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Business Development Insights

Is it really Charity?
6 Steps
To Public Speak...or Not
Back to Basics
Good Grammar

Is it really Charity?

I come from a place where giving back is always part of the deal.  On my own since I was 18 or so, there was a tremendous amount of people who took a chance on me and it’s part of my fabric to pay it forward.  I quickly learned that being charitable is also good business and so it’s been part of my business model since the very beginning – whether it’s my own business or someone else’s.   Of course it makes me feel good; it’s good for public relations and to build good will for your organization.  It will elevate your brand and even increase ticket sales.   It feels good, but recently I’ve started rethinking it.


At the Titans we do a corporate ticket package called, “When You Assist, You Score.”  We implemented it last year and it was a great success.  It allowed for businesses and individuals to purchase tickets for area non-profits in order for their clients and kids to come to games for free.  People liked it.  I liked it too because it worked.  It was great to be able to give away tickets to kids who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to come to a game.  But should we really call that charity?

I don’t think I’d call it charity at all.  My goal is always to keep this hockey team in Trenton – all of us in the minor leagues are looking to keep our teams in the community.  Finding people to buy tickets for those who can’t – that’s good, but exposing a new fan to the game is even better.  I don’t want just a free ticket or a one shot deal.  I want a new fan.  I want a kid or an adult to come to the game and have fun and want to come back.  So why not start talking about these programs as a way to expand our fan base, expose kids to the sport, give them and their parents a local team to follow in the newspapers and if we’re doing our jobs, in the schools?  Charity?  Nope!  Good business?  Yep.

We’re going to make the small shift in thinking in Trenton.  My gut tells me that this is how we can build new fans with the help of local businesses and individuals, and it doesn’t feel like charity – it feels more like a partnership.  I bet you it works.

                                                                                                                - Rich   9.12.12


Is your team brainstorming strategically?

One of my favorite and most beneficial things to do with my staff is brainstorm. I think it’s great for building confidence, creativity and problem solving.  In minor league sports where we are involved in a LOT of different aspects of the business and the team, it’s important to get as many perspectives on an issue or campaign as possible, especially since there are so many hands in the pot.Really I like to brainstorm about everything – marketing, promotions, ticket leads, potential sponsorship campaigns, t-shirt slogans, even where to eat lunch.  In addition to the run of the mill reasons, brainstorming also provides a unique strategy to get the staff to buy into his/her work. 


If there is ownership in the ideas whether it’s a campaign or a t-shirt logo, your staff will be more apt to buy in and get excited about it.  For me the benefits of brainstorming in minor league sports are well documented as I could name dozens and dozens of marketing plans, promotions, and season holder campaigns that came out of the process.  But how do we take it to the next level – keep it effective and creative?

Charetting (not sure that’s a word) is a way of organizing a larger group of people – maybe 10 or more, and breaking them into several small groups where each group branstorms an idea or problem.  The Charette Procedure requires that you take those ideas and send them to the next group to further refine and debate.  This way you get each person to participate because there’s no place to hide in a small group; you get the same effectiveness of brainstorming; and it eliminates the same few people talking all of the time.

Taken from the French word meaning “wagon” or “cart” some claim a charette was used in the 1800s by architecture students in Paris who would cart their designs and presentations from place to place for approvals. Others think that the students used to work up until their last possible second while riding in the charette to their class.  Either way, I know Charettes are widely used effectively in various disciplines like urban planning and where there are multiple stakeholders – residents, developers, government officials, private sector business, etc..  The Charette Procedure is the perfect way to share visions, ideas, solutions, and concerns.  Social media webinars make this kind of charretting extremely easy and invaluable.  It’s a no brainer.

So here’s my 3 steps to Charettes for Minor League Sports:

1)      Make sure groups are made up across department lines – Put the finance person with the ticket rep.  Put the old-timer sponsorship lady with the new, young, social media savvy ticket seller.  Mix it up.  See who you can collaborate with outside of your cubicle mate.  If you work the phones most days but you secretly enjoy graphics, here’s your opportunity to contribute in that way.  Remember the best of the ideas will move on to the next group and be honed and embellished so this is the time to throw it out there.

2)      Stay on topic – each round of brainstorming discussion should be very specific and targeted.  When the staff has a hand in many different things, it’s easy to get off topic.  For instance, if you’re brainstorming a new ticket campaign, don’t move into branding it, or discussing how you will track new and partial seasons, or even which sponsors might be interested in promoting it.  Stay on topic!  There will be time for that later.

3)      Have a plan for the plan – I realize this one requires an explanation.  Once you’re done, you have a decision, a strategy, a plan – campaign slogan, ticketing package, marketing campaign.  Whatever it is you have, make sure there is a plan for the next steps.  Do you need to flush out the details?  Attach a timeline?  Create a budget to go along with it?  Follow it through.  Too many times I see teams and companies complete the process, feel completely reenergized and then go back to work never giving it another thought.  Implement, implement, implement.  That’s where the lag is.  And while you’re at it, collect all the good stuff left on the table that’s not used and file it for another time.  It’s all useful stuff.

Finally, despite academic evidence to the contrary (see Jonah Lehrer’s January, 2012 article, GroupThink in the New Yorker) brainstorming is still as popular as ever.   If nothing else, it gives us all a chance to come out of our comfort zones and think outside the box…..something that is very near and dear to us in the minor leagues.

                                                                                                       - Rich.  8.9.12


Back to Basics

I swore to myself I wasn’t going to write about Penn State.  I have nothing to add to the conversation, and yet here I am.  As a sports marketer I understand loyalty to a team, a coach, a school.  And as a father, I can’t understand well…you know.  I can’t help but think that all of this goes back to the basics – simple humanity, basic character.  It’s really not that hard.  How do we get to the point where a coach, a team, a business, an institution trumps basic human rights?  And more importantly, how do we not get there again?  We can all Monday morning quarterback (no pun intended) and say, “I would have continued to follow-up until someone did something about it, I wouldn’t have accepted the job as a coach after I saw what went on in the locker room, I would have overruled a powerful coach, I would have sought the guidance of the Board of Trustees……yada, yada, yada.”     Who knows what we all would’ve done.


The take away for me?  Keep it simple.  Think back to Sesame Street. Just about everything we need to know is all there…. Cookie Monster taught us to say please and thank you.  Maria, Gordon, Susan, and Mr. Hooper lived and worked in a neighborhood full of diversity, and managed to get along.  How about, “One of these things is not like the other.  One of these things just doesn’t belong.”  What does that mean?  If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t right!  How about Bert and Ernie working out their space issues in their bedroom?  Or my all time favorite classics, “Everybody Sleeps” and “It’s a Long Hard Road….But We’re Gonna Get There” (my version is sung with a country twang).  It’s all there in black and white – the roadmap for good behavior and good ethics.

                                                                        I’m going back to the basics.         - Rich  7.25.12


6 Steps to Build Your Brand

For most of us in small budget minor league teams, building a brand sounds like a daunting task conjuring up images of high powered advertising agencies and glossy marketing proposals.   With no budget for brand marketing, many of us forego strategic branding or really don’t give it much thought at all – big mistake.  Branding gives you the opportunity to get people to feel and think a certain way about your team.   Branding can be worked into your ticket campaign, sponsorship packages and public relations.  Building a brand is crucial to your team’s long term sustainability and really is not all that hard once you break it down.

These are my six steps.


1. Set Goals

What do you want your brand to say about you?  What do you want to accomplish with your brand?  What does your brand stand for?   Ask yourself these questions and identify what is important to you. In our business, of minor league sports remember one very important thing — Will this message for my brand help me sell tickets or sponsorships?  Everything we do must have a sales component to it and relay a message of sales.  So answer questions and set goals with sales in mind.

2. Make your brand valuable

Make sure to continually let your customers (sponsors, partners and ticket holders) know the value of what you provide them – something that they can’t get anyplace else.  Identify what that is:  good competition, affordability, great atmosphere, exclusivities, or great customer service, etc. and convey this message often and in clear way.  Basically give them ownership and feel part of the brand.  Convince your customers it is their team and your fans and partners will become emotionally attached ultimately strengthening your brand. 

3. Be Different

Different is good.  Find out what the others in your market are doing and what they’re offering and be different.  Do and offer more.  Identify your niche and sell it.  Ask yourself what can we offer, what can we do that is different?  

4. Deliver One Message

What do you want to convey?  What do you want people to think about your team?  Create a campaign that serves as the central theme for all of your communications.  Talk to your staff, owners or a small focus group.  Hash out what they need and want and what you need and want. Argue, dissect and argue more and then when you gather all the information put it down in writing. Check it against what your goals for your brand are.  Massage it some more and then and only then — deliver one message.  

5. Get People Talking

Put your stamp everywhere – on the bottom of your emails, on the media package, on your letterhead.  Do promotions and PR stunts.  Make up buttons and shirts and hats with your brand on it.  Do festivals, street fairs and community events and plaster your message everywhere.  Every time you pick up the phone use your message.  This will take some time to get used to, but you want to create repetition so it comes easy and isn’t forced.  It’s the process that builds the brand and becomes the fabric of your team.  

6. Most important OVER DELIVER

Under Promise – Over Deliver.  Deliver more than what you promise.  Make sure your brand means something and then add to it.  Tweet this. In this economy and with a customer’s limited budget, you need to over deliver.  Greet them at the door when they walk into the arena and say thank you on the way out and hand them a piece of candy.  Copy their ad and deliver it to them in person.  Put their name on the score board.  Show up at their seats, randomly, and say hi and thank you.

Just because we don’t have the big budgets doesn’t mean we can’t build a successful brand.  In the minor leagues we simply have to work harder, more efficiently and with fewer resources than our big brothers in the major leagues, but we can enjoy the same results.


                                                                                                                        - Rich  7.6.12


To public speak or not to public speak…. that is the question

My week started off with my youngest son having to give a speech at his eight grade graduation awards ceremony.  I think I was for sure  more nervous than he was.  He stayed up late and “crammed” (a chip off the old block) to get the perfect, thoughtful, and humorous speech to deliver to his classmates and families.   I was both astonished and proud of his work.  He delivered a concise, thoughtful, and very humorous speech.  He made eye contact, he hesitated at the right places to get the proper affect.  He solicited the proper laughs.  


He engaged the audience and included all of his classmates.  On the way home, I asked him if he was nervous to get up and speak in front of a room full of people.  His response, “No Dad, I had it all the way.” Hmm...

In the second part of the week I watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.  Oprah interviewed Shawn Achor a Positive Psychology Expert form Harvard University.  I was captivated by this interview and needed to learn more about him so I found him on You Tube.  Wow, what a public speaker!  He is witty, engaging, entertaining and most importantly he teaches. What a great public speaker.  Then I thought….are public speakers born, or is this something we can learn and become skilled at?

I personally have never had trouble talking in front of people, and the reality is that at some point in all of our lives we will need to public speak – for work, coaching a team, a eulogy.  I hear so many of my colleagues who say they struggle with public speaking and how hard it is to silent the constant noise in their heads and find the confidence to get their ideas across.  So where else would I look but on the TED website to find the 7 Public Speaking Points from the most popular TED Talks thanks to   Jeremey Donovan, a TEDx organizer and the author of new book “How to Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World’s Most Inspiring Presentations.”


So here it goes…

Present a clear, focused message – Know what you want to say

Keep it short and to the point – The crazy popular TED talks have a strict time limit of 18 minutes


Format your presentation as a hero’s journey or premise-driven narrative – tell a story…beginning, middle and end or offer a handful of illustrations and then wrap it up at the end.


Do not use slides – You’re looking for a connection, not presenting a lecture


Bring your audience through a broad range of emotions – live your presentation, don’t “sell” it


Use humor strategically – laughter relaxes the audience and encourages connection and rapport


Embrace the power of the pause – silence is powerful whether it be to give accent to a particular point, add dramatic flair, or linger on an idea.

                                                                                                                - Rich   6.13.14


Good Grammar

A while ago, I came across an article in the New York Times written by Robb Kyff entitled, “Good Grammar is Good Business”.  I originally thought that it might be a good idea to show my kids who are constantly questioning the relevancy of so much of the stuff they learn in language arts.  “We have auto correct.  Who needs good grammar?”  After reading the article, however, I realized it applies to all of us.  Correct grammar not only speaks highly of intelligence and education, but it also is a direct reflection of whether or not you invested in the projection of your business or company, or even yourself. While image isn’t everything, I have learned that it is the perfect detailing of each proposal, press release, paper even email message that sets the tone, and markets your brand whether you’re a business or a student.

                                                       -  Rich   7.26.14

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