As a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project, I’ve been watching carefully since January when (now former) senior executives, unbelievably, refused to answer accusations of wild spending and mismanagement. After firing CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano last Thursday, I expected a statement from the Board, and was eager to hear from Board Chairman and acting CEO Anthony Odierno today on CBS This Morning.
I’m sure there were many other WWP supporters who joined me this morning in rooting for Odierno to take the right, decisive steps to restore our trust. Unfortunately, he didn’t covey that message, at least not yet.
Odierno’s response was not only vague and tepid, but--incredibly—he seemed to deny the accuracy of recent media reports, and also seemed to take issue with the findings of Charity Navigator, our most trusted source of information on how charities spend the money they take in. This response will not get the Wounded Warrior Project back on track with supporters.
We need to hold WWP accountable in the same way we do any other brand that wants our trust—and our money. The Board needs to ensure that everything they say and do going forward incorporates three key elements: Transparency, authenticity, and collaboration. This is the holy trinity of trust for brands who want to build and sustain strong, active communities. Brands that need to restore trust need to work even harder in these areas.
To restore our faith in the Wounded Warrior Project and also our belief that the millions and millions in donations they are sitting on will be spent on programs that actually benefit veterans, here are five things the Board should do right now:
Openly acknowledge mistakes and vow to be specific whenever answering charges. The Board must pivot from this morning’s vague statement that an investigation found less bad behavior than recent reports from respected sources suggest. We’ve all seen the pictures from the lavish “all hands” parties. Indeed, they weren’t even really refuted. To restore trust, the first step is to acknowledge that specific mistakes were made. Suggesting that things aren’t as bad as reported without offering any specific evidence to the contrary will do little to restore trust—and indeed will probably delay the start of the recovery of their ailing reputation. It seems incredible that the WWP Board suggests that in 2014, 94% of the $24.3 million spent on events and conference was "associated with program services delivered to wounded warriors and their families" when this is so dramatically out of line with the findings of Charity Navigator. If this is true, far more documentation that is available for scrutiny must be provided.
Appoint a verifiable, independent commission to audit and review operations. The weakness of Odierno’s response this morning was in part rooted in his vague reference to a review of WWP spending without providing any details on who did the review, what they investigated, or what they found. An organization under siege does not need to create the appearance of chickens guarding the hen house. To win back trust, they’re going to have to provide details, starting with who is leading the investigation, what they are looking into, and when they will report back to us. Since WWP has gone so far off track, we need independent experts, not connected to the organization, with a strong track record of independent auditing and forensic accounting, and helping charitable organizations establish accountability. And we need a report at the end with specific findings and recommendations.
Design, announce, and implement a Best-Practices Policy for spending and financial management going forward. Again through consultation with independent experts who have sterling records handling charitable donations, commit to the creation of a fundraising vs. project spending formula that sets the standard for integrity and efficiency in the financial and programming effectiveness of charities. We don’t want assurances that you are back on track. We want the assurances of experts who have helped WWP aim for more efficient allocation of the funds they take in—which should include evaluating programs after they have been funded to determine whether their results line up with well-documented needs of veterans.
Include Employees in the Organizational Review and Policy-Making Framework. Employees are almost always an asset when an organization needs to take a long, sober look at how effective it is at achieving its mission and how new policies and procedures can help get it back on the right track. Employees see how money is spent and how programs perform on the ground. The Board should convene a group of employees to help establish new, more efficient and collaborative operations at every level of the organization. Making employees a part of decision-making will send a message of accountability and authenticity as the organization re-dedicates itself to veterans.
Commit to Openness and Collaboration with Donors on a Regular Basis. In our information economy, every brand these days needs a strategy to collaborate openly and often with their community. The irony however in this age of social networking is that one of the most effective ways to build and retain trust and engagement is to hold an old-fashioned Annual Meeting. Perhaps it would be virtual, or regional—but a vehicle that could show donors, employees, watchdogs, and veterans the reality of reforms and the results of ongoing programs—in a setting where leadership could be grilled about goals and performance—would be a huge asset here. Questions from the audience would be the most authentic way for the new leadership to re-establish trust-and would of course be an ongoing source of compelling content.
With a strong commitment to transparently rooting out problems, setting new goals and openly sharing progress, the Board may be able to restore trust. But to be successful, they need to build a community based on more authentic and open collaboration with employees and donors. I’m hopeful they can restore our trust because, as our largest charity for veterans, they have done enormous good—and can do even better in the future if they take this course correction seriously
Deloitte’s report this week on Millennials reconfirmed an important priority of our largest generation: Mentors. Millennials want mentors and understand that good mentoring can be crucial to their career development and long-term success. This reinforces results from a recent survey of young managers published in the Harvard Business Review that found that mentorship was one of the highest-ranking items "important" to them.
Millennials’ desire to be mentored impacts every functional group in your business, but seems an especially important trend to keep in mind for those of us trying to meet the challenge of creating ever more high quality, sophisticated content to reach and engage audiences that already have too much choice and too many distractions.
One solution we have been developing is Content Team Mentoring, a strategy that can increase both your content creation bandwidth and quality, while forging new connections inside your organization. The goal is simple: You need to try to ensure that expertise and experience are shared among members of your content team to develop talent and skills in all the functional specialties that touch content and communications across your organization. This is particularly important because your content team is often an amalgamation of internal staff groups who have never before worked together closely—from media relations to digital marketing to customer service and human resources. A content mentoring team pulls them together, enables them to collaborate to solve problems and integrate solutions while they share knowledge and skills needed to excel in their jobs, even as the communications landscape morphs at lightening speed before us.
Mentoring members of your content team has important, practical benefits.
Content creation is consuming more and more of our resources even as we face dire predictions of "saturation." Content Team Mentoring programs may be an important tool to nurture and keep the talent you will need to produce the high quality content that captures your audience's imagination in the era of the (well-documented) eight-second attention span.
Here’s the question: Where do we begin as we plan our content strategy in 2016? It just doesn’t seem fair that we’ve spent the past few years evangelizing for a crafty content strategy to supercharge our traditional marketing and communications programs…and now that everyone is finally on board, dire predictions of “content saturation” darken the horizon.
But fear not. Even though others may clutter the digital landscape with bits of inauthentic junk, you can still distinguish yourself as a source of highly relevant content your customers will welcome as they meander across platforms during the course of their complicated, converged, multi-channel days. Your goal should be to follow them wherever they go –on the Web, on email, on social media—and provide highly authentic content they’ll find delightful, useful, and memorable—and always relevant enough to rise about the noise. Here’s how:
A GOOD EDITORIAL CALENDAR: Start by taking an aerial view of the year ahead. What newsmaker events are on the horizon for you—product rollouts and updates, sales events, company announcements, anticipated reorganizations, major industry conferences, market announcements, editorial calendars in the trade press, and customer programs. Then add in the events that will matter to your clients—supply chain events, major industry conferences and trends, customer programs. And finally add seasonal calendar items that are likely to make news—weather, holidays, consumer behavior, etc. You need to make sure that your announcements aren’t drowned out by other news that can be reasonably expected—everything from Super Bowl Sunday to Black Friday. You need to get a composite picture of the events that are going to shape your business—and your customers’ business—throughout the year.
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: A QUESTION THAT NEEDS ANSWERED.Armed with the editorial calendar, you can estimate what’s likely to be relevant to your customers and when it’s going to matter the most during the course of the year. Decide which question intrigues your customers the most, which client conversations you want to join, and which ones you want to instigate. Then settle on your content; the best way to get attention is to create something original. Think about the questions associated with the biggest trends, technologies, and market forces your customers care about most. Then figure out a way to study those questions with a piece of original research or content that will add to the body of industry knowledge.
A FEAST OF CONTENT. Design a survey, commission an article, convene an expert panel—think of an exercise that will yield original, valuable intelligence that will matter to your audience. Whatever you decide, plan in advance to capture as much information as possible—perhaps not just aggregate survey data, but also individual customer testimonials, case studies, reviews, digital assets, survey methodology, and industry history. Once you have the results, you have a feast of information you carve up in a dozen different ways for months to come. Here’s how:
DIGITAL STRATEGY. You should invest in building a library of material around your central research question to live in a special area on your site, or perhaps a microsite. For one thing, we've heard long-form, high quality content will be rewarded by Google. And creating a sophisticated digital home for your original research will offer dozens of opportunities to integrate with your email marketing programs for both acquisition and retention. Make sure you include graphics, infographics, photos, videos, customer feedback and case studies wherever possible. You will be rewarded with both SEO and leads.
WHITE PAPERS AND WEBINARS DRIVE REGISTRATIONS. The centerpiece of your thought leadership program can be presented as a white paper for exclusive distribution to key customers and influencers, with a second wave of distribution linked to your digital marketing so you can capture leads with every download. Remember, think about how your new piece of intel fits into the industry’s news cycle during the year. With the 40k-foot view from your editorial calendar, you should be able to pitch your White Paper as a keynote or even a premium at a leading industry conference. If you can build a high-visibility industry panel around your findings, you’ll create even more original content that can then begin paying dividends when it lives on your site and becomes a new element of your digital marketing program.
A PROACTIVE MEDIA RELATIONS STRATEGY: When you don’t fully integrate media relations into your content strategy, you’re missing an important element. Ensure that you identify your customers’ most influential media outlets—particularly influential trade reporters—and create a release strategy that will build buzz around your thought leadership. Frequently, with sufficient planning (which is why the full-year view at the very start), you can pitch your story to an influential reporter, set the release for a prime-time industry conference, and then use the resulting media coverage as another wave of valuable content for your site and digital and social channels.
DEPLOY ON SOCIAL: By now you have a truly breathtaking inventory of great content that can be carved into highly engaging and shareable little bites on all the social channels your key audiences visit regularly. Remember that if you can tell the story with video, your aggregate leads, and your lead quality, will go through the roof. Indeed, video content is predicted to overtake written content in ROI for many industries this year. Remember too that the press you create gives you credibility—and even more digital marketing opportunities--as you share your clips. For B2B brands, LinkedIn and Twitter can be particularly effective for brand-building—and new live event features on Twitter and Facebook offer more opportunities than ever to promote your leadership. And this will be an important year for your social networking: Social content will be more readily indexed thanks to deals between Google and Facebook and Twitter—and more platforms will follow---further blurring the separation between the Web and social content from an SEO perspective.
YOU’RE NOT DONE: CONTEXTUALIZE. Remember, you started all this to become a leading voice in the industry, or least to join high level industry conversations where you could add value and interact with key business targets and opinion makers. Armed with your original content, make sure you bring it up at every opportunity. Every time your customers are hit with a piece of relevant news—market shifts, consumption or investment trends, technology shifts, whatever—be sure to blog about how this latest piece of the puzzle can be interpreted through the lens of your branded findings. This will keep you in the game even when you aren’t releasing new findings.
BUILD A FRANCHISE. You should set goals for conversion (however you choose to define it) at the start of your content strategy so you can measure relative effectiveness of whatever you do. If a certain piece of research or original content performs well, consider building a franchise around it—an annual survey, maybe combined with annual commentary from industry influentials, with the infrastructure to repeat the whole process outlined here.
Relevance is the key to opting out of the digital gridlock we call “content saturation” on the horizon. A strategic thought leadership program may be the ticket to relevance you need.
HOLIDAY MARKETING: Please Stop Asking for Your Campaign to “Go Viral” (When You Can Do Something Instead that Really Matters And Will Work Better Anyway)
Everyone in the marketing world has at one time or another harbored the secret (though breathtakingly improbable) hope that his campaign will somehow magically “go viral.” Clients very often specifically request we come up with a campaign that will “go viral” and I suppose I once tried to tactfully talk my way around a direct confrontation of the near impossibility of that request. No more.
Today I have nothing but tough love for the “go viral” demand. I tell my clients that cat videos, not marketing campaigns, most often go viral. Anyone with YouTube can verify my claim before I complete my sentence. But before their spirits can fall too far, I jump immediately to the good news:
· You can cut your marketing costs and still run a campaign that will bring many more of the new, highly engaged people you want into your brand community than a viral cat video would;
· Your cheaper, yet more engaging campaign may actually drive more business than an ad campaign;
· You will generate wildly shareable content in both stories and pictures;
· The new arrivals to your community will be more loyal than random viral clickers and as a result the campaign will prove far more sustainable over the long haul;
· The holiday season is the perfect time to test this approach—so get busy;
· And just in case you thought I was cynical, I can tell you that quite a few clients focus on this final point: You’ll also be making the world a better place (and not just for cats who are spared the filmmaking experience).
What I propose is this: Divert some of the funds you would have spent on ads (those things people want to exit, avoid, click off, and block) and use that money to fund a charity partnership. Stay with me.
First, find a charity whose audience aligns well with your own. You may want to consider charities with a great social footprint and active communications channels, but honestly, the sheer power of the stories and contribution many charities make to society alone can form the basis for a wonderful partnership.
Approach the charity with an offer of support. For example, I once approached a wonderful animal shelter and told them that my campaign would make a donation for every click (fill in the blank: Every time someone downloaded a coupon, registered on the site, redeemed an in-store promotion, whatever.) They partnered with us enthusiastically and our alliance had immediate and stunning benefits for us both:
· The charity immediately activated its loyal community. They were starved for funds and they put the word out; their social channels, blogs, Web site, and press statements lit up with our campaign message. Local influencers got into the act too, causing big spikes in our social engagement and far more traffic than our ads were generating.
· And the message was authentic! Instead of just another boring online promotion, holiday coupon, or expensive ad, our messengers were speaking from heart to a community of supporters whose loyalty ran deep. Their voice was far more convincing than ads.
· And there are no words to describe the content bonanza. Which would rather click on—a stock photo of an elf or a fluffy puppy in an elf hat who now (I guess some would call this the main point will others would say it’s just a happy byproduct) will survive thanks to your click? Charities are one place in an often inauthentic world where real stories are told. The photos alone were like the biggest holiday feast we’d ever had, and we shared the pictures like wonderful leftovers for months to come. And the stories! Again, they were heartbreaking and unforgettable…and true! Unless you make the Budweiser commercials (which can send me into sobs immediately), it’s very likely that whatever marketing materials you create can’t hold a candle to the stories in words and pictures you’ll get with a charity partnership.
· And now for the beautiful, unexpected piece de resistance: A sustainable community was born! People who came into our brand through the doggie door (the shelter partnership), were making a surprising assumption we’d never even foreseen: They felt we were a great brand simply by association---that they wanted to be part of our community simply because we all shared some core values about things that really mattered. The newcomers were likely to share our messages with their communities, provide positive reviews, and engage at every opportunity. Wait! Isn’t that the definition of a viral campaign?!?!
The holiday marketing blitz is the perfect time and place to test this approach. While you may argue that big marketing plans for this make-or-break retail season have been in place for months, I would counter with the suggestion that it’s absolutely the prefect time to partner with a worthy charity that fits with your audience, scale the partnership during the year, and make it a center piece of your plan next year. Of course you will monitor and measure the relative conversion and engagement rates of the traditional ad campaign vs. the charity partnership. I suspect you’ll double down on the charity fast. That’s a win/win/win in my book.
Go ahead, give this a try. That faint purrrring sound you hear rising in the countryside is the happy concurrence or perhaps the collective sigh of relief from the cat community, spared more annoying video shoots. They are thrilled you will look elsewhere for your viral campaign. And chances are quite good that you’ll be thrilled with the results, too.
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If my graduate students weren’t taking their media relations mid-term exam today, I know how we’d be spending the first fifteen minutes or so of class: Discussing Amazon’s royal straight flush of a reputation management blunder. Or is it a media relations tantrum. Or maybe it’s a Master Plan that has yet to be revealed to us. Whatever it is, we’re talking about it this morning. Which is quite the point.
Indeed yesterday’s baffling resurrection of last August’s New York Times story about the e-commerce giant’s ‘intense’ work environment contained so many media relations missteps that maybe I’ll just ask the class to read about it and see how many separate mistakes they can identify.
Here are the most obvious PR lessons brought to light so suddenly yesterday by Amazon, because for those trying to learn how to manage media relations deftly, this is a real gem of a teaching moment:
Don’t start a public fight with the press. It only serves to remind everyone of the news that bothers you so much you’re compelled to stoke the dispute long after the dust has settled and everyone has moved on. Even if Amazon had some sort of ‘gotcha’ to show that the Times story was incorrect and unfair, research shows that many readers will remember the original story anyway. So Amazon should counter by sharing new stories, not obsessing on old ones.
The spokesman is never supposed to be the story. Period.
Related to this, the fact that the company spokesman was central to this piece is why this weird episode lacked authenticity. If employees had genuinely risen to defend Amazon then the authenticity of that response might have sparked some interesting discussion about the portrayal of company culture in the Times. But to have the spokesman dispute the story—and share personnel records in the process---has bad strategy written all over it. It seemed like bullying a whistle-blower. They didn't have a longtime employee to rise to the defense of the company? If someone who had real history working at Amazon had written a passionate essay in Medium we might have been talking about something else this morning.
The day an unflattering story appears in the press may be tough, but in our era of infinite choice and ultimate distraction, people move on pretty quickly. (And to be clear: I’m not talking about a genuine catastrophe in which people’s lives are lost or horribly impacted; I’m talking about an unflattering story in the press, and maintaining some perspective about it.) According to the Times: “The debate…prompted a fresh flood of readers to the original article.” When more people have now become aware of the story Amazon so vehemently denies because they brought it back to life out of nowhere, this is NOT a Mission Accomplished moment.
And if I can remove my PR hat for a moment….As a mom who has had to get to the bottom of hotly contested issues, need I remind you: Being defensive is a tell. Your response to criticism is a tell. Hostility is a tell.
A willingness to listen is a great strategy. This situation suggests the virtues of listening in two ways. First, internal and external communications too often exist in separate silos. If ever there were an argument for the conscious integration of programs that integrate communications to internal and external audiences, this is it. Employees are your best brand ambassadors and supporting them with communications is good business and a sound investment in insurance you may need someday. And further, if the response to this withering piece in the Times had seemed more like a listening campaign and less like a defensive internal investigation, Amazon would have seemed like a much friendlier, more authentic and collaborative place. Which seems to be the message they really want to get across, after all.
Respond to unfavorable stories with favorable stories. I’ve tried to find an explanation for Amazon’s purposeful resuscitation of this story and one of the only theories that makes any sense is that they are worried about the impact it might have on recruiting. If that’s the case, then a far better strategy would be to share a string of authentic good news stories—programs in employee development, community relations, corporate social responsibility, customer service. They need to true of course.
The first rule of PR is to refrain from doing anything that will undermine the stock price, core business, or employee morale. Because Amazon’s stock price is fine and there seems to be no high visibility employee uprising to contend with, instigating yesterday’s public drama in the press and on social media seems just plain bizarre and potentially counter-productive
Reporters do not owe you a list of sources who will be quoted in their stories. To complain about that after the fact is silly.
A company as big as Amazon has lots of good stories. Take if it from customers. Like me for instance. I read the Times story in August. I have had Amazon shares among my investments. And to be honest, I was thinking of writing about Amazon myself recently—a piece about how, in tangled mess of online retail and bait-and-switch promotions, Amazon has really helped make life a little better. Every minute I spend watching Downton Abbey thanks to Prime when I would normally be trapped and miserable inside an oppressive commuter train is a minute I love their brand more. Every time I can find the phone case or the lacrosse goggles I need the next day and can't find anywhere, I thank Amazon. Have you ever called customer service when you have a Kindle problem? They're amazing. In my mom's group on Facebook, we recently had a long discussion about the wonders of Prime.
Amazon should focus on stories like mine. There are fans out there. They are the best, most authentic defense against criticism.
If yesterday's drama was advancing a strategy, that strategy remains a mystery to me.
And a great teaching moment.
Neurologists confirm that our brains are wired to retain visual images. That a picture’s worth a thousand words has been an article of faith in journalism since 1918. And now marketing researchers confirm what we suspected all along: Leveraging visual content leads to significant increases in social engagement, blog traffic, visitor-to-lead conversion rates, and inbound customer acquisition results. And just in case you STILL need more evidence, look everywhere you go this summer and the truth that should be driving your content strategy will be all around you: It’s picture time!
The implications for destination brands are obvious: Pictures should be at the heart of your strategy. The use of visual content continues to skyrocket on every major social network, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram because it drives engagement, builds brand awareness, and creates cascading opportunities for brands to sustain their communities with content that is relevant, informative, and well...so much fun! Here are some stats to support the continued expansion of your content strategy.... and um...I should probably just let the pictures tell the story from here.
· Images and photos are the most important tactic in optimizing social media posts according to the Social Media Examiner
· Socialbakers looked at the top 10% of posts made by more than 30,000 Facebook brand pages and found that posts with photos saw the most engagement—accounting for a whopping 87% of total interactions.
According to Buffer social, Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets.
Last year the amount of video from people and brands in Facebook's News feed increased 3.6X year-over-year.
According to Twitter Media Blog adding a photo URL to your tweet can boost retweets by 35%.
· Social Media Examiner reports that 70% of marketers plan to increase their use of visual assets this year.
The Five Most Surprising Things Startups Too Often Forget: (The Startup's TO DO List To Build Brand and Community)
Regardless of what stage a startup has reached in the relentless quest for funding, there are a number of items that (somewhat surprisingly) don’t make regular (enough) appearances on the strategic checklist. What are startups forgetting? Here’s a checklist to see if your TO DO list is as complete as it should be.
Don’t forget to identify your audiences. Startups very often do not take the time to sit down and reflect on the various audience segments they need to identify, inspire, and incite to some sort of action. To be sure, they rarely forget TechCrunch, but there are invariably multiple audiences every startup should consider: Customers are obvious, but you also need to communicate more broadly to other groups, possibly including the press, investors, and often to a larger cohort of industry experts and prospective partners, and even to a large pool of future customers.
Solution: Devote a portion of every staff meeting to a quick check of ALL the audiences you need to engage to be successful—and if you find some of your key segments are undeserved, create more relevant content for that group, and for the channels where they are likely to see it.
Don’t forget to position your startup as an interesting solution, voice, or disrupter. It’s one thing to have a great idea and to pull together the talent and technical resources to design and build your better mousetrap. But the fact that it’s better may not be as obvious to everyone else as it is to you. Startup entrepreneurs often forget they have to explain with great precision and from many different angles why they are unique, what problem they solve and how they differ from existing solutions or competitors.
Solution: At the very first strategy meeting, insist that everyone on the leadership team articulate in their own words why this venture is different-- what problem the startup will solve and how it will disrupt the status quo. Prepare to be shocked at how the folks you’ve been working alongside look at things in a completely different way than you do…and be prepared to synthesize everyone’s views into a cohesive vision that will resonate with your target audiences better than any single viewpoint would have.
Don’t forget to tell a story. I’m not the first to say this, though I say it every single day: It’s not enough to articulate a great idea or solution. You have to tell a great story. Every day. You have to tell stories that resonate with your audiences—relevant, funny, authentic, useful, entertaining, innovative, informative, intelligent, relevant (worth saying twice) stories.
Solution: Start thinking about how to tell your story and build your content library from the very first moment you conceive of your startup. After all, if you are solving a problem, it’s never too early to think about how the story of your innovation will impact people and how it can be told in interesting ways, on different platforms, to different audience segments. Videos, pictures, infographics, testimonials, research—Think broadly about all the assets you can pull together to provide consistent storytelling that will hold your audiences’ attention. This is most often done by starting with a story about people and backing into your product story. Skip the "My Product is Revolutionary" pitch and start instead by telling a story about the people on whom your brilliant idea will have an impact, and you're on the right track.
Don’t forget to find your audiences where they are already hanging out. Many entrepreneurs themselves jump from their tablets to their phones to social media to video channels to online news sources all day long. The average person, they say, now switches platforms an average of 14 times per hour! And yet when it comes to telling their story, entrepreneurs forget about their own media hopping M.O. and too often focus on a single platform—often exclusively the tech press, instead of thinking about all the places they can find and engage with their audience.
Solution: After you’ve identified target audience segments, make sure you research their media habits. If you, for instance, want to reach a technical engineering audience, you should probably not waste time on Facebook, but double down on trade press, Twitter, Linked IN, and your blog. But if you need to reach millennial women with your new fashion app, then Linked In may need to take a backseat to Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook along with traditional fashion media outlets and blogs. The only hard and fast rule is that you need to think about where your audiences are spending their time and then meet them on that platform—with content they will enjoy, find relevant, and want to share.
Don’t forget social media! Even though many startups are launched by digital natives who check in with their communities religiously, many times per day, these same folks, when it comes to their own startup, forget how important it is to build a community around their new business. Many people, certainly most millennials, think of social media as a tool for spontaneous reaction and connectivity. From a communications standpoint, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. To a communications professional, these are channels that demand a specific kind of content that in many cases should be scheduled in advance. Social media strategy is an exercise in planning how and when to keep the flow of relevant content flowing more or less consistently to a carefully targeted community. When it comes to your business, it’s about curating content and scheduling meaningful posts that will reach your target audiences throughout their day.
Solution: Sit down with your audience analysis (so you know where your folks are and what inspires them) and your content library, and create content that works on the social platforms you need to succeed. And manage it all with Hootsuite!
Five Ways to Use Curated Opinion Pieces for Your Content Strategy : Newsday’s American Pharoah Op-ed Provides Enduring Value for Animal Welfare Activists
There are few (no?) effective branding campaigns today which don’t have a well planned stream of relevant, useful, or entertaining—in essence, highly shareable—content at their heart. To be effective, you need to tell your story well and in many ways. It’s widely accepted by now that social media continues to democratize the pursuit of mind share so that campaign success doesn't necessarily rest on the eyeballs you can buy anymore, so much as the eyeballs you can EARN with great content. That’s the first rule.
The second rule is that you need to build and curate an inventory of content that can contribute to that pipeline, because you can’t create it all yourself—and in a world filled with brilliant people with brilliant ideas, why would you even try? So we've launched an occasional series on how to build a content arsenal and use it as part of your larger communications strategy.
Today we consider the opinion piece, an important element of many content strategies—and this weekend provided a perfect example of an op-ed is so well written, so eloquent and packed with sound arguments, it should be snapped up by a broad community of interests and shared, discussed, and used for strategic communications purposes for the foreseeable future.
The op-ed, which ran in Long Island’s Newsday, is Most Horses Aren't as Lucky as American Pharoah by Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States.
This brilliant op-ed deftly made point after salient point about how we owe it to horses to end the horrors of the horse slaughter industry. It is a piece of enduring value to communities that love horses, those that work for animal welfare more broadly, and those in public policy who support those efforts.
So, if you’re active in any of these communities, how can you leverage this piece for your overall strategy?
First, you should have anticipated this and picked up this op-ed as well as numerous other pieces that ran this weekend—and if you didn't, think about setting up relevant Google alerts and putting together a content calendar that will help you anticipate the news of the day so you can leverage it effectively in the future; one of the key elements of share-ability is timeliness. Use this piece while we’re still a nation rightfully gushing over our misspelled Triple Crown winner.
Next, share this piece with your community on social media. Facebook is a likely channel for this share, but so is twitter and possibly LinkedIn— where you share this link should be based on your understanding of where your community is already engaged. (We’ll also provide more detailed advice this week how to get the most out of each tweet you share with your community.)
Blog about this piece with your own news angle. If you work for animal welfare, take this piece which supports your position and add your own content—perhaps a local story or initiative—and you have a highly relevant piece to share with your community. If you have larger activism or campaign goals, make sure you share your blog post on all relevant social channels and link back to your site, where you can continue the conversation with your community.
You may reference this piece in an action alert or e-newsletter. It’s an authoritative piece and it’s bound to spark conversation among those who already have awareness of this issue. Indeed, encouraging your community to share this with their communities is how momentum really gets going.
Post this as a news item on your Web site and encourage discussion and sharing.
And remember, in all instances, if you’re going to the trouble of curating content for your community, make sure you provide it directly to influencers—those in your community with a big social footprint, those in the press, elected officials, business and non-profit leaders.
The most effective campaigns today are integrated—they understand that audiences change platforms many times per hour and they aim to reach their community not just on a single platform, but on a number of relevant platforms throughout the day in order to stay top of mind.
Effective strategy, at its heart, is about finding a way to reach the right audience and tell your story regularly, on different platforms, with different kinds of content. Set your Google alerts on topics that are relevant to you to ensure that you don’t miss content like this op-ed—it can be a wonderful addition to your content inventory.
Oh, and ban the export of horses for slaughter. We’re better than that.
--Amy Wolfcale is the CEO of Falcon & Wolf, a managing partner at Thought Leadership Strategies, and a Professor of media relations and social media in the New York University School of Professional Studies graduate program in Strategic Communications, Marketing, and Media Management. She is also a writer and soccer mom.
Amy Wolfcale is the CEO of Falcon + Wolf, a partner at Thought Leadership Strategies, and a Professor in the New York University Graduate School of Professional Studies, School of Strategic Communication, Marketing, and Media Management. She is also a writer and an actual (as opposed to demographically identifying) soccer mom. And she loves elephants.