Every so often you come across people who, out of the gate, demonstrate their knowledge base in a unique manner which sets them apart from the crowd. I’ve followed Jason Falls for a couple of years now; his customer focused communications approach is refreshing.
Recently, Jason Falls announced he’s launching his own communications consulting firm. He was also kind enough to give me an early scoop on his news. For those of you who don’t know him, add his blog to your reading list and keep an eye on his new firm.
Congrats on the new venture. Share your motivations for branching off on your own and what this means to you personally and professionally.
More than anything, the move was about taking control of my own destiny. Agency life is great in many ways, challenging in many others. Not being able to determine my own schedule, travel and workload was wearing on me. Being a consultant, I can take on the number of clients I can adequately serve with good work and not be over-extended to the point the work suffers. And on both the personal and professional front it gives me freedom. That’s going to be nice to have.
Who was an early influence on you and what did you take away from them?
I watched my mother work as a newspaper editor, public relations director, and small business owner (a printing company) as a kid, so I grew up around communications. I couldn’t sit still as a kid, so I got a job working at the local radio station when I was 14. A combination of my mom, my first few bosses at the radio station who taught me how to be a broadcaster, and Randy Stacy, the sports information director who hired me as a student at Morehead State are probably my biggest professional influences. Randy taught me humility, believe it or not. I continually proved working for him that I wasn’t as hot stuff as I thought I was.
Who inspires you today and why?
I like people who challenge the thinking instead of regurgitating it. Malcolm Gladwell comes to mind because he fits that description plus he’s a fantastic storyteller. I’ve also become a fan of Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net because he teaches people how to bring calm to their lives. We need more of that.
With regard to online communications efforts, what do you believe holds most companies back — i.e. lack of understanding, fear of zero-return/costs, inability to commit to a plan, etc?
The biggest hindrance to companies' general, not just online, communications these days is their marketing training. Marketers have been taught for years that it’s all about the sale, moving people down the awareness-trial-evaluation-knowledge-adoption or attention-interest-desire-action scales and developing “strategic communications” based on “consumer insights” that deliver “return-on-investment.” They get caught up in the science and math and forget that the core of what communications is all about is talking to people. I’ve always wanted to answer the question, “What’s our unique selling proposition?” with the answer, “We treat our customers like real people. That’s enough.”
Which recent, or upcoming, SM/communications tool/concept/strategy has stopped you in your tracks and made you say “whoa – that’s great?” If none, what would you need to see to elicit that type of response?
Posterous’ ease of use and automation of the window dressing of a blog is pretty damn impressive. And anything that aggregates and brings one-place, dashboard management to a set of tools gets me fired up. None of the authors/thinkers/philosophers out there are producing much of anything that raises an eyebrow these days, which is sad. But someone will come along and blow us away soon, either with “here’s how you prove ROI for relationships (i.e. social media)” or “here’s the thing that will bring Google down to earth/allow Google to take over the universe.” My guess is that the next big thing is going to be someone who nails semantic and real-time search.
The balance between work and personal life is so important, what do you (or even, wish you did) to maintain your balance? What keep Jason sane?
I wish I learned to say “no” earlier in life. Ultimately, I want to please others. That normally leads to taking on more than you can handle. I’ve learned and am getting better about it, but I wish I’d figured it out a while back. What keeps me sane is unplugging, playing with my kids, talking to my wife, and sitting on my patio with a stiff drink and a cool breeze. Give me that a day or two each week and I’ll be pretty sane.
Thanks for the great conversation Jason. Best of luck and much success with the new gig.