Sticking a Wet Nose into a Messy Issue

 The Oregon Humane Society expanded its message from being humane to animals to being humane to humans in a classy, subtle advocacy advertising campaign that began at the height of vicious verbal attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers during the end of the midterm election campaigns.

The Oregon Humane Society expanded its message from being humane to animals to being humane to humans in a classy, subtle advocacy advertising campaign that began at the height of vicious verbal attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers during the end of the midterm election campaigns.

Debate will continue over whether businesses and nonprofits should stick their noses into public controversies. Perhaps the debate should be over whether they can avoid sticking their noses into public controversies and remain on the cutting edge.

Rating these entries into the public arena should rest on the skill by which they extend their noses, as a new campaign by the Oregon Humane Society demonstrates.

Titled “A More Humane Society,” a 60-second video asks viewers to “imagine a place where kindness and love prevail. A society in which all beings have a place, a purpose and a sense of belonging.”

The imagery is of dogs, cats and chickens, but the message is inescapably aimed at humans.

image005.jpg

The timing of the #bemorehumane campaign coincides with a midterm election campaign that featured vicious verbal attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers. That wasn’t just a coincidence.

image004.jpg

The video leverages the organization’s name that contains the word “humane.” We associate the “Humane Society” with animals, but the video encourages looking beyond our companions to ourselves as humans.

Speaking metaphorically through animals is not new. St. Francis of Assissi once freed a rabbit from a trap, advised it to avoid traps in the future and shooed it away into the forest, only to have the rabbit jump on his lap. Francis is known even today as the Patron Saint of Animals for his expression of love to all creatures.

 The Oregon Humane Society has taken the path less trodden before as with its award-winning “End Petlessness” campaign that traded in grim pictures of abused animals for fetching illustrations showing how great life can be with a four-legged friend.

The Oregon Humane Society has taken the path less trodden before as with its award-winning “End Petlessness” campaign that traded in grim pictures of abused animals for fetching illustrations showing how great life can be with a four-legged friend.

The Oregon Humane Society jumped into the middle of one of the nation’s most divisive issues with a subtly compelling video that attests there is no difference between “us” and “them,” no matter who “us” and “them” may be. Coincidentally, the OHS video includes a quick cameo of a rabbit.

The video goes well beyond the common calls for greater “civility” and points to the common ground of life itself. Our differences aren’t so different after all. We love our pets, regardless whether they have fur or feathers. Why can’t we love other humans, regardless of their skin color, religion or politics? 

Unlike the Nike ad featuring Colin Kapaernick that sparked outrage and social media posts of burning shows with a swoosh, the Oregon Humane Society has remained mostly under the radar. It attracted only 7,000 or so views on YouTube since being posted in late September.

However, the video is now attracting wider interest, and it should. The video is a classy example of advocacy advertising. It doesn’t stray from the organization’s purpose – or name. It places its ongoing work in larger relief. It calls people to action, not just to support humane treatment toward animals, but also toward all people.

Hats off to the Oregon Humane Society for sticking its wet nose into the issue of humanity.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

 

Let Your Organizational Culture Tell Your Story

 An organization’s culture says a lot about how it values employees and customers. That’s why your organizational culture may be your best storyline to tell.

An organization’s culture says a lot about how it values employees and customers. That’s why your organizational culture may be your best storyline to tell.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for lots of companies. I’ve gotten fired from a few, too. Looking back, I realize the common denominator of these premature exit strategies had nothing to do with the quality of my work, and everything to do with whether or not I fit into the organization’s culture.

More than superior skills, a stellar work ethic or a stack of inside connections, an employee’s ability to fit into a company’s culture determines whether he or she will find success on the job, and in the organization. 

Every company has a culture, which typically reveals itself in the way an organization expresses its values, beliefs, vision, behaviors and shared experiences. A company’s culture shows up in the ways people inside the organization interact with each other and with clients or customers. Culture sets the tone for behavior, mindset and expectations. It dictates the way “things get done” inside and outside an organization. 

Which brings us to Clark Public Utilities in Vancouver, Washington. The utility promotes its ‘customer owned, customer focused’ culture every day in all kinds of ways. And the stories the utility tells about its culture gives prospective employees an authentic glimpse into what really matters to the organization. 

One particular story stands out, both for its humor and humble approach. What started as a typical day for a crew of utility linemen turned into a full-on rescue mission. We teamed up with the utility to produce a video about this story, and without giving anything away, it’s a fun story to watch and it speaks volumes about the organization’s culture. You can watch this story here.

If you’re ready to start telling your company’s story through a cultural lens, here are three ways to get started:

First, identify about your organization’s core values and beliefs. Why are they important to the success of your organization?

Second, explore how your employees bring these values and beliefs to life through their work.

Third, determine the kinds of communication tools that would be most effective to the employees you want to reach. 

Telling your company’s culture story is an effective way to communicate what really matters to your organization. Hiring employees that embrace the work, as well as the values, beliefs and shared experiences of your organization, is the key to long-term success, both for your employees, and your company.

About the author:

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to consult with businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv; andwww.waveonegroup.com

 

Rescuing People in Danger Because of Who They Are

HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, may have been the spark that sent a man who spouted anti-Semitic views storming into a Pittsburgh synagogue killing 11 worshippers. 

 HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety and freedom as they escape from famine, corruption and war. Learn more about HIAS at  https://www.hias.org/mission-and-values .

HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety and freedom as they escape from famine, corruption and war. Learn more about HIAS at https://www.hias.org/mission-and-values.

HIAS, which is based in Silver Springs, Maryland, began in 1881 to help Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. By 1904, it has set up an office on Ellis Island. During World Wars I and II, HIAS assisted Jewish refugees resettle. It played a role in rescuing Jews from Hungary, Egypt, Cuba, Liberia, Libya, Czechoslovakia, Poland and, more recently, from Iran, Ethiopia and Southeast Asia.

In 1975, the US State Department asked HIAS to resettle 4,600 Vietnamese refugees. In the past decade, HIAS expanded its work to assist non-Jewish refugees from Afghanistan to Haiti to Romania to Ecuador.

Inflamed by rhetoric about refugees, including a caravan of Latin American asylum-seeking refugees plodding their way on foot to the United States, a Pittsburgh man unleashed his fury against a congregation that actively supports the mission and work of HIAS. 

In tribute to that tireless work – and in memory of the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, we share this animated video that powerfully describes what HIAS does.

 

Photography, The Photo Ark and Great Visual Storytelling

 Joel Satore has dedicated his life to capturing intimate, face-to-face portraits of animals that reflect the biodiversity of earth, as well as the dangers of animal extinction. His visual storytelling is strikingly artful, compelling to view and an example of how to show what you mean and feel in a way that connects with a wide audience. [ © Photo by Joel Satore/National Geographic ]

Joel Satore has dedicated his life to capturing intimate, face-to-face portraits of animals that reflect the biodiversity of earth, as well as the dangers of animal extinction. His visual storytelling is strikingly artful, compelling to view and an example of how to show what you mean and feel in a way that connects with a wide audience. [© Photo by Joel Satore/National Geographic]

The power of photography is indisputable. The art of photography involves harnessing that power to tell a story.

There is no better visual storytelling example than Joel Sartore and The National Geographic’s Photo Ark. “Species are disappearing at an alarming rate, but together we can help. The National Geographic Photo Ark is using the power of photography to inspire people to help save species at risk before it’s too late.”

Photo Ark’s founder, Sartore so far has photographed 8,485 different species of animals in 40 countries. Each photograph is an intimate, face-to-face portrait of familiar and not-so-familiar animals. His goal is to capture 12,000 species in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries to illustrate the earth’s fragile biodiversity.

Of his lifelong project, Sartore says, “I want people to care, to fall in love, to take action.” 

Few storytellers are as devoted as Sartore, but his project provides useful lessons to any visual storyteller:

Captivating Title
Photo Ark sparks immediate recognition of the original ark and its mission to save animals during the great flood. The title taps into our memory banks of books with illustrations of animals scrambling up the ark’s plank. We know what we are in for before we see Sartore’s first photograph.

Photographs can evoke emotional responses, but people have to take notice of the photographs to have an emotional response. A captivating title is like a finger pointing in the right direction.

Visual Story Template
Like any story, a visual story needs a plot and architecture that captures and directs the interest of viewers. Sartore’s plot centers on a staggering number of photographs with either a simple white or black background featuring an animal looking straight at the viewer. There is an inescapable connection, like looking at a photograph of a family member. The one-on-one scale of each photograph doesn’t favor larger animals over smaller ones such as insects. They all seem equal and equally important, which is the underlying theme of Sartore’s story.

Pictures with a purpose tell stories. Visual storytelling does not consist of random photographs strung together like a personal scrapbook. Visual storytelling requires forethought, consistency and competence. It requires a visual template that gives the photographs a harmonious meaning.

 You can view 400 mesmerizing animal portraits in Joel Sartore’s photo album titled  The Photo Ark . Purchasing the book is one way to support Sartore’s efforts to raise awareness of endangered species and what can be done to avoid animal extinction.  https://www.joelsartore.com/gallery/the-photo-ark/

You can view 400 mesmerizing animal portraits in Joel Sartore’s photo album titled The Photo Ark. Purchasing the book is one way to support Sartore’s efforts to raise awareness of endangered species and what can be done to avoid animal extinction.
https://www.joelsartore.com/gallery/the-photo-ark/

Visual Depth
Photographs can convey depth better than text, especially to contemporary eyes that skim over pages of words. Sartore’s photographs gleam with color. The animals are expressive. You can stare at the photographs and see details a casual glance would overlook. The photographs have a mesmerizing effect. The detailed photographs convey respect for the animals and make each one appear special and worth saving.

Visual depth results from quality photography, which is more possible because of ubiquitously affordable high-quality cameras, even on your cellphone. However, seeking out relevant detail demands commitment by the photographer to look for it and find ways to capture it. Committed photographers aren’t satisfied with the first shot they take. They look for fresh angles, the best light and shots that advance a storyline. 

Tapping into Emotions as a Call to Action
Photographs activate our sense of sight, which may be the most direct link to our emotional selves. Photographs may make us cry. They also can relieve tension by clearly showing how to accomplish a difficult task. Sartore’s Photo Ark is intended to inspire action to save endangered species by showing why they are worth saving. His still-life photographs burst with emotional energy by putting viewers cheek-to-beak with animals Sartore illuminates as irreplaceable.

Photographs, photo essays and visual stories are almost pre-programmed to get an emotional response and can be molded into a call to action based on that emotional response. That’s why fundraising appeals for abandoned animals, disabled soldiers and malnourished children make their pitches through heart-tugging photography and videography. Words can only go so far in making people act. Photographs can make people go all the way.

Photographic Subplots
The Photo Ark conveys a significant subplot. Sartore’s photographic gallery of species wouldn’t be possible if the shots were taken in the wild. By capturing animals, especially endangered ones, in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, Sartore is underscoring the importance of their conservation efforts. One of his photographs is of a frog – the last of its species known to exist on earth. The frog would have slipped into oblivion if not for his photograph of it for posterity.

Photography can tell stories that go well beyond the pictures. The secondary stories can be subtle or blunt. They are often told as a story about the visual story.

This blog is essentially a story about a visual storyteller, his work and how his example can be emulated. 60 Minutes followed around Sartore to tell the story of how he engages with the animals he photographs.

The Everyday Power of Photography
Most of us won’t be on a lifelong photographic quest. But that doesn’t mean we can’t commit to a lifetime of using the power of photography to tell our stories, whether it’s in the form of visually compelling PowerPoints, origin stories or marketing campaigns.

Developing a visual story requires a different kind of thought process than sitting down at your computer and typing. But the thought process is actually a familiar one. It draws on our imagination and visual recollection. We need to see our story through our own eyes, then figure out how to tell it like we see it.

Even though sight is a very personal sensation, seeing a story can be a collaborative endeavor. Multiple insights can enrich a visual template, add meaningful detail and infuse emotion. It is the embodiment of seeing a story through the eyes of your audience. It expands the realm of curiosity and possibility. 

The excuse that “I’m not a photographer” is not true. If you can see, you are taking mental photographs all the time. You know what moves you. You may not know how to take great photographs, but don’t let that stop you from aspiring to tell a great visual story.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

Writing to Match Skimmer Reading Habits

 More people skim rather than read, so it makes sense to write for skim-readers, especially purposeful skim readers who are looking for the maximum information in the least amount of time.

More people skim rather than read, so it makes sense to write for skim-readers, especially purposeful skim readers who are looking for the maximum information in the least amount of time.

In a world of smash-and-grab reading, you cannot afford to dilly-dally in writing to the point. Assume your target audience are skimmers who hop from article to article, video to video and outlet to outlet looking for something that makes them stop – or at least pause.

This isn’t PR jingo. It’s reality. Consider Swarthmore College’s advice to its students about skimming:

“The first rule, in some ways the only rule, is skim, skim, skim. But skimming is not just reading in a hurry, or reading sloppily, or reading the last line and the first line. It's actually a disciplined activity in its own right. A good skimmer has a systematic technique for finding the most information in the least amount of time.”

If colleges are teaching people to skim, we should prepare to write for skimmers, especially disciplined skimmers.

William Comcowich, writing for ragan.com, suggests tactics to satisfy skimmers. Most are obvious ways to package your message in digestible bites – informative headlines, subheads, lists, short paragraphs, key details and visuals.

However, these tactics are mostly crutches for undisciplined or impatient skimmers, who are turned off by long sentences and words they don’t understand. There is another, higher-performing level of skimmers who should drive our writing styles. These are the skimmers that schools like Swarthmore are training.

The Tracks of Skim-Readers

• 55% of page views last less than 15 seconds
• Readers on average read 20% of text
• People don’t read left to right, but skim in an “F” pattern
• Only 10% to 20% of readers make it through an entire article
• A newsletter opened in email has 51 seconds to make an impression

High-performing skimmers seek “the most information in the least amount of time.” They are skimming to find information of interest, utility and value. You might call them purposeful skimmers.

Purposeful skimmers include that group of people we refer to as influential, which is a group PR professionals should court by writing in sync with how they skim-read.

With that lens, one of the most important elements of writing for skim-readers is to provide a concise description of your core point. This requires mastery of a subject by the writer. It means doing more than simply moving information on a conveyor belt of sentences. Writers must have a command of their topics so they can squeeze out what’s important or unique and summarize it in a few words.

The bottom-line message can be contained in a headline, opening paragraph or cutline to a compelling visual. The key is making it visually accessible for the skimmer.

Once you grab a skimmer’s attention, your secondary or supportive points need to be easily accessible, too. Bullet points, pull-outs and cleverly worded lists can be useful to sustain skimmer attention. Readable charts work as well.

When skimmers turn into readers or deep-dive researchers, you need additional layers of information to satisfy them, such as short paragraphs with links or expandable content that’s revealed at a reader’s click.

Word choices, brevity and show-me content convey mastery while offering valuable cues to skimmers. Fluff, wordiness and foggy explanations are turn-offs, probably for more than just skimmers.

The best advice: write for your audience. Increasingly, your audience is full of skimmers. They want premium content, but don’t want to go on a treasure hunt to find it. Make your written content fit the reading habits of skimmers, especially purposeful skimmers. Make your content discoverable.

You won’t be indulging your skim-readers; you will be meeting them at the edge of your content and inviting them in.

 

Want to Attract Great Employees? Tell Your Origin Story

 One of the most powerful, but often untapped resources you have is your own origin story. Tell it to attract talented employees and impress customers or clients. Tell it to underscore the values that inspired your enterprise into creation.

One of the most powerful, but often untapped resources you have is your own origin story. Tell it to attract talented employees and impress customers or clients. Tell it to underscore the values that inspired your enterprise into creation.

Remember the old saying, “good help is hard to find?” That statement perfectly describes today’s current job market. With unemployment hovering just below 4 percent in Oregon and the rest of the country, talented and highly skilled workers have the upper hand in the job market. 

Companies need to think differently about how to connect and make the case for their organizations. Crafting an effective origin story – for video and print – is a great way to stand out from the crowd. 

If You Want to Know Where You’re Going, Look at Where You’ve Been

Every organization – large and small – started with an individual or group of people who had an idea and a vision. The founder (or founders) operated by a set of values and guiding principles. The organization’s culture grew from these early values. As the organization grew, new market opportunities presented themselves. Perhaps shifts in the economy led to setbacks or an opportunity for re-invention. Or the original founders decided to retire, paving the way for new leadership and a renewed company vision. 

An organization can experience any number of growth spurts, setbacks, breakthroughs or retirements during the course of its existence. All of these events become part of a company’s story.

Start at the Beginning

The best way to begin the process of crafting an origin story is to look back to your organization’s early days. If the founders are still alive, interview them, either on camera or as an audio recording.

Ask them to talk about their initial vision for the company. What values did the founders hold dear? What was their mission? What inspired them? What early challenges did they face? What victories did they celebrate? Read newspaper clippings or other documents pertaining to the company for historical perspective.

Find old photographs, video or film clips of the company, its founders, early products or projects. Whether you’re producing a video, writing a book, or creating content for your website, including these images and interviews in your story will help humanize your organization. 

Connect, Engage, and Inspire

To connect with potential employees and make the case for your organization, consider targeting your origin story to engage with applicants for a particular position you’re trying to fill.

For example, if you want to hire entry-level production jobs in manufacturing, and your company founder started his or her career on the production floor, present that story on your company’s website or include it as part of your company’s job posting. If you want to engage and inspire current employees, focus your origin story on the way the founders’ values and vision positively impact the company’s current culture.

Whether your business is five years old or 50 years old, you have a story to tell. Take the time to share the story of how your organization came to be, and why it endures, and see if you don’t start attracting – and keeping – the types of employees you want and need.  

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

About the author

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to consult with businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv; and www.waveonegroup.com

The Value of “Easy” as a Strategy

 Marketing strategists and issue managers may enjoy greater success by making things easy for would-be consumers or advocates. Take the word of  Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist.

Marketing strategists and issue managers may enjoy greater success by making things easy for would-be consumers or advocates. Take the word of  Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist.

If you want people to do something, make it easy.

Sound advice from behavioral economist Richard Thaler, who won a Nobel Prize for “humanizing economics.” Thaler’s main thesis is that people don’t fit into classic economic models and often respond with emotion, not reason. One of the many human quirks Thaler identifies is an unwillingness to deal with complexity – or busy work.

In a 2009 column for The New York Times, Thaler wrote most people are willing to be organ donors, but don’t bother to fill out the forms. Donation rates would increase, he said, by simply forcing a choice or making the choice easy with a smartphone app.

Thaler said retirement savings rates would improve by making it easier for workers to save. To overcome the barrier of procrastination, he recommended creating retirement plans with automatic enrollment for workers, with an ability to opt-out. The Oregon legislature took Thaler’s advice and established OregonSaves, which is in its second year and already has 18,000 participating workers who save on average $103 per month.

Marketers and issue managers who want people to do something would be well advised to take Thaler’s observations to heart. The easier you make a customer journey or requested action, the more likely people will oblige.

The four Ps of marketing – product, price, place and promotion – form the basis for sound marketing strategies. However, customers may shy away from the product they want at a price they are willing to pay if the purchase is too messy or difficult. Long lines, indifferent service and clunky websites can discourage an otherwise eager consumer.

 Richard Thaler was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for his observations about human behavior that can be predictably irrational, especially when an action isn’t easy.

Richard Thaler was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for his observations about human behavior that can be predictably irrational, especially when an action isn’t easy.

The same is true in the world of issues. You can explain until you are blue in the face that a construction project will ultimately be good for a neighborhood, but the short-term inconvenience may turn rational people into a community of discontent.

Buying a car has a well-earned reputation for being a disagreeable experience that takes too long and often feels manipulative and murky. Car dealers have responded by making it easier to find the car you want and buy it without wasting an entire weekend.

Politicians are constantly asking for campaign contributions, but many potential donors find it a hassle to drag out their checkbooks to write a $15 check. Campaigns now make it easier for donors to contribute online.

Retailers can simplify their customer journeys with self-checkout, free home delivery and easy-to-navigate online checkout. The issue manager on that contentious construction project can talk to neighbors, identify specific concerns and agree, for example, to limit construction hours and avoid truck traffic when children are going to and coming back from school.

Basing marketing strategy on price and value is smart. But it is smarter to recognize customers dislike a shopping hassle.

Developing solid content and persuasive arguments is essential to an effective issues campaign. But it is prudent to understand that people get confused or distracted with too much detail.

“Easy” should be a routine element of any strategy. Making something easy sells and convinces. Making something easy removes complications and excuses. Making something easy is a value many people can’t and won’t resist.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

Explaining Explainer Videos

 Explainer videos are rising in popularity because they can boost Google rankings, increase conversion rates, entertain customers and be shared easily, adding some pep to a website or social media platforms.

Explainer videos are rising in popularity because they can boost Google rankings, increase conversion rates, entertain customers and be shared easily, adding some pep to a website or social media platforms.

There’s a new kind of animated and live action video appearing on websites and social media platforms. It’s called an explainer video and judging from the rave reviews this form of visual communication is getting (higher Google rankings; increased browser-to-buyer conversion rates; easy to share), it’s a must-have piece of digital content.

Here’s a snapshot of what this trend is all about and why you might want to consider using it in an upcoming marketing campaign.

The idea behind an explainer video is a quick explanation of what your business does and the problems you solve for your customers.

Explainer videos typically involve either live action video and/or some kind of animation. Examples are a series of whiteboard sketches; 2D and 3D cartoon animation, typography moving around on a screen (called kinetic typography) or  animated cutouts of people and objects. 

Explainer videos run up to two minutes in length and contain some or all of the following elements:

  • Written script highlighting a problem a potential customer faces; the solution the company provides and a call to action
  • Voiceover narration
  • On-screen graphics
  • Music
  • Animation style
  • Subtitles

Prices range from thousands of dollars to free software for the DIY crowd.

What the explainer video offers is an easy way for businesses to add a video element to their websites and social media platforms.

Like every other type of digital shiny object, the danger is relying solely on explainer videos at the expense of creating additional forms of personalized content. Savvy communicators know they need to speak to different audiences and the best way to do that is to develop content that is meaningful and memorable to each target group.

That said, here are two ways to decide which type of explainer video is best for your company:

  • If your goal is to humanize your company, using live action video is preferable to animation. You can use key company executives, employees and customers to communicate your message. Dollar Shave Club produced a hilarious live action video featuring the president of the company.
  • If you have a complicated topic or need to deliver a conceptual message, an animated video is a good way to visualize the subject and walk viewers through your process. Pinterest produced an easy-to-follow animated explainer video.

Explainer videos are the newest way for brands to make themselves seen and heard. And in this increasingly crowded digital landscape, getting noticed is a never-ending challenge. 

About the author:

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to produce videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv and www.waveonegroup.com.

Personalize Content Marketing Through Staff Content Sharing

 Add zip to a content marketing strategy by encouraging your own staff to share useful, relevant content with customers, clients and prospects at conferences, in meetings and even on cold calls.

Add zip to a content marketing strategy by encouraging your own staff to share useful, relevant content with customers, clients and prospects at conferences, in meetings and even on cold calls.

One of the best, but most overlooked channels for content marketing is your own staff.

Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant information to your customers or clients. We tend to think of that information as transmitted digitally via a website, blog or social media.  Delivering it personally can be even more powerful.

Turning your entire staff into a team of content marketers could be your most cost-effective marketing strategy.

Savvy companies view their staffs as brand ambassadors. Converting brand ambassadorships into content marketers only requires taking the time to share the content you want customers or clients to receive.

Staff meetings can become more meaningful if they contain time for content sharing. Make staff aware of an upcoming thought leadership blog, new website features or a social media campaign. Make it easy for your staff to share your content, and encourage staff members to share the content.

Alyssa Patzius, vice president for Influence&Co., says content sharing can be a way to stand out from competition by offering something of value, not just your business card. Sharing useful information and associating the source of that information to your enterprise is nearly the same as third-party validation, Patzius suggest.

She says content-sharing strategy can work at trade shows, professional conferences or even cold calls.

Of course, sharing blah content could have the opposite result. Avoid self-aggrandizing pitches and stick with solid how-to content or meaningful storytelling that relates to your brand or business. Don’t tell would-be clients about your successes; share with them how you go about achieving successful outcomes for your clients.

Some content is evergreen and never goes out of date. However, fresh content can be more impactful. There is nothing like the rush of recent success to spark content sharing.

Don’t limit your content to something in print. Video and audio content can extend the personalization of content sharing by including visuals and voices from your colleagues.

The next time you are charged with creating an energizing agenda for a staff meeting or retreat, plug in a segment about content sharing. And make sure you are generating content worthy of sharing to inform and impress customers and clients.

 

A Story about Public Relations and Advertising

 With its latest TV commercial, Subaru shows storytelling and advertising can combine to deliver a powerful brand message in just 30 seconds.

With its latest TV commercial, Subaru shows storytelling and advertising can combine to deliver a powerful brand message in just 30 seconds.

Public relations and advertising are separate disciplines. Sometimes fiercely separate. It is fun to see the virtues of both come together to tell a brand story.

Subaru is airing a TV commercial for its Forester model titled, “A Life Story on the Line.” In a brief 30 seconds, the ad traces the life of a young couple through school, marriage, the birth of twins and a devasting traffic accident. The family survives and credits their Forester for “keeping their story going.”

The commercial conveys the Subaru brand promise in a nutshell or, more precisely, in a story line.

In previous years, Subaru storytelling ads talked about their vehicle’s durability through the eyes of a dad cleaning out memories from a car he is giving to his grown-up daughter. In a well-known series of ads, a dog family puts a Subaru through its paces in human terms from vacation traveling to a front-seat first kiss.

TV advertising earns its way by pushing messages in a visual envelope. But the creative instincts needed to produce an eye-catching 30-second spot are closely related to those employed by filmmakers to produce movies. They also are the stock and trade of public relations professionals. Storytelling may not work to announce a furniture sale, but Subaru used it effectively to promote the safety of its cars in flesh-and-blood terms.

Mac Schwerin, writing in Adweek, pans the use of storytelling in advertising. He says globalization has eviscerated brand stories, which tend to be tied to a specific place. Stories, Schwerin claims, are parochial and advertising needs to be global.

“Advertising is an objectively terrible format for storytelling,” he adds. “Commercials are not given enough breathing room to reward characterization, voice, humanity and a bunch of other nuanced literary stuff.”

Ana Gotter of Disruptive Advertising disagrees. “Stories communicate messages in highly specific and emotionally impactful ways,” Gotter says. “They’re memorable and give us something to identify with and hold on to. Statistics tell us what the reality is – stories tell us why it matters and why we need to care.”

Subaru has taken Gotter’s advice, not Schwerin’s, when producing TV ads. A simple, fast-paced narrative with a beginning, a moment of truth and a happy ending gives viewers a potent 30-second brand message: Subaru vehicles are safe.

The ad doesn’t try to lure you to a dealership with a discount or special promotion. It only tries to convince you that could save your family’s life by driving one of its cars. By anyone’s measure, that’s a powerful story – and an effective brand story.

The age of content marketing has achieved a lot, including bringing PR and advertising professionals closer together. The notion of paid advertising no longer is the exclusive territory of the Don Drapers and creatives who work on beanbag chairs. Paid advertising extends to storytelling in print, video, audio and social media formats.

Stories can sell, often better than confetti, screaming typefaces, overbearing announcers and unbelievable celebrity endorsers. Check out your own brand story and think about ways to share it with your customers and prospects.

Get Ready for Your LinkedIn Close-Up

 LinkedIn has jumped into the video sponsored content arena, posing yet another compelling reason to hone your on-camera skills so you appear confident, knowledgeable and easy to watch.

LinkedIn has jumped into the video sponsored content arena, posing yet another compelling reason to hone your on-camera skills so you appear confident, knowledgeable and easy to watch.

Does it seem like your LinkedIn feed is full of talking heads these days? It’s not your imagination.

In the past year, the world’s #1 platform for business lead generation has jumped into the B2B video arena in a big way, by introducing professionally produced video ads for sponsored content and launching a mobile app for iPhone or Android that allows users to record and upload their own video content.

If you’re using LinkedIn to grow your business, what could be easier than hitting the Record button on your smartphone and speaking directly to your tribe.

For most of us, speaking on camera is a stressful experience. The thought of looking into a camera lens and not knowing who will be watching – or what they might think of you – causes fear. And fear triggers a fight-or-flight response that causes many people to sweat profusely, turn red in the face and struggle to breathe. Call it stage fright on steroids.

A big part of my work is helping people become more confident speaking on camera, and I’m happy to say that with preparation and practice just about anyone can improve his or her on-camera performance. Here’s how:

  1. Figure out what you want to say before you hit the Record button. You don’t need to memorize what you’re going to say, but do prepare a few talking points ahead of time.
     
  2. Before filming, stand in front of a mirror and practice your presentation out loud. You’ll feel ridiculous. Do it any way. As you practice, keep your eyes focused on your reflection, as if you are speaking to an actual person in front of you. The camera will pick up any twitch, frown, grimace or involuntary eye roll. You want to minimize as many non-verbal tics as you can. 
     
  3. During your mirror practice, pay attention to your tone and delivery. Do you sound confident? Friendly? Are you speaking too fast? Video magnifies the way a person looks and sounds.
     
  4. After you’ve practiced a few times, record a practice take. Smile, make eye contact and stare directly into the tiny camera lens. It will feel unnatural at first, but remember that you’re making eye contact through the camera lens to your unseen audience.
     
  5. Play back and review. Resist the self-criticism and focus on things you can change. If your video looks too dark, record yourself near a window to capture more natural light. Pay attention to the way you look and sound. Ask yourself: what would your intended audience think about you and your business if they saw your video?
     
  6. Avoid recording endless takes. You’ll wear yourself out and lose your enthusiasm. Try recording two or three versions. Review. Revise. When you’re happy with one, upload it to your LinkedIn feed.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Then, take the leap. Speaking directly to camera is a skill, and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

About the author:

Holly Paige is a video content strategist and creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to produce videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories – and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv and www.waveonegroup.com.

Branding Demands Drinking Upstream from the Herd

 The University of Wyoming launched a new campaign aimed at appealing to out-of-state students, but the campaign’s cowboy reference has been panned as branding gone bad or, as cowboys would say, as drinking downstream from the herd.

The University of Wyoming launched a new campaign aimed at appealing to out-of-state students, but the campaign’s cowboy reference has been panned as branding gone bad or, as cowboys would say, as drinking downstream from the herd.

What could go wrong by promoting a university with a cowboy reference? Apparently, a lot.

The mascot for the University of Wyoming is Cowboy Joe, which happens to be a horse. That might explain why the University’s new marketing slogan – “The world needs more cowboys” – has met with a stampede of opposition.

According to the Laramie Boomerang, the college town’s local newspaper, criticism of the slogan ranges from sexist to racist to stupid because it is unlikely to appeal to out-of-state students, which was the express purpose of the new marketing campaign.

Associate Professor Christine Porter said the slogan harkens back to Western stereotypes and misrepresents the University’s current-day research and educational goals. She said the new slogan runs the risk of “embarrassing ourselves as an institution across the nation.”

Chad Baldwin, the University’s director of communications, defended the new slogan, calling it a redefinition of cowboy. “We’re basically throwing away the old stereotypes and updating what it means to be a cowboy and what it looks like,” he said. “A cowboy is not what you are, but who you are.”

That may be the way the new slogan was sold by the marketing firm that reportedly was paid $500,000 to come up with a campaign to recruit more out-of-state students.

A survey conducted by slogan critics produced some sarcastic alternatives, but also an intriguing one – “The world needs more trailblazers,” which seems like a better saddle to ride in redefining modern-day cowboys.

As the University of Wyoming campaign demonstrates, branding can be tricky business, even for a school known on sports fields as the Cowboys (and Cowgirls). Coming up with names, taglines and slogans requires, as cowboys say, not squatting when wearing spurs.

Branding experts start by gathering as much information and opinions as possible before plunging in. From all accounts, fact-finding didn’t occur in the creative evolution of the “cowboys” slogan. To quote another cowboy saying, that’s like digging for water under an outhouse.

Reaching agreement is hard enough when you have done your homework and is virtually impossible if you skip it entirely. Interviewing people doesn’t necessarily produce the perfect name, but it helps rule out the wrong choices. Interviews also offer clues and hints on the trail to the right choice.

Branding involves more than names and slogans; it rests on strategy. Communications don’t become strategic until they have undergone testing. Even a basic online survey of students from the target recruiting area could have warded off the “cowboy” slogan cow-pie.

As the University professor observed, ““I truly appreciate … the idea that who a cowboy is needs to be rebranded to be more accurate to the diversity of people who are cowboys, or who have been. However, you don’t do that with a marketing slogan.” 

It’s always wiser to drink upstream from the herd.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

Navigating the Twists and Turns of Effective Facebook Advertising

image004.jpg

With all its faults, missteps and ever-changing algorithms, Facebook still attracts a lot of daily eyeballs. Capturing a share of those eyeballs requires a combination of skill, diligence and circus acts.

Margot da Cunha, writing on the WordStream blog, offers some useful tips designed to help you target, inform and charm your intended audience.

Appropriately, her first tip is to “target an insanely specific audience,” which is something Facebook, with all its information-gathering, can assist you to achieve. “The super-sophisticated level of ad targeting is one of the main reasons to be excited about Facebook marketing,” according to da Guntha. Specific targeting requires a granular understanding of your customer or client personas – from who they are to what motivates them.

image005.png

You don’t have to start from scratch on targeting, as da Cunha suggests rounding up all your existing customers and leads, then entering them into Facebook’s Custom Audience feature. She also advises trying to clone your existing customer base using Facebook’s Lookalike Audience feature. For these “known” audiences, more specific ad content would be appropriate and likely persuasive.

Creating and sustaining the right content is another important ingredient of success on Facebook. Da Cunha recommends “short, enticing videos” that convey information quickly and with some entertaining frosting. To see effective videos, da Cunha suggests viewing and mimicking BuzzFeed’s approach. A beneficial byproduct of shorter videos can be ease and less cost in production, she says. The main benefit, however, is the right people view them.

Some of the skills da Cunha identifies are making your Facebook posts easy for the eye to navigate and only paying to promote your best content. “Focus viewers’ attention toward the most important part of your Facebook ad. For instance, if you have a strong call-to-action, you could show an image with a person looking at or pointing to that text,” she explains. Continuously generating fresh content is important to sustain interest, but you can maximize attention by promoting your best stuff, even if isn’t new, but remains relevant. This is a smart business decision, as well as savvy marketing.

Then there is the circus. Da Cunha urges the use of pictures of dogs or babies – or both. Stage contests. Post pictures of your employees having fun, which can humanize your brand. And don’t overlook emojis to connect with viewers who want to share emotions and feelings.

Advertising on Facebook will never be easy or obvious. Knowing how to navigate the twists and turns on the road to success of Facebook can save time and money – and earn kudos from your boss and clicks from your target audience.

Which Online Video App is Right for You?

 Instagram introduces a new long-form video-sharing platform that underlines the importance of video content in marketing, public affairs and political campaigns.

Instagram introduces a new long-form video-sharing platform that underlines the importance of video content in marketing, public affairs and political campaigns.

Instagram, the popular photo sharing app, stepped up its game in a big way last week by launching IGTV, a mobile video app for iOS and Android. IGTV allows users to shoot vertical video on their smartphones, and upload an hour’s worth of video, up from its previous one-minute limit. IGTV is accessible from a button inside the Instagram home screen, as well as a standalone app. Users can create their own content, and access popular videos from Instagram celebrities.

By declaring “Game On!” to online video rival YouTube, IGTV could prove to be a worthy competitor in the video-sharing space. Some industry analysts are even predicting that Instagram, and parent company Facebook, are challenging the future of television with IGTV, pointing to the “TV” in the name of the app, and the “static snow” effect that appears in the app when users switch from one video to another.

Clearly, the impact of IGTV on the current state of television or online video remains to be seen. In the meantime, there are plenty of existing apps and platforms that B2B and B2C content marketers are using to create and post engaging video content. Here’s a sampling:

YouTube: This is the granddaddy of the free online video content-sharing sites. YouTube is owned by Google, so you can expect YouTube videos to show up well in SEO searches. On the other hand, the sheer popularity of YouTube videos can make it difficult for your specific video to gain traction with its intended audience. There are the annoying pop-up ads that appear on your video, and the so-called “related” videos that appear after your YouTube video ends. But if you want maximum SEO search capabilities, and don’t care about pop-up ads or other forms of brand clutter, YouTube’s your platform.

Vimeo: This video platform is preferred by filmmakers and producers of high-quality videos. Vimeo is a paid service for business, but the advantages include no ad overlays over videos and brighter video and cleaner audio. Unlike YouTube, you can make changes to a Vimeo video without creating a new URL link. This is a time and money saver, especially if you have a video you plan to update on a regular basis.

Facebook Live: This service allows users to broadcast live video from their mobile devices straight to their Facebook News Feed. Use this app to share up to 90 minutes of live events, interviews or other user-generated content. Users can access the Facebook Live option when they post an update to their Page. They’ll be able to see who’s watching their broadcast, as well as read and respond to any real-time comments. After the broadcast has ended, your Facebook Live video will remain visible on your Facebook stream.

Periscope: This is Twitter’s live streaming video app. You’ll need a Twitter account to shoot video with the app. When you download Periscope from the App Store, you can subscribe to the Periscope broadcasts of those you follow on Twitter. Periscope played a key role in American politics in June 2016 when Democratic members of the US House of Representatives staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest gun control. When the House session was halted, and the cameras shut off, Rep. Scott Peters (D-California) used his Periscope account to broadcast the sit-in and speeches, which was live streamed by C-SPAN.  

LinkedIn: In August 2017, the world’s largest online professional network jumped into the B2B video arena by launching LinkedIn video through its mobile app for iPhone or Android. Users can record their own video in the app or upload previously recorded content. In May 2018, LinkedIn introduced video ads for sponsored content. According to the company, the sponsored content video lives directly in the LinkedIn news feed. Similar to the Facebook Ad model, LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content video is a paid service, with pricing levels based on pay-per-click (CPC) or pay-per-1,000 impressions (CPM).

So, what does it all mean?

It means video is a huge part of the online experience, with as many different uses for video as there are apps and video platforms. It’s easier than ever to create and post your own videos, but the glut of online video content makes it hard to rise above the noise.

That’s why content marketers and professional communicators need to get crystal clear about the audiences they want to reach, and the messages they want their audiences to hear, so they can produce visual content that is engaging, memorable and meaningful.

Holly and Wayne Paige are video content marketing strategists and creators based in Portland, Oregon. They use the power of storytelling to produce videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories – and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv and www.waveonegroup.com.

 

Know Your Long-Tail and Fat-Head Search Keywords

 Search engine optimization techniques can be puzzling, but underneath techniques such as long-tail and fat-head keywords are fundamental business principles of positioning and being the answer to your customer’s question.

Search engine optimization techniques can be puzzling, but underneath techniques such as long-tail and fat-head keywords are fundamental business principles of positioning and being the answer to your customer’s question.

A key to any business is being discovered. Most businesses don’t have massive budgets for brand-building advertising campaigns, so increasingly businesses rely on paid search as the red carpet to their physical or digital front doors.

Being found by search engines can be as tricky as giving directions to your brick-and-mortar store. Businesses don’t automatically show up on the first page of a Google search, even when they dominate their market. Being on the first page of a search usually requires paying to get there.

In relative terms for advertising, paid search is inexpensive. With search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns, you push keywords, promote content and pay for clicks. How much you pay is less important in many respects than the quality of potential customers who find you. That has led to keyword search strategies with interesting names such as long-tail search and fat-head search.

WordStream, an online advertising firm, demonstrates the value of long-tail search with this example: A classic furniture store is unlikely to be the intended destination for someone who types in “furniture.” It is more likely to be the target for someone looking for “contemporary Art Deco furniture.” That’s the basic concept behind long-tail search – focusing on longer, more specific keywords that give your business a greater chance to be on the top of a search.

Think of a long-tail keyword as a way to shorten the path of a customer to your window or website.

“Obviously, you’re going to draw less traffic with a long-tail keyword than you would with a more common one, but the traffic you do draw will be better: more focused, more committed and more desirous of your services,” explains Wordstream.

In addition, there is less competition for longer keywords, so they wind up costing less, even if they have a higher click-through rate. Wordstream says, “With shorter keywords, competition for rankings can be fierce, but visits can be scattershot and ROI can be low.”

Another strategy is fat-head search. The thinking behind this strategy is to sharpen your positioning so you are the singular answer to search questions related to your business. “Move beyond long tail search,” advises Brian Halligan of Hubspot. “Get good at fat head search. Be the answer to the question.”

Halligan’s example is that it is better to go beyond “shoes” or even “Nike running shoes” to “Nike size 8 running shoes in [fill in your location.]” You certainly will get less traffic, but Halligan says the visitors you get are less random and looking for something specific. This level of specificity plays well with the growing trend of voice search, which is more compatible with longer keywords.

The real secret behind fat-head keywords, Halligan insists, is moving past what a business sells to what customer question the business answers. “Alarmingly, many of the businesses we encounter still struggle to define exactly what they sell and to whom they sell it,” Halligan says.” It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away. in fact, it’s likely to intensify.” The more precise your positioning, the “fatter” your search keywords can be.

While basic marketing concepts remain in force, how you exploit your positioning has branched into new realms that may require professional assistance. Don’t be surprised if the expert who shows up to guide into the brave new world of online search success looks a lot like your granddaughter. You could do a lot worse than asking your granddaughter for help.

 

 

The Schultz Legacy on Corporate Leadership

 Howard Schultz is stepping down as executive chairman of Starbucks, the coffee company that he made ubiquitous and iconic for what it served customers and how it treated employees. Schultz, who may run for President in 2020, left an enduring legacy of corporate leadership.

Howard Schultz is stepping down as executive chairman of Starbucks, the coffee company that he made ubiquitous and iconic for what it served customers and how it treated employees. Schultz, who may run for President in 2020, left an enduring legacy of corporate leadership.

The decision by Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz to step down is fueling speculation of a 2020 presidential run. There is no need to speculate on Schultz’ enduring impact on the rules of corporate behavior.

After announcing his decision, Schultz didn’t spare his criticism of President Donald Trump, the “political class” and Democrats. “My concern is for the country,” Schultz said in an interview with CNN Money. “I think we can do much better. I think the political class as a whole has been reckless.”

No one could accuse Schultz of being a timid businessman. He traveled to Italy in 1983, became enamored with Italian espresso bars and launched a US version in Seattle in 1984.

“Starbucks started hosting Facebook promotions in 2009, before most restaurants had even figured out this was a space they needed to be in,” Forbes reported. “While most brands were still experimenting with mobile payments in 2014, Starbucks was generating double-digit transactions from the channel.”

Commercial success put Starbucks on the map, but arguably Schultz earned his iconic status by what he did for his employees and what he viewed as his communities. Schultz often said Starbucks was in the “experience” business, not the “coffee” business.

Under his aegis, Starbucks offered health benefits for employees – and extended those benefits to employee domestic partners 11 years before domestic partnerships were recognized in the United States. Employees can receive reimbursement for earning a college degree online through Arizona State University.

Struck by the challenges facing returning US military veterans, Schultz committed Starbucks to hire them and their spouses. Since making the pledge in 2013, Starbucks says it has hired more than 15,000 veterans and military spouses, exceeding the original commitment of 10,000 hires. Starbucks has renewed the pledge to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2025. The coffee giant also plans to dedicate more than 100 military/family stores where veterans and military spouses can connect with peers facing similar transitional challenges.

“We strive to bridge the divide between the 1 percent of Americans who have served in the US military and the 99 percent who have not,” says Starbucks on its website.

After a recent incident in Philadelphia when a Starbucks manager called police to remove two black men, Schultz undertook a company-wide effort to provide employees with anti-bias training. The four-hour training affected employees at 8,000 company stores, which were closed for an afternoon. Schultz took a beating on social media and was greeted with skepticism that a single training session could alter deep-seated, often unconscious bias.

Schultz lets criticism roll off his back. When a Starbucks shareholder expressed disappointment at the company’s support for gay marriage, Schultz shot back, "Not every decision is an economic decision."

“As a business leader, my quest has never been just about winning or making money,” Schultz says. “It has also been about building a great, enduring company, which has always meant striking a balance between profit and social conscience." It’s worth noting the value of Starbucks’ shares since the company’s initial public offering in 1992 has risen 21,000 percent.

Schultz seems unlikely to slip out of sight. Americans may see him on the political stump advocating his brand of leadership in a global environment.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling

 

 

Social Media: ‘Evolving, Not Just a Fad’

 What may seem like a fad to some is actually a serious evolution in people’s need to connect with family, friends and brands. Social media has already evolved and will evolve even more, but unless you engage, you will never know when it has evolved to something else.

What may seem like a fad to some is actually a serious evolution in people’s need to connect with family, friends and brands. Social media has already evolved and will evolve even more, but unless you engage, you will never know when it has evolved to something else.

Social media has exploded onto the firmament, but is it just a fad or here to stay? One Millennial expert says social media will hang around and evolve.

“Social media staves off extinction by creating new updates and evolving in order to keep their users interested,” writes Sophia Meyer*, a senior at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. “Twitter has evolved from being a place to tweet about what you ate for breakfast to a hub for news sources and live updates.”

Social media staying power and adaptability erases the excuse for many business leaders to wait out its demise. In fact, the evolution of social media argues for why it is imperative to hop aboard.

 Sophia Meyer wrote an essay about social media’s staying power as part of a job interview as she prepared to graduate and enter the professional PR job market.

Sophia Meyer wrote an essay about social media’s staying power as part of a job interview as she prepared to graduate and enter the professional PR job market.

“Social media users today are not only using social sites to connect with their friends and peers, but they are increasingly using them as their primary news source,” Meyer observes. “The popularity of social media and the opportunity it provides for engagement with customers has made it the number one tool for companies to build their brand and target specific audiences.”

Where once social media was a medium to share your “status,” it has evolved into a platform to share content, including commercial content, Meyer says.

There may be a better venue down the line, but for now social media is the key channel to connect with potential customers and deepen loyalty with existing customers. A big piece of evidence is the rise of influencer marketing. Influencers, who can range from celebrities to bloggers, rank nearly as high as friends in trust and the ability to influence a buy decision.

Meyer suggests social media is not your grandfather’s phone book. And you shouldn’t expect social media to be your grandson’s fave.

“Social media is an ever-trending topic that has seen its fair share of positive evolution, and even fails,” she says. “One thing can be certain, however, social media is here to stay. While its users change and evolve, its features change and evolve, and its content evolves, individuals will always demand social media in one form or another.”

That is a nuanced argument for jumping on the social media bandwagon to avoid missing the next trend because you haven’t experienced the current one.

“Humans will always desire to connect with each other, share their thoughts and opinions, and consume a variety of content,” Meyer asserts. “Social media remains, and will remain, the main hub for all of those human needs.”

*Sophia Meyer, Gary Conkling’s daughter, wrote an essay about the longevity and adaptability of social media as part of a job interview.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

Buckle Up for The Future

 “Shows like Westworld show a future world of interaction between humans and robots, which may not be that future-fetched, according to a social media marketer who recommends beginning to cope now for being replaced by a smart machine.”

“Shows like Westworld show a future world of interaction between humans and robots, which may not be that future-fetched, according to a social media marketer who recommends beginning to cope now for being replaced by a smart machine.”

If you are a Westworld fan, you already are steeped in the mysterious interactions among humans, robots and a clandestine corporation. The popular HBO show, which is starting its second season, is more like a video game than real life – or is it?

Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey and a social media marketer, has identified six “massive issues in play” that will impact marketing, employment and possibly our everyday lives. Two of the most striking and perhaps oppositional trends are people living longer and the rise of smart machines that can replace a lot of the work humans do now. It could mean more time in life to be unemployed.

image003.png

Kim’s futuristic trends led him to create an infographic listing 10 “critical skills” that he says people will be in high demand in workplaces as early as 2020. One of the most important skills, according to Kim, will be the ability to come up with solutions.

Other skills Kim identifies include cross-cultural competency, new media literacy, adaptive thinking and an ability to work productively in virtual collaborative settings. These skills reflect a more diverse, global economy, a rapidly changing media and information-sharing environment and a premium on getting results. You may be working in your bedroom or at Starbucks, but you will be part of a virtual team.

Apart from noting the need for computational thinking, being trans-disciplinary and having a design mindset, Kim doesn’t offer anything more specific about surviving in an emerging age of artificial intelligence, smart machines and robotic companions (and, eventually) overlords.

Which brings us back to Westworld.  Its co-founder, Jonathan Nolan, calls the show a “metaphor.” Humans show up at a theme park with naughty intentions in which they indulge with robotic hosts. But beyond the sci-fi drama and “evolution of sin,” the underlying question posed by the show deals with human interaction with smart machines that can do more than control the temperature in our houses or alert us when we veer out of a highway lane.

Part of the appeal of the show is that it doesn’t show a static future. Both humans and machines are evolving. Women gain more power and machines become more capable. There also is an intensifying degree of violence.

Kim’s recommended work skills are pitched more for the near term, which is itself fairly unsettling. Westworld casts a glance further into the future, though who knows how far in the future. Between Kim and Westworld, we should get the picture that change is coming, and the changes wrought by artificial intelligence could profoundly affect human life, for good and not-so-good. Westworld may not turn out to be a theme park.

 

 

Another Rebranding Apology; Another Marketing Misfire

 Uber joined the corporate rebranding apology tour with a new 60-second TV spot. While striking a sincere tone, the ad still falls short on specifics and direct outreach to the customers and stakeholders most affected by the scandals that provoked the need for rebranding.

Uber joined the corporate rebranding apology tour with a new 60-second TV spot. While striking a sincere tone, the ad still falls short on specifics and direct outreach to the customers and stakeholders most affected by the scandals that provoked the need for rebranding.

Like Wells Fargo, Uber faced a tough 2017. Unlike Wells Fargo, Uber has launched an ad campaign that offers a more sincere-sounding plan on how it plans to clean up its act.

In a 60-second TV spot called “Moving Forward,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowhahi, who was hired in the middle of a series of scandals, walks through the actions the car-hailing company is taking. Keeping in mind it is a TV ad, not a consumer bill of rights, Uber says it will enable in-ride reviews of drivers and promises to improve the culture at Uber headquarters.

“Moving forward, it’s time to move in a new direction,” Khosrowhahi says in the ad.

Advertising observers have panned the Uber ad as “vague” and another corporate entry on the “apology tour.” That criticism is not invalid, but the Uber “apology” strikes a notably different tone than Wells Fargo’s ad that says the iconic company that began in 1852 is re-establishing itself in 2018.

The Wells Fargo ad started with historical footage and references to its gloried past before getting around to the one specific it announced – eliminating sales quotas for brand managers and instead emphasizing customer satisfaction.

The Uber ad comes across as less flashy and a bit more on point. Instead of a narrator, the voice you hear is the CEO who promises continuous improvement to make things better for riders, drivers and, presumably, Uber staff.  The ad also shows Uber riders and drivers.

Organizations that face rebranding challenges following scandals or product failures should study and learn from the Wells Fargo and Uber ad campaigns. Drawing on history and letting the CEO do the talking are just tactics. But rebranding strategy should center on specific action steps. If the digital age has done nothing else, it has made promises less important than actual improvements. Flash and CEO sincerity aren’t substitutes for on-the-ground change.

It isn’t a knock on advertising to observe that it may not be the best medium to convey the substance of a rebranding effort, as both the Wells Fargo and Uber ad campaigns demonstrate. Often, direct outreach to affected customers or stakeholders is the best path to successful rebranding. Convince them your change is real and meaningful, then let them talk about the change in unscripted ways on social media and, eventually, in an ad campaign featuring consumer reaction to your change.

We talk a lot about customer engagement and building trust. TV ads, regardless of their quality, push a message, but don’t engage. That can have the unintended effect of deepening cynicism and mistrust.

Wells Fargo and Uber deserve credit for undertaking rebranding. They both would have been better served by launching their rebranding in a less splashy – and possibly a lot less expensive – way by reaching out to their customers and telling them directly about the changes being made and asking for their reaction. That kind of engagement may not fit in a 60-second TV spot, but it is likely to provide a more satisfying and durable outcome.