PPPPlenty to Talk About -- Four P's Episode 144:
Anxiety, Clubhouse, Green Energy and the ROI of Marketing
I've spent time a good amount of time with the global HR lead for my new company over the past few months, helping to ensure a smooth transition for our team into Jellyfish, as well as hoping to pick up any and all insights about the company culture overall. I was caught off-guard, but not at all surprised, when she began a recent conversation with a question:
"What if I told you that I've gotten feedback from people that you talk too much?"
But with HR, is a question ever really just a question? Or is it also a statement? (See what I did there?) Everyone knows that being “a good listener” is important in life - both personally and professionally. But talking somehow gets vilified in that overall equation. For every second someone is listening, that means someone else has to be talking, right? Yes, we learn a great deal when listening to other people. But we can also learn a lot when listening to ourselves. And for that, I will not apologize.
Don't get me wrong. I probably do talk too much… and could listen more. But I'd rather be judged by the quality, not the quantity, of my contributions to a conversation. I talk to share knowledge. I talk to correct the record. I talk to fill awkward silences. I even talk to hear myself speak (and self-assess if what I'm saying is well-articulate, or if it needs to be refined for further conversation). And occasionally, I even talk to cope with my anxiety. I find that talking out a problem is the most helpful way to solve it, even if I’m doing most of the talking.
Something Personal: Talking About My Anxiety
In addition to talking too much, I also don't sleep very well. It was never an issue growing up, but over the past 3-4 years, the quality of my sleep has decreased in an inversely proportional relationship to sharply rising anxiety levels.
Talking about anxiety, we know, has been taboo. But for so many of us, it gets worse as we get older and take on more responsibility. For me, these are linked: The backlog of emails, the dreading difficult conversations, the client relationships and financial stability, the concern for keeping others in my charge motivated, focused and happy can be all-consuming. And at a deeper level, these professional anxieties are likely driven by an underlying fear of not being able to provide for my family. You know what Maslow would say...
Anxiety is a basic human condition, rooted in survival instincts from our prehistoric ancestors. It has origins in ancient Greek (angh, meaning “burdened”). There are Biblical references to anxiety (nothing like fearing God's wrath to create some sleepless nights). Then there was our friend, Kierkegaard, who wrote 175 years ago that anxiety is a consequence of the human capacity to make decisions. With free choice comes that burden of responsibility. Sigmund Freud posited that anxiety is psychopathological and derived from trauma and unpleasant memories.
But when does “normal” anxiety actually become unhealthy, or even a disorder? As any good psychologist or psychiatrist will tell you, the criteria for diagnosing anxiety disorders are constantly changing. The criteria for evaluation (eg: DSM) have been criticized for attempting to fit complex disorders into simplistic checklists, about it has also legitimized mental health issues, enabled people to access mental health services, seek support at work and get covered by insurance.
Life's most important question will always be: "Fight or Flight?" When we feel threatened, blood flows, adrenaline surges, breathing rate increases, more energy flows to our muscles. But how do we know what really poses a threat? We know this from our experiences - whether first-hand, observed or learned. Survival instincts are inherent, but when we perceive threats where none exists, then it becomes problematic.
It's been (too) many years since I've discussed my own issues with a trained professional. However even in the past 25 years, the advancement of therapeutic approaches has been significant. Freud talked with patients, using psychoanalysis to get to the root of problems. Today's cognitive-behavioral approaches focus on symptoms, not the cause, helping people understand the dysfunctional core beliefs that unnecessarily throttle up survival reactions. Afraid of spiders biting you in your sleep? Keep showing them pictures of people holding spiders and gradually, over time, their negative associations with spiders are replaced by more neutral ones. Of course, this type of exposure therapy has limits.
In addition to behavioral treatment, medical and drug treatment use has also skyrocketed. This could range from short-term support in addition to therapy sessions... to longer-term anti-anxiety prescriptions.
Obviously I am not a trained professional, but I am clearly professionally anxious. Millions of people with anxiety disorders can lead "normal," successful lives. Maybe they're MORE successful because of the anxieties that fuel and protect them. No matter what, active coping is so important for all of us to be aware of and work on. That could be talking with friends and family, finding healthy distractions or organizational/compartmentalized tricks, meditation and even napping. We all need to find our own way forward, ultimately. Anxiety is something we can process consciously… but there is plenty to be gained by seeking support, professional help or treatment to improve the way we process anxiety.
Something Practical: Finding a Home in Clubhouse
When I was first invited to join Clubhouse a few months ago, I was skeptical. I am not a big podcast listener (who as the time?) and found the first conversations to which I was exposed talked only about Clubhouse, itself. But over the past few weeks, I've been sucked in. It started as a slow burn, and now I'm checking out the lineups a few times per day!
If you're not familiar with Clubhouse, which I find hard to believe... but I'll humor you. Clubhouse is a live audio chat network where people you know, as well as people you don't know, can join rooms focused on specific topics. There are hosts and moderators, as well as primary speakers... but the rooms are open to anyone who finds them to just drop in and listen. If the moderators allow it, listeners can raise a hand to join the stage, ask a question or just make a comment. It's so perfectly designed that Twitter, Facebook and possibly others are already scrambling to copy it.
So here's my practical tip: give it a try before you judge it. I am even happy to share an invite with you (once I am given more to replace the ones I've already given out).
Clubhouse has truly grown so much over the past few months, despite being "by invite only," that there is almost always something meaningful happening there, day or night, weekday or weekend. I dropped in on a talk with Penn professor and author Angela Duckworth on Saturday morning (talking about one of my favorite all-time books, "Grit"). I joined a Friday night media chat with Cheddar founder CEO Jon Steinberg and his 10 y/o son, Cooper (talking about TikTok, gaming and creator culture). I even co-hosted my first chat last week with other advertising and marketing leaders to break down the Super Bowl ads, and I've crashed several stages to chime in on start-ups, social networks, the stock market, celebrity culture and the NBA. I learned all about a new social justice app from Paris Hilton and listened in as Perez Hilton apologized for his years of unfair treatment of Britney Spears.
So you know the brands are going to find their way in... We’ve seen the first brand(s) to try sponsoring a room (Slice!). But for now, it’s mostly brand marketers and executives from companies like LVMH, Restaurant Brands International, Delta, Chobani and Tesla taking the stage. Whether Burger King's "The King" or Chester Cheetah can find a home in Clubhouse remains to be seen, but I look forward to being there when they try. (Ping me for an invite, if you’re interested in checking it out.)
Something Political: An Island off Denmark
Somehow, protecting the environment, green, renewable energy and fighting for our planet's future have become politically divisive issues. Here, in the United States, the battle to pass legislation that reduces our carbon footprint, taxes polluters or incentivizes the development of alternative energy is a knockdown, drag-out affair.
But it doesn't have to be this way. The General Motors Super Bowl commercial about Norway's leadership in the manufacturing of electric cars enlightened many to the fact that Scandinavian countries have embraced the green energy movement almost universally. Even Denmark, which has been the European Union's largest oil producer, is moving on. Several years ago, Denmark built its first offshore wind farm in the North Sea, and just last week, the Danes voted to create an entire island of wind energy creation turbines 50 miles offshore.
Once the first phase is complete, the "island" will be able to power 3 million homes, and up to 10 million homes when the second phase is complete. The government funded half the project, with the other being led by private businesses.
While the United States is still many years away from being freed from the shackles of oil and coal, the future is the present around the world... and old, stodgy, dirty energy executives need to adapt, lead or get out of the way. And the same goes for those members of Congress helping them to remain powerful influencers in our country.
Something Professional: The ROI of...
Last week, while having an enjoyable conversation with a client about the early days of digital marketing, we got to talking about those "What is the ROI of social media?" questions we used to get." Whenever I was asked that question, I'd cheekily dodge it by responding: "Well, what is the ROI of not doing it?” Gary Vee also used to famously respond with "What's the ROI of your mom?"
Also last week, Amber Naslund, social business strategist and the Co-Founder of SideraWorks, tweeted:
Well now I've gone into a thought tailspin, and can only write my way out of it. Yes, everything a company does – including marketing – needs to demonstrate its financial value clearly. I've felt the pressure from executives to show clearly our projects’ return on investment... how much value they created for the company. In the years since, marketers have gotten smarter about how to plan effective digital campaigns, as well as measure and prove their financial performance. Somewhat...
Positive return on investment starts with aligning a marketing project with business needs. Based on these needs, marketers can devise campaigns with clear objectives. ROI Institute lead and author Jack Phillips says that it's built around several connected marketing levels, and analyzing data at each level allows a clear chain of impact to emerge.
We first start with the Input Level: the different resources invested in the marketing campaign. These include financial resources as well as non-financial resources, such as the people working on the campaign. Next is the Reaction Level, which refers to how the chosen audience feels about the campaign. For example, do they find it useful or relevant? A positive Reaction leads to the audience acquiring information from the campaign – and this is the Learning level. The next step is Action Level: Marketers ideally want audiences to act on the information, usually by making a purchase. This action level greatly influences the success of the campaign. When enough people take the desired action, a campaign reaches the Impact Level. The final level is ROI, where the return on investment is calculated by comparing money spent on the campaign to the monetary value created.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let's just say there are still some limitations. It remains incredibly difficult for marketers to isolate and prove the financial returns of their work because the models used for marketing return on investment. Existing models don’t clearly connect marketing efforts with the value they create, and current models have a narrow definition of value, rarely considering non-financial factors like customer perspectives or internal business processes.
The biggest reason why marketing projects fail is a lack of alignment with the overall business. To ensure alignment, marketers first have to ask "Why?" Why is the campaign necessary? Why should customers (or the client/executives) care about it? Once you've sufficiently answered this, the next step is figuring out the right way to meet that need. Marketers who set relevant objectives for each of those steps or level in order to stay aligned with business needs throughout the campaign have a greater likelihood of success. This means deciding on the reaction, learning, and action objectives of the campaign, as well as the desired impact.
Collecting data at each level allows marketers to quickly assess the effectiveness of their strategy – and make necessary adjustments that can increase the chances of success. But to get credible results, every effort must be made to isolate the effects of a marketing campaign. At any given time, a company will have a number of ongoing projects – and circumstances in the outside world will be in constant flux. All of them can influence the business areas that marketers hope to affect with their campaigns. For this reason, marketers need to separate the impact of their efforts from other factors. This increases the accuracy and credibility of their results. Only then can we do what Amber said at the outset... converting impact to monetary value. To get the final ROI figure, marketers need to subtract all the costs of the campaign from the financial gains. So let’s level up!