Sharing with the Marketing Nation

Today I’m at Marketo’s annual Summit, the Marketing Nation. I’m sharing some ideas I came up with at SHIFT Communications about how social media broke PR (and how you can fix it). If you’re checking out this blog for the first time, welcome! If you attended my talk today and you’re looking for the handout and key points, I’m happy to link you up to it here:

social broke PR

As always, it’s a pleasure and honor to address the Marketing Nation!

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Shift happens

Shift happens

Shift happens.

After 3 years in the email marketing industry, I’m departing WhatCounts as Director of Inbound Marketing and moving over to SHIFT Communications as Vice President, Marketing Technology.

Why the change? For almost a decade, I have been focused on the bottom half of the sales and marketing funnel. From the moment someone comes into the audience – via search, newsletter subscription, PPC, etc. – I’ve developed ways of converting them into prospects, leads, customers, and evangelists. I’ve got a fairly good handle on the process and have now replicated it for 3 different companies with good results.

The question that has been nagging me in the past few years, however, is this: how do people figure out you exist in the first place? In the past, I’ve viewed things like awareness, brand building, and PR as unquantifiable wastes of time, but I now view that as ignorance on my part, rather than being inherently flawed marketing mechanisms. How do people find out about you? Sure, you can buy lists and spam the daylights out of folks, but that has relatively little ROI. I realized that for all of the bad pitches I’ve received (and there have been so, so many) there must still be some value to brand building, PR, and awareness or that entire industry would have ceased to exist a long time ago.

My mission, my quest if you will, is to figure out the top half of the marketing funnel. What effect does brand advertising have? What effect does PR have? What effect does brand building have? Most important how do you quantify it? How do you assess it objectively, intelligently, and efficiently so that you can pick the mechanisms that will work best for your company and grow the audience so that you can then use lead generation, demand generation, conversion, and all of the marketing tools that I’m comfortable with.

To the PR world, I’ll be helping SHIFT offer my services to existing and future clients. If you’ve ever wanted to have me look at your marketing funnel or your marketing strategy, audit it, and give you a plan of action to fix things up, I’ll be offering that through SHIFT now. If you’ve ever wondered if your analytics are telling you the right information and delivering real value to you, I’ll be offering that through SHIFT now, too. Ever wanted a social media marketing agency? SHIFT can do that and you get me as a bonus. Everything you’ve come to know me for isn’t going away – rather, it’s being connected with the top half of the funnel as I learn and become proficient in it, in my quest to learn the totality of the marketing profession.

I invite you to join me as the quest continues! Want to work with me at SHIFT? Click here to let me know!

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Why Personal Brand is Essential To Corporate Marketing Success

Plenty has been written about the pros and cons of employees engaging in social media at work, officially or unofficially. Plenty of people have gained and lost jobs through the judicious or indiscrete usage of social media and new media, but by and large, most corporations haven’t truly accepted full employee participation in new media. Here’s a slightly different perspective on personal brand, personal blogs, and corporate success:

Personal brand is absolutely essential to future corporate success, at least from a marketing perspective.

Here’s why. If you have employees who are already engaged in new media – blogging, podcasting, social channels – then they likely already have and belong to other communities. Some of their interests overlap with their coworkers, but not many.

If we drew a Venn diagram (you remember these from school, yes? Logic class?) of the various personal networks and interests of your employees, you’d get something that looks like this:


That tiny little wedge in the middle is the intersection of personal and corporate networks. Companies that force their employees to rigorously keep personal and professional separate or even require employees not to participate in personal media creation outside of work create and get access to only that tiny little wedge in the middle, and nothing else.

Now imagine that a company, instead of discouraging or trivializing employees’ personal brands, encouraged them to actively grow their own networks, to use and leverage social media and new media to the best of their abilities. Imagine a company so forward-thinking that each employee had their own powerful personal brand and the freedom to express it (as long as said employees weren’t doing anything materially harmful in public).

What would that company’s reach be? Well, instead of the tiny intersection in the middle of those three networks in the chart above, the company’s effective reach would be the sum, the union of all the networks. Each employee’s personal network would contribute to the effective reach of the whole network.

More important, those employees have different audiences than your core corporate audience. For example, look at a few of the employee non-work blogs of the folks over at Radian6:

Marcel LeBrun
Amber Naslund
Lauren Vargas
Teresa Basich
Robin Seidner
Robbie MacCormack

Each of these folks has their own audience. Some of their audience probably doesn’t even know what they do for work. By liberally encouraging their staff to be out and about in new media, Radian6’s reach is much greater than its corporate blog, and its reach extends into different audiences.

What would it take to make this happen? A few things.

On the corporate side:

1. Employee education. Not just about what is or is not professional even in a personal blog (hey, you know that party photo you have in your photo feed…), but also how to build and grow audience, how to communicate effectively, how to create interest in what they’re doing on a personal level.

2. An awesome company with amazing products and services that’s worth talking about. Requiring employees to blog about your company usually falls flat. You shouldn’t have to ask if your employees legitimately love working for you – they’ll do it on their own. You can generally suggest (hey, we’ve got a kickass promotion for new customers, please tell your friends) but you can’t force it on your employees in their personal, non-work spaces.

3. An embrace of the 80/20 rule. Google and 3M are most famous for embedding this rule in their cultures, wherein employees have up to 20% of their schedule freed to experiment, to try new things, to work on stuff that isn’t in the core business objectives list. This includes stuff like personal blogs, networking outside of corporate target audiences, and participation in things that at first glance don’t seem to feed direct ROI numbers. As long as your team is meeting or exceeding their objectives otherwise, let the 80/20 rule operate to bring in the benefits of serendipity.

On the employee side:

1. Employees need to exercise profoundly good judgement at all times, even outside of work. Each of us is in sales. Each of us is in marketing. Each of us is in customer service. Each of us is in public relations. This is true no matter what title is on your business card. Wherever we go, wherever we interact with other people (online or offline) we are ambassadors of the company we work for. Does that mean we’re working 24/7? No. It does mean we’re not a public embarrassment, however. If you’re going to participate in new media in any way, shape, or form, recognize that you are also implicitly representing your employer whether you want to be or not.

2. Employees need to look for opportunities to build business. If an employer implements the 80/20 rule, there’s an informal social contract that effectively says, if you’re allowed to do your own thing and build your own brand using some work time, throw us a bone here and there so that we’re getting an equal exchange of value. Put up a navigation bar link on your blog with our top SEO keyword (hey, look at that shiny email marketing link), mention us if it’s appropriate when the topic of our business comes up in conversation, and refer people to sales if you’ve got a friend who really and truly needs what we have to offer.

3. Don’t feel obligated to participate. At companies where you have highly engaged coworkers, you may be asked or even subtly peer-pressured into doing the same things. Don’t. If your heart isn’t in blogging or Tweeting or creating new media, don’t do it, because the outcome will suck. The outcome will reflect your lack of passion, and your time is better spent doing things you love.

If you can match up the power of personal networks and different audiences with a great company, great products, and talk-worthy stuff, your reach and influence will be magnified far beyond what you have today.

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