The ghost of Christmas future is here, and he says that it's time to relax
AS THIS is my last column for this year, here are some thoughts for over the break. In his classic novella A Christmas Carol, the great British novelist Charles Dickens wrote of Christmas: "Though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good."
Well, I don't entirely agree. Some of the best ideas I have had about building our business have come to me on the Christmas break, when I let go of the daily routine and get into the spirit of this wonderful time of year.
There is something about being able to really relax and almost be a kid again that can open our minds to new opportunities.
Many have thought that this year has not been all it could have been. A feeling of underperformance has gripped almost everything, including the economy, national leadership and community confidence, not to mention Christmas retail sales.
So as we enter the break, we would do well to make the most of it and reinvigorate ourselves. For some of us this will mean singing carols with our kids and family, and for many it will mean a visit to church.
I am not overly religious, but I have to say that I did learn a bit of a lesson in 1996 when I attended the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia. It was Martin Luther King jnr's church and it was packed. As the service started, I thought I had walked onto the set of Sister Act. The place was jumping, as was the preacher, who leapt from pulpit to choir to band and back again for three holy-rolling hours.
And then, as he eased the congregation down to send his flock out into the world again, he said: "I want you to turn to the person beside you and give them a hug." My companion at the service was the taciturn head of Channel Seven, Gary Rice, who immediately put his hands in his pockets. Gary wasn't the hugging type, so I just messed up his hair.
Then the preacher told us to turn to the other side, and I came nose to chest with a six-foot-three African-American senator from Alabama - a woman - and she was a hugger. Seriously, there are times when we just have to relax and immerse ourselves in a spirit of goodwill for all people. And if we do, I have no doubt that we will find the way to meet any challenge that life throws at us.
We all know that we are in a better position than anywhere else in the democratic world and we have got to make the most of it.
So after we get over the Christmas pud and the Boxing Day sales, here are some things to have in mind when thinking about new year business resolutions.
All advertisers need to go mobile for brand and direct marketing. Mobile usage will continue to soar and will overtake wired internet users by 2015. Remember that 60 per cent of Australians have a smartphone, and if you're not talking to them, they are talking to someone else.
Get into online video. A new era of highly targeted and cost-effective video marketing is about to make this rapidly-changing world change yet again.
Think social media as a part of every communication.
Start learning to use the "big data". Every business, no matter how small, can develop all the data it needs itself to engage with customers at every level.
Now if all of this is starting to sound a bit geeky, you could use your Christmas break to consult your kids and your grandkids. They may already be better equipped for the future than you are. But next year is still a little way off and you should do some personal things, just because you can: give to charity, pat your dog (and if you haven't got a dog, get one), read a poem (better still, write one), hug your kids like a southern Baptist senator and, finally, choose to be happy.
Harold Mitchell is an executive director of Aegis.
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