The first copies of The Ad-Free Brand showed up at the house on Friday afternoon. So I guess that means, after nine months of work, it is finally out. Awesome.
This book is the work of many people. It is filled with the helpful edits and brilliant suggestions of Jonathan Opp, Rebecca Fernandez, and Rick Kughen, plus the insightful contributions of Kevin Keller, Greg DeKoenigsberg, Paul Frields, and many others. It is a product of the patience and support of my wonderful girlfriend Maggie and my New Kind friends David Burney, Matt Muñoz, Tom Rabon, and Elizabeth Hipps.
There are so many people who’ve helped me out over the past year, and I owe all of them a debt of gratitude.
I thought I’d share the acknowledgments from the back of the book here in the hopes of introducing you to the work of a few of the people who helped me make this book a reality. Please take a few minutes to click through the links and get to know some of these great folks and the very cool projects they are working on. I can only hope you learn as much from them as I have.
One day last September, I received an interesting email out of the blue from someone named Lisa who had stumbled across a blog post of mine. She asked me whether I had ever lived in Indiana as a child. I was born in West Lafayette, Indiana.
As it turns out, Lisa was my neighbor and childhood best friend. I moved to Kansas City, Missouri at age 5 and had lost touch with her until I received this email, almost 35 years later.
As Lisa and I caught up, we learned we each had book publishing in the blood. Lisa is a Senior Publicist at Pearson in Indianapolis. I spent the first five years of my career as a literary agent and editor. In one email to her, I mentioned that I had been thinking of going back to my publishing roots and actually writing a book of my own. Lisa introduced me to Rick Kuhgen, an Executive Editor at Pearson. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was writing.
So I’d like to thank my childhood friend and current publicist, Lisa Jacobsen-Brown, without whom this book would probably still be something I was thinking about doing… eventually. I’d also to thank Rick Kuhgen, a true writer’s editor—responsive, thoughtful, and with a hint of poetry to his own words.
I’ve benefitted from the wisdom and friendship of many wonderful people along the journey.
Thanks first to Maggie, my source of energy. This book would have never been possible without you.
Thanks to my mother and father, who I hope see parts of themselves in me and in this book.
Thanks to my sister, Erika, who has been a great friend and confidant ever since she quit telling on me.
To Matthew Szulik, my mentor and friend, for letting the best ideas win. To Jonathan Opp for helping me find a voice. To David Burney, for opening my eyes and making me a designer. To Matt Muñoz, for always bringing optimism and passion.
To Jeff Mackanic, for your friendship and for quietly, consistently making everything happen. To Rebecca Fernandez, for bringing value before words. To DeLisa Alexander, for your faith and friendship.
To Tom Rabon and Elizabeth Hipps, for making each day at New Kind better than the last.
To all of my friends from the Red Hat nation, past and present, around the world. Special thanks to the Red Hat Brand Communications + Design team, a group of the most talented folks I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside.
To Kevin Keller, for your wise advice, guidance, and contributions.
To Michele Zanini, Polly LaBarre, Gary Hamel, and the team at the Management Innovation Exchange for introducing me to a new set of friends.
To Bob Young, Lisa Sullivan, Michael Tiemann, and Donnie Barnes, who were open when open wasn’t cool.
To Greg DeKoenigsberg, Jeremy Hogan, Chris Blizzard, Paul Frields, and Max Spevack, who know more about inspiring communities than I ever will.
To Kevin Trapani and Dan Moore, for inspiring us to consider a better way.
To Alina Wheeler and Jelly Helm, for perspective, at the right time.
To the rest of the Pearson team, especially Seth Kerney, Megan Wade, and Bill Camarda, for all of your hard work bringing this book to life.
And finally, thanks to my other friends who don’t give a crap about brands, ad-free or not. You know who you are, and I appreciate everything you do.
Since I’ve recently been on one of my Tom Sawyer rants again about the lack of humility I see in many community efforts, I thought I’d share a story that might help you visualize the role your organization could play in the communities it belongs to.
A few months ago, two of my business partners, David Burney and Matt Muñoz, were sitting in a meeting with a client of ours (The Redwoods Group, a very cool B Corporation), discussing the unique relationship that organization has with its customers, employees, and other communities. The conversation turned to the ideas of service and humility, which are so often ignored by big organizations attempting to engage with communities.
All of the sudden, Kevin Trapani, CEO of The Redwoods Group, encapsulated the entire conversation in a few short words:
“We should be of it, not above it,” he said.
So many organizations, intentionally or not, approach things as if they are above a community. Sometimes this means taking the Tom Sawyer approach of using community strategies to get others to paint your fence for free. Sometimes this means creating a new community with your organization at the center rather than joining an existing community effort. Sometimes it simply means a lack of humility or selflessness shines through in the organization’s community interactions.