christopher s penn

How Did You Do That? It’s Magic!

You can blame The Ninja on this one.

I call Christopher S. Penn, “The Ninja,” for a myriad of reasons. He also happens to be one of the most practical and well-thought-out working professional marketers that I know (and I do not say that lightly). Years ago, we were discussing topics like persuasion and presentation skills during one of our not-frequent-enough chats, when he introduced me to the book, Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz. Penn’s reasoning is sound: if you really want to master the art of presenting, there are few people as amazing at presenting than a great magician, and this book is over-the-top with insights about how to work an audience, and how to turn a presentation into a spectacle (in the best way possible).

And then, it hit me.

When I was a kid, I was into magic. Really into magic. I loved it. I bought tricks. I had one of those old-fashioned hardcover suitcases that eventually became stuffed with all kinds of magic tricks. Yes, I used to perform at kid’s birthday parties. I’m not sure where that passion went (it probably evolved into some of the words that you’re reading right now), but it wasn’t something that I had thought about until I was halfway through reading Strong Magic. That book sent me back down another rabbit hole. One of watching magicians, learning how tricks are done, but – most importantly – reading a lot about magicians and how they weave their craft (hat-tip to Mark Levy and Steve Cohen as well).

It’s all magic.

The overall sentiment I share with those who ask me about my fascination with magic is this: if you understand how magic works, you know things about the human condition that most other human beings don’t know. While the tricks are simply tricks, it’s the manipulation of thought and suspension of belief that makes magic more real than most people know. In fact, it’s all about the presentation. One of the true masters is David Copperfield. Kevin Rose recently had an amazing conversation with Copperfield for his latest episode of Foundation (still, one of the best video podcasts out there). There is a ton of meat in this interview, and many interesting thoughts about how Copperfield blends magic with entrepreneurship and yes, even technology.

You have to watch this…

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Free Summer School For Marketers

Spoiler alert: I dropped out of university.

It’s true. I entered university with the best of intentions. At the same time, I was already publishing a couple of music magazines that were becoming successful. As I ventured down the road of burnout by trying to be both a publisher and a full time college student, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with my parents. In a very non-traditional fashion, my mother said, “If the magazines don’t work out you always go back to school, but if you stay in school and stop publishing those magazines, you will never know what could have been.” While I dropped out of university (and never went back), I never let not being in school get in the way of a higher education.

Education has never been easier… and cheaper.

There is no substitute for what a deep-dive into a full-blown masters program can bring. The intensive study, camaraderie with peers, access to professors and time spent collaborating on both what you’re learning and how you’re learning, is a unique moment in most people’s lives. The fact remains, that many of us either can’t afford the material cost to attend these types of schools or we can’t afford the time and dedication needed to get this done because we’re older, have been in the workforce for several years and have a family that needs to be supported. Beyond that, individual’s don’t naturally invest in their own education willfully. It’s the odd business book or conference and that’s the extent of our personal development. No surprise, the Internet provides a ton of resources that – when approached in serious manner – offers up a wealth of amazing resources and education. In short, it has never been easier to invest in yourself and your education.  

Following are some of the richest and deepest places to grab a master’s level education in marketing… for free (free of cost… not free of time, effort and homework):

E-newsletters:

  • AdWeek. One of the marketing industry’s premiere trade magazines offers up a slew of free e-newsletters that are chock full of information and insight. Check out the Advertising & Branding e-newsletter along with the Technology Today one.
  • Almost Timely. A weekly (and free) e-newsletter from Christopher S. Penn (co-host of the podcast, Marketing Over Coffee, and author of the book, Marketing White Belt) who brings together a slew of links and tweets from some of the Web’s biggest (and smartest) thinkers. Between Media ReDEFined (see below) and Almost Timely, if you read nothing else, these two will keep you in the loop without any gaps.
  • Marketing Charts. This is one of those “it’s hard to believe that it’s free,” ones. This daily e-newsletter is filled with tons of free articles and insights on the bleeding edge of research. Warning: you can get lost in these articles and research reports.
  • MediaPost. Simply click on “publications” and then be very cautious. You will be overwhelmed with the breadth and depth of options here. Interested in marketing to moms? They have a unique e-newsletter for that. Real Time Bidding? Yep, one for that too. I’m a major fan of their Online Media Daily and Mobile Marketing Daily newsletters.
  • Media ReDEFined. Jason Hirschhorn is the former co-president of MySpace. Currently, he is curating and aggregating this amazing resource of information. Forget the website and simply sign up for his free, daily e-newsletter. If something interesting happened in the digital realm, Hirschhorn has you covered.

Websites:

  • Fast Company. Still an amazing magazine in print, the Fast Company web experience is an even more amazing wealth that also extends into sites like Co.CREATE, Co.DESIGN and Co.LABS. Smart business writing that has been edited by experts.
  • Harvard Business Review. Long before I was a contributor here, I was simply a fan of the marketing blog posts that you can find here. Inevitably, the deeper I dug, the more often I found myself picking up the physical magazine or purchasing digital reprints of specific long-form articles.
  • LinkedIn Today. It turns out that LinkedIn isn’t just for poaching your competitor’s best talent. LinkedIn Today is full of fascinating articles and blog posts that can also be organized by what is news, what influencers are posting or even by specific industry/channel.
  • MarketingProfs. With a focus on Business-To-Business and a slant towards content marketing and social media, MarketingProfs is filled with fascinating articles, blog posts and interviews. While there is vast majority of free content on this site, once you dive in you will find it hard to not upgrade to a paid Pro Membership level.
  • Seth Godin. There are thousands of marketing blogs on the Internet. There is only one Seth Godin. Short blog posts (sometimes long ones) that will get you thinking differently about marketing (and business). Along with having well-over ten bestselling business books, Godin is one of the few marketing experts online that is actually an established expert. He brings years of experience and skill to his blog, instead of hyperbole and posturing. It’s rare to have a seasoned veteran offer this much constant and consistent quality content.
  • Sparksheet. A highly underrated and not well-known-enough website that focuses on content marketing, but veers into fascinating general marketing themes. Published by Spafax (a branded content and custom publishing agency), Sparksheet is a great, little gem.

Podcasts:

  • Foundation. Kevin Rose (ex-Digg and currently at Google Ventures) hosts this video podcast where he deep-dives into conversations with many startups from Silicon Valley. While this isn’t a formal marketing podcast, Rose’s depth of knowledge and subjects he chooses to have a conversation with always has some kind of bent towards marketing and how to make some noise.
  • HBR IdeaCast. Putting nepotism aside (because there isn’t any), this Harvard Business Review audio podcast is not one to miss. Recent episodes have looked at everything from pricing strategies and business intelligence to finding great talent and creating a business for longevity.
  • iTunes U. You won’t have a hard time finding a ton of marketing podcasts to download and enjoy for free by heading over to iTunes and looking in the Business – Management & Marketing category, but many people fail to realize that iTunes U gives you free access to some of the world’s leading educational facilities (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc…) for free. Dig through both the Business category along with the Communications & Media one. Hours upon hours of amazing ivy league lectures (all free).
  • On The Media. This NPR radio program brings the bluntness of public radio with the biting side of media pundit, Bob Garfield. You don’t want to miss these shows if you’re looking for an angle that lies in between what brands want you to believe and the raging ridiculousness of what they often do to get a consumer’s attention.
  • TED Talks – Business. As more and more TED Talks get published online and more TEDx events are held all over the world, the good people at TED have tagged over 200-plus talks as “business” and many of those have a heavy marketing slant.

It’s all there… waiting for you.

The above is just a sample of what’s out there. What you will quickly begin to understand is this: there has never been a moment in the history of business like this. Never before have individuals – like you and I – had this much access to this much education and content for free. The challenge is no longer in accessing this content. The challenge is in finding the time to immerse yourself in it. In the next couple of week, things will naturally slow down as we move into the summertime. As things slow down, you may want to find some moments to learn, grow and expand your marketing and business horizons. Everything is just a few clicks away.

What other top-shelf marketing resources would you recommend?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Harvard Business Review. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

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Hacking The Media (Again)

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