Marketing Professional

Dissecting a Failed Launch Strategy

This post is a reflection on a year of brand confusion and my failed strategy for launching the Shinecast® media brand. 

You see plenty of blog posts about success stories and how-to-succeed in digital business, but not many about the missteps. This post is an overview into a venture that didn't work out as planned in part due to strategy, in part due to execution, in part due to messaging and, perhaps, in part due to complexity and resource availability.

The best lessons often come from experiences where we don’t achieve what we thought we were going to achieve. I hesitate to call it a failure, because I’ve learned so much over the past year. This post isn’t really about the lessons learned, as such, but more about the road to the missteps.

The Shinecast® Brand

In 2015, I attempted to ramp-up and roll out the digital media business I’ve branded as the Shinecast®. 

The Shinecast® is a brand, first and foremost. It’s the brand I’m using to indicate the source/origin as I distribute the multimedia content through a variety of digital channels.

It’s easier if you think of Shinecast in the same way you think of Disney® as a brand or National Geographic as a brand. Shinecast is not in the same league, of course, but conceptually similar.

Disney website description from Google SERP reveals the scope of the Disney brand in the digital realm.

The Disney brand is an umbrella for a multitude of content, product or service categories. We have Disney movies, the Disney Channel, the Disney theme parks, Disney licensed products for children and adults, Disney vacation resorts. There’s more, of course.

As the search engine results in Google indicate (graphic above), some of the Disney brand is digital content, some requires brick-and-mortar visits to experience, some is tangible (clothing, toys, etc.), some intangible (the Disney experience at theme parks and resorts).

National Geographic began as a print magazine and later evolved into multimedia categories of branded video, digital content distributed through the internet and mobile devices. National Geographic also offers travel adventures and an assortment of branded content and experiences.

The vision for the Shinecast® brand doesn't exactly include theme parks and guided tours, at least not here in the early stages. The initial vision is heavily focused on multimedia content delivered digitally to share the Shinecast messages. Eventually, I have plans for “real world” goods and services related to the Shinecast message.

Shinecast in the Digital Realm

When I launched the Shinecast® brand, my goal was to begin with audio content distributed in podcast format through separate, distinct shows on topics related to the Shinecast message (more on that in a moment) that would help to grow the brand in the audio medium.

I also envisioned creating other digital products–initially ebooks–to share the Shinecast educational message.

Both audio and text-focused digital content would offer messages to help YOU (the audience) Discover, Grow and Shine in various areas of life (health, wealth, etc.).

Once I had the podcast and written content coming out on a regular basis across the various “channels” I planned to venture into short videos.

Niche Audiences

I started, early on, with the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, to talk about sustainability topics, growing and preparing real food.

The second podcast I launched was Birmingham Shines, a Shinecast® show about creators, innovators and makers in Birmingham. The goal of that show was to introduce the Shinecast brand and inspirational message of living authentically and doing work that matters.

I added the Ignite Alabama podcast as Shinecast® show #3 to talk about entrepreneurship in the context of an Alabama audience. My research indicated this was an unserved niche. In podcasting, the topic of entrepreneurship in general is oversaturated, but there was no Alabama-focused podcast that I could find on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship.

I saw Ignite Alabama, and the companion website, as the place where I could provide valuable digital resources and implement a monetization strategy that would provide the funding (and some content) for the “wealth” component of the larger Shinecast® message.

Show number 4, the Discover Grow Shinecast, was the podcast that would combine all the facets of the Shinecast way of life in one podcast for a global (or at least a national audience). I envisioned it as leading the audience along the path to health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.

The whole purpose of separate podcast shows was an attempt to distribute the Shinecast message to targeted audiences, to make it easier to get their attention, and then (I hoped) this would lead them to brand awareness, some curiosity and, eventually, build an audience for the main Shinecast website.

Well, it didn’t work out as I’d planned.

Most everyone in the Birmingham audience saw Birmingham Shines and the Shinecast brand as one-and-the-same.

In the Disney analogy, it’s as if the sum total of the Disney brand consists of The Fox and the Hound. Charming, but not the main point.

Busy, but Not Productive

The more I tried to crank out the content for Birmingham Shines and Ignite Alabama, and promote it properly, the less time and energy I had to write and produce the main Shinecast content.

Moreover, I found it extraordinarily difficult to identify and schedule great guests for the Ignite Alabama podcast. Entrepreneurs in the start-up world are too busy and the business advisers largely don’t “get” podcasting as a medium to reach prospective clients.

I pivoted on the Ignite Alabama podcast and turned to the behind-the-scenes production ideas for the monetization path, but I was ahead of the curve. Most of my pitches were received with this response: “Intrigued” or “great idea” but “not yet for us.”

No one wanted to be first in the Alabama market to spread their message through on-demand audio. Most of the internal decision-makers in Alabama businesses don’t get niche marketing through controlled digital channels  or still need the ego boost that comes with devoting most marketing dollars to mass advertising.

The Future of Birmingham Shines & Ignite Alabama

I put the Ignite Alabama podcast on hiatus last year, as I explored a rebranding possibility. I'm still mulling over whether I'll implement the rebranding and relaunch to an expanded audience.

As I approach the one-year anniversary of Birmingham Shines podcast, I’ve been exploring whether to give it a few more months or issue a fond farewell. I’ve decided my answer. Stay tuned.

Marketing Professional

Explaining Content Strategies & Tactics

In my last post, I set out to explain my approach to digital content strategy development, which ties everything back to specific business goals and objectives using the POSTT approach:

People, Objectives (as in Objectives for the Content Strategy), Strategies, Technologies and Tactics.

This post is the companion piece, where I want to further explain the Strategies, Technologies, and Tactics components.

What is a Strategy?

Strategy defines the parameters of the actions you will take to achieve your objectives.

In the simple analogy I used in the previous example, if the objective is to get to Atlanta from Birmingham for a job interview on Thursday, your strategy would be to drive to Atlanta early Wednesday morning and spend the night. That’s one strategy among several that are possible, and probably the best given normal circumstances.

The tactics would be the choices you make about departure time, which highways to follow, which hotel to stay in that’s most convenient to the interview location, etc.

Inbound Marketing Content Strategy

Inbound marketing is based on the creation and delivery of useful content to your prospects. This content is designed to help your prospects come to know, like and trust you and to move them through your sales funnel.

In this context, I prefer to craft an overall content strategic framework and then develop separate strategies for each technology channel in the mix. Hence, the extra T in my version of POSTT.

Let’s use a landscape design firm as a possible client. This hypothetical firm focuses on upscale residential landscape design.

An inbound marketing content strategy might be built around creating and publishing a series of articles on topics that address the why-and-how of various techniques for caring for turf, certain plants used in landscaping, how the investment in landscaping adds to the value of a home, how the homeowner can incorporate pollinator friendly species into the mix for eco-friendly reasons, and so on.

As I emphasized in the previous article, the bulk of the content would be created and published first on the website, for SEO benefits and to ensure that the content isn’t lost when prospects leave one digital network to join the next shiny community. Hosting and publishing the content on your own website also helps you with lead capture and tracking the prospect through your sales funnel.

I’m writing this on the premise that text (written) content will be the primary type of content you're using, but every content strategy must also include some visual elements. A client like a landscape design firm would also require lots of photos and, perhaps, even videos (even simple DIY videos shot on the fly with a smartphone are invaluable).

Some clients could benefit from an audio content strategy, either as stand-alone audio segments, longer on-demand white papers, or an ongoing series of profiles, interviews and company news updates. On-demand audio strategy and production is one way I differentiate the services I offer, but on-demand audio and podcasting isn’t right for every client. I’ll cover on-demand audio n a separate article.

Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar will be created to identify who is responsible for creating and approving each piece of content, along with when the content will be created, reviewed, approved and published on the website.

The editorial calendar is a key part of the content strategy at this level.

Social Media Strategies

Identification of social channels where you’ll also publish the content  is another aspect of the overall content strategy.

Continuing with the example of the residential landscape design client, we might choose to use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram as the social channels to reach prospects.

Based on the likely demographics of this client’s prospects, I would probably focus on Facebook and Pinterest, primarily because the Instagram audience skews younger and this audience might not be at the socio-economic stage to be a great prospect for this particular client.

Then next step would be to develop specific strategies for repurposing and enhancing the articles, photos and videos for publication on Facebook and Pinterest and, perhaps, Instagram (mainly for aspirational brand awareness, if the client has someone who can take ownership of the Instagram publication schedule).

Each social network requires a separate strategy that is designed to maximize reach with the target audience on that network in a way that’s consistent with the cultural norms of that social network.

The biggest failure I see in business marketing on social media is an effort by many small and medium sized businesses is to use a one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing. [Actually, that might be the second biggest failure. The first might be simply to follow the “let me throw some stuff out there and hope someone sees it” strategy.]

Example of Simple Facebook Strategy

Let’s use Facebook to briefly describe a strategy for this hypothetical residential landscape design client.

We have a Facebook business page and the strategy is to publish a mix of photos, articles and videos on the Facebook page that target a certain demographic with the objective of brand awareness and lead capture.

Tactics for the Facebook Strategy

Next we create the tactical plan for Facebook:

The plan includes publishing 2 pieces of content each day, excluding Sunday.

We create the Facebook-specific portion of the editorial calendar. This should that identify most of the content for a 7 or 14-day window, with some flexibility to respond to weather issues, current events, etc.

All content published on Facebook will be shared using link customizers or tracking pixels to identify the source.

Possible Types of Content for Facebook

  • Content might include photos of work performed.
  • Short excerpts from the text resources created for the website with links back to the website
  • One 30-60 second video each week from a job site (without revealing the home, unless the homeowner gives written consent)
  • Three items of promoted content that lead directly to lead-capture tools on a landing page.


We can get a lot more advanced in the tactical stage and talk about tracking pixels, using dark posts for promoted content on Facebook, the benefits of uploading video directly to Facebook, issues with organic reach of content published on your Facebook business page, but all of that is beyond the scope of this article.

Wrapping it Up

I hope this 2-part overview of the content marketing strategic planning process helps to explain the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics.

Perhaps more importantly, I hope this 2-part series convinces you of the the necessity of crafting specific audience profiles and a plan-of-action to reach those audiences in an engaging and meaningful way to build awareness, familiarity and trust to grow your business.

The terminology is less important, in the end, than the results.

If you speak with your clients, customers and prospects as people, not demographic segments, you’re more likely to find success than if you throw out one-size-fits-all content, as a traditional media ad or on your social media channel.

Marketing Professional Professional Portfolio

How to Create a Social Media Content Strategy


Social media offers new channels of communication to serve existing customers and clients and reach new prospects. The challenge is this: Unless you have a meaningful plan to use social media to achieve some outcome, you're probably spending time and money in the least effective way possible.

So that's why I focused on the strategy side of social media marketing each time I taught Social Media Practices, a course I developed when I was a faculty member at Samford University.

Strategy is the same approach I take when consulting with clients or preparing a conference presentation on social media marketing and content development. I find that most people (students and business owners) like to focus on tactics–what's where the fun is.

But if you don't know where you're going or why you're doing something, you have no way of knowing if you're accomplishing anything or just spending time and money churning out noise.

This post is a part 1 of an article I published over on LinkedIn and I'm offering here to widen the distribution.

Here's the thing about social content for small businesses:

The value of social content comes when it serves a business purpose and is based on a strategy that's carefully designed to support business objectives.

How Does Social Serve One or More Business Objectives?

The first questions I ask prospective clients are aimed at helping me understand what they are trying to gain through social media. What business objective will your social media presence relate to? If they don't know, we talk through some possibilities.

Meaningful social presence and good social content can help business objectives related to sales, customer support, product/service development and enhancement, and broader market research.

The obvious (ultimate) answer is, of course, to grow your business through sales, retain and support existing customers, and find new clients who need the services your business provides. But you need to spend some time thinking specifically how social media content and engagement can serve specific business functional areas.

Quick Aside: I believe your social content must tie back to your website presence. That's a topic for another post, but everything I'm saying about social content presupposes that it is, in some way (directly or contextually) leading prospects to your website and lead capture tools. This is something Chris Brogan is known for advocating, along with most other small business marketing consultants.

Today, the digital and social sphere is usually the front lines of customer service and social content may be the first touch point for a prospect who is exploring the types of products or services you provide.

Takeaway: Before you start to develop a content strategy for social media it's imperative to identify the ways this social content will serve the ultimate business objectives.

social media marketing digital content strategy: If you don't know where you're going, how will you know if you're on the right path? Sheree Martin

POSTT Approach

Once you know where social fits into the larger business picture, you can start to consider social media on a more strategic level.

People – Objectives – Strategies – Tactics

My version: People – Objectives – Strategies – Technologies – Tactics. (POSTT)

I'm not the originator of the P-O-S-T approach, although I added a second T (for Technology, as in channels), as a wrinkle to help students in a class on social media strategy that I developed at taught at Samford University.

People: Who Are You Trying to Reach?

Before you launch into sharing content across a multitude of social channels, you MUST first identify the audience(s) you need to connect with.

It's not enough to say “new customers,” “existing customers,” or even demographically: Small business owners with more than 5 employees, or plumbing service providers, or parents of kids age 8 and up who need orthodontics.

Your customers and clients are not demographic segments or socio-economic data points.

Your people are real humans who have interests, needs and values. You may serve multiple audience segments, so you need to carefully craft the biographies of your ideal customers. These are sometimes called avatars, sometimes simply customer personae, sometimes bios.

Develop one of these avatar bios for each category you serve or want to serve. And write it like you're describing a character in a book or movie. Give each person a name, think about what they want (or might want) from you in relation to how this relates to their overall life. What are their hobbies or values or goals? Again, think of each as a real person.

If you know your customers well, you can use a few real people to develop these audience biographies.

Once you have those biographies in place, then you can start to understand more about how to reach them. More on that in a moment.

Objectives for Social Media (Digital) Presence

Before we get to strategies and tactics you need to consider social objectives that relate back to the business objectives.

Perhaps if you're a B2C retailer or provide a service like home repairs you may want to offer a social presence to help with customer service (support function) and respond to prospects who have questions (a sales function).

If you're a B2B provider or offer services that are confusing, complicated or new, you may want to emphasize thought leadership (sales) or helpful resources that educate prospects and explain what you do (business development).

Once you've defined your objectives for digital, then you can move on to developing the content strategies to lead you closer to achieving these objectives.

Strategy is Your Road Map

In my teaching days, I often had students who were confused about the difference between a strategy and a tactic, so I used this analogy:

Let's say your objective is to travel to Atlanta from Birmingham to attend a job interview.

You need to develop a strategy to get to Atlanta. Issues to consider in developing your strategy are whether to drive, fly, walk or ride a bicycle.  What's your budget? How much lead time to you have? When do you leave? If you drive, will you drive your own car or rent one? Will you take the interstate or backroads?

Let's say the strategy is to drive to Atlanta to achieve the objective of attending a job interview on Thursday. Then we define specific tactics: Leave Wednesday midday and stay overnight so you're rested for the morning interview, travel Interstate 20, etc.

The same approach can be used to understand strategies vs. tactics in developing plans for social content and social engagement.

This post is getting a bit long, so I will divided this up into a second installment, where I focus on a hypothetical social strategy and offer some tips for identifying the technologies and tactics to implement the strategy.

If you're looking for help, I'm available for consulting work on digital content strategy development and can also help you on the digital content production side.

My production specialties are writing and on-demand audio. I can help you find the right partners for comprehensive branding services and videography, if that's necessary.

Find out more about Sheree Martin here on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet, including:

Sheree Martin I solve problems. Innovative, creative, curious, adventurous

I developed my version of the POST approach based on the ideas in Groundswell, a book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Group. [The link is to the book on Amazon, and is an affiliate link.]

Groundswell was first published in 2007 and I used the 2011 revised/expanded version as a recommended textbook in the first semester I taught Social Media Practices. Even though the statistics and other data, along with discussions of social media practices and platforms, are of only historical relevance today, I still think the book provides a great backstory for anyone who doesn't fully understand the underlying foundation of social media marketing.

You can find better sources for tactics and best practices in 2016, but Groundwell is still a great resource for anyone who feels that they don't really understand this whole social media thing and how it relates to business. [Amazon affiliate link.]

Inspire Marketing

Impact or Reach: What Are You Seeking?

Water is a powerful force. Over time, a stream of water can carve a canyon through solid rock. A single drip from a leaky faucet can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars in water bills.

Water will make an impact.

Words and Stories Can Impact

Whether you're a marketer, a social change agent, a rock band or a parent, you have a message you want to get in front of an audience.

Most of us want our audience to do something in response to the message.

We really want impact, more than reach.

In my own experience, though, most decision-makers start by focusing on reach.

They ask questions like what's the audience size, how many fans and followers on each social media channel, how many downloads… if the answers to those questions actually matter.

Few of us have both the reach AND impact of leaders like Richard Branson.

Anyone with enough money can buy reach.

Even in today's fractured media environment, if you have the financial resources you can buy reach in the form of traditional and “native” advertising. You can hire a major agency to develop and execute a promotional juggernaut to get media placements on television talk shows and cable news.

A savvy and well-financed promotional campaign can also help you conquer the blogosphere and social media channels. You can even buy social media followers.

But none of that chatter and noise has staying power.

Just because your message hits a channel with your large audience doesn't mean the audience hears it or pays attention. And that's not all…..

Even if your message momentarily resonates with the purchased audience, the effect will be ephemeral. When is the last time you intentionally set out to listen to a song by Nickleback or Creed?

We’re constantly bombarded with noise. We understand how hard it is to get attention.

In the marketing space, the communication objective is to find a way to get the attention of a desired audience. For most organizations, the objective is to get a message in front of the largest possible audience, as if the law of averages would somehow boost relevancy and attention.

I think that’s the wrong approach. I think the better way is to focus on impact and identify a small number of influencers who can help to share the message.

Floods begin with raindrops, avalanches start with snowflakes

That’s how Billy Ivey of BIG Communications made a splash through his #NapkinNotes. He shared humorous lunch bag notes to his kids that resonated with an audience of parents and soon-to-be-parents who then responded and shared with his own community.

Then Jon Acuff expanded the reach. Acuff is someone you might describe as an influencer among Christian parents with a sense of humor.

#NapkinNotes now has reach, but the initial focus was on impact. A dad writing notes to his kids.

I suspect Ivey’s kids will remember those notes long after Ivey’s career in marketing is history.

For brands, the lesson is clear:

Focus on impact and you’ll probably get the reach you desire.

Focus on reach and you’ll be chasing something that lies at the end of the ephemeral rainbow.

Impact, not reach.



#YallConnect Highlights

About 8-9 days ago I spent a couple of hours putting together this Storify account of the tweeted highlights of 2015 #YallConnect.

At some point I hope to add my notes but since I haven't had time to do that yet, I decided to just publish the highlights from Twitter. Here it is and I hope it's helpful!


Discover Grow Marketing

My Fascination Archetype

In the last post I introduced Sally Hogshead's The Fascination Advantage and explained the basic premise of her system to analyze and classify communication styles and personality traits.

If you're following along, this is another of a series of posts where I explore the results of various personality and strengths assessments I've done through the years.

My official Fascination Advantage Archetype is Trendsetter. That's the focus of today's post.

My Fascination Advantages

Yesterday I revealed the results of my two Fascination Advantage assessments:

Primary Advantage: Innovation

Secondary Advantage: Prestige

Tertiary Advantage: Mystique

So what does this mean? Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure. But when I dive more deeply into the description of Innovation, Prestige and Mystique Advantages I can see how those measures correlate with my MBTI and StrengthsFinder results and even the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory from way back in 1980.

The Innovation Advantage

My primary advantage is Innovation.

The Innovation Advantage

According to the Report that came with my Fascination Advantage results, Innovation is all about creativity, vision, adventure, exploration.

The Innovation type in the Fascination Advantage system is someone who:

  • “Quickly solves problems with fresh solutions”
  • “Generate[s] ideas that surprise people with a new perspective”

Both of these statements are consistent with the results from my other assessments.

The Prestige Advantage

My secondary advantage is Prestige.

The Prestige Advantage is all about excellence, execution and accomplishment. This certainly correlates with the Maximizer and Achiever StrengthsFinder typology.

Someone with Prestige as the secondary advantage is:

  • “Conscientious of the smallest details”
  • “Motivated by a competitive spirit and determined outlook”
  • “Constantly envision[ing] ways to improve and upgrade'

Language of Fascination Advantages

The Mystique Advantage

I call this my tertiary advantage because I had the same score for Prestige and Mystique in my results from the second time I took The Fascination Advantage assessment. According to the report for those results, a tie-breaking question revealed Prestige as my secondary advantage. That would be consistent with the results from the first time I took the test.

Mystique is the Advantage I know the least about. Mystique is briefly described in in my reports:

  • Someone with the Mystique Advantage is described as the “solo intellect behind-the-scenes.”
  • “Mystique is the language of listening.”
  • “Mystique communicates with substance”

It wasn't until I found this video that I understood how I could score strong strongly on Mystique, the point of being one question away from having Mystique as my secondary Advantage.

As Sally explains here, someone with the Mystique Advantage is unlikely to self-promote. As I've said before, I never felt the need to promote myself but I've come to realize that it's absolutely necessary that I tell my own story, not to brag, but simply to communicate what I can offer. That is how I embarked on this project.

In the light of this explanation, Mystique makes a lot of sense.

Dormant Advantage: Trust

The labels used in The Fascination Advantage are not intuitive and Trust, in particular, is the one that is most confusing to me and seemingly the most mis-labeled.

The Trust Advantage refers to a preference for stability, normalcy, routine. The “dormant” aspect of this refers to my desire to avoid “falling into a rut” or “performing the same duties every day.”

When I think of trust, I think of trustworthy, not stability or a preference for routines.

The explanations about my “Dormant Trust Advantage” make perfectly good sense:

“You have an entrepreneurial approach to your career….You appreciate variety and actively seek new ways to solve a problem.”

“You love to explore….People are attracted to your expressive and curious nature. You are unlikely to be seen as boring.”

“You intuitively know how to persuade others through your self-expression and enthusiasm. You typically find it easy to brainstorm ideas.”

Each of these statements is supported in the results from my other assessments. I just wish this was labeled something other than “trust” because a “dormant trust advantage” makes it sound like (to me, anyway) that someone is not trustworthy. Yet the Trust Advantage has nothing to do with trust in the ethical sense.

This sentence, perhaps, best sums up this part of my Fascination Advantage results:

“If you do not naturally enjoy repeating the same process over and over, you will never reach your full potential in a job that forces you to follow a rigid path.”

Fascination Advantage Results Pie Chart
This pie chart is from the report accompanying my first results. I took the test again a few weeks later and the order of results were the same, but the percentages were slightly different.

The Trendsetter Archetype

When you combine the Innovation Advantage with the Prestige Advantage you get the Trendsetter Archetype.

Cutting-edge, Elite, Progressive, Imaginative, Edgy

“You're good at sensing what the next big thing will be.”

“You're competitive and ambitious.”

“You're a trailblazer who guides others in often uncharted territories.”

“You impress with your intellect and inventiveness.”

“You are able to see opportunities where others see only threats.”

“You implement change with determination.”

“You get the most out of developing and implementing your unique vision.”

I certainly feel like these describe me. The question is whether this is really how OTHERS see me, since I'm the one who answered the questions that yielded these results.

Advantages Correlate with Strenths

It's pretty clear to me that my Fascination Advantages directly correlate with the results of my StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessments and MBTI personality type. I'll be pulling all of this together soon, in a post that brings everything together.

In the meantime, here's Sally Hogshead on MarieTV talking about The Fascination Advantage. It's interesting to see that back in 2013 she was using some different terms for the Advantages. Innovation was once labeled as Rebellion, or something like that, even though it was still focused on creativity.

Have YOU taken The Fascination Advantage assessment? I'd love to hear what you think about the results. Leave me a comment! I'd love to hear from you.

Discover Grow Marketing

The Fascination Advantage

Last summer (2014), I discovered Sally Hogshead's How to Fascinate book and analysis through the many podcasts I listen to. I couldn't NOT look into it. Like I've said, I think it's a lot of fun to take these tests.

In fact, it's the results from The Fascination Advantage that prompted me to go back and start looking at other tests and to even retake the MBTI in September. Why? I was intrigued and wanted to explore the validity and reliability of this new way of assessing personality traits.

The Fascination Advantage Explained

The terms used and the structure of the report can be a bit confusing because the labels are new, but as I've reviewed the results and watched some of her videos explaining the system it started to make sense.

The Fascination Advantage emerged from Sally Hogshead's interest in learning what makes people fascinating.

The basic marketing message to promote The Fascination Advantage system is that MBTI, StrengthsFinder® and DISC explain “how you see the world.” The Fascination Advantage is supposed to reveal “how the world sees you.” I'm not sure that's exactly what it reveals, since “you” are the one answering the questions, not your colleagues, peers or friends. Despite that limitation The Fascination Advantage does provide a new way of looking at personality styles, strengths and communication preferences

Here's my plain English explanation of the The Fascination Advantage: You answer a series of questions about preferences and how you would handle or relate to a situation. These questions identify certain personality characteristics and traits.

Advantages & Archetypes

Based on your responses, your dominant personality traits and communication styles are classified into themes called “Advantages.” Your results reveal a dominant Advantage and a secondary Advantage. When you operate and communicate in ways that are consistent with your Advantages you're more comfortable, more influential, more “fascinating” to the rest of the world.

When you pair your dominant Advantage and secondary Advantage on a matrix you get a an Archetype. The Archetype is supposed to reveal “how the world sees you.”

The system is designed to provide keywords you can use to explain your dominant and secondary personality traits and modes of communication to the rest of the world. Essentially, these keywords are the adjectives you can use in personal branding and showing how you add value and contribute when you're being true to yourself.

In other words, you might say that your Fascination Advantage is tied to your authenticity, to being authentically who you are, not trying to be something else.

My Fascination Advantage Results

I took the Fascination Advantage assessment twice over the course of 6-8 weeks, using two different codes and email addresses and got nearly identical results.

In both versions, my results placed me in the Trendsetter Archetype, which is a combination of Innovation as the primary advantage and Prestige as the secondary advantage.

Innovation was my strongest advantage, with a 20% “score” both times.

Prestige was also my strongest secondary advantage in both assessments, but there was a bit of variation in the Prestige score. July results: Prestige was 18%, while in late August Prestige was reported as 19%. The late August version, also reported the Mystique “Advantage” at 19% with a caveat that a tie-breaker question put me into the Prestige category for the secondary Advantage.

So, I think it's pretty clear that the ranking of my Advantages in this system would fall like this:

  • Innovation
  • Prestige
  • Mystique

Now, what do these labels mean? I'll cover that in my next post.

Have you taken The Fascination Advantage assessment? If yes, what are your thoughts  about it? Are your results consistent with your MBTI and StrengthsFinder results?

Grow Marketing

From Sorority Webmaster to Blogger

Between the years of 2000 and 2002, I launched what today's marketers would call a brand journalism initiative to tell the story of the Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Zeta via the “world wide web.”

Websites in those days were mostly static brochures, consisting of a few pages, maybe 5 at most. But I envisioned the sorority's website as being something more—a cutting-edge approach to organizational storytelling. As it evolved, I used the website to tell everything about the chapter that would seem relevant to current and prospective members, and also appeal to alumnae.

We started with a site built by professional web developer, but after 18 months the site needed updating. So I taught myself HTML and hand-coded an entirely new website. Ultimately, I built out 40 or 50 pages on various topics, all internally linked and cross-linked by category and topics. For 2+ years, I updated the site frequently, to encourage return visitors. I was blogging, even though it wasn't called that at the time, at least not in this context.

Here's the backstory:

We Need A Website

In 1996 I convinced the House Corporation President of the Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Zeta Sorority to let me hire a web developer to create a website for the chapter.

I had been online since 1990, interacting with kindred spirits who were fans of The Avengers and various musical artists that I liked.  But I hadn't yet ventured into the realm of creating my own website or home base to share information.  I was ready to move beyond interacting with others toward building my own online media presence, and I saw the DZ website as a win-win. I could promote the sorority and learn more about web development.

My vision for the sorority's website led me down an unexpected path to become one of the early practitioners of brand journalism in the infancy of Web 2.0.

I was the sorority’s chapter adviser at the time and I knew that an online presence would give us a channel to tell our own story—a platform through which to expand our PR efforts.

We were always looking for ways to get better media coverage about the positive aspects of sorority life and the contributions the women in our chapter were making to the community through their service work and philanthropy projects. I envisioned the website as a way to side-step the hurdles of getting the campus or local news media to cover our events and successes.

Goodbye, Gatekeepers

At that point, I’d been actively engaging with others on the internet for several years and I realized that the “information superhighway” (as it was called back then, so quaint today)  made it possible for ordinary people and ordinary businesses to bypass the media gatekeepers and communicate directly with an audience of others.

I knew, firsthand, that the internet was for interactive communication, NOT simply another way to consume media. I'd learned this through the friendships I'd made interacting on Prodigy and other message boards.

So with the blessing of the House Corporation Board President, I hired a local web developer and the chapter got a static website with about 5 pages for a cost of $750.

The site,, was professionally-designed and served its purpose. I quickly realized that a static webpage wasn't letting me fulfill the vision I had for how to use the site. It turned out to be more cumbersome (and costly) to update than I’d anticipated.

To Solve A Problem, I Learned A New Skill

By 1998, was in need of a major update, but it was relatively expensive to pay the developer to make changes to the site. Each page update came with a cost and those costs added up.

I had begun to learn a bit about website page design and html coding through self-study.  Nothing major, but I wanted my own website and I wanted to know how to create a website. I was mainly studying the concepts, terminology at first, looking at source code,  but I was ready to dive more deeply. I looked at some of the consumer site options like angelfire, but those didn't interest me.

I set up a free site with and started playing around.

With a bit of hands-on experience playing around on, I figured out how to make some simple text changes to the sorority website by editing the source code without breaking it.

How? I studied the html code of other sites and a few tutorials and reverse engineered the process. I taught myself.

I hand-coded my media law course lecture notes and posted those to the my site. The students in my course loved having the materials online. This was in the days before UA had Blackboard or WebCT.

I explored and then experimented.

My willingness to step out and take action to solve a relatively simple problem led me toward a greater skill set and into the world of website hosting, domain management, and rudimentary (by today's standards) web design.

From Webmaster to Blogger

Small Successes Build Confidence

Eventually, my 50mgs site morphed into a full-on content curation project and blog.

In 2000, I was confident enough to develop a new sorority website from scratch. So I did.

I moved the domain to a new website host and built out the website by hand-coding every aspect of every page. [Not efficient, but it taught me some basic coding skills and it taught me the logic and structure of coding.]

I was constantly updating pages to add news about campus success stories, philanthropy projects. I even set up a scrapbook for alumni news pages. Scroll down for a screen shot of one of the pages via the Wayback Machine. It's not the prettiest page in the world, by today's standards anyway. By the standards of 1999-2000, it looked fine.

In effect, I was blogging for the sorority, even though I didn't think of it as a blog at the time. The sorority website probably had 50 pages and hundreds of pictures by the time I moved on to focus on my own first website, where I curated content about The Avengers (the British TV version), Diana Rigg and the Go-Go's.

My responsibilities with the site ended in early 2003 when I prepared to move on to a new phase of my life.

I always look back fondly at the work I did to create and maintain what was, at the time, one of the early examples of online brand journalism.

Here's an example of one of the pages:

Campus Activities and Honors Page from Delta Zeta Bama website in 2000

Marketing Professional

Client Confidentiality & The Era of Personal Branding

I began my professional life as a business lawyer. I am honored and proud to be a lawyer and proud of the work I did as a lawyer during the 12 or so years that I practiced.

I love thinking through legal problems and solving legal puzzles. That said, I don’t like to sit behind a desk all day and I'm more into harmony than conflict resolution, so I’m unlikely to return to the active practice of law anytime in the near future.

One of the challenges I've run into is how to translate my extensive legal experience in the business world to land new business and career opportunities outside of the legal profession.

I typically have at least one conversation per week where another person says some variation of this:

“Wow, you have an awesome set of skills and expertise. I'll be you have career opportunities just flowing in all the time.”

I've been hearing this for well over 10 years, since I finished my dissertation and added the Ph.D. to my list of accomplishments.

Overqualified for the Corporate World

Too Interdisciplinary for Academia

The reality is that I've usually been labeled “over-qualified” in the corporate world.

Another way of putting it is that I'm deemed (by some) insufficiently narrow in my expertise to fill most jobs. For example, I don't do cost accounting, engage in supply-chain systems optimization, or initiate HR-best practices for outsourcing the workforce. I'm not sufficiently myopic in my pursuit of academic topics.

My expertise, the value I add, is all about understanding. I can quickly identify the relevant pieces to a puzzle, evaluate  how those pieces fit together, examine them in light of emerging trends, and create a viable strategy, solution or opportunity for something bigger and better.

That's what I did every day as a lawyer and legal-problem solver. I solved problems to prevent or minimize crises. That's what I've done in my smaller personal entrepreneurial ventures and volunteer efforts. And it's how I approach my work in the academic classroom. As a teacher, I use this approach to select and refine the subject matter in courses I teach and I strive to enable students to do the same as they prepare for a career in a world that is changing much faster than academia.

It's just as well that I'm deemed over-qualified for mid-level corporate management or analyst roles. I'm not interested in those types of jobs. I'd be bored out of my mind in a cubicle, doing the same spreadsheet analysis every day, writing Dilbert-esque reports or creating an awesome presentation for someone else to deliver.

No Boxes for Me

The reality is that people don't know what box to put me in. I don't like boxes, so I haven't made it easy. But that's really my strength.

If everyone is in the box, no one knows what's on the outside.

My professional life has been all about helping businesses and leaders expand their box, improve their box, or move from one box to a new box. I help students who realize there's life beyond the narrowly-defined career categories and specialties that academia offers them.

Practical Knowledge To Move Beyond The Status Quo

My strengths are the result of my ability to understand, comprehend and synthesize disparate bits of information. I am all about vision, strategy, innovation, change management, adaptability, communication, resilience.

I have developed and sharpened  myhighly practical business knowledge through more than a decade of of guiding businesses and high-net worth individuals in my law practice and through a lifetime of problem-solving, advancing my own skills, and engaging with the real world as a business owner and committed citizen.

Not only can I quickly grasp new ideas and understand things outside the realm of first-hand knowledge,  I have the ability to interpret that information, apply it, and communicate it to a new audience.

I've been a business owner and manager, as well as an employee at every level of an organization.

But my expertise goes beyond practical, applied tactics.

Through my Ph.D.-level academic work, I also understand the theory that explains or seeks to explain systems thinking, organizational development, leadership and communication.

Writer, Speaker, Advocate

As a paid writer and consultant, I have written more than a hundred published feature-length articles for trade magazines and newspapers. I have a huge portfolio of work as a copywriter for several ad agencies.

And I have extensive experience as a public speaker on a range of topics, from continuing legal education seminars to civic organization talks to leadership training workshops for college students and social media marketing for business owners. I've been active in public speaking since 4th grade when I won 1st prize in my school's 4H Club Public Speaking Contest.

I also have more than a few scholarly research papers and presentations in my dossier.

On top of all of those accomplishments, I have 2 decades of experience creating and publishing online content for fun and business.

So the reality is, traditional skills and job descriptions are too narrow to describe what I can do.

But the challenge I've often faced is how to communicate the specifics of real-world business challenges that I've resolved or helped to resolve without breaching client confidentiality.

How do I tell these stories?

Specifics in Law Practice

During the 12 or so years that I spent actively practicing law, I routinely represented small businesses and professional clients in 7-figure+ business transactions.Many of those 7-figure deals in the early to mid-90s would be 8-figure deals in today’s dollars.

The biggest transactions I handled usually involved the healthcare industry, and occasionally involved sales to major publicly-traded companies. My clients were sometimes the sellers, sometimes the buyers.

The deals often involved real estate and real estate developments. Sometimes, I was involved in writing and/or reviewing contracts ancillary to real estate development projects–like cable television delivery agreements or homeowner association governing documents.

Another big focus of my practice was new-entity formation and restructuring for business expansion into new projects. I formed a lot of LLCs and limited partnerships for real estate projects, healthcare and, occasionally, oil and gas.

Related to my general business work and my interest in intellectual property law, I handled trademark registrations and assisted litigators with cases involving business trade secrets. Occasionally, I reviewed contracts and advised authors on publishing matters and copyright law.

Contracts between professionals (usually MDs) and healthcare service providers was another focus of my law practice.

Estate and business succession planning rounded out my law practice areas. I had a mix of clients who needed guidance for estate and tax matters, but many had a high net worth and needed advice about how best to structure estate plans involving commercial real estate, manufacturing operations and/or other b-to-b and professional services firms.

My firm represented municipalities and quasi-government corporations involved in public/private activities, so I was also involved in work related to municipal financing. Once, I wrote updated regulations for delivery of cable TV services to a small municipality.

Owner and Manager

I was a shareholder (owner) in Rosen, Cook, Sledge, Davis, Carroll & Jones, P.A. (today, Rosen Harwood, P.A.). During those years, I had a range of management-level responsibilities, including hiring and managing employees and shaping the vision and future of the firm.

I've also owned my own, small law practice (as a sole-practitioner) where I was 100% responsible for all the business decisions. I've been self-employed as a freelance writer, as well.

Confidentiality Comes First

Confidentiality is one of the marks of an ethical lawyer so I have never promoted the details about the types of transactions I worked on. I've never even identified my clients outside of my law practice, except in a few situations where publicly-filed documents made it obvious that I represented someone or some business entity in a transaction or legal proceeding. Even then, I've never revealed anything more about the attorney-client relationship: “Yes, I worked on that” is about as much as I've ever said.

Unlike litigation, the work of a transactional lawyer is rarely public. The work is seen by the client, other lawyers and the clients of other lawyers who are involved in the negotiations or present at closings.

I often received thank-you letters from clients and referrals by the clients and other lawyers. But these are not the same as “Likes” on Facebook, so they aren’t something I feel I can display as a testimonial on my website.

So the challenge is finding a way to tell the story of all I've accomplished in my professional life, while maintaining the confidentialities of my business and estate planning clients and adhering to what I consider proper professional ethics and decorum.

In short, as I've said elsewhere, “tooting my own horn” is not my natural tendency.

I'd love to hear suggestions about how to handle this, especially if you're a lawyer!

Inspire Marketing

Who Is Telling Your Story?

I’ve never been one to “toot my own horn,” as the saying goes.

For most of my life I believed that my work would speak for itself and that self-promotion is, to be quite frank about it, a bit gauche.

But the reality is that hard work, effort, ethical behavior and successful results are not enough. Talent, effort, ethical behavior, and results are necessary, but not sufficient.

In today’s noisy world, your work doesn’t stand out on its own. Your work will not, by itself, rise above the din. Equally importantly, if you allow others to put their spin on your work first then you are always playing defense.

Politicians and their spin-doctors know this better than anyone.

You must be proactive in telling your story.

Silence leaves the door open for someone else to tell your story. In the realm of history, there’s an admonishment that history is written by the victorious.

That adage also applies to career and business success, where history is written not necessarily by the victor but by whomever chooses to tell the story. Nature abhors a vacuum and nowhere is that more evident than in the political gamesmanship on display in many work environments, especially in those organizations where change is feared.

In the business arena, customers are telling your story every day. If you want to stay in business, you must be a participant in shaping and telling the story of your brand. That’s why leading businesses who realize and accept the new reality are embracing brand journalism and adopting it as the foundation for their marketing efforts.

You Are Your Own Brand Journalist

As Tom Peters famously told us some years ago, you have a personal brand–The Brand Called You.

Reid Hoffman followed up more recently with his twist: The Start-up Of You.

Like it or not, you have a personal brand and, if you want to have any chance at success in the current economy, you must work to tell the story of your personal brand. You must be your personal brand journalist and advocate.

At work, your savvy colleagues and managers are telling their stories to other colleagues and to their supervisors. Like it or not, the stories told by your colleagues and managers stories include stories about you, whether explicit or implicit. Sometimes your contributions are simply left out of their stories.

Not everyone perceives events the same way. Perceptions matter and the inclusion or exclusion of facts certainly influence perceptions. The weight given to isolated incidences can also move a trivial matter from a minor, one-off aside to a defining moment.

If you aren’t actively telling your story you don't have a shot at influencing perceptions.

Let me repeat: You must be proactive (and truthful) in telling your own story.

[Tweet “Someone is telling your brand's story. It might as well be you. “]

Thinking About My Own Story

As a professional, the main theme of my professional life might be summed up as helping other people successfully tell their stories through:

  • Legal negotiations and legal strategies
  • Corporate copywriting
  • News reporting and feature writing (links coming)
  • Student success (links coming)

On a more personal level, in the realm of personal growth and charting my own path, my story features these themes:

  • Committed to excellence
  • Openness to change and growth
  • Desire and willingness to seek new opportunities where I can grow personally and professionally in ways where I can combine my talents, strengths and interests to make the world a better place.

I'm not interested in stagnation or being satisfied with the status quo. I refuse to settle for someone else's plans for me.

 See my Shine Values and Vision statement here.

But despite my success-oriented mindset and commitment to constant improvement, I never put much effort into publicly telling my own story.

I assumed my successes would speak for me, even as I was actively involved in creating and promoting the successes of other people. I knew better. But, like I said, self-promotion just left me feeling uncomfortable.

Interestingly enough,  I was a subscriber to  Fast Company when The Brand Called You appeared in the magazine. I read the article, and filed it away in my mind. I took action to create and enhance my personal brand, but I never made an effort to tell the story of my successes.

So, at this point, I’m determined to remedy my past quiescence and to tell my story and, I hope, demonstrate some of the ways I’ve used my strengths and talents to help others.

I'll be writing and sharing those on this blog over the next few weeks. I hope you'll read and share your thoughts on how my story comes across.

Are YOU Telling YOUR Own Story?

Yes or no? If no, why not?

I'd love to hear from you and learn more about YOUR story. Please leave a comment, share your experiences about personal branding, or just share one of your successes!