Friday, August 29, 2014

Whose Community is it Anyway?

Inspired by a LinkedIn Group my team has created for one of our clients, the nature of 
community has been bouncing around my brain. While marketers for years now have jumped into places like Facebook and LinkedIn and build large 'followings' I feel few are really considering these to be communities. For many, they are simply an extension of their spam email list, another 'channel' (apologies for today's inverted comma overload) into which marketing messages can be randomly thrown.
With vultures circling over Twitter and Google+, it's absolutely time to reassess your community investment. I challenge companies to go back to basics, and ask themselves three simple questions:
1. Who is your audience?
2. What do they want from you / their peers?
3. Does this community give it to them?
If you put your existing communities through this lens, how do they rate? Questions worth asking in the never-ending quest to rationalize marketing tactics and encourage our buyers to buy...
This post first appeared in my LinkedIn profile here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Content, Content Everywhere

This week is all about what we're now calling 'content'. It used to be just writing and pictures and had to be great. Then it became 'stuff' that was pumped through social networks. But now it has become 'king'. Which is probably a good thing, but I can't help feeling we've come full circle.
In any case, it's all content now. My client's LinkedIn Group will kick off this week and we came to an interesting conclusion during the prep for this one. Quite simply, 'good enough' content wasn't, well, good enough. We recognized that getting people to join a LinkedIn Group is the easy part. Getting them to stay, read, and engage is going to take great posts.
So we've hired in a journalist and what a difference great writing makes. No disrespect to PR writers (I'm one of them, for goodness sake) but there's nothing like well chosen words put through a journalistic lens.
Next on the content train is content for sharing through Facebook and Twitter. We're pitching a project that has us creating content for a client's 'hub' to share across it's global 'spokes'. This is another tick in the box for me. Recognition that the brand needs to have a unique voice and critically share stuff that means something to the audience. Good to see 'content' growing up.
And finally advertising content. Though I started my career as an advertising copywriter, 20 years in PR has made shivers fire up my spine at the very mention. But I've had an epiphany that I had to share. Social advertising is actually quite good. It's good at helping more people see my great content. And if my content's good, then people will appreciate it by 1. Reading, 2. Sharing and 3. Commenting. So yay social advertising - I now understand your place in the circle of integrated comms life.
This post first appeared in my LinkedIn profile here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Derailing the Training Train

Training is a funny thing. Over the years, I've done a lot of it. I've stood up in front of rooms and lectured. I've stood over shoulders and coached. I've huddled in my pajamas and slippers on early morning conference calls, blindly sharing my thoughts with a mute (but hopefully appreciative) audience. I've managed mock news media interviews and fake social media crisis scenarios. And I've driven executive workshops in far-flung locations.
And I think I've done OK. But therein lies the problem. I think I've done OK. But there's a leap of faith required here that can be frustrating. Connecting the dots between the act of delivery and the act of, well, listening, internalizing, and demonstrating a change in behaviour is much more difficult.
I've come to the conclusion that while mass sessions are fine to get a message out, the actual training is a longer term, more involved process. I'm working on several training decks now that tell a big story - then will be relying on smaller, more intimate sessions, timed to hit when needed.
For example, we're teaching a social media measurement framework, followed up by specific sessions when someone's diving into LinkedIn, for example.
Not sure if this model is perfect, but at least we're not assuming people can somehow internalize a vast amount of information and deliver when promoted. Instead, we're presenting information for discussion in an appropriate context.
The other piece that's helping is not looking at training in isolation, but understanding how it fits into a wider, more complex program. My employer, Text100, has established a needs-based training framework which will help overcome some of these perennial issues.
I've also run client programs around a single, clear, and measurable objective, which have been the most satisfying training experiences of my career. These long-term programs have critically been designed to create a clear change, not simply train for training's sake.
While I don't think we've cracked the code, I think we're certainly getting better at putting training in context, and thinking about the outcome, not just the output.
Let me know if you have thoughts on training and professional development that get closer to cracking the code...
This post first appeared on my LinkedIn Profile here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Part I: 2014 Digital and Social Media Predictions

2013 was the year a twerk was heard ‘round the world. Twitter IPO’d, Oreo news-jacked the Super Bowl, the new Pope tweeted and ‘selfie’ was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. 

Google retired its RSS Reader, and Vine redefined short-form videos, soon to be followed by Facebook’s Instagram. Yahoo! bought Tumblr, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post

Hashtags came to Facebook and Google+, while LinkedIn introduced Showcase Pages and Sponsored Updates. Activist investor Carl Ichan joined Twitter pushing Apple’s shares up five percent with a single tweet, Jamie Dimon joined LinkedIn’s Influencer program.

2013 was the year that social media came of age. With 80 percent of small business owners conducting social media marketing and 60 percent of IT buyers using social media, digital and social aren’t a communications nice-to-have, they’re mandatory.

As 2013 draws to a close, I thought I’d take a look at what 2014 is likely to offer. This is the first of two posts, offering a perspective on the big digital and social media trends for 2014.

1. Data, Data Everywhere
While many in PR separated ways with mathematics as soon as we were able, it appears we’re all data scientists now. Data is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s mandatory with our client’s increasingly demanding stronger rationales for our recommendations and evidence that our programs are making a real difference. Data management and analytics have emerged as two key skills common to every marketing activity.

In 2014, we’ll see this become more pronounced, but data is more than trend analysis. The biggest driver for data will be opportunity. Real-time monitoring will become the norm as we look to create digital engagement opportunities for our clients.

Tools such as BrandwatchSimply Measured and Traackr are making it easier than ever to source and analyze behavior, but we’re not talking about the data-for-data’s-sake days of yore. Today, data alone is only a third of the story. 2014 is the year we’ll consistently drive our programs offering services that combine the communications trinity of real-time monitoring and analysis, content creation and amplification.

2. Content Marketing is the New Black (and red, and green, and blue…)
We’ve evolved from ‘every company is a media company’ to ‘every company is a comedian’ with sometimes frightening results. Instead of filling a perceived gap in media opportunities through useful, considered and shareable content, many marketers have instead added to the morass of poorly conceived noise in their hunt for their own Oreos moment.

You can’t fault the motivation, though. There’s a growing realization that different types of content in new channels drives decision-maker behavior.  We’ve moved from counting likes to desiring online engagement and shares. 2014 will see a continued focus on content – but many will create better processes and filtering, while investing in stronger creatives in an attempt to separate the digital wheat from the chaff.

Data research will be used to drive more relevant strategies and meaningful content creation, ensure placement in appropriate channels and measure the right behaviors people are taking. Success will mean making content choices based on known decision-maker preferences, posting at times they’re more likely to engage and through channels they prefer based on where they are in the buyer’s journey.

3. Changing Channels, Changing Minds
In 2013, we saw a pronounced shift from single channel communications to multi-channel as data is proving our audiences reliance on multiple channels to make their decisions. Where you say it has become as important as what you say.

This has become a challenge for brands as they struggle to build strategies across hydra-like social media channels. The challenge is compounded in companies that continue to manage their communications channels in silos.
A genuine, research based understanding of decision-maker behavior can create a road map for marketers wanting to get their messages to their prospects at the right time. 

In 2014, we’ll see continued integration between digital and traditional channels. Websites, email and paid search are already becoming aligned – next year we’ll see owned and earned social and traditional media joining the integrated ‘family.’

This will ensure we can reach our channel changing customers; however, the rules of content are critical. Even if we get better at understanding consumer behavior, we still need to offer them the right content, through the right channel, at the right time.

4. Chasing Influence
2013 was a good year for broadening our definition of influence. More and more companies recognized how online influencers, in particular, are driving and amplifying topics. LinkedIn rolled out its Influencer content program, anointing several hundred influential people including Richard BransonBarack Obama and Guy Kawasaki as designated influencers. And sites such as Quora and apps such as Klout’s Cinch emerged, creating more opportunities for influential engagement.

In 2014, we’ll see a merging of influence. Distinctions between media and non-media influencers will continue to blur, with thought leaders and subject matter experts increasingly incented on influencer engagement. 

As trial programs come to an end, social media profiles will become the norm for pre-sales teams as they interact with decision-makers during their purchase journeys. Monitoring and content will play an ever-important role, helping set these new corporate influencers up for success.

5. Niche Goes Big
Each day, 500 million (or 15 percent) of Google queries have never been seen before by Google’s search engine. People are looking for something that solves their unique problems. In response, buyers will increasingly search out niche communities, seeking more relevant content and conversations with experts.

In 2014, we’ll continue our drive for smaller, more important conversations. Data analysis will increasingly shape our branded content. We’ll see a shift towards more visual content, especially as mobile form factors dominate.

The challenge for B2B brands, in particular, will be to cut these prospects off at the pass. Our audience’s behaviors tell us what they’re interested in, and where they’re seeking information. The mission for brands will be to add value before they pick up the phone or email. We need to work out the questions our audiences are asking and create content strategies to help solve them.

If you’ve got a perspective or would like to explore the ideas, please join Text100’s LinkedIn Communication Conversation. And watch this space for part two of my look at digital communications in 2014.

A version of this post first appeared on Text100's HyperText blog.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I think this might be spam...

Received the following email and meeting invitation today. While I do look forward to correspondence from my 'value mates', and appreciate deliberate writing (?) and genuinely want to be equipped with appropriate details, I fear this may be spam...
Dear Value Mate 朋友,
May I have you attention as I humbly implore for your utmost consideration, as this mail demands your proposition of my intentional investment in your country under your committal assistance. I am Xie Zhongyu, the Outside Director of China National Offshore Oil Corp.,(CNOOC).
In an open mindset, I deliberately writing you to negotiate my suggestion for Joint Venture investment of company with you in your country.
If you consensually accept my bid for this gesture, Then I will be moved to equip you with the appropriate details of my future investment options and finances towards all legal procedures.
Moreover, I want every of my co-operation with you to be carried out legally and in transparent manner.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some thoughts on things

This story appeared on Uwire," ...the largest college news and press release
distribution service." Some rather abstract thoughts from me on social networks, supporting clients' in social, social media issues management and so on. Worth a look if you have a spare minute or two.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Will the Washington Post become an Amazon Content Farm?

My colleague James Mignano penned this post on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' recent US250 million purchase of Washington Post. Some are calling it a vanity play...others feel if anyone can turn around a dying medium, it's Bezos. 

If have another take. Though it's a personal acquisition (not Amazon) at this stage, long term I see this as a content play for Amazon. Instead of scrambling to create compelling, original content and jettison the brochure-ware of old, why not take a USD250 million short cut and buy a team of skilled journalists? That way Amazon products (Kindle, Prime, phone (?)) can be differentiated from the masses as homes for exclusive, compelling news content...

What do you say? Join Text100's LinkedIn Communication Conversation and add your thoughts here...