Archive for the ‘MCAI’ Tag

The 8 Essential Leadership Skills for Today’s Communications Manager

By:  Tom Morse, Principal Multimedia Project Manager, SAS

What does it take to be an effective leader of a corporate communications team? True leaders embody qualities that enable their team to deliver results and value, while building employee loyalty. At a time when market forces, globalization, and a new generation of employees is changing the workplace, the old command-and-control approach to management no longer works. Corporate communications managers must engage with employees in a way that leads to their success, the success of the department and the corporation.

Leadership and Management
Media_Leadership_QuoteMuch has been written about the differences between leadership and management. In many cases the terms are used interchangeably. While each has their own function and system of actions, there is a difference. Leadership is a broader concept involving strategic vision, while management involves the fundamental skills required to deliver tactical objectives. In most cases communications managers must do both because the relationship between leadership, management, and followers is complex. Experienced leaders understand they don’t have subordinates, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always voluntary.

Thanks to many of my CMMA and MCA-I colleagues for sharing their ideas about leadership. Their thoughts have helped shape my thinking on the eight behaviors central to your success as a corporate communications manager.

1. Vision/Purpose: As the leader of an organization you need set a clear, compelling vision for your team and the work they deliver. It’s about establishing a vision, not necessarily being seen as a visionary. A well-reasoned vision for the work of your team is critical in uniting your people behind a purpose they can feel confident in supporting.
Leaders: Inspire and empower – Managers: Provide resources

2. Character: People follow those they can believe in – leaders who demonstrate integrity, honesty, determination, and respect for others. As a leader it’s important you model the behaviors you want demonstrated by members of your team. Their attitude and work ethos is largely a reflection of your approach to the job. As a leader it’s important to know the skills of the people on your team and delegate accordingly. There are also times you should take the lead. Not to show you are “part of the team,” but to stay grounded in the understanding of their needs and to earn their trust and loyalty.
Leaders: Lead from in front – Managers: Provide structure

3. Listen Courageously: While a manager can establish controls, a leader must do more. To succeed it’s important to be a good listener, remain open to input from all stakeholders and respectful of their ideas. A leader needs to learn how to ask questions and not be afraid to utilize the collective knowledge of those around them. A successful leader must develop the ability to listen carefully and act courageously when called upon to do so.
Leaders: Seek opportunity – Managers: Control risk

4. Communicate Clearly: Interpersonal skills and the ability to motivate people has become a core competency of leadership. As a manager you must communicate effectively with members of your team and serve as the principal ambassador of your organization. Be transparent – those around you will respond positively if your decision-making process is viewed as open, fair, and consistent.
Leaders: Energize and inspire achievement – Managers: Coordinate effort

5. Demonstrate Flexibility: The speed of business requires constant monitoring of business trends, directions, and opportunities. Armed with this information, it’s your job to listen courageously and communicate clearly any change in direction. Consider the best ideas from those around you and formulate goals the team can rally behind. But remain true to your principles and the mission of your organization. Being flexible does not mean constantly changing direction. Your credibility as a leader requires focus and directing the effort of your team on the most promising opportunities.
Leaders: Deal with change – Managers: Deal with status quo

6. Embrace Risk: Guardians of the status quo can never be leaders. It takes courage to seek new and better ways your team can contribute value back to the corporation. As a left-brain, right-brain activity, this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader. But, it’s not about taking risk for the sake of doing something different. It’s about developing new ideas that deliver true business value. Be prepared for change and when the opportunity is right, pursue it.
Leaders: Pursue innovation – Managers: Facilitate process integration

7. Technical Competence: As a member of the management team you’re accountable to the organization for delivering business results, not demonstrating technical prowess. As a leader you need to be fully abreast of rapidly changing technology. You need a keen understanding of the issues and the expertise needed to address these challenges while ensuring the success of your team. It does not mean you need to be a technical expert in all aspects of communication, but you must stay informed about the forces shaping our industry.
Leaders: Create a learning culture – Managers: Process control for sustained results

8. Build Your Team: A leader is only as effective as the team they build. Be passionate. Inspire others to dream and provide them the opportunity to achieve. Demonstrate you value them as people, as well as contributors to the organization. Recognize and reward their efforts and that of others to reinforce those actions. As a leader your success will be measured by the success of others.
Leaders: Select talent and mentor – Managers: Guide and provide direction

Leadership Journey
To become a better leader think back to a time in your career when you were a follower. Which leaders inspired you to make your best effort? Each of us possessed strengths, talents, and the wisdom that comes with experience. We also have flaws, something a successful leader never loses sight of – we’re human after all. Some people are born to be leaders; others develop the skills that enable them to lead. If you truly aspire to a leadership position, or want to make the most of your opportunity, work hard at these eight skills. It promises to be a rewarding journey.

Advice from Don Corleone, “Crash” Davis and Others for Todays MediaPros

The lessons in life are learned in many ways. As children we learn from our parents. A solid education teaches us to accept the challenge of learning on our own. But through it all there is one constant, one source as reliable as Don Corleone in The Godfather promising, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” I refer of course to the movies, a source of wisdom for the ages.


Lessons in life are learned in many ways

As media producers the movies have a lot to teach us about how to create effective programs. Some of the best lessons I’ve learned about this business crystalized in my mind hearing movie dialogue. Here is some of what I’ve learned.

Beginning, Middle, End: “If you’re going to become true dodgeballers, then you’ve got to learn the Five D’s of dodgeball: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge!” DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story – From this small classic art film, dodgeball legend and Coach of the Average Joe’s, Patches O’Houlihan, (Rip Torn) offers great advice. Programs need a beginning (Dodge), a middle (Duck, Dip, Dive), and an ending (Dodge). The beginning and end are usually the easy parts. Avoid the flying wrenches and budget time for the hard work of constructing the middle.

Trust Your Instincts: “You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.” Bull Durham – When veteran minor league catcher “Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner) gives hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) this advice, he should listen. “Crash” has seen it all, done it all, including life in “The Show.” As media producers we bring our own experiences to every project. Trust your instincts and build upon what you believe. “Crash” believes in, “the hanging curve, high fiber, good scotch… that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone… and there should be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.” What do you believe in?

Own the Project: “We can do that; we don’t even have to have a reason.” Caddyshack – When golf course maintenance is entrusted to Carl Spackler, (Bill Murray) life at the upscale Bushwood Country Club is never the same. In reviewing a client’s messaging needs, what production element inspires your creativity? It could be an idea of how to creatively frame the message. An off-beat narrative style might fit, or contracting a composer for an original score might work. Like gophers on a golf course, ideas pop up constantly. Find something about a project that can get you excited. Than do it. Why, because you can. Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) the club’s resident Zen ace golfer offers this bit of timeless advice, “There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”

Take Creative Risks: “Greatness courts failure.” Tin Cup – Roy McAvoy, (Kevin Costner) former golf prodigy turned driving range pro sees life differently from most people. Never afraid to take a risk, to put it all on line, Tin Cup believes that “When a defining moment comes along you define the moment or the moment defines you.” As media producers there are times to lay up and times to go for it. After losing his chance to win the U.S. Open Tournament by recording a 12 on the last hole, his girlfriend assures him, “Five years from now nobody will remember who won or lost, but they’re gonna remember your 12!” When the project is right, and maybe sometimes when it isn’t, just go for it!

Go with Your Strengths: “Forget about the curve ball Ricky, give him the heater.” Major League – With the game on the line Indian’s Coach Lou Brown (James Gammon) implores Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) to go with his strength. As a media producer you need to know your own strengths. There are projects to push the boundaries and stretch creatively. Then there are those projects that need to be done to keep the lights on and the bills paid. As team catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) tells prima donna third baseman Roger Dorn, (Corbin Bernsen) “Ya know Dorn, I liked you so much better when you were just a ballplayer. If you wanna be an interior decorator now that’s none of my business. But some of us still need this team.” Remember, the media business is a business, first and foremost. When bills need to be paid, do what you do best.

Share Success: “I did it all, I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what’s in it for me!” Field of Dreams – A client comes to you with their project and you produce it. What did you produce? You produced their project. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) learned this lesson and shared all that he had. Sometimes we’re fortunate and can initiate our own work, but more often than not work comes from paying clients. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster) may never had a turn at bat, but discovered his true calling. Much as you have a job to do, so does the client. Production, like baseball, is a team sport. Hold onto your values, never sell the farm, share in the success… and they will come.


Production, like baseball is a team sport

What inspires you? To be successful as a media producer, or in any avenue of life, find what motivates you and pursue it. As communication professionals we’re fortunate to work in a field that opens doors to opportunity for expression. Every project is an opportunity to find ways to overcome obstacles and help others deliver their message. We use equipment people in other professions envy. So make it fun and never, never refuse The Don.

Joy of the Job: Turning Work into Play

As communication professionals, work is often less about where we go than the things we do.  Often our work is done at home, while seated in 23A, on location, or somewhere in the cloud.  Yet how fortunate we are to work in a profession that provides an outlet for creativity and imagination.  If that’s not how you see your work it’s time for a mindset reset.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  This quote from George Bernard Shaw offers the philosophical view.  Business entrepreneur and investor, Sir Richard Branson, puts it into actionable terms, “Create the kind of workplace and company culture that will attract great talent.  If you hire brilliant people, they will make work feel more like play.”

Not part of a company?  Doesn’t matter.  Branson’s analogy still holds.  Communication work is normally done as a team.  Some projects can be done solo, but more often than not our work is done in teams.  What about turning work into play?  It doesn’t mean you don’t work hard or never face boring tasks.  But would you rather be doing something else?

I asked a number of friends and professional peers about their experiences in the business and how they find joy in the work they do.  Here is a quick mindset reset about the Joy of the Job.

Freedom to Create:  There are many ways to structure a communication that meets client objectives.  Once you understand what the client needs to communicate, look for ways to construct the project that will interest you and keep you excited.  “Too often, we operate under the premise that Corporate Video needs to be dull and uninteresting,” suggests Bill Marriott, Sr. Marketing Director – Video Communications & New Media at SAS and CMMA Southeast Region Director.  “Dull and uninteresting are not great differentiators for a business.  As a producer it’s important to find something about a project that pushes you to deliver work that excites.”

Make it a Team Effort:  Last year the Boston Red Sox won baseball’s World Series title.  Some argue they didn’t have the best individual players among teams that made the playoffs.  What they had was an intangible, they played as a team and looked like they were having more fun than every team they played.  While other teams stressed under pressure, the team of “Beards” became more than the sum of its parts.  Gary Shifflet, a former MCA-I President, recently started a new position at Creative Solutions Group as Sr. Project Mgr./Technical Director helping create large scale trade show exhibits.  “I joined the team with the specific goal of helping enhance the interactive experience of visiting an exhibit space.”  Gary hit the ground running because of his experience and skill working with production teams towards a shared goal.  “Every division is responsible for their own tasks, but also empowered to help each other to reach their goals.  It’s an awesome feeling working in a collaborative environment!”  Working with a team of empowered professionals is one of the great joys of working as a MediaPro.

A World to Explore:  How many professions offer the opportunity to learn something about almost everything?  We participate in developing programs on subjects as diverse as our client base.  “As a voice talent, one of the aspects of my job I love the best is the variety of industries I get to voice for,” says Liz de Nesnera, Owner, Reservoir Road Productions and MCA-I Secretary.  “In fact, it was through a narration job that I discovered the wonders of hydraulic cement!  Thanks to what I learned in voicing that job, I was able to fix quite a few leaks in my old basement floor!  Who knew?  Voice a job, fix your basement.  Bonus!”  Whether working as an independent or as an in-house MediaPro, the range of topics we’re exposed to can be fascinating if you really pour yourself into a project.

Tools of the Trade:  We have great, fun tools to work with.  That’s why so many groups across an enterprise want to create their own video productions.  As exciting as it must be to fuse a framersham, it’s much more fun to make a video about it.  Chris Barry, AMM, Sr. Director, Yellow Tag Productions at Best Buy and CMMA President reminds us it’s not cameras, edit systems, and encoders that make great programs – its people.  “Technology has revolutionized our business.  The tools we use today to light, shoot and edit are more accessible and less expensive than ever before.  But, the skill, experience and ability to use these tools to tell great stories can’t be commoditized.”

Opportunity to Show Off:  The projects we deliver are often viewed publically.  To clients, the release of every project is like a Hollywood premiere.  While most corporate projects don’t have credits… we know.  If a program is posted to YouTube, tell me you haven’t sent a link to someone and told them of your role in the project.  “I love making other people look good!  That’s half the battle,” admits Gerry Harriss, Media Services Manager at Asurion, LLC and CMMA Eastern Region Director.  “To be able to craft a message from your work environment and elicit an emotional response is what pushes me toward the next best production.  There is no better feeling than people throughout your company saying, I laughed, I cried, I thought, or I felt proud because of the video you produced.  You made us look great.”

Ours is a fun profession, or it should be.  Golf writer and CBS Sports Analyst Peter Kostis likes to use the phrase, “work like a major leaguer but play like a little leaguer.”  If you’ve played any sport you know that practice is hard, but that’s usually not a problem because practice itself can be fun.  The same should hold true when managing the work of communication project.  It’s work.  Yet if in the process you surround yourself with teammates who make the work fun, amazing things can happen.

Why Now is the Time for Professional Organizations

While campaigning for president, Bill Clinton reminded himself and his supporters, “It’s the economy stupid.”  During an earlier era, the 1928 presidential election turned on the campaign slogan “A chicken in every pot.  And a car in every backyard to boot.”  The economy and by extension jobs, is an issue that’s always front and center of any discussion.

So why is now the time for involvement in your professional organization?  Simple, it comes down to one word – jobs.  With one exception, every job I’ve ever been offered was the result of a connection made through MCA-I (formerly ITVA), a professional association that I’ve been part of for many years.

While still in college and before entering the workforce, I attended an ITVA Conference as a student ambassador.  That stood out on my resume and my first boss took a chance and hired me.  Six jobs, lots of career twists and turns, and the connections made through MCA-I are still an important part of my professional life.

But before the jobs came the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.  Professional organizations, like MCA-I, always need volunteers.  Committees need volunteers… local chapters need help… national organizations need people willing to become involved and make things happen.  Opportunities abound to develop technical knowledge, improve communication skills, or build experience manage people and complex projects.

So how did these jobs come about?  In one case it was the result of hosting a workshop.  Another job came about through a chance encounter on an elevator.  Simply put, connections were made, relationships established, and career opportunities were the result.

In today’s Web 2.0 world, coupled with social networking using a wide range of social media channels, many question the value of professional associations and contacts.  Without a doubt virtual networking plays an important part in building a professional network and remaining in contact.  But there’s no replacement for personal contacts, friendships, and relationships made and strengthened through personal contact.

While learning my craft at my first job in corporate communications, I was asked to moderate a workshop at a national ITVA Conference.  With encouragement from my boss, I agreed and assembled a panel of experts.  During the workshop the panel did most of the presentation.  My remarks were limited to introductions and giving directions to the rest rooms.  Still, I was on-stage with some very experienced veterans.  Several years later while seeking a new job, I sent a resume to a company looking to hire.  The department head recognized my name and recalled the workshop at the annual professional development conference.  I got the job and in the process learned the value of networking.

Several years ago I received a call from a producer located on the other side of the country.  He needed a shooter for a single talking head interview.  I’m not sure why he called me, but I gave him a couple of names and made recommendations.  As occasionally happens, one shoot led to another, then to a bigger project, and continuing on-going work.  As far as I know, the producer and the shooter have never met or even been on the same coast at the same time.  But they continue to do business together.

My current job is the result of a professional connection that goes back to the days of ¾” U-Matic and 1” helical tape.  A lot has changed since then.  Before coming to work at SAS, I got to know many of the people I now work with.  We attended events and conferences together.  We ran into each other at places like NAB and monthly ITVA/MCA-I chapter meetings.  When it became time for another career move, I reached out to some of the people I’ve known so long at SAS.  I was fortunate, an opportunity arose and I’m now on staff writing and producing video and multimedia for SAS.  Without the professional connections made and nurtured over years, it’s doubtful I would have had the opportunity.

If you want to know about opportunity created while riding an elevator, you’ll need to either give me a call or come by for a visit.  We can exchange business cards (yes, people still do that), if you bring your iPhone we can bump, or we can connect via LinkedIn.  Who knows, it might just open a new door.

News & Information in the Era of New Media

News, and the business of news, has changed.  Advances in technology, in parallel with changes affecting the business of broadcasting, have had a profound effect on how consumers receive news and information.  The June meeting of the Central Carolina Chapter of MCA-I explored these themes with a behind-the-scenes tour of WRAL and a look at how news and information is managed across multiple channels, technology platforms, and made available 24 hours a day.

Companies like Capital Broadcasting (parent company of WRAL) have long had multiple divisions and more than one way to reach an audience.  Station owners often had television and radio properties that ran as separate businesses.  Fast forward to the era of new media, and those lines have blurred.  The Internet and web-based media have given consumers new choices in how and when they receive information.  Accelerating this trend is the mobile web, with information available anytime and from almost anywhere.  To survive in this new environment, broadcasters like WRAL have made significant investments in on-line, web-based channels.  In today’s 24-hour information environment, content must be available from more than just static websites ‑ consumers also demand access from their choice of mobile platforms.

The changes affecting broadcast news are clearly visible when visiting the WRAL newsroom and touring the facility.  At every turn, traditional broadcast teams sit and work alongside the new media team.  Now undergoing a massive digital facility upgrade, WRAL is constructing a new master control room and streamlining the process of asset exchange between the TV and new media teams.

In the news room, news gathering and reporting producers sit side-by-side with their counterparts on the .Com side.  WRAL has 30 content producers assigned to the new media team.  Having both broadcast and new media channels available, breaking news is never embargoed.  Once verified, the station has the option of delivering the news through its website, on Facebook, or by Twitter.  “Our broadcast and new media teams work together in the newsroom every day,” said John Conway, Creative Services Director at WRAL.Com.  “We’ve created an environment for cooperation and sharing where WRAL-TV does the first line reporting and news gathering, which will then be used by the WRAL.Com Web Content Producers.”

From its website, WRAL.Com delivers over 40 hours of live video each day.  The website provides access to over 45,000 video clips in its archive and delivers over 60,000 video views per day.  For advertisers, WRAL.Com offers a highly targeted marketing opportunity.  Over 70% of the website users are within the local viewing area, putting ads in front of people who shop locally.  Traffic to the website peaked on the day of last presidential inauguration.  WRAL.Com supported up to 3,000 simultaneous connections and delivered over 890,000 video views.  That’s a lot of web traffic!

Thanks to the team at WRAL-TV and WRAL.Com for a fascinating inside look at how news and information is managed in the era of new media.  Great meeting!

Social Network Marketing – It Ain’t Your Granddad’s Relationship Selling

My mom is 85 and does not have Facebook page, doesn’t tweet, in fact she does not have a computer.  But, she has taught me everything I need to know about the value of social networks to an integrated marketing communications program.

 Even though the cost is a penny of two more, my mom fills up her car at the same service station every week.  She knows the owner and rewards the relationship with her business.  People and businesses do the same.  If everything is equal (price, quality, etc.) or nearly equal, we do business with those whom we have a connection.

 With social networking taking center stage in any discussion of relationship selling, we’ve entered a new era of marketing through social media.  But how effective is it?  I was in an online chat about social networks and someone mentioned a 2008 Forrester Report citing that less than half of survey respondents indicated Forums, Online Communities, and Social Networks as being an information source impacting the decision making process.  Does that mean the buzz about social network marketing is just that, buzz and nothing more?

 In taking a look at the report I come to a different conclusion.  With a title only an unabashed academic could love, The Social Technographics® Of Business Buyers, a key finding reports that four of the top six influencers on technology purchase decisions involve people-to-people contact.  Social network marketing is about building those inter-personal relationships.

 Here’s the list:

  • Peers and colleagues – 84%
  • Vendor, industry and trade Web sites – 69%
  • Your direct vendor salesperson – 69%
  • Technology or business magazines – 66%
  • Consultants, VARs and SIs – 65%
  • Industry trade shows or conferences (in person) – 59%
  • Forums, online communities and social networks – 45%
  • Industry analyst firms – 45%
  • E-mail or electronic newsletters – 41%
  • Web events or virtual trade shows – 40%
  • Interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos – 30%
  • Blogs – 24%

 Dell Computers is the now well known business case example of integrating social media within a marketing program.  Following a much publicized customer service problem, Dell embraced social media by launching a community site, numerous blogs, multiple Twitter IDs, and a Facebook account.  In a public statement, Dell has acknowledged they’ve earned $1M in revenue from the use of Twitter alerts.  At Dell, the use of social network marketing is a central element of their integrated marketing campaign.

 And take a look at one of the latest promotional campaigns launched by McDonald’s to build brand association.  The video shot at London’s Piccadilly Circus is moving up the ad charts that track viral videos.  Does it sell burgers?  Not directly.  But building positive brand awareness through viral social networking will certainly move the brand scorecard in a positive direction.

Social networking provides capabilities for people to discover new ways of connecting with each other.  Social network marketing offers B2B and B2C marketers the opportunity to establish those same connections.  As I’ve learned from my mom, we buy from people we like.

Make me a viral video, and super-size it!

Tell me this hasn’t happened to you recently. A client comes to your office and asks you to make them a viral video. Marketers everywhere are reading trade journals, going to conferences, and learning of case studies where a video presentation topped a million views on YouTube. They want the same, and want you to deliver it.

As a corporate communicator, how do you respond? Got an unlimited budget, willing to compromise your integrity, open to the idea of lawsuits? If so, you can deliver a message that will spread and super-size the number of views. But in the real world – a world driven by content, messaging, and qualified sales leads – the process gets a lot harder.

Part of the job of a corporate communicator is to challenge concepts and requests received from clients… carefully of course. Organizations expect us to consider communication requests and offer clients our best advice. That’s why we were hired. How do you respond when asked to deliver a viral video? Below are some of my ideas. I hope you will comment and share some of your thoughts.

    It’s About the Brand: Arguably the most successful viral video of all time is Dove’s Self Esteem campaign. Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty. For Dove, the campaign is about associating their brand with efforts to raise self-esteem among women, especially young women, and to widen the definition of beauty. For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.
       

      That’s where the money is.” OK, the truth is bank robber Willie Sutton never used the phrase to answer the question, “Why do you rob banks?” Still, it makes for a good story. It also makes the point that sales leads come from attracting the right audience, not just any audience. The formula for success will be somewhat different for B2B than for B2C marketers. For those in the B2B space, the total size of an audience is less relevant than who comprises the audience. The question needs to be asked, “Where is the target audience the viral video is aimed at attracting?” If the target audience is unlikely to be spending time viewing the hottest videos on the web, time and money might be better spent fishing where the fish are.

      Viral Does Not Mean Cheap: There is a cost to everything we deliver. The expense may be internal, inherent overhead cost (soft money), or above-the-line billable dollars. Yes, there are countless examples of amateur videos drawing big viewing numbers on video web portals. Countless numbers of animal lovers watch live streaming video of puppies sleeping in a crate. Drawing a big audience and delivering a compelling message about a product or service are two different things. Keep in mind the old production adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.” How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 10M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?

      “Show Me ‘da Plan!” To paraphrase a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, what’s the plan to incorporate a viral video into a larger, integrated Marketing Communications campaign? The success of Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is the completeness of the marketing initiative. While compelling, the viral video is but one element of the campaign. The resources available from the Dove website fulfill the need for specific, actionable information. What’s the call to action? A viral video is only one component. It’s the fun part no doubt. But a viral video does not stand alone; it must be part of a well thought out business plan.

      How viral is viral? Is the view target some arbitrary number based on a case study presented in a marketing journal? Is a million views really needed? How about 10 thousand? Come to a mutual understanding about how success will be measured.

    Why no mention of creativity in this post? Simple, that’s step two – after the business issues have been addressed. I hope you will comment and share some of your ideas.

    10 Ideas for Weathering Recessionary Times – Part 2 of 2

    This second post continues a look at how experienced media professionals are dealing with the downturn in the economy. Everyone acknowledges it tough out there today. Clients have seen their budgets cut and have less money to spend. Just keeping the doors open is a challenge, let alone doing great work.

    Thanks to the many media professionals who offered their ideas for this list of 10 Ideas for Weathering Recessionary Times.

    6. Production Choices: Several people I spoke with commented that despite the downturn in the economy, cutting back on innovation and creativity is never an answer. In fact, it may be more important now than when clients have more to spend. A project I recently developed for SAS was planned as a live, in-studio webcast. Scheduling problems and the skyrocketing cost of international travel, forced a look at other alternatives. Since the key messages were well supported with PowerPoint charts, it was agreed that rather than a video webcast, an audio seminar would work equally well. The client was pleased with the program, as well as the smaller hurt I put on their budget.

    7. Alternate Distribution Channels: The past several years has seen the unrestrained growth of many new distribution channels. Broadcast television commercials will remain a mainstay for many producers, but in some cases there are alternatives. Dan Schwartz of Philadelphia’s Center City Film and Video has found this tactic effective for some clients. “We have used viral distribution of advertisements on YouTube, marketing through Face Book and other social media platforms, when the target viewership required it. This is a huge cost saving over TV media buying. Of course, more traditional marketing outlets always have to be considered as well.” Use of alternate distribution channels requires a different kind of communication’s campaign and possibly a different creative approach.

    8. Virtual Office: Next time you need to shoot in Russia, or need something shot for you in Moscow, check in with my friend Fyodor Mozgovoy. Working across distance is something Fyodor does all the time and knows a lot about. “I cannot imagine doing business without Google, Skype, and iChat nowadays. Google services offer me a virtual office with multi-access calendars, ability to collaborate on planning, and share all important documents at a click. This saves me and my employees lots of time, and money for travel expenses. Skype is a great money saver, and iChat is amazing in its ability to share your screen on-line while keeping the voice connection, making online presentations easy and very impressive.” What can I say; the man knows how to squeeze a Ruble.

    9. Production Sharing: Reduced budgets mean more than doing more with less. Sometimes sharing production responsibility can help reduce costs. Projects that are developed as part of a coordinated marketing campaign can use elements between projects and reduce overall cost. For example, photos used in a brochure can be incorporated into a video project, reducing production costs. “Resource sharing with clients and their other production agencies can help lower costs” said Jim Fink of New Century Digital Media in Chapel Hill. “Some clients have in-house production resources for creating graphics and web content. Using some of what they have already developed can help hold down expenses.” Such assets don’t always fit easily into the production process, but with some creative design, they can reduce costs and improve the bottom line.

    10. Communicate-Communicate-Communicate: “Keep your client in the loop – (over)communicate – updating them often on the status of the project, milestones, and action items.” Great advise from Melanie Raskin, writer, actress, and voice over artist. “Prove your value every time. Not only strive to be the fun, engaging, creative, easy, can-do pro to work with – but also measure what you’ve done – put dollars and cents to those efforts. Send surveys to customers asking how your work/video/webcast/communication helped move the needle for the audience/users…and the company. This can be as simple as just a few questions to your clients or as complex as a survey clients can distribute to their audience (complimentary, of course!). In a challenging economy, clients are asked to make tough choices; make it easy for them to choose you and your services.” What more can I say, Melanie is the consummate professional.

    There were many other ideas that came from talking with a great group of communication pros. Please comment on the two parts of this post and offer any suggestions of your own to share with the online community.

    Networking was something that came up quite often. A number of people expressed ideas similar to what Melanie Raskin summarized so well, find ways to stay in touch with clients even if a current project is not underway. Maybe ask them for ideas about a blog posting. 😉

    10 Ideas for Weathering Recessionary Times – Part 1 of 2

    During recessionary times many organizations scale back advertising and how marketing budgets are spent. For media professionals, what does this mean in practical terms? For many, this is not the first time we’ve seen a downturn in the economy. We know clients are watching budgets more closely, there’s more competition, and margins are slimmer. We know how to operate lean-`n-mean – editing on a laptop while flying home from a shoot. But there is only so much expense that can be removed from a business. How can media professionals weather the storm?

    I spoke with a number of media professionals who have been through the dry times before. Some of those I spoke with have their own business, some work for production companies, and others work within an enterprise. Regardless of your business model, these ideas can help you Weather Recessionary Times.

    1. Showcase Flexibility: What does your front door, that is your Internet home page, say about you and the services you offer? Bruce Wittman of Eagle Video touches all bases with his website, showing on-line clips for use in marketing, training, recruitment, medical, multimedia and more. Bruce says, “people come to the [his] site looking for a specific kind of project. If someone wants to do a program with dancing frogs, it helps to have something like that on your website.”

    2. Web Delivery: Everyone gets it, yes even clients. It’s all about the web. Barnstormer Communications Larry Wegman has been assisting clients transition their communication to on-demand, web-based content. “Clients are increasingly interested in creating messages that live on their website. It’s more convenient for them, they have control over distribution, and they can change it when they want.” Larry has helped clients develop shorter, more focused messages, which help offset reductions in advertising budgets.

    3. Innovation & Quality: We’re all familiar with the phrase, a race to the bottom. It refers to people being prepared to settle for “good enough” when they ought to be striving for best. Service providers can reduce the price of their services, but as Greg Rowland of MindWorks Multimedia points out, with everyone reducing prices, “you do not have a competitive advantage and your margins become so small that you can’t survive for long. If a service provider offers better quality, improved service, and innovation, they stand out from the competition. Often times, innovative solutions are also cost-reducing solutions. For example, innovative eLearning courses are more effective and less expensive than classroom training.” Helping clients reduce their costs goes a long way when budgets are tight.

    4. One-Stop-Shop: Economists talk about it, managers talk about, parents paying their teenager’s gasoline bill talk about it… productivity  being efficient, getting the most bang for your buck. Taylor Sisk, a freelance producer and writer who works in association with Take One Productions, has begun offering his clients additional services. “I’ve started producing radio spots for political clients, [in addition to television commercials] as a means of providing them with more of a one-stop-shop service.” Established client relations, or the knowledge gained from developing a first project, can open the door to new opportunity – if you’re willing to stretch your communication skills.

    5. Enthusiasm: In my closet at home I keep advice from a fortune cookie, reminding me to stay true to the dreams of youth. Documentary-style producer, David Rose of Rose Films, believes it’s important to “take on the kind of work that really interests you, and then go after clients who appreciate what you have to offer. This does not mean that we don’t get into other types of projects, but our core business is in what we do best, and like to do.” Work pays the bills and consumes much of our time. Enjoy life. Enjoy work.

    More thoughts and ideas for how experienced media professionals are dealing with today’s difficult economy in part two of this post.

    Into the Hands of the Consumer

    The realization that it’s all about the web has long been accepted as a fait accompli by communicators. It’s now official – finance has derived the numbers and marketing has hit on the killer app.

    Item one: financial value creation. A new research report from Spain’s IESE Business School reports that the stock performance of new media organizations far out performs that of traditional media channels.

    Over a five year period ending in 2007, IESE Professor Javier Aguirreamalloa analyzed the financial performance of American and European businesses in the technology, new media, and telecommunications sectors. Here’s the bottom line. New media channels – software companies, social media, and web-base rich media – delivered higher levels of shareholder performance. The five sectors that created the most value were: social networks (+42%), businesses that provide services to telecommunication companies (+28%), online content retailers (+24%), multimedia application software (+21%), and consumer electronics (+19%). By contrast, traditional communication companies such as radio/television stations, record labels, and press publications shattered shareholder value.

    Professor Javier Aguirreamalloa’s conclusion is that narrowing the distance between the communication sector and the end user delivered the greatest financial value. Those segments that made content more accessible and gave users greater control performed best. This comes as no surprise. Now there’s financial performance data to backup the growing number of market studies that all show the impact of Web 2.0.

    Item two: Killer App for iPhone. They’re everywhere. The Apple iPhone is a hit with consumers largely because of the library of downloadable apps. There are apps that let users connect to their Facebook account, play games, or purchase from eBay. But one of the most popular iPhone apps comes from Kraft Food and provides recipes and shopping lists for Kraft products including Jell-O and Minute Rice. Don’t laugh, it’s true. iFood Assistant is one of the top selling apps for the iPhone. Yes, that’s selling apps. Consumers are paying Kraft Food to be marketed to on their iPhone. The app is one of the top 100 most popular paid apps and is number two in the Lifestyle Category. The app was launched in December and consumers have found it a helpful tool for making dinners faster, easier, and more convenient. The lesson: consumers are willing to pay when they discover something that’s useful and gives them greater control.

    Item three: Accessibility. The research report from Prof. Aguirreamalloa draws a clear line between proximity to the consumer and successful performance. Putting the consumer in control is central to success, whether its 24 hour service, a selection of pizza toppings, or DVR playback when the consumer is ready. This explains the success of online rich media companies such as YouTube and Hulu. A recent post by blogger Chris Pirillo points out, “It’s a numbers game. YouTube is now 25% of the Internet’s search traffic, and if you’re not doing something on YouTube, you’re… crazy.” Joining the on-demand bandwagon last November is the Vatican. Available in four languages, the Vatican Channel offers news and other information about Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican events.

    Yes, it’s all about the web – finance has the numbers, marketing has the killer app, and Web 2.0 even has a papal blessing. (That last item may be a bit of a stretch.) Those communication providers that bring consumers closer to desired content and put them in control, are those who will deliver the greatest return.