The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

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It’s a surprising statistic for 2014:  One-third of the nation’s 100 largest law firms don’t include a way to connect with them via social media on their website homepages.  Not a single follow button for Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn (or anything else social, for that matter).

Sadly, nearly 1 in 5 of the AmLaw 100 firms — 18 to be exact — also refuse to acknowledge any type of social media or follow technology (i.e., RSS feeds) on their homepages.  There’s nothing but pictures, copy and links to pages inside their sites.  Seems a little pathetic, really.

Should we just be happy that all 100 have websites in 2014?  (Even if some of them look like they are holdovers from another century…)

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Computer nerd

In its typical trend-declaring manner, the New York Times today proclaimed “We’re All Nerds Now.”  My first reaction?  Yeah, not most lawyers.

The thought-provoking Sunday Review section article goes on to recount how the Internet and personal technology, among other things, has integrated geek culture into the mainstream.  The writer even goes on to bolster his contention by quoting people like actor Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame and the guy who had the hit 1980s song “She Blinded Me With Science” (he is a professor now at Johns Hopkins).

Further proof?  Apple last week announced its version of a wristwatch, looking something right out of “Dick Tracy,” but cooler, I guess.  And did you know that Game of Thrones, complete with fire-breathing dragons, is the most popular program ever on HBO.  Microsoft just bought Minecraft’s maker for $2 billion last week, and Amazon paid $1 billion several days earlier for, where you can watch your favorite video game player hard at work.  Oh, and a Millennial shall lead them.

Well, guess that cements it.  Get out the pocket protectors and call it a day, right?  Instead of technology and entertainment moving us forward, it seems we’ve actually just caught up with the enlightened.  One last quote from the story, from a self-proclaimed nerd, sums it all up: “The world maybe isn’t getting smarter. But it is trying to.”

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The empty backpack

Since it’s the weekend, I thought I might revisit a post from a few years ago, back when I first started the blog.  The original post is about writing, so I thought I would do something like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” or a director’s commentary of a movie on a DVD.  It’s so much more than just a throwback, right?  It’s an opportunity to see how wrong (or right) I was, way back when.  Let’s call it a “talkback.”

Here we go (my commentary is in red italics):

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Too Much Content on the Web

Is this another sign of the coming apocalypse?  Hands, please.  How many people knew that the New York Times was publishing a haiku blog on Tumblr, and that the snippets of Japanese-style poetry are generated by a robot?

Yep, that’s what I thought.  Me neither.  But more terrifying is that it’s been doing this for more than a year!  How could I have missed this??!!  I’m a card-carrying subscriber to the New York Times for years.  Print and digital.  I’ve told my wife that the not inconsiderable annual subscription should be characterized as a charitable deduction, as part of my own personal obligation to try to save the U.S. newspaper industry from collapsing into oblivion.

Now, um, I’m not so sure.  Because the true sign of the end of the world as we know it is this: the New York Times is still publishing this ridiculous blog daily and seemingly has no plans to discontinue its inanity.

Here’s just one example of a Times haiku:

It was the kind of
hair that you don’t have to do
anything to it.

Or, how about this gem:

Was he wishing he’d
ordered the hotcakes instead
of the burrito.

This is from a newspaper that has won 112 Pultizer Prizes in nearly 100 years.  That’s more than any other newspaper, anywhere.  So, I ask seriously:  This is the best we get from the Times?  Shouldn’t they know better over there?  When people talk (sometimes incessantly) about there being too much content in the world, this is the top example.  Buzzfeed now ain’t got nothing on the New York Times.

I think the worst part about this whole thing, speaking from the perspective of a journalist/writer/editor/content marketer/creative/etc., etc. is that these haiku are being created automatically by an algorithm.  Sure, a human wrote the original words in a sentence that has already been published in the Times in a narrative format, and another human reviews the little math equation’s work to make sure it might make some semblance of sense.  But there is no originality here or any creative spark that has come from the firing of any human synapse.  That lack of human authenticity in creating what is an old and often mystically beautiful art form is deeply depressing.

What’s next for the New York Times?  The proverbial typewriters and monkeys?  Maybe one day they’ll be writing front page stories just by punching random keys, right?

Here’s the one from yesterday, September 11:

Talking to people
you’ve just met can feel awkward
enough already.

Hmmm.  Enough already.  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

What do you think?  Is this cool?  Or really strange?  Perhaps just a colossal waste of perfectly good code?  Let me know in the comments.


Information Superhighway

The “It” in the headline, of course, is the Internet, or the World Wide Web, or just Web or Net nowadays.*  But way back when, in the Clintonian Era (if memory serves), Al Gore, a lot of marketers and a bunch of other folks called It the “Information Superhighway.”  Thank whatever deity you choose that the name never really stuck.  Seriously, when was the last time you heard anyone under 50 use the term?

That’s because, as far as names go, Information Superhighway was beyond awful.  But as far as metaphors go, it was pretty darn good.  Probably one of the better ones to describe the coming onslaught of information and content on the web.  Plus, it gave clever writers lots of great material for punny copy and headlines, like “A breakdown on the Information Superhighway” or “In the fast lane of the Information Superhighway,” etc.  I’m not sure, but the name could be partly responsible why people still talk about “traffic” on the Web.  Sounds good, at least.

Why this sudden, random trip down memory lane?  Well, like I did today, when you drive back to Chicago from Cleveland, where I was attending Content Marketing World this week, you’ve got a few hours to think and some really straight, flat Interstate highway to navigate.  And you get to thinking about things.

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Writer's block solved for blogs

If you’re a blogger, or thinking about starting a blog, one of the biggest hurdles is to just keep it going.  Sure, you’ve got subject matter for the first couple of weeks, but then what?  Coming up with additional interesting and relevant ideas to write about can really be a challenge.

Now that I’ve hit about 50 posts on this blog, I thought that I would share some of the best places that I use to get my ideas, along with a few other suggested places that I think could be great.

Here’s where to look to get that idea for your next blog post:

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Writing hacks that will blow your mind

I feel like a deep sea diver.  After my first full day at Content Marketing World, I am now officially underwater with all the great information I’ve heard.  And, more importantly, I discovered some precious pearls of wisdom on writing, courtesy of Ann Handley, an author and content marketing expert.  (And didn’t you like that clever metaphor? Or was that a simile?)

I’ve always considered myself a pretty good writer, but never one who didn’t always think he had nothing else to learn.  So, although there were several other talks that were tempting, I chose to attend Ann’s SRO session.  When you’re a writer at heart, you can’t bear to miss hearing someone good talk about writing.  It was awesome!

If you don’t know much about Ann, check out the site where she is the Chief Content Officer here.  I have long been familiar with Marketing Profs and have a lot of respect for what they have been doing for several years now.  (Unfortunately, I was never able to hire them.)  Ann has also just published a book called Everybody Writes, which I bought at the conference’s bookstore and look forward to reading.

In her session, Ann shared several pearls when talking about how important writing is, not just to content marketing, but to marketing as a whole.  I thought I would share her best advice here, with some requisite editorializing on my part:

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Content Marketing Is Simple

Here I am at Content Marketing World 2014, and already my head feels stuffed with too many ideas to think clearly — or write for very long.  I spent the afternoon in a workshop led by Andrew Davis, where this content marketing rock star talked about how content marketing agencies can differentiate their services in a crowded marketplace.  He introduced a variety of very interesting strategies, many of which I will blog about during the next couple of weeks.

Benefits of Content MarketingDuring the session, Davis — author of a book called Brandscaping — reviewed the power behind content marketing.  He also gave us this nifty slide (which looked much better in Prezi than in this shot from PowerPoint) to help illustrate the Content Path to Revenue.

Put simply:

Content marketing builds trust.

Trust builds relationships.  

Relationships drive revenue.  

That’s it — pretty basic, right?  Use the transitive property (I think that’s the right one — I was told there would be no math), and really all you need to say is:

“Content marketing drives revenue.”

Is there another, better reason to finally stop being so half-hearted or random in your content marketing efforts?  But beware, like all marketing efforts, content marketing still needs a smart strategy and creative force behind it to be effective.  How to do that?  Well, that’s what I’m here to learn (and share, of course).

More tomorrow from CMW on the blog, and feel free to read my Twitter feed.  Follow me at @johnmbyrne.


Time to Write an Awesome About Page

Although it’s often an afterthought, the “About” page on any blog or website is often the second- or third-most visited page, after the home page.  That makes it pretty important to the overall success of your online investment in writing and selling yourself, given how many eyeballs are going to be looking at it.

But admit it:  have you felt any enthusiasm for updating it lately?  Or how about just making it better?  Have you focused instead on content everywhere else but the About page?  Yep, that’s me, too.  I mean, sure I always look at someone’s About page after I’ve gotten hooked on the front page or a really interesting post.  I’ve read some really great stuff on those About pages, things that make me want to know more about the blogger or the company I’m viewing.  For myself, though, I have tended to live in denial or I just keep procrastinating about improving my own About page.

No more, though.  It’s time to “be” a lot different in creating what needs to be an amazing About page.  Try these 10 ways:

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What to pack for a marketing conference

I will be on my way to Content Marketing World in Cleveland early on Monday morning, and I’m just now thinking about what I need to pack.  Yes, I am not one of those people whose suitcase is stuffed with my clothes and toiletries days before I head out the door. After several years as a road warrior, packing the night before is just fine, even efficient.

But if you’re looking for advice as to what kind of clothes to bring beyond “comfortable,” this isn’t your kind of post.  Sorry.  Still, there are several things that you still need to pack in preparation for attending a conference full of marketers.

You see, although I haven’t been to many non-marketing conferences, I’m sure that marketing conferences are probably a little different than, say, your standard conference filled by lawyers or doctors or bankers (oh, my!).  The biggest difference:  Marketers like to network.  And talk.  And network some more…  See, we’re the people who bring you all those programs on “How to Network” in the first place, right?  It stands to reason that we’re going to practice what we preach.

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