Communication | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5

I’m at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Dallas today, delivering a two-hour workshop on developing a branded content marketing strategy. The key is finding the right balance between employing outside-in topics and outside-in timing while still making sure your brand personality and messages come through clearly.

We recently conducted a dedicated content marketing strategy workshop for a client on this very topic. We worked with nearly thirty of its business and communication leaders to explore topics four different audience personas would find valuable and that the organization, a healthcare non-profit, could credibly address.

The client is a non-profit focused on healthcare. It entered the workshop with five profiles of target audience members that The Brainzooming Group helped them develop. These profiles, called personas, are three-to-five paragraph descriptions it developed describing specific individuals it serves, seeks to hire, or collaborates with in serving clients.  Small groups prepared the personas in advance by brainstorming answers to ten questions on each audience member.

The personas provided the basis for other workshop activities imagining topics audience members would be interested in and willing to read, watch, or listen to if the non-profit were to address them.

Here’s an overview of each of the strategic thinking exercises:

5 Content Marketing Strategy Exercises to Generate Audience-Oriented Topics


What questions do audience members ask during the buying journey?

The initial exercise explored three phases of an audience member’s journey. The first phase (Awareness) encompassed their initial exploration as they became aware of an opportunity or issue an outside party might address. The second phase (Consideration) involved the audience member describing the relevant opportunity or issue and looking at organizations to help satisfy needs. The final phase (Decision) involved the audience member selecting, engaging, and evaluating the relationship with the outside party they chose.

Within each phase, the small groups identified questions audience members might ask. The comprehensive list of questions each group identified became the basis for the second content marketing exercise.

What topics address important audience questions?

The second exercise used questions from the first one to generate content topic ideas. For each audience question, participants suggested one or more topics or working titles. The topics they generated were not intended to communicate an overtly promotional brand message. Instead, the content would help audience members be smarter in their exploration, evaluation, decision-making, engagement, and post-purchase experiences. As the brand addresses topics of interest to audience members, it has the opportunity to subtly convey its helpfulness, expertise, and audience-focus through sharing beneficial content throughout has the audience journey.

Why do audience members select the brand?

Another exercise focused participants on the relationship stage where audience members either choose or do not choose the brand. Workshop participants identified five primary reasons audience members select the brand. They then identified five reasons audience members do not pick the brand. For each positive reason, they generated multiple topic ideas (of interest to audience members) that would back up the brand’s attractive characteristics. For reasons the brand was not selected, they brainstormed possible topics to help counter or refute misperceptions about the brand.

What do audience members say about the brand relationship?

One exercise focused on interactions audience members have with the brand further into the relationship using a 4-box grid. One axis listed “questions” and “statements.” The other listed “negative” or “positive” interactions.  Each of the four cells named a relevant situation and several questions to trigger potential topics. For instance, positive questions present “Education opportunities,” and negative questions signal “pain points.” Positive statements suggest highlighting ” brand value.” Negative comments indicate “objections to anticipate.” Questions associated with each of these four areas suggested jumping off points for additional topic ideas.

What do we think, know, and do that is relevant for audience members?

Audience members’ interests primarily extend beyond the brand’s traditional focus areas. That is why brands focusing only on content about themselves miss so many rich areas in which to share content. To counter this, one exercise explored areas in which audience members exhibit interests, seek information, and focus priorities. For each of the areas identified, participants generated audience-oriented topics. They made the brand connection to the audience based on what the brand thinks about audience interest areas, knows about the information they seek, and does relative to their priorities.

Coming Away with Plenty of Audience-Oriented Topic Ideas

During the Brainzooming content marketing strategy workshop, participants generated hundreds of potential content topics. Before adjourning, each person walked the room to review the topics and select those they thought had particular potential to interest audience members.

The next step is documenting all the topics on a content calendar. This enables the brand to address topics in an organized fashion across the year when, as they can best determine, audience members are most interested in the information.

If you want to learn more about specific details of this approach, contact us. Let’s collaborate to develop richer content that matters to your audiences. – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on social media and content marketing can boost your success!

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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You have heard the old business joke about the pig and the chicken’s different levels of commitment to breakfast?

When it comes to ham and eggs, the chicken is supportive, while the pig is committed.


It may be an old and tired story, but it still illustrates an important point about engagement and the willingness (or unwillingness) of employees to go all in with a new business initiative.

The thing is, unsuccessful employee engagement strategies are not an employee problem.

It is a LEADERSHIP problem when purported employee engagement strategies are not working. It means leadership has not made a credible case for WHY employees will benefit from going beyond the bare minimum to justify going all in to make company initiatives successful.

We see great leaders among our clients successfully taking steps that meaningfully involve employees in shaping strategy and implementation. These leaders respect differences completely, ask questions honestly, listen attentively, adapt credibly, and explain thoroughly.

That is a formula that works for employee engagement, and it is one reason we shared our Brainzooming buy-in manifesto.

If you want to go deeper on a viable strategy to improve employee engagement, download our Results eBook. It highlights an approach for more collaborative strategy that provides employees with a real opportunity to contribute their ideas and be a part of actively contributing to your organization’s direction. Mike Brown


10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

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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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We were on a call with an extended creative team generating ideas for client videos. During breaks, I found myself jotting down examples of important creative thinking skills the team was exhibiting.

7 Important Creative Thinking Skills


Infographic by and courtesy of Diane Bleck –

These seven creative thinking skills demonstrated during the call are ones which benefit both those who display them and those working with them too:

1. Suspending advocacy of your own idea to push for another person’s concept.

It’s helpful to be able to come into a creative situation and demonstrate your willingness to champion another person’s idea. It can open the way to getting others to support your thinking, as well.

2. Putting your own idea to the same test you apply to an idea from someone else.

When it comes to your own ideas, it’s easy to be a hypocrite and apply all kinds of hurdles to other ideas while letting your own thinking slide by unchallenged in your own mind. Just one thing to remember: don’t become somebody known for doing this!

3. Combining two different ideas and making them better (not muddled) as one idea.

Often (maybe “almost always”) compromising on creative ideas leads to something nobody likes, recognizes, or thinks satisfies the original objective. Being able to dissect ideas to pull out highlights and put them together as something new, however, is entirely different, and a great skill to have.

4. Letting someone else take “ownership” of your idea in order to build support for it.

This skill really tests whether you believe so strongly in an idea you’re willing to let someone else step up and take it on as their own idea to see it prevail. The key to seeing your idea win out can be letting somebody else be the vocal proponent for it.

5. Displaying the patience to wait for someone else to say what needs to be said so all you have to do is agree.

It’s tempting to jump in right away and make all the points you feel necessary in a creative discussion before anyone else talks. At times though, patience and silence are called for when it becomes clear someone can and will express your perspective – and can do it more appropriately than you can.

6. Sticking to your guns amid challenges to a creative idea which makes solid strategic sense.

There are many creative ideas which, while being really cool, have nothing to do with what you’re trying to achieve and how you should be achieving it. When confronted with others who are passionately arguing for highly creative yet hardly strategic concepts, make and remake your case if the idea you’re advocating is on the mark strategically.

7. Always looking for new creative skills to develop in yourself and those around you.

Not only do you want to make yourself stronger creatively at every juncture, it’s in your best interests to help improve the creative performance of your overall team. Creative meetings are a great opportunity to spot gaps others labor under as well as seeing your own creative shortcomings. Inventory what you saw (or didn’t see) after a creative meeting and get to work filling the gaps.

How are you doing on these 7 creative thinking skills? How about your team?  – 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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Reviewing the innovation strategy challenges business executives identified when downloading Brainzooming eBooks, they frequently mention gaining “buy-in” for significant change initiatives. That’s no surprise. There are so many ways to botch involving employees (and community members, if that’s your audience) in developing and successfully implementing an innovation strategy.

Here are five keys we’ve found for successfully engaging employees in innovation strategy. Consider it “The Brainzooming Buy-In Manifesto,” written in the voice of your employee or community member.

The Brainzooming Buy-In Manifesto – 5 Keys to Engaging Employees in Innovation Strategy


Ask me to participate

Ask about my aspirations and hope for our organization. Help to me to productively contribute to identifying what we need to do and what it might mean for us. Let me share ideas for how we might be able to accomplish the changes we need to make.

Listen to my ideas

Let me share what I’ve been thinking about or maybe just imagined. Listen as I struggle to put words or images to big ideas that aren’t fully formed. Listen to the ideas you hoped to hear, and keep listening when I share challenging perspectives and ideas that aren’t nearly as comfortable to accept.

Incorporate my ideas in our collective direction

If I’ve shared ideas, I expect to be able to recognize how they shaped what we’re going to do. We may not do everything that I suggested, but I want to be able to see how my participation influenced or shaped the overall view of what we’re going to try to accomplish, and how we’ll make it happen.

Let me know what’s going on

I’ve shared my ideas. I don’t want them to simply go into a big black box and then have to comb through a document or internal announcement later to see what happened after I was involved. Even if I need to return to what I do every day, don’t forget I was part of the team in its earlier stages. We have a legitimate expectation to keep hearing about what’s happening even if my participation is reduced.

Talk in real words

When sharing ideas and information, use familiar language we use within our organization. Don’t hide questionable ideas or intentions in vague or jargon-filled language that obscures meaning and understanding.

That’s the Brainzooming Buy-In Manifesto

If you want engagement and ongoing participation for developing and implementing an innovation strategy, start with these five keys. – 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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An attendee at the Curacao Social Media and Content Marketing Strategy Workshop raised a new (for me) and pertinent question: What are ideas to go live with brand impact?

That’s a content marketing strategy topic I’ve been thinking about as more social platforms offer “go live” features, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Tumblr.

His specific question was what to do to make it worthwhile for a brand, and how much to prepare so it doesn’t become embarrassing (or boring, or pointless) video content.

First, a quick disclaimer: I’ve NEVER gone live, although maybe we could with some of our Brainzooming events. We’ll have to see.

Nevertheless, thinking of content marketing strategy analogies, brands doing live video strikes me as very similar to “destination TV.”  Destination TV is a program the audience wants to watch in real-time the first time it airs so they aren’t susceptible to spoilers from friends that saw the program first and want to talk about what happened. Among the shows I’d put in the destination TV category are the Super Bowl (and perhaps a few other major sporting events), final episodes of popular TV shows, and major awards shows (Oscars, Grammys, etc.).


These also tend to be high viewership programs, which is what you want if you are going live! Another common characteristic is that broadcast networks never suddenly decide to go live and start sharing them without sometimes months of forewarning.

That’s a good starting point for how to “go live” differently than many brands are trying it right now. While the video is real-time, there should be ample preparation and promotion to lead to a great go live performance.

16 Ideas to Go Live with Brand Impact in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Using the three broadcast examples of destination TV as inspirations, here are 16 ideas for getting the most from your brand going live:


  • Go live with events or people that your target audience has a high interest in wanting to see in live setting. Pre-existing popularity, hype, plus past and future rarity all help generate interest.
  • Plan out what will happen ahead of time, knowing where you want to start, end, and places things in between.
  • Help the participants in your live stream develop material and rehearse what they are going to say or do if at all possible. A live dress rehearsal has its precedents (see SNL).
  • Look at ways to integrate pre-packaged segments with the live video, even if it means going multi-platform.
  • Tack on related stories and content delving deeper into the subject to interest specific audience segments.


  • Brand your go live segments as part of an ongoing series of events so the audience has more to look forward to in the future.
  • Begin promoting your brand going live well in advance. If having an audience is important, hit the messaging hard on WHEN you’ll be going live.
  • Heighten interest with unexpected guests or feature unusual pairings of people that are intriguing (or pairings that have never happened previously).
  • Incorporate surprise into your promotion. Create a live event situation where viewers might have some sense of what could happen when you’re going live, but they can’t be absolutely sure about it.
  • Invite the audience to participate in pre-show events planned before going live to build hype and anticipation.


  • Share older (but still relevant) content prior to when you go live.
  • Use a mix of scripted and impromptu segments within your live segment.
  • Record segments if need be, but broadcast them live. That’s what many virtual events do – they playback recorded talks, but take live audience questions.
  • Invite other parties outside your brand to cover / report on the live segment.
  • Create hoopla at the location from which you’ll be broadcasting to generate additional excitement (or another appropriate emotion) that will come through on the live video.
  • Embed cliff hangers into the content to create suspense. You could also create the cliffhangers prior to going live, and then resolve them when you go live.
  • Link partial content you’ve shared before the go live event to what happens live to flesh out a compelling brand story line.

Those are my thoughts on going live, all based off of thinking about a strategic analogy.

If we ever go live, look for more experience-based ideas! – 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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On Friday, June 17th, I was in Curaçao, located just north of Venezuela, to present a ¾ day workshop on social media and content marketing strategy for the Curaçao Tourist Board. Angelo Harms, the CTB’s digital marketing manager, was a great host and arranged the content marketing strategy workshop for eighty social media professionals in the island’s travel and hospitality industry.

Curacao Workshop Pic 2

For everyone that attended the workshop (and for those of you that weren’t there), here are links to much of the content I presented, plus a number of bonus topics I would have included given another day of teaching time!

The workshop and the entire trip generated a lot of questions, learnings, and lessons. Look for a variety of blogged posts planned for the near future to share more about content marketing, branding, and customer service learned going to and from this wonderful island.

If you’re looking for a new, warm, colorful, photogenic place to vacation, you owe it to yourself to visit Curaçao!

43 Resources for Strategic Branding and Engagement with Social Media and Content Marketing

Linking Business Objectives to Social and Content Marketing

Curacao Cover

Creating Fantastic Branded Content

Boosting Productivity as a Small Solo Social Media Department

Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on social media and content marketing can boost your success!

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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We’ve said it before, experience its confirmation repeatedly, and will thus say it again: One of the best ways to learn more about what you know is to teach it to someone else.

The latest confirmation took place this week as we created and presented a new Brainzooming innovation workshop on how to develop insights to fuel innovation.  We’re several engagements into a relationship with a client implementing a sweeping innovation initiative across its organization. We developed this new Brainzooming innovation workshop for the management team within the department leading the innovation push.

We routinely present strategic thinking workshops on the exercises and tools The Brainzooming Group uses to develop and implement innovative ideas. This innovation workshop differed in that we taught the insights development techniques we use to prepare for a successful innovation strategy initiative. This required examining and documenting areas we almost always do without explaining to anyone outside our organization.

6 Keys to Facilitating Executive Interviews


One new content area involved how to get the most value from an executive interview. Reflecting on our current practices and a career’s worth of executive interviews, here are six keys to facilitating strategic conversations within executive interviews:

  • Show real enthusiasm for both the questions you are asking AND the answers the other person is sharing
  • Display supportive physical cues, such as leaning in toward the other person with an engaged posture, nodding in affirmation, and smiling
  • Take great notes to help recall specific statements and develop themes emerging from the strategic conversation
  • Share encouraging verbal cues through affirmations (i.e., “Great,” “That’s interesting,” “Thank you for sharing that”) and probes (i.e., “Please tell me more,” “Can you go deeper on that topic?”)
  • Don’t be afraid of silence – allow space in the discussion for the other person to think, form ideas, or even try harder to answer a question more thoroughly
  • Know where you want to go next with a question YET move based on the responses from the other person – the key here is having an interview plan that is adaptable to focus on the topic the respondent is ready to address at any given moment

Want to experience these six keys within a non-traditional setting?

This interview of comedian Jerry Lewis by Raymond Arroyo is an outstanding example. While it certainly isn’t a traditional executive interview, it’s a compelling a strategic conversation covering familiar and new ground in a productive and engaging way.

Additionally, at 54:00 Jerry Lewis compliments Raymond Arroyo on his interview approach, suggesting the first of these six keys for executive interviews: “You are articulate. You know what you’re going to talk about. You’re interested in the answer; that’s the key. You’re interested in everything you asked me to see what the answer is. And that draws from me, (making me) eager to do more for you.”

Here is to more productive strategic conversations daily in business.

And if you are developing an innovation initiative, contact us so The Brainzooming Group can have a strategic conversation with you on ways we can assist with an innovation workshop or strategy! – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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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