Friends, Romans, Countrymen!

January 12, 2016

 

 

Welcome to The Rostra, the inhouse blog of Dvorak's Keyboard. With a crack team of interns and editors*, The Rostra promises to be your hourly updated (editor: hourly?) news feed on all things related to my work, including upcoming and newly published projects, brilliant content and earned-media marketing tips, and other insights which really will be poorly disguised reasons for why you should hire me. In time, this space will also serve another function: shameless self-promotion of my own writing. Much like Lex Luthor's affinity for beachfront property, I have an irrepressible passion for history, particularly Roman history. This will mean absolutely nothing to most of my clients, but it might mean something to future readers of my forthcoming historical fiction project(s). Regardless, I mention it now to explain why this space occassionally will feature ruminations on Roman history. 

 

Like, for example, the name of this blog! In ancient Rome, the Rostra was the speaker's platform in the Forum where politicians would address the people. The name, rostra (or beaks), refers to the ship rams the Romans had captured from enemy vessels and mounted as trophies on the side of the platform. In the days of the Republic, when Rome had a quasi-democratic constitution, the Rostra was both a practical tool for the rabble-rousing politician as well as a potent symbol of the Roman people's liberty (to say nothing of their slaves). Think of Mark Antony's famous funeral oration in Julius Caesar, which enflamed the people against the dead dictator's assassins, as a testament to the power of the Rostra and rhetoric in Republican Rome. While a rebuilt Rostra became an architectural focal point in the Forum during the Empire (and can still be seen today), it had lost much of its practical and symbolic power. 

 

An ancient Roman could walk through the Forum on any given business day and listen to someone speaking from the Rostra. Maybe it was Cicero or Cato the Younger. Or maybe it was Quintus the carpenter who was angry at Marcus Crassus for stealing all the good housing contracts. The point is, sometimes it was worthwhile to stop and listen; sometimes it was fun just to laugh; and sometimes it was better to ignore the fool. The Rostra made it easy for any Roman to speak his mind -- but that didn't mean people had to listen. The Rostra could be used by the tactful speaker to shape policy or shame his enemies -- but it also made him a nice target for rotten produce. The Rostra could make careers or incite revolution -- but it could also be used to break careers and turn a hero into a criminal.

 

And so it is with content marketing in today's digital landscape. (This plot twist could be seen a mile away, right?) It is easier than ever to mount a digital Rostra and speak your mind, but it is harder than ever to get anyone to listen or care. In most cases, it's better not to get on the Rostra at all. Do your paid marketing and be happy that that oped, blog post, bylined article or book idea never got off the ground. Why? Because most opeds and bylined articles are unoriginal and boring; most blog posts are poorly written or ignored; and most books are never read (even the good ones!). And you can look forward to these results after you've spent however many hours on the post, days on the oped, weeks on the bylined article or months on the book. The ROI is terrible.

 

Unless you get it right... and getting it right is something to savor. It doesn't mean you're suddenly Cicero; you can still be Quintus, except now Quintus is saying exactly the right thing to exactly the right people. And just like that, you have an audience: Someone is listening. You are a resource: Someone wants to know what you think. You can influence your audience: Money! -- I mean, you've driven profitable customer action...or something. Whatever, money! 

 

One of the oldest cliches is the ancient saying "Fortune favors the brave." It was a cliche even in Roman times, judging by how many variations there are in Latin and Greek. Sometimes the brave thing to do is nothing and fortune will follow. Occassionally it means you need to produce -- to write. To engage. To entertain. To enlighten. But to do it right, you need to do it well or don't do it at all. 

 

*Just kidding. It's only me.

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January 12, 2016

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