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Social-Media-SummitPrepping for a social media content marketing workshop I am delivering at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Las Vegas in February, I was going back through questions raised at recent workshops.

Three Great Social Media Strategy Tips

These three social media strategy questions stood out because they were not only raised by workshop attendees, but other attendees provided wonderful answers for them.

Challenge 1. Should a sub-brand in your organization get its own social media presence?

This question came up in a social media strategy workshop with the Nebraska Healthcare Marketers. Our answer is to take an outside-in look at the organization to determine if a social media audience cares to affiliate with a sub-brand independent of its affiliation to an overall brand. No matter how much a brand or product manager thinks a sub-brand needs its own social media presence, whether the audience wants to “like” or “follow” it is the critical question.

One attendee went further to suggest agreeing to an expected content update frequency with the sub-brand’s leadership. If they can deliver the expected content to the brand’s main page consistently, they then get a shot at having a sub-brand social media presence.

Challenge 2. How can you get a compliance group on board with a social media strategy?

A marketing communications director at the Frost and Sullivan Marketing World social media strategy workshop in Boston asked about getting a compliance group on board with social media in a risk-averse environment.

Another participant let us know her company put the compliance person in charge of social media. She reported that in this rather unusual role, the compliance person suddenly started “getting” social media strategy. She did a fantastic job balancing the firm’s risk aversion with a new understanding of the need to participate actively on social networks.

Challenge 3. How do you respond more quickly to customer service questions on social media when you cannot be at it full time?

One social media strategy challenge for risk-averse organizations (and even ones that are not THAT risk averse) is the timely handling of customer service issues on social media channels. While the preference may be to check and double-check responses coming from customer service, that means the response won’t happen with the speed customers expect.

An attendee at the Frost and Sullivan session shared that her company drafted responses to typical customer service questions to enable faster responses. Instead of running the risk of someone getting the same answer on multiple occasions, however, they drafted multiple variations of answers to their typical questions. In this way, they paired up speedy response and a sense of message variation consistent with a more personal response.

What are your social media challenges with multiple brand presences, compliance, and customer service?

These are familiar social media challenges for organizations. What questions do you have in these areas? Or alternatively, what answers have you found for them? - Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Grand-Canyon-SkywalkSuppose you have brand strategy responsibility to showcase an industrial brand’s identity.

What can you do to create stronger identity and a cool factor for a brand that may be a component of another product or brand?

Showcase Industrial Brand Identity and Coolness in B2B Brand Strategy

Here are three paths any industrial, business-to-business, or ingredient brand marketer should consider. All were highlighted at the Content Marketing World Manufacturing Summit where I spoke on creativity and content marketing in September.

1. Bringing the Consumer Feel to Industrial Brand Strategy

One theme throughout the Manufacturing Summit was “people” are making decisions in B2B markets. That means there is no reason to automatically walk away from brand strategy tools consumer marketers use, including (as spelled out by Kathy Button Bell, CMO at Emerson Electric):

  • Bright colors
  • Lights
  • Sounds
  • Fresh faces
  • Smiles
  • Vibrant culture

These all make industrial companies more interesting to the PEOPLE. And as a tweet during the conference noted, there are no regulations within any industry mandating boring, self-centered, overly-formal, or stuffy content.

One idea this created for me was plotting industrial brands based on how ubiquitous they are vs. how “sexy” they are. Would any brands be in the upper right quadrant? And if not, how could and would an industrial brand benefit from moving there?

2. Finding the Cool in an Industrial Brand Identity

If you’re directing social media strategy for an industrial brand, how do you get to the “cool” factor in your brand?

At Lincoln Electric, Craig Coffey, U.S. Marketing Communications Manager at the welding equipment brand found the brand’s cool in realizing it “joins metal with fire. That’s cool!”

It’s easy, however, in an experienced B2B company to lose a sense of coolness and simply think about what the brand does to perform daily as devoid of any “cool” factor. Yet finding the “cool” in a B2B brand is the primary hope for generating audience interest. In discussing content successes at Lincoln Electric, Coffey pointed to several success factors helping to tell a cool story:

  • A rich brand history
  • Ambitious goals to reach audiences in new, meaningful ways
  • Open-minded leadership
  • A willingness to invest in marketing

An exercise The Brainzooming Group developed based on this conversation is a set of strategic thinking questions to help experienced people reimagine the “coolness” in a B2B brand they long ago stopped seeing as intriguing.

3. Showcase an Industrial Brand through Its Customers

To generalize one of Craig Coffey’s comments, “No one will ever care more about what your product does than you do.” The goal then becomes getting people to care about what your product enables them to do. But how do you build brand identity and awareness for an industrial brand that is better known based on the customers who use it than for what it does?

These situations create an opportunity to put customers front and center in brand stories, letting happy customers talk about what the brand enables them to do.

For Lincoln Electric, this thinking led to telling customers’ stories that are positioned not as “by” Lincoln Electric, but where the brand is instead “with” customers.

For a great story where the product is in the background yet its importance is unquestioned, check out this Lincoln Electric video. As I tweeted during Crag’s presentation, when you’re 4,000 feet over the Grand Canyon walking on a glass bridge, you want your welds to be DAMN good!

Ultimately brands can find it challenging to downplay their own products in the interests of playing up other engaging elements, but Lincoln Electric shows it can be a smart brand strategy to do so. Mike Brown

 

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2014-crazy-busyHere is a prediction for 2014: bosses and client will want even shorter reports and presentations than last year because everyone will be busier and have even shorter attention spans. (In fact, I also predicted on Twitter last night that 2014 will be the global year of even “crazier and busier.”)

But what if the report you are writing is destined to be way longer than your audience’s short attention span will tolerate?

How are you going to make the right decisions about cutting content to experience report shrinkage?

The first step, if it is at all possible, is printing the report you are developing. By printing the report, you can easily change the order of the content and compare alternative versions with and without specific content. This preference for printing and working with hard copy may reflect my age and thinking biases, but I find it much more efficient (and personally satisfying) to turn cutting content into a physical experience.

7 Questions to Experience Report Shrinkage

Beyond readying a physical or virtual version of your report, these seven questions will help you make decisions to achieve report shrinkage:

  1. Based on your previous history of positive and negative reactions to content with this audience, what can you get away with removing?
  2. If you don’t have previous experience with this audience, are there other comparable situations you can reference to identify what to eliminate?
  3. Can you create a reference or link to content you’re not including so if there’s interest in it, you can reference it on the fly?
  4. Does each piece of content you’re planning to keep disproportionately contribute to the short list of information the client needs to know, understand, or believe to take the desired actions?
  5. Can you combine content that’s similar but not exactly the same to create higher impact in the presentation?
  6. Have you duplicated content as the deck has moved through multiple authors and iterations?
  7. Are you to the point of cutting things that make you wince when you cut them? If not, you definitely have more content to cut.

We used these questions recently to get a forty-page report down to fourteen pages, just under the fifteen pages the client could reportedly handle!

Are you predicting more report shrinkage in 2014?

Do you buy our report shrinkage prediction for 2014? And if you do, what strategic thinking and actions are you going to do about it?  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Merry-Christmas-FamilyAmid all the advertisements pummeling people to shop right up to Christmas Eve for holiday gifts and to resume shopping as early as possible the day after Christmas, some of the most memorable holiday gifts aren’t found in retail stores.

These holiday gifts do not cost anything and will never be directly measured in an economic recap of the holiday buying season.

12 Free Holiday Gifts

Thinking back on some of the incredible things people have done for me this year or I’ve witnessed people do for others, here are twelve ideas for holiday gifts you can still make happen in time for Christmas that cost only the commitment and effort to do something special for someone.

This holiday, how about . . . ?

  1. Cheering another person toward greater aspirations than they have imagined themselves pursuing.
  2. Dependably reaching out to someone when you suspect he or she might most need it.
  3. Leaving a voice mail message for someone you have not talked to in some time saying you are going through withdrawals because of it.
  4. Extending empathy to another person and then devoting yourself to listening to what is bothering them.
  5. Praying for a miracle for someone who can really use a miracle.
  6. Being a beacon of positivity when your own situation looks to others to be anything but positive.
  7. Letting someone who is struggling know that even though they feel messed up, they are really on the right track.
  8. Telling a friend, “I love you,” even if it is in that beer commercial kind of way.
  9. Being giddy when you see an old friend you haven’t seen in ages (other than on Facebook).
  10. Putting yourself squarely in the middle of a life situation to help someone who can’t help themselves right now.
  11. Respecting someone you fundamentally disagree with, even on serious issues.
  12. Showing up when hardly anyone has made an effort to do so.

That’s a list full of true blessings!

Life Lessons

As much as I love “commerce,” these free holiday gifts are what will really make a lasting impact in someone else’s life more than anything you’ll ever lug home from a store.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Brainzooming Group!  Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Cosmo-Kramer-Cutest-Christmas-DogI was at the dentist for a semi-annual teeth cleaning and checkup. The current dentist bought the practice from the previous dentist several years ago. The change in the office personality was evident immediately and has flourished the past few years.

While the brand experience with the former dentist was friendly in a superficial way, you felt as if you were always being sold some new add-on service, product, or referral (to a buddy of the dentist) with each visit. The result was the brand experience felt adversarial as you tried to get out of the office without being upsold whatever the current marketing program was.

With the new dentist, there is no hard sell. The advice on improving your dental habits beneficial, with no scare tactics or upsell involved. The conversations are genuine and fun, about pets, kids, sports, and what everyone has going on.As I was leaving the office recently, the dental hygienist was showing me pictures of her absolutely adorable dog all dressed up for Christmas (btw, that’s Cosmo Kramer to the right). The office manager showed me the dentist’s two dogs on her mouse pad.

Bringing Your Offline Brand Experience Online

I mentioned how fun the office brand experience was now and suggested they feature the great dog pictures on their Facebook page.

The dentist admitted he hasn’t really done anything with Facebook yet, but his brother was going to help him get it going over the holidays.

The question will be: “What brand experience gets translated to Facebook?”

Will the fun aspects of the brand experience characterized by our extended conversation after my appointment characterize its Facebook page content?

Or will the Facebook page be a formal, stiff presentation of dental tips that winds up feeling much more like the former dentist’s brand experience?

While it may feel like the second social media strategy option is the safe approach, it would be really boring and off-brand. Yet how many brands pursue that social media strategy and completely misrepresent the fun and warmth they create offline?  - Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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GolfballLet’s talk about project management techniques by way of the old joke about a golfer who gets home after a round of golf and tells his wife it was the most exhausting round of golf ever. When she asks why, he tells her he was playing with his buddy, Frank, who had a heart attack and died on the 10th hole.

She replied, “Oh my gosh, that must have been horrible.”

“You’re not kidding,” he said, “The whole rest of the round it was ‘Hit the ball, drag Frank; hit the ball, drag Frank.”

Identifying “Lazy” Early

The phenomenon of “Hit the ball, drag Frank,” can feel like working on a project team with a team member whose laziness renders them dead to the project. Who hasn’t been on a project team where it feels like, “Work on the project, drag Frank; work on the project, drag, Frank”?

If Frank has been on one of your project teams before, you may know ahead of time what is ahead of you. If you have a project team with new, unfamiliar teammates, however, are there ways to determine upfront who will and won’t perform as the team tries to reach its strategic objectives?

We typically find project team members fall down because of either of two types of laziness:

  • Mental laziness – They aren’t up to doing strategic thinking, working on issues, and taking necessary actions.
  • Organizational laziness  - They don’t – or can’t – work diligently with the people and processes critical to creating strategic impact.

Either one is frustrating. Someone who exhibits both of these types of laziness, however, can cripple a project team and its efforts.

Project Management Techniques to Address a Lazy Project Team Member

Here’s one of our project management techniques you use early on in a project to identify any “Franks” so you can start planning for alternatives to dragging them throughout the project.

Talk to team members (especially new ones) early, asking questions about their expectations and initial thoughts on potential solutions for the team successfully accomplishing its objectives and creating strategic impact. As each individual team member responds, listen to their answers. Which cell in this matrix do their answers most closely resemble?

laziness-grid-2

Based on where the responses fall, you can get an early sense of whether your project team contains some individuals with mental laziness, organizational laziness, or both.

Depending on the team composition you can start planning and implementing other project management techniques to minimize the amount of time and effort you will have to expend dragging Frank through the upcoming project. – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

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Think about the common, albeit under-followed, presentation tips for speakers who want to deliver content more effectively:

  • Use more and bigger images to engage the audience visually
  • Don’t include everything you’re going to say on the slides
  • Use high-contrast foreground and background colors to improve readability
  • Make ample use of builds to keep the audience from getting ahead of what you are saying

I preach and try to follow these presentation tips whenever I speak.

Do Traditional Presentation Tips Still Apply?

Yet, at three recent seminars I covered (including ones from Walmart and IKEA), these traditional presentation tips were blatantly ignored by three high-profile presenters.

eKaterina-SlideTheir slides were loaded with text and more detail than I had seen on slides in “good” presentations in ages. Usually when a speaker uses that much text on slides, I figure the presenter threw the slides together at the last minute and simply typed up whatever he or she was planning to say.

That was not what was going on in any of these presentations, though.

Instead, my own interaction with the content indicated a potential change in thinking on presentation slides.

Rather than simply typing live tweets of the speaker’s remarks, I was taking photos of the slides – some of which I was tweeting while capturing othrs for later reference (including writing a blog post from photos of Chad Mitchell’s slides). This phenomenon, coupled with how people are increasingly taking picture of more detailed slides at my own presentations suggests we are entering the era of creating photogenic slides for presentations.

If this is a trend, traditional presentation tips for constructing slides as visual support begin to shift.

In these three instances, the slides provided the most detailed content each speaker offered since none provided hard copy documentation. If you wanted the details, your best option was to start taking photos, diverting your attention from the speaker’s live content.

Presentation Tips for Creating Photogenic Slides

If we are in the age of creating photogenic slides, what are the new success factors for strong presentations?

IKEA-stageFrom these early examples and my own experience, here are five critical success factors to consider when creating photogenic slides:

  1. Use high-density text – If the slides are intended for later consumption, it suddenly makes sense to include as much detail as possible to address detail and questions the audience will want to review afterward.
  2. Incorporate online references – Rather than simply embedding a video, featuring a graphic, or telling a story, it becomes more valuable for later viewing to have a link on the slide for an audience member to reach the underlying content afterward.
  3. Detailed, over-complicated infographics – Process diagrams and slides with incredible detail become feasible, even desirable – as long as the detail is not so small it is lost when the audience later zooms in to review specific items.
  4. Less radical light/dark shifts between the room and the slides – At the session depicted in this photo, the room and stage were dark (except for focused lighting on the speakers) and the slides were light, creating a jarring contrast for photos. If you are aiming for photogenic slides, inquire ahead about the staging and adjust the color and contrast of your slides accordingly.
  5. More screen time for slides with mega-content – While builds work to keep the audience with the speaker, they are maddening when taking photos of slides. The answer either is fewer build slides or, if you are using builds, allowing time for a photo once all the content is displayed instead of moving briskly to the next slide.

Are you taking more photos of slides during presentations? And when you are presenting, are you thinking about creating photogeneic slides? In either case, what critical success factors would you add to this list? Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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