What Stands in the Way of Compelling Content?

Nasheen Liu, VP of marketing at The  IT Media Group,  discusses hindrances marketers face in creating compelling marketing content and and recommends three strategies to overcome them.  Two key problems she identifies are:

  1. Lack of control over the subject-matter.
  2. Feeling too removed from their audience.

She shares some approaches for overcoming those  challenges that allows markerters to more effectively create and repurpose compelling content.

Three Strategies

Strategy 1: Be an avid journalist to your internal  audience

In brief, there is no substitute for interaction with your field organization and customers.  Your notes from these interactions should include insights  from customers that can be summarized in a report and communicated to  your stakeholders.

Liu’s recommendation is to repurpose these valuable insights as “Industry Newsflashes,”  “Customer Insights,” and “Opportunity Analysis” for your internal audiences.  Why is this important?

Marketers often fail to realize that their most important audience is the  internal one. To market anything successfully, one must first and foremost  create as much visibility as possible internally. Every employee is your message  carrier. You will not become a rock star marketer if you don’t have the support  of your internal stakeholders.

Strategy 2: Insource your content, but control the  output

To get a good handle on your subject matter, it’s important to identify the domain experts  – at least one person in each cross-functional area who can serve as your go-to resource. This will give you a ready supply of content.

Getting subject experts to be responsive is a key challenge. You’ll need to schedule some time interviewing them in person. The conversation should be targeted to extracting content from them in 30 minutes or less.  One way to set this process in motion is to create an editiorial calendar.

If you promote your experts and give them visibility, you can gain you loyal sponsors and  support for your endeavors.

Strategy 3: Outsource your topics to industry  experts

One of the most common failures that I see marketers make in trying to promote themselves as thought leaders or impress audiences with their products and services is the mistake of “singing your own praises.”  To gain the attention and trust of the customer, it’s much better to get someone else to do the praising in an indirect way.

In the technology space, I engage industry experts, media personalities, and  well-known bloggers. The kind of perception you are trying to create is this:  “Wow, these guys are associated with her? Impressive.”

To build on this,  you can build  an onging campaign in which your expert can help you in various activities. Some ideas:

An initial article can turn into a moderated customer forum. The  findings from the forum become a whitepaper. The whitepaper can be used to  develop a video case study. And so on. Such linkages can continue to develop and  mature over the life of the catmpaign.

As Liu points out, “content is the bread and butter of what we do in the world of marketing.” Yet it often seems to get lost in the flurry of planning and execution, and becomes an afterthought. A successful marketing organization exists as part of a larger context of consistent messaging accross all touch points, internal and external. Nothing promotes an organization’s brand value more effectvely than shared messaging.


Bri Bauer  of iMedia Connection provides some interesting tips on how to get customers to open emails and act on them.

Understanding the ROI

An effectively implemented email marketing program can drive significant traffic, According to the 2012 Channel Preference Survey, conducted by the digital marketing group ExactTarget, email is the preferred permission-based marketing and service channel:

  • 76% prefer email over all other channels for customer service messages.
  • 66% of teens (ages 15-17) prefer email over all other channels for permission-based marketing.
  • 96 percent of online consumers use email at least weekly.

It’s also highly effective:

  • 66 percent have made a purchase after receiving an email marketing message
  • Email marketing drives more consumers to make a purchase than Facebook and text messaging combined.

Once people have signed up to hear from your brand, they want to be kept informed. You want to provide them with communication that gets opened and drives them to take action. Here are 5 practices that drive results.

1. Refresh Your Address List

A recent Experian survey found that more than 90 percent of companies suspected that up to 25% of their data is inaccurate. Look at the number of bounce-backs or routinely un-opened emails.

2. Create An Engaging Title

To avoid getting preempted by a spam filter, avoid spam filter-friendly language such as “free,” “act now” and “limited time”.

3. Develop User-Friendly Design

Make the communication responsive and scalable to  multiple platforms, allowing users to take action, whether they are viewing it on their mobile device or desktop computer. “Avoid the sophistication trap – email marketers see the most success with layouts that have  little noise (graphics, photos, video and scrolling)  with a clearly visible call to action.

4. Understand Their Motives for Signing Up

Knowing what motivated people to sign up for your emails in the first place will help you understand them as a community and facilitate delivering what they want:

  • Are they looking for discounts?
  • Do they want something to do?

Based these insights, you can provide them with relevant content to inspire their curiosity.

5. Provide Value

Your emails should offer relevant substance and value to your readers, including news, brand insights, and customer survey information and spare body copy.

Style Or Substance?

Pundits lauded Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance on October 3, 2012, focusing on his preparedness and aggressive challenge of President Obama’s policies and performance. But while the media analysis centered on the performance aspect, ie. form, what about the actual substance of the arguments?

As time passes, and the surprise over Romney’s aggressive performance fades, the content of his arguments may begin to come under the microscope. The question is: if Romney accomplished the goal of appearing to win the debate by repeatedly misleading viewers, did he actually “win” on the arguments? Igor Volsky of Think Progress, thinks not. His article: At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes is a good read.

Don’t Look To Me For A Judgement

Don’t look to this blog for the answers. For one thing, I’m a political independent. I voted for Perot, remember him? Maybe not, but you probably remember NAFTA. And certainly don’t look to the pundits who can’t seem to see the economic policy questions for the greatest political show on earth.  Sadly, it took the perspective of someone as far outside the mainstream as you can get, socialist Marc Luzietti to call this out:

‎”Tonight a pair of actors will recite rehearsed talking points to prearranged questions. They will be judged on the quality of their ability to remember scripted answers and act appropriately.

Sadly, some people think this is important.”

Thinking Outside the Box

It’s a common exhortation to “think outside the box.” But, in practice, most people let the pundits get away with trivializing complex issues by turning them into simplistic win/lose horse races.

I take the stance that an educated, non partisan, independent thinking and analytical public is a public that acts in its best interests.  My principle is that, to make an informed decision, you must put aside your initial impressions, preconceived opinions and just dig into the facts.

So when some of the pundits pronounced that this was “the most substantive Presidential debate ever” I had to laugh.  What I saw was memorized talking points, rhetoric substituting for facts, a moderator too passive to call it out. And, despite the provocative title of this piece questioning  who really lost the debate, the pundits and the public were the clear losers in being so quick to turn the serious matters of governance and the economy into a child’s game with a winner and a loser.

I’m about economics, not partisan polemics, and this is about as political as I get. Political opinions are a dime a dozen. But to get to objective analysis, one has to look beyond the petty politics of the win and dig tenaciously into the real economic policy questions, which is what I do in this blog. Because the answers to the economic questions of our times lie beyond partisanship, they can’t be found in polemics.


Related Article:

Presidential Debate Fact-Check and Updates New York Times

Why A Poor Customer Experience Is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Lora Kolodny  highlights on TechCrunch a new report from RightNow and Harris Interactive showing how much brands stand to lose from poor customer service, and how much they stand to make if they can deliver a superior experience. The study, titled The Customer Experience Impact 2010 report tells an interesting story about how important a value proposition customer service is to consumers, and just out of touch U.S. brands can be:

  • 82% of US consumers said they’ve stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience.
  • 73% cited rude staff as the primary reason,
  • 55% cited failure to resolve their problems in a timely manner.
  • 95%, said after a bad customer experience they would “take action.”
  • 79% said they complained about their negative customer experiences in public and amongst friends.
  • 58% who publicly aired a complaint on social media sites expected a response from the company.
  • 42% of them expected a response from a company within a day.
  • ]Yet only 22% said they’d actually gotten a response as a result of griping there.

Consumers Increasingly Demand A Personal Response

Survey data from 2007 vs. today show changing dissatisfied customer’ expectations.  When trying to resolve a problem, here are their contact preferences:

In 2007:

  • 60% of U.S. consumers said when they had a negative customer experience, they wanted to speak to a live agent about it.
  • 26% preferred email
  • 5% prefered chat (although Facebook and Twitter weren’t used by corporations to handle complaints and resolve problems.)

In 2012:

  • 83% of U.S. consumers said they wanted to speak to a live agent.
  • 66% prefer email
  • 12% prefer chat.
  • 7% choose social networking sites.

The more digital communication options that consumers have, apparently, the more they crave human interaction in real time, apparently.

What Can You Do About a Noisy Complaint?

My recent post on Progressive Insurance shows that customer dissent online is difficult to quell. Kolodny highlights some other notable cases:

Do Brands Have Customer Service Backwards?

Considering all the effort to generate positive associations through advertising, it’s more than a little ironic that one account of bad customer experience has the potential to offset all that investment. Companies facing a bad customer service  comment should work to improve the customer experience they provide, internally and develop a systematic way of focusing on customer responsiveness, while continuing to generate positive word of mouth, positive reviews and online feedback. Friends’ and colleagues’ endorsements, discussed in real life or through Twitter and Facebook updates, are more likely to drive sales than even a positive online user review.

In an era when customer service is largely viewed as a cost center, RightNow’s study strongly suggests companies now invest more time and money in customer service as a leading revenue generator, and not just an operational function. The study highlights why customer service is a bottom line revenue generator:

  • 85% of U.S. consumers say they would pay 5% to 25% more to ensure a superior customer experience.

Snap! principle of Customer Service Marketing:

Customer Service is no longer an operational necessity: it’s your biggest market differentiator.

When people are asked what the most important ingredients in a relationship are, communication is rarely on the list. Yet we rarely are taught how to communicate effectively.

While communicating with others is a matter of either expressing ourselves or responding to someone else, the methods for doing each are actually different.

Here are 2 effective communication techniques that can help

Expressing Ourselves: “I-Statement”

When you are stating an opinion, making an observation, or expressing a feeling, the most appropriate format to use is called an “I-statement.” You may have heard of I-statements before and may even, hopefully, be already using them. I-statements allow us to state things in positive terms, to express ourselves directly and honestly, and to take responsibility for what we think, feel, and need while avoiding blaming or accusing others. In contrast, “You-statements” blame the other person, put him/her on the defensive, and often cause communication to be blocked.

To simplify things, we can use a kind of “formula” for I-statements:

  • “I feel/think/want(express the feeling/thought/desire)…
  • When (state the behavior causing it)…
  • Because (identify the reason)…”

The nice thing about this formula is that we can decide how much of it we want to use. It can be just the first line, or the first two lines, or all three; for example:

  • “Don’t you think you should mow the lawn?” as an I-statement becomes “I want to have the lawn mowed” or “I want to have the lawn mowed when it gets long because it really looks shabby.”

Another example:

  • “You make me angry when you’re late.” becomes “I get angry when people are late because I feel it’s very inconsiderate.”

Here are some statements that you can practice changing into I-statements:

  • “You always put those dishes in the wrong place.”
  • “You never talk to me.”

Responding To Others: Reflection

When other people are expressing themselves, it is not appropriate to use I-statements when responding. A more effective technique is called Reflection. Reflection is saying back, in your own words, the content and/or feeling of what the other person has just said.

The effects of using Reflection include:

  • showing people that you are really listening;
  • helping the other person feel better almost immediately;
  • easing the other person’s feelings of frustration;
  • helping cool down anger;
  • showing the other person that you’re trying to understand;
  • helping to build trust and cooperation;
  • fostering honest communication;
  • helping bridge communication gaps

What Reflection does NOT do: Question, challenge, argue, approve, or disapprove. We can use another, even simpler, formula for Reflection:

  • “Sounds like you’re feeling/thinking/wanting (express the emotion, thought, desire you hear)…
  • Because (state the reason you heard for it)….”

Obviously, Reflection requires us to listen very carefully to what the other person is actually saying. Yet we also do NOT have to be right in identifying the emotion or reason we hear because the speaker will automatically clarify it for us (and sometimes for him/her in the process). For example:

  • Speaker: “This postponement has really gotten to me.”
  • You: “Sounds like you’re feeling pretty upset because of the delay.”
  • Speaker: “Yes, I don’t like it at all and I’m getting darn frustrated.” OR “No, I think I’m more nervous than anything.”

What we need to remember, however, is that when we use Reflection, the other person is going to continue talking about what she/he is experiencing, so we need to make sure we have time to listen. When we first begin using I-statements and Reflection, it can feel artificial. It doesn’t take long, however, for them to become automatic. Experiment with them and you may find that your discussions with other people become much more productive and satisfying.

Related Posts:

On Communicating

Neuroscientist’s 5 Lessons on Corporate Communication

‎”Disputation and discussion are both futile.
Why is that?
Because nothing either party could say could possibly be true,
And whereas dispute picks out the false,
Which is too easy to see,
Discussion seeks the truth which is being pointed at,
Which is too difficult to describe.”

Wei Wu Wei, Posthumous Pieces, 1968

Related Post:

Neuroscientist’s 5 Lessons in Corporate Communications

A Prominent Neuroscientist’s Take On Workplace Conversation

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College, recently published a book entitled Words can Change Your Brain co-authored with  Loyola Marymount University communications expert Mark Robert Waldman).

Compassionate Communication

The authors discovered a valuable strategy called Compassionate Communication, a 12-step strategy that allows anyone to create a special bond with whomever they are speaking that aligns both brains to work together as one. In this unique state—free from conflict and distrust—we can communicate more effectively, listen more deeply, collaborate without effort, and succeed more quickly at any task. The following comprises key points of an interview with Dr. Newberg conducted by Steven Kotler in Forbes:

Q1: What are the forms of communication?

While we usually think about language, both written and spoken, as the main way of communicating, research shows that we communicate in so many other ways including facial expressions, eye movements, body position, and body language. For example, a recent brainscan study found that one can tell, by looking at a CEO’s face, if he or she is trustworthy, has strong leadership skills, and is financially successful in governing the corporation.

Q2: What are the most important things being communicated?

While we always need to be able to communicate our thoughts and ideas to others, in business, it appears that being able to communicate your values and vision may be just as important. For example, researchers in the management department at Drexel University in Philadelphia recently conducted a 100-year profile study of 75 CEOs of major league baseball teams. Those who encouraged confidence and optimism in their teams won more games and attracted more fan attendance. And they showed more concern for others than for themselves. But CEOs who showed signs of conceit, vanity, and egotism won the fewest games and attracted the least number of fans. Here we see that kindness and positive support makes all the difference in the workplace. For example, Marcial Losada, the director of the Center for Advanced Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, showed that in the business world, the most successful teams of individuals were those who were the most positive when communicating to each other.  Such values are essential to communicate in the workplace.

Q3: What Is The Value of “Making Money”?

Interestingly, making money rarely shows up on an individual’s personal or professional values list.  So why do so many people equate money with personal satisfaction, even though the research is clear that social satisfaction is more rewarding?  Neuroscience provides a possible explanation.  It turns out that monetary and social rewards stimulate the same neural circuits in the brain.  Every time a person contemplates his or her personal and social values, it stimulates the same reward circuit in the brain.  This research strongly suggests that focusing on your inner values can be both pleasurable and rewarding, and that it should neurologically reinforce behaviors that are associated with the values individuals believe in the most.

Q4: Why Is Focusing on One’s Inner Values So Important for Effective Face-To-Face Organizational Communication?

Harvard business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, considered by many to be one of the 50 most powerful women in the world, recently posted a blog entry about the importance of directly addressing values in the boardroom: “In organizations that I call ‘supercorps’—companies that are innovative, profitable, and responsible—widespread dialogue about the interpretation and application of values enhances accountability, collaboration, and initiative”.

Dr. Kanter finds that when people share and discuss their deepest values in the business world, it strengthens the alignment of the entire group.  Employees’ personal values become integrated with the company’s policy, and this helps to guide the ethical choices of the corporation.  Discussing business values openly, Kanter argues, eliminates the need to impose impersonal and coercive rules.

The organization becomes a community united by shared purpose, which reinforces teamwork and collaboration.  People can be more readily relied upon to do the right thing, and to guide their colleagues to do the same, once they buy into and internalize core principles.  People can become more aware of the drivers and impact of their behavior.  And, as I have seen in leading companies, active consideration of core values and purpose can unlock creative potential.

Q5: Is it important to bring the value of compassion into the art of negotiation?

Creating a sense of compassion as part of the negotiating practice in business may have profound effects. Deborah Kolb, at the Simmons College Graduate School of Management, emphasizes the importance of showing deep and genuine appreciation when negotiating with others: “Appreciative moves alter the tone or atmosphere so that a more collaborative exchange is possible.” This, she adds, helps to insure that all bargainers establish a common trust, away from “unspoken power plays and into the light of true dialogue.”  And remember: the more you communicate in a warm, supportive, enthusiastic, and genuinely caring way, the more you will be perceived as a transformational leader.

Overall, the evidence shows that developing improved communication techniques, particularly those that rely on personal values and also compassion, can have a potentially dramatic effect within businesses. Such communication may be able to enhance the success, cohesion, and productivity of a business. We have begun to develop and test specific approaches to improving communication and describe these approaches in our book, Words Can Change Your Brain.