Interview With Author Sybil F. Stershic -- Share of Mind, Share of Heart

09/07/2012

Sybil Stershic_3It is with great pleasure that I have the honor of introducing our Diva Marketing community to a dear friend, Sybil Stershic.

Sybil's second book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart, explores the world of nonprofit marketing. The book takes a different slant from other books about NPOs; it focuses on the impact that employees and volunteers have on brand perception.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Sybil, Right from the start of Share of Mind, Share of Heart it’s clear that this is a book that you believe in and that comes from your heart. The Forward sets the direction that nonprofit marketing holds an additional element that may not be as prominent in other industries.  It’s often based on a personal and passionate commitment.

How do you walk the fine line of believing passionately in a cause while maintaining business objectivity?

Sybil Stershic: It can be a challenge, Toby. Passion for the mission is what attracts nonprofit employees, volunteers, donors and other supporters. It helps connect them and keep them engaged with the work of a nonprofit.

But passion for the mission without a bigger picture perspective can be dangerous – it can lead to burnout and a condition known as “mission creep” that dilutes organizational focus. Effective oversight by nonprofit leadership, via the executive staff and board of directors, is needed to maintain a dual focus on both the mission and the organization’s viability. While a strong mission helps drive financial support – i.e., “no mission, no money” – these leaders understand the reverse is also true – “no money, no mission.”

Toby/Diva Marketing:  Your book is full of practical, creative ideas that at first glance seem so simple; however, we know too well that implementation can be a challenge. 

Would you talk to us about what you refer to as “After The First Day” (P 59)? After the initial orientation and excitement about the organization has waned how can we help remind staff and volunteers of the mission and goals and keep them on track?

Sybil Stershic: New staff and volunteers get a lot of attention when they first join the organization. Even in smaller organizations that don’t have formal orientation or on-boarding programs, there’s still an effort to “imprint” the new person with the organization’s mission, values, and goals.

After a while the newbies blend in with other staff and volunteers. If the collective group is not kept informed on an ongoing basis as to what’s happening in the nonprofit and how it’s responding, the people within the organization tend to hunker down and lose sight of the big picture. Job descriptions become outdated; members of the board turn over, yet the staff doesn’t know who the new board members; the strategic plan is updated, but not shared with staff and volunteers; etc.

  • In the absence of ongoing communication, people start to disengage.

What’s amazing, Toby, is that the remedy to this isn’t all that difficult. It involves being intentional in proactively communicating with staff and volunteers. For example, the Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta (Whom you introduced me to, thank you! My pleasure Sybil. Bloggy disclaimer: JF&CS is a client.), holds an all-staff meeting the day after each  monthly board of directors’ meeting to share board meeting results along with updates on grants and special events. JF&CS also recognizes and shares volunteer accomplishments in its monthly e-newsletter.

Another great example is the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute that starts staff meetings and board meetings by reading aloud its mission statement to keep everyone focused. These two examples illustrate that keeping the people who help fulfill the mission “in the know” doesn’t require a Herculean effort –  it’s basic communication and engagement via staff meetings, volunteer meetings, internal newsletters, training, staff/volunteer recognition, and special events, as needed.

Diva Marketing/Toby: “So the degree to which you capture and keep consumers’ share of mind and heart is directly influenced by their interactions with your staff and volunteers.” (P 33) I really like this statement ... a lot.

Since Diva Marketing is focused on social media I’m wondering how much of a nonprofit’s online engagement in social networks, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. influences share of mind and heart?

Sybil Stershic: The degree to which a nonprofit uses social networks depends on the organization – its culture, mission, key audiences, etc. That said, social media is a wonderful way to grow share of mind and heart with mission-inspired content.

Sharing stories and pictures of how people benefit from the mission (while not breaching confidentiality) Max reading Sybil's share of mind share of heart … volunteers or donors sharing their experiences supporting the mission (also reinforcing the ways people can get involved) …  staff members offering a behind-the-scenes perspective of a special event … these stories help bring the mission to life. A nonprofit can also write blog posts and share links to content that educates people about its mission and programs.

While social media advocates say “content is king,” I’d go even further to say “careful content is critical” in that nonprofits need to consider sensitivity in how they present any and all messages that reflect on their mission and brand. A negative impression can easily go viral.

Toby/Diva Marketing:
  What are your thoughts about involving staff, who are not in the marketing department, and also volunteers in participating in social media/networks? Let’s take these two ways.  The first is as one of the “voices” of the nonprofit.

Sybil Stershic: I know this seems like an oxymoron, but any “voice” speaking on behalf of a nonprofit needs to be authentic to be credible, yet carefully managed to ensure the wrong message isn’t put out there. That’s why social media guidelines and training need to be part of both Human Resources and Marketing policies.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The second ... how would you encourage nonprofits to interact with consumers in the digital world?

Sybil Stershic:  The answer to this depends on the organization and its target audiences’ access to and use of social media.

For example, I know a health-related nonprofit that combines both high-tech and low-tech approaches in building share of mind and heart. To broaden its outreach efforts, the marketing director produced a brief educational video as part of an “ambassador portfolio” that also contains a list of frequently asked questions and updated brochures for use by board and staff members. Employee reps show the video when meeting with outside groups or hosting on-site facility tours.

Marketing is also in the process of updating the website to be more engaging. Yet because many of its older board members do not use email, this nonprofit communicates with its board primarily by phone and regular mail.

Toby/Diva Marketing: You’ve worked with many different types of nonprofits, and you’ve also worked with for profits. For me your book provides a roadmap that can be easily modified and used by both.  One challenge that both nonprofit and for profits face is opening lines of communication across the organization .. or “de-siloing.” What suggestions can you give us to help that critical process?

Sybil Stershic: The best way to start is to ask employees for their ideas on what works in bridging these silos. They can also help identify which departments or divisions are already doing with well with inter-organizational communications; these areas can serve as role models.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Sybil, as is the tradition of Diva Marketing interviews, you have the last word. What would you tell our community, especially those marketers working in the nonprofit world?

Sybil Stershic: Recognize your marketing team includes everyone who works in your organization, regardless of the department or function they are assigned. So you need to effectively engage the minds and hearts of the people behind the mission (your employees and volunteers who impact your brand) as well as the people in front of the mission (your consumers and the public).

Thanks, Toby!

Continue the conversation with Sybil!

Quality Services Marketing - website and blog | Share of Mind Share of Heart |Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Emplpyee Customer Care |Twitter @Sybilqsm

Interview with Brian Solis Author of The End of Business As Usual - Part II

11/17/2011

Brian solis_2In part two of my interview with Brian Solis, Brian shares his vision of what I might call the essence of social media. He talks about our new responsiblities, opportunities and business values. (Part I Interview with Brian Solis Author of End of Business As Usual)

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Recently Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) made a faux pas on Twitter. He then said in his blog that he felt Twitter had gone from a “communication platform” to a “mass publishing platform. “ He’s now turned the management of his stream over to his agency as a “secondary editorial measure.”

 Two questions Brian:  One - do you feel that social networks in general have gone from a way to talk to directly to customers or have they become just another mass market communication channel?

 And two - what would you have advised Ashton to do?

Brian Solis: This is difficult to answer. Ashton is a friend of mine and honestly, it’s not my place to comment on his experience. If he asked, my advice to him would be between us. However, I don’t want to let you or your readers down, so allow me to answer it another way.

  • With social media comes great responsibility.

Regardless of the size of our networks, each of carries a duty to engage with purpose, transparency, authenticity, and above all, respect. We are defined by what we say, share, and at times, what we don’t say.  

Essentially, we create a digital representation of who we are and what we value. In the end, what people think, how people value our connections, and how people interact with us is reflective of our investment. Or said another way, we reap what we sow and cultivate. 

The challenge is of course, that this is all so new, that we’re learning as we go. We’re, as everyday people and celebrities, not conditioned for living in public without filters or handlers.

To answer your first question, people are becoming full-fledged media networks and that’s why this moment is so special and alarming at the same time.

As media networks, and as novices really in the world of catering to extensive networks, it’s tempting to approach social media with a traditional mentality. Producing and publishing content in social networks isn’t necessary social media…in fact, bringing a one-to-many broadcast methodology to social is quite anti-social to say the least. 

We are responsible for what we create and share. But we are also challenged to do more than just create content. Anyone can do that now, so what makes you different? It’s also another thing to create consumable content. Again, anyone versed in traditional media can do that.

  • Now, we’re presented with a tremendous opportunity to produce consumable, shareable and actionable media. Those that master this will be rewarded with time, attention, and loyalty for the long term…and that’s priceless.

Marketing/Toby: Your book is filled with wonderful quotes. This is one of my favorites, “… brands must figuratively wear their hearts on their sleeves to best connect with customers.” (p 170) Would you speak a little of what that means to you?

Brian Solis: There’s an old saying, “don’t take it personally, this is just business.” Now, the opposite of that statement is true. One of the best-kept secret ingredients of any engaged business before, during, and after social media is empathy.

The connected consumer is incredibly sophisticated. Add to that, the nature of social networks. What Facebook, Twitter, Google+, et al. share is that they’re rich with emotion. People share what they like, love, dislike, or even hate. People engage with one another based on these emotions because it’s personal.

Businesses are entering these very emotional landscapes and they are treating them in many regards much as they do with other media channels. Just because they’re present and participating doesn’t mean that they’re human or that what it is they’re expressing is empathetic in nature.

During the listening process, we can capture the challenges, joys, struggles, and achievements of people who are customers or those related to our markets. Rather than just track keywords and activity, we can feel what it is that would matter to customers and build off of those findings.

For example, there are companies, like Freshbooks, that makes every employee in the company staff the customer service lines to better understand customers. The objective of course is to instill empathy. Because once you do, business becomes personal.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Brian, as we say, the Diva Marketing viral stage is yours. Wrap it up any way you’d like.

Brian Solis: This is an important time. We are presented with an opportunity and some of us need to make touch choices right now.

I believe that we are standing at a crossroads. In one direction, we can continue our quest to bring social media within business, to help companies “get it” and work with them to socialize marketing, communications, and service. In the other direction, we can use the lessons we learned from social media to bring about change within the company.

As change agents, this path will bring together once disparate teams and functions to coll Brian solis _ the end of business as usual.phpaborate in creating new culture of customer and employee centricity and overall market relevance.

Each path is important. It’s up to us to make a decision and push forward to help whomever we work with benefit from our vision and perseverance. 

Catch up with Brian on Twitter or Facebook and of course read more about The End of Business As Usual.

Bloggy Disclaimer: Brian kindly comped me a copy of the book The End of Business as Usual.

Interview with Brian Solis Author of The End of Business As Usual - Part I

11/16/2011

Brian Solis has earned a reputation as guy who digs deep and comes up with insights that result in head nodding. However, his analysis quite often takes our own thinking into directions that might not have been as obvious to us. 

Max Business As UsualFor me his new book, The End of Business As Usual, did both. I nodded and at the end of the read I thought just a little differently. Brian graciously agreed to share his thoughts about social media and the connected consumer. (Yes, Max liked The End of Business As Usual too!)

Brian's responses were so rich and deep that I've turned his interview into a two part series. Tune in tomorrow for part two! (Part Two Interview with Brian Solis)

Diva Marketing/Toby: The End of Business As Usual explores how the digital world, including social media, is impacting not only the way customers connect with companies but how companies interact with their customers and stakeholders.  At this point in the evolution of social media what does social media mean to you?

Brian Solis: Social media means a lot of different things to me and that’s why I’m inspired to invest as much possible to understand the impact on business, culture, consumers, and also individuals. At a minimum, social media is an opportunity for introspection. We have the ability to easily connect with one another.

We’re forming incredibly vibrant and extensive networks around relationships and interests.  We’re learning how to live life in a very public, and searchable, space. Just as individuals, businesses, organizations, governments, you name it, are equally given the gift of connections and the ability to interact with people directly.

Social media opens the door to empathy and influence. But as a result, the tenets required to thrive in social media require a different approach, a thoughtful strategy, and intentions designed to deliver value to all participants in engagement. 

I study social media programs by the thousands and I have to tell you, there are amazing examples and best practices out there. But, there are more examples of antisocial media then there are of social media…meaning, content, campaigns, contests, messages, are stuffed into new networks under the guise of social, when in fact, there’s very little social in the social media initiative.

Social media is in a state of rapid maturation and that’s why I wrote The End of Business as Usual. There are important lessons right now that are more important than social media. Understanding the bigger picture will only benefit how businesses use social media and how they grow as a company and a team of human beings united to accomplish something that’s bigger than any one individual.

Consumerism is changing. There is no longer one audience bound by demographics. In the book, I introduce the reader to the connected consumer. How they find information, how they make decisions, and how the influence and are influenced, is not at all like the previous generations of customers businesses are used to marketing and selling to, servicing, or tracking.

The book title says it all. This is about a fundamental change in behavior, which isn’t regressing, it’s actually spreading. Taking the same old strategies, programs, philosophies, and us vs. them culture into this next generation of connected consumerism is the surest way to digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than our ability to adapt.

  • No longer is it just about survival of the fittest, it’s now also about survival of the fitting.

Diva Marketing/Toby: You discuss the importance of creating and maintaining authentic exchanges which in turn, lead to building relationship with the connect customer. For every person who happens onto those interactions (random or deliberate) these exchanges become part of a shared brand experience.  People can see who the brand chooses to engage within the social web.

How do you ensure that connected customers who have reached out to the brand but are not included in, call them direct discussions with the brand, still feel special and not left out? I wonder .. are we creating an illusion of special?

Brian Solis: Interesting…I like the idea of the “illusion of special.” The same is true for social media and individuals. From Klout scores to Twitter followers, many people are struggling with the idea of importance. Whether or not connected consumers expect a company response or if an interaction actually occurred, people will freely share their experiences with companies.It is those published experiences in social networks that become not only searchable, but also impact the considerations and decisions of those who are either connected or those who find it in social search or simply by asking.

Many businesses see social media as a necessary evil and/or an opportunity to engage with customers who have negative experiences.  Doing so puts an organization at risk. By responding to negative experiences, companies get stuck in a move and react form of engagement.

The real opportunity is to learn from customer behavior to design better products, build an infrastructure that supports improved experiences, and continue to do so over time. It’s part leadership and part support. However, it’s never ending. What is the experience your customers have today? How do they find you? What shows up as someone is considering you now in social networks, not just Google, and what does their click path look like?

Once you understand the “day in the life” and what it is that people are expressing, you can begin to design a meaningful experience.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  In Chapter 13 you said listening is “Not an administrative position left to a recent college graduate because they get social media. This is a senior function that reports to management that processes authority to make decisions …” (p160)

I’m curious to understand who you believe should participate in social conversations as the voice of the brand. Is it a job for an intern or junior staff member or is this also a senior or mid management responsibility and why?

Brian Solis: This section refers to importance of the role of intelligence. It extends the thoughts shared in the last question. Often we get caught up in monitoring for mentions, sentiment, share of voice, and we miss the insights that can guide our engagement strategies and internal processes. Brian Solis

But to specifically answer your question, it’s not the role of just any one person to become the voice of the company. The needs of customers is far greater than any one person can or should manage.  At any one moment, your consumer can be an advocate expecting rewards, a customer needing help, a prospect requiring information or guidance, a partner wishing to express ideas to improve experiences, a potential employee needing HR attention, etc. The point is that every division affected by the activity within social media or any new media for that matter, must include an extension to 1) listen, 2) learn, 3) engage, and 4) adapt.

This is a major transformation and not something to be taken lightly. It starts with a mission, purpose, and vision. It requires a thoughtful plan. It requires training, governance, and compliance.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Throughout the book and in particular, Chapter 13 Brands Are No Longer Created, They’re Co-Created, you discuss the responsibilities of the organization to embrace the connected customer in developing the brand.  With the connected customer now involved with developing the brand, the CC must also share in the responsibility. What is the accountability of the connected customer to the brand?

Brian Solis: At the end of the day, connected customers will share their experience with or without you. That’s the power and freedom of new media and self expression is the ante to buy into any social network. The question is, without your involvement, without design, with trying to shape experiences proactively, what will your customers say and what will they do?

To truly create and steer experiences, businesses must design programs that seek their involvement. For example, Dell’s IdeaStorm and MyStarbucksIdea are proactive forms of communities dedicated to rallying customer feedback, recognizing and rewarding their input, and designing new experiences as a result. It puts customer ideas to work and they can see the progress of their input. Programs like this convert a connected customer into a stakeholder. Dell has gone even further by opening up an inward-facing community where employees can contribute and engage around their ideas as well.

Communities such as this are designed to channel self-expression into forms of collaboration. American Express recently launched its Link.Like.Love program that ties together the company’s rewards program with social activity. Beyond contests, general conversations, reactive customer support, smart businesses are thinking ahead to deliver value while steering and shaping desirable “shared” experiences.

As they say .. Tune in tomorrow for part two of Brian Solis' interview. In the mean time continue the conversation with Brian on Twitter or Facebook

Update: Part II Interview with Brian Solis where Brian shares insights about new values, responsibilities and how we are on the cross roads of marketing. 

Bloggy Disclaimer: Brian kindly comped me a copy of the book The End of Business as Usual.

Interview with Becky Carroll Author of The Hidden Power of Your Customers

09/07/2011

Becky Carroll_2 Traditionally customer service has been perceived as a necessary business function whose purpose is to appease unhappy customers.

Becky Carroll believes differently. She thinks customers rock and caring for your customer is one of the joys of doing businss. 

With the onset of social media, savvy companies like Dell, Zappos and your neighborhood food truck are learning servicing the customer can be a critical strategy; and sets you apart from your competiton.

That's what Becky's new book, The Hidden Power of Your Customers, is all about. 

In Brian Solis’ foreword to The Hidden Power of Your Customers, there is one line that especially resonated with me. “With the emergence of social media, we are given not just a right to engage but a rite of passage to earn relevance.” Relvancy and customer service .. a novel idea!

Becky Carroll kindly shares her innovative, but it makes sense, approach to building a “Customers Rock” focused company. 

Diva Marketing/Toby: I would imagine a Customer Rocks company takes coordination, alignment and team work that many organizations may not have in place. What would you tell those companies where departments are silo-ed or where employees may never have thought of their role as being part of customer service?

Becky Carroll: You are right, Toby, it does take quite a bit of coordination inside an organization to create an integrated approach to customers – whether that’s in customer service, marketing, sales, or any other customer-facing function. Company silos can create inconsistent messaging and treatment for and of customers.

To answer your question, I often recommend those companies create a customer experience map of their interactions with customers. Described in my book, this mapping of company transactions helps to do two things. 

First, since the map takes the customer’s perspective, it reveals how different internal organizations come together (or not) to impact the customer experience.

When cross-functional teams sit down and analyze this map, they usually find opportunities for process improvements, as well as areas of best practice, that will ultimately make the business more efficient, as well as more effective for the customer.

Second, a customer experience map can also help employees who are not “customer facing” to understand how their roles ultimately impact the customer experience. The map includes data and process inputs and outputs from different organizations, so employees can visually see where their outputs feed into customer interactions.

This understanding, along with cross-organizational metrics that help drive customer focus across all employees, can help everyone understand how they are a part of “taking care of customers”.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Becky, including multiple departments or business units in supporting customer service begs the question, “Who owns the service to the customer?”

Becky Carroll: As you can see from my answer above, I firmly believe that every employee participates and ultimately owns the service of the customer. Some employees interact directly with the customer to provide this service; others are serving fellow employees across departments, which empowers them to perform their customer-facing roles effectively – from the customer’s perspective.

Employee metrics focused on customer service will help make drive employee behaviors to support customer-focused initiatives.

Diva Marketing/Toby: The irony of social media is that we began this journey with a focus on bringing people together .. customers and the staff behind the brand.  However, frequently it seems the objective is not building relationships but in how many friends, likes, followers and now 1+ a brand can accumulate.

You turn the tables and advise us to be your customer’s fan (love it!). How do we get out of the "collecting numbers mindset?" 

Becky Carroll: Social media practitioners get into the habit of collecting numbers when they view social media as another place to run campaigns.

Social media is not a campaign – it is a strategy to build relationships.

When a company creates a social media strategy that is based on business goals, such as increasing customer share of wallet, as well as based on improving customer relationships (which can include prospects, too), rather then simply tracking “traffic” to social media properties (likes, followers, etc), we begin to move out of the campaign-mindset.

It also helps executives to better understand what we are doing with social media when we talk to them in terms of business goals and metrics as opposed to the much-touted social media “numbers”.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  I’ve used social media to call companies out and also to tell companies their service or product rocks. Sometimes I’ve been acknowledged and sometimes I have not. I must admit that when I don’t get a response, but notice that other people are getting special treatment I feel slighted. How does a company scale Customers Rock service?

Becky Carroll: Customer service via social media scales best when it is part of a customer-focused culture. This type of culture is created by company management as they model servant leadership towards their employees.

When employees, all employees, see how it looks to serve others in the organization, they learn how to serve customers.  Once everyone at the company understands how customer service is everyone’s job, and this is supported by management and metrics, employees will be empowered to treat all customers well – both in social media as well as in other customer-facing channels.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  I agree with you .. at the end of the day it is all about the people on both side of the equation: customers and employees. As our friend Sybil Stershic reminds us although most product and services can easily become commoditized relationships built on caring service are more difficult to duplicate. 

After you’ve listened (Chapter 1) and understand your customers’ need what is the first step to take in becoming a Customers Rock company?

Becky Carroll: The first step in becoming a Customers Rock company is to create a customer strategy. Companies have marketing strategies, social media strategies, and product strategies – but how many of them have a strategy for how they will treat their customers? This strategy needs to be thought-through carefully and embraced at all levels of the organization.

It should incorporate all four keys described in the book – Relevant Marketing, Orchestrated Customer Experience, Customer-Focused Culture, and Killer Customer Service – in order to create a strategy that can unlock the hidden power of your existing customers.

 Diva Marketing/Toby:  Becky, the Diva Marketing virtual stage is yours. Wrap it up any way you like.

Becky Carroll: I would just encourage organizations not to take their current customers for granted. They have more power than you think to help grow your business. And it’s not really hard – start with a thank you for being our customer!

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of Diva Marketing, Toby. You rock! Becky Carroll Hidden-Power2

Becky totally rocks too .. in fact she gave me a copy of The Hidden Power of Your Customer to give away.

If you want the book drop a comment and let me know why.

Becky will choose the comment that she thinks rocks it out!

Update: Contest deadline is midnight Friday 9 Sept 2011.

Continue the conversation with Becky!

Customers Rock

Twitter 

Facebook

The Hidden Power of Your Customers

Amazon.com

Update: Becky Carroll chose Aimee's comment as the winner. As an extra bonus for us ~ Aimee graciously agreed to tell us her 3 top customer rock tips .. skip over to this post! Thanks to everyone who participated!

 Bloggy disclaimer: Becky kindly comped me a copy of her book. 

Interview with Alex Brown Author Great and Goodness Barbaro And His Legacy - Part 2

07/22/2011

Part 2 of my interview with Alex Brown explores how he incorporated social media to create awareness for his book, the Barbao community, horse slaughter and Laminitis the disease that killed Barbaro. (Part 1 tells the back-story of why Alex wrote the book and how he created an engaged community of thousands.) 

Alex Brown_book jacket Greatness and Goodness Barbaro and his Legacy Diva Marketing/Toby:  Let’s talk about the book, which by the way, I loved! Greatness and Goodness Barbaro And His Legacy may be an extension of the digital world that Fans of Barbaro built, however, it is still an entity on to itself. 

How is your approach towards marketing/creating awareness different with the book versus the site?

Alex Brown: This is something I am learning as I am going along.  With the book I had an initial advantage, I already had a large community.  Many of those within the community were waiting to buy the book as it was launched. And I added a facebook fan page for the book to keep people updated with its progress.

I also created an extensive schedule for book signings, visiting many racetracks and timing the launch around the excitement of this year's Triple Crown.  So there was a traditional component to the marketing campaign.  This year marks the five year anniversary since Barbaro's great win, so that timing helped also. 

I was able to get some pretty good media exposure.  I also had a few reviews of the book done, which helped.  Each time there was a review, or article about the book, or a book signing event to talk about, I would update the facebook fan page, my own profile page, the main AlexBrownRacing.com site and so forth. I was busy, getting good coverage, and also able to use the social media tools to make it all look busy and successful. 

The major downside is I self published (great advantages to doing that) which means I really don't have access to the major retail stores. The book is on Amazon, we recently eclipsed 500 sales on Amazon.  Alex Brown_book signing Barbaro

Diva Marketing/Toby:  In terms of general marketing, and of course social media, what tactics/tools are giving you the biggest impact for time you invest?

Alex Brown: I don't think there is one tactic which has proven most successful.  The key has been to keep the community constantly updated with progress with the book, keep the interest front and center.  Going quiet about the book would potentially be fatal. 

Diva Marketing/Toby: Let’s talk the “C” words .. content creation. Are you leveraging the content from the book, social platforms, and even online media, to support the book promotion (and feed your social networks)? If so how?

Alex Brown: I have a book excerpt that I have made available on the internet. I think that has helped.  I have promoted its availability through the many channels I use.  As I noted earlier, anytime there is a review, or feedback on the book, I push that out through the channels.

It is funny though, as hard as I try, and as deliberate as I am about push all the content back out, there are many in the community who do not see the content. I guess it is like traditional marketing, your customer has to see something multiple times before it truly registers. 

I am also exploring e-version ideas for the book, and hoping they help cross-sell the hard cover book.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Your own story is fascinating and inspirational. The digital platforms you created, as well as your book, have turned into catalysts for several “for the greater good” purposes: the legacy of Barbaro, dreaded Laminitis disease and education about horse slaughter. 

What extent did the internet and social media play .. wondering if this could have been accomplished without a digital presence?

Alex Brown: Its role has been fundamental.  This could never have happened otherwise.  That's the short and long answer.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Alex, you get the last word .. wrap it up any way you’d like my friend.

Alex Brown: Thanks for all your support. I cannot remember how long ago it was when you started speaking to my class at Udel (over the internet), it would be fun to revisit what we talked about then. 

The fascinating aspect of social media it is keeps evolving and improving.  Now I have to figure out this Google+ thingy!

Continue the Conversation with Alex!

Even if you are not a horseman (or horsediva) Great and Goodness Barbaro and Legacy is an inspirational from the heart read.

Great and Goodness Barbaro and His Legacy

Alexbrownracing.com

@Alexbrownracing

Disclaimer: I recevied a complementary copy of Greatness and Goodness Barbaro And His Legacy. There are no affinity links in this post.

Interview with Alex Brown, Author: Great and Goodness Barbaro And His Legacy - Part 1

07/15/2011

When I think of the world of social media and blogs what I will forever remember, and be greatful for, are the amazing people who walked through my virtual door. One of my favorites is Alex Brown.  

Alex brown_2 Recently Alex wrote a book .. a beautiful book .. an inspiring book .. a book that touches the heart. I must admit it moved me to tears. (The amazing photographs and sketches make it a wonderful coffee table book.) 

It is the story of Barbaro the gallant racing horse and the people who trained, nutured and cared for him. 

It is also Alex's story of how he used social media to create a structure that encouraged a community to form that supported Barbaro and each other. 

About Alex Brown: I am a horseman, who is also an internet marketing "geek."  I have ridden horses all my life, and I have been using the internet for teaching and marketing since 1992.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Before we explore some of the social media marketing initiatives that support Greatness and Goodness Barbaro And His Legacy and alexbrownracing.com please give us a bit of understanding why you felt compelled to write this particular book about Barbaro?

Alex Brown: I had spent the better part of three years supporting an online community which had emerged as it followed Barbaro's attempted recovery at New Bolton Center, and which merged into a horse racing and horse welfare community.

I had used many social media tools to support this community.  I decided to then use a more traditional medium, a book, to write about the experience in a broader story about Barbaro and his lasting legacy.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  To help frame our interview, would you tell us the back-story of why you created a site for/about Barbaro? Alex Brown_ Barbaro

Alex Brown: I was already running a web-site for a racehorse trainer, and friend.  We decided to use his site to update race fans of Barbaro's preparations for the Preakness Stakes after he had won the Kentucky Derby so easily, to remain undefeated. 

Tragedy struck in the Preakness as we now know, but the site became useful to keep his growing fans abreast with his daily attempt at recovery.  He very nearly made it too! (Photo of Barbaro)

Diva Marketing/Toby:  While your friends in the equestrian world know you as a dedicated and passionate horseman, I know you as an innovative marketer who stepped into blogs long before the term social media was popularized. 

So let’s turn the clock back to 2005 – 2008 when you were Sr. Associate Director of Admissions at Wharton and then marketing prof at University of Delaware.  What lessons did you learn during those early days that helped you create the blog for Barbaro?

Alex Brown: I think we are always learning, so clearly all my prior experiences, which include teaching Internet Marketing at the University of Delaware, running the first blog at the Wharton School (for MBA admissions), managing a very active online discussion board for MBA applicants, and so forth, allowed me to understand how communities can work. 

I also read geeky books on game theory and stuff like that.  But as much as I learned, and thought I knew it all in terms of managing online communities, I have learned twice as much managing this project. 

Diva Marketing/Toby: You had huge success with that blog (and subsequent message board and wiki), from hundreds of thousands of comments, to rich content and wonderful search rankings.  Recently you changed domains from timwoolleyracing.com to alexbrownracing.com.

Obviously, the blog drove traffic to the Tim Woolley Racing web site. Did you have an agreement with Tim Woolley Racing that you would “own” the site and might even change the URL? How was that relationship structured?

Alex Brown: Tim Woolley and I have been close friends for a very long time.  At one point the site was overwhelmed with Barbaro and horse welfare and racing content and it made sense to let Tim have his site back.  At that time I was also leaving Fair Hill where Tim and I worked, and was planning to travel for a couple of years to do further research for the book. 

Changing domains helped mark that occasion.  Maintaining Google rankings and so forth was not really a problem, and we were able to copy all the content over to the new domain. 

What I felt was super important was to leave the design of the sites the same.  I am a huge believer in the value of design usability, and once your community is used to how things work, only change things if there are super critical reasons to do so. 

My interest and experience with web design usability was also something I brought to the design of the book, an aspect of the book of which I am very proud.  I do think the designer wanted to kill me at some points of the book project though!!

Diva Marketing/Toby: For the geeks in the audience, did moving the domain impact your search results and/or traffic to the site very much?

Alex Brown: A slight hiccup perhaps. No more than that.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Barbaro captured the hearts and imagination of people from all over the world. The site provided what Mike Jensen, Philadelphia Inquirer said was “.. real-time updates from the principles and they were able to form a community.” (p 85)

In the social media world, you had 2 critical elements: content and emotional connection. However, the big social media win goes beyond just the number of “likes” “followers” “circles” or subscribers that comprise a community but to engagement.  You knocked that out of the park (oops wrong sport!). We’d love your insights on how to take community to the level of “tribe.”

Alex Brown: Yes, certainly this became a community of action.  They have raised well over $1 million to rescue horses from slaughter, and done so much more too.  I think it is hard to absolutely determine how that happened, but there are one or two things I have learned from this that might prove useful. 

Firstly, mistakes happen, a community needs to be able to learn from those mistakes and grow from those mistakes.  Making a mistake once is fine, as long as you do learn from it.  Not making any mistakes really means you have not tried hard enough. 

The other thing that I think is super important is how the community is led.  I did not decide we should get active on the horse slaughter issue.  Members of the community did, and others followed, and it all bubbled up.  This is the same with other projects the community has undertaken.  My job, along with other moderators, has been to observe, nudge, and keep the conversations on target. 

I once told someone, when describing the most important aspects of managing the community: "When I get up in the morning I just hope I don't mess it up." There have been a few occasions, over the 5 years, that I nearly did mess it up.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Can you share some and how you recovered?

Alex Brown: The most sensitive aspect of running a large community is what actions you take if inappropriate content is posted.  As the moderator you have to have a set of rules for your community, and you have to adhere to those rules.

This can create short term reactions, but you have to keep your eye on the long term welfare of the overall community.  If you have to ban someone (a user ID), typically that person has his / her own network, and belongs to other communities. 

On top of that, the banned user can easily connect now (especially with facebook) to "discuss" your actions with others.  Honestly it can get nasty, and as we know, if two people say the same thing about you on the internet, it has to be true!  You need a thick skin to manage a community like this.

To be continued .. more about how Alex is using social media to create awareness for the book, the community, horse slaughter and the disease that killed Barbaro.

(Update: Part 2)

Disclaimer: I recevied a complementary copy of Greatness and Goodness Barbaro And His Legacy.

Interview with Mark Levy, Author of Accidental Genius

12/01/2010

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll

Mark LevyLewis Carrol would be right at home chatting with Mark Levy. I have no doubt that between the two of them they would have thought of at least twenty impossible things before breakfast.

So who is Mark Levy? Glad you asked. Mark is the founder of Levy Innovation, a marketing strategy firm that helps entrepreneurial companies increase their fees by up to 2,000%.

David Meerman Scott calls him “a positioning guru extraordinaire.” Fast Company Expert Blogger, Cali Yost, says “Mark helped me rethink my entire business in a day. He’s a miracle worker.”

Mark has written for the New York Times, and has authored or co-created five books. His latest is the newly revised and expanded edition of “Accidental Genius: using Writing to Get to Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content.” The book helps liberate businesspeople from their status quo thinking. 

In his interview for Diva Marketing, Mark not only shares his insights about creativity in business but gives us a holiday gift .. a special free writing exercise that will take our posts, tweets or campaigns to the next level. 

Diva Marketing: Creativity is an illusive concept. What does creativity mean to Mark Levy?

Mark Levy: Creativity is looking at a situation from an unusual perspective. It’s making connections among phenomena that may not have any organic connection. It’s following the logical progression of an idea until the reality of that idea falls apart and you have to start guessing as to what might happen next. It’s stepping off the worn path that your thinking typically follows, so you can surprise and disorient yourself – and thus stumble upon something new.

The best way to be creative and summon up a good idea is to come up with lots of ideas first. Think of creativity as a numbers game rather than a quality game.

When you’re being creative, you’re going to make a mountain of mistakes. Turns out, though, that your mountain isn’t really composed of mistakes. It’s composed of the steps you needed to take to reach your golden idea.

It’d be nice if the mind could create more efficiently, wouldn’t it? But the mind isn’t orderly. To arrive at something novel, you need to take leaps: some logical, some illogical.

Diva Marketing: When I think about being creative, my thoughts turn to the arts. How would you describe a creative ‘business person?’

Mark Levy: Most businesspeople seldom get a chance to be creative, because they have to follow their organization’s routines and protocols. Sometimes, though, those routines and protocols fail, and the businesspeople have to get creative in a hurry. (For instance, they have to figure out how to unblock a bottleneck in manufacturing, or think up a way of entering a market that’s kept them out.)

For most businesspeople, then, having to create is tough. Why?

For one thing, since they haven’t been asked to create anything all that often, trying to come up with something new can be intimidating.

But even more important: Most businesspeople don’t know any techniques that’ll help them create. They’re told to “innovate” or “think different” or “be creative,” and that’s all the guidance they’re given. Good luck.

Trying to create without knowing any techniques is like trying to cook without pots and pans and utensils. Sure, it’s possible, but why make things so needlessly difficult?

There are hundreds of creativity techniques out there. Businesspeople need to play with a few, and practice the ones that seem natural to them. Natural is key. When a fast-breaking problem presents itself, you don’t want to rely on a technique that’s too complicated to remember or is arduous to use. The right techniques are a joy to use.

Diva Marketing: In your new book, Accidental Genius, you approach problem solving with a unique and creative technique .. freewriting. First, please tell us what is freewriting.

Mark Levy: Freewriting helps us beat our internal editor.

See, inside each of us is an internal editor that does an important job: it edits what we think and say as we think and say it, so we look smart and consistent to other people. For the most part, our editor draws upon the same thoughts over and over again, because those thoughts have worked for us in the past.

As helpful as our editor is, there’s a time when it gets in our way.  It hurts us in those situations that call for thoughts that are different from those we normally use.

The editor won’t let us think potentially valuable new thoughts, because those thoughts are untested. By keeping things predictable, the editor unintentionally keeps us stuck. It guarantees that – if we keep going the way we’re going -- we’ll never be able to solve certain problems.

Freewriting, then, is a journaling technique that temporarily pushes the editor into the background, so we can get at our more honest and unusual thoughts. From these thoughts, we can create intriguing and often valuable solutions. Accidental genius by mark levy

Diva Marketing: Can you tell us a story of how freewriting has been used to help solve a business challenge?

Mark Levy: One of my favorite stories: An executive vice president was trying to win pay raises for his entire department. Who did he have to pitch to? The organization’s Board of Directors, which included the former head of The Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan.

As you can imagine, the vice president was a wreck.

Instead of biting his nails, though, he prepared for his meeting. He bought a pen and a notebook, and every night for a week he’d do an hour of freewriting about what might happen in that meeting.

So, he’d quickly write about who was in the room, and what he’d say to them, and how they’d respond, and how he’d counter any arguments they presented. He didn’t softball the situation. In each night’s scenario, he had the Board raise the toughest objections they could, and he’d answer them.

By the time the meeting rolled around, he’d felt as if he had already lived it. He was confident that there was nothing that they could throw at him that he couldn’t handle.

He did his pitch, they loved it, and he won the raises. 

Diva Marketing: It’s not unusual for people who routinely develop social media content to hit a writer's block. How would you suggest using freewriting to discover new ideas?

Mark Levy: You can use freewriting in dozens of ways to create new material. Here’s an exercise your readers can do immediately.

Open a blank document in your computer, and set a timer for seven minutes. You’re about to start writing, but first some ground rules:

  • No one is going to see what you’re writing unless you want them to, so be honest and bold.
  • Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar.
  • Don’t worry if what you’re writing is interesting or even coherent.
  • Write as fast as you can for the full seven minutes, without stopping for any reason. (As Ray Bradbury says, “In quickness there is truth.”)
  • And, if during the writing you feel like digressing, by all means follow those digressions.

In essence, I want you to approach the page without worrying about the normal rules of writing. You’re using it as a means of watching yourself think. If you write something “good,” well, that’s a bonus. It’s not necessary.

What, then, are you going to write about?

Images.

That is, think about your usual subject, start the timer, and begin putting down image after image as they appear in your mind. When one of those images seems promising, write about it. Describe what you see, and take guesses as to why you’re seeing it.

For instance, suppose you normally write about prospecting. Start your seven minute timer, and begin hitting the keys. Perhaps you’ll write:

“This guy Levy tells me to write about images. OK. Sounds like a plan. But what images come to mind when I think about “prospecting”?

Well, I think of Jane, my latest client, and how I met her at that social media conference and how she wants me to build a sales funnel for her company. So I could write about her.

But another image just came to mind. I teach people how to prospect for clients, but the word prospecting is really just a metaphor. It’s probably from the gold rush of the Nineteenth Century. So I see an unshaven prospector crouching in a river bed, the water running past him, using a pan to sift for gold.

Prospecting for gold. I never thought about that analogy before. How is prospecting for clients like prospecting for gold? How is it different? Well, gold prospectors would have to leave their old lives behind them, because they had to live in the mountains for a year or more. When prospecting for clients . . . “

Images often get to ideas that we know implicitly, but haven’t yet made explicit. By following the call of images, we can create rough-draft material that, for us, is genuinely original and has inherent drama.

By the way, if you don’t come up with anything interesting in the first seven minutes, don’t fret. Do another seven minutes. And another. The more images and ideas and stories you pour onto the paper, the more likely you are to come across something you can use.

Continue the conversation with Mark on his blog and on Twitter @@levyinnovation.

Thanks to Nettie Hartsock for introducing me to Mark. In social media disclosure, Mark sent me a comp copy of the Accidental Genius. In all candor, it's more than a great read. It's a problem solving solution that works!

A Stop On The microMarketing Book Tour

09/22/2010

If you are going to achieve excellence in the big things, you develop the habit in the little matters.~ Colin Powell

In his new book, microMARKETING ~ Get Big Results By Thinking And Acting Small, Greg Veredino demonstrates that the world of business has taken Colin Powell's words to heart. Detailed case studies are used to create a mosaic of how brands and customers are working together to build brand perception. This is new way of marketing is occurring not through the channels of Mad Men mass communication; but fueled by micro cultures created by micro content developed by micromavens. 

Book mosaic Look closer at this new image and you'll see the pieces are comprised of small content creations of video, images, text and yes, audio too. Look even closer and you'll discover that the developers of the content are not art directors or copy writers but the people who bring the brand into the moments of their daily lives .. your customers. 

The Back-story.

Diva Marketing rarely posts book reviews preferring to bring the author directly to you. However, a few weeks ago I received an eMail from Alexandra Kirsh of Planned Television Arts, a PR firm based in New York. PTA is representing Greg in his outreach efforts for microMARKETING.

They asked me to participate in a virtual book tour. Their idea was little different and supported the concept of the book. They called it a chapter-by-chapter review where 1 person reviews only 1 chapter instead of the entire book. Big results by Thinking and Acting Small.

Sounded like fun. I'm into the micro. Greg and I have crossed social media paths and I admire his work. So I said .. dahling let's do it. Or something like that. Disclaimer: I was sent a complementary copy of microMARKETING.

Chapter 3 From Mass Communications to Masses of Communicators. Telling Your Brand Stories in the Voice of the Consumer.

In Chapter 3 Greg sets the stage to explore the concept of micromavens* and their importance in contributing to the success of consumer generated content campaigns. He identifies several people in the social media scene who exemlify the concept including Boston video blogger Steve Garfield. It would have been great fun to also highlight Steve's famous mom. Millie Garfield, MyMomsBlog, who at age 85 is not only one of the world's oldest bloggers, but a micromaven for sure! Perhaps in the next edition.

Two strong case studies, Ford Fiesta Movement and Australian Island Reef Job anchor this chapter. Both are rich in details and provide quantitative results which I very much appreciated. Greg excels in providing analysis of the strategy. Although there were several B2B examples I would have loved if one could have been explored with the same in-depth treatment as the B2C cases.

As the chapter unfolds it becomes clear that involving customers to tell their stories of your brand is not the work for the faint of heart. In the case of Ford's Fiesta Movement, the company made certain to include several people who had established communities and extended networks that would "... spark a groundswell in peer-to-peer conversation about Fiesta." 

Of course, there must be mutual value derived for the brand manager, the social media content creator and her community. However, it takes not only planning but consistent nurturing of your micromavens and honest caring. "I will always love Ford, because Ford loved me first." ~ Jody Gnant, Ford Fiesta Agent. Caution! Do not attempt this type of strategy unless your have an excellent product and are committed to invest time and human capital. 

A nice touch are the domains for each of the companies and micromavens are incorporated throughout the book. Also, Chapter 10 provides 40 questions to help you create an action plan for going micro.

Taking a cue from Mr. Verdino, Colonel Powell and my mom - who told me wonderful gifts come in small packages (I think she was talking about bling but in away this is marketing bling!) .. don't be afraid to explore micro it can produce Big results. microMarketing will help you find your way down an exciting path. In diva style .. toss of a pink boa to Greg for a most interesting read!

Micromarketing jacket_2

More Chapter By Chapter microMarketing Reviews

 Chapter 1/9-20: Adam Strout

Chapter 2/ 9-21: Lucretia Pruitt, Mitch Joel

Chapter 3/9-22: Jason Falls, Toby Bloomberg

Chapter 4/9-23: Kayta Andresen, Murray Newlands

Chapter 5/9-24: Amber Nashlund, Marc Meyer, Chris Abraham

Chapter 69/27: Ari Herzog

Chapter 7/9-28: Danny Brown, Jay Baer, Adam Cohen, Becky Carroll

Chapter 8/9-29: C.C. Chapman, Elmer Boutin

Chapter 9/9-30: John Moor, David Armano, Beth Harte, Justin Levy

*What is a micromaven? "..websavvy new communicator who understands that content is a valuable social currency and community is king. He is a one-man media outlet that draws an audience not through an exclusive relationship with a single, monolithic mass distribution partner, but through thousands upon thousands of relationships built directly with the individuals who follow his output across ltos of small sites and who view his microchunked content on the larger networks that incorporate it into their own program.

For a cool example of micro content check out Social Media Marketing GPS .. my free eBook based on 40 Twitter interviews. Really!

Geezer Guts: Lessons Learned from Social Media By Jane Genova

11/02/2008

I meJane_genovat Jane Genova in 2005. At age 60 she was in the midst of a challenging transition stage of her life. Jane's world came crashing down during the last economic crisis. She found herself in a strange new world facing challenges that were not suppose to happen. Taking a dive into blogging she reinvented herself.

In the free eBook, Geezer Guts: Making a Buck No Matter, she tells her story raw .. with no punches pulled. Reading Greezer Guts I couldn't help but think that Jane's lessons learned have come at a time when they can inspire so many people who are now going through similar life challenges. A few of the life lessons learned from social media that even non geezers can take to heart.

  • Business norms change
  • People change too
  • What was right for you yesterday may not be right for you today .. or tomorrow
  • "Just be ourselves. That's plenty."
  • It takes time and courage to learn new skills and a new way of thinking.
  • Life on your terms can be different than what you imagined it to be yesterday.
  • Ghosts from past careers/lives can continue to haunt if you compromise your dignity in the now.
  • Trust in yourself and don't confide your plans to people who may not understand.
  • Success is not always computed in dollars.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • "Being forced into a world we never expected being in seems to have made many of us accidental late bloomers. Adversity has unique transformational power."
  • Take the road less traveled.
  • Your "first job" can happen at any age. "Dump the past. No one is interested in our sad story. Eventually we won't  be either."
  • New networks are a must
  • "What happens happens. The present and future are what we do about it."

Geezer Guts is a quick read .. but an important one. Download it. Read it. Share it with a friend.

Read Jane's 2006 Blogger Story

Virtual Book Tour: A Conversation With Sybil Stershic

06/05/2008

It is with great delight that Diva Marketing is a stop on the virtual book tour for my dear friend Sybil_stershic_2_2 Sybil Stershic's  first book .. Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care published by WME.

Take Aways: Easy to read, Sybil's passion for the subject is evident, From concept to how to do it, Smart, Elements of social media e.g., transparency, inclusion - breaking down silos, conversations critical, A must read for everyone in management and those who aspire to those positions.

I hope you enjoy reading my conversation with the author of Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care - Ms. Sybil Stershic.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The phrase “Internal Marketing” sounds so .. well warm and fuzzy .. not very strategic. However, from Chapter 1 you set the stage that Internal Marketing is grounded in ROI with this quote from Francis Hesselbein – “Dispirited, unmotivated, underappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world.”  Let’s set the record right. On a high level, what is Internal Marketing?

Sybil Stershic: Internal Marketing is a strategic blend of marketing and human resources focused on taking care of employees so they can take care of customers. While that still sounds warm & fuzzy, nonetheless it’s critical because if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

Toby/Diva Marketing: How does it differ from Internal Branding?

Sybil Stershic: Internal Marketing is based on the self-reinforcing relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, whereas Internal Branding is based on making the brand part of the organization’s operations to ensure employees deliver on the brand promise.  While management may use Internal Marketing to address employee and customer satisfaction and/or retention, internal branding is more likely to be used when launching a new brand or revitalizing an existing one.

Those differences aside, both approaches recognize “the brand walks around on two feet” and, as a result, are focused on engaging employees for marketing and organizational success. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Your book not only details the many aspects of Internal Marketing but provides a tangible work path, from an Internal Marketing audit to where people can develop a customized strategy. a beginning audit to an Internal Marketing Action Plan. Looking at the Internal Marketing Audit checklist where do you find companies fall short? Why? and can you offer a few suggestions?

Sybil Stershic: Surprisingly, they fall short in remembering to communicate the organization’s overall goals and what’s expected of employees in helping achieve those goals – reinforcing  where each employee fits in the scope of the company and how the employee impacts its success.

For most companies, it’s an issue of time and, in some cases, inertia or neglect. The company gives out job descriptions to new employees, introduces them to the company in orientation, and then it’s back to business as usual. The company keeps plugging along and assumes that employees are up to speed with what’s happening in the organization. Meanwhile, face-to-face staff meetings have become almost nonexistent as they’ve been replaced by a barrage of e-mails.

Here’s what I suggest: managers need to develop a checklist of information that new employees need to know (especially in firms too small to offer a formal orientation) PLUS a checklist of regular information that all employees need to know, such as where the company is headed and what its strategy is for getting there, etc.

Managers who aren’t sure where to start with this can ask employees (those who have been with the company for a while and those who are relatively new): What information do you think new employees need to know about the organization? What do you know now that you wish you learned as a new employee?  What type(s) of information do you need to stay updated with what’s happening in our company?

Toby/Diva Marketing: What have you seen is the biggest challenge, from management’s viewpoint, in developing a successful Internal Marketing program?

Takingcarecover_2 Sybil Stershic: The reality is Internal Marketing is more than a program – it’s an ongoing effort. And it’s one that’s best implemented gradually rather than introduced as a new “flavor-of-the-month” management initiative.

I find it ironic that many companies who do Internal Marketing well aren’t necessarily aware that they’re using Internal Marketing. These are companies with a workplace culture and operations committed to the value of both customers AND employees.

For managers and employees who are not part of such companies, the challenge is to apply Internal Marketing despite members of management who don’t get what it’s all about. The good news is you can still have a positive impact by applying Internal Marketing on a “micro” basis – at the department or division level – if not throughout the organization.

Toby/Diva Marketing: You provide great examples of companies who are doing it right. Many are using recognition and rewards as part of their strategy. Sometimes a plaque or pizza party feels like a patronizing platitude. How can recognition and rewards be perceived by employees as a heartfelt “thank you?”

Sybil Stershic: It depends on the manager or management involved. Recognition is genuine when it’s given by a manager who is respected by employees.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s look at Internal Marketing from the employees’ viewpoint. How can employees contribute to the success of an Internal Marketing strategy?

Sybil Stershic: Great question, Toby, and it’s somewhat difficult to answer because Internal Marketing is really seamless.  As mentioned earlier, Internal Marketing is inherent in a workplace culture truly committed to customers and employees – beyond the usual lip service given to employees as a valuable “asset.”

Whether applied formally or informally, Internal Marketing includes any and all initiatives, activities, and programs that connect employees to three levels: to the organization, to customers, and to other employees. For example: orientation, recognition programs, customer or employee roundtables, training, departments coming together for a combined staff meeting, job shadowing, customer and/or employee appreciation events, etc.

Back to your question on how can employees contribute to the success of an Internal Marketing strategy.  They can best contribute by being open and honest with management regarding how they feel about the organization and what they can do to help it succeed; in addition, they should also share any feedback they get on how customers feel about the company and its brand(s).

Toby/Diva Marketing: It seems an exciting benefit of an Internal Marketing strategy is, call it a cross pollination among traditional corporate ‘silos.’ Would you please talk a bit about how that occurs?

Sybil Stershic: Earlier I talked about employees needing to know where they fit in the ‘big picture’ of the organization and how they can contribute to the company’s success. This is not done in a vacuum, however, as employees need to know how their work impacts others within the organization, including “internal customers” – employees whose needs must be met in order to serve the company’s customers. 

So I advocate opening up communications within as well as across departments. Some companies do this by encouraging employees to trade places or ‘shadow’ another employee to better understand that person’s job function. Departments can also host an “open house” (in real time or online) to showcase what they do. At a minimum, you can begin to break down organizational silos by opening up your staff meetings to other employees. (There I go again pushing staff meetings!) Seriously, such activities serve to create empathy and appreciation for other employees.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s wrap this up by talking about the next generation work force. How do you think the Millenniums will impact the future of Internal Marketing? Do they expect a different work environment then the XYers or the Boomers?

Sybil Stershic: I believe there will still be a need for Internal Marketing as the work environment and workforce continue to evolve. Here’s why.

Despite different generational attitudes in the workplace, companies will still need to engage their employees. And that’s where Internal Marketing comes in – enabling organizations to communicate and reinforce a sense of common purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of being part of something special, particularly in workplace that’s becoming increasingly insular. Internal Marketing will continue to be relevant as a ‘high touch’ people-centered management approach in a ‘high tech’ world.

Thanks, Toby, for allowing me to share this with your readers.
Thank *you* Sybil!

Special Discount! WME is kindly offering a 20% discount when you purchase Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care from the WME online book store. Please the code 107VBT on the checkout page.

On The Virtual Book Tour - Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care

Lisa Rosendahl, HR Thoughts, posted a great review.
Chris Bailey, Bailey Work/Play: The Alchemy of Soulful Work, shared insights in his review.
Kevin Burns, Burns Blogs Attitude, provides his views about about Taking Care of the People. 
Toby Bloomberg Diva Marketing (moi!) a conversation with Sybil Stershic
On June 6th, Becky Carroll,  Customers Rock!, gives us a two for one .. an interview and a review.
On June 9th, Paul Hebert, Incentive Intelligence, will review Sybil's new book.
On June 10, 2008, Phil Gerbyshak will post an interview on Slacker Manager

Diva Special Treat! The first person who drops a value-add -to-the-conversation comment (as determined by Sybil herself!) will win a copy of On The Virtual Book Tour - Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care.

More Sybil: Catch Sybil on the Diva Marketing Talks  podcast when she dished with me and Nettie Hartsock about being a new author.