Posts Tagged Jose Mallabo

To Phil Collins’ mum: Thank you for letting him drum

Hi, I’m Jose and I’m an entrepreneur. Starting and growing companies is my life. But in retrospect I know that it’s a path I unfortunately didn’t discover as soon as I should have.

All the telltale signs were there. Growing up as an immigrant, I had two parents who started their own businesses to support their new American lifestyle. When I wasn’t scheduling appointments or keeping the books in my mom’s beauty salon, I was watching my dad negotiate deals with his auto parts customers.

Phil Collins, professional drummer

Phil Collins, professional drummer

Raised by small business owners, you would think it would have been an obvious path. But I didn’t know it at the time – and no one helped me see it.

Instead, I did what I was expected to do, went to college, got a communications degree and ended up working in one of the most elite blocks of midtown Manhattan. I had all the trappings of success, but I’ll be honest. I was paid poorly and was miserable with the work I was doing.

It wasn’t long before I figured out that working for a large firm was not my calling, but I can’t help thinking that had I listened to the other voice on my shoulder, I might have gotten an earlier start. I mean, *I* might have invented Facebook!

STEM vs. STEAM — The “A” is the Game Changer

Everyone these days is into STEM – tech is going to save the world; engineers have it made; math and science isn’t just for boys, all that. It’s all true. What I think sometimes gets less attention is STEAM, where we throw arts into the equation. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most parents who are advocating for a strong STEM education for their kids would diss an art path if that was suggested. And that could be a mistake.

As we pilot our career match making app, I recently came across some fascinating, counterintuitive data. After testing students at a top STEM middle school, we found that they actually scored higher in their artistic component than students in any of the other traditional schools that participated.

The starving artist implication that comes with the suggestion that perhaps your son should go to art school, isn’t always the easiest pill to swallow for parents. I know; I ran marketing at a large art and design university and consult for a smaller design college.

But why not? Why the disconnect? As I help kids consider various career paths, they realize that their love of art can easily dovetail with the tech jobs they’re “expected” to get. Many designers and art majors go on to some really cool jobs at little old companies like Apple, Amazon and Facebook. And they probably end up being a lot happier and more fulfilled helping design a sleek new device or campaign than stress testing a metal alloy – if that’s their thing. Virtual reality. Gaming. All these tech industries have a major art and design component that can be overlooked by parents in their quest to produce an engineer.

Parents Fear Passion

Well, parents fear lots of types of passion in their kids, but what I’m talking about is the career passion that makes kids want to pursue paths that on the surface might look nutty. Being a drummer in a rock band or a professional skateboarder don’t strike many parents as smart options, but Phil Collins did more than OK for himself.

Passion isn’t a bad thing. If you love what you’re doing, chances are good you’re going to make it work. I didn’t have a passion for working inside big companies, but I am relentless in the pursuit for growing the ones I’ve started. But no one showed me that was a possibility.

Knowing What You Want To Do Saves Angst – and Money

I find that many parents need a good old-fashioned business case for choosing an alternate path. Sure, they think that getting a college degree is the price of admission to life – and for many careers it definitely is.

“all of us are going to end up where we’re going to end up”

But going to college to “figure it out” is a much more expensive proposition these days than it used to be. And the hard truth is that some kids might be better off taking a different path with a non-traditional school, such as an art school, a vocational school or no school at all. Why not help them figure out who they are and help them find out what path they should be on, before just pushing them down the path of “least resistance.”

The bottom line is that I believe parents need to be open-minded — to let their kids to become who they are. I firmly believe that all of us are going to end up where we’re going to end up. But I can’t help but wonder what I could have done if I’d found my sweet spot earlier. Sure, I’d probably have saved a ton on dry cleaning and commuting but I would have spent a lot less time listening to pointless buzzwords being throw about on conference calls. It’s much more than that: it’s about letting kids and young adults focus on where they’re headed, rather than just listening to parents and society.

– Jose Mallabo

 

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Stop using your great grandfather’s vocational assessment

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As kids, we were asked that all the time, and I bet no one answered, “information security analyst,” “operations research analyst” or “web developer,” just a few of the top jobs for 2016.

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When counselors direct high school students to vocational assessments today, students might still not be able to mention those specific careers, only because they don’t know the wide variety of options out there. And that’s the problem with current high school vocational assessments: they don’t point kids in the right direction for modern career paths.

The most-used high school vocational assessment is the “Strong Interest Inventory®” assessment. At $200 a pop (or the price of a Chromebook), you have to wonder how widely used it is, and from my consumer product marketing background, that calls into question the “scientific validation” they tout.

How relevant can it be if a wide cross section of people haven’t taken it? MySpace and Facebook are both social networks, but can anyone argue that MySpace has any insights into consumer or social trends since no one uses it?Even the name sounds old-fashioned, and there’s a reason for that.

The Workforce When SII Was Born

The SII was developed in 1927 to assist military men returning from World War I looking for work. Let’s paint a little picture of what the world looked like then. First of all, there were only 119 million people, and as you might imagine, the typical worker was a white male.

No surprise, the top job was manufacturing, and Henry Ford was offering Southerners $5 a day to come to work in the emerging auto industry. (“Women and negroes” not welcome, the ads said.)

And that pay scale actually doesn’t sound bad when you consider that “super-rich Americans” were those making about $10,000 a year.

The Workforce Now

In 2016 you might say the landscape looks just a little different. First of all, we’ve got 325 million of us – and growing. Top-paying jobs all involve STEM fields; in fact, at some companies, coders are writing their own paychecks.

Henry Ford’s amazing $5 a day offer? That can barely get you a coffee. He probably wouldn’t need to recruit people from outside of area, anyway, since current migration patterns are from suburbs to urban centers, where today’s young adults are less likely to want a car. And, those “women and negroes?” Well Mary Barra is CEO of Ford’s competitor General Motors, and our president is black. (The $5 was actually split 50/50 between pay and bonus!)

Super-rich Americans are counting their money in billions rather than thousands, and three of the top five earned their wealth through technology-based companies.

The whole world is available on the smartphones we carry in our pockets, instantly updated rather than relying on the printing press and newspaper of 1927.

Ch…ch…changes

When you consider the evolution (or rather revolution) that has taken place in the workforce since the SII was introduced, it makes that assessment seem pretty quaint doesn’t it?

To be fair, the SII was updated in 2012, but four years in today’s world seems like an eternity: We were still using the iPhone 4 and Snapchat was just a ghost of an idea. The IoT, smart homes and fitness trackers were all just becoming part of our vernacular. And wrap your mind around this: Adele was blowing us away with her first album, and we were gaga for Gangnam Style. (Sorry, I know that’s in your head now.)

That’s why many career counselors and educators are wondering if there’s something more accessible and more current out there in the world of high school vocational assessments to help address today’s career path discovery and education planning.

A tool that hasn’t just evolved, but that has been created specifically to fit the needs of today’s workforce. An instrument that takes into account our growing expectation of work/life balance, telework and the gig economy. One that is not cost-prohibitive in a world where freemium is the norm.

At Vireo Labs, we believe there is a better way for all high schoolers to assess their potential. And, we look forward to keeping you updated.

– Jose Mallabo

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Driving member growth: Sometimes it pays to be direct

When I was leading international corporate communications at LinkedIn in 2009-2010, we knew interaction between members was critical to driving growth in the overall member base. Critical to that was a singular act on the platform: Completing and updating your profile. The problem was most people only updated their profiles when they were about to look for a job. I was more than a little obsessed with driving that objective (See number 8 on this post), particularly in international markets where our member base was fast-growing, but relatively small compared to the U.S.

In India we had garnered national press coverage simply by announcing our presence in Mumbai — which helped further accelerate membership growth in that country. That gave us fodder for making more and more milestone announcement: “LinkedIn India surpasses 3 million members” then 4 million members, then 5 million. Like any news cycle, it gets salty quick and you have to be more inventive and sometimes what George Constanza did — the opposite.

Given our top priority was to get people to update their profile, I figured why not just ask them to do that directly? After all, we messaged members directly all the time. (Sometimes, the greatest clarity comes from being awake for 30 straight hours and staring at a hotel room ceiling 10,000 miles away from home.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 1.36.33 PMUntil then we’d been using press coverage and the buzz it created to drive member growth. To announce our 6 millionth member in India, we decided to announce the news directly to the membership base and let them carry it to the mainstream media — along with a tip to complete your profile.

Results:

  • Day 1 – 15,000 updated profiles
  • Day 2 – 30,000 updated profiles
  • Press coverage hit more than 5 million impressions
  • Cost of distribution: Zero Rupees
  • Prep and writing time: 2 hours (one hour was spent just explaining it and 15 minutes spent on discussing the button)
  • Authenticity to the company mission and product purpose: Like a glove

In the weeks after this tactic, my PR colleagues started looking at LinkedIn the platform for what is today — the world’s most powerful business medium for professionals.

– Jose Mallabo 

 

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Is Savannah the next start up city of America?

When anyone considers coming to Savannah, Georgia for a visit or for work, it’s not for the abundance of game changing start ups. Yet.

Since leaving my last ‘real’ job I’ve jumped back into hanging out with a small, determined group of startups that call the Hostess City of the South home. Quickly, I’ve come to see that there are seeds in place that could add ‘entrepreneurship’ to the list of attributes when thinking of Savannah.

At the Aetho ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its move into the Creative Foundry, I was invited to moderate a panel with founders from Aetho, Tour Buddy, The Quick it App and Oak.Works to discuss all the elements needed to build a great start up community.

And, in case my questions aren’t so audible here are the notes I was reading from on my iPad. I didn’t get to ask all of them, but maybe next time…

Questions for panelists:

1 – I’ve looked at each of your backgrounds and you’ve each come to Savannah for various reasons. None of you are native to the area. So why Savannah and why found and keep your company here?

2 – There’s a quote that has gotten a lot of mileage over the years about starting the next Silicon Valley:  “Take one part and two parts venture capital and shake vigorously.” What is your reaction to that? Is it over simplified and if its on mark where do you think we Savannah is on that path?

3 – When I launched my last start up (may it RIP) finding partners, vendors and talent of any kind to work at break neck pace, all hours of the night and on a start ups budget was a constant challenge.  Is it something you are facing and if so, how are you getting past it?

4 – Each of your companies has some kind of technology focus — as you continue to grow how to you plan to keep in front of the need for more technology talent?

5 – Are the regional and local universities providing enough talent into the start up community and if not, what more do you think we/they can do to make that happen?

6 – As a Savannah start up, what advice would you give someone who is in the crowd today considering
There’s an adage that you don’t want bureaucratic investors in the early rounds of a start up — how

7 – Do you ever think — hey why don’t we just up and move to the Valley or other community where there are bigger and more established start up infrastructure?

8 – If there was just ONE thing you can have more of here in Savannah that would make growing your company easier or faster what would it be?

The point that Tristan and the others made about the City of Savannah needing to get behind the startups in town is bang on. Hot shot designers coming out of SCAD don’t want to work in tourism or for the port — they want to be self made entrepreneurs.

If Savannah doesn’t get behind them by investing in the infrastructure to incubate their companies, they will continue to put the city in their rear view mirrors when they graduate.

– Jose Mallabo

 

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Updated: 7 (not 6) lessons higher education has taught me about marketing for Millenials

There’s been more research done to study Millenials than any other generation of American consumers. I’ve read my share of the studies, but the greatest lessons I’ve learned have been on the job at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) as senior vice president of marketing and PR.

Here are my top 6 lessons (so far):

1.  Be nimble.  Before I made the move to higher education I co-founded a fashion and lifestyle startup built on the Twitter platform targeting early adopter Millenials. As we were releasing our second product the core of our targeted consumer was still very much in love with Facebook and flat out dissed Twitter. Four or five months later, after I had taken over marketing at SCAD, that all changed very dramatically. Teenagers and young adults started leaving the suddenly parent heavy Facebook for the easier and more mobile friendly Twitter world. These platform shifts will continue to happen so pay attention and organize your teams to be able to react to major media consumption shifts like this.

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2.  Have a point of view.  Perhaps this is part of my personal opinion mixed in with the lessons this job has taught me but as the research has suggested Millenials have a more global view of social, political and financial issues than generations that preceded them as teenagers and young adults. More than anything they have a point of view about issues small and large that my generation simply didn’t start thinking about until much later in life. Trying to get your brand’s point of view in agreement with that of this generation would be a mistake. However, appearing to be neutral is a bigger mistake. It shows your company has no conviction and hints that perhaps your organization hasn’t bothered to give it any thought — which makes you neutral. In this very noisy, always on world neutral is invisible.

3.  Account for family influencers.  Remember that these are young adults who still rely on parents and other family members to make big decisions. This is especially true for making decisions about big-ticket items like college. The consideration to go to college runs very broadly into familial networks (i.e. legacy, heritage and location) but very specifically to mom. The lesson for college and non-college marketers alike is that when targeting Millenials you must address the conversation they will be having with parents and others in the family. Build a relationship with that influencer through the medium or channel of their choice – which will not be the same channel. See my note about Twitter and Facebook above.

4.  Test your message.  Millenials are nothing if not professional multi-taskers especially when it comes to media consumption. Gaming. Social media. Music. YouTube. Text messages. Chats. Email. All are used on multiple devices at a pace that makes us old farts rather dizzy. If your message is not on target immediately it is ignored. Unlike my generation (who disdained advertising and marketing as a rule) Millenials actually like to interact with great marketing but your message and content has to be framed within a worldview they already have. This is true for every consumer, but more so for the generation who has grown up with the unsubscribe button at their fingertips right out of the womb.

5.  Email is not dead.  Coming into my position at SCAD, I thought that email was irrelevant to our targeted consumer compared to search engine marketing, social media and PR. I was as wrong as acid wash jeans outside of a truck stop. Email can play a critical role in your communications strategy and media mix, but it has to be integrated with other content on social and the web. In my opinion, email to Millenials is something you introduce well after they’ve started to engage with your brand. It cannot stand on its own and less is definitely more. For people over 40 spam is annoying but tolerated. To Millenials SPAM is the devil burning Styrofoam cups on their iPhone. A few months ago, my team launched an email campaign (tied to other content) to an already used list of teenagers and we increased click through rates 383% and click to open rates by 502% from one campaign to the next — using the same list. We were very selective about the messaging, creative and time of delivery. It can be done. (See the before and after.)

6.  Print publications are (almost) dead.  I am writing this in a hip coffee shop where I am easily the oldest customer; and I just did a lap around the room. Not a single Millenial has the print edition of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times (or any print publication for that matter) open. As a 46-year-old who started my career in a New York PR agency, I love the feel of the New York Times in my hands. It makes me feel like a better person just clutching it let alone acting like I’m reading it in public. But I’m not my target audience, they are. So when it comes to launching an integrated PR/marketing campaign for Millenials save that earned print media push for their parents.

7.  Understand a 15 year old’s motivations.  Sophomores and juniors aspire to a lifestyle supported by a career and the money that comes with it. Your college is a way to get there, not a destination. Remember that when you’re drafting an email or copy for your web site — they don’t care about what it’s like to get there, they want to know what you can do to help them achieve their career goals. And despite the outcry and media headlines, money is no object. Families are more than willing to foot the bill to get their posterity on a career path.

Other stuff to read.  Other than this brilliant post, if you’re going to do some reading about marketing for Millenials pick up “Chasing Youth Culture and Getting it Right” by Tina Wells. It is far more than a primer on the subject but really expounds on the many issues identified above and in more white paper like research about this generation of consumers. I pick it up and re-read chapters just as I do with “The Tipping Point” or “Positioning” before I build a campaign.

– Jose Mallabo

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Email is not dead in Millenials marketing

After posting 6 Lessons higher education has taught me about marketing for Millenials, I’ve gotten more head scratching about advocating for email in the overall media mix for this group. There’s no doubt emailing high school students isn’t the same as sending email to working professionals way back in 2001 — when answering emails on a BlackBerry in public was a personal branding opportunity to announce: “I’m so important, I’m answering email right here, right now!” 🙂

My point was simply to not ignore it and to think through where in the overall mix between social, PR, content marketing email fits when trying to engage Millenials in your higher education (or otherwise) brand. We actually used email at various stages of the marketing funnel at the Savannah College of Art & Design during my tenure. Campaigns at the top of the funnel were by far the most demanding simply because the awareness level was generally fairly low. Remember, this is the generation raised on social and mobile. Understanding that young adults actually like visual marketing, we took a more mobile product launch mindset to help us break away from the approach that these were somehow personal notes between strangers who haven’t yet met.

Below is the before and after — resulting in an increase of 383% click through rates and an increase of 502% click to open rates to the same list of high school students.  In short, more people opened and clicked through to the new email campaign (which was the fourth one these students received from us) than on the first campaign when performance rates are almost always higher.  It can be done.

Before. Lots of text, hyperlinks instead of buttons:

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After. And, better. Stronger positioning, buttons for easy mobile click throughs:

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 1.12.59 PM

– Jose Mallabo 

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Top 5 things I am looking forward to at San Diego Comic-Con 2014

On July 26 SCAD’s Sequential Art program will be hosting a small booth-like presence across the street from Comic-Con in San Diego at the Wired Cafe at the Omni Hotel. Having lived in San Diego back when Comic-Con wasn’t quite the socio-entertainment global geekfest that it is today — I am really looking forward to the trek from Savannah to the place I called home for so long. But mostly I am looking forward to:

  1. Unleashing a small squadron from my dusty fleet of cool and slightly off-putting t-shirts and calling it business attire. On day 1 of the conference I will either wear my “I’m not sleepy, I’m Asian” or my “Brown Man Rising” shirt. Tweet suggestions to @josemallabo.
  2. Seeing and hearing what 130,000 geeks, celebrities, media, groupies and doodlers looks and sounds like so I can finally answer the question that’s been playing in my head for years: “Who would win in a street fight between fans of Comic-Con and the Super Bowl?” My money is on Comic-Con not because they outnumber Super Bowl attendees almost 2-to-1, but because they’ve conceived an alternate reality where wearing capes isn’t weird and super powers exist.
  3. Being in a group of people where I know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m not the only one who has ever worn a Lieutenant Uhura uniform (replete with the wig and ear piece.) 
  4. Chilling out at Wired Cafe with all the entertainment muckety mucks to see if someone will finally admit to me that the Oscar for Best Picture awarded to The English Patient was a result of a lost bet.
  5. Just being in San Diego — home for one of my alma maters and the place where I’ve consumed the most quesadillas after 2 a.m.

Good things to know if you’re going to Comic-Con  

Black Widow

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Top 5 tips on how to get more Twitter followers

Sorry.

Sorry.

Sorry…for the all-too-obvious SEO- and Huffington Post-inspired headline.  This post has little to do with getting more followers on Twitter. Could be worse.  I could’ve named it: “Is Twitter more important than the Wall Street Journal?”

The first lady can Double Dutch

Social media, especially Twitter, is a global 24/7 session of Double Dutch.  Only it’s with 500 million+ jump ropes none of which will slow down to let you in even though you just laced on a shiny new pair of Nikes and are carrying a swanky-fun handle.

Like Double Dutch you don’t run into the fray with your mouth open unless you want a 20-gauge rubber rope behind your bicuspids. You wait. You find the rhythm of the conversation then jump in prepared to be part of it.

Based on using Twitter in corporate communications and on building a company on the Twitter API, I’ve learned two things:

  1. Before you start tweeting: Shut up and listen!
  2. Never build a company on the Twitter API.  (Another story for different day.)

By listening for a bit you’ll get a sense what the language and conversation is on Twitter and you’ll see what gets the most interest in whatever topic you’re keen on. No matter what subject, I think you’ll see that people who have a constructive point of view get the most engagement on Twitter.  So when you do want to start opening your mouth, think back to the way back days of TechCrunch (circa when we thought Friendster was the big ticket).  Michael Arrington made that blog more influential than mainstream papers by having a point of view.

So, if you get stuck on finding a voice for your next tweet or post, ask yourself – what would  @arrington do?

Then when you’re jusssst about to hit send on your 11th tweet stop, drop and roll. Take a look at the first ten tweets and count how many of those are about: A) broad topic of conversation that we all care about, B) dialogue with other tweeps, and C) how wonderful you are.

If more than two are focused on category C, put the mirror down and remember this guiding principle:

As @louhoffman reminded me last week no one you first meet at a cocktail party wants to hear a commercial about how wonderful you are.  They want to engage with you about new and common areas of interest. And, they’ll stay for a full cocktail or maybe two if you’re a smidge entertaining.

New rule is the old rule:  50/30/20

Spend 50% of your time talking about broader subjects on Twitter.  Then, 30% actively engaged with other people. And, just a wee 20% woofing about your parents’ progeny.

I lied. I’m giving you some tips. The last one is: Who you are on Twitter is somewhat reflective of who you are following. Follow wisely.

If you want to be seen and served up in the Twitter “Who to follow” engine as a global leader in M&A but are following 1,500 skateboarders . . . then odds are Twitter thinks you’re more like Tony Hawke than Larry Ellison.

– Jose Mallabo

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A letter to my former PR team circa 2009

Who says email is worthless? Occasionally a former co-worker or in this case staffer of mine digs up a blast from the email past and I hear an echo of something brilliant or stupid that I wrote years ago. I still think about PR this way. And I still don’t own any clothes from Lacoste.

See below a verbatim note from sometime in 2009:

Dear XXX and XXX –

Given that both of you have the unique challenge (erm, pleasure) of being managed by me from far, far away I felt I’d give you some insights into the things that rattle in my head. 11 points for today.

I obviously have a lot of opinions — good, bad or indifferent — and I’d counsel you to bring me in early into your planning and campaigning process. I enjoy that part and think we have so many cool things we can do this year.

-Jose

1. Media coverage is not a panacea. If it were, Monica Lewinsky would be president of the U.S. and BP would be the company of the decade. I subscribe to the doctrine of ‘agenda setting’ when it comes to media relations/coverage. The media doesn’t tell people what to think, it tells them what to think about.

2. I’ve launched more than 100 products, announced more than 125 acquisitions, 50 partnerships and dozens of events across North America, Asia Pacific and Europe. Two or three were memorable.

3. The best PR campaigns are those that are experiential and drive activism at the grassroots or customer level. Most of these can then elevate into media coverage.

4. TiVo was the worst press launch I’ve ever worked on. It was 100% focused on the technology and never considered the lifestyle play. It remains my biggest learning lesson. HP’s “e-services” launch was the second worst project I was involved with.

5. One of the brands I admire most for its recent resurgence is Lacoste. Once a brand for preppy suburban teens that died with the advent of hip-hop and grunge culture – now transcends both demographics and two generations of consumers while maintaining its niche appeal. I own no Lacoste clothing.

6. Everyone in the company does PR and will tell you how to do your job — until there is a crisis or someone asks how to measure PR. The best PR people are prepared for both.

7. My favorite quote is from the late great John Wooden: “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” It’s both a memorable sound bite and universally applicable for anything.

8. I am frustrated by the fact that our number one priority has been to get members to update their profiles and we’ve done a total of 2 tactics worldwide to drive this activity in the first 6 months of the year.

9. Your biggest challenge as an in-house PR person will always be staying focused. See #6 above.

10. PR people train spokespeople on the fact that audiences remember very little about a message and are impacted mostly by the visuals and experience of the communication event – yet we spend most of our day-to-day time spinning on…messaging.

11. Occasionally I hear a PR person say something that I think is bang on. This is bang on – and Nick is one of the best media relations people I know.

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Day 1 in Kathmandu

Fifteen hours after arriving in Kathmandu I thought it was a good time to check out the sites and get my bearings. And maybe figure out how to ride a motorcycle through Nepal.

I hired a driver out of the Summit Hotel to shuttle me around first to Swayambhunath Stupa (i.e. the Monkey Temple) then to the Thamel area to see where the tourists do their touristy things. As I was strolling through busy streets full of cars, people, bicycles and motorcycles moving in just about every direction one thought came to mind:

How exactly am I going to ride a motorcycle out of here in two days without hitting something?

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