Ever feel frustrated at the slow pace of change? Ever feel like you’d like to something, anything, but don’t quite know where, or how to start?
This flow chart – from 2018 – provides an interesting way of helping us move from idea to action. It helps us understand our own tolerance for action and activism and balances. There is even a PDF version with interactive links.
When we think of “strategy”, we often think of a document that is written, placed on a shelf, and forgotten. But in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, strategy must come closer to operations for every business. In fact, we must learn to operationalise strategy in new, responsive and scalable ways. And in almost every instance, that strategy must be digital – or more importantly, digitalised.
The continuous digital strategy framework
As we move strategy off the shelf, it becomes actionable. This means that each step needs to be articulated and validated. Here is how we work this through:
Objectives: You have to have serious objectives. Your research and insight process will have delivered you a challenge – a problem to solve – and out of that you or your client will have laid out some objectives which need to be met. These objectives may be “fluffy” objectives like “awareness” or “reach” or they may be harder – like “increasing sales 20%” or “200 new customers”.
Audience: Once you know what the company or client expects, it’s time to turn your attention to the need states of your audience. What do they want? What do they expect? What do they aspire to? What need is unmet? What do your customers look, smell and taste like? It’s time to get up close and personal with the folks who pay your bills! As a deliverable, you might develop a series of customer personas.
Footprint: Now that you know your audiences in their pungent granularity, you now need to understand their behaviour. Where do they go? What do they do? Where to they spend time and why? This is about walking a mile or two in their shoes. But it also a chance to match the footprints of your brands/products. What overlaps? What doesn’t? Where are the opportunities? And where are the touchpoints that will become valuable as your project grows. As a deliverable, this is where you work to develop customer journeys and use cases.
Content: Brand storytelling and messaging, themes and campaigns drive the focus of your content. At this step we are looking for the ways that you can emotionally engage and entertain your audiences – linking key brand and product messaging to the customer journeys. This might include website copy, templated (but engaging) email copy, newsletters, thought leadership and so on. As a deliverable this often takes the form of a content calendar that not only covers key customer touch points, but also articulates cornerstone content, campaign and thematic messaging.
Converse: What needs to be done to progress a customer conversation? At this point the strategy should address the development of shareable content, policies relating to social media and interaction and the interaction design that supports customer engagement. This could include customer contact planning, chat automation and lead scoring and nurturing. From a deliverables point of view, this could include tone of voice guidelines, automated customer journey paths and messaging, the scoring of leads and more.
Commitment: Once we begin conversing the strategy should now consider what success might look like. How do we know when our objectives have been reached? What is the customer commitment that we seek to validate that we have reached the required stage of the customer journey? For example, we may aim to turn our prospects from “unknown to known” – which means we are seeking an email address or contact number.
Measurement: We often think that measurement is difficult. It’s not. What is hard is committing to the numbers and to the metrics. If we have done the hard work of aligning our project objectives with the overall strategic objectives of our businesses, then much of this falls in place. But we also need to follow this through each of the other steps. For example, which audiences are important (or are influential) for your brand/product? Measure it. How much time do they spend on the web and on which sites? Measure it. Which pieces of content will drive engagement (and which pieces need to change and evolve as your project grows)? Measure it. How far do your conversations echo across the web? Measure it. What are the intangibles – and what can be substantiated via research? Measure it.
Now, once you have completed an iteration cycle, race through it all again. Pool your learnings from each step and drive them back through the process. Make your brand better. Make your customer experience more profound. Refine, substantiate and evolve.
We all know that testimonials and case studies can have a powerful impact on your brand’s products, sales cycles and reputation. But just as video has transformed a whole range of customer touchpoints, from advertising to onboarding and education – we are now seeing a greater use of video in the development and distribution of testimonials.
Usually such testimonials would be developed by the brand – but in this role reversal, the testimonial has been produced by a customer. I guess it helps that the customer in this case is well-known for creating explainer videos and TVCs, but this video for Slack by Sandwich sets a new standard.
There is no doubt that the global pandemic has impacted our marketing and growth plans. Indeed, it has forced a step-change in everything – from the way and how we work, to the where we work … so it is little wonder that marketers are feeling the strain.
Add to this the massive shifts around business accountability, increasing expectations of brand authenticity and respect for social license, and 2020-21 can easily be seen as a turning point for the often fraught relationship between brands and their audiences.
So what is the role of influencer marketing in the distinctly modern marketing mix? Ryan Skinner from Forrester offers some suggestions:
Social advertising: There appears to be a downward trend in social advertising – with spend dropping off by 10-20%
Influencer marketing as a growth opportunity: While social advertising is trending down, marketers are seeing the opportunity to expand their influencer-oriented activities, citing share of attention (more time on social – 63%), growing awareness and positive perception (of influencers)
Influencer content sentiment trends upwards: Only 20% of people indicated a negative attitude towards influencers. This receptivity creates an opportunity to communicate in a more one-to-one vs one-to-many scale to build awareness and reinforce brand-to-consumer relationship building.
What then, might be the way forward?
For those brands comfortable working with influencers:
Treat your approach to influencers as an opportunity to double down on long term brand messaging – built relationships and position for the future
Develop a growth plan connected to your influencers and your brand position
Experiment with influencers-as-a-channel – work closely with your influencers to build a content plan rather than just push content into a particular platform (eg TikTok or Instagram)
Move an additional 5% of your media spend towards influencers and double down on your experiments.
For those brands new to influencer marketing:
Shift 5-10% of your marketing budget to influencers. Understand that it will take time to learn how it can impact your activities and use the time and budget to build your expertise
Seek category and domain expertise alignment in your influencers and use your traditional marketing efforts to amplify the work of your influencers
Be creative – don’t just focus on transactional or bottom of the funnel marketing with your influencers. Find or create opportunities to communicate your brand values with and through your influencers.
There has always been conjecture around exactly what it takes, or what or who qualifies for the Twitter “check mark”. This small icon appears on “verified” accounts indicates a certain online and offline status.
No doubt you would have seen a range of journalists appearing with the check mark, but there are also politicians, celebrities, domain experts and more.
But as challenges around validation and what constitutes expertise have escalated, Twitter has taken a moment to reconsider its verification process. Releasing a draft of the verification policy, and calling for public feedback, they have started with six types of accounts that might be considered:
Companies, brands and non-profit organisations
Activists, organisers and other influential individuals.
You have until 17 December 2020 to submit your feedback! Get to it.
There are a great many “changemakers” who have been working diligently to create positive social change in their communities around the world. They create systems, reimagine futures and galvanise communities to bring this change to life. Sometimes this manifests as consultation, social impact hackathons, or placemaking innovation. Other times, it involves developing peer support networks, educating those at the margins of our society or raising the profile of others working on systemic change at community or government levels.
It is hard, emotional – and often largely under-funded work.
To understand how social change actually happens, we look to “problems worth solving” – the large scale, deeply ingrained, intractable problems that, if solved, would generate both economic returns and social impact. We call this creating “shared value”. Often the problems that are worth solving don’t get the attention that they deserve because, by their nature, they are difficult to solve. Often the core issue is well known and well understood by domain experts and those who live with these challenges each and every day. And in most cases, the problem worth solving has been tackled many times – yet persists. One high profile “problem worth solving” is climate change. Another is homelessness.
What is often missing in the social change program is the “burning platform”. Yes, climate change is urgent. Yes, homelessness needs to be fixed. But tackling these issues can be delayed when messaging is obscured, or when political energy is easily retargeted. By their very nature, “shared value” programs require multi-stakeholder buy-in from at least three groups:
Governments / formal bodies
Other stakeholders – corporate or community.
Without all three, the program will fizzle out and fail.
In Australia, Beyond Zero Emissions have set out The Million Jobs Plan. It covers seven key sectors, from energy, building and manufacturing to transport, recycling and land use through to training – where targeted investment and activation would transform communities, industries and the lives of Australians. It is an ambitious program that has begun the hard work of galvanising multi-stakeholder groups.
Living with COVID19 has provided a unique opportunity. COVID19 has delivered the burning platform that many changemakers have been waiting for. As Dave Marvit explains:
As the virus fades, it will once again become hard to effect change. Systems will ossify and resist improvement. But we have this unique moment when the cement has, temporarily, unset. We should use it.
These days a lot of my work centres on innovation, change and business consulting, but from time to time I get the chance to dive deeply into branding. Now, as a strong believer in the power of brands and marketing to create change and impact, I see a natural affinity between culture and system change, startups and new product development but when we overlay these with strategy and design thinking, interesting things start to happen.
At the moment we’re working on a new brand. It’s a ground up brand construction – so it’s truly greenfields. But where do you start? How do you find a map and how do you follow it?
Having created many new brands in this way, there are some simple steps to follow.
Naming: The naming of your new brand can be fraught – but should be fun. Coming up with a name that is descriptive enough for your customers but imaginative enough to draw them in can take far longer than you can imagine. Then once you have a name, securing and registering it can take time and more than a little money. There are some agencies dedicated to naming, and if you have a big budget it would be fabulous to work with them … but if you’re running a startup, chances are you’ll be doing the naming over a few beers with your mates. Be sure to think through the various combinations of the name and how it will be used. After all, you don’t want to follow the example of promo pen company Pen Island.
Planning: No surprise here – but I get quite a kick out of the planning process. From building out the communications architecture through to building out the business case, planning is an important step for any startup. You’ll be amazed what you can learn in a couple of days – and the research and analysis (not to mention the discipline) will hold you in good stead as you start to seek funding and build your core team.
Visual design: Most people think that branding is about logos. A logo is just part of the branding process … but it does need to be given time and attention. And budget always helps. Even if you have budget, it still helps greatly to provide a solid brief to your designer – which is where your planning will help. Make sure you share your research and thinking – explain the various use cases and audiences that your new business will impact. Provide a list of “attributes” that describe your brand. Be clear about the vision you have for the future of your brand. All this information should soak into the appearance of your logo and the visual design of your band.
Now that you have a name, some understanding of the potential of your business and some ideas for your logo, take that list of attributes and find them in the list in this infographic from MuseDesign. Pay special attention to other logos that you see and that you admire. Think about how they are using colour to engage you emotionally. What can you learn from great logos? Which designs make your heart jump?
Communications, marketing and media don’t operate in a vacuum. They are part of the culture of our times.
It’s why we look back on old advertising with a sense of “days gone by” – after all good advertising and communications convey a story and context that goes far beyond the simple message.
So it is not surprising that in this time of COVID-19 crisis, that we are seeing new types, forms and approaches to communication. These new approaches are not necessarily one thing or the other – they are not WHOLLY advertising, nor wholly marketing or even “public communications” that we would recognise. They are hybrids.
One of the more interesting experiments that is evolving is futurist, Mark Pesce’s NEXT ONE HUNDRED SECONDS.
Each day, around 9am Australian Eastern Time, Mark releases a 100 second video clip looking into the near future and challenging his audience to think, act and share.
Themed to connect with Pesce’s award winning Next Billion Seconds podcast, this short, daily video release feels like a hack of platforms and styles. It’s a self-made Frankenstein’s monster combining the immediacy of Twitter, the reach of social media, the urgency of social media video, thematics of TikTok and the seriousness and authority of science podcasting.
No doubt, we’ll see more of this emerge in the coming months. More media. More platforms. And hopefully, more hope.
Often when we hear of “hacking” or more correctly “cyber hacking”, we hear about how personally identifiable information or secure information has been compromised. This can take the form of files and images or it can be photos, information that confirms our identity and more.
And while a great deal of attention is spent on securing digital systems, one of the most common forms of cyber hacking is “social engineering”. This is where small amounts of personal information are taken from your online profiles and then used to broker more detailed information about you. For example, checking in to a hotel via social media can yield surprisingly useful information that can be used to gain more worrying data, such as your date of birth or address.
How does this work? This interview / experiment from CNN will raise your eyebrows.
You know when you hear a story how it can inspire, engage and move you? Sometimes you can feel it happening. Sometimes you know it is happening intellectually but can’t quite put your finger on the trigger.
It often feels that we are focusing on positivity over truth – but when an emotional truth breaks through – in a story or experience – we know it for what it is. The challenge for us all is to tell that deeper story – because while it is not always positive, it is liberating.