Sunday, September 23, 2012

Good Intentions Can Interfere with Success

To say that these are challenging times for non-profit arts organizations is probably an understatement. We're still struggling with the after effects of the global economic crisis. Previously viable business models are imploding. The elimination or severe reduction in government funding has resulted in a very quick need to replace public support with private funds. And who knows what is around the corner.

But, artists and arts administrators are a resilient bunch. One of our strengths is our never say die attitude. We confront each challenge head on in a "show must go on" fashion. We are inherently hard working. To make it in this field requires years of rebounding from rejection. When the going gets tough, we redouble our efforts.

After years of struggle, the fight in us undoubtedly begins to wane, as we contemplate the permanency of the current climate. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In moments of crisis, we ring the alarm and all hands arrive on deck to face the upcoming challenge, but this response is unsustainable for years on end. After downsizing, one human being can only do the work of three for so long before collapse. Our initial reaction of working stronger, harder and faster must give way to working smarter.

In the past few months, I've seen a couple of instances where hard working marketing departments, desperate to keep their heads above water, were working well beyond capacity, but were resistant to taking measures to improve efficiency for fear that if they took any time away from their current tasks, they would risk imminent financial peril. All while knowing that the current situation was unsustainable, they continued each day just like the prior, hoping that the financial climate would improve before they hit the point of exhaustion.

But for those already at the point of exhaustion, I'd like to offer up a few quick suggestions to improve efficiency in hopes of lightening the load:

Maximize Success to Minimize Risk. Often times marketing departments get into trouble when they have one business line or product performing very well, and a couple of others underperforming. Our natural instinct is to abandon the overperforming product in order to focus our attention on improving the underperforming others. Please don't do this. If you are understaffed and under-resourced (and who isn't), where and how you use your limited resources is incredibly important. If you reappropriate resources to aid underperforming products, at best you will most likely see minimal results, whereas if you applied your resources to the overperforming products, your returns could be exponentially better. High tech firms have built incredibly successful business models off of failure. They expect a very high percent of their products in development to fail, banking on the revenues from the one or two that will take off. And when a product does hit, the entire efforts of the company are focused on maximizing results. A good rule of thumb - spend 75% of your efforts on improving the results on overperforming products, and 25% on improving underperformance. All too often, we do the opposite, thinking that helping struggling products is what is best for the organization.

Analysis & Measurement, Before Action. Just a few weeks ago, I was in a meeting with a senior marketing executive in charge of a sizable national advertising campaign. He had a hunch that he was under-promoting a certain section of his business in the New York market, and had set aside a significant amount of money to test a new print campaign in New York dailies. When I understood what he was trying to accomplish, I asked him how he would measure success. He responded by saying that it was very hard to measure the exact outcomes of his new campaign, and besides, with his reduced staff and resources, he was doing his best just to get the campaign done and out the door. This is a common occurrence. When resources are cut, one of the first things to go is analysis, tracking, reporting and measurement. But when looking to work smarter, the one thing you need is what you have just cut. Before launching any major marketing campaign, make sure you have the tools in place to track results, analyze sales and measure success. Over the years, I have had more than one staff member get frustrated with me when I asked them to set aside the time they would normally spend promoting a production in order to create more sophisticated reporting tools. But without clear and reliable data, your campaigns will never improve, and if you do see an uptick, you won't be able to replicate what worked.

Don't Save Your Way to Trouble. Several months ago, I visited a client that was deep into their subscription campaign. The campaign was going well, but the company was financially struggling for other reasons. The marketing director, being incredibly conscientious, thought that every dollar saved, was a dollar earned for the company, and started to decrease the amount of money he spent on his subscription campaign in order to come significantly under his budgeted expenses. He wanted to save, and give back the money in order to help the company. His intentions were admirable, but his plan would have placed the company in an even worse financial position. His cost of sales reports were showing that for every dollar he spent on the subscription campaign, he was selling five dollars worth of subscriptions. This wasn't the time to under-invest, in fact, this was the perfect opportunity to spend more if cash flow allowed. If your cost of sale is below $1, for every dollar you don't spend, you place your company at additional risk. You only want to consider cutting your marketing expenses if your campaigns are resulting in negative net revenue, and even then, it is risky if you are cutting acquisitions.

Sometimes working smarter means doing the opposite of what's intuitive. Have the courage to challenge systems, the ability to measure results and the good fortune to discover efficiencies.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Law of the Few (and the Future of the Many)

About a year ago, I began designing a graduate certificate program for American University focused on technology issues in arts management, and this past summer, I taught my first course focused on the intersection of technology and marketing. To open the course, I asked students to read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, which if you haven't read it, describes how social epidemics evolve, providing a great platform to discuss word-of-mouth marketing and how technology can be used to ignite a movement.

Early in the book, Gladwell discusses "The Law of the Few," which boiled down is a riff on the 80/20 principle - 20% of the people are responsible for 80% of the work. As marketers, we latch onto this principle, as it correctly argues that if we can identify and cultivate relationships with a select group of influential people called "connectors," then our returns can be maximized. One connector can be worth his weight in gold, and easily as valuable as ten non-connectors.

As I was giving my lecture, it struck me that most non-profit arts organizations have designed their business models on the "Law of the Few" principle, not just in their approaches to marketing, but in how we program, fundraise and communicate. A previous supervisor of mine used to say that a grassroots movement begins with the grasstops. But if we are all focused on the few, are we ignoring the many?

I ask this question, because as society shifted away from a one way, web 1.0 world towards an interactive, web 2.0 one, the ways in which we do business and view the world radically changed. Previously companies had much more control of their brands as they could carefully craft messaging, but today, brands have a life of their own in the virtual universe. We used to seek out experts when we needed information, now we rely upon the collective of Wikipedia or Google (when was the last time you consulted an encyclopedia?). At one time knowledge was proprietary, but presently, a growing number of us look to the commons (and companies trying to maintain business models built upon charging for knowledge are struggling). We used to rely on authority figures to inform us, but now in moments of crisis, millions flock to Twitter, where we learned an hour before President Obama confirmed it that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

I believe that many of us used to defer to the knowledge and experience of a small few, placing trust in their expertise to guide the rest of us. But when a handful of very powerful and experienced bankers plunged the world into a global economic crisis resulting in the loss of 40% of the world's wealth, the masses started to wonder if the few could be trusted to lead. In the web 1.0 world, most were passive recipients, willing to receive content as delivered. Today, the least among us now demands a seat at the table, and via web 2.0 technologies, an even playing field has begun to emerge.

So how will this affect the non-profit arts? Here are just a couple of examples:

The Citizen Critic (and the Future of Arts Journalism)
A couple of weeks ago, Barry Hessenius, former director of the California Arts Council, issued his annual list of the most influential people in the arts. On the list were a handful of notable bloggers, including Ian David Moss, Diane Ragsdale, Clay LordDoug McLennan and Thomas Cott, however not a single traditional journalist was mentioned as there wasn't a category for journalists. Was this an oversight, or a trend? Nielsen recently reported that 92% of consumers trusted word-of-mouth from friends and family, while only 58% trusted editorial content such as newspaper articles. Harvard University recently published a study that contended that average reader reviews on were just as trustworthy as book reviews from professional critics. Even Maura Judkis, a writer for the Washington Post, in her article for the NEA's blog ArtWorks states "readers of my generation, the Millennials, are more likely to want to see a movie or play because their friends like it than because a critic does." Word of mouth has always been powerful, but advances in technology have allowed connectors to broadcast their thoughts to followers instantaneously, and others, the opportunity to feed into social networking, user review sites like So where does that leave us? Ask yourself - if you were visiting New York, and thousands of patrons had described a Broadway play positively in online reviews, would it have more of an impact on you than negative reviews by professional critics? [could this explain the mysterious success of Spiderman?]

Crowdfunding and Microfinancing
In her article "It is Broke, We Should Probably Fix It," Alexis Clements argues that many non-profit organizations chase a few, large foundations, whose money would have been public via taxation but is now controlled privately. She goes on to say that via grants from private foundations, wealthy individuals can "funnel money to organizations that will uphold their personal beliefs." That is a pretty charged statement, but I do wonder how often arts organizations manipulate their missions in order to receive a large grant or donation from a private funding source? How many arts organizations are alive today primarily due to the generosity of one or two major donors, and for those, do the donors in question wield too much influence? In 2008, President Obama demonstrated the power of the collective when he raised unprecedented amounts of money from small donations. As of August, the crowd funding website Kickstarter has raised $275 million in funding for projects, and has grown exponentially since its founding in 2009. And we aren't just talking about tiny amounts of funding either. The top 10 projects funded on Kickstarter all raised more than $1 million. And Microfinance website Kiva has leveraged $346 million in funds from 823,474 lenders to launch projects aimed at combating poverty in 63 different countries.

Crowdsourcing Curation and Programming
When I was at the Smithsonian, an internal debate was occurring about the "Art of Video Games" exhibit at the American Art Museum. The Smithsonian invited the public to help curate which video games would be featured in the exhibit, and in doing so, more than 3.7 million votes were cast by 119,000 people in 175 countries. Pretty impressive. However, questions began to arise about the role of the curator. For the most part, non-profit arts organizations are lead by artists with extensive training and sometimes decades of experience. As the resident experts in their fields, they are regularly called upon to make value judgements on what art to present, and how to present it. In the past, the public has remained a passive receiver of said art, but a growing number of patrons today would like to play a more active role. Technology has changed what used to be a one way conversation into a dialogue, and in turn, many community stakeholders now expect to be able to exercise their voice. I believe this phenomenon prompted Arts Journal editor Doug McLennan to host the "Lead or Follow" debate early this year. If you didn't catch it, here is a good recap.

Understandably, non-profit arts organizations have built models based on the "Law of the Few," and I am not advocating for the abandonment of those models. I am however suggesting that there is wisdom, money and resources to be found in the collective as well. This isn't an either/or proposition between the few and the many; it's a both/and situation. There is a significant role to play for the few and the many. But to tap into the collective, I believe we must become vital and essential to our communities again. I fear that for many non-profit arts organizations, if they were to disappear, we'd barely hear a whimper, when there should be protests in the streets.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Being Psychic - How Psychic Readers Live

Most people who do not have psychic abilities wonder what it like is to be psychic. Do mediums and people with these talents have perfect lives because they know what is going to happen? Are you able to turn your powers on and off at will? Do you constantly see dead people and hear strange voices in your head? Are you afraid to go to sleep for fear of the intrusion from spirits of other realms?

What's it like to be psychic? It may seem like it would be a blast to have powers that let you know things that were going to happen in the future for you or your friends. The truth is that sometimes it is nice when you have a notion of the good things that are going to befall a friend or relative, but not all of your friends and relatives are destined to have nothing but good things happen to them. Some of your friends will have hard times coming and not all of your friends will want to listen when you try to tell them about things they may be going to experience soon.

Most people with psychic powers cannot turn their powers on and off when they wish to. Because of this lack of control at times having the powers to hear voices and communicate with the spirits of the dead can be frustrating. There are times when some of these spirits are determined that the medium hear what they have to say and they are relentless until they are heard. This is not always pleasant.

Some people have powers that are triggered when they touch objects. They might be in a store and touch an object that once belonged to someone that has passed and suddenly be overwhelmed with feelings that the previous owner felt. They may even be flooded with memories the other owner had. This can be surprisingly pleasant at times and terribly sad at times. The mediums with this gift often wear gloves so they have more control over when the impressions will be sent to them.

People often think that individuals who claim to be mediums, or that claim they can communicate with spirits and beings that the rest of us cannot, are crazy. Much of the time when these talented people go to try and help someone they are met with bad attitudes and judgmental comments. This is one of the most frustrating parts of having the ability to make a connection with the spirits that inhabit the world with us.

What is it like to be psychic? It is sometimes scary, and it is sometimes the most pleasant experience that you can imagine. It is never boring and it is often frustrating. It is normal for those that are and they would not change it if they could.

Sarah Saxon works in the psychic and metaphysical industry and offers services Worldwide. Advancing spiritualism and world awareness for psychism. Including other key metaphysical realities which offer self growth and self actualization.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seven Steps to Improve IELTS Exam Writing

Step One: Identify the Different Tasks

The Different Types of Task One in the IELTS Writing Exam

Task one of the IELTS writing exam can be separated into two key types. Static tasks, which are tasks that have only one time period; and change over time tasks, which have two or more different time periods. Then, task one of the IELTS writing exam includes different types of charts, which should all be looked at to be well prepared. The most common ones are: tables, pie charts, bar charts, line graphs, process diagrams, and maps. Finally, with task one of the IELTS writing exam, you need to use different types of language depending on whether the task consists of numbers, percentages, or steps in a process. Therefore, there are three key dimensions of task one of the IELTS writing exam:

1. static or change over time

2. type of chart

3. numbers or percentages

Identify the Different Types of Task TWO in the IELTS Writing Exam

For task two of the IELTS writing exam the two key elements are the TOPIC and the TASK. In theory, the topic could be almost anything. Although many topics are on the following subjects: education, crime, society, media, transportation, environment, and technology. In addition, many of the past topics seem to be recycled, so if we look at many of the past topics that have come up in the exam, we have a reasonable chance that we will have thought about that particular topic.

Next comes the TASK. I have identified that the task is almost always one of the following three tasks: an argumentative essay, a both sides and opinion essay, or a two question essay. I have talked about these three essays at length on my website. I have observed that about 30% of candidates on any given exam day seem to fail to either understand the topic or identify the task. In this case many people are failing, not because of their English ability, but because of their poor IELTS ability, or ability to know how to respond to questions in the exam. Note that not only your task score will be lower if you don't respond closely to the task, it tends to affect everything. For instance, you might use a lot of academic vocabulary, but if it is off-topic you won't get the full value for it.

Step Two: Read Lots of Samples for Each of the Different Tasks

Reading samples of different IELTS tasks can help you appreciate the differences between each type of task as well as help you learn the language and structure that is required for each particular task. Not every sample will be an accurate response to the task, even if it is written by a native English user; so a little caution is needed. The key point is to read lots of different samples and learn from them. To read samples go to my website and click on the links under Task 1: academic report writing and Task 2: essay writing.

If you would like to practice your essay planning please join my blog or facebook page, you can see the addresses for these in my author's PROFILE.

Step Three: Learn How to Structure your Report or Essay for Each of the Different Tasks

Structuring your tasks well is important to score well on one of the four key grading criteria Coherence and Cohesion. In addition, it also helps you score well on the other three grading criteria. Your Task Response score is enhanced because it is easier for the examiner to assess whether you have responded to the task and topic if you have structured your ideas logically. In addition, errors with vocabulary and grammar may be less serious if the examiner already knows your key point and therefore can guess what you mean, despite their being an error with language. In other words errors are more serious when the examiner is lost and has no understanding of what you are saying.

You can view the structure of the three main types of task two essays on my website.

Step Four: Practice Writing Each of the Different Tasks

In order to fully appreciate the different types of tasks in the IELTS writing exam you should practice writing as many different types as you can. This will help you remember the structure and language that you need to complete these tasks, help you improve your writing in general, and also alert you to any areas of uncertainty for completing the task. To illustrate this last point, imagine you are writing an argumentative essay and then you realize you don't know how to write the last paragraph. In this case you could read same samples or models and see how other authors completed these essays. In this case we should summarise our main arguments and then give our final opinion. We should also send a signal to the examiner that we are summarising our main arguments by starting the paragraph with words such as "In summary" or "In conclusion."

Step Five: Have Someone Check your Tasks

After writing your writing tasks it is best to try to get someone to read them and get some feedback. Most English learners don't seem to like to do this with their classmates, but I would say it has merits. Everyone has different areas of expertise and it can be a good learning exercise for students to check each other's writing. Another choice is to hire a private English tutor and get them to read your essays and give feedback. online editing IELTS essays service. I can correct your IELTS essays for a modest fee.

Step Six: Learn From the Feedback on your Tasks

If you do get your essays corrected by another student or a tutor, it is essential that you pay close attention to the feedback and learn from it. If you have made errors with the task response (for example you wrote an answer that was off topic) or you didn't structure it well, then you should think about what you did wrong in the planning of your essay. Perhaps you rushed to start the essay to quickly or just didn't read the question carefully.

Step Seven: Rewrite Tasks to Avoid Repeating the Same Errors

Sometimes, the best way to make sure you avoid repeating the same errors is to rewrite the same task, using the feedback from your marker to make sure that you are able to correctly produce a response to a particular type of question or task, before moving on to conquer the next type of task. This is especially true if your exam date is a long way off.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Get Certified First Aid Training Online

Life is full of surprises and certainly does not surprise any good. We face certain situations in life where every second is important and the small steps taken at the moment can change the outcome of one of many lives. Medical emergency is an example of this situation. This situation usually arises when medical help is not being accessed. For example, a man down with a stroke at the fair. If immediate steps are necessary not followed, the individual may suffer permanent damage or even death. Basic knowledge about how to deal with someone who suffers a stroke comes in very handy at this stage. And this "knowledge base" called also can be a lifesaver.

These things do not happen every day but when they do occur, usually only a matter of seconds is important. To get a clear idea about the first aid procedure is very easy these days. You can register with the help of online training courses. The courses are widely available online and make life easier for many people. Training program online help can be found in abundance through the internet. However, you need to make sure that you choose one that provides the appropriate tests and certificates. This certificate will come in very handy in the workplace.

If you would for any online course, make sure you go to one that is in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. HIPAA first aid training courses are equally popular through the internet these days and can be accessed easily. Because the program that complies with HIPAA, you can be sure that the procedures are standardized and taught during the program in accordance with medical norms.

Any first aid HIPAA training course will teach you to deal with a number of situations that may fall under the category of medical emergency. A basic skills that includes the treatment of cuts and bruises from minor injuries, strains and sprains, minor burns, fractures, etc. HIPAA training courses in first aid also includes a more serious medical emergencies such as heart attack, stroke, seizures, near drowning, shock, poisoning , heavy bleeding, etc. If you can equip yourself with knowledge, you will be more than ready to take a medical emergency that might arise from situations that are known or unknown.