What Ever You Call It, Own it and Share it.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

The Great Content Mashup. 

There is a lot of discussion lately centred on the difference between a content strategy and an editorial strategy. Wikipedia states, “Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.”

Seems simple enough – you need to have a plan that develops content appropriately and manages it accordingly.

So what about an editorial strategy? Is this different than a content strategy? Or is it an amalgamation of both?

Back in 2009 when the influx of online marketing was within its infancy, publishing giant Meredith’s digital transformation expert CEO Jack Griffin stated, “We don’t hire editors, we hire content strategist.” Many wondered at the time what he was talking about, but today revere these words as prophetic and intuitive.

Does this mean that creating an editorial strategy is dead, especially now when all you hear is content this and content that?

Let’s go to today’s experts which tend to be a little more pliant when citing a definition.

Content strategist Margot Bloomstein confirms content as, “Planning for the creation, aggregation, delivery, and useful governance of useful, usable, and appropriate content in an experience.”

Yikes! Some big words indeed. And what exactly does an ‘experience’ mean in this context?

If we are to understand Ms. Bloomstein’s definition, let’s break down what editorial content consists of.

What does Content consist of today?

Digital strategists Predicate LLC in New York informs its clients, “editorial content constitutes a publishing asset that is repeatable and repeatedly published (article, blog, etc.) in a recognizable form and packaged (edited) for consumption.”

If we do a mash-up of Ms. Bloomstien’s definition with Predicate’s, we understand an editorial content strategy as:

“The planning for the creation of a publishing asset that is delivered over and over again to varied recipients and all the while its author keeping control of the content’s ability to be useful, usable and appropriate in its application.” Clearly an editorial strategy is crucial to an effective deployment of content.

Integration of disciplines is key.

For most of us working in marketing and communications, we now have the responsibility and accountability to provide our clients with a robust editorial content strategy. No longer can we execute a separate content strategy that is indelibly linked to the marketing side of the business, but in isolation from a solid editorial strategy. We need to preface our content marketing strategy with attention to strategic planning on how and where the content will be viewed and republished.

The argument is no longer whether it’s an editorial strategy or a content marketing strategy, the argument is how best to create, deliver, monitor and measure effective editorial content to all audiences. And forget about the definitions!

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Editorial Note: Welcome back everyone to Communications and Convo. It has been a long 9 months and many things have happened to keep me from happily tapping away. That was then. This is now.

I look forward to reacquainting myself with the mighty faithful by writing more stories on communication practices and thoughts about… well we’ll see so stay tuned!

We Need #BigData – Big-time!

Photo Courtesy of r2hox

Photo Courtesy of r2hox Creative Commons

Society is in the midst of a massive transformation that will directly affect everything from choosing breakfast cereal to forecasting economic outcomes.

If you haven’t heard, it’s called big data. And yes, its big.

Forbes in 2013 paraphrased big data as, “…a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company, that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.”

Zip forward to 2014 and the function of collecting information has commanded not just the attention of most C-suites, but the average ‘Joe’ as well.

One thing is for sure, we are at the start of a universal movement to measure, validate and strategize everything.

And I’m o.k. with that.

What’s wrong with knowing that my age group likes the odd Starbucks, watches predominately news and partially embraces Twitter. Maybe the Twitter thing I don’t agree with; the point is, data is calculating and making decision for us everyday. As long as we are cognitive regarding the important decisions data is helping us with, why not?

Harvard University’s Gary King notes, “There is a movement of quantification rumbling across fields in academia and science, industry and government and nonprofits.” Professor King goes on to extol how data gathering will improve statistical and computational methods and its storage capacity.

“Computers will offer new ways to link datasets and thereby provide a visualization of such data.”

Photo Courtesy of Zero Divide Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Zero Divide Creative Commons

Truly exciting news as businesses large and small are now given the ability to visualize their forecasting and make the necessary adjustment towards increased bottom-lines and more jobs.

This data revolution is relatively new. In early 2013, 90% of all data generated was from 2011 – 2013. An old statistic by today’s standards but makes us wonder how fast the remaining 10% will come?

As with the Starbucks example, these algorithms first appeared in marketing to help develop consumer groupings based on trends and habits. Whatever you partake in, your action is observed, captured, sorted and quantified offering marketing clients an exclusive opportunity to not just shill their wares, but understand their habits to spend more.

Within the public sphere, data will assist crime, environment and social sciences in their campaign towards a better life for all. This is tremendous news for all of us knowing a better world awaits. It is only when you look into the eyes of a loved one suffering from a second bout of cancer, you realize the true gift of big data is medical science and discovery.

The ability for big data to improve humanity is the underscore.

iStock Photography

iStock Photography

HBR reports that many major company business models – including healthcare – have not yet embraced digital revolution and look at transition as more evolutionary. That being said, Forbes reports $3.8 Trillion is spent annually on healthcare. Apart from personal coverage, look for private health dollars being a major part of this spend – especially in big-pharma discovery.

This begs the question, how much of that 3.8 has been assigned to big data within public institutions and their agencies? Is it the governments’ responsibility to provide an equitable and fair amount of funding dollars towards big data?

This tax-payer says absolutely.

Big data, must have a permanent place in healthcare operating budgets if the human race is to reach significant milestones in health discoveries with fighting deadly diseases.

Fortunately I am not alone in this thinking. United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is in full data throttle by recently launching their care.data scheme. This big data project captures most GP records and personal information. Various data points will be shared with other health and research institutions to identify trends and patterns in various diseases and maladies.

Photo Courtesy of 4chion Marketing

Photo Courtesy of 4chion Marketing Photo Commons

Not stopping there, the care.data scheme will capture multiple genome profiles that will be stored in a genomic cloud – big data at its height.

In Toronto, Ontario, the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (TCLHIN) is heading up one of Canada’s largest data collection projects by not just gathering medical information, but by taking a deeper dive into patient ethnicity and sexuality. The data collected will help healthcare planners look at existing information as phone numbers and addresses, but at the same time identify barriers impeding information collection, as languages and cultural morals. Much the same as NHS’ care.data scheme, this in turn will help improve disease-prevention programs within this health region. Prevention and surveillance of ethnically-diverse patients continue to be a top priority of the provincial health funders as Toronto represents the country’s most diverse and densely populated areas of healthcare provision in Canada.

No longer will educators eulogize the three Rs. Now it’s three Vs!

Both the NHS and TCLHIN fall into the rank and file of frontrunners by understanding and acting upon how big data will advance discovery and general healthcare. Luis Maldonado, Director of Product Management, HP Vertica says, “Big data is defined by the three Vs: volume, variety, and velocity.” The Financial Post defines these properties as: volume representing patient data, variety representing the diversity and uniqueness of the data and velocity being the speed this data arrives back to the enterprise in emails etc.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver Photo Commons

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver Photo Commons

Fair game, but as both the NHS and TCLHIN are publicly funded health institutions, where allocation of capital budgets and maintaining talent to operate a big data pull, represent two large barriers to overcome.

For anyone working in the public sector, especially healthcare, public coffers are empty. Changing patient records to digital is not only expensive it also brings on the massive issue of confidentiality and its security. Mr. Maldonado goes on to affirm, “… that it’s really secondary in healthcare towards looking after the patient, and is partly responsible for the lag in big data in healthcare…”

Marketing, financial and telcon continue to lead the big data expenditures leaving healthcare often to fend for itself.

So what about big data security with our records?

There is probably no higher concern regarding our personal information than our medical and financial records. Most of us are willing to allocate the sharing and storage of our data to trusted organizations and institutions, but are completely unaware of the enormous costs of not just transferring the data, but its security.

Photo Courtesy of Ann Wuyts Photo Commons

Photo Courtesy of Ann Wuyts Photo Commons

The Wall Street Journal predicts world spending on information security will top out at $83.2B by 2016. Enormous money yes, but let’s not forget the mirrored savings the switch to digital will offer down the road in staff hours.

Security aside, society understands the benefits of big data as 70% of enterprise sized businesses and 56% of small and medium sized businesses allocating $100,000 to $100M to its utilization and storage.

We cannot leave healthcare behind in our adoption of data analysis. More business intelligence will benefit all parts of society and is a heck of a lot more important than being told you prefer non-fat lattes.


5 Reasons Why Social Media Rocks!

2014 was a banner year for social media. When crunching the numbers we see 8,200 tweets, 1,500 Instagrams, 1,600 Tumblr posts, 46,000 Google searches, contributing to over 24,000 GB of internet traffic – per SECOND. In one day alone, over 860 million people use their Facebook accounts to post, share, and interact with online content.

This planet is experiencing a mass social experiment like none before. No matter your age, gender, or economic background, you are part of a technological crusade of evangelical proportions. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

How we connect, select community, access information and share ‘till it hurts, remains as it was when homo erectus walked the earth. This is what we do, we do it well and we will continue to do it, for many more years.

To close out 2014 let us look at the top five key reasons why social media is, and will continue to be, a good thing.

#1: Social Media Helps You Make Friends.

Survey Says: The need to connect is hardwired into our species.

The plain fact is we need to be part of something bigger. How else can we brag, or complain without knowing our euphoria or pain is shared by those around us? In our relentless pursuit of being part of something bigger, we desperately seek to connect. Whether with complete strangers, or past acquaintances, we yearn to develop trust by exchanging emotional discourse with others. Our minds subconsciously repeat, ‘I like them and I want them to be part of my world.’

Introverted? Shy? No problem. Social media is here to make this connection for you. 

#2. Social Media Makes You Smart.

Survey Says: The size of our social networks is directly related to the size of our brain.

Behavioural scientists like Robin Dunbar confirm, we have big neo-cortexes. This is the part of our brain that processes higher functions. Such as sensory perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and in humans beings, language. Being only two chromosomes apart from our simian ancestors (on which the finding is based) humans have the ability to grow our neo-cortexes with absolute ease by simply expanding our networks. All we need to do is add an extra Facebook friend, Twitter follower or LinkedIn group everyday and our brain naturally grows. How awesome is that!

Now I’m Feeling like @SmartyPants is not that bad of a Twitter handle after all.

#3. Social Media Can Change History.

Survey Says: Social media users will look to ‘real-time’ events in order to become part of the event.

Mashable’s 10 Historical Events Affected by Social Media lays out the bare truth. Social media has the capability to adjust historical outcomes. Take Super Storm Sandy, Arab Spring, even the tragic events in Sydney Australia this past week. How would these events have unfolded without social media’s participation?

Social media is the platform where news stories break – not TV. Equally, social media is commonly used in crisis communication. This is substantiated when law enforcement routinely call for social media blackouts during crisis. This allows authorities to converse in ‘real-time,’ therefore altering outcomes almost immediately. It seems not only do we have the ability to change history, we also want to be the FIRST.

Stamford University and Microsoft research confirms, when users search for ‘real-time’ events, hyper intensive topics as terror, often evolve so fast it creates a (virtual) ‘pile-on.’ Once the information is absorbed and shared, off we go to be the first to form another ‘pile.’ Humans now have the vehicle that allows us to be part of the much bigger cultural mainstream.

Social media allows us to change history and still retain a feeling of belonging. How great is that!

#4. Social Media Bites! (But in a good way)

Survey Says: The ‘Social Media Contageon’ is an epidemic of extraordinary force that infects everyone who dares to log on.

In the New York Times Insights study, Psychology of Sharing, sharing helps build self-actualization, esteem and connectedness. All the important elements of being social. The big difference today is; this gigantic concept called the Information Age is a game changer. Sharing is now on steroids. We share more, from more, with more, more often and more quickly than ever before. And the speed is breathtaking. If you thought the common flu virus was communicable, it holds nothing to a viral event on the internet – good or bad.

Actual pandemics have benefited from this capacity to share information through surveillance as the public clamour to follow the outbreak.

Social is infectious but satisfying. We have been bitten by speed, lured by trust and comforted by community. But what a great thing this new digital malady is. We can commiserate, cheer, applaud or cry – together; almost immediately.

We are able to share our sacred emotions within our own social community.

#5.  Social Media is Here to Stay

Survey Says: As we move into 2015, social media will offer bold new opportunities to all the counted millions of users.

Will it ever!

In business, social media will enable a multitude of businesses to strategize media convergence, utilize big data procurement, and monetize big revenues from e-commerce.

In society, social media will bring people together in growing numbers to grieve our soldiers or cheer on our national sports heroes.

However you use social media remember, it is loud, it is proud and it’s not going anywhere.

The presence and pace of social media can be summed up by Pete Townsend of The Who when quoted, “Keith Moon, God rest his soul, once drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel, driving all the way up to the reception desk, got out and asked for the key to his room.” Speed, tenacity and pure audacity is why social media rocks in 2014 and will in 2015!

In closing, with all rational thinking comes the other argument on social’s place in society.

5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing Your Brain Right Now.


Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

Developing and executing strategic media relations, more than often sits at the core of key competencies as public affairs, communications and Public Relations (PR) professionals. We are hired to bring optimal results when using media to leverage particular needs to advantage either profit or not-for-profit ventures.

In the past, most media strategies would encompass a combination of communications tactics designed to speak directly to your targeted audience. Ever since H.S. Adams asked in 1902 the obligatory question, ‘What is publicity?’ many are still asking. Twenty one years after Adams, Edward Bernays continued this line of thinking in his book, ‘Crystallizing Public Relations,’ were he qualified the essence of public relations as, ‘…the freedom to persuade or suggest.’

Today, persuasion continues to drive communications by using particular tactics to gain influence. This is true whether to advance policy or sell shoes. This assertion is a constant but how we build and cultivate this influence is changing everyday – especially in digital and social media.

Social media, as part of a strong digital strategy, has provided communicators an abundance of targeted audiences, all indelibly linked by their preferred communities and affiliations. Richard D. Lewis’ ‘When Cultures Collide,’ mentions this ‘gift of community’ to also include small groups of influencers or advocates ready and willing to take your message forward and forward, and forward. You get the idea.

As media experts, we must be implicit with our intent that all media relations planning will include a social media component. By hard-wiring a digital strategy – including social media – into your media event goals and objectives, you will tap into this relatively new landscape offering many rewards.

No longer is it enough to merely contact print, broadcast or online news media to pitch your events. We owe it to our clients to bring innovation to our results by utilizing the many benefits of social media.

In my experience as a media relations expert, here is a short list to help you get the toes firmly within your digital footprint when developing your media strategy.

Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

  1. Content: Good news content will often persuade but not necessarily market. News media is very different than simply marketing products to particular customers. Your original pitch to journalists must include the array of online content being provided as part of your planned digital media outreach. Make sure your story is compelling and dynamic by using content to support, not sell, your editorial needs.
  2. Credibility: Recommendations from credible sources is fundamental to your news story gaining ‘legs’ online. A credible reporter quoting a knowledgeable and respected spokesperson offers distribution of trust in your story to both online communities and followers. This will provide you ‘social proof’ your efforts are getting noticed online. Don’t forget, at the same time you are developing community.
  3. Reciprocity: There is no greater realm for human interaction than social media. Interacting and socializing is a primal need for all of us. Part of this need is to share what is good with others. A news story can be shared as a positive gesture by giving back this information to your community so they have the ability, as you did, to support and recommend to others.
  4. Teach: In traditional media we spend long days grooming our media partners to understand our business. This priority should not change with your social media approach. Educating not just your media partner but also your influencers is critical to maintaining a robust social media contact list. Take the time to work with them online and they will be invaluable to you for future endeavours.
  5. Storytelling: You have heard this time and time again how important your ability to tell a fascinating and relevant story is to gaining influence and advocacy in your media approach. If you don’t take the time to develop a narrative, they will bail and you will never see them again – in about 3 seconds online.
  6. Transparency: Whether your media outreach is a photo op, presser, editorial board or launch event, it is all about building trust BEFORE you pitch. Working your social media channels by cultivating relationships will help frame your trust with each of your community managers, followers or advocates. They will extol this forward in 14 characters or less.
  7. Community: Building community that celebrates aligned goals is imperative in any communication or public affairs outreach. This is especially true in large urban cities containing a multitude of different cultures. Each of which will expect a clear understanding of its people and their individual heritage. Online is no different. Categorizing different communities and their cultures will help you establish respect and consideration to advance your media goals. Although these diverse communities are coming online at a slower rate, they will be plentiful shortly and it’s best get a jump on this now.
  8. Access: In the American Press Institute’s research, 42% of online adults use multiple social media networking devices. Out of this, 73% use these devices to get their news and over half will create their own ‘personal news cycle’ by configuring news alerts. It is imperative as professionals we abide this new behaviour with our planning and execution.

I know I said eight reasons, but really one of the more obvious factors around why all media outreach should include an active social media component.

 53% of registered journalists in the U.S. have 500+ followers on Twitter and 55% of their workday is consumed within social media.

Heck, it’s now half their job!


Dear Video. You’re Still Hot!

Awe yes, my good friend video. From Beta to VHS to DVD to iMovie. What a pal you have been, and continue to be for communications and PR. You have helped us mitigate risk by telling a discernible yarn of what happened – and most importantly, when it will be fixed. You have helped leading manufacturers become the best in the world by training their employees on standard operating procedures; all by watching a movie. With a filter or two, you have allowed us to put on some ‘slap’ when the story is dull and ordinary. You have made our storytelling to be compelling so our clients become closer to their customers.

For many years, frame by frame, you have served our industry well, but at what cost?

Every year you say you need more dollars so you can keep up with the latest trends to ‘look good’ for clients. This seems fair, but when probed further you begin to list all your associates that will need to be included in order for you to ‘look good.’

First you say you need a producer to ‘produce’ the story. A director to capture and conceptualize the story. A videographer to shoot the story. A writer, that will put words into the mouths of many… and so on and so on and so on.

My good friend video, I hate to break this to you. In today’s world you are just too darn expensive. Your associates are good and talented people but I cannot support all of you at one time.

Why you say?

It’s actually quite simple, I am operating on one-tenth the budget of two years ago and I just don’t have the money for you to ‘look good’ any more. At lease to the extent you are accustomed to.

So I old chum I put this question to you. Isn’t ‘looking good’ relative to what we are both working towards?

I say it is.

I bought a new Canon T5i DSLR with decent resolution that helps me shoot BOTH video and stills just by slinging a bag across my shoulders. I have a program called iMovie on my computer that helps either me, or my staff, assemble a pretty decent video. To top it all off, 80% of client videos are produced for what is called social media. You may have heard of it. It’s a channel allowing not just one-way communication but embraces two-way communication.

So do not fear my friend. You will continue to ‘look good’ because we will take the time to buy the books and do the research and learn how to shoot and cut a good video. We will promise to do all the things your associates have taught us with one big difference.

Because we can.

Even past the Canon, as iPhones become the arriflex of the back pocket, do not worry, you will always ‘look good’ because you are our friend and we care.

If you still don’t believe me have a look at a grassroots video below. This was produced by myself and Ross Fitzgerald entirely in-house for the Campaign For All Canadians at Canadian Blood Services to promote a worthy and important cause – building a National Public Cord Blood Bank in Canada.

Subject matter aside, you look fantastic!

From ‘Stick’ to ‘Auto’ Social Media Helps Drive Crisis Communications

Four on the Floor

‘The peddle to the metal’

Back many years ago, I attained my license with the help from a very trusted Italian – my Fiat 500. She was not Gina Lollobridgida but was fitted appropriately with a feisty 4-speed gearbox and a sweet looking candy apple red exterior. Certainly a dream come true for any young man at 18.

There is much to be said about learning to drive a ‘stick’ opposed to an automatic. Better gas economy, longer brake life and more versatility when driving for others. Oddly enough none of which came in handy while diving through the fens of Cambridge England delivering wine in ‘85. But that’s another story.

Driving a good crisis communication plan has much in common with that old 4-speed Fiat in Windsor Ontario. From first to fourth comes a procession of tried and true communication methods: gathering the facts, shaping the issue, mitigating a process and monitoring the absolute bejesus out of it. Many of these tenets, and a further six, are explored extensively by Vancouver-based expert John Barr and his book Trainwrecks. How Corporate Reputations Collapse and Managements Try to Rebuild Them (covered last year by Globe and Mail columnist Harvey Schachter) to help fretted corporations manage their ‘pending’ issues.

Managing critical issues was a key responsibility during my tenure as national public affairs manager for the stem cell business line at Canadian Blood Services (CBS). Crisis communications took many forms with issues ranging from volcanic ash air travel disruption, to patient appeals. All straightforward in planning and execution as my team and I would bring measured results for both client and partners. Nested within our crisis strategy sat traditional media that in itself frequently took centre stage by utilizing print and broadcast channels to tell the story of transparency, accountability and concern. Slowly the issue would recede to the back of the public’s mind and all would be good – hopefully.

Then came a huge shift in how a crisis is initially presented to the public, reported throughout and monitored.

Social media.

To offer a clear picture of how crisis has found friend and foe in social media, picture this true and often repeated scenario.

You are living the good life. Health, financial vestment well tailored for many years, kids driving you nuts but love them dearly and you finally got that 30-year scotch you wanted.

One morning you start to realize your 12-year old is sleeping a lot and showing more bruises than a weekly round of hockey will produce. You and your partner take her to the doctor where at lightening speed she is diagnosed with leukemia. Your good life is now over for any foreseeable future. Your world is upside down and your family is in crisis.

Now spring forward to a barrage of testing only to result in the eventual news that ‘your baby’ will need a stem cell transplant to survive. This is your only child so no sibling match can be found (30% of HLA matches come from a sibling match). The only hope your champion left-winger remains is a blood stem cell transplant. This will need to come from someone you will not know and from god knows where. Where do you turn?

Why the internet of course. Within one breath you put up a Facebook page, set up a Twitter handle and desperately post, tweet and retweet.

‘Heck why not; we live in the digital age.’

You then proceed to call every media outlet you can muster to tell your story. A natural response but nevertheless one that can work so much better when integrated with social media tactics.

Carefully and with a metered approach, you convince the family that online is just one part of an effective communication strategy. A strategy that will build community, foster advocates and spread the word to find that illusive HLA match not just for your daughter but also for all patients.

Is that not the true meaning of a social network at work?

Good crisis communications planning will always have traditional media side-by-side with social navigating through the initial fear and uncertainty towards a result favourable to all parties.

From 4-speeds to overdrives, using all the speeds available when working in crisis will get you to your desired destination. Whether the radio is AM or SirusXM.