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When your company is launching a content marketing  strategy to engage your current audience and attract new readers, it’s overwhelming to think that the blog posts you create will have short shelf lives. In other words, if your company can barely create enough quality content to publish multiple posts weekly, you certainly don’t want to lose the sharing and search value of content in just a few days because what your organization has published is almost immediately outdated.

Evergreen-vs-Not5 Keys to Creating Evergreen Content

If avoiding content that’s quickly outdated is your challenge, consider these five lessons to generate evergreen (i.e., longer shelf life) content. These content marketing strategy lessons will extend your content shelf life – whether your company is just launching a content marketing strategy or are well into implementation:

1. Be less newsy and more bookish

News generates reader attention, but don’t over-anchor your content in news stories. News-oriented content requires continually addressing new news all the time, especially since news has a short shelf-life in other social channels. Also create content that’s more like a book, whose content has value years after it is published. Use current news to INSPIRE your content, but write about the bigger themes that will be relevant later.

2. Stick with what sticks for longer

If your company is covering the latest technology, your content will be outdated shortly after you publish it. Even if you are writing a lot of content about a fast changing industry, balance it with content on business principles, fundamental concepts, smart productivity tips, and practical to-dos that remain truer, longer.

3. Reference specific dates – or leave them out entirely

Don’t reference “last week” or something coming up “next quarter.” Instead, use specific dates such as “early November 2013” or “third quarter 2016.” Better yet, ask if a date reference really matters to content clarity? If you can avoid including a date in the content, leave the date out.

4. Link to what will change

Make ample use of links to provide more background on time sensitive content. With content related to news and current events, links can provide more direct ties to date-specific content and activities. By using links instead of rehashing newsy content directly in your posts, your content will be more timeless on the surface even though it’s linked to older material.

5. Create a broader view

If your company’s content marketing strategy involves generalizing big truths, timeless trends, and broad developments, the content you create will be better positioned to create content of value for a longer period of time. Leave the detail to others and communicate about what has momentum and staying power relative to your topic.

How do these content marketing strategy lessons work?

Yes, these lessons do work. We’ve used these principles, the discipline of publishing regularly, and time to build a back catalog of content that generates more than 90 percent of our B2B website’s visits on any given day.

That means we have a tremendous amount of evergreen content still working hard to generate interest, value, and site visits with no incremental work each day. That’s when an evergreen content approach really pays off for your organization. If your organization would like the same type of results, let us know. We’d be happy to get you going on a strategy to do the same! - 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.”

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One year during my life in the Fortune 500 world, in the interest of creating strategic impact, our company president declared the annual theme would be “Everybody Sells.”

Year-Of-ThemeHis annual theme idea was great on the surface since our tens of thousands of employees throughout the country had many personal relationships with business people in our target audience. Our salesforce represented a relatively small portion of the employee base, meaning there would be great upside if employees used their outside work relationships to talk up the company with appropriate people and share information about using our services.

Great annual theme, great potential for creating strategic impact, but crappy execution. With little time to put anything in place beyond SAYING “Everybody Sells,” nobody did sell except the salesforce.

This experience tainted me to the idea of annual themes. Rather than creating strategic impact, they seem to be used as superficial stopgaps to highlight issues too big to actually address, let alone solve.

Creating Strategic Impact with an Annual Theme

I am rethinking my strategic thinking, however, based on my spiritual experience this past year.

The Catholic Church declared a “Year of Faith” lasting from late November 2012 until its conclusion in November 2013. During this special year, it has been hard to go a week – and certainly, a month – without local churches offering multiple programs, services, or spiritual development opportunities related to the annual theme.

Looking back on the past year, I can point to several very specific changes in my own faith life originating from activities linked to the Year of Faith theme.

So maybe there is value to an annual theme.

4 Factors Behind a Successful Annual Theme

Based on my observations this year, here learnings for creating strategic impact several if your organization is going to feature an annual theme for near year:

  • Strategically tie EVERYTHING you can throughout the year to the annual theme.
  • Don’t decide the theme in January and expect it to work. Start immediately (although you may need multiple months) to plan activities to make sure the theme drives results.
  • Don’t allow a time gap during the year when the theme and supporting activities lapse and aren’t readily available.
  • Don’t create a theme every year. Introducing a theme every few years makes it stand out as something different strategically.

What do you think? Would an annual theme pave the way for creating strategic impact in your organization? – Mike Brown

 

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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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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is sharing his perspective on the links between corporate strategic planning and brand strategy today, including a great strategic brand planning tool to help identify branding opportunities and gaps your organization faces. Without delay, here’s Woody!

 

Brand Strategy – A Strategic Brand Planning Tool by Woody Bendle

Mike has published recent pieces on strategy and strategic planning that inspired me to reflect on the process and effectiveness of strategy, especially brand strategy. It fascinates me that strategy and strategic planning are often considered separate and different from brand strategy.  Since many executives don’t understand what a brand is, they don’t realize an organization’s brand should govern and be the basis for corporate strategy and planning.

Strategy and Brands

Strategy should effectively set an organization apart from competitors.  A good strategy (well executed) can make an entity appreciably unique and compellingly relevant to a meaningful proportion of consumers. This is precisely what a good brand does!  So why is brand strategy so often overlooked in corporate strategy or planning?

I believe there are three reasons:

  1. Lack of understanding
  2. Misperceptions – Corporate strategy and planning are considered to be for “left-brained numbers people’ and brand strategy (if an organization even does it) is for “right-brained marketing
  3. Complexity – Brands are complex, somewhat abstract, and don’t fit neatly into financial spreadsheets

While the concept of a brand can be difficult to get your head around, that complexity shouldn’t suggest branding be ignored. Let’s break down the concept to its component parts, tackling the basic definition first.

So what is a Brand?

Most of us can name dozens of brands, including our “favorite” brands.  We can describe brands and frequently make decisions because of them.  So, while brands play roles in our lives, defining a brand is where many get hung up.

Through studying how consumers and organizations develop, manage, think about and relate to brands, I’ve developed the following definition:

A Brand is something that provides and is both identity and meaning.  It is a continual interpretation that exists as a result of that which is conveyed by an entity through its communications, products and/or services, and that which is understood by those who interact with that entity’s communications, products and/or services.  

That seems pretty abstract and complex, I’ll admit.  Let’s simplify it to an organization’s brand being:

  • Who it is
  • What it stands for or represents
  • Why it exists
  • How it behaves, communicates, and/or operates
  • How it is, and how it wants to be seen and/or thought of

For those interacting with (i.e., purchasing, using, consuming) a brand, it is:

  • A commitment or promise by or from the brand itself
  • An aid for decision making
  • An intrinsic and extrinsic reflection of who they are
  • A statement about what they value and believe in
  • A tacit or explicit signal about how they see themselves and how they want to be seen by others

The next layer of complexity in branding is because brands are not completely within an organization’s control.  While companies or individuals create brands, they exist in a dynamic perceptual ecosystem, i.e. an intricate network of interactions between and among an array of constituents (as shown here).

Dyanmic-Brand-Ecosystem

Brands directly interact with and influence perceptions for a number of different constituents (the blue arrows).  These constituents influence and affect the brand through reciprocal relationships of varying strength.  Over time, the full power and impact of a brand results from a vast multitude of direct and indirect interactions within the ecosystem.

This creates two implications:

  1. Once a brand is launched, the originator no longer fully owns it.  It is shared by all who directly and / or indirectly interact with it.
  2. While the brand’s originator does not fully own the brand, it retains absolute responsibility today and in the future for how the brand is viewed.

So because brands are complex and are shaped by others outside your organization, managing it overall demands a well-articulated brand strategy!

A Strategic Brand Planning Tool

So with the definition addressed, let’s pull apart a brand and systematically examine all the different brand interactions.  This tool I developed helps me effectively do that:

Brand-Plng-Template

Step one is identifying the brand constituents populating the rows by answering:

  • Who are all the parties interacting with your brand?
  • Who has a say in your brand’s future?

After creating your own list of brand constituents systematically work through each column.

  • Column A – Think about how you would like each constituent group to describe your Brand.  What should your brand stand for with each of them?  How should it be known?  Note – this is an internal exercise since you have to answer and own how and what you want others to think about your brand.
  • Column B – How does each of these different groups actually think about, or describe your brand?  What are they saying about it to others?  Are you regarded positively by some and negatively by others? Surveys and social media listening are great sources for this.
  • Column C – This column pinpoints areas with differences between how you want your brand to be thought of and how it is currently regarded.  Some differences will be subtle and others could be rather large. Additionally, this column’s answer can be quantitative and/or qualitative.  
  • Column D – After identifying areas with meaningful perception differences, outline things your organization can or will do to close these perception or image gaps.

As you work through brand tool, some cells will be easier than others to complete. Only you can determine whether it is worth the effort to collect the information needed. After using this tool many times, I’m confident you will identify several things important to your brand’s future that warrant further discussion and attention.

Good (Company) to Great (Brand)

Body-TattooCompanies and organizations are a dime-a-dozen; many have very similar overarching goals and objectives.  If an organization has been around for any length of time, it is probably doing a number of things well.  But is it truly great?  Is it considered a Great Brand?

Great Brands are different; they are one-in-a-million!  Great Brands connect by providing a deeper sense of identity and meaning.  Great Brands wind up tattooed on peoples bodies (I’m betting the first brand that came to you right now was Harley Davidson)!

Great Brands don’t happen by accident! Great Brands are the result of great, well-executed brand strategies!

As you tune your strategic plans for next year, secure a seat at the strategic planning table for your brand management effort.  It just might earn your brand a prominent place on someone’s body! Woody Bendle

 

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For those executives still developing next year’s strategies aimed at creating strategic impact in 2014, we’ve opened up the Brainzooming strategic thinking R&D lab to share fifteen newly developed, innovative strategic planning questions.

15 Innovative Strategic Planning Questions to Prepare for 2014

2014-QuestionsThis group of innovative strategic planning questions is heavy on identifying new market, product, and competitive opportunities to challenge your organization in dramatically expanding the benefits you deliver to your customers.

Fostering  Innovative, Disruptive Ideas

Identifying Innovative Strategic Opportunities

Creating Competitive Advantage

  • What markets can we rapidly move into where we have an underdog’s advantages?
  • How can we do something so big and challenging in a new market that current players will have to follow us, thereby bolstering our market development efforts?
  • How can we go around any parties standing between our clients and our brand in order to simplify buying for our consumers?
  • How can we realize scale economies in new ways through serving and supplying remote, low-density markets from a high-density location?

Prioritizing Market Strategy Opportunities

  • What will it take to dramatically improve the clarity of our marketing message by reducing the number of DIFFERENT messages we blast into the universe?
  • In what ways can we make it easier and more rewarding for our broad audience to share their opinions and take buying action on them?
  • Within our content marketing, what has to change to address five additional facets of both the human and business dimensions of our audience?
  • How do we craft a social media approach that still works hard for us if Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other high-profile social network went away next year?

Addressing Professional Development

  • What are my personal and professional development dreams, and what roadblocks do I need to eliminate (or simply ignore) to bring them to reality next year?

 

Need more help with creating strategic impact – now and next year?

If you need an additional push for your organization in creating strategic impact in 2014, The Brainzooming Group is here to assist you, tapping into our experience designing and implementing hundreds of strategy sessions to deliver real results.  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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“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.”

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Here is a strategy question for you.

When your organization is the size of a country (at least economically), but without the military and police protection to squelch uprisings, what do you do?

Answer?

You deal with uprisings (including negative publicity, boycotts, business loss, and litigation) by trying to reach the people most likely to incite the biggest uprisings and head things off beforehand. You also attempt to target those who could help effectively dampen uprisings that do occur.

Granted, this strategy question is one only Walmart and a few other companies have to address, but the importance of proactively addressing threats to your operational model applies to every organization.

Since the Walmart operational model focuses on low costs and value, the possibility any consumer or marketplace uprising could lead to larger costs, makes it a big deal. Any high profile issue could result in a significant distraction from or direct hit to the core strength and strategic focus at Walmart.

Although this strategic perspective was never overtly stated when Chad Mitchell Senior Director of Digital Communications at Walmart spoke to the September Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfast meeting, I cannot help but believe this thinking is a prime motivator for the Walmart strategy Mitchell shared.

Chad Mitchell on Walmart Social Conversations and Corporate Affairs

Chad-Mitchell-Walmart

Chad Mitchell highlighted the more aggressive use of social media by Walmart to listen and create conversations to influence positive perceptions for the brand’s activities. Chad titled the presentation, “Data-driven Social Media – Leveraging Data to Deliver a Human Social Strategy for a Global Enterprise.”

As I tweeted before the talk, if you were expecting cat pictures, you were going to be sorely disappointed.

Chad’s social media responsibilities focus on Corporate Affairs, where he has a team of four, including one person on social media and two on the corporate website which receives 20 million visits annually. After his first job at Walmart addressing political and government affairs in Washington, he moved to Bentonville, AR when he took over the social media responsibilities within Corporate Affairs.

Marketing runs the sales side of digital at Walmart where four thousand of the 10,000 Walmart stores have their own Facebook pages. Although the focus between the two areas is different, relationship building is central. As Mitchell puts it, “If you’re not on social media to build relationships, it doesn’t make much sense to be there.”

Social Media Strategy and Corporate Affairs Objectives

The objective behind the corporate affairs social effort is to have meaningful social conversations to influence perceptions about Walmart. The intent is to be honest and transparent so audience members realize they are interacting with real people at Walmart.  Overall, Walmart hopes to use its size and scale to attempt to “influence the world for the better.”

The data-driven enterprise social strategy at Walmart incorporates four elements:

  1. Human (Cross-functional team, Influence, Data analysis)
  2. Strategic (Discovery, Risk assessment, Engagement)
  3. Technology (Monitoring / Research, Content optimization, Analytics)
  4. Culture (Collaborative planning, Team execution, Command center)

Its keys challenges include overcoming stereotypes, internal perceptions, and audience members’ past experiences with the brand. An additional challenge, according to Mitchell, is that, “Fifty years of being a humble company doesn’t set you up for telling your story well.” From a cultural perspective, he pointed to the collaborative culture at Walmart where socializing ideas is expected before initiatives are implemented.

Managing Multiple Content Streams

The primary Walmart Twitter presence is @Walmart, which the Marketing team manages. The main Corporate Affairs Twitter presence is @WalmartHub, with a variety of sub handles (@WalmartGreen, @WalmartHealthy, @WalmartGiving, @WalmartNewsroom, @WalmartAction) for specific content areas.

The audiences Walmart wants to reach for corporate affairs are most available on Twitter. The company has also been aggressive about putting Corporate Affairs content on Facebook too. Initial influencer research identified the top 50 influencers Walmart wanted to reach, and it engages them directly.

According to Mitchell, its approach is on the “Right message, right audience, right time.” While content is focused through the specific sub handles, the best-performing content is subsequently shared through its main Twitter presence as well.

Underlying its social sharing strategy is the idea that, “It’s not about when you want to send a message, but when the audience wants to consume it.” In light of this, Walmart uses an application to handle and score content while also assessing the company’s real-time audience presence. Since Chad noted seeing 18% swings in its audience size within a very short time frame, it waits to push social content to optimize the audience presence.

Walmart promotes its best-performing tweets to extend their reach and story lifecycles. It also promotes messages to counter negative mentions with the hope of putting an alternative view in place. It also comments on negative stories to expose its own perspective more broadly.

Relative to answering questions, the response gap has been generally narrowed from two or more days to 10-15 minutes, especially on simple, fact-oriented questions.

Toward a Predictive Social Strategy

Walmart, much to Chad’s chagrin, does not yet have an explicit formula for how to adjust the volume of social activity and impact. As a result, it is making message-specific decisions based on available data as conversations play out.

One scale-related challenge for Walmart is being mentioned hundreds of thousands of times online daily. It estimates approximately 80,000 of these are relevant mentions. It generates internal alerts to highlight mentions, activity volume, and sentiment. There is a hope to get to some type of predictive analysis on the impact of social activity based on the various indicators available.

Overall Learnings

In terms of overall learning, Chad Mitchell identified four highlights for other organizations to embrace:

  • Build the system right
  • Implement a data-driven strategy
  • Build the right team
  • Pick the right specialty agencies (a preference for Mitchell vs. agencies trying to do everything)

Finally, according to Mitchell, when it comes to enterprise social strategy, “Data should be your friend.” - 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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Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC) friend, Sarah Eggers tweeted Friday afternoon that we should run a compilation post on beating writer’s block in association with National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo 2013.

Since Sarah’s previous Brainzooming blog topic ideas have all been winners, you can bet I paid attention to Sarah’s tweet.

Creativity Ideas for National Novel Writing Month

Stormy-NightHere is a compendium of Brainzooming blog posts on a variety of aspects for enhancing creativity and getting around creative blocks.

While not all these creative ideas focus on writer’s block or writing, and none of them are specific to writing a novel, I went through the Brainzooming blog to narrow the list to articles with potential value to NaNoWriMo 2013 participants.

If your creativity is stuck for NaNoWriMo or in any other way, check out these articles to start or rekindle your creativity when you need it most!

Getting to the Root Causes of Your Creative Block

Some Ways to Try to Shake Creative Block

Other Peoples’ Ideas for Enhancing Creativity

– 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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FrankenPunkinHalloween signals the start of the year-end holiday season. Thanksgiving is close behind (in the US), followed by Christmas and Hanukkah in December. During this time every year, many people plan and take year-end vacations – often starting in early December – to get their “use it or lose it” personal time off out of the way.

For many years in my career, year-end meant planning January kickoff meetings. Some kickoff meetings were small, but often, we were planning several thousand person, weeklong kickoff meetings in Las Vegas. When planning these January kickoff meetings, many vacation days went unused since we continued working while much of the rest of the business world was on vacation. To make progress, we had to continually work around co-workers, advertising agency partners, and other external support people who were unavailable to address critical meeting planning needs.

To compensate, we did plenty of strategic thinking to anticipate when and where we would need help from people who might not be available later in the year.

Strategic Thinking – 5 Planning Tips for Avoiding Year-End Productivity Challenges

The planning tips we used are valuable as you look toward accomplishing your most important year-end initiatives. And since many people start to disappear right after Thanksgiving, it is not TOO early to start addressing RIGHT NOW where you will need help before mid-December.

1. Prioritize activities requiring attention and participation from others.

Comb through your annual plan and look ahead to early next year to see what has to be completed. If you cannot accomplish a critical deliverable on your own, get going on it now to allow others time to complete their responsibilities before vacations start.

2. Begin getting your end-of-year financial house in order.

Contact vendors early to get copies of all invoices from this year so you can charge them against this year’s budget. Work with Finance on any accruals you will need to optimize your budget situation for this year and the start of next year. If you are in a position to have vendors pre-bill you this year, work with Finance and specific vendors to coordinate these special situations.

3. Reach out to vendors you may need during typical holiday breaks.

Depending on your situation, find out which key vendors will have available people and capacity during the holidays. It is typically a good time to have these conversations when you are also talking to them about making sure they are paid on a timely basis for this year’s activities. If your regular vendors will not be available, now is the time to start identifying backups who will be.

4. Figure out what holiday vacation schedules will look like for your internal team and external support people.

Vacation schedules are typically developed listing days people will be out of the office. When you need to get things done, it is far better to list who WILL be available throughout the holidays. With this approach, you can quickly see what your team will be on any given day.

5. Start scheduling important meetings now.

Whether you need to make an important meeting happen before the year-end OR you want to get a meeting scheduled for right after the start of the year, reach out NOW to find time on peoples’ calendars. Doing so early will put you ahead of most others who will be scrambling later in the year to get meetings set.

What other strategic thinking are you doing to anticipate year-end productivity challenges?

Any other tips you would like to add to this strategic thinking list? And how soon do you start working on steps to close out the year successfully, especially if you’re already working on next year’s activities? -  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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