COM0014 – Blog #7 – Personal Reflection – Storytelling

Why is storytelling important to creating great digital content?

Storytelling is the way that people connect with one another, and connection is needed more than ever. As Erin Hynes mentions in her article Why it’s time to introduce digital storytelling to your brand strategy: “We naturally absorb stories, finding ways to connect and relate to them. Because of this, telling stories in marketing is a great way to keep your brand memorable.”

I agree, and this concept was also reflected in the course material, but I also want to add that the stories should be true and actually reflect the brand, and not just a “tug-at-your-heartstrings” tale. The example given in the article is where someone working for Samsung India went out of their way for a customer. Great story. But, is this a Samsung corporate-wide value, or just a story that they are using in marketing?

How will your content be guided by story?

For myself, I do try to include story in my content, whether it is a corporate web page or a personal Facebook post. I make sure that the stories are true and do reflect my values or the real essence of a corporate brand. Lately, I am finding that I want to be gentle with my message… living through a pandemic is hard enough!

What kind of stories do you want to tell?

I want to continue to tell stories that are interesting and tell/show my audience something that they didn’t know before or would make their lives easier. I try to think of how things will resonate with my audience. I look at what tone I am using and whether it meets my strategy with this audience.

From the course material, I have to say I like the concept of ‘legendary’ storytelling … just hopefully it is legendary for all the right reasons!

What does legendary storytelling mean to you?

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

A bit of background

I’ve worked a lot of contracts in various businesses over the years. The one that I’d like to talk about in this blog post is when I worked as an Instructor for an organization that takes youth on wilderness canoe trips.

The article by Danielle Cohen, Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature, discusses a number of benefits to kids, including building confidence, teaching them responsibility, and making them think. I’ve seen this happen over and over again where an adolescent is unsure about themselves, and then as they gain knowledge and new skills their confidence and self-esteem also grows. They start out not knowing how to paddle a canoe or read a map, and end up leading the whole group for a day!

We also teach the students how to bring that new-found confidence and ability to think things through back to their life at home.

What is my secret wish for my business?

My secret wish is that all students have to take a course in the wilderness and that it eventually becomes the most normal thing ever in our society!

I wish that there were the resources to pay for each student to go on the course. To add to that further, I wish there was the budget to make sure they had the personal gear they needed to stay happy and safe. Some items would include:

  • rain boots
  • running shoes
  • warm clothes
  • flashlight
  • bug repellent
  • sun hat
  • personal water bottle

The reality is that many people, including the students and their parents, think of the wilderness as a scary place and wouldn’t choose to go! But, once the students are there with the facilitators and participate in the step-by-step instruction, they will learn new things and benefit greatly. I know they will experience positive lessons and gain the confidence that will last a lifetime.

Have you done something scary…

… and then realized afterwards that you learned a lot, and in the end were glad you did it?

COM0014 – Blog #5 – Personal Brand – Herding Kittens

An ability to make sense out of chaos is my unique contribution.  This is what I refer to when I use the term “herding kittens”. What I mean by that, and what I am most proud of, is being able to take information from a number of sources, ensure each individual feels heard, then prepare a plan that invites consensus (granted, kittens probably never reach consensus no matter how much you invite them, but you can get them herded into a room if you really try hard!). 

I’ve worked in major festivals and events management for over 25 years and this ability works especially well in this industry as there are so many stakeholders, each with their own agenda.

What are some personal qualities or characteristics that set you apart from your competitors?

What makes me stand out is that I:  

  • think in big picture and small picture at the same time
  • can calmly prioritize next steps
  • perform well under immense pressure
  • can communicate effectively even during a crisis
  • have a sense of humour

What have you done lately to make yourself stand out?

Not event related, but similar in that it included many stakeholders: I worked on a project to create a central intake and referral system for a chronic illness. There were six organizations that had to work together on this and although they agreed that a central system would be good, they each had their own individual quotas for clients. I listened so I could understand their fears. I worked with them on a system that they were all ready to back, even though their individual client numbers may decrease in the short term. And we collaborated on a proposal to the Ontario Ministry to change the way they reported to reflect the new system.

A win for them and a win for clients across Ottawa.

What would your colleagues say is your best trait?

Event organizers have told me that my ability to sort things out quickly while not alienating anyone is the aspect they appreciate the most about me as a professional.


In case you want to see herding cats in action, there is a great TV commercial created by EDS called “Cat Herders“.

The Avant-Garde and the Web

UbuWeb

I was reading the London Review of Books online and came across a review by Gill Partington called Duchamp Is My Lawyer: The Polemics, Pragmatics and Poetics of UbuWeb. What caught my attention is that it was about a website called UbuWeb and it being a “clearinghouse for the avant-garde”.


Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a pirate shadow library consisting of hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts. By the letter of the law, the site is questionable; we openly violate copyright norms and almost never ask for permission. Most everything on the site is pilfered, ripped, and swiped from other places, then reposted

About UbuWeb

The mainstream is not avant-garde

Avant-garde to me means something different, something artsy, maybe a bit risky or even risqué. Today’s mainstream web is the opposite of that in a lot of ways … we have come to expect consistent design with certain things in certain places like the “contact us” at the top right or in the bottom tray, the menu across the top, privacy policies, and easy-to-read fonts.

word cloud with words describing avant-garde
Word cloud created by Debra Beauregard on WordArt, 2021 with words from Wikipedia definition of Avant-garde

The first thing you notice about the UbuWeb is how stark it is. I had a hard time reading the text until I zoomed out to 150%.

Down a Rabbit Hole

I do find myself scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn every so often although I rarely do that on YouTube as I find the ads annoying. I pretty much never just get lost looking around the web.

This page was different. Even though I can’t say I understood everything I saw, read, or heard, there was something oddly comforting in it all. The videos I watched were quirky and old-time charming and the conceptual writing section (A Method for Sorting Cows, anyone?), was not the usual fare. I’ve highlighted a couple of interesting finds below.

Great Fences of Australia

This video shows Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor bowing on multiple fences across Australia and producing unique musical sounds. At the 17:30 minute mark, it sounds remarkably grunge rock. As the accompanying article says: “Many people look at fences and see not much; Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor look and see giant musical string instruments covering a continent.”

USA: Poetry, Frank O’Hara (1966) dir. Richard O. Moore

I found this video, which started with the poet Frank O’Hara reading from one of his poems, quite calming. I find modern documentaries have too much visuals and tricky sound effects going on. This one is actually the outtakes from the official documentary and shot in black an white.

Then again, with all the avant-garde-ness …

You can find UbuWeb on Twitter

Have you found yourself falling down a rabbit hole on the web?

Was it enjoyable or just a time-waster? I’ll visit UbuWeb again and see what else I can discover.


Facebook

Have you been searching for something a little different on the web that is more about discovery than a pre-determined path for you to follow? Read my latest blog on the avant-garde website UbuWeb and then start your arts adventure! https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rUn

Twitter

The avant-garde is not dead on the web. Discover and discuss with me in my new blog post. https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rUn

COM0014 – Blog #4 – B2C – David Myles

David Myles is a Canadian singer-songwriter living in Atlantic Canada. He has 12 albums that span genres from jazz to gospel. I was first introduced to him through his show Myles From Home on the Alberta CKUA radio station.

David Myles and Social Media

He is on a variety of appropriate platforms, including:

The Myles From Home show is not just on radio, he also hosts it on his own YouTube channel. Across all his platforms he promotes both his show and his music. He even uses uniform colours for his own (pink), as well as the show’s (blue) branding.

A story in The Chronicle Herald talks about how David has embraced new media reaching out to his audience, especially during the pandemic.

Quality of his interactions

David’s style is very welcoming, enthusiastic, and informative … he really draws you in. You can find this style consistently across all of his platforms, whether it is in his writing or his interviews. On Facebook, he posts short videos when he is out for walks which I think makes him all that more endearing.

He always links to other artists that he mentions in his posts, and is very respectful and complimentary.

Is it working?

I think it is working … it sure drew me in! He sounds like you are listening to a knowledgeable friend. His posts on Facebook get anywhere from 20 or so to 400 likes. He has less engagement on Twitter but has 12,400 followers. The comments from fans are always positive.

In a Google search, his website comes up first, then tours, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, followed by the other social media networks he is on. So, his reach out there in the world is working.

What do you think of his approach? Do you follow other artists?

I love Zoom Meetings. I hate Zoom meetings.

From Conference Room to Living Room

It is still amazing to me how we went from “I don’t like it when you work from home because teleconference is a pain and I just won’t include you” (a direct quote from my then-manager), to everyone at home Zooming in.

In April 2020, Zoom usage, counted in daily meeting participants, shot up to 300 million. This compares to 10 million in December 2019.

Overnight we all miraculously had to become tech-savvy and get ourselves sorted out online with video conferencing without the help of the IT staff stopping by to do their magic.

I Love Zoom Meetings

Are you kidding me? I can call in on the Zoom app on my iPhone, turn off my video and audio, walk to the kitchen and heat up my coffee, or go fold the laundry, or make a batch of muffins. Or tell my husband how daft that last speaker was (after carefully checking I was on mute … you only make that mistake once!).

I can sit staring out the dining room window at the birds, squirrels and rabbits and wander through day-dreams of vacations. I can half-listen until I hear my name and then un-mute, turn the video back on and do my thing.

Admittedly, most of the things I love about Zoom meetings is in direct contravention of Video Meeting Etiquette (see #4 specifically). Did you know that there is website after website outlining Zoom do’s and don’ts and not one of them says it’s OK to bake during a meeting? That’s because I haven’t written a list yet.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Zoom Meeting muffins

Image, PB Chocolate Chip Muffins, by Debra Beauregard in the kitchen, 2020

One of the many places my mind wanders during Zoom meetings “I wonder what the temperature is in Ft. Lauderdale right now?”

Image, around the pool at the Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, FL; by Debra Beauregard, 2011

I Hate Zoom Meetings

As much as I love Zoom meetings, I also hate them. There is no time for chit chat, no time to get to know your colleagues, or to solve those problems that only take a quick conversation. There is no way to really know what your co-workers are thinking because you can’t see body language. I also believe that everyone is on their best behaviour on video and do not let their true emotions show on their face the way you can sometimes see in a face-to-face (F2F) meeting.

I found that Zoom calls generally just get to the point, follow the agenda, then everyone gets back to their work (or baking!). In real life (IRL) after a meeting some people continue discussing an issue brought up in the meeting or even plan to go for a coffee. There is just an element of ease that doesn’t exist while staring at your own image on your iPhone.

Where are you on the Zoom Love/Hate Scale?

Where do you stand on Zoom or other video meetings? Do you love them or hate them or somewhere in-between?

For me, once we are safely able to, I’d love a balance with a couple of days at home Zooming in and a couple of days in the office meeting F2F with my colleagues.


Facebook Post

Been baking much during your Zoom calls? How about walking the dog or weeding in the backyard? I know I’ve been breaking video-meeting etiquette trying to keep sane! Join the conversation in my latest blog post.

Twitter Post

How’s your Zoom fatigue? Join the Love/Hate Zoom discussion in my latest blog post: https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rNK

The Many Mysteries of Social Media

Am I the only one overwhelmed?

I have to say I was surprised and amused when I read in an article in the New York Times that women in their teens and 20s on TikTok were recommending books by filming themselves reading and would “sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending”. But then what really struck me was that book publishers are starting to work with these BookTok creators and sending them free books to review. Why? Because one of the reviews bumped “The Song of Achilles” to 10,000 copies a week … “roughly nine times as much as when it won the prestigious Orange Prize.” That video has been viewed nearly 6 million times.

Am I the only one overwhelmed by social media choices? I’ve never even heard of BookTok before. You know, I figure I have it all together, create what I consider to be a brilliant social media strategy for a campaign and then someone says, “we should be on Tumblr, it’d be awesome!” Look, the embarrassing reality is I barely have Instagram on my radar, never mind Tumblr.

How do communications professionals stay on top of uncovering the many mysteries of social media?

word cloud with the words Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Webpage, LinkedIn, WeChat, QQ, Email, WhatsApp, Tumblr, YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok
Word Cloud diagram created by Debra Beauregard, using WordArt.com

Talking to the Experts

So, a few years ago when I was on contract with a festival, I was super happy when I realized that it was closely affiliated with a national arts organization in Ottawa and our offices were housed there. Yahoo! Access to successful “new media” experts! I met with them with my list of questions … which platforms? how time much to spend on it? what kinds of things do you talk about? how do you sell on social media? (I needed bums in seats!).

The response? “Um, we do a bit of everything. We’re not really sure what works and don’t take any chances.” What?! No, no, I needed the mysteries explained! I needed a sure-fire plan to sell tickets!

This was a few years ago and I am sure they have measurements and analytics reports in abundance. But, I honestly do wonder if it is giving them the exact information they need to know what sells tickets, or if they are still doing a bit of everything so as not to take any chances.

How do you pick?

This Intro to Social Media course has been great for my learning as it has made me realize just how dynamic social media is. A strategy is a fantastic tool, but then it cannot just be forgotten on some shared server for a few years. It needs to be reviewed yearly. A static document can’t capture the mysteries of social media.

I’d love to hear what your approach to social media is! How do you pick what social media platforms to concentrate on and what to leave alone? For me, my plan is to do more research, match platforms to my audience, set up measurable targets, and adjust as needed.


References

The Word Cloud just has a few of the social media listed in this article, 21 Top Social Media Sites to Consider for your Brand by Alfred Lua, Product Marketer @Buffer. He describes Tumblr in #8 and Tik Tok, #10 in his list.

New York Times article How Crying on TikTok Sells Books by Elizabeth A Harris. Read more articles by Elizabeth: https://www.nytimes.com/by/elizabeth-a-harris

The Song of Achilles is by Madeline Miller.

BookTok explained.


Facebook Post

Have you noticed? Social media has lots of options for today’s communicator! Where do you start? Join the conversation on the ever-shifting world of social media platforms in my new blog post, The Many Mysteries of Social Media.

Twitter Post

Overwhelmed by all the social media options? Me, too! Let’s sort it out together. Visit my new blog post: https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rJq

COM0014 – Blog #3 – Give-and-Take Bake

Give-and-Take Bake (GTB) Blog

My idea for a blog is to post recipes and images for things that I love to bake and also ask the Give-and-Take Bake (GTB) community to share theirs. My intent is not to be the baking expert, but to gather and share the best recipes and tips from friends and relatives. The goal is to create a sense of community.

Ryan Shelley advises in his article Does Blogging Still Work in 2021? to make sure your content “… makes sense for the people you’re talking to and that you’re matching their intent, that you’re actually helping them find things that they’re looking for.” I do believe that my friends and family (and their friends and family!), are looking for known successes and tips in baking. I’ve seen it on my own Facebook page a number of times, and I think that followers would definitely get what they are looking for!

GTB Audience and Strategy on How to Reach Them

I would start small with just my friends and family. On one hand, this is not a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) because I am not asking for someone to click on a “Buy Now” button, but I am looking for a conversion (see note on conversion below). The call to action is for followers to comment on a recipe, share it, or add a recipe of their own. I know that a lot of my friends and family love to bake, or just love to eat baking!

A lot of my intended audience is on Facebook, so I would definitely use Facebook posts to do my normal thing of posting pictures of food I made, but I would add a link to the GTB blog to drive people there for more tips and recipes.

As not everyone is on Facebook or checks it out that often, I’d email out each blog post and add a link to the blog. They may not ending up going to the blog itself right away, but may respond to me directly or even forward the email. Not as easy to measure in terms of analytics, but the point is the give-and-take! I expect that over time, my audience will check out the link and visit the GTB blog.

Eventually, I could add to the technological offerings by including webinars or instructional videos. One future subject could be on how to bake yeast bread from scratch. That is something I would like to learn!

A Baking Blogging Superstar

One successful blog that I read is Sally’s Baking Addiction. I find that she shares information in a very friendly tone and has some interesting subject-specific side blogs, like Sally’s Pie Week to draw her followers back in. I don’t know how she has the time for it all!


pancakes, bottle of rum, bottle of egg nog

Image, Eggnog and Rum Pancakes, by Debra Beauregard; home kitchen; December 2020

Give-and-take delicious recipes

I had shared my recipe for Eggnog and Rum Pancakes on my own Facebook page and lots of my friends said they were going to trying it. What recipe would you like to share with friends and family? Or, what baked item would you like to see a recipe for?


References

You can find Ryan Shelly on Twitter. The article Does Blogging Still Work in 2021? quoted above is from the B2C Business to Community webpage (used to be http://www.b2cmarketinginsider.com).

Conversion is a measurement used in social media where you are “getting someone to respond to your call-to-action”. This can be commenting or clicking on a link or sharing a blog. David Kirkpatrick explains conversion in his article Marketing 1010: What is conversion?.

COM0014 – Blog #2: The Birth of a Blogger

…”And, so, we had to drag the body out through the back yard.”

That sentence was at the top of a multi-page letter my brother sent me years ago. Of course, I flipped back to the bottom of the previous page to see if I’d missed something fairly significant! Maybe I was just giving it a superficial read, as mentioned in Brian Clark‘s How to Read article (not that I knew that term then … just learned about it!). But, no, of course he was playing a trick and the next line said something along the line of ‘fishing me in’. The joke certainly kept me engaged and I felt closer to my brother, like he was in the same room with me bantering back and forth.

So, I’ve been remembering the importance of storytelling in my life and seeing the relevance in today’s digital communications. I’ve also been reflecting this week on how much I miss creative writing. I hadn’t done it in so long that I vaguely assumed that I had lost the talent entirely. Now, I’m actually thinking of continuing with a blog! A week ago, I barely had blogs on my radar at all and couldn’t tell you if they were even a thing anymore.

Spark of creativity

It is amazing the unexpected things that light a spark in our lives. Maybe you remember a time when something out of the blue motivated you to do something you forgot you knew how to do? Or, encouraged you to start something brand new? Let me know about it!

Who knows, the stories we tell may light a spark in someone else’s life!


Here’s a little fire to remind us of the spark that is in all of us.

Image by Debra Beauregard; outdoor fireplace in the backyard; 2020

You are not your audience.

I really hate it when I join an interest group and then immediately get a message from one of the group asking me if I will sell their ‘all-natural cleaning products’. They know nothing about me, have no relationship with me, and are caught up in their own agenda. I’m tempted to delete the entire group from my connections.

It’s also annoying when I’m talking to a salesperson and they are telling me specifications about, say, a television that have no relevance in my life. No, I am not a ‘gamer’ and could not care less about the ‘awesome’ virtual headset. I’ll just buy my plain TV somewhere else.

The same types of things happen when people who write social media do not know who they are talking to. Their audience might feel talked down to, ignored, or get overwhelmed with details. They may unfollow for 30 days or forever, or, even worse, bad-mouth the page/product online to their world of connections.

It is easy to write from our own points of view, but that does not necessarily resonate with everyone! Knowing your audience is key to start building relationships and trust so you can find common ground to have a meaningful exchange.

Personas

I have found that a good way to know my audience, and stop trying to impose my own perspective all the time, is to create Personas. As Priit Kallas says in his article 5 Essential Social Media Writing Tips You Must Apply “… you need to understand to whom you are writing to. Create a persona of your audience. Understand their lifestyle, interests, and values. The more you know about them, the better your chances of engaging them.”

See a couple of examples of personas I created for an organization that provides services for military members who will be transitioning back to civilian life. I’ve also added my suggestions on how to reach them and I’d be interested to know what you think.

Meet Joseph

avatar of an older man representing a 40-year member of the Canadian Armed Forces

Joseph’s Avatar created by Debra Beauregard using Avatar Maker

  • Joseph is 60 and is married.
  • He was with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for 40 years and just about to retire.
  • Joseph’s e-literacy is non-existent.  He has about zero use for the internet, never mind social media.  His wife does have a Facebook page so she can keep in touch with her children and grandchildren.
  • He knows Veterans Affairs Canada and knows they will be involved in his retirement and has a generally positive opinion.  But, he has questions about some benefits and frustrated when he tries to call.
  • He already feels lonely without his military buddies.

Geez, no use for social media? Maybe it’ll be easier to just forget about Joseph! Kidding. We can reach Joseph through more traditional means like email and through influencers in his life. He still has a CAF email account and we can send him info and links through there. We have a good ally in his wife, Emilia. Our email messages can be written to entice him to find out more and pass it along to Emilia to look up. Anecdotally, we know this happens all the time, where it is the spouse that accesses online resources. After all, it is in their best interest as well!

We can make sure that when we create a resource web page called “About to retire from the forces?“, that we write to the age group and give clear direction on next steps.

Other audiences we can target who could be influences in Joseph’s life are his superiors, his children and grandchildren, and fellow military buddies. Key messaging could include “Know someone who is about to retire from the military? Here’s five things they should know.”

Meet Sophie

avatar of a young woman representing a new recruit of the Canadian Armed Forces

Sophie’s Avatar created by Debra Beauregard using Avatar Maker

  • Sophie is 22 and single.  She has a high school education. 
  • She joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) because she wants to be able to take care of her mom financially. 
  • She has never heard of Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Sophie’s e-literacy is high and is on social media constantly.

So, even though Sophie is a new recruit, we know we need to reach her early to make a solid retirement plan. She has to be involved to successfully design her post-military world. Because of her age, chances are she will release from the CAF and have a whole other second career. We know that, but we have to hook Sophie in.

Stories that might draw Sophie in include women’s stories of post-military life and details about the excellent education and training benefits available after retiring. As she is engaged on social media, our posts about transitioning out of the forces will include key messages like: “It’s never too early to plan for a chill retirement!” (OK, I need to work on my Millennial lingo…).

We can check out social media groups that recruits are members of and see what worries them about their future. Then, we’ll pepper our own social media with solid info geared towards their concerns.

Do personas rock your world?

Are you using personas in your social media strategies? If yes, I’d love to hear how it’s working out and, if no, do you think you’ll give them a try?


References

The phrase and concept You are not your user is commonly used in the User Experience (UX) industry. The Nielsen Norman Group gives a good overview in their article: You Are Not the User: The False-Consensus Effect.


Facebook post

Your audience wants you to care about them! There’s lots of information out there on how to figure out who your audience is and how to reach them. You can start with my recent blog that discusses personas and how they can help build your brand.

Tweet

Meet any good personas lately? Check out my new blog post on what personas are and why you should have them: https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rAA #personas #branding