Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nonprofit Storytelling and The Maltese Falcon

An interesting question came up after my presentation on content marketing to the Central West Coast Chapter FPRA. We’d just finished talking about the importance of storytelling, particularly for nonprofits. Many of the members of this chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association work for nonprofits. One of them mentioned that her nonprofit has so many stories; her biggest challenge is choosing which to tell. One of our CCM storytellers, copywriter David Chesnick, happened to be sitting at her table and offered a thoughtful reply.

Chesnick is a film buff. 
He reminded us that The Maltese Falcon was actually made three times. The first two projects are remembered only by cinephiles like David. It is only Jon Huston’s 1941 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s private eye story, with that unforgettable cast of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet, that became a hit. In fact, it is one of the most beloved classic films of all time.
His point? It isn’t which stories to tell; it’s how you tell them. All of your stories are worth sharing. They come from the experiences of real people who’ve faced real challenges, taken real (or even imagined) journeys, made discoveries and overcame adversity.
A few days later, Chesnick told me why, according to film historians, Huston’s film did so well. It was because his version, unlike the previous two, stayed true to the book. Huston took a very simple approach, telling the story the way it was originally written. The take-away from this for modern day storytellers – the best way to engage is not with hype or “brochure-eez” lingo, but by sharing stories just the way they’ve happened.
Further to this point, there shouldn’t be just one way to tell them, so think about all the options you have. Some are features; others are sidebars or briefs. If you find yourself asking that “which stories should I tell” question, it can only mean that you lack the infrastructure to tell your stories. Perhaps you’ve backed yourself into a corner with a rigid newsletter format or a website that isn’t up to your standards. Your focus should be redirected to building a stronger platform that will enable you to tell all of those stories. The sooner you do it, the sooner you will be engaging all of your communities more effectively.

It’s simple. Just be brave, tell stories and build communities.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Has 2014 been a year of "less" or did we get much more than we bargained for?

Just for kicks, I took a look back at a post from January 07, 2014 by Rob Rosenberg. He suggested 2014 would be the year of less - and that less, would indeed be - here it comes - more. His point was that in these few key areas of trending in 2014, the focus would be on less, but would offer more opportunities for health care marketers. I love his wrap-up, referring to "today's visually-driven, less anonymous, less traditional, more mindful and mobile customer with less patience."
Immersive experiences: On a recent trip to Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Penn., I took a tour of the new front entrance space and it was, quite simply, beautiful. A hotel-like reception area with uniformed ambassadors, brand and consumer-friendly colors/lighting and less—less clutter of wheelchairs in the hallways, less hassle with a separate waiting area for valet parking, and less lines with streamlined admission areas.
A visual world: Our world is visual. From online videos to Instagram, from Pinterest to Snapchat, consumers want less explanation and long-copy, and prefer ideas to be presented visually. The implications for marketers are endless in terms of advertising, signage, social media, online communications and so forth. In short, be visual and less verbose.
Impatience: It's just not for kids anymore...our entire society is becoming impatient. We want less in terms of wait times, administrative runarounds, lines, hold times, and for those brands that can achieve this, it will pay off in terms of more gratification and brand loyalty. Audit your brand and customer service initiatives to determine if it meets your patience criteria.
Going mobile: As more people will streamline their online activity with fewer devices and a greater focus on mobile technology, the consumer has definitely been the winner in the cell phone wars between Apple, Samsung, and others, as new devices offer many more features, apps and amazing synchronization between them. Evaluate your online strategy to make sure webpages and social media channels are optimized for mobile technology. In addition, this is the year to offer services and information, such as ER wait-times, via text strategies and/or mobile portals. Beep beep.
Less anonymity: Let's face it, it's hard to go stealth these days. From re-marketing digital ads to government monitoring of emails and social posts, "Big Brother" is definitely in the house. As a marketer, you can do more with less such as encouraging consumers to share safe information on landing pages, websites, and social media channels. You should also think about doing less in this regard, too. For example, I recently learned of a hospital that ceased publishing birth notices in the local paper for fear of arming potential baby-nappers with too much information. The trend toward less anonymity works for and against marketers and should be treated with caution.
Less tradition: From new marriage laws in many states to over-the-counter marijuana being sold in some states, old traditions and practices are being turned upside down. The opportunities for marketers are endless in terms of engaging the new consumers and recognizing that differences exist among them. The "modern family" of today is diverse, interesting and not sitting around the dinner table at 6 p.m.
Mindful living: More stress has caused the desire for fewer toxins in our lives and consumers are seeking out more Zen and less gluten. From healthier eating, wellness initiatives and more engagement in social communities and groups, marketers of health-related products and services have an enormous opportunity to support the concept of mindful living. It is not as much about getting healthy as staying healthy—mind, body, and soul—and health care organizations can surely take the lead.

These are just a few examples of 2014 being the "year of less." As marketers, it gives us greater opportunity to develop brand promises and service strategies that are more engaging and in line with today's visually-driven, less anonymous, less traditional, more mindful and mobile customer with less patience.