Monday, July 28, 2008

A Great Collection of Blogs

You've been to a car show, right? Beautiful vehicles detailed to the nines and lined up for your inspection. Imagine something like that for blogs. Liz Strauss did and then made it happen. Check out this impressive list of blogs at her 2008 Blog-to Show.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why business podcasting isn't hot...yet

I saw an interesting post today over at Podcasting News that brought to light Ian Lamont's insight into the demise of PodTech (well, it's not dead, just sold for a tiny fraction of the money the investors had sunk into it). Lamont is managing editor for The Industry Standard. His comments to the post are also interesting.

I must admit that Lamont knows much more about the PodTech situation than I do, but my experience during the Internet boom and bust of the 1999-2001 tells me that it might be far too early to write off podcasting as a business tool. He writes, and is quoted by Podcasting News:

"This was a hyped business built on one of the most hyped technologies of 2005. Once that faded, reality set in."

No, reality is still some ways ahead of us.

In early 2000 I was hired away from SourceMedia in New York (then Thomson Media) to serve as engineering vertical producer for an internet startup owned by a telecom company and one of the top three television networks. I was one of about 17 trade journalists hired to run online publications presumably to serve professionals working in over 100 industries. I covered ten engineering disciplines from Aerospace to Civil to Systems.

We had a fairly healthy budget and began hiring freelancers and traveling to conferences in order to provide the most up-to-date business coverage for our verticals. Meanwhile, the biz dev folks were cutting deals with all manner of whiz-bang new Internet start up folks in order to secure advertising to support the site. Reality set in when the company learned (a few months after realizing a cash burn rate of about $5 million monthly) that the professionals working in the fields we were covering didn't have a need for the newest whiz bang Internet offering. Worse yet, most of the folks we were writing to weren't sitting in their offices all day reading online articles. They were out in the field, building airplanes and new highways.

Here we are a few years later and people are finally figuring out how to deliver information to business readers online. Checking digg or techmeme or using an RSS reader was much easier for business customers to fit into their lives. Mobile technologies have made it easier and business users just understand these things a little bit better.

And that's the real lesson here. It doesn't matter how cool you think your new tool is, you will not succeed if it does not serve a real business need (if you're targeting a business audience) at the time you launch your offering. If your market doesn't know they need it (i.e. you're ahead of the curve), or it just doesn't fit into the way they operate now, you'll have a tough row to hoe.

I didn't listen to the programs on PodTech and I probably won't now that it's under new ownership. I just don't have an hour in my day that I can sit back and enjoy an Internet radio program. I do know that a shorter (sub-10 minute) program will attract a business audience. That's how we won a podcasting merit award in 2006 from the Foundation for New Communication Research for our Executive Insights podcast series.

As soon as more people figure out how to make podcasting (a wicked powerful tool for business marketing) serve the needs of the business market, reality will set in and it will be a very profitable business.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Principles of social computing

Here's a really nice post that succinctly captures four principles of social computing. Not sure I buy into this completely, but I think it may be a good start. Found this on the Communities Dominate Brands blog (another concept I like in theory, but I'm not sure I buy yet).

Read it and leave your comments. I may post again on this in the future as it seems worthwhile to lay down some ground rules when you're working in a new area. I like that these rules make it easier to win the game.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The right way to do podcast show notes

While online video will continue to get more affordable and more people will develop the skills required to quickly get quality productions online, there will always be a need for well produced podcasts.

One essential element of a good podcast is a blog post for the show notes. These can include biographical information about the speakers, credit for music or production services and links to additional information. One thing they should include is a minute-by-minute description of the information delivered in the podcast. To see what I mean, check out the show notes for a recent podcast from the folks at Anecdote.

People are pressed for time. They want to go right to the information they are seeking. If they find sufficient value there, they'll often listen to the rest of the production. If you don't make it easy for them to find what they are seeking, they may not listen to any of it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hunkering down does not mean being quiet

According to a recent survey performed by Management Action Programs Inc. (MAP), Sherman Oaks, Calif., the nation's top CEOs are adjusting to the tough economy by changing their tactics.

"Given the volatile economy of late, a fresh trend in CEO behavior has emerged, which is shedding light on a new kind of leadership," the company said in a release today. "Many CEOs are refraining from making bold, sudden business moves right now. Instead, they're opting to shift the management gears into a 'hunkering down and building up the business' position."

What that means, according to MAP, is that CEOs are "fine-tuning internal operations by bolstering the quality of company culture, internal communications and customer service."

What a great time to be a corporate communicator! CEOs finally get the importance of communication and there are great new Web 2.0 tools to make it easier and more effective than ever before.

Now is the time to be innovative, to step forward and be heard. No where is this more true than in my own industry, the US home finance business. Hard hit from a number of directions, executives in mortgage finance are not making any big moves right now and they're not talking about innovation. Instead, they are being quiet, releasing only what news they feel is absolutely essential.

I think that's a mistake. This is an opportunity for forward-thinking executives to get famous for leading the industry out of this quagmire. Now is the time for leaders to make certain that they are being heard.

MAP seems to agree. According to Lee Froschheiser, president and CEO of MAP, "the survey results highlight the major significance of strengthening business fundamentals and, especially, communication. Bottom line, clear communication is the most important key to a business leader's success."

Will brilliant financial services leaders step forward? I doubt it, but it might make for a great case study when all the dust settles. There are certainly brilliant people out there, but I anticipate that many of the industry's current leaders will be shuffled off quietly to enjoy their severance packages in retirement. The younger executives they trained will move up and the cycle will continue.

Other industries may have a better chance of capitalizing on this opportunity, combining the leadership and vision of a great CEO with the great new communication tools available today. Leveraged properly, it could allow us all to come out of this downturn stronger than we've ever been before.

Put your head in the sand, and you'll miss out. As Froschheiser puts it, "To properly manage and grow a business through tough times, you must be an effective, compelling communicator."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why content is king

We've all heard it and can sing it by heart: content is king in the online world. But why? I believe it's so we have something to talk about. It's like going into a cocktail party without a story to tell or comment to make. You stand around the edges and hope no one approaches you. You have nothing to say. When we come to the party with a story, we welcome interaction. We want to share what we know and solicit the feedback of those who converse with us.

If it's important at a cocktail party, it's even more important when a business wants to interact with customers online. Even so, I see company's making two primary mistakes over and over again, they try to tell the perfect corporate story and they only tell stories about their products and services.

When it comes to the company line, marketing executives have become expert at getting the story down and policing company leaders to read their lines correctly. When these firms go online, they take that perfected story with them, creating websites and online content that's just...well, boring. It's like you're being forced to listen to one of those little, website talking cartoon heads that only spouts company information as if it was preparing a recording for the music-on-hold system. Doesn't work.

Even if you copy all of your written material to the Web perfectly it won't be received by your audience in the same way it would in print. As Patrick Tucker points out in the current issue of The Futurist, the 21st century writer is using an entirely different toolkit, that includes multimedia and a whole lot of "reader" input. This is being driven by the 21st century reader.

And that's fine. Company stories don't have to be told the same way every time. They can be rewritten, reworked and sometimes even messed up. The sooner companies realize they aren't in control of every aspect of their story anyway, the better off they'll be. See this great blog entry from Liz Straus for more on being effective by not being perfect.

The other mistake companies make is acting like all their customers could ever want is embodied in their products or services. That's never true. Prospects may come to your site because they are seeking a solution, but if they stay its because they've found something that interests them.

Here's a great example from National Mortgage News, my old employer. This company is in the business of providing mortgage industry information, perhaps not the most exciting offering for most folks, but they realize that the people they serve are real people. This column from editorial director Mark Fogarty, which has nothing to do with the mortgage business and everything to do with what turns on real music lovers who also happen to be in the mortgage business, is a great example of what content can do to enhance relationships.

Content is king because it opens up a communication channel to those people you need to communicate with. So quit scanning in the corporate brochures and post some material that will attract folks, then talk to the people that show up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New podcast for real estate agents

If you're in the real estate business and you're not deep into Web 2.0 there's a new podcast that can get you started. Real Estate 2.0 is now a featured podcast on Lenderama.

The show provides a quick and lively discussion of New Media tools that can benefit real estate agents. The hosts are great and the information is useful. Recommended!

A Powerful Example

New Media will give us the power to change the way we communicate. In fact, by adopting the new tools made available in Web 2.0 and those that will come in Web 3.0, we will be forced to change the way the send and receive information in the business world. It's not just that companies will find it more difficult to lie with impunity. It's more than a change from one-way to two-way, from enabling an outdated one-to-many to evolve into a one-to-one or many-to-one model. It's about finally being able to be authentic as we relate to the people we serve and those we hope to serve.

This is a wonderful example of that. Without any words or even description, Matt Harding showed us how easy it is interact in a meaningful way with people from anywhere in the world. Music and dance have fairly universal meanings for humans and so it they were good choices for his interactions, which, for a few minutes, make it more difficult for us to see the differences between us. How much easier will it be for companies that have spent millions researching everything about their target markets to communicate authentically with them? Probably not as easy as it should, but that's where we're going.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Speaking (or tweeting) up during a conference

One of the things I always do when I moderate a panel at a conference is encourage, in the strongest possible language, the audience to break in with their questions anytime during the presentation. It's the very best way to make sure that you're providing the exact information that attendees want. Even so, it is rare that people speak up. That may be because I work in the financial services industry and bankers tend to be more conservative, but it still makes it more difficult to gage whether the audience is getting what they came for.

Now, New Media tools are making it easier for conference attendees to be part of the conversation without actually saying anything. While this is prevalent now only at technology- or New Media-focused conferences, many execs are now using Twitter to make comments during the session. A person provided by the conference or the session moderator monitors the tweets during the session and passes the comments and questions through to the panelists.

It may take a while for this to filter down to non-tech-related conferences, but it's already becoming prevalent for online event, such as webinars. In fact, one company, Radian6, has launched a series of twebinars (twitter mashed up with a webinar) hosted by Chris Brogan that allows attendees to discuss the event in real time before during and after the session.

I expect these tools to become mainstream for all conferences relatively quickly, perhaps as early as next year. I base that on my experience at last week's 2008 Predictive Methods Conference in San Diego where attendees were asked to interact with conference speakers by keying in answers to questions on a Funnies-Home-Videos-style keypad. The results were displayed graphically for the forum in a matter of seconds.

People love to interact and when technology makes it easy to do so without saying a word or drawing any attention, it's going to enjoy rapid adoption.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Radio, like Newspapers, must reinvent itself

Arbitron ratings indicate that fewer educated listeners are tuning into broadcast radio at work. Podcasting News ran the story I found and pointed out that those listeners using the Internet for music at work has risen from 12 percent to 20 percent in a single year.

I recently posted about how one newspaper's efforts to go hyperlocal were failing because it had not taken the time to intimately know the market in which it was competing. This is less of a problem for broadcast radio stations, which generally have local personalities hosting their shows. In addition, radio stations have done a better job of moving online. The question is, can they provide enough local information to keep people tuned in.

Local traffic reports and lack of true Internet radio in cars, will keep those without satellite radio tuned in over the short term, but at work, where people want music as background noise and don't (or shouldn't) pay that much attention to the personalities, will be a much bigger challenge.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Washing Post: having problems with hyperlocal site

The Wall Street Journal carried the story today that the Washington Post's website, a site designed to provide hyperlocal coverage of Loudoun County, Va., has lost its chief web architect and much of its tech team.

"Like hundreds of other hyperlocal sites launched in the past few years, reflects a basic premise: Metro newspapers probably can't compete with the Internet or cable TV in covering breaking national or international news, but they can dominate what happens in their backyards," wrote the Journal's Russell Adams.

The problem is that the site has yet to find its audience. Adams says one reason for that is because "the team of outsiders didn't do enough to familiarize itself with Loudoun County or engage its 270,000 residents." He's exactly right.

This is a mistake corporate marketers are making more often as they attempt to move their companies closer to the prospects they sell to without changing the perspective on the lens they use to study them. Hyperlocal coverage requires traditional newspapers to do more than just tell the same old stories to an audience of people that all happen to be listening from the same county. It requires them tell stories that really matter to them.

I've seen something similar happen when companies start podcasting. As soon as the marketing department realizes that podcasts are a great new way to allow its prospects to hear the ideas that set the company apart directly from a top executive, they hand the CEO a corporate brochure to use as a script. But that's not the point. It's not that people are suddenly listening to podcasts instead of the radio, it's that they listen to get new insight.

People who listen to corporate podcasts do it to find out more about the people who are behind the brands they love, not to hear the same brand messaging in a new way. That's like a child coming in from outside and not remembering to switch to his "inside voice."

Getting closer to your customers via New Media communication tools requires companies to set aside the marketing collateral and bullhorns and enter a dialog with their customers and prospects. Those that don't will suffer the same fate as the Washington Post, an otherwise fantastic journalistic enterprise that forgot that getting closer to its readers required than just saying the same old things louder.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

1 billion viewers can't be wrong

How many people will view your amazing Web video? That's a question many B2B marketers have been asking. The answers they keep coming up with have kept most marketing departments out of the online video world, at least on the business-to-business side, but that may be changing.

A new study from ABI Research forecasts the number of viewers who access video via the Web to nearly quadruple in the next few years, reaching at least one billion in 2013.

“The rapid expansion of broadband video creates opportunities across a number of market sectors,” according to senior analyst Cesar Bachelet, who made his remarks in a press release. “A wide variety of actors aim to gain a share of this fast-growing market: not only content owners such as the BBC and NBC Universal, and Internet portals such as AOL and Yahoo!, but also a range of new entrants including user-generated content sites such as YouTube and Dailymotion, broadband video sites such as CinemaNow and Lovefilm, and Internet TV providers such as Apple and Zattoo.”

While most of these players will be seeking out traditional television mass markets and using old advertising models to monetize their efforts, the professional B2B marketer will be working to provide informative and entertaining content to appeal to specific target audiences. Many of these online viewers already have access to broadband at work, but come home to enjoy traditional television, provided by cable or satellite television companies.

The real sea change in online video viewing will probably have less to do with broadband access and more to do with viewers plugging their media PCs and Apple TVs directly into their big screens. There are already a number of online players providing programming. Soon, we can expect one of the Content Delivery Networks, players that today provide faster streaming by parking video content in locations closer to online viewers, to develop a viable online business channel.

In the future, business prospects will come home after a busy day and watch online video from their comfort of their easy chairs. When that happens, B2B marketers will need to be ready to leverage online video that is both informative and entertaining to continue to build out their brands.

Friday, April 18, 2008

LandAmerica webcasts shareholder meeting

LandAmerica Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE:LFG) has announced that it will broadcast its Annual Meeting of Shareholders live over the internet on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, at 9:00 AM ET via LandAmerica's website (

The event will then be archived and available for replay starting two hours after the completion of the live event through June 13, 2008.

For companies that have the ability to stage a competent team of executives, opening up these meetings to the world is likely to do wonders for their share price. Not only does it provide additional transparency, but it's probably one of the best ways to sell the companies core messages to potential investors.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Social sites for real estate finance

I've been saying for some time now that the first bank that sees the value of treating its customers as part of a community that it serves online will score a major marketing win. A recent post over at the future of real estate marketing blog now leads me to believe that it won't come from the finance side at all, but rather from the real estate companies.

In the post, blogger Joel Burslem talks about a number of brokers and agents that seem to get this whole social media thing. I was particularly impressed with ChaseNation.

Our homes are a huge part of who we are. Financing them is a necessary part of the game for most of us. Companies that learn to provide valuable content around these issues will be in a position to attract virtual communities on the Web. They may, as in the case of ChaseNation, be tied to a real-world location, but for a major national lender or real estate company they may not.

The key will be providing enough value to bring people back. I haven't seen that in many places yet, but I expect to in the future.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sharing photos for business or pleasure

People have been sharing photos on sites like Flickr and Google's Picasa for some time now. It makes it easier to share pics of the grandchildren with the folks and embarrass your friends after the New Year's Eve party.

Last week I learned how powerful photo sharing could be as a tool for business networking. Using Utterz, I was able to snap a photo of an interviewee with my camera phone, e-mail it in to my social media site and by the time our discussion was over, I could show them their smiling face on my website. It opened some eyes to the concept of instant publishing.

Later, I was able to create a slideshow with Flickr and post it to my homepage, letting everyone in my market know who was making news at the recent business conference.

Now, Adobe has put a version of its Photoshop application online as part of a new photo sharing site. Now as powerful as the full version (or even Photoshop Elements), it will still allow you to do plenty with your snapshots. While other sharing sites and standalone apps on the web offer online photo editing, Adobe is the professional's choice, which should attract a significant offering to the site.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Can tales lead to sales?

Another great post on why storytelling leads to more bottom line profit.

Podcasting getting easier

More manufacturers are now making their microphones with USB connections for use with laptops. This is perfect for podcasters in the field.

Here's an ad from the current issue of Videography for the AT-2020. This is probably my favorite mic for voice recording, now available with USB.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Media = New Publications

Custom publishing has been around for a long time. Traditionally offered by trade media or other professional publishers who catered to well-heeled customers who wanted to have their own publications. With enough money, there is no need to share space with competitors.

New Media is making it easier for companies of all sizes to publish their own publications. Using low-cost design tools, Flash and the Web, just about anyone can create a custom publication and put it out into the market.

But smart marketers are careful not to advance material that looks or sounds less than professional. The reputation risk involved is significant.

Professional writers and magazine editors are available and can help companies plan and lay out quality custom publications on a freelance basis.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Coldwell Banker: Embracing New Media

Coldwell Banker may be the first Real Estate company to fully embrace New Media marketing. Their new campaign makes use of humor, a channel and a blog.

Read all about it on Joel Burslem's Future of Real Estate Marketing blog.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Study: Tell customers less

I read about an interesting new study over at brand expert Guy Kawasaki's blog. Researchers found that the more product information a potential customer has, the less likely they are to engage in "wishful thinking" about your offering and the less likely they are to be satisfied. Happy customers, it appears, are blissfully ignorant.

The study was based on consumer perceptions of hand lotion and chocolate. The more people learned about these products, the less they happy they became.

But is this really a endorsement of keeping your customers in the dark, or is it really about having a good story to tell them in the first place. I know lots of folks who get all excited about organic foods and vegetarian dishes because they've heard all the great health benefits and how no animals or plants were harmed in the making of the dishes. But most of it tastes pretty crappy, IMHO. Doesn't make them less happy though.

If you have a good product and you don't have to be ashamed of the way its made or what it contains or what the production does to your workers, then you're probably going to do better by sharing your story with your prospects.

BTW, I'm not disagreeing with Guy. He didn't specifically endorse the study's findings in his blog either.

A New Podcast Series

If you haven't signed up to be a guest on our new Business & Technology podcast, you should drop us a line soon. The show focuses on technologies that business leaders are leveraging now to do things better, cheaper and faster.

The tools don't have to apply to any specific businesses segment. In fact, we want to have a good cross section of markets so that creative executives can learn from what's happening in other industries.

The shows last only five minutes and always include the answers to three important questions:

1) What is the technology and who does it serve?
2) What is the value proposition to the user?
3) Why is this better than other currently available alternatives?

Want to get on the show? It's easy. Just send us an e-mail and we'll give you a call.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Broadcast Yourself

I've been telling companies in the Financial Services space for some time now that they must begin thinking like publishers if they want to get their stories told. But not traditional, paper-based publishers. They must embrace every new way their prospects choose to receive information. Increasingly, those methods involve New Media.

This story on Boing Boing is an excellent example of how clever marketers can utilize new consumer technologies to get their information out there. The CharmingBurka is likely to be a bit hit in the West as it allows Muslim women to stay true to their religion without sacrificing the ability to interact with society on our terms. And everyone wants to know what's underneath.

Businesses will have to be more clever than that. Consumers will quickly lose patience with firms that force advertisements onto their handsets. But what about those people at the trade shows who are interested but don't want to get caught up in a lengthy sales pitch. Wouldn't it be nice to just point a cell phone and get the basics?

Just one more reason that every marketing department needs to have someone who is spending time out on the cutting edge of the New Media frontier.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Destroying assumptions

Excellent post over at the Brand Builder Blog on breaking through old assumptions. In this post, Olivier Blanchard talks about Seven Considerations that are Changing the Game.

Excellent work. I particularly like the part about how News is changing. Definitely.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fast Company takes plunge into Social Media

It has been clear to me for some time now that traditional publishing is history. While I made my living at the weekly newspaper for nearly a decade, people don't wait that long for information anymore. And they never will again.

We're now seeing a number of publications launch online components. Fast Company recently opened up a social media project for beta testers. I'm trying it out and will let you know what I learn.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blogger equals journalist

President Bush has signed the "Openess Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007" which, among other things, makes it clear that bloggers, podcasters and other New Media professionals are now considered on equal footing with other journalists under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

This is interesting from a legal perspective, but I think corporate bloggers should have already been thinking this way.

First, if you are creating content, you need to be considering your audience, its needs and interests, just like anyone else who writes for a living. Secondly, as people continue to turn away from traditional trade media and going online for news and information about their industries, companies have an opportunity to provide balanced information to their prospects and customers, becoming, in effect, trade publishers themselves.

It's good that the government recognizes "citizen journalists" as equal under the law. But it would be better if companies established communication teams internally that thought and acted like journalists in order to add value to their target publics.