Category Archives: Content

If only we were superheroes

If only we were superheroes

Change your Luck blog series – Article 5

Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor

time is a gift Until recently, I was in the kind of senior marketing job where time seemed to be the one thing that was impossible to enjoy. It was always moving so fast and there was never enough of it. Straight from meeting to meeting with barely enough time for proper planning before the urgency of execution, rinse and repeat. If only I’d known a superhero with the ability to turn back time.

Yes, of course we analysed performance, refined and reviewed tactics, but there were (and I suspect still are) lots of immovable objects that made the pursuit of excellence a challenge.

Looking back now, with the gift of time now firmly on my side, I can see a number of ways we wasted one of the most valuable resources we had. Time.

We procrastinated and hesitated.

We repeated mistakes and re-lived successes.

We were quick to execute and slow to stop. We were busy and we were achieving goals, but we weren’t excelling. We were human, not superhuman.

We were typical, I’m sure, of many marketing departments. Achieving a lot – but perhaps not always the right things – and with little time for reflection.


If only we were superheroes

I’m reminded of the 1978 Superman movie where Christopher Reeve flies so fast around the earth he reverses the world’s spin, turns time backwards and is able to prevent Lois Lane from dying in a car crash. Imagine being able to go back in time, make changes to your campaign and start again. You could repeat the process over and over until you knew exactly which version of the past performed the best, repeat it and then let time continue.

You’d definitely be a marketing superhero if you could, but it’s unlikely – however much I want to believe in superheroes (yes, I do still really want to believe it’s possible!).

So until Superman actually makes himself known to us, we’ll have to make the best use of the real time we have.

Known knowns and unknown unknowns

The problem of getting the best possible results from a campaign requires that we use time effectively and efficiently, speeding up execution and feedback so we can eliminate waste and improve performance. But just doing things right doesn’t always mean you’re doing the right thing. I’m reminded of this quote from Donald Rumsfeld (former US Secretary of Defense),

“There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Even the most experienced marketer can only develop and execute campaigns within the bounds of their own experience.

The known knowns.

Even if you know there are technologies and techniques that you have no knowledge of that may improve results, they can be inaccessible to you.

The known unknowns.

Chances are, there are marketing techniques, tactics and technologies of which you have no knowledge that may be equally promising.

The unknown unknowns.


Eliminating procrastination

Three things might really help at this point:

1. a way of identifying what you don’t know;
2. a way of prioritising their potential to improve performance; and
3. a way of acquiring the knowledge to implement them.

The challenge is the same, no matter how experienced or capable you or your team are. Your bar may be set low or high, but you are limited to your known knowns.

With an ever increasing pressure to deliver better ROI, no-one can afford to ignore the need to seek campaign performance improvement month on month, year on year.

By ring fencing part of your marketing budget (and resources) over a period of time, there may be a viable solution to this dilemma. Take £10k a month, for example (perhaps £5k for media, and £5k for the time to manage and create the necessary assets). And build an experimental framework. Every month, try running 2, 4, or more experiments. This experimental budget does not even need to touch on your main marketing activity, but will allow you to test like crazy, and find out exactly what combination of sign up forms, offers, calls to action, form fields (etc, etc) will give you the best ROI.

Rinse and repeat on a monthly basis.

All of a sudden, you have the real data needed to eliminate procrastination when managing multiple tactics, campaigns or programmes.

Suddenly it’s much easier to decide know what to do next. You know where the greatest improvement potential lies, and how to test for it.

And you always have next month to test something new.


Planning the right things right

Having the confidence to execute is half the battle.

Having access to a rich database of tests relating to almost every marketing tactic imaginable, each quantified with performance improvement potential derived from tests run by other marketing professionals, enables the creation of such a plan.

Everyone’s situation, programmes, audiences, technologies and tactic choices are different, but a rich database with thousands of potential performance improving tests can help anyone and everyone improve.

 

Eliminate procrastination and hesitation

Build a new plan. A framework with experimentation based in.

Don’t repeat your past, replicate someone else’s.

Don’t just succeed, excel.

Don’t be limited by your known knowns – explore your unknown unknowns.

We can’t promise to make you a superhero, but we can show you how to gain the gift of time.

IF YOU’D LIKE TO DISCUSS HOW TO TURN BACK TIME, GET IN TOUCH

OR, IF YOU MISSED MARTIN’S LAST BLOG POST “CAN YOU FIX THE ODDS?“, YOU CAN READ IT HERE.

 

Watching the world go by

Watching the world go by

Change your Luck blog series – article 1


Guest author: Martin Hill, former International VP of Marketing, Epicor

 

This year I decided to take a break from work and bring a bit more life into my work-life balance. I’m getting the time to relax and rediscover my natural curiosity and creativity, and to take a much more objective view of the pressures and practices of marketing that governed my career.

I’ve worked through a period of massive change since leaving university in the early 80’s. Watching from the outside magnifies how much the pressure, pace and pervasiveness of work has changed.

Even though I’ve disconnected from my previous job (surprisingly quickly!) I’m left with a ghost of myself in many social channels that continues to attract news, commentary and content relating to my interests in business, technology, communications and marketing.

Having the luxury of time.

Now I have the time to watch this world go by clear of the goals, targets, deadlines and pressures of a full time job, I have the luxury of time to consider the opinions, propositions, technologies and techniques being described by vendors, consultants, observers, practitioners and experts alike.

Time is the key. I now have it, where I didn’t necessarily have it before. Time was (and is) such a valuable commodity the question is always how to invest it most wisely. Hidden in the tsunami of news and opinion, research and promotional content are the gems that every marketer seeks.

Marketing techniques, tactics and technologies are developing so fast, the lifecycle of an effective programme is becoming shorter and shorter.

What works today might not work tomorrow.

Experienced marketers know they should be constantly looking to improve, enhance and even re-invent their programs and tactics to maintain and improve performance, but what, how and when? How do you chose experimentation over execution when time and budget are so constrained? It’s hard enough getting things done, let alone experimenting with improvements once they are up and running.

For a small enterprise, having a marketing programme that is working and delivering results is often an achievement in itself, attention and resources will then naturally move to other areas of the business that need attention.

For larger enterprises, having programmes in some markets or channels that work allows attention to shift to those where it doesn’t. Add more complexity with the dimensions of the buying cycle, changing buyer behaviour, the proliferation of communication channels, multiple products, markets and geographies, the varied expertise and experience of those who are responsible for the programmes, the shortening life cycle of the tactics deployed, the variety of specialised skills required to master marketing technologies, competitor behaviour, time and resource constraints, the need to improve return on investment…

It’s no wonder that most marketers need more time.

There’s no organisation that can afford to apply and evaluate every new technique, tactic or technology. You either don’t have the knowledge, the skills, the tools, or most importantly the time. If you have (or make) the time, how do you decide what to change, what to test, what to improve? Which programme, which campaign, which tactic?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of slowing time and speeding up action; identifying opportunities prioritised according to their predicted improvement on ROI; and then acting on them quickly and effectively. A marketing time machine if you like. Something that allows us to build a plan that evolves dynamically, that we can pivot at will, and that guides organisations to better performance.

Stay with me on this … if the improvement plan is built based on emerging best practice, uses the knowledge of experienced practitioners, is specific and action oriented but can remain agile, it would eliminate hesitation and procrastination. It could (and should) direct the actions of an individual or team, and maximise the way they use their time.

I’m watching the world go by. I’m watching other marketers watching the world go by. For those that want to stop it but can’t figure out how, when or where, I think there’s a better way to maximise ROI.

The value of your investment may go up or down.

A bit like watching the stock market, the skill is picking those tactics and ideas most likely to go up and making it happen quickly, evaluating as you go so you can abandon those that don’t improve performance. No breakthrough technology, no over-hyped pseudo-methodology, no repackaging of old ideas with new names, no over-intellectual hypothesising. No snake-oil. Just a common-sense, practical approach to maximising return on marketing investment that will make life easier, more enjoyable, more productive and more effective.

In the next article I’ll look at how you become a more savvy marketing investor. One whose choices are more often the right ones and whose ROI is most likely to keep improving.
Marketing for non-profits

Marketing for non-profits

 The rules of engagement have changed

Charity fundraising just got harder

The key challenge for charity marketing today lies in balancing the need stand out from the pack, whilst complying with ever more strict data protection and fundraising rules.

 

In recent years, members of the public have expressed frustration over the lack of control many feel over how, and how often, they are approached with fundraising requests. We’ve all heard the story of the Olive Cooke, the 92 year old who committed suicide because of charities pursuing her for money. Charity marketing is implicated, with organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society insisting that their actions were not to blame for Olive’s death. But many of her family have accused the charities of exploiting the poppy seller, with allegations that she was receiving over 260 begging letters a month

 

Managing charity marketing and communications

Whilst perhaps Olive Cooke presents an extreme example, the Fundraising Regulator is acutely aware of the need to manage the situation carefully. The regulator is guided by the principle that it should be as simple as possible for individuals to manage their communications with fundraisers, and to prevent this type of scenario. In response to concerns, the regulator has developed a system to ensure people can register their contact preferences more easily with charities.

With the creation of the Fundraising Preference Service or FPS (planned launch in 2017), people will have the ability to opt out – and this will affect not just the general public, but also those people that have actively engaged your charity’s fundraising campaigns, but perhaps not opted in.

For those that already have a highly engaged supporter database, this is unlikely to prove a significant problem. Yet for those who rely on email and direct marketing to purchase databases and lukewarm data, there is a need to tighten up significantly on the way they market to their supporters.

Why charity messaging matters

We recently met up with Gillian McKay, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at the ICAEW (Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England And Wales), who had this to say:

“It’s never been more important that charities stand out with a message that will really engage supporters. These new rules that are coming in within the sector will have most impact on those that have not invested in, or understood, the rules of engagement. Charity marketing will only get harder“

 

Changes to the rules on data handling

Data protection rules are tightening up across the board, and charities are not the only sector under the spotlight. If we had chosen to remain in the European Union, brands and charities alike would now have less than two years to make sure they are compliant with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was due to come into place in May 2018.

But does Brexit change this? “Those businesses who have yet to prepare for GDPR – and are hoping that Brexit will mean they don’t have to – are the ones likely to be caught out,” says Frank Jennings, a partner at Wallace LLP.

Any organisation with operations in the EU as well as the UK will certainly comply with the new rules. If nothing else, it will be impossible for compliance teams to manage multiple data standards within the same organisation – brands and non-profits alike. And the deadline for compliance with the new GDPR rules will come around before the deadlines for completing Brexit’s Article 50. With this in mind, complacency is not really an option.

The rules around the Fundraising Preference Service muddy the waters slightly, not least because charities will have to pay for the privilege of membership (albeit the proposed pricing will be proportionate). Gillian McKay’s view on this is clear. “Lots of charities already have very good levels of engagement. In general their budgets are smaller, and their accountability greater than in the commercial sector. While they won’t be able to change the rules, they can certainly prepare for the changes.”

 

Raising awareness

The first thing organisations that do not have this engagement level should do is raise awareness. According to John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal, at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA),

“Brands need to make sure everyone knows what is going on and the rules coming in and how they currently process their data. That can be an eye opener for lots of people.When the regulations come into effect brands will not get their doors kicked down straight away. But if you can show you spent two years doing what you could do comply that will be very helpful.”

The RNLI has taken a proactive approach, announcing in 2015 that it would switch to an opt-in model. Jayne Clarke, the charity’s head of marketing, says the move has showed her how important being ahead is and how long getting everyone in place can take. You can read more about this in this article, taken from Marketing Week: The RNLI on why it has become the first charity to switch to opt-in comms.

Charity marketing message

 

It’s all about the message

Since we launched in September 2014, the team at BH&P have worked on the principle “Idea everything, Media anything” – the premise that only with a big, bold, gutsy creative idea behind your marketing, will you actually change peoples’ behaviour.

Gillian McKay from the ICAEW echoed this principle, “those third sector organisations that are investing now – in systems, preparation and getting their message really clear – will see minimum impact. But the reality is that smaller charities may have neither the resources nor the expertise to prepare for the change, and some will struggle as the rules are tightened up”.

Gillian went on to explain that for those organisations without the internal resources, it will be vital that they choose to work with third parties that can help them articulate their point of difference, and that are doing everything possible to be compliant.

In recent years, many charities have turned away from fundraising emails and direct mail, and are increasingly looking to inbound activity and social media for both awareness and fundraising campaigns.

 

Make the most of Google for Non-profits

Google offers advertising grants of up to US$10,000 per month to charities and some other not-for-profit organisations, as well as a free, enriched version of YouTube.

BH&P runs inbound campaigns for a number of non-profits, including the national charity Crimestoppers, using the Google Ad Grant. For Crimestoppers, as well as generating a significant uplift in anonymous reporting, test programmes allow us to set realistic KPIs and benchmarks for future campaigns. Whilst the ad grant can be used only for search advertising, this is nonetheless a valuable way for charities to both maximise learnings and create supporter engagement with specific issues, whilst leaving their own media budgets untouched.

BH&P rolled out the launch campaign for stayenergysafe.co.uk, on behalf of Crimestoppers in September 2016. The Google Search campaign is currently running at a cost per click of 76p and clickthru rate (CTR) of 5.25% (that’s a 300% uplift compared to Google’s own benchmark for the charity sector). The associated Facebook campaign has also exceeded benchmark targets with a cost per click of 20p, and a CTR of 1.04% (more than 200% better than Facebook’s benchmark of 0.33%).

Google-for-non-profitsMicro-lending organisation, Kiva, shares its message using Google’s marketing tools to drive qualified online traffic to its website, and to fund loans that can improve thousands of lives in dozens of countries around the world. They use Google AdWords to raise awareness for their organisation and drive traffic to their website. They also leverage Google Maps as a visual way for donors to see the footprint of Kiva loans. Kiva recently ran a contest on YouTube inviting the community to create and upload videos to describe the value of what Kiva is offering.

 

The power of social media for charity marketing

Social media offers numerous opportunities for charities to create engagement with their supporters, to make more people aware of the work they do. Seth Godin describes social media as “the greatest shift of our generation”, and those charities that embrace this will be well-placed to thrive over the next few years.

A good example of a successful social media campaign is the #NTChallenge by the National Trust.

National Trust was one of the very first charities to connect with their audience effectively via Instagram. With more than 400 million people uploading 80 million photos a day, Instagram is now much more than the home of a thousand self-obsessed #selfies – it’s changed the way people around the world communicate, discover and travel. It’s become a powerful branding tool.

Marketing non profitsWith the #NTChallenge, National Trust asked followers to upload photos of National Trust protected buildings, landscapes and coastlines, choosing one winning image each week. Their Instagram following is now over 154,000, proving that the #NTChallenge was a great way to celebrate their existing community whilst also attracting new supporters. At the time of writing, Instagram has 35,756 posts with the tag #ntchallenge (though with the aside that you should choose your hashtag carefully – some of these are definitely more Nike than National Trust – #ntc is a Nike challenge tagged in 432,345 posts).

People in 2017 expect to self-select the brands and messages they wish to engage with – and this is a trend that is set to continue. Social media and search marketing will become ever more important as they support this shift, and charities would be wise to embrace the change.

 

A final word

Whilst it is true that some organisations may lose valuable existing members when new rules on data protection come in to place, those that are both creative and diligent now, with high levels of supporter engagement, will see little change.

Social media and inbound charity marketing will continue to offer new and exciting opportunities to engage with supporters. But for many, the biggest challenge will remain in converting awareness and engagement into tangible and financial support.

What is clear is that rules around data handling will continue to be tightened – in and outside of the EU – and that charities as well as commercial businesses all need to be aware of the potential impact, and plan accordingly.

All figures correct at time of publishing, 16/01/17.

 

To find out more about BH&P’s creative solutions for non-profits, get in touch.

You can also sign up to receive updates from the fundraising regulator on the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) via this link.

The art of the “not-a-newsletter”

The art of the “not-a-newsletter”

Here’s the thing.

People like to read about good news, especially if it will benefit them directly.

They like to read bad news even better. It’s just more interesting.

But they don’t like receiving newsletters, for the most part. Why? Well, often they are boring, even more often they are irrelevant, and fairly regularly, they are simply a sales pitch dressed up as news.

Shock news! (not really)

Many so-called newsletters have no news in them whatsoever.

Here are our top 7 tips for creating a “not-a-newsletter” (Q: Why “not-a-newsletter”? A: To distance your updates from news items about new team members, company picnics, and charity bike rides, which are interesting to you, but not to your customers and prospects)

1. It’s not a newsletter

Give it a real name, that reflects what you do as a business. For example, “clever business news” or “game changer“. If it is not called a newsletter, it gives you a licence to include interesting information even if it’s not the latest news. And it gives the “rag” an identity that will allow you to rule content in or out based on its relevance.

2. Create a recognisable style or format

Create a style. Perhaps test it in different lengths, with different numbers of articles, with or without images – and then stick to that format so it becomes a familiar face in the inbox.

3. Give it regularity

Weekly or monthly is ideal. Quarterly will do if that’s all you have time or content for. But send it out regularly so it is looked out for, and welcomed.

4. Make it well-written

If someone in the company can write well, or if you work with an agency or freelance writer, get them to create the content. If subject matter experts are not writers, then get someone who can write to interview them (see my separate blog post on creating compelling content). You might even want to commission a freelance journalist or independent expert to create content or commentary, to give you a stronger voice (this will also have the benefit that they will distribute to their own network).

5. Create engagement

Give people a reason to read more, click through to your website, or (even better) engage in a dialogue, with polls and interactive content.

5. Make it timely and relevant

We live in a very big, wide world, so there will always be something new and relevant to your audience, about which you can have an opinion. Today, and over the next few days, for example, you will undoubtedly see a number of emails entitled “Election news: what this means for xyz (insert relevant audience name)”.

This doesn’t mean you can’t recycle old but relevant content, simply that you contextualise it in the moment, and give people a reason to engage with it.

7. Set realistic goals – and flex to achieve them

Why have you created a newsletter in the first place? What do you hope to achieve from it, and how does it fit into your overall marketing strategy? Set some realistic goals, in the context  of a wider plan, and prepare to flex your plan if the goals are not being met. I’d advise using lean startup methodologies to constantly refine the approach to make sure all your outbound marketing (not just the not-a-newsletter) is fit for purpose.

Here’s the link to one we made earlier: GameChanger

 

Copy vs. Content – a guide for brands

Copy vs. Content – a guide for brands

These days, everyone is a copywriter.

It started with the invention of the email. All of a sudden instead of scribbling a memo, popping your head around a corner, or picking up the phone, everyone was writing more. With the rise of blogging, and social media, it has become a natural part of peoples’ lives for them to write, sometimes daily.

When you have a written dialogue with a person you know, that’s great, and fine and appropriate. But what happens when you need to write an account of an event, or create a newsletter? At what point does writing become copy, and when do you need to call in an expert?

We’ve come up against this quite a lot recently, particularly working with high growth businesses. In many instances, our clients have chosen to ask us to craft words on their behalf. But there are times when that’s impractical (for micro businesses as well as world-leading brands), and you need to be able to write the words yourself. Some options we have successfully offered to clients include running internal writing workshops, and creating a verbal style guide.

Here’s our quick guide to copy vs. content …

Copy and Content are not synonyms

But it is true they are both different to ‘normal’ transactional writing where you are just communicating basic information.

What makes them different is that they are both written in a deliberate and conscious way to create a very deliberate and conscious effect.

But one of them has a relatively straightforward and simple “purpose” – while the other has complex, layered and (usually) multiple objectives.

Basically, the old adage is true: “Copy sells, Content tells”.

Content has one simple purpose

The role of content is to interest people, engage them and hold their attention. To ‘tell a story’ (in the widest sense) and to be a narrator. Often today terms like “telling brand stories” are used to cover this sort of writing, but it typically include things like blogs, postings, newsletters, articles, videos and so on.

Copy has many jobs to do!

Copy, on the other hand is doing more than this (probably several things more). Copy is something that is deliberately written to get a response. Not any old response, but a very precise and particular one. It probably isn’t literally “a sale” (though it could be) but copy will always be aiming to get some sort of response which performs some important function on the ‘path to purchase’ (again, probably several functions).

First things first

To get copy right, you therefore need to know more than just the subject  matter you are communicating. You need to know about human psychology, you need to understand the context your copy will be read in and, most importantly, you need to understand exactly the mind-set, motivations, attitudes and moods of the target market (who you may never have met) and the zeitgeist in their industry/demographic at the moment (which you might not have direct experience of). And because the aim of copy is a response, its success (or lack of it) is fairly quantifiable (all of which explains why copywriters tend to be paid more than content writers).

So it’s worth starting before you write by deciding WHY you are writing. Is it Content? Or is it Copy? This decision means you start with a clearer idea of what else you need to be doing apart from simply communicating subject matter.

These tips are taken from an article by Steve Cook, Creative Partner at BHP.

To find out more or to request a copy of our latest PDF with more handy tips:

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How to create compelling content:  without bringing fee earners to a standstill

How to create compelling content: without bringing fee earners to a standstill

(this article was first published in PM Forum Magazine, April 2014)

Content-driven marketing is widely recognised as one of the most effective ways to improve the reputation and visibility of a professional services firm. With a content-led strategy, you give your clients and prospects something that they will value, and find immediately useful.

But how can you create compelling content without bringing your top earners to a standstill? And how can you make certain that the content you create is fit-for-purpose?

The trouble is that there is a lot of content out there and 90% of it is mediocre at best, produced for search engines, not real potential clients. Searching for seemingly useful titles like “What the legal services act means for you”“What makes a great leader” or “How to create a measurable, repeatable pipeline of leads” results in a huge number of articles, the vast majority of which don’t tell the reader anything they don’t know already.

What should you do?

  1. Can you create something that feels new? We call this the “man bites dog” angle on a subject. It’s the title that makes people stop and say “That’s different!”. You can sometimes craft this by bringing two themes or statistics together to highlight a gap – for example, “93% of CEOs think that [key industry theme] is critical for them in 2014 but only 3% believe they have the knowledge and skills to take the right action”. And if you can’t be truly new, then be brave and say something that goes against the flow.
  1. Give away knowledge. Knowledge may be power – but giving away knowledge is even more powerful. It positions you as a leader in your field and portrays confidence and a sense of abundance. There are very few “trade secrets” in the professional services world: things that can’t possibly be divulged. The more you share, the more you stand to gain.
  1. Create cut-through  with authenticity: not only does content need to be relevant, current and immediately useful – but it must be real. Move away from gimmicks and storytelling, and speak with a genuine voice. Marketing Week’s trends for 2014 cites provenance as a key issue “People want to know more about the brands they consume, so the importance of authenticity and provenance will continue to play right across the spectrum,” says Charles Gibb, president of Belvedere Vodka. This is as powerful a differentiator in the b2b world as it is for consumer brands.

The role of content

The belief that content-led marketing is the way forward for professional-services marketing is received wisdom now. But most firms would hugely benefit from starting with WHY they want to create content. What does your firm need to achieve? What positioning does the content need to uphold?

“Differentiate between thought-leadership, which helps people to think in new ways, and can open up big long-term opportunities; and opinion-leadership (“how to…?” guides, “top tips” and infographics for example), which helps people to act, and is much more likely to result in business generated today”. Understand the difference in positioning that each creates in the marketplace. Opinion leadership may result in business now and in the immediate future, but it is more associated with expert tactical delivery than strategic, trusted advisor status.

Differentiating content in this way gives the firm freedom to choose the content – and modality of content – most relevant to your current needs and long-term strategic goals.

Using ‘profitable content space’ to minimise fee earner distraction

Many people in the firm have an interest in the content you release. The risk is that unmanaged opinions at different stages in the process can burn fee earner time, reduce confidence in marketing, stall publishing or result in ‘vanilla’ content that lacks the cut through it was originally created for.

The answer? Have one key individual fee earner that “owns” the output, and create a clear position on your most profitable content space that every stakeholder buys in to.

Firms that do this effectively build an understanding of what cut through looks like from the very beginning. This is most often achieved by asking every stakeholder to give their support to the relevant fee earner in masterminding content that exemplifies a particular combination of factors that will set the agenda. This in turn builds a position of confidence in the agreed outcomes, and leads to an agreement that not everyone in the business can or should comment on detail later on in the process.

The profitable content space is the overlap between three elements:

  1. Your core competence. Where does your firm consistently get “A” grades rather than Bs or Cs? It might be the service you offer, or it might be something different, like speed of response, or quality of training manuals.
  2. The burning issue: Ask your clients and prospects – what is the biggest problem they need to solve right now, and the biggest challenge coming down the track? Help them articulate this in a fresh way – and use this to create a ‘man bites dog’ moment.
  3. The differentiator: What you do or say or share that is fundamentally different from competitors. Be creative. For example, could you create content that is in a particularly easy to scan format and released within three hours of a news story breaking? Or could you be the firm that predicts the future more clearly than anyone else?

When you have done this, you can find your profitable content space. The overlap between these factors will provide you with a very short list of content and format ideas that will really stand out and are authentically yours. And then check these out against the industry buzz. What’s in the news? What content is most commonly downloaded or shared? What are people searching for on Google? What are the most active discussions on LinkedIn? What does this research tell you about how to frame and position your content?

Creating compelling content

To achieve this level and type of content is simply not possible without using the best brains in your firm. The challenge is in using their time effectively so that for the minimum amount of input, you get the best possible outcome.

You may have heard the term “PetchaKutcha”. The idea is that you get the best, most relevant person in the company to compress their thoughts on a key topic to just 12 slides that can each be delivered in 20 seconds (traditionally PetchaKutcha has 20 slides, but my personal experience leads me to believe that for marketing content, 12 is the optimum number). By asking them to do this you are getting the thinking up front, unlocking the story in a way that has clarity and purpose and forcing them to extract from their brain a story that holds weight when it’s delivered out loud.

The alternative – interviewing the fee earner and receiving a complete brain dump which marketing then distills into a piece of content – doesn’t work. Why? Because the fee earner has delegated the responsibility for inking in a credible story for the sake of short term expedience. This will show up later in the content production through hours of fee earner iterations and edits (or worse, content that won’t see the light of day).

Top tip:  video or record the delivery of the “PetchaKutcha” style presentation so that you have available content in three formats – video, audio and transcript. This can be readily sliced and diced into many formats without extensive review cycles. Most firms have junior team members that are active in social media and enjoy blogging and sharing material. With great content as a starting point, this creates a platform for blossoming content creation.

A final thought

Creating content provides many opportunities within a growing firm – not just through the content itself, but also by the very process of its creation. The method of researching, verifying and refining content provides opportunities to open up peer-to-peer conversations with people and prospects who might not otherwise take your call. Invite them to speak at your event, or simply meet up with them for lunch. By recognising and incorporating their opinions, you build long-term relationships that go far beyond the content itself.

And of course you can bask in the reflected glory of their name and brand.

The future of work: business reimagined

The future of work: business reimagined

Ever since I began talking to Ben Betts from HT2 about the Curatr Social Learning Platform, I’ve had a nagging thought.

It has been just a niggling feeling until now, and I haven’t been quite able to put my finger on what it is. And then, on Thursday last week, I had a eureka moment at #SMI13 (The Social Media Influence Conference) which has crystalised the problem in my mind.

So what’s the problem? There is a lot of talk in L&D and talent management circles recently about social learning, and why it is so important. There’s talk about user experience, about reusing resources, and about the needs of an ever more demanding learner. And there’s talk about how to grow talent, and the application of learning.

That sounds like a lot. But actually it’s not.  My new understanding is this:

The power of “social” is about so much more than learning. It’s about the whole future of work.

What does that actually mean though?

Let me explain! What we need to do is to focus on the big picture – how we create real business change. When we focus too much on learning, the danger is that the message seems to be relevant only to people in the learning and development function. And it’s not. It’s relevant to every person in the business. Because learning is just something that we do every day without even thinking about it. It’s a state of mind, not a function or a department, or a tool we decide to implement in the organisation.

I spent a fascinating half hour on Thursday afternoon listening to Dave Coplin (@dcoplin) from Microsoft speaking about “The Future of Work” and I’m sure Dave won’t mind me quoting him “Becoming a social business is about agility, pure and simple” (actually I know he doesn’t mind, because I asked him).

What does this mean? It means we need to recognise that people don’t like to change. Take for example the QWERTY keyboard – it was designed specifically to slow down productivity – and yet today, we are still using it. Why? Because we suck at change.

It’s time to reimagine business

The way we do this is to make it social. If we are social (and by this I mean that we open our minds, share more, and change the way we think and act), then we become more responsive to the market, by empowering a critical mass of people in the organisation to share – and chase – the same goal. This opens up the capacity for change, by harnessing not only the collective, but also the individual power of the people in the business.

It’s not about the technology

Social collaboration is not some new tool we can implement in the organisation. It’s about fundamentally changing the way we work. And to do this, the first thing the organisation needs are strong self-aware leaders, willing to make the change. Only with the right mentality will managers have the will, and power, to empower others. And if you empower others, then you create engagement.

And that is the power of social. Social learning – yes. But it’s more than that – because the argument comes full circle here. If we focus on outcomes and not processes, by working together towards a common goal, then the business can make a real change. Which can only be a good thing.

PS It is a bit about the technology after all. Strong leaders come first, without doubt. But when the organisation is ready to change, you will need the tools to do this. And the leaps in technology over the last few years make this so much easier to facilitate.

 

This article was first published by ProfitAbility in July 2013