A Brief Recap of the Digital Marketing and Design Panel – part of Saturday’s GeekFest events

In a continuation of the day’s theme of emerging trends in the technology and communication landscape, this panel featured experts sharing their experiences and perspectives on new ways to foster connections. While each of our four experts shared their very approaches, all of them were all rooted in active listening and seeking more meaningful connection points.

Learning from each other

Daina (1)

Daina Middleton, Head of Global Business for Twitter, shared her personal passion for seeking connection through identifying the unique perspectives different team members share in approaching leadership and problem-solving. Middleton has been studying communication phenomena in different time periods, specifically the Old West, when traditional male and female work roles expanded because of need and the harsh environment. Her research has focused on identifying how to create stronger teams by recognizing and valuing the different approaches women and men generally take in the workplace.

Middleton organizes these different approaches with the monikers ‘grace’ and ‘grit’, with ‘grace’ representing the attributes females tend to employ, and ‘grit’ representing the male approach. Middleton explained that, “women use communication as a tool to enhance social connections and create relationships,” while “men use communication to achieve tangible outcomes and establish power.” While neither approach is patently right or wrong, each can be polarizing or limiting. It is only by listening to each other, and working to each team members’ best strengths that we overcome the limitations of a single viewpoint and have the greatest chance to succeed.

Pattern identification on social

Matthew Zito

Matthew Zito, VP of Products at Synthesio, shared his approach to listening to and exploring social patterns and data to create behavior-based profiles of customers and more individual buying journeys. These highly personalized profiles offer insights into customer preferences and personalities in a way that goes beyond demographics or clicks, and demonstrate a much deeper need for marketers to get to know their users as humans, not just buyers.

Zito shared examples of how profiling customer interests (beyond just interest in your product), brands can align their marketing plans with more personal and directed customer journey steps. These plans can even include specific times of day that will be most relevant to your customers. As Zito says, “don’t just measure your customers, understand your customers.”

An anthropological approach

Jon Kolko

The best way to learn how to help customers is to immerse yourself in their personal experiences through living them – challenges, successes, and

all.  That’s the message from Jon Kolko, Director and Founder of the Austin Design Center, speaking about how to listen better and use empathy to create products people love. Sharing some of the principles of his newly-released book, Well Designed, Kolko shared some of his experiences in designing products that are natively customer-first.

For Kolko and his team, customer-first means literally living with your end-user to get hands-on with their experience, hear how they absorb the world in their own words. Kolko shared that in one project, this immersive process involved living with college students, recording and analyzing their comments, and then designing an app to offer specific recommendations about the job application and recruiting process. This work highlighted expectation gaps between the students and recruiters who were filling jobs. Without having that deep experience, Kolko said the team would not have learned certain key insights, including what messages to focus on, what platforms and language to use, and how to make the app useful, while still being fun and appealing to students.

Learn by watching

Kurt Holstein

In a presentation called ‘Personalization – Are the ads from the movie Minority Report almost here?’ Kurt Holstein, President of Azoic Ventures, shared the current status of dynamic ‘DOOH’, or Digital Out of Home display advertising. This is the kind of advertising that is often placed in large environments like Times Square, but is also emerging in smaller footprints like interactive digital signage (think directional kiosks) and in proximity sensors like beacons. In keeping with the theme of learning from listening, Holstein shared the benefits of these types of dynamic ads – both to the marketer and to the end user.

End users will soon have the opportunity to have a much more personal experience with a brand based on customization (assuming they opt in) to share data with brands. In its current form, these beacons and personal approaches rely on apps and active input from the customer, and are best for driving offers or location-based information.

For marketers, new technology like Active Camera Technology (ACT) can recognize visitors and respond to visible demographic data. Age, gender, ethnicity can be combined with location, time of day, dwell time, as well as more individual characteristics like facial emotion markers – all to allow a display to respond and react to the identified characteristics. Combining the more personal beacon technology with the ACT will allow marketers to achieve the ‘Minority Report’ level of personalization – but only if our customers want it. It will be up to us to keep listening to them to balance promotion and privacy and foster good relationships.

For more information on our SXW2O events and speakers, please visit our website:


In case you weren’t able to livestream our 5th Annual PreCommerce Summit here in Austin, here is a quick summary of one of the sessions. First off was Chuck Hemann and his presentation on how to scale analytics within an organization, globally. Not an easy task for sure, especially within such a large brand like Intel. He offered some really helpful tips below and you can also read the transcripts from a previous interview we did with him.

  • Strong commitment from senior leadership
  • Willing and able partners in the GEOS
  • Metrics Standardization – framework that works everywhere
  • Common taxonomy for all media channels – content, paid social, search, ec.
  • Global capabilities stack
  • Stakeholder commitment to read, optimize on a similar cadence
  • Embracing the connected network versus hub and spoke

He concluded by highlighting how Intel is tackling this challenge:

  • The ability to work with even more speed
  • Bringing the data sources together to tell a comprehensive story
  • Protruding data in more challenging markets
  • Tools and Insights training
  • Developing analytics muscle memory and talent

Next up was Amber Naslund with an inspiring story about storytelling. She did this so effectively by sharing her professional journey from when she first started blogging, to joining Radian6, consulting for a few years and then to her current position with Sysomos.

My biggest takeaway from her session was when she talked about purpose; and how storytelling, whether personal or professional, should have purpose. Without it, storytelling will not inspire others and be doomed to fail. She said that one reason her consulting company failed was this lack of purpose.

The session concluded with Kip Knight who discussed brand storytelling. He started off his talk highlighting some pretty cool examples of campaigns where storytelling was the pinnacle – Allstate, Flo from Progressive Insurance, George Zimmer from the Men’s Warehouse, Most interesting man in the world – Dos Equis and the infamous Etrade Baby.

He then talked about H&R Block’s “Get Your Billions Back” campaign, which referenced the $300 billion dollars the IRS delivered in tax refunds in 2013. The campaign featured a bow-tie wearing spokesperson and H&R Block tax preparer, Richard Gartland and provided expert tax preparation advice to ensure clients receive the maximum refund possible from the IRS.




 chuckChuck Hemann (Global Analytics Manager – Intel) – Scaling Digital Analytics Around the Globe Bio: Chuck Hemann is the Analytics Manager for Intel. Over the last 10 years, Chuck has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including, digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining Intel, he was the Executive Director of Analytics at Golin where he was responsible for leading digital analytics across the agency. Before Golin, he was the Group Director of Analytics for W2O Group where he was responsible for leading teams in New York and London.

Amber NaslundAmber Naslund (SVP, Marketing – Sysomos) – Storytelling: Individual vs. Corporate Bio: Amber Naslund if the SVP of Marketing for Sysomos, a social intelligence platform. Amber’s 15+ years of professional expertise spans nonprofit management, corporate communications, marketing, professional services and social business strategy. She is the former president of SideraWorks and VP of Social Strategy for Salesforce Radian6, where she advised Fortune 500 companies, such as L’Oreal, Dell and American Express. Amber is also the co-author of the best-selling social business book, “The Now Revolution.”


Kip KnightKip Knight (President, US Retail Operations – H&R Block) – Who Speaks For Your Brand? BIO: Kip joined H&R Block in 2012 and currently serves as the President of U.S. Retail Operations. Knight’s 30-year career has included senior management and marketing positions with P&G, PepsiCo and eBay. Knight started in marketing research at Burke Marketing Research and has since worked in over 65 countries. He is the founder of the U.S. Marketing Communication College at the U.S. State Department that trains diplomats on marketing strategy and implementation. Knight is currently on the Board of Directors at Quiznos.

For more information on our SXW2O events and speakers, please visit our website:

In case you weren’t able to livestream our 5th Annual PreCommerce Summit here in Austin, here is a quick summary of Bob Pearson interviewing “The Facebook Effect” author David Kirkpatrick.  Below David shares his thoughts on his very first impression of Mark Zuckerberg, his thoughts on cyber security and what he thinks China is doing right in mobile, technology and social networking.

David shares his thoughts about Mark Zuckerberg.

David talks about the recent Sony hack and claims that no company is actually safe.

David discusses why China is far ahead when it comes to mobile, technology and social networking.

Bob Pearson (President – W2O Group)

Bob Pearson, President W2O GroupBio: Bob Pearson is the president of W2O Group. Before joining W2O Group, Bob was the vice president of communities and conversations at Dell Inc, where he was responsible for developing an industry-leading approach to the use of social media. Prior to Dell, Bob worked for Novartis Pharmaceuticals as Head of Global Corporate Communications and as Head of Global Pharma Communications, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. Before that he was the President of the Americans for GCI and was previously Vice President of Global Public Affairs & Media Relations at Phone Poulenc Rorer (now Sanofi Aventis). Bob is also an author, “Precommerce,” frequent speaker and blogger on social media, as well an instructor for Rutgers center for management and development and the Syracuse Center for Social Commerce.


David Kirkpatrick (CEO – Techonomy)

David KirkpatrickBio: Founder, host and CEO of Techonomy, David Kirkpatrick is a journalist, commentator about technology, and author of the bestselling book “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World,” published in 32 countries. He spent 25 years at Fortune, and founded and hosted its Brainstorm and Brainstorm Tech conferences. Inaddition to writing to Techonomy, he contributes to Forbes and Vanity Fair. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.




For more information on our SXW2O events and speakers, please visit our website:

I suck at math. I took algebra twice in college because I failed the first time. I have always battled numbers. I just don’t like them and never thought I needed to learn even the basics. And even today, I still find myself trying to avoid “that” conversation with clients. Thankfully I work for a firm that has one of the strongest, most talented analytics teams known to mankind. A day or two doesn’t go by where I don’t text, tweet or call one my colleagues (usually Seth or Chuck) when I need some analytics help.

And at home I have the teacher’s edition textbook, which is a lifesaver when I correct my daughter’s 8th grade math homework. It still takes me about an hour though.

That said, one thing I do know is that as we move into 2014, analytics will (and should) take the lead when planning for marketing and content programs. Brand marketers today want validation before making any significant investments since senior management is scrutinizing budgets and cutting the waste.

What used to be the “galvanizing idea” that was the anchor in creative marketing programs has now been replaced with “what does the data say?” This is a good thing. Analytics must be the foundation on which you build all of your marketing and content programming.

There are a lot of things that analytics can improve. Here are few to think about:

  • Analytics leads to smarter media relations – I am no PR guy and have never written a press release or even read one for that matter. But analytics and research can help craft a media relations strategy that’ll cause your competitors to lose sleep at night.
  • Analytics drives effective storytelling – Good storytelling can cause behavior change with your customers/prospects.  Hopefully you want them to buy your products, talk favorably about you and tell others how much they love you. This requires a solid understanding of their complete profile so you can build a storyline that resonates with them and what they care about. Only analytics and research can get you this information.
  • Analytics helps find your real influencers – You may already have a top 10 list of media that you reach out to for every press release or announcement. But do you know who the top 50 people are that are driving the conversation about a specific topic or industry? What about the folks that are sharing and curating that information? There is a way grasshopper – analytics and research (and not just a Google search coupled with a Klout score either.)
  • Analytics can mobilize a groundswell – People trust other people. It’s in our human nature to do so. When you can mobilize a group of customers to tell your brand story through their lens, you will create a groundswell of conversation that influences others down the purchase funnel. Analytics and research will not only help you find these customers but also help you craft a story that incites sharing and create real brand advocacy.
  • Analytics can deliver real-time marketing – I say this with caution since many brands have jumped on the oreo-real-time-marketing craze almost a year ago and failing at it. Rather than forcing your brand into a trending conversation, why not research what’s trending between groups of people that you actually care about and want to reach (millennials, ITDMs, CIOs, etc.) and build real-time content programs around those topics?  It’s far more impactful. Again, you need data to do this right; not just a glance at “what’s trending on Twitter” or what’s being reported in the news.

Marketers today need to make smarter decisions moving into 2014; and they can only do so by looking at data.

Don’t believe me? Ask Seth or Chuck.

It’s not social media that’s challenging for brands, it’s content.  The ability to create game changing content that tells a better story than your competitors and then integrate that story across paid, earned, shared and owned media isn’t easy. This is one reason I get frustrated with those who preach content marketing without ever talking about the operations and organizational change needed to get it done right.

Brand storytelling is what drives a content organization; and it’s more than just the copy on your web site, an ad or a status update.  A content organization has the right teams, editorial workflows and technology solutions in place that helps facilitate organizational change that will allow you to tell a consist brand story and one that is shared, amplified and consumed at each and every customer touch point.


Marketers often skip this step and then get frustrated because they eventually run out of things to say. They end up creating content that no one cares about or resort to a “galvanizing idea” that produces the same result – nothing.

Your story should consist of 2 main inputs to your storytelling framework:

Research/Insights: Both quantitative and qualitative measures are needed to craft a story that can break through the clutter and successfully change customer behavior.  These include a deep analysis of your customers’ interest and affinities, search behavior and various perceptions and general conversations about your brand from various stakeholders (media, analysts, influencers, the community, etc.)

Brand Goals: Just because a high percentage of your customers may like country music, doesn’t mean that you have the license to actually talk about it.  You need to ensure that the story you decide to tell delivers somehow on your brand’s value proposition. Red Bull’s “Giver of Wings” is a textbook example of a narrative that adds value to their community and aligns perfectly with their brand.

The output will help you mold a story that your audience can actually relate to, engage with and then share with others.


Smart companies are mobilizing employees to become advocates and brand journalists .  I’m not saying that you just open the floodgates and allow for a free for all. You’ll have to create a plan, establish processes & workflows, and start small with just 10 or 15 employees. Once you demonstrate a few wins and best practices, you can expand the program from there.

This is kind of a no-brainer if you think about it; yet I am still confused why so many companies don’t allow their employees to tell stories. Employees are viewed as trusted and credible sources when others are seeking out information about a product or service. It makes sense. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. A few platforms that enable employee advocacy and employee brand storytelling are Addvocate, Everyone Social and Dynamic Signal.


If you have a good product then most likely there are groups of people who already love you. They have a natural affinity with your brand because of several emotional and rational motivations:

  • the way it makes them feel (Dodge Ram = bad ass)
  • the value they get from using your product (Southwest = affordable airfare)
  • the way they are treated (Nordstroms = amazing customer service)

These groups of people are called brand advocates. They might not have their own podcast or have millions of followers but their voices are heard. They are aiding and influencing their circles of influence down the purchase funnel. Mobilizing your advocates to help tell your brand story is a huge opportunity and, in fact, there are several platforms available today that can facilitate brand advocate programs – Social Chorus, Influitive and Branderati.


There are several ways to approach this step. A good narrative will consist of three storytelling frameworks whereby:

  • The brand is the story (events, new initiatives, products focused)
  • The brand is a character in the story (customer stories, 3rd party articles)
  • The brand comments on a story (curated, lifestyle, real-time)

Once you have your narrative solidified and have your internal teams and customers ready to feed the content engine, you will have to build a supply chain that can facilitate editorial workflows, content ideation, asset management, approval workflows and content distribution to the channels you manage – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. This could also include .com publishing and paid media integration as well considering the importance of a real-time newsroom operation and converged media modeling.

If one thing needs to happen in 2014, it’s that brands must get content right. Content is the lifeline into the digital ecosystem. It’s how we reach consumers, break through the clutter and change their behavior. It’s pretty obvious, I know.

What’s not so obvious though is that we need to elevate the conversation beyond just the content marketing insanity.

Content marketing by nature, is tactical. It can easily be done in a silo. If you work for a large brand, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from creating, aggregating, and curating content and then posting it up in social media channels without having a strategy.

You can hire consultants, agencies, and even third-party journalists and bloggers using platforms like Contently, Skyword or eByline to create content and campaigns on your behalf. And, it’s fairly easy to use valuable platforms like Newscred to help augment your content marketing initiatives.

And guess what? You can do all of this without actually talking to anyone else in your company.

Don’t get me wrong. These platforms are all valuable and very much needed as a part of your content initiatives. But without a vision or a holistic strategy, the content itself might not be as epic as planned or change any specific consumer behavior.

The reason why many of us struggle with content, storytelling, and being able to scale our content operations is because we tend to look at content from a very elementary point of view. Content isn’t a box you check, a bubble you fill in, or a bullet point in a new business capabilities presentation. It’s more than search, more than real-time content and so much more than spitting out buzzwords like “content marketing.” And you can only learn so much about content from clever-link-bait blog titles like “10 Proven Tips to Do This” or “5 Smart Tricks to Do That.”

Content must be considered a strategic imperative for your brand. You must become a content organization if you want to take your business to the next level.

Just as there is an art to storytelling; there also needs to be a strategic and operational plan that can help you create and distribute content; integrate it across paid, earned, shared and owned media; and measure it effectively. As a marketer, brand manager, or small business owner you must move beyond the content marketing buzzword and commit to building a content strategy that will allow you to execute your tactical content marketing initiatives flawlessly and at scale.

Here’s how I see this playing out; and let me introduce 4 pillars of content strategy.

Brand Goals: This is obvious but worth mentioning; and it’s critical. You must decide very early on what your specific content goals are? Are you trying to increase sales of a specific product or change perceptions about your brand? In either case, having documented goals that are aligned to your business/marketing goals and supported by your executive team is kind of an important thing to do.

Brand Narrative: Too many of us jump right into social media channels without understanding the story we want to tell; and then we get frustrated when we run out of things to say. The narrative exercise should be done early on and consider several factors – brand positioning, audience interests and affinities, media/community perceptions of the brand, historical content performance and search. From there, a good narrative coupled with storytelling principles and an editorial framework will give birth to a highly successful “gives-you-wings” type of story.

Content Operations: Believe this when I say that successful storytelling requires a significant amount of operations in order to actually work. Newsrooms create thousands of pieces of content daily and it’s not a free for all. Establishing a content supply chain (workflows that facilitate content ideation, creation, approval and distribution) are needed to build consistencies in brand storytelling and controls to avoid inconsistencies. Identifying roles and responsibilities, internally, are also important especially if you are mobilizing employees to help tell the brand story. Also, building and operationalizing customer/employee brand advocacy programs is a smart thing to do and requires an investment into a technology platform (i.e.Branderati, Dynamic Signal, Influitive).

Media Integration/ Distribution: Consumers need to interact with your content 3 – 5 times before they actually believe it. The concept itself can be compared to the “learning by repetition” theory that was taught by ancient Egyptian and Chinese educators thousands of years ago. And, when you consider the fact that there is a content/media surplus and consumers have an attention deficit, you can understand how difficult it may be to reach them and then make even a sliver of an impact. This is why it’s important for you to tell a consistent story across every channel – paid, earned, shared and owned.

In order to do this, you must prioritize your storytelling principles and content and then map them specifically to various digital channels. It’s also a good idea to deploy converged media models (the integration of paid, earned, shared and owned media) simply by promoting relevant/resonant content on Facebook and Twitter or use platforms like Outbrain and OneSpot that can also deliver converged media models. You can then decide whether or not you want to launch a real-time command center operation in this post-Oreo era to capitalize on news and recent events.  Not critical but it’s an option.

Analytics and measurement will undoubtedly play a critical role in each pillar – determining a consistent measurement framework, KPIs, measuring real-time content performance, audience research and establishing benchmarks that will help you determine when to use paid media to amplify organic content.

Oh, and I am a huge fan of Public Enemy.

Image Credit

Last week, I did a webinar with industry leading content marketing platform, Newscred. If you don’t use their platform for your content marketing efforts, you should consider doing so. Read this article about their capabilities from Fast Company to learn more.

The topic … Brand Storytelling.

Specifically, how brands (large and small) can and should mobilize their workforce and empower their employees to feed the content engine with relevant, game-changing and meaningful content.

In case you are too busy to register and listen to the webinar, here is a quick summary with the slides below.

I usually start off my presentations talking about the external market place. Slides 2 – 7 highlight 5 digital truths that brands must consider if they truly want to reach new audiences:

  1. There is a content and media surplus
  2. There is an attention deficit in the minds of consumers
  3. Consumer behavior is hard to predict. The way they consume content is dynamic
  4. Consumers have tunnel vision only have the capacity to consume highly relevant content
  5. All consumers are influential

And despite these external challenges, your core business objectives will always remain the same. They will never change, whatever they may be (customer acquisition, revenue, stock price, etc.)

I then discuss the four pillars of brand storytelling – brand goals, brand narrative, content operations and media distribution/integration. I spent some time on this slide explaining how employee advocacy (brand journalism) would fit strategically into the content operations pillar.

Slide 10 – 12 really dig into defining social business and how a strategic framework is needed to deploy brand storytelling programs. Slide 13 – 14 are industry data points from Edelman and the Society for New Communications Research that lay the foundation for employee empowerment and engagement. Slide 15 are six strategic reasons why employee brand advocacy is a smart thing to do because it can drive brand awareness, change brand perceptions, educate customers/prospects and influence their peers to buy, etc.

I conclude the presentation with an action plan on how to deploy an employee brand storytelling program; and it’s actually an intuitive process:

  1. Define the program: This is the most critical and it will take into consideration most of the operational elements to get the program launched and include the goals/objectives, program logistics (what do you call it?), the selection criteria, measurement, program management, etc.
  2. Identifying the right employees: My advice here is to start small. Choose a handful of employees (those who want to be involved or who are already socially proficient), establish some best practices/wins and then scale the program. Oh, and it’d be good to partner with Human Resources and/or Employee Communications too.
  3. Activate storytelling initiatives: Brand storytelling is so much more than employees retweeting, liking and commenting on branded updates. It requires strategic “calls to action” that fall within the brand’s overall content strategy. Many times, this will also require technology applications like Dynamic Signal, Branderati or Influitive that can help facilitate the content supply chain between employees.
  4. Amplify employee stories: Amplifying stories can be as simple as sharing employee content on branded channels or as complex as building out a portal of media that features content from employees, customers and branded content as well.
  5. Measure & Optimize: This is pretty straightforward. You first need to establish a set of KPIs when defining the program and then measure your success once the program launches.

Enjoy the slides.

Learn more about participation marketing or download the latest guide on Employee Brand Storytelling.

Today marks my first week with the firm. After a few short days of meeting with amazing people and jumping head first into client business, I am extremely excited to work with such a talented team. Here’s why:

Smart people.   I have always been a good judge of character when first meeting folks. Yeah it’s only been a week but I can already tell that I am surrounded by really smart and genuine colleagues.  Also, I have known Aaron and Chuck for many years now and I hold them both in very high regard. They each played an integral role in my decision to joining the firm.

Innovation. The amount of innovation brewing in this firm is unreal! We are not only a smart and creative integrated comms firm, but the analytics and technology is what really sets us apart from other agencies. Believe it.

Entrepreneurship. My role today is a little undefined and that’s by design. I was told that the management team didn’t want to keep me in a box; but rather, allow me to define my own path and determine where I can add value. When I first interviewed, I said multiple times that I wanted to build something. W2O is going to let me build it. I love that.

Regardless of the actual work I will be doing with and for clients, my goals are crystal clear.

  1. Deliver Business Value.  I am a very humble person so I say this with a good and pure heart.  I will bring my A game.  I have been “doing” social for many years now but I also understand how social affects business and how it can be integrated across the entire organization, both internally and externally.
  2. Grow Existing Business. I value client relationships. I have been very successful at organically building teams and growing accounts. I enjoy building relationships and will continue to do this.
  3. Win New Business. There is nothing better than standing up in front of a group of potential clients and talking strategy, pitching ideas and sharing knowledge. It gives me an adrenaline rush. I love it.
  4. Build Something Awesome. I am looking forward to building new, strategic frameworks that help my clients create more effective content strategies. There is an opportunity in the market place to help them connect with their audience using game-changing content that breaks through the clutter and changes consumer behavior. I will only be successful if my clients are successful.

I am incredibly motivated to embark on this journey with the W2O team. I look forward to our continued success and growth.