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Archive for the ‘Dialogue Marketing’ Category

Collaborate is the New Black

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Listening looks good on you

Work often looks like a flavor-of-the-month shop. Depending on which consultants get the ear of those with a budget for adjusting corporate culture, we could be talking about mindfulness, or total quality commitment or getting the right people on the bus—there is no end to the analogies and training seminars and tightly-packed sessions to buy.

Always these programs promise change. Sometimes they deliver.

Here's why you should care.

Here’s why you should care.

But the constant impetus behind these attempts is employee engagement. The days of just showing up to stand on an assembly line or sit in a cubicle are long gone. Putting in hours is not enough—was it ever enough?

Engagement is tricky, of course. Employees work with BS filters set on high, which is why suggestion boxes rarely worked. Everyone knew putting a well-reasoned argument on a slip of paper and dropping it in a box went exactly nowhere.

No—the will to listen, which is near the heart of collaboration—must come from within rather than without. There must be a kernel of mission that speaks to listening to the good people you’ve brought in. The trick is to find that kernel. Engaged employees have done that work, usually on their own time.

I’m excited about a particular client of mine with a compelling, collaborative mission. They’ve invested millions in a particular process that is doing something brand new in the world. My client is lining up eager collaborators from industry and from academia. They are just now setting up systems to deepen their collaboration with researchers across the globe.

But how far are they willing to go with collaboration?

Working and learning together is the stated center of their mission—and this organization lives it out in countless ways. But are they willing to make messages that reach out and pull people in—even with ongoing research? Are they willing to set themselves apart as leaders willing to share knowledge in endlessly accessible research bites that are media and social media ready? After all, my client is partnering with an industry known for its secrecy, so what will collaboration and the inevitable transparency look like with these steely customers?

All that remains to be seen.

But one thing is certain: the will and gifts and curiosity of engaged, collaborative partners and employees is the only thing that will help this move forward.


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

April 7, 2014 at 9:37 am

Dialogue 2.0: Can a Marketer Game a Conversation?

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Yes. But maybe no?

Lots of us try to figure how to turn a conversation to our advantage.

Marketers increasingly slip us information just when we want it, like Google giving directions to the donut place on the way to my next meeting.

Bad Google.

Carefully observe, one must.

Carefully observe, one must.

Carl Griffith, writing over at ClickZ, wants marketing websites to recognize and reengage with returning customers via their behind the scenes content management system. He wants websites to engage in dialogue like people do: no need for reintroductions. We know you—you know us—where did we leave off last time? Cookies help this happen, of course. Amazon is an example of picking up where you left off and adding suggestions for more purchasing joy. That is likely where all web properties are headed.

Mr. Griffith goes further: what if we programmed into our content management systems a way to pick up on non-verbals? He means those signals that pass between animate conversation partners (I wrote human first and then remembered how much non-verbal information dogs pick up): the open or closed hands, the orientation of shoulders or head toward or away from the speaker, the eye contact (or lack thereof)—all these bring depth and context to our conversations. That depth and context adds to the words exchanged or belies the words exchanged. Listen to Mr. Griffith:

You will be familiar with the throw-away lines in everyday conversations around the importance of non-verbal communication and what we have now in the world of digital are ways of understanding the more silent and less obvious conversations and dialogue we now have with our consumers driven by context and the insights we should derive from the sum of interaction and engagement.

As a consumer—or for anyone increasingly wary of how our own national security apparatus listens in at will—it’s easy to read sinister overtones into these marketing improvements. Marketers will want to be wary of any resemblance to the NSA, although all the players are starting to look like classmates from the same surveillance school.

But in a human conversation, we start to get the sense of when our partner is yanking our chain—or outright manipulating facts and/or lying. And we back away. Quickly. Perhaps the computer programs that touch our web conversations will go the way of 30 second TV spots—a chance for us to cognitively check-out because we know we’re being sold something.

Mr. Griffith’ vision of dialogue 2.0 is starting to sound like a return to monologue, only in shorter bits and micro-fitted and shoehorned into seemingly ordinary conversations.

Caveat emptor.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston (Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life)

Written by kirkistan

April 3, 2014 at 9:32 am

What is Your Purpose with Your People?

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Can You Articulate Your “Why?” and “What for?”03042014-URBimp2

I’ve been gushing over Improv Wisdom lately, this 2005 book by Patricia Ryan Madson. I’m thinking of buying a number of copies to give away and wondering how I can incorporate it as a supplemental text in my next classes. The book is easy to read, memorable and full of actionable wisdom all directed at staying in the moment and building something with others. Ms. Madson—a drama professor at Stanford, improv maniac, eager collaborator and kind-hearted encourager—brings a lot of life to how we can work with others. Now I find myself ordering the primary source texts cited by Ms. Madson.

Ms. Madson has been kind enough to respond to my tweeted epiphanies when reading her book. I am impressed by the longevity and timeliness of certain ideas. Ms. Madson’s 2005 book will likely be relevant for a long, long time.

As I finish with my Social Media Marketing class, I’m reading reflections from the students. One near universal regret was not having a clearer sense of their purposes for the communities they were trying to create. We spent focused time on this early on in the class, but forming a crystal clear picture of what we want to accomplish with others is neither easily understood nor often practiced. I know this from the number of companies I’ve been in that operated every day without a clear sense of what they were trying to do with their audiences.

Students resist the tightly-formed purpose and the close definition of their audience because it feels so restrictive. It just feels easier to write anything for everyone. At least that’s how the class always starts. But at the end of the class, there are multiple confessions about how the tight purpose and close definition actually freed them to say much, much more to their target audience. This experience fits with a bit of improv wisdom Ms. Madson offered:02262014-Cover-burgundy

Rather than asking “What do I feel like doing?” when a free moment arises, instead ask “What is my purpose?

I love this question for my class and I love this question personally. The question presupposes I have a purpose and assumes I know that purpose. The question assumes I am conversant with my purpose and assumes I am in the habit of articulating it to myself and others.

All these presuppositions and assumptions are worth pursuing. Going back to our purpose again and again sounds like bearing fruit over a lifetime.

And this: Patricia Ryan Madson should write more books.


Image credit: imgur

Why You Must Tinker with Your Social Media “Why?”

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Strategy is a fuse. You must light the fuse.

Say you’re writing a blog.

Any blog. Maybe…a blog where you want to get people to tell their stories (purely hypothetical example). Or this: maybe you are running a blog aimed at pulling in people looking for insights about what our national obsessions say about us, as told through the press. Again: pure theory. Just making this up. Both blog examples sound a bit vague—but that’s the groovy deal with social media: you try something and see what happens.

So, say you try stuff.

Say you fail.

But…you learn stuff. And you tune it up.

You go back to your original strategy document and realize: Oh! Our stories must be more than just well-told (though that is certainly the beginning point). They must pull people in with tight surprises or well-crafted morals. Or something. Because these stories are competing with Angry Birds and Facebook and actual paid work—all manner of distractions that keep people from reading our blog. So those stories gotta be good. They’ve got to be better in a way we’ve not quite yet devised.

And so your strategy evolves.

Congratulations: this is what forward movement looks like.

These are the questions any brand faces, with the added goal of trying not to devolve into a selling spiel. This social media world is no static, set-it-and-forget-it deal. It’s more like a living, breathing conversation in a room full of people constantly walking in and out. And for your brand to be heard, for your blog to be recognized, for your insights to be caught, you must continue to tighten the focus on who you are trying to reach and get better at laying out the right content for your target audience to feed on.

And this: there is an aspirational part to providing strategic content. I like how Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach says it in Content Strategy for the Web:

Aspirational: it’s a stretch for the organization, focusing on what you want to become ideally (not what you can feasibly do).

Content must paint a picture of who we are that is slightly in the future and slightly a wish list. Brands do this constantly, of course, which is why people buy BMW or Coke or Apple. They buy into the vision as they purchase the product.

How can we do that for the community we want to build with our blog content? It starts and continues with focused attention on what this audience needs, today, tomorrow and the next day. Our content must paint a picture of we can be at our best.

This will always be a moving target.



Groundswell: Your Moment Has Passed.

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So 2008.

I’m done with Groundswell.

Oh, I like the book. A lot. And the argument for an empowered people (via social technologies) continues to make excellent sense. Li and Bernoff did a great service by gathering facts and stories into a rational retelling of where we are today with hearing and connecting en masse.

When I first read Groundswell, emotive moments of recognition flickered constantly. Li and Bernoff led the way in helping me understand this unfolding opportunity lodged in my computer. But those moments are not just in my computer any more. They are on my phone, in my pocket and before my eyes as I walk.

It’s the ubiquity of the opportunity that makes everything look different.

Students in my class assume forums for support will be available, they turn to product and service reviews first—why wouldn’t they? Reviews from peers have always been available. These self-proclaimed 90s kids (I guess that’s a thing) interact in most of the ways that Li and Bernoff predicted. So there are few emotive flickers from them even as I shout “Yes!” (possibly to their “Huh?” and amusement). And these students demonstrate a familiarity with technology far advanced from students even two years ago.

So…wheels turn and time goes on and books fade to triviality. I’ll suppose I’ll check out Empowered next time I teach this class. The last thing anybody needs is another old guy in their life telling how things used to be.

And this: the Groundswell moment just passed has opened on a much wider vista that seems to invite collaboration like never before. To not listen to each other is starting to feel like a cardinal sin. Not because it dishonors the human condition (which it does) but because the opportunities in working together are beginning to look massive.



Let’s Infect Ourselves: The Logical Conclusions of Social Media

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Just Walk the Opportunity Backwards and You’ll See

It’s easy to love the tools of social media and become all enamored by what they do and the sorts of connections they make. Brand new connections you would never have made before. But connecting takes a lot of energy and frankly, lots of vigilance. One must keep atop one’s game. And if you stop (connecting), well, you lose it all.

In this ever-connecting world there is a growing sense that the old marketing monologue, the one we used to interrupt and hypnotize potential customers, is being boxed and shelved. Over at Clarity Coverdale Fury they talk a lot about the characteristics of the Conscious Consumer, how purchasing choices are coming from a more thoughtful place. And students in my Social Media Marketing class confirm that the threshold for seeking information on even common purchases is getting lower and lower. Why not get a review on a cup of coffee before you buy? It’s too easy.

Some smart folks will gather to discuss what employee collaboration looks like in companies today. Deep collaboration seems a logical conclusion of connecting, especially as we pivot away from command and control styles of leadership. I’m curious to hear how the innate rewards of being a boss and being in charge fit with the goal of bringing out the collaborative best in people. So I signed up to attend the breakfast. My experience is that those intent on ascending the corporate ladder have neither the same desires nor the skill sets as those who enable collaboration. Of course, they are not always mutually exclusive

But this is where we are going: Deeper employee collaboration. Deeper collaboration between customers and companies, where customers have a voice not just for getting support but now for product development.

This is the logical conclusion of connecting.

It is written.



Kristina Halvorson & The Discipline of Making Stuff Up

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Content Strategy and Brain Traffic

Someone asked a perfectly reasonable question:

What is content?

Our Social Media Marketing class is composed of collegiates with a passion for writing and communicating. Whether from the Journalism/Communication school or from the English department, we’ve come together around this notion of producing content in pursuit of a vision.

So we write.

While “content” seems a rude way to talk about the deep thinking that goes into a paper on, say, the merits of determinism, it’s a term that works pretty well for less lofty/more human conversation. The kinds of conversation suited to inviting in semi-interested onlookers.

Content is the stuff we use to describe our vision for…whatever. If we’re building a coalition to alleviate homelessness, the content we produce will point to the problem, tell stories about real people, show the inadequacy of current solutions and keep offering attitudes that illustrate the need and humanity of the man on the corner with the sign. If we work for a company that makes implantable deep brain stimulators, our content will highlight the current science behind Parkinson’s disease, show current (inadequate) ways of dealing with the disease, harp on the benefits of such stimulation without hiding the downsides.01302014-content-strategy-diagram

Kristina Halvorson, founder and CEO of Brain Traffic and co-author of Content Strategy for the Web will join us today (provided she can plow through 4-6 inches of new snow) to talk about the disciplines involved with making stuff up. Because that’s what content is: making stuff up. For a purpose. Making stuff up in accordance with a discipline, toward a specific end, to meet a particular business or social objective. That’s why content and writing go so well together: there’s nothing a writer likes more than stepping into a big idea and exploring the main streets, side streets and alleys and foot paths with words and images and video. Sometimes we have a map to start with. Sometimes we make up the map as we go.

Mostly we do both.


Image credits: Brain Traffic

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