Two Sides of the Advocacy Debate


Advocacy:  The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. —Merriam Webster Dictionary.  

The act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending.   —

My first career was in food and beverage, and it was tough.  A lot of work for not much income, at least back in the ’80’s.  The great thing about hard work, however, is that it usually nets the best life lessons.  The consequences of bad decisions are amplified when you have no money to start with, and the restaurant business is known for delicate profit margins. This is the premise for an unwritten rule that I’ve carried forward to today: If you’re not confident that you have the best food in the business, why in the world would you ask people to come to your restaurant?  Better yet, why even open one in the first place?  

There’s a running joke in the food and beverage world:  “Wanna know how to end up with a million dollars in the restaurant business?  Start with TWO million.”  Few owners run on tighter budgets and are more impacted by outside forces than restaurateurs.  The average profit margin of a successful restaurant is between 5% and 15%, but every day, managers are forced to deal with varying prices from their suppliers, customer counts, new competitors, and now, wage and salary challenges that all impact their bottom lines.  

The most valuable lesson gleaned from the restaurant experience is that people vote with their feet.  In other words, serve them a bad meal, fail to listen to their complaints and suggestions, or do just do some little thing they don’t like on any given day and they’re gone…FOREVER.  No goodbyes, no second chances, no nothing.  Just GONE.  Not only that, they tell their friends and relatives about  their miserable experience. Before the Internet, they could tell 10-20 in a week.  Today, one mouse click can reach 100-2000 people in a millisecond without anyone ever knowing what happened.   What used to be the cloud of dust from customers speeding out of the parking lot is now a vapor trail.      

Here’s the side of the advocacy debate that nobody seems to want to discuss:  A large number of organizations are still not willing to accept that change is no longer an option…it’s mandatory… yet influencers and other experts are trying to sell them on advocacy programs. On one hand, that’s fine:  Just do your competitors a favor:  Keep doing what you’ve always done and get it over with. Encourage everyone inside and outside the organization to spread the “word”, non-verbally…actions and processes speak the loudest…about how they aren’t aligned with customers’ preferences. Then the doors and windows can get boarded up faster to make room for others who DO pay attention. On the other hand, there are people who truly are passionate about their careers.  They want to invoke changes that build their brand’s reputation, even if it means doing it from the ground up because the organizational culture isn’t evolving as rapidly as their personal brand.

Perhaps the advocacy programs should be directed at individual change agents, no matter what their position or role.

Love What You Do


What if worldview and personal media brand were to become the basis for hiring instead of job history or work experience?  Why would this make sense?  

You usually get a job to make money to fulfill needs and wants—you need a car, a house, you want a new TV.  So you go to work every day for a wage that accumulates into income that you can spend.  I’m not saying that having a job and making money are bad things.  What I AM saying is that approaching a job in this manner makes all stakeholders miserable—Unless you are passionate about what you do, you can’t wait for your shifts to end.  That emotion becomes readily apparent to the last customers you serve every day, which, in turn, gets communicated to the business owner in the form of complaint letters or, worst of all, lost business.

I don’t believe there aren’t enough jobs for people, nor that there are not enough people for jobs.  What I DO believe is that there are many people in the wrong jobs because they either don’t want to find the perfect ones or that employers are content with the way things are even if they aren’t operating at optimal levels.  This puts all parties in a difficult position. But what if it was easier to find the “perfect” fit?  Wouldn’t it change the way everyone sees “work”?

Maybe a big reason wages have skyrocketed in the last two decades is because employers had to start paying people to be happy.

If I Were A….

Chris Brogan did a post a few years ago:  If I Were A Realtor .   This was back when few really understood the new media rules, or better yet, had any idea of what was to come.

It’s August 2014, less than FIVE YEARS since that post was published, and the power of inbound marketing has increased exponentially across all facets of our world.  In fact, if revised today, it could be titled “If I Were—-anything”

  • A Restauranteur
  • A Youth Sports Coach
  • A School Principal
  • A Car Sales Person
  • A Building Materials Sales Person
  • A College Graduate

What do all of these individuals have in common?  They all require some form of human interaction.  They all have distribution networks. They all use marketing systems that have proven to be successful over many years.  Here’s the challenge:  The demographics of a large percentage of consumers will be changing significantly in the next 10 years.  They will be taking their parents’ place in the market for these goods and services, and will have a significant amount of wealth to fund their purchases.  What they’ll also have at their disposal is something their parents weren’t as adept at using:  The Internet.  It has already changed how business gets done…have you adapted your sales training manuals to these changes?




If I Were A Graduate

If I were a graduate (or anyone seeking a career), I’d do everything history says to do:  Create a killer resume and cover letter and send it out on nice paper in a nice envelope to every employer that matches my desired career profile.  Three days later I’d call each human resources department to make sure they received it.  In the meantime, I’d be gathering as much information as possible about the organizations to which I’d applied by reviewing their website, their company profile, their mission and vision statements (if publicly accessible), and their customer service reputation.  

Aren’t those the traditional steps to landing the job or career of your dreams?  Those are the ones I used right out of college.  The hangup with this strategy is that even though you’ve done everything correctly, you’re still one of many striving for the same outcome, or should we say “income”?  In this market, whether you’re selling goods, services, or your own employment candidacy, you MUST significantly differentiate yourself, make personal and meaningful connections, and take the lead in regard to your unique brand/reputation.

History says when you do everything in the right order and at the highest quality, your wish for a prosperous life will be granted. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news:  Doing what history says isn’t enough.  You need to do all of those things PLUS:

  • Take decisive action to set yourself apart by creating a strong personal brand;
  • Build an internal network of advocates within your organization of choice;
  • Follow through genuinely and transparently with those individuals who hold the key to your future.

Prior to the last 5 years, these three steps would have been incredibly difficult to accomplish. Today they are remarkably simple.

Overcoming the Bell Curve

There are certainly exceptions to this next statement:  Let’s say the top 10% of students in a given field of study—the cream of the crop, so to speak.  This post applies to those who make up the bell of the curve:  Just because you have a degree from a prominent university doesn’t mean (for the vast majority) that you are entitled to a six-figure salary.  The quality of education certainly helps your prospects of achieving success, but the people out there who are willing to work a lot harder ( and a lot smarter) can do just as well.  In many cases, the work you find yourselves doing throughout your lifetime will bring as much (or more) satisfaction than the big payday right out of the gate.

What’s the relevance to this forum?  Stopping the interruptions also means being relevant and setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack.  Interruptions are unwelcome, irrelevant distractions.  Unfortunately, anyone who doesn’t bring anything interesting or unique to the table for an employer to sink their teeth into are also interruptions.

The opportunity to make an impact on the world has never been greater. Go make it happen by bringing value to the interaction.

Accessibility and Differentiation

In their most basic form, degrees are pieces of paper that get you through a door.  A hall pass is a piece of paper that gets you through a door.  A big-time discussion at the dinner table between some of my best academic friends pertained to the significant reduction in MBA enrollments across the country and the reasons for the dilution of their effectiveness in the marketplace.  A lot of theories can be thrown around, but I personally believe looking at corporate marketing practices could provide significant insight, as could motivations the average MBA student has for getting the advanced degree–It’s about differentiation of a brand or product.

A few years ago, the same kind of discussions revealed a problem common in today’s society that had been plaguing my friends in their own classrooms:  Entitlement.  Students were posing the question “What are you going to do for ME?” every day, as if it was their (or the institution’s) responsibility for setting them apart from the rest of the labor force so they could land the 6-figure job.  It seems as though a pretty sharp turn has been made since that discussion first took place.  Is it possible that this decline in perceived value of an advanced degree is really companies giving the middle finger to those self-centered students who place the burden of their own differentiation on the shoulders of the institutions those corporations have trusted relationships with?

The labor market is really no different than a consumer market:  Attention and time are finite resources that command premium prices.  Prospective employees can get their foot in the door, but they’re going to need three or more dimensions if they want to stay in the building.

A Recruiter’s Epiphany

Wearing neon makes a statement to the effect of “Look at ME!”  It’s so bright that it can be distracting.  Don’t believe it?  As how the Baylor men’s basketball opponents feel.  The problem with “Look at ME!” is that once you get the attention, you’d better have something substantial lined up to keep it.  You may be told by traditional recruiters that a nicely-formatted resume and a grammatically-correct cover letter on expensive paper sent in an equally-expensive envelope is sufficient.  If you believe that, then answer this:  If that envelope and its contents are all you are using to make an initial impression, how are you any different than any other author of any other cover letter in the world?

If your objective is to stand out in the crowd, you have to go bigger than just neon.  You need to keep your target focused directly on you in a way that makes everything else in the moment seem irrelevant, and I don’t believe two pages of expertly proofread personal documentary is enough to get the job <done>.  In today’s world, the hiring manager across the table needs to see their world in a way that they could have never conceived before meeting you.

Hire ME!!

Yesterday was the second time I’ve been a guest on the local university’s “What Employers Want” panel.  The first time was about 6 years ago.  As I was preparing for the questions the students had been prepped with in advance, it became apparent that even though their questions were going to be the same as always, there was no justice in giving them the same “canned” answers.  Their world (and mine) is exponentially different today than it was even last year.  How is it possible, then, to help students entering the work force in 1-3 years understand these changes?  By applying consumer marketing strategies to the graduate recruiting process.

First, content matters, so be interesting and unique off the paper as well as on it.  Like consumers, employers are faced with interruptions all day long.  Their tolerance for average or traditional cover letters and resumes is fading fast.  You’re going to need to stand out and not only get attention, but maintain it throughout the hiring process.

Second, you need to know yourself better than ever.  You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, be able to visualize yourself already in the organization with which you are applying.  You must communicate precisely what benefit there is to that person for hiring you.

Third, you need to know the prospective organization better than you even know yourself.  Sending out mass numbers of resumes (the marketing principle of “reach”) is going to become less effective, just as sending out mass mailings is becoming for products and services. Return on investment rates will continue declining as the volume of noise and interruption grows.

Finally, instead of “reach”, utilize the strategy of “frequency”.  Identify three or four companies you would absolutely LOVE to work with because of what you learn about their corporate culture, their leadership, their benefits, their promotional opportunities, etc., then begin connecting with people inside the organization at any level you can.  LinkedIn is a great resource for this.  Subscribing to the idea that people do business with people they know, like, and trust, it becomes more likely that a referral from a person inside the organization to a hiring manager would be more enticing than a cold resume submission.

There’s a lot more to come on this subject.  It’s too broad to cover in one post.

Why me?

It’s always been social media fashionable to have a lot of followers/contacts/friends.  When the whole wave started growing, everyone wanted to connect with everyone else.   LinkedIn was almost a race.  It was a status symbol for “500+ Connections” to be displayed on someone’s profile page.  “Now THAT person is important!”  A few years later the secret was out:  Many of those people didn’t really KNOW all of their connections.  In fact, some even BOUGHT their connections just so they could say they hit the magic number. Suddenly the credibility of the followers, contacts and friends came into question.

Requests to connect come to my inbox every day, some from people I know and some whom I’ve never met. In either case, I always pause and ask:  “Why me?”  Why does this person want to connect and is it consistent with the explanation I’d love to hear:  “I need your help. Not with your product or service, but with insight about how to improve my own situation.  If your assistance is beneficial beyond my expectations, you will have earned my trust.”

That trust is worth far more down the road than a sales transaction today.