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Pinterest State of Maryland Pitch Contest: Interview With Zoe Pagonis


Maryland contest bannerSometimes we find innovation and inspiration in what may seem unlikely places.

Who would have thought that one of the most creative Pinterest contests would be developed by an institution not necessarily thought of as taking a lead in social media .. and definitely not on Pinterest. The U.S. Government. I know!

Toss of a pink boa to the State of Maryland, and specifcally to Governor Martin O'Malley and his communication staff! 

The Pinterest State of Maryland Pitch Contest asked entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses by using Pinterest to tell the story of their company.  A panel of business experts chose winners in two different categories: “Student Entrepreneurs” and “Boot Strappers. First place winners received MacBook Air and runner ups received an iPad courtesy of Baltimore Angels.  Partnership included: University of Maryland College Park, the Future of Information Alliance, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Baltimore Angels.

 ZoeZoe Pagois graciously agreed to tell us the back-story.

About Zoe Pagonis - My name is Zoe Pagonis. I am Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s Communications and New Media Manager and am responsible for making sure that we are taking advantage of every possible tool to best communicate with our citizens.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  What I’m most curious about is the why the State of Maryland chose to create a Pinterest Pitch Contest to bring attention to the small business owners of the state. Note: Submission boards.

Zoe Pagonis: Governor O’Malley’s number one priority is creating and saving jobs and as an administration, we’re constantly looking for ways to showcase our small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship. As one of the fastest growing social networks, Pinterest seemed like a natural fit for bringing attention to our small businesses and showcasing all that the State of Maryland has to offer.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Pinterest and contests go together like PB&J. However, your approach was not only unique but it supported what social media, on any platform, is all about: telling the stories of the people who make up the brand .. both customers and employees.  Please tell us your behind the scene story of how the concept evolved.

Zoe Pagonis: Our office is always looking for new and innovative ways to connect with our citizens so as Pinterest grew in popularity, we created an account and used it to showcase what we’re doing in State Government (and also give people a behind the scenes look at who the Governor is as a person—he’s an avid reader!) In our State, we’re also blessed with an abundance of incubators and diverse centers of higher learning.

A few months ago, the Governor was scheduled to attend the University of Maryland College Park’s entrepreneurial Invitational and Cupid’s Cup Competition. In pulling together information about the event, we came across “Tweet Dingman” which was a unique competition that asked entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses using 10 Tweets.  This contest sparked the idea to use Pinterest.

The rest was a great collaborative effort and an eye-opening experience of just how many people in the State of Maryland are willing to lend a hand in support of local entrepreneurship.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  What were your goals for the contest?

Zoe Pagonis: The main goal of the contest was to highlight entrepreneurship in Maryland by using an innovative new technology. We also wanted to showcase our partner organizations and support entrepreneurs by connecting them to these great networks.  

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Were the results what you had expected?  

Zoe Pagonis: The results were better than I had expected. We had submissions from people all over Maryland of all ages. We even had three that came from students under the age of 13. I was also very impressed by the collaborative efforts of the judges and how willing everyone was to help with the contest in the name of supporting Maryland entrepreneurs.

Diva Marketing/Toby: I loved reading the “stories” from the businesses. The creativity that went into their boards was amazing. What surprised you about the submissions?

Zoe Pagonis: I was surprised most by how many talented individuals we have in the State of Maryland and equally delighted to see the three entries from the young students.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Pinterest provides interesting consumer insights. Are you doing any type of analysis to mine that data?

Zoe Pagonis: We are still very new to Pinterest and are exploring all of the ways we can use it as a tool to connect with more Marylanders. As with all of our new media accounts, we monitor the feedback and use it to guide our decision making.

Diva Marketing/Toby: With any social network initiative there are risks associated with active participating especially from the point of view of a government entity.  Did you get push back? What was the reaction from the lawyers?

Zoe Pagonis: One of the criteria of the contest was that the pictures be unique to the individual or that they use proper attributions.  We consulted with experts in the business community on the guidelines of the contest before moving forward.

Diva Marketing/Toby: It seemed to me that when the contest launched, the State of Maryland’s Pinterest page was fairly new. How did you create awareness with your target audience?

Zoe Pagonis: We relied heavily on our partners and existing social channels to spread the word about the contest. Governor O’Malley also announced the contest at the University of Maryland’s Entrepreneurial invitational event which helped to generate buzz.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Thinking about the entire campaign, what would you do differently?

Zoe Pagonis: We had help from a few partner organizations but in the future, I would reach out to every business incubator in Maryland and associated organizations for help in promoting the contest.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Let’s shift gears slightly and talk a little about your boards in general. There is even a board for Govenor O'Malley. Wondering what benefits he sees in social visual communication over other channels of communication?

Zoe Pagonis: All forms of communications are important and we’re always looking for the most effective ways to connect with citizens and share resources.

Diva Marketing/Toby: In terms of content, are you pinning from only Maryland State owned images or are planning to include citizen images too?

Zoe Pagonis: At the moment, we are posting images and videos about our programs and resources but we are exploring all options–including citizen generated content.

Diva Marketing/Toby: One of the big questions that I’m asked is how do you find time to include another social network into your communication outreach? Would you give us an idea of the resource structure (people) and approximate time you’re investing?

Zoe Pagonis: Social media is highly integrated into our overall communications strategy and we see it as a great way to amplify our existing message. As the number of networks expands, it does become more difficult to keep up with everything but we focus our attention on the resources that we think will help us do the best job in communicating with Marylanders. As the fastest growing network that was driving a significant amount of referral traffic, we knew that we wanted to be on Pinterest.

Diva Marketing/Toby: What lessons learned can you share with us from your overall experience with Pinterest from both the contest and the overall board management?

Zoe Pagonis: Pinterest is great in that it doesn’t require as much time. You can update it less frequently and still achieve your objective of driving traffic to your resources. For the contest, it was a great platform for showcasing our small businesses. The images lended themselves well to telling a story and we’re going to continue to look for more opportunities to use the platform in the future.

Diva Marketing/Toby: To wrap this up what’s next for the State of Maryland Pinterest’s boards? Maryland contest gov omalley et al

Zoe Pagonis: In our Administration, what’s next is anything that’s innovative, cost-effective and works to amplify our existing resources. We see Pinterest as one of the many ways we’ll continue to connect and how we use it will depend on which of Maryland’s great entrepreneurs invent the next Facebook or Pinterest!

Congrats! to the winners of the Maryland Pinterest Pitch Contest. 

Student Entrepreneur Category:

First Place: GB Wallets

Second Place: Discrete Secrete Solutions

Bootstrapper Category:

First PlaceBeerGivr

Second Place: Mission Launch

Continue the conversation with Zoe!

Governor O'Mallye on Pinterest |Govenor O'Malley's Website|Zoe Pogonis on Twitter

Graphic credit: MD Govpics Flickr

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Pinterest Pinning For Business Learning Series 

Interview with Geoff Livingston Author of Marketing In The Round


Geoff Livingston 2012It is my pleasure to introduce you to the co-author of Marketing In The Round .. my friend Geoff Livingston

One line in Geoff''s bio tells all you need to know to understand the man behind this newly release book. "He brings people together, virtually and physically to affect change and achieve higher knowledge."

In his third book, co-authored with Gini Dietrich, the focus is on  integrating traditional and new media marketing elements and breaking down those stifling internal silos.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Let’s start this off with “Why this book?” Seriously, why does the world of  marketing need this book now?

Geoff Livingston:  When Gini Dietrich and I focused on multichannel integration, our logic centered on delivering ROI and outcomes for social media. So much of today’s conversation is about how marketers can get results from social. To us, that lack of results has more to do with siloed communications and a failure to integrate all marketing disciplines together.  Integration also includes adding hard lead generation-oriented metrics from direct and advertising to the mix. 

 Even though that was a year, ago the problem persists. Two recent studies from the CMO Council and the CMO Survey showed that less than 10% of lead marketers are running well integrated digital campaigns [Geoff's post - What CEOs Want: Better Social Integration & Anaylics]. Integrating marketing and general understanding of diverse disciplines has become a lost art.

Diva Marketing/Toby: So many options. So little time, money and people. From your perspective, what is the most significant challenge facing the 21st century marketer?

Geoff Livingston: Without question, it’s understanding the modern stakeholder’s media experience. 

Marketers think like media tools, literally.  It’s as if we were media hammers. How can I get people to use my nail? How can I drive the nail home?  But in reality, people walk around an entire media structure in which there are many nails, dry wall, support beams, screws, hex nuts, roofing, lights, tiles, etc. etc. 

  • Until we stop marketing from our perspective, but from the perspective of the true media landscape as seen by our customers, including mobile, 21st century marketers will struggle.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  The visual model  of Marketing In The Round is built with “marketing” as the center and let’s call them  marketing functional areas (advertising, web/digital, content, direct mail, etc.) as spokes from the center.  Based on your model, how do you define “marketing” that makes marketing unique from the functional tenants.

Geoff Livingston:  The ability to build, maintain and administrate holistic communications and interaction strategy for an organization and its stakeholders.

Toby Bloomberg/Diva Marketing: Wondering... where do customer care, research and sales fit into the model?

Geoff Livingston:  They definitely fit in frequently. When we present the Round concept live you’d see them brought into meetings frequently.  They don’t usually end up at weekly meetings of the marketing group, but are an integral part of the larger customer experience, and as such, they end up attending CMO meetings almost every month if not more frequently.  Ideally, everyone is closely seated together to help foster further integration.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Sounds like you’re restructuring the marketing department. Who leads the charge of  Marketing In The Round if not the CMO? What skills/talents should that person have to make it work?

Geoff Livingston: It is the CMO.

That person should have a couple of skill sets.  First, they are an administrator and a manager. Their job is to facilitate the marketing function from a resource and operational perspective, incentivize what had been here-to-fore silos to work together, and lead the department in its interface with other departments so that marketing acts as a networked component of the larger enterprise (as opposed to its own silo).  Secondly, that person is usually a marketer themselves, and as such they need to have graduated from tactician to a strategist who can understand the value of branding, strategic approaches and tactics.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  One of my favorite lines in the book is –“.. you lend that content to and
community to outlying networks ..”
(p 24) The question then becomes is what’s the source of the Geoff Livingston Marketing in the round_max content and community?

Geoff Livingston: Usually, it’s the company. If the company is successful in its groundswell and top down approaches you’re seeing true customer word of mouth take place and they start developing content.  Stakeholder generated content creates brand and product advocacy, as well as (hopefully) inspiring media stories, speaking engagements, analyst reports and other types of traditional professional content produced independently of the company.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Coming from a research background, I appreciate the time you dedicated to consumer insights .. both traditional and social media. It seems as though the concepts of “listening” and “monitoring” had different meanings in the book. How are you defining  concept of “listening” and that of “monitoring?”

Geoff Livingston: It may be an issue of semantics on our part.  They are closely related.

Listening occurs before, during and after a marketing effort. But in many ways it’s the harnessing of data – big data if you would. I think hearing is the ability to decipher that data into meaningful and regular intelligence. Monitoring to me is the practice of hearing that data intelligence formally and regularly as a company.  Now, that’s my opinion based on the question. Gini may have a different take on that.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  I really liked the charts, worksheets and resources that you and Gini integrated throughout the book.  One of the Pros under social media (p27) indicated “inexpensive form of sponsoring messages on the social platforms.”  Does this refer to “blogger relations” and are you advocating paying bloggers for their posts?

Geoff Livingston: I don’t advocate paying bloggers to blog on their site. I do advocate paying people to intelligently interact with bloggers to provide useful content ideas and guest posts wherever possible.

I pay bloggers for their posts on Inspiring Generosity. Getting great content for your site requires paying talent, in my opinion.  I hate people that ask me to blog for free consistently without any clear value for my effort. It’s the primary reason why I stopped blogging for Mashable. The effort outweighed the value.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Several different dashboards ideas are presented. While I think dashboards are a great way to track and analyze do it right is a time resource/commitment. If a company can only manage One dashboard what would be your suggestion?

Geoff Livingston: There is no silver bullet, unfortunately. Whatever a company selects they will end up customizing it if they want meaningful analytics for their monitoring program.  Google Analytics, Radian6, Hubspot, Marketo, and Eloqua is where I’d start depending on budget, from free to full enterprise.

Diva Marketing/Toby: In your travels Geoff, what organizations did you find that were doing it well?

Geoff Livingston: Dell, the American Red Cross are the obvious ones.

Procter & Gamble does a lot better than people give them credit for.  They are a brand management organization in the CMO sense, using agencies to execute tactics. I think they get social in the sense of when an agency or partner is doing a good job for them, and when they are not.

Google is doing really well, even the + network isn’t (or maybe it’s just bad press).  Google clearly listens to feedback, and it seems to me they are becoming a social enterprise. 

Etsy and Five Guys are brilliant at word of mouth marketing.  Chrysler has proven itself to be a savvy advertising company in its current incarnation. And Apple is probably the best all around integrated multichannel marketing organization out there.

Diva Marketing/Toby: As is the tradition on Diva Marketing the last questions is yours to take and run with as you would like. What would you tell our community about integrated marketing in the round?

Geoff Livingston: This isn’t rocket science. Our book is not going to teach you black belt jujitsu. It is about the basic fundamentals of marketing together as an integrated multichannel organization. No matter how fancy your marketing strategy and tactical execution is, if you aren’t blocking and tackling, you will likely lose.

It’s a reminder about what worked before social, and what still works in the current digital marketing era, teamwork, and thinking together as collective communications team.  That’s integrated strategies.

Continue the conversation with Geoff!

Geoff Livingstons Blog Twitter Flickr G+ Marketing In The Round SlideShare Pinterest

 Bloggy Disclaimer: I was provided with a complementary copy of Marketing In The Round. All opinions are 100% mine.

Pinterest Before You Begin To Pin


Pinterest women retro As marketers begin to explore Pinterest the first question that I'm asked is:

 If my company isn't "visual" like a business to consumer (B-to-C) retail or  food or fashion company, but is business to business (B-to-B) is Pinterest  right for us? 

The second question, almost before another breath is taken, is "What can we pin?" 

Keep Pinterest in perspective. Like every other social network (inclding blogs) Pinterest helps you continue to tell the stories/promise/values behind your brand including the people who are its heart e.g. clients/customers, donors, volunteers and staff, etc. End of story. Beginning of story. (Of course it has to support goals .. see below.)

Let's step back before we step forward. I would encourage you to do a few housekeeping activities before you dive into creating those fun boards.

1. Review your social media strategy as well as marketing strategy. Not only for goals/objectives but for the content direction that you've chosen to pursue. Pinterest should support the work you've done here.

2. Identify content that is 'pinable' on your site and social platforms. If you have YouTube videos those are pinable.

3. Great time to dig out the photos that never got posted to the web. My guess is you have quite a few from events. 

Decide if your photos/images will be included on your site and where. Depending on your IT/webmaster's time you may decide it's easier to upload images directly to Pinterst. After they're uploaded you can then add a link back to your site.

4. Image/Pin Considerations

Will you watermark your photos?  

If you add a $ before a number it turns into a banner sign and drops into the "gift" page. I tested it for a NPO's event and the pin was immediately repinned (Pinterests term for sharing). 

What sites will you not pin/repin from e.g. competition, rouge/spam, etc.

5.  Board Ideas Beyond Your Product or Service

For non profits and events .. a thank you donor or sponsor board that links back to their websites (not yours).

For all companies and NPOs .. staff boards help make the people who are the heart of your brand "real." Are some of your emplpoyees hesitant about being on the Internet? WPTV has a staff "Fashion Board" that includes employee's shoes and socks too! Are your employees into sports? How about a board of their running shoes?

How about a resouce board for your clients that focuses on a specific interest?

Following is a strategy outline to help get you started 

I. Goals 
II. Content direction 
a. Develop Board Concepts 
b. Segments taken into consideration e.g., donors, volunteers, staff, other stakeholders 
c. Develop series of board topics 
III. Logistics 
a. Identify board authors 
b. Determine pinning frequency 
c. Key words to optimize descriptors 
d. Will images be water marked prior to pinning? 
IV. Create guidelines 
a. Review sites associated with pin prior to pinning 
b. Sites not to pin from e.g. spam, 
V. Who will you follow? 
VI. Create awareness with your target audience (who may or may not be on Pinterest) 
a. Add link to your website 
b. Add link to staff's email signatures 
c. Include in eMail newsletter 
d. Mention at board and staff meetings 

VII. Don't forget to monitor comments. The special sauce is commenting back. Since not many people are doing that (yet) it will help cut through the clutter and of course, build relationships. 

VIII. Analyze the data beyond repins, likes and comments. The descriptors and board names are a fascinating source of consumer insights.

 So much more .. but for now this should get you started thinking strategically and tacitly.

Oh one more .. have fun.

Pinterest Pinning For Business Learning Series 

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Graphic credit: Natteringnic