Monday, January 31, 2011

Snack Attack

Traditionalists complain that Americans' addiction to "content snacking" signals the death of long-form communication.

But content snacking only means marketers must embrace "lateral media distribution," says PR consultant Angelo Fernando in the current edition of IABC's CW Magazine.

While many Americans still crave the long form, their preference for content snacks presents a tasty opportunity to deliver stories in new and interesting ways.

"Instead of treating each medium as a source of a complete message, we can now treat different media channels as being tethered together, letting a message hop across from one to the other, laterally," Fernando writes.

When the most popular interfaces are smartphones, iPads and e-book readers, inspiring audiences demands a whole new way of thinking about your content.

How are you delivering your story?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Vision Thing

A friend of mine, Dan Bailes, has launched The Vision Thing, a blog devoted to "innovation, creativity and vision."

Dan's particular interest is the visual arts.

Dan has been blogging on the visual arts for many months, on behalf of his employer, a Washington, DC-based video production firm.

Now he's blogging on his own.

I can't recommend his posts enough.  The topics Dan choosesand the wholly original ways in which he explores themwill open your eyes to the creative process.

Take a look!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Roll Out Your Experts

PR firm Edelman just released its annual Trust Barometer.

With it, Edelman recommends that organizations begin now to broadcast the opinions of in-house experts.

That's because social media "over-friending" has triggered a falloff in trust of peers.

With the rise of social networks, trust in peers has fallen 21 points on the Trust Barometer during the past five years.

In 2006, 68% of people said they trusted peers.  Today, 47% say they do.

But trust in experts has increased 8 points during the same period.

In 2006, 62% of people said they trusted experts.  Today, 70% say they do.

"To stand out in a very cluttered media world, organizations must increasingly activate their internal subject matter experts as thought leaders," says Steve Rubel, director of insights for Edelman Digital.

Capitalizing on in-house experts isn't easy.  For tips, see my special report, Path of Persuasion.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Event Organizers: Playtime's Over

Playtime's over for event organizers, warns author and speaker David Nour in this month's edition of Convene.

It's time to get serious about social media marketing.

That means accepting "a core shift in buyer behavior" brought about by Web 2.0, Nour says. 

"In the past, meeting organizers educated these buyers with the mediumand at the timeof the organizer's choosing, piquing buyers' interest with a 'save-the-date' e-mail or direct-mail piece.  The search engine, however, has enabled buyers to call the shots."

Before ever hitting your Website, today's buyers have already vetted your organization, events, topics and speakers.  

As a result, when they finally do land on your Website, "you don't know if they are interested or available, let alone engaged," Nour says.

To cater to today's buyers, event organizers need to knuckle down:

  1. Start to use LinkedIn to develop buyer personas and create a brand that actually appeals to your target audience.
  2. Use social media to communicate a steady stream of benefits to buyers.
  3. Engage all the "influentials" before your event.
  4. Use real content to promote your event.
  5. "Stir the pot" on social networks.

Basics First

While you toy with the bright and shiny, don't forget the tried and true.

Writing in USA Today, strategist Rhonda Abrams reminds business owners it's essential to cover the basics before investing in trendy, new "marketing options." Owners should be sure to:

  • Attend industry conferences and join organizations;
  • Set up free business pages on line;
  • Contact your top 10 prospects every month;
  • Build your brand with a logo, colors and typefaces;
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat your message;
  • Tell people what they get, not what you do;
  • Publish an e-newsletter;
  • Develop a tagline and use it;
  • Exhibit at trade shows;
  • Build a Website and learn social media; and
  • Install a contact management system.
"Most important, make marketing a priority," Abrams adds.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Checklists Matter

Dr. Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto, makes the case for why experts need checklists.

The greater our expertise, he argues, the more we take things for granted.

As a result, we often communicate poorly:

  • We omit critical information (we believe others already know it)
  • We fail to be specific (we think others must know the specifics)
  • We resist clarifying our statements (we don't want to insult colleagues)
Checklists can compensate for these failings, as Gawande explains in a Podcast on the topic.  Check it out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's It About?

In the 20th Century, branding was about presentation.

Now, it's about conversation.

That's according to a recent article in Inc., The New Rules of Branding Your Business Online.”

The authors advise that the place to start is your "About Us" page, "where the world first clicks to learn about your company and the services you offer."

How can you capitalize on "About Us?"
  • Write short, crisp copy that focuses on connecting with visitors.
  • Include personal information in employees’ bios, such as hobbies and favorite activities; links to blogs and personal Websites; and e-mail addresses.
  • Show visitors you want to hear from them and have nothing to hide.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Combating Bob's Law

Q: Why is marketing like dieting and exercise?

A: All three share the same enemy.  Boredom.

That fact underlies the one irrefutable law of marketing. 

Call it "Bob's Law:"

A marketer will become bored with his own content three years before his prospects even notice it.

Now here's the rub: surrendering to Bob's Law has consequences.

Early abandonment of marketing content (because you're bored with it) has the same effect as early abandonment of a diet or exercise regimen (because you're bored with them).  Namely, no effect.

B-to-B marketing guru Ardath Albee takes note of the effect in her recent blog post, "The Power of Monotony in Content Marketing. "Boredom affects all marketers for the worse, Albee says.  "We think once we've shared an idea with our target audience that they've latched onto it and understand all it implies."

But this belief is mistaken.  "Changing your focus on a whim, because something new and shiny comes along, only creates friction with your leads because they must now choose to make the effort to re-orient themselves with your new idea."

As a marketer, you must resist the overwhelming urge to abandon your content simply because you're bored.

In brief, you need to combat Bob's Law.

There are many reasons, Albee points out, why it's foolish to abandon content early.  Consider just three:
  1. We understand our content much better than prospects do.
  2. It takes up to 12 exposures for any new idea to stick.
  3. 95% of executives say their top challenge is resistance to change.
The third reason is actually the most compelling.

As a marketer, you're not recommending benefits to one lonely prospect.  You're really suggesting organizational change.

"It's doubtful in a B-to-B complex purchase that only one person needs to be convinced to embrace change," Albee warns.

"Without cementing our ideas with our prospects, affecting change is made even more challenging.  Our marketing content needs to focus on making them so conversant with our ideas that their ability to persuade change is elevated."

When all's said and done, persuading prospects to change is the real reason to combat Bob's Law.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Good News, Bad News

Direct Marketing News reports that marketers will spend more on social media in the next 12 months, according to a study by platform provider Alterian.

2011 will be a "turnaround year," when recession-era cutbacks in marketing are reversed, the study shows.  

More than half (57%) of marketers expect their overall budgets to grow.

In addition, three quarters (75%) expect to spend more on social media during 2011 than last year.

But these same folks aren't sure how to take advantage of social media. 

A full third (33%) of marketers say they have little or no understanding of the brand-related conversations taking place.  And only a fourth (27%) say they report those conversations to management.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Meet. Play. Love.

Study after study proves, without doubt, that "face-to-face" is the most powerful marketing medium.

"Why?" you might ask.

The answer lies deep in our limbic system, says author and speaker Carol Kinsey Gorman, in a recent edition of Communications World Bulletin.

In face-to-face exchanges, besides spoken words, our brains process a cascade of nonverbal cues.

In fact, during face-to-face encounters, we interpret what people say only partly from the words they use.

We get most of the message from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language.

"Interactional synchronizing" occurs when people move at the same time in the same way, as when two people start to speak at the same time. Synchronizing often occurs when we're getting along with another and feel as though we're "on the same wavelength."

Interactional synchronizing is the result of our subliminal monitoring of, and response to, each other's nonverbal cues.

During face-to-face encounters, tiny structures in our brains called "mirror neurons" actually mimic others' behaviors, sensations and feelings.

Neuroscientists call the phenomenon "limbic synchrony."

The moment we see an emotion expressed on someone's face, or read it in her gestures or posture, we subconsciously place ourselves in the other's shoes.

For this reason, mirror neurons are sometimes referred to as "Dalai Lama neurons," because they provide a biological basis for compassion.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How's Your Platform?

Want to spend 50% less time on marketing?

Fashion a "platform" to support your communications.

In his blog, copywriter Justin Rubner suggests that working with a platform cuts content-development time.

"Without one, your team is executing marketing communications in silos," Rubner writes.  As a result, you double the time needed to finish projects, "because you can't agree on how to say what it is you actually do."

Working with a platform eliminates that waste.

Designing your platform, according to Rubner, begins with discovery.

During discovery, you bring all parties together, so they can agree on the things that distinguish your organization.

From discovery emerge:
  • A plain-language Positioning Statement
  • An evocative About Us
  • Brief Boilerplate (aimed at reporters and investors)
  • A Competitive Analysis (including competitors’ taglines)
  • Creative Concepts (sample taglines and headlines)
  • A Style Guide (governing capitalization, spelling, use of acronyms, etc.)
  • Website Navigation
  • Power Words to drive SEO and
  • Core Recommendations (key phrases and tone of voice)
How's your platform?

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Treasure Trove of Information

Why do customers vanish?

"Customer attrition is largely based on indifference," says Ardath Albee, author of e-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale in her blog.

Marketers pay so much attention to prospects' learning needs they seem to forget that customers' needs differ:

  • Customers expect you to know how and why they use your products.
  • Customers expect personalized, useful content, not "blanket emails that could be for anyone."
"The content you create for prospects is not the content your customers want or need," Albee says.

What, develop specialized content? 

Sounds like a lot of work. 

But the good news: you have ready access to customers.  You can easily learn what content will be helpful to them. 

All you need do is ask.

"A veritable treasure trove of information exists if you'll just go after it," Albee says.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Advice for PR Pros

In a recent blog post, social media guru Chris Brogan warns PR pros, "If you’re just a pretty face who helps people get their free gift bag, it’s time to level up."

Web 2.0 is about to make your job a lot harder.

"2011 is about looking at all the wealth of data the social Web brings you about your clients’ activities, and it’s about giving them informed decisions on what to do next," Brogan writes.

He recommends that PR pros:

Develop proprietary communities. "Platform fatique" is driving customers from "commons" like Facebook and Twitter to micro-communities.  The PR pro who builds a tiny online community that targets a client's customers is developing a property with remarkable long-term value.

Devote more energy to content development.  Formerly the baliwick of marketing, content is now the "coin of the realm."  PR pros need to think content.

Focus on generating sales.  "The PR agency or department that helps drive sales into the business are the ones who'll flourish in 2011."

Get a grip on analytics.  Knowing how to blog or post on Facebook is no longer enough.  "2011 is about looking at all the wealth of data the social Web brings you about your clients’ activities, and it’s about giving them informed decisions on what to do next."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Grumpy Old Friends

A new report from Forrester Research, 2011: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough, predicts that spam filters will begin to block many Tweets and Status Updates this year.

The new filters, designed to cut clutter, will stop not only many of the messages sent by marketers, but those same ones passed peer-to-peer.

Forrester also predicts a spike this year in worries about privacy, especially among Boomers and seniors, who are rapidly warming to social media.

Growing mistrust will make it harder to engage customers and gather friends and followers in 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

To E or Not to E?

Should an association replace its magazine with an e-book?

One group who'd answer no: advertisers.

That's according to "Five Reasons Not to Go Digital Only with Your Association Magazine," a new white paper from Ideas Communicated, a design firm in Washington, DC.

As the white paper makes clear, while e-book readership is on the rise, response to the ads in e-books isn't.

This finding should make any association executive think twice before substituting a magazine with an e-book.

Of course, when it comes to curbing expenses, a cheap substitute for almost anything can be alluring.  

In fact, cheapness is the chief reason e-books are such "bright and shiny objects."

But the switch may cause advertisers to abandon the association, triggering losses far greater than the gains made through savings.

In other words, killing a magazine may spare some expenses, but could cost more in the long run.

Or as Ben Franklin, a publisher himself, once said, "The best is the cheapest."

Disclosure: Ideas Communicated is a client of mine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Humanizing the Medical Meeting

Event planners are experimenting with people-friendly designs to improve the productivity of medical meetings, as my recent article in CONVENE illustrates.

Planners' efforts to reinvent the "soft side" of these gatherings makes sense in light of hard data we have from neuroscience.

According to Cornell University’s just-published white paper, The Future of Meetings, the value of medical meetings derives in large part from the “emotional contagion” they feed.

“In a nutshell, people tend to express and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by the emotions of others,” according to coauthors Christine Duffy and Mary Beth McEuen.  “Research has confirmed that emotions, attitudes, and moods do, in fact, ripple out from individuals and, in the process, influence not only other individuals’ emotions, thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, but also the dynamics of the entire group.”

By humanizing the meeting space, planners can create a positive “emotional contagion,” instead of a negative one.  And if positive emotions rule, the whole medical meeting becomes significantly more productive.

Disclosure: FutureShow, the event design firm profiled in CONVENE, is a client of mine.
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