Applied Poetics

Brand, culture, design, voice–Applied Poetics is about finding clarity and meaning in our organizations.

My writing philosophy, in brief

Over the past few months I’ve been working closely with one of our clients to help them define their written brand voice and further develop their team’s writing skills. The work has been rewarding. They’re smart people who care deeply about the communities they serve. Having a clearer, more consistent voice helps them carry their message further.

Throughout multiple writing workshops I’ve shared guidelines and checklists and example after example. Including all of my favorite advice collected from learning to write as a journalist and then for the past 15 years writing and developing written brand voice for organizations.

But if I had to sum up my writing philosophy in three simple statements, it would sound something like this:

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Getting your brand story heard in a social media world


This article was originally written for and published in IABC’s CW Bulletin, September 2011.

Brand communicators today have a unique opportunity: We can get our messages into the marketplace at a cost and speed that would not have been possible a few short years ago.

However, we are also not alone anymore. Today everyone is in advertising and in PR. Social media has allowed everyone to have their own megaphone.

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When authenticity matters most


March madness and the spirit of the NCAA basketball tournament are everywhere. But there’s one particular bracket no one wants to be on. For the past six years, the website The Consumerist has held a tournament for readers to decide the Worst Company in America.

The site takes nominations to determine the initial selection of 32, then round by round readers vote to determine the winner.

One company on the list this year has decided to do something about it. Not about the reasons why they made the list, or why they “won” the competition last year–but about making sure their competition wins first.

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Time to chase a new kind of dream

Last week the time had come for me to say goodbye to Red Hat. I joined the company on the third day of the year 2000. Red Hat was 350 people then. Today the company is over 3500 and is the largest and most recognized open source company in the world. I may have left the company, but in many ways I will always be a Red Hatter.

But today I’m chasing a new kind of dream. Today is my first day at New Kind.

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When it’s time for change: Recycling and Redesigning Logos

Branding is about articulating the clearest, truest expression of who you are. For most brands, that expression is summed up in the logo identity.

If you’re a new company, a new logo is a chance to introduce yourself to the world and make a good first impression. But when your logo and brand are already in the marketplace, it presents a different challenge. What do you want your brand to say about you? And is that the message your logo is sending your audience today?

The fantastic book “Recycling & Redesigning Logos” by Michael Hodgson is all about redefinition–when your logo no longer represents who you are or who you want to be. Hodgson is the principal and creative director of Ph.D, a design firm in Santa Monica, Calif.

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Discovering desire lines: How to break down barriers and let paths emerge

The story is told like this: A university constructs several new buildings on its campus. But rather than build sidewalks between buildings, they plant grass, let people walk, and wait. Pedestrians choose the most efficient paths–and over time the lines worn in the grass reveal where sidewalks should be.

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5 reasons why rapid prototyping works for creative projects

The open source community has a phrase for the principle of rapid prototyping: “Release early, release often.” The theory is sound: Don’t wait until a project is perfect to share it. Instead, keep producing work so more people can experience it, react to it, find bugs, and improve it.

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Sharing the story of Red Hat’s brand and culture

Last week I was asked to speak about brand and culture to a group of visiting MBA students from the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary. They came to Red Hat to learn more about the company, and I gave a talk on how brand and culture align at Red Hat.

I love telling this story.

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Comparing leadership cultures and creating change


Yesterday I attended a panel on cultural leadership at the Coach K Leadership Conference at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. The panel featured our own Senior VP of People and Brand at Red Hat, DeLisa Alexander, and Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North America.

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