Archive for the ‘Tom Morse’ 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.

No “R” in Social Media

Even without use of spell checker, I know there isn’t an “R” in social media. But, Marketing Communications professionals need to understand the return, and how they will evaluate the return, on investments in social media.

Measuring ROI for social media is part of the job. Social media is about more than just engagement and awareness. While social media is at the top of the sales funnel, there are still many ways to track and evaluate the return on investment. The process should begin with an agreement on how the organization will define the “R” in ROI – is it awareness, leads, conversions, sales? Evaluation of social media is less about what can be done than what should be done. Identify the evaluation criteria, and then secure agreement with sales enablement and business executives on how social media will be evaluated. At this point in our understanding of social media, the criteria will be different from other activities such as advertising, trade shows, or speaking engagements. But, establish some criteria and process for assessing the payoff on investments in social media.

Many organizations use applications such as Google Analytics or SAS® Customer Intelligence to monitor web traffic and gain valuable business insights. For organizations without such capabilities, there are still many ways to track and measure the business value of social media. Regardless of the channel, a strong call to action can drive traffic back to where engagement can be turned into leads and sales. In some cases it might be a unique 800 number, hotlink, promotional code, or email address that delivers prospects to where tracking and conversions can be done – a call center or company website. These simple techniques, some would call them old school, have long proven effective. Regardless of whether the engagement begins on a syndicated blog, Facebook, or Twitter, prospects can be engaged in a way that can provide meaningful information.

Things can get murky when it comes to “soft metrics,” such as measuring views on YouTube, comments on blogs, brand mentions, or tweets. Activity that happens beyond an organization’s website is more difficult to quantify. An agreement on how these will be evaluated is important. Construct strategies that help drive traffic into an environment where you have more sophisticated capabilities to engage and convert online actions into sales. For example, a video posted to YouTube can include a unique URL providing content that supplements the video. Hits to the web page can the tracked and offers for items such as white papers can be converted to sales leads.

One company engaging prospects in a new way is Best Buy, the world’s largest electronic retailer. A team of 500 employees, working at local stores and at the company headquarters, will soon (July 19) begin searching Twitter posts to find people seeking information about the products they sell. The “Twelpforce” will be part of the customer-service team according to Chief Marketing Officer, Barry Judge. “The old paradigm is you open your doors and hope someone comes in. In the new world, you can go out and find people that are talking about technology and what they are interested in buying, and be generous with your knowledge. And hopefully if you’re generous and knowledgeable, people will come in and buy.” In a tough environment for electronic retailers, Best Buy is fighting for every customer.

Measurement of traditional and new media strategies does not have to be so very different. The critical issue is coming to agreement on how social media will be evaluated. It’s not about measuring everything that you can, what’s more important is measuring what you should.

Don’t Forget Traditional Media

Social media, new media, rich media, interactive channels… Open any marketing publication (OK, visit their website, read a blog post in your feed reader, etc) and it’s easy to come away with the impression that all communication messaging has moved to the net-based world. It’s true that companies are continuing to shift an increasing percentage of ad dollars away from newspapers, radio, magazines, yellow pages, direct mail and even TV to interactive channels. But, don’t lose sight of the role for traditional media in any marketing communication campaign.

Last year Starbucks faced a new challenger when McDonalds took on the coffee giant with expansion of their line of McCafe premium beverages. Despite a drop in sales because of the economic downturn, Starbucks ramped up a $28M advertising campaign. It began its first concerted branding campaign with a series of newspaper ads. The campaign made the Starbucks’ case for its prices, including health care for its employees, relationships with coffee farmers, and its dedication to sustainability. Starbucks CMO, Terry Devenport, addressed the print strategy in an interview with Advertising Age Magazine. “One of the things [we did] was to find a way to get our stories out there in a way that both our existing customers would recognize and that would speak to the employees and partners and give them a sense of pride, and that’s clearly happened. We’re exceedingly pleased with it to date. We’ve had a huge return on that investment.”

Starbucks Morning Joe2In addition to the traditional print campaign, Starbucks began running one-time TV ads in high-profile shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” or quick hits on news networks such as CNN, which then drive traffic online. Furthering their traditional media presence, last week Starbucks announced a title sponsorship of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” A natural partnership, Mr. Davenport said, it will include occasional references to the chain’s environmental activism or efforts in volunteerism.

150px-Smirnoff.svg[1]Radio can play an important part in promotional campaigns as well. When Smirnoff, the makers of America’s most popular vodka, made plans to introduce its first line of ready-to-drink products in the United States, radio played a key role in creating a high level of buzz. Unique radio and on-site promotions included on-air DJ product-tasting parties, bar and club events, and customer testimonials. The success of the initial campaign triggered an immediate nationwide rollout of Smirnoff Ice. The campaign generated sales of 300% above projections in test markets, resulting in one of the most successful new spirit introductions in the United States.

And let’s not forget traditional broadcast television. This year’s Super Bowl provided a big score for online video giant Hulu. In a last minute decision, company CEO Jason Kilar bought a spot during the fourth quarter of what proved to be the most-watched Super Bowl in history with an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, and the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind. The promotional strategy worked. According to Kilar, Hulu’s Super Bowl ad was directly responsible for increasing the online video portal’s business by 49%.

Hulu Super Bowl Ad Scores Big

The battle for the minds and wallets of consumers will continue to be waged on many fronts. Spending for online media will continue to increase as a percentage of overall promotional spending. As communicators we’re largely leading that charge. But, let’s never lose sight of the impact traditional media can have within the context of a well planned promotional campaign.

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.

    What’s New in New Media?

    I was reading posts on a LinkedIn community and came across an interesting question. Responsible for naming a corporate media department, the author posed the question, “What is new media?” That got me thinking about how corporate communication has changed, and the role of technology in affecting that change.

    Technology is a fundamental force driving our economy. Advances in technology drive innovation across a wide range of industries. In communication, technology is central to the process of message delivery. As technology advances, it affects all forms of communication. Communication changes culture; and changes in culture drive technological evolution. The circle goes round and round.

    Corporate communicators have long relied on print as the primary vehicle for communication. However, over time technology changed the paradigm. In the late 70’s, print was joined by video as a key communication technology. Vast networks of VHS tape players became a fixture in many offices. Moving into the 90’s web-based technology emerged as the primary channel of both internal and external communication. New technologies emerged and were integrated into the communication process at a dizzying pace – forever changing the communication landscape.

    When web-based technology emerged as the primary communication channel for most organizations, “network pipes” were limited. The broadband connectivity we take for granted today was still a decade away. Early adopters of communication via the web were limited primarily to text and simple graphics. Photography, multimedia, video, and audio were pushed to the sidelines. Then along came fiber optic technology, Fast Ethernet, and a new generation of more powerful multimedia servers. The relentless advance of new technology emboldened communicators to demand more from the network. A new battlefront emerged with IT on one side, facing off against those pushing the envelope and demanding better communication capabilities. IT insisted on centralized control and governance over media distribution. Communicators pushed for a richer online experience. There are still skirmishes between those who manage infrastructure and those who use network resources to communicate with audiences both internal and external. The battles continue, but the outcome is certain.

    New media, rich media, multimedia are one in the same. Web-based communication has become a mashup of data from multiple sources combined into a single, integrated tool. The line between text, graphics, animation, and video has blurred. All represent content, that when creatively combined create a persuasive new form of communication. Video has emerged as a key component of new media on the web. In 2008, video accounted for 60% of all Internet traffic. The amount of video on the net continues to increase and is projected to account for almost 90% of all Internet traffic by 2011. Combined with video, graphics and animation enable video to be presented in new and different ways. Live video webcasts have become an important part of how many organizations communicate. Websites increasingly offer users video content in streaming format or for download to a portable media player. Where once content downloads were limited to a PDF document, multimedia is now a common form of content download. And this not limited to large Fortune 500 organizations. Sure, IBM has video on its website, but so does KnittingHelp.Com.

    What’s new about new media? Nothing, and everything. At the dawn of history, cave painters illustrated the results of the hunt. The application of technology, charcoal, made some hunters more successful than others. Incorporating technological change is what corporate communicators do. There’s nothing new about that. What is new, and central to success, is having a vision and the ability to put powerful evolving technology into the hands of skilled communicators who in turn can deliver compelling messages in new media form.

    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. 😉

    Nixon: An Iconic Web 2.0 Figure?

    Just doing my part. As a patriotic American, I’m making it my business to help jump start our economy. It’s my personal economic stimulus program. Truth be told, there are lots of good sales; too good to pass up. Last week I bought a new winter coat. I wore it to work one day and at lunch someone mentioned the new threads. I joked, paraphrasing Richard Nixon, that it was “a respectable, republican cloth coat.”

    It’s a line from Nixon’s famous Checkers speech. What came as a surprise was the number of Gen X and Gen Y co-workers at lunch that recognized what I thought would be an obscure reference. I don’t remember Nixon’s nationwide broadcast from September 23, 1952. I do remember his leaving the White House in disgrace after resigning the presidency. What interested me was how many people, too young to even remember Richard Nixon, had seen the Checkers speech. Most had seen it on YouTube or seen excerpts on the news. Sociologists must be having a field day analyzing the impact of YouTube and other on-demand video sharing sites

    “A respectable, republican cloth coat” at about :20

    In a Web 2.0 world, on-line content is being produced and consumed in a way that has profound implications for individuals, families, and society. But, that’s way outside my pay grade. Closer to home, corporate communicators need to keep in mind there is an entire generation who have grown up in a totally digitally-connected world. Research by the Pew Internet & American Life project reported as far back as 2005 that “more than half of all teens who go online also create content for the Internet.” In Internet time, 2005 is practically a generation ago.

    Advances in web-capture cameras and sites like YouTube and Flickr make content sharing easy… in some cases too easy. (My sociologist side is showing.) Social networking sites (SNS) allow an individual connection to friends and active participation in constantly evolving virtual communities. Our newly inaugurated president used the power of the web to help empower individuals and local groups to actively support his candidacy, all the way to the White House.

    New channels of communication are opening at a mind numbing pace. The challenge for communicators is to develop creative ways of utilizing these new outlets. The tactics of the past will only take an organization so far. Today’s content consumers demand the opportunity to be part of the dialogue, part of the process. Finding ways to communicate an effective message, while at the same time welcoming consumers into the process, will be the key to effectively utilizing the new channels of an ever more interconnected world.

    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.