has always been approachable, generous with his time, and very down to earth. This moving letter of encouragement is a testament of his dedication to photography and education – newbies, take heed :)
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Post + Photo By Joe McNally
Lectured last week at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. In the photojournalism department, the students all had that traditional mix of energy, enthusiasm, angst, and doubt so typical of that time in your life when you’ve just picked up a camera and are looking at it, wondering where it will lead you. The usual mix of questions are ever present: Who do I work for? Can I make a living? Will I ever be any good at this? Will my pictures have impact?
Nowadays, that traditional line of questioning is accompanied by another significant set of queries. What is the future of all this? Will I shoot video or stills? Can I get a job where somebody pays me more than a nickel for my photos? Will there be any newspapers left in a few years? Should I also go to business school? How many pixels do I need? What the hell is going on and how am I going to fit in? When I left school, a traditional path for many J school grads was small paper to slightly bigger paper to mid-size daily to a big metro. It was a process. It had potential structure and pace.
Now, graduating into this field is like blasting into hyper space. The destination’s uncertain, and the road is a blur.
The raft of questions I fielded last week brought me back to a letter I received some years ago.
We met a few years back, I was, I guess, a runt high school kid with a camera. now, I guess I’m a lost science major, have no idea what I want to do with myself, and everyone just tells me to do what I like. I can’t justify transferring to what I regard as the large year round summer camp of arts school, but have no idea what to do with myself, now or in ten years. I know this is a little weird getting an email from someone who you might not even remember meeting years ago who, at 19 is going through a midlife crisis, but I appreciate any thoughts anyone might have other than the “follow your dreams” which doesn’t fit with my New York cynicism. I guess I was wondering, as I was told to wonder, and ask everyone I know (or “kinda sorta” know) who does something interesting for a living, how they wound up doing what they were doing? Anyway, it’s a heavy question with a ton of run on sentences.
Would really appreciate any input you may have on the matter……thanks….
Of course I remember you. I am sorry for not getting back sooner, but these last two months have vanished with road work and I did not want to just dash you off something superficial. Following your dreams is not a bad thing to do, but I am well aware of the practical limitations of such a plan. The world gets more and more restrictive in terms of a free-wheeling approach to life, and despite all the press given to those who strike it rich and play their own tune doing it, there are the much more prevalent stories of most of the rest of us who grapple day to day with exactly the same issues you are facing. A science major in the Ivy League is a pretty strenuous thing to do, I imagine. Art school would be a different atmosphere altogether. I don’t know what might be possible in terms of combining them, or finishing a degree (very important!) and then trying your hand at some art education.
The fact that you put your camera to your eye instead of running on 9/11 indicates something restless and perhaps unusual in your makeup, and as someone familiar with being regarded as unusual, I can tell you it is definitely a two-edged sword. The things you struggle with now you will struggle with your entire life. It is the essence of a creative soul, really, without being pompous and overblown about it.
Being lost isn’t the worst thing in the world, either, especially at 19. I hadn’t even discovered photography at 19, but nothing in particular concerned me about my aimlessness. Probably a lack of depth on my part, no doubt, but then it did leave me with room to move and the ability to imagine myself in different contexts. I do know that when I finally engaged in photography, it was like a black hole, an irresistible force that pulled me, my time, my energy and, without exaggeration, my every waking (and sleeping) moment. I had never known such a resonant thing.
I do know I went abroad, and became the lab manager for the Syracuse London photo program and took 9 graduate credits. I left my lab duties in the hands of a fellow student (and my princely weekly pay check of 5 English pounds) and went to the Easternmost tip of England, a place called Lowestoft. There, I talked my way onto a fishing trawler (November in the North Sea, lovely indeed) and went off to to do a two-week jaunt, with the hope of making a photo essay along the lines of what I had seen my heroes like Gene Smith do. I remember the smell of tea late at night, and lurching through 40′ waves sitting in the wheelhouse, and the utter blackness of sea around, and thinking, yes, this and the like is what I am cut out to do.
I’ve been fortunate in that I have been able to act on and make a living out of some largely irresponsible urges. I have had a bit of a comic book of a life, I am still drawing the panels. I sense something like a change of scenery may be a good thing for you, if you can afford the time and effort to launch yourself in a different direction and in a different environment.
Don’t know if your science professors possess the capacity to excite and inspire, but I was blessed with a very good and inspirational photo professor who helped me at least realize something larger was always possible. Have you thought of chucking it for a while and going abroad, and trying your hand at some art education? Or trying your hand at anything that comes along? Or trying your hand at essentially nothing? I’m not suggesting something totally out of bounds or dangerous, but the search for something that propels you, draws you, and simply becomes that which you cannot help but do is in itself a worthwhile endeavor. And if and when the discovery of said treasure occur – eureka! I still love photography, and enjoy the simple act of being a photographer more now than when I first picked up my dad’s camera.
One thing my dad did tell me, and it has echoed in my ears for a long time. He was the quintessential corporate man, a salesman, and in his later years, he became disgusted with the ways of his world, and told me on numerous occasions, “hang out your own shingle.” Which is what I have done, and been happy to have done. The jalopy called McNally Photography has transmission trouble, a couple of flat tires, and not all the cylinders fire, but it still moves, and I drive it where I want to go. There is a great deal of value and satisfaction in that, as I look back. I’m still standing, and lots of others fell away or played it safe or never tried. The simultaneously wonderful and daunting thing is that there is so much still to do, so much ground to cover, and my best work is still out there, somewhere. I am still on safari here, the great picture hunt, as someone once called it.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense. You are just beginning to write your pages, and the thing to remember about this early rough draft is that it hardly matters what you do exactly, as long as you continue to become something close to what you might imagine you want or need to become. Being a bit slow and never prone to academic excellence and achievement, I really have had no choice over the years but to embrace Einstein’s thought. “Imagination is better than knowledge.”
Stay well. Call anytime. Joe
When I attended Lawrence Chan’s SEO workshop a year ago at the home of fellow photographer, Gene Higa, I was pessimistic about actually learning anything. SEO was a mind-boggling subject for me – even though it is really important, I just didn’t have the patience for it. Two hours with Lawrence, better known by his moniker “Tofurious,” revolutionized my perception of SEO and I haven’t looked back since. Lawrence’s youthful appearance belies his sharp wit and inspired intelligence. Extremely giving and generous, Lawrence is a marketing whiz who will soon become a household name. Be inspired by his musing of words in the following guest post.
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Post By Lawrence Chan
“The pen is mightier than the sword” – term was coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. If you hone your words effectively, what a sharp and clear business you will have.
My 5 patterns on how words define your business:
- Words convey ideas
- Each word is equally important in delivery
- Mismanagement of words lead to confusion
- Words have a subtle and undeniable power because of its quiet and calm approach – no visuals or audio – that allow its reach to be as far as our own fathomable imagination
- Brevity is key – brevity is not the limitation of words, it is the limitation of extraneous words.
Words are every bit of an art form as your photography. It’s not easy finding the right words to define your business. But when you do, your resolve and business direction will be ever more clear!
Less is More
This morning I sent out a mass email with nothing more than…
- Was I afraid that people would unsubscribe? Yes.
- Did it get my point across? Hopefully.
I selected a number of companies that have short and powerful mantras. If we were to examine the phrases by themselves, they seem fragmented. Yet they make perfect sense. I added my own thoughts in [brackets].
[Don't delay -] Just do it
Don’t be evil [to end users]
Rewarding everyday moments
Expect More [Design, Innovations, Experience]. Pay Less [Money].
Ingredients For Life
We know drama.
Sponsors of tomorrow.
Pure Premium [what???]
Crafting Your Brand
Pattern #4 – “…subtle and undeniable power… that allow its reach to be as far as our own fathomable imagination.” What I meant was that you get to create the remainder of the above slogans however it fits you. What I put in brackets is what fits me at the moment.
I wrote an article earlier about crafting your photography brand. It’s good, but very formulaic. Like the aforementioned, powerful brands can exclude superfluous or implied definers.
WORDS ARE POWERFUL
More accurately, the right words are powerful. They define…
- what you are
- who you are
- what you want to achieve as a business
Similarly, how I define my dragon while reading a novel will be completely different from how you perceive yours. This is why movies rarely live up to our expectations.
This is why my pen is my sword.
The main marketing avenues available to photographers in the past were referrals, ads and publication. Although these methods are still predominant today, photographers can now promote their services and work to a previously untapped mass audience because of social media. Seth Godin predicted the opportunity economy even before social media became the powerful force it is today. Godin believes that small and personal is the new big, that interruption marketing is no longer acceptable to a savvy audience who expects personal and relevant conversations.
These days, you hear of individual photographers achieving celebrity status and recognition of their work via social media interest. However, Godin says it is not enough to gain critical mass, successful viral marketing starts from a good, well-planned idea that benefits the user. Read the article and download Godin’s revolutionary book, Unleashing the Idea Virus.
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Viral marketing is an idea that spreads – and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause.
Two kinds of viral marketing: The original classic sort in which the marketing is the product and which a self-amplifying cycle occurs. Hotmail, for example, or YouTube. The more people use them, the more people see them. The more people see them, the more people use them. The product or service must be something that improves once more people use it.
A second kind has evolved over the last few years, and that’s a marketing campaign that spreads but isn’t the product itself. Shepard Fairey‘s poster of Barack Obama was everywhere, because people chose to spread it. It was viral (it spread) and it was marketing (because it made an argument – a visual one – for a candidate.)
Something being viral is not, in an of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? It didn’t market you or your business in a tangible, useful way.
Marketers are obsessed with free media, and, as is often the case, we blow it in our rush to get our share. We create content that is hampered or selfish or boring. Or we create something completely viral that doesn’t do any marketing at all.
I wrote the first mainstream book about viral marketing. It’s free (still) years (and millions of downloads) later. Download 2000Ideavirus.pdf
I haven’t updated it or made it pretty, but I think the core ideas stand up pretty well. (I even talk about the Zipf’s Law and the long tail, but didn’t realize it at the time).
Here’s how the book itself is an example of viral marketing:
1. I posted the PDF for free. 3,000 people downloaded it on Day 1.
2. The file is small enough to email to your friends. I encouraged people to do just that.
3. Some people mailed it to 50 or 100 people. It spread.
4. That’s just viral. The marketing part? I released a $40 souvenir hardcover edition. People knew the idea but didn’t like the format or my design skills. So they paid a lot for a book they had already read. It went to #5 on Amazon (#4 in Japan). We sold the rights in dozens of languages. And the paperback rights. And it helped me get speaking gigs.
BUT! 5. That’s not why I did it. If I had done it as a clever way to sell books, it would have failed. It would have failed because I would have somehow tried to track it, or added friction, or tried to profit in some way from the idea. I was way too dumb at the time to have done it right if my goal was to do it ‘right’.
The critical element of viral marketing is this: it’s built in. It was built into Hotmail and built into YouTube. The more people used the camera on their cell phones, the more the idea spread, the more people wanted a camera.
If you want to do viral marketing, you can try to come up with a viral ad, but you’ll probably fail. You’re better off building the viral right into the product, creating a product that spreads because you designed it that way.
Viral marketing only works well when you plan for it, when you build it in, when you organize your offering to be spreadable, interesting and to work better for everyone involved when it spreads. If I don’t benefit from spreading it, why should I spread it? I won’t. If you don’t benefit from your users spreading the idea, it might spread, but it won’t help you much. So both elements have to be present.
The reason for this post is that viral marketing is getting a bad name, largely from clueless marketing agencies and clueless marketers. Here’s what they do: they get a lame product, or a semi-lame product, and they don’t have enough time or money to run a nationwide ad campaign. So, instead, they slap some goofy viral thing on top of it and wait for it to spread. And if it doesn’t spread, they create a faux controversy or engage a PR firm or some bloggers and then it still doesn’t work.
Being viral isn’t the hard part. The hard part is making that viral element actually produce something of value, not just entertainment for the client or your boss.