I’m stuck at New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport on my way back from what has been an excellent #LASHRM. Thanks to Robin Schooling for including me in 2 great days. During the event I got to see a brilliant opening keynote on social capital by the twosome that make up Talent Anarchy. One of the phrases that really stood out in the talk was that to stand out in social you need to fly your freak flag. Thats a term i really relate to. For me it’s about being different and unique. thinking and communicating in ways that contravene conventional thinking and mediocrity. There are few people who fit this term better than the recipient of this weeks Sunday Shout Out, William Tincup. I use the term community freak as a compliment, he is both unique and original and anything but ordinary. I like Tincup because he breaks the rules and makes new ones. Spending time with William and the conversation flows from travel, music, cigars, social, HR, people, and it is non-stop and frantic. I’ve spent some extended time in the company of William 3 times in the past year. Each time I have left with a new viewpoint or thought. Each time he has followed up the meeting with an introduction to someone new. These introductions have always been mutually beneficial, and have not benefited William directly. It’s the way he rolls.
If you want to see why William is different, then you don’t need to look any further than his website, “William Tincup: That’s all you had to say.” When you visit the site, it kind of breaks the rules of what others might tell you a modern website must contain. There’s no picture, other than a logo, no video, and plenty of long written text. It is less of a website and more of a manifesto on the direction Tincup is going. When you look at what he does, there are three clear things that stand out. What he sells: Conversations. What he doesn’t do: Any delivery. Where he is going: This is Tincups vision in his own words: ” I’ve always been a “what’s next” guy. I tend to manage my life better when I have goals. So during this period of my life, I have set the next goal to be this simple: by the time I’m 50 (8 years from now), I want to be the default expert on User Adoption Marketing. That’s it.”. He goes on to explain that in the short-term he is on a mission to talk to 1000 HR practitioners and 250 vendors on the topic. There is a book planned, which he intends to become the bible on the subject, and he is racking up the miles getting to nearly every conference going, talking, listening and connecting. The mission is explicit, and he is clear that he wants to achieve this by the time he is 50, within the next 8 years. I wouldn’t bet against him.
Tincup has been running marketing agencies for the last 11 years. First with Ariesnet, before creating the iconic Starr-Tincup, in partnership with Brett Starr, in November 2000. It was through Starr-tincup that I first became aware of William, through his weekly e-mail newsletter. I remember first thinking who are these crazy guys? This content is just insane, but then it grew on me. Each week I started looking forward to hearing from them and the latest ramblings. A bit like reading an episode of the Simpsons. I never wanted to miss one.
In July 2010 I read an update that Tincup was taking a new direction. it was an amicable parting of the ways between Tincup and Starr, with Tincup being very open about his reasoning for wanting to take a whole new direction. The first post explaining the story still forms the first page of his website, titled “My Story.” He explained his reasoning as
“Accolades and applause aside, lately I haven’t been a pleasure to be around. I knew something wasn’t quite right with me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it….
Have you ever fallen out of love with something you helped create? Well, I did. After owning and operating an agency – specifically, an outsourced marketing services firm – I came to realize that my heart just wasn’t in it any more. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I believe in the outsourced marketing services model.”
That was incredibly open and transparent from someone who had after-all been selling this option for the past 12 years. He went to explain that really the marketing function should really be important enough to be run in-house, and that he wanted to devote his time, effort and energy in to enabling this through conversation. He is clear that he is not a consultant because he doesn’t deliver work, he sells conversations.Thats right, if you read his website you can see that clearly, and he is very transparent about what it is going to cost to have a conversation with Tincup, who explains just what a conversation with him is:
“I strongly believe that a great conversation has several ingredients:
listening (to what is said and not said),
formation of insightful questions,
frank dialogue, and
a review of action steps.
These are the basics and without these, conversations are left to happenstance.”
It was around the time of this announcement that i got my first call from Tincup. It seems that #tru had come up on his radar as a place where conversations were happening, and he felt we should just talk. He also filled me in on his thoughts towards HR technology and user adoption. Whilst I agreed with his thinking, I couldn’t quite see at this point how this was going to evolve in to a recognisable business model, and quite what the business offering would. We agreed to stay in touch, and have done so more through messages and greetings than calls. I remember commenting to someone else at the time that although he was well established as a marketeer, I wanted to take a watching brief and really see what he was all about. I couldn’t see yet where he was going to fit in to the community. I was still thinking of him as a marketeer, and in my view there were more than enough of them about.
The first thing Tincup did that stood out was teaming up with Bryan Wempen for the daily blog talk radio show Drive ThruHR. Bryan is an experienced HR pro who I first came across when he sponsored #trulondon2. At the time, I was running my own blog talk radio show and I knew how hard it was to build audience and maintain content and callers over a sustained period of time, and bryan was planning on running a show every day at lunch time. I think I was Bryans second guest on the show, and he worked incredibly hard to build up the listener numbers and rankings. Steve Boese’s excellent HR Happy Hour was showing how you could build a community around an internet radio show in the HR space, but i was unsure that there was enough room for more shows on a similar theme, and #dthr had to create new content every day. It was a big ask.
I was curious about what would happen when I heard that Tincup would be joining the show as a co-host. What I’ve witnessed since has been a real pleasure to watch, and a real example of how to build brand and market content. Whilst it’s true to say that compelling content is critical to any social media activity, personally I don’t give it the “King” rating, I think that goes to found, read, heard or seen compelling content. I see some great blogs in the HR space that just don’t get the readership. Brilliant well crafted content that doesn’t have the impact it should because very few people are aware of what is being said.
Tincup brought another dimension to the solid foundations Wempen had built, and gave Tincup an avenue to do what he does best, have conversations, as well as another source for great guests, which is perhaps at the heart of the success of the show. The meteoric rise in the popularity of the show has been great to watch. In a relatively short space of time Tincup built a twitter following of over 112,000, combined with Wempens 30,000+.Tincup doesn’t just use his twitter feed to promote his work and #dthr, he has set up feeds from blogs in the HR and recruiting space (including this one), that helps to promote the work of others.
It’s unusual to see a #SHRM event that does not feature one or the other or both speaking, running a show and meeting people in the exhibition hall. Both work incredibly hard keeping the show front and centre. Tincup is also proud to promote his membership and participation in SHRM through his SPHR listing.
It was at Ohio SHRM in September last year that i first got to meet Tincup in person. Some people just stand out in a crowd and Tincup is one of those people. All of his clothing, including hats carry the distinctive TC logo, and he just looks different. He is softly spoken in person, with a great intensity about anything he is talking about that just draws you in to share your vision. He listens intently, and sends himself reminders to follow up on key things that he takes from the meeting of minds. His presentation to the Ohio SHRM audience was about what they should be expecting from their technology providers. It was engaging and incredibly valuable to the participants. Hearing about user adoption from the horses mouth made a lot of sense, but I was more impressed with the time Tincup took to seek people out, make them feel important and to learn from the conversation. I’ve met William twice since, at #TNLLive (where he is starting to work closely with my friend Craig Fisher). Tincup was part of the infamous house at #SXSW that I was delighted to be a part of, and again this week at Louisiana SHRM. Each time we’ve met the conversation has progressed, and I’ve learnt more than I think I have put in, and have gone away energised with new ideas. I suspect each SHRM conference, #dthr show and conference he attends is propelling him closer to his vision, and cranking up the volume of conversations.
Away from HR and taking over the world of user adoption thinking, Tincup is a proud father of 2 boys, whose faces show up from time to time in his content and presentation. He is also a great and easy guy to get to know. If you haven’t connected or met him yet, you should make the effort, and for me, I’m looking forward to carrying on the conversations.