Don’t be Afraid to Fail and Fail Fast

(This is a cross-post from the Change Agent Communications blog.)

We launched a new service today. Just two days after solidifying and posting our core values on the website. The first of the three values is: “Walk the walk.” I am very intentional about making sure that Change Agent Communications practices what we preach. Not only does this establish credibility with clients, it demonstrates that we too, value the return on the investment we’re asking them to make, or put marketing dollars behind. If I encourage a client to invest in visual content and videos for social media engagement you’d better believe they will see us doing the same.

We do things for this agency that we recommend for our clients. Period. None of that “cobbler’s shoes” business. You know the one about the cobbler’s children having no shoes that people often say when they’re explaining why agency’s don’t have or activate their own marketing plans, a legit funnel or a pipeline they’re nurturing constantly? The line that everyone shrugs off and finds funny.

On my watch, the cobbler’s children will not only have shoes, they will have the trendiest, coolest, most agile shoes ever! That’s what I mean by “walking the walk.”

As a new agency, we are in a unique position to demonstrate how marketing, advertising, PR, the whole paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) spectrum can generate brand awareness, create opportunities, put company leaders in front of people who are interested in what they have to offer, and even generate leads and close sales. It’s a process, and ours is playing out daily. With about two months in we are still making it up as we go. We plan to stay in launch mode for years to come, because it keeps you on your toes and builds an undeniable fire in your belly that  moves you to action.

I simply love having an idea and bringing it to life in four-five days.

For years, I’ve talked to clients about failing fast. “Let’s just try it and see if it works,” I’d say. “If it doesn’t, we’ll simply learn as we go and quickly do something else. Let’s call it a pilot.” Some were agile enough to move forward, others not so much. Sometimes convincing and cajoling worked, and in some instances it fell flat. But I never stopped making that recommendation, because this media and marketing world moves fast, and we have to be active participants in the change.

Pinpoint Your Pitch: A 21st-Century  Framework and Approach for Generating Earned Media was an idea that surfaced in my mind on Thursday evening when I was networking (okay, drinking wine, talking shop and chatting it up) with a small group of the Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership. I jotted down a few ideas on the iAWriter app on my iPhone and tried to build it out as an offering two days later (on a Saturday), but my creative juices were a little low. However, when I woke up on Sunday, it all poured out of my brain onto the notepad I keep on my nightstand and I was in business.

Once I felt it was effectively capturing the value proposition, I reached out to my freelance proofreader and designer to see how quickly they could move. They know me, so they moved, and I was grateful. I set up a Calendly link to incorporate into the “contact” section so that people can book time with me directly, as opposed to only having the option to send an email.I’d never done that before, so it gave me another opportunity to fail fast, or find something that works.

I got the designed document back on Monday evening, and the final, 24 hours later – which was yesterday. I stayed up until 2am setting up social posts to be shared from my personal Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, as well as posts for the company LinkedIn page and Twitter accounts.  (I knew my day was pretty packed and i would only be able to devote a small amount of time to the launch.)

I also emailed the women who inspired me to share the finished PDF and drafted three unique outreach emails to share with my network today because I didn’t want to send email with a timestamp in the 1:00 a.m hour.

Oh yeah, sometime in there I wrote and launched a Facebook ad, and the idea of this blog post isn’t even 40 minutes old. The initial headline was: Launching a service? Launch an ad too.” Then I changed it to “Fail and Fail Fast,” about 15-minutes ago because that’s more in line with what I was writing about.   I honestly have no idea how I’m even going to close this post right now. But I felt compelled to write it and believe it will be helpful to someone. The beauty of it is this: If you read it and hate it, or find it of zero value, I will have failed fast, because I haven’t even reached an hour yet.

But on the flip side, you could like it, click the link on the new service, find it of interest and actually reach out to me, or refer me to someone else who might.

I think that possibility alone was worth my time.

I started out with an image of one of the ads I launched today at the top of this post, and then deleted it as I continued writing. But I’m going to include it below. Maybe it’s out of context, maybe not. But I’m totally going with my gut now with this stream of consciousness.

My point is simple. Walk the walk, be open to failing fast and be the change.

Oh yeah, and here’s that boosted Facebook post I launched just before penning this post.  I will tell you how it performed in a day or two. If it isn’t moving the needle by tonight, I’m making a change. But you probably aren’t surprised by that at all.

FB ad
 
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Looking for a job in social media? These tips from 2010 still apply eight years later.

This is a post from my original blog, Online Community Strategist which published on November 10, 2010.  I was Social Media Manager at Capstrat back then, interviewing quite a bit as I built the social media team.

Fast forward eight years, and I believe that most of these tips are still valuable.The thing is, I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing. Have a look and decide for yourself.

  1. Talk to me about something other than Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Tell me that you read more than Mashable. What about news? Read any of that lately?
  3. Bring some knowledge about user behavior and tell me about a few studies you’ve recently read.
  4. Have an opinion about the future. Heck, make a prediction. That shows me you’re a thinker.
  5. Be sure you understand that posting tweets does not equal, Twitter campaign.
  6. Don’t tell me about the celebrities you tweet with unless you’ve turned that into a conversion or generated new business as a result.
  7. Know a little something about social communications.
  8. Refrain from telling me how you’ve helped anyone “push” their messages. You say “push,” I tune out.
  9. Know that rapid growth in fans and followers is unimpressive if you don’t have a smart, strategic story that supports that growth.
  10. Don’t say you’re a pro at monitoring if you’ve only done it through Google Alerts.
  11. Be honest about your skill set.
  12. Tell me about a mistake you’ve made related to your own participation in social media and what it taught you.
  13. Be ready to write or discuss a response to an irate customer on the spot – when given a scenario.
  14. Know what it takes to be a successful community manager.
  15. Have some general knowledge about social advertising.

I am going to stop there.

My point is this: So many people want jobs with “social media” in the title. They believe they’re qualified because they think it’s easy. It isn’t. You must be an active, motivated learner.

The expert of today becomes the idiot of tomorrow if they don’t stay on top of industry trends and strive to learn something new all the time.

If you’re actively looking for these types of positions, go in knowing that your personal use of social tools does not translate to business use. It is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

If you want it, do the work. And when you do get that interview, bring your A game. Anything less is a disservice to you and the person taking the time out of their day to give you a chance.

 

What I Learned from Moderating a Panel of Powerhouse Chief Marketing Officers

I had the pleasure of moderating the Triangle Chapter of the American Marketing Association’s inaugural CMO She-Suite Panel a few weeks ago at the Brier Creek Country Club in Durham, North Carolina. The panelists were: Susan Amey, CMO of the Durham Visitors and Convention’s Bureau, Maria Winans; CMO of IBM (North America and Canada), Sallyann Hulick; CMO of BSA Lifestructures and Linh Calhoun; CMO of Replacements, Ltd.

We’d met in person only once, to record a promotional video for the event, and had a 30-minute video conference a few weeks before to talk logistics and rules of engagement. I shared my vision for more of a storytelling approach to the panel as opposed to 45-minutes of asking each of them the same question. I wanted them to understand that it was not my intention to “put them on the spot” in any way, nor was I going to attempt to make it about me.

I must say it was an honor to spend time and communicate with these remarkable women beforehand in the midst of all of our busy schedules. My goal was to build enough trust among them so they’d allow me to take them on a journey as their moderator, that would lead to open, honest discussions for the people in the audience, who I knew wanted desperately to hear their stories and extract every bit of advice they were willing to offer up. I believe I met and perhaps even exceeded that goal because these ladies were all A game. They came to play, and won.

Three days before the event, I emailed three questions and asked each CMO to come prepared with a real story from their past that would demonstrate their infallibility. I wanted to drive home the fact that they too (with all of their fabulousness) have made mistakes along the way and that though we make mistakes, they don’t have to define us and should never be the end of our story.

Susan Amey shared a pretty profound story about how her introversion nearly cost her a job early on in her career where extroversion felt like a required competency for success. Her supervisor told her over lunch that things didn’t seem to be working out, and she was stunned! But guess what Susan did? She created a project plan to help her overcome the issue, and turned things around. This response, along with the way she delivered it, prompted a great deal of chuckles from the audience and I couldn’t help but laugh myself.

Okay, I did more than laugh. I literally cracked up, right there on stage – and there are at least two pictures to prove it. I ultimately asked Susan if she still had a copy of this plan because I would just love to see what was probably a color-coded document with directives such as: “8:45 a.m. – Meet John at the water cooler and talk about weather.” Susan admitted that it wasn’t that detailed, but the plan did include reminders to invite colleagues to lunch. And it worked in her favor. The lesson here is this: Susan controlled her own destiny and changed the narrative. She used her strengths to do it. How impressive is that?

Her supervisor said it wasn’t working out. But she didn’t accept that and decided to do something about it. That ‘something’ was completely out of her comfort zone, but Susan did it anyway. Here’s my question for you: What are you accepting in the workplace that you have the absolute power to change? Whose story are you choosing to believe about yourself because you don’t want to put in the work to change the narrative?

Sallyann Hulick shared a tale about a grave mistake on a printed direct mail piece with a huge discrepancy in price, that fell squarely on her shoulders. This too was early on in her career. She went on to talk about a mentor who helped her move beyond being completely mortified about this error which she believed was the end of the world. Hulick also drew a few laughs from all of us when she recounted a high degree of certainty that she’d be on the hook personally cover the difference in the real price versus the one she was responsible for having printed on the piece.

But what struck me most about this story was how after sharing it with the audience, she admitted that she wasn’t very detail-oriented at the time. Yep. Sallyann called herself out in front of an audience and esteemed group of peers. She then simply stated: “That never happened again.” The lesson here is: A weakness can be overruled. We have the ability to stop doing anything that is not contributing to our personal or professional success. That event changed Sallyann. And look at her today.

If you’re struggling with a habit or falling short in an area that you may not think is affecting you because it hasn’t caused you any major heartburn just yet, don’t wait for it to lead to a catastrophic outcome. If you’re always 10 minutes late to meetings, stop making a joke about it and start showing up on time! If you sometimes find small typos in your emails after-the-fact but dismiss it, stop it! Today.

Don’t wait for an irreversible embarrassing situation to occur. Do what I do and activate the spell-check feature to run on all of your emails before they go out into the wild. Trust me, it makes all the difference.

Maria Winans talked about wanting desperately to blend in when she was a young girl. She shared that she didn’t want her mom speaking Spanish to her in public. She was conscious of the darker hue of her skin compared to many of her friends in North Carolina where her family lived but clearly, was not from. She stood out based on her ethnicity, and often wished that were not the case. Maria even carried some of that thinking with her to corporate America, wearing suits in a male-dominated environment to again, blend in with the men. But Maria learned that it was embracing her uniqueness that really gave her her wings. It amplified her voice and created opportunities that were uniquely hers for all of the reasons she had been rejecting. It was a lesson in self-love, self-acceptance and bringing your true self to the table every day.  The return on that investment remains high for Maria, and she is the ultimate role model for women everywhere.

It was clear to me that Linh Calhoun knows the impact of her work experience on her effectiveness as a CMO is much greater than the sum of its parts. She acknowledged that we all have had bad experiences and made mistakes, and mentioned that she had one very similar to Sallyann’s direct mail pricing debacle. But what’s been a constant throughout Linh’s journey to the “She-Suite” is her commitment to seeking out mentors. She could not say enough about how these relationships have served her, molded her and given her something that is not available in text books or college courses. Linh offered a lesson in constantly learning from the people around you at all stages of your career. And even if those people aren’t around you or otherwise readily available, it’s up to you to find them.

The stories of tenacity and perseverance were woven throughout the evening. But there was also a theme of accountability. I reminded everyone that as marketers, we have an obligation to continue to educate ourselves in an industry where change is constant and yesterday’s skillset won’t cut it for the roles and opportunities of tomorrow. Or even today, for that matter.

So stay current, change the narrative if you need to, show your weaknesses who’s boss, embrace your uniqueness and learn from the people around you.

Let me know what happens.

 

(Note: This is a cross-post from an article I shared on LinkedIn.)

Ten Years on Twitter, already?

I received a notification from Twitter this morning that today marks 10 years since I joined the social network. Who knew? Well, they did, of course.

As I tried to will my brain back to June of 2007, wondering how the heck I’d been on Twitter for a decade, I figured I’d multitask and simultaneously clicked through to review the tweet that had been prepared on my behalf, complete with the hashtag #MyTwitterAnniversary.

Never one to use a canned tweet without adding at least a few words of my own, I quickly added three and sent it out to the Twitterverse. I don’t expect any engagement given how little thought I put into those three words,  but the occasion had to be marked. And now it is.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve lost some of my original zeal for Twitter over the last few years and I’ve gone weeks without posting a single tweet. I have my reasons for this, which may be fodder for a future post. (I’ve often thought it may just be burnout.)

But, I still love live-tweeting from conferences and industry events, and participating in Twitter-chats, sharing my knowledge and expertise and the same of others. Give me a conference hashtag and some speakers dropping serious knowledge bombs and I will tweet until the cows come home!

And I will continue to visit Twitter to put my finger on the pulse of popular culture, experience news firsthand and enjoy the creativity of the masses when a meme goes wild.

However, I remember when Twitter was full of early adopters and technology geeks. If you mentioned someone in a Tweet, they replied. Even Craig, of Craigslist who was known for having early morning Twitter conversations with random users. Celebrities had no interest, so no one was looking for them or broadcasting their every tweet. And most people really didn’t understand its purpose. Some might call those the good old days because you really could build your own community.

Even though I may have enjoyed that time, that is not my position. I believe Twitter has evolved in ways that are pretty amazing. Activism has found a new home, wrongs that have gone unexposed and hidden are suddenly front and center and getting the attention needed to bring about change.

With Twitter, accountability is arguably the new black.

So, upon reflection, it absolutely feels like a decade, because I’ve had at least five Twitter lives.

Three years into my life with Twitter I can recall having four meetings with a CEO, followed up with a research document and presentation before finally getting the green light for a three-month Twitter-pilot that allowed me to create a branded account for the company.

I can also remember it taking two years to convince a client to use a branded hashtag on a campaign. They just flat out refused in year one. Can you even imagine that today?

And when Twitter rolled out guidelines for how news organizations should display their logos and the content of tweets on screen. I almost forgot about that one.  I also remember noticing a trend of press releases announcing Twitter accounts, and even wrote about it on my old blog. 

Okay, I’ve been around a long time. And what a difference a decade makes. I think I’m going to spend a little more time thinking about this last decade on Twitter and see what else I have in my memory bank.

As an advocate for change, and someone who constantly talks about the profound change that the industry is undergoing and will continue to experience, I love this stuff. And writing about it makes me happy.

Thanks for the reminder, Twitter!

I’m Moderating a Panel of Fabulous Female CMO’s

In less than a week, I will have the pleasure of serving as moderator for The Triangle AMA’s Signature Event: The 2018 CMO She-Suite Panel. The panelists are:

Susan Amey CMO, Durham Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

Maria Bartolome Winans CMO, IBM North America and Canada

Sallyann Hulick CMO, BSA Lifestructures

Linh Calhoun CMO, Replacements, Ltd.

I’m super-excited about sharing the stage with these ladies and helping them share their knowledge with the local marketing and communications community, and I promise it will be amazing. So if you haven’t registered already, there is still time to make it happen.

And please, check out the promo video below. You’ll be glad you did. I hope to see you on May 17!

‘The Daily’ is a killer new podcast from The New York Times

Sometimes something is so cool, interesting or incredibly smart, that you just can’t help talking about it. That’s where I am right now with the podcast, “The Daily” from the New York Times.

I was attending a lunch meeting at Elon University two days ago and found myself talking about the brilliance behind it with one of the dean’s and everyone else within earshot.

For a news junkie like me, who thrives on innovation and change and actively roots for the successful digital transformation of all news organizations – this podcast had me at hello.

At twenty minutes a day, five days a week and with super-relevant content, it is a ‘must-subscribe.’

I’m so passionate about this body of work and the value it brings, that I ended up subscribing to the podcast for the person I was engaging with at lunch, when he pulled out his phone and I saw that he had not yet activated his podcast app.

He’d seemed intrigued, and I couldn’t bear him missing out on something so important.

So, subscribe to the app and listen for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

And please give a shout out to the host on Twitter, like I did. He is killing it!

 

Is “scan and go” technology the future of shopping?

(This is a cross-post from my company blog.)

Wouldn’t you love to walk into your local grocery store, scan the items on your list, put them in your bag and head straight to your car when you’re done? No waiting to reach the cashier in long checkout lines, or even shorter self-checkout lines for that matter.

I’m talking about a completely autonomous experience. In and out. Actually, it’s more like “scan and go.”

Allow me to explain.

“Scan and go” technology requires nothing more for the consumer than a mobile phone, method of payment and app. The three combined allow shoppers to scan their own products in-store and then pay through the app. Sounds easy and convenient, right? So why aren’t we all doing it, or at least talking about it more?

According to eMarketer, most retailers simply aren’t ready.

Millennials are ready. Gen Xers are ready, and even a good portion of Baby Boomers are ready to give “scan and go” a try, or at least have some interest in the technology. As a card-carrying Gen Xer who makes a ton of purchases through the apps of my favorite retailers, I was ready to give “scan and go” a try about 30 seconds after learning it was an actual thing.

But when I did a search in the App Store, I only found two “scan and go” options from big box retailers. I dug a little deeper and found that for the retailers that do have it, the feature is only available in a few of their locations.

Then, just three days later, I was at the nail salon talking to Simon, the guy who has been doing my nails for nearly three years. He was telling me about a new app he created that allows people to scan items at retail and grocery stores and avoid waiting in lines. He was very excited about it and proclaimed it would be his “road to riches.”

Simon shared that he had been talking to mom-and-pop retailers about testing his app and asked for my input on the idea and ways to market the new technology.

Are you kidding me?

So, I told him what I thought, and gave him a few talking points he could use when meeting with prospects:

  • They would be embarking on something cutting edge and perhaps be the first in their industry with the technology.
  • They could promote it in their advertising to bring in new customers and increase sales.
  • They could speed up the customer wait time.

Now, I am convinced that “scan and go” adoption is going to happen sooner rather than later – and you, too, shouldn’t wait to explore this new frontier until it has become common. As a marketer, the one thing I do know is that when the audience demands a product or service, it’s hard to deny it, especially when it already exists.

And if Simon created that app, and is out there talking about it, other people are doing the same. He’s going to sell it, and the “scan and go” technology has the potential to really takeoff.

Because of this, other retailers need to usher in widespread adoption a little faster. As of now, most haven’t rolled it out in many stores, but as soon as their competitors start to get on the “scan and go” train, I would bet that the rollout will need to be pretty swift.

I think we can all foresee the future of those that have no plans to implement “scan and go” technology.

They’ll be left behind, wondering how they missed out on a trend, which will turn out not to have been a trend at all, but a fundamental shift in the way people shop.

And that’s the point.

In the digital world we live in today, convenience is table stakes and companies need to be ready to take risks and make moves that provide convenience for their customers. And it can’t be done at a snail’s pace because those who snooze, will absolutely lose!

 

 

Data in the volume of your speakers?

At the tail end of Episode 44 of the Content Convergence podcast, of which my favorite analyst Rebecca Lieb was the interviewee, Rebecca said something that sparked my interest in such a way that I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself. I thought it was such a big deal that I told a few co-workers about it when I got to the office, but that wasn’t gratifying enough, so I have to write about it here.

When Steve Rubel asked her what she was excited about and where she is focusing her attention, Rebecca said she was “absolutely jazzed” about her current research project looking at what happens to content when it breaks beyond screens, or around beacons and sensors and IoT, that really follows the customer experience.

But here’s what I thought was pretty awesome. She said she had been interviewing executives for the last two weeks and one of the executives (of an electronics company) she interviewed said they’ve been sending people custom email offers based on the data they’re getting back from the IoT sensors embedded in all of their speakers.

The data includes how much music they’re listening to and even the volume they’re streaming Spotify or Amazon Music, etc…

She then said that the executive told her they’re seeing a 7-9% sell rate by using that precise data.WHAT THE HECK???

That’s not an  open rate, but a sell rate.  Unbelievable! But fantastic!

The crazy thing is 7-9% would be great as an OPEN RATE for emails!

So, anyway – I can’t wait to see that research, and I hope that Rebecca will give me a sneak peek!

If Rebecca isn’t on your list of smart people to follow, you should add her today. When she’s jazzed about something, I pay attention.

And I also let her know, with this tweet!

 

Time flies when the world is changing

I received a message in my Facebook newsfeed this evening, letting me know that I joined the social network 9-years ago today. Wow!

I knew I’d been there for a good while, but I didn’t realize it had been since  2007. It makes perfect sense though, when I think back to what was going on in my career at the time.

I’d moved to the Raleigh area from South Florida just three months earlier, to take on the job of Managing Editor of User-Generated Content at WRAL.com and was getting ready to launch and manage it’s first online community, GOLO.

It was my first foray into the world of social media after living and breathing news, as a journalist for 13 years. I was skeptical at first, but a mentor of mine said to me: “Angela, go do this social media thing, and I promise you will write your own ticket in a few years.” So I took the plunge after convincing myself that he could be right. Change was all around us, particularly in the news industry  – so maybe this was a good direction, I thought.

There wasn’t a lot out there about community management in those early days  and I had to learn on the fly. Though I do remember finding and following the blogs of Jake McKee, Connie Bensen and Rich Millington and  reading them like there was no tomorrow. (In fact, the only reason I took on the name @communitygirl on Twitter was because Jake McKee was communityguy! I should probably tell him that.)

I actively commented on their posts, reached out via email and connected with them on Twitter.  Because of those early connections, all three wrote reviews of my book two years later, and I still follow them today in some form or another. Looking back on their blogs and websites today, I observed that all have evolved to reflect what they do now, and how they have all grown over time.

But back to my Facebook anniversary…

I had no idea when I joined  on May 30, 2007, that it would become what it is today.  I’m not sure any of us did. I just knew that it was a big deal, and when something becomes or seems like it will become a big deal, it’s important to get in, seek to understand it and become as savvy as you possibly can.

Otherwise, you will be woefully left behind.

Because time flies, when the world is changing.

 

Finding and connecting with your target audience

Gone are the days of one-stop shopping when it comes to getting a message in front of your target audience.

To be effective in this highly fragmented media environment we are operating in today, it is a must that we seek to understand consumer behavior.

The bottom line is this: If you want to reach people, you have to know where to find them. Period! And the only way to do that is to become a student of your craft.

That was one of my primary points at the American Marketing Association’s Leadership Summit in Chicago last month.

Below is a two-minute recap of some of the other points I made during the session. I promised to devote this blog to change, and change starts with the man or woman in the mirror.

So take two minutes and 11 seconds and have a look…or just listen while you multitask.

Happy Tuesday!