Monthly Archives: May 2013

16 and One Ways on How to be a Better Storyteller

Yesterday, I was interviewing one of my organization’s engineers for a case study piece. As we were discussing the challenges and opportunities for creating innovation for a mature product, our conversation verge to the topic of storytelling. How could I resist the topic? I truly believe PR people are natural storytellers. And the reason is simple: Storytelling is PR; it essentially boils down to connecting organization and people through a story.

Contribution from atlanta.iabc.com

Contribution from atlanta.iabc.com

As we were chatting, I realize that most people forget the basic tenets for telling a compelling story. Today’s fun fact Friday is all about how to tell a better story about your organization.

  1. People. You need to make your people apart of the story line. Logos, Products, are secondary. Share who your people are and what they are about. This week, we shared on our corporate site, what our culture was about in terms of pictures.
  2. This is more than telling about your product. People will remember a story more than your products. Hello anecdote examples. Remember this, the most valued and shared stories reveal unfulfilled needs and desires.” Jon King, Managing Director, Story Worldwide Europe
  3. Your Customer is the Hero. Storytelling allows you to put your customer in the lime light. Share their successes and challenges. That is more compelling than your product sheets.
  4. Storytelling is engaging and entertaining. Love the idea of story trees from the Hoffman Agency, I added the SlideShare presentation below
  5. Purpose. You need a plot. A beginning, middle, and end. Think about this in terms of setting the stage. Maybe it is a customer who was in crisis. Maybe it was a client who needed help achieving new goals. Whatever it is, you need to take the reader through the trials and tribulations.
  6. Understand the components of a good story. Content Marketers get this and you should too. There are six basic parts to any story:
    1. Setting – the location where your story takes place. T
    2. Characters
    3. An event to start things rolling
    4. Development
    5. The Climax
    6. The Ending
  7. People like to connect. It’s all about understanding the individual highlighted in the story and how we relate.
  8. Figure out what emotion you want to invoke. What do you want the reader to do next.
  9. Stories allow us to break through the noise. According to SAP’s Chief Storyteller, “to break through the clutter, meaningful, one to one conversations with our customer is now more important than ever.” Check out her video.
  10. Leave your marketing speak and your boilerplates at home.
  11. No jargon or buzzwords. Seriously.
  12. It is not always about you. Stories can have multiple actors but your company doesn’t allows need the lead role.
  13. Check your ego at the door. You should persuade not talk a the reader
  14. Before telling your story, listen to what is going on in your market today. Interview clients. Talk with your internal subject matter experts to find out what is going on.
  15. Think like a movie director. I watched Argo and was mesmerized. My favorite scene is when the embassy workers were shredding the “classified documents.” Where they going to make it? Would the “bad guys” going to get the documents? I was hooked for 2 hours. Not only was the movie compelling, but the director did a fantastic job of telling the story. Storytelling isn’t just for the movies. Just because you’re in a B2B market, doesn’t mean you cannot be compelling.
  16. Use humor. After speaking with a few fellow communicators, I realize that telling a funny, personal story is a great way to connect with people.Who doesn’t need a laugh in their life
  17. Use songs to tell your story. At an event recently, the presenter painted their problem and challenges she faced using the theme of a song. She explain the expansion of her team and the challenges she faced to the fun tune of the Big Bang Theory. Very entertaining, highly memorable. Check out the Storify link of the event.
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Three Traits Social Media and Foreign Exchange Students Have in Common

Social media strategist and foreign exchange students have a lot in common surprisingly. Both speak and act differently than your usual run-of-the-mill communications or marketing professional.

The best part about working on social media projects is you get the chance to work with cool people both externally and internally. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Liz Bullock, former Dell Social Media Director, to discuss all things social media.  Liz and I were chatting about some of the great and perhaps not so-awesome things that occur when you are moving your business from 1.0 to social.

It was great to speak with someone who, like me, had built a case for social media by stressing the importance of training and how it is key in adoption. Amen!  (If you haven’t heard me beat that drum loud and clear, training is vitally important to the business of social)

While these conversations were awesome, who doesn’t relish in the opportunity to commensurate. I expressed to Liz that I often feel like an anomaly; the only one who gets what social media is about. She laughed and said, “Not an anomaly, more like a foreign exchange student.” Intrigued, I asked her to explain. So here’s the gist of our conversation:

1)    Social media people speak another language. If tweets, shares, or retweets are in your vernacular, then you speak a foreign language. To be honest, social media strategists and their marketing counterparts could have done themselves a favor by speaking in business terms or outcomes right from the beginning.

Artwork originally found on www.herald-dispatch.com

Artwork originally found on http://www.herald-dispatch.com

Think about this in terms of explaining why a social program was successful to your manager or senior executive. It generally doesn’t work.

Solution: Don’t talk in terms of jargon, talk in business terms.  When I shared how we improved the customer experience by taking care of customer support issues via social media – that’s when executives started to listen. It wasn’t about the transactional metrics of “we have XX followers;” it was about mitigating risks and taking care of the customer. Taking care of your customers will equal in better relationships and ultimately more revenue opportunities.

2)   Not only do we speak a foreign language, but we also see the business world differently. Folks who truly understand the power of using social for business approach problems and invent solutions differently than most of their contemporaries. It is easy to understand why many companies run to the next shiny object (Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr) and create pages but grow disappointed when their expectations don’t match reality. Social media strategists understand that it is possible to build a social media nirvana, but it can’t be done without a plan.  Not planning is planning to fail- Hillary Clinton.

3)   People are nice, at first. Remember when you were in middle school or high school and you met the foreign exchange student? Everyone on the first day is so nice and accommodating. By week two, all those friendly faces forget that coming to the States is a hard transition and resort to calling their habits “strange.” When you introduce a new concept everyone is nice, but when it comes to implementation, the gloves are off. Change is hard folks, especially when it comes to changing your perception of what social is and how it can be applied to your day job.

Bonus: You’re different. Just like European tourists who rock fanny packs. It has been my experience that folks who work in social media tend to be the disruptive type. We question the status quo, we like to try new things, which is why we tend to adopt things earlier than everyone else.  The social role is changing, but it can only change for the better if you’re up to the challenge.

Fun Fact Fridays: How Content Creation Helped Create Corporate Change

While preparing for a speaking proposal last month, I pulled together case studies how content creation can help start a quiet revolution for corporate change. I am a big believer that everyone in your organization has the potential to help promote the brand. Over time, employees’ contribution to content will be more important than what is said in your media release or company’s newsletters. But, this is a huge shift on how most business are operating today. Often times the employee is an untapped resource when it comes to content and social media.

Challenges of Building Social Business

There are a lot of conversations about how company today need to preparing for Web 3.0.  While there are many articles about this topic, one that I found as an awesome resource is from the Altimeter group on the challenges corporate social strategists are facing with bring social to their business.  Anyone interested in social and how to bring it to your company should read it.

The report outline challenges that I had experience when building my current organization’s social strategy. Most organizations are still struggling how to use social media and control its brand on those channels.  I would say many social strategists already know that the paradigm of control is already shifting. Specific to public relations and social, I spoke about the important of earn media a few weeks ago and its impact.

Image from Walker Zine (UK)

Image from Walker Zine (UK)

This sparked the idea about how companies should better leverage their employees for social media (also outline in the Altimeter paper). But beyond that, I began think how do you leverage your employees’ talents for content? This question is vital especially since you cannot participate in social if you do not have any content to share.

With this in mind, here are some of my own case studies that highlight the importance of content creation and brand advocates.

Rebranding Project

I had the fortune of working on rebranding project last year that really was more of a corporate culture shift. So, a couple of things we did that helped not only our content machine, but also our business:

  • For the prelaunch of our brand initiative we created an internal campaign to get folks excited about the brand and why employees where critical to the success of the overall project. The month-long campaigns yielded 4700 opens, 640 click-throughs, 2600 views on its internal site, and 150 posts. Our internal campaign won the Bronze Stevie for Communications Campaign of the Year – Internal in 2012. I also talked about the campaign in-depth in AMA Marketing News.
  • We assigned brand ambassadors for each department. They helped disseminate the message and distributed templates to their teams.
  • We went to each office (US, UK, and Australia) and kicked off the brand launch through targeted activities including what the new brand meant, architecture, how to talk about it, its impact on our marketing (example: events and webinars), and how to use it in terms of their daily work.  It was important that every office get the full impact and exposure of how important this initiative was.
  • Fun fact: I led our APAC brand launch in our Australia market. I spent my downtown touring Australia and where I took the photo for my blog. The photo is of The Twelve Apostles. If you don’t know where this is, it was taken from Port Campbell National Park on the Great Ocean Road, outside Melbourne, Australia.

Company Blog

  • We created a blog where internal (as well as external) folks can share their passion and expertise. To help folks with writing, we crafted guidelines to establish our brand messaging and overall tone. So far my corporate blog, which started in June 2012, has 21,000 page views, garners 2300 unique visitors a month with an average 2 minutes on site engagement.
  • Everyone has the chance to participate. We sought out folks who had something to say. Sometime, it was the customer support rep and other times it was our division leaders. We search high and low in the organization and didn’t use title as a prerequisite to contribute.
  • In order to quell my stakeholders’ need for equitable sharing of resources, we created an editorial calendar to make sure we had equal share of voice across business interests both domestic and international.

Social Media

  • After we streamlined some of our social assets, I led a few workshops how employees can use social more in their work.
  • As I wrote in my previous post, if you want your company to be more social train your people.
  • In addition to training, you need to provide some type of guidelines or playbook.
  • In addition to the playbook and training, we showed folks where to go to find content in addition to their own.
  • I repeated training, playbook, and where to find content often.
  • I encourage folks to follow me and other folks to find content.
  • I trained anyone independently when they asked. I am a true believer that mentoring and coaching are the keys to adoption.

While I don’t believe the above case studies were different or unique, the point of those are you can start a quiet revolution by planning small, but delivering big results.

16 Ways to Successfully Fuel Your Content Curation Machine

Content marketing or curation of content is everywhere. CMI this past year reported that 99 percent of software marketers use content marketing.  This stat alone suggests almost everyone is using content marketing to engage with current and prospective clients. What fuels the obsession with content? Depending on your organization’s goals it could be thought leadership, lead generation, or customer acquisition.
So is content strictly marketing’s problem?
I believe that content curation and creation is not isolated to marketing, everyone contributes: product, public relations, sales, executives, and the list goes on.  While the content is important, I think the process of curating is even more important.
Content Machine

I started to think about curation process after reading March’s release of Gartner’s 2013 Social Marketing Survey Finding: Content Creation Fuels Social Marketing.  The report discussed how digital marketers achieving effective social marketing create and curate content that speaks with an authentic voice. Social marketing depends on having something to say — something relevant and compelling.

But, how can your company curate relevant, and compelling content?

Rohit Bhargava described curation as the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. He goes on further to describe five models of curation and how each type contributes to different activities.
What is happening in today’s content teams isn’t an issue of not creating enough content, but rather too much content. Whether your social media strategist or communications super team is managing your content creation, it all doesn’t matter unless you have a strategy.

So, here are my thoughts on content curation and creation and the right ingredients for success:

  1. You need someone to lead it. Like cooking, too many chefs in the kitchen ruin the meal. Caution though, just because you led it doesn’t mean you can’t find co-contributors to collect ideas from everyone in your company. It just means you need someone to think about the content on the macro level. Great article from Marketing Profs on this. 
  2. You need executive buy-in.  Without someone buying into the purpose, not everyone in your group or division will support collectively creating content with a similar goal in mind.
  3. Get Organized. Create a company-wide editorial calendar that shows what you will produce, who is producing, what it is about, when to expect it. This is key to actually creating and curating the content rather than talking about it. Especially for curating, what themes or topics do you plan to share?
  4.  Assign responsibility. Not everyone has the same roles in curating or creating content. I think of this in terms of a RACI chart. Assign roles in terms of responsibility: Responsibility, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
  5.  Pull on the Same Rope. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Make sure you create a company-wide strategy. Otherwise everyone creates “content” and spams not only your clients, but also your prospective clients. Disorganization is a content killer.icon_light_bulb
  6.  Before You Create, You Participate. Before you start creating, really understand how your audience interacts and shares content in specific channels.
  7.  Think about your Buying Cycle. Develop content for each stage of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, repurchase (loyalty).
  8.  Curating doesn’t have use just One Platform. Your audience could want to consume in different ways short (Twitter) or long (blog).
  9.  Think Buyer Personas when you are creating. When you are writing your articles or posts whom are you writing for?
  10.  Solve for the Customer (S.F. T. C.). You should create content that satisfies the clients’ needs not your ego.
  11. Get Creative. Think beyond the traditional white papers or infographics. How does your audience like to consume content? Twitter, Blog, Facebook? Test different types and see what works best.
  12. Measure your Impact. Don’t go through the process of creating content and not measure its impact. Where was it shared? How often? Did folks go back to your website?
  13. Don’t forget to Share. Sharing is caring. Most companies create content and never consider how to promote it. Plan for promotion early in the process.
  14.  It’s okay to say No. Not all content needs to see the light of day. If it doesn’t support your strategy don’t produce it. Ever.
  15.  Have Something to Say. In order to create authenticate, relevant content you should be sharing something different that folks want to read. In the words of a former executive I worked with, “you need actual thoughts to successful create thought leadership.”
  16. Get Tough Skin. Managing your content process will be tough and folks love to say why something won’t work. Get tough skin and stick to your guns. I am a big proponent of using the data to help those detractors be your biggest advocates.
At the end of the day, the lack of planning is why most folks fail. Failing to plan is planning for failure. Start small. Whether you implement one idea or all sixteen, create small goals (S.M.A.R.T goals) and build a case so you can get better at not only the creating, but also curating.

Fun Fact Fridays: 8 Tips to Humanize Your Brand through Social Media

I had the chance to catch up with a former client about the success of his business. While he has double his business over the last few years, he is always looking for marketing advice. And I am always happy to give my two cents on how to use social media to drive awareness and traffic to your website. Over lunch, the conversation went from marketing to the benefits of social media and how it could humanize his brand.

We started chatting about how to get people to his site.  The usual tactics were employed: we have a blog; we work with our affinity partners, etc.

Then I started peppering him with questions like:

“Great, you have blog. How often are you updating it, are you consistently publishing relevant and informative content, have you optimized the blog for keywords, do your employees share the information with others, are your employees contributing to the blog?”

Then I ask my favorite question, “ Are you using social coupled with your blog to personalized the people in your company?”

His answer: Well…We should do more.

Our conversation got me thinking about how to humanize brands. While I am not a proponent of tactics driving strategy for social media, I think you first need to consider why your company should be social.  You need to have

People. Objective. Strategy. Technology

People. Objective. Strategy. Technology

purpose in your company’s social media efforts, it is all about P.O.S.T.

If you need a reason, here is one: social media is creating a two-way dialogue with people. Social media also produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC according to a recent study by Hubspot this year.

And let’s be clear, people are searching for your product or company way before they pick up the phone or send an email of interest. While the sales process is not necessarily longer, however, prospects have more resources to research your product online. Why not give them information to support each stage of the buying cycle.

So here are some tactics to consider;

1)   If you don’t have folks outside marketing contributing to your blog. Start today. You need employees to share industry news and trends. 

2)   Anyone working for your company should be positively promoting your organization through sharing industry news or company articles not always about you, but topics your current and potential customers care about.

3)   Worried that folks don’t get social media? Give them a playbook to help them understand how to use it professionally.

4)   People need guidelines, consider creating a social media policy.

5)   Don’t expect people to jump in and understand what you want them to do socially, train them.

6)   Have employees contribute to your blog on their interest.

7)   Encourage your folks to follow your social media channels and reshare to their followers.

8)   Be the influence and guide by your example.

Bonus. You need content to share right? Start using your employees to generate content for your blog

1)   The number on rule for your blog should be S.F.T.C (Solve for the Customer).

2)   Interview both employees and clients for the blog using a Q and A format.

3)   Have clients share best practices.

4)   Blogs are not exclusively for executives. Everyone should contribute.

5)   If you don’t make the blog a priority, no one else will.

Why is Earned Media Important?

Update 6.18.13

After reading about Google’s Penguin updates, I wanted to update my article about earned media because it will play an important role in your SEO strategy. Why? If you are keeping up on the new updates from Google’s Penguin 2.0, you have learned that off-page signals such as earned media will play a bigger role in your search engine optimization (SEO) practices. More importantly, I think that this latest updates show not only that relevant, worthy content is vital to your SEO strategy, but also plays a key role in your public relations strategy.

Content Marketing Institute wrote a great article about the changes, but you want to pay close attention to point four. An excerpt from the article is what makes me smile: Takeaway #4: Earned media and digital PR can help you recover from Panda. Driving a variety of quality digital signals is a future-proof SEO strategy. Content marketing and digital PR folks who primarily rely on their compelling content to drive search engine traffic should be smiling now because the future looks bright for them. It looks bright because with each algorithm update, Google gets even better at rewarding good content from authoritative people and brands.

So what does this mean to you?

  • Social mentions of your earn media is important. Make sure you are sharing those placements on your social channels.
  • If you have placed your earn media bets on trades, you have bet well. Keep that up! National coverage is better, but building your authority in your market is equally important. No surprises there
  • CMI mentions the importance of my favorite underused site, Slideshare. If you have presentations that have worthy, interesting points about your market or best practices, start up loading today. this will help with authority and off-page signals.

Previously published article from May 13, 2013.

Last week, I attended an amazing webinar from the folks at Vocus on earned media and how you should be using it more in your PR toolkit. I also created a Storify thread with all the great nuggets shared from the presentation.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, earned media is what others say about you whether it is in print or online media (think Twitter, Facebook, etc.). I believe earned media is the new media for the modern PR practitioner: PR folks are now working on placement not only with reporter from national or regional publications, but also bloggers, Twitter influencers, and other new media targets.

Why is it important? Earned media, in theory, is unbiased and unsolicited. When folks go to Google and search for your company, they can find all kinds of reactions and social shares that are unfiltered and not corporate speak. By far, earned media is the most trusted place as a source of information about a company (see below chart).

Earned Media: Most Trusted

Convergence of PR and Social Media

Why is earned media getting so much attention these days? I think the biggest reason fueling the concept is the convergence of public relations and social media. PR folks traditionally have been working on messaging and with the growth of social media, it makes sense we are blending our efforts to cover both social and traditional media. What I believe is different about earned media it is no longer just about what companies put in print, but rather what other influencers such as clients or advocates are saying. It is more of a blended world where everyone has a say. Not many corporate executives understand  they do not control the message megaphone when it comes to its company’s brand online and with social media. Organizations need to understand while they cannot control, they can influence.

Use Earned Media as an Opportunity to Share More

So many things you can do with a blog post or article such as sponsor a story, post it to your Google + account, Promote it on Twitter, or Syndicate the content.

So many things you can do with a blog post or article such as sponsor a story, post it to your Google + account, Promote it on Twitter, or Syndicate the content.

What struck me about this presentation was that this concept is new for most folks. If you are not repurposing your media coverage for other opportunities, you are missing out big time. The biggest opportunity is to take the coverage that is already written by someone else and use it for promotional or other marketing efforts. Hello! It is already trusted and valued since it is coming from someone else. Extend the life of your media coverage by using earned media as your hub for content.   Boom! There goes your reach by four times.

Sold? Learn More about Earned 

Earned media maybe new for you, but this concept of earned media is coming up more and more in the last few years. If you’re interested in learning more, Jeremiah Owyang from the Altimeter Group, wrote about the concept of earned media last year in the report, The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Must Combine Paid, Owned & Earned Media from Altimeter Group Network on SlideShare.

Fun Fact Fridays: Three Tips to Get More Twitter Followers

Like most folks who are new to new Twitter ask the common question : How do I get more followers?

While this question seems easy, getting more followers is a daunting task for folks who are unfamiliar with Twitter and its quirks. I decided to write this quick post after helping one of my team members the other day outline some keys to success.

1) Consider Your Purpose

This should be the first step in any social media experiment. In my previous role of leading my organization’s social media efforts, I followed a simple formula for success: P.O.S.T (People, Objective, Strategy, and Technology). Too many folks focus on the “T” and not enough on “O” or “S.” Sound familiar? This is one of the central themes in Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s book, Groundswell

If you join Twitter, what are you plans? What will you share with others? Why should other people care? By defining what you want to get out of participating in social media, you will be successful. This is not a shocking secret, however, many people fail to outline their goals. Social media is not about throwing things on the wall to see if it will stick, it is about having a plan and what you expect to get out of it. Plan and simple.

2) Careful Craft Your Bio

One of the first things I look for when following someone is the person’s profile. Why? I want to know what can I expect from following them. Your bio should tell a little about you. Maybe you like cooking or dancing cats.If you don’t have a profile set up with what your interest are, what you plan to share, you are making it harder for people to want to follow you.

Secondly, are your putting hashtags in your profile? The reason for the hashtag is so anyone who is interested in let’s say #PR, can perform a search and potentially find you. Hashtags are an easy way to let folks find your profile and want information you will share with them.

Bonus: please, please use a photo of yourself. No eggheads. People want to see who behind all those awesome nuggets and great information.

3)  Are you posting your handle on other social networks?

In every industry there are several groups that you can join to promote your personal brand. For example, in higher education, I follow and participate in several chats to learn about the trends in the industry. Here is one example of a directory or chat to follow:

Example of industry group

EDUtweetups is a great example of an industry group that hosts tweet chats to participate in.

Looking for your groups is fairly simple by just typing into Google. 

Additional you should be promoting your handle on LinkedIn, Google +,etc.  Don’t assume the people who are connected with you on LinkedIn are the same folks who follow you on Twitter. The whole premise behind Twitter is to share, in real time, your ideas, thoughts, and comments about current events, trends in your industry, and perhaps your opinion or position on hot topics. Sending tweets is not like status updates.

Bonus: You got this far so here’s an additional tip. Make sure your are sharing information multiple times in a day. Twitter is not like Facebook or LinkedIn where your status stays in someone feed. Your Twitter followers have their feeds constantly updating so make sure you are spreading out your tweets to maximize your exposure.