Free Socrates Cafe Online, Tue, Fri, Sat, 1st. Sun, 6:30 pm Denver MDT Correct Meeting ID and password posted below at 6 pm.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Top Marketing Tips

Selling Points from the Pros MARKETING, AD EXPERTS SHARE TOP TIPS EDITED BY ROBERT SCHWAB AND MIKE TAYLOR, COLORADOBIZ Marketing and advertising are always financial and operational hurdles for the business owner, mostly because owners tend to focus more on delivering their products and services than on connecting with prospective buyers. But selling those products and services requires strategic communication, not to mention identifying the target audience, and that makes marketing and advertising essential to the enterprise. Small-business owners make up about 55 percent of the ColoradoBiz and reading audience, so we asked marketing and advertising professionals to give readers some choice tips on how to improve their own marketing and advertising, a critical route to increased sales. Here is a compilation of their best ideas, both practical and conceptual. Our tip: Read on. You’ll find at least one nugget you can implement immediately to improve your results in 2005. 1 You can learn a lot about an agency from its branding efforts. A firm’s logo, website and advertising, marketing and collateral materials should emotionally connect with you, and foster a positive, meaningful, customer experience. Additionally, branding components should differentiate and position a firm in its industry and — more importantly — in your mind. If an agency has failed to brand itself, is it the most prudent choice for your investment? Theresa LC Fogle, principal and creative director, Edge Communication by Design, Fort Collins 2 The success of building a brand through advertising, direct mail or online is greatly influenced by making certain every employee in every position in your business understands the brand promise and how to do his/her job in a way that supports that. If, for example, your branding positions your company as the one that smiles, you need to be certain everyone is smiling, that HR is training people to smile, incentives are awarded based on smiles, etc. When the brand is supported by the culture, the customer becomes a believer. BILL OBERMEIER, CHAIRMAN, STRATECOM, BOULDER 3 Know your customer ... I mean really know your customer. See what it emotionally feels like to be them. Try hanging out where they do, wear what they wear, think like they think. Then and only then, decide what would appeal to them from a marketing communications standpoint. LORA LEDERMANN, CREATIVE CHARACTER, SCREAM AGENCY LLC, DENVER 4 Don’t build your marketing program on a wobbly brand foundation. First, before you ever develop another ad, brochure, website or news release, decide what your brand stands for and promises to deliver. Gather your management together (and not just marketing people) and answer this question: What, if anything, makes your company or product demonstrably unique in a way that is relevant and persuasive to your chosen market? Then build your entire operation — not just your marketing efforts — around that promise and make sure you deliver on it. DAN CHRISTOPHERSON, CHRISTOPHERSON & CO., DENVER 5 Organizations must consider the rule of 4 and 6. It is important to “touch” existing clients at least four times per year and potential clients at least six times per year. A client “touch” can be defined as a direct-mail piece, hand-written note, personal telephone call, event invitation, special offer, thank-you gift or other direct marketing effort. It is important to remember that a company often considers changing service providers when the need arises or a situation dictates it. If your company has a consistent message and is consistently in front of the prospects, top of mind awareness is garnered and the company is likely to consider your services. SHEILA STEWART, CEO, MARKETING SOLUTIONS & RESULTS, ENGLEWOOD 6 Don’t waste your money on ads. Ads say don’t read me. Don’t watch me. Tune me out. Powerfully relevant and unexpected communication founded on true human insight says exactly the opposite. So while advertising may be what your company needs, make sure it looks and feels like anything but. MIKE DRAZEN, MANAGING PARTNER, THOMAS TABER & DRAZEN 7 Businesses whose communications are based on complex, intangible and often esoteric concepts — engineers, accountants, attorneys, etc. — face a significant challenge in developing messages and delivering them to a lay audience. In crafting their communications, these professionals must avoid confusing, technical jargon and speak plain English. It also helps if what they’re saying covers the Four P’s: (1) Prescriptive — offering a solution to a problem or challenge; (2) Predictive — offering an analysis of what the future holds for a particular industry or trend; (3) Provocative — something counterintuitive or at least different from what everyone else is saying; (4) Prudent — in other words, credible. DREW KRAMER, DIRECTOR, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, INTERMOUNTAIN CORPORATE AFFAIRS, DENVER 8 Define the purpose of your ad. All ads are trying to sell something. Pinpoint the objective. Do you want to change an attitude? Get on a customer’s shopping list? Have the customer call an 800 number or hit a website? Determine the expected outcome. PASQUALE (POCKY) MARRANZINO, PRESIDENT, KARSH & HAGAN COMMUNICATIONS, DENVER 9 The average time on a website is less than two minutes. A thorough online strategy based on usability, research, and intuitive navigation increases this statistic. KARL BECKER, CEO, FOCUS LOGIC INC., DENVER 10 It is absolutely essential to have a clear, precise, persuasive website. It must have a branded message on the home page that makes you want to read on; it must be easy to navigate and a joy to read; it must offer relevant information in bite-size chunks on every page; it must tell your complete company story, and provide a portfolio section that showcases exceptional work. KEVIN REESE, PRESIDENT, PGM ADVERTISING AGENCY, CENTENNIAL 11 Media placement and creative development need to go hand-in-hand. A mediocre ad in the right place will serve as negative communication; a motivating ad in the wrong environment will fall on deaf ears. AMY HUME, MEDIA DIRECTOR, BARNHART, DENVER 12 Seek video companies that are internet savvy. The new equipment and software in the video industry is causing an evolution that is enabling companies to produce their 30-second spots at a fraction of traditional broadcast costs and can be aired on the Internet. DANIEL MONTANO, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, MONTANOSOLARIA & MOSOFILMS, DENVER 13 The more successful the business owner or professional, the more personal notes they write. Thank people, recognize accomplishments and milestones, forward copies of articles you think might be relevant — and write your note in long hand. Most professions and businesses are relationship dependent; always have been and always will be. BOB WEISS, PRESIDENT, ALYN-WEISS MARKETING/PUBLIC RELATIONS INC., DENVER 14 If you aren’t sure how to create a quality print ad, hire a freelancer/agency or ask if the publication can create it for you. There is no point in spending big money in buying the ad space if it is going to portray an unprofessional image. A poor image is worse than no image at all. KRISTY K. WINGFIELD, OWNER, GRAPHIK LLC, DENVER 15 When thinking about brand building, it’s logical to think about how to reach your customers with the right messages. But start with your employees first. If employees can articulate the value of your company, product or service, they become walking, talking brand ambassadors for your company multiplying the impact of your overall marketing budget. It also means that your customers’ experiences will be more rewarding because your employees embody the brand experience. Sharon Linhart, president and CEO, Linhart McClain Finlon Public Relations 16 Be bold. Be brash. Be bigger than life. Don’t just differentiate yourself from your competition. Divorce yourself from the competition and shout back at the category with unadulterated simplicity and jaw-dropping innovation. Never forget: No risk means no reward. MEGAN FEARNOW, DIRECTOR OF ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT, AND MISSY ALTERGOTT, BRAND DIRECTOR, MCCLAIN FINLON, DENVER 17 Developing an image in your market and making your services or products known requires continual repetition. Marketing isn’t something you can do occasionally and expect it to be effective. It should be an ongoing effort. It never stops. BILL NEAL, ALMADEN MARKETING GROUP INC., FORT COLLINS 18 You must communicate with and reach your prospective customers where they are, not where you think they should be or where you are. Find out what your potential customers are reading, watching, listening to, attending or participating in, and communicate with them through channels that will capture their interest. SUSAN PETERSON, ALMADEN MARKETING GROUP INC., FORT COLLINS 19 Multicultural marketing will become increasingly critical as the population becomes more diverse and the buying power of ethnic consumer segments becomes more significant. Based upon erroneous assumptions about minority consumer income, education and purchase intent, many advertisers confine minority marketing to a small percentage of their overall marketing budgets. This practice limits brand growth and retention, as well as new customer acquisition. LAURA SONDERUP, DIRECTOR, U.S. HISPANIC MARKETING, HEINRICH MARKETING INC., DENVER 20 Measure relentlessly. Everyone knows it’s true, but the discipline and courage it takes to measure results is hard for evolving brands (which are dominant in our market). The single biggest mistake we still see in marketing and PR programs is based on a false assumption that you can’t measure marketing impact. The failure to do so has been a costly decision for marketers. DEEDEE LEGRAND-HART, BRW LEGRAND, DENVER 21 Don’t feel like you have to use a full-service advertising agency as your marketing arm. There are a large number of specialized shops in Colorado that allow you to cherry-pick your own all-star team of media, creative, account planning, research and PR services. Look for unbundled experts that re-bundle with others at the top of their field so that you end up with the best service in all advertising and marketing disciplines. BRETT GRISCHO, CEO, EXPLORE COMMUNCATIONS INC., DENVER 22 Understand the Audience Engagement Process: There are seven steps to bringing a prospect from zero knowledge to becoming an evangelist for your company or product. We call it ARCTUTA: Awareness —> Recognition —> Consideration —> Testing —> Using —> Trusting —> Advocating. As long as you have a marketing tool that meets the prospect/customer at each of these stages, you can be confident that no opportunities are slipping through the cracks. DAVID K. HEITMAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, THE CREATIVE ALLIANCE, LAFAYETTE 23 Track and measure. All too often, marketing efforts are abandoned as ineffective for purely anecdotal or emotional reasons. When you build tracking and measurement mechanisms into your advertising, promotions and public relations, you can gauge their effectiveness toward the desired results and even redirect them if necessary. GEORGE OLSON, EXECUTIVE VP/CREATIVE DIRECTOR, PRACO PUBLIC RELATIONS & ADVERTISING CO., GREENWOOD VILLAGE AND COLORADO SPRINGS 24 Doing good is good for business. Make involvement in the community a key component of your marketing program. Research shows that consumers are more likely to support (and buy from!) a company that gives back to the communities in which it does business. Find community outreach vehicles that align with what you do, and use these vehicles as opportunities to get in front of your potential customers through product sampling and other creative techniques that showcase your company or your product. LEANNA CLARK AND CHRISTIN CRAMPTON DAY, PRINCIPALS/CO-OWNERS, SCHENKEIN, DENVER 25 Although it seems an obvious ‘tip’, taking time to proof your ad relative to correct addresses, correct and working telephone numbers, hours of operation, etc. is a basic that often goes unchecked. Imagine taking the time and making the investment only to find that consumers can’t reach you. April Thayer, Thayer Media,Denver 26 Successful advertising is more than placing a few ads in the local newspaper or running some spots on TV. Rather, it’s the result of careful planning, consistency of message, and ongoing analysis and adjustment to changing markets. SU RYDEN, RYDEN & ASSOCIATES, DENVER 27 The lead of an effective and compelling press release should provide the reader the key news by addressing the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Mimic journalists’ writing style by using the inverted pyramid — provide the most important information at the top of the release. Write in tight sentences and use short paragraphs. Releases have a greater chance of garnering media attention if they’re customized to the local market. NIKKI DENTON, VANGUARD COMMUNICATIONS, DENVER 28 The choice of advertising vs. public relations: Advertising gives you complete control over what you say and when you say it. It generally works only with frequent repetition. You surrender much of that control with public relations, especially relying on the news media for delivery of your message. But the trade-off is that public relations makes your message much more credible and memorable — and it usually costs a fraction of advertising for the same impact. RON KING, VANGUARD COMMUNICATIONS, DENVER 29 Don’t blow your marketing dollars in one big push. One of the biggest marketing mistakes companies can make is to blow too much money on the launch of a company, product or service — and then not have enough budget to sustain the marketing program over time. Marketing is most effective when it occurs consistently and frequently. Budget carefully and ensure that there are enough marketing dollars allocated to continue to market over time AFTER the big launch or re-launch occurs. COURTNEY DEWINTER, DEWINTER COMMUNICATIONS INC., DENVER 30 How you conduct your business is as important as the business you conduct. A Business Week/Harris Poll shows that 95 percent of adults believe companies have responsibilities not only to their shareholders, but to communities and employees as well. Cone/Roper’s recent study shows that 66 percent of purchasers will factor in a company’s responsible business practices — when price and quality are equal — in making a decision to choose a brand ... or not choose it. PAUL JENSEN, ONE TRIBE, FORT COLLINS 31 A strong employer brand means more productivity and better customer loyalty. You can build yours by making sure your employees have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. The best way to find out is to ask them in a survey, then fill in any gaps that crop up. MARK HORNUNG, BERNARD HODES GROUP, DENVER 32 Community involvement is critical to your bottom line. Companies should get involved in their community not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it can increase customer loyalty, sales and profits. Find a cause that overlaps with your target audience to achieve the best results. LAURIE W. ANDERSON, ANDERSON & ASSOCIATES PUBLIC RELATIONS INC., DENVER 33 Do you offer too much information on your website? Are you trying to address several distinct audiences? Websites are most effective when the visitor receives appropriate information immediately or via a single click. To achieve this, we often set up additional websites focused on a specific audience or product offering. JAMES B. VARNER, EDIT BAY COMMUNICATIONS, DENVER 34 Fifty percent of advertising and marketing is just showing up. Because if you don’t, your competition will. And, if you show up and have another 50 percent of consistent, frequent and highly creative messaging, you’ll do well with your investment. ROBERT HAM, EXTRA STRENGTH MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS, DENVER 35 Measure your Marketing ROI. Marketing is an investment, not an expense. Positive results can compound and grow exponentially. From clear, measurable objectives, develop a strategy and a plan. Don’t cut corners on strategy. Its value can be priceless. MICHAEL GUZOFSKY, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, PAGEWORKS COMMUNICATION DESIGN INC., DENVER 36 When advertising, remember that your audience will only respond if your message is consistent. Constantly changing your ad size and design will confuse the public and will decrease your chances of building a recognizable brand. Find a style that works for your company or products and stick with it for at least six months before deciding to change it. You’ll be surprised at the brand awareness you create. BETSY MARTIN, PRINCIPAL, DECIBEL COMMUNICATIONS, CENTENNIAL 37 Whether building a reputation, changing an opinion or selling a product or service, a communications plan requires a strong combination of earned media (PR), advertising and one-to-one contact. Success requires many impressions from trusted sources for an extended period of time. TRACY AIELLO, FREEMAN WALL AIELLO PUBLIC RELATIONS, DENVER 38 Determine your strongest sales periods and advertise right before those dates. It is much easier to boost sales during natural sales spikes than to overcome down times. Flight your media vehicles (print, outdoor, radio, TV) at the same time to break through the clutter and increase recall. It is usually better to spend heavily one month and take two months off than to spread the dollars out over three months. LESLIE HANCOCK, HANCOCK MEDIA, CONIFER 39 Keep busy keeping busy. Don’t wait until your business is slow to begin a marketing campaign. Spend the time and money to keep your business bustling even when things are good. You’ll win in two ways — you’ll have the budget to invest, and you’ll even out your revenues, resulting in fewer slow periods. SHELLY ST. JOHN, PRESIDENT, PRIMARY OBJECTIVE, DENVER 40 In order to create a common language and tone for a brand, it is critical to develop consistency in the copy tone of all communication types — print, web, newsletter, PR, et al. The common mistake of many brands is the lack of synergy between these distinct communication mediums that leads to consumer confusion. In the end, you want to tell one culturally relevant story through your communication strategy, not multiple stories. SCOTT MELLIN, CEO, FACTORY DESIGN LABS INC., DENVER © 2005 GRAPHIK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Monday, March 20, 2006

March 16, 2006

For more contact:
Phil Perington (D), (303)832-4578
John Wren (R), (720)495-4949


Monday, March 20 at noon a rally in support of the Colorado neighborhood caucus-assembly system for nominating to the primary ballot will be held on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol.
It is being co-hosted by Colorado Speaker of the House Rep. Andrew Romanoff and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Tom Wiens. Speakers will include Colorado State Chairs Bob Martinez (R) and Pat Waak (D).

The rally is being organized by an informal, non-partisan citizens committee that is mostly comprised of people from Save the Caucus, a group that was formed in 2002 to defeat Amendment 29 which would have killed the caucus. It is being sponsored by the Denver South Optimist club, who is also inviting other Optimist Clubs from around the state.

At the rally an announcement will be made about the release of a TV public service announcement with Mayor John Hickenlooper and Gov. Bill Owens encouraging people to attend their neighborhood caucus. The PSA will be available on the Google Video Store. Supporters of the caucus are being encouraged to email a link to the spot to their email list and to local media outlets across the state encouraging them to play it.

It will also be announced that the Colorado penguin is being adopted as the official mascot of the Colorado neighborhood caucus. Money will be raised for yard signs and an ad campaign to raise awareness of the 2008 caucus.

The Colorado neighborhood caucus is held every two years and was recently ratified by legislation in which several of the recommendations of the Colorado Caucus Committee were adopted, including a change in the date. The state is divided into over 3,000 neighborhoods where meetings are held to discuss issues and elect delegates to nominating assemblies. The system was established in 1912 as part of the Teddy Roosevelt progressive reforms that dramatically strengthened the voice of the common person in deciding who should represent them in local, state, and national offices.

Rocky Mountain News

Time for precinct caucuses
Registered members of parties set to turn out to pick candidates
By Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain NewsMarch 20, 2006
On Tuesday, thousands of voters across Colorado will gather in small, neighborhood political meetings that are nearly as old as the republic itself.
But these are not your father's - or mother's - precinct caucuses.
Once common in living rooms, caucuses, the first step in the political process that will eventually land candidates on the November ballot, are now almost always held in public buildings to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
And while Republicans and Democrats may not agree on anything in this polarized day and age, the heads of the two state parties are unified on one front: They like the caucus process and want it to stay.
"Remember," said Pat Waak, chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party, "those folks who've gone through the system are those folks who've committed themselves to the political process and those folks are the volunteers who are going to go out and help us elect people.
"It's a sure way to make sure that we've got leaders at the grass-roots level."
Her Republican counterpart, Bob Martinez, echoed that sentiment.
"I believe strongly in it, because it keeps the individual involved in the political process," Martinez said.
So how does the precinct caucus work?
It's pretty simple, really. Small groups of people from each neighborhood gather Tuesday evening to pick delegates who will move on to the county and state assemblies or congressional district assemblies. Candidates must win the support of 30 percent of the delegates at an assembly to move on.
Those who survive appear on the primary ballot in August, when voters in each party will pick their candidates for the November general election.
Colorado is one of only a few states that still practices the traditional caucus system - and, in reality, a candidate doesn't have to use it.
Peggy Lamm, for example, has already announced that she'll skip the caucus process and try to get on the ballot for Congress in the 7th District by petition.
But for most other candidates, the trick is to get supporters to go to the caucuses - and, in turn, to get them elected delegates to the various assemblies.
"What we have now is a disconnect between the people and their representatives, and the caucus is a way to heal that disconnect," said John Wren, a volunteer consultant to Colorado Caucus Community of Practice, a group trying to revive the system in the state.
Wren's group and the two state parties are planning a rally on the west steps of the Capitol at noon today.
So, is the caucus system a dinosaur or just what ails a fractured electoral system?
It is an old system, and people don't go to the gatherings as much as they once did.
But Wren, and the state parties, believe it's also an essential salve for representative government.
"I think what's happened over time is it's eroded - it's kind of almost an endangered species," Wren said.
The reason, in his view, is that there are "powerful forces that don't want to mess with the grass roots."
"They want to pay people to pass petitions and run ads, and that's not really representative government," he said.
Colorado's caucus system faced an outright attack in 2002, when a ballot initiate would have ended it.
Voters killed the measure.
"Caucuses are under assault," said Phil Perington, former chair of the state Democratic Party. "The caucuses are probably the last bastion of grass-roots politics in this country."
Caucus info
Log on to the following Web sites for more information on 2006 caucus locations in your neighborhood and upcoming assemblies:
• For Democrats:
• For Republicans:
or 303-892-5019
Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

February 19, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Questions of Culture
Once, not that long ago, economics was the queen of the social sciences. Human beings were assumed to be profit-maximizing creatures, trending toward reasonableness. As societies grew richer and more modern, it was assumed, they would become more secular. As people became better educated, primitive passions like tribalism and nationalism would fade away and global institutions would rise to take their place. As communications technology improved, there would be greater cooperation and understanding. As voters became more educated, they would become more independent-minded and rational.
None of these suppositions turned out to be true. As the world has become richer and better educated, religion hasn't withered; it has become stronger and more fundamentalist. Nationalism and tribalism haven't faded away. Instead, transnational institutions like the U.N. and the European Union are weak and in crisis.
Communications technology hasn't brought people closer together; it has led to greater cultural segmentation, across the world and even within the United States. Education hasn't made people moderate and independent-minded. In the U.S. highly educated voters are more polarized than less educated voters, and in the Arab world some of the most educated people are also the most fanatical.
All of this has thrown a certain sort of materialistic vision into crisis. We now know that global economic and technological forces do not gradually erode local cultures and values. Instead, cultures and values shape economic development. Moreover, as people are empowered by greater wealth and education, cultural differences become more pronounced, not less, as different groups chase different visions of the good life, and react in aggressive ways to perceived slights to their cultural dignity.
Economics, which assumes people are basically reasonable and respond straightforwardly to incentives, is no longer queen of the social sciences.
The events of the past years have thrown us back to the murky realms of theology, sociology, anthropology and history. Even economists know this, and are migrating to more behaviorialist and cultural approaches.
The fundamental change is that human beings now look less like self-interested individuals and more like socially embedded products of family and group. Alan Greenspan said that he once assumed that capitalism was "human nature." But after watching the collapse of the Russian economy, he had come to consider it "was not human nature at all, but culture."
During the first few years of life, parents, communities and societies unconsciously impart ways of being and of perceiving reality that we are only subliminally aware of. How distinct is the individual from the community? Does history move forward or is it cyclical? How do I fulfill my yearning for righteousness? What is possible and what is impossible?
The answers to these questions are wildly diverse, and once worldviews have been absorbed, they produce wildly different levels and types of social and cultural capital. East Asians and Jews, for example, seem to thrive commercially wherever they settle.
It turns out that it's hard to change the destinies of nations and individuals just by pulling economic levers. Over the past few decades, America has transferred large amounts of money to Africa to build factories and spur economic development. None of this has worked. As the economists Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanian demonstrated, there is no correlation between aid and growth.
At home, we spend more money on education than any other nation. We have undertaken a million experiments to restructure schools and bureaucracies. But students who lack cultural and social capital because they did not come from intact, organized families continue to fall further and further behind — unless they come into contact with some great mentor who can not only teach, but also change values and behavior.
It all amounts to this: Events have forced different questions on us. If the big contest of the 20th century was between planned and free market economies, the big questions of the next century will be understanding how cultures change and can be changed, how social and cultural capital can be nurtured and developed, how destructive cultural conflict can be turned to healthy cultural competition.
People who think about global development are out in front in thinking about these matters. (I'd recommend rival anthologies: "Culture Matters," edited by Lawrence Harrison and Samuel Huntington, and "Culture and Public Action," edited by Vijayendra Rao and Michael Walton.) But the rest of us will catch up soon.
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ben Franklin Bio Review

The Washington Times

Benjamin Franklin

Published December 18, 2005

By J. A. Leo Lemay
University of Pennsylvania, $39.95, 568 pages, illlus.

By J. A. Leo Lemay
University of Pennsylvania, $39.95, 664 pages, illus.

Now we embark on a prolonged celebration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin. In mid-December the official Tercentenary Commission's traveling interactive museum show opens in Philadelphia and then moves on for an international tour that will last through 2008. A cavalry charge of biographies (mine included) floods the bookstores and one presumes public television will drown us in Ben -- 24-seven.
Yet, the most important event in this overdue examination of the man who made our American Revolution possible is that the first two volumes of a projected seven-volume biography, "The Life of Benjamin Franklin," have been released by the University of Pennsylvania Press and a third volume is slated to go to the editors in January. If you have enjoyed the popular Founding Father and Mother biographies of David McCullough, Joseph Ellis, Edward Morgan and others, this is where you can start feeding your interest in earnest.
The series author is J. A. Leo Lemay, a University of Delaware professor and the doyen of Franklin scholars. It is not too much to say that this literary journey through the bewildering hall of mirrors of Franklin's personality will solidify his sometimes underrated reputation as the first among equals among our national legends. As a series, Mr. Lemay's final output will do for the popular interest in our revolution and early founding what Douglas Southall Freeman's magisterial "Lee's Lieutenants" did for our fixation on the Civil War.
There is a difference between the two series and it is to Mr. Lemay's, and your, advantage. Freeman's multi-volume history, first published in 1942, told the stories of the main generals of the Confederacy by laying out elegantly written after-action reports of the important battles of that struggle. Even to sustain one's way through the subsequently shortened three-volume version published in the 1990s, you have to be a real groupie of the Lost Cause.
A more apt comparison might be to the previous gold standard of Franklin biographies, Carl Van Doren's 1938 biography which won the Pulitzer Prize and remained until now the first book a student of Franklin was advised to read. The difference is hardly discreditable to Van Doren whose research predated by 20 years the start of a systematic effort to collect and study the huge mass of documents Franklin generated during his life.
Yet as good as he was, Van Doren's nearly 800-page doorstopper is often thrown off stride by the sheer breadth of Franklin's personality, of his activities, of the contradictions in what the author called "this harmonious human multitude" of a man.
Just to get his arms around Franklin he would have to interrupt the flow of chapters to drag the reader back to some important insight or event that could not be included in previous pages. And that was just to deal with Franklin himself.
This is a good place to address the question that any reader of this review must be asking about now. Why on earth would anyone commit to buying (let alone reading) seven volumes at 40 bucks a pop about anyone?
As one of my early editors used to ask me, "The story of the Creation takes only 800 words, does your story deserve more?" The answer, happily, is yes. Mr. Lemay, who writes every bit as well as Freeman and better than Van Doren, tells more than the story of an important historical figure. In a seamless narrative Franklin is portrayed against the background of the life and times of other American colonials.
For those who view America's move toward nationhood as inevitability, Mr. Lemay has an important story to tell. With authority he charts how rapidly these at first exclusively English colonies underwent changes that transformed them into a new being and how violent and problematic that change was. Mirroring that upheaval, Franklin evolved too with the same bewildering rapidity and visible conflicts.
The story begins with Boston as it was just before Franklin's birth in 1706. A village of around 8,000 encircling an accessible deep-water port, Boston was the most important town in British North America and was destined to become the second most important city of the Empire next to London itself. It was to this shining city that Josiah Franklin and his young family came in 1693, to seek his fortune as a silk dyer and to follow his religious beliefs among the like minded Puritans who had run the Massachusetts Bay Colony for 70 years.
That Boston did not become our eventual capital is part of the story Mr. Lemay tells. Even at that early date the political, economic and cultural unity of these early colonies was fracturing along familiar lines of wealth, class, faith, new citizens versus old and, not least, a growing estrangement from the ties that bound them to Mother England.
Franklin was in the thick of things from his early teens until his death in 1790 at the age of 84. First be warned. This is not the Benjamin Franklin you are used to. Mr. Lemay's Franklin is not the twinkly, portly old gent in the bifocals who appears in television commercials hawking banks and brake linings. The Franklin who emerges in these opening chapters is remarkably strong and robust. He has a high opinion of himself and as a youth was a happy warrior in the fist-fights and rowdy behavior that apprentices of the times engaged in.
Young Ben was something of a brat and you feel some sympathy for his half-brother printer James Franklin, who often was driven to beat his bumptious sibling. Yet this is a Franklin who is on fire to succeed, to advance himself from his modest (but hardly poor) beginnings. Thus he early on begins to work on one of his great inventions, himself.
Volume One takes Franklin from his birth on January 17, 1706 to his marriage at common law to his much loved (but unfortunately still legally married) Deborah in Philadelphia in 1730. The evolution of young Ben from the spoiled, querulous renegade he admits (in his "Autobiography") to being into the knowledge-famished young printer on the make is an adventure story in itself. Put simply, Ben's noisy regard of himself and his skepticism of religion and authority had made him unwelcome in Boston. Yet the brat had become something of a prodigy, in large part by a prodigious campaign of self-education.
By the time Ben runs away from James Franklin's print shop and newspaper when he is 17, he is, by Mr. Lemay's account, already the best writer in the American colonies and a skilled printer to boot. Once in Philadelphia, the credulous lad is gulled into a trip to London that allows him to perfect his printing skills and mature a bit.
Franklin's return to Philadelphia, his purchase of his own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, and his marriage set the young man on the path he will follow into Volume Two and his evolution as the rising craftsman and promoter of civic improvements upon which his reputation is founded. Here Mr. Lemay sets out Franklin's life long struggle to curb his various passions -- his temper, frivolity and, of course, his sensuality -- and channel his inexhaustible energy into a life of public involvement and personal advancement. The second installment runs through 1747 to his retirement from printing so he can devote his life to his electricity and other scientific inquiries.
This is the period of Franklin's meteoric rise from lowly leather-apron-wearing craftsman to established tradesman and political figure. With some effort, Franklin learns to restrain his pushiness and watches with satisfaction as his various schemes for a library, fire protection, an insurance company, a college and a hospital are rewarded with political advancement and personal regard. Through it all, Franklin, the writer of political argument and advocacy, attracts a growing attention throughout colonial America.
Yet, Franklin's ingrained anti-authority attitude plunges him into the conflicts that beset a Pennsylvania being changed by floods of strange new immigrants and the constant threat of war on its frontier. At first Franklin focuses his struggle on winning a measure of economic justice from the colony's grasping proprietors. Ultimately he is led into his quest for nationhood for those fractious American colonies 60 years later. Even though I already know how the story turns out, I can't wait for Mr. Lemay's next volumes.

James Srodes is a Washington author whose latest book is "Franklin: The Essential Founding Father," published by Regnery.