It Has Never Been Easier to Be Average

It has never been easier to be average.

When we start to do anything new, it can be a struggle. We don’t have all the answers we need. But today, with just a little bit of effort, we can find them and ascend quickly to “average” status.

Want to learn how to drive more leads? In seconds, 188 million pages are there waiting to tell you. Thinking of picking up a culinary skill? Watch a YouTube video about literally any dish. The world is your oyster. Or your bruschetta. Or quesadilla. Or–brb, I need a snack.

In the Information Age, we can hack our way to junk and copy our way to passable before we’re just a tiny burst of work away from average. That wasn’t so bad! We’re already there! And — good news! — more of that helpful stuff is poured into the world with each passing second.

Yes, it’s never been easier to be average. But it’s never been harder to be exceptional.

To be exceptional, quite literally, you have to be an exception. You have to do things a little bit differently.

You can’t just follow the list, but the problem is, all those lists are so … ubiquitous…

They’re so … tempting…

They’re so … mysterious…

(It didn’t, by the way.)

So if being exceptional means being an exception, I have good news: Everyone already is. Everyone has a unique combination of experiences, aspirations, hopes, fears, beliefs, and skills.

But not everyone trusts that. Not everyone uses that.

I think it’s time we all did.

I think it’s time to be better than the average. It’s time to break from all the conventional thinking. It’s time to be exceptional, not “good enough,” not “gets the job done,” and certainly not “but I have numbers to hit.”

So how can you do that?

Trust your intuition.

The things that shot you up to average are external. The one thing that gets you to exceptional is you. There are no lists or YouTube tutorials to get you there. You can’t “best practice” your way to extraordinary. In a noisy, increasingly commoditized world, the only real differentiating factors are the individual and the team, in other words, people.

We all have access to the same tools and tips-and-tricks. More than ever, the things that make you an exception matter.

Trust your intuition.

So what does it take to do that and succeed? That’s what we’re exploring with Unthinkable.

Unthinkable is a collective journey to answer that one question. However, rather than end with a 12-step plan or 7 tips-and-tricks, we’re backing up a step from the moment of action to examine the way in which we prepare for it.

How can we be more specific and concrete in the aspirational anchors we throw out to the world? How can we better pull from the right influences to inform and improve our work? How do we create and take advantage of the right experiences in our lives and training in our work, both when they’re directly and indirectly related to the task at hand?

If we each had our own Iron Man suits, then most people and resources out there focus on playbooks and prescriptions for exactly how we should use then. Well what if we learned how all the parts worked? Then we could use them however we wanted — each of us in a way that’s an exception to every other person and moment, because every person and moment is an exception.

Yes, it’s never been easier to be average. So maybe it’s time we aspired to do the hard part. Let’s go.

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Thoughts on this? or @jayacunzo on Twitter and Snapchat.

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Our weekly podcast explores this big question, packaged as irresistible stories. Listen here or through the channel links below:

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Posted on December 15, 2016 .

It's All About Attention: Why Trusting Your Intuition Matters in a Noisy World

We live in the noisiest era in history -- a time when consumers (that's all of us) have won the war for our own attention. We have so much choice facing us in every imaginable form, medium, screen, etc., that we have all the power over media and marketers, because if we don't like something, we can easily find a replacement. In fact, with every second that passes, that amount of choice increases to the tune of 17 new web pages per second. So anyone hoping to reach us -- to reach the consumer -- must first start by becoming the object of our CHOOSING. 

The name of the game today is attention. Can you acquire it? Can you retain it? Can you convert it?

The biggest obstacle preventing most businesses from gaining attention is, well, the ability to do anything genuinely worth someone's attention. Why would I read, watch, or listen to Brand X when just a few pixels or clicks away are all my favorite people and sources for entertainment and education? Like any big problem, there's no one silver bullet solution, but there IS one single form of thinking that needs to change if companies today have a hope and a prayer: 

You need to question conventional thinking and trust your own intuition. 

Conventional thinking doesn't stand out or gain attention. It's stuck in the past. It's done well, but it was created years ago. And following someone else's thinking (usually in the form of a list article you found and followed) only creates sameness, not the originality needed to stand out.

So what's this "intuition" stuff? Isn't that a bunch of malarky (to quote the great Joe Biden)?

Not so fast, because it very well might be the key to gaining attention and producing anything differentiated enough to get results. 

Albert Einstein -- not one often associated with fluffy nonsense -- called intuition our most valuable, most underused ability. To him, it was "a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something."

Research psychologist Gary Klein, who spends his life studying human decision-making, calls intuition "the pattern-matching process that quickly suggests feasible courses of action." 

But let's distill it for our world in business: Intuition is your ability to draw unique insights from a combination of your personal experiences.

This is what enables that craft-driven creator on your team -- perhaps that's you -- to quickly and easily know that yet another How-To article might not succeed as much as that epic new idea she just pitched. But where did she come up with it? Intuition, not some kind of conventional approach or best practice. 

It's how brands like Marriott or Red Bull knew to build internal media production houses, despite the past playbook pointing to more banners or TV spots. It's how Finn Dowling at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley can write a single blog post about a dog, written on some lousy blogging tech with barely any time or money or readership ... and still reach 7 million people in a week. 

It's how every person in every story we tell on my podcast, Unthinkable, can stand out and gain attention in a noisy world.

It's about trusting your intuition.

How'd we get here?

As I head into Northeastern University this week to teach a couple classes, I find myself continually referencing this same series of facts: We live in the noisiest era ever; consumers have won the battle for their time; attention is the goal; and creative intuition is the means to that end.

That is the backdrop for everything happening in media and marketing. Period. It's why content marketing matters and actually works. It's why Snapchat is currently thumping Twitter as a consumer app and network. It's why Uber's biggest opportunity aside from self-driving cars very well might be mid-ride experiences, like upselling related Uber products through the app or in-car ads -- they have our attention after all.

But this all took years and years to form -- this attention scarcity, this consumer-first world. (Here's a massive slide deck explaining the history of marketing and media which my team created back when I was at HubSpot. Shoutout to the author, Shannon Johnson, who as of this writing, is now a content whiz over at Amazon.)

It's all about attention.

Why am I so passionate about this? Because this means the time of the craft-driven creator is now. Optimization and incremental growth tactics are already becoming increasingly automated and commoditized across companies thanks to technology and the listification of every tactic. But makers who love to make, who know how to execute those original ideas, who empathize with an audience to reach them and resonate, and who can derive unique insights from past experiences through their finely honed intuition -- WE NEED MORE LIKE THEM.

Except if I have anything to say about it, instead of "them", we'll be saying, "YOU."

My mission with Unthinkable is simple, but hard: Help more people reject conventional thinking and trust their intuition. That is THE skill, THE path to success in a noisy world. It seems completely unthinkable to say or do, hence the name. What would possess Radiolab to make radio sound the way it does after years doing it one way? What would make Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos buy a traditional publisher like the Washington Post? How could Drift's CEO David Cancel tell his marketers to remove every lead-gen form on the website? 

It looks unthinkable. To them, however, it feels obvious. Why? And how do we make sure we're honing our intuition to better trust it too?

So, if you want to become a true master of marketing, a maven of media, or another, more jargon-free title that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit less ... maybe subscribe and listen to Unthinkable ;) But mostly, keep the examples and questions and ideas coming.

Access stories, resources, and community to help you better trust your intuition: subscribe below!

Posted on October 16, 2016 .

Dear Marketing Leaders: Content Creators Are Not Your Line Cooks

Too many companies treat content producers like a glorified ticket system.These creative individuals rarely inform the strategic decisions at the brand and instead field requests (read: demands) from bosses or peers to build innovative, creative projects (read: the same old crap with a new, even more tone-deaf spin than before!) over and over and over and over.

This is doing all three parties involved in content marketing a disservice: the team’s morale and individual growth suffer, the audience receives a worse experience, and the business never maximizes their results.

But before we go any further, allow me to pour you a full-bodied glass of perspective — err, I mean, chianti.

SRV, or Serene Republic of Venice, is a sprawling, modern Italian restaurant in Boston’s South End.

After its first year in business, it was selected as the 2016 Best Italian Restaurant in Boston. The food, in addition to being divine, is inspired by the northern half of Italy. In place of the familiar red sauce and mozzarella is seafood and smaller bites calledcicchetti — tapas-like snacks found at the counters of bars across Venice.

The co-executive chef, Mike Lombardi, is an old high school buddy of mine, and he recently shared an eye-opening approach to his team that every CMO, VP of marketing, director of marketing — anyone managing content creators — needs to hear. Namely,he’s training his line cooks to leave SRV.

A word about line cooks.

From Mike, I learned that even small restaurants are very similar to big brands: They’re very hierarchical, slow to adopt new technologies, process-driven (or -ridden, depending on how well they operate), and rarely break from convention to be more creative than their peers. And line cooks tend to bear the brunt of all that thinking and infrastructure, as the lowest on the totem pole.

Line cooks have a mundane, repetitive job. They assemble your meals, working off the tickets submitted by the wait staff. This repetition and “just get it done already” peer relationship causes all kinds of problems in line cooks, from lack of fulfillment to stagnation of career growth to behavior problems in and out of the kitchen.

Then there’s the treatment of the ingredients. Line cooks don’t typically care about them, and they certainly don’t care about making what they do “great” as much as “done.” In most restaurants, other cooks prepare all the ingredients, and line cooks arrive shortly before service to “just get it done already.”

Lastly, line cooks get paid like crap. It’s a commodity job, so market pay tends to be consistent, somewhere around $13 an hour in Boston. This means any unhappy individual will look for the easiest, lowest stress job, since why work harder for the same pay?

So if SRV is to succeed, Chef Mike needs extreme empathy for the suckiness of being a walking ticket system. He also needs to be aware that a high-stress job at the 2016 Best Italian Restaurant in Boston must offer something aside from market-rate pay and an industry award the line cooks couldn’t care less about.

To Chef Mike, that means grooming individuals to have better careers and find more happiness (and pay) over time and, yes, leave when an opportunity opens up elsewhere.

In doing this, Mike knows that he’ll create a domino effect and that every domino that falls helps build a bigger and better business:

  1. Involving line cooks earlier means they learn more and contribute more
  2. learning more and contributing more means they feel more fulfillment and joy
  3. more fulfillment and joy means they’re intrinsically motivated to do the work
  4. when a human is intrinsically motivated to do a task, they seek it out more and seek to make it better
  5. when a task is sought out more often and gets better, the delivered product is better
  6. delivering a better product to customers means Mike can retain loyal customers and bring in even more eager patrons.
  7. not only does this develop the restaurant’s reputation with consumers, it creates a virtuous cycle of talented, hardworking cooks wanting to work for Mike, which gives SRV a competitive advantage to hire top individuals at (or even below) market rate, which thus continues this domino effect back at #1.

Mike doesn’t want a bunch of okay line cooks responding to tickets day after day because Mike doesn’t want an okay restaurant. Mike wants a big, thriving restaurant … and that means constantly involving his cooks in more parts of the business and, eventually, a wall-of-fame of successful chefs who all started as his line cooks.

Co-executive chefs of SRV -- Kevin O’Donnell (L) and Mike Lombardi. Photo via Matt West, Boston Herald.

Co-executive chefs of SRV -- Kevin O’Donnell (L) and Mike Lombardi. Photo via Matt West, Boston Herald.

Deb Aoki is not a line cook,

although as a member of several content teams in her day, I can see why you might assume that. As a writer, a comic book illustrator, and a general content strategist, she’s often the last in line to field whatever the boss and team decided before her. And despite her best efforts, she never could push back on those terrible, tone-deaf ideas.

“It’s great that you have that input,” they’d tell her, “but that’s been decided.”

But her story is not unlike those line cooks at SRV that Chef Mike knows will rocket to new heights. Like them, Deb is now involved in those very strategy and idea meetings that, just a couple years ago, she was practically banned from attending.

So what changed? Did she have a boss like Chef Mike? Did she lead some huge internal change at the company?

Nope. Instead, Deb started using her creative superpowers in a unique way at work, and suddenly, she had a voice. Suddenly, others like her did too. Suddenly, Deb Aoki believed she was destined to be more than a content line cook and ascend to the role of chef — the most powerful person in the room.

And she did all this without a title bump and without uttering a single word out loud.

This is her story…

Channel links: Official SiteiTunesSoundCloudStitcherGoogle Play

If you share this post, I will be as happy as Swedish Chef in this video:


Unthinkable shares stories of people who break from conventional thinking to follow their creative intuition. Our community is a group of craft-driven creators in business who would make what we make for its own sake … but ALSO want to see results from it. We are bothered by suck, reject shortcut culture, and honor the creative craft.

Unthinkable was called the “This American Life” of marketing shows by an iTunes reviewer and was featured on the iTunes and Stitcher home pages after just 2 episodes. Subscribe for our brief Monday morning emails, with episodes, bonus content, creative experiments, and other goodies.


That’s me! I’m Jay Acunzo, the creator, host, producer, and writer of the show, together with a small team of awesome folks who make the show truly special. I’m a former Google digital media strategist, head of content at Breaktime Media and HubSpot, and current VP of platform and content at NextView, a seed-stage VC firm. I travel the world delivering keynotes and workshops about creativity in business (speaker page), and above all else, I love making things to help other makers.

Posted on October 13, 2016 .

The Two Best Words in the World: What If?

The other day, I was scrolling through some Facebook comments (mistake #1) on a thread about whether self-driving cars would become mainstream. I was blown away by how the debate wasn't whether they'd happen but what reason would prevail for why they wouldn't. Everyone seemed to jump right to the reasons to NOT believe -- or perhaps they even relished in immediately shooting down the very thought.

I take for granted working in tech and, mainly, with startups my entire career thus far. I think the best part of the startup world is the collective openness to new possibilities. Whereas most people scoff "no chance" at something new and crazy, we say, "what if?"

Damn, I love those two little words so much.

Self-driving cars? No chance they replace regular cars, right? Too much infrastructure and they could crash! "Yeah but what if?"

You're a media company, but you aren't gonna run any ads? That'll never work. "But what if?"

Artificial intelligence? I mean, have you SEEN Terminator? Or... "Yeah, but what if?"

Virtual reality? Augmented reality? Machine learning? Clean energy? Electric vehicles? Noooo chance. "BUT...what if?"

Here's another: WHAT IF you chose to be optimistic? WHAT IF you broke from conventional thinking, if only in your mind at first? WHAT IF you allowed for new possibilities?

Join Unthinkable, the journey I started to better understand what it takes to reject conventional thinking and successfully follow your creative intuition? I share a short note each Monday AM with our highly produced, story-driven podcast + bonus content and creative experiments our community tries together.

Posted on October 13, 2016 .

NBA Losing & Startups Who Fail to Screen for “Culture Fit”

This article was originally published to NextView's Medium publication about startup traction. Find and follow that publication here.

I’m a Knicks fan, which is another way of saying, I could really use a hug.

Over the last decade, Knicks fans have been subjected to an all-you-can-choke-on buffet complete with all the necessary items: historic amounts of losing, front-office scandal, a hero-turned-enemymind-numbingly dumb trades, and of course, ne’er-do-well owner James Dolan and his freaking band.

But during all of that, the Knicks also hired two of the most influential coaches in league history: Phil Jackson and Mike D’Antoni. The latter was our coach from 2008 to 2012, while the former is currently the team’s president. And both have one thing in common that culture-forward startups should study: They’re “system coaches.”

Phil Jackson, Knicks President (L) and Mike D'Antoni, former Knicks coach.

Phil Jackson, Knicks President (L) and Mike D'Antoni, former Knicks coach.

Both men are influential thanks to their adherence to clearly defined offensive systems. Jackson helped Michael Jordan win six titles and Kobe Bryant win five by running the triangle, while D’Antoni revolutionized the NBA with his fast-paced “seven seconds or less” offense, which opened the door to teams like the Golden State Warriors and lineups where the 6-foot-8 LeBron James is the tallest player on the court during the Finals.

Now, system coaches know one thing: They need to find players that fit their system. If they’re to build a winning team, they have to be absolutely, positively certain that the player they’re vetting isn’t just the best talent but rather the right talent.

Similarly, companies who have a strong culture need employees who fit that culture.

These companies are like system coaches. Culture is defined as “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” And that “regarded collectively” part is key — these types of companies, like system coaches, start with the whole, then try to attract or find the best talent who would be happy being a part of that system.

Important distinction: It’s not about finding sameness. It’s not a “cult” anymore than being an NBA team is a cult. An NBA team has complementary players that fit well together, despite their different abilities and personalities. Complementary but together — that’s the goal with teams from sports to business.

In each case, basketball or business, being a “system coach” can’t be judged as inherently bad or good. It’s just one way to try to win.

Where Companies Need to Improve

Most companies with strong cultures recognize that they indeed care about maintaining and improving that culture. They put it into documents and focus on employee happiness and growth. They make “culture videos” and perform other PR tasks to market that culture to find the right talent for the team.

But where we all mostly drop the ball is in arguably THE MOST important place: interviewing candidates.

What if someone owned culture interviews for each and every candidate? Wouldn’t that create a crucial “first filter” for both company and talent to make the best possible decision?

I started my career at Google in 2008. When I was asked to interview candidates for my team later on, I was struck by one of the four various categories that were assigned to us: Culture Fit. One person’s entire role in the interview process was to screen for culture. They’d explain every nuance of how Google operated that they could, pulling from their own perspective and some documentation about principles and corporate culture.

By assigning a culture fit owner, the category was placed on par with screening for job aptitude and skills. Google was self-aware enough to both recognize their culture’s prevelance AND be willing to turn away prospective employees (or have them turn away Google) to ensure a match.

Later in my career, I worked at HubSpot as head of content (i.e. editorial). While there, I largely — how you say — sucked ass. I did NOT live up to my talent, and I was unhappy. I blamed things I couldn’t control, too: internal politics and/or the scale of the company preventing me from reinventing things quickly, certain processes or approaches or beliefs, etc. In other words, I didn’t mesh with the culture. (If you were on my team there, know that I’m still angry with myself for not delivering for you before I decided to leave. I’m sorry about that, truly. I also recognize that I was never really a fit for the beliefs, approach, or culture of HubSpot. Neither side is good or bad. Just different.)

Once I left and joined NextView, I started doing some of the best work of my career and even received a few public awards for what I do. Most importantly, I feel more creative empowerment and personal fulfillment than in any prior job I’ve held. And I realize now the power of proper expectation setting. After all, it’s not like I suddenly became talented once I left HubSpot. I just didn’t fit in there, nor did my career goals align with working at a later-stage company in general.

At the time I interviewed there, HubSpot didn’t have the culture team it now has, so nobody owned culture fit interviews quite like they did at Google. If they had, I actually think one or both sides would have agreed it wasn’t a good fit — not in a negative way, mind you, but rather through a mutual understanding. For instance, their primary objective was monthly lead generation through a repeatable process focused on individual pieces of content, while mine was to take the reins of building a new, large, and meaningful content brand over a longer period of time. Instead, I was told “we’re flat” and “we’re open to that goal,” but neither was true.

After I left, a similar thing happened to another employee, only he took vengeance on the executives he disliked in the form of a scathing book. (Unfortunately, for all the larger issues in tech that it highlights, it couched or even grazed over the meaningful stuff in favor of unfair personal attacks on others. Particularly disheartening was the harsh portrayal of individuals who had no political sway over the author and who I know, based on my own intimate knowledge of their work and personalities, are well-meaning people simply trying to do good work early in their careers.)

Similarly, I’d bet that this person would never have entered the company had there been a better set of expectations up front. “We do this type of content. We have these goals. We are a system coach, and here is our system. If that makes you happy, we’d love to talk more. If not, we wish you the best in your next role.”

Which reminds me…

In 2012, during yet another losing season for the Knicks, that system coach Mike D’Antoni unceremoniously resigned from the team. His multi-year tenure had yielded a 121–167 record, and many people blamed him, not the talent. They said he lacked self-awareness since he tried to run a system with a team clearly not built for it.

Maybe he did lack self-awareness. I don’t know. But I DO know that if he and Knicks management were hellbent on making that system succeed, they needed the right talent, not just the best talent. Maybe then, D’Antoni AND his players would have been more successful.

After these past two years — two years of floundering some more using another system, handed down from Knicks president Phil Jackson — the Knicks decided to bring in a new head coach, Jeff Hornacek.

Hornacek doesn’t run a set system. Instead, he has a certain set of principles that guides his coaching of each individual, as he mostly molds his approach to the players to maximize their abilities.

Being a current Knicks head coach who works under Jackson, he says he’ll use elements of the triangle. Being a former Phoenix Suns head coach — the same place where D’Antoni made his historic mark years ago — Hornacek will undoubtedly use elements of that system too.

He’s a principles coach, not a system coach. Neither is good or bad. But what IS good is that Hornacek seems very self-aware of what he is. He’s saying the right things and setting the right expectations.

Which type of coach do you want to be?

You have two choices as a business: Really, truly go all-in on the culture thing and admit that you’re a system coach and thus should hire like one, OR stop saying you’re “culture-driven” and try instead to shape your management style around a set of principles and each individual.

We’re so good in tech at perpetuating and articulating our cultures around the company internally or via marketing tactics externally. But if we could all just get better at doing so during the interview — to really, clearly, and honestly convey what you expect of an individual and what they can expect of you — I think both company and individual would have far fewer negative experiences.

But it all starts with self-awareness. It all starts with being upfront about whether you’re a system coach or not.

Yes, it’s a lot harder to interview this way. Yes, it’s much easier (if wasteful or even less kind) to just let the system accept or spit out an individual once they get hired.

But setting expectations is also the right thing to do for everyone involved, whether you define “right” as effective use of resources or honesty and integrity.

Neither system coaching nor principles coaching are inherently good or bad. They’re just different ways to try to win. But if you lack the necessary self-awareness to know what you are, you’re only setting yourself up to lose.

Posted on June 28, 2016 .

What's Happening with Facebook Messenger, Medium, Podcasts & Influencers? [SnapClass #2]

This is the second archived installment of my SnapClasses, deep dives into a topic or technique in creativity, content marketing, or tech.

You can find the first version and more details about SnapClasses in this post.

In this episode, I'm talking about four major trends in communication and tech that we should watch closely and know more about -- all of which are obvious but rarely discussed in terms of consumer behavior. These are:

  1. Facebook Messenger
  2. Podcasting
  3. Medium
  4. Tastemakers (newsletters, influencers, etc.)

Hope you enjoy!

PS: If you like these kinds of things, you can get them weeks ahead of time as I share them on Snapchat. Simply click the following link or take a photo of the code below via Snapchat to add me. (Say hi if you added me through this article and I'll snap you back.)

Say hi on Snapchat:

Open Snapchat & take a photo of this to auto-add me.

Open Snapchat & take a photo of this to auto-add me.


SnapClass #2:

Posted on June 17, 2016 .

Want to Break Into Marketing? Crucial Things to Do in the Next 30 Days

I love Snapchat for many different reasons, not least of which is the open, honest, and non-automated interactions that happen there. No pre-scheduled sharing. No search-and-Like bots or the humans that have started acting like them on Twitter. Just actual discussion and dialogue. (They really need a name for the kind of media that enables such social interaction.)

Today, I got this great question: "I've been trying to break into marketing. Any advice?"

Hmm. Interesting. I never thought anyone would ask me this for two reasons:

1. I didn't intentionally "break into" marketing. I just kept following different roles that let me write for a living, and here we are.

2. It's weird. Who even am I? (Who is me? Who I are? Um ... who I be's?) Like, why would anyone want my advice on anything, especially something as important as their careers? Whether you think I'm being silly or I'm justifiably nervous, my point is: career questions matter to me way more than advice about marketing and creativity. Overhauling a Fortune 500 brand's approach to content? No sweat. One person with 0 years experience asking for career tips? Is it sweaty in here? It's, like ... it's SWEATY in here ...

Anywho, mini-existential crisis aside, I didn't want to leave my Snapchat friend hanging, so I offered to send him an email. I'm sharing the short note below because I've found myself giving this advice more than once, and I see them as the foundational layers you need to do anything else in your search or your career.

FAVOR: I'd love if those with experience in the field could leave a comment to supplement my answer! It'd help both my friend and anyone else reading this.

Note that instead of answering the big, scary, open-ended question, "How do I break into marketing?" I thought it'd be more useful to answer the question, "What can I do in the next 30 days to greatly increase the likelihood that a hiring manager would respond to my application?"

Okay, so my email:


  1. Fix your Google search results. The first thing good hiring managers do is search for your internet presence, not look at a resume or cover letter. In fact, you should make your cover letter a writing sample (not boilerplate Dear Sir, etc.) and resume a creative asset (maybe it's a different design, a microsite, interactive, video, whatever -- point is, make your core 2 assets stand out, and then realize most hiring managers will still go right to Google)
    1. Here's what I'd do: get proactive and set up links to appear
      1. Make sure you set up LinkedIn, Twitter, et al to reflect your best self.
      2. Open an page to present the info you want to proactively share
      3. Open a personal blog. This brings me to my next thing…
  2. Create a side project. Blog, podcast, recurring series on Twitter, offline event, literally anything that I can find online to show me you can use modern channels to do marketing well today. There's nobody holding you back from creating online, so figure out what's fun and do that. Or, if you really want to engineer an end result, if a job type you crave requires something you've never done (e.g. produce video), start doing it on the side. Bottom line: Ship a ton of work and show me you can do the job
  3. Attend a ton of networking events. Good things happen when you know good people. Here's the group I started that you might consider checking out: // also check the events calendar at // like your content creation, start putting yourself physically out there too.

To everyone reading this in blog post form: The big message I want to send the world is to show, not tell. Create a body of work.

This work should be easily found when someone searches for you, and it's only a slight bonus if the topics are relevant to the next job. A great hiring manager and/or company will look for the underlying skills: Can you write? Can you test and tinker? Can you grow an audience? Can you move with the modern times?

(Also, if YOU are a hiring manager, know that we're facing a talent crunch. Here are some tips for attracting more creative content marketers and interviewing them effectively.) 

This idea of showing not telling also applies to that typically bland resume/cover letter combo. Make sure yours aren't boilerplate but instead reflect the skills you have. 

In the end, you have an unfair advantage compared to anyone that came before: You play on the same channels where you aspire to work. There are no gatekeepers to you quickly launching things on the side. Now it's up to you to actually put in the work before you ever get the interview. You can show, rather than tell, simply by shipping more and better work.


Good luck to this person and to anyone else trying to break into the field! And let me know how I can help: @jayacunzo on Twitter, or

(Via Snapchat, take a photo of the above code to add me.)

(Via Snapchat, take a photo of the above code to add me.)

Need some inspiration to turn your intuition into action? That's why I'm building Unthinkable.

Check out the show here.


Oh...and yes, that's my dog, Nocci, at the top :)

    Posted on June 14, 2016 .

    Introducing SnapClasses: Nutritious and Delicious Mini-Talks on Creativity, Content & Tech via Snapchat

    "Listen to your audience."

    Few sayings have become more rote in the tech world than that. Unfortunately, it's the saying -- not the practice -- that's gone mainstream. 

    For whatever reason, rather than listen to a few highly engaged individuals interacting with your content, marketers and startups and media companies everywhere act like the strongest signal of potential success is a large amount of people consuming something.

    I think that's broken. I think the best way to understand if something will succeed is to do the harder part: Make something people want. In other words...

    Look for small numbers of people reacting in big ways, then lean into it. 

    And by "lean into it," I mean with everything you've got. 

    You’ve struck gold. You've found something that actually resonates with others on a deeper emotional or intellectual level. Now the challenge becomes getting it into the hands of more people -- people like the ones who are practically screaming at you, "We love this. More, please!"

    Ever since I announced I was building Unthinkable, I’ve looked for these moments. I've been so blown away that the show, with its very specific tilt (content built through craft and creativity, not cheap tricks) and highly produced stories (people who grow meaningful projects, companies, and careers being creative) has a fiercely loyal audience. It's small, yes, but people are all-in. I'm getting essay-length emails, original sentiments on social (not just the quick-and-easy headline + link type of share). Best and most surprising of all, I'm getting people asking if they can actively contribute to the project.

    Um...wut? People with things going on in their lives ... investing their precious few hours here on Spaceship Earth ... for free ... creating stuff for Unthinkable.

    Long way of saying: I'd be the biggest dummy ever if I didn't find a way to listen to people who feel like that.

    So a few months ago, when these same, amazing people started giving me feedback on Snapchat, I thought it wise to actually, genuinely listen. Here's the deal...

    Beginning towards the end of 2015, I started sharing behind-the-scenes looks at making the show — interviewing, scripting, mishaps, frustrations, all of it. And over time, I realized the power of this platform. I’m really all-in on SnapChat today as a result. It’s just such an amazing and lightweight tool for sharing insights, telling stories, and (for me anyway) generally being goofy as hell. I’m at the point now where I believe that one follower on Snapchat is more valuable than one follower anywhere else for a lot of reasons.  

    My eye-opening moment occurred one day when, on a whim, I decided to document my entire scripting process for an episode of Unthinkable. True to form on this great platform, the Snapchat community responded with feedback (yet another reason I love it). In this case, the feedback was all very one-note: More, please!

    So for the past month or two, I’ve been creating the occasional, longer lessons through Snapchat, which I’m calling “SnapClasses.” I try to teach but also entertain, because I’m an odd duck who likes to ham it up in front of my own camera. And just in case, I downloaded some of these SnapClasses to my phone.

    Today, I'm excited to begin publishing each SnapClass for everyone to access.

    You'll find them on both and, over time, on the Unthinkable blog.


    1. Each SnapClass topic will center on one of three areas, which tend to bleed into each other: Creativity, content, and tech.
    2. I'll shoot for 2-3 per month, with regular, daily snap activity sharing random things I'm learning, suggested apps/books/tactics for creating great content, and plenty of sarcasm and goofy behavior. (Hey, I'm nothing if not me.)
    3. After some time has passed, I'll share them here. That means the best way to get these is to add me at (or open Snapchat and take a picture of the snapcode at the end of this article).
    4. Lastly, I'll try hard to make these both nutritious and delicious. That's the foundational principle behind all my content -- the information should be worth consuming, but it should also be a delight to consume. (Lots of business content likes to over-index on nutritious, but they neglect the experience of actually interacting with it. I'll try to keep it entertaining!)

    IMPORTANT SNAPCHAT REMINDER: Most content isn't sent directly to you (the area when you swipe left). Instead, swipe left/move right from the initial home page/camera view, and you'll find people's stories. These are available for 24 hours, viewable as many times as you like for that period.

    Whatever the case, whether it’s me with SnapClasses or you with some other project, we need to actually listen to our audiences. This isn't about simply monitoring and tracking them, nor is it about your most-viewed or most-shared stuff. It's about depth, not breadth. Start by finding small numbers of people reacting in big ways. Few things are more rare in today's distracted world, and nothing is a stronger signal that you should invest more time and energy into that project.

    See you on Snapchat!

    (Take a picture using Snapchat to add me or add me by username. To view my content, check the Stories section on the right side of the app.)

    (Take a picture using Snapchat to add me or add me by username. To view my content, check the Stories section on the right side of the app.)

    SnapClass #1: Harvard Lecture - Consumer Attention Causing Snapchat's Rise, Twitter's Scuffles

    In my first SnapClass, I used some of the bigger points from my presentation to a Harvard class on consumer attention, SnapChat, Twitter, and some other emerging trends or mediums we're watching at NextView and I'm playing with through Unthinkable.

    Let me know what you think! More coming soon (with a lot more experiments inside the classes too). Hope you find this useful!

    Posted on May 24, 2016 .

    The Missed Opportunity in Influencer Marketing Is Exactly What the Damn Thing Is Supposed to Be in the First Place

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, which is then buried underneath a larger, much more wifi proof rock, you’ve probably heard the phrase “influencer marketing.”

    The idea is this: A relationship has been established over time between two sides (also known as “a relationship”). In this case, the relationship is between a collective of mission-aligned individuals known to the world as a brand, as well as one individual outside the brand who has a very certain set of skills — finding people who’ve been Taken, but mostly, creating content that grabs people’s attention. This is especially valuable in a world where attention is the most precious and scarce resource. That creative individual also brings with them an audience and, supposedly, influence over that audience.

    The two sides to this relationship ostensibly know each other well enough to partner on some projects, and both are equally willing participants since, given their deep context on each other, they understand that the other sees things in a similar way, cares about the same mission, and wants to create the same kind of positive change in the world.

    Or, yanno … not.

    That’s what influencer marketing SHOULD BE but unfortunately rarely is.

    The phrase “influencer marketing” has devolved into a brand asking an individual to perform glorified favors. Sometimes the brand provides compensation through a formal relationship. Sometimes the brand offers merely exposure by cross-promoting the influencer’s work. And still other times, well, the individual receives an email from the brand out of the blue with a message like this:



    In any case, the reality is that too much influencer marketing is transactional.

    What should be an actual relationship is a brief exchange of goods. And not only does that feel icky … it misses an ENORMOUS-with-a-capital-ENORMOUS business opportunity.


    The Missed Opportunity in Influencer Marketing

    The missed opportunity lies in the very thing influencer marketing claims to be and should be.

    So what is that, exactly?

    Influencer marketing should be about longstanding relationships, not transactions, in the name of building powerful content brands, not branded content.

    Rather than moments in time that suck value, this should be based on partnering and building together over time in a way that adds value.

    This is about building the next GE Reports or Qualcomm Spark or Red Bull Media House or AmEx OPEN Forum or Will It Blend? (BlendTec) video series or Furrow Magazine (John Deere). This is about stepping into NEW territory and building your very own Gimlet Media or Oculus Rift.

    This is about creating absolutely unassailable assets that command industry-wide attention and shape the entire market.

    But look around the marketing world, and you see this opportunity being missed left and right.

    Tomorrow, a shoe brand will reach out to some emerging musicians to collaborate on a few tracks. The musicians will create like only they can create. Their audience will show the content love. The brand will give the musicians money or exposure or both. Then they’ll go their separate ways.

    Tomorrow, a B2B software company will email their favorite B2B marketing influencer to collaborate on an ebook. The influencer will write like only they can write. Their audience will show the content love. The brand will give the influencer money or exposure or both. Then they’ll go their separate ways.

    Tomorrow, a coffee brand will reach out to a Snapchat influencer to collaborate on a story about attacking your morning to go have a great day and life. The influencer will snap like only they can snap, maybe creating a story about the best morning ever — leaping out of bed in a fun, entertaining way; dancing to something uplifting while they brush their teeth; traveling to the kitchen which they’ve drawn to look like a trek through a jungle. In the corner, fulfilling their side of the deal, they’ll place a logo of the brand. At the end, the influencer will thank the brand for the great idea and drop a link across the screen.

    The brand will give the influencer money or exposure or both.

    Then they’ll go their separate ways.

    This is broken. This is backwards. This is missing the point of creating content.

    All three parties involved in these scenarios lose: the brand, the influencer, AND the audience. And that huge opportunity will sit there, untouched, waiting for someone to think differently.

    I challenge you to think differently.

    What if, instead of this quick-hit transaction, we pair mission-driven brands and industry-leading thinkers and creators? And what if they set out to build an unassailable asset, a standalone content brand?

    What if, instead of a brief exchange of value, that coffee brand said to the influencer, “Look, we see the world the same way, our missions are aligned, why not collaborate on something bigger and bolder and more meaningful to the world together? Wouldn’t that yield greater value for both of us?”

    Why can’t that brand say to the influencer, “Wait a second, you’re all about energy and inspiration and motivation to attack the day and live a better life. We can see that in your content. That’s what your work is for. Well, that’s what we are for, too. That’s what our product is for, and that’s what our marketing is for. We believe the same things, so what if we set out to create the world’s best content brand about that thing? Instead of a brief campaign, what if we owned this idea of the morning, period? We could write advice columns about morning routines, stories about transforming your life with beautiful design, fun videos to inspire you, and a podcast for your morning commute?

    “What if we partnered NOT to create a day-long campaign but to create a years-long project?

    “What if we combined our resources and reach with your creative superpowers and influence … and built the single-greatest hub about mornings that the world has ever seen?”


    What If?

    Here’s the thing: We go to these marketing conferences and hear these case studies and worship the brands and projects I mentioned earlier — the Red Bulls and American Expresses and GEs— all because they’ve built standalone content brands that dominate the world.

    Why can’t we build that too? If we partnered together, each side’s limitations would be supplemented by the others’ strengths.

    Unlike advertising-based publishers, most brands could support these giant content successes. As brands, our business models are fine — we just need a different MENTAL model:

    Relationships over transactions. Content brands over branded content.

    For the brand, the benefits are potentially huge:

    • Building trust and loyalty with an audience that craves your content, which can then be used to grow reach, improve customer retention, do some R&D through the publication (like Kraft is famous for doing), and generally become the go-to source for your theme and your mission.
    • Finding a faster track to the right muscle memory to create massive content brands. Rather than forcing a sea change across a slow-moving organization or asking career marketers to try and act like pure creatives, you can go right to the source of those who live and breathe this content stuff.
    • Getting more bang for your buck. An agency will think in billable hours. A full-time team will take potentially months to recruit, train, and get started, not to mention the cost of benefits and the colleagues who will inevitably try to use the content for their own agendas. But an influencer (and/or her team) provides the best of both worlds: the mitigated risk and creative muscle of an agency with the focus and effort of an in-house team … with the bonus hunger and drive of a content entrepreneur whose name means everything.
    • Building an unassailable asset. In the end, you’d build THE go-to asset, unassailable by your competitors, uncompromising in its quality for the audience, and unprecedented in your industry — the home run in a world of brands who try to eek out bunts.

    For the influencer, the benefits are potentially huge as well. And while not every influencer would want to partner with just one brand, many likely would. Their benefits would include:

    • Building something truly big and meaningful in the world: You could do this more effectively and more quickly by standing on the back of a brand that offers resources and distribution clout.
    • Growing your influence and reach: In a career path where the portfolio trumps all else, this is the ultimate portfolio-builder. Hell, it’s a career builder. The model is innovative, so you’d be a pioneer…but the asset itself would claim industry-wide attention, and it’d be yours to proudly co-own. This in turn could mean more revenue-generating opportunities like speaking, writing books, teaching, courses, etc. — all things that don’t conflict and in fact would help the cause of the co-owned content brand.
    • Finding a true partner who actually has that much-needed context of YOU in order to work well with you. No more feeling like a used car salesman to your audience. No more debating whether you’re removing too much creativity from the project with the brand. You’d both know each other well enough to collaborate in the real sense. (I’d also argue against any questions of whether this is selling your soul to a single brand. Athletes sign exclusive sponsorship deals with apparel companies, soda brands, and more. It’s all about the selection and vetting process on both sides in the beginning to ensure mutual fit and excitement, which is, again, all about mission alignment.)


    In today’s world, we’re still marketing like it’s yesterday, acting like content “campaigns” somehow matter.

    Look around you — the war for consumers is over. And guess who won? Consumers!

    We as consumers have total control over where we spend our time because we have near infinite choice in every medium, every channel, every screen, every topic. So the name of the game today is attention.

    And if you think you can gain lasting attention through influencer transactions instead of relationships … if you believe you can find success with branded content, not content brands … then I have a very wifi-proof rock to sell you.

    Full disclosure: This is the model that we're exploring with the content brand I founded and lead, Unthinkable. If you want to swap ideas about the model in theory or Unthinkable specifically:

    Here's our most-downloaded episode so far:



    Posted on May 5, 2016 .

    You Get There First: On Craft & Creativity Over Shortcuts & Hacks

    The following was originally posted to the blog for Unthinkable, my podcast for craft-driven creators in business. If you're bothered by suck and want to bet on creativity, Unthinkable is your show.

    Every day on my commute, I walk into Porter Square station to take the T (the Boston subway) from Cambridge and head south towards downtown Boston. When you first enter the station, you have to go deep underground to reach the tracks, so you have to make a decision each morning: Do you take the stairs or the escalator?

    Now, if you’re in a hurry, you’d normally just walk down the escalator, right? Not so fast: Every morning, a small crowd gathers to board the escalator and forces you to stop walking for a moment if you want to get on. Meanwhile, to your left, people who picked the stairs aren’t breaking their stride at all. They’re already ahead of you.

    So what do you do?

    Do you wait your turn for the escalator, or do you continue your pace unbroken and take the stairs?

    Every morning, I watch as a bunch of stressed out people weigh this decision for a split second when they enter the station. Many of them take the stairs.

    Here’s what kills me about that decision: If they could have tolerated just a momentary pause right now, they’d have gone faster after that. But the problem is that this slight pause doesn’t FEEL like forward motion. They can’t think two steps ahead to see that, despite the upfront wait, the escalator is actually the better choice.

    This is the business world playing out in my daily commute. Everywhere you look in the working world, you find people obsessed with short-term gains, with the spectacle of being busy. They create the illusion of making progress. Those who take the stairs right away without stopping to consider the best route have created that illusion. And it’s hard not to buy into it and panic when you’ve picked a different path. Every morning, as I’m shuffling slowly to the escalator, I watch people hit the stairs and think, Should I have done that?

    But every morning, I get in line, and I take the escalator.

    And I get there faster.

    As creative individuals, we fight this battle every day — more than most, in fact. We’re allergic to all the short-term thinking around us. Because we study our craft and improve upon it, we wind up moving much faster than we ever thought possible. (It’s the same reason I prefer to hire writers who then learn marketing versus marketers who need to learn to write. It’s about quality, sure, but it’s also about moving faster. The marketer might portray the illusion of quicker progress because they can get the writing into the world faster, but once a writer takes on that little time debt to learn marketing, they’ll zoom past the marketer who struggles to write as naturally or freely or well.)

    Said another way: Great creators of all types know that the means get you to the end, so we think about and agonize over the means. Those short-term thinkers? They tend to worship the end so much that they’ll do anything — even choose the wrong route — just to FEEL like they’re heading to the end more quickly.

    Oddly enough for short-term thinkers to hear, we want to reach the same goal that they do — a thriving business, a popular blog, a huge audience, a throng of adoring fans. But the route we pick feels slower to them, just like the route they pick feels faster. But because we’re able to stomach the time it takes to be strategic, be thoughtful, or take risks, we get there faster.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook has perhaps the most poignant stance on all of this: “We’re actually not focused on the numbers. We’re focused on the things that produce the numbers.”

    That’s a long-term view of things. That’s the RIGHT view of things. He, like you, understands the interplay between the means and the end. If you want to reach the end faster, or get to a better end than before, you need to get better at the means. Want more sales? Create great products. Want a better blog? Write better. Want a bigger audience? Say things worthy of attention.

    What do others do? Sell current products harder, game systems to grow traffic, and “growth hack” their way to new followers.

    Enough. It’s not only wrong in the short term, it’s worse in the long term.

    So each and every morning from here on out, when you feel stressed and rushed by your job or your peers or your boss or your industry, what will you do when you enter that station?

    My advice? Don’t take the stairs. Don’t fall for the illusion perpetuated by those who do. Remember that the fastest and best route requires that momentary pause.

    If you do this over and over again, you’ll eventually feel like you know a secret others don’t. You’ll be so confused when others agonize over problems that never even occurred to you. How do you come up with enough ideas? What’s the ideal word count of a blog post? Endless optimization, tips and tricks, and keyword research later — it starts to feel comical to you. Like taking the stairs when you could have taken the escalator. Because you are craft-driven. You looked at the long arc of your work and said, the way to do this better and get better results is to study the process, improve my craft, and honor it. That way, it all gets easier and more effective.

    So when others agonize over all that short-term stuff, you smile.

    You put your head down.

    You keep creating things that are meaningful instead.

    You study and improve your craft.

    You do all these things that the short-term thinkers deem unthinkable.

    And you get there faster.

    Listen to the show that inspired this post:

    Posted on May 4, 2016 .