COM0015 – Assignment 5 – Event Participation

front shot of webinarPreviously my idea of a good professional development event meant one on one engagement with the speaker and the attending participants.  I recently viewed a webinar that changed my perception on that. I actually found it remarkably enjoyable. From that webinar I learned a lot of key principles towards building and leading an effective webinar.  It is no mistake that each piece of the ‘production’ is very important;  from enlisting a professional well-spoken host, to finding an engaging speaker, to reaching the right balance of visual aids, never mind using the appropriate technology to pull it off seamlessly. A lot of people are doing Webinars really well; eventually we here at the CRI hope to do the same; so we are keeping a very close eye “on the good ones”.  But beyond all of that good stuff there was one crucial bit of advice that I ran with. First let me explain what the Webinar was about.

I was ‘introduced’ to Mike Kujawski, Partner and Senior Consultant at the Centre for Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) through the Conference Board of Canada. The Webinar was entitled “Public Sector Social Media: Ensuring Your Social Media Strategy is Still Relevant”.  Some of the highlights were: latest trends as opposed to fads in the world of new media; how various public sector organizations have responded to these trends; the changes that have been taking place internally to make this happen; essential new monitoring tools that you should have been using yesterday; and how to ensure you are still measuring the right thing in new media.

statsThe facts are a lot of organizations have now implemented digital engagement strategies that are aligned with actual department and/or branch level objectives.  These organizations need to ensure their strategy remains relevant and I wanted to be on that bus……I felt that somewhere along the lines I am failing miserably and in amongst these trends, and social media relevancy practices, I was going to find the answer to my problems, but I didn’t find it so much in the details as I did in a few over reaching statements that Mike spent some quality time on.

Why socialWhat was interesting was how even after all of the strides new media has taken he is still ambushed by the same question he has fielded for years ; “Why are we still talking about Social Media?”  Why is he still taking a lot of time explaining to people why they need to get on board and why it (social media) will not go away. And if you look at the stats he provided this really is a crazy question in 2014. Yet still loftier people than Mike Kujawski has tried to turn the tides in larger organizations only to be stonewalled along the way.

So he reminded us all (social media overseers) that this transition to a well-oiled digitally engaged organization is not going to happen overnight.  This isn’t something that is applied in a silo, this has to apply to the organization as a whole.  Ideally we will move into more of a holistic method where everyone in the company uses social media safely and consistently across all departments.

This was good.  No, this was more than good.  This made my day.  I have been struggling to understand why it is taking people in my organization so long to realize the importance of this technology and to grasp the fact it is not going away.  At times I have begun to think that perhaps I am not explaining it properly, I may not be engaging the way other new media leads are…..numerous “I must be doing something wrong” thoughts have entered my head.  So, to hear someone at his level speak to the fact that this is going to take time, patience and work was more professional development than I had signed up for. Sometimes attending things like this can make a difference towards just hammering away at your work, to loving your work.

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COM0015 Blog Post 4 – Out of the Box

When I think about unexpected applications in social media I immediately think of the things that keep me up at night.  This is actually a conversation that takes place quite often around the team table. We hope to use social media in unexpected ways to help create change, or at the very least change the conversation. So when we primarily focused on the conversation aspect it led us down a few avenues.

Traditionally our conversations have usually been one sided, shared via advertisements or signage and our team meetings have been behind closed doors.  My dream-application of social media is to change that.  To open up those doors via the onslaught of social tools available. I believe this could change strategic objectives and their outcomes without even trying.  For example;  looking to amp up your reputation management? How about sharing one or two of your meetings via google hangouts – invite outside organization people to the table to share their innovative ideas with the rest of the team – in time I would hope many innovators in the community would be knocking on our doors to add their voice.  The application difference here is not that social media is new, or that google hangouts are new, what could be new is the way they are applied.

For instance, if we applied our social media tool of google hangouts to promote a more transparent workplace would this not then better help us to find talented, passionate employees? Or would this not quicken the pace with regard to effective listening with our stakeholders?  And the organic PR generation could also be a boost.  Now, granted this is dreaming that applied properly all things will be well.  Not really, there will be bumps, there will be tugs with technology, and there will be issues with opening up these meetings to all.  We know that opening your team meetings up to ‘all’ comes with its own set of challenges.

All that aside, I think that social media has so many varied applications and each tool could/can be used in many varying ways to effect change and to ultimately transform the conversation in and out of your organization.

COM0015 Blog Post 3 – Professional Networking

Developing your professional network is like water – you need it to survive.  We all have heard we are ‘supposed’ to drink up to eight 8-ounce glasses a day.  But do we?  Usually the answer is no, and it is no because often times we are so busy we just forget how important it is.  Then upon remembering, we are ‘good’  for a while, drink up like mad, and then we tend to slip back into old habits of dehydration and neglect.

I realize this is not everyone’s story when it comes to networking, but it’s got my name written all over it. Be that as it may, with on-line networking we have a few fantastic tools in our toolbox to help us out with that.  So that, on the days we are being good we can perk up our Linkedin, send a few ‘how ya doing’ emails, comment on other businesses FB pages, and a few blogs we have been meaning to get to.  Then when we slip back into the practice of getting the daily job done, we still receive the payoff, days after.  We receive replies back from emails, we get a few fresh LinkedIn connections in our mailbox, and we make some important contacts via the blogging world.

But face to face connecting is important and is as valuable today as it was before we had on-line choices. Firstly, I find it easier making new contacts face to face, particularly at a scheduled networking event like a conference or seminar.  During those networking breaks chances are if you connect with only two or three people, that can lead to many more connections that they personally know, and now feel better introducing or referring you.  Secondly, often people you’d like to work with or associate with frankly are not good with online business relationships, or they simply are not on-line at all. Some of our best clients simply choose not to engage with social media.  This is when it is important to be seen at various events that you know those clients will be attending.

So what I found works is maintaining a schedule of upcoming events.  From that schedule I calendar in one ‘in person’ networking event a month, and I make a point of sticking to it.  I also keep an eye out for twitter chats; I have participated in a few, but my strategic plan is to ensure I am involved in at least 4-6 a month.  These don’t take an incredible amount of time and they have great pay off for meeting, following, and acquiring new followers for your organization.  I have also started to actively look for specific groups on LinkedIn that I can become involved in, and I feel it is important to look at any volunteering I do in the same light.  This is a great way to not only help an organization but at the same time meet people in a whole different light (no business suit, just genuine chit chat). And each year I try to learn or do something ‘new’. This year I joined Toastmaster’s and have met similar people who are equally interested in the benefits of networking. Eventually I’d like to form a new media chat evening right here in my City and be able to share some insights with people invested in the same goals.

Networking can take many forms, but undoubtedly it has tremendous value all around. Any way of active engagement can help not only boost your business profile, but also your own.

COM0015 – Blog Post #2 – Strong and Weak Organizations

New Media is a very effective technology, chalked full of useful tools that can help your business soar.  There are many organizations that make good use out of this technology, however there are some who do not fully utilize these tools.  When we think of social media, often we forget that once upon a time it was traditional media magazines that wielded the power.  Today that power is losing its hold and traditional print is going ……well traditional.  I thought I would take a look at who is migrating with technology well, and who seems (and I mean seems because I could be wrong) to being sadly left behind.  Let’s begin by highlighting a couple that are doing well, and then let’s look at one that could use a gentle nudge.

There are a lot of organizations that are doing it right.  One such organization is Alberta Venture magazine .  By all accounts they could be reeling in the other direction because of social media (as a magazine) but rather they seem to have taken the digital bull by the horns.   AV takes a strong team approach via successful sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now a strong push towards podcasts.  I believe in the team approach; it helps amp up your viewing power and supports overall engagement. The AV Team are super at connecting Alberta’s business and entrepreneur community by providing great articles, blogs, in depth podcasts  and connecting people to resources.  AV is always finding ways to help businesses and entrepreneurs shine whether it be through contests or highlighting what businesses are succeeding through innovation .

Another notable is Western Living magazine.  Like AV they let you know they are social by strategically highlighting their social sites (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).  It’s important to notice that Western Living has a great pinterest site , whereas Alberta Venture dominates LinkedIn.  The reasons are obvious – Alberta Venture plays more in the business world where networking and connecting are essential, whereas WL Is about homes, style, food, travel, etc.  all visual feasts.  Connections are also important but they are attained in more of a visually stimulating way.  Like Alberta Venture,  Western Living helps connect ‘up and coming’ designers and runs contests to help them get noticed.  Additionally Western Living works to connect their readers to everything they need to know when it comes to home, food, wine and travel.

Ok now it’s negative time……So who is choosing, or simply, opting out?  Northwest Business magazine.  There is not one hint of social on their website, which is unfortunate as they have successfully been connecting business in the northwest for over 18 years.  I know from experience that people enjoy this magazine and I feel they are missing the mark here.  I don’t understand the reasoning behind it, or if perhaps social media is presently in the works, but it amazes me that a successful offering such as this is not exploring the social waters.  To me they should begin with the basics of  Facebook and Twitter.  Start sharing some of their information and asking for feedback.  To help draw more attention to these sites they could begin a northwest business blog site and offer up guest blogging opportunities to the local businesses who feel they have something to contribute – hence further promoting peace region business through knowledge sharing and valuable regional business insights. From there they would do well digging into the world of podcasts – the interviews would be great and it would really be of a value for the regional businesses participating. Furthermore, these digital content tools would serve as great fodder for their new Facebook and Twitter accounts. As I am not in the publishing world and not privy to the ins and outs of how it ‘really’ works – I don’t want to presume how it should be done.  Nonetheless, there are many great examples of traditional businesses choosing to shift with the changing landscapes and coming out the other end extremely successful – this is a mission worth striving for.  This is what (from the outside looking in) Alberta Venture and Western Living magazines are doing very effectively. Let’s face it, these days either an organization engages in their customers digital conversations or they fade away……

Beg to differ?  Let me know.

 

COM0014 – Post 7 – Personal Reflection

Communication is all about sharing valuable information.  And what better way to communicate than through storytelling. Storytelling opens doors to engagement.  People remember stories. Storytelling can weave the reader into the fabric of your brand.  Stories ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’, and good stories touch readers in a personal way.  So really, what better way to create dynamic digital content for your readers?

Here at the Centre for Research & Innovation we have some great stories to share.  This Digital Communication course has reinforced to me that our stories, after all, are not in the ‘innovation’, as much as they are in the people behind the innovation – the driving force.  It is the unique value that the individual brings that makes a story so effective, personal and shareable.  Digital content can be guided by story as long as the story is relatable to your message; that it ties back to your mission, your goals and overall key messaging.

As I began to dig deeper within storytelling it became clear that perhaps we are not fully capitalizing on the merits of this practice.  To begin with we could expand our stories on innovation about the people behind the invention; to include their narrative, their challenges.   Not just the intelligence behind the innovation; but the motivation – the thing that kept them up at nights.  Stories infused with first hand content about overcoming commercialization hurdles, and in doing so how they changed the marketplace, and ultimately themselves.  Through this type of digital content we’d hope to advance our engagement, and encourage people to take innovation risks, that failure is ok too. And if I explore our storytelling choices one step further I think of the great social media tools readily at our fingertips; Podcasts, youtube, slideshare.  All are equally great ways to create dynamic content that can be easily shared.  What’s your story to tell?

 

COM0014 – Blog #6 – Do People Know your Story?

I was asked the other day to give an answer to the question “What is your favorite customer story?”. This was easy, I knew the answer immediately.  Working in the Research and Innovation field, I have had the pleasure to work with a few really great innovation customers (clients).  But one in particular has, and always will stand out for me.  He will remain nameless for this blog, but if he or someone close to him were to read it they would instantly know just who I was talking about.

John Doe tagI met ‘John Doe’ during the first year with my organization.  During our first meeting I could tell he was kind, smart and terribly shy.  It had become clear that John was onto something really innovative.  John rarely met our eyes. At first I thought he was hiding something, as he continued to look down during the entire time.  His idea had real merit, so much so that he was an instant candidate for our investor panel (think Dragon’s Den).  The problem was John was going to have to ‘sell’ his idea to our panel of investors in order to go beyond his prototype stage. Remember, you can have a great idea, but if you don’t show that you believe in it, the idea falls flat.  The investors need their new potential partner to show confidence in their own product intelligence.

We had three meetings in three days directly after that initial meeting; we worked towards his investment knowledge, investor pitch and overall presentation.  It was a struggle….John knew his numbers, loved his innovation, but he was terrified. So much so, after the third meeting he decided he wanted to let his idea, along with all of his hard work go.  John explained that he had struggled often with social situations and simply could not stand up in front of anyone, anywhere, to ‘pitch’ anything. I didn’t know how to react – he was visibly shaking. I immediately called in two team members; we sat down, closed the door and we talked – I will remember that conversation for the rest of my life. It isn’t so much the talk that was so remarkable (although my team members truly impressed me with their heartfelt insights) it was more how that young man reached out for help and clearly wanted to make a difference in his life. It was the honesty in which he spoke, the way he shared his story and fears. He left later that afternoon and returned the next morning. He looked (directly into our eyes) at the team and said he would to do it. He was genuinely moved that we cared enough to sit with him that afternoon and he wanted to do this for himself. It wasn’t about the product, it was about John.  It wasn’t about the money, it was about John’s commitment to himself.

That evening John attended his first Toastmasters meeting, and pledged to work with my team member once a week on his investor presentation.  He was terrified to go to his first TM meeting, but after the second meeting he said he began to feel safe.  I am still in awe of the changes that started to happen right before our eyes. The transformation I witnessed over that month was unbelievable. I swear he walked differently, he talked differently and he had an air of confidence that few hold.  To this day I still reflect on him and I am amazed by what a person can overcome if they simply make a decision.

successTwo months later John made his pitch, with confidence and enthusiasm to six investors. He was brilliant. The investors were impressed – so much so – that John received three separate investor opportunities.  John’s business today is a success. But more importantly according to John he feels like success.  He still stays in contact and we still talk about that meeting, and reflect on the way his life has unfolded.  It is really remarkable to witness what compassion can do for the human spirit.  John has not just turned his life over, but mine and my fellow team members.  When we are struggling and looking at things that seem insurmountable we speak of John and remember his courage.  Incidentally you wouldn’t be surprised to know that John has went on to mentor a few other struggling entrepreneurs.  We have witnessed many accomplished stories of innovators over the years who have gone on to commercialize their product to market success, but to me there is no greater story of real success than John.

COM0015 – Blog #1 – Tools & Sources

Social media is a wonderful opportunity to engage, begin dialogues and to share important timely information.  And when I say timely, I mean timely.  Isn’t it true that everyone is a lot more ‘on top’ of newsworthy information these days?

twitterWhat tools make the difference? I have three ‘go to’ tools that I regularly use, and my top is Twitter.  I cannot think of a better resource for ‘as it happens’ intelligence that leads me to pathways to provide relevant information that my audience is looking for.  Number 2  is Hootsuite, as it presents a good place to quickly summarize all the engagement, and allows me to keep my following up to date with pre programmed tweets. And yet another reliable tool (Number 3) is my all in one dashboard platform called Netvibes.  Netvibes is perfect, as you custom build your site so it is specifically geared to what you need.  I’ve filled mine up with a ton of networks, categorized by specific tabs, and custom built yahoo pipes filled with blogs that I follow that I find to be interesting and innovative. I have to sneak one more in that I still access as the information comes to me ‘when it happens’ and that is Google Alerts – I have added many of these sources of information to my Netvibes account – but just in case I don’t get to Netvibes early enough – I can rely on my trusty alert to flash up in my inbox. One stop shopping?  Yes and no.  I feel you always have to be alert to alternative ways to find information, I try not to get too comfortable and I am mindful of other tools that constantly pop up with new media technologies.

alberta venture openviewThese tools provide a wide array of information; most of it can be quickly scanned, and generally set aside.  However, there are a couple of information sources that regularly hold my attention.  The first notable is Openview Partners who are a VC fund who do things a bit differently.  It is important to note though, that I don’t get a ton of information from their Twitter feed – the gold is in the newsletter.  I have downloaded a few of their Guides (Ultimate guide to corporate blogging, Guide to creating and delivering content, etc) and have found them to be invaluable.  When Openview has created something to be shared – it’s a good day.

My other go to staple is Alberta Venture.  Alberta Venture provides me with a variety of information, a lot of it geared towards entrepreneurs and innovation.  And as it reflects what is ‘happening’ in Alberta, it is an excellent communal resource.

All in all, I cannot imagine what information sharing was before social media.  Now, it isn’t so much of getting the fresh ‘stuff’ out there, it is more about who gets there first.

COM0014 Blog Post 5 – Personal Branding

PersRESILIENCYonal branding is not something new.  According to Wikipedia “self positioning and all individual branding by whatever name, was first introduced in 1937 in the book Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill.”  What it seems to boil down to is effectively marketing oneself.  Apart from branding, though the exercise is something we all should do, the self-analysis can be uncomfortable.  It makes one really dig deep into what (perhaps) really makes us tick.  I gave it a try and this is what I came up with.

When I think of personal qualities or traits that set us apart, initially I stumble.  First off because I really do not know the personal traits of my competitors.  Secondly, some qualities or traits that strengthen ones position in one area, could weaken (what could be a strong trait) in another.  So with that said…what comes to mind for me is (R & R) I know I am resilient, and I am relentless.  And the reason I am so resilient is that my life has not been easy, and I faced many challenges that knocked me back.  Did I let them stand in the way?  Yes….for many years, but as I began to mature I soon realized I had a distinct advantage and that advantage was things that hit some people hard, rarely affected me –they seemed small in light of many of the challenges I had to overcome.  I had something in this ‘resiliency’ that to most was hard to come by.  When that light bulb went off in my head (my ‘aha’ moment) my disadvantage quickly turned to advantage with that conscience shift in thinking.

In order to stand out from the crowd I decided to use that resiliency and be less fearful, take chances and just let the cards fall where they may.  I have worked to inject a fresh take on new media for the CRI.  Not that my strategy hasn’t been thought of, but I am helping some traditional marketing people think in non- traditional marketing ways.  Was I knocked back?  Did they constantly say no way?  Yes, and yes.  Two years in, are they now on board with learning and utilizing social media? Yes.

My colleagues would say I am relentless…… but in a nice way.  I know when to step back, but I also have a knack of seeing an advantage point and working towards it.  And, there are many opportunities to do this with new media.  Our team now understands the value of incorporating social media into all facets of our work.  This resilient behavior has helped me to stay on course, stay true to my goals, and work towards exploring areas that may not of been available to me…. if not for resiliency.

COM0014 – Blog #4 – B2C Case Study

SOLE ADDICTIONWhen it comes to utilizing the force of social media, hands down our very own Sole Addiction (shoe store) right here in Grande Prairie, Alberta gets my vote.  For a City of 55,000 they have acquired 30,873 (and continually growing each day) ‘likes’ on their page.  I’d say they are doing something right!  I mean who doesn’t love shoes?  And if you really love them, visiting this Facebook page is where you want to be.

First off, it doesn’t hurt that their website is fantastic.  Sole Addiction has the extra value of a really good website that entices visitors to want to shop online.  I believe it is a natural progression to click their Facebook button before a purchase to see if their customers really were satisfied.  And they quickly see they are.  Then what happens?  They ‘like’, then they chime in, and voila they have now added another number to the already long list of very happy customers (or soon to be customers).

Secondly, they really know how to engage on Facebook, both in dialogue and great pics.  Grande Prairie is big on Facebook, and it is true that Facebook really works well for B2C marketing.  Their page has all the elements of success.  Fresh and unique pictures of shoes, along with happy people buying shoes.  Good information, brought to you in an informative way……….and it is not focused on you just buying shoes – a lot of it is……well…….just interesting. What’s not to love or ‘like’?

I specifically chose this business as my case study because they are a true example of a B2C company shining on Facebook but not on Twitter.  I think I know why…..they undoubtedly realize their huge following on Facebook and tend to devote their energies there.  Also, I can clearly see why Facebook would be such a workable marketing tool for this organization – the pictures of smiling faces, and fabulous shoes are plastered all over the page – not as easy to do with Twitter.  You will find us pretty much failing on Facebook (we admit it, but then we don’t really try), yet slowly gaining popularity on Twitter.  The people we choose to follow (and they follow us) are primarily on Twitter, so it just makes sense for our B2B(ish) model.  When it comes to choosing successful communication methods, this Case Study pretty much played out just how research says it does (Matching Tools to Messages).

COM0014- Post #3- Target Audiences

We’ve got a pretty diverse target audience. Our focus is innovation, and it is so broad it can appeal to almost everyone, every socio economic background.  Finding your target audience can be a lot of work.  We did the work because we could not just assume that our audience would be who we thought it would be.

The majority of interest in innovation is largely inventors, entrepreneurs and SME’s (small to medium sized enterprises).  Inventors for the obvious interest in innovation, entrepreneurs searching for innovative ways to succeed, and SME’s looking for ways to move their innovations forward.  We have a very extensive audience we would like to capture, but we are not selling a product; we are helping to bring them information on innovation and entrepreneurship in order to help them succeed, which in turn helps the region and the CRI succeed.

Traditional road side signage

And where do we find the majority of our target audience who choose social media?  Twitter. Twitter is great for sending out links to articles, or spreading our own curated content; presentations (slideshare) and blogs .  For the CRI Twitter is what works.  There are still some members of our audience (50+) that choose not to be on-line and we have worked hard at maintaining those relationships. For that audience we still have town hall meetings, traditional print media, and road side signage (Need a patent?) to highlight we are here to help ‘move innovation forward’.  But a key factor to our choice in Twitter is many of the influencers that shape our region are there.  So we need to be.

It is just good strategy to work towards satisfying your target audience. In the last few years we performed three different surveys to find our target audience and those (3) surveys were answered only regionally.  Now, with on line networking and wide spread media we do not have those geographic boundaries any longer.  Our audience is becoming more global each day………so that is another factor to consider when trying to target your community.  How broad is your bulls eye?  Time for a new survey……