Written by: Jamie Parker on Thursday, July 30, 2015 | 1 Comment
If you asked the general public for the most dreaded events in their lives, most would say illness, loss, colonoscopies, root canals, stepping on a Lego at 3 AM. For us working stiffs, add to the list the annual performance review process.
So, imagine my thrill at reading Vauhini Vara’s piece in this week’s New Yorker applauding Accenture and others for banishing the process. If 330,000 Accenture employees are taking a pass on formality and instead embracing more regular check-ins and feedback, I say, good for you.
You see, to me that sounds like the makings of any good relationship. You can probably surmise from the list above that I’m 50+, and that means, among other things, that I’ve spent 20+ years working, leading, managing, self-assessing, and participating in performance review processes from 1-1 to 360, primarily with people in creative organizations. From my perch, creatives bristle at processes like the annual performance review, happening as it does like some kind of employee rite of passage. Read more…
Written by: Phil Greenough on Monday, January 19, 2015 | Leave a Comment
I’ve become an avid reader of biographies in the past seven years. Some of them chronicled figures of whom I’d had some vague knowledge of before digging deeper into their stories. Others I’ve stumbled upon from recommendations and lists. Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne is one such biography. Gwynne tells the story of Thomas J. Jackson – or, as most know him, Stonewall Jackson. A man of great contradictions, Jackson became an icon of the Confederacy through his sheer brilliance as a military leader. Uncommonly brave and religious, Jackson was ruthless and generally not collaborative. But he saw the field of battle through a different lens. “(His) strategic innovations shattered the conventional wisdom of how war was waged; he was so far ahead of his time that his techniques would be studied generations into the future.”
It may not seem obvious, but Jackson’s ability to fashion new strategies to win numerous battles in the Civil War is a clear reminder that in far less lethal circumstances businesses need to bring creativity and clarity to the strategies they plan to adopt in 2015. Let me explain. Read more…
These days producers, editors and reporters are under constant deadlines. The pressure is on to fill digital and cable news sites with fresh content 24/7 and reporters are often asked to file three or more stories a day. So how do journalists continually feed the beast? By sharing content.
The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University study finds that nearly 76 percent of stations are involved with other media in newsgathering and sharing agreements. Almost a third of news directors (31.2 percent) said they ran news on another local station, and the study finds that content ran on an average of 1.4 stations. The majority of stations also have cooperative agreements with outlets in other mediums including local newspapers, radio stations and websites.
Last month, our team at Greenough celebrated our fourth anniversary of publicizing Arbella Insurance’s distracted driving program, Distractology 101. Distractology brings a neon-yellow mobile classroom outfitted with high-tech driving simulators to high schools across New England. The simulations give new drivers the chance to experience the perils of distracted driving from the safety of the trailer, training them to avoid these behaviors when they’re in their cars.
Though the larger Massachusetts and Rhode Island outlets only run a story on Distractology once every year or so, honing in on smaller town and regional newspapers and local broadcast affiliates has kept our success rate at between 7 and 20 pieces of coverage each month— 4 years running!
According to a new study, 55% of all “News of the Day” conversations were sparked by local broadcast news, while online media only triggered 18%. As a former local journalist, I am both thrilled and somewhat surprised by this statistic. In recent years, the television business has been hit hard. Audiences are shrinking. Demographics are graying. And social media has made the breaking news race nearly impossible to win. So is local broadcast news really the top driver of watercooler talk?
Conducted by TVB, the study asked more than 2,000 American adults 18+ to detail more than 9,000 online and offline conversations in April 2013. According to the findings, “local broadcast television delivers the news that feeds most of these conversations with 82% of people talking daily about Weather, 75% about National and International News, 63% about Local News, 49% about Sports and 42% about Traffic.”
At first glance these results seem to signal a shift in the way young adults consume news, but upon closer examination, they really just reaffirm what local TV broadcasters have known all along. First, weather has always been and will likely always be the number one reason for watching. Secondly, viewers like feeling connected to their communities and while technology makes it easier to report national and international news, local reporters and producers will always seek out an angle that will resonate with their market. And finally, local broadcast outlets are getting smarter about the way they disseminate news. At this point, nearly all local stations have a website, a mobile site and an app. By distributing their content across a wide range of platforms, broadcast outlets are making it easier for loyal and younger viewers to stay informed and connected throughout the day. It also allows the most-trusted stations in the market to maintain their status as news leaders and capitalize on the brand equity they’ve built for years.
So what does all this mean when it comes to strengthening your company’s media footprint? Don’t count local TV news out. Young adults are still watching. Instead, look to create a broad media strategy consisting of broadcast and print coverage on a national, trade and local level.
Contributed by Media Account Supervisor Christine Williamson. Follow her on Twitter: @ChristineDBW.
Words of Wisdom from Greenough’s Summer Interns
The ubiquity of social media has made it difficult to imagine networking any other way. But leading up to, and throughout our internship with Greenough, we’ve learned that there’s a lot more to effective networking than a ‘Tweet’ or a ‘Like.’ Let us put this into perspective. I (Jillian) once went to a career fair with the determination to find myself a great internship. I was dressed to impress, I had researched the companies in advance and I had printed out several resumes. I talked to a recruiter, we hit it off and we exchanged contact information. I was off to a great start! That night I emailed the recruiter to thank her for talking with me, added her on LinkedIn, liked the company’s Facebook page, and Tweeted at them. I used every form of virtual follow up that I could……and got zero response. I thought I had done everything right.
In the age of technology, connecting to potential employers should be simpler than ever before – after all, nearly every company solicits contact through its social media. But as we’ve found out, connecting online is not always enough. So what’s a job-seeking college intern to do? The bottom line is traditional methods of networking such as phone calls and written letters are still essential for creating strong connections in today’s professional environment. The trick is combining both the traditional school of thought with today’s digital media-rich environment.
Based on our past experiences, successes and failures, we’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts for students looking to land an internship or just network in general.
- Call to follow up with a contact
- Meet people in person
- Follow up with thank yous: letters, notes, emails, social media
- Connect on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook before and after networking events
- Find common ground (personal and professional)
- Make moves: Don’t sit back and wait for people to come to you
- Network everywhere!!
- Make sure your social networks are professional and “clean” (don’t post unprofessional statuses, untag Facebook photos etc.)
- Invest time to enhance your LinkedIn profile
- Text/leave your phone on when at a networking event or meeting with a contact
- Limit your circle to contacts within your career (you never know who could help you)
- Skip an event because you are not as knowledgeable in the subject as others at the event. Attending is a great way to make new connections
- Be impersonal, try to make a connection with most, and say hello to all!
- Turn down chances for lunch or coffee with colleagues in higher positions or other interns. Let others get to know you on a personal level
- Pass up any opportunity to learn new skills, no matter how complicated they may seem
- Be afraid to ask questions, even the ones that seem simple
From a current intern to a future intern, stitching together traditional and online methods of engagement not only makes connections stronger, but also bridges the gap between more experienced professionals and the new tech-savvy workers of today.
Contributed by Greenough interns Jillian Rosa, Caitlin Cimino, Becca Giller, and Charles Hoang
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
The above quote, from the British science fiction writer and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, is powerfully relevant today. Who hasn’t thought, while running their thumb across the screen of a smartphone or enjoying the benefits of modern medical devices, that technological advancement has reached magical levels? Truly, the technical and engineering wizardry behind the scientific community’s latest innovations seems like the stuff of legend – but that feeling also has significant downsides. Over my next few blog posts, we’ll take a look at the positives and negatives of “magic” technology.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Making consumers “feel the magic” does wonders for sales and marketing – for consumer products, just look how Apple devices have sold over the last decade. In part by encouraging customers to feel that their products have a certain magic about them, Apple completely revitalized its brand and, for a period, was the most valuable company on the planet. In fact, Apple users enjoy this magical feeling so much that some of them self-identify as a cult – now that’s brand loyalty.
Organizations that aren’t as directly affected by consumer demand benefit by portraying their products “magically” as well. Government bodies like NASA have built long-time public support through awe and spectacle first, letting scientific dialogue take the backseat. Private companies with business-to-business sales, like pharmaceutical manufacturers and data security firms, must clearly explain the technical benefits of their products to the buyer; however, they often include a bit of magic in their messaging as well.
While encouraging this sentiment is great by some measures, making users feel it is a double-edged sword. Thinking that a technology is “magical” implies a sense of wonder, but it also means that the product is well beyond the user’s understanding, and will most likely remain that way. Treating the target market like a modern-day cargo cult can increase their devotion to a given product – but it also significantly decreases their understanding.
Obviously, no technology is actually magic – it’s all about how firms decide to portray their products. Over the next few posts, we’ll look at how magical thinking can positively and negatively affect the sales, recruitment and regulation of businesses, and why it’s so important to strike the right balance in your overall communications strategy.
Zach Pearson is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson
In my last blog post, I wrote about Bank of America’s effort to bring the human touch back to banking with its video-conferencing tellers. This week, I’m exploring a bank that’s taking the tellers completely out of the picture: prepaid debit card provider Green Dot’s new, entirely virtual bank, GoBank.Though announced in January, I only recently came across this Mashable article describing GoBank’s launch. With a little digging I came to find that GoBank is not the first bank without any brick and mortar locations– Bank of Internet USA, for example, was founded back in 1999 (its tagline is “America’s Oldest and Most Trusted Internet Bank”). But what I find most interesting about GoBank isn’t that it’s online-only. Actually, I’m not even interested in its mobile app or extraordinarily low and often nonexistent fees, which seem to be what most coverage has centered around. The thing I find most striking about GoBank is all of the completely nonessential, but very fun, features it offers its customers.
The very first amenity highlighted on GoBank’s website is the fact that users design their custom Visa debit card with a photo of their choosing. Far from the sports teams or generic beach scene options typically offered by banks or credit card companies, GoBank facilitates direct upload from Facebook, so each card is completely individualized for the customer.
GoBank has integrated a Fortune Teller feature in its app, which gives you a quick thumbs-up or thumbs-down as to whether or not you should make a purchase based on your finances. If a user is wavering on whether or not to buy a new laptop that month, they can plug in a few recurring or anticipated expenses (rent, utilities, gym membership), enter the price of the computer in consideration, and the bank lets them know if they have “enough cents for the purchase to make sense.”
And, my favorite feature GoBank offers is the Peek at Your Balance bar. This tool appears on the app’s front login screen and, without having to input your login information, allows users to do a quick balance check.
While these offerings are all very amusing, and probably features I would use, they raise the question of where entertainment belongs in banking. GoBank’s gimmicky amenities grabbed my attention and made the app look fun to use, but they also made me slightly suspicious of the bank’s legitimacy. GoBank’s objective is to make banking fun and simple, which comes across in all of its messaging and branding– but do cheeky humor and game-like applications belong in an industry as serious as banking?
In the current, staid landscape of the finance industry, a bank with an overall tone that’s casual and playful is an interesting contrast. I will be curious to see if my generation and the next will prioritize user experience over big-bank name recognition and established trust in personal banking. In the meantime, I think all banks could take a page out of GoBank’s book and infuse a little more fun into their image other than just the bowl of lollipops at the front desk.
Lucy Muscarella is an Account Executive at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella
In Jonathan Gottschall’s recent book, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, the author argues that humans are set apart from other animals by their ability to tell stories. This capacity to communicate verbally and craft narratives defines us by making it possible to transfer complex information to one another, cohere as a society around a central theme and to persuade and influence each other. In fact, Gottschall argues that narrative has such a strong power over the human mind that “fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.”
While this fact seems shocking when stated so plainly, it’s actually quite clear when you look at history. Almost all major movements, whether political, economic or commercial, have offered people clearly defined narratives that, just like a good book, they can get absorbed in. And the idea isn’t new. Take Manifest Destiny as an example: unlike many major political movements, it was never clearly spelled out in policy, and existed almost purely as a national narrative – a story driving major real-world results, rather than the other way around. Storytelling applies for businesses as well, for whom a strong story builds brand affinity in a way that nothing else can. Carefully crafting and distributing that story is essential to building a successful brand.
The problem for today’s storytellers, however, is how to craft engaging stories in a media/social media landscape that’s exponentially more populated than ever before. Every year, brands and businesses have to compete with more stories (and, often, entirely new forms of media) for customers’ attention. So how do we keep people interested in the stories we want to tell?
The answer, I believe, is to invite more viewer action. Creating space in your brand’s narrative for a viewer to act, to question or to feel involved engages them and keeps them focused. Think of it this way: your brand’s story should be less newspaper and more video game (or choose-your-own-adventure novel, if you prefer) – if it isn’t designed to elicit frequent viewer input, it’s not having as full an effect as it could. One way to achieve this is to either omit, or not explicitly mention, all the benefits of your product – while a clear explanation of your product’s value proposition is great in a sales environment, building interest in a brand’s story works much better if you leave out some information and let the reader do some digging themselves.
Though this can seem counterintuitive, we have to remember that the best stories often strategically omit information in order to engage the agency and curiosity of the reader. For example, “The following pages will interest you, as they detail the difficulties caused by Anna Karenina’s relationship with Count Vronsky” is a significantly less compelling introduction than “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” All too often, brands take the former approach, focusing solely on fitting in as much information as possible before the reader puts down the magazine or changes the channel; great stories work because they invite the reader in and make them want to turn the page themselves.
Another way to encourage viewer action is to subtly incorporate references to cultural memes that only a certain part of your viewership will understand, and leave the viewers to connect the dots themselves. Everyone has had the feeling of sharing a secret at some point, and creating that for your viewers is a great strategy. I recently had that experience with the latest Volkswagen ad, “Mask.” In it, a man goes into a convenience store wearing a ski mask and, while clearly making the store clerk very nervous, proceeds to buy all his items in an orderly manner. He and his friends then drive off, while the audience enjoys the joke.
What’s remarkable about it is the music playing in the background: it’s famous online as the “Trololo” song. While the full story of the song (which is actually quite interesting) can be found in this article, suffice it to say that it’s the anthem of internet “trolls”: people who perform pranks online for the sole purpose of confusing or frustrating people. I had heard the song many times before, and recognized the clip that was subtly inserted into the TV spot. Because the reference to the Trololo song was not too overt, I felt more connected to Volkswagen when I was able to catch the reference. Most importantly for Volkswagen, I felt like I was in on their joke – and that’s a very valuable feeling for the ad’s target demographic to have.
These storytelling techniques are effective because the human mind is predisposed to search for narrative when presented with information. As a species, we cannot resist the uniquely human need to weave a web of meaning when one is not explicitly presented to us. Giving viewers the space to do so not only makes them more engaged, it also increases brand affinity by making viewers feel like they have helped define what the brand signifies to them. Believe it or not, sometimes there’s nothing worse than giving your viewers a clear, straightforward idea of your product.
Zach Pearson is an Account Executive at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson
Brands need a good personality to succeed. When a brand doesn’t present admirable character traits – be it trustworthiness, value, or anything else – it’s not effectively connecting with customers and that could compromise the goals of the business. One of the best investments a business can make is ensuring that its brand identity is focused, clear and precise.
More and more, however, truly successful brands are defined not by what they say about themselves, but what they say about their users. In addition to creating affinity through a solid brand image, businesses need to focus on what their brands say about their customers.
One of the best examples of this is Apple’s post-2001 product line and brands (the iPod, iPad, iPhone and iMac). Beyond being solid, well-designed machines that reliably serve their intended purpose, the “i” line of products purposefully says something about the user’s identity. The “I’m a Mac” series of advertisements illustrate this: while they emphasize product-focused benefits (like ease-of-use, simplicity, etc.), they also quite pointedly define what a Mac user is: relaxed, fun and more productive.
More recently, Lady Gaga (and many others in the music business, as this recent Atlantic article details) have employed user branding to great effect. Gaga’s chosen epithet for her fans, “Little Monsters,” and its accompanying website, have been instrumental in establishing her success. By creating and emphasizing the term “Little Monster,” Lady Gaga makes it easier for fans to integrate themselves into her brand, increasing affinity by allowing users to feel personally connected. Pairing that affinity with the rise of social networking has earned her the number two spot on Twitter, with almost 35 million followers (just behind 36 million Justin Bieber “Beliebers”).
For many companies, trying to implement a brand strategy employed by Lady Gaga sounds somewhat ridiculous; most aren’t in the businesses where end users are defining their personalities by the use of a product. But it’s important to remember that 20 years ago, most computers and electronic devices were considered tools, not personal statements. In fact, Microsoft is a case in point: after two decades branding itself as the reliable and hard-working standard for operating systems, it joined the hardware market with the Microsoft Surface, whose messaging is a textbook example of user branding that says very little about the product itself.
Moving forward, companies need to be aware of not only what their communications say about themselves, but what they say about their end users. To create greater brand affinity, companies will need to identify, provide development avenues for, and communicate with their brand’s “Little Monsters.” It’s time to start thinking about who yours are.
Zach Pearson is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson