On Transparency


Last week, I ran across an article that talked about transparency in the workplace, and how that’s the essential key to a successful business where employees are happy and have fun. Google is the example so many companies look at as a paradigm of a fun culture. And those same companies think that putting in a ping pong table or foosball table or bar in the office is going to do that. But it doesn’t. A fun culture happens when employees feel informed about what’s going on and have clear communication channels where they know their voices will be heard. Then they can cut loose, let their hair down a little – because they’re confident in where they stand.

I could write a lengthy blog post on that alone, but really I’m just using it as a (somewhat clunky) analogy to talk about a shift I’m making on this blog.

And that shift is to be more transparent. Or, to put it another way, to chip away at the walls between personal and professional in an effort to provide something of more value to you as a reader…and to myself as a real human who’s writing about this stuff. I want you to connect with what you find here, and that’s only gonna happen if I pull back the curtain a bit and get real with you.

So, instead of limiting what I post here to digital marketing, I’m going to get a little bit personal and include the other facets of my life like music, photography/videography, philosophy (of the armchair variety) and other stuff. I’m also going to shoot for one post a week, at minimum. Because no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I would have written less about what matters to me.”

Subscribe to get these posts in your inbox if you want to see how this goes.

Digital Digest: Who owns your social media, video trends and not telling chatbots your secrets

Con/Text Digital Digest: It’s like Reader’s Digest, except shorter, more cutting edge, significantly hipper…and, you won’t find it in your grandmother’s bathroom.

Do you really own your brand’s social media channels?


Technically, those of us in communications do consider social media as “owned” media properties. But that’s somewhat of a misnomer. If you’re publishing content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a blogging platform like Medium – you’re building on rented land. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I would say no – because that rented land has a waaay better location for foot traffic than the land you actually own (i.e. your email list and website). Nonetheless, it’s good to keep in mind that when you’re on that rented land, the landlord can jack up the rent or just decide to kick you off it at any time – and this article gets to that point.

Are customers watching brands’ video content? If so, probably not on live TV
YouTubeReachCheck out more surprising stats about video consumption habits in this article.

The rise of the chatbots


“Chatbots get better with time and information. The more info you feed them, the better they become at mimicking natural language and making you believe they are real. Human even.”

That’s scary enough, but we also need to think about the threats chatbots could pose in terms of our online privacy and security. Read more on that.

The disease of being busy

I know I’m guilty of it – taking too much on at work, over-committing to outside projects, hobbies, social events, volunteer work. We all seem to hate being too busy. It keeps us from the things we want to be doing…but we don’t do anything to change it.

With our ever-connected world where we’re checking work emails around the clock, constantly scrolling on social media sites or swiping on dating apps, along with our packed-to-the-brim schedules, we’ve forgotten how to just be rather than always be doing. This article is slightly out of the norm for what I usually include in the Digital Digest, but in the buzz of our digital lives, we need to stop, take a breath and ask ourselves: When did we forget we are human beings, not human doings?



Digital Digest: Influencer Marketing Trends, the real purpose of Facebook’s new emojis and more

Con/Text Digital Digest: It’s like Reader’s Digest, except shorter, more cutting edge, significantly hipper…and, you won’t find it in your grandmother’s bathroom.


Forbes starts its own influencer network

I’m currently working on a blog on influencer marketing that I’ll publish soon, but I wanted to go ahead and share this news because of the possible trend shift it represents in native and influencer marketing. You may be aware of existing influencer marketing companies like TapInfluence that build relationships with influential individuals (usually social media personalities) so brands and agencies can easily connect with them (for a price, of course) to get their message in front of their campaign’s target audience.

Forbes is launching their own influencer network strictly for their publications (online and print) that shifts this model in a couple ways. One, instead of a random popular YouTuber or blogger, their influencers are journalists, academics and topic experts (like in cloud computing or monetary policy). Two, the native content lives on their channels alone. That fact is significant because it means they may no longer host content from other native ad platforms (like Outbrain). Though it might be a long time before a critical mass of sites/publications move to this model, it is an interesting development both for native content as well as how publications can create another income stream for themselves. Read more about BrandVoice Premium in this Wall Street Journal article.

The REAL reason FB added emoji reactions beyond Like

Long story short: the more Facebook knows about what mood you’re in or what emotional response you have to certain types of posts from friends and brands, they can learn how to get their hooks deeper into you and keep you on the platform for longer stretches of time. Learn more.

Some brands going all-in on election year


“A survey by the Global Strategy Group last year found that corporations that were seen as politically involved or attuned were viewed favorably — no matter which side of the aisle they were on.” Definitely a potentially dangerous strategy, but it can be executed effectively with the right mix of humor/cynicism. Of course, Neflix’s House of Cards is the clear winner here.

And your bonus prize of the week

From my favorite fake clickbait Facebook page…


Digital Digest: Twitter’s new algorithm, the new dynamics of PR and more

It’s like Reader’s Digest, except shorter, more cutting edge, significantly hipper…and, you won’t find it in your grandmother’s bathroom.

Image: Brittany Herbert/Mashable

Image: Brittany Herbert/Mashable

Twitter’s timeline goes algorithmic
Facebook has notoriously used complex algorithms to decide who and what you see in your Facebook News Feed – from friend posts to updates from that band you Liked two years ago (hint: you’ll never see that band’s posts unless they pay for it). Users can now opt in to see what Twitter thinks is “the best” at the top of their timelines. This change complements the platform’s First View ads, which stay at the top of Twitter feeds for 24 hours. Learn more

Are you a content marketing curmudgeon?
Well, if you have any blog you like reading or enjoy taking those “What Harry Potter Character Are You?” quizzes, then you shouldn’t be. You can also tweet at me, and I’ll give you a thousand reasons you should be totally jazzed about content marketing. Or you could read this article by a guy who was very against content marketing until he saw the light. Read it here.

Using Content to Battle Big Brother
Apple takes a strong stance in an essay explaining their refusal to build a back door into iPhones for the FBI as doing so would compromise the current and future privacy of all iPhone users. And the way Apple spreads that message illustrates the new dynamics of PR: they published directly to the public without the need to go through any news media outlets. Read more about that and read Tim Cook’s essay.

And your bonus prize of the week:

Tim Cook took a blurry photo at the Super Bowl and got seriously trolled for it


The De-Institutionalization of America (Or SimplifyUS)


A recent article I ran across in The New York Times explores the issue of nonprofits undergoing name changes and re-branding in an attempt to retain their relevance and provide more accurate monikers for the work they do. Some of these nonprofits began 50-100 years ago when long, formal and complicated names likely contributed to an organization’s perceived legitimacy and ethos. A number of nonprofit organizations from that era have very governmental-sounding names, which probably worked in their favor at the time since more people still trusted the government back then.

Blame it on Gen X, who I like to think of as the no-bullshit generation, or Millennials, who seem to think nonprofits should be as hip in their marketing as multi-billion dollar commercial brands – America is experiencing a significant shift in the significance of nomenclature. All types of companies, from hot tech startups to government agencies and long-established nonprofits, are having to embrace this shift.

A great example from the aforementioned article is the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City Inc. The organization doesn’t actually manage senior centers, rather it “advocates against the abuse of older adults, helps them apply for rental and food assistance and lobbies for affordable housing on their behalf.” Since renaming is hard, the natural option would be to just use the acronym, right? Well, C.S.C.S. doesn’t quite have a ring to it either.

To more accurately represent what the organization does and to have a more memorable name, they re-branded as LiveOn NY. I typically poke fun at companies that just run words together for their names (I really want to have a startup called MyAwesomeStartUply.com). But, in this case, it works quite well and even clarifies the cadence and meaning of the name.

We’re seeing this shift to simplifying identity for organizations for the obvious reason: it’s beneficial to have short, memorable names that are descriptive of the services an organization offers. But it also belies a larger cultural desire for a de-bureaucratization of our institutions and a movement toward decentralization of power. In our crowd-sourced, crowed-funded culture of the empowered consumer, empowered donor and empowered advocate, even nonprofit organizations have to deliver a simple, straightforward message that captures the ever-fleeting attention of today’s information-inundated consumer.

So, just in case this becomes a widely-discussed issue, I’ll go ahead and coin the term for the movement: SimplifyUS.

Practical Tips for Content Marketing

PracticalTipsForContentMarketingWEB At this point, everyone has realized that successful digital marketing rests ultimately on effective content marketing. Even if you have a great strategy and big plans for your digital marketing, the challenge comes down to one thing: having enough content. If you’re working with little to no budget (like I often do), the key is to empower your employees, and maybe even external brand/organization advocates, to create that content.

I was recently asked by a marketing director at a nonprofit about how to manage content contributors from across an organization. This was a challenge I had to tackle (and continue to tackle) at the nonprofit where I work, so I thought I’d put together some practical tips that can make content marketing viable even if you have a small budget or small staff.

The challenge can be addressed in three main categories: Content Development, Workflow and Publishing.


To get started:

1) Identify potential Content Contributors
Who at your company has their finger on the pulse of your customers/donors? Who is in the field hearing great stories that you could share on web, email and social? Who’s behind the scenes doing work that your customers would love to know about to feel part of the action? Who seems to already have a knack for photography, video or social media? These are the folks you want to approach to be Content Contributors.

2) Outline content types
While you don’t want to limit the creative ideas from Content Contributors that you might not ever think of on your own, you do want to establish basic content types: testimonials, success stories, photos, video, etc. Determine which content types fit best with both the social platforms you are using and with the type of media your audience consumes. One tip: digital video is by far the best format if you can do it well.

3) Establish themes for content
Again, you don’t want to limit the potential content your contributors might create, but outlining general themes that go along with your overall brand message and/or current marketing campaigns will help the content be more focused and will give Content Contributors some basic parameters and a good place to start.


Once you have employees from across your company cranking out good content, you’re going to need a way to manage that content. Especially in the beginning phases (but probably always), the content will need to be reviewed. You will also want to give Content Contributors feedback so they can continually improve the quality of what they submit.

Two tools that would offer the capabilities for managing the content workflow and communication are Slack and Huddle. Slack is free…and their promo video alone will likely make you want to sign up right away.

There are plenty of other tools out there too, but what you need is a streamlined, efficient way (i.e. not via email) for you or your team to manage and review content and give feedback to contributors.


Ideally, you would have a social media or digital marketing manager who can manage all posting and scheduling of content. If you don’t have that luxury, you can break those tasks up between a couple trusted team members (most likely already in your marketing department). Whoever fills that role can make sure content aligns with your business goals or campaign goals and make sure the content is optimized specifically for each channel and audience.

Another option would be to have one manager oversee multiple social media contributors through a tool like Hootsuite (which is affordable and allows for permission levels and approvals) or something a little more fancy like SproutSocial.

You can supplement original content by curating and sharing industry news, keyword-related stories/info or any type of content that would interest your customer demographic. My personal favorite tool for content discovery is Feedly. There are plenty of other great tools out there that help you find relevant content to share including Klout and Postplanner.

Hopefully these ideas will help get your content generation machine going. There’s plenty more to talk about – from setting meaningful KPIs to responding to customer needs and interest based on data and behaviors – but those are other topics for another blog post.

If you want to chat to learn more or are interested in digital marketing consulting, contact me!