#nowyvr with @jaybaer

Last night, I attended the Vancouver leg of Jay Baer’s book tour, promoting The Now Revolution. Funny and bright, his presentation was packed with solid, clear advice. Social Media isn’t cheap, easy or optional–companies who move fast, smart and get more social will excel in today’s reality. Following his presentation, a great panel moderated by Kemp Edmonds talked shop–from how to tell the gurus and experts apart and QR Codes to cross-posting on different social networks. I created a story via @Storify, capturing the highlights I thought you’d find most interesting. Thoughts?

A Marketer’s Take on C.C. Chapman’s #3TYVR Talk

Last week, C.C. Chapman—who co-wrote Content Rules with Ann Handley—toured Third Tuesday chapters throughout Canada, ending in Vancouver where I had the opportunity to hear him speak.

Instead of relying on PowerPoint slides, C.C. spoke briefly to us about the book before fielding questions from the audience on such varied topics as ethics, corporate employees on social media and outsourcing content creation. He was personable and down-to-earth, leading many of us to ask if he might be the next Regis!

Third Tuesday Vancouver: C.C. Chapman
Photo by Jeremy Lim. All rights reserved.


Be Human

“Be human,” C.C. reminded us. Don’t shill—tell a story that evokes emotion to connect with your audience.

But, oftentimes, C.C. said, Marketing, PR, and legal staff get in the way of real interactions between organizations and their audience. As proof, he spoke from personal experience about working for Coca-Cola and urging senior staff to respond to a crisis immediately by video. A week went by while staff waited for clearance from the legal department, allowing the issue to fester unattended.

Of course, I don’t believe that C.C. was blithely slagging everyone in these professions. A speaker’s talk can be like a 140-character tweet in some respects with limited time and space to adequately address all the nuances of a given subject.

Still, I have to provide the flip side as someone in the Marketing/Communications field.

Trust Your People

The best spokespeople I’ve worked with talk from their heart rather than a script. Recently, I helped organize an open Q&A panel with senior members from my department. Before the event, we spent a couple of meetings prepping the panelists. Largely, the preparation consisted of reassuring the panelists that they didn’t need a list of key messages. Instead, we ensured that they had stats and timelines to fall back on in case they needed to. And practiced some of the questions they’d likely face. After all, these were our senior people—subject matter experts who were passionate about the organization and its vision.

To paraphrase C.C., your employees have the organization’s best interests at heart—they don’t need to be tightly controlled.

And not all marketers are intent on killing real, spontaneous, honest interaction. Really. In fact, Content Rules will help many of us make a case to the C-level suite for creating good quality content that humanizes our organizations.

How are you building the case for content?

Resources

For more on C.C. Chapman’s presentation, take a look at:

Media Space: University of Washington’s New TV Series

Media Space on uwtv.org

Last week, I trekked to Whidbey Island, WA, for a content retreat. I arrived the night before the event so I spent my first evening getting settled in my motel room and watching television. And that’s when I discovered a hidden gem: Media Space, a new series hosted by Hanson Hosein, an award-winning TV correspondent and Director of the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington.

For digital media geeks like me, this lucky find elicits the same endorphins as tweens at a Justin Bieber concert. Really.

On its own website, Media Space is described as “the program [that] connects viewers to the hot-button issues brought forth by a constantly evolving medium…Hosein, holds court with the change-agents influencing the digital media movement and storytelling.”

Every month, Hosein interviews a thought leader from the industry, such as Ben Huh who created viral blogs like I Can Has Cheezburger and the FAIL blog. The show originates as a Livestream webcast, with interactive engagement via Twitter using hashtag #mediaspace. Then, a 30-minute, primetime broadcast appears later in the month exclusively on uwtv.org.

Next Tuesday, January 18, at 6PM (PST), Hosein will interview Brent Friedman, Founding Partner of Electric Farm Entertainment, in front of a live audience about how the digital media revolution is not only transforming how Hollywood does business, but how it tells stories.

Following the discussion, a public salon will be held with Hosein, Friedman, Russell Sparkman (co-founder of Fusionspark Media) and John du Pre Gauntt (founder of Media Dojo). They will lead a more in-depth conversation about the digital infrastructure for storytelling and its future—including ownership and net neutrality. For details, see Amanda Weber’s write-up or register online to attend in person.

If you can’t watch be there, catch the broadcast of “Entertainment and Innovation: “Transmedia Storytelling – What is it?” on Wednesday, January 26 at 9PM (PST). I’ll definitely be watching!

It’s the Story, Stupid: Content Marketing

I’m back home after spending a couple of days at a content marketing retreat on Whidbey Island hosted by the Langley Center for New Media.

Storytelling was the kernel in every presenter’s session—from the mechanics and psychology of storytelling to measuring its impact. Forget key messages and feature-benefit adspeak—it’s about the story, stupid.

For a pithy round-up of key ideas, see Kathy Hanbury’s blog post 28 Content Marketing Tips from the Content Marketing Masters. Or take a look at Drew Davis’s adept curation of the retreat’s key tweets, presentations and pix via Storify.

Storify screen shot
Screen shot of Storify created by Drew Davis

I peeked over Drew’s shoulder a few times while he assembled the page on Storify. “Note to self,” I thought, “look up this tool.” So when I came home, I read Storify Wants to Pull Stories from the Stream, a review on GigaOM.

Funnily, I think Storify neatly captures the mood of the retreat and our hyper-focus on storytelling. “Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories,” reads the tagline on Storify’s homepage.

Co-founder Burt Herman adds, “We’re coming at it from the point of view of story-telling — it’s about creating a really rich experience about an event. There are all of these real-time updates, so many that we are drowning in them. This is about finding relevance in the noise.” (Source: GigaOM)

Aggregating, curating and creating content are top of mind for many professionals these days. For me, Storify is emblematic of the zeitgeist, a reflection of how journalists (and marketers) are re-inventing how we tell stories in a digital age.

So are you a believer or is this just a new round of gurus, books and webcasts?

5 Reasons Why I’m Loving #CMRL 2011

It’s the morning of Day 2 at Content Marketing Retreat 2011 on Whidbey Island, WA. I didn’t sleep well and I’m up early.

Why?

Because Day 1 rocked. My mind’s buzzing with thoughts from Edelman’s Trust Barometer and Aristotle’s Story Structure to new tools like Gist and Dlvr.it. With 11 presenters in the span of one day, there’s a lot to look up, turn over, question and explore.

Mulling over Day 1, I’ve teased out five “ah-ha” moments where I learned something new or corroborated long-held, personal beliefs.

  1. Content Marketing means we are no longer limited to “renting” space in third-party media publications, including newspapers, magazines and websites. When each of us is now a publisher, we “own” the means of creating and syndicating quality, branded content. I find this both liberating and daunting—the obligation to produce better content has never been higher. (Via @juntajoe)
  2. Statistics may seem sexy to some but the reality is that we don’t connect to percentages and figures—we connect to people like ourselves. Stack stories with dry data and you’re hamstringed. Instead, focus on crafting a narrative about people. (Via @terrinop, Jack Penland and @hrhmedia)
  3. Traditional marketing married a message to an audience. Today, you need to think about engaging customers through the power of narrative. I can’t get lazy—got to go back to my storytelling roots. (Via @hrhmedia)
  4. Leave analysis-paralysis behind and just start creating content. Quality is important but so is quantity—after all, you never know what will resonate with the audience. Plus, the content you create and publish has a relatively long shelf-life, unlike more traditional means of communication like one-hit ads. (Via @heinzmarketing and @juntajoe)
  5. Turf wars abound—but don’t get bogged down competing over who “owns” content in your organization. While you squabble, who is creating or publishing content? Different content creators need to work together so that content can get re-purposed for multiple channels (as appropriate). (Via @TPLDrew and @heinzmarketing)

In summary, Day 1 rocked. Off to join the group for Day 2 and get my learn on!

Flavour of the Month: Content

January is shaping up to be a sweet, sweet month when it comes to content.


Next week, I’ll be attending the 2011 Content Marketing Retreat at the Langley Center for New Media in Washington state from January 13-14, 2011.

I found out about the event before the holidays on Twitter. Luckily, the event is only two hours away from Vancouver so I registered.

I’m looking forward to being able to dedicate a good chunk of time to think about content strategy, budgeting and analytics. Typically, I have to squeeze in relevant readings at bedtime—not the best means of keeping abreast of any topic.

The keynote speaker is Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta 42 and co-author of Get Content, Get Customers. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and have an interest in the program, check out the 2011 Content Marketing Retreat.


On January 20, 2011, I’ll be at the next event put together by Third Tuesday Vancouver organizers Joseph Thornley and Jeremy Lin which brings CC Chapman, co-author of Content Rules, to our city. The book focuses on how each of us are now publishers—whether we want to or not—and how quality content can turn customers into willing advocates who engage and share what we produce.

Want a preview of the book? Boom.

Am I missing any local events about content? Drop a comment to share it with me.

Paper.li Breaks My Indifference Threshold

paper.li LogoFor several months, I’ve steadfastly ignored any tweets informing me that a user’s “Daily is out!” But that changed a couple of weeks back when I “earned” a mention in my friend Ajay’s virtual paper, breaking my indifference threshold.

My interest was piqued and so I started asking the Twitterverse about paper.li, the free online tool that Ajay and others are using to re-format their Twitter stream into a virtual newspaper.

Background
Create your newspaper for free–that’s paper.li’s call to action and aptly sums up the service. The tool culls your Twitter feed (and, as of early December, public Facebook accounts too) and kicks out a vanity URL (http://paper.li/tbains) with a subset of pages that mimic the look and feel of online newspapers. All of the “stories” are links that the people you follow have shared.

The settings can be tweaked so that you send out a daily, morning and evening edition or a weekly update to your followers. You can also customize the name of your paper, changing The *Tracy Bains* Daily to The *Diamond Cut* Daily.  To promote your personalized paper, set up automatic tweets that are published whenever your paper updates.

Followers can subscribe to your paper or, in turn, you can bookmark papers that you’d like to revisit regularly.

Screen grab of a paper.li daily

Pros

  • Simplicity: Authenticate your ID and the paper populates itself. That’s as easy as it gets.
  • Style: The pages are sleek, easy to scan and professional. A beautiful design means a higher likelihood of return visitors.
  • Clever Micro-Promotions: Your top “contributors” will get special @mentions in the daily tweet set up to alert users that a new edition awaits. Just as I did, these folks are likely to get curious, RT the post, read and/or subscribe to your paper–extending its reach.
  • Promising R&D: Paper.li is taking off. Eleven days ago, it co-won LeWeb Startups Competition in Europe, coming in #1 for Virality. Last month, Guy Kawasaki joined its newly created Advisory Board. During the summer, SmallRivers–the startup developing paper.li–got a fresh infusion of cash from a new set of investors. Awards, celebrity advisors and money aren’t a guarantee of future success in themselves but they are promising signs.

Cons

  • No Mods: At the moment, you can’t tailor your page in terms of which links (and therefore contributors) get featured or the sections included in your paper. I want granular control of what goes up and/or who gets the “hero treatment” in my paper. But Iskander Pols, paper.li’s co-founder, recently responded to a similar comment on the site’s blog, indicating they “are looking into offering more control” to publishers.
  • Few Stats: In mid-November, paper.li started posting the number of unique views and subscribers each edition garners. Nice start but I want to know who the subscribers are or, at least, their demographic breakdown. And I’d love to be able to generate a comparison of subscribers versus Twitter followers–is it the same? Different? Etc.

My Prediction
When I started researching paper.li, all of the reviews talked about how the service offers the user a new way to consume their own Twitter feed. Even paper.li describes itself as “a great way to discover content that matters to you–even if you are not connected 24/7!”

Why would I give up Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or even New Twitter to view my tweets? I wouldn’t.

But a smart marketer would see the value in judiciously following industry experts who generate top-notch content that could be aggregated to create a quality paper. You could easily augment the content that you are carefully producing and posting on your blog and/or corporate website with a well-planned Twitter paper populated with industry news, trends and links.

If paper.li continues to stretch and grow, the first-movers who build credibility within their niche for consistently curating good content will outpace their rivals.

Resources
Hungry for more on paper.li? Check out these articles or add your own in the Comments section:

A gift for you: Karo Group’s holiday greeting

Yesterday, I received a new twist on the traditional holiday greeting by Karo Group, a strategic branding agency based in Calgary, AB. Instead of either a traditional printed card or even a simple e-card with a generic message, I received a gift from Karo—a donation made on my behalf to the charitable organization of my choice.

Donations to worthy causes on behalf of someone aren’t new. But here’s the clever bit—Karo asked me where I’d like to see the $10,000 go. I was able to select from a list of ten organizations, ranging from local groups like the Union Gospel and nationwide causes such as the Boys and Girls Club to international outfits, like a project to reduce the effect of poverty on women living in Ghana.

I applaud Karo for recognizing the growth of online voting competitions for social good like Pepsi’s Refresh Project and Aviva’s Community Grand Fund and then adapting the interactive features for their holiday message. They didn’t just produce another card, but got me engaged enough to visit their site and then vote. Now, I’m part of the process.

But I’m going to be a little picky about the messaging once they got me to their site. Since Karo is well-known for their rebranding work, their message was to rebrand me from “Naughty” to “Nice” via the donation. Okay—I like how they hit their key message while working in the holidays. But from a user design perspective, they didn’t tie the Naughty/Nice buttons from the first screen closely enough to the rebranding message on the next screen—in other words, it took me a couple of times to pull it altogether. Don’t make visitors work that hard!

Overall, I think Karo Group showcased real creativity with their holiday gift to me. Nice work!


Opening Screenshot


Voting Screenshot

Are writers and graphic designers equal in the eyes of our employers, peers, and clients?

I wonder if we treat all content creators with the same level of respect. I have a suspicion that, in general, writers get the short-end of the stick. My rationale is that since everyone who works with a writer is literate, they often think they can also actually write. Graphic designers and digital media artists also regularly encounter laypeople who think they can do it better. But, more than likely, they are afforded a certain degree of esteem in recognition of their professional expertise.

Do you agree? Is it because designers are proficient at using specialized software whereas writers can resort to stalwart but boring pens and paper? Are we digital snobs?

Do we also de-value text in favour of graphics? I find that the highest priority is always placed on the visuals, and copy can often be an after-thought. In fact, I am struggling against a trend to move work out of the hands of dedicated writers/editors to data entry workers.

If all content is not equal, what does that mean for us?

I originally made this post on The Content Wrangler Community (LinkedIn) on December 2, 2008.

The Librarian vs. The Social Tagger

Digital assets are valuable only when my users can find them. Otherwise, content is just idly eating server space. I know that the answer lies in applying the right keywords to the data. Does that entail becoming The Librarian who painstakingly, endlessly indexes our assets? Or becoming The Social Tagger who encourages all the users in the organization to add the tags that make sense to them?

I like libraries. My dad got me my first library card when I was 6. But I’d rather be a library patron than a librarian for my organization.

For starters, there’s no guarantee that my quirky colleagues will query the database as I would, potentially rendering my cataloguing system worthless. Of course, I’m not concerned about any products or services that we sell because every employee ought to be able to search by SKU, ISBN, Part Number, Model Code, etc. It’s the assets that aren’t so straightforward like lifestyle photos that sell an idea or a concept which are the hardest to pinpoint and label.

Plus, all users within and outside of my organization now seem to demand simple search tools and yet sophisticated results. They certainly don’t want to deal with filters like “begins with”, “contains”, or “equals”. I spend a fair amount of time explaining how to use these filters to normally savvy users who work in consumer electronics. It’s like they haven’t visited a library in years.

So wouldn’t it be preferable to open the floodgates and let the creators and consumers of our content generate their own tags?

I originally made this post on The Content Wrangler Community (LinkedIn) on November 14, 2998.