Communications Strategy

Is Your Content Really Truly King?

Posted on April 6, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Content is king.

It’s a popular catch-phrase of many a marketer.

But how many actually practice what they preach?

Talking the talk and walking the walk are two different things. From what I can tell, there’s a heck of a lot more talking than walking.

Generic content abounds

Case in point: I’m working on a consulting job where I recently completed a competitive analysis of approximately two-dozen websites belonging to organizations all operating in the same field of business. The analysis considered a variety of factors including website design, information architecture, branding, content and use of social media.

I observed discernable differences in design, user friendliness and overall site organization. Certain sites had more videos and podcasts. This seemed mainly a sign of financial standing — the well-off places can afford more of these assets.

The character and tone of web text ranged from technical to institutional to consumer-friendly. Meanwhile, the messages and information contained in text and videos for nearly all sites was so similar as to be interchangeable. “We have innovative cutting-edge technology, teams of experts, personalized service.” Blah, blah. Yadda, Yadda.

Content is often created in a vacuum

When everyone’s saying pretty much the same thing you’re not making a case for why to choose your product or service over someone else’s.

All too often organizations create content in a vacuum. Their goal is to meet business objectives and state their offering.

But really, that’s the least you can do. For content to be king you must present compelling distinctions that make someone think, “Ah, now there’s a difference that matters to me. I’ll go with this one.”

It isn’t just about you, or even your customers. It’s also about your competitors.

It’s the difference between being a commodity and being a preferred choice.

Put your website to the test

Surely this is not news. Still odds are if you conduct a competitive analysis of websites for businesses operating in your industry you’ll notice a lot of repetition.

In fact why not do it? Visit the websites of your competitors. Read the text, view the videos and listen to the podcasts. See if you can pick out even a handful of differences in content and messaging. I mean real points of singularity, not simply using other words to say essentially the same thing. Be sure to include your own site in the analysis.

If your content stands out, more power to you. If not, start planning for how to make it so.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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Is Your Web Content A Whole Lot Of Nothing?

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , |

This week I toured a health center facility.

I’m part of a team hired to overhaul its website and we took the tour to glean information for our content strategy.

The woman who showed us around gave us good fodder for our project. We asked questions about all kinds of things and wondered what she thought of the website we’re planning to redo.

She offered a number of suggestions and said the site doesn’t have enough information.

A curious comment

Back in the office a colleague expressed surprise at that comment. The site has nearly 200 pages and is chock full of text. How can it be light on info?

I reckoned our guide meant the site doesn’t have enough useful information.

Clutter hides the good stuff

Our tour enabled us to realize this is a fabulous facility with numerous one-of-a-kind advantages.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from the website. Someone who wants valuable insight into what this center provides, its benefits, or how it differs from other places offering similar services, would be hard-pressed to figure it all out.

Many of those details are in fact noted on the current site. That good stuff, however, is surrounded by extraneous text. It gets lost amid the clutter.

How too much can add up to nothing

Our team has more research and planning to do for this web project. We’ll have follow-up questions for our guide and will probe more deeply to determine what information she’d like to see on the site.

Meanwhile, there’s a simple lesson to be learned here.

Take a look at your website. How much of the content offers real value to users? How much is superfluous filler?

Tip: Too much needless information becomes a whole lot of nothing. Clear out the clutter.

– Deni Kasrel

So what do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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What Makes An Effective Corporate Video?

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video on your website worth?

Plenty more. Or a lot less.

It depends on the video. And the website.

If you’re an individual “citizen” blogger, you may be fine with something that has a homemade look. People will often give you a pass. They’ll accept that you’re not a big operation with deep pockets to invest in high-end video.

The quality of your video reflects on your entire company

If you’re a business, people may still give you a pass. Only in a different way. They’ll think, “Gee, how unprofessional. I wonder if the rest of the company is up to snuff.” So they pass you by and head to a competitor’s site.

A slapdash video is a poor reflection of your entire company.

Interview with video pro: Melissa Shusterman, director, D4 Digital

Melissa Shusterman, director of digital video and web communications at D4 Digital, a division of the Philadelphia-based D4 Creative agency, knows how to create professional internet videos that communicate your value proposition in engaging fashion.  Formerly a producer who’s worked with MTV, VH1 and FX, she’s also noted as an innovator of episodic web video.

Melissa and I recently had a nice chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Use of video online is getting a lot more popular. How do you see that trend going forward?

Melissa: YouTube is the fastest growing audience online. And its audience is far beyond the under-21 age group… Yet YouTube is filled with crap. There’s a lot of nonsense. You’re seeing a dog sit, or a baby cry, or a person rant. It’s amazing because people watch it. The power of receiving your information through someone’s mouth, or moving pictures, is incredible.

Why is that?

Melissa: Because we are human and we like to feel like we are spoken to directly and that we’re connecting with someone’s body language. Their eyes. Their opinion. It almost feels like a conversation, even in a video that doesn’t have a person looking right at you. Take that guy who talks about wine but screams at you. He’s a prime example. Why would people want to listen to that? Because instead of reading a PDF about the top four wines with a picture of a wine bottle, which is highly impersonal; you suddenly got to connect with a person who is as passionate about wine as you are.

Many businesses don’t see the need for video. They have a website and they think that’s enough. How do you convince them otherwise?

Melissa: Well, one of our clients, a media company… I told them, “I just Googled your company and looked you up on YouTube, and … there was something that came up with someone cursing with your company name associated with it. It looks like you’re not thinking about that world. But other people are posting about you in that world. So do you want your company to be perceived like that? Because maybe you’re not Googling or YouTubing, but millions of other people are.

So they say… “We already have plenty of video. Why don’t we take the video we have now and stick that up on the web?” Well, that’s for broadcast. We need to film things specifically for internet use.

With certain clients you advocate the use webisodes; a series of short episodic videos. How does the impact of that differ from a TV commercial?

Melissa: With a commercial you have the constraints of 15, 30 or 60 seconds. It’s a more traditional medium to convey a very specific message. When you have webisodes, it’s organic. It can be a continual message that can be woven into something that’s entertaining and informative.

When you watch a commercial it’s an assault at you. They’re great and some are highly entertaining, but they’re very quick. Sometimes you don’t even really know what you are seeing.

When you have a personality, or a character, or a storyline, that’s in two-minute increments for 10 days; or a lifetime; you are getting to know the brand better, You are getting the added value of a longer format and the information that can unfold.

Companies often go with a “talking head” approach on their homepage. Do you think that can still be effective?

Melissa: In the past you would have a talking head and it was about two inches wide and one inch tall.  The players are much broader today. So now maybe it’s taking up a third of the homepage and it’s taking away some the space you used to have for your messages. So instead of having the CEO speak, that video should encompass your messages.

The CEO could tell the messages. What’s the difference with what you’re referring to?

Melissa: Graphic pictures, voiceover and music can convey a compelling message and it can guide people further into your website. Video messaging is now multi-layered and engaging… I can talk about this for hours but the simple thing is, people Google your company. They land on your page. Do they understand what you do, or do they go to the competition?

It’s one of the components of integrated media that’s going to be essential for being current. People do not read. People watch… If it’s people’s first impression of your company, the message doesn’t have to be long. But there should be entertainment value and it needs to be authentic… Pick a genre that fits your company. Possibly documentary style. Or like a sitcom. Whatever fits your clientele.

Are there any common mistakes that you can identify with corporate videos?

Not being up-to-date. You’ve got to stay current. It’s like wearing a bad pair of jeans. When you’re current it shows you’re investing in the future and you’re moving forward as a company. So it’s not something that you just do once.

Anything else?

Things that are too long. People are busy. Keep it short. Even if it’s got humor, because after someone laughs they’re ready to move on.

It’s always about the consumer or the potential consumer. It’s not necessarily about the company. That’s true of all good marketing.

What if a company says they’ll just repurpose commercials? They’re short. What would you tell them?

Melissa: Don’t repackage what you do for broadcast for the internet. People are savvy. The minute they know it’s a commercial you’ve made a mistake. You’ve turned them off… You have a captive audience. If someone is sitting at their computer it’s different than watching TV where they may be on the phone. Walking around. Feeding the kids. Doing sit-ups.  They’re half listening. When someone opens up something and it’s speaking directly to them and you haven’t captured the audience, shame on you.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Melissa’s thoughts on what makes for an effective corporate video? Comments welcome.

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Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 2)

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

January is prime time for crystal ball gazing. You know, looking into the future.

And while we can’t predict all that’s yet to come, we can expect exciting times ahead.

My previous post, Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 1), featured forecasts from several individuals whose ideas and opinions I greatly admire. They’re all deep thinkers who understand communications on many different levels.

A couple other pals were kind enough to offer their two-cents regarding where communications are headed in the coming year, and because these seers sent in lengthier responses, they warrant a separate post.

Here it is, part two of Communications Trends For 2010:

On social media, mobile technology and transparency

From: Jason Spector, a creative and crowdsourcing consultant standing at the crossroads of user experience, community, design and social media. Blog: Jason Spector. Twitter @JasonSpector

Dashboard tools accelerate social media usage

“We’re going to see a more seamless integration of the various communication channels. Going forward, I see a standard communication tool like email or social dashboard providing much of this information pulling from the various sites, like a social/communication profile dashboard. Web clients will probably come first followed by desktop apps. This will lead to a wider acceptance and usage of social media overall.”

Social media permeates the business space

“Businesses of all sizes will get serious about social media. Companies that are still ignoring it are going to be driven into it or truly left behind. Companies that are already involved with it are going to dedicate resources, plan for it and attach an ROI. It’s going to become a major part of marketing and customer engagement initiatives (if they’re not already) and not as much of a secondary effort.”

Mobile plays a much bigger role

“This is an obvious one, but I think the software and hardware of upcoming mobile devices will focus even more on communications, such as AR [augmented reality], gaming, photo, video, file viewing/sharing, conferencing and collaboration. Businesses are also going to focus more on mobile as a viable interactive device for their branding and marketing, such as virtual promotions.”

Transparency is no longer optional

“Consumers are going to demand more transparency from the companies they engage with. They have a huge amount of tools at their fingertips to learn about a company, talk about them and communication with them. It’s no longer just user reviews on sites. Social tools allow for instant support or criticism. The businesses that are honest and open will be accepted (and promoted) while ones perceived as “hiding something” will be seen negatively whether it’s true or not.”

Real-time, Twitter and the ideal integrity profile

From: Autom Tagsa, business communicator, web marketer, corporate specialist and pensive technophile. Blog: autom8. Twitter @autom8

The push for real-time will add complexity but drive other opportunities

“We’ve seen this wave engulf the online stream throughout the latter half of this year. As Google, Microsoft and other major players fiercely compete to secure market share in real-time search, it leaves one wondering just how this flurry of immediacy impacts the day-to-day user: How are they expected to (a) understand/appreciate the technological advancement, and, if they don’t care, how are they (b) expected to effectively filter the barrage of information. Also, as other leading start ups introduce more sophisticated tools that aim to better monetize online ads in real-time, this may well create opportunities that the online advertising industry sorely needs.”

Twitter’s broader penetration will bring us to the next level

“Twitter-r-us. Need I say more? I have long postulated that Twitter will be the driving force that reshapes certain existing and traditional forms of communications. Beyond democratization and paving level playing fields, it is fast becoming a recognized, universal channel (not necessarily for accurate nor meaningful info) but nonetheless ‘the go-to channel’. I’ve already seen ‘follow me on twitter’ embedded as a standard icon on many a communicator’s or company’s online vehicle. Why not on press releases, biz cards, signs, ads, etc. — “follow me” is the new calling card. As I have said many times before ‘Twitter is the iconic face of social media so it’s certainly become prime time and will be more so in 2010 as it begins to penetrate the business environment with upcoming biz-oriented tools.”

Synthesis of the corporate and personal brand will be a market differentiator

“What’s become apparent this year is how loud and clear we all heard chatter surrounding integrity, transparency and one’s corporate or organizational face online. Many struggle to reconcile with the notion of personal brand versus corporate brand, ghost writing/tweeting, etc. as discussions surrounding both ethical and best practice implications begin to colour what we perceive as effective communication versus credible communication and why the “ideal integrity profile” really ought to embody both aspects.

The ones who will secure a trusted following and an attentive audience are those who are able to successfully meld their personal brand with their corporate identity. It will give them a kind of passionate voice behind a stoic product or service. This is purely a visceral interpretation on my part but I think it merits closer attention. We’ll see more and more of that synthesis happening.”

And in conclusion…

All that sure gives us plenty to ponder, eh? Jason and Autom, thanks so much for your two-cents; although I really think your thoughts are worth a lot more.

And readers, follow these gents on Twitter to keep up with what’s on their minds in real-time.

– Deni Kasrel

What do you think of Jason and Autom’s trend predictions for 2010? Have some of ideas your own? Please share. Comments welcome.

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The State of Social Media Marketing

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

With so many social media tools and tactics to choose from how do you know what’s best to promote your brand?

You’re not looking to simply follow the hype, right?

Better to go with well-researched data regarding the reality of the many social media options. Learn about true-life success stories (and failures, to avoid making those same mistakes). Figure out what fits your situation and use that information as a guide.

Ah, but where to begin?

Well, for starters, there’s a new report by MarketingProfs called The State of Social Media Marketing. Based on survey results from 5,000+ professionals, it covers a lot of ground, to include budgets, benchmarks, metrics, trends and most/least effective strategies. The 242-page report comes chock full of graphs and charts. It’ll keep you busy for a nice while.

Meantime, I asked Tim McAtee, MarketingProf’s director of research, to provide a little peek under the covers. He most graciously obliged with this illuminating Q&A interview, which hits on a number of key areas addressed in the report.

There are plenty of marketing surveys out there, yet you claim yours is different and is more nuanced. Can you elaborate?

Tim: There are three big differences:

  1. We have a much bigger sample than other studies, which means aggregate trends are more likely to be accurate, and there are enough respondents to look at really specific smaller cuts of the data and still have projectable findings.
  2. We acknowledge that there is a difference in voice when it comes to social media—the voice of “the corporation”, “the worker”, and “the person”.  We all put on different hats at different times and use social technology very differently depending on which of these voices we’re using at the time.  It’s really important to acknowledge that and to structure survey questions to allow for that difference to be shown in the data.
  3. Because social media is a very human endeavor, we tried to think about it in very human terms.  For example, we looked at personality types and corporate culture to see if there was correlation between these and social media usage and success (there was).  Also, instead of just asking about social media budgets, we asked about time-spent with social media.

Can you explain the methodology – how was the survey conducted?

Tim: The core of the study is a survey sampling our base of 300,000+ MarketingProfs members.  Most studies go out trying to find social media users, then ask them about usage.  This creates an imbalance in the data from the start.  It’s all numerator, no denominator.  We survey as many marketers as possible regardless of social media use to get a better sense of who is not using social media, and why, in addition to who is.  Out of the 5,140 marketers we asked, about 70% are using social media for work purposes.  In addition to this survey data, we pull in outside panel data to look at consumer usage of media and technology.  For this study, we turned to ComScore for up-to-date numbers on usage of a variety of social websites and tools both in the US and globally.

You surveyed the relationship between corporate culture and social media success — what did you find to be the most and least ideal type of culture for social media support and success?

Tim: The one consistently negatively correlating corporate culture across all types of success metrics was “prefers to maintain the status quo”.  On the positive side, a willingness to have “honest internal dialogue about marketing successes and failures” was often key.  However, it’s not quite that simple.  Companies with nothing to hide did well with more open marketing tactics like unrestricted employee blogging, while highly secretive companies did well with more controlled tactics like PR and managed communities.  In other words, companies should be fitting the right tactics to their culture, not revamping their culture to keep up with irrelevant tactics.

What about B2B vs. B2C – what are the major differences as to how these two market sectors are approaching social media? Why do you think this is so?

Tim: I think the difference is really just one of reach and target audience size.  Consumer-facing companies tend to favor direct communication with large numbers of people, while business-facing companies focus more on the quality of a short list of contacts.  The tactics you use to promote building the size of your lists vs. nurturing a small list are very different.  The one thing both do well is to use social media to listen.

Spending for social media is growing. Where do you see the biggest increase – what aspect is getting the most attention expense-wise?

Tim: Expense-wise, the biggest cost has to be employee time.  After that, probably analytics.  Automating the listening and customer-service aspects of social media is key to scaling up corporate usage of these platforms.

What did you find out about the true cost of social media?

Tim: There’s kind of a gray-market of social media work going on.  60% of marketers using social media at work for work purposes aren’t actually paid to do so—it’s not “technically” part of their job.  I think the true cost of social media is hidden.

Are companies now creating new roles specific to social media, or is it still more an add-on to other responsibilities?

Tim: It’s more of an add-on responsibility at present.  Who does what depends largely on role.  CEOs are often staying late to blog and tweet and generally maintain the thought-leadership aspects of social media, while PR people and customer service people are suddenly trying to handle complaints on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.  Ideally, companies should be creating roles and guidelines regarding who does what when it comes to social media to ensure that strategic goals are being met and employee time is spent wisely.  In other words, the CEO shouldn’t be handling complaints on Twitter, and some junior PR person probably shouldn’t be blogging on behalf of the corporation.

If it’s more an add-on, does that short-change social media efforts?  Or is this indicative of how social media needs to be integrated into marketing, as opposed to being seen as something separate?

Tim: All media is becoming social.  It’s inextricable.  Smart people need to figure out how to make the best of it.  The hard part will be sorting the signal from the noise.  That’s why it’s so important to have analytical systems in place.  Are three crazy people complaining about your product on Twitter or is this a groundswell you need to pay attention to before it develops into a mass-media news story that does lasting damage?  Should you route information coming from consumers to your R&D department, your customer service department, or your PR department?  As these new channels open up, companies need to adapt their existing internal communication systems to handle input from unexpected sources.

You have a section devoted to “Most and Least Effective Social Media Tactics and Strategies” – can you give a top level overview of these findings?

Tim: Listening works very well, broadcasting often doesn’t.  Targeting niche groups with highly relevant information is much easier and effective when you know who you’re talking to.

I loved the question: “What are some commonly used but counterproductive social media tactics.” Can you offer some insight about the most telling responses?

Tim: Counter-productive tactics mostly have to do with using social media platforms like broadcast platforms. Dialogue is a lot more work than monologue and most marketers aren’t prepared for that. They present their broadcast message which either falls on deaf ears because no one cares, or people do care, respond, and the marketer is suddenly swamped with thousands of responses they can’t handle.

A section of the report covers the topic: “Do Social Media Workers Think Differently? Differences found in the values and personalities of social media workers.” That one sounds fascinating. When you say differently, how do you mean– different from what? And then, what did you find out about how social media workers’ personalities and other characteristics may differ from other marketers (or maybe they’re the same, after all).

Tim: We looked at Meyers-Briggs types and values statements, then compared them to social media usage to see where differences arise.  We found that there were more similarities than differences, but that those most involved in social media professionally do indeed over-index on very specific personality traits, such as the desire to mix their work and personal lives.  Based on some spikes in the data, Intuitive Extroverts that are not perfectionists, but will “roll with the punches” seem to be the best fit for social media marketing, especially when they are already doing a job that involves a lot of writing.

Did any of the results surprise you? Anything that stood out and made you think “wow” now that’s really something?

Tim: What surprised me the most was how complicated the results were.  There are really few trends that apply to all types of people or all types of companies.  The learning curve for figuring out how to incorporate and take advantage of social media at the corporate level is much steeper than I expected.

If you had to narrow it down to two big takeaways from this report, what would they be?


  1. Social media seems inevitable, so every company needs to be adapting their current business operations to factor in these channels of communication, including paying people to work them.
  2. Figuring out your social media strategy is far more important than immediately enacting a bunch of social media marketing tactics.  Don’t listen to anyone advocating one-size-fits-all social media tactics, with the exception of using social channels to listen—everyone can benefit from that.  Instead, map tactics back to an over-arching strategy that makes sense for your company and your customers.

-Deni Kasrel

How do YOU see the state of social media marketing? Does it fit what you read about here, or is it different? Please share your thoughts and experience.

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Recommended Reading: Six Pixels of Separation

Posted on November 7, 2009. Filed under: Books, Business Strategy, Communications Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Six Pixels of Separation (book cover) In Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone. Mitch Joel recounts the tale of how in the 1500s the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez captained 11 ships carrying more than 500 soldiers to Mexico on a mission to conquer the Aztecs. Many fell ill along the way and others were intimidated while in foreign surroundings. When worried soldiers asked their leader about his plan for returning home Cortez responded by burning the ships. There was no going back.

New channels, new ways

Today, entrepreneurs and business marketers must contend with foreign territory, in the form of new channels, new platforms and new audiences that are upending old ways. Mitch Joel believes you can either cling to the past (a surefire route to eventual failure) or you can burn the ships and learn how survive in the new world.

There is no going back

YouTube, Twitter, podcasts, blogs, user reviews and other online options enable anyone to create content that can be seen by everyone.

The challenge is for marketers to connect with consumers in these channels in ways that are honest and meaningful and that enable businesses to monetize their efforts.

Losing control is a good thing

Change occurs so rapidly in the digital era we can’t know where it’s all headed.

While uncertainty unnerves some, Joel adopts a seize-the-day attitude.

He believes a world where anyone can say whatever they want about your brand or business is a good thing. After all, he declares, “You will see and hear the types of insights and comments you never normally have access to.”

Convert consumers into marketers (for your brand)

Brands have many options for building communities and Joel stresses that in the end it’s the quality not the quantity of the relationships that matter. Focus on creating an engaged community rather than simply going for heavy traffic.

Successful communities instigate word-of-mouth that builds exponentially through the power of networks. This scares executives who are afraid of losing control of their brand.

Joel argues that while you can’t control the conversation “You can control whether or not you take part. You can control whether you will encourage your consumers to be so passionate they actually start marketing your company for you.”

Dare to be bold: Open up your brand assets

One of Joel’s suggestions for how to instill passion in consumers is sure to raise eyebrows from old-school brand managers — he advises to openly provide “the tools they need to change your brand.” This includes access to logos, text, audio and video.

The old way is to control all those assets. It’s dangerous to let consumers have at your brand willy-nilly. Joel reckons consumers are going to do whatever they want with your brand anyway, so you might as well be a part of the process. By freely giving your assets you send a message that you stand behind your brand.

Mitch Joel walks the talk

New market dynamics shift communications from mass media to mass content. Joel’s view on how to create effective content that clicks with consumers is spot on.

That’s no surprise considering he writes a successful blog and has a popular podcast series, both of which are also titled Six Pixels of Separation (and of which I am a fan).

With those digital avenues, and with this book, Joel is an astute observer of human behavior. He understands how people think and react and knows how you can connect and contribute in order to get people to care about the same things you do.

Joel also runs a marketing agency called Twist Image. He’s an enterprising entrepreneur and a fair portion of his book offers insights into how self-starters can become their own media channel; and not just in the obvious ways, like starting a blog (though he does cover that). He explains how to create a credible personal brand, and how you can make that brand come alive in the real world by leading offline activities, like a PodCamp, a kind of self-organizing “unconference.”

Engage with a spirit of adventure

Six Pixels of Separation helps you recognize how moving from mass media to mass content is like exploring a new world rife with opportunity. It helps you gain the confidence to evolve with a spirit of adventure.

It’s inspiring, and yes, contagious.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the ideas presented in Six Pixels of Separation? Do you agree with Joel’s burn the ships attitude? Maybe you have your own example of how you created a successful community and/or a personal brand. Please share. Comments welcome.

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How To Captivate An Audience

Posted on October 8, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hand holding a Poken device If you’re giving a presentation and want the audience to hang on your every word here’s a tip: Announce you’ll give away free stuff to people who answer questions correctly during your talk.

Trust me, it works like a charm.

I saw it in action during Peter Shankman’s keynote address at the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009 sponsored by Innovation Philadelphia.

Reel ’em in

Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out, a.k.a. HARO, a free service that connects reporters to sources for articles.

He gave a breakfast talk, and though the caffeine had barely kicked in, Shankman held the crowd in rapt attention, because from time to time he’d ask a question and then toss out a small box to whomever gave the correct response.

No one knew what the heck the freebie was, but no matter. Shankman deemed it a “cool new toy” — ‘nuff said.

The Poken: It’s huge in Europe

Poken device plugged into a laptopAt the conclusion Shankman revealed the cool toy was a Poken — which like David Hasselhoff, is huge in Europe. This small USB-enabled device lets you transfer your contact information, including social network info, to someone else’s Poken, and vice versa. It’s an electronic social business card that plugs into your computer to download the information collected.

Shankman predicted the Poken would soon be a big deal in the States, too. Time will tell on that score, but the point is, the chance to win a nifty mystery thingamabob kept all ears riveted on the speaker.

This is not to suggest that he’d have otherwise lost the audience; Shankman is an entertaining guy and worth hearing in any event. I’m just saying the freebie factor made the desire to listen all the more intense. Also, by asking questions there was audience interaction — another good way to reel folks in.

How to succeed in business (using social media)

As for the content of his address, “Social Media, It’s Simply Trust,” Shankman declared that to succeed in selling through social media you must not only build a better mousetrap, but build one that’s hard to copy. Because things get passed around fast and imitators abound.

He then revealed the four rules he employed to build HARO into a successful service (it has in excess of 100,000 members).

Be transparent

A fundamental rule of social media is to be who you say you are — don’t be a poser.

Shankman says don’t lie about anything. If you mess up, admit it, accept the blame and make it right.

The web makes it easy for people to dig around and uncover buried information, hence he advises:

“The biggest mistake is not making a mistake. It’s attempting to cover it up and think you won’t get caught.”

Be relevant

Beyond saying or passing on something of value you need to know how your audience wants to get information. Web site, mobile device, video, podcast, blog, press release, email — however your audience wants to receive information, you need to serve it up.

If you don’t know what they want, ask. Shankman observes:

“If you’re not reaching your audience the way they want, they’ll go somewhere else. And not only that, they have the ability to bitch about it to all their friends, which they will do.”


Along with being the soul of wit, brevity is essential in a society where simple text messages, microblogging and short attention spans rule. Keep it concise and relevant and be sure there are no spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Stay top of mind

Happy Birthday Post-it note (Big stock image)Keep in touch with the people in your network just to say, “Hey, what’s up?” Or, do something like Shankman does, which is to send out birthday wishes to everyone in his Facebook network.

The emphasis here is to have an interest in the person you’re contacting (it’s not about you). Shankman’s wise words:

“Studies show we talk to roughly three percent of our network on a regular basis. All you have to do to be great is be a half a percent better than everyone else.”

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Shankman’s ploy to keep everyone interested? What about his four rules for business success through social media? Comments welcome.

Related posts:

Who And What Drives Innovation And Creativity?

Creative Economy Summit Converges In Philadelphia

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Who and What Drives Innovation and Creativity?

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit, logo 2009This same time last year our nation was reeling from a financial system in freefall. We’re still in recovery mode, however, if necessity is indeed the mother of invention, then the situation will ultimately spur a windfall of ingenuity.

Such was the spirit of the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009, held earlier this week in Philadelphia.

The agenda featured numerous panels and workshops. I often wished I had the ability to be in two places at the same time. Perhaps someone will be creative enough to figure out how to make that happen.

I still packed a lot in. Here’s Part 1 of my condensed notes, plus one of many memorable slides seen at the conference:

A cool slide

Let’s begin with that slide, screened at the panel on Regional Creative Economic Strategies. It’s from the deck of Karen Gagnon who’s the dynamic program manager of a major urban revitalization project in Michigan called “Cool Cities”.

Gagnon stressed that the success of “Cool Cities” in part relies on the fact that it does not enforce mandates. Instead, the program finds allies in individual cities that are able to gain the input and buy-in of local groups and communities. Get a look at how Gagnon illustrated her point here:

Government can NOT mandate cool

Man, you gotta love that one.

Now here’s more snippets from speakers and panelists at the conference:

Welcoming remarks: Peter Kageyama, Partner, Creative Cities Productions

  • The creative economy is all about whales and krill. Google is clearly the whale, but so much of the creative economy is about smaller companies that are the krill in the water, and in aggregate the krill are far bigger; it’s just harder to see.
  • We are the most overly marketed to generation ever, yet we believe almost none of it.
  • Green is the new black: To attract members of the creative class organizations and cities must reflect their values. Green (in the context of sustainability) is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must have.

Keynote address: Elizabeth Gilbert, author, Eat Pray Love

  • The expectation in our society is that we must constantly outdo ourselves, and in this relentless drive, we cannibalize our ability to be true artists.
  • We are pressed to be innovative but we must also be gentle and patient with ourselves.
  • Follow curiosity wherever it takes you; and for writers, take a line for a walk across the page.

Workshop: Get to ‘Shiny Penny Hell’ and Back

  • Shiny Penny Hell is when you have great ideas but you are paralyzed by not knowing how to turn them into things of value.
  • Be a possibility thinker.
  • There is such a thing as productive conflict — seek out divergent viewpoints that challenge your ideas.
  • Explore the outrageous.
  • Obsess over value creation.
  • To avoid tunnel vision have focused flexibility, don’t lose your peripheral vision.

Keynote Address: The Global Promise of Entrepreneurship, Randall Kempner, Executive Director, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs

  • Innovation is the generation, development and implementation of new ideas that create social value.
  • Entrepreneurship is often born out of dire circumstance.
  • Entrepreneurship = prosperity

Panel: ABC’s of Mobile Technology

  • Mobile is about where you are and what you are doing at a certain time.
  • When designing for mobile one size does not fill all; but there are in excess of 20,000 devices, so it’s impossible to design for every one.
  • The three most important platforms are the iPhone, Blackberry and flip phone.
  • Mobile web designs must be stripped down to essential needs; keep it simple in terms of tasks and navigation.
  • Marketing tactics that that work well with mobile include coupons, news alerts/reminders, sweepstakes, text voting polls and surveys.
  • The reach of mobile marketing is limited because it’s an opt-in method, but this provides a highly targeted audience that’s receptive to receiving your messages.
  • Mobile and social media, perfect together.

OK, that’s a quick glimpse of insights from the Summit. Stay tuned for more.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of these ideas from the Summit? Anything spark your interest or imagination? Comments welcome.

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Will You Please Retweet This Great New Blog Post.

Posted on September 24, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cover to The Science of ReTweets by Dan ZarallaHave you noticed that more people are including “please retweet” in Twitter messages?

This is interesting because in certain circles it’s considered bad Twetiquette (boorish) to request a retweet.

Joel Comm in his bestselling book Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time writes: “While you can ask specifically for retweets — and some people do — it’s not really good form.”

The reason for retweets

A retweet is akin to forwarding an email. If you receive a message you like so much you want to pass it on to your followers, just do a retweet, or RT.

There are many reasons for an RT, such as to let others know about breaking news. News about Twitter is especially RT worthy. For illustration purposes here are a few RT examples from my account:

This one earns a double RT. The message links to a terrific resource for search rank marketing information. Many of my followers are into SEO, so it gets an RT.

Example of a retweet from Deni Kasrel's Twitter account

Quotes/words of wisdom comprise a good deal of Twitter traffic. I like the sentiment in this message and think my followers will, too.

Example #2 of a retweet from Deni Kasrel's Twitter account

This news item caught my eye and it provides entrée for a little humor. I like to give followers a chuckle now and again.

Example #3 of a retweet from Deni Kasrel'sTwitter account

Report: The Science of Retweets

About the recent rise in people asking to be retweeted — I have an idea why it’s happening.

Earlier this week Fast Company posted an article titled Report: Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted On Twitter. It gave a sneak peek of a paper by Dan Zarrella, a noted marketing scientist and web developer who’s into scrutinizing all things Twitter.

Zarrella then posts the full report, The Science of Retweets, on his blog.

Zarrella says his interest in retweets is inspired by the notion that the web enables us to see how an idea catches fire and goes viral: “For the first time in human history we can begin to gaze into the inner workings of the contagious idea.”

Hmmm, sounds a lot like the tipping point.

Retweets have implications beyond the idea that those who get RTed are flattered to receive a virtual stamp of approval. They’re word-of-mouth marketing. They play a role in politics, as happened when talk about death panels and the health care debate got RTed around the twitosphere.

Those two letters pack a lot of heat.

OK, so what’s the secret to getting an RT?

Zarrella’s report presents statistics on several aspects of retweeting to identify what he refers to as “contagious traits.” His findings include the following:

  • Messages containing links are three times more likely to be RTed than those without.
  • It’s good to be first out of the gate; novelty/newness accounts for many RTs.
  • Punctuation is preferred, and top RT getters include a colon, period, or an exclamation point.
  • Negativity and potty-talk are out — religion, work, money and celebrities are in.
  • The highest daily volume of RTs occurs on Friday.

And then there’s these last two items; the top list likely accounts for the recent upsurge in RTs:

Most Re-Tweetable Words & Phrases according to Dan Zaralla

Chart of least re-tweetable words according to Dan Zaralla

Take another look at most RT-able words and phrases and then take a gander the title of this post. See why it is how it is?

Will you please retweet this great new blog post?

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the science of retweets? Comments welcome.

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Why Sponsorship Still Matters In These Tough Economic Times

Posted on August 30, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Guest post by: Gail S. Bower | Read her blog

Earlier this year Northern Trust Bank took a public drubbing for proceeding with the second year of its five-year commitment to PGA Golf because it received TARP funds. According to a statement by the bank’s CEO, no public dollars funded the sponsorship, and the fiscally sound bank went forth with a program its leadership clearly values. How to jump-start sponsorship cover imageNorthern Trust participated in TARP at the government’s request, the statement noted, not because it needed the money. (You can read more about the effect this event had on sponsorship in my new guidebook How to Jump-start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times.)

I respect Northern Trust for honoring its commitment and for stating clearly its position in doing so. Corporate sponsorship is a marketing vehicle that gets results. When properly executed companies of all sizes benefit from incorporating sponsorship and event marketing into their business and marketing strategies.

After that incident other banks actually refused TARP dollars to avoid government and public scrutiny of their business decisions.

But some banks and financial firms were not so forthright. The New York Times reported on various corporations’ “‘stealth spending'” for event marketing. These companies are paying five- and six-figures to entertain clients, sans branding and identification of any kind.

I have a problem with the lack of transparency—with the sneakiness of the whole thing. But I endorse entertaining as a legitimate way to build relationships with clients, employees and vendors.

Take for example, Terry’s El Mariachi Supermarkets a Dallas-based chain of 13 stores that embraces the multi-cultural city it calls home. Terry Yu, the owner, invested $175,000 in a suite at the Dallas Cowboys’ fancy new stadium to reward workers and vendors whose support and loyalty have helped grow his business. He told the Dallas Morning News about what a “great investment” the luxury suite has been for him to provide a perk to staff and suppliers. (One of the first NFL franchises to broadcast in Spanish, the Cowboys have a large fan base among Texas and the Southwest’s Latino population, primarily from Mexico. So, imagine what a great perk this is.)

If entertaining employees and vendors works for Terry Yu, imagine how well it works for larger companies.

As a corporate sponsor, there are only three ways to go in these times:

  1. Discontinue sponsorship and be clear with stakeholders about that decision.
  2. Acknowledge that particular sponsorship investments meet your goals and provide value towards achieving business objectives. Be clear with the public, the media, and politicians about that decision and about why you are involved with sponsorships. Don’t engage in “stealth spending.”
  3. Be bold. Acknowledge that sponsorship works and determine new ways to do it that are not only acceptable for the times but that raise the bar. Champion a cause with strong brand alignment and enlist your clients in a day of service or in a cause marketing campaign to support your charity. (A February study on consumer perceptions on American corporations revealed that corporations that invest in a nonprofit organization or cause will win the favor of those consumers by 41 percent.)

Then shout it from the roof-tops. And build your business at the same time.

For those working with corporate sponsors, be sure your communications, both internally and externally, are supportive of corporate partners. If you uncover anti-corporate sentimentality, bring it to the surface and allow people to discuss it. Educate without being dismissive. Create parameters and policies that the staff, board, and other stakeholders will feel comfortable upholding.

Gail Bower is President of Bower & Co. Consulting LLC, a firm that assists nonprofit organizations and event/festival producers with dramatically raising their visibility, revenue, and impact. To learn more about her new guidebook, which provides a whole chapter on ways to enhance internal and external communications around sponsorship, visit Her blog is

What do YOU think about this post? Comments welcome.

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