3 Good Reads

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Busy, busy, busy. That’s how most of us live our lives today. In full-on whirlwind mode. Apps like pocket, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, definitely help me to set aside some time to keep on top of reading the endless stream of articles shared through my social networks and via email every day.

To help cut through the clutter, I’d like to share three articles that I’ve found particularly interesting and helpful recently:

  1. 12 Ways to Achieve Emotional Marketing for your B2B Company: Even if you don’t work in B2B marketing, there are some great pointers and examples of the power of emotional marketing in this one.
  2. Getting the Most out of Conferences and Events: This one has some super helpful tips for how to maximize your time and effort when attending conferences. I know I’ll be keeping these in my back pocket at the next event I attend!
  3. How to Use Props to Make your Presentation More Powerful: I really like this one. It gives some unique examples of how props have been used to give presentations with greater impact. This one got me thinking about how I can incorporate props in a fun, but meaningful way into a presentation I have coming up.

What articles have you read lately that really stuck with you?

How OmniChannel Marketing is Like An Onion

Onions

“OmniChannel marketing” has been popping up in my Twitter feed lately, and I was curious to know more about this buzzword, so I’ve dug a little deeper and here’s what I’ve learned. The simplest way I’ve heard it described basically says its about taking multi-channel marketing to the next level. So, it’s no longer just about being present across multiple channels, it’s about having a strategy for being on the right channels, with the right messaging and making the interaction between those channels seamless. A great example of an omni-channel user experience would be Netflix. You can start watching a series on your TV at home in the morning, pick up right where you left off on your mobile device during your commute and curl up in bed with your tablet to finish it before bed. Now, take that same idea and imagine it applied to your marketing strategy.

Since I find it difficult to remove food from any equation, I started thinking that an omni-channel marketing strategy could be compared to a good, fat onion. Here’s what I mean.

1) OmniChannel messaging is layered: Layering your messaging is where multi-channel marketing begins. It’s about ensuring you are present across multiple platforms. For example, let’s say you have a retail store. You might connect with your customers using physical flyers and subway ads, add to that some promoted Facebook posts and regular tweet-chats directly with your customers and round that out with some ads on a popular local radio station. It’s important to be present in multiple places, to continue gently prompting someone with your message. I have a colleague who phrases it well in saying that you won’t necessarily know which message ultimately compels someone to act – sometimes it’s the third or fourth time you hear about something that it really sticks.

2) Each message is unique: Much like each individual onion is unique, your messaging needs to be customized for each platform. Though your voice should be consistent, the way you frame your message will be slightly different to adapt to each format.

3) Each layer is connected: So now your message exists in multiple layers and your communications are targeted for each one. Now it’s important to ensure those layers are connected so that the experience for your audience is as seamless as possible. A simple example could be including hashtags on your printed materials to enable someone who picks up your brochure to join the conversation online.

“We are creating increasingly complex layers of digital connection between our companies and our customers. Mastering these layers (and integrating traditional advertising) through a uniform and consistent communication strategy represents the OmniChannel challenge.” – {grow} blog via @markwschaefer (10 things you need to know NOW about OmniChannel marketing)

Like an onion, your OmniChannel strategy is the base of your approach; it’s the start of the roux that will make your interactions with your audience robust and give them depth. If you peeled back the layers of your marketing strategy, would you find a layered, customized and seamless campaign? What are some other analogies you’ve heard about omni-channel marketing?

 

 

3 Lessons I Learned as a Mentor

Girls Learning Code Swag

Last week I volunteered as a mentor with Ladies Learning Code’s Wearable Technology camp for Girls Learning Code, and it was an incredible experience.

At the beginning of the week the mentors were all assigned to specific groups of girls, who we would remain with throughout the week to support them in creative learning projects. My role as a “Marketing Guru” was to answer any questions, help them with issues, encourage them to be creative and not give up when tasks were challenging and to learn right along with them.

On day one, each group of girls was assigned a persona for an alien from another, mythical planet. The challenge was to spend the rest of the week creating wearable technologies their alien, with its unique personality traits, would find useful and enjoyable as visitors to Earth. Talk about teaching audience insights at an early age!

Each day different experts came in to present tools and technologies for the girls to use to develop innovative wearables for their aliens. As a mentor, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn right alongside them, not to mention getting inspired by their energy and enthusiasm.

Lesson 1: It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers

I learned very quickly that we would be using tools I was not familiar with and that combined with the innate curiousity of kids ages 8-13, meant that I would be faced with a lot of questions I didn’t know the answers to. The truth is, the best thing you can do as a mentor is be honest. It’s okay to let your mentee(s) know you don’t have the answer, but that you are more than willing to help them find it.

Here are some of the tools we used:

Makey Makey

Makey Makey is a very cool tool that enables kids to create controls for computer programs using alligator clips and conductors. The best way to understand the almost endless possibilities of Makey Makey is to watch the video below. In the video you’ll see that a conductor can be made out of everything from bananas to stairs, but in this case, the girls used tin foil, which they taped to their wearable creations and used to control a computer program called Scratch. The idea was that their aliens could use the controls to communicate. Makey Makey was pulled out many times during the week and some girls even used water as conductors, while others used their inventive conductors to play Minecraft!

Made with Code

Another tool the girls loved was Made with Code, which enabled them to design an LED dress for their aliens. We all learned about some of the ways wearable technology is manifesting in the fashion world in the form of dresses, clutches and rings, to name a few. This is a great example of the evolution of wearables to blend more seamlessly with fashionable clothing and accessories.

“Most wearables are notoriously unattractive and clunky, especially fitness trackers and smart watches, but companies are making a big effort to slim them down and provide accessory alternatives that could be dressed up for a fancy evening” – Mashable

Some of the LED clothing and accessories appearing on runways is truly beautiful. The Galaxy Dress by Cute Circuit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry is a stunning example.

Google Cardboard – Virtual Reality

Mid-week, the girls had the opportunity to test out virtual reality with Google Cardboard, a tool that enables you to drop your Android phone into the cardboard container fitted with lenses. Once you look through the lenses and launch an app, you are virtually transported into another word. In my case, a very real, very rickety roller coaster in the middle of what appeared to be a lush, South American jungle! The girls then used Scratch to design a Google Cardboard scene for their aliens resembling their home planets for when they’re inevitably feeling homesick on Earth.

The girls (and I) learned that virtual reality is when you are transported somewhere else completely separate from your surroundings, whereas augmented reality is when a computer-generated image is superimposed into your real-world view.

Google Glass – Augmented Reality

One of the highlights of the week for me was the chance to try out augmented reality in the form of Google Glass. Placing the extremely light-weight specs on my face and using subtle movements with my right finger to zoom in and out of my surroundings, take a photo, or search directions, I knew I was in the future. Though I can’t quite imagine walking around wearing and interacting with them day to day, it’s easy to imagine the potential for these types of technologies to improve and simplify certain experiences from retail shopping to medical procedures.

Google Glass
Me nerding out with Google Glass

Lesson 2: Effective mentors listen

To be helpful as a mentor, sometimes the best thing you can do is lend an ear. It can help when trying to find a creative solution to a problem or when trying to get to the bottom of a spat between two stubborn nine-year-olds.

Soft Circuits

A challenge was presented near the end of the week when the girls had to sew soft circuits using conductive thread to make two LEDs light up. It was an inventive project and the approach was simple enough, but some of the younger girls had difficulty managing the needle and thread and understanding how to connect the positive and negative threads to get their lights to shine. Listening to the kids’ frustrations and helping them talk through solutions helped all of us to remain cool headed and finally resulted in getting our LEDs to light up!

Lesson 3: The mentor/mentee relationship is mutually beneficial 

The best lesson I learned is that no matter the age of your mentee(s), you will learn from each other. I think more people would willingly become mentors if they understood this. The girls in camp grew up with technologies I could never imagine at their ages and they were able to show me ways of using technology I didn’t even know were possible. It also goes without saying that the unquenchable enthusiasm of kids is infectious, and though it was an exhausting week it was also an energizing one.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the week was helping the girls to hone their presentations skills in preparation for showcasing their unique creations to their parents on the last day of camp. By that time we had all gotten to know each other well, been inspired, and learned a lot about the endless possibilities of wearable technology together.

I highly recommend volunteering with Ladies Learning Code. They are doing something very special and important in creating an innovative, supportive learning space for ladies, girls and kids to become comfortable with technology and to push the limits of what they think they can do.

warm fuzzies
Warm fuzzes from the campers and fellow mentees

Pocket: An App for Reading and Sharing Content

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The first post in the “An App for That” series features the app that I rely on more than any other, Pocket. My biggest challenge is keeping up with industry news for my own personal knowledge and as research for Pigeon and Post. The only time I can realistically carve out to read articles, save and share them, is during my morning commute, and Pocket makes it all possible.

Here are the four simple steps I take to work with Pocket:

  1. Search: First I search my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds for any new articles  of interest that catch my eye – luckily the first 10-15 minutes of my commute is above ground, so I can access the internet to search.
  2. Save: Secondly, I save any relevant articles by sending them to Pocket. Twitter and Pocket work well together, which makes this part easy. If you enable Pocket in your Twitter settings it will allow you to send articles straight to the app. I do find this set-up disables on me every now and again, and has to be reconfigured. That being said, even without this feature, every time you copy a link to a piece of content and then open the Pocket app, it will automatically prompt you to save it to your “List”. At this point, you can add tags to articles as a way of organizing them into categories. This will make them easier to search for in the future. Other apps can be set up to work with Pocket too, such as Flipboard.
  3. Read: Once I have a handful of content in “My List”, I read through what I can during the portion of my commute underground in the subway. I can do this because, – that’s right – links to articles saved in Pocket can be opened even without an internet connection. Not many other apps offer this ability, which is one of the primary reasons  I rely so much on this one. The only content you can’t view offline in Pocket are any videos you may have saved.
  4. Share: When I’ve read an article I think will be of interest to my audience, I prepare to share it. I typically pull out a key takeaway from the article and in my own words, put together a social media post to go along with the link. Pocket makes sharing posts really easy too, by including Twitter, Facebook and email share buttons.

Once you’ve read an article you have a few options. You can click the checkmark to indicate that you’ve read the article and are finished with it and it will disappear from your Pocket. At this point you can also add tags to the article, add it to your favourites list or send it to a friend.

Other Features

Searchable: Like any site or app worth its weight in pixels, Pocket has a search function. With the free version of Pocket, there is a basic search function that enables you to search the “My List” feature. I recommend doing simple, single-word searches, as opposed to full phrases, which I’ve found don’t yield many results.

Premium: With Pocket Premium (at $5.79 per month or an annual fee of $51.99) you can search full phrases, by author, by tags, etc. across your entire Pocket. Pocket Premium also offers a feature with suggested tags, when you add an article to your Pocket and a permanent library feature where your articles are always accessible, even if they have been deleted from the web. I haven’t found any need to purchase the premium feature, personally.

Highlights: This section appears in the left sidebar when you swipe left to right on your screen. The app automatically categorizes your articles into buckets, including “best of” (though how this title is awarded I’m unclear), and “quick reads”, which are exactly what you would imagine. I haven’t found much use in these features, since I tend to save, read and share articles within one or two days of finding them.

These articles are still all pulled from your list, as the one thing Pocket does not do is to search online for new content.

Three Content Groups: One helpful function Pocket performs is to automatically group your content into “Articles”, “Videos”, or “Images”. This could prove useful if you’re archiving content over longer periods of time.

If you do a lot of reading offline, I recommend giving the free version of Pocket a try, and sync it up to your computer and any apps you commonly use (e.g., Twitter, Flupboard, etc.) to ensure it is optimized to perform for you at its best.

Mentoring with Ladies Learning Code

Ladies Learning Code Image 2

This week I’m very excited to be volunteering with an incredible organization, Ladies Learning Code, as a mentor for their Girls Learning Code camp on Wearable Technology at the innovative MaRS Discovery District.

Ladies Learning Code

In case you’re not familiar with it, Ladies Learning Code is an organization that believes in educating women and youth in technology through workshops, camps and after school programs. During the summer, they host Kids Learning Code and Girls Learning Code camps for kids and youth ages 6 to 17 years old on various topics relating to digital literacy.

Wearable Technology Camp

This week I will be volunteering as a “marketing guru” with the camp on wearable technology, a personal interest of mine:

“Ever wonder what it would be like to high five someone and have sounds explode from your palms? How about having a keyboard that you can wear on your thighs? Wearable technology is quickly evolving into our world today and drastically changing how we think about social spaces and everyday interaction. At this camp, the sky’s the limit. Girls will have the opportunity to be a part of this ever-changing and exciting field!” – Wearable Technology Camp

Though I don’t know exactly what this week will have in store for me, the campers and my fellow mentors, I view this as an incredible learning opportunity and a chance to contribute to an organization I admire. I look forward to sharing my adventure with you next week!

On Wednesday, look out for the first post in the An App for That series. Stay tuned!

Cyber-Barbie Sparks Questions about Data and Privacy

Barbies

For all of the advancements technology brings us, from the every-day, such as the navigational abilities in our smartphones, to the incredible, such as the invention of an ebola-fighting serum using tobacco plants (seriously cool!) – concerns about privacy and security rise to the top of every conversation about enabling technology to make our lives easier and our interactions with it more seamless.

The story of Hello Barbie, the world’s first interactive Barbie doll, is an interesting look at the desire for a more intuitive, responsive, inter-connected world versus the fear of relinquishing one’s own (or one’s child’s own) privacy. Fast Company reported that Hello Barbie was developed by Mattel in response to the fact that:

“kids’ number-one request for decades has been to be able to talk to Barbie” – Michelle Chidoni, Mattel’s director of communications, said.

Many organizations and parents were distraught by the discovery that in order to converse with children in such a personal, responsive way, Hello Barbie records children’s voices. This isn’t the first toy to do so, however, the difference is that the recordings are sent via wifi to a cloud server where they are analyzed in order for Barbie to provide an appropriate response.

Watch a demo of Hello Barbie in Action

Inventions of this type can be exciting to marketers who are always looking for more unique ways to connect directly to consumers and learn as much about what’s important to them as possible. One could even dream into the future and imagine a robotic health support bot answering basic medical questions in a similar way. From the perspectives of privacy advocates and parents concerned for the safety and security of their children, it does ring on the creepy side. And perhaps that really is the key to this example. The fact that we’re talking about children here changes the conversation.

Mattel has been careful to cover their tracks in terms of privacy by making parents who purchase the toy agree to terms of use that include the collection of data (i.e., their child’s recordings), and the toy can only be activated when this agreement is approved, thereby connecting Barbie to a mobile app on parents’ phones. Parents can even download and listen to their children’s recordings, the purpose of which is unclear to me and seems equally as creepy as the fact that it is being collected in the first place.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, as a marketer, collecting data from target audiences is a key step in terms of measurement, which enables us to respond to customers in terms of assessing their current impressions and determining what they want to see next. A product like this provides the consumer, in this case children, with the type of responsive, customized technology they have come to expect from developers. The other result this type of technology is usually used to achieve is to use collected data to help developers and marketers learn as much about their audiences as possible, however since the audience in this case is children, Fast Company quotes Co-Founder and CEO of ToyTalk (the company responsible for creating the technology that makes Hello Barbie come to life), Oren Jacob as saying:

“Under Hello Barbie’s terms of service, recordings “may be used for research and development purposes,” things like improving its technology and refining its algorithms. The data is “absolutely not allowed to be used for advertising, publicity, or marketing purposes.”

This is where the definition of “marketing” becomes a little grey. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is questioning whether Hello Barbie making mention of Barbie and her friends constitutes marketing. Technically I suppose it could be argued that Barbie talking about Barbie could be viewed as a promotional tool, but, I don’t think that is the real issue here.

Strictly speaking, the use of this technology really isn’t any different from the concept of adults agreeing to share their personal health information with a widespread health network to enable providers to provide better, more personalized care wherever they find themselves needing it, which many countries, the U.S., included, have bought into to a larger extent. Perhaps then, what consumers are not ready for is to hand over the privacy rights of their children, particularly when it is only for the purpose of entertainment and financial gain for the toy industry, as opposed to – for example – an improved healthcare experience. Also, in the healthcare example, adults are consenting to handing over their personal information, whereas the children playing with Hello Barbie are unaware that they are being recorded.

“There’s a difference between an adult knowingly giving their information to a company and a child unknowingly playing with a data-collecting toy.” – Mashable

At least for now, it seems that this is where the thousands of people who’ve signed a petition against the release of Hello Barbie in the Fall of 2015 seem to draw the line.

Knowing your Audience and Writing for Them

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While building a blog about communications, my mind has been on my potential, audience to-be. The readers who may stumble across this blog by chance, those who might hear about it and perhaps even (one-day) seek it out intentionally – they are the ones I’m writing this for in the hopes that it will prove useful, helpful or perhaps, simply amusing.

In the business of communications knowing your audience is key to writing with impact. The interesting thing about writing for an audience that doesn’t yet belong to you is that you have to imagine who they might be. There are some great examples of brands and other content creators that have cultivated and sustained robust, loyal communities, and this ability becomes increasingly important in the digital age. Social media companies, like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, for example, have to pay particular attention to their unique, tech-savvy, Generation C (C = connected) audiences. According to award-winning author Brian Solis, Generation C’s “expectations demand instant gratification, personalized service, and individual attention.” (Read More.)

One social media company speared lately for mishandling their long-standing audience is, of course, Reddit. The firing of popular site administrator, Victoria Taylor, spurred Reddit’s audience to revolt, with many of its most popular pages closing themselves down in protest. Though it could be argued that Reddit’s audience was a wild-wild west to begin with, something about what makes that eclectic audience who it is was misunderstood.

“Though Reddit was originally intended as a place where the ideals of free speech and the wisdom of the crowd would reign, often the crowd turned into a mob” (Read More.)

Some might argue that the user-driven site was in a downward spiral already, and recent events only escalated things. Regardless, it is an example of what happens when a content creator or producer fails to understand its audience.

Here are three principles I try to stay true to when developing content for a particular audience:

  • Add value – Share valuable content with your audience on a regular basis. Share information that is useful to your community, and related to your brand. ‘Share, don’t shill’. For example, if a company sells video cameras, instead of posting a direct ad for a sale on their product, they might consider engaging people on social media by posting helpful videography tips. By sharing useful content, of interest to their audience and related to their brand for free, they are establishing a positive relationship with that audience, increasing the likelihood that they will turn to that brand when they are interested in making a purchase.
  • Measure your message – Before developing any communication, whether it be promotional materials, like postcards, floor decals or buttons, or releasing a social media campaign, it’s crucial to make sure you can implement the tools to measure the effectiveness of your messaging. Measuring the effectiveness of your communications ensures that you can continue to learn and improve your efforts. Familiarize yourself with the measurement tools on the platform you’re using and check your metrics frequently during your campaign to see how well what you’re sharing is resonating with your audience.
  • Tell Stories – The content you create should always tell a meaningful story. Stories that reflect the values of your brand in action will be engaging and relatable to your audience. This kind of emotional connection will help you to not only connect with people in a memorable way, but to build a community that will come to rely on you to continue sharing valuable content.

Knowing your audience and writing with them in mind is all about staying true to your messaging and your community. As Pigeon and Post grows, I will keep the above tips in mind when creating content, responding to comments and engaging with any followers I’m fortunate enough to meet.