In this day and age, catching your target audience’s attention and keeping it has never been more challenging. You never run out of things that you can do, but the question that remains is: are you doing the right thing? Internet sensation Tripp Crosby may have gotten the golden ticket to fame through his trending and viral videos, but he discloses that it was all a result of hard work, collaboration, keeping up with the trends, and great content creation. The key to effective customer engagement is creating content that entertains and inspires people. On the marketing and advertising front, Tai Tran has made a name for himself by being the youngest person on Forbes’ 30 Under 30. He emphasizes the importance of building your own brand and marketing yourself as an individual which can be achieved by writing content that’s going to resonate well with the audience.
Listen to the podcast here:
Impactful Content Creation For Better Customer Engagement with Tripp Crosby
Our first guest is internet sensation, Tripp Crosby. He’s best known for his YouTube videos like A Conference Call in Real Life. It has really taken the world by storm. We’re going to hear how he found success and his new ventures. Then we’ll chat with the Tai Tran, who’s another amazing young man who was named the youngest Forbes 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising. His insight regarding branding, millennials, and what it takes to take the lead will inspire you.
I first learned of my next guest, Tripp Crosby through his world-known YouTube sketches he did as a comedy duo known as Tripp and Tyler. Their sketches have amassed over 60million views and made headlines on some of the world’s largest publications, including Today Show, Huffington Post, Mashable, and the homepage of YouTube. In 2014, Tripp was selected by Saatchi & Saatchi as a member of the Cannes International Film Festival New Directors’ Showcase for his work on A Conference Call in Real Life. He’s continued to direct impactful commercials and various forms of branded content for major brands including Coke, Verizon, and Canon.
Tripp’s production company Green Tricycle Studios is now the branded arm of Thruline Entertainment and they’re currently working with major brands, top Hollywood talent, and some of the most up-and-coming producers, directors, and others to make a compelling brand entertainment. Tripp loves inspiring people to be happier, more productive, and more present in their professional lives, and he helps hundreds of thousands do so by teaching them how to take themselves a little less seriously.
Welcome to my show, Tripp. It’s so nice to have you here.
Thank you for having me.
I’ve been so excited to talk to you because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared your A Conference Call in Real Life. It’s my life, that setting. How did that come about? Who wrote that and can you tell me a little more about it? What’s the background behind that?
I co-wrote that with my comedy partner, Tyler Stanton. It originated from just living that situation over and over. We spend a lot of time on phone calls, like most people with jobs. I guess it wrote itself. At some point, I remember sitting on a conference call listening. There were five people in the call and there’s always a four or five-second delay before anyone talks because everyone was waiting to see if someone else was going to talk first. I thought, “What would this be like in real life? If I was sitting at high school and everyone paused for this long before they start talking?” That led me to wondering a bunch of other things, so we wrote a sketch. We posted it and it took us by surprise. It became very viral.
How much did that surprise you? Did you think that it would have the impact that it had? What were you expecting for it?
We knew it was a special idea. We realized that it would be relatable for a lot of people. We never know going in if we’ll do a good job making it funny enough. We thought it would be something. We thought it would probably be one of our more popular videos, but we had no idea that it would take off the way it did. Years later, people bring it up to us constantly. We’re still getting a lot of calls and we’re still getting a lot of business from it. It’s made our career in some ways.
It’s amazing how one of video can have such an impact. It resonated with me. I’m an online professor and everything is done virtually. That is basically my life. Is there a YouTube video that you didn’t create that resonates with you, that you laugh at?
It might surprise you, but I don’t watch a lot of YouTube comedy videos. When I watch YouTube, I watch educational, nerdy things. I like to learn. It’s my continued education. I should probably watch all the funny stuff and I should probably be a student of it, but I just don’t. I’ve come across things. I can’t think of anything specifically I have shared the most. My favorite video that exists on YouTube is called The History of Japan and it is highly educational, highly hilarious, very unique style. I don’t know why the guy who did it doesn’t do 100 of them. I don’t think he realizes how rich he could be. It’s fantastic. If you ever wanted to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Japan, but only spend about five minutes learning it and also laughed a lot, it’s the video for you.
I noticed that you’re hosting Leadercast Live in Atlanta and that’s a pretty big deal. What is it like to host a show like that and how did you get that gig?
It’s my seventh year hosting. I started when it was a much smaller event. It was still a simulcasted event, but it took place in a smaller room with about 2,000 people and I still wonder why they hired me. I’ve never hosted anything before and I was working with the company that puts on the event to make video content and the guy in charge said, “Do you want to host this along with the co-host?” I said, “Sure.” I did it and they keep asking me back.
How do you decide your content for that? It’s for leaders.
I host a lot of events throughout the year for a lot of different companies, but this one’s a little unique because I worked alongside of the programming team for the entire year leading up to the event. I’m in meetings multiple times a month where we’re talking about who the speakers are, how we can set them up well, what kind of transitions we want to make, how we can bring in some pieces of entertainment, how we can build the stage. We design the whole experience as a team. I get a lot of inside information leading up to the event and that helps me prepare my material.
I was a pharmaceutical rep years ago and we had Larry Miller host one of our events. In the twenty years I was in the company and fifteen years in that, I’d never have had a more fun time. He was a riot and it made it so much better. I imagine you get a lot of offers to do that kind of thing. Do you get offers as a team?
Another happy accident in my life hosting Leadercast because it’s hundreds of thousands of other business leaders in attendance. There’s no better way to market myself as a comedic host than to host that event. It’s been helpful.
You do these as a single individual, do you still work as a duo with Tyler?
I do. They’re two different kinds of things. Tyler and I also do lots of corporate events and the difference being that when we perform together, it’s more of an entertainment piece, more scripted comedic but it’s different. When I host by myself, I had been more of an off-the-cuff host and I’m more of a make-transition-introduce-people. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s different. It’s two different things.
How did you two get together in the first place?
We went to high school together, but that’s not how we got together. We both went away to college, came back and we’re in the same town together, in the same friend group. At the time, I had started a video production business and I had a lot of resources to make videos. On weekends and free nights, we were just playing around and making funny videos because we wanted to. Then about that time, YouTube came into existence and we hosted some sketches there and then we had one go viral really early on and that started building us an audience and getting some attention. Then before we knew it, we were doing this professionally.
It seems like you’ve been very successful. I noticed you have a feature length movie. Is it a comedy?
I announced on my blog, which is a separate YouTube channel that I launched, that I’ve decided that at this point in my career, I’d like to finally do the thing that is really the thing that I always wanted to do since I was young. It’s comedy. Within comedy, you have all kinds of sub genres. The blog is me chronicling the story. It’s like the real version that I’m documenting myself. It’s a pretty narcissistic thing to do. It is the YouTube age and it’s what all the kids are doing, so I’m going to do it.
I saw you’re into content creation and working with people and helping in that respect and so I’m not surprised that you would work on a full-length movie. What are you doing with this content creation business growth aspect in Atlanta? Do you have some program you’re running there?
I have a production company called Green Tricycle and we specialize in branded entertainment, which is like casting a really big net. We work with brands and corporations to create all kinds of video content, from actual advertising, like traditional commercials, or sponsored video content that goes on the web to internal communication pieces. People come to us who want to take their marketing campaigns or training seminars, and up the entertainment value a little bit. We help them, and we have an office here in Atlanta. We have another one in Los Angeles where we’re working on multiple projects all the time.
There are a lot of people that have a hard time with content creation, especially at scale, trying to reach people in a personalized way. I wrote up a Brand Publishing Course for the Forbes School Business and Forbes worked with Bruce Rogers on that. He has a paper called Publish or Perish. It’s pretty interesting of how complex it is to get your message across.
Everyone knows that content creation is the thing you have to be doing, but no one knows exactly how to do it because there is no real way to do it and it feels like the Wild, Wild West a little bit. We are constantly reinventing our sales processes or what our products that we offer, and the distribution channels change all the time. We’re always trying to stay up. We’re always trying to keep up ourselves with what the trends are and it’s hard. It’s a very difficult world but can be very profitable.
You said you do nothing but create content instead of doing it big in front of the camera? Do you think that you would be happier doing that?
I like being in front of the camera and behind it almost equally, but if I had a gun to my head, I would choose to be behind the camera. Can you imagine a situation where somebody has a gun to my head asking me that question? What would you rather do? What I definitely know that I know is that I like making content that entertains and inspires people definitely more than I liked the business side of it. I wish that they didn’t have to be but it does. It’s the reason it’s called show business, and not show art because making things is expensive. Someone has to pay for it. In some ways, I feel like the production company is something I’ve had to build so I can afford to keep making things.
I noticed it in making things, you had your mom on one of your videos. How was that? Did she love it?
She was happy to do it. The real story there is how insanely jealous my dad was because he’s the one that needs attention. That’s where I got all of that from. When I cast my mom and he was there actually watching her on camera, he was pretty jealous, but I’ve put him in videos plenty of times and will continue to.
There are a lot of people that are comedians. Do you think they’re going to be super extroverts and class clowns. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What are you in that whole realm?
I’m an extreme extrovert, but Tyler is an extreme introvert. Hence, I’m the one doing the interview. Tyler probably fits more of that profile of the guy that you’re like, “Why you’re a comedian? Why are you so quiet?” He’s the one that’s doing all the outs of observing and I’m probably the one that is more desperate and needy for attention and will do whatever it takes to get a laugh. That’s how I’ve been since I was a kid.
What inspired you to be that way? Did you watch Robin Williams or somebody else? Is there somebody that you go, “I want to be like that?”
I wasn’t the best on any team that I played on. I wasn’t super athletic as a kid. I was a solid B student. I think getting a laugh was the thing that made me feel some level of confidence. It was the thing that I got the most feedback on, laughing and making videos. That started at a young age and I continued it because I wasn’t getting the validation I needed elsewhere in my life. I grew up watching Jim Carrey and Robin Williams and all of the great comedic actors. I had watched all the comedy films growing up and that was always inspiring to me but more so the dramas where. The movie that I remember the most as the kid where not so much the silly comedies and still aren’t.
What are your favorite movies?
My favorite movies, Back to the Future, The Shawshank Redemption. I’ve never seen Braveheart. I know that it’s supposed to be in my list, but I’ve never seen it and now I’ve decided I liked being able to say that so I’m just going to be to never seeing it.
I remember being young, my favorite movie was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off from fifth grade to ninth grade.
There are so many people that I always like to know, who are successful like you, “Who inspired you?”Sometimes you meet people and I think, “This person was much more interesting.” I didn’t think about Larry Miller until I saw him on that show and he was so great that you just go, “Where did these guys get this?”It’s fun to meet different people. Sometimes you meet people and they’re completely different than what you expect. I sat next to the top seller once on an airplane and he wasn’t at all what I expected. You sit next to people and you go, “I was expecting you to be this or that,” but you’re pretty much what I expected. I was hoping that you weren’t going to be the silly guy because you said you think that people should take their selves less seriously. It’s hard for a lot of people. How do you learn to do that?
The best way to discipline yourself in that area is to take improv classes if you want to learn how. The more practical answer is you have to learn how to live in the present moment and learn how to not judge yourself and learn how to listen to other people and learn how to make bold choices in your life and not be afraid of risk. If you can do those things and a number of others, you’ll start learning that life is okay, and it can be enjoyed if you choose to.
That’s interesting because I meet so many people probably because I work with just all different types and there’s so many people that do take themselves seriously. It is hard because you can look back and you go, “I wish I had done this differently.”I’m wondering if you look back at before you became a success, would you change anything you’ve done or would you want to run the same path? Did you make any mistakes that you’re like, “I wish I hadn’t done that.”?
I wish I had taken more risks in taking myself less seriously. There’s a story that I ended up telling a lot when I talked about our history of becoming a sketch comedy. When Tyler and I first started and found success right away on the internet, we got so excited and we started taking all these meetings in Hollywood. We sat down with our team to figure out how we can monetize this and how it could take it further and whose role was going to be what. We started even talking about how we were going to split the money that we didn’t have any of yet, by the way.
Then we never met another sketch for two years because we got so caught up in ourselves and how we were going to expand this thing that we’re doing and turned it into something that we stopped doing the thing that we were originally doing, which was making content because it was fun. The lesson I learned looking back is if there’s something that I enjoy doing, the prize is that I enjoy it, not what it turns into. When I stopped enjoying it, the ironic thing is I do risk the expansion of it or the greater success.
That’s interesting because I think a lot of people are so focused on the future rather than focusing on whether they’re happy right now. A lot of people are not engaged in what they do because they don’t do what you’re saying, and you need to. If you had 60 seconds in front of a bunch of people, say they’re potential leaders or people that want to maybe go into your type of what you’ve done, has success as an entrepreneur, what advice would you give them to be successful? Mistakes and all the proactive thinking?
I would say, “Please don’t be afraid of trying something and it not working.” Especially, if they were young, let’s say we’re talking to twenty somethings wanting to be creative professionals. First, “If you want to do this, you have to just do it. If there’s something you want to make, you have to make it and you have to make it again and again and over and over again. That’s the only way you can learn to hone in on your voice creatively.” Second of all, don’t stop because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out and failing at a business or failing at a creative endeavor is great.
That’s how you learn and that’s how you do better the next time. That’s so cliché, but it’s so true. I meet so many artists and they’re obsessing over trying to figure out the right next thing to make. They want to know it’s going to be a success or know that people are going to love it and be inspired by it, applaud it and that’s stunting. You end up making something that looks like something else someone did who got an applause. I wish I could go back and tell myself that. I really do.
Then you wouldn’t have made the mistakes that set you where you are and then sometimes you wonder if that’s good too. It’s hard to know.
It is if you learn from it. That’s part of why I’ve decided to go into this next adventure of making a feature film. I’ve put it off for 25 years because I haven’t known exactly the one I want to make or if it’s the right time or there are all these unknowns and I’m like, “You’re not listening to yourself here. If you want to make your feature film, make it. Maybe it’ll be terrible, but at least you did it and then you can do another one that’s better.” Most people’s first film is pretty bad, so it probably will be, but I’m oaky with it. I’m doing it because I think I will enjoy the process. That’s why I’m doing it.
Can you let everybody know how they can reach you or see your stuff?
If you want to follow along, go to YouTube.com/TrippCrosby. I post updates multiple times a week, every week. They’re like blogs but they’re like vlogs since 2009.You can go to YouTube/TrippAndTyler to watch all of our comedy sketches that we will be putting out many of this year. You can find me on Facebook, just search for Tripp Crosby and like my page. I do a lot of updates there. I’m on Twitter and on Instagram.
I hope everybody does check out your sites because you’re amazing. I want to thank you for being on show.
Thank you for having me. It’s been really fun.
Leveraging Great Content For Your Business with Tai Tran
Anyone who’s listened to my show knows that I’m fascinated by Forbes 30Uunder 30 group. My next guest is on that prestigious list. His name is Tai Tran with a following of over 100,000 marketers, executives and young professionals. Tai’s work has been widely recognized by Forbes, LinkedIn, Twitter, MarketWatch, and Tech Insider. In its fifth annual list, Forbes named Tai the youngest 30 Under 30 in marketing and advertising. LinkedIn also recognize Tai as the youngest Top Writer of the Year in its inaugural Top Voices, which has included in the past Bill Gates and Richard Branson. He’s taught one of UC Berkeley’s most popular undergraduate courses in digital marketing, content publishing, and personal branding. You have done a lot there, Tai. I met you at a Forbes Summit in Coronado. We didn’t get a lot of time to talk, but it was so nice to meet you and welcome.
It’s a pleasure to talking to you, Diane. We had a brief conversation, but we’ve learned a lot about both our background and I’m excited to be here to talk a little more about the things I’ve been doing in terms of marketing, millennials, and provide any insights that I could.
We were talking at the summit in Coronado about how all the stuff you’ve done with Apple and getting on Forbes list and I was thinking what an unbelievably humble guy you were for all the stuff you’ve done and you really stood out to me compared to everybody else in the room. You seem very young. At first glance, I’m thinking, “How do you get in here?”You have that very youthful look. How did you get on the radar of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and all the other lists?
I immigrated to the United States when I was six from Vietnam, and so growing up in a very immigrant household and coming from very low-income background, I don’t think I’ve ever thought that I would ever be part of a list such as Forbes or be attending a summit that widely, I would say a lot of prestigious folks from the marketing world, and able to take on the stage and speak at such a conference. Growing up in that environment, I never thought about networking or relationship building. A lot of that was when I came and attended UC Berkeley a couple of years ago and understanding the idea that in the Silicon Valley or tech or marketing world, social capital matter so much. That led to a lot of self-discovery. I never grew up being taught how building relationships or social networking in general. A lot of those things, I picked up along the way while I was still in school and a lot of that came back to the point that I realized the power of relationships and how that can impact your career.
I would have to say that I learned a lot of these things on my own when it came to marketing. Coming to Berkeley, I realized that I’d wanted to do something in business but not perfectly unsure what that meant. I decided to try marketing, sales, and human resources and through that journey I decided that I enjoy marketing. Primarily the idea that it has the opportunity to intersect working with people, with data, and creativity and that all merged together to a very fulfilling career. From there, I start to take on more opportunities as they come and working really hard. Beyond working really hard, I realized that in the marketing world, you’re not just marketing the brand or the company you’re working with, but you’re also marketing yourself as an individual and that comes a lot a part when it comes to personal branding and personal innovation. I realized that’s something, as a marketer, you can definitely utilize to create momentum for your career.
To answer your question around how do you get into the radar of folks at Forbes or LinkedIn or a lot of the press, I quickly realized that when it comes to marketing, people are looking for individuals who have a very fresh perspective. A lot of young people I speak with, one of their biggest fear is that, “I’m too young to be a thought leader. I’m too young to share my opinions.” There are so many people out there that are more talented, that are much older than me and they’re able to have more experience. In that essence, they’re able to have more things to say and better things to say. I’m a little taken aback by that. I believe that every single one, every millennial, even people that are older than millennials, have an opinion and a very unique opinion, insight and perspectives. That’s where I start building my thought leadership on platforms like LinkedIn and a lot of publishing platform that allowed me to share my voice at scale.
I start writing about marketing and how that impacted me as a millennial and from a marketing standpoint, how can this help more senior executives being allowed these fresh perspectives from someone who’s a little bit younger? Through that, I broke on LinkedIn and eventually got onto a writing for Forbes as well. That ultimately led to a lot of opportunity to speak with a lot of mentors. Jenny Rooney from Forbes who manages the CMO network and LinkedIn and folks working with their editors to really throw out my thought leadership. In that sense I was writing for an audience that I would never imagined would be so positive in feedback with my writing. A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten range from senior executives, thing that this is very fresh insight.
They appreciate having someone really break down marketing from a lens of someone who’s in their twenties and from more younger an audience where current students are reaching out, letting me know that, “What you’re writing is really inspiring and it’s helping me decide for my career as well and also show that marketing is actually an interesting career? Through all those buildings blocks, writing and personal accomplishment, in my work and the success in that all contributed to a lot of success and getting on the radar of Forbes or LinkedIn. For me, a lot of young people think that you can just do very hard work, but if you don’t market yourself or write a lot or be a thought leader, I would say, “Share your opinions.” You’re most likely not going to get on the radar of the press. For me, that is something that actually build our brand or your company. You should also think about how you build your own brand as well.
You mentioned LinkedIn and I saw you have quite a following on Twitter. Do you have a favorite? Is LinkedIn your favorite?
Between LinkedIn and Twitter, I found that LinkedIn has a very unique audience. Very engaging audience as well. I started writing in 2015 with the idea that I wanted to write for the sake of documenting a lot of my growth from a very young age, but at the same time also breaking down a lot of marketing insights and sharing that AppScale. At that time, I had around maybe a thousand followers, a thousand connections, but those were very close friends and probably I’m very close relatives, so friends who I knew. I wrote it very diligently. I wrote with very good cadence about one post a month and that led to around 36 posts, a date, and a million views and translating that over time from a thousand followers to 100,000 followers. LinkedIn is a very engaging platform where I was able to write and get instant feedback about what people’s thoughts are.
Some of those feedbacks are very positive, neutral, but also ones that are negative but disagree. For me, by having discord and disagreement in opinions, that’s where the most interesting engagement and the most interesting conversation happen because a lot of the times my views are being challenged. Sometimes when I write, I’m challenging a view of I would say the ‘status quo’, an incumbent view and that sparked a lot of very interesting conversation. From that perspective, I would say hands down from their professional standpoint, thinking about, “How do I engage with executives but also millennials?” I felt like LinkedIn has given me that platform to share a lot of those ideas and to this day, I still say, “It still hold very a big part in my heart when it comes back to thinking about, “How does this all started?” I do think that it started by me taking the initiative and also having the courage to just publish that first post, which I was slightly worried like, “Will people want to be what I have to share?” I’m still fairly young in my career, but I also had some insights I want to share.
I think along the way as I write more, I was able to interact with more senior executives, and mentors. Through that, I was able to incorporate a lot of their teaching in my writing as well. At the same time, having a balance of being able to learn from a lot of luminaries in marketing but I also have my own perspective as someone who’s doing marketing in a new age using new media. All that converse through a very interesting idea. You don’t have any baby boomer, Gen X, to cross pollinate with millennials. That’s where the magic happens is that both generations has cross-generation learning. If you’re able to share that to both, there’s no such thing as ‘my audience are only folks of a certain age group’. My audience is very wide and the idea that if you have great ideas, it’s going to be read, it’s going to be shared, and it’s going to create engagement and dialogue. That’s what I found that’s most interesting when it comes to LinkedIn.
That summit that we attended was just so interesting to listen to. A lot of what you just said was what everybody was saying on stage. They were having issues with generations getting along together. I don’t think that there was one person that didn’t use the word ‘millennial’. It came up so much, not in negative ways, but that it’s such a topic that everybody’s dealing with. The boomers are retiring. You get the Gen X, which isn’t as big of a group. You’ve got this big millennial group and they’re trying to find ways to make everybody get along and work well together. You seem so mature in how you deal with people and how you interact. What do you think that leaders should be doing if they’re having problems with boomer-millennial conflict? Is there a solution out there that simple? What advice would you give?
I think one of the biggest challenge that a lot of today’s leaders are having with millennial is that they don’t understand them or they’re reading articles that label them with stereotypes that are generally more negative than positive but at the same time, I personally tried to think about as a millennials, when I come into workforce, I have people that are much more senior than me. Thinking about people could most likely be my parent’s age and thinking about, “How is that relationship dynamic? Is it going to change?” I tried to put myself in the shoes of Gen X and baby boomers thinking about, “What is it like to manage someone so young and so early in their career?”Here I am with so many ideas and I want to share it so much and here they are, they’re like, “You have ideas but we also need to execute and implement. I know you have a lot of this passion and energy, but we need to make sure that we have focused as well.”
I try to put myself in the shoes of a lot of my executive senior managers and thinking about what does that mean as a leader for them to manage someone so young? I also advocate that advice to a lot of more executive and senior managers to understand, putting yourself in the shoes of millennials, we were all young ones. For the most part, millennials haven’t been in your shoes because they’re still going through their career and aging. Thinking about putting yourself when you were in your early 20s like, “What was it like?” Was it something where you had a lot of energy? I want to fit so much in my 20s. I would say, “Putting yourself in their shoes will help you understand.” With the rise of the internet and social media, looking for opportunities is so much easier now and there’s opportunity. Information is being shared faster than ever before and so millennials are utilizing that from a perspective of learning. I would say they’re learning much faster in a sense of if they don’t know something, they either Google it or they go on YouTube and watch a five-minute video and they know how to fix something or they know how to do something on Excel. At the same time, it’s also a job retention as well.
If the millennials are not happy, they can easily go on to their social networks to find that next opportunity. You can find hundreds of job boards out there from LinkedIn to Monster to all these other websites that enables drop searching to be much more fluid now. It’s no longer locked based on where you live. It’s more international now. The opportunities are out there and from an executive standpoint, putting yourself in the shoes of millennials and also having open dialogues, a lot of the most successful senior executives are the ones who sits down and talk to their millennial workforce and understand what’s going on. That doesn’t just limit within open marketing, but it’s also for other industry as well.
Sometimes when my manager and I come and talk, he would talk about what’s new with people today, what were things that millennials are doing today. Sometimes a very lighthearted conversation where we would look through our Snapchat together or looking at new apps that are coming out. In that sense, you thought I would say going to the perspective of the millennials, you start realizing that it’s not just about them wanting switched shop away or them not having loyalty. I think for them, if they’re looking for a work that it’s impactful but also work that they have great people such as a manager who is supportive of their growth. Growth is very important for millennials. I would say growth is important for everybody, not just millennial.
People want to see a career trajectory. They want to see they’re moving upwards. They want to see that their work is being appreciated. It’s in a sense of whether that is compensation, title or fulfillment. All those factors need to be there and the senior executives to sit down and talk and understand what motivates their workforce. The millennials are more motivated because they can talk more about the company’s very mission and purpose. They might say, “The work culture is great here. I love my coworkers. That’s probably one of the best environment I’ve worked in.” Sometimes, they might say, “I enjoy working because you’re a great manager and I want to have a mentor in my life in this part of my career that can foster that growth.”
You can’t say that all millennials are motivated by the same thing. It’s really about sitting down and understanding what motivates them and what are the driving factors that makes them wake up every day and go to work and being super energized and productive. Once you learned that, it’s really about how can you help them grow and how can you help them expand in those areas that they’re looking for guidance in.
What I wanted to talk to you about was your job at Berkeley because we’ve talked about the fact that we both taught. I wrote a brand publishing course for Forbes and I thought you’d be the perfect person to teach this. The course you teach, how hard is it and are you an easy professor or where do you stand as far as that goes?
I started teaching in the spring of 2015.That was more of a guest lecturer while I was able to build out a thirteen-week course for roughly 40 students. At that time, that was my first time teaching. For me, that was an honor to be able to teach such a course that big and the students that took the class got credit as well. We got an official course at UC Berkeley and I felt like that marketing wasn’t a career path that most students were interested in on the campus. I realized that there were a lot of resources for other fields such as accounting, banking, and consulting. When it came to marketing, there were still a lot of questions and a lot of worries around if this would make for a good career or not or what is even in marketing.
Based on that experience and based on my work experience prior to that, I decided to put together a course that teaches students the idea of first, what is marketing and then the emphasis on digital, social and content marketing as I felt those were some of the emerging marketing field that students at a young age can capitalize. A lot of these companies are looking for fresh, new insights into these areas and they would want young talents to work on these areas because they probably want someone in the early twenties to manage their Snapchat account. They would want someone to write content that’s going to resonate well with their young audience as well. They’re looking for perhaps new blood, I would say young professionals who come in with some ideas that are less conventional.
I taught this class in a sense, how can millennials learn more about marketing, and turn that into a career. At the same time beyond using marketing to help a brand, how can they use social media, social networking to also elevate their personal brand as well to create more opportunities for them? I put together a thirteen-week long course that breaks down to marketing and social networking. It was very well received. The day where we launched the first class, we had a roughly around 200 people who are interested in taking the class and we could only accept around 40 students. It was a class that I felt was highly demanded on campus and students were really interested in a sense that like, “What is marketing? Can I make it in my career?”
At the same time, they’re also interested about now that I’m a young professional, how has a LinkedIn, a Facebook, a Twitter or a GitHub or all these other social networks create opportunities for me? That’s sometimes not being taught at university, especially digital marketing or social networking. A lot of these newer skills set, newer marketing strategies and also in the other end more soft skills such as social networking, mentorship etiquettes and all these other things, I don’t think that they’re being taught too much in the traditional curriculum. This was a very good opportunity to do that. There were definitely challenges the first time I was the instructor. There was a lot of readings, a lot of understanding how all my teachings was going to create value for my students. Throughout that journey, as much as they learned from me, I learned a lot from them.
I constantly found myself reading their weekly assignments, I’m like, “Wow.” They’re bringing up some interesting social media campaigns that I personally have not had the chance to even start reading yet. Or they’re talking about new apps that I’m like, “This is like new things.”In a sense I’m like, “I feel like I’m out of touch now,” even though I’m still fairly young as well. With each generation, you can still learn from your cohorts. Just because you don’t look in the cohort doesn’t mean that you know everything about the cohort. That’s one of the things that young people strike them for is that it’s about that collective learning, it’s not about one person knows everything about everything. It’s really about, “Together we can probably create more learning value as a collective than as an individual.” That, for me, was something I learned from teaching at Berkeley. After I taught that first class, I eventually extended that to two classes where I taught the class about marketing thought leadership and how can you write on all these platforms to become a thought leader.
At one point, I extended that class from 40 to around 90 to 100 students and I felt that was a very fulfilling way to really give back. I felt like I went on a marketing career that there weren’t a lot of paths that were there already. I went on and did the unknown. Sometimes I realized, “I know something that I would love to share.” That class gave me the opportunities, and a lot of the things that came out of that class gave a lot of positive feedback in terms of, “This helped me decipher what marketing is as a career and it landed me some internship and it forced me to go out there and meet new people.”These people are my mentors. They helped me land my previous internship, all my current full-time role. When it came to thought leadership, I would say publish around 90 to 100 posts and that end up accumulating to over a million views over a course of three months. Some of them ended up also being on the LinkedIn Top Writers as well. That was exciting for me. I was able to help a lot of young people.
There’s potential in marketing as a career. There’s also a potential in that your ideas matter and people do care about them as long as you position it in a way that you sound that you know what you’re saying, you have evidence to back up your claims and it’s not just about saying things but saying things that is impactful and meaningful. Many of us came back with a lot of feedback after the class. That was, for me, one of the biggest joy of teaching. That’s something that I’m currently not teaching right now at Brooklyn anymore, but that’s something that I want to explore more in the upcoming year and creating a course that embody a lot less about traditional hard skills, but more soft skills that I think can help a lot of millennials to be more successful in the workplace. That’s where a lot of stuff that I do today, whether I’m starting a nonprofit called SPARC that enables a lot of this mentorship to happen.
Some of the ideas that mentorship can be done at a grass root level and combining with storytelling and design, thinking methodologies. Students and young professionals can learn a lot through mentorship. I felt like that mentorship now is still ineffective. Primarily ,it’s transactional. Sometime you’re at a coffee shop with a mentor and that’s about it, and then you don’t reach out again after six months. I felt like that that process, in the digital age, you can easily follow up with people and have this continued dialogue. It doesn’t always have to be advice-giving. As a mentee and mentor relationship, you can exchange learning over time and the mentor can feel happy that they’re able to give back. The mentee feels satisfied that they’re having someone to guide them, but in return I feel like that relationship can evolve to the next level where the mentor can learn so much from the mentee as well. I do think that with the generational gap, there’s so much to learn from each generation.
I always believe in the idea that having generations cross-pollinate ideas and work ethic, that’s what I found so much success in my career as being able to speak to people that are much older than me and learning about what their perspectives are. It made my experience more humbling because I’m like, “I’m so glad they’re willing to share a lot these insights with me.”A lot of more senior people would say, “If I was in my early twenties, I would definitely look back and I would do some of these things differently.”Over the time, as you hear more of these stories, you start seeing patterns and you realize that, “These are great advice.”
A lot of people assume that the millennial generation is in now, Gen X and baby boomers are out.”There’s so much more knowledge transfer that needs to happen in the next upcoming few couple of years that I don’t think a clean cut where you’re like, “Everybody’s going to retire, the millennials are going to take over.” I don’t think millennials can take over unless they also have an open mind to learn from people that are much more senior to them. I don’t think it’s a generational thing. I never see it as a generational battle, a feud that is pitting against each other, but I think there’s so much opportunity to learn from each other in that capacity.
I’m glad you brought up soft skills because that’s a lot of what we talked about when I was doing program reviews of an MBA program. I had to do a review of everything and my input was we need to be teaching more soft-skills. Every conference you go to, they’re saying people are hired for their knowledge and fired for their behavior. There’s so much need for all of what you said. If you could go back before you became successful, would you tell yourself anything different? To do something different to avoid any mistake?
For me, not specifically any mistakes. I see myself as I always try to iterate to be a better self every day and if there were mistakes that came along the way or obstacles, I take the feedback very seriously and understand how can I improve that for the future. At the same time, when I did find success, I always try to find rooms by looking at feedback and understanding what make me succeed in those moments and how can I continue doing things that’s going to make me a better person in a more personal way, but also in a professional way as well. Looking back, if I have to give advice to younger folks that are still in school is I think it’s to give yourself time to find what you’re passionate about because I felt like for me, it took me several years before I realized that marketing was something that I truly was interested in.
Coming into college, a lot of young people have the anxiety that they need to find a major right away and their peers at one point or another, always say, “I want to be a doctor, a lawyer. I want to be an accountant and an investment banker or a marketer,” and you yourself don’t know what you want to be and that could be a bit overwhelming. Find what wakes you up every day. A lot of the time I tell people that, “When I think about my skill set, I don’t ever see myself as a marketer. I see myself as someone who likes to coach, inspire, and do all these things that can help mentor people.”It does translate to teaching and also marketing.
When I teach people, I can really mentor them, but when it comes to marketing, I’m able to create a beautiful content. Content that is engaging, that inspires people to do more with their life in terms of whether it’s a product or service, how does that empower them to do more. Look for those core foundations that make you happy. If a passion can stay, that’s the best thing that can happen in your life. Find things where you’re good at and then if you can find an industry, a career that empowers that, then I see that super power.
You’re not going to a field because you truly love to do customer acquisition and marketing. I don’t think I ever see any marketer say that they went into marketing because they love to acquire customers. They come in because, “I love working with people.”That ultimately translates to like, “How can I create value for my customers, so they ultimately become a customer?”That’s where I think a lot of millennials tend to get tripped over is that they see it as something that is hard skill. Sometimes for me, it’s like, “Focus on those soft skills that makes you happy and then find a career that have those skill sets involved in them and now you can wake up every day doing a lot of those fields.”That’s something that I am trying to advocate a lot for. One project I’m working about more is starting to put all this together. Sometimes it’s hard to look back twenty years or 40 years and understand like, “I wonder how I’d gotten all those milestones so early in my career.”
That’s something that I’ve been talking with a lot of my audience, especially young professionals, millennials. They always ask the same questions like, “How do you somehow get on that list? How did you get on the radar of these big companies? How did that all happen?”A lot of people assume that I started from having a family at Apple or having those prior relationships. I usually tell them, ” I started out with nothing.” I felt like there’s some value that comes when you start out with nothing. You don’t know the rules and when you don’t know the rules, sometimes you’re able to break some rules, and that creates shortcuts. Since you also need to learn the game, that’s something that I’m working a lot on to document that. That’s going to be coming up in one of the project I’m working on to write my first book to decipher a lot of these concepts out to the millennials.
Can you share where people can follow you and where to see your information?
The best way to connect with me is to follow me on Twitter. Follow me on LinkedIn as well. I do have a Facebook page as well. I do a lot of reading myself and I believe that reading is probably one of the biggest thing that can help your career, whether you’re reading leadership books, or you are reading fictional books, things that that makes you grow intellectually every day. I read a lot and sometimes I share quotes that really resonate with my career. That helps a lot with other young professionals as well. As I’m continuing to work on my book, I’ll definitely be sharing a lot of those updates.
I really am impressed with you, Tai. I’m not just saying that. I met a lot of pretty impressive people. You really stood out and I want to thank you so much for being on my show and I hope you’ll come back another time.
I’m more than happy to and I thoroughly enjoyed and hope that I’ve added some value to the audience as well.
Thank you so much.
I want to thank Tripp and Tai. What an amazing show and we’ll see you next time on Take The Lead Radio.
About Tripp Crosby
Tripp Crosby has become famous through his world-known Youtube sketches he did as a comedy duo known as Tripp and Tyler. Their sketches have amassed over 60 million views and made headlines on some the world’s largest publications (Today Show, Huffington Post, Mashable, the home page of YouTube to name a few). In 2014 Tripp was selected by Satchi and Satchi as a member of the Cannes International Film Festival New Director Showcase for his work on A Conference Call in Real Life, and since he has continued to direct impactful commercials and various forms of branded content for major brands (Coke, Verizon, Canon). Tripp’s production Company Green Tricycle Studios is now the branded arm of Thruline Entertainment, and they are currently working with major brands, top Hollywood Talent, and some of the most up-and-coming producers and directors to make compelling branded entertainment. Tripp loves inspiring people to be happier, more productive, and more present in their professional lives, and he helps hundreds of thousands do so by teaching them how to take themselves a little less seriously.
About Tai Tran
Tai Tran has had amazing success at a very young age. With a following of over 100,000 marketers, executives, and young professionals, Tai’s work has been widely recognized by Forbes, LinkedIn, Twitter, MarketWatch, and Tech Insider. In its fifth annual list, Forbes named Tai the youngest 30 Under 30 in Marketing & Advertising. LinkedIn also recognized Tai as the youngest top writer of the year in its inaugural Top Voices list, which included Bill Gates and Richard Branson. He taught one of UC Berkeley’s most popular undergraduate courses in digital marketing, content publishing, and personal branding. Tai is a proud alum of UC Berkeley and the Haas School of Business.
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