Vengeance, Nevada Is Back With Issue #4

Vengeance, Nevada Is Back With Issue #4

Just a quick note that issue #4 of Vengeance, Nevada (VN) is now online.

This is the second year we’ve been running the comic, and this time, Piotr and I decided to do something different. Instead of releasing each issue in three parts like we did the first year, we’re now releasing the entire issue all at once.

Issue #4 is also the first one where Nakoma isn’t present. You probably won’t see her again until issue #6 beyond a flashback scene. I’m attempting to do a Game of Thrones thing where we follow different sets of characters that will all intersect as the story progresses. So in Issue #4, we get to see what Open Grave and Liberty is doing in Chicago. And then in Issue #5, we’ll see what’s going on over with our supervillains in The Kingdom.

I figure since it’s my comic, given away for free on this website, and released on my schedule, I can do what I want with it. Hopefully, you like the end result.

Issue #5 will be out in August.

Issue #6 will be out in December.

I know. It takes a long time between issues. Everyone is busy. I’m happy if we can hit three issues of the comic a year.

There’s really no rush to doing them, you know? I pay for VN out of pocket. I write the comic because it’s fun and I always wanted to write one, and there’s no real end game to doing it.

You can also tell there’s still stuff I struggle with. How much action goes on one page, how much dialogue. I look at this more as an experiment than anything else. So by the time VN finishes, I hope to have that all worked out.

Someone asked me recently what I wanted to do with VN. I’d love to take the first eight pages and turn them into a short film, but we’ll see. That will take more money than I have at the moment.

Until then, enjoy the comic. The podcasts will return to this site soon, as will the book summaries. I just have to adjust to my new schedule first.

 

Who Should You Hire To Do Your Marketing?

Who Should You Hire To Do Your Marketing?

Every day, I make it a point to answer a marketing question on Quora. This is mostly to get my brain working because it usually needs some kind of prompt to get me writing. One of the questions I see come up on there frequently is how to hire someone to do social media, SEO or other digital marketing work. And then a second question that goes with that, which is, “should I hire an employee or an agency?”

As you might have guessed, I have an opinion on this. And rather than answering the same question over and over again on Quora, I figure I’d just answer it here. So …

“Who Do You Read?”

Most marketing people are clowns. Not all of them. There are some great people that work in this industry, but they’re outnumbered by the bozos and doofuses that we all like to make fun of. You can tell who the clowns are based on where they get their information from. If they tell you they read Forbes and follow Gary Vaynerchuk, you shouldn’t hire them. Gary hasn’t had anything interesting to say since 2007, and Forbes lost all credibility when it moved to a content farm model (and still to this day has not moved away from that like everyone else.)

I struggle with this, but sometimes if they namedrop Tim Ferriss, you should also be skeptical. I like Tim Ferriss’s books, but I think he suffers from the “Fight Club Problem.” The “Fight Club Problem” refers to how there were two kinds of reactions among people who read “Fight Club.” They either thought it was awesome and totally serious, or they got that Chuck Palahniuk wrote an excellent satire on hyper-masculinity and generally where we were as a culture before 9/11.

So Tim Ferriss has that same thing going, where people either read and appreciate his work for what it is (great advice for rich people), or think that what he writes is the be all, end all on how you should live your life.

Anyway, the clowns like Ferriss and Vaynerchuk and go to crappy places like Forbes to keep up with things.

The good people struggle through the Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, name check and UNDERSTAND (this is important) Ryan Holiday’s first book, and pull their information from a variety of sources. So for example, right now on my desk is the two most recent issues of Fortune. The February / March Harvard Business Review, this week’s Adweek (although Adweek and Adage can often be problematic in their own right), Sam Walton’s “Made in America,” and Stephen Oates’s book on Abraham Lincoln, “With Malice Toward None.”

Let me be blunt: I don’t know anyone who enjoys reading the Harvard Business Review. Turgid doesn’t begin to describe how most of the content in there is written, but if you can work through it, you’ll often find one or two things that are useful. I’ve been suffering through reading that magazine since grad school in 2007, but I can honestly say it’s worth it.

The Ryan Holiday book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying” is good as long as you understand what he’s saying and don’t walk away from it going, “Wow, journalists are dumb! The media sucks!” No. That’s not the point. The point is there’s a particular process to get news coverage that existed (and still kind of does) today that can be exploited for a variety of troubling societal and business reasons.

The other magazines and books I mentioned aren’t to show off; I just mention them because my larger point is this: If you’re going to hire someone to do your marketing for you, where they get their information from is incredibly important; Especially if they are pulling their information from unexpected places (an old biography of Abraham Lincoln) or from excellent case studies from wildly successful people (“Made in America”).

So, “Who do you read?” is the question you want to ask when determining who to hire.

You also want to ask them for case studies. “What have you done?” is the second, and arguably more important, question to ask. Past performance and past campaigns, especially in marketing, don’t carry as much weight as you think because every company, brand, product, not-for-profit, etc. is different. But it’s important to ask for references and to look at previous work.

I know. This all seems like common sense, but the fact that the question appears as often as it does on Quora tells me it’s not.

Reputation Design

This will get me some shit for sure, but you should always hire an employee (ideally) or a freelancer (less ideal) to handle any aspect of marketing that you’re looking for help with.

An agency can be great. The problem is a lot of the big agencies today are too busy chasing rebates and automating themselves out of existence that I have real concerns about the overall health of the advertising industry at the moment. And the trends suggest I’m not the only one with those concerns. A lot of brands are parting ways with their agencies and moving the marketing work in-house or creating their own agency like McDonald’s just did.

So keeping in mind the caveat that everyone is different and has different needs, my own preference is that you hire someone internally. Especially because marketing takes time.

I’m going to repeat that because over the past year I’ve encountered many people who don’t seem to understand this: Good marketing. Takes. Time.

If you’re doing content marketing, unless you’re spending money to support it, you’re looking at six months at least before it starts to take root, and even then, maybe even a year before it starts generating the kind of results you’re going to be happy with. The same is true for SEO. Unless you’ve got the cash to juice it, SEO takes months and even then, you need to stick with it because things change all the time between Google, Bing and others like DuckDuckGo.

PR, social media, Influencer Marketing, Digital Reputation Management and word-of-mouth? Same deal. I like to roll those all together and refer to it as “Reputation Design.” Reputation Design takes at least a year to get it right. You CAN see some success before that, especially if you have the money, but all those things require an extensive infrastructure to be built, and most people don’t know how the fuck to do that.

And, you guessed it, the people who do know how to build the infrastructure to launch and operate a successful reputation design campaign will tell you that it takes time.

So, you can hire an agency and spend a ton of money, or you can hire people internally and control costs because you know it’s going to take a while to lay the groundwork.

Better still, the stuff I dump into the bucket of “Reputation Design” (Word-of-mouth, PR, Digital Reputation Management, Social Media, Influencer Marketing), works the best when it’s baked into the internal functions of your organization. Not when you bring in an outside party that doesn’t understand you, your culture, and your organization and frankly, they don’t care to understand it in most cases. They just want your money.

By hiring people to work internally for your company, you’re able to have the Reputation Design conversation early, meaning you can bake it into the product as you develop it. That’s the big joke with “Growth Hacking.” “Growth Hacking” is bullshit. “Growth Hacking” is word-of-mouth Marketing with a new fancy term to describe it because some asshole in Silicon Valley thought there was an opportunity to cash in on the general ignorance and distrust of marketing people among the tech crowd.

That dislike and distrust come with good reason. Do you want to know why? Because in the first dot-com Bust, a lot of tech companies went under because advertising and marketing agencies like Razor Fish were bankrupting them. (This is even more insulting when you recall the guys behind Razor Fish, a marketing agency, couldn’t explain to 60 Minutes what they did at their company before the bubble burst.)

So, I get why “growth hacking” became a thing, but you should know it’s just “Word-of-mouth Marketing” and the idea that you should bake that, and PR and influencer marketing, into your product as you develop it. Not when it’s finished. Which is why you want to have marketing employees working for you internally.

All of this stuff takes time, and the sooner you start doing it within the internal structure of your products, the better your results will be.

(Also: Before anyone throws shade at me for coining the term reputation design, I got nothing to sell you. If you want to read my book, email me, and I’ll send you a free .pdf copy of it. BJ@BJMendelson.com. The only reason why I invented the term was because I was lazy and got tired of writing “Digital Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization” on a Chicago startup’s marketing collateral.)

Moving on to the Next Thing

Moving on to the Next Thing

If you count March 2016 to March 2017 as one year, I’ve had the roughest year of my life personally and professionally. So much so that I think I went and undid any and all progress I made since my book came out in 2012.

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

So, I’ve decided to do something different. I’m shutting down work on “The Internet is Magic.”

I can’t seem to crack it as a book. I don’t feel I’m the appropriate person to write a self-help book given where my life and career is right now (the toilet) and that I’m in therapy and getting my OCD treated.

The second part of the book, which acts as an updated version of “Social Media Is Bullshit” could be great, but there’s not enough in there for it to be a book on its own. A series of excellent articles, for sure, but not a book.

Besides, I can sum up that second half of the proposed book like this:

-I told you so.

-“Content Shock” and “Peak TV” are not a thing because most content sucks.

-Everything I said from the last book still holds. Just swap out some of the names of those old platforms with names of current platforms and it’s still the same deal. (See: Snapchat’s most recent IPO, Facebook flat out lying about video views, and the increasing number of news stories about bots generating fake traffic.)

-Most marketing people are clowns that shouldn’t be trusted. You can tell who isn’t a clown based on what they read and who they quote.

-Barring a revolution in the advertising, marketing and media industries, nothing I say matters because we’ll just jump from one hot mess to another. See Chatbots and AI right now. Nobody knows anything, everyone with a financial interest is going to exaggerate, the tech people are (mostly) assholes taking advantage of media, marketing, and advertising people who have developed tunnel vision to ensure job security. The bullshit cycle will continue in perpetuum.

(That’s fancy asshole speak for “forever.”)

That brings us to the third, and final, part of the proposed book, the advice.

There’s certainly a framework I can present to you that can increase the probability of your success. Note the key word here: probability. There is NO guarantee of success when it comes to this stuff. Every situation is entirely subjective, and there are variables that you may have to deal with that someone else won’t.

For example, if you’re an afro-Peruvian jazz band, how you’re going to promote yourself is going to be different from a rapper or a rock band. You have different audiences with different expectations and different tastes, and even though you’re all musicians, the tactics the jazz band is going to use are going to be distinct from the rapper and the rock band.

And that’s just within the music industry!

Are there some things you can all do that might work? Maybe. Facebook ads do work, they’re just expensive and become ineffective the longer you run them. SEO is something everyone can do, but most SEO today is just good PR. And social is driven by offline word-of-mouth and what the media is talking about (usually), which means that it too is an extension of PR.

That means you have a PR book on your hands. That’s not quite something publishers want. At least, I don’t think. And it’s also not something I want to write. If you want to be good at PR, all you have to do is read books by Edward Bernays and know how not to bother a reporter. (In other words, pitch the reporter by email, wait a week, follow-up once, and then never bother them again if you don’t hear back. And when possible, always see if someone can introduce you to the reporter instead of pitching them cold.)

Good news: Edward Bernays has been dead for a long time so that you can find his books out there at the library for free.

Bad news: Nobody wants probability. Everyone wants solutions. And that’s not their fault; it’s the fault of decision makers chasing bogus metrics to justify their existence and tech companies justifying the billions of dollars they’ve raised.

The question you should be asking is not, “How do we hit our traffic goals?” The question is, “how do I deliver legit, high quality, repeat traffic to my advertisers and build a relationship between us as content providers, the sponsor as the people who keep our lights on, and the audience as the people we serve where everyone is happy.”

Hint: Auto-playing videos, ads that invade and abuse a users’ privacy without their permission, full-page takeovers, and other units that make browsing the web (regardless of browser or device) a horror show are not the answer.

“Less, but better” traffic is a hard sell. I haven’t encountered many people in the corporate world that want to hear that.

So given all that, I’m throwing in the towel on the book front. When I have something interesting to say that can justify an entire book, I’ll let you know.

Until then, I’m going to post everything that would have gone in “The Internet is Magic” here.

If you have not read my first book, don’t worry. Just email me at bj@bjmendelson.com, and I’ll hook you up with a free .pdf of it. The only thing I ask is that if you like it, feel free to pass on and share the .pdf with anyone you want.

I know this will be disappointing news for like the three people who care about what I write, but I think it’s the right choice.

You don’t get rewarded for being right. Instead, you get to spend years after saying something that was right watching people attack you, and then those people completely flip their positions and repeat what you had to say on their own as if you didn’t exist. And then when the industry does catch up and absorbs the ideas you’ve put out there into their system, it doesn’t correct itself. It just keeps plowing ahead while everyone winks and nods and goes, “Yeah I know it’s all bullshit, but our boss loves it, so what are you going to do?”

The answer is that you move on to the next thing.

That is not the only change I’m going to be making given the past year I’ve had, but it’s the only one I’m ready to talk about at the moment. I’ll have more news eventually.