Friday, June 13, 2008

Latest storytelling quote

From Stranger than Fiction: True Stories by Chuck Palahniuk:
Our technology for telling stories becomes our language for remembering our lives. For understanding ourselves. Our framework for perceiving the world.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Am I interesting ... enough?

I've seen a few blog posts recently about being interesting. They take different paths related to their target audiences, but the nutshell is, to be interesting, be interested.

Image via

Makes sense. And I'll throw my few cents into the pot, as well:
1 - Passion - I've always found that passion is what carries me through - what can help me shine in interviews, presentations both internal and external, in general conversations. And I do tend to get jazzed when talking about storytelling, community, new research methodologies aimed at getting better views inside customers heads - and giving them a better time while we're at it.

2 - Variety - A single focus makes you a great subject expert, but can also make you as dull as dirt. Perhaps it's a part of my multi-tasking, micro-attention-span side, but I find that the unexpected elements variety can bring make life, subjects, people oh, so much more interesting. I love throwing a monkeywrench into people's perceptions of me by bringing up factoids and interests that force them to shift their thinking. Here's some examples - I think they play off better when you meet me in person, but we'll give it a shot - do any surprise you?
  • One of my hobbies is smashing glass.
  • I only drink beer that you can chew.
  • My bookshelves include books on cities underground, the world's smallest man, Lizzie Borden, ghosts, women's roles in traditional fairy tales, Russian poetry, novels in French, Neil Gaiman, Eugene Onegin in verse, Alduous Huxley, etc. Umberto Eco is a favorite, as is Oliver Sacks.
  • I watch "Cops" to destress when home on Saturday nights.
  • My favorite flick is "Delicatessin"
Well, I think it's interesting, anyway.

3 - Freshness - Right alongside variety, you've got to keep it fresh. Not only keep abreast of what's happening in your product space and the nearby adjacencies, as well as in the field of social media and marketing, but keep an eye on News of the Weird, ethnographer's blogs, research in other areas like youth and trends. BrandFlakesforBreakfast, by Plaid, does this quite well, I think - watch the range of things they come up with.

In this spirit, I loved this post from Russell Davies. I plan to print the list and try to follow it for 3 months, maybe more.... It will help to bring my blogging and photo habits back up to speed. I already have ideas on how I can weave some of these elements into work tasks, too. Very excited. Stay tuned, things should be getting more interesting around here.

Update 6/13 - I didn't realize the Russell Davies post was from '06 until I printed it to start following the list. Ah, well - I think it's still good stuff.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Small shops in small tourist towns

We just returned from a family gathering in Cape Vincent, in the Thousand Islands region of NY and Canada. The towns in the area are small and have a highly seasonal population. One person in a larger town claimed roughly 13,000 residents in summer, and roughly 500 year round - the 2000 Census lists a pop of 1,088 - so that's probably a good guess on the actual year round number.

Wandering through some of the less touristy shops that were more my speed, I noticed a trend. Dual purpose retail. A coffee shop that also does interior design. A tea shop that also sells art prints and apparently manages apartments. It struck home the need to have multiple ways to pull people in if only a few hundred are around all year.

Both of my favorite examples have a web presence, but no real social media outreach that I can spot. Interested customers still really should show up in-person. Perhaps the impetus for the web pages is the prospective tourist, checking out the town before heading up for the summer rush.

But how could this change in a social media environment? The shops could arrange for TweetUps and MeetUps from around the region to happen on the premises, potentially enticing people to remember to stop back when they're in the area next. They could create a virtual group of experts in one of their varied areas of business, so when you go to their shop, you're really reaching out to a much broader community. Or they could link into social charity programs like Kiva to rally the community for a global cause at the shop door.

I'm not sure if any of these are a really spectacular solution. The most obvious step, I would think, to ensuring a steady customer base in a seasonal location would be to sell online - to break the restrictions locale has placed. I didn't get into conversations with these shop-owners about why they had not done this.

What do you think? Are there ways beyond the dual-purpose diversification to bring a steadier stream of business in a seasonal town? Are there social media opportunities - beyond simple web retail - that could keep some of these pleasant, non-chintzy places around, where you know so many have struggled and failed?