"Kirk" is a Scottish word for church. Admittedly, an odd name for a Jewish kid whose grandparents fled eastern Europe. But it works metaphorically. My grandparents and parents taught me the sacredness of life, knowledge and truth. I try to keep that in mind no matter what I’m doing.
You can find the compact, job-by-job version of my life on LinkedIn. What follows here is more about what I learned at the revolution—the media revolution, that is. And how I can help connect ideas and products with their audiences.
What I offer
MY expertise comes from roughly two decades of post-advertising work and another two decades in journalism. My marketing experience has focused on storytelling, innovative social/digital advertising and digital content marketing. All my marketing work is informed by my work as a reporter, editor and senior executive in news and publishing, including an award-winning stint as reporter and bureau chief for the Detroit Free Press and the Knight chain.
I like to work with brave, ambitious brands that understand the need for fundamental transformation to meet the challenges of 21st-century marketing and communications.
I can help your organization build the integrated structures and processes you need to create and sustain great multi-channel content marketing. I can help find the core brand story that will connect most powerfully with your audience. I can formulate effective strategies based on that core narrative. I can help create and execute campaigns and tactics. I do all this through a tested, disciplined process of collaboration.
Equally important, I'm willing to tell you when something's a really bad idea with no chance in hell of working.
I've worked with multi-brand holding companies. Individual brands. Non-profits. Media companies. (You can see some examples in Ideas @ Work.)
I can work with you, your staff, your agencies. I can bring in senior experts in design, research, technology, training and other areas. These are people with whom I collaborate regularly. If you need a really smart, strategic and creative agency, I can bring in the folks at Story Worldwide, the leading content agency that I co-founded.
What I actually do
I’m a writer, investigative reporter, strategist, manager, close observer of media, organizer. I originated the term "post-advertising" and helped create modern content marketing.
I do marketing and brand strategy, consulting and speaking, teaching and training, storytelling and journalism.
How I approach what I do
I do everything with one, integrated approach:
- Always, always start by asking the right questions. Do the reporting and the research.
- Always remember that If you want to serve a brand's best interests, you must be a ferocious advocate for the brand's audiences. (After all, they're the people who buy the brand's stuff. Or don't.)
Ringside at the revolution
I've been present for the constant media revolutions that began with TV in the '50s and accelerated in the '70s with the computerization of newsrooms, typesetting and printing. Since then, it's been an unending series of brutal lessons about the ever-changing world of media — news, entertainment, publishing and marketing.
My first full-time journalism gig came in the early '70s at a daily paper in Hagerstown, MD. Back then, the paper used 100-year-old technology, including the 19th-century press that had printed the first edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Type was set on a now-forgotten invention: the Linotype—that astounding late 19th-century machine that forever changed communications by miraculously using molten lead to create an entire line of type at one time. The Linotype's power to revolutionize communications caused Thomas Edison to call it "the 8th wonder of the world." (The Atlantic celebrated Linotype's 125th birthday in 2011 with a great story. You can read it here.)
IT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT AND INSTRUCTIVE TODAY that nobody knows anymore what the hell a Linotype was or what the term "hot type" means. This is important because watching the Linotype revolution disappear from human memory prepares us for the revolutions since and the ones yet to come. Especially the ones to come.
For better and worse, I've had a front-row seat for the nonstop media revolutions that continue today to utterly destroy and reshape all the technologies and business models of human communications. These rolling revolutions have been remaking all media—publishing, broadcasting, music, movies and advertising—for a long time. I've been privileged to ride the whole modern whirlwind that decimated newspapers and magazines, reshaped the music business, is currently eating broadcast TV's lunch, dismantling cable and is now, at long last, rapidly devouring the traditional ad business.
While all these technologies have been changing every 15 seconds, it's critical to remember what hasn't changed in the last 50,000 or 100,000 years — and that's that way people understand the world through narratives.
Some things I've done
I've done a bunch, actually. Journalist, author, editor, publisher, M&A guy, entrepreneur, advertising exec, serial innovator in digital and nontraditional marketing. I've followed an unorthodox path across media businesses and careers.
Story Worldwide, which I started in 1999, is the original brand storytelling agency and a leading digital content agency. In 2014, after 15 years as an independent agency, we sold Story to Next 15 Communications plc, the U.K. holding company. In late 2016, I stepped back from managing Story to pursue some writing and independent projects. I continue to be a consultant to Story and to work closely with them, but I'm on my own now.
While running Story, I remained a journalist at heart and in 2010 co-founded Detroit143, an experimental non-profit news operation in Detroit with the mission of helping to stabilize low-income neighborhoods with hyper-local news and small business marketing services. My work on improving journalism’s impact on democracy and urban issues has been funded by grants from the Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the International Press Institute, Google and others.
I began my media career as an assistant director for 20th Century Fox in Europe. I was 17. Back in America, I worked on documentary film. In my 20s, I moved to print journalism, where, as a reporter and bureau chief, I was a Pulitzer Prize finalist at the Detroit Free Press.
Along the way, I wrote a business book for Simon & Schuster, Thinking Inside the Box, which was published in five languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. (Oddly, Amazon offers a few paperback copies of my now out-of-print book for $1,800 or more. If you feel compelled to blow that kind of money, I won't get a penny of it but will gladly sign the book for you.)
Story, I'm pleased to report, has won dozens of awards for its leading-edge, multi-channel content work in print, television, web film, social, digital and more. Story was named one of the top-40 social media agencies in the world and one of top global integrated marketing shops by international consulting firm R3 Worldwide.
I speak about, write about and teach content marketing, brand strategy, journalism, media, advertising, technology and the “post-advertising age,” a term I first used in early 2007 and subsequently popularized in the blog Post Advertising. My writing has appeared in the Content Marketing Institute’s Chief Content Officer magazine; PandoDaily, the Silicon Valley blog; Huffington Post; Brand Republic’s social media blog The Wall; the Harvard Business Review blog, Fast Company and elsewhere.
I'm a member of the Global Advisory Board of the Wharton School of Business’s Future of Advertising Project and a contributor to the Project’s book “Beyond Advertising.”