Now that we are well into spring, I am stepping up my training for this summer’s Pan-Mass Challenge. I’ll be riding my fifth PMC in August, and I keep coming back because it’s such a well-run event, and raises money (over $30 million a year) to fight and cure cancer at Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. This has become an ever more important event and cause for me, after my father and father-in-law both passed from cancer over the last year and a half, and many friends and their families are also suffering from dealing with cancer.
Fundraising has gone well so far, thanks to many of you generous folks. Of course, we’re not done yet- as I type this, I have just under $5,000 left to reach my $7,500 goal for the event, matching last year’s total. Will you help? Please sponsor my ride at http://bit.ly/pmcdoug.
Meantime, I put together some footage from my early training rides to illustrate some of the things I typically see in Boston’s Western suburbs:
Also, after consulting many friends on Twitter and Facebook, I adopted use of the Strava app to track my rides this year. It makes keeping track of my training easier, and even shows how I do in certain segments of rides. So farm, so good. This widget shows some of my most recent rides. If you encounter this post (or this widget) later in the season, I hope you will see some greater distances- and faster speeds.
The original version of this piece appeared in Voce Nation, the blog by Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli Company
At PRSA’s Digital Impact Conference at the beginning of April, our (Voce’s) Monster.com client, Kathy O’Reilly, and I were honored to be asked to speak about how we manage Monster’s social media publishing program. The session, titled “Manage Multiple Content Streams Like Monster.com,” addressed the many elements of planning and executing a complex social media program from both the company and agency sides. What follows are some of what I felt were the more interesting parts of our talk.
Blogs are not dead
The “blogs are dead” meme didn’t rear it’s ugly head that I saw at Digital Impact, but the basic concept of a “hub and spoke” content strategy- the hub being on-domain content, usually a blog, and the spokes being off-domain platforms such as Facebook and Twitter- was prevalent throughout. Certainly our program with Monster.com, as well as with our various other clients, is predicated on this concept, but I also saw it outlined from different points of view. Most notably, Lee Odden’s session on optimization espoused Hub and spoke from the standpoint of search effectiveness.
“Hub and Spoke” is not Always that Simple
While we started from “hub and spoke” in our presentation we quickly noted that a simple hub and spoke is not always possible or ideal. In the case of Monster, there are three main blogs on the company’s domains. feeding several Twitter accounts and Facebook page, serving a variety of audiences (which nonetheless cross over), and being fed by other content platforms such as YouTube, SlideShare and Flickr. On top of that is the constant onslaught of new platforms that we research, consider and try (such as Google Plus and Pinterest). The image I created to express this, versus the clean and simple “hub and spoke” slide, purposely expresses the chaos which we work together to bring to order.
Personal Voice is Important, but Corporate Voice is Paramount
In this age of overemphasis on “personal brand” and the cliché status of terms like “join the conversation” and “engage,” it is still important to have voice- and voices. We covered the various people who represent the different sides of Monster.com’s personality, from the job-seeker focus to employers to the straight corporate voice. Monster stresses the identification of real people with names, faces and their own voices (this includes guest authors) but with a consistent company voice running through all the content. This isn’t easy, but constant communication among all those producing and coordinating the content results in a consistency that can survive the personnel changes that all companies must endure- even among their social media spokespeople. Monster is not immune to those changes, and we have helped them make a number of transitions.
Inter-Agency Cooperation is Not Just an Ideal
For years, I have dreamed of the perfect agency-client relationship where all the departments responsible for communication speak to each other and coordinate efforts to a single clear goal. It doesn’t always happen; otherwise we wouldn’t hear so much about “breaking down silos.” Something we have also learned is that the various agencies need to be brought into a unified planning strategy. Therefore, we work with Monster’s PR, branding, advertising, media buying, and any other outside agencies along with the larger internal communications people to coordinate long-term efforts and larger campaigns. It’s essential, and I fear that not every company thinks that way. The pain of coordinating so many moving parts (and squeezing too many people into a conference room) pays off on the other end
We Put Tools Last, But You Knew We’d Do That (Right?)
The time we spend on tools is disproportionate to t their importance to the strategy. We need them, but only after we know what, why and how we are doing. We feel one of the agency’s jobs is to know what we can about tools so we can:
- Recommend the best tools for the job
- Know how to use the tools- not every client uses the same systems
- Be able to recommend and jump in with the various “point solutions” on a short-term basis when needed for quick turnarounds
Tools are in their place.
Illustrating the system as “complex” is not the same as saying it is too “complicated.” It was a pleasure for us to talk together in front of a crowd of peers and validate our approach to content publishing.
In Social Media Marketer-Land, we often make sport of the constant ego-building, attention-mongering activities that are all too prevalent. I do it, you do it (oh, I know you do don’t act all innocent), and it’s great that we call each other to account for being egomaniacal jerks.
Sometimes, though, we’re just having fun. For example, on our recent vacation in Phoenix, we noticed that at Chase Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Diamondbacks, fans could get Tweets displayed on the big scoreboard in center field. All you had to do was include the #godbacks” hashtag.
- Ego gratification? Check
- Gratuitous hashtag use? Check.
- Publishing message on Twitter that everyone can see, not just people at the Diamondbacks games, for maximum lack of context? Check.
So, do I promise to be less cynical when others do silly attention-getting things in social media?
In February, I attended Boston’s Social Media Breakfast 26: “The New Rules of Content Marketing.” Since much of what my colleagues and I at Voce Communications/Porter Novelli do centers on content, I figured I would hear a lot of interesting things, and I was not disappointed. Among the potential social media bingo games (claim your prize if you had “Infographic,” “engagement” and a Marshall McLuhan quote on your card) was a useful discussion of what content means in this world of the expanding notion of “publisher.” The panel, moderated by Social Media Breakfast’s own Robert Collins is listed here.
Here are some of my own takeaways:
First of All- None of These Rules are New
What is new are some of the channels involved, and the people making content may often be people who weren’t in that game (or, like me, had gotten out of the traditional media content game at some past point). So, are we really talking about new rules for content? No. What we are doing is indoctrinating new people into an expanded notion of the “content producer.”
Nobody Reads Long-Form Content
At one point, one of the panelists remarked that nobody reads white papers. I don’t believe this for a moment. It depends on the audience. In fact, when the question, stated more broadly about “long-form content,” was asked to the panel, CC Chapman, to his credit, said as much: “It depends.”
While digestible (ok, someone said it: “snackable”) content is often desirable to draw in audiences without taxing them, the notion that nobody wants long-form content because our attention spans are crippled in the Internet age is nonsense. Certainly, pundits said the same as radio, television, and other popular forms of entertainment came to be. The truth is, you may better serve your audience with long-form content such as whitepapers. The key questions to ask have to do with identifying your audience and matching them with your end goals for putting content out there.
Always Remember that “Infographic” Begins with “Info”
Speaking of taxing your audience, the headlong tumble into infographic-mania has made people like me grumpy. We have been assaulted by a new form of so-called infographic that neither imparts information nor is a particularly compelling graphic. Panelist Joe Chernov of Eloqua said it best when he admonished us to remember that “Infographic” begins with “Info.” He also quoted noted statistician Edward Tufte; “It doesn’t matter how cool your interface is, it would be better if there were less of it.”
How do you balance “less is more” and actually imparting something valuable? It’s a hard line to walk, and sometimes it’s just a judgment call. As a Boston guy, I’ll refer to my favorite recent infographic (which I have definitely posted here before, so apologies): the Boston Bruins’ bar tab at Foxwoods Casino after they won the NHL’s Stanley Cup last spring:
This infographic fits in one viewing screen, imparts the main thesis at a glance, and provides optional details which can be gleaned quickly through the visual, with “fine print” that is merely optional. Why can’t more (all?) infographics be more like this?
Zero Out the Brand in Content Marketing?
This topic follows along the ‘balance” theme I mentioned above. I’ll agree it is important not to be in “hard sell” mode all the time, turning off potential audience members through incessant hawking of your products and services. However, the notion of “zeroing out your brand” in content raised by the panel makes very little sense to me. In the end, you have goals, which probably involve driving leads, customers, and/or sales to your company. At some point you need to have that ask in there. Whether you are simply but obviously sponsoring “neutral” content or more pointedly laying out a point of view that leads to your company as solution but also espouses your founding values, there needs to be some value to you as well as the audience.
What Was Not Discussed?
Context. Part of the solution to the question of balance is in creating a context around every piece of content you publish, from a Tweet to a white paper and beyond. I wish context had been mentioned more in the panel, because it is important.
Context is what leads people to react in a certain way to your content. To some extent you can’t control your audience’s surroundings and mod at the time they consume your content. However, the more information you give them – say, repeating a link in a follow-up Tweet or response on a topic, or reframing the overall theme in each episode of a multi-part video series, the more successful your content. You have to make and remake context constantly. Even the most renowned content creators in the social media world screw this up from time time- that’s how hard it is.
It is hard– that’s why we keep bringing people together for events like this.