Get ideas for public relations and agency mergers by listening to episode #49 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a conversation with Jeff Bradford, President, Dalton Nashville.
Listen now to hear Bradford discuss word-of-mouth marketing, crisis management, video, and much.
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“Position the customer’s ‘gain’ as the direct object of the sentence,” Flint McGlaughlin taught in Headline Examples: 3 ways to load your predicate with value.
I thought of this lesson when I heard a lesson from this episode’s guest – “charge what it is worth, not what it costs.”
You can only charge what it is worth if the customer perceives that value. To help them perceive the value, your messaging must emphasize the customer’s gain.
So I asked our guest about this, specifically in regards to his story about using a celebrity endorser for a B2B event.
You can hear the answer to that question, along with many more lesson-filled stories, from Jeff Bradford, President, Dalton Nashville, on this episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast.
Dalton is a $12 million agency that was founded in 1989 and has 100 employees.
Bradford is the only seven-time winner of the Nashville Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO Award. He manages a team of 12 on five accounts at Dalton. He is author of the book The Joy of Propaganda: The How and Why of Public Relations and Marketing.
Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.
Some lessons from Bradford that emerged in our discussion:
The problem Bradford’s team was charged with solving was the perception in the community that building a new symphony hall was an elitist endeavor – and therefore not worthy of broad community support.
They solved this problem by creating a large, 400-member organization of the most influential people in town across all sectors of the community, naming it the Nashville Advisory Council. They made it easy to recruit members by making the requirements of membership very non-taxing – which was simply to attend two events a year, during which you would be the first in town to hear about the latest developments in the symphony center project.
At these semi-annual events, Council members were the first to see the plans for the hall, the first to sit in the different types of seats architects were evaluating, the first to see the interior design, the first to hear about the hall’s acoustical refinements. They were given VIP hardhat tours of the construction site. They were the only people invited to sign a massive concrete panel that was installed on the roof. (You can still see their signatures in the symphony hall’s attic.)
Between these events, they kept council members apprised of symphony hall developments via an email newsletter that was distributed only to members.
It worked a like a charm. They had 400+ influential Nashvillians spreading the word throughout all sectors of the community about the many benefits a world-class concert hall would bring to Nashville – such as economic development, education, downtown revitalization, international renown for the city… as well as an amazing concert experience for all kinds of music, not just classical, a venue worthy of a city known for its music.
The message was that everyone would benefit from the new hall, even if they never attended a concert there, because of the many benefits it would bring to the city as a whole. And it had credibility, and legs, because it was being transmitted by the city’s most influential people.
T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month, and that was certainly the case for several clients who called on Bradford’s team to help them deal with media crises one April. Fortunately, they were able to avert a full-scale, reputation-destroying result in every case. Here is how they did it.
First, they benefited from a trusting relationship with their clients. When bombs are flying there is no time to begin building trust – it has to already be there. They had earned it in advance by demonstrating that they know what they are doing and that they know things the client does not know. Every successful media placement, well-written blog entry, social media campaign or website landing page that they executed made this point.
Having the client’s trust in a media crisis allowed them to move quickly. This is essential in a crisis because they typically do not have the time to explain in detail why they are recommending a certain course of action. The client must simply trust that they are making the right calls and act on them, quickly.
Trust also applies to their relationships with journalists. Because they have proven to reporters that they always tell the truth and act in good faith, the reporters are more likely to work with them during a crisis, instead of against them. Journalists won’t roll over and play dead or avoid reporting on the story, but neither are they likely to play “gotcha journalism” and come to the story with pre-conceived notions about the client’s guilt.
Second, they followed Rule One of crisis management: get everything out there the first day. They anticipated what questions they’d likely get from the media, quickly crafted appropriate responses and immediately responded to all media inquiries. The goal is not to avoid the crisis or attempt to cover it up, which will only make it much worse. The goal is to make it a one-day story by getting out all information immediately so that reporters have no legitimate reason to follow up the next day.
Third, they decided what their talking points were and stuck with them. Talking points are not an answer to every question, but they are the basis for answering every question, because they provide the overall narrative of the story. Usually consisting of no more than four to five statements, crisis talking points succinctly say what happened, what you are doing about it and, perhaps, why it happened.
In answering specific questions from the media, or anyone, the goal is to link all of the answers back to one or more talking points, so that the client, rather than the media or the “other side,” has a better chance of controlling the overall narrative. They want to demonstrate that the client is on top of things and is compassionate.
Fourth, they always told the truth. Telling the truth is essential in any public relations effort – from pitching a story about a new product to dealing with a product recall – but it is especially important during a crisis. If you are ever caught in a lie or a cover-up, then everything else you say will be dismissed, or discounted at the least.
Fifth, they gave the crisis their total attention. Crisis management is not something you can do part time. It has to be all you do, at least for the first day – crafting responses, fielding media calls, collecting data, visit job sites… whatever it takes – until the situation is resolved.
To drive home these points, Bradford shared the story of working with a racetrack where a horse died at the finish line.
Bradford’s team once helped a client plan and throw an incredible 15th anniversary party at the home of country music star John Rich. Thanks to thoughtful planning, meticulous execution, a unique location, a marvelously gracious host and plain old star power, it was an over-the-top success – one of those once-in-a-lifetime occasions that people will tell their grandchildren about.
Of course, there are many well-planned, well-organized events. What set this anniversary party apart was John Rich. Here are the lessons Bradford learned from Rich about how to throw an event that people are clawing to get into and don't want to leave.
Don't do it if you don't feel it. Rich is not just an artist, he is also a professional with a finely tuned business sense, so he doesn't invite strangers into his home for a huge party just because it would be a blast. It was a business transaction. (By the same token, there are easier ways for a big-time recording artist to make a buck. For that reason, he does not regularly host business events at his home, though he has been known to host fundraisers for non-profits he endorses.)
So, did the team just get lucky when they approached him about having DSi’s anniversary party at his home? Maybe. Bradford is not sure. But what he does know is that Rich felt a strong connection to DSi and its entrepreneurial journey over the last 15 years. In some ways, it was similar to Rich’s own journey of combining hard work, perseverance and native smarts to create a life’s work.
As Rich made clear every step of the way in planning and carrying out this event – including his congratulatory remarks from the stage during the party – Rich really understood the culture of the client company, and the journey of its leaders. He didn't have to manufacture enthusiasm.
Help with promotion. Rich was happy to help the team promote the party to its clients’ key clients and prospects across the country. (They held the party during a national industry conference in Nashville so that important people from through the nation would be in town.) For example, Rich spent an afternoon with Bradford’s team to film a video invitation – even picking up his guitar at one point to sing part of the invitation.
Rich even allowed them to incorporate the music and images from one of his music videos. You can imagine how much more powerful a video invitation featuring a big star is than an ordinary mailed or emailed invitation. A serious buzz began in the client’s industry when these video invitations started going out.
Charge what is it worth, not what it costs. A super event like this is not a cheap date. Was it worth it to the client? Absolutely. They would say it was some of the best-spent marketing dollars in their company history. In terms of new business generated from both existing and new clients, it was worth every penny, and more. John Rich was smart enough to know that value is a function of results, not costs – and he knew he could deliver the results.
Don't nickel and dime. For a set fee, they got everything – all drinks and food, wait staff and bartenders, a professional photographer, security, an event coordinator, Rich’s performance – plus the star’s commitment to mix with the crowd throughout the night and pose for as many photos with guests as they wanted. He even opened up his personal cigar humidor to the party guests. Every possible facet of the event was included so there was no need to, or even possibility of, haggling over details.
As a result, things went very smoothly, no nerves were frayed and everyone was friends at the end.
Surprise and delight. The agreement was that Rich would perform a 45-60 minute acoustic set during the party. That is, just him and his guitar, which would have been wonderful and more than enough to make partygoers feel special. But, a few days before the event, Rich told Bradford’s team that he was going to bring his full band at no extra charge just because he wanted the client to have a spectacular event.
The performance, which lasted well past 60 minutes – it was a real concert in an intimate setting, just incredible – blew people away. Rich and his band put their heart and soul into it, nothing perfunctory. The room was engulfed by the energy of a man and his band who obviously love what they do.
When Bradford sold his agency to Jim Dalton, it was crucial for the two agency owners to get to know each other and ensure there is a culture fit between the two groups and the two owners themselves.
Bradford also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with:
via Alan Valentine, CEO of the Nashville Symphony
Bradford learned to believe that nothing is impossible and lead people to goals they thought were unattainable, such as building a $150 million dollar symphony hall in the home city of Country Music. Bradford worked closely with Valentine on this project, as his PR firm provided public relations and word-of-mouth marketing services needed to generate broad, citywide support for this ambitious project.
As another example of thinking big, Bradford referenced Elon Musk, and Musk’s unique ability to lay out previously unthinkable goals and rally a team around them.
via Stan Nowak, Vice President of Marketing of Red Hat Holdings
Red Hat Holdings is a company that makes drones for military use. Nowak came to marketing from Hollywood, and he brought that heightened dramatic sensibility to his marketing work, as well as Hollywood’s relentless efficiency in making the most of every shoot. During a recent shot in Salt Lake, Nowak was able to create several different videos targeting different markets – and maintain a taut narrative and dramatic structure in each production.
He also referenced Daniel Kahneman’s research into the modes of thinking and discussed how video can help elicit a “System 1” response (fast, instinctive, and emotional).
via Hal Kennedy, the late CEO of Holder Kennedy Public Relations
Bradford got his start in the PR business nearly 40 years ago at Holder Kennedy. He I learned that the manner in which you present your message, and the environment in which it is presented, is just as important (if not more so) than the content of your message. For example, Kennedy was hired by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce years ago to handle the marketing of a referendum to allow liquor by the drink in Nashville.
The day before the vote, one of Nashville’s TV stations gave both sides – the “wets” and the “drys” – 30 minutes to present their case. Now, normally, you want to present your message last, as it is more likely to be remembered than the first message presented. However, Kennedy asked to go first.
He then played a 5-minute pro-wet video and instructed the TV staff to fill the remaining 25 minutes of his allotted time with the most boring documentary they could find – which caused most viewers to change the channel and never see the opposing video. The wets won.
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Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.
00:00 - Jeff
The lesson that I learned here is, as you said, Daniel, the key to a successful sale of a business merger of two businesses is that the two owners need to uh like to admire and trust each other. Uh because everything really flows from that just like in any business, the culture of a, of a company really flows from the personality of the CEO. Throughout the whole process, it was a kind of feeling for each other out of vetting each other and then with the company with employees, it was being honest and open with what's gonna happen going on your phone and here how here's how you will be involved. Here's how you can make it better.
00:42 - Daniel
Welcome to how I made it in marketing from marketing, Sherpa. We scour pitches from hundreds of creative leaders and uncover specific examples, not just trending ideas or buzzword laden schmaltz, real world examples to help you transform yourself as a marketer. Now, here's your host, the senior director of content and marketing at Marketing Sherpa Daniel Burstein to tell you about today's guest having the skills of a marketer. I think it's a bit of a superpower. I thought about that while reading this lesson in a recent podcast, guest applications charge what it is worth, not what it costs. We've got all this talk about inflation lately, right? And it brings about this very basic view of economics and supply and demand, right? This idea that there are cost inputs and boom, that dictates the price in a very roundabout way. Yes, it informs the price. But really every company can only charge what a customer believes that product is worth and in a free market economy without monopolies, what a customer believes it is worth is often informed by marketing. We are the ones who help potential customers perceive the value of a product or service and therefore every person working in an organization has that job because we are able to teach customers what the product is worth. We'll discuss a great story behind that lesson charge, what it is worth, not what it costs along with many more lesson filled stories from our guest today, Jeff Bradford, the president of Dalton Nashville. Thanks for joining me, Jeff.
02:13 - Jeff
Thank you, Daniel. Thanks for having me.
02:16 - Daniel
Let's take a, let's take a quick look at your background here. You started your career as a reporter, you moved into public and relations and marketing. Uh You've been an agency owner where you were the only seven time winner of the Nashville Business Journal's most admired CEO award. Thank you. That's really fantastic. Uh And you were author of, uh, The Joy of Propaganda. The How and Why of public relations and marketing, a new book that's out. You sent me a copy, you know, Jeff, you sent me a hardcover copy. I really appreciate that. It wasn't the paperback. So I was like, ok, this guy, he's, he's gonna be a good interview. Um, yeah, that's right. So, uh, let's look at it. You are. As I said, you're now the president of Dalton Nashville where you manage a team of 12 on five accounts. And Dalton was founded in 1989 has 100 employees and is a $12 million agency. So, uh, Jeff, give us an understanding. What is your day like as president at Dalton Nashville,
03:08 - Jeff
Everyday is a little different, but every day generally involves writing, uh, and thinking and making things happen. So, for this last week, we were very focused on a little crisis, uh, uh, client we had with some crowd shifting nearly beneath homes and, uh, not far away, we had to make that, uh, last just a day, which is, you know, our goal of all crisis, but right, is to simply keep it to a one day story. And so that was, uh, that was that day, other, other days might be editing copy of press releases or white papers or other days might be figuring out, uh, which reporter to pitch, you know, it's, it's a very profession.
03:51 - Daniel
All right. Well, we've got an interesting story about crisis communication uh in just a bit in the podcast. But first, let's start with some stories from the things you made. And I want to start with this one, this lesson here, harness word of mouth marketing by making influential people feel special. So how did you do that, Jeff, tell us the story.
04:08 - Jeff
So this was a case. We were hired by the Nashville Symphony to uh raise awareness and support for building a new $150 million concert hall in Nashville. The problem that we faced was people saw this as a somewhat elitist enterprise. And our goal was to, was to truly show how it benefited the entire town. So we did that by creating a uh advisory council. We called it the Nashville advisory council of about 300 community leaders. And these were leaders from across a broad swath of the city uh leaders in uh real estate uh downtown, the arts, uh religion, uh medicine. Anyway, all the ways you could stratify our community. Uh And then we would simply be told these people things that no one else knew about this very dramatic building. And they told their friends and these were because they were influential people and they were saying good things about our client. Uh We succeeded in in generating a pretty widespread support for uh this somewhat elitist structure as as many supports the entire city. We did, we did things like uh when the concert hall is made of these large concrete panels because it has to for acoustics wise. And so we had the, the, the last concrete panel about 8 ft by 10 ft by 2 ft thick. People got to sign that panel and watch it be placed in the, the place on top of the Sym Hall. That was one of just one of the experiences we gave to this group of influential people.
05:49 - Daniel
So give me a sense when you're building an organization like this, what is the value proposition to them for joining? Like why should they join? What is the value exchange? Because you're talking about 300 influential people in Nashville. Like I'm sure they're busy people. This is not just a B to C lesson I had earlier on the podcast and in the B to B SPACE, you know, someone telling us about when they, before they launched an open source software product, how they got their open source community on board. So it wasn't just this company launching this product. It was this whole community behind it is B to B open source software
06:17 - Jeff
was really the opportunity to have prestige and recognition as someone behind a very important civic effort. So you, you gave them the village to, to virtue signal, if you will uh that, you know, hey, I'm involved in this important project. Let me tell you about how I'm involved in this thing. And therefore my personal prestige and image is heightened because of that. And that's what influential people want. They need uh to be able to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. And that's part of what it needs to be influential.
06:52 - Daniel
So you made them look good. You're saying we're gonna make you look good. Well, we didn't say that. But
06:56 - Jeff
that's what we did.
06:57 - Daniel
Let me ask you communicated, yes, obviously, no, obviously you communicated that video that you are
07:03 - Jeff
We picked you because you're special and because you're special, you're gonna be told things, no one else knows and we hope you'll tell your friends. Basically, it was that basic and it worked.
07:13 - Daniel
That's fantastic. Yeah, I mean, the best way is to have a community sell the entire idea.
07:18 - Jeff
Marketing works because you have no reason not to believe your friend or your or your relative or your minister, someone who, you know, you have no reason to believe that they have any other motive in telling you the truth, right? That's why word of mouth marketing works. And what we discovered, there's lots of psychology behind this is that you can actually channel that stream of, of uh messaging if you will and it's very believable.
07:45 - Daniel
Alright, great. So let's talk about another lesson. You hinted at this when I was asking you about your day. This is obviously something you've probably had to do many, many times in your career. And you said handling a media crisis begins long before the crisis. So why, why does it begin long before the crisis? And maybe you got a story about how you've handled the crisis before?
08:05 - Jeff
Uh Well, it begins by establishing credibility uh for yourself. That is if you're the person, uh public relations counselor called in to handle a crisis, you're much more likely to succeed if you are known by the person who calls you in and you're known by the media that you're gonna be working with. And you have you, you bring to the part of credibility that uh speeds things up if you will in the process. So that's, that's what I mean by it starts long before the crisis. You're looking for example, a crisis. Sure.
08:35 - Daniel
Yeah, let me, let me before you tell Ester, let me follow up on that because I think that's a key point really for any public relations pitching. So, you know, I write for marketing Sherp, I get pitched all the time and one, there's so many pr folks today, there are great pr folks too, of course, right? There's so many PR folks today that are focused on their message and their story and getting it in there and getting the right link back and getting that domain authority, right? And I hear a lot less that are focused on what I have to focus on every day is marketing Sherpa's readers and marketing her audience because they overlook the fact that if this doesn't serve the readers or the listeners of this podcast, it doesn't matter. I write all day about your company, it doesn't matter. So, tell me just a bit about that. You mentioned it's important for crisis communication. But I imagine that relationship building is essential to all public
09:21 - Jeff
It is. And I write about that in the book too, about how to think like a journalist. And what that means is what you're saying, Daniel is that you're, you're not selling them a story, you're helping them solve their problem, which gives me readers interesting information that no one else knows that they care about, right? So, hey, that, that's your, that's a good pitch. Don't care about my story, but hey, here's this cool thing that something happened your readers care about and here's, I've already lined up for you three people to talk with. Here's the phone number, here's your email address, right? So to me, successful pr is helping a journal to solve their problem and helping them get the work done. And that's really done. The simple as it is what public relations is about.
10:04 - Daniel
I, I mean, that's, I'd say it's good marketing to sell uh helping not selling, right? Um Let's talk about this crisis, communication specifically, you mentioned uh it involved a dead racehorse,
10:16 - Jeff
the most dramatic crisis situation that we've been involved in. Uh So our agency represented a horse race. Uh, the steeplechase, the IO steeplechase, which is the second largest steeplechase in AmericAIn terms of size. It's a pretty big, pretty big deal, pretty big race. It's been going on for about, uh, 80 years now. Anyway, for 11 days, the steeplechase is a series of six races throughout the day. It's a whole meet. The feature race is the IOS this big Steaks race and 11 years later, just as the winning horse crossed the line, it collapsed and died of an aneurysm. And so you can imagine the uh problem we were dealt with. Uh, and, but we were able to successfully basically keep it to a one day story. And most importantly, we were able to communicate the message really throughout the whole thing that it would have happened that the horse did not die because it was racing that it was, did not die because of over exertion that aneurysms can happen when they're walking from one part to the other. And then the, and, and we, we, we accomplished two things. We, we communicate a reason why this happened that did not reflect poorly on the organization who is our client, right? A and B, we kept it to a one day story. This did not drag out over a week of uncovering yet another reason why this happened or, you know, the, the fair isn't behind the organization itself. And we accomplish these things basically by telling the truth quickly and to everyone that we knew and answering every question we could that day. So there were no more questions to ask the next day, right? So we had so we, we did it by being honest and open, which as odd as it may sound to people who don't do. Pr that's what crisis communication is. It's not lying and hiding things. It's giving people access to information that they want within a context that you, that you provided for. So our context was an aneurysm is not caused by exertion. Aneurysm happens randomly at any time. And that's what happened today. So that's that story. Let
12:32 - Daniel
play the role of skeptical reporter for a minute, right? So because one could also hear that story of, you know, there's something bad that happened because of a company's product. And not surprisingly, the company's line on that is it's not our fault, right?
12:46 - Jeff
we were, we were successful because the 1st 2nd rule, I guess the Pr that Edward Bernays, the father of pr said years ago was have someone else tell you the story for you if you want to be believed. So we didn't tell that story. Uh The track veterinarian told that story uh and very convincingly as an expert on equine medicine that this is what happens. And I, so yeah, that that's how we were able to uh assuage feelings that we were trying to hide or lie about something. We didn't, we didn't tell it, someone else told us who had credibility.
13:21 - Daniel
Yes. That's fantastic. That's what I was going to ask about credibility. Either whether you're in your pr for crisis communications or in your marketing messaging, you can say whatever you want, right? It comes down to the credibility around. All right, let's talk about another lesson. I like it so much. I opened the podcast with it, charging what it is worth, not what it costs. And you actually learned this, I think not from someone in marketing but from someone in entertainment. So how did you learn this lesson? I
13:48 - Jeff
I learned this from John Rich country music star John Rich, who I don't know is not a personal friend of mine. Uh but we had a party at his house one time for a client, a client had a 1/15 anniversary party, really knock out all the stops, have a big deal. And John Rich lives in a home that's kind of designed for this sort of thing and he never doesn't do it very much anyway, the long and short of it, we had an over the top event for this client that impressed everyone there. Uh All the clients were there, all the prospects were there. Uh and it cost a lot of money. But uh it was more than worth what it costs. That's what I mean, by charging what it uh what it's worth, not what it cost. Uh That was really the, the image that we learned from John Rich was that he didn't nickel and dime, he didn't talk about every, you know, extra piece of shrimp he's going to have to buy for the evening. It was simply, here's the price and I'm going to give you the best thing you've ever had in your life for this amount of money. And he did so, you know, rather than just him singing, he brought his entire band in, gave an extra hour concert to a room for about 200 people. Uh, he personally had his picture taken with everyone there. He, you know, spoke to everyone. It was a, it was a, it was a real experience to someone. It's a lifetime experience. People remember the rest of their lives and that's what is worse.
15:19 - Daniel
Well, who, who approached, who did you reach out to John Richardson? Hey, we're,
15:24 - Jeff
reached out to John, we had a uh I, I'm in Nashville. So, you know, these kind of things happen here. We had a, a contact in the music business who let it be known that uh he occasionally had his uh used his house as an, as an event venue and for the right amount of money in the right, in the right terms, he would do it again and he, and he did and again, he, he, he went the extra mile throughout the whole thing. He even went over there. I mean, we spent, I mean, the afternoon filming a uh an invitation video that we sent out to everyone inviting him to the party. So it wasn't just a written invitation. It was, you know, this country music star. Hey, I'm here to help, you know, this client Dsi of this FTH anniversary party came out here and he picked up his guitar. I have a song on the spot, you know, for this video. So it just, I guess what I'm trying to communicate is is that uh you know, if you could do something, do it wholeheartedly and with both feet,
16:19 - Daniel
hear that and let me ask you too. Um So when we talk about this, you know, I think there's a lot of perceived value here, right? So someone here's, you know, you're using uh John Richard to help promote your event. So here's John Rich, there's a lot of perceived value but and I, I wanna say a story real quick, but I wanna get you thinking, how did you communicate that perceived value to someone let's say like me who isn't a big John Rich fan or would barely know who he is, right? Celebrity is a very funny thing. Celebrity to one person is very powerful to someone else who don't, they don't know who it is. It's nothing at all. Just as an example real quick. I wanna give you we have a a free marketing course. And in fast class number 12, our Ceo Flint mclaughlin teaches position the customers gain as the direct object of the sentence, right position the customers gain as a direct object of the sentence. And this is obviously it's key for marketing, it's key for anything you're selling. But when we're talking about a celebrity, now we've got this thing influence marketing where we've got these micro celebrities, right? That customer's gain is gonna be so variably different if they are a big, for example, John Rich fan or if you know, they don't really know who he is. So, so how did you use that? So you, you paid what was worth? That's great. How did you use that to promote to people that also might not even know who this was?
17:32 - Jeff
a really good question because really no one who we invited did not know who John Rich was. Uh you know, so I guess that's the answer to that question. I mean that we held this event during a time of a big convention in Nashville for people in this client's industry. So we are people already in Nashville because they wanted to experience the Nashville thing, right? Which is country music and that whole po ass. So, so you, you offer those people the opportunity to go have a party at the private residence of one of the most well known country music stars in the country when they're already wound up into that country music vibe. Uh, you know, it was, it was a no loss. There was, there was, we didn't have the need to convince people that it was a big deal. I guess that's what I was trying to say.
18:23 - Daniel
Well, I think the lesson from there and this is a challenge. Right? Because I, again, there's, if you are a brand big enough, I, you know, interviewed uh uh someone earlier who worked with um major fashion labels and got Scarlett Johansson as the global brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton, right? Makes a lot of sense, right? But every small brand now even can use those what we call influencers or micro, micro influencers. And so for I hear what you're saying, it's finding that right value for whoever you're gonna hire on their value proposition as an individual celebrity, as an influencer that's gonna naturally align with your audience where they're gonna wanna kind of slide into that without you having to do two things. Sell the value of, oh, this is a great person you're going to hear about in this experience and this is the value of our brand. Um
19:05 - Jeff
there was, it was also easy with Bridge because he is an entrepreneur and, and his message was very much in line with the uh what the people who were at that party believed in which is uh you know, value propositions, uh you know, seeing what the market needs and providing it, uh you know, working hard and not giving up and all those sort of things that entrepreneurs cut their teeth on. That was what he spoke about during this event. Uh So, yeah, it was a, he didn't need to be uh convinced or prepped to relate to the audience. It was a, it was a pretty direct match.
19:42 - Daniel
That, that's, that's awesome because, you know, again, finding that right message is key to tie to your message. I went to an event once and I, I don't want to name the event or the celebrity because I don't wanna call them out. But it was a marketing event. Uh, they had a name that wasn't their birth name. And when they were asked on stage about branding, they're like, I don't believe in branding. I just sing music and play really good music. And then they gave a speech about, about social justice and prison reform, all great things. But you had an audience of marketers who was really interested in how this person created this brand and how did they do these things? And they had decided that they were a different thing that day and didn't want to talk about it, which they still play great music. It was entertaining for that sense. But my gosh, you know, they didn't really, I don't think that organization got the bang for the buck they could have from that individual because
20:27 - Jeff
arrogant sounds like.
20:29 - Daniel
Yeah. Um Well, let's talk about. So you talked about some, some things with different brands. You've worked on different clients you've worked on, but you yourself, let's talk. This story is more about you personally. Uh as you said, you own an agency, now you're part of another agency and I'll let you tell that story. But the main lesson is the most important thing when merging companies is that the two owners should understand and trust each other. So can you tell us a bit about your journey? I mean, briefly, you built an agency, you got to the point of selling it, take us from there.
20:57 - Jeff
Yes. So I built the agency and ran it for 20 years and it was time to do the next measure. So I decided to sell it. And uh in doing so I know you do what you do, you hire a business partner to find people for you. And I talked to several different people. And the lesson that I learned here is, as you said, Daniel, the key to a successful sale of a business merger of two businesses is that the two owners need to uh like to admire and trust each other. Uh because everything really flows from that just like in any business, the culture of a, of a company really flows from the personality of the CEO at least in my experiences kind of the things the CEO cares about what the company cares about. Well, when the two owners of two companies come together and they both care about the same things and, uh, and, and are honest about how the deal is gonna go, then it just goes really well. I mean, this has been three years since we, uh, since we merged the Bradford Group with Dalton Agency. Uh, and all of our employers are still here and happy. All of our clients are still here and happy and we're growing uh because there wasn't any uh you know, sperm and drawing, it wasn't any drama because between the two, I, we both agreed upon uh you know how we both agreed on what kind of culture made sense for the company, we both agreed on how to proceed. Uh We both agreed on basic business philosophy. So yeah, that's, that would be my secret to a successful merger.
22:28 - Daniel
Well, can you take us a bit into the room of how you did that? I'd imagine this is maybe a little bit, it's like one part d dating or 11 part, you know, hiring someone, one part, all these different things and you did it. I I think most of this happened because I know you merged right at the beginning of COVID. So I think most of this happened when you could spend time together, you're in two different cities. So take us through like how long did this take? Did you visit? You know that agency, did they come and visit you? Did you spend time together? Did you spend time with the employees? Did you talk about people they knew? Did you talk to their ex-wives, ex fiance? You know what I mean? What did you do to kind of get into the head really, really sense that you understood people? Cause I'll mention too you were a pure exec all your life. You sit down and talk to Jeff Bradford. It's gonna be engaging, you know what I mean? But like how do you uncover that when it's two kinds of marketers pr guys uncover really what's underneath there and really get to know each other. Well, like you
23:19 - Jeff
you spend time with each other. So, uh uh so Jim Dalton, the fellow who bought my company, uh you know, we met here in Nashville probably, you know, three or four times over a period of six months. He would, he would be in Nashville. He already had an agency here. He bought a small agency here already. So he was already the reason to be here. Uh And then, yeah, when we got, when we got serious, then I went down to Jacksonville where Dalton is based and met all of his key people and made sure that, you know, there was a good chemistry there. Um And then I went to the Atlanta office and did the same thing and made sure. Yeah. And that was the senior people there. So, yes, it was a sort of a dating process if you will. But getting to know the people make sure that you could look at them eye to eye, that they knew what they were talking about, that they were committed as you were. And then when we, when we constantly had this sale, then, uh yeah, Jim Dalton came to Nashville. We had a bed of commentary with all the employees here. I said, here's what's going on and here's our new partner and he was very open and honest with them and they were the same with him. So yeah, throughout the whole process, it was a kind of feeling each other out vetting each other and then uh with uh with the company with employees, it was being honest and open with what's going to happen, going here forward and here, how here's how you will be involved and here's how you can make it better.
24:45 - Daniel
So, is that something too that, are you communicating with the employees before this ever happens? They're like, hey, kinda, here's, here's where I am in my career. I'm thinking of finding, you know, an agency to merge with, you know, so I can kind of move on and step out.
24:58 - Jeff
You would never do that. I mean, you don't, you never want to tip your hand if you're selling your agency before your agency is sold. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That, that, that tends to cause storms and drums in the marketplace if there were in the street. Oh, Bradford is for sale when your clients start heading for the door and employees start getting nervous. So, no, you don't announce it till the deal is done.
25:20 - Daniel
Ok, great. Uh So let me ask you, we, that's kind of a capstone of your career. I wanna ask you about something earlier in your career, kind of how you started out. And I'm gonna read just a little two, little quick excerpts from your book and I won't embarrass you by reading the whole book. But I do want to read these two little excerpts on top of that. That's, that's part two. no, because one thing I've noticed is, um, we have all this, everyone wants to be a thought leader now. Right. I mean, everyone wants to be a thought. Everyone I hear from is a thought leader. They think they're a thought leader. They could be starting out, it could be their first day on their job. Right out of college. Everyone's a thought leader and they have this idea and I think it's right. It's not just in business, I think, you know, they, we have this idea and we see it in bigger society, we see the Kardashians and all these people and they have these careers that are built on just, I don't know. I, I don't even know if that is even being a thought leader. But so let me read you these two excerpts. Uh Then I wanna ask how you're a thought leader. And also I tied into, I, I love what you're saying because it's kind of how I set up this podcast. So, um, one thing you say, uh being a thought leader, you have to be an innovative thinker. You say, how do you become an innovative thinker? The process begins by reading a lot. My suggestion is at least two books a month, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal every day, 3 to 5 blogs of thought leaders you admire in relevant trade publications and read widely outside your field. Read about many things that interest you, which will result in cross fertilization from whence innovative ideas spring. So I really like talking about doing the homework, doing the work it takes, I think that's something we see less of these days. Now, I just want to read on the other side of that. Here's the negative of what happens if you don't do that. You talk about jargon which is way over you today. And you say watching someone use jargon in a business meeting or sales pitch is like watching a child curse for the first time. He doesn't really know what he is saying, but he's seen grown ups say it and it sounds powerful and that's a downside when you try to be a thought leader before you are. So let me get something from you just from your experience. What did you do? How did you build up to the point of being a thought leader, being an agency and doing these things? Sounds like you put in the work. Yeah,
27:19 - Jeff
not sure. I'm a thought leader. I'm a, I'm apr man. Uh I think that is an overused term, you know, it is somewhat kind of comical. So how did I do it? Yeah, I just, I, I did the work, right? And I think that's most entrepreneurs, most business owners, I'm sure you would say the same thing. Daniel, it's a matter of as, uh I think Thomas Edison or Einstein is the same, I think, right? The success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration that it's a matter of deciding what you want to do, of focusing on knowing. I mean, first it's a matter of discerning what you want to do and that requires, I think a larger education to me, it was liberal arts who helped me do that, being able to understand culture and literature and art. It's different for the people. I think first you discern what is important to you and then, and then you focus intently on doing that thing. And I think when you, when you do that, then the discipline simply arises as a result of that commitment. I think it's difficult to be disciplined without focus, right? But that means you're disciplined about what you need, you need a reason to be. So I think what you've done is work and then you, when you focus, you realize, OK, in order to be successful, pr I need to be a good writer. I need to know how to talk to reporters. I need to know how to convince them that. What I have to say is worth listening to. I need to be able to understand how to explain the clients, uh how marketing works and how stimulus response and medium works and how do you each, each of those, you know, come together to make a successful public relations campaign. So, yeah, you're doing the work, you're constantly learning and that's what I like about my profession about marketing in general is that it requires you to be constantly learning. Uh because unlike, oh more state occupations, I guess, are those that are based upon using the same rules over and over again. Marketing and public relations is about finding out what is new constantly and incorporating that into the mix that you're creating to get people's attention and cause them to do what you want them to do. That's what marketing is. It's making things happen, right? It's making people buy something, vote for something, go somewhere. Uh it's action. So it's not just, you know, words and pictures, but it's creating an action on the other end of that process. That's right.
29:44 - Daniel
No, it's going to do that you need to be deeply knowledgeable about all of your clients industries too. So, you know, when something is newsworthy, so you know, when something is worthwhile and that takes, that takes homework to be knowledgeable
29:54 - Jeff
two things knowledgeable about the industry that you're in or the that your clients in. You need to be knowledgeable about the larger culture within which you move and live. Because it's the interaction between those two things where things happen, where news happens, where uh uh diversity happens, where uh growth happens is when what you're doing interacts with what the culture is doing. And that's the foundation of public relations really?
30:23 - Daniel
And let me tell you, I, I pulled out that part of the book for two reasons and, and I want to mention it specifically too because it's, it's how I specifically set up the, how I made it a marketing podcast, how it functions. So the first part where you talk about essentially doing that homework, actually learning before you put yourself out as a thought leader. And you know what you knew, like as you know, when I set up, you know, people who come on this podcast, we have an application and that application is all about their stories, right? And so people pitched me to have guests on here all the time. They're like, oh, it's the CEO of this or the CEO of this. And it'll be great and I understand that's how pr guests are traditionally picked. They're like, it's this person or this thing. But, you know, we have the application. It's like, what have you actually done? What have you actually learned and done? Teach us. It doesn't really matter to our audience who the guest is. Right. It does a little right. If they see someone, hey, that person's in my industry, I want to learn from them mostly. What matters my guess is from people who listen to this is that they can learn something, right? That's what they got out of it. I'm gonna learn something from the listener. So if you're pitching this instead of pitching, hey, it's this person pitch, what have they learned and what can they teach? Right? And that's why I love where you say, hey, if you want to be a thought leader, the first step is read the New York Times, read the Wall Street Journal, read all these influences, read, read, read, learn, learn, learn before you can teach, right? Um The, the second thing I like is when you talk about jargon, obviously, incredibly overused. Use my favorite example in the book Scalability. My gosh. I, mean, what does that even mean? And the way that it relates to how we've set this up and kind of we were talking in the beginning of this podcast before we record it is that's why we focus on stories here. I've heard so many podcasts, I've seen just so many different types of communication, marketing ads where they're talking about the same industry jargon, you know, be authentic, be real, whatever. And it's just, you know, the same and it just kind of washes over you and it's something that I've written about. I've called it Bland advertising. Right. You've got to fill a certain space with a copy. It all sounds right. All the right words are used when you stop and think they didn't really say anything. And that's why we focus so much on stories. There's
32:20 - Jeff
soul in it just reading about that recently as a matter of fact. But the difference between sociology and mythology, uh which, which is what I talk about. I, I believe that marketing is mythology that is tapping into things that we know unconsciously and have known forever. And that, that's why mythology beats sociology because it has a reason why it has a direction it's moving and it's not just a collection of facts that you talk about, but it has a real has value, right? Something is better than something else. Yeah,
32:56 - Daniel
I like that. Well, and here's my theory: that is hard, right? It is hard to put in that work and get that knowledge and build to a subject matter expertise and it's hard to find. One thing you're talking about is a value proposition. So what we do is we kind of do the lazy thing just refer to, ok, like I've got this jargon and I've had it. I've started my career as a copywriter. I've had this, I've had clients come to me and there's this ad that needs to be written, this thing that needs to be done. There's nothing really to say about it. Right. So, what I've said before about writing is it's 80% having the right thing to say and 20% saying it well, so we just go back and we use jargon because I love, that's why I love what you said where it sounds like, you know, that kid, they cursed for the first time. They were saying those words, they've seen it act but they don't know what it means.
33:37 - Jeff
So I also like to say jargon is about preds, something I already thought of an idea and it's been worn out over time. That time you use it, it, it no longer has any juice in it like scalability, you know, or, or it's a jargon for people who don't think basically simply just use words as a way to fill space like you said,
34:03 - Daniel
I think also too, in fairness, you know, I was, I was asked before by a non native English speaker how they could become a copywriter. And I said, we're all non native to begin with. So my career, I went from high end real estate and some of those things, I went to B to B and software and technology and I didn't know it at all. And so one thing is well, and then I do think this is my not defensive jargon, but where it comes in is you need to be able to speak the language, right? You need to be, every industry has a language. But that's why I love what you say. Like if you say uh if it's off a bit, people sniff you out pretty quickly. And that's where your analogy is so great about the child cursing. It's just off a bit. It doesn't seem right. I'll give you just one quick example. And you're welcome to an example. We can move on. I wanna spend all day on this. But we have uh here we, we use uh CRM and an email platform, marketing automation platform. I won't mention the company, I'm not trying to. But uh you know, some another, you know, we use basically one of the biggest companies in the space, the other biggest company in the space. I had a sales call with them. We're interested in talking about it and the sales rep kept using the term scalability and he just kept using it. I was trying to figure out what he was talking about because again, we're using one of the biggest companies in the space. It is cloud based, it is infinitely scalable. We just need to pay more money if the database grows like that, and he kept just throwing around how, oh, scalability issues in this. And so, you know, I just stopped the conversation and I asked him, I said, I have an understanding of what scalability means. What do you think scalability means that don't think we're on the same page, you know, and at the end of the day, I'm not trying to ask you
35:29 - Jeff
35:30 - Daniel
right. That's exactly right. Inconceivable. Yes. That's exactly right. And so what I think with jargon is like, it's a two edged sword. It's one when I came into the technology and the software industry man, I did the work I read, ewe I read, I read all these things and I wanted, I talked to some of the smartest people in the company, one of the companies I work with is IBM and I wanted to know and understand because I wanted to be fluent in that language. But on the flip side, boy, if you don't know it yet and you try to use it, you will sound like the toddler that's cursing.
36:02 - Jeff
There is good jargon and bad jargon, right? So jargon in his, in his purest sense is actually good writing and good thinking because it, it, it, it economizes a whole uh way of, you know, like hundreds of words into a couple of words, right? So like in the book, I talk about, you know, the concept of constance, for instance, is a jargon. But if you're a Catholic, you understand it, right? It, it, it, it creates it in one word, it capsulated, it would take about 400 words to explain. But you use that term and you know, down the pub and you look like an idiot. So you have to use, you know, jargon is content. If you're at a tech conference, you need to be able to talk about acronyms. That makes sense to me. But my main beef is with jargon in the managerial profession, which is not about communicating a tangible thing like it is in technology, but it's about obfuscating really. Uh what is, what's, what's, what you're not doing or I guess it's about talking about vague concepts that have nothing to do with reality but they somehow get you through a meaning or that somehow, you know, get you on the next desk of, in the bureaucracy. But it's not about, actually, it's not about making something happen in the real world. That's my problem, which are..
37:22 - Daniel
it's not about actually communicating, right? I mean, that's what actually it's opposite of communicating, right?
37:25 - Jeff
It's obfuscation. Yeah.
37:30 - Daniel
All right. Well, in the first half of the podcast we talk about lessons from the things you made. That's what we do as marketers as pr people, uniquely, we get to make things I've never been an auditor or a podiatrist or something, but I don't feel like they leave every day having made things, we've made brands, we've made companies, we've made products, we made things happen. Uh In the second half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from the people we collaborated with. So another great thing we get to do is work with people, collaborate with people. Your first lesson, you say think big and you learn this from Alan Valentine, the CEO of the Nashville Symphony. So I think this kind of goes back to that original story we were talking about, about building a symphony hall. How did you learn from Allen to think big? Well, he did.
38:08 - Jeff
So he came to the Nashville Symphony at a time when it was not a very well known national orchestra when it was playing in a second rate uh concert hall. And when it wasn't that big of a deal, but simply, he had a vision for it to be one of the best orchestras in the country. And he had a vision that he would go to Carnegie Hall and he had a vision that they would build one of the best concert halls in the world. And he did all those things and I think it was really just through his force of personality. No, let me take that back. I think it was just simply to his fervent belief that something could happen, that it affected other people. And it's about uh there's another story in the book about Russian propaganda. And then one of Russian best techniques is to invent a reality and insist that it exists. They did, they did this in the Ukraine, for instance, they invented a part of Ukraine that they called Russia and say that it now exists. Well, that's a large and I think that's what people who think they do that they invent a reality. We talked about Steve Jobs, the reality distortion field. For instance, Steve Jobs invented a reality that we needed to be able to look at a phone and have it do these sorts of things. And it happened and it succeeded wildly. Alan Valentine, the CEO of the National Symphony saw the reality of a world class concert hall. Then he took the orchestra to Carnegie Hall to show people what a world class hall sounds like. So what he did was he took basically all the wealthy people in town and went to New York one year and heard our 70 play Carnegie Hall and he came in and said, see, that's the difference because he couldn't understand what's wrong with our concert hall. It sounds fine to me when they, when they heard what it could sound like, then he was able to transfer his reality to their heads if you will, right? He is able to say that's what could happen here. Now, let's go make it happen. And, that was inspiring and it worked. And within six years they had a new $150 million world class costume hall.
40:16 - Daniel
Well, in fairness, you also mentioned Elon Musk in the book, which I think it is probably the more positive example, Elon is the same sort of guy, right?
40:21 - Jeff
I think he is successful. Think of that. Elon, who's done some remarkably stupid things, uh who is autistic, who is, you know, all the charts just kind of weird, but he's, he's successful. He's treated as sort of a lovable mad scientist because he thinks big and he accomplishes big things. He just doesn't brag. He actually, like you say, did Daniel does the work to uh to make big things happen. I think people are attracted to that. I think they're attracted to people who see things differently and who have the focus and the uh dedication to making it happen.
41:00 - Daniel
And I think there's a lesson there for all leaders, you know, listening. It's not just enough. You know, again, I say the worst ads ever written is just, it's ok. We've got this space, we bought this space in the newspaper and I fill it with an ad so that's what we're talking about. And so backing up from that the worst marketing plans are marketing plans for some is not really a good strategy. And so it begins with, like you said, think big, what is yours? I've heard it called the big hairy audacious goal, right? What is that? Where are we driving the organization? Marketing comes in with great things like value propositions and plans and messaging and communicating. But you need that vision and you, I think personally if you're looking for it from your agency or your copyright or whatever, you're looking, you're looking in the wrong place. That is the soul of an organization, right?
41:38 - Jeff
right. It needs to cut from the organization itself and then it needs to come from deep within the organization.
41:43 - Daniel
Right? Absolutely. Um All right, you also mentioned, here's another lesson, well crafted video can shape perceptions by connecting emotionally with your audience. And you learn this from Stan Noak, the Vice President of Marketing of Red Hat Holding. So how did you learn this from us? Actually, it's a red cat, I'm sorry, red cat, red cat holdings. How did you learn this from Stan?
42:03 - Jeff
by seeing him do it. So uh Stan is a relatively recent uh joint red cat, which is a military drone company and he came to the organization from a marketing background, but also from a film background, he had a lot of experience in Hollywood. And so he brings that sensitivity that a cinematographer brings to marketing, which you probably see Daniel, that's that sensitivity is being able to uh understand how uh you can communicate beyond words. How did they tilt the head the way someone, the way light reflects off something, the way something is set up with the pause between words, how those things communicate just as well as the words on the page communicate. And I think that it takes that cinematography, sensitivity to understand that. And that's what I mean by well crafted and mostly connected videos. It's not just the script itself that's well done because there was no script, what he was putting together. What I, what I saw happened uh with Stan in Salt Lake City and the whole day of filming was so we just talking to people and, and, and filming it, but being aware of what they were saying, being able to pick up on the subtle cues throughout that day.
43:25 - Daniel
Well, I think it's communication that helps communicate a message. But I'm gonna ask you a second about how to identify that right message to communicate to the video, right? Like kind of almost that instructional element of the video. And I'll give you an example real quick while you're thinking if there's something we talk about is the prospects perception gap, right? So as human beings, we have a difficult ability to perceive value, right? So one example is uh there's a um here in Jacksonville and one client I had way back in the day, there's a beautiful huge community, it's called Queens Harbor. Uh there's yachting and golf and all these things. But when you drive up to Queens Harbor, when you see the entrance, the entrance is like Versailles, I mean, it's, this amazing entrance is amazing. You know, we,
44:04 - Jeff
had its anniversary party there last couple of months ago.
44:08 - Daniel
Yeah. And so you drive up and it's like Versailles. And so now when you get actually into that community, it could be mobile homes or trailers, like, you don't know what it is and you can't even if it's nice homes, like, you know, we're not smart enough if we're buying a home to know like, ok, that the structural integrity of the home or the real 10 year value of a home I buy here are all the things that are actually the the true value of finding where to buy a home or how will my neighbors be, what it will be like to live here? What's the air quality, all these other things? Right? But what we can drive up and see is like this is an amazing and beautiful entrance. I can tell that. So when I drive up, you know, I will get a sense there must be something good inside or, or, you know, once I buy the house, when my friends drive up, they'll be impressed right again. So we can't perceive value. So we take that as a shortcut, we look at that amazing sign and then we consider that for whatever value we really should be considering like how all the home is built or you know, whatnot. So when it comes to video, I think video is kind of doing the same things for the customer. Right. It's kind of giving, it's kind of trying to close that prospects, perception gap, right? So you talked about military client, I
45:10 - Jeff
what you're talking about, you know, Daniel wrote a book called Thinking Fast and Slow. I don't know if you've read that or not. Uh, and he talks about it, it's actually a pretty old idea that we have two ways of thinking. One is the automatic instinctual way that we will make most decisions by we, you know, we use visual auditory all factory clues to do that. And the other is uh I guess you call it thoughtful thinking, right? Where we actually step back and consider, like you're saying, it was a whole well built. Is this, is this the details of this situation actually bear out the impression that it gives and yeah, I think that that's what I think good marketing knows how to tap into the uh the levers in our brains to think in level one really to, to use our instincts to help cause people to act the way that we want, we want people to act. And I think video is particularly good at tapping those level one levels if you will, because it does communicate on more than just the auditory level because it does engage our sense of sight and our sense of myth and our sense of story, uh which is what level one taps into level one thinking taps into myth and story and wanting to be part of something larger than yourself and really just instinctually moving towards something. So, yeah, that's what I think the video does. It taps into the, you know, that sort of emotional thinking
46:40 - Daniel
Correct me if I'm wrong. I think what Con and Todd discovered was even when we think we're making decisions because of level two thinking, it's actually because of that level one thinking. And so I think as marketers
46:51 - Jeff
well, right, I think we back rationalize our decisions but it was like, you know, all decisions are all my decisions are emotional decisions. But we then overlay that with the rationalization of why we did say, oh, well, you know, I bought this red Corvette because uh you know, particularly this, this car has this, these kinds of specs and this sort of thing. We bought it because it's a beautiful car and we want to have it, you know.
47:18 - Daniel
Yeah, we and also partly too, we wanted a person to think of a specific thing when they saw us driving up in it, right?
47:24 - Jeff
Want to be seen in a particular way that in our possession is typically our clues have what to be seen.
47:31 - Daniel
And so I think a great lesson for me as a marketer from that always is when we're communicating, especially through something like video, when you talk about some of the emotions that come through to really any of our communications, what real value are we delivering? And what signifier can we use to communicate that value to get that message through to someone? So, for example, if the real value we're delivering, like when someone's buying a corvette isn't necessarily that this is a reliable quality automobile or whatever, but it is, you will be seen as a cool and successful person when you drive up, how can we communicate that? Is it having, I don't know, Brad Pitt, you know, driving up in the car and stepping out for you
48:04 - Jeff
drive in the car. That's pretty old. Right? That's a pretty tried and tested tactic. Exactly.
48:10 - Daniel
And, and so for anyone's product, whether it's B to B or B to CB, to CB to B, sometimes the thing that we want people to understand is you won't get fired for making this decision. Right. It's not really that.
48:21 - Jeff
48:21 - Daniel
Right. That it's just about technology. So that's just something to consider when you're saying your own messages. Think about the prospects, perception gap, think about what Jeff's talk about as well is what is the customer really buying? What value do you really need to communicate? It might not be the speeds and feeds,
48:34 - Jeff
just benefits and features, right? These are old ideas, I mean, right, you see sell benefits about features, right? So the benefit is how does this product make you feel a feature? What are the things, the product does that, you know, has these switches this color. No, you, you want to sell how it makes you feel put and well summed up.
48:52 - Daniel
Not a new idea, but I will also say I will quote Steven Covey and say common sense is not always common practice and I often see features especially in B to B promoted a lot more than benefits. Oh
49:07 - Jeff
just do it real quick on that though. Look at the difference between it is not as bad today as it used to be years ago. But packaging for an apple peripheral versus a Microsoft peripheral, there used to be even be a joke about it that the you know the apple package is very sleek and communicates an emotional, I don't know, aesthetic, beauty of peace, you know harmony and whereas the Microsoft package communicates features, you know this, this this and not around this, not wrong, you know this this and that these X number of reports which has nothing to do with satisfying your desire for anything, right? That's to me that's the real dichotomy there between those two companies
49:51 - Daniel
who has a higher margin and more cash than anyone else in the world.
49:57 - Jeff
They sell the machines for a premium because they're tapping into archetypical needs. Actually, I actually wrote a chapter in the book about this, about what technology needs, needs English makers because English makers like me, like you, maybe we sell the myths that these products need to be bought by people.
50:19 - Daniel
I'm glad you said it. So I want to actually pull out one other thing from the book and I want to ask your, your, your thoughts real quick about a specific technology. I don't know if you've seen some about chat GP T or some of this generative AI, yeah. And I've heard some things about how, you know, well, and that maybe I'm taking this a little personally because I'm a writer like, oh, how we will not need writers anymore because you know, the AI is gonna be able to write some stuff for us. And what I thought was really interesting about your book too is you, you have many chapters, you have about pr marketing and all sorts of things. But your first set of chapters, your whole first set of stories is about writing, right? And it could be for an agency owner, it could be about finding clients that would be a sensible, you know, first set, it could be about, you know, a lot of things running an agency. Your whole first set is about writing and you get deep into Norman and Anglo Saxon words and all these things. But I want to just mention this also uh this quote. Um first as this book notes, more than once good writing is simply good thinking, made visible. The process we follow when we write well, is very similar to the process of thinking clearly and clearly, organized and honestly is behind every successful marketing effort and anything done well for that matter. So I just want to get your thoughts. There's this buzz now about AI that it can write for you. Do you even need writers and designers anymore? The AI will create everything. Do you have any thoughts about that?
51:32 - Jeff
I think it's kind of scary. I've test driven check GP T as I'm sure you have too. It was astounding and how life like it was the best way to say it. But, you know, on reflection, I think that you're right. I think it's the, like you said earlier on Daniel, sometimes copywriting is just filling in blanks of space that you purchased. I think that the AI produced a copy at least for now. Is that sort of filling in blanks, the space that you purchase? I don't think it has a soul or spirit or an animating idea behind it. I know, I think it, I think it can mimic that because it does organize thoughts into logical sequence that uh you know, 123, here's these two supporting these three, supporting arguments, but it doesn't have that. What would you say? The animating spirit, that passion, the overarching uh soul is something that you produce, writing to us. Now, who knows? I think it, it, it could possibly get there. But I, it's still can't decide what's important and what's not important. And that's what humans will always do. Hopefully, if uh if we get beyond that, then we will ourselves have become automatons. If we get beyond making ethical decisions based upon fundamental values, then we are machines. I think
53:04 - Daniel
well put. Yeah, we're just following an algorithm.
53:06 - Jeff
So like, yeah,
53:09 - Daniel
I mean, I think what it comes down to, as you mentioned, is if you're the CEO of a company, you cannot outsource your reason for being, you're as the French say, Raison d'etre, you cannot outsource that to your agency. And if you are the CMO and the marketer or whatever in the marketing organization, yeah, I think, you know, like I said, 20% of writing is saying it well and maybe use AI to help s say that stuff well, but you cannot outsource determining what your value proposition is. And some of these fundamental questions that you essentially answer. I know for me personally when I'm trying to figure something else, something out I start writing. I'm writing a landing page. I'm writing an email. I'm writing an article. That's how I figured it out.
53:44 - Jeff
I think AI generated copy will become a tool rather than a threat. So I've talked to some friends of mine who are in the ACA academics and they say, how are you going to create papers going forward? How do you know if it's written by a person or, or a human or human or, or a bot? And they said, you know, there are already programs online to solve that. He said the main thing, what he said was interesting to me. I think we'll get through this just like math, got through the calculator. So, you know, the calculator became a tool to enable math teachers to do more than they could do before. They could teach their students higher level concepts. Because the, you know, the, the uh road work if you will is taken care of by technology, I think that's how we'll see. AI generated copy going forward, it will be a tool to enable us to do things that we couldn't do before. So I'm optimistic that I, I think the humans will still rise above these tools and use them to think in ways that we couldn't think before. And that's very exciting to me, Daniel as you. So, all the work if you will, of, you know, the hard work of fundamental thinking is done by AI and then you're able to take it to the next level of discerning what's worth doing and what's not worth doing. Right.
55:08 - Daniel
I like that calculator analogy. That's a really good analogy. I mean, one thing I've always thought too, yeah, it's the paintbrush. It's not the painter and just 11 quick anecdotes and we learn your next story. But we uh we're doing a wrap up article, Marketing Sherpa about, hey, what did you learn from marketing Sherpa this year? And we had earlier on how I made it a marketing podcast, one marketer talking about, you know, we're so data driven. Marketing has become so data driven. How do you understand the human element? We trust your gut where you actually make decisions, not all about data. He said it was really helpful to him because they were creating content, they were doing content marketing and they were being very driven, data driven, content marketing. And then they realized, well, all their competitors were as well, right? Because everyone had access to the same data. So they're all just doing the same thing. And so they didn't differentiate. And that's when they realized this is kind of where the human component comes in, where we have to come into it and decide like, OK, well, here's the data, here's what customers want, what do we want to be and how do we want to say it? And how do we want to have that unique value proposition, unique brand, not just the same thing everyone else has because it'll just be an AI arms race. We'll all be doing the same thing the AI is telling us and you're spending more on the Google ads or whatever.
56:07 - Jeff
And then you pretty soon you have a, I am reading the AI copy of the human.
56:13 - Daniel
Yeah, it's like, uh, there's a Disney movie where everyone's just so lazy because the robots do everything with that Wally. That, that cute little robot. Wally. I don't, if you ever saw that and humans have become so lazy they can't even walk because the robots do everything for them. They just float around eating and watching movies.
56:30 - Jeff
56:31 - Daniel
Let's take a look at one final lesson uh from very early in your career. Uh You mentioned the manner in which you present your message and the environment in which it is presented is just as important, if not more so than the content of your message. And you learn this from Hal Kennedy, the late CEO of Holder Kennedy Public Relations. So how did you learn this from Hal?
56:51 - Jeff
This is a great story. So, uh Holder Kennedy is sort of the PR firm in Nashville to do everything sprung from this agency. And Hal was one of the original pr men in this part of the country and he was a character, uh like all the early pr guys in this town. Uh Hali in Texas, he always wore cowboy boots. He always had at least one gun on him at all times, at least one of his boots, sometimes a shoulder holster as well. Uh He was constantly smoking. He, he, he drank like a fish and, uh, was a Flander of, of, of epic proportions. He was a man who lived very large. He actually had it on his, uh, on his desk. Uh, he had two things, he had a pillow on the, on the couch in his office. It says the 45 beats the whole house was just this big Texas thing. And on his desk, he had a, he had a placket that says, thank you for holding your breath while I spoke. So that was, that was how to take on the, the thing about this, this is the pr guy and you think everyone is supposed to be, you know, very, uh, I don't know, non offensive. Anyway, long story short. So how was the, was the genius the pr he had a little knack understanding how to read a market and how to, and how to manipulate a market to make them do what you want them to do. He was hired by the Chamber of Commerce around this, in the sixties when Nashville was having a wet dry referendum and it is a referendum on whether you'd be able to serve alcohol by the drink in Nashville. The chamber was behind it because it was, it was, uh slowing the city's restaurant and dining industry not being able to serve a glass of wine with dinner was, you know, kept bashed in the dark ages. So he was hired by the wet to get this thing passed the day before the vote. Uh The local channel five station gave both sides 30 minutes to present their case to the citizens of Nashville. And they, uh and they gave Hal the chance to, to choose whether he wants to go first or second. Now, normally, uh Daniel, your advice is go, go last, not first because the last is the most likely to be remembered uh by the people who saw the presentation. But this time Hal chose to go first. And so he proceeded to run his five minute uh spiel about why you should vote for liquor by the drink in Nashville. And then he instructed the station uh staff to, to run the most boring uh public service 2025 minutes uh statement that they could find for the remaining remainder of his time. So, what happened was Daniel people all over Nashville saw his five minute video and then simply switched channels after that because this boring content came on and never saw the opposing side and as a result as well and the Wets won and the rest is history..
59:58 - Daniel
So, yeah, sometimes uh you know, better strategy is just better. I like that. Um All right, let's ask. So we've talked about all different things about what it means to be a marketer. So let me ask if you had to sum it up: what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?
60:13 - Jeff
I think the first key is empathy. Uh I was listening to uh a podcast of someone else or talking about, you know, that capitalism is often seen as often cascaded as a selfish philosophy of the cat. Capitalism is about doing what's best for you. But what this person said was no, actually capitalism is about making the customer happy. And that means that you have to be able to empathize and sympathize with the customer in order to make them happy. So really the business and what we do for a living, Daniel is about thinking about other people as odd as that may sound, but being able to empathize with people, I think it's the number one criteria for being a good marker. It's the same thing. It's the number one requirement to be a good writer as well. If, if you don't care about your reader, uh if you're trying to impress your reader versus inform your reader, you're doing them a disservice and they're not going to be read, you know, again, you have to do what's, what the other person cares about and you have to understand what they care about and then be able to translate that back to them, right? So I think that's number one, I think you need to be a good marker. And the other other thing that you need, I do think is, is writing ability because I think writing is good thinking. And I think being able to organize yourself in such a way that you can see a beginning, a middle and an end and can help people traverse that journey. Uh is the secret to marketing. It's moving people from point A to point B and you need to be able to communicate well to do that.
61:48 - Daniel
Well, put empathy, one of the most important things to be a good marketer, probably also one of the most important things of being a good human being too. So I think that that sums it up. Well, yeah, I think so. Ok. Well, thank you so much for your time. Jeff, thanks for sharing your career with us. I learned so much.
62:01 - Jeff
Thank you. Thanks for having and thanks to everyone for listening.
62:03 - Daniel
Thank you for joining us for how I made it in marketing with Daniel Burstein. Now that you've got an inspiration for transforming yourself as a marketer, get some ideas for your next marketing campaign from marketing Sherpa's extensive library of free case studies at marketingsherpa.com.
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