Posts Tagged ‘Integrated marketing communications’

The Intranet: An Essential (But Sometimes Overlooked) Component of Employee Engagement

May 4, 2015

Employees are not only the face of a company, they are the company. Employees can be trusted brand ambassadors, and it’s vital that a company’s employees are included in and given avenues to be involved in company communications. However… with so many competing priorities, active internal communication efforts often get pushed to the wayside, and they shouldn’t! Companies must remember that when employees love their job, it shows, and the ripple effect of that honest and organic company adoration can be greater than any pre-planned marketing campaign.

An Intranet is a great place to start! It’s a venue built to provide staff with news and upcoming events as well as allow for employee interaction. While a company Intranet can be an amazing employee engagement tool, unfortunately, many companies allow their Intranet to be an afterthought to external communication efforts. From the employee perspective, we all have experienced an ineffective Intranet. Not only does it not engage you, but it can also be a labor intensive, jargon-laden, top-down static-content filled monster. But when built and used correctly, a company Intranet can be an important venue for employee collaboration and communication.

Does your company need to take another look at its Intranet strategy? If so… keep reading, this post is for you!

Get started by listening to employees. It is important for companies to periodically do a “pulse check” with employees to help select and then effectively use the most appropriate communications channels– be it the Intranet, face-to-face meetings, newsletters, or social networks. Employers must pay attention to what works effectively within their own organization. As communicators, the phrases, “know what the audience wants” or “know where the audience is” are used when building any outreach strategy. The same questions apply for any Intranet manager, except in this case; the “audience” is the employee. In order for an Intranet to be successful, it is essential that companies understand the needs and wants of employees.

Then develop a team. Along the lines of being an afterthought, a pitfall for many companies is having only ne person in HR, Marketing or Communications manage the Intranet alone. Much like anything else in IMC, building an effective Intranet takes resources. The Intranet team should be comprised of a cross-section of employees from nearly every department. In fact, in 2014, the average intranet team size was 16 members!

Work on an Intranet is never truly finished, and too often, companies build an effective Intranet and then it dies due to lack of updated content and technology. Like with any social media channel, it is essential to continue to add and update content on a regular basis in order to keep people engaged. Companies can also engage employees in publishing content, which even further expands the Intranet team and helps to build employee ownership.

Incorporate new tools and think “CONTENT”. The goal of an Intranet is to make engagement and participation easy for employees. Some key Intranet tools include:

Creative Content: Follow the rules of external communications! Intranets should be filled with short and easy-to-read text along with multi-media videos and photos. Compelling content can include everything from training materials and resource links to bullet points, interactive company manifestos and storytelling. Homepages must be dynamic, engaging and ever changing. The Intranet should showcase information that is relevant to topics being discussed across the company, as well as tailored to the individual.

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Personalization and Customization: Move beyond the dreaded list of employee photos and instead, allow employees to connect with one another, upload profile information and add interests and skills. Connective features that link the Intranet to social media networks like LinkedIn can make it easier for employees to participate.

Communications and Feedback: Allow readers to react to and interact with the content, either through feedback, comments or liking a page. Top Intranets, allow employees to provide feedback instantly via comments or like/rating systems. This can help companies learn what types of content are most important to their users as well as allow for employee engagement and ownership.

Quality Search: Ineffective search is one of the biggest criticisms users have of any poorly designed website or Intranet. Having a powerful, intelligent search allows employees to access what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition: With a peer-to-peer recognition tool, the ability to thank those who go the extra mile is put in the hands of colleagues rather than just supervisors. Small thanks can often be a stimulus to keep employees working hard. Allowing employees to thank one another also encourages interaction.

Reflect Company Culture: While the intranet is primarily a ‘tool’ for getting work done, it should also be used to express the company culture, mission and values. The Intranet can help everyone in the company understand the company brand and how they fit into it.

Then put it together and what have you got? A great Intranet!

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If you are looking for inspiration, one fantastic example comes from National Geographic who, in 2014, was named the creator of one of the world’s 10 best Intranets. Their rebuilt Intranet allowed National Geographic’s 2,000 employees to interact with one another using real-time information exchanges and social collaboration tools.

The new National Geographic Intranet is highly visual, social and content-relevant. It has made employee collaboration easy and exciting. The new Intranet design opens information-sharing and content ownership to the entire user population at National Geographic. The site also effectively conveys the culture and history of the company through stunning photography and storytelling.

Since the redesign at National Geographic, about 70 percent of the staff uses the intranet at least twice a day to catch up on news or use resources such as the company directory. More than two thirds of the employees have updated their directory profiles and the venue has become a great tool for skill sharing within the organization and helping employees to connect.

Think of a new Intranet as “paying it forward” – it’s a worthwhile investment in the future of a company. It’s a tool that unites employees and opens information-sharing. Additionally, by allowing for employees to take ownership of content and personal profiles, employees will be more likely to visit and use the site more often as well has have a deeper investment in the organization, its mission and each other.

Three Quick Creativity Tips

April 30, 2015

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Creativity can be challenging. Hard deadlines and client needs aren’t always conducive to the creative process. I’ve learned a lot about my creative process since beginning the IMC program. There are dozens of tips and tricks that can boost your creativity, but I wanted to share my top three with you.

  1. Learn and trust your creative process. This was especially difficult for me to understand. I was very focused on deadlines and setting aside a specific amount of time for homework that I wasn’t allowing myself to move through my own creative process. It took me a while to understand what my creative process was and what I needed to do to allow myself to be creative. It’s not always easy to allow yourself to move naturally through the process, but it’s important to try to trust you instincts. When I first started the program I would carefully set aside time to do homework. (I’m the kind of person that plans out my free time.) Now I know that in order to produce my best work, I need to let my brain “digest” it for a day. I usually write papers, edit photos, and do my design work in a time frame that allows me to revisit it the next day. I still work to set   aside time, but I understand that it may change and evolve as the project does.
  1. Take a break! Part of the creative process is knowing when you need to walk away and take a break. Getting away from what you’re working on refocuses your brain and allows inspiration to hit. Try going for a walk, reading a book, getting coffee, or taking a nap to free up your brain. (Naps can be very powerful things!) Research suggesting that you start to lose efficiency if you work on something for more than 90 minutes at a time. If your creative process dictates that you work well under pressure, you may want to schedule a short break so you don’t lose steam!
  1. Accept Feedback. Asking for feedback can be challenging. What if you have to start over? What if the message is confusing? What if I run out of time? All of these thoughts can prevent us from asking for and incorporating feedback into our work. Feedback can be very helpful in further developing ideas and expanding on what you’ve already accomplished. Build time into the process to get feedback. Plus, the nature of our industry is that you’ll never be working on an entire project by yourself. Learning to accept feedback now will help you be more successful at work.

 

Everybody’s creative process is different and it’s important to take time to understand yours. What other creativity tips have you found?

Image created by Heather Zeutzius

Join the #AgencyBlueprint Virtual Book Discussion

April 20, 2015
Are you trying to disrupt and transform the marketing services industry?  If so, you need to join the #AgencyBlueprint virtual Skype book discussion on 4/28 at 8:30 p.m. EST. I will share key insights from The Marketing Agency Blueprint: The Handbook for Building Hybrid PR, SEO, Content, Advertising, and Web Firms by #Integrate15 speaker, Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer), with attendees.

This event is part of an interactive series focused on empowering IMC professionals through thought leadership discussions, marketing technology analysis and creative collaboration.

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When: 4/28 at 8:30 – 9:30 PM EST
Where: Skype
Please join the #AgencyBlueprint Skype discussion!
Direct message me (@Julie_Long_) for complete login details.

Please note that early INTEGRATE full-conference registrants may receive Paul’s latest book The Marketing Performance Blueprint at the conference next month.

The Story Behind STORY

April 15, 2015

A Manhattan-based retailer is turning the page on brick-and-mortar expectations. STORY has a magazine POV, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store. (It’s like a Pinterest board come to life.)

With its product as content, and its content changing completely monthly or bi-monthly as well as being for sale, STORY has embraced its retail media status. Past themes including Well Being, Design, Made in America, and Cool reflect how STORY has continued to reinvent its space and product stock while inspiring an audience. Experiential storytelling is the steady factor.

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There’s always something new inside STORY.

Brands both new and established have sought to become part of STORY’s themes. From General Electric to celebrity-status YouTubers, STORY has the ability to extend its content and reach beyond typical niche retail markets by partnering with a new set of brands every few weeks.

How has media inspired other brick-and-mortar retailers and brought together unlikely brands?

-R

 

 

How To Name A Marketing Agency

April 13, 2015

The first surprising thing I discovered in my IMC Capstone journey is that naming a marketing agency really tests your creative skill. Idea? Google it. Already taken. Better idea? Backspace and Google again. Also taken.

It’s a process I recommend starting before Week 1 if you can. I learned to prioritize the “how” of my then yet-to-be-named agency. How did I want my agency to approach a client’s project? That starting point inspired me to then relate my concept to less-literal names, finally leading me to a winner.

During this process, I stumbled upon a helpful agency name graphic I hope you’ll find just as useful.

While I mostly recognized the Founder names, the other categories offered the most inspirational ideas during my brainstorming process.

Because Capstone requires you to thread your agency’s unique approach throughout your integrated marketing proposal for the chosen client, take some time to build a strong foundation for your project. Having a clear agency identity makes writing other sections in your project easier to accomplish because you have a defined perspective to work from.

WVU IMC alum, current and future Capstoners: What advice/comments/questions do you have about naming a marketing agency?

-R

When a Brand Really ‘Gets’ You

April 8, 2015

Isn’t it refreshingly creepy when a brand really “gets” you? I’ve been a Real Simple reader for a decade, but recently I’ve not been that interested in the content. How many ways can one really use a lint roller? And how many more things can I clean with lemon juice and white vinegar? And no matter how hard I try, I’ll never fold a fitted sheet so that it is not recognizable as a fitted sheet.  In fact, why would I not want to know which one is a fitted sheet.  I want to know! Just as I was considering letting that subscription go, I reengaged with Real Simple via a spin-off Instagram account that resonates deeply with me. WomenIRL is “an account that features real images from women’s feeds that give a more realistic, unfiltered perspective of everyday life.” Sure, we love to dream about perfectly staged coffee tables and fresh flowers in every room of the house, but Real Simple just proved to me that they REALLY GET ME when WomenIRL launched.

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WomenIRL 2Now, throughout the day as I mindlessly check my Instagram feed between meetings or while waiting in the drop-off line, I get quick hits from a brand that say, “hey, I know how you feel.” And that puts Real Simple back on my mind in a very good way. No need for a multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad, just give me a few crowd-sourced ‘grams that show me that you know me and I’m totally yours again. Well done, Real Simple.

INTEGRATE 2015: Speaker Profile – Steve Radick

March 23, 2015

“Integrated marketing can’t be a mandate. It has to be a mindset.”
– Steve Radick VP, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh 

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The tweet-worthy quote Steve shared with me in the interview below highlights the quality of thought leadership content that will be shared with attendees at the INTEGRATE conference.

Registration is still open. However, early bird rates end on March 31st.

@Julie_Long_: On your blog you stated, “Integrated marketing involves a lot more than simply bringing the SEO guy to the meeting.” How do you define IMC and who should be attending meetings?

@sradick: There’s this misperception in the industry that integrated marketing means having a bunch of boxes on an org chart. Just because you have a Director of Search, and a VP of Media, a Director of PR, a Senior Social Media Strategist, and a User Experience Czar doesn’t mean that you’ve got an integrated marketing agency. You’re actually more likely to have an old-fashioned game of Hungry Hungry Hippos on your hands – everyone’s scratching and clawing to get more money and power for their respective discipline. Integrated marketing is about more than giving each department a seat at the table – it’s about making sure the people in those seats are more concerned with the business than themselves.

If you focus only on involving people because of where they are on the org chart, you’ll get people who build from the bottom up. That is, the social media guy thinks social media will solve everything. The paid media guy wants a paid media solution. And so on and so on. You end up with a bunch of strategies and tactics that someone then has to cobble together into a single, coherent strategy. Shouldn’t we instead strive to build strategies from the top down? Get the people in the room who are focused on meeting the business objectives first, not his or her line of business. Integrated marketing can’t be a mandate. It has to be a mindset.

@Julie_Long_: At INTEGRATE 2015, your presentation will be focusing on the arms race currently taking place in content marketing. Can you tease us with any of the topic areas that will be discussed?

@sradick: Just like the hammer in search of a nail, marketers are spending more and more of their time and energy reducing every conversation, article, and photo to a piece of data, all in an effort to maximize their ROI and deliver the most eyeballs at the lowest price. There was a time wayyyy back when, in 2010, when content marketing best practices were to write a blog post and post to Facebook 3-4 times a week. As more content was created, it became harder and harder to stand out though. Marketers took this as a challenge and figured that the best way to solve this problem was to pump out even more content. The more you post, the more chances there are of people seeing it right? Instead of a world where brands created content that solved problems, added value, or created deeper relationships with customers, we created a world where more simply equals better. That’s why there’s so much spam and so many banner ads. It’s easier to spam a million people in the hopes that 1% of them will click rather than creating something valuable for 50,000 people where 20% will click. Where does it stop?

Content marketing gives us the opportunity to rethink how brands market themselves for the better – if we can stop ourselves from trying to game the system and instead think about how to best optimize our relationships with our customers.

@Julie_Long_: Students/Alums: Submit one career advancement question for Steve and the winning question will be personally answered by him at INTEGRATE.

Post your question in the comments section below.

 

A special thank you goes out to Steve for taking the time to provide his thoughtful contributions to this article.

Advice On Surviving Two Classes Per Term

March 19, 2015

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The beauty of the WVU IMC program is that you can select a plan that best fits your needs. For me, that was taking three classes a year – one in the spring, one in the fall, and one in the summer. Sure, I had weeks of downtime in between that meant it would take me fours years to complete the program, but that was the best route for me with tuition reimbursement and work schedules. I was pretty happy with my plan and things were going smoothly. Then, I got an email from WVU saying they were changing the course requirements and I could graduate sooner. I was very excited, but it meant taking the capstone in late fall, which would be extremely challenging with work and other commitments. So, I made the decision to take two classes in early spring so I could take the capstone in the summer. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right one.

Taking two classes for the first time can be very difficult. So, I wanted to share a few tips that worked for me and some wise words from our classmates. If you’re taking two classes this term, I wish you all the best and hope that you’ll find these tips helpful. For those of you that are digging in and taking two classes every term – you’re amazing and I’d love to see how you do it, so leave a comment!

Wise Words From Classmates

  • “I have doubled up twice now, and the biggest tip I can offer is time management! Be prepared that you will probably have to work on your classes everyday (or almost everyday). Thus, it is important that you plan ahead and schedule your time wisely, so you don’t get overwhelmed or burnt out. It often looks very overwhelming when your classes first start, but I just take it one day at a time, and do a little bit of work on classes each day. It makes things much more manageable and less overwhelming!” – Jamie Huggins
  • “I’ve doubled up 3 out of my 4 semesters (I don’t take summer classes). Tips: be sure to set aside time for each class during the week. I found I’d write my discussion post for one class on Monday and the other class on Tuesday to keep them separate. I would write down whom I had responded to in each class to ensure I was responding to the correct number of DPs weekly. I also utilized other IMC members to figure out which classes to take together so that I wasn’t completely overloaded. I generally write my papers on Sunday, which makes for a really crappy weekend, but it means Monday I can start fresh on the next week’s assignments. I hope these help others!” – Ashley Noland
  • “ I doubled twice. Time management is key. Alternate during the week and focus on one class per day. Otherwise you can get confused by the discussion post topics. Don’t stress if you can’t read every single class discussion post. Double check your assignment submissions. But if you accidentally upload the wrong assignment to the wrong class, immediately contact your professor. They are usually pretty good about it.” – Kristi Hansen  ( I can attest to this.  I was trying very hard to avoid doing this, but inevitably it happened.  My professor completely understood.)

 My  Schedule

I agree with everything these wise ladies have said. It took me a while to get in a groove with how to balance both classes, but in the end here’s what my schedule looked like:

  • Monday: Write discussion board posts for both classes
  • Tuesday: Start Class 1’s assignment
  • Wednesday: Respond to all discussion board posts for each class
  • Thursday: Start Class 2’s assignment
  • Friday: Finish any discussion posts that weren’t done or work on assignments (In the rare event that there were no assignments that week, this was a treasured night off)
  • Saturday: Class 1’s readings for next week and assignment
  • Sunday: Class 2’s readings for next week and assignment

 

One key element for me was to take a break on Monday and Wednesday nights between working on materials for each class. That would allow me to clear my head so I didn’t get confused. I started the term using Kristi’s method of working on one class each day, but I wanted to keep up with my classmate’s posting on the discussion boards. Doing both discussions on Monday helped me participate more in the conversation. It will be different for every class, but I had some very interactive discussion boards this term! For the assignments and readings I found it very beneficial to work on one class per day, so I didn’t get confused.

If you have more tips on surviving two classes per term I would love to hear them! Also, feel free to check out this previous post on organizing files in case you need a little inspiration for the upcoming term. Good luck with classes this term!

 

A 20-Something’s Take on J.Crew Segmentation

March 12, 2015

Shopping for clothes online, it’s instinct to immediately find your designated section as a consumer. Women. Men. Girls. Boys. Baby. 

J.Crew’s new take on the e-commerce experience is quite refreshing as the apparel company invites female site visitors to shop “Style At Every Age.” Instead of just shopping by category, women can find inspiration by their age. Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s+, the company has a feature collection of clothing and accessories available for that target.

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J.Crew Creative Director Jenna Lyons is quoted on the site: “In my 20s, I wore rollneck sweaters, with short shorts. A lot has changed since then. Some 20+ years later, I still love J. Crew . . . just differently. Here are four women whose style I admire . . . different is beautiful. xx Jenna”

Personally, I found it an enjoyable browsing experience as it almost felt like Pinterest, J.Crew-style. Plus, for each age group, the company features a model showing off her style.  I wonder, however, how well this concept could transition to the men’s section.

Should more apparel brands adopt J.Crew’s market segmentation approach?

-R

 


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