Defining My Core Values

(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)

I’d like to think I have a decent reputation among the people I’ve worked with, either coworkers at whatever agency or other company I’ve been at or the clients I’ve interacted with and provided counsel to. If I’m right on that front then I’m hoping it has something to do with the fact that I’ve regularly made it clear the work I’m doing and the advice I’m giving are based squarely in some core values.

Honest Opinions

If I’m telling you “I think you should do X” it means “I think you should do X.” My guiding principle in the workplace is that what’s good for you is good for me. If I help my clients succeed then I can feel good about the role I played in that success.

That might sound a bit simplistic or even naive, but it’s rooted in the way I was raised, that it was the work that mattered above all else. It’s in no one’s best interests if I give bad advice just because it’s what someone might be expecting to hear. I’m going to be on the hook for a program I don’t believe in and I haven’t pushed my client’s thinking at all. If you hired me, you get me, so buckle up. Yes, I might be a bit overly informal at times, I’ll admit that. But that doesn’t mean I’m not being honest.

Ethical Advice

I’ve seen too many trade news stories about companies being hammered for acting unethically for me to ever even consider going down that road. The client gets hurt, I get hurt.

Not just that, but I’m the one who has to look at myself in the mirror when I’m shaving, as the saying goes, and don’t need the baggage of having advised a client to violate clear guidelines.

What does that ethical advice look like? Well, it means the following:

  • Transparency: I have never and will never advise anyone engage in practices that don’t adhere to both the letter and spirit of disclosure laws. Influencer programs are a big tactic where this comes into play along with paid ads, particularly where a third-party is buying space in a company’s content program.
  • No Bait and Switch: The trust between the company and its audience is the only thing that keeps content marketing operating. Never violate by misleading them as to what a link they’re asked to click on will have or otherwise dupe them into taking an action. You don’t get a second bite at this apple.
  • No Pretending: I like bylines on blog posts. I don’t care for character profiles, where a fictional character is supposed to be operating a Facebook page. Captain Crunch isn’t real, folks, and doesn’t Tweet. Let’s drop some fictions that might seem clever in a marketing team meeting and be clear it’s the marketing team speaking on behalf of the brand or IP or that Bob is the one who wrote that blog post.
  • Clear Reporting: Yes, ethics applies to behind-the-scenes operations as well. I don’t believe in blowing sunshine up anyone’s skirts when it comes to reporting on a program or campaign. Whether we succeeded or failed, everyone deserves honest numbers. Every future execution is built on the foundation of what’s come before and if I start fudging numbers then the guidance I give you tomorrow will be based on a fiction.

No Shiny Objects

Everything gets its own hype cycle. Remember January of 2016 when Peach was the hottest thing on the mobile web for about three hours before fading into obscurity? Or the repeated attempts something like Ello has made to break into the mainstream? Apps, social networks and other tools that might potentially be relevant to content marketers launch all the time. Each is accompanied by not just a wave of press but a following wave of people all too eager to hail it as the next big thing and pitch their clients on making it a core part of a program.

I’ve always taken a more measured approach. Let’s see if the heat of attention keeps up for more than six months. Let’s see what the usage numbers and demographics look like at that time. Let’s figure out how our current content mix might need to be realigned to accommodate its role without cannibalizing material and disappointing the audience. Let’s figure out what some success metrics might look like. In other words, let’s figure out why we would want to use it, what *new* audience we’re reaching and how it’s acting in service to not just program but also business goals.

In The End, It’s Good To Have Guidelines

Having these as just some of my core values has served me pretty well over the course of my career. I’m sure there are instances where someone else’s vague counsel has seemed more appealing because it effectively scratches itching ears.

There are plenty of people out there who have been incredibly successful, more so than I have, by selling snake oil. They’ll look the other way when a client proposes not disclosing paid influencer program or something along those lines. They’ll put together 38 page decks on why clients need to go all-in on this new social network three days after it’s launched. Usually, though, those people aren’t the ones who are held accountable for results, having passed program management off to another agency or team.

So my commitment to these and other principles is driven because I’m the one who’s sticking around. Essentially, if I’m not comfortable giving particular counsel it’s because I’m not willing to execute it. Even the few times that hasn’t been the case, it’s how my thinking has operated. I’m not going to put myself in the position of doing something unethical and I’m damn sure not going to put anyone else in that position.

This Week on Cinematic Slant

Started out the week by reviewing the marketing of The Emoji Movie, which emphasized cheap sight gags and poop jokes over anything resembling heart or soul. The campaign for Atomic Blonde was just as slick and cold in its own way but never seemed quite as callous, more like the unemotional spy in the story. Brigsby Bear wrapped up several months of good buzz with a campaign that tried to hold on revealing story details as long as possible. Finally, Netflix’s marketing of The Incredible Jessica James made sure to firmly hang its audience appeal on the positive, self-assured persona of writer/star Jessica Williams.

We also celebrated Shark Week by flashing back to the 1975 campaign for Jaws and nodded to the first movie to take us inside the world of personal electronics, 1982’s TRON.

In Defense of Scheduled Social Media Posts

If you talk to the purists, the ones who frequently litter their motivational talks with terms like “authenticity” and “connection,” you may come to believe that scheduling social media posts is a cardinal sin. You can’t be authentic, the thinking goes, if you’ve scheduled posts to be published at a later time or date. Social media marketing should be immediate and anything less than that is a crime. Variations on this argument have popped up here and there ever since the first scheduling tools were introduced.

That argument is bunk.

The thinking behind it isn’t wrong. Social media should be different from the rest of your marketing to a degree. That largely comes from being one of the few forms that directly with the audience, not only through a media vendor, be it paid or earned placement. It’s also more or less the only outlet that allows for immediate feedback from that audience. Social still needs to be part of the overall marketing plans, though and should be subject both to its own and overall business goals and objectives.

There are several advantages to scheduled content, including:

  • Ensures *something* is being posted: Even the best content programs are going to want for lack of material from time to time. There were days where, even with a program that regularly posted 40 items a day across 15 social profiles, there was just no news to curate. Without those posts I’d already scheduled a couple days ago, things would have gotten awfully quiet, which would impact engagement and network growth. It also just would have looked bad.
  • Gives the team a breather: Not everyone has access to a global team of a dozen staffers who can publish in the moment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People sleep, take the weekend off and are otherwise offline. Or maybe the whole team is being pulled into a day-long meeting. Whatever the case, scheduled posts let you keep posting when the team is occupied elsewhere or enjoying the rest of their lives.
  • Allows you to resurface old content: If you’re running a decent content program you likely have a healthy repository of “evergreen” material in the archive that continues to be relevant long after it was first published. Spreading out new posts to old material is a great way to fill in those gaps where nothing new is happening and increase the ROI you see from that content’s production.
  • Lets you hit consistent beats: One of the best things I did on a couple different client programs was say “This type of post is going to always be on this day at this time.” It meant that each morning we knew exactly what was going to be published and, more importantly, the audience had the same expectation.

The important caveat here is this: It’s all flexible. If you have a post scheduled for Thursday at 2 pm because you don’t think anything interesting will be happening that day but then all kinds of news breaks, move the post. It’s simple. Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, SproutSocial and all the rest of the software that allows for scheduling will let you edit that schedule. So adjust your ed cal, change the planned time and you’re set.

With X% of your daily content cadence planned and scheduled in advance, you’re also freeing up resources to focus on filling in the remainder of your editorial calendar. The team can then work on creating new material, curating outside news and other activities.

Don’t buy into the idea that scheduling social media posts is some kind of heresy. It’s not. It’s an effective use of resources and a great way to bring consistency to your content marketing program.

Essential Facts and Stats For: Twitter


What It Is

Twitter is one of the premiere channels: part social network, part microblogging platform. In a nutshell, it lets you share messages of no more than 140 characters.

Twitter users “follow” other users in order to see their tweets in their feeds. Reports find that as many as 50% of Twitter users are primarily focused on “listening” — following trends, tracking prominent figures and browsing content — while tweeting very little themselves.

Twitter is accessible via both the web and various official and third-party tools (details below).

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Restarting A Daily Writing Routine

The hardest thing I ever had to do was get back in the routine of writing daily. That may sound odd considering how I’ve talked previously about how much I *need* to write, how it’s the process through which I work out my thoughts and the easiest way for me to express myself. But it’s true.

A big part of the reason I shut down Movie Marketing Madness back at the end of 2011 was because my work schedule was just too intense for me to put the muscle behind MMM I wanted to. So I shuttered that for almost four years. In that time I also neglected, much to my chagrin, writing for this site on any sort of regular basis. I contributed sporadically to the Voce and Porter Novelli blogs, but that was about it.

In the second half of 2015, as I was considering reviving MMM (which, of course, has now morphed into Cinematic Slant) what really had me going was the notion of doing my own writing on a daily basis again. I wanted to let me loose again, for want of a better way of putting it. That was somewhat harder than I anticipated and only part of it was because of other commitments.

See I was still treating this personal site as a side thing, a hobby to be attended to only when there wasn’t anything more interesting to do. There was no plan, no focus. That was a problem and it was getting in the way.

It was only when I realized I needed to give it the same attention I would give any client’s content marketing program that I got back into a groove. I created an editorial calendar for the blog, set goals for traffic and so on and got to executing. While the ed cal was one of my own creation and I was answerable only to myself, I worked to approach it as if it were set by someone else. A missed or shifted post here and there was alright, but I needed to hit those damn deadlines because if not then someone was going to be upset and the goals were thrown into doubt.

That gave me the structure I needed to get back into a routine with writing every day. It wasn’t overnight, but eventually it got easier. The pain of writing something every day lessened over time. I felt less and less like I was trying to swim against the current. In other words, the more I did it the easier it became.

Writing for me, as I said, is essential. When I get an idea of something I want to write it will spin around in my mind, festering and growing until I finally get it out. Writing is release, whether it’s a post here or something I’m writing for a freelance project. There are times I suffer from writer’s block like everyone else and there are certainly instances where, for whatever reason, the words just aren’t coming and this very much feels like a chore. Putting in the work and changing my mindset, though, helped me find the approach I needed to write every day, no matter the circumstances.

Coming Soon: Social Network Overviews

Back in early 2010, I believe, I was tasked at Voce with creating documents that would serve as short and easily-understandable overviews of the popular social networks at the time. These were meant to be shared internally with staff who didn’t live in the social media world every day but who needed to speak about them with clients and others.

Overtime those documents grew and evolved. At first they were pretty simple but as social networks became more and more complex and added new features and functionality they needed to keep up. There were a couple times over the following six years that I tore them down to the studs and rewrote them from scratch because the format wasn’t working for me anymore. Some were discarded entirely because the network was shut down (cough : Friendfeed : cough) while new ones were added.

After receiving reassurance these documents weren’t being used any longer I’m going to be sharing those documents here and keeping them updated on this site. They will be publicly-facing resources to anyone looking for quick, easily-digestible downloads with the information they’re looking for on the most popular apps around today. Also, selfishly, they will become part of my online portfolio, showing some of my technical writing capabilities.

The reason I’m not rolling them all out at once is that they need some work. There are a few that are good to go, but I haven’t updated many of them in a year or more. So I’ll be posting them at a rate of about one every two weeks, putting the time in to make sure they’re current as of that moment to the best of my ability.

These are some of the work product I’m most proud of and I’m excited to show them off. More to come.

What Are The Roadblocks Preventing Me From Doing What I Love

(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)

The title of this post isn’t exactly what’s been circling around my mind for the last year. A more accurate version would be “What’s keeping me from succeeding in my field?” But the answer to that has shifted over time.

For months after being let go from Voce I simply felt like I was failing. I wasn’t working hard enough at the job search, I wasn’t making myself available enough or wasn’t putting the right energy out there. Not only was I failing, but I was flailing.

Now, though, I feel like I *am* doing what I love. As I was discussing with my loving, supportive wife just the other day, this is working for me. The freelance work I’ve gotten allows me to write, provide social content strategy and do other things I enjoy, but without the pressures I felt in agency life. I’m on my own time and can adjust my schedule as necessary based on the project load I have and my family life. I can’t disappear for days, but I can take a break now and then to do something else.

Even outside of the peace I’m feeling right now (See me in a week when I may in the midst of a full-blown existential crisis), I feel like the barriers to doing what I love have been lowered. I’m hustling for freelance work, I’m slowly building up Cinematic Slant, I’m writing my novel, I’m taking time to run errands and be with my family and more. If I put my mind to it and use every 10 minute block of time I have available to get something else done, I can do anything. And I can do so on my terms, getting me to a point where I can provide for my family and enjoy the simple, non-flashy life we aspire to.

There’s nothing holding me back. There are no roadblocks. There are speed bumps, sure, that will need to be accounted for and which might slow me down from time to time. But barriers? To heck with them, they’re all in my mind. This is where I’m at right now.

What’s My Productivity Routine Like?

There are countless studies you can point to if you want to be assured that multitasking is the key to productivity or feel justified in feeling it’s antithetical to getting anything done well. It’s a great topic for finding that yes, there are statistics that will back you up no matter your position. You just have to search hard enough.

For myself I understand that multitasking is often a necessary evil. As I type this, for instance, I’ve also got Slack open on the other monitor so I can track a conversation related to something I’m working on and there are multiple tabs open in Chrome that I can bounce between. In fact, here’s a screenshot of my main external monitor, which is what I work in most of the day.

You can see I have, in order:

  • Three Gmail instances open, my personal one and two work-related inboxes
  • Digg Reader, which I use for RSS reading and monitoring
  • Pocket, which is where I save stories for reading or usage later
  • Two WordPress admin pages, my personal blog and that of CinematicSlant
  • Tweetdeck
  • Two Google Drive instances, my personal account and one for a project
  • A couple Google Sheets, including the editorial calendar for my personal blogs
  • A Google Doc where I keep blog post ideas
  • Facebook

I’m also listening to Spotify and, as I said, I have Slack open to one of the three team chatspaces I belong to.

That’s a lot. But here’s how that usually goes:

I check email throughout the day but try to do so in specific times. Not that I only check it between 9 and 9:30 am or anything, but I work to not be beholden to it and answer its every beckoning call. If something important comes in, sure, that’s why I have desktop notifications enabled. Otherwise I’ll turn to it only when I can plow through a few messages and do something to take any action items out of the inbox. Sometimes that means adding an item to my bullet journal, sometimes it might be saving a story to Pocket.

Digg Reader is the same way. I’m actually more addicted to RSS than I am email, though, and will find myself bouncing over there throughout the day and in the middle of other tasks to see what’s new. Usually I share stories directly to Pocket instead of acting on them immediately, as doing so allows me to use Pocket as a sort of triage station, evaluating more fully what I want to do with that story. So Digg Reader is just a middle man.

Pocket then becomes the way station the stories I’m reading almost always have to pass through. Whether they’re coming from Digg Reader or is something I’ve found on Twitter or elsewhere (if I’m on desktop I’ll click and use the Pocket bookmarklet, if I’m on mobile I can save directly from Twitter or other apps), this is usually where I’ll read them more fully. It’s essential.

The links to those stories usually then make it over to one of the text documents you see over on the far right. I have Textedit open nearly all day and is where I jot things down when I’m just sort of half-thinking about them. I’ll draft blog posts there and then copy/paste into a Google Doc. Or I’ll write an email there and copy/paste it into Gmail. What I like about this arrangement is that having a document off to the side means I can be looking at the story or other material I’m writing about in the browser window but see what I’m writing, referring back to the source frequently.

Tweetdeck is how I use Twitter, mostly because of the columns capability. With so many followers it’s important for me to be able to separate out various Twitter Lists and otherwise divide up the experience.

Lately I’ve been posting directly from Google Docs to WordPress, using the integration between the two. WordPress is the blog software I’ve been using for upwards of 10 years now and is the best the market has to offer. Other tools like Squarespace, Wix and others will work for other people and that’s fine but to me WordPress is the top of the line. I recently upgraded to the Premium hosted plan on and have zero regrets about that decision.

I like having Google Docs be the archive of everything, something I can turn to and use in any way I see fit later on. Over the years I’ve tried a number of arrangements, including blog editors like MarsEdit, but Google Docs is free and works pretty well, especially now that it speaks directly to WordPress. And of course it’s essential for collaboration with others as I can share documents with anyone. I’ve used Google Docs since it acquired Writely years and years ago, both personally and professionally. It’s great not just for drafting but Sheets allows me to manage ed cals and more.

There are other sites I’ll cycle between in that last tab, the one that has Facebook in it here. I’ll switch it over to LinkedIn, Evernote, ToDoIst or something else as the need arises. Basically that last tab, and any that follow on the right, are open for whatever is needed at that moment.

Between all those, though, you can see how my day travels and the path material I’m interested in reading and potentially using as the basis of a blog post takes. That’s why those tabs are laid out like that, because they roughly map out my productivity routine.

How about you? Do you arrange your tabs or other software in a similar manner? How do you maximize the flow to get things done efficiently and effectively?

This Week on Cinematic Slant

Girls Trip got a fun, sexually-empowered campaign about a group of friends having in fun in New Orleans. Dunkirk’s campaign, by contrast, was super-serious and steeped in history. The marketing of Landline was fun but sad as it sold a story of a family’s disillusionment. Finally, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ marketing made the case for an original, imaginative sci-fi adventure.

I also took a twopart look back at the last 10 years of movie marketing winners and losers at San Diego Comic-Con. And both Nolan and I reviewed War For The Planet Of The Apes, notably through the lens of having just watched the previous two installments.

How the Needs of the Industry Have Changed Over the Years

(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)

I’ve been doing content marketing for over 10 years, in some form. As I’ve said on a number of “get to know you” phone calls, that’s changed a lot over the years. It used to be about blogs, RSS and wikis. Then social networks started popping up and we needed to incorporate them. Then those social networks started adding photos, then videos and so on. So the platforms that have hosted the end result of the strategy I and my colleagues would develop certainly changed over time.

The skills and mindset necessary to do the job, both on a strategic and tactical level, also changed over time. Here are a few examples of how.

Visual Thinking

When I started out, it was mostly about text. Blogs offered writers a great outlet for their skills and if you were a decent writer you could get noticed in the early days. Eventually Flickr caught on with photographers and YouTube with video producers, but before mobile prevalence adding media to either was clunky, at best, and had to be done after the fact for the most part.

Eventually, though, the rise of Instagram along with more multimedia adoption by Twitter and Facebook along with YouTube’s mobile functionality meant text wasn’t enough anymore. People clearly responded more to photos, videos and eventually GIFs and that had to become part of the thinking that went into all content creation. That became even more important as Snapchat and other messaging apps that were built almost solely around media rose to mass adoption status. It wasn’t just about the update, it was about what graphic would accompany that update.

Get Over Content Permanence

Blogs and social networks promised you the ability to build up a whole history online. You could look back days, weeks, months and years to see what you’d posted and take it all as a portfolio with you wherever you went. We trained an entire group of young people to be careful what they posted online because it was going to follow them their entire lives. There were massive debates over whether to delete posts and how to mark edited posts to draw attention to the most relevant updates.

Again, tools like Snapchat have upended what used to be the law of the land. Now these shots you’re spending hours planning and setting up are gone in a heartbeat, as soon as they’re consumed. There’s no archive to go back to. The rules and best practices around creation might be the same, but there’s no record of it after it’s sent out to the audience. It’s lost, like teardrops in the rain…

Dig Deep Into the Audience

Let’s be clear, there was never really a time when knowing nothing about the target audience was acceptable. But now the extensive nature of the metrics and insights that are available either natively on social platforms or through third-party tools means there’s no excuse to not know a lot about who it is that’s connected with you on those networks and who’s interacting with the content being published.

That’s exactly what clients expect. “I’m not sure” is a terrible answer because the numbers are right there. It means things can be planned better and content more targeted for maximum appeal. It also means you’re that much further on the hook if things don’t turn out fantastically. It’s now table stakes for anyone at any level of a content marketing program to be able to navigate Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and other tools to extract audience data.

Pay Up to Achieve Reach

Remember the halcyon days of the social web, when all you needed to succeed was good content that was search-optimized? I know I do. But those days are long gone. Search is no longer the primary way people find what they’re watching or viewing, replaced by social networks. And those networks are increasingly putting restrictor plates in the form of feed algorithms in place to decide what is “important” for people to see based on mysterious factors.

As part of that, the promise has been that if you want to escape the shackles of the restricted feed all you have to do as a publisher is open your wallet. If you don’t, you’re saying you’re happy with reaching 1-2% of the audience you spent years building up on Facebook or elsewhere, versus the 8-10% that could be yours for a few sponsorship dollars. Again, content marketing pros at all levels now need to be well versed in the paid promotion options offered by social networks so they can make appropriate recommendations to their clients.

Do you have any further thoughts? What do you think has changed the most in your job over the last few years?