If you were looking for candidates to vote off the island ten years ago, Mark Burnett might have been on your short list. After distinguished service in the British military, he became a nanny, worked in an insurance office, and then sold t-shirts on the beach. But Mark Burnett is more than a "Survivor," and now he's one of the few people who can call Donald Trump and say, "You're fired!"
Today he is one of TV's hottest producers. With "unscripted" reality drama series successes like Survivor and The Apprentice under his belt, Burnett pioneered how reality television revolutionized the entertainment industry and raised the bar for audience expectations and participation in programming.
He discussed the impact of this shift on how businesses can meet audience expectations for constant innovation and having an active role in business decisions and communications at this year's IABC International Conference in Vancouver, BC.
So how do we survive in the corporate jungle?
1. The most important trait for success is flexibility. People who have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances triumph over seemingly stronger competitors. "People who stubbornly believe there is only one way to approach a problem are usually eliminated early," he said. "They become so obsessed with their plan that they don't even notice when circumstances around them change." Flxibility starts with paying attention to the people around you: what they do, what they say, how they operate, what they need. Consider no task beneath you. Do whatever it takes.
2. New ideas have to be presented right. How do you bring other people into your vision? The first thing you need is enthusiasm. You have to engage the other person(s), paint the picture, to get the attention with a high energy level. You also need complete knoweldge of what you're pitching. You must be able to explain exactly how you will execute on your idea. That's how you gain the confidence of backers. Share the stories of you success with other ideas or from other areas. There are enormous advantages with being a pioneer in your field. We all recognize and reward ideas that are fresh.
3. Repetition is the key to retention. if you want them to remember you, give them plenty of face time. In The Apprentice, Burnett introduced an advertising component. The competing teams on the show had to develop product brochures or marketing campaigns for a product. The retention was this one-shot marketing effort was remarkable. Whether the teams did well on their assignment or not, they got people talking about the show, and the products. The message was presented in a a fun way and a novel context so you retain it. The whole episode was based on one product, making the whos in essence ad hour-long commercial. This made it good repetition.
Face time matters in another way, too. Burnett refuses to make pitches over the phone.
4. Dont' expect it to be always easy. You can always learn from adversity. Burnett had plenty of setbacks along the way. Martha Stewart's version of The Apprentice as well as a much-hyped boxing reality show, The Contender, aired and sunk like a stone. "Successful people know they aren't going to hear 'yes' to every idea." In a crunch, it's better to keep momentum through compromise that to argue to a standstill.
5. Surround yourself with the best possible people. Never go it alone. A leader is only as good as his team. Burnett hires people who are smarter than he is; in a partnership he looks for the strongest allies he can find. If you're good at what you do, they'll recognize that, so you shouldn't be afraid and work with the best.
I confess I do not watch television so I have not been grabbed by the eyeballs with the millions who view Survivor and other reality shows. It seems to me that the desire to see behind the scenes, so to speak, to get a taste of the authentic person, is one of the reasons why weblogs have gained so much in popularity. The ability to join in, perceptual or otherwise, and interact with the content may be another one.