Ep 36: Erica Mills Barhart on Marketing Musing & Quietude

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


marketing, ideal, idealized, quietude, organization, people, hear, mission statements, listening, marketing efforts, serenity, create, instagram

Erica Mills Barnhart

I think a lot about marketing, and language. Not surprising to anybody who has listened to this podcast before. Often something will come along, and I’ll think, “oh, that’d make a great topic for a podcast”. Then after noodling on it for a while, I realize it’s interesting, but maybe not meaty enough to warrant a full podcast. So periodically, I’m going to release an episode that’s like a collection of these tidbits that I think on, because I don’t want them to evaporate. They weren’t thought I believe by more people than just me and may be valuable to you as you think about marketing and messaging and how words can make the world a better place. So if you end up being intrigued by one of these topics, and you want to learn more, let me know and I can do a deeper dive. Today, I want to talk about three things. One, the difference between marketing that is ideal versus idealized. Two, whether your mission vision and value statements or identity statements, as I call them, are opening doors are slamming them shut. And then three, I want to talk about quietude. So ideal versus idealized. About 10 years ago, I went to see a therapist for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he spent most of the time talking about his sports car and his dogs, he was not a good therapeutic fit for me. However, in between talking about types of dog food, and what type of fuel to run in a sports car, clearly, he offered an insight that has stuck with me. He pointed out that often we refer to something or someone or situation as being ideal, when in fact, what we’re describing is idealized. So ideal means satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect, it is most suitable. Idealized means regarded or represented as perfect or better than reality. And also existing only as an idea, meaning it’s not actually possible in reality. So for instance, at the time that I went to see this guy, my kids were little. And I was saying that ideally, I would make a healthy dinner every night and somehow while I was making this things would be calm. That was ideal in my mind. He allowed us to how that was likely idealized, that I had this vision of something that wasn’t truly attainable. Anyone who’s had small children knows that what I was describing: a serene evening as I cooked, and my angelic children drew unicorns unicorns quietly at the table, or some such just wasn’t in the cards. So in holding on to this idealized vision, I set myself up for a nightly dose of disappointment. I feel like when it comes to marketing, we confuse an ideal approach or plan or activity or action with an idealized one. I hear this from so many of you that you, feel like your marketing efforts aren’t right or are enough, and that so and so is doing it better or more or whatever. And this sets up a dynamic whereby no matter how many Instagram posts, you put out how beautifully they are done, or E-newsletters you write or SEO dashboards you create, you feel like you’re doing a bad or inadequate job. And that stinks. I mean, that doesn’t feel good, kind of like me frantically cooking dinner for my wee babes, I definitely felt not good in those moments every night. And of course, social media just exacerbates this, we look at what other people and organizations are doing. And notice what we’re not doing, posting, writing and or commenting on. We noticed the lack of what we’re doing. And this makes us feel rotten, even if we are, in fact, doing an ideal a meaning of a most suitable job given and this is important, given the resources we have and the marketing objectives we have set out to achieve. Right? We do this interesting thing where like we randomly see, you know, whenever it’s gonna be, somebody else’s website, or, again, let’s stick with Instagram. I mean, I don’t mean to be harsh on Instagram, but it’s just, there’s something about it that really seems to be exacerbating all of this, I noticed. So I’m going to pick on that right? And you see this, but you don’t know what you can’t know, is what are their marketing objectives? Right? I’m thinking about this in the organizational space, but you know, on Instagram, this happens so much in a personal sense, right? So like without knowing that you actually don’t have an objective filter through which to compare and contrast your efforts to somebody else’s, whether or not that’s an individual or an organization. So I’ll give you an example. Common wisdom is that in order to have a successful podcast, you have to release an episode every single week. Now, given how much time I have to invest on my podcast and the quality I want them to be, I want them to be valuable to you, I just don’t want to like spew stuff out there into the universe, once a week is totally not feasible for me. Also, what I hear from you, what I’ve seen as a trend, more broadly, is that once a week, it’s kind of stressful, right? Because it’s hard to find a time when I do interviews, as you know, they tend to be about an hour long, like that’s an investment and so finding that time, every single week is tough. And so folks are feeling “behind”, like, there’s these episodes, and they’re piling up and you have listened to them. So that just goes against everything I’m trying to do in terms of marketing for good. You know, I want you to feel like inspired and motivated after you listen to an episode not like feeling poorly or bad if you haven’t, you know, listen to all of them. But for a period of time, like I know, this, I know that once a week probably isn’t ideal, given what I want to achieve and given what will bringing value to you. But for a period of time I held on to this idealized, once a week release schedule. Then I took a break. And I took a big step back and realize that the ideal for this podcast was probably something more along the lines of releasing series that focused on a specific aspect or topic of marketing, for instance, marketing and perfectionism or marketing and motherhood or parenting, or marketing and mental health or personal brand as a force for good etc, etc. So my plan going forward, what I think is going to be ideal, and I would love your input on this is I’m going to get a bunch of different perspectives on these types of topics, you know, kind of how marketing impacts us at an individual, organizational and societal level and offer that. So release them as series, as opposed to really sticking to this idealized once a week rhythm. So that’s an example of ideal versus idealized, and we’ll see how it goes. Broadly speaking, I wonder, you know, how can we turn this vicious cycle of chasing after an unachievable idealized approach to marketing and instead create a virtuous cycle of an achievable ideal for the moment and with the resources we you have approached our marketing leaders, I’m looking at you, this starts with you, it starts with creating a culture that rewards doing the very best you can with what you have, rather than a culture that holds your team up to standards that just aren’t realistic or even desirable. Creating a more is better culture isn’t advisable and it’s not sustainable, you will burn out and likely eventually piss off your team. So create a culture where people work the Claxon Method. Refresher: with the Claxon Method, you ask an answer the following three questions. One, what does success look like for your marketing? Two, who do you need to reach in order for your marketing to be successful? And then three, how are you going to reach them? What who, how? What, who, how? Always, of course, grounded in your why? Why do you exist as an organization? But you don’t want to be revisiting that all the time. With your marketing, however, you do want to be grounded in this what, who, how framework. So when you answer number three, how are you going to reach the folks you need to reach to be successful, whether or not you want to say target audience or stakeholders or whatever, this is the who, how are you going to reach your who? Rather than conjuring up an ideal plan, or an idealized plan, conjure up an ideal one. There are only so many hours in the day and dollars in the bank. I mean, let’s just get real about this. Use them as strategically as possible. I mean, it’s all you can do, right? If we’re being honest, that’s all you can do. Also, and again, I want to reiterate this, you have no idea what’s truly going on for other organizations or people. So yes, go and get inspiration, you know, or ideas from other folks, but just comparisons are actually not very helpful. And they detract rather than advance your marketing efforts. So that’s what’s on my mind in terms of ideal versus idealized. I want us to release what is idealized, or sort of what is held up as best practice or whatever, and really get focused in what’s going to be ideal for you, for your organization, in this moment in time given the resources you have. Now, let’s talk about opening the slamming door, shall we? A new book just came out called Two Beats Ahead: What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation. It’s written by Dr. Michael Hendrix and Panos A Panay. Among other musicians, they talk about David Bowie, and his ability to shape shift yet always be Bowie. I have loved Bowie since I was 13. So I was very excited to see his awesomeness elevated in this book along with many others, many, many others, but I am a kind of a hardcore Bowie fan. I mean to this day, I have a hard time listening to Ziggy Stardust without them listening to Suffragette City. You know, I consider that a combo meal because it always has been in my musical repertoire. Okay, back to the point about Bowie. Identity statements which includes your mission, vision, values and purpose, communicate the essence of who you are, using who to refer to you and or to your organization. I am a stickler for distilling these down truly to their essence. One, so people can get what you’re about quickly. And two, because the process of distillation is sort of like turning coal into a diamond, the raw material becomes valuable over time, and with pressure, the pressure of releasing words and really distilling down, these statements are an invitation. Their job is to open doors to conversations and relationships with people who are down with what you are doing. Many organizations don’t take the time to turn the message you fodder, the coal as it were, into messaging diamonds. They give up because that level of distillation is hard. I mean, hard, hard, hard. And also, many fear that if they’re too short, too distant, they won’t resonate with enough people, they’ll like leave people out because you haven’t said the thing that somebody maybe needs to hear in order to engage. And so they add, add, add. And this is why we end up with mission statements that are paragraphs long and have semi colons. I’m sorry, semi colons are not inspiring. They’re not an invitation. I have nothing against semi colons, that’s just not the right spot or job for them. A paragraph slams the door to further conversation. I know this feels risky or it can feel risky to some folks to really distill down the essence and to have that be what you’re putting out first to the world, that invitation. But in my 20 years of experience, the clearer you are, the crisper you are, the wider you are opening that door to people who also share your passion for your mission, your vision, your values, and your purpose. Okay? Now, if you want to learn more about identity statements, listen to Episode 27 on whether your mission vision values have purpose. I give more information, I give examples, we get into it. And by the way, if you’re ready to really get your marketing dialed in, and you work for a nonprofit, because this is what I’m going to talk about next, specific to nonprofits, I want you to check out the self paced e-course through Claxon University, the complete nonprofit marketing course, we go deep into everything we’re talking about here, you create a blueprint and a roadmap for all of your marketing efforts, you will definitely land on an ideal approach to your marketing, rather than idealized. So you can sort of release this idea of an idealized approach, which just frees up so much energy and happiness and joy. So perhaps mission statements, you know, I wonder about this, I wonder if they suffer from lack of clarity. And like, really, we have this, we’re trying to make mission statements do too much, we have this idealized version of what they can do, that they can like, open a bunch of doors, if they’re just long enough, if we put enough in and like kind of ironically, that idealized version is closing doors, whereas an ideal version of a mission statement opens doors, I don’t know, it’s a working hypothesis I have. I mean, no one sentence can do at all, even those four sentences aren’t going to do at all. But my experience again is if you really distill them, and if they feel so true to who you are, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, that opens doors. I want to close by talking about quietude, and why it’s important to your marketing. Quietude means the state of being quiet, as the name implies. Tranquility, calmness, stillness, serenity. Marketing is a noisy endeavor, your task really is to break through noise, to get your message onto people’s radar in a way that they can receive it, hear it, absorb it and get interested in it, engage with you. I was just prepping for a class I’m going to teach in a few days on effective communications for leader and on one of the slides it says “communications equals the message that is received, not the message that is sent”. We focus so much on like what we’re putting out there and we kind of lose the thread on like what’s going to be received. And in marketing, we can tribute to noise to the chaos, it’s easy to get caught up in it. And there are definitely times when noise is necessary. You have to get on people’s radar you have to put things out there. But there are also times when quietude serenity, silence and reflection are necessary, especially if we want our noisy efforts to be as effective as possible. So be sure to build this time for quietude into your marketing rhythm. Take time for you for assessment, discernment, for thinking on what’s working and what you want to adjust. Not from a place of frenetic, anxious action, but from a place of quiet knowing. It can be really hard to carve out and then protect time for quietude and again leaders, I’m looking right at you, because this has to be something that is honored and valued in your organization, it has to be part of the culture. I’m taking this time over the summer, and this, this will allow me to come to you with high value content in the fall. And I can’t wait for that, I  can’t wait to make a little bit of noise with these new series, right that I’m going to release, like I just interviewed Guy Kawasaki. Who doesn’t want to hear Guy talk about personal brand and whether blogging is dead? It’s great. It’s gonna be fantastic. And we’re gonna hear from other people about personal branding and a bunch of other stuff, and again, you know, part of that will be in that series about personal branding as a force for good so you can think about how that might relate to you and your team and your organization. I’m excited about that. And I’m soaking up the serenity and sunshine the summer offers as a way to prepare for that to be as high quality and valuable to you as possible. So that’s a little bit on quietude. So ideal versus idealized opening versus slamming doors, and quietude. Those are three things that are on my mind. Three marketing and messaging musings. I always love hearing what’s on your mind and heart, so let me know. You can find my contact information in the show notes. Do good, be well, and I will see you next time.

Related Episodes