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  • Pam Flores
    04.08.2014

    Getting Back to Basics: Branding 101

    Recently, we were asked by a long-term client to help them reposition their brand in the marketplace. 2014 is a milestone year for the firm as they introduce significant process innovations that will help redefine the way they—and the industry—do business.

    Leveraging this milestone with an eye to the future, rather than a look back, provided them a great platform for reinvigorating their brand messaging to better reflect who they are and effectively position them for decades to come.

    Over the years, we’ve found that the concept of branding is still somewhat misunderstood. To some, branding is synonymous with designing a new logo or crafting a clever tag line. While those can be important elements of a rebranding, we believe strong messaging lies at the heart of effort and drives the look and feel.

    Another branding reality is that your reputation is built 80% on experience and 20% messaging. Organizations must be able to deliver on their brand promise—and engaged employees are those most critical to making that happen. Make sure your message is framed in the context of how it supports the customer experience.

    The Brand Repositioning Process

    At its core, brand repositioning is about getting a bead on where you are today versus where you want to be—then crafting the messaging first and the look second, to help you get there. When implementing a branding messaging program for our clients, we employ a three-step process outlined below.

    Discovery

    As the name implies, you start with a solid understanding how your brand is currently perceived by your key stakeholders—customers, employees, shareholders, and industry influencers, for example. In the case of our client, they had a long-standing reputation in the market—a strong foundation on which to build. Look at how you’re currently presenting yourself to those audiences. And, the tougher half of the equation—based on the firm’s vision and strategic plan; articulate what you want the brand to stand for going forward.

    An important step in Discovery is to audit your current messaging, by reviewing a wide range of marketing, sales support and communications materials. Your review should include proposals, collateral, articles, digital and social content.

    Use the findings of that audit, along with feedback from your stakeholders, to help coalesce the leadership team around the more aspirational brand messaging.  What messages still resonate with your targets and represent who you want to be? Conversely, what is overused and no longer a differentiator, has become stale and should be eliminated from your corporate lexicon?

    Be sure to get a good cross-section of perspectives—from different functional areas and levels of your organization. Once insights are gathered, common themes begin to emerge and will help guide your message development. Finally, conduct a competitive scan to understand the environment in which you’re positioning must stand out.

    Design

    In the design phase, you map out the messaging, and set the tone and voice for your new positioning. When building the message blueprint, it is important to capture the firm’s story in a way that not only resonates across key stakeholder groups but is easily tailored to the various audiences and market segments that are important to your business.

    The message construct starts with a value proposition—one to two sentences that align your strengths with relevant, high priority client needs and distinguishes you from the competition. Typically, this is one of the toughest parts of the process.

    From that base come three-to-five core messages that succinctly spell out what you offer in the marketplace, details where you excel, and how this benefits customers.

    Proof points pay off each core message, giving your targets a reason to believe. Any audience or market specific messaging is spelled out here. The result is a common blueprint for brand positioning that will guide development of all your materials.

    Delivery

    In delivery, it’s all about execution. This is where the new messaging synchs up with the look and feel to roll out your new positioning. Your website is one of the more impactful stops throughout a buyers’ decision journey and as such, is often #1 in terms of delivery priority.

    Ensuring Success

    When embarking on a brand positioning, it is important to keep the end game in mind. In order to be effective, brand messaging must be:

    • Relevant – It speaks to stakeholders most important needs and wants
    • Differentiating – It separates you from the competition
    • Authentic – It’s in your true voice and consistent with who you are (and want to be)
    • Credible – Stakeholders believe you can deliver on the brand promise
    • Aspirational – It builds on your existing equity and takes it to the next level

     

    Great positioning can do a lot for a brand in keeping it relevant and distinct in the marketplace. It not only supports the growth of the business, but also can re-energize the internal team. Done right, it should serve you well in the immediate term as well as years down the road. Think about your brand today. Does it reflect who you are and who you want to be?

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  • Kathy Baughman
    04.01.2014

    When your brand is an ingredient… …your content strategy needs to reflect that

    Kathy’s blog on content marketing for ingredient brands was originally featured on Industrial Marketer, a blog by Tom Repp dedicated to offering the latest in top-level strategy for the industrial executive.


    Ingredient branding is one of the core principles of B2B marketing for those companies whose products are a component of other products. It differentiates the product offerings and establishes how they are essential to other, more familiar products. According to research conducted by Industrial Marketing Today, ingredient brands are shifting budgets and resources from traditional industrial marketing programs to inbound. While some in the C-suite were skeptical about the efficacy of content marketing to generate sales, today’s path-to-purchase overrides these concerns. The decision journey includes multiple decision-makers who want to discover new ways to do things or understand how a component will integrate into their systems. Different content types have different authority and influence at each point of the journey and each individual decision-maker has its own preferences and “go-to” places for high authority content.

    Today ingredient brands need to sell their smarts; not their products. Component manufacturers need to overcome their “vender” mentality and instead create a content strategy that demonstrates their value as a visionary partner. Old school content such as product collateral, sell sheets or component catalogs and price books, still have a place on the roadmap but do little to convince the multiple decision-makers of the company’s innovation, solutions orientation or provide an experience that makes them “need” to work with a specific partner.

    A recent conversation with Carlos Abler, Leader – Online Content Strategy at 3M, focused on some of the complexities faced by ingredient brands in selling to OEMs or system integrators. According to Abler, “Ingredient brands need to deepen their customer centricity to a more role-based approach. They need to holistically understand the tasks undertaken by each role that ultimately touches or influences the buying decision.”

    Companies selling to OEMs, for example, need to consider multiple roles, including:

    • Industrial designer, who is interested in ideas and applications
    • Design engineer, who wants to know the specifications
    • Process engineer, who needs to determine if the solution will work in the company’s manufacturing environment
    • Compliance officer, who ensures the components are environmentally compliant in all manufacturing locations
    • Program manager, who wants to find companies that can contribute to multiple projects
    • Economic buyer, who negotiates terms and pricing
    • Partners, who can integrate products into net new solutions

    This suggests a complex sales construct with multiple cells, which needs to be reflected in the content strategy. Companies can no longer act transnationally with customers and prospects. The content strategy needs to combine thought leadership with innovative use cases that span multiple industries and sectors. The content strategy also needs to provide great evaluation and simulation tools; this type of content underscores the partnership mentality of the company vs. the transactional view of a “vender”. According to Abler, “Buyers want an ideational partner. They want to work with visionaries who can articulate and demonstrate future possibilities and share application content that demonstrates this. If the ingredient brand waits until the buyer is at the specification stage, they are too late.”

    Another consideration is NDA compliance, which can prevent ingredient brands from disclosing their coolest or most innovative applications. This requires a lot of creativity to communicate their vision and ability to be a creative thought partner without disclosing actual applications.

    BASF handled this issue through their long running ad campaign, which established its brand as a component that made products better. Their advertising showed multiple applications that never disclosed customer names. The campaign used arresting visuals of familiar products in engaging situations with a voice over that said things like:

    “We don’t make the dress, we make it brighter”“We don’t make the motorcycle; we make it quicker.”“We don’t make the sand board; we make it lighter.”BASF. The Chemical Company.

    3M positioned its innovation for the electronics industry through a video with a science fiction theme. It featured various futuristic applications such as wristbands with flexible displays, glass touchscreens and wearable technology. The video highlighted 3M’s innovation without ever showing any customer’s actual application. Yet, it appealed to designers wanting a partner who could take them to “what’s next”.

    Ingredient brands also need to include “to” and “thru” content as part of the roadmap. This is important for communicating with partners and for helping with intra-role interactions. Partners need content “to” them that spells out why the ingredient brand’s applications and innovations matter to the partner’s customers. They also need “thru” content that helps with sell-through to their customer base. These dynamics also apply within a prospect company. Ingredient brands need to speak the language and address the needs of each role and help those in those roles communicate up and down the chain. This is a huge gap in many content strategies.

    Huge organizational and cultural challenges exist that prevent component manufacturers and integrators from adopting this type of matrixed content strategy. Often, the corporate level has the best horizontal view of the impact it can have on industrial design across industries and organizations. Yet, the budgets for content live in the product or business level, which tends to have a more parochial view. In some instances, multiple products can compete for the same piece of business, each offering a different solution or application. These divisional or product siloes prevent the company from presenting an overarching story that tells the big “ideation” and “innovation” story. If this becomes a centralized function, they can tap the divisions or product areas for deeper, role focused content.

    The resulting content strategy will reflect understanding through the lens of the customer and further refract it into the subtopics and interests of the multiple decision-makers. Ultimately, ingredient brands need to inspire design and product engineers, inform program managers and instill confidence in economic buyers. Your sales people may or may not have relationships with all decision-makers and influencers. A content strategy that offers spec sheets and price lists will leave your potential as an innovation partner undiscovered.

    For more on content strategy, check out Content Supply Chain and The Alchemy of Content.

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  • Jennifer Voisard
    03.18.2014

    Creating Content for the Tech Buyer

    Recently TechTarget summarized the implications of a study conducted by SolarWinds that looked at the “Evolving Role of IT.” Not surprisingly the data shows that nine out of 10 IT professionals agree that an increasingly complex infrastructure has affected their roles over the past three to five years. The executive vice president of products and markets was quoted as saying, "The complexity that it’s creating is tremendous. IT pros are trying to chase a car moving 100 miles per hour, and they are on foot."

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    From a technology perspective IT Pros report that Cloud and Mobility will see the highest levels of investment in the future according to the study.

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    And, for large technology investments UBM Tech tells us that an average of 7.2 people can touch a purchase decision – both inside and outside of IT. As a result, the alignment of new business models and emerging technologies brings a great talent and skills gap to the work place – especially in IT.

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    From a content perspective this can be very daunting for large technology vendors, because IT is expected to both build the business case and implement the solution. In a nutshell, their current and prospective customers need trusted information to help them:

    · Stay on the forefront of emerging technology

    · Make trusted vendor recommendations for large investments

    · Build the business case

    · Deploy large scale solutions

    · Work with LOBs

    · Keep end users happy and productive

    · Secure their data

    · Deliver business based results

    · Save money

    And, they need this content yesterday.

    Creating content for IT Pros needs to be carefully crafted. You have to understand what makes them tick — to know what to do and what not to do. Tech buyers are looking for a mix of business focused content and the speeds and feeds. Vendor content is essential, but in many cases third party/unbiased content is often more authoritative and trusted. They rely heavily on search and their peer networks both on and offline. IT Pros also expect an optimal mobile experience no matter the content or channel.

    If you are responsible for generating content for this audience the best way to start is with your various buyer personas. It is the first step to a content strategy. Don’t have any personas? Check around in your organization first. Some pockets within your company might have done some market research, commissioned studies or conducted interviews/focus groups. Identify your holes and either augment with additional primary research or conduct third party research. Make sure that you have a baseline understanding of their:

    · Role in the organization and the purchase process

    · Pain points

    · Digital, social and mobile behaviors

    · Key go-to sources for information

    Once you lay this foundation you can begin to put your tech buyers in the driver seat because you’ll have insights into what content will resonate and help the most.

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  • Colleen Nolan
    03.04.2014

    Quality Content Diet

    It sometimes seems that you can’t attend a meeting without someone making a joke about “feeding the content beast.” Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the need for the beast to have a quality and balanced diet. Early in the process, it seems that your content program is like a new puppy. It’s an exciting and new experience with extra care, and even costs are expended to make sure your program gets what it needs for healthy growth.

    But like that puppy, once your program is mature, the content diet can get off track. Whether apathy orclip_image004 overload, or a coupon for a cheaper food, it is easy to get distracted and the overall quality of the content can suffer. How do you know if you are neglecting your content doggie? Below are a few warning signs:

    · Volume Is Up: If you find yourself producing more content to please more internal clients, chances are your focus has shifted from the content consumer to your product and service marketers. Study after study tells us that more is not better—it’s just more. Stop now before you make your dog sick!

    · Editorial Standards Are Optional: If you have drifted from your original editorial guidelines, and it’s not in direct response to additional learnings about the market or your audience, your quality will suffer. Your content is supposed to have a focus and a point-of-view. And yes, it is faster and easier to produce it if it does not. But just like you would not feed your dog a steady diet of gerbil food because someone sent you a free sample in the mail, you would have to align with and be sure to uphold your editorial standards and focus.

    · Content Isn’t Reused: At a minimum you should be reusing at least 15%. If you are producing 100% new content each month, chances are you have a budget unlike 99% of the content organizations out there or it’s not all high quality. Do yourself a favor and look at developing content that can easily be reused and refreshed. Don’t worry; I’m not going to make an analogy about feeding your dog recycled food.

    · Inconsistent Across the Cycle: Best practice is to develop and reuse content throughout the sales funnel. If you find that your content is heavy in the beginning of your funnel or just inconsistent across the customer journey, it’s time to hit pause. Make sure you are providing content for the entire sales cycle; including post-purchase and not all of it is original content. You can’t just feed your dog in the morning and ignore him at dinner and wonder why he’s not behaving the way you expected.

    I understand that developing high quality content that advances your brand and business objectives is hard work—sort of like training your dog. But what you will find is that a consistent investment actually takes less time and yields greater results. If you get off track, a quick return to the basics will get you back to having a good dog vs. a content beast.

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  • Kevin Lynch
    02.25.2014

    Managing The Torrent

    Click the image above to
    view the full infographic.

    At a recent industry event, marketers from both B2B and B2C brands were in heated discussions about the complexity and sheer volume of social media traffic they needed to deal with. Service and support issues were far and away the biggest topic. The social marketers all fear missing that one Facebook post or Tweet that can escalate into a viral nightmare and damage the value of their brands. These are legitimate concerns made more difficult by the varying ability of automated listening systems and platforms to sift through everything picked up in the cloud. Add to that the need for overworked staff to be on top of all this data and you can see the potential for disaster. All of these brands have significant traditional call centers and add social teams to them as they can. Growing the social teams to meet the demand as customer ‘issues’ grow more social in nature is constrained by budgets and the ability to find qualified employees.

    For many of these social marketers, it seems the joy of going to work each day is tempered by the fear of the lurking complaint that goes untended. And, that’s a shame since marketers by nature are an optimistic, ‘can do’ group of people. Adding to the pressure is the realization that not only do you need to recognize the issue but you need to respond—or at least acknowledge it—in increasingly faster response times. Long gone are the 24/36 hour windows. Achieving best in class status now means having at least one’ touch’ within four hours. Airlines, for example, have managed to narrow their response times to 30 minutes.

     

    Accepted Best Practices for social customers include:

    • Meet your customers where they are
    • Know your customer before they contact you
    • Leverage a community of experts to help solve reoccurring, common issues
    • Reorganize and reward your customer to keep them engaged

     

    So, how best to balance the need to find and ‘fix’ and also create value for the brand? Several of the marketers report that they look at the service issue as a unique opportunity to extend brand loyalty. Their research shows that their customers really appreciate being heard—even if a quick fix is not possible. They track the then positive social chatter as a measure of customer satisfaction and a way to maintain customer engagement.

    What steps do you take to deal with the social torrent? Have any great examples of turning complaints into compliments?

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  • Jennifer Voisard
    02.05.2014

    Go Fish

    Everyone is a buzz about digital story telling these days and its gain in popularity makes sense. Stories are the fabric of our history. They can be verbal, written, a song, a painting, a photograph, but more importantly they are the most relatable form of communication (which is why they have been used throughout centuries). Enter digital.

    Smart brands will insert story telling into their content marketing strategies using the digital tools of today to offer creative and visually compelling content in order to emotionally connect with consumers. However, these stories are not about products or services. Michael Brenner of SAP reinforces this and says that brands will compete when they establish “relationships that build trust.” Today’s buyer is “looking for brands that know how to connect in a human and emotional way.”

    Microsoft Stories is a great example. Products take a back seat and employees are front and center. This program is meant to humanize the brand. These stories are about great things being done inside one of the world’s most innovative companies.

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    The hub is graphically appealing with lots of interactivity and they use photography with data visuals. And, the stories are fascinating. Check out their new CSI lab where they work to fight cybercrime or Microsoft’s City of the Future. Even some of Microsoft’s toughest blogger critics gave them props. Why? They show Microsoft in a totally different way. A human way.

    It is not easy though. First, you have to understand what will resonate with people. What they care about, what they want to know and how to relate to them in a meaningful way. Next, you have to break through the deluge of information and keep their attention. Michael Brenner includes a factoid from Statistic Brain that basically says we humans have less of an attention span than a goldfish!

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    What are your thoughts on digital storytelling and how to do you plan to mix this in with your content strategy?

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  • Kevin Lynch
    01.14.2014

    What’s Trending?

    Content marketing, location base marketing, mobile, Big Data and analytics, cloud computing, community engagement, emerging CMO-CIO partnership—which topic will dominate the media buzz in 2014? Looking at the latest studies, reports and end-of-year predictions, many of these will take center stage this year. As always, time will tell and most likely there will be no decisive “winner” but that’s OK because in today’s digital world, there’s no sure thing. The choices are too many and the environment too diverse to ‘pick’ a winner. But spotting trends that most impact your world is possible and that’s where the real insights lay.

    What does appear clear is that both B2B and B2C marketing change are being shaped in large part by technology that supports it. Brands are somewhat confused as how to proceed. Who ‘owns’ the customer experience? Can the traditional siloes be whittled down to enable true cross-functional collaboration? Will the CMO and CIO find common ground or will a hybrid Chief Digital Officer (CDO) step into the void? Will mobile and location based marketing gain a growing share of marketing wallet? Will more sophisticated analytics enable ‘real-time’ marketing and greater agility in shifting marketing spend where it’s having the most impact?

    These questions underscore the vitality and dynamism of the new face of marketing. This is an unprecedented era of choice and the best news is that the consumer is finally in charge. For marketers, this also presents one of the greatest challenges. Pushing messages to buyers was the norm for many years. Successful careers and major agencies have been built on the ‘push’ model and now it is falling out of favor. Again, more sophisticated CRM and platform solutions will help marketers get the right content in front of the right person in the right context at the right time.

    According to a recent Altimeter Report, brands admit that they were in a phase of social anarchy where trial and error was the norm versus strategic direction. Now, organizations are committing more headcount, financial resources and measuring the impact of their initiatives to quantify and improve ROI. Although the exact roadmap to success may not yet exist, the trends do show progress, accountability and confidence in the future.

    And that is a trend we can all support.

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  • Pam Flores
    12.17.2013

    ComBlu’s Suite Life

    Earlier this month, ComBlu relocated its offices within the John Hancock Building in Chicago. It wasn’t terribly traumatic, as we simply moved to a smaller space on the same floor. While my colleagues who led the charge may have a different opinion on the trauma involved, we had occupied our old space for 20+ years. After all – all told, it really wasn’t too bad. We didn’t even have to step foot outside or deal with moving vans, etc.

    So, why did we move? We switched offices to better accommodate the way we work. ComBlu has always embraced family-friendly work-life balance issues long before it was in vogue. As a result, many of us work from home at least twice a week or more, and our colleague Jennifer lives in Colorado, so we only see her about once a month.

    We simply didn’t need all the space we had.

    Our new office set-up also fosters a more collaborative work environment – a trend many firms are embracing today. According to a December white paper by Oxford Properties, The Future of Work, it is no secret that while technology is doing a great job closing the time and distance gap, the physical office space is still a very important collaborative destination.

    The study also states that, “The office space is far from obsolete as collaborative work cultures and environments are on the rise. In fact, 57% of respondents said they collaborate more than they did five years ago.”

    This is very true at ComBlu, especially given the virtual nature of our employee base. Face-to-face interaction with our colleagues has become even more important, and we work hard to schedule our “in office” time together around tasks and projects for which in person time works best.

    With our new office space we adopted a multi-concept layout with some private space with room for multiple people, and open concept spaces designed to serve as collaboration hubs which encourage greater connectivity and creative interaction.

    Everyone has a designated place, but each work station is designed as a hoteling space, so colleagues can move around and meet with others as need be. Of course personalization is still encouraged, but it requires all of us to be neat and organized, so any colleague can just plop down at your space and seamlessly get to work.

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    The Future of Work white paper points out that, “Organizational culture is greatly influenced by direct human and environmental interaction, and there’s a great deal of collaborative innovation that happens within the four walls of an office.”

    ComBlu is definitely ahead of the curve in this realm and in preparing for our future colleagues that will soon have a major impact on the workforce: millennials. According to a December Forbes article titled 10 Ways Millennials are Creating the Future of Work, “Millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025 and by next year, they will account for 36% of the American workforce.”

    What workplace issues will be hot with this emerging generation? Two of the top ten are collaboration and flexibility. The article states that, “They will build a collaborative organization. Millennials like to work in teams and on projects to accomplish goals. It’s less about what company they work for and more about who they are working with and the types of projects they work on.” They will also “make working from home the norm.”

    So, how’s it going for us in our new clean and organized space? So far, so good. We have all had to adjust our work styles a bit in this more open space, but collaboration is now at the center of what we do. It is the best of both worlds – the flexibility we have all come to enjoy mixed with the collaborative space we all need.

    Has your work environment kept pace with the changing demographic and nature of how we work today? I’d love to hear how it has – and hasn’t – impacted how you work.

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  • Kathy Baughman
    12.09.2013

    WOMMA Summit Tidbits

     

    The ComBlu contingent just got back from WOMMA’s annual confab, which I always find interesting and inspiring. To me one of the biggest values of attending conferences is gleaning little nuggets of wisdom from across varied presentations. Here are some of my favs from this year.

    “Stories connect neurons previously unconnected. They are the software of our lives.”

    Jan Wesley from Google wove an awesome story as she told us about story telling. One example of a long lost child reconnecting with his native land via Google maps inspired an emotional connection with the brand.

    Another interesting tidbit from Wesley:

    “YouTube is the largest cable network for 20-somethings.”

    “Employee advocacy requires senior leadership and cultural support.”

    Sue Emerick from IBM talked about how to inculcate advocacy among employees. The pay-off for IBM is in higher conversion events, which are 2x higher from the advocacy and amplification from employee advocates than from other social and digital marketing.

    “Shareable is not enough; it needs to be brand-right”

    Judd Hooks from Delta airlines talked about how they monitor what’s trending and quickly release shareable images that incorporate the brand appropriately. One example was a pic of a Delta aircraft sporting a Princess Leah ‘do’ on Star Wars Day. Another was putting Peeps into airline seats and releasing as an image with the line: Happy Easter to all our Peeps!

    “Find something integral to the product and use it as a stimulus to tell a story”

    Mona Hamouly from American Express demonstrated the power of this approach. They created a “Member Since” app that asked people to enter the year they first got an AmEx card. The app then displayed American Express factoids associated with that year. It had innate utility to share on Facebook Timeline or to Tweet out your year.

    We’ve all seen the factoid that the brain processes images 60,000x faster than text. So much of the sessions at the WOMMA Summit focused on storytelling and visual content. Brands and their agencies need to tell compelling stories that connect on multiple levels and wrap them in imagery that is both evocative and meaningful.

    In addition, brands need to have capability to react in real time. The half-life of relevancy is shrinking as the velocity and volume of content expands.

    This was underscored by the graphic mapper who captured the essence of some very real complex session on the fly as the speakers presented their thoughts and case studies. The one below provides a summary of a session that Jenny Voisard and Cheryl Treleaven did with client Heather Alter of Cisco.

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    These maps captured the essence of these sessions and provided stimuli to remember key points. And, these images are so shareable. What a concept!

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  • Kevin Lynch
    11.12.2013

    The confluence of conversation, content and community

    There is an adage in business that you can have any two out of three deliverables when contracting for a product or service: Quality, Price or Speed—but you only get two. No matter how you parse what you need, you will most likely not be happy with the result. Want it fast and cheap? Ok, but quality suffers. Would you like it fast and top quality? Be prepared to pay for it. You get the idea; you’ll get what you pay for. You can make a similar analogy for engagement. Excellent content, stimulating conversation and a vibrant community are all required for success. Yet too often, brands seem to miss one of the pillars, thereby truncating their ability to optimize both mission and ROI.

    We all bemoan the silos that can conspire to make achieving success elusive. The product areas or marketing control the content; the digital team runs the online community and the conversation. Who really can control that since it happens all across the cloud and both online and off? Well, there is a way to make all three perform in sync, and that requires new ways of utilizing your resources.

    The first—and often most difficult—step is to create an organizational culture that embraces change and cross-sharing of responsibilities for digital and social communication. A word of advice: don’t try to change the world all at once. Phase it in. Pilot a program with others in the organization willing to collaborate, show some early results and leverage that ‘quick win’ to gain further buy-in. It may seem tough at times, but stick with it. By identifying areas throughout the organization that can create, share and vet content, you will see an increase in cooperation and idea-sharing.

    The second step is to listen and understand the motivations of your target audience. What makes them tick? What are the topics and issues of greatest concern? Listen, listen, listen and invite their feedback—it will pay huge dividends to your program. There are many great tools available, but like any technology, they require the human touch and interpretation. Don’t rely solely on automated systems.

    Third, make sure your online community complies with all best practices. Have a trained community manager in place that can access internal SMEs to participate in discussions, answer questions that other community members can’t and keep the lines of communication open. It is important to understand that not all community members act alike and will not respond equally to challenges, requests to share or create content or other engagement asks. Treating community members as they would like to be involved, not to simply further your goals, is a tightrope act, but it will pay huge dividends.

    Just like the adage that you can have two out of three outcomes in the choice of Quality, Price or Speed, the success of your social/digital initiatives needs to balance all three elements of conversation, content and community. If you are just starting out on this process remember another adage—learn to crawl and walk before you run.

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