Rebecca and Tracy Speak: Headstart 2011

Last year, I met Rebecca Johnston right before a panel hosted by Third Tuesday Vancouver got underway at Ceili’s Irish Pub & Restaurant .

This September, we’ll be co-presenting at Headstart 2011, a grassroots conference run by and for Royal LePage realtors across Canada.

During the intervening months, Rebecca and I have become good friends, sharing war stories from our professional lives as well as our personal aspirations, interests and foibles. When she asked if I’d be interested in working together with her on a presentation for Headstart 2011, I jumped.

We’re now putting the final touches on our presentation entitled “Making the Message Matter: Five Dos and Don’ts of Successful Communication for Realtors.”

Working with Rebecca, I’ve learned (or been reminded of) a few key lessons:

  • Tell a story. When planning your script, don’t forget that people love a good story. We’re wired for storytelling and listening, not dry statistics. I can geek out when it comes to social media and content so Rebecca has pulled me back from the ledge a few times.
  • You are your presentation—not your slides. God knows, I despise PowerPoint. But it’s easy to get sidetracked and let the software drive your story if you let it. Rebecca has prompted me to remember that the slides should play a supporting role like a prop in a play.
  • Set the ground rules for collaboration early. Rebecca and I are both writers  and both passionate about content. We worked together during the early brainstorming stage and then decided to draft two complete scripts on our own. We’re in the process of collating the two scripts together now. This has worked out very well for us—Rebecca is great at setting the stage and providing context whereas I like to dive in to the “body” of the presentation right away.

I’m sure there’ll be more to make note of as we get closer to September and start practicing how we want to deliver the presentation. Do you have any tips to share? Drop a comment to share your killer presentation ideas or tell me what you hate presenters do!

Gauge Mobile Launches Scanvee to Manage Mobile Barcodes

Gauge Mobile from DreamLife Design Inc. on Vimeo.

Mobile Barcode Usage in Canada
During the fourth quarter of 2010, Canada showed a 442% growth rate in mobile barcode usage. Mobile barcodes are two-dimensional (2D) images that connect print information like a poster to interactive experiences on a mobile device, such as an online contest.

According to 3GVision, the global pioneer and leader in mobile barcode solutions, Canada claims top spot among growing mobile barcode markets.

With such explosive growth in mind, I jumped at the chance to attend Scanvee’s launch party on Monday, May 16, 2011. Scanvee is a new mobile management platform from Gauge Mobile.

Why use Scanvee?

  • Scanvee uses both QR Codes and Data Matrix barcodes—two open source formats that are considered industry standard. Most smartphones with a reader will be able to scan these formats unlike proprietary mobile barcodes like Microsoft Tags that can only be decoded by specific applications.
  • Strong, live-time analytics allows you to track each campaign’s performance, including the total number of scans, type of phone used, location and time of each scan. A representative of Newad, an agency specializing in advertising that targets the young and affluent, spoke at the event about how they had used Scanvee at the University of Calgary. Based on the analytics, Newad adjusted when their other promotions took place on campus, noting that students appeared to have more down time in the afternoon than in the morning when the agency had originally been setting up.
  • All barcodes are dynamic and can be updated to perform new tasks at any time. You don’t have to reprint pieces because the barcodes have expired, extending the shelf life of your creative.

Why skip Scanvee?

  • The analytics are available to users only for a 15-day trial. Premium users get access to unlimited analytics but these accounts run a steep $24.99 per month to start or $249.99 per year.

The model is sound—we’ve seen many successful freemium services like Flickr where the analytics are available only to paying customers.

But I haven’t even shelled out for Hootsuite yet and I love that program. Really—I talk about it all the time. I use it every single day for my personal, nonprofit and corporate accounts. And it’s only $5.99 per month.

Still, Scanvee is promising and I’ll be looking for a good opportunity to pilot their platform. Based on my 15-day analytics trial, I’ll determine if I can make the case for a premium account.

Have you used mobile barcodes in a campaign? Drop a comment to share your best practices.

Live Blog: Transmedia Storytelling with Brent Friedman

How to Build a Universe Worthy of Devotion

Brent Friedman
Photo by GigaOM Events

Brent Friedman, Founding Partner of Electric Farm Entertainment, is in Vancouver to speak about the basics of transmedia storytelling, from definition to uses in both mainstream and digital experimentation, using his company’s recent MTV hit series Valemont as a case study.

CCO Magazine: Pros and Cons

Chief Content Officer Magazine CoverLast month, Joe Pulizzi and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) debuted CCO, “the magazine dedicated to content marketing for senior marketing executives.” For the industry, this is a milestone worth acknowledging. After all, as Joe and Ann Handley discuss in the feature story “Talking Innovation,” content marketing is relatively new which makes the position of CCO, or Chief Content Officer, experimental and even suspect among some folks. A magazine dedicated to content marketing helps validate and legitimize the field as a whole—much in the way that the creation of CMI and books like Content Rules are helping it go mainstream.


  • Multimedia: Each quarterly issue will be distributed in print to 20,000 senior-level marketers across North America and digitally to countless others. European and Australian versions are also in the works. While other publishers fret over the iPad and the digital delivery of their content, Joe and CMI are confidently demonstrating why print remains relevant.
  • Embedded Goodies: Audio podcasts and QR Codes sprinkled throughout the issue supplement the articles just as one would expect of a publication devoted to integrated, enhanced storytelling.
  • Tech Tools: I enjoyed the feature where social influencers share their favourite online tools, making it just a wee bit easier for me to keep up with the latest and greatest in a fast-moving industry. In this issue, I found out about slick bar code stickers by from Katie McCaskey.


  • Editorial Slant: I found the first issue to be unusually weighted to B2B content, including an article on “what B2B can learn from their hip B2C cousins” and a case study of Kinaxis, a Canadian B2B supply chain management company. Is this a direct reflection of the fact CCO is a supplement to BtoB Magazine? Then, this is a publication for senior marketing executives in the B2B industry and the mission should be amended accordingly.
  • Content Smorgasbord: This free-for-all is one of the final editorial pages and it seems like an afterthought, shoehorning whatever didn’t fit elsewhere in a “smorgasbord.” Meh.
  • Design: In her review “CCO: Good Enough?,” Christine Thompson provides a detailed look at the digital production quality of the magazine. While there are some quirks that are surely being tweaked and refined in terms of its delivery, I’ll add that the layout and design of the magazine could use the same love.

At minimum, the cover needs to tie more closely to what’s covered in each issue.CCO Cover
“Content is the new black”? What’s that related to? Nowhere in the magazine is this clarified. Net-a-Porter’s weekly digital fashion magazine is briefly mentioned in an article but it’s a stretch to connect it back to the cover. Readers shouldn’t have to work this hard. Add an Editor’s Message to provide a high-level preview of each issue’s topics and discuss the cover.

CCO Table of Contents
Plus, proofreading matters. The table of contents is out of sequence.

CCO Call-Out Box
There’s a call-out box appears right above the quote in the text it’s trying to highlight. O.o.

Marketers aren’t likely to be very forgiving when it comes to design, layout and creative.

Last Word

I’m definitely looking forward to upcoming issues of this publication and congratulate all who are involved in launching CCO. When so many are happy to trumpet the demise of the publishing industry, it’s nice to rally around a bold, new project that challenges the naysayers.

Agree? Disagree? I want to know your take on CCO—post a comment below or email me.

#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?


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

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?