Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

8.5 Creative Ways to Grab People’s Attention

New research finds that we have just under 9 seconds—8.5 to be precise—to get someone’s attention. Our attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.5 seconds this year. No surprise here, but the culprit is external communication.

Video, of course, is the hot commodity these days. And short videos are ideal. This graph reminds us about the importance of snippets:

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Based on our limited ability to focus, here are 8.5 things communicators, PR pros and entrepreneurs can do to grab—and hopefully keep—someone’s attention. Whether you’re trying to reach a reporter, your target audience or a social media connection, short form content reigns supreme.

  1. Record a Twitter video. To truly connect with your followers on Twitter, put in some extra (video) effort and you’ll both be amazed. True to his style of recording quick videos on the fly, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, aka @GaryVee, takes us along on a cab ride in New York and shows how easy it is to use Twitter video. A 10 second clip can truly differentiate you from others, and if you’re pitching tech reporters, this will be impressive.
  2. Nail your headlines and email subject lines. No one will read your content unless the headline or subject line is so brief yet compelling that they simply can’t resist. Choose each word carefully with a focus on a benefit for the reader. Put yourself on the receiving end and be relevant. BuzzSumo can help.
  3. Use Periscope in the morning. Interact with your morning news anchors with Periscope. The early morning news is a fabulous time to use this technology because most people are half asleep and the news anchors are more apt to interact with the few who are engaging and interested in their programs. You’ll feel like old friends in no time.
  4. Read a journalist’s last five posts. Before you pitch a new contact or reporter, read —don’t skim—their last five posts or articles. When crafting your pitch, mention specifics from their previous work. We all appreciate when our efforts are recognized by others. Let reporters know you’re paying attention.
  5. Keep an eye on trending topics and hashtags. These hints can help dictate your content. Run with it while your competition is distracted with other external noise and nonsense.
  6. Incorporate easy tools that help with micro content. Less is more in our attention-starved world. Use memes, Inline Tweet Sharer, Canva and Facebook videos to keep things brief and interesting.
  7. Consider Snapchat. According to Social Media Examiner, Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social networks, with more than 100 million daily active users. Some 70 percent of Snapchat’s U.S. users are between the ages of 18 and 34. With Snapchat, you can create a video narrative with filters, emojis, music and text that will pique the attention of your audience. You can promote a contest or offer a glimpse behind the scenes of an event or conference.
  8. Look at new ways to encourage engagement with millennials. Are you familiar with Comment Bubble? It’s a free tool that allows people to react to videos. You can specify the type of feedback you would like to receive—text, audio, video, or by clicking instant feedback buttons. Here’s an example from SocialMediaSlant.com:

 

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8.5. Repurpose longer content into micro content on Pinterest. If you have a tip sheet-style press release or valuable piece of advice, create a visually appealing image with one or two quick tips. Post it to Pinterest, with a link to the longer content. Many businesses generate a significant amount of revenue from Pinterest. Don’t miss this easy opportunity.

The bottom line: Be brief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Need Chief Digital Officers

2 reframe picturesWhat do Gannett, New York City and Columbia University have in common?

Each were early adopters when they created the role of Chief Digital Officer. The CDOs bring together strategic business practices, technology, skilled leadership and internal and external communications. Most Chief Digital Officers can be found inside of media companies, sitting just a seat or two away from the CEO.

A recent post on emarketer.com says CDOs are most common in these five sectors:

  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Publishing
  • Nonprofit
  • Retail

In 2010, there were lively conversations that CDOs were those who didn’t get the coveted title of President. Others maintained organizations that supported the CDO position were advocating for silos, the curse in marketing and communications.

Today, demand for CDOs is outpacing supply.

A report from The CDO Club released last month finds the estimated number of CDOs worldwide would double between 2014 and 2015, to 2,000. That’s an 800 percent growth from 2012, when there were some 200 CDOs.

The CDO Club, a community of executive digital leaders comprised of 1,000 members, has just named Starbucks CDO Adam Brotman as its 2015 U.S. Chief Digital Officer of the Year.

A complex blend of talent and leadership

Chief Digital Officers are not self-described social media gurus or community managers. CDOs have competencies in the convergence of technology, business, boards and organizational development.

“Business strategies now must be seamlessly interwoven with ever-expanding digital strategies that address not only the web but also mobile, social, local and whatever innovation there may be around the corner,” write Rhys Grossman and Jana Rich of Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search firm. In their article titled, The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer, Grossman and Rich state: “To help meet these challenges, companies are increasingly looking for a Chief Digital Officer who can oversee the full range of digital strategies and drive change across the organization.”

To lead a business through a technological transformation is no easy task. CDOs are innovators despite internal skeptics who whisper and rant about the pitfalls of social media.

According to emarketer.com, a 2015 study from Accenture asked executives worldwide about their progress in leveraging digital governance and decision-making. The results: Eighty percent of those surveyed say they had a CDO or comparable role to oversee the use of digital technologies.

CDOs must have the following five competencies: 

  1. They must be comfortable as a possible successor to the CEO. CDOs have to lead a global culture and drive an online presence. He or she must have experience in business operations, management and recruiting and retaining top talent. A CDO is a visionary, especially in our technology-based world.
  2. They must act as agents of changeand grasp the underlying psychology of consensus-building and conflict resolution.
  3. They must have Board experience and solid communication skills. This is imperative, as the CDO is the conduit between stakeholders and senior executive leadership.
  4. They must know how to set—and implement—sound business strategies. An assembled team of seasoned project managers to implement strategies must be a priority.
  5. They must possess deep knowledge of technology, e-commerce, consumer behavior, and social media. This is especially important for media organizations, as the industry’s entire business model continues to transform.

Where is this person?

You may be wondering: Does such a person exist? Where do organizations find one individual who encompasses this blend of intellect and talent?

And if you work in PR, marketing or communications, you may be curious if you have what it takes to be a Chief Digital Officer.

Grossman and Rich maintain that people considering CDO positions “may be reluctant to join established organizations, viewing them as old fashioned.” The co-authors note that many CDO candidates come from cutting-edge, entrepreneurial organizations.

Here’s another noteworthy point from Grossman and Rich. “Companies… have to move very quickly when they find and meet talent that has potential. The current state of supply and demand almost guarantees that other opportunities will be available to talented candidates.”

The bottom line about the evolving role of CDOs brings us to the real bottom line in business. Chief Digital Officers are leading new revenue streams through digital channels that can leave many people and employees feeling uneasy.

If the CDO is unable to succeed in brand management, e-commerce, transactions and customer engagement efforts, his or her organization can soon face financial disaster.

 

 

5 Things Communicators Must Know About Social Media Marketing

Austin hiway rampsI think it’s safe to say we’re well past debating the relevance of fresh content, online etiquette, and building an engaged community. Would you agree?

Let’s take things to the next level. Here are critical areas communicators must grasp, and be able to apply in everyday business:

1. Understand social sales. Short sales are the name of the game in social media. Inbound marketing, calls to action, memberships and affiliate marketing should be part of your mix. Think: Multiple revenue streams.

The Science of Social Selling: 5 Studies that Prove the Power of Social

How to Find the Value of a Lead

12 Proven Ways Your Copy Can Get More Conversions

2. Start spreading the news. Frank Sinatra sang New York, New York decades before anyone muttered the word “Internet.” Today, we must all cross promote and use numerous platforms to spread content and news about our brands, products and services.

Infographic: 25 Tweaks to Capture Attention in Social Networks

14 Podcasts to Make You a Better Social Marketer in 2015

How to Choose the Right Social Media Networks for Your B2B Marketing

3. Think in images. Research has proven that the human brain thinks in pictures, not words. We are visual junkies craving something to look at. Straight text is dull and leaves readers wanting more. Give them more.

Infographic: 8 Ways to Use Instagram for Business

Visuals, Schmisuals: Here’s What Your Business Really Needs to Pop

Grab Consumer Attention with the Power of Images

Flipboard: The Next Big Thing in Public Relations

4. Include podcasting. Podcasts are easy to produce and are powerful because they can be used virtually anywhere. Unlike video, slide decks, or blogs, people can listen to podcasts while driving, exercising, doing chores and flying in an airplane. As a former radio news anchor and news director, podcasting resonates with me. Basic audio, an engaging conversation with a credible guest and a relevant topic are all you need. Use your voice!

How to Successfully Launch Your Own Podcast

How to Make a Good Podcast/Radio Show

Infographic: 21 Tips to Maximize Your Podcasting Results  

5. Concentrate on inbound marketing. Chasing money and potential clients is a waste of everyone’s time, energy and resources. Inbound marketing is not disruptive. It allows you to gather quality leads and interact with people who choose to engage with you based on your reputation and content. This means list building, opt-in boxes and segmentation. If your database includes people who never voluntarily signed up for your information, that’s called spam. Seth Godin says that if the receiver thinks it is spam, then it is spam.

3 Steps to Stellar List Building

6 Key Aspects to Inbound Marketing

Rethinking Today’s Inbound Marketing Mix 

Consider bookmarking and sharing this post, as these shortcuts to fresh ideas and resources can help you easily navigate our new world of marketing, sales, and communication.

PS: For hundreds of tips and ideas on social media and business communication, order my  e-book here.

How to Carve Out Your Niche in the Proverbial Rabbit Hole

CheshireCat2The tale of Alice in Wonderland was penned by Lewis Carroll some 150 years ago.

Bored little Alice follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, and comes face-to-face with adventure. They encounter locked doors, gardens, secret keyholes, and of course, the Cheshire Cat.

For the past 150 years, the expression, “we went down a rabbit hole” translates to being distracted or wandering aimlessly down an unplanned path.

It’s especially true with the vast amount of information that’s available to us on the Internet. It doesn’t take much to get lost in the rabbit hole known as Google. The maze of links and related topics are fascinating, yet they can make all of us feel like we have attention deficit disorder.

The roadmap to the niche

Is the proverbial rabbit hole such a bad place? Often, we find ourselves pondering, “How did I even get here?” It usually takes some backtracking to recall the purpose of the original search. When we think about the amount of time that’s been pilfered away, frustration sets in.

Social media has served as a keen reminder to business professionals to stay focused on the needs of their target audiences. Author and marketing expert Seth Godin says, “Don’t scream to the masses; whisper to a few.”

In business, whispering to the few is the rabbit hole. It’s not a time warp or a place of distraction. It’s quite the opposite.

The rabbit hole is the niche.

The rabbit hole can be a place of abundance because it forces us to identify our target audience’s needs and challenges. But more importantly, working in the rabbit hole demands that you craft and create solutions for those in the smallest tip of the funnel who need—and can afford—to pay you.

Opportunities lie within this crevice.

Going my way?  

The rabbit hole is the vertical within a vertical that’s within a vertical.

It’s the deep niche that differentiates you from competitors. Opportunity presents itself because you know where you fit in within the niche. You’ve researched, studied, learned, and made mistakes. You’re entrenched in this narrow pinpoint that offers opportunities most will never experience or understand.

The rabbit hole represents a fine balance of comfort and curiosity. You don’t feel trapped or bored with “cabin fever” for one reason: You have a true sense of deep and wondrous curiosity within what appears to be a tiny place. It keeps you intrigued rather than yearning to escape.

The rabbit hole where successful people dwell is the niche, the sweet spot, the vertical, the real differentiator. We must view the rabbit hole as the golden place to reach, a space that has doors of opportunity awaiting us. It’s a vast niche.

Don’t think of the doomed rabbit hole as the wasteland that pulls us off task. Instead consider the rabbit hole the specialized knowledge and expertise that you have that’s missing in the marketplace.

Go there.

 

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Are You Applying Agility in Sales?

3 Texans Bandera editedOrganizations—not people—have typically been recognized as agile, based on technology and business processes.

However, as communicators and professionals who market and sell, we must focus on human beings and the roles that people play within agile organizations.

At a recent training program I led for an inside sales team in the financial industry, we covered agility. How could the team improve collaboration and competency when working with their business-to-business clients and prospects?

On the Dime

When executives and analysts talk about agility in business, the word pivot is almost always in the conversation.

Being able to pivot means that you can strike the balance between what your plan is/was, AND still assess new opportunities with a high level of flexibility.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Obey the spur of the moment.”

To apply agility to your communication and sales, it’s imperative that you have a 360-degree view of your relationships, partnerships, prospects, clients, products, services, and self.

This is not a one-time analysis or critique that’s done periodically.

Your 360-degree view is ongoing because change is constant. To keep up with the twists, turns, and trends in your industry, you must always be reading, studying, learning…and applying your newly acquired knowledge.

Intensity Counts

Agile professionals are thoughtful, deliberate, and decisive. Their time zone is real-time.

This is what differentiates agile thinkers from the as-soon-as-possible thinkers.

If you want to be the go-to person—the agile professional—you have to:

Immerse yourself in your industry. Your daily formula for success: Study. Simplify. Apply.

Help clients reduce inefficiencies.

Think from the customer’s perspective.

Pay attention in a way that is smart, creative, curious, and proactive.

Contact clients and prospects to share new information, updates, and relevant news. Translation: Don’t check in, follow up, or touch base. Bring value.

Uncover problems BEFORE they occur. Don’t wait for customers to contact you when they have a problem or challenge. That’s too commonplace, and mediocre. Agile communicators and marketing and sales professionals contact their clients FIRST, explaining that a problem is looming and offering a recommendation or insight.

Agile professionals solve problems before they arise, making consistent and invaluable contributions to their client’s success.

 

The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

scales of justice edited

Here’s an unscientific poll about content that I want to share with you.

More than 80% of people who write press releases, blog posts, bylined articles, and white papers admit they struggle with how to edit content.

I’m happy to offer a few suggestions on how to approach the editing process:

1. Write the main purpose on the back of a business card. In one or two sentences, summarize the reason you are writing. This brings clarity, which (usually) leads to brevity. If your purpose is too long for the business card, rip it up and start again. It must be clear in your mind before you begin to write.

2. Dissect your words and sentences. Slowly read each sentence, one at a time. Then read the next one. If you removed one of the sentences, would your story change? Each sentence must build off of the previous one, adding value to your story. This practice can significantly shorten your content and change the flow of your message. Translation: Cut the crap.

3. Consider your reader. Your word count will drop when you remove self-serving information that will be irrelevant–or annoying–to your audience. And don’t bother with jargon or rhetoric. Write to offer solutions to your reader’s challenges. Solve, don’t sell.

Finally, the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ should be used sparingly, if at all.

4 Key Aspects of Today’s Content Strategy

itsy bitsy spiderWhat’s the future of content marketing? It depends who you ask, I suppose.

When I joined one my favorite online places to learn –Sunday night’s #blogchat on Twitter–I knew there would be plenty of takeaways on content strategy and marketing.

The guest expert was author and entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute.

Pulizzi shared tips on the importance of building an audience for your blog, and converting loyal followers. He also covered the future of content marketing.

On the purpose of your blog:

Once we know the why, we need to clearly focus on who the audience is for our blog.

There are three reasons to create a blog: to generate sales, to save costs, or to create more loyal customers.

Your blog needs to create an audience. We can’t do much good if we don’t have an audience.

The blog can be the center of our entire content marketing strategy. Think of it as home base.

On building loyalty with readers:

The blog is the place where we should be creating passionate subscribers…subscribers are key.

The most valuable part of your blog is the audience you have opt-in permission from to communicate with.

Remember, 80% of your web traffic will never come back again. We need to work very hard to get them to subscribe.

Think like a media company. The value of a media company is in their list (the audience). Convert traffic to subscribers.

On the six important aspects of your blog:

Your content must fill a need in the marketplace that is not being met.

You must be consistent. Blog at the same time and frequency every week (just like a newspaper would).

You need to tell stories like a human being would. Get rid of corporate speak.

You need to have a point of view. What is your take? Why are you the expert? Show it with your content.

Remove the sale. Never sell anything directly in the content of your blog.

Your goal should be best of breed. Strive to be the leading content creator for your content niche.

On the future of content marketing:

Podcasts are going to really break out very shortly. They will be more easily available and there is a lack of content now.

Sure, everyone is talking video. But I see opportunity in audio, print, and in-person events.

Google+ Hangouts are another way to market. I like that you can create a podcast out of a hangout.

Longer form content is making a comeback. We are seeing 1000+ word posts perform WAY better than shorter posts.

The founder and host of #Blogchat, @MackCollier, has a stellar lineup of guest experts for the coming weeks.

It’s a smart and most enjoyable group!

3 Reasons to Use Metaphors in Business Communication

crushed AW can editedThe rapid pace of technology and the world makes it more challenging than ever to connect with people, especially those with whom we want to build consensus and influence.

While words are powerful, the human brain is wired to think in pictures and images.

For example, if someone said the word ‘car’ to you, your mind will instantly pull up an image of a car, not the letters C-A-R. You may picture your dream car, your first car, or the car you currently drive.

Consider these three reasons for using metaphors in business:

1. Metaphors help us capture attention. The year 2014 has been dubbed ‘The Year of the Visual’ on social media. Infographics, slide decks, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo, and Vine snippets garner more attention than basic text. Therefore, it makes sense that we weave metaphors—which pull up mental pictures—into our business conversations and presentations. Metaphors help our messages resonate with others.

2. Metaphors create emotional connections to other humans. Metaphors—also referred to as comparisons, analogies, or relationships—speak from and to the right side of the brain. This portion of the brain handles emotion and imagination. When discussing a logical matter (left brain), such as systems and processes, consider this suggestion by corporate trainer and author Anne Miller.

Metaphors in Biz communication Pullout box Anne Miller 6-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Metaphors help simplify complex thoughts and ideas. Have you ever watched or listened to a newscast where the announcer says, “The water main break pushed 15,000 gallons of water into the streets of our city. 15,000 gallons. That’s enough to fill Yankee Stadium three times.” We may not grasp what 15,000 gallons of water looks like, but most people have an image of a professional baseball stadium to help them better understand the size and scope of 15,000 gallons of water, three times over.

As Miller says, this subtle power of language helps us to persuade, explain, sell, and inspire others to get the results we want.

4 Communication Lessons We Can All Learn from ‘Shark Tank’

shark tank edited

The popular TV reality competition show, “Shark Tank”, is packed with tips on how business professionals can improve their communication skills. There are also plenty of lessons to learn about pitching stories and self-confidence.

As you probably know, the premise of the program is that aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs give a 10 minute presentation to five self-made millionaires and billionaires. Among the Sharks: Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran and the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban.

Each guest requests funding for their idea and offers a percentage of the business. One or more of the Sharks can suggest a modified plan for funding and the piece of the pie when—and if—the business takes off.  

Make no mistake, the program is called “Shark Tank” for a reason. The investment tycoons considering the deals are top notch professionals who have succeeded and struggled in numerous ventures.

I imagine it’s quite intimidating to stand before this esteemed group to pitch your idea.

Consider these four communication lessons we can all appreciate from “Shark Tank.” It seems all of the budding entrepreneurs have similar traits:

  1. They absolutely believe in themselves and their products. From the elderly couple who designed a pair of underwear to capture the smell emitted from flatulence to the young political wonks in Washington, DC who, in their spare time, created a recipe for Barbecue Sauce and Rub, every person who has appeared on “Shark Tank” has had a true sense of themselves. Their willingness to be vulnerable to the barrage of questions and raw feedback on national TV is admirable.
  2. They embrace negotiation. Often times, the projections and numbers are off, and the Sharks are fast to point out the ‘real numbers.’ Fledgling entrepreneurs often have to think on their feet to throw out new and more accurate figures without compromising their business plans and credibility.  
  3. They control their emotions. A certain blend of heart, enthusiasm, and humility is a significant part of a successful pitch. Yes, most guests leave the show disappointed that none of the Sharks invested in their idea. But it’s valuable for people watching the show to see guests draw the emotional line and keep their composure, something that requires a great deal of inner strength.
  4. They know how to appeal to the senses.  The inventors and creators that are on “Shark Tank” know how to engage the Sharks with visuals, tastes, smells, and sounds. The gym trainer who created special bras for women athletes brought along several women who were wearing different styles of the undergarment. When pitching food or drinks, guests arrive with impressive packages containing samples for each of the Sharks.

If PR, marketing, and other communication professionals focused on these four skills and attributes—belief in themselves and products, negotiation, control of emotions, and sensory experiences—I’m guessing we would have a more satisfied and successful workforce.

 

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Do You Know How to Create and Use Punchy Sound Bites?

blackboard_sound_biteBe quotable. Make your point. It’s kind of like a tag line. Sum it up in eight words or less.

Sound bites have typically been associated with political speeches and the subsequent ‘confusion’ (allegedly) created by reporters who have irresponsibly taken things out of context.

A sound bite or quote is the short tight combination of words that hits your message home.

It’s the needle in the haystack.

How do you determine the nugget, the key point that you can pull out of the entire speech or article that is powerful, succinct, and telling?

I’m fluent in sound bites because of my experience in broadcast news and covering press conferences and political events. It requires a new way of listening.

Today, we depend on sound bites because of the dwindling attention span of our society. Too often, 140 characters are too many.

Below are five ways to recognize valuable snippets and sound bites so your communication pops:  

Testimonials: Gather a few thank you cards or recommendation letters you’ve received from happy clients. Highlight one or two key phrases that resemble a movie advertisement. For example, when a new movie released, you’ll see these kinds of splashy nuggets: “Best Thriller of the Year!” or “An Amazing Voyage of Life!”  Identify the words or phrases in your client’s note that reflect your brand and results.   

Blog Posts: Have you participated in a webinar or read an intriguing article? Find the expert’s snippet or quote that can strike a chord with your audience. Open your post with this powerful quote and build out your topic.  

Slide Decks: Have you been repurposing old but still relevant content to include visuals? Pull a couple of gems and quotes from well-respected thought leaders and include them in your slides. The words should be bold and punchy.

Research: Many communicators are moving away from lengthy white papers and case studies. Learn how to capture key results from research so it’s easy for your audience (or boss) to process. Simplifying material isn’t about ‘dumbing down.’ You can quickly add a hyperlink to the full content for those wishing to access more details. Remember that infographics are appealing and easy to grasp because they are sprinkled with sound bites.  

New Developments: Many speeches delivered by thought leaders and politicians contain more than just the key points that support the title. Trained journalists will tell you there are often tidy little references or hints of something to come. Pay close attention, not only to the main points of a speech or article, but for a hint that may be dropped about a new trend or industry development. By pinpointing this buried treasure, you’ll have a new nugget or sound bite to fuel fresh content.  

Clearly, there is value in communicating in sound bites. 

 

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