COM0014 – Blog post #7 – Looking forward and looking back

I love how this course brings together storytelling with strategic planning and audience analysis (especially psychographics, which I don’t track as much as demographics). Bridging these three things has been a real revelation to me because, in my work, I often focus more on things like post themes and timing rather than how to tell the story itself.

I always put effort into the quality of my writing, of course, but I have a pretty straightforward style and don’t think much about the beginning/middle/end structure that was encouraged in our posts here. It’s been fun to bring more creativity and authenticity to my online writing. What I’ve especially loved is thinking about organizational storytelling from a different perspective – as a way of making an organization’s brand more like (effective) personal branding and centering it around reputation rather than products or services. That has already started to transform my work.

The questions in this post in particular inspired me to think more deeply about the history of the organization I work for, and how we might be able to tell our story in more human, interesting and relatable ways. I’m really excited about that and feel like it’s something I’ll be able to use in my approach to the new blog we’re launching later this year.

But I think the most influential content in the course for me was this post about personal branding. Without meaning to, I had started to use the plastic, jargon-y, news anchor writing that he condemns in his write-up – as well he should. It really is the bane of the marketing world. Authentic, human communication is much more compelling. People don’t read you unless you’re really saying something, after all. I would say the personal branding post and the personal brand exercise reminded me that my work has to be guided by my gut as well as my values.

As I look back on some of the content I’ve created at work recently and see where I could strengthen it with what I’ve learned in this course, I look forward to honing our voice and our brand. When a unique voice emerges, the audience gathers around it. It’s a process of magnetism that happens when you’re true to yourself and your place in the world. I feel inspired to work toward that.

COM0014 – Blog post #6 -The unifying voice

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When you hear the term humane society, most people think about cats and dogs. But the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, or CFHS, covers a lot more ground than that. In fact, in the beginning, CFHS was focused entirely on farm animal welfare. The reason that Canada finally got the momentum to create a national organization to improve animal protection in 1957 was because the public became aware of horrific animal abuse on Canadian farms and insisted something be done about it. While we still have a ways to go until farming and other animal use industries are humane, the situation has improved ten-fold because of our work. In the 60 years that we’ve existed, we’ve introduced dozens of new laws and policies that improve life for all types of animals in Canada.

What’s our main role – our raison d’etre? Well, to answer that, we need to look at the main issue that plagues Canada’s animal care industry. One of our industry’s greatest flaws is a lack of unity. There are seemingly endless animal welfare issues that need our attention, and the industry has a hard time agreeing on what is most urgent and what needs our immediate attention.

That’s the power of CFHS. We convene a group that offers representation to all kinds of animal care groups across the country, and we work with our members to set an agenda, solidify a unified purpose and increase the effectiveness of our industry’s approach to issues like much-needed updates to provincial and federal legislation, improving industry and government policies and educating the public about the lived realities of Canada’s animals, from cats to caribou.

Without the voice of CFHS, individual organizations across the country would still be clamouring to be heard by government and industry – with a voice that is rarely loud enough to make meaningful and sustainable change. We can be that voice. We have the reputation, the expertise and the relationships that are needed to evolve thinking about animals in Canada and truly elevate animal welfare.

 

COM0014 – blog post #5 – Hope, wisdom and courage

COM0014 – blog post #4 – Working with weaknesses

There are lots of business-to-consumer companies doing interesting things on social media these days, like how Denny’s is cornering the market on weird to appeal to younger demographics…

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…or how Oreo pumps out so much fresh, high quality content that it seems like their team never sleeps. (Seriously, 3 brand-new, flashy celeb videos launched on the same day? Who are you people? And yes that is Shaquille O’Neal below doing elaborate circus stunts to dunk his Oreo.)

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But one B2C that really blows my mind is Royal Dutch Airlines (also known as KLM). Like many big companies, they offer 24-hour service through their social media channels, but unlike most other companies, they have made concrete commitments to responsiveness, built the infrastructure to support it, and consistently delivered on their promises.

This has positioned them effectively as the airline that cares in an industry that’s riddled with service letdowns. I mean, who hasn’t lost a bag, missed a connecting flight, been overbooked – and then had to deal with customer service people who really couldn’t give a damn? Insult to injury is business as usual for airlines.

So KLM is leveraging social media to set themselves apart. Their first commitment to their customers is to respond to every tweet. Every single tweet. Whether it’s smart-assed, snarky, insulting, demanding, unreasonable or complimentary. Did I mention that they have 2.23 million followers? And they do it in 12 different languages.

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Their second big commitment to their customers is to tell them exactly how long they will have to wait to get a response, treating Twitter like the customer service interface it has the potential to be:

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Note what they’ve written at the bottom. They update that estimate every 5 minutes so that people aren’t left hanging.

Royal Dutch’s approach shows that they know their industry’s weaknesses and are willing to work their butts off to set themselves apart from the pack. It’s brilliant. And it’s working. There’s nothing more charming than a company that knows its weaknesses and works to overcome them.

 

COM0014 – Blog #3 –

I work for the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, and we’re blessed with really passionate, committed followers. They want to learn, be informed and take action – basically, they’re lifers who are committed to improving the lives of animals.

Because I interact with them on our Facebook and Twitter every day, I already know a lot about who they are – including some of their habits and political leanings. All the same, it was fun to dig deeper into the analytics to see what I had right and where I was off-base. What I found out was that, demographically, our audience is made up of mostly Canadian, English-speaking women in the 25-55 age range with pets but no children.

The top image in blue below is a gender and age profile from Facebook analytics and the bottom image in orange is from Twitter. As you can see, we have a slightly different age distribution on Twitter, but the user profile is almost identical otherwise.

As I was poking around, I found out some pretty interesting psychographic info about our audience, as well. Twitter offers a lot of background on the interests, consumer habits and household income of our followers, some of which is below:

It doesn’t surprise me to find out that the number one topic of interest is news and that dogs, pets and cats are in their top ten list. This fits with my understanding of our audience as informed, engaged and animal-loving. Interesting to see that dogs rank a couple spots above cats. That does make sense because our dog-themed posts always perform slightly better than our cat-themed posts.

What’s cool about this process is that I could take some of this basic information (about consumer habits and such) and extrapolate. For example, in the list of our followers’ top ten consumer products below, you can see that eggs, milk, produce, yogurt and cheese all ranked above meat, which suggests that we might have a significant number of vegetarians or people who only selectively eat meat (which would makes sense given how educated our community is about animal welfare).

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I know from my interactions with our followers that they’re lead-with-your-heart people who volunteer in their local communities and donate to a variety of causes. That said, they will only sign and/or share something if they believe in their hearts it will make a difference for animals. They’re critical thinkers, well-read and well-informed. If a post is unhelpful, baseless or sensationalistic, they will call it out and say that they expect better.

What it comes down to is that they’re caring, informed and committed people who are driven to be the change they want to see. Lucky us!

COM0014 – Blog #2 – Humbled by how tos

humbleI’ll be honest, I’m sometimes cynical about online engagement how tos because I feel like, in many ways, most of us are still feeling around in the dark. But I learned three really useful things this week. Three! And I want to tell you all about them.

(1) Begin with the end in mind.
(2) Write for how your readers read.
(3) How tos get linked everywhere.

Okay, so number one. I have a grasp of how to begin with the end in mind in terms of knowing where I want a piece to go as a writer – the points I want to cover and where I want to end up by the time I get to the closing paragraph. But I learned this week that I need to turn that idea on its head.

Otherwise, my engagement plan might as well look like this:
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It was a real aha moment for me to think about what I want my reader to do before I even start writing. What’s the eventual action I want them to take? Not just as a bonus to whatever I want them to learn or experience through my writing, but really asking myself if every word and image and the overall trajectory of the piece makes them want to take the action I’m asking them to take. It really got me thinking.

Now, number two. If the first point piqued my interest, the second point was mind-blowing. I haven’t read How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, so Brian Clark’s post How to Read was a great primer for me. I had never thought about how readers read, digest or apply content to their broader learning or expertise – usually, I focus on what I think they need to know or might want to read. But this is a much more interesting frame. I’ll be chewing on that for a while.

Finally, my long-standing bias against how tos was challenged this week when I read #14 in Chris Brogan’s listicle 23 essential elements of sharable blog posts: “Writing how-to information goes everywhere, gets linked everywhere, is one of the best types of posts, depending on your audience.”

Well, colour me humbled.

COM0014 – blog post #1 – The view from the bottom

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My last real vacation was in July 2015, and what I did on that vacation was realize that I needed to change my life completely. The upside of being on vacation was that I finally had some time to breathe and think, and the downside (or so I thought) was that I realized I didn’t much like my life anymore.

There was this moment I remember so clearly. It was about 4 days in. My partner and I were hiking a small mountain trail in the BC interior, and it was almost straight up. It was a 1400-foot ascension or something ridiculous (says the Ontario hiker). About half-way up, I stopped to rest because I was so out-of-breath. I craned my head back and looked at how much there was left to climb and thought to myself, This is an uphill battle. Literally. I looked at the mountain and then looked at my partner up ahead and thought about how hard everything felt. “Are you coming?” she asked. I thought to myself I honestly don’t know.

Have you ever had that feeling? Like you’re in the gap between a yes and a no, and you’re pretty sure it’s a no? Well, my whole body had that feeling. I trudged on. A little while later, we got to the top and saw the amazing view, but I couldn’t shake that feeling. There was this secret unraveling inside me, and I was the only one who could see it. A quiet little tragedy. I sat at the breakfast table with her family and smiled and laughed and knew we were reaching the end of the road. I talked to her sister-in-law about coming east to visit us and knew it would never happen. Her mother gave a (really beautiful) toast on the night of her 50th wedding anniversary. She included us in it and talked about me and my partner building a future together. But it rang hollow – for me, at least.

But you know what? I finally saw the shape of myself again. It was like my mind had a mirror inside it. And I knew that this person wasn’t right. If we were a puzzle, the pieces didn’t fit. I know…it doesn’t sound like a great vacation and, honestly, it wasn’t. But it was something better: a catalyst. Sometimes unwinding means unraveling, you know? And these were much-needed changes.

We ended the relationship a couple weeks after getting home and started the process of disentangling our lives. I took a hard look at what I wanted, and I made a list and decided not to settle for less. The good news is that I found exactly the kind of relationship I was looking for – in someone who was there all along. Sometimes the view from the bottom is what leads you to the top.

If you’ve ever been there, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your story, too!