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Want to hang out with some of the Brainzooming crew in San Francisco next week and learn all kinds of valuable information on content marketing, social media, marketing strategy, and branding?

Yes, it’s possible to do a deep dive into all those areas, plus network with other smart marketers from across industries, all in one location.

You’re invited to join us at the Social Media Strategies Summit and The Marketing Conference, taking place concurrently at The Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco, September 27-29. Registrants for either conference can move back and forth between the two, targeting the workshops and presentations that will be most valuable to their business success.

Did I mention there’s a special conference discount registration for Brainzooming readers? Keep reading for the code!

marketing-conference

I’ll be doing workshops on content marketing and collaborative branding strategy. I’ll be co-presenting the content marketing workshop and a presentation on marrying data and creativity with Emma Alvarez Gibson.

Other presenters are from Charles Schwab, Gap, Intel, and Campbell Soup.

Want to learn more about the combined opportunity of two conferences in one?

Here is conference producer Breanna Jacobs sharing more on the presenters and benefits of having two conferences agendas to customize your experience.

Earlier I mentioned a special discount code for Brainzooming readers (I.e., you!). When you register for The Marketing Conference, use the code MKTG25 to score a 25% discount on your registration!

We’re looking forward to seeing all our Bay Area (and traveling) friends next week in San Francisco for this incredible marketing meet up! – 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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I’m scheduled for a background interview today on creating a thought leadership strategy. The interview is an outgrowth of an eBook on thought leadership. The eBook came from a workshop someone did at a conference I’ve spoken at many times. I suspect when someone asked a question at the workshop about who the audience considered as thought leaders, a long-time friend was audacious enough to suggest my name.

While I’m sure it was a completely sincere gesture, I think pursuing a thought leadership strategy isn’t something a brand or an individual should do.

You ARE NOT a Thought Leader

thought-leadership-strategy

My personal antipathy toward a thought leadership strategy stems from a situation during my corporate life. A peer was developing a “think piece” on the transportation industry and our company’s place in its future. When it finally reached our department, the cover email mentioned my co-worker had already shared the document with all the company’s thought leaders.

That struck a teammates (who is incredibly smart and savvy) and me as a telling statement about how far we were from being thought leaders. We took a vow to never pursue or try to claim thought leadership status from that day forward since the overwhelming evidence (at least in that email) was that we weren’t.

That incident and a strategic desire to live behind (and not in front of) the Brainzooming brand means we’ve not addressed pursuing a thought leadership strategy as a topic here – other than Woody Bendle’s hilarious and completely on-target perspective about “So You May Be a Thought Leader.” We have also never pitched a client on developing a thought leadership strategy or influencer marketing program.

Trying to craft a strategy around promoting your brand or yourself as a leader based on thinking certain things is a poor and mistakenly inward-focused strategy.

That’s why I tried to get out of the interview after seeing the questions and realizing all my answers would be negative. The interviewer persisted and suggested the article may be focused on providing a contrarian view of pursuing a thought leadership strategy.

What to Say about a Thought Leadership Strategy?

Trying to form positive recommendations about a thought leadership strategy that still recognize a brand’s intent to share its message, here are alternative strategies brands should  consider:

A Servant Leadership Strategy

Identify the incredible ways you can serve customers. Serve and benefit customers in ways no other brand has done, then write about the impact of putting customers first.

A Value Leadership Strategy

Provide more benefits to customers than you would ever be able to charge for on a routine basis. Push your brand to incredible leadership in delivering value. Then write about how a value advantage makes a huge difference for customers.

An Employee Leader Strategy

Pursue leadership through inviting your employees to participate in shaping your organization’s direction. Help employees develop as leaders. After that, write about the impact awaiting other organizations when they embrace broad employee involvement.

A Humility Leadership Strategy

Serve your community, individuals, the unfortunate, and underdogs in extraordinary ways. Create impact through helping others that can’t help themselves in tangible ways. But then DON’T write about those stories. Allow the people you’ve helped to decide whether and how THEY will communicate what you’ve done.

What to do?

Those are all ways we’ve tried to create stories that first and foremost benefit the audience, then incorporate positive brand messages.

Companies and individuals that try to lead in these areas are ones to emulate because they are DOING great things, not simply THINKING about things and trying to create a cult of thought leadership. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

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  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
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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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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

content-marketing-strategy-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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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.).

Countdown-6-TV

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:

Preparation

  • 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.

Promotion

  • 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.

Performance

  • 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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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your 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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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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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – 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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Today at the Social Media Strategy Summit, along with Kaite Stover, Director of Readers’ Services at the Kansas City Public Library, I’m presenting a fun case study. The presentation is about how the Kansas City Public Library was able to “sponsor bomb” the 2015 Major League Baseball Playoffs and World Series with a book spine poetry campaign.

In short, the Library used images of multiple stacked books chosen so that the combined titles communicated messages to tweak the baseball teams (and the libraries in their communities) with pro-Kansas City Royals messages.

Sponsor-bomb-book-spine-poe

BTW, did I mention the Kansas City Royals are the 2015 World Champions? Just checking . . . wanted to make sure you knew that!

While The Brainzooming Group wasn’t involved in developing the social media strategy behind the World Series sponsor bomb, we’ve been working with the Library on branding and event strategy. Knowing how smart the social media strategy for the World Series sponsor bomb campaign was, we brought the story and the tremendous impact from the initiative to the attention of Breanna Jacobs, the Social Media Strategy Summit producer.

Kaite will cover the Kansas City Public Library social media strategy and implementation from start to finish. I’ll share lessons for other brands in how they might envision comparable sponsor bomb opportunities for their own brands.

Social Media Strategy – 5 Keys to Sponsor Bomb a High-Profile Event

If you aren’t with us in Chicago, here are the smart things the Kansas City Public Library did to make the strategy as effective as it was:

Here’s hoping the Royals go all the way again in 2016 so we can see what the Kansas City Public Library does with the next chapter of its book spine poetry sponsor bomb strategy!  – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your 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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