Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



I'm no pundit

I'm eight years out of college and have done just about covered the communications field. I've worked in PR, marketing, web development and management. I've had experience in media relations, issues management, as well as video, publication and online production. I'm also a pretty good writer. If I really wanted to, I could try to position myself as an expert, write columns, do presentations, get famous.

But I'm no pundit. I have too much to learn. I'm just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of knowing why people behave the way they do, where their motivations come from, what makes things meaningful in their lives. In 15 or 20 years, maybe I would feel like I have enough knowledge to impart, to become a guru like Doc or Seth or the hundreds of highly-regarded marketers out there. Honestly, I doubt that will happen.

In the meantime, I'm more interested in the conversations I can have with others like me; people who are fascinated by who we are, how we relate, what drives us, what makes us so individual yet so similar. This invitation is open to all.



Finally... a link

Got to give a grateful shout out to Michael Cleverly, a former co-worker and current friend, who mentioned me on his blog, Cleverly Blogged, a few days ago. He was the first blogger, besides myself, of course, to link to Grokmart.

Michael's a talented programmer. I worked with him publisher/retailer Deseret Book. Michael almost single-handedly built a custom back end that powered an online store, auctions site, ticket retailer and community site. The stuff he built could beat, hands down, any of the packaged stuff that was on the market. He blogs about open source (most of it's over my head), his family, and various other stuff.

Thanks again, Michael.


A Case Study in Persuasion

The first meeting of the Privately Owned Health Care Organization Task Force begins today. The task force was created by the 2005 Utah legislature to study the health care landscape in this state. Some legislators felt that my employer, Intermountain Health Care, weilded too much power and wrote bills that were aimed at directly at the company. One bill would have levied a three percent gross receipts tax on the not-for-profit company. Another would have forced IHC to sell its health plan operation.

The task force was a compromise that called for studying issues such as IHC's non-profit status of and the effects of integrating hospitals, clinics, physicians and insurance under a single umbrella, among many other issues. See their mandate here and here.

I'd like to use this space to report on the persuasive tactics used by the various parties involved. No, this won't become a house organ for IHC. Obviously, my bias will be toward my employer, and I probably won't be able to blog everything I know. But the point here is to examine how the various parties will try to influence the process.



On the Cluetrain

Before last month, I was probably the only person in the blogosphere who hadn't read The Cluetrain Manifesto, but during my break from blogging, I finally took the opportunity. After reading it (Cluetrain), I get it (blogging).

Some thoughts:


Hypocrite Alert

I have three kids. Like most parents, I wouldn't trade my kids for all the oil in the Middle East. They're intelligent, funny, multi-talented, and extraordinarily difficult to put to bed.

Sunday night, as I was screaming to them that they'd lose all things dear to them if they didn't get to bed and stay there, the little voice inside my psyche whispered, "You're motivating out of fear."

More often than I'm willing to publish, I threaten, cajole and raise my voice to decibels unhealthy for my kids ears and my vocal chords. Does that make me a bad parent? Maybe, but it makes my parents and millions of others bad parents, too. Honestly, I believe my kids will grow up to be well-adjusted, responsible adults despite the fact that I have used "do-it-or-else" tactics.

Does it make me a hypocrite? Absolutely.

This is one area where I can test my motivation hypothesis and see immediate results. I'm a father. Despite their actions to the contrary, my kids love me. I have the perfect opportunity to use love as a motivator -- my love for them and their love for me.

Well, I tried Monday night -- and generally succeeded -- to be measured, calm and persuasive. And, just as I suspected, the tactic failed miserably. One reason: appealing to higher motivations takes time to produce results, because a change of heart, attitude or habit takes time. An object at rest, especially an object whose visual perceptors are glued to a television set, tends to stay at rest.

But I'm optimistic that a change will occur. And I'll continue to report on this experiment every so often.



Is My Nose Growing?

The more I read from Seth Godin about his new book -- All Marketers Are Liars -- the more I think I ned to shell out the cash for the book. It's germane to the discussion I want to have here.

A few of his recent posts speak to my "marketing with the truth" schtick.

All (successful) politicians are liars (from Seth's Liar's Blog):
John Kerry lost to an unpopular incumbent seeking reelection for just one reason: he insisted on focusing on facts, on issues, on position papers and on nuance. He acted like an intellectual bully, refusing to worry about the story he told. George W. Bush, on the other hand, was absolutely masterful in the way he told a story that a portion of the electorate wanted to hear. It may be, that like me, you wish that all issues were decided on facts and reliable data. They never are. We're people, not machines, and we believe stories, not facts.
The Placebo Affect from (Seth's Blog:)

We [marketers] don't like to admit that we tell stories, that we're in the placebo business. Instead, we tell ourselves about features and benefits as a way to rationalize our desire to to help our customers by allowing them to lie to themselves. The design of your blog or your package or your outfit is nothing but an affect designed to create the placebo effect. The sound Dasani water makes when you open the bottle is more of the same. It's all storytelling. It's all lies. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, your marketplace insists on it.
Seth has admitted in past postings (sorry, no link, only memory) that he chose the "All Marketers Are Liars" title because of its shock value. One could replace the word "liar" with the word "storyteller."

Seth is the god of marketing, and I've got the brain of a flea when compared to him. But I'll be interested to see if his book meshes with or contradicts my ideas about truth and motivation.



Be Afraid

I've wanted to blog Kathy Sierra's post -- Think, or Be Afraid -- ever since I read it about a week ago. Kathy is the brilliant creator of the Head First programming books and primary writer of the Creating Passionate Users blog. She contends, correctly, in my opinion, that you can't think and be afraid at the same time. It's an "either, or" proposition.

Of course, marketers know that and capitalize on it. Kathy says:
Imagine that you did want someone to be afraid, because you specifically do not want them thinking rationally and logically. What if your goal is to convince them to do something that's not in their best interest? One approach is to make sure that they stay as fearful and anxious as possible, to make it more difficult for them to focus and think rationally. What if your goal is to convince them to do something that's not in their best interest? One approach is to make sure that they stay as fearful and anxious as possible, to make it more difficult for them to focus and think rationally. It's a trick that's been used by governments, managers, manipulate family members, and advertisers for ages.

Case in point, Kathy, is the advertising that OnStar is doing to promote their product. They're using kids speaking directly into the camera and urging us parents to use OnStar because it's the next big thing in safety. The commercial intimames that parents aren't doing everything can to keep their kids safe unless they have OnStar. That's a lie, a bold-faced one at that, and I hope the campaign falls on its face. Remember, if we're marketing to our audience's fears, we're talking down to them. Not a good long-term business strategy.


I'm Blogging This

I'm here at the semi-annual communications meeting, presenting on blogs. Are blogs in IHC's future? Who knows?

LATER: My blogging presentation went well, but I'm not expecting us to start blogging in the near future. The comfort level just isn't there within the communications team. If it were, there would be other hurdles, like the resources needed to blog effectively,

But, in the interest of keeping the conversation going, I've set up a wiki using Backpack (sorry, not publicly accessible), where we can talk pros, cons and issues of blogging and other social media.



Obligatory "you'll-never-guess-where-I'm-blogging-from" post

I'm sitting on a UTA bus heading home, and I'm blogging. I know, that's so 2003, but I'm darn excited about it. I just upgraded smartphones, making a quantum leap from a Treo 180 -- yup, the first Treo ever made -- to the Treo 650, a shiny new bundle of features.

I won't bore you with the specs, but this new model is quite a bit narrower than my old version, so the buttons are smaller. I'm sure I'll get used to it. The only bugaboo for me is that I've had to restart this post twice after fat-fingering the buttons and deleting all the text. Aargh!

The upside? I have an hour a day where I can read my Bloglines feeds and blog. I'll just need to put my thumbs on a diet. Either that or figure out how to get my fold-up keyboard to work.

UPDATE: I got my fold up keyboard to work -- I just needed to install the driver on the device. Hoping it will cut down on the snafus...


Catching Up

Hey, it's been a month-and-a-half since I blogged, so I'd better catch all you loyal readers up on what I've been doing.

First, the job: Working at Intermountain Health Care has been wonderful and challenging. I work with incredible people who have been doing advertising, marketing and PR for 20-30 years, and who are highly regarded in Utah marketing circles. The projects they've given me are exactly the type I was hoping for. The legislative task force I mentioned previously is ramping up, and I'm doing some background research to help us prepare. I've also spent a considerable amount of time producing a video about a cost-savings program IHC is instituting that will help us save $8-10 million without cutting labor costs. (Aside: The plan is to use the savings we realize to add caregivers to the bedside. Pretty cool, in my eyes.) I've also written communications plans, newsletter articles, annual report copy. Busy, but lots of fun.

Second, the reading: I'm taking the bus into work now, which has given me ample time to read. I've finished two books in the last month: The Cluetrain Manifesto by Searls, Weinberger, Locke and Levine (I know, I know, I'm five years late), and A User's Guide to the Brain, by Dr. John Ratey (I wish this guy had a blog I could link to). I read Cluetrain, because, well, it's Cluetrain, and I'm living in a post-Cluetrain world. Thought I needed to catch up. I read Users's Guide because, as a (self-educated) student of human behavior, I thought it could open a window to why we act the way we do and how marketers can better persuade our audiences to take action. I'll blog my thoughts on these books later.

Third, the plan: I'm getting a Treo 650 (today I hope), and I've already bought a portable keyboard for it. Why? I plan to blog on the bus. With work, family and other obligations, it's probably the only time I'll have to keep up on this blogging thing. I really want to use this site to have a conversation with other blogging students (or experts) of human behavior. So, more to come.


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