Really, a lot of folks aren't courageous enough to trot out their miserable failures.
But we know that you, as a reader of Hot Shots, are different.
You are a pro.
And a pro like you recognizes that failure IS an option.
It's part of the path to success.
But sometimes, in that failure, you end up with a total head scratcher.
THE FIRST RESPONSE TO OUR OFFER CAME FROM AN UNEXPECTED PLACE
And it came with an unusual story.
On the face of it, this one appears to be a huge success.
And it's an unusual kind of promotion.
Admittedly, I didn't see this gem coming.
But the more I held it in my hand and turned it around and peered at it, the more it seemed to fit the criteria, just from a different point of view.
So be prepared: as you know, you read the screed for thoughtful analysis and piercing examination.
We're going in deep, so get ready.
This may be the longest screed ever.
It also appears to be about the radio business--but it's really about almost any business trying to get attention.
This gem comes from a longtime personal friend and professional cheerleader, Dick Taylor.
It's uncertain how my association with Dick even came to be. It is in some tenuous way connected to a certain advertising academy in the remote hill country of Austin, Texas.
DICK HAS RECENTLY MIGRATED FROM RADIO SENIOR MANAGEMENT TO UNIVERSITY PROFESSORSHIP
After spending 30 years in the trenches of the radio business, Dick now warps fresh young minds in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
And as a professorial type, Dick also opines on the state of media via his blog. (Call it a 21st century manifestation of higher education's publish-or-perish directive.)
The blog is called, oddly enough, Dick Taylor's Blog.
The story that Dick sent us is, as mentioned, a story about raging success. He begins by saying:
"I'm coming off a blog post that has gone viral in the radio world. Thousands have read it and sent it to others. Two radio publications published links to the post. Other blogs have re-blogged it. Even some radio folks--big names--that I remember trying to become connected with on LinkedIn in days gone by, have dropped me a note saying they read what I wrote and liked it."
The blog post he's talking about is a rant (gentlemanly, of course) about some big cuts in the area of professional radio air talent.
SEEMS SOME LEGENDARY RADIO AIR PERSONALITIES HAVE JUST BEEN THROWN OUT ONTO THE STREET
The reason is because (once again) genius and ability come at too high a price tag for management.
Dick's point was ultimately about the grim state of radio. About how bean counters are running the show.
Bean counting means that everything (including creative talent) is reduced to numbers.
Dick opines that, when you reduce everything to numbers, "it eviscerates the human element from the decision making process."
Yes, the faithful reader to Hot Shots knows that your faithful scribe has previously opined opinedly on this very opinion.
But never has it been put quite as nicely as Dick puts it when he says: "Radio is an art form. When you remove the artists, there's not much left."
THIS BARN-BURNER OF A BLOG POST HAS CAUGHT ON LIKE WILDFIRE
Says Dick of what happened in the wake of his Labor Day weekend post, "I really thought on a spectacular weather-wise holiday weekend that the traffic to my site would be really slow.
"But quite the opposite happened.
"It's been published in NOW, Radio's Daily Management Newsletter, and Radio Ink.
"It's been posted in the Puget Sound Radio and Larry Gifford just tweeted me to set-up an interview for his Radio Stuff Podcast.
"The blog post has generated 3,710 views since it went up.
"No doubt about it, this post caught fire.
So, you ask, where is the failure in this promotion?
Let's look back to what Dick says himself: "The irony is, things I thought were much more monumental I've written on my blog have been rather lackluster in resonating with folks."
IT SOUNDS LIKE DICK THINKS EVERYTHING LEADING UP TO THIS WILDFIRE HAS PERFORMED SOMEWHAT BELOW HIS EXPECTATIONS
Granted, in the world of blogging at large, almost 4,000 views, several re-posts and one interview might seem modest.
Until you consider that Dick is blogging on an arcane topic that has truly limited appeal: the radio business.
Through that lens focused on arcane subject, we're looking at a wildfire success.
So why has this one subject lit a fire under his target demographic where his other posts haven't?
Why are big wigs coming out of the woodwork to connect with Dick when they previously paid no attention on LinkedIn?
In our humble opinion, what Dick has done represents a perfect storm of marketing genius for the internet.
IT STARTS WITH THE ONLINE IMAGE
Dick always shares his blog posts on Facebook.
The image that went with this blog post is a famous (infamous?) image of the legendary jock Larry Lujack.
In the photo, he's toasting with a cup of coffee, and is smoking five cigarettes--three in his mouth and one in each ear.
It's an image that grabs anyone's eye--but especially the eye of someone who already knows it and has an appreciation for the history of radio and the cranky genius of Mr. Lujack.
Mr. Lujack was a man whose nascent career as an acerbic on-air comic grew out of goofing on farm reports and became huge.
Mr. Lujack was so iconically cranky and distinctive on air that Rush Limbaugh once told The New York Times Magazine that Mr. Lujack was "the only person I ever copied."
(If that piques your ire and disgust, consider this: that comment made Mr. Lujack even crankier. He said of Mr. Limbaugh, "His appeal escapes me.")
SO THE IMAGE CAUGHT PEOPLE'S ATTENTION
Even Dick asks, "Was it the Larry Lujack picture that attracted folks? It certainly wasn't the lame headline."
Yes, the image did. But the "lame headline" is where we disagree with Dick.
The headline is, "We Never Called It Content."
It's a reference to the old adage (if a Bill Gates quote can be old enough to be an old adage) that "Content is king."
Dick writes, "Radio is a pretty simple business. You play recordings people want to hear. You keep your hand on the pulse of the community you're licensed to serve and report on what's going on that people need to know. And you hire personalities that become the audio glue that keep it all together, running smoothly and engaging the listener."
The problem, though, is obvious: radio today largely lacks that vital audio glue.
Calling the art of air personalities "content" diminishes the art form.
It reduces it to the level of thoughtless posts and tweets and pins.
THE "LAME" HEADLINE IS ANYTHING BUT LAME
Instead, it immediately piques the ire and interest of the astute reader who is already sick of the evisceration of talent from radio.
Dick goes on to say, "This post was one that I was writing to 'vent my spleen'...(in the nicest possible way, of course) and I considered to be a rather 'lightweight' post."
We are not always the greatest judge of our own material.
Looking at some of Dicks' previous posts, the titles are things like...
"THE END OF FACEBOOK"
Yes, that's a post title.
Dick goes on to say that the end of Facebook is "about as likely as the end of radio," and "I'm sure I got your attention with that headline."
Here's the challenge: it's a sensational headline, yes.
But we've seen it before.
Google it in quotes. There are over 300,000 results.
And is it going to resonate with the passionate radio hound?
Additionally, the blog post takes four paragraphs before tying the premise into a thesis statement about the state of radio.
In the internet age, those four paragraphs could be three more than anyone is going to read.
The "We Never Called It Content" post dives right into Big Radio Thoughts.
Another recent title...
"CELEBRATING A REUNION"
"It was 45 years ago that I graduated from high school.
"It's really hard to believe that much time has passed, but this weekend I'm back in my hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts--in the 'Heart of the Berkshires'--celebrating that teenage milestone."
Radio arrives at paragraph four.
And the real professional point doesn't come until much, much later.
But that post is not going to be shared by an industry monolith like Radio Ink.
"WHY IS SO MUCH OF TELEVISION SO BAD?"
"That's the question that Newton Minow asked on May 9, 1961 when he addressed the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC."
The headline is a leading question--but it's also something that we've heard before.
Television sucks. So what?
The blog starts out as a history lesson that may or may not make the core customer care.
All this to say...
DICK TAYLOR IS A GOOD WRITER AND A CRITICAL THINKER
Which is necessary.
As a man entrusted with warping today's young minds for tomorrow, it's useful that he's a writer and a thinker.
And in the context of academia, talented writing and thinking is vital.
His stated goal for this blog is to establish himself (and by extension, his university) as a radio thought leader.
And on that level, it seems to be working.
However, in the context of making the internet sit up and take notice, there's a whole other challenge.
It's a challenge about being pithy--something that's almost at odds with being a thought leader from an institution of higher learning.
The challenge for the internet is in avoiding complexity.
It's instead about just baiting a hook with the right worm and then setting that hook immediately.
FRANKLY, I PREFER THOUGHTFUL MEANDERING
In the hands of a skilled meanderer, it's ultimately a more satisfying journey--and (one hopes) with a better destination.
Not that I'd necessarily call myself a skilled meanderer, but let's face it: this near-2,000-word screed about Dick Taylor's barnburner blog post is not exactly what kind fodder for the internet attention span.
But then, you are not the typical internet reader.
You're here for a reason.
And that reason isn't exactly related to short-attention-span theater.
(There's also a reason why The Fabulous Honey Parker and I call this operation Slow Burn Marketing.)
ULTIMATELY, HERE'S WHAT'S HAPPENING
Dick, like so many of us, has been writing something other than "content."
Dick has been concurrently writing thoughtful material from the head and the heart.
In dashing off a Labor Day weekend post, he also did something unintentional: he launched a dart directly at a bullseye.
It was emotionally evocative.
It got right to an impassioned point.
And it spoke succinctly about a Big Idea.
All necessary for an internet success.
And this is key: he didn't think too hard about it.
INSTEAD, DICK JUST LET 'ER RIP
And the result was magic.
In his own words, the goal of Dick's blog is to "reach people in the radio, advertising and broadcasting business."
Instead, in sitting back and letting his muse take charge, he focused down on a distinct core customer.
Not just people in media.
But a single person in media.
He narrowed his field of focus to become ever more piercing and singularly relevant.
He targeted the person who cares deeply about radio and what has happened to it because it, frankly, is criminal.
Business people with no comprehension about how to make a powerful and potent creative medium work--have been put in charge of making decisions that undermine the medium's potency and power.
THAT'S what happened with this post and why it went so much bigger.
WITH THE BIG POST, DICK TAPPED INTO SOMETHING LURKING IN HIS OWN PSYCHE
And perhaps it is best reflected in a comment from about a century ago.
Archy and Mehitabel are, respectively, a cockroach and a cat.
Together, they hijacked the typewriter of Don Marquis, a columnist for The New York Evening Sun.
Mehitabel would dictate to Archy, who would transcribe her words by jumping on the typewriter keys. (Archy was not heavy enough to hit the shift key of an old-fashioned mechanical typewriter, so he could use no capital letters.)
Mehitabel famously said, "i never think at all when I write. nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well."
And therein lies the secret.
Yes, what we do with branding and the subsequent marketing is a thoughtful process.
We need to carefully consider the one way we want our core customer to feel about our brand.
And once that's done, we need to be sure the materials that follow are true to that brand.
But in that process, it's necessary to always recognize the genius that can be tapped in the abandon of improvisation.
Go ahead and just blurt it out.
Some of our most wildly successful work has been the result of a seemingly stupid blurting out.
Just make sure that after you've done the blurting, you remain on-brand.