Is your idea simple enough that a five year old could understand it?

Every year I return to my alma matter, Green Trails Elementary School, to speak at their annual Book Fair. For an entire week they bring in local authors, athletes and educators to talk about the importance of reading and writing.

It was a riot. First I gave all the kids nametags. Then I read one of my favorite children’s books, Yay, You. I also spent some time talking about how I wrote my own books, and closed the session by letting the kindergarteners ask questions. Now, most of the kids forgot their questions by the time I called on them. Which was adorable. But one student named Daniel asked, “Scott, do you wear your nametag in the shower?”

I just grinned as I thought about my new tattoo. But alas, it was not appropriate to show it to the kids. So I just smiled and said, “Yes I do.”

The entire class busted out laughing! It was priceless. And you gotta wonder if the kids knew that I was serious.

Anyway, the next day I received an email from one of the students’ fathers. It read:

“My youngest son, Daniel, came home from kindergarten class and said that he wanted to wear his ‘Hello, My Name is Daniel’ nametag in the shower. When I told him it would probably wash off, we settled for wearing it to bed on his PJ’s. We then went to your web site and viewed the video clip, and he said, ‘That’s him. He told us how he wore a nametag to make people friendlier and he writes books and gives speeches! He’s cool.’


Is your idea simple enough that a five year old could understand it?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

Believe It Or Not, Wearing A Nametag Secured Me Spot In Ripley’s

In the middle of dinner last night, an old friend from high school stopped by my table to say hello. After we caught up for a few minutes Adam said, “You know Scott, I was just reading about you the other day.”

“Really?” I said. “What were you reading?”

“Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”

“What?! Ripley’s? Get the hell outta here!”

“Oh yeah, it’s in there. I just bought it. You should go check it out.”

Less than three minutes later, I found myself in the new releases section of my local Borders. I grabbed the latest edition of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not called Planet Eccentric. Then I flipped to the index under the letter “G.”

And that’s when I saw it:

Ginsberg, Scott, 23


I voraciously turned the pages to the “Off The Wall” section. And on the left-hand side was a small paragraph which read:

* * * *
Sense of Identity
Scott Ginsberg, of St. Louis, Illinois, has worn a nametag every day since November 2, 2000, just to find out what would happen. He now works with people who want to become more approachable – and says that wearing nametags is a great start.

Now, here’s the funny part: I’ve applied and been rejected by Guinness Book TWICE. (Read my rejection letter here.) Meanwhile, Ripley’s never called me; I never went through the submission process – I knew nothing about this!

So maybe that’s why the editors screwed up my home state. Because I live in St. Louis, MISSOURI; not St. Louis, ILLINOIS. And for those of you not familiar with the area, (East) St. Louis, Illinois is home of dozens of all night dance/strip clubs and the highest crime rate in the United States. Not exactly my kind of town.

So believe it or not, Ripley’s doesn’t check their facts. 😉

Anyway, I scanned page 23 so you can view the entry here.

Still, I think the funniest part about this whole thing is the entry right next to mine. It’s a picture of a guy named Leo Kongee of Pittsburgh who is know as “The Painless Wonder” because he can drive as many as 60 nails into his nose without feeling any discomfort.

In which case, I think it’s safe to say: I’ve arrived.


What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

Elevator Button Promotes Ad Agency’s Approachability

On the way up to my mastermind meeting at The Hughes Groupthis morning, I noticed something unique in the elevator. There were 18 floor buttons, but one of them didn’t have a number on it. Rather, it simply said: HUGHES.

(Good thing, because I’d completely spaced out on the floor of my meeting!)

Later on the way out, my friend Andy Masters made a comment about how the labeled floor light was a great front porch for The Hughes Group. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how effective this button was in respect to professional approachability.

In the midst of 17 other vaguely numbered floor lights, only ONE had a name. Only ONE was personable. And so, the button made clients (or guests) feel comfortable by easing the commonly felt pain of, “Oh darn it, what floor was my meeting on again?!”

It’s all about the little things.


How does your office make clients & guests feel comfortable?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

Credibility comes from specificity

Which of these sentences sounds more credible?

  • They say Xbox 360’s are selling like hotcakes
  • I read an article on this morning that said Microsoft planned to sell 3 million Xbox 360’s within 90 days of today’s launch. Here’s the link.

    There’s a simple reason #2 is the obvious choice: credibility comes from specificity. And when people fail to be specific in their communication – both interpersonally and en masse – other people won’t listen. For example, think about the last time you heard someone say one of the following phrases followed by a “fact”:

    Oh really? They did? Well, who’s they? The media? The bloggers? Your parents? A group of kids you overheard at Starbucks?

    I HEARD…
    You did? When? Where? From whom? And did you actually “hear” it on the radio from, say, Paul Harvey, or did you just read it somewhere?

    Really? He did? Well, can I trust him? Does he have a PhD? Is he usually right? Should I email him to confirm?

    Whose research? Did you do it? Was it from a University? Or did you just watch an interivew on CNN and quote someone else who said, “Research proves…”?

    You get the point.

    I’ve been publishing books, articles and blogs for the past three years now. And I have no choice but to be specific in my facts or examples, for several reasons. First of all, my editors would kill me. Secondly, my readers wouldn’t believe me. Lastly, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself as a professional if I used phrases like “they say.”

    And it’s not just in print, too. As a professional speaker, one of the first and most valuable lessons I learned was “On stage, credibility comes from specificity.”

    Here’s my favorite example. I have this thing about remembering dates. Seriously, it’s Rain Man-esque. And I’m not sure why, but I can remember the date of every concert I’ve attended, every speech I’ve given and every city I’ve visited.

    But dates have an amazing power to help your customers (or audience members, as it were) connect with your story, fact or example. And that is what builds their confidence in your credibility as a trustworthy, authentic and approachable communicator.


    What are the three most important dates in your company’s timeline?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

  • Brand Origins: The First Mass Email I Ever Wrote

    I started writing HELLO, my name is Scott during my senior year of college at Miami University. And since I was a marketing major, I like to think I applied some of my knowledge…

    So, as graduation drew close, I began collecting emails. LOTS of emails. And not just the addresses of my close friends with whom I wanted to stay in touch, but every classmate, casual acquaintance, radio station coworker, professor, random dude who always saw me walking to my capstone, and the like. I told them I promised to drop them a line as soon as the book was done.

    Now, that was three years ago. And just last night, I stumbled upon a listserve from Miami University that actually posted my original mass email to all of my college friends, thanks to my old friend Eric Fox.

    See, this is why I love Google.

    But it was the first mass email I ever wrote. (And it wasn’t a very good one, I might add.) But as the 5 Year Anniversary Celebration continues, and as I think about everything that’s happened since 2002, it’s fascinating to go back and see the origin of an idea and, subsequently, how its brand evolved.


    How has your brand evolved in the past three years?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    What word do you own?

    In Al Ries’s famous book, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, he explains that if you want to build a brand, you must “focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect’s mind. A word that nobody else owns.”

    I couldn’t agree more. But it wasn’t until October 20th that it all came full circle:

    “Yes, Mr. Ginsberg, I’m one of the editors of Cosmopolitan Magazine. I’d like to set up an interview with you for an upcoming piece. Please call me back at the following number…”

    When I returned her call, she enthusiastically replied, “Oh great! I’m so glad you got right back to me – my deadline is tomorrow!”

    “So, what can I do for you?” I asked.

    “Well, have you ever seen those little ‘quizzes’ that Cosmo runs every month?”

    “Oh, right. My girlfriend used to take those things in college.” I replied.

    “Exactly! Well, as the editor of the section, it’s my job to seek out experts to help create those quizzes. And in our upcoming issue for January 2006, we’ll be running a quiz called ‘How Approachable Are You?’”

    “Reeeeeealy,” I said.

    “Yes. And in my research for possible contributors, I went on Amazon to search for books about approachability. And guess what? Your book was the first and only title that came up! So, we’d like for YOU to write the quiz. After all, you are the expert. Would you be interested?”

    Um, are you kidding?! Me, write a quiz for one of the most widely read publications in the world?! I thought.

    “Yes. Yes I would,” I said.


    (Check out the full article on word ownership.)


    What word do you own?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    So, HOW old are you again?

    I had the opportunity to share the stage with three excellent St. Louis authors yesterday. Fellow panelists included Harry Samuels, Art Shamsky and Leslie Savan.

    Once the speech was over, we moved into the bookstore for a signing. And as usual, every person that approached me asked the same question most people pose after hearing me speak:
    Scott, HOW old are you again?

    You know, it’s funny. After nearly 100 speeches in the past three years, I’ve never NOT been asked this question by an audience member. (By the way, I’m 25.) And it used to be intimidating because most of my audience members were at least 10-15 years my senior.

    But I’ll never forget July 26th, 2005. I was watching the sunrise in the middle of the Swiss Alps at 5:00 AM, four hours prior to my annual workshop at JLU’s Youth Leadership University in Leysin, Switzerland. I was reading Positive Thinking Every Day by Norman Vincent Peale. And the passage for the day was this: “It’s not how many years you’ve been around; it’s what you’ve accomplished during those years that really matters.”


    How do you deal with age differences in your job?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    How to give your staff PERMISSION to talk to you

    Every once in a while I meet audience members who point out something so insanely obvious; I wonder how in the heck I missed it.

    Ah, the wisdom of curbside observers.

    “Yes sir,” I said as a hand shot up.

    “Well, it’s not really a question, but more of a comment,” the man from the audience explained.

    Everyone turned their heads towards the back of the room as the man said, “You know why I like this whole nametag idea? Because it’s like you’re giving people PERMISSION to talk to you.”

    The room fell silent.

    Wow. Five years I’d been wearing a nametag 24-7, and that word never occurred to me. Permission. I liked it! And in the next few days, I realized why the word PERMISSION was so essential to approachability and communication. (See the 5 Pillars of Approachability.)

    Some people would rather jump off a cliff than talk to a stranger. They’re shy, introverted, scared, uncertain, don’t know what to say and have a fear of being judged by others. So, this means they will not approach you, or feel comfortable being approached by you, unless permission is granted.

    The easiest way to give permission is to smile. It’s the simplest front porch known to man. According to Irving Goffman, the father of social psychology, “a smile is the number one indicator that conversation is desirable.” And it might sound incredibly obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t understand the value of smiling as it pertains to giving permission.

    Like my old boss, David, the Front of the House Manager at a hotel where I used to work. He was one of those ex-military types that stared people down with his eerie green eyes until they ultimately averted their gaze and allowed him to take control of the conversation. And I swear to God, he never smiled. You could crack the funniest joke in the world, and, NOTHING!

    I’m not even sure if he had teeth.

    Anyway, because David didn’t smile, he wasn’t giving his staff permission to talk to him. Because he wasn’t giving permission, he wasn’t approachable. And as a result, our team lacked open, effective communication. For example, I once had a problem with my hours, namely that I was working 54 of them in one week as a part time employee! But I never felt comfortable coming to David with my problem because he was just THAT unapproachable. My thought was: I’d rather suck it up and work overtime than have a conversation with this jerk.

    That’s how unapproachable he was.

    But that only made things worse. And as the problem remained hidden from my immediate manager, it escalated. I ended up working eight out of the next nine days in a row (remember, I was a part timer!) and ultimately became so upset that I just lost it. That ultimately resulted in my resignation from the position.

    Because he never gave me permission to approach him.


    How do you give people permission to talk to you?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    Fans, Not Customers

    I’ve been to 97 concerts in my lifetime. I know this because every ticket stub of every show I’ve ever seen since I was 12 lay under a sheet of glass on my coffee table. Some of the stubs are signed by my favorite musicians; some are tattered and torn from the pouring rain through which I stood and sung for hours. Some of the tickets aren’t even tickets! They’re napkins or flyers I stole from the venue because I just HAD to get a memento from every event.

    And each day when I look at those faded pieces of cardstock, I don’t just think about some of the greatest memories of my life.

    I think about being a fan.

    A fan who would stop at nothing to watch his favorite bands play live – even if he’d already seen them 8 times before; even if he had to drive three hours each way; even if he had to skip school to wait in line to get tickets; and even if it meant staying out all night and failing his marketing exam the next morning.

    Because that’s what fans do.

    But does the term “fan” ONLY refer to a music lover, sports enthusiast or dedicated follower of a performing art? What about business?

    Let’s ask Webster. It defines a fan as an “enthusiastic devotee or an ardent admirer or enthusiast.” They also have related words for fan like: addict, aficionado, buff, bug, devotee, enthusiast, fanatic, fancier, fiend, freak, lover, maniac, nut, groupie; admirer, collector, connoisseur, dilettante; authority, expert; cultist, disciple, follower, votary; backer, patron, promoter, supporter; partisan, zealot; booster, rooter and well-wisher.

    Aha! Interesting. So it isn’t just painted faces and screaming audience members; it’s simply someone who “loves your stuff.” For example, maybe someone’s been to your website before. Bought your products before. Worked with your people before. Stayed at your hotel before.

    Then one day they come to you and say, “You know, I just LOVE your stuff.”

    If you ever hear those beautiful words come out of your customer’s mouth, congratulations – you have a fan. And fans are the most important people in your business.

    Fans are better than customers because they’re devoted to you and your company. They stick with you and come back for more. And most importantly, they tell all their friends to do the same.

    So the question is: how can companies create and keep their fans? Well, since the term “fan” is most often associated with music, let’s look at four great musical performers and bands – and see what they do.

    FAN CLUB RULE #1: Fans crave an experience.
    (See B.B. King)
    FAN CLUB RULE #2: Fans will stick with you.
    (See Dave Matthews Band)
    FAN CLUB RULE #3: Fans will go to the ends of the earth for you.
    (See The Stones)
    FAN CLUB RULE #4: Fans don’t need to be sold.
    (See U2)

    The business world is obsessed with the word “customer.” In fact, if you type in the word “customer,” 174,906 books come up. And if you type in the word “fan,” 5,418 books come up.

    My opinion? Customers, schmustomers. You need fans. Fans are people who will do your marketing for you, encourage and support everything you do, and most importantly, tell all their friends to step onto your front porch and become fans of yours too.

    That reminds me: I was recently contacted by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) to give the keynote address at their 2006 convention. Right before signing the contract, I asked my newly acquired client an important question, “Why me?”

    And do you know what he said?

    “I love your stuff.”


    How do you create and keep your fans?

    * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

    An idea a day keeps the unemployment office away!

    Since August of 2000, Idea-A-Day has published 1,910 ideas contributed by people around the world. I just stumbled upon this site on a Google search, and I think it’s probably the coolest website I’ve ever seen. Here’s today’s idea, contributed by John Kappa:

    DAY 1,910: Install an indoor switch near the exit of homes, offices and other buildings which turns off all lights and appliances. Certain devices, such as clocks and alarms, might be programmed to remain switched on.

    The best part is, YOU could contribute your own idea! I already sent in my own. So go check it out!


    What’s your idea today?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

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