Sometimes A Cigar Really Is Just A Cigar.

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Randy Gage taught me how to deliver a keynote speech.

His main theme? A keynote speech is a speech about a single thought you want your audience to follow, understand, and learn.

His supporting evidence? The name keynote speech.


According to Gage, the name “keynote” explains exactly what the presentation should be – a speech about a single message. A key note speech, get it? Once you see Gage’s way, could it be any clearer?

Because I’m lucky enough to be on Melissa Francis’ show and others on FOX a few times a week, friends call me when they’re going to be on TV. I don’t do media training but I’ve taken enough of it—and been on TV enough now—that I can sometimes make some useful recommendations.


One thing that’s become clear to me is that the interviewer on whatever show I’m lucky enough to be on actually represents the viewers themselves. Johnny Carson represented a wide swath of the American audience back when advertisers cared about white middle class viewers. Larry King appealed to so many viewers because he was an everyman (a big schnook like the rest of us) in awe of the celebrities he was interviewing. Oprah Winfrey represented a new emerging audience, not just African-American, but female and empowered.

Anderson Cooper looks young enough to be handsomely aspirational to middle-aged viewers but with a headful of gray hair so we can relate to him. Bill O’Reilly — the interviewer whose brand essence is most congruent with his viewers’ wants and needs — regularly beats up his mostly urban, mostly educated, and mostly affluent guests simply because his audience would like to but can’t. And on the other end of the spectrum, my friend Melissa Francis is so warm and gracious that she always makes her guests look smart and witty (as long as they’ve done their homework and are telling the truth).


This didn’t strike me until I was in front of the camera more than 100 times. But the name interviewer should have clued me in immediately. The interviewer is the filter between the guest and the audience. The key words — inter and view — tell you so.

Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what the word names — sizzle, swoosh, and hiss are good examples. Advertisers have taken advantage of these mnemonic devices for years, probably most famously in the classic Alka-Seltzer jingle, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” You don’t just hear the words; you actually hear the pills splashing and effervescing to make you feel better.


But in the case of keynote and interviewer, we have something more: These words don’t sound like what they mean; they actually represent the meaning.

A little searching around onomatopoeia lead me to literal language. Wikipedia describes it as “words that do not deviate from their defined meaning,” which would explain both terms.

Literal language is not always so obvious. We regularly use the words aesthetic and anesthetic without noticing the relationship between the two. Aesthetic refers to the senses and anesthetic means to shut off or deaden the senses. Pretty clear once you see it, huh?

Of course, literal language is not always a good thing. How many investment brokers or real estate brokers would want to suggest that they make their clients broker? How many consultants would want to be known as sultan(t)s of cons? Perhaps it’s good that while we don’t see the explicit meanings hidden in some words, we also don’t see the negative implications that are just as obvious in others.

What’s more fascinating to me is that these meanings and implications are hidden in plain sight, adding richness and meaning to our conversations and helping to build our brands.

Posted on April 20th, 2014

The Catholic Church’s Latest Brand Refresh.


You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice that the Catholic Church has gone through some cataclysmic shifts of late. From the horror of “pedophile priests” to Pope Francis’ refreshing reframe, the seemingly immovable institution has changed plenty. But surprisingly enough, a strong reaction to where the Church’s brand has been heading is not a new occurrence.

Historically, when there has been a threat to the Church (Gnosticism and the Protestant Reformation are two of many) there has always been a vigorous response — from the Synod of Rome in 382, through the Counter Reformation (beginning with the Council of Trent in 1545), to the changes of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. In fact, the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI (the first papal resignation in 598 years) and the election of Pope Francis could easily be interpreted as a modern day “brand revise,” created to rescue an ailing brand.

How is Pope Francis changing the public’s perception of the Catholic Church’s brand? How about the fact that he was named the TIME magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year? Not enough for you? The Pope was also named Person of the Year by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-interest magazine The Advocate. When was the last time THAT happened?


Then there’s the Church’s commitment to “New Evangelization.” Books such as The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet are required reading for those Catholic activists who want to make a difference.

And it’s not just lip service from the top, by the way. The new Pope even has a Twitter account with over 3.5 million followers around the world.

But the big difference is that thanks to today’s democratized media, new evangelization doesn’t just come from the leadership. Much like the Gutenberg Bible used a state-of-the-art invention to innovate the distribution of Church doctrine in the mid 15th century, today’s savvy believers are encouraging new evangelization with the same technology you might use to read this blog, find your way home, or even play Angry Birds — an app.


Through a 21st-century mashup of the centuries-old story of the Catholic Mass and today’s Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), graphic designer Dan Gonzalez wrote, designed, coded, and deployed Mass Explained, a robust iPad app with sound, video, 360° panoramas, 3D objects, and all the other digital ‘bells and whistles’ we’ve come to expect from the most sophisticated apps.


Forming Disciples Final.002Gonzalez used Adobe’s new technology to target a specific issue facing the Church that he believed he could change. According to Gonzalez’s research, Catholic college students and young Catholic adults are at a pivotal point in their lives where they either accept their parents’ faith or detach from the Church altogether. In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell reports that of the Catholics who leave the Church, 80% do it by the time they turn 23. Gonzalez believed he could stem this tide through Mass education. And what better way to reach this generation of digital natives than through an engaging tablet app?


The Catholic Church has a vast inheritance of paintings, sculptures, vessels, and vestments, all of which help illustrate the evolution of the Mass. The Church also has a treasury of prayers in Greek and Latin, Gregorian chants, and liturgical music, many of which come alive on Gonzalez’s app. For example, Gonzalez says that hearing the Eucharistic Prayer along with the Hamotzi (the ancient Hebrew blessing over bread) dramatically reveals the source of the Catholic prayer, adding profound richness to the Mass experience. In the same vein, Gonzalez says it comes as a surprise to many to learn that Vivaldi’s familiar Gloria is actually sacred liturgical music. And while nothing can compare to actually seeing the art, visiting the architectural sites, hearing the music and prayers or holding sacred objects in your hand, modern technology allows for a more engaging user experience than static text on a printed page. Especially to a tech-savvy generation that has come to expect this type of interaction.


Many of today’s most successful technological innovations are nothing more than the combination of something old and something new. eBay, for example, is simply a flea market or bazaar (perhaps the world’s second oldest business) combined with the Internet. Gonzalez’s Mass Explained,  too – combines centuries-old ritual and dogma with up-to-the-minute technology.

Who knew the Catholic Church could be so au courant?

Posted on April 13th, 2014

What Good Is Good Advice If You Don’t Take It?


I am sitting in the audience of a breakout session at the NSA (National Speakers Association – the ones who talk, not the ones who listen). An online expert is putting on a fascinating presentation about how to generate web traffic. Right now he’s demonstrating his theory on how to build a powerful podcast.

His outline is simple:

1.  Identify the customer’s challenge.

2.  Personalize it.

3.  Offer three ways to solve the problem.

But that’s just the basics. Besides the simple structure, he also showed us how to make the pitch personal and compelling. He even demonstrated some brilliant examples of how to do just that.

The speaker asked the audience to take five minutes to create their own presentation following his specific instructions. At the end of the allotted time, he asked for three volunteers to get up and make their pitch.

The first volunteer got up and spent his valuable few minutes in front of the crowd explaining why he didn’t do it the way the expert suggested, but instead wanted to check if his way of building his presentation was correct.


If that wasn’t bad enough, the woman the speaker called on next stood up and did an eight-minute soliloquy on why certain professionals aren’t successful in business and how annoying it is to work with them – a screed that had nothing to do with what the speaker was teaching us. I didn’t even hear the third volunteer because I couldn’t stand it anymore and slipped out of the session.

In the hallway, I ran into a guy who asked me if I’d take a look at his marketing materials and let him know my thoughts. He pulled out a notebook and started flipping through the pages, showing me what he’d done and explaining to me why each specific item was included on each page.

My suggestions were simple. As I’ve tried to explain so many times in this blog, all he needed to do was change his focus from company-centric to customer-centric. In other words, reframe his messaging from an intellectual sell to an emotional one, away from himself and towards his potential clients. But no matter how many times and how many different ways I tried to explain he wouldn’t listen – all he cared about was having me validate what he’d already done.

So here’s my question: What good is good advice if you’re not going to take it?

If this sounds like a rant, I’m sorry. I am peeved and banging the keys on my laptop a little harder than usual. But the reason might surprise you. Believe it or not, I’m not that annoyed about the people I just wrote about. Instead, all of this makes me wonder how often I’ve been exposed to great ideas and didn’t listen or pay heed because I was too busy defending what I’d already done? How often did I miss the opportunity of learning from an accomplished expert because my focus was elsewhere? And most important, how can I make doubly sure it doesn’t happen again?

Voice BalloonI texted my wife and told her my dilemma and her simple response was, “Deep breath. ILY.” After thinking about it for a while, I think she’s right. The simple way to make sure that we’re open to opportunities is simply to breathe. Don’t be so quick to respond, don’t be so quick to defend, and don’t be so quick to disagree. Instead, I’m going to try to simply be open to the information I’m lucky enough to receive and save both the evaluation and the retaliation for later.

Needless to say, the information I get may or may not be accurate or helpful but how can I know the difference if I’m too busy explaining why I did what I did? There will be plenty of time for evaluation later. For now all I’m going to do is breathe and pay attention. How about you?

Posted on April 6th, 2014

Social Media for (not such) Dummies


Sarah’s question:

“Hi Bruce,

I have a personal question regarding social media. In a nutshell, I’m working to hone my social media skills; keeping up with the ever-changing industry and learning everything there is to know so that I can become an expert in the field. I want to know everything! But, as you know, it’s an extremely overwhelming industry and there is no textbook that is available to teach you everything. I’ve been hearing a lot about these social media certification courses, but I’m not sure that they’re worth the money. So I wanted to talk to an expert (you!) about your thoughts on this.

Thank you in advance,


My response:

“I don’t know much about these certification courses, Sarah, but I can’t imagine they’re particularly helpful unless perhaps you’re interested in learning programming.

Instead, building your own robust online social media (SM) presence would be your best way to keep up-to-speed on the practical realities and changes in the space.

I’ve had clients tell me they want to learn about SM but they don’t want to actually do it — what they’re looking for is the book they can read that’ll show them what to do. Their question is simple: what book should they read?

My answer is that learning SM is like learning to swim (SwiM, get it?). You can read all the books you want on swimming but if I row you out into the ocean and throw you over board, you’re not going to be able to swim very well, are you? And I can even toss you the book but if it’s not made of Styrofoam it’s not going to help keep you above the water either.

The way to learn how to do it is to do it.


I do recommend you attend various conference and seminars — that’s where you’ll find people who are passionate about staying ahead of the bleeding edge in the technologies and who will be able to help you. Maybe you should even read some great books (The Viral Loop or Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, for example) about what others have done. But at some point you’ve just got to say ‘What the hell’ and jump in with two feet.

Open an account on WordPress and start a blog. Learn to upload it and monitor it. Promote it on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and LinkedIn. Figure out how to upload video. Repurpose your text as video blogs (VLOGS) and create your own channel. Figure out the difference between YouTube and Vimeo. Look into SlideShare and Quora. Start building lists and email your posts to your followers using LinkedIn, Constant Contact, MailChimp or some other email-marketing provider. Figure out how to reduce your spam complaints. Analyze your click-throughs and unsubscribes. That’ll teach you more about SM than any certification class ever will.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Remember that you don’t have to do it all at once but you do have to do it. Otherwise you’ll just be sitting on the sidelines, books in hand, watching the world pass you by.

Don’t know if this is what you wanted to hear but it’s my truth. I hope it helps you.

All my best,



Posted on March 30th, 2014



A number of years ago I tried to figure out why our ad agency wasn’t quite as successful as I would have liked. It finally dawned on me that we had been trying to sell something our clients might not have been interested in buying.

Quite simply, we were trying to sell better design work and they wanted to buy better sales. Sure it was more complicated than that but when you boil it down that was the gist of the disconnect.

What I understand so clearly now is that none of our clients are patrons of the arts. Instead they look at what we do as a means to an end. We’re perfectly welcome to get our jollies by crafting our branding creations anyway we’d like but in the end we need to solve our clients’ problems and sell their products.

The most interesting thing is that as we evolve our business and look for continuous ways to reinvent what we do — using more and more sophisticated technology, more and more talented practitioners, more and more complicated programs — the core service we provide gets simpler and simpler.

It’s our job to turn NEEDS to WANTS and WHYS to HOWS.


One of the biggest challenges technology presents all of us is the abundance of products and services it facilitates and the commoditization it creates. Products and services that used to be exclusive to developed countries and sophisticated companies and professionals now glut the market because computers make it easy for them to be produced and distributed quickly and cheaply all around the globe. And where there used to be significant differences in quality between the goods produced by these different companies and countries, once again computers have shortened those gaps and reduced the differences.

So while being in a business where people buy products based on NEEDS used to be a strong market position, it isn’t anymore. If I live up north where it’s cold and I need to be warm, for example, many tropical beach destinations can solve my dilemma. But that creates a competitive situation amongst tropical destinations that drives costs steadily downward. Good for the traveler perhaps, but not so good for the hotels and amusements that service them.

If I’m going to an event and need a new pair of silver pumps to match my gown (yes, I am embracing my feminine side here), most any shoe brand that sells formal shoes can solve my problem. Again, this invites competition and drives prices down.

But if I want to go to vacation in Miami, say, or on Royal Caribbean Cruise, then I’ll pay more because the substitutions are simply unacceptable.

And if I want a pair of Jimmy Choo or Louboutin pumps, then their absolutely outrageous prices will seem utterly acceptable and reasonable. After all, if I WANT those shoes I won’t be satisfied with anything else. In fact, the high prices might even add to my desire.

What causes this? Brand value. It’s the perception of brand value that makes an Apple iPad worth more than a no-name Korean tablet and a cup of Starbucks coffee worth more than the same drink poured at the corner diner. Are the iPad and venti half-caf cappuccino actually better? That depends on what you what you need and how sophisticated your palette is. But it’s ultimately irrelevant; the desire for the brand — the WANT — is what makes the product more valuable.


If you build a successful brand, not only do you move your consumer from NEEDS to WANTS, you can also go from WHYS to HOWS. You no longer have to spend your time, effort, and hard-earned marketing dollars convincing your potential customer WHY they should use you. Instead your efforts can be spent showing them HOW – how they can hire you. Do this properly and it reduces the need for competitive pricing, filling out mind-numbing RFPs, and putting on dog and pony shows for prospects. When clients want to hire YOU, not just someone who does what you do, you’ll find that the entire sales cycle changes and the HOWS become the meaningful explanations that will get you hired.

NEEDS to WANTS and WHYS to HOWS. It took me a lot of years of hard work to realize it couldn’t be much easier than that.

Posted on March 23rd, 2014

What Can You Learn From A Tattooed Guy Named Junior And A Restaurateur Named Joe?


Walk into Junior’s in Jupiter, Florida and you might be surprised at what you find. The walls are painted with graffiti. The furniture is constructed from industrial diamond plate steel, and red and black leather. And the proprietor is wearing a Harley-Davidson mechanic’s shirt, with short sleeves of course, to show off his fully tattooed arms.

The other guys there are dressed in a similar fashion—jeans and baggy shorts, black tee shirts, tattoos, baseball caps, and chains. And most of them—Ruben, Jairo, Trix, Chi, and Johnny—are clutching just-sharpened straight razors or have them ready at hand at their workspaces.

But the people waiting to be served are not typical “hot rod shop” customers. Instead, they’re young boys and businessmen and suburban mothers and fathers.

That’s because Junior’s is not a garage or a gang hangout.

It’s a hair salon. No, really.


Further down the Florida coast on the tip of Miami Beach, Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant sells the same thing as Junior’s. Not haircuts with a garage vibe but the feeling that you’re in a special place, part of a special club, in the know.


AnthonyOn a Saturday night during tourist season, patrons line up in front of Ed and Anthony’s maître d’ stand to put their names on Joe’s seating list even though they know the wait for a table might be over three hours. And since Joe’s doesn’t take reservations, you could argue that the diners are not there in spite of the wait but because of it. After all, where else can you see and be seen in the ground zero of South Beach?

Joe’s and Junior’s are thriving businesses created for today’s tribal economy where what you do is not as important as how you do it or who you are.

If you just want your hair cut, you can go anywhere from an $8 discount cuttery to a $150 exclusive salon. But if you want something different, if you want to feel cool, if you want an experience, then you have to go to Junior’s.

But don’t take my word for it; read what they say on their website: “Junior’s Barber Shop, where Rock-N-Roll sets the tone for this garage inspired tattoo vibin’ atmosphere. Junior’s is a FULL SERVICE Barber Shop offering everything from children’s to men’s cuts, to hot towel shaves and we even do custom designs for the edgier folk.”

Notice that Junior doesn’t say anything about how well they cut hair or how inexpensive they are. That’s because those things don’t matter. What Junior’s is selling is not a haircut, it’s an experience.


I think Joe’s grilled fish is the best in Miami. And their fried chicken is the best in the world. But their website doesn’t brag about their food. Like the haircuts at Junior’s, food at Joe’s is currency. It’s what they trade for money but it’s not what their customers are buying. Want proof? Go to the website and you’ll find the recipes for their most acclaimed dishes, including their Caesar salad dressing, their ginger salmon, and Joe’s world-famous key lime pie published right there for all the world—and all their competitors—to copy. If all you want is the food, you can make it yourself.

What you can’t make yourself is Joe’s atmosphere, their feeling, their vibe. Or as they say on the web, “It has always been the love of food, family, and friends that has brought in customers and kept them coming.”

That, and the crowds that tell you you’re somewhere special.

What does this have to do with you? The takeaway here is that your business needs to make people feel special, too. More importantly, it’s a reminder that people are not buying what you sell; they’re buying who you are. And if you can express your authentic self through your business, as Junior’s and Joe’s have done, you’ll find scores of customers who are hungry for what you’re selling.

Posted on March 16th, 2014

When The Student Is Ready, Will The Teacher Really Appear?


“When one door closes, another opens.”

“The universe will provide.”

“If you can conceive it you can achieve it.”

[Parental warning: I hate insipid bromides. If these are sayings you appreciate, things you hang on the wall or slather on your coffee mugs, please don’t read any further. You’re not going to be happy, and who wants to be unhappy?]

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Really? Now I’m no expert on dogfighting, but I’d bet that big dogs kick the crap out of little dogs every single time regardless of how feisty the little dog might appear.

“Quitters never win and winners never quit.”

That sounds like it makes sense unless whatever you’re trying to do turns out to be undoable. In which case sticking with the undoable just to avoid being a quitter is stupid. Giving up and going on to some other more valuable opportunity is a much better way to ultimately succeed.

Built-To-Sell-FinalYears ago, web marketing expert Jay Berkowitz from Ten Golden Rules did me a lovely favor and sent a copy of John Warrillow’s book Built To Sell. Jay had just read it and learned how to convert his business – not to sell his firm but to figure out how to remove himself from things he didn’t need to do everyday so he could concentrate on what he did need to do – pleasing his clients and growing his business.

It was something I needed to learn but I didn’t know I needed to learn it.

A year or two later I was at a seminar and the speaker was talking about how to systematize a business. His point was that there are lots of revenue streams a business can provide, but only if there’s a consistent, coherent, cogent protocol that can be managed by a team of experts, each doing what they’re best at.

That was something I needed to learn too, but didn’t know that either.

Steve-Shapiro-FinalThis morning I was at the National Speaker’s Association meeting listening to Steve Shapiro talk about how to leverage business assets and he opened his talk with: “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”

Now there’s a saying I can get behind. Much more is said than done. But Steve went on to show how to actually do more. He explained how systemizing your business can create all kinds of opportunities to generate more revenue, increase free time for other activities, and help your other associates generate revenue too.

It was something I needed to learn but I still didn’t know I needed to learn it.

Then I wandered into Bill Cates’ breakout session and listened raptly while Bill spoke about what it takes to license products. His first suggestion? Systemize your business so others can do what you’re doing and you can focus on generating multiple revenue streams.


After being taught, and taught, and taught, the student was finally ready. I finally heard the message that systemizing my business practices is what I need to do to continue to grow our business. This is something I do need to know and now I know that I need to know it.

But the other thing I learned is that the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is true. Not for the assumed reason that the teacher magically pops up when the student has the need, but for the metaphorical explanation that the teacher is there a lot of the time, the student just simply isn’t listening.

I’d been given the information I needed time and time again; I just wasn’t sensitive to it because it hadn’t become important enough to me. But as soon as the need was clear and the message was repeated enough times, it sunk in and I got it.

Does this suggest that I’m not very aware, sensitive, or perceptive? Perhaps. But what it also suggests is that I need to spend more time prioritizing what I want to accomplish and then paying attention to all the resources around me that are generously offering their recommendations and assistance. Maybe you do too.

After all, I’d hate to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Posted on March 9th, 2014

How To Get On National TV

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Want to be on National TV?
One of my favorite producers at FOX Business is producing a question and answer session on taxes. She’s looking for video selfies of people who have questions about their taxes. If you’re interested in being on National TV, here’s your chance. Needless to say, if they pick your bit you’ll then have a bit of video of yourself to use in your promotions, on your FB page, to impress your parents, whatever.
Just shoot a :10 to :15 second video of yourself asking a tax question you’re interested in such as: “Can I write off my cat’s vet bills?” “Is my farm deduction transferable?” “Are my veteran’s benefits going to increase this year?”
Remember that the network wants something interesting to look at so if you ask about your cat, have it in your arms. If you ask about your farm benefits, film yourself sitting on a tractor or maybe dress up like Grant Wood’s American Gothic. If you’re asking about veteran’s benefits, wear your uniform.
Remember too that quality counts so check your lighting, the audio, and anything else that will make your snippet look and sound as good as possible.
Send your MP4 file to Joanna Chow at, by EOD Monday 3/10/2014.

Posted on March 6th, 2014