Thoughts

The right tool for the right job

By Danny Devriendt

Originally published in DMix Magazine (June 2011) www.dmix.be

Yes, you should definitely do the “Social Media thing” if you want to be part of the cool crowd. Write a blog, start a Facebook account, get to know Twitter, etc. But don’t be too quick though! You first need to get the right tools. It’s like going to the gym: you wouldn’t want to be seen without the right attributes, now would you? The same goes for social media: without the right tools, it will never work properly.  So be prepared and make sure you have this checklist at hand:

  1. Twitter:  no. Do not use www.twitter.com. It’s there, that’s for sure, but sending tweets “from web” will get you nowhere in the charts. You need a nice tool that allows you to tweet, search, filter and manage. Take your pick. My personal favourite is www.tweetdeck.com  It works smoothly on my iPad, iPhone, laptop, and it allows me to juggle with multiple Twitter accounts, update my Facebook status and my LinkedIn status. All for free. www.hootsuite.com is a good alternative. To find influential people on Twitter (per category, country or city), or track how well you are doing yourself, check www.twittergrader.com. Want to check your true influence? Go to www.klout.com . For housekeeping, keeping track of who follows you or who does not and who stopped tweeting, use tools like www.ReFollow.com or www.haklus.com. To manage, measure and time your tweets a CRM tool is handy. I use http://spredfast.com/. I love it. It allows you to draw fabulous graphs and stats that will make you shine in the boardroom.  
  2. Scoop-it: All that wisdom you read. Blog posts that make you think. Movies that make you laugh. Intriguing debates on forums. You collect tons of very wise things, and all your friends, family and clients want to know how you became so scary smart. Help them by using scoop-it. This content aggregation and curation tool allows you to share all the good content that you find. Within days, you’ll have a faithful audience reading through it: good for your credibility and your thought leading status.
  3. Facebook: Facebook is comprehensive on its own, and comes with a plethora of build-in features that you can benefit from. If you plan to deep-dive into Facebook communities, you will need global and local pages, and will require tons of moderation: take a look at www.buddymedia.com. Awesomely powerful.
  4. Blog: Let’s talk about that blog of yours. Does it have a personalized URL? Like www.youandme.be? Or do you go for the free version www.youandme.wordpress.com? Ouch. There goes your credibility. Use www.combell.be or www.godaddy.com and get a proper domain name for a couple of bucks a year. Same for your Facebook account name, your Twitter handle, your LinkedIn profile. A great tool for your blog is www.wordpress.org. It is freeware, open source, complete and by far the most comprehensive one to use. Competitors like www.tumblr.com and www.blogger.com do their best. But you want the best, right? And don’t forget to register your blog on directories like www.technorati.com or www.blogsontop.com. Use feed burners like www.feedburner.com to propagate your posts even further. 
  5. Show-off: Nothing shows more of you, your team, your products than something people can see. Smiling happy people are your best way of evangelizing how great you are. So…social tools that allow you to post pictures are worth a fortune. Any time something nice, fun, unexpected, etc happens, snap a picture and share it on your social media ecosystem. My personal favourite? Without a doubt Instagram (www.instagram.com). It interacts with your smartphone in a seamless way, has some cool build-in filters, and you can share it without any pain on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Try it. You’ll be amazed how many people will interact on your little pieces of art.
  6. Location: Ha! There you are…it’s good to have a flourishing business, but how easy do you make it for people to find you, check in to you, and give you free publicity? Most Belgian businesses vastly underestimate the potential of location based services, and social check-ins. Making sure your business is easily findable on Google maps (and why not, Google Earth) is a must. Claim your offices on Gowalla and Foursquare and post their “check in here” stickers on your window. More and more people make it a habit to check-in, and by doing so expose your brand/location to their social network.

Good luck!

Share

Forget outside-the-box – Just how good are you?

Originally posted on Heliade by @dannydevriendt

Communicating with online audiences. More and more brands are convinced of its growing importance, and huge potential.  It’s a fast changing environment, where new networks are adopted; sky rock, are disregarded, forgotten and sold to pop stars in the blink of an eye.

In all kind of windowless meeting rooms, marketers and communicators look at expensive slides. Buzzwords like engagement, Klout, digital, blogs, and Google+ are ping – ponged around the table.  Everyone agrees change is needed: Stepping up, killing your darlings, bleeding edge, innovation by design, burn the status-quo.  There is lots of nodding. And then, somebody  brings to the table that outside the box thinking is needed.

And that is when my light goes out. Albert Einstein framed it elegantly: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at, when we created them”.  I could not agree more. Just adding a Twitter account, some Facebook hocus pocus and being one of the first brands thinking about the new Google does not make a company ready for this digital age. The biggest problem of thinking outside of the box, is that the box is kept.

Can we find the guts and glory to forget all about the old box? Trying to find a new business model that fits consumer needs that are rapidly changing? Can we get away of our history, ourselves, and shape up for the future?  A car is way more than a horseless carriage; an iPhone is a complete rethinking of what good old Alexander Graham Bell had in mind when he invented the telephone.

Successful chance in this content driven, engaging digital age requires more than the occasional out of the box thinker. It requires purposeful dreamers, with an iron will to make it happen. Reshaping is a creative strategy, not a recurrent one.

To get out of the mud, rethink your wheels 🙂

Share

Your Klout score? I could not care less…

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

I was contacted yesterday by a young girl who wanted to know my Klout score. She was making a list of important people to follow on twitter. It made me smile. When I answered that my Klout score is on klout.com (like everyone else’s) and that it hovers between roughly 55 and seventy-something depending on my mood, and the temperature of the seawater in Belgium, she got upset. Klout was important, and I was not taking her seriously.

I explained that the temperature of the seawater does have a determining effect on my Klout score. If it gets too cold, I migrate South, and stop tweeting for a while. My Klout thingy sinks accordingly like a stone with respiratory difficulties. If the temperature is ok, my mood gets better, I twitter chat with friends, spread some blog posts around, and my Klout score sours up.  That did not make her happy either.

Now, how can you determine if someone is important based on a yo-yo Klout score? Try walking up to somebody, and ask how important he is. Can you picture that? How do you define ‘important’? Is that a figure in two digits? Will he be more important tomorrow? Is he important because he has money? To whom is he important?

What does my Klout score tell you? Does it show you what people think about what I write? What impact my tweets/posts/musings have? Does it give a value on quality? Even on quantity? If so, in relation to what exactly? To my goals? Did the girl mean with ‘important’ influential? Influential on what topic? To what audience?

I have nothing against Klout.com.  It is a rating system amongst many. I do have something against conclusions hastily drawn from a two digit number that gets influenced by the temperature of seawater.

If you want to determine if someone is important, relevant, influential, you’ll have to rely on more than just an automated tool. You’ll have to analyze all kinds of data, you’ll have to sift through criteria, and you’ll have to put stuff in context. Content might be King, but contextual information is Queen.

There is no number that can tell you whether I am important or not. Only you can determine that.

Thank you for sharing this, it will benefit my Klout score…. :-) .

Share

Pitch to win: blood on your wheels

By Danny Devriendt

How far would you go to win? How far do you need to go? How far is good enough? Every consultancy firm has a sacred fear of coming close second, to get the call that says “It was fabulous, we loved the team… but..”. The “but” that kills.  The “but” that tells you your competitors were quicker, smarter, better, and used better tactics. They got to the client at an angle you did not see, using language you did not consider, using a plot you omitted to explore. They were more daring, more creative. They swirled around faster, with all their weight on the front foot, delivering a killing hook. They were Machiavellian in their approach, using what it took to win.

How far would you go to nail that important contract triumphantly at the barn door of your office? It takes more than a nicely dressed war room, and some shiny white boards to win these days. Just great corporate hair, and a fashionably cut suit does not get you in the charts anymore, neither does the BMW3 series.

My grandfather was a self-made man, a successful entrepreneur. He educated me with John Wayne. “See that sheriff?” my grandfather said: “every time he walks out that door into that street at sunset to confront the villain he knows he needs to win, if he wants to live, if he wants to come back. As long as you do the same, you’ll be fine. Go, but go to win. Do burn bridges, you’ll fight harder.”

I was given a book recently  Market Forces, by Richard Morgan, painting a pitch dark view on the corporate world in the very uncomfortable close future. Consultancy firms respond to pitches from global corporations. Over time these tenders are fought more and more grimly. From showing up with the best team and the best proposal, to showing up first… to -well- showing up alive basically.

In  Market Forces, tenders and pitches are fought out on the road, on the way to the client. Pitch teams kill off weaker opponents on the deserted highway to the pitch. No rules. No witnesses. Quickest reflexes and biggest cojones wins. Competing consultants only stop to collect the bloody plastic corporate nametags from their dying opponents. Clients get the consultant that has proven to be the last man standing, natural selection. The consultant that went the extra mile, and lived, wins. Darwin would be proud..

“Show up early, with blood on your wheels… or do not show up at all”.  Market Forces might be caricaturizing it, but it’s more reality than you think: are you John Wayne enough to kick your opponents out of the meeting room?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll sweet talk my boss into getting me bigger wheels

Share

How long will it take before the Belgian National Railways discover the merits of crisis preparedness?

By Corneel Maes

The Belgian National Railways (NMBS) continue to accumulate blunders against all common sense in issues management and crisis communications. What seemed to be an “incident” for any well prepared railway or public transport organization yesterday, turned out to be a disaster situation with the NMBS since they were not able to get grips on the situation and – shame on them – neglected to properly communicate about the issue.

Technical failure can happen as confirmed by Murphy’s Law. But as a public transport company – already being under public criticism for its performance and its communications (in)capabilities – should have appropriate emergency scenarios at hand and be able to handle them rather swiftly.

Yet I didn’t see the NMBS act responsibly according to the three ground rules in crisis communications:

Rule number 1: Show empathy. Be seen to care.
Leaving train passengers for hours in overheated trains is not exactly what I associate with being empathic and caring for customers. Instead, the city of Ghent was responsible and pro-active enough to activate their calamity plan and take care of stranded passengers.

Rule number 2: Take ownership of the situation.
I can be very brief. I didn’t see a lot of ownership in trying to cope with the situation. There were no firm decisions made nor communicated to restore the train traffic or provide alternative solutions for passengers.

Rule number 3: Be transparent. Say what you do and do what you say.
Well sorry, but I didn’t see a lot of reassuring, convincing communication attempts to explain what went wrong and how the NMBS was getting on top of things and working to provide immediate solutions to passengers.

All in all, quite disappointing that an organization, criticized in the past for the lack of effective communications, has again missed the opportunity to get its act together.

In the meantime Belgian politics call for dismissal of the CEOs of the three companies that together form the Belgian National Railways. But is that really the solution the NMBS needs? Are the CEOs accountable? Yes. Will their dismissal change anything? No. Confronting them with their responsibility is not enough. It’s high time somebody teaches them how to get their company to a decent state of crisis preparedness.

Share

Strategize before you improvise

By Nicholas Courant

As a corporate communication consultant it strikes me time and time again how some companies push for quick wins over a solid communications strategy. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love brainstorming on cool tactics! But even the most eye-catching and original actions are recipes for failure if they’re not backed up by a real communications strategy.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to know what goes on in the heads of the average CEO (a lot I would hope), but here are my two cents on where that preference for quick and tangible tactics comes from. For business leaders, bottom line is what matters at the end of the day. And that’s fine. Coming up with the right business strategy and implementing that strategy in such a way that it adds up to the bottom line should be top-of-mind. Customers happy, Investors happy… everybody happy! But where does communication fit into that mindset?

Basically I see two options and allow me to generalize a little for the sake of argument. On one end of the spectrum are those organisations that see corporate communications as a nice add-on to their business strategy. You know, the kind of companies with CEO’s asking for a “cool new logo on the front door” or “that Facebook thing that everybody’s talking about”. Here, communication is not seen as an inherent factor on the business success of the organisation. For those company execs; it’s the gimmick that they deal with when the strategy summit is over.

Fair enough, I understand that the impact and ROI of a communications strategy might not seem to give immediate results compared to let’s say a new supply chain planning strategy. But then again, can any organization afford to take only those factors into account that influence their bottom line in the short term? I’m pretty sure that companies that have been struck by a crisis affecting their reputation – BP anyone? – will tell you how devastating that approach can be.

Instead, and this is the second, more healthy option, corporate communications should be an integral part of a company’s overall strategy. Meaning that whoever is in charge of corporate communication should have a seat at the boardroom table, report directly to the CEO and be responsible for a clear corporate communication strategy supporting the business strategy.

Ranging from stakeholder mapping to key messaging and from brand identity to crisis preparedness, any organisation has to do its homework before thinking about cool tactics. It’s about having the right conversations with the right people at the right time. It’s about making choices based on business goals. It’s about using a consistent approach to corporate communication that will help feed your marketing funnel and protect your reputation when a crisis does hit you. It’s about so many essential components of your company’s strategy that you just can’t let leave to chance. At the end of the day, improvisation hardly ever adds to the bottom line, and isn’t that exactly what big companies care about?

Share

“Sorry” seems to be the easiest word

By Marie De Vulder

Ever feel like saying ‘sorry’ all the time? Well, I do. People always say that saying sorry is one of the hardest things to say, but I strongly disagree. We use the word “sorry” all the time. “Sorry, what were you saying?”, “Sorry to interrupt but…”, “I’m sorry but can I ask you something?”. Almost every question we ask starts with “sorry”. Since when is asking something a sin? In our job as a communication consultant, it is important to realize how strong words are. Using the word “sorry” all the time, is therefore one of the habits that I intend to get rid of. You now might think, “why is it such a sin to be polite and to say sorry?”. Well, because saying sorry means you are admitting a mistake. A mistake is: “an error or blunder in action, opinion, or judgment”. Saying sorry to somebody is therefore like giving them a free ticket to think you owe them something because you screwed up. So before saying sorry, you should stop and think hard; ask yourself “do I really want them to think I screwed up, and moreover: DID I really screw up?” For a consultant or advisor, credibility is everything. We are a guiding partner to our clients, and they expect us to support them when times are rough. In those times, our clients are looking for somebody who is confident, strong and moreover, certain. It is like going to the doctor, you don’t expect him to say, “Sorry, I am hesitating between the flu and a fatal disease.” You want him to be prepared for the worst case scenario (or the best), but at least know what’s wrong and how to fix it, without having the slightest hesitation. It’s ok for the client to be insecure and in doubt, but, like a doctor, we have to be their rock. Every time you say you’re sorry whether in casual conversation or in giving advice you are diminishing your credibility, your confidence towards the client and potentially enhancing the issue. When I observe more mature colleagues handling an issue, I notice they have obviously mastered the necessary guise. In situations where I would say sorry – they don’t. They can somehow twist the words or perceptions of people in to believing they didn’t mess up. Which makes me wonder, is this something they were like originally or something they trained themselves to be? As a youngster gaining credibility and confidence is a hard challenge to take on. But with a little less drama and a little more guts, we’ll get there!

Share

Virtual Tears

By Molly Verbeeck

Yesterday a young Belgian professional cyclist Wouter Weylandt (pronounced WOW-tehrk WAY-lahnt) was killed in a high-speed downhill crash at the Giro d’Italia. A talented cyclist of only 26, father-to-be. Way too young to die. Immediately the online world wakes up: #wouterweylandt becomes a trending topic on Twitter, his Twitteraccount reaches almost 4000 followers, a Facebook-mourning register is published that is liked by 72,542 people only a few hours later, and his Wikipedia page has already been adapted a few moments after he died with the exact place of death. Instead of giving interviews, most of his colleague-cyclists and other cycling teams tweeted their condolences and their disbelief.

A few months ago the son of a Belgian advertising guru died at the age of 22 after an accidental fall at a party. The whole advertising community, but also the Twitter& Facebook community, was devastated and started sending tweets, messages etc. to the father and the family. A lot of people that didn’t even know the man or his son in person. In an open letter published in a newspaper, the father explained what this meant for him and that every small message, Facebook-like or tweet gave him more power to deal with this loss.

It’s as if everyone is part of this one big family that is feeling the same loss, supporting each other, even if they don’t know the person. When you are part of the Social Media Family, mourning is no longer something you do in a small corner. You share happiness and troubles and yes, even tears.

On the other hand: mourning takes time.  Supporting someone in a grief process as well, it’s a long-term commitment. So I wonder: does the Twitter & Facebook support perhaps fade away too soon? It’s like fireworks: marvelous and overwhelming but lacking the warmth of a real fire.

Is the online sorrow support a good evolution? I think it is, I am convinced that these short messages and words can really support those left behind that are in deep mourning. Seeing that the online mourning register of your lost loved one is liked by 72,542 people doesn’t bring him back, but it surely feels good that they empathize.  But still, I think a lot of people would crave for lots of big hugs if they would ever be in this same situation.

Sources: Sporza, De Morgen

Share

On pasta with canned peas … and why retailers are missing out on social shopping.

Originally posted on I <3 SOCIAL MEDIA by Marta Majewska

It was supposed to be a romantic evening, a dinner in a highly recommended Italian restaurant that we purchased through one of the social shopping sites. When we arrived, we handed in our dinner voucher and we were seated at the table. For 30 min we were waiting and trying to get a waiter to serve us a drink, or anything for that matter, but all we got was a ‘in a minute’ wave over and over again. Our dinner was served an hour later and my ‘homemade pasta full of fresh veggies’ turned out to be a small (and I mean, really small) plate of pasta with canned peas. Canned peas! I’m not kidding you. Other people’s food looked much better, delicious to be honest. But then again, they were paying a ‘full price’ for their dinner, so that’s ok right? No, not really. After we waited another half an hour for a bill, we rushed home to get some real food. The sad part is that this is not my first unpleasant experience with a retailer that I got acquainted with via a social shopping site. There were many. Too many, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of social shopping and deal-of-the-day sites. I am a member of Groupon, iBood, Heartsy etc and I frequently purchase goods and services through those sites. I think that the idea is brilliant and benefits are great for both customers and businesses participating. Customers get a great deal and an opportunity to get to know a new service or product for a reduced price. For retailers, participation in a Groupon-like sites helps them generate a large number of sales in a short period of time, online WOM and gain new customers. For me, the biggest value for retailers lies in the last one – gaining new customers. But from my experiences, it looks like this is the one that is not really understood nor taken advantage of by the retailers.  That’s why this message:

Dear retailers, please stop missing out on this great opportunity! Don’t just WOW us with the price, WOW us with your service. Remember that the value of a customer is not what he is going to spend with you now. The true value of a customer is what he is going to spend with you for the REST OF HIS LIFE. So once you motivated customers to purchase your product or service by participating in a social shopping site, please don’t treat them like second-rate customers. On the contrary, please provide them with a superior experience that will make them want to come back to you and recommend your products and services in their online social circle.  A little respect and good customer service sounds to me like a really small price to pay ;).

Share

Connected TV

By Céline Mercier  

According to MediaTic, a program that focuses on media news on the Belgian French speaking public radio, traditional TV may die in the future. Why? Because of the competition of the Internet and the rise of web connected TV. Some TV makers fear that they will have to go through the same crisis with the Internet as the one that the traditional media had to go through.

I remember when I first had my own TV. I was a fresher at university and at that time TV was still a major channel to get news and access to the public debate – whether political, economical or cultural. A couple of years later I went abroad for my studies, and lived without a TV (for the first time in my life – apart from the holiday periods). Internet was my main source for research anyway, but I realized then how I didn’t need my television. And I still don’t have one – that makes more than 10 years without a TV!

The people who are most surprised about this are my grandparents – “so how do you follow the news?” They are the generation that experienced the start of television. I think they see me as a kind of hermit, while I often feel like I have never been so overwhelmed with information than ever before. I read the newspapers almost every day (in print or online), I listen to the radio every morning, I have access to the most interesting programmes via podcasts or YouTube, I get instant news via social media –Twitter or Facebook – and basically I am connected with the outside world from dusk till dawn via mobile devices and my laptop that I can take everywhere.

The future of television will definitely be connected, and not only on the Internet, for the coming generations. In a way Internet has already replaced the traditional home TV screen. People now want to watch whatever they want whenever they want. The TV makers that understood this are developing more and more applications like on-demand TV, more interactivity and connection with the web, what is called Connected or Smart TV. Maybe then I’ll go back to watching more TV programmes. Ok, only when I am my grandparents’ age…

Share
Categories