Birds in Venice
Originally uploaded by Todd And.
I first stumbled on ToddAnd The Power to Connect
in early August, after he linked to me about a discussion that was ongoing at the time about advertising and PR.
Todd’s distinctive blog, which he started on July 14, 2006, has quickly gained a loyal readership, including me.
In fact, Todd is the inspiration behind some of my use of video lately.
He packs his posts with multimedia, including YouTube videos, audio iMixes and the trademark headers he creates for each blog post. The headers also show up in my feedreader, which means I get the look and feel of his site, even if I don’t visit. He is a master at branding.
Since his blog is merely a hobby, his bio is a bit mysterious,
so I asked him to expound on his background a little for the curious.
He started out with Golin Harris and Cohn & Wolfe, and then joined the Financial Relations Board (FRB), which teamed up with BSMG, a True North Company. Following the merger of True North and Interpublic Group, his employer became Weber Shandwick. Four years later, he moved on to become the director of PR for the Aurora Area CVB, where he promoted tourism and economic development for Aurora and six surrounding municipalities, a change of pace after he counseled high profile lawyers and corporate executives at Weber. He now directs the marketing and PR efforts for Leopardo, a large commercial construction company.
The following is an IM chat that Todd and I had late last week, and is part of an occasional feature I plan to have exploring different PR bloggers thoughts about social media. I wanted to interview Todd to get the impressions of a new PR blogger.
Kami: Do you live in or around Chicago?
ToddAnd: Yes, I live about an hour west of Chicago in a small suburb along the Fox River. If you watch Prison Break, you're familiar with Oswego. That’s where I live.
Kami: It seems that you are very media savvy, how long have you been reading blogs and or listening to podcasts?
ToddAnd: Hmm… savvy is such a strong word. I've been sporadically listening to podcasts since February 2005. I only started religiously reading blogs after I launched my own.
Kami: Why did you start blogging?
ToddAnd: One of the reasons I started blogging was to catalog marketing-related material that I could reference in the future. There are so many exciting things online to help individuals grow and connect, so I didn’t want to forget about them. With such a personal reason for blogging, I’m shocked I have a blog that people read… and that some read on a regular basis. Still, it’s hard to get friends and family to read my blog… they’re just not interested. Although, my dad just e-mailed me the other day (after reading my blog) to say how proud he was of me and how intelligent I sounded. Not sure if he was reading my blog or yours.
Kami: Ha-ha, I am sure it was yours.
Kami: Okay, so you have been blogging for about two months now, what have you learned from the experience?
ToddAnd: I learned that blogging has a lot of parallels to real life. Like friends, there is an inner circle of blogs I read and comment on, then a much larger outer circle of the ones I visit less often… acquaintance blogs if you will. I also equate blogging to a digital conference with presentations, discussions, networking, etc. Aside from that, I've learned blogging takes a lot of time (which means long nights and short weekends). I've learned to triple-check my work before publishing it. I've learned to quadruple-check my style and tone, so I'm not misinterpreted too. Blogging is very powerful and convenient like email and instant messaging, but it lacks physical expression and voice inflection, which are essential to the readers (decoders). Just like e-mail when it first took off, it's very easy to misunderstand people and very difficult to build rapport.
Kami: You have a very distinctive blog, heavy on the graphics and often with embedded video. Also, you make a specialized graphic for every post. What is the backstory behind the Legos and the cool little man?
ToddAnd: Yep, I hope YouTube doesn't fold anytime soon or my blog will seem bare. I come from an artsy family. My dad was a graphic designer, my sister was a young artist, my wife is an art teacher… So, when I was little, my friends would all be outside playing ball while I sat in front of a Mac fooling around with Photoshop and Quark.
Kami: So, your blog is a little like the elementary classroom, with cutouts on every wall (ha-ha)?
ToddAnd: The legos are the perfect symbol for connecting. And, at the same time, they underscore that we shouldn't take ourselves or our jobs too seriously.
Kami: Yes, your stated goal on the blog is to connect? How do you envision that?
ToddAnd: That was the simplest way for be to put it. Who doesn't want to connect? I want to connect. I want to talk about connecting. I want to share topics on connecting. Connecting = integrated marketing communications = PR, direct marketing, event marketing, sales, advertising, etc. Blogging is a hobby, so my goal is just to have fun with it. Learn stuff. Help people. Make friends. Take it easy. I don't want it to become a stress or burden. In the beginning, as I blogged more, and found people commenting and readership growing, I became addicted and felt I had to post messages more and more frequently. I quickly found I needed to scale it back a bit and just have fun with it.
Kami: Since this is an off-hours hobby, how does what you are learning with social media and blogging fit into your day job?
ToddAnd: Good question. I've found myself randomly referencing little bits of knowledge I pick up here and there. I'm still a new blogger and still new to reading them, so I haven't applied much yet. But I'm definitely discovering new and exciting stuff every day now… which I share with colleagues or integrate with my plans/campaigns.
Kami: Do your employers know you are blogging?
ToddAnd: I don't hide it from anyone… I just don't jump out and tell everyone. If it comes up, it comes up. I just don't proactively spit it out, “Hi, how's it going, I'm blogging….”
Kami: You don’t wear a nametag, “Hello my name is ToddAnd, Blogger? I can’t imagine why not 🙂
Kami: I hear you are a pretty funny guy and performed in an improvisational comedy troupe for 14 years?
ToddAnd: People would never guess I have an improv background. I look and come across pretty straight-laced these days. 🙂 I was the only business guy in the troupe… and one of only two non-thespians. I never laughed so hard as when I was performing on stage with the troupe… or even just rehearsing. It might not be obvious, but improv comedy has a lot of applications to the business and marketing worlds.
Kami: Why did you quit improv, just not feeling funny anymore?
ToddAnd: I was starting to feel too old. And too many of our cast members moved to LA to pursue bigger opportunities… in food service. 🙂
Kami: LOL. So, their loss is our gain