A Few Words with Myles Bristowe about Marketing, Social Media and More
If you work in the Boston area in the marketing or social media space and haven’t heard of Myles Bristowe, I’d be surprised. After all, as a blogger, he’s about as prolific and popular as they come, writing what he’s dubbed Today’s Marketing Cookie almost daily since April of last year.
And that’s just one of his many impressive feats.
The Chief Marketing Officer at Commonwealth Creative, a marketing agency in Framingham, MA, Myles writes each of his Marketing Cookies based on an actual fortune from a fortune cookie sent to him by a friend, follower or fan.
Not too long ago, I was honored to have Myles write a Marketing Cookie dedicated to me. As one of his 60,000+ followers on Twitter, I knew all about his Today’s Marketing Cookie series, but I never thought to ask him to write one for me. Turns out I didn’t have to ask. He reached out to me. Yup. I was very surprised to receive a very thoughtful and flattering Facebook message from him one day, completely out of the blue, asking me to “take a picture of your next fortune cookie and I’ll dedicate a post to you.”
Wow! Talk about an offer I couldn’t refuse!
And while it took me nearly two weeks before I even got around to responding to him, I had to wait less than 24 hours for Myles to write his post after he received my fortune cookie. That’s right, I sent him a pic of my fortune cookie on the night of December 18 and the very next morning he published a new post about it. No wonder he’s so well known. And successful. As a blogger myself, I know what an effort it is to put together a new post, never mind doing it day in and day out. Good for Myles. And good for all of his fans. It is our good fortune to have him in our midst.
I recently asked Myles if he would answer some questions for me by email about his background, his perspective on marketing and social media and, of course, his highly acclaimed Today’s Marketing Cookie project. What I got back from Myles is an incredibly inspirational story about his career up to this point. In the following “interview,” you’ll read all about his strong work ethic, unique talents, innovative spirit, positive attitude and relentless drive. You’ll read all about a marketing pro extraordinaire, the legendary Myles Bristowe.
Bob: Where do you work and what do you do there?
Myles: I serve as the Chief Marketing Officer at CommCreative, headquartered in Framingham, MA. CommCreative has been providing traditional marketing advertising services for over 25 years. In 2007, CommCreative acquired VividContext, a digital marketing company I founded focused on providing social media, search engine optimization and content marketing services. The combination of the two companies created an integrated suite of multi-channel services we call “unified marketing.”
Bob: How did you get started in marketing and, in particular, digital marketing?
Myles: In the early 1990’s, I was working at the deli counter in Wilmore, KY. One day, I decided to have a lunch special and drew a picture of a hot dog on deli paper with a crayon. My drawing somehow caught the eye of a rather large businessman, who took the cigar out of his mouth, pointed to the picture and asked, “Who, ah, drew this here hot dog?” I responded, “I did.” The businessman looked down at the sign, and then back at me, and said, “You should work for me.” It turned out that the businessman owned a database of every thoroughbred horse that had ever lived, and he needed a “kid” to help him figure out how to put his horses on the Internet. On Monday morning, I traded my deli apron and pricing gun for a desktop computer and built my first direct-dial, text-based Internet site before the invention of the web browser. The rest is history.
Myles: In the early days of my social media company, we were helping companies maximize their presence on MySpace. LOL! I have also been an early adopter, but when Twitter was first released, I’ll have to admit, I didn’t quite “get the point” in the beginning, but I decided I would follow anyone who took the time to follow me. After a year of minimal activity, I sent out my most popular tweet ever, which was, “Has Sara Palin ever been para sailin‘?” It was a stupid, irrelevant and useless tweet, but it got thousands of retweets and it opened my eyes to the possible impact of Twitter. The more original content I create, the more retweets and followers I get. When I get lazy and just retweet links from other sources, I don’t get as many new followers.
Bob: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the marketing industry over the years?
Myles: Before Netscape launched to replace the Mosaic browser, there were very few websites out there. I remember one day I clicked through the entire Yahoo directory, page by page, so I could say I had visited every known website in the world. Not even 90 days later, the number of new websites being launched each day accelerated at such a rapid rate, it became useless to try and list them. The world was suddenly rushing to what I did for a living. Since then, I have seen rush after rush for each “next big thing.” First was the ability to display images, create tables, or cut a site into frames in the Netscape browser. When Microsoft launched Windows 95 and launched the Internet Explorer, people began talking about “e-commerce,” scrambling to enter the “content management” space or started spending a fortune on improving their “user experience.” Then social media changed the game again, but rather than a focusing on building the perfect website, companies are trying to build a better digital reputation on every site and on every device. The future of marketing will see less of a focus on studying customer data and more of an emphasis on improving customer relationships.
Bob: How has social media changed the way you work?
Myles: I wake up at about 4:30 in the morning every day of the week. The very first thing I do when my feet hit the floor is write a new entry in my daily blog. It takes me about two hours to write each entry, and another half hour to share it through a half dozen channels. This is a significant change to the way I live my life. After an hour commute into the office, I keep Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, (and a few others) open all day so I can quickly respond to the feedback and questions I receive. The content I create every day brings me closer to other marketers, and closer to my profession.
Bob: You are a past president of the American Marketing Association Boston. What did you learn from that experience?
Myles: The two terms I served as President for the Boston chapter taught me invaluable lessons about leadership. In order to take our chapter to the next level, we met every weekend for 170 consecutive Saturday mornings. Above all, I learned how to say, “thank you.” The presence of gratitude is the payment I used to acknowledge the countless contributions of the volunteers who gave so generously. When given sincerely, consistently and publicly, saying “thank you” can move unshakable mountains, build energy and momentum — and it gets things done.
Bob: On CommCreative’s CommVersations blog, you’ve been writing Today’s Marketing Cookie almost every day since April of 2012, which is an incredibly impressive feat. Where did you come up with the idea for this series of blog posts, how have you been able to continue writing these posts on such a frequent basis and what have been the highlights of this project so far?
Myles: Last March, Lisa McCarthy, our agency principal, bought Chinese food so we could stay after work and develop a new strategy for our blog. By the end of the evening, we had finished planning our content calendar and Lisa passed out the fortune cookies. Our founder, Bob Fields, handed his fortune to me which said, “it takes a long time to achieve instant success.” After reading it, I thought the fortune might make a good blog post. As the cookies crumbled, and each person around the table read their fortunes, the whole idea just sort of hit me. If Lisa had ordered pizza instead of Chinese food, the Marketing Cookies would have never happened. Writing them in real-time means that I must wake up earlier every day.
I decided that I would try and write 10 blog posts every weekend so I could release them each business day without the daily pressure and always have enough backlog to last two weeks. This plan worked very well until the first weekend rolled around. People began sending me tweets and messages on Facebook asking for cookies on Saturday and Sunday, too. Moving the project to a seven-day weekly schedule rapidly depleted the meager stash of pre-written blog posts I had saved, and I was forevermore committed to writing cookies on a daily basis.
When I first began the project, I think I was trying to prove how smart I was by pontificating about marketing. Then one day, I shared a deeply personal story of when my brother first came home from the Army. The response to a personal story was far greater than anything I had ever written about marketing. Having the courage to share personal stories with my audience, has allowed me to form a deeper and more meaningful connection with my fans and followers.
When the project began, I was opening a cookie every day to write the marketing cookies. One day, Jerry Varner from Richmond, VA, went out for Chinese food and sent me a tweet with a photo of his fortune. The next day, I featured his fortune in the blog. Ever since then, people from all over the world have been sending me photos of their fortune cookies. The fan fortunes are an amazing element of engagement that just sort of happened organically.
Bob: How have you and CommCreative benefited from the success of your Marketing Cookie project?
Myles: The cookies have quadrupled the traffic to our company website and the cookies have attracted two new customers to CommCreative. Mostly I am thrilled to know that people like reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
Bob: Do you have any other exciting projects in the works? How are you going to top the Marketing Cookies?
Myles: We are currently in the works of creating Marketing Cookies 2.0, which includes a super-charged website for the cookies. One of the new features is a map plotting where in the world the cookies have originated. People will be able to submit their fortunes, see when their cookie is scheduled to be written and there will be more social tools for voting, posting and sharing the cookies. We are also working on the release of two books. The first book will be the blog posts themselves and the second book will be a pocket-sized collection of the “learn to speak marketing” segment.
Bob: Do you have any advice for those who are just getting started with their marketing careers?
Myles: Be coachable. Be teachable. Keep learning. Don’t measure your success by what you know, but rather by how much you can learn. It is true that knowledge is power. However, knowledge is often the only thing that interferes with learning.