Hey Readers,

I was asked to post about this and think it is a worthy cause. It is a memorial project called “My Fellow Americans” that teaches us all that we are one nation. Hopefully you will find some peace from it. Thanks to Elizabeth Potter for reaching out.

Here’s the link: http://myfellowamerican.us/

– Bill





As an aspiring entertainer, it used to be that you spent every waking moment working toward your dream, with only a small hope of ever bearing the fruits of your labor. For a musician, singing at dive bars and airport lounges, sending demos to record labels, and praying that someone in the industry could see a hit record when they looked at you. For a comedian, hitting the open mic circuit, waiting until midnight on a Tuesday to perform for an empty bar with one tired bartender, and working for months to create 10 minutes of material that was actually funny. And for an actor, doing cold reads to get a speaking part in a student film, working 12-15 hour days as an extra on the set of an actual studio movie, and spending more money than you make in a month for the right headshots. Oh, and also, you would probably be packing up and moving to either New York City or Hollywood to “Get Discovered.”

Becoming Famous A.I. (After Internet)

Actually, I guess some of that hasn’t changed. However, the entertainment industry has, and more specifically the proliferation of online content has opened new doors for aspiring superstars that had previously been locked shut. More and more we are seeing real-life celebrities emerge from simple YouTube videos in all areas of the entertainment space. It’s truly remarkable that a person can gain fame without ever leaving his or her bedroom, but hate it or love it; this is the reality we live in. Still, for every Justin Beiber story, there are millions of failed attempts to “Get Discovered” online.

So the question is: What makes someone become more than just “YouTube famous?”

According to Daedalus Howell, a Producer for the Future Media Research Lab in California, the answer lies in how seriously an artist takes social media, namely YouTube.“I think we’ll see more entertainment industry successes coming out of the YouTube fray once two points become accepted – that YouTube is now part of the entertainment industry and that it isn’t a means to an end, it is the end.”

He’s right, and don’t think that YouTube hasn’t noticed. YouTube (via parent company Google) is now promoting studio-produced YouTube shows, and their market for legitimate entertainment is likely to explode in the next couple of years. Through acquisitions such as digital video technology company Green Parrot Pictures, and web video production company Next New Networks, YouTube is preparing for the next frontier in entertainment.[i] And we haven’t even started talking about the potential once Google TV garners mainstream attention.

Real Entertainment for Real People

This isn’t to say that YouTube and other like-minded social networks will completely fall into the mold of traditional media, as the platform will still be largely dependent on user-generated content. However, as YouTube continues to strengthen its presence as a ‘real’ form of media, it will simultaneously legitimize the content of some of its existing amateur artists.

As Howell notes, YouTube is now a place where real people go to get real entertainment. “There is a pervasive myth that one can get ‘discovered’ on YouTube, which causes creators to think of their contributions as auditions more than finished products ready for mass consumption… To wit, it behooves non-studio creators to bring their best game and rise above the piano-playing kittens and teething toddlers.”

Don’t Wait to be Discovered!

As adorable as those piano-playing kittens may be, they won’t be getting a recording contract without a professionally edited video. Howell cites Andy Samberg of YouTube-born sketch comedy troupe Lonely Island, who crossed to national fame on Saturday Night Live after his organic attention caught the eye of SNL producer Lorne Michaels.

Conversely, there are acts like Amy Walker, an actress who famously performed 21 different accents in a video that garnered 6-million-plus views as well as national TV attention a couple of years ago. “Watch her video again, and you realize immediately, she’s just showcasing, not entertaining,” Howell reflects. “If Walker created a narrative series in which she played a person with multiple personality disorder or an international undercover agent, she’d have a movie deal by now.”

What does it mean for an aspiring star?

So what’s the moral of the story? Take your career seriously, even if you are performing from your bedroom. Realize that YouTube (and the rest of the internet) is a unique opportunity that your predecessors did not have. But as Spiderman (who is a celebrity) famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Stop waiting to be discovered, and discover yourself! Paint a direct image in the mind of a producer, casting director, etc. of what role you might fit. By shaping your own brand, it will allow people in the entertainment industry to clearly see how they might take you off YouTube and into the national spotlight. Will it cost money? Yes, probably. Will it be harder than setting up your webcam on your desk? Yes, definitely. But it will put you at a distinct advantage, and when the competition to become famous is so strong, you can’t afford to make yourself forgettable.

What comes to mind when you hear the term, “Media?” Go ahead; I’ll give you a second to sort it out. The truth is today most people don’t know what to make of the countless number of ‘media’ sources that exist. We struggle to consume news, because there is too much of it, and there are too many sources doling it out.  Before the internet, the media industry was much more streamlined. Only a few major players competed in each of the three ‘traditional’ branches of media: Radio, Television, and Print. And there were relatively high barriers to entry, meaning a consumer could rely entirely on those few players to provide all the information he/she needed on a daily basis. For this reason, media branding wasn’t much of a challenge: You either had a media brand, or you didn’t. You either were the New York Times, or you weren’t.

Enter digital media. I won’t insult you by describing how it has transformed the media space. You’re reading a blog after all, so I will assume you’re up to speed. Rather, I want to focus on how this revolution in media has made media branding a much more important, and difficult, priority. It has added a fourth category to the media suite: Radio, Television, Print, and People.

A study by Columbia University recently concluded that search engines are fundamentally changing the way that our brains store information. Interestingly, people today are programmed to remember where to find information, rather than remembering the information itself. Some would contend that this condition makes us less intelligent; however there’s no need to place any value judgment on it. It’s not a worse way of thinking; it’s just a different way. It’s also a natural defense against the dreaded disease known as “Information Overload”. As Malcolm Gladwell suggests, when we are presented with too many choices, we tend to make no choice at all. In other words, if we become overwhelmed looking for news/information on the internet, our tendency likely will be to just give up. As a media outlet, that is the last thing you want to happen to your potential consumers.

What does this mean for Media Branding?

Whether you are a large news organization, a blog run by a single individual, or anything else, you are a media outlet in today’s marketplace. Therefore, creating a complete media brand is critical to your success. As we discussed, people don’t remember information as much as they remember where to get the information. As a media brand, you want to do everything possible to make sure it is YOU they are remembering!

Consumers will look for heuristics, or mental cues, to help them remember valid sources of information. So above all else, make sure your site is considered as a valid source. This is evidenced by the success that some traditional media has had in converting to the internet. NYTimes.com performs so well because it already has a strong, credible brand in the media world.

How does a media source achieve validity?

  1. Focus – An important element to media branding is focus. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. If you are starting out, you’ve probably already lost the battle to be known as the place to get general news (There’s enough of those brands). However, you may be able to grab a hold of a piece of the market, such as “Tips on how to train a dog,” or “Information about new premium wine.” People will be able to remember that your site is the place to go for a very specific reason.
  2. Take Google Seriously – What do people do when they want to find a credible source? They ‘Google’ it. If it’s the top ranking link on a Google search, it must be good, right!? So take Google, and SEO in general, seriously. No one is going to find your incredible content on tennis if you appear on the 10th (or even 2nd) page of Google.
  3. Stay Consistent – Maintain your focus, don’t stray from the vision that your blog or website (or magazine, newspaper, etc.) presents. People will lose interest quickly. And if you have more than one channel of communication – i.e. Blog as well as a Magazine – keep the media brands consistent. Use the same logos, color patterns, etc.
  4. Proliferate Content – Make your presence known outside of your blog. Create a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, and a Google+ account. Syndicate your content onto aggregators like Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop. If other credible sources are distributing your brand, it will increase your credibility.

What about Entertainment?

The principles above also apply in the entertainment space. Many people get “discovered” from YouTube and MySpace because these platforms provide them an outlet to showcase their talent to the world (See Justin Beiber).Yet there are millions of other musicians, actors, athletes, comedians, etc. that will never make it. Why? Because they haven’t set themselves apart from the masses. Remember what I said earlier – EVERYONE is a media brand now. How powerful that brand is depends solely on how you build and maintain it. You have to find a way to stand out from all of the noise.

The key is to decide what you are going to be and OWN that image. If you ask five people to describe your brand – you ideally want to hear the same description from all five. Focus, Stay Consistent, and Proliferate. If you adhere to these rules, the sky is your limit. Oh yeah, and if you’re a performer – it also helps to be talented. Without talent, disregard these tips. J

Media + Entertainment branding is certainly a challenge, and even the strongest brands in the world will need to evolve over time. However, it is also an opportunity that did not exist even a couple of decades in the past. If you want to own a market – own it. If you want to become a star – do it. Ultimately, the most important element to a strong media brand has not changed: Passion. If you have that, you’re well on your way.

Note: This post originated in the Personal Branding Blog.

Growing up – I was (and still am) an avid sports enthusiast. I played both baseball and basketball for as long as my mediocre athleticism would allow me to. Even today, one of my favorite hobbies is to head over to an outdoor court on a nice summer night and play pick-up basketball with people I have never met before. It’s my primary form of relaxation. As a resident of Boston, MA – (The greatest sports city in the world) – I have also always been a rabid fan of all of my local teams. Through the highs and lows, I remain, although not always happy, loyal to my teams. This passion for sports is something that defines me.

Another thing that has always defined me is an intense competitive nature. In sports and in all other elements of my life, I am fiercely competitive. And it has been a blessing as well as a curse. On the one hand, it has caused me to seek success, to strive to be the best at everything that I do. On the other hand, however, it has made me an admitted sore loser. I was the kid who refused to shake hands after losing a little league game (In fact, I once got suspended in little league for throwing all of my equipment into the woods after a loss – yes, true story). I HATE losing, and I hate when my teams lose.

Image courtesy of the Boston Globe

Which finally brings me to my point. My mother always used to say to me, “It’s just a game, there’s no reason to get so upset about it.” And in reference to my outlandish reaction to losing, she was right. But I disagree with her on the former part of her statement. Because a professional sport isn’t JUST a game. Let me tell you why:

The impetus for this post comes from the Boston Bruins victory last week in the Stanley Cup Final – bringing home the championship to Boston for the first time in 39 long years. On Saturday, I had the pleasure of walking around the city during the Championship Parade, and what I saw was truly awesome. There were twenty somethings that filled the bars enjoying some much deserved (and non-violent) day-drinking with friends. There were young families introducing their children to the wonder of sports and teamwork. And there were older fans, who vividly remembered the Bruins’ last victory in ’72, and were filled with pure happiness to see them win it again in their lifetime. People from all walks of life became family for just one day, sharing hugs and high-fives with total strangers. I even met a homeless man, sitting outside a Dunkin Donuts – with a smile from ear to ear as he talked about how he was going to head over and try to see the parade (He was also the beneficiary of the good mood everyone was in when they passed by his cup).

Perhaps my view of the world of professional sports is tainted by the market I live in. The passion a big market has for its sports teams is very different than other markets. (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, LA, Chicago, Dallas, etc. being ‘Big Market’) However, until last week, one could make the argument that the Bruins did not have a ‘big market’ fan base in this city. So the principal is the same. For this city, during this celebration, the Boston Bruins tore down social barriers. There were no racial or age differences, no socio-economic stati, there was just pure elation. A sport is one of those rare entities that has the power to bring together entire communities, it’s an escape from reality, and it’s an opportunity to bond with those who matter (and those who don’t, too!) In short, a sport is not JUST a game, it’s much more. Congratulations to the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins, thanks for making the city of Boston come alive again!

How long does it take each day before you hear the word ‘technology’ used in some form or fashion? Technology is everywhere. This is not a new revelation, I realize. From business, to health care, to everyday personal communication, we as humans are immersed in a technological revolution that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In fact, according to Moore’s law, technology is doubling every 18 months to two years! At that rate, it’s impossible for society to keep up, meaning new technology that is invented today won’t become acclimated to our everyday lives for a considerable amount of time.

Yes, technology has changed everything about our daily lives: Our commute, our jobs, our relationships – but there is one thing that it has seemed to conspicuously avoid impacting: Human Nature. What I mean to say is that human beings exhibit the same behavioral patterns today as they did 10, 20, or 50 years ago. We may communicate through different mediums than before, but remarkably we still feel the same emotions, exhibit the same psychological tendencies, and react to various events in the same way that our parents and grandparents did.

When you think about it, it really is quite remarkable. When I was in college, I did a lot of work in the field of academic integrity – and the biggest argument I heard from ‘older’ people was “Your generation cheats a lot more than we ever did. With your iPhone’s and your laptops looking up answers and emailing documents to one another.” I would argue that even if there was more cheating today than 50 years ago – it wasn’t because of human tendencies, it was just simply that 50 years ago students didn’t have the means to cheat as much. If they did, they probably would have (And if the societal pressure on grades had been as high).

Image from Google

In my opinion, the same can be said about anything. Much is made today about Facebook and its impact on relationships. That you have to be careful about what you put on Facebook and who can view it. Well sure, but Facebook hasn’t changed how relationships function at a base level – girlfriends/boyfriends were always upset when they saw their significant other in a compromising position with another person – Facebook has just made that a much more frequent occurrence. To further build off of the Facebook example, I read a funny article recently about the 5 types of annoying Facebook users. It included: The Optimist, Constant Drama, Dear Inanimate Object, The Emotional Wreck, and The Self Promoter (Read full article here). While these were hysterical and rang true for me (I’m probably guilty of the Self Promoter), I would argue that these types of users existed in the same percentages before the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and any other forms of technology are enablers of human nature – they put it further on display – but they haven’t changed it.

I think the biggest point I want to make here is that the sheer power of human nature is even stronger than we may have previously thought. In the face of the most prolonged and aggressive change in our world history it has proved steady. Now to be fair, there are certain elements that may be more fluid and are taking time to adapt – but I would bet that isn’t the case.

So what does all of this mean? It means Michael Jackson’s classic song, “Human Nature,” will likely live on well into the 21st Century. It also means that our nature as people is deeply rooted in norms that were established long before any of us were here. Both professionally and personally, we should all spend more time reflecting on and studying human nature. It seems to be the one constant in an ever-changing world, and understanding it is the key to more effective communication and stronger relationships across all channels. I’m interested to see if this continues to be the case, or if human nature becomes as unpredictable as the next big social network.

What do you think? Have you noticed that human nature is still constant or am I way off? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

It’s that time of the year again, when millions of new college graduates will venture out into the world,  nostalgic about the 4 fun-filled years spent in college and timid/anxious about the dreaded concept known as the “Real World.” It wasn’t too long ago that I stood in their place. And it is a scary place. In college, you have way more free time that you could possibly imagine, and ‘bar nights’ consist of Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – oh yeah and Monday… and sometimes Wednesday if there’s a holiday, or a game on, or if you dressed yourself successfully.. and don’t forget Sunday, because on those long weekends it’s kind of like a Saturday when you think about it right?? Often I hear concerns from friends who are finishing up their last year of school, and the most prevalent question seems to be, “How bad is life after college?” Well, I’m here to tell you that it ISN’T THAT BAD. It’s actually pretty good. Of course, it isn’t college, so I don’t want to start off with any misconceptions. You will have to work, and you won’t typically have the luxury of skipping a day to go to the beach or to sleep in because you had a rough night. But I think you all knew that.

Taken from Personalbrandingblog.com

Here are 5 ways to stay young after college is over:

1. Know the Difference Between College and Real Life – This is probably the most important tip. Everything else I will tell you is predicated on the assumption that you have this understanding. As I said in the intro, life after college is good, but it isn’t college. Employers aren’t usually OK with you calling in sick every Friday after you’ve gone out clubbing Thursday night, nor will they accept a presentation two weeks late like that sympathetic professor you had. That said, I’m not telling you not to have fun, you just have to be mature enough to get your work done first. Then again, if you’ve graduated, you’re more than likely intelligent enough to make this connection without me having to highlight it. Moving on..

2. Don’t fall into a boring routine – Once you find a steady job, and a place to live, you will likely find yourself falling into a daily/weekly routine. That’s actually a good thing! A routine is a luxury not afforded by the rigor and unpredictability of a college schedule. Most days, I will wake up, eat breakfast (which never happened in college), go to work, go home, eat dinner, and eventually go to sleep (at a reasonable hour… again, never happened in college). It’s nice, and it’s a lot healthier than a 3 hour sleep average and granola bar dinner that you may be used to. However, a routine also lends itself to boredom, and you will soon come to learn that once you fall into said routine, the days/weeks/months will FLY by. The last thing that you want to do is have life pass you by, and the ‘routine’ is the reason that we hear horror stories of people waking up and realizing they wasted their best years. You know when you’re driving somewhere familiar, and then you just get there without remembering the ride? Well, that happens in life too. Break up the routine a few times a week, and do something different. Eat out at a different place, or go to a concert, or join a social sports team… anything, just make sure you consciously do something different each week so that you have something to remember!

3. Force Yourself to Have Fun – This one might sound foolish, but trust me when I say it is not. It’s not at all uncommon for people to make plans with friends for a Friday night, then get home and say, “You know it’s been a rough week, I think I’m going to stay in tonight and watch television.” If that is fun for you, then fine, but my guess is it isn’t the attitude you had in college 🙂 We are all tired after a long week, or haven’t had a chance to grocery shop, or are just not in the mood. But sometimes, you have to force yourself to have fun. Stick to your plans. You’ll be happy that you did. I guarantee you will never say to yourself, “I really wish I had stayed in and watched TV that night, I’ll never know what I missed.” Think about it.

Taken from Google Images

4. Take Risks – This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s also important. When you’re young, it’s the perfect (and in many cases, only) time that you can afford to take risks. With your career, with your money, with your life. Once you are settled down with a family and other people to worry about, risk-taking can sometimes become almost irresponsible. But while you are young, with no children, and with plenty of time to make money, take a risk! Of course I’m not saying take stupid risks, they should be calculated and reasonable. But as I mentioned, you never want to have regrets in your life, and if there is a start-up company your friend needs help with, or a job in a different country that you may really enjoy – Do it! Because again, at least then you won’t end up with regrets, and who knows, those might end up to be the best decisions you’ve ever made!

5. Make Vacations Count – Perhaps this last tip is also self explanatory, but it’s not at all something I really considered until I entered the workforce. In college, there is SO much vacation, that students take it for granted. You have your spring break, of course, but then you have the lazy winter break and extended summer break where you are probably working a summer job or an internship but essentially relaxing. Once you start working, your vacation goes down – big time. You will only have 2-3 weeks of time off during the entire year, so what are you going to do with it? Well, I can’t answer that question for you, but whatever it is, make it count, because it’s not a ton. Go somewhere exotic with your friends, or plan long weekends to a beach or to a new city. Planning trips gives you something to look forward to, and it keeps you young.

And there you have it. 5 Tips to Staying Young After College. I hope you find them useful – and I don’t mean to neglect people who have been out of college for a long time, or to make it seem like they somehow lead less exciting lives. Some of the most exciting people I know are much, much older than me, and that’s the type of lifestyle I aspire to when I get older.

For those of you who have been out of school for few years, what would you add? What do you do to stay young and active? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Follow me on Twitter: @billconnolly

3520 days. That’s how long it has been since two commercial airline jets controlled by evil terrorists turned a seemingly beautiful fall day into one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history. It is a day that forever will define my generation. I, like the rest of the world, will never forget where I was when news broke of the horror unfolding around the country. I was in a band rehearsal at Elm Street Junior High School. The principal came over the loudspeaker announcing that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. I was too young to understand the magnitude of what was happening until our teachers turned on the television and we watched thousands of terrified people run for cover as the first tower collapsed. A friend of mine had a father that was an American Airlines pilot who happened to be flying that day – he was uncontrollable until he could find out that his dad was safe. For the rest of the day, school was essentially cancelled. How could we possibly work on anything else while this was happening?

As horrific as the tragedy was, born out of the massacre came the strongest feeling of community and patriotism that I have ever experienced in my young life. American flags were hung with pride outside of houses and support poured in from all 50 states for the city of New York and the brave men and women who were helping with the recovery effort. Candlelight vigils were held to pray in unison for the victims, and Americans stood tall illustrating the resolve and pride that comes with being a citizen of this great nation. I remember feeling a prickle down my spine when then-President Bush stood with a megaphone on a pile of rubble and told the American recovery team that “WE HEAR YOU,” indicating that the US would stop at nothing to bring justice to those responsible.

Over the course of the last 3519 days, life has certainly changed. We have been at war the entire time, and simple daily activities like boarding an airplane have become political hot button issues. However, for those who lost loved ones on 9/11/01, the extra 5 minutes in line at the airport is hardly an inconvenience worthy of discussion. For them, life will never be the same. We remember the numbers: 2,973 people, 343 firefighters, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority Police Officers all killed in cold blood. For the families of the victims, they remember the individuals. As President Obama said in his address last night: “The empty seat at the kitchen table.”

So what does the death of Osama Bin Laden mean to those people most closely connected to 9/11? I heard on a radio broadcast this morning perhaps the best description: A gentlemen (I can’t remember who it was) said, “This may not bring closure, and it may not bring happiness, but at least, in some way, it finally brings justice.” As we have repeatedly heard on the news, the death of Osama Bin Laden doesn’t mean the death of the terrorist network. We must remain on high alert because evil has not been conquered. With that in mind, however, this is a fantastic psychological win for our nation, our military and intelligence professionals, and a rare bit of good news worthy of celebration in a world where it is often fleeting.

The past 3520 days have been full of economic instability, military casualties, and the rebuilding of a nation. Here’s hoping that the next 3520 days are full of peace, happiness, and a renewed spirit for America!

Numbers taken from 911 count up dot com

Follow me on Twitter: @billconnolly