20 Jun

Ways to engage audiences with context for your content

Ecommerce_Analytics_ From_Data_to _Decisions_ CertificateYesterday morning Canada Newswire (CNW) hosted a seminar featuring Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff), Global Director of Emerging Media at PR Newswire (CNW’s parent company).  It was an inspiring seminar about ways to engage audiences. 

Here are my notes:


There were many content strategy nuggets offered; these three resonated most with me: 

  • “Advertisers story YELL, instead of story tell”
  • “In Google we trust” – 65% of buyer research is done before engaging directly with a vendor
  • 72 – 96 hours that’s how long content conversations last after release.   

Here’s a close look at each.

Advertisers story YELL instead of tell

With the rise of search engines, mobility and social; earned, owned and paid media are converging.  However, advertisers (content publishers) deliver messages designed for one of owned, earned or paid media – each has its own silo.  By operating in “content silos” the content sometimes gets out of context with the consumption technology – search, mobile and social media, so the audiences perceive the messages as “story YELLING”.

Time of day matters

There are multiple devices on which content is consumed and audiences have a tendency to use different devices at different times in the day.  For example:

Mobile in the morning – during the morning content is mostly consumed on a mobile device.  “Mobile context” means:

  • Keep it short – three swipes max / single scroll
  • Bullet points
  • No block paragraphs

Mid day is laptop / desktop consumption time – Context of the larger screen means:

  • Longer “heavier” content
  • Attachments
  • Video – best time for video is 1 – 3 pm.

Evening on the tablet – context means

  • Video use soars
  • Audiences are multi tasking – looking at tablets while listening / watching TV.

To make story telling an easier process across the three media “silos”, Pranikoff suggests these ways to engage audiences with an agile approach to content development:

  • Identify and target the intended audience
  • Engage and interact with the audience
  • Promote and syndicate content
  • Listen and analyze (use your analytics) the audience’s feedback

“In Google we trust”

Most buyers self educate on line.  In fact 65% of their research is complete before engaging with a vendor.  This demonstrates the trust people have that “Google knows where they should go to answer their questions.

In response content producers need to provide a “trail” indicating where we want them to go – a link to another website or purchase page, join an email list, donate, etc.

Content conversations last 72 – 96 hours after release

Following that initial 72 – 96 hours, CNW’s research shows that content enter a “long tail” period that lasts about four additional months.

However, those deploying multimedia content strategies by adding short bits of related content can extent the engagement period an additional 12 to 18 months.

Context is as important as the Content

CNW deploys the method talked about at the seminar – publishing their content in context with multiple device types, or different places online.  They improved audience engagement 35%.

Thank you CNW for sponsoring this informative seminar.

Get all the seminar tweets:  #cnwcontent



19 Jun

Staying on message with an external thought leader

Having an influential industry expert agree with your ideas and philosophies is powerful thought leadership marketing .  However an external thought leader can also carry a a double edged sword if you don’t check everything out.

Sometimes other people say things we wish they hadn’t.  Like the time I recruited a well-respected industry thought leader to speak to some customers about a problem they needed to solve.  The audience found the presentation helpful and actively engaged in an open discussion. 

Ouch – I wish they hadn’t said that

Then it happened  …. A completely unexpected question came about something our product could not do well.  The Thought Leader went into a long and detailed explanation why that was a great question, and something some buyers should to be concerned with. 

Needless to say we did not look good, and needed to explain our good reasons for not adopting this particular functionality instead of focussing on the issues we came to discuss.

Ensure compatibility

Your products and services adhere to your way of solving a business problem.  A thought leader’s impact on lead generation is directly proportional to the degree of overlap between their philosophies and your product’s functionality.  A high overlap the greater the impact. 

It is unlikely you will get 100% overlap, so it is vitally important to:

  • Understanding where the differences are is vitally important to avoid embarrassing situations. 
  • Agree how to handle circumstances that arise where your differences will be obvious.

Preventative action works well

Prior to joining together for a conference, webinar, whitepaper, be sure to give the Thought Leader a product demonstration so they can see exactly how it works.  During the demonstration be prepared to stop and explore your differences and clearly understand each other’s positions. 

Sometimes it is more advantageous to “court” thought leaders slowly so there is more time to get to know one another.

18 Jun

Traps to avoid with an internal thought leadership marketing strategy

Just about any business has at least one subject matter expert – a person with experience and expertise about a business problem target buyers are trying to solve.  Presenting their expertise to the target buyers in the form of thought leadership marketing strategy will trigger more invitations to target buyer short lists.

Deploying an in house thought leadership program comes with a couple of trap doors to avoid: The target buyer’s perception of a hidden sales agenda, and resisting the urge to pitch.  When building your thought leadership content here are was to side step the these trap doors:

Avoid the hidden sales agenda of thought leadership marketing strategies

When company thought leaders offer expertise there is a credibility gap – they are trying to sell their products.  It’s true they are.  However, my experience has been the opposite when the thought leader’s content is factually accurate and useful, target buyers quickly accept the implicit understanding that a commercial relationship could form.

One technique to partially overcome the perception that your thought leader is a sales person in disguise is to create a bit of separation between the individual and the company brand – independent blog site for example.  “Brand” the individual as a thought leader, separate from your company.

Just to be clear I am not advocating that businesses disguise their thought leader is also an employee, in fact just the opposite.  The company does need to give their thought leader the platform to deliver content as their own however.

Resisting the urge to pitch

There can be a strong temptation to insert product messaging and benefits into what is positioned as thought leadership content.  Think how frustrating it is being at a presentation you thought would be informational and it turns out to be a sales pitch.   Credibility is lost, and your thought leader is now perceived as a sales person instead of a thought leader.

Separate marketing and thought leadership messages

Marketing messages are designed to position products and their features.  Thought leadership marketing demonstrates your company’s subject matter expertise.  When your internal thought leaders mix the marketing message into their thought leadership message they lose credibility, so keep marketing messages out of thought leadership messages.

10 Jun

Review of Digital Strategy Conference 2013

digital_strategy_logoThe Ottawa Digital Strategy Conference presented a terrific tool for assessing digital marketing strengths and weaknesses, the dStrategy Media Digital Maturity ModelTM. 

dStrategy Media Digital Maturity Model

It’s an impressively simple model that provides an easy grading system and comprehensive framework around six dimensions: 



Human Resources The people and the skills required to deliver a digital strategy. 
Technology Resources Tools available to manage digital strategies such as CRM, Email, analytics / measurement, and marketing automation
Data Strategy Reflects all the ways data is captured, stored, managed and used in decision making.
Content Strategy A comprehensive process to create, manage, deliver, share, and archive content in reliable ways.
Channel Strategy How your digital presence is presented to target buyers through paid, owned and earned media.
Social Business Strategy The tools and ability to collaborate online and transparently with customers, prospects, employees, and partners.

Each dimension has criteria for being graded on a scale from zero to high. We spent most of the first day applying those criteria to case studies and to our own work environments.

The next two days guest speakers took us through their lessons and expertise on the dimensions.

Notes from some of the speakers:

Keynote:  Making Digital Human

  • Nancy Richardson (@asiandragonlady), VP Digital & Brand at Lu Lu Lemon

Nancy presented five leadership principals for a successful digital marketing strategy:

  1. Hold Space – Do something. 
  2. Focus, prioritize and stay the course – when you say yes to everything, your yes has no meaning
  3. Communicate fearlessly to build trust – new ideas are greater than safety
  4. Think of everyone as a storyteller – our people are our story
  5. Create a vision and pull it forward – What if you weren’t afraid of failing?

Our Brave new World:  Branding in the Digital World

  • Ross Hugessen (@rhugessen), Vice President & Client Insight Leader, Ipsos

The digital world is changing how people interact with brands – they can choose a close, a distant or no relationship at all.  We are in an era of pull marketing and as such need to measure behaviours such as views, click through by site, search, URL visits and social posts.

Creating a Marketing Automation Blue Print Case Study

  • Pierce UJJainwalla (@marketing_101), Marketing Automation Consultant, Revenue Pulse and Peter Hrabinsky, VP Marketing, Revenue Automate.com

Marketing automation enables progressive profiling which allows businesses to send messages to people based on their behaviours – what they download, or view.  This personalized experience also enables multiple campaigns, nurturing streams, lead scoring and the attribution of revenue directly to each marketing program. 

Data Strategy:  Preparing for Performance Measurement and Digital Analytics

  • Christopher Berry (@cjpberry), Chief Science Officer, Authentic

Chris began by saying “It is a choice to have a data strategy or compete on gut feel”.  He went on to show us what it takes for good performance measurement and analytics;

A good data strategy pulls from three different categories of skills:

  1. Technical – Those who use tool sets such as Google Analytics
  2. Analytical – those able to derive meaning from the data extracted from the tools
  3. Strategic – those who can align business objectives

It is almost impossible to find all three in the same person.

When setting your objectives there are two important questions that shape the objectives needed to define a data strategy:

  • Whose behaviour are you trying to shape?
  • What behaviour are you trying to cause?
  • Rahel Anne Bailie (@rahelab), President, Intentional Design.ca

What is Content Strategy?

“Content is the primary way that people understand our products” Therefore our content must be treated like a business asset – inventoried and tracked for its effectiveness.  In other words be sure (through the data strategy) that all content:

  • Enhances the user’s experience
  • Is easy to find because the website is designed for users.
  • Rob Woodbridge (@RobWoodbridge), Founder, Untether TV and Brian Flanagan (@bflanagan), Sr. Director, Product and Retail Canada and LATAM, Expedica Canada.

Thinking outside the box – Establishing a Mobile Strategy

The title is interesting considering the thesis of the presentation was “Mobile is NOT a Strategy!  Mobile Can be an Important Channel”.  To be successful with a mobile channel answer these questions:

  • Where are your customers?
  • Do your customers have smartphones (%)?
  • What do they do in on their mobile devices?
  • Is your infrastructure able to support Mobile? 

What is Social Strategy?

  • Delaney Turner (@dturnerblogs), Social Business Strategist, IBM Canada Ltd.

Social media becomes social business when it’s engaging, transparent and nimble:

  • Engaging – two way conversation
  • Transparent – information flows freely
  • Nimble – there is quick adaption to change.

04 Jun

Ottawa Digital Strategy Conference Review of Day 1 and 2

If you’re not following #dstrategy on Twitter, here’s why you should.

Ottawa’s Digital Strategy Conference takes a deep dive into Digital Strategy including operational readiness, content strategy, mobility, paid media and analytics.  And to make sure it all sinks in – with challenging case studies.

This is one of the most valuable conferences I have attended in a long time.  The organizers are taking us beyond the website, blog and social media.  We’re being pushed out of our comfort zones into serious issues and challenges like establishing digital maturity to identify specifically what is required to make the necessary changes to be successful in digital marketing.

We’ve been looking at practical issues around CRM and Marketing Automation systems – how they need each other and how they work independently of each other.  There was advice on how the implement these systems and what realistically what an organization has to commit to these systems and the returns they are capable of generating.

We’ve looked at other issues like Content Strategy with industry expert and author Rahel Anne Bailie.  But this was much deeper than “know your audience” and “be authentic” clichés – Rahel took us into:

  • Building repeatable processes
  • Content lifecycle
  • Governance
  • Managing content as a business asset.
  • Behavioural and demographic personas

The conference has taken a serious look at mobile’s place in a digital strategy.  Rob Woodbridge, Founder of Untether.tv offered expert perspectives on revenue generation from mobile devices and metrics to use analyzing mobile traffic.  We heard three mobility case studies each with a unique perspective on how mobility creates opportunities with customer loyalty, revenue, and engagement.

Tomorrow is the last day of Digital Strategy and we’re talking about Social Media Strategy and in the afternoon measurement and analytics.  Follow the sessions on twitter @dstrategy.

Here’s a complete review of the entire event.

03 Jun

Social Capital 2013 – An event Review

socap_badge-150x150A big thank you to the organizers of the 2013 Social Capital Conference held at Algonquin College last Saturday (June 1, 2013).  I went to last year’s event too and this one was just as good.  Like last year there was great networking, very good speakers and even a great lunch.  I think the organizing committee did a terrific job selecting speakers who offered solid information.  It’s too bad I had to miss Danny Brown’s closing keynote, but from the tweets it looks like it was amazing.

Morning Keynote

The opening keynote address was Blogging, community and making it work by Gini Dietrich (Spinsucks.com, @spinsucks).  Gini said that community happens when there are conversations between members on not with the “community owner”.  She gave some examples of how this has happened on her blog; like the time another blogger accused one her staff members of plagiarism and “the community” defended Gini’s staff member.

As a blogger just starting out I really appreciated Gini’s emphasis on patience – several times during her talk she reminded us she has been blogging almost seven years.  The message: don’t expect instant results, be patient and keep at it…. There’s no shortcut.

Gini gave some good advice for getting your community started:

  • It will take a long time, so be patient.
  • Comment on and share materials from other websites you admire
  • Always remember the vision for your blog (what are you trying to do?)  Gini vision for her blog is trying to change people’s perceptions that PR.
  • Set modest goals, especially when starting out

Breakout sessions

There were four tracks for the breakout sessions; Case studies, Content, Law& Ethics, and Strategy.  We could “cross tracks” anytime.

Why you are stupid” by Bob LeDrew (@bobledrew)

I loved the title – it’s a statement about being smart with your social media.  The point of Bob’s talk was listen to your audience, be human and above all else DON’T BE BORING.  As Bob said we may find ourselves fascinating, but others might just find us boring.

Bob drove home his point “boring” point by making us suffer through really boring video with bad music that was produced by one of the more exciting agencies here in Ottawa.  It was two minutes of my life I would like back, but it will make me think about being boring.

According to Bob, really smart social media people:

  • ·         Listen to their audience
  • ·         Put themselves in their audience’s position 
  • ·         Engage with their audience
  • ·         Demonstrate the value of social media through measurement

Royalty Free Images Aren’t Free:  Finding and using photos for your site without getting sued by Danielle Donders (@danigirl). 

If you are like me and believe graphics help make your blog better, then this session was for you.  You might think a topic with “legal ease” might be boring…. But Danielle made it easy to listen and learn without getting bored.  The main points from this session:

  • ·         Royalty Free means pay for it once and then use it as you please.  The key word(s), pay for it once.
  • ·         Get permission – if you see a picture you want use, contact the photographer, tell them the purpose of your blog and ask for their permission.
  • ·         You can get sued for using material without authorization – Danielle gave a couple of scary examples.

The medium and the message are dead. Long live the story” by Dennis Van Straalduinenn (@Denven).

From the title you knew this was going to be about story telling, and Dennis is very good at that.  His presentation was lively, funny and full of Marshall McLuhan references.  In fact Dennis’ presentation style is so engaging it was hard to take notes for fear of missing something good.

One of his terrific slides was “What makes a good story” (I took a picture, but it didn’t come out very well so I can’t add it here; that’s why you have to put up with my description).  There are four components – Characters, Setting, Main events, and Resolution and overlapping all of them is the problem the target audience is trying to solve.  Build your story around that problem using the four components.  If you build your story around resolving the customer problem, customers will want to share it with their communities.

Two other great points Dennis made:

  • ·         Stories have guidelines, not hard and fast rules so they don’t always fit with a brand guide.
  • ·         Our audiences want to work – give them two plus two, let them figure out that it equals four.

“Influencer Relations – Not all are created equal” by Mary Pretotto (@marypretotto)

The final presentation I attended was.  Mary talked about how her employer, Roger’s Communications has used influencers and ambassador programs to launch products and drive business.

Suggestion for next year’s Social Capital Conference

How about widening the audience appeal?  This was my second Social Capital event and I notice some of the material is advanced for novice users.  I wonder if the organizing committee would consider doing a “rookies track” for newbies or social media novices.  Have a how to track for some of the social media tools like Hootsuite, Twitter, Linked in, etc.

Thank you again to the organizers for pulling together such a great event.