April 29, 2008

My Changing Worlds and Internet World

This time last year I was living in Hampshire, England, working full-time building the audio branding consultancy Sound Strategies with my business partners, while addicted to social media and helping to run the Social Media Club in London. I also devoted three full days absorbing in the 'technology' conference, Internet World.

How things have changed.

In February this year, I permanently relocated back to Northern Bavaria, Germany, where my husband works at one of the several Siemens businesses headquartered here. I've now spent more years outside my native Scotland than in it, taking in Switzerland, France and England on the way. Strangely, once you start a family somewhere and become part of the community, it becomes your home. In a very real sense, we've come back home, I just don't speak the language as well as my children!

After much soul-searching, I've also decided to return to mainstream international communications, ideally for one of the several local corporations, either as an employee or through my consultancy RPPR Limited. I'll be thrilled to add in for good measure a dose of social media, as one thing that hasn't changed is my conviction that it is permanently changing how we communicate with each other. In the meantime, I'll remain an active member of Sound Strategies Advisory Board, and drive ahead with some internet-based business and client public relations projects.

If, as you read this, you have any thoughts or suggestions, projects I can support you with, or people I should speak to at companies including Siemens, Adidas, Puma, Playmobil, Staedtler, and Stabilo I'd love to hear from you at ronna(dot)porter(at)btinternet(dot)com.

So why mention Internet World? Well, Internet World 2008 kicks off again at Earls Court in London tomorrow for three days - 29 April to 1 May, and were I in London I'd definately be there as its a great value (ie. free) opportunity to learn about and emerse yourself in the marketing and new media imperatives of the internet. My greatest pleasure at Internet World 2007 was recognising that it was no longer a technology exhibition and conference, but a business and marketing one. You really don't have to have spent much of your working life in the technology and telecommunications business, as I have, to get a huge amount out of going along.

Another reason for mentioning Internet World 2008, is that my Sound Strateges business partner, Michael Spencer will be closing the Enterprise Content Management Conference at 15:00 on 1 May, picking up on our reseach that only 2% of multinational companies show strategic thinking in the use of sound on their websites. Michael would love to meet you if you make it along to the exhibition.

April 16, 2008

How to Uniquely Position a Membership Site for Success

Teaching Sells Free Report

By Brian Clark

STOP PRESS -- Take advantage of your last chance for a $1 7-day sneak peak at the Teaching Sells offering which will no longer be available after noon Eastern Time on Thursday 17 April (that's tomorrow!) Lot's of new member upgrades are planned, so now is a good time to have a look!

Everyone wants to create a cash cow with a membership site. But what you really need to do is create a purple cash cow.

In the Teaching Sells training program, we reveal how to identify a target market and how to spot a learning need that the market has already demonstrated is worth paying for. Once you’re focused like a laser on topics and markets that already show high demand for information and training, the next step is the most important of all.

  • What’s the point of your offering?
  • How is it unique?
  • Why should anyone buy from you instead of the competition?
The way to answer these questions dates back thousands of years to the days of Aristotle. But let’s stick closer to home and only go back 45 years or so.

The Unique Selling Proposition
In 1961, a gentleman by the name of Rosser Reeves published a book entitled Reality in Advertising. In this book, Reeves revealed the secret behind his success as a copywriter and later as chairman of the Ted Bates advertising agency. He called it the unique selling proposition (USP).

Reeves enjoyed great success throughout the relatively languid competitive climate of the 1940s and 50s by pointing out a specific and compelling benefit to the buyer that was unique to that product. The value-added benefit had to be something desirable that the competition did not, or could not, offer with their product.

Positioned in Your Mind
In 1981, Jack Trout and Al Reis released Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind based on a concept the two developed way back in 1969. Moving beyond the USP, Trout and Reis focused not on what you do to the product or service, but what you do to the mind of the prospective buyer.

Jack Trout relentlessly preached the power of positioning into the 1990s with The New Positioning, and into the new millennium with Differentiate or Die. The latter book comes full circle back to Rosser Reeves and the unique selling proposition, as Trout takes to task “creative” advertising that pulls heart strings but gives the prospect no reason to buy.

Purple Cows and Liars
In 2003, Seth Godin gave us Purple Cow , a book that riffs on the USP and positioning, but takes it a step further. Yes, your product or service must be unique, and yes, you must aim to position yourself in the prospect’s mind. But is it something worth talking about? Will your customers market for you?

In 2005, Seth released the essential companion to Purple Cow, and cleverly sought to avoid controversy by calling it All Marketers are Liars. It’s not enough to be remarkable—after all, we talk about distasteful things too. You’ve got to take it one step further and make sure that the story you’re telling is one that people want to hear.

Made to Stick
In 2007, brothers Chip and Dan Heath released Made to Stick. While positioned as an advanced exploration of the ideas contained in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, the book’s core stands on the shoulders of Reeves, Trout, and Godin, but takes it that one critical step forward.

How does something stand out on its own, in our minds, get us talking… and also endure? What determines whether you’ll get 15 minutes of fame or create a lasting impression?

What These Smart Guys Can Really Teach You About Positioning
The topic of unique positioning in marketing has been explored so thoroughly because it’s the most important part of any business that hopes to succeed. These books are wonderful, and I suggest you read them all if you haven’t yet.

But there’s a more immediate lesson about positioning contained above, especially for people selling content. Did you notice it?

Each of these books on positioning is itself an example of positioning.

In a nutshell:

  • Each book is talking about the same thing
  • Each author is building on what the last guy said
  • Each catalyst for the next book is a simple change in context
All of these books are exploring how to stand out in a market, and it all boils down to the same thing, which is to be unique. Trout, Godin and the Heath Brothers owe their success to the thinking Rosser Reeves did over 45 years ago, because at the core, they’re not saying anything he didn’t say.

These gentlemen have just provided a prime example of creative adaptation. They are simply expanding the parameters of the 45-year-old Unique Selling Proposition to fit a new context—an increasingly hyper-competitive and advertising-blind world.

Before you start feeling sorry for Rosser Reeves because he’s not getting the credit he deserves in these later books, well, Reeves stood on the shoulders of giants as well. His ideas likely originated from earlier advertising pioneers like Claude Hopkins and John Caples, and the true root of the USP goes back to Aristotle’s Rhetoric.

So How Does This Work for Membership Sites?
In Teaching Sells, we explore six proven ways to uniquely position your training program, each with concrete examples. You’ll also learn how to make sure you’ve covered the four critical elements of modern market positioning, plus a methodology for working out your market, the existing market need, and how to uniquely position yourself even in the fiercest of markets.
Plus, positioning is so vitally important that we launched an entire advanced course about it. Advanced Positioning and Creative Adaptation walks you step-by-step through the entire positioning process, and then rolls into case studies that provide crystal-clear examples of how to create your very own Purple Cash Cow.

Check out the inside of Teaching Sells for only $1… but hurry, we’ll be ending the “take a look for a buck” 7-day trial period soon. Jump in with both feet and get started today.

April 10, 2008

Have We Arrived In The Conceptual Age?

I like to revisit the books on my shelf, rather than throw these ideas out wholesale in favour of the latest offerings. So for my journey to a client meeting the other day, I grabbed my copy of Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind - Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Celebrated as 'a ground-breaking guide to surviving, thriving, and finding meaning in a world rocked by outsourcing of jobs abroad and the computerisation of our lives' (see video), now that I'm permanently outsourced to Germany and attached to a computer much of the time, it seemed a good time to check if we're there yet?

Published in 2005, it made quite an impact on me as at that time I was picking up my career again following a break to start a family. It gave me a much-needed confidence boost, as I read about the Six Senses Daniel beleives we all need to develop:

In the Conceptual Age, we will need to complement our left-brain-directed reasoning by mastering six essential right-brain-directed aptitudes. Together these six high-concept, high-touch senses can help develop the whole new mind this new era demands.

  1. Not just function but also DESIGN. It's no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestle that's merely functional. Today it's economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionaly engaging.
  2. Not just argument but also STORY. When our lives are brimming with information and data, it's not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone somewhere will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut
    your point. The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability to fashion a compelling narrative.
  3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY. Much of the Industrial and Information Ages required focus and specialisation. But as white-collar work gets routed to Asia and reduced to software, there's a permium on the opposite aptitude: putting the pieces together, or what I call symphony. What's in greatest demand today isn't analysis but synthesis - seeing the big picture and, crossing boundaries, being able to combine disparate pieces into an
    arresting new whole.
  4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY. The capacity for logical thought is one of the things that makes us human. But in a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytic tools, logic alone won't do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their abilituy to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.
  5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY. Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humour. There is a time to be serious, of course. But too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play.
  6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING. We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires : purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.

Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. These six senses increasingly will guide our lives and shape our world. Many of you no doubt welcome such a change. But to some of your, this vision might seem dreadful - a hostile takeover of normal life by a band of poseurs in black unitards who will leave behind the insufficiently arty and emotive. Fear not, the high-concept, high-touch abilities that now matter most are fundamentally human attributes. After all, back on the savanna, our cave-person ancestors weren't taking SATs or plugging numbers into spreadsheets. But they were telling stories, demonstrating empathy, an designing innovations. These abilities have always comprised part of what it means to be human. But after a few generations in the Information Age, these muscles have atrophied. The challenge is to work them back into shape. Anyone can master the six Conceptual Age senses. But those who master them first will have a huge advantage.

What most appealed to me on first reading was the idea of Symphony, where I felt well placed after a career of managing complex, cross-border communications programmes. And I'd argue that your average mother needs to develop advanced Empathy and Play skills just to get through an average at-home-with-the-kids-and-stay-sane day!

But what strikes me now is the extent to which each of these areas illuminate many of the social media behavioural affects we are now seeing, particularly on the Design, Story, and Meaning senses.

April 8, 2008

The Challenge of Communicopia

Every time I hear my fellow business communicators struggling to come to terms with social media, it reminds me of an article I wrote in the first weeks of my new life as a public relations consultant, my MSc in Public Relations still shiny in my pocket, for the journal of the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations in 1995.

Although, at that this (practically pre-email!) time it was the wonders of interactive CD-Roms and other such 'advanced' multimedia communications tools I was discussing, the message still holds true in the social media era:

"Public relations practitioners have little choice but to rise to the multimedia challenge if we are to compete in an increasingly dynamic communication industry, to flourish rather than survive. Ultimate success is better founded on adapting our current strengths to the ever-widening communicopia - through a highly developed understanding of clients' business, an appreciation of corporate and brand positioning, and the ability to reach specific audiences, rather than jumping on the techno-junkie bandwagon."
Please forgive a few stray allusions to 'control' and 'message' - it was a simpler time. Writing it today, my behavioural studies training would have come more to the fore ....

Greetings to all my old Citigate colleagues, now Citigate Dewe Rogerson.

The Challenge of Communicopia

First there's the baffling 'techno-babble' to contend with. Then comes the hype - never in the field of human endeavour have there been such breakthroughs, say the evangelists. Finally, you hit a fear of the unknown, the incomprehensible. It will result in a technophobic paralysis.

Despite this, few professionals can afford to ignore multimedia - the convergence of broadcasting, telecommunications and computing - which will bring a multitude of market opportunities and affect virtually every sector. This is poignantly true for the public relations industry as a contender in an increasingly high-tech communications arena, where our competitors range from computer programmers to advertising agencies. Will multimedia fundamentally change our business, or simply offer new mills for our grist? And can we survive it?

As with most issues in public relations, it depends on your definition. If the central role of public relations is to provide a network and a context for distributing information - whether through the press, speaker platforms, brochures or whatever - adapting our expertise to include the sea of new high-tech communications will fundamentally change what we do. What's more, our technology-led competitors will have a real advantage.

Alternatively, if public relations is the definer of corporate and brand messages, the multimedia challenge is more attainable: we shall be applying a well-developed core skill to the exciting new 'communicopia.' An appreciation of what is technically posible and the relative cost feasibility and advantages of a variety of communications vehicles continues to be vital. However, the difference is that technical know-how can be rightly commissioned from the technical experts, allowing public relations to concentrate on developing the 'creative software' and controlling the effective communication of messages through a medium which reaches an identified target audience.

With a solid foundation of skills on corporate and brand positioning, the Citigate Group is monitoring developments in multimedia to expand and add value to the service it offers clients. According to Reginald Watts, deputy chairman of the Citigate Group, its forays into multimedia fall into three distinct areas: "Our first is to offer clients informed advice on the use of multimedia as a business and communication tool and to develop in-house expertise to support the design and development of products for clients.

"Next, we are concerned to understand how wider multimedia industry issues will affect our business and that of our clients, in real terms over the coming months and years. Lastly, we plan to use multimedia and new technologies to improve our service and efficiency.

Specialised projects
A key task in public relations is to identify the most effective, cost-feasible communication medium to suit a situation. With an increasing complexity and number of media on offer, will we still be able to advise on a comprehensive range of options, or too easily fall back on traditional methods?

To guard against such complacency and to build on their creative design services, Lloyd Northover Citigate set up a new media unit in May 1994. Projects include the deign of multimedia presentations, interactive multimedia projects on CD-Rom and on-line communications for clients. One project is developing the brand identity and graphics for a multimedia shopping kiosk, where the graphic designers will work hand-in-hand with the software designers and hardware manufacturers to integrate the brand's image throughout.

The wider issues
Monitoring the possible impact that wider multimedia issues could have on our business and that of clients - in industries ranging from utilities through pharmaceuticals to automotive components manufacture - is important. As advisers to senior management, public relations practitioners must be able to offer counsel. What effect, for example, could multimedia have on a development corporation?

As part of a full-service public relations programme for the Cardiff Bay development on the South Wales coastline, Citigate Corporate is working with the corporation to develop a solid 'product offering' attractive to the media sector. Based on an understanding of the business needs and resulting property requirements of such companies - developed through focus group discussions with experts - Citigate Corporate is helping Cardiff Bay to promot itself as a European centre of multimedia excellence.

Within consultancies
How to use new technologies to improve our internal working methods and communications? Susy Frith, managing director of Northampton-based Citigate Technology, warns against the dangers of investing in technology for technology's sake. "There should always be a demonstrable benefit to our customers." she says. "Does it make us faster, promote accuracy or improve accessibility? The new systems must also be user-friendly, otherwise what would turn 'filing time' into 'thinking time' is instead a technological nightmare.

Public relations practitioners have little choice but to rise to the multimedia challenge if we are to compete in an increasingly dynamic communication industry, to flourish rather than survive. Ultimate success is, however, better founded on adapting our current strengths to the ever-widening communicopia - through a highly developed understanding of clients' business, an appreciation of corporate and brand positioning and the ability to reach specific audiences, rather than jumping on the techno-junkie bandwagon.