Top Insights, Takeaways & Favorite Moments from #SocialBrand17

For the past six years Nick Westergaard has brought speakers from around the United States to the good people of Iowa for his annual Social Brand Forum.

This event has drawn speakers like Lee Odden, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Jay Baer, Tim Washer, Scott Monty, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and many more!

This year, I was lucky to join some amazing speakers including Robert Rose, Melissa Agnes, Jason Falls and Marcus Sheridan as one of the speakers at this premiere Midwest event.

Since I know that many of you weren’t able to attend this awesome event, I’ve taken the liberty of pulling some of my favorite takeaways and moments from #SocialBrand17.

Nick Westergaard – The Man Who Made it All Happen

If you haven’t met Nick before, you should. He made every part of this experience amazing for speakers and attendees alike.

In addition to serving as a Chief Brand Strategist, Nick is also an author, professional speaker and an Associate Director, MBA Business Communication at the University of Iowa.

Nick believes that a scrappy approach to B2B marketing can help teams large and small get smarter with their digital marketing. His book, Get Scrappy is filled with great ideas and examples for brands looking to do just that.

Robert Rose – Reinventing Trust: The New Value of Brand Audiences & Owned Media

One of the key points of Robert’s presentation that stood out to me, was his thoughts on how technology has impacted the way we work (both positively and negatively).

Technology has enabled us to do so much that it has become a weakness. @Robert_Rose
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As we start each year, we plan to accomplish great things with our content but quickly realize we need more content, more technology and more people to get it done. But the honest truth is, more isn’t always better.

Content teams should not become asset generators that simply pump out content, the focus should be on becoming more strategic and purposeful with content planning, creation, promotion and measurement.

Yesterday also marks the release of Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi’s new book, Killing Marketing. Keep your eye out for a review of this new book on our blog in coming weeks.

Melissa Agnes – Crisis Ready: Essential Strategies for Every Business

For most of us, the thought of a crisis doesn’t even cross our minds until we’re in the midst of experiencing one. And that is something Melissa Agnes set out to change in her presentation.

Key to successfully managing a crisis is having a crisis ready culture. A crisis ready culture is one that has developed a plan, shared the plan with the team and keeps the plan closeby in case it is needed.

Issues can escalate to a crisis but they can also present us with an opportunity. @Melissa_Agnes
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One of the biggest takeaways for the audience was the fact that an issue and a crisis are not the same and how to deal with each scenario effectively.

Jason Falls – Hacking the Conversation

True to form, Jason started off his presentation telling jokes, stories and commenting on how hot it was on stage (I can attest, it was). I have seen Jason present a few times and each time is a great experience, but there was something extra special about this presentation.

In order to participate in or “hack” conversations your customers are having, you first need to know what they are. Unfortunately a lot of these conversations happen on more closed networks like Facebook which can make it difficult to uncover what is being said.

A true understanding of your customers will make your marketing much more impactful. @JasonFalls
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Ultimately, marketers need to understand that keywords do not equal themes and raw data is not the same as actual insights.  

Marcus Sheridan – We’re All Media Companies

Marcus is a strong proponent of truly integrated sales and marketing teams. And he’s right, he’s proven how effective this approach can be. In today’s digital landscape, media is no longer reserved for publications.  

Brands have become publishers and let’s be honest, are publishing content at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, Marcus has found that most content starts as fluff when it should always start at the buyer.

More often than not, digital marketing is a program. It starts and then it ends. @TheSalesLion
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Teams must begin thinking more strategically and utilizing content intentionally in the sales process and beyond to better meet the needs of today’s savvy buyers.

Ashley Zeckman – Your Marketing Golden Ticket

When I was creating my presentation for the Social Brand Forum, I began building out some tactics that I thought the audience would find interesting, then as I thought about it further, I decided that instead of tactics, we should focus on the common hurdles that content marketers face.

As a special treat, I’ve included a copy of my deck below so that you can experience the world of Wonka on your own time (if only I could get the GIFs to work in SlideShare!).

Additional Insights From the Attendees

Below are a few of my favorite tweets shared by the conference attendees:

What Did You Learn?

Whether you were able to attend in-person, or followed along online, I’m curious to know what you found to be the most interesting tidbits of information offered at the annual Social Brand Forum.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Top Insights, Takeaways & Favorite Moments from #SocialBrand17 |

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Our Top 11 Content Marketing Takeaways from #CMWorld 2017

Last week, thousands of marketers from all over the world descended on the Rock N’ Roll capital of the world, Cleveland, OH, for the seventh annual Content Marketing World Conference and Expo.

Featuring more than 130 speakers, keynotes and panelists, dozens of different tracks, and a whole lot of orange, the four-day event was exciting and inspiring. And the TopRank Marketing team was out in full-force, providing live coverage, learning from some of the best in the business, dancing to 80s classics and making new connections.

While it’s nearly impossible to distill all the inspiring insights we collected during the event into this one post, we’re going to try. Below we share a handful of insights that really resonated with our team.

#1 – Shoot for resonance — not reach.

Content marketing was born out of the need to satisfy our audience’s thirst for knowledge and to satisfy their questions. But with so much content out there these days — it’s more important than ever to ensure your strategy is hyperfocused on who you audience is, what they need from you, and what will truly resonate — not just reach — your audience.

During his keynote address on opening day, Jay Acunzo, creator and host of, encouraged the room to start thinking ourselves — not just rely on industry best practices — and have a renewed focus on creating content that makes meaningful connections with our audience.

“When we pay more attention to the customer than to the industry, then the customer will pay more attention to us,” Acunzo stated. “[We need to] stop focusing on reach and start focusing on resonance.”

Stop focusing on reach & start focusing on resonance. – @jayacunzo #CMWorld
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#2 – All you need is less.

It’s certainly no secret that we’re living in a world of content abundance. But if we want to create content that really resonates and makes our audience feel something, we need to remember that less is more, according to prolific writer, marketer and speaker Ann Handley.

Using the classic E.B. White novel, Charlotte’s Web, Handley declared the title character the best content marketer in the world. Using just four phrases — Some pig, terrific, radiant and humble — Charlotte was not only able to save little Wilbur’s life, but also make Farmer Zuckerman believe and feel he had something special.

“Think of how Charlotte was able to save a life with just [a few] words,” Handley challenged her audience. “How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference?”

The bottom line? You don’t need more content. You need better content. Content that helps your audience see, feel, taste, hear and touch the story you’re telling.

How can we use our words more intentionally to make a difference with our content? @annhandley #CMWorld
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#3 – Stories are all around you — and mostly right under your nose.

Marketers often feel they don’t have the time, budget or resources to effectively create compelling, story-driven content. But, according to GE’s Chief Marketing Officer Linda Boff, inspiration is closer than you may think.

As Boff imparted her experience and knowledge onto the crowd during her keynote address, one of her most compelling slides simply said: “Stories are right under your nose — we just might need to change the lense every now and then.”

So, leverage the people, resources and data that you do have to iterate on how you tell your story and come up with new ideas.

Stories are right under your nose. – @lindaboff #CMWorld
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#4 – Give everyone a seat at the content marketing table.

Quality content is the foundation of every marketing strategy. And while you may think the success of your content marketing initiatives rests in the capable and creative hands of your marketing team members, you may be missing out on a big internal opportunity.

According to Jillian Hillard, the Director of Brand and Product Marketing for Electrolux Home Care and SDA, North America, getting the content marketing buy-in of key players from multiple departments can give your strategy wings.

“Everyone needs to have a seat at the table in the beginning,” Hillard said. “This creates community of openness, trust, camaraderie, support and gets everyone excited about the new journey.”

Some of the departments — or characters as Hillard said — that need your consideration could be: product development, sales, finance and customer service.

“Once your organization [as a whole] sees the value, then content marketing becomes contagious,” she said.

Once your org sees the value, then #contentmarketing becomes contagious. – @JillianHillard
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#5 – Design video content to hold attention.

Video content marketing has gone from the next big thing to the current big thing. Brands that pump out a ton of text-based content are now flooding the attention marketplace with video. And just as we had to learn how to make content work for marketing, we’re all still figuring out how to make effective marketing video. That’s where the incomparable Andrew Davis, an author and in-demand speaker, provided some insight.

While we like to think our audience will click play and hang on to the end where our CTA lives, we know they bail early. So, our goal needs to be to occupy their interest and their desire to know over time. And to put it simply, it’s not lack of attention span that causes our audience to bail or become disinterested. It’s the lack of content designed to hold attention.

We earn attention by satiating the audience's desire to know over time. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld
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#6 – Influencer marketing success is built on relationships.

Influencer marketing is booming — and it’s not hard to see why. Influencers add insight, credibility and authority to content, as well as help spread your message to new and larger audiences.

But as TopRank Marketing’s own CEO, Lee Odden, said during his presentation on enterprise influencer marketing: “There are a lot of cowboys out there. … A lot of people are just shooting from the hip when it comes to influencer marketing.”

As a result, if you want to create a dynamic influencer program, your strategy needs to have the perfect balances of great content and strong influencer relationships.

“The stronger your relation and community, the stronger the amplification of the content will be,” he said.

Stronger #influencer relationships = stronger the #content amplification. – @leeodden #CMWorld
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#7 – Content should focus on the why — not the what.

During her session, Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing & Communications for Jordan Vineyard & Winery, shared how their video-centric strategy is winning over their audience. But one insight bomb that she dropped goes beyond video:

Simply put, it all comes down to storytelling. You need a compelling narrative that’s hyper-focused on why your organization does what it does if you want to connect with and engage your audience.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. – @lisamattsonwine #CMWorld
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#8 – Prioritize work to guard against burn-out.

As Workfront’s Heather Hurst and Nordstrom’s Erica Gunn put it: It’s time to stop killing your content team. Your copywriters likely have a full plate and asking them to do more with less won’t work for long. So, if you want to keep your team happy and productive, you need to find a balance between what’s urgent and what’s important.

A project management system like Workfront can absolutely help ease this burden, but it’s also essential to make time for unplanned work. Hurst and Gunn suggested planning for approximately 60% of your team’s tasks so you have 40% wiggle room.

Budget time for unplanned work. – @heatherbhurst & Erica Gunn #CMWorld
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#9 – Stop telling your audience how amazing you are.

As comedian and marketer Tim Washer told the room during his session, when we use amazing words over and over again, they have the amazing ability to lose their amazing meaning. So, if you want to create video that is full of joy for your viewer, you need to stop telling people your company is amazing. Rather, you should start telling them stories and let them reach their own conclusion.

Stop telling people your company is amazing. Tell them stories & let them reach their own…
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#10 – Make culture your ‘North Star.’

According to adidas’ Frank Thomas, the digital world is so complex and volatile that our go-to tools for audience identification are no longer sufficient. Personas, scenarios, observed past behavior — they all change as fast as we can construct them.

So, instead of trying to become what an ever-changing audience wants, why not make culture your north star? According to Thomas, if you’re able to define what your brand stands for and you can become a beacon to your most valuable audience.

Instead of trying to become what your audience wants, make culture your North Star. – @framatho #CMWorld
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#11 – Data-driven content isn’t about the facts and figures.

Data. Data. Data. It’s safe to say all marketers agree that data provides the necessary insight to help us optimize content performance, personalize content and prove business value. But the thing is: data in a vacuum isn’t insightful or helpful. In the end, it’s not about the facts and figures themselves; it’s about how we shape that data into compelling stories.

According to Analytics Advocate at Google, Adam Singer, that’s where data visualization can come in pretty handy. Singer recommended “storyboarding” your visualizations before you even pull the data in. Nail down who you’re talking to, what questions you’re answering, and the story you’re telling before you create a single chart.

Storyboard your visualizations before pulling in data. – @AdamSinger #CMWorld #datavisualization
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Share Your Top #CMWorld Takeaways

If you were one of the thousands of content marketers in attendance, we invite you to share some of your favorite moments, insights and takeaways, too. Share them with us in the comments section below.

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4 Tips to Stop Killing Your Content Team from Workfront & Nordstrom

The pressure is on! Content marketers are being expected to create more with less. And often, that means creating more content without adding additional team members.

Unfortunately, the content copywriters are often the ones that bear the brunt of these situations which can be exhausting and cause content burnout.

To help ease the pain, Workfront’s Heather Hurst and Nordstrom’s Erica Gunn shared some great tips to help you scale work with the resources you have in their presentation at Content Marketing World.

Want to keep your content team happy and productive? Here’s what to do:

#1 – Build a Business Case

Ok listen up, this part is important:

Before you start anything, you need to understand why you’re doing it and whether it rolls up to the most important goals of your company.

Once you’ve developed your goals, it’s time to develop a strategic breakdown that will help you execute. Some key questions to ask include:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Are you working on the right things?
  • What’s not going to help you succeed? Eliminate it!

Ultimately, customer data should help make content decisions. Traditionally, Nordstrom relied heavily on gut instincts combined with trends to lead their content strategy. Now, they’ve taken a much nimbler approach that includes weekly meetings so that the team can pivot quickly, as well as measurement of content daily, monthly and quarterly. This enables short-term and long term adjustments to planning and creation based on content goals.

#2 – Manage & Prioritize Work Requests

When you have fully tapped content resources, it comes down to finding the balance between what is urgent, and what is important.

Also, utilizing a project management system like Workfront (which we use at our agency), can help teams identify what should be prioritized when there is simply too much to get done.

It’s essential to make time for unplanned work as well. If you’re able to plan for approximately 60% of your team’s tasks, then that leaves 40% of available time to handle last-minute or unplanned items.

#3 – Leverage Existing Content to Build Assets

One of the most overlooked opportunities for creating great content efficiently is to repurpose existing content. And while many marketers talk about content repurposing as a tactic, few are doing it effectively.

To make repurposing simple, start by tagging content appropriately so that you have an easy way to look it up in the future.

Last year, our CEO Lee Odden developed a great blog post that covered 50 influencer marketing fails, many of which came from influencers themselves. After seeing some great success with this post (over 2,000 shares), we decided to turn it into an ungated SlideShare that featured insights from some of the influencers, but also included some new ways to win at influencer marketing. To date this SlideShare has had over 37,000 views!

#4 – Manage Change

In their presentation, Erica and Heather shared three ways to enact change:

  1. Communicate: Create a case and share it with your leadership team that includes recommendations for more structured intake, prioritization and resource management.
  2. Model: Make an effort to change your own intake, prioritization and resource management behaviors. That way everyone else can see that you’re doing it differently.
  3. Reinforce: Reward team members that are following suit or participating in the change of these new behaviors and consider consequences for those who are following the old behaviors.

A Happy Team is a Productive Team

When you get caught up in the day-to-day, it can be difficult to make time for evolving process. However, think about the amount of time you will save by throwing out antiquated content process and let’s be frank, looking for new talent if your team gets burnt out.

Start by collecting data about what is and isn’t working. From there, you can develop your plan, implement and then reassess and optimize your approach.

What have you found to be your biggest challenges in creating a manageable workload for your content team?

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Personalization 2.0: Transform your marketing from segmentation to intent-driven personalization

Consumer expectations about the digital shopping experience have never been higher. Today, consumers expect relevant, personalized content and offers that cater to their needs in any given moment. But what does it mean to personalize your marketing? Many marketers mistakenly think that…

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Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Tips for Making Video Content that Earns Attention from Andrew Davis #CMWorld

The inimitable Andrew Davis is the best-selling author of Town, Inc. and an in-demand marketing speaker. After his presentation at Content Marketing World 2017, I can see why.

He made me feel stupid. And I’m incredibly grateful.

The best presentations make you feel stupid in retrospect. Of course! It’s so obvious that this is the way to do it! Why haven’t we been doing it this way the whole time? Feeling stupid after-the-fact means you just got smarter.

You see, video content marketing has gone from the next big thing to the current big thing. Brands that pump out a ton of text-based content are now flooding the attention marketplace with video. And just as we had to learn how to make content work for marketing, we’re all still figuring out how to make effective marketing video.

Over the course of 45 minutes–which included exploding watermelons, Ice Road Truckers, and impromptu dance breaks–Andrew laid out exactly what is wrong with how most marketers are approaching video. And, more importantly, how to fix it. Here are some key takeaways. I hope they make you feel stupid in the best possible way.

Creating Video Marketing that Holds Attention

As Andrew explained it, video is a linear medium. We want viewers to hit the play button and barrel down the tracks to the end, where our CTA lives. But people rarely take that straight journey. They can skip forward or backward, or even bail entirely.

When people bail on a video, conventional wisdom holds that the video’s too long for a short attention span. It’s not the lack of attention span, though: It’s the lack of content designed to hold attention. As Roger Ebert said, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.”

Our goal, then, is to occupy our audience’s interest – their desire to know – over time. How can we do that?

#1: Raise questions to drive content.  What keeps a person watching is the desire to have a question answered. As Andrew put it, “Eliminate our audience’s desire to answer a question, and we eliminate interest in our content.”  Is your content giving it all away up front? If you answer the audience’s burning question in the first fifteen seconds, without promise of further answers to come, what’s their motivation to watch the next three minutes? Or six minutes? “When someone says your video is ‘too long,’” Andrew says, “they’re really saying, ‘I have no more questions.’”

#2 Create suspense. The primary method to keep the audience asking questions–thereby keeping them watching–is to create suspense. Show your audience something the character desires, then threaten it. Raise obstacles to the character’s goal. Leave the outcome in doubt. Raise the stakes over time and you keep the questions going – what’s going to happen next? How will this problem be solved?

#3 Put your CTA before the payoff. The suspense you’re building will lead to a moment of catharsis, when the questions are answered and all is revealed. But don’t put your CTA after that moment–see the previous comment about “I have no more questions.” Rather, put it right at that peak of interest. Think of it like the commercial break before the big reveal on a reality show. Just make sure your payoff is worth your viewer’s invested time and emotion.

Think Like a Reality TV Editor to Tell Compelling Stories

To build suspense and keep the audience guessing, we need to draw from the masters of suspense. Yes, reality TV shows, especially makeover and talent shows. The editing tricks of the TV trade can help make your content compelling, even if it’s not about toddler beauty pageants or salmon fishing in Alaska.

Consider these key elements as you edit:

  • Music. Too many corporate marketing videos use the same generic jaunty tune all the way through. Use music to set the mood and change that mood throughout the video.
  • Beats. No, not drumbeats or overpriced headphones. Beats are little moments of pause, a breath or two to let the audience process what you’re telling them. Don’t be afraid to pause and let things sink in–if you’ve earned the audience’s attention, that will build tension rather than dissipate it.
  • Pacing. You control the rate at which you give information to your audience. Withholding information builds suspense, balanced with the need to keep moving forward.
  • Narrative structure. Too many testimonial-type videos start with “This product is great and solved my problems, which were….” and the viewer says, “I have no more questions. You told me the product was great and solved your problems.” Instead, work toward the solution in a way that builds suspense and raises stakes:
    • Start with the problem
    • Intensify the problem
    • Show the struggle for a solution
    • Hint at the solution
    • Reveal the solution

Your Best Asset: A Critical Eye

Being aware of these elements and tactics is the first step. However, you can only truly master the form through conscious studying. Andrew said, “You will become a better video producer when you learn how to watch videos better.” The next time a video captivates your attention, study it. How is it continually raising questions? How is it building suspense? What editing, beats, and music choices make it compelling? Start watching video with a critical eye, see what works, and don’t hesitate to steal it.

In other words, what makes video marketing effective is exactly what makes any video effective: It tells a compelling story with tension, stakes, and a moment of catharsis when the tension is resolved.

Feel smarter? I know I do.

Ready to get going? Here are some easy ways to get started with video content marketing.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Tips for Making Video Content that Earns Attention from Andrew Davis #CMWorld |

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Principles and Books for Looking into the Digital Future from Lee Aase

When asked to share digital trends and predictions to kick-off the inaugural Minnesota PRSA Digital Skills Workshop, Lee Aase, Director, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, took an alternative approach.

I’ll share the trends that I’ve observed, and the books that I have read or heard at least two times, but generally more. And link you to the Audible store, while the future I cannot foretell these principles will serve you well.

Digital media is changing fast, so Aase, a leader in utilizing social media, shared insights for getting your mind moving in new directions. Along the way, he shared some of his favorite audio books, and  joked if you subscribe to the one book per month plan on Audible, you will be set for the next year. (Note – one book is free.)

Principle 1: Extrapolation is the Best Starting Point for Prediction

We start our research by looking back at digital media. Aase reminisced about the big three TV networks and newspapers. Their monopoly over the news and advertising was staggering until Ted Turner came along and created CNN. Eventually, the internet meant new production and distribution was democratized.

These two revolutions have turned both news and advertising on their heads. Just look at the value of Facebook, which far outweighs the traditional media giants.

The books to consider to open your mind to digital opportunities include:

  • Free the Future of Radical Price by Chris Anderson (It’s free on Audible!)
  • Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
  • Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators by Clay Shirky

Principle 2: Improbable Events Will Have Outsized Influence in Your Life

Aasee told the story of how Mayo Clinic came out of an improbable event. A  tornado that destroyed much of Rochester, MN moved a group of nuns to ask the doctors Mayo to help with a hospital they wanted to build.

Now, the Mayo Clinic was rated the best hospital by U.S News and World Report.

Disruptive innovation comes in several forms. Consider the introductions of the iPod, Flip camera or IPhone. How did they change your world?

At TopRank Marketing, we know disruption can prove to have great value. Trying new disruptive techniques or tools challenges the team and often provides the client with new and better outcomes.

Books to consider:

  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Principle 3: Mindset Matters More Than Skill

As a digital marketer, it is important to remember these basic skill sets for presenting yourself well:

  • Speaking skills
  • Digital production skills
  • Writing skills

Writing represents you when you are not present, says Aase, so use an active voice and avoid cliches.

Key to remember — have the mindset that you can do new things.

Book to consider:

  • Mindset: The new Psychology of Success by Carol s Dweck, Ph.D.

Principle 4: The Growth Mindset Creates Optionality

As a trailblazer in social media, Aase uses the mindset, “Proceed until apprehended!” He was one of the first to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter in a medical setting.

As an example, when Mayo Clinic doctors separated conjoined twins Aase applied the the principles from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, the art of stress-free productivity:

  • Collect. Process. Review. Do.
  • The Creative Catalyst of inbox Zero
  • The Two-Minute Rule
  • “Is this actionable?”
  • Do-Delegate-Defer-Delete
  • What’s the next action?

This stressful event led to  new options with additional press and his first Tweetcamp.  

More books to consider:

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

Principle 5: Think Analogically

Social media is now part of the DNA of Mayo Clinic. Aase’s team provides guidelines, best practices, training and consulting to their healthcare professionals. As the head of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (#MCSMN) he uses social media to lead a revolution in healthcare.

Principle 6: Develop a “Barbell” risk profile

At the heart of any success is almost always a willingness to take risks.

Books to consider:

  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

Principle 7: Pursue Personal Growth

Take care of yourself, personally, suggests Aase. He advised subscribing to The Tim Farriss Show podcast, and reading (listening to) these books:

  • The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet  by Nina Teicholz
  • The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

What marketing digital disruption will you predict? Or lead?

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Principles and Books for Looking into the Digital Future from Lee Aase |

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Learn how to Become a Better Storyteller with Insights from GoDaddy’s Shawn Pfunder

Storytelling is a buzzword that has made it’s way around the marketing block several times. And as GoDaddy’s Editor in Chief, Shawn Pfunder, shared, storytelling continues to be relevant because our brains are insatiable for stories.

Through stories of his own ranging from Christian Slater impersonations to a death-defying Grandfather, Shawn showed attendees at Digital Summit Minneapolis how to become more compelling storytellers.

Stories Are What Make Us Who We Are

The stories we’re told affect our actions. As Shawn pointed out, after we watch an action movie like Fast and Furious, we might drive a little faster and pretend we have a stick shift once we leave the movie theater. But it can go beyond that.

As an example, Shawn shared the remarkable story he grew up hearing about his grandfather. The man wasn’t supposed to be alive after suffering a heart attack, becoming the first guinea pig for defibrillation, and surviving 12 hours of CPR. His grandfather was told by his doctor, “You must be alive for a reason.” Well, after hearing the story, Shawn and every one of his relatives were convinced they were the reason Grandpa lived. That one story became a part of their DNA and became a driving force in their lives.

Those are the kinds of stories that make us who we are. Our dreams, nightmares, wishes, regrets, goals, desires, and more are stories that propel us forward and make us act. And we all have them.

The Power of a Template #HaikuChallenge

If we love stories so much and stories make us who we are, why don’t marketers use them for everything?

To solve this question, Shawn actually asked the audience to create a Haiku about Wonder Woman. As you may or may not know, Haiku’s have a finite structure. They’re just three lines, each with a set of syllables. And the audience created some killer poems, including these favorites:

The fact was, that once Shawn gave us a template—a Haiku—it was easy for us to start writing and get our creative juices flowing.

Three Story Templates to Live By

To help us marketers easily create stories, Shawn introduced three story templates we can use without fail.

1. The Quest

Probably the most classic of all stories is the quest. Quests start and end in the same place, there are travel companions that help the hero, and the end result is often not what the hero expected. To give us an example of a quest story, Shawn used the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy’s story starts and ends in Kansas, she has three loyal friends who help her on her journey, and in the end she finds she had the ability to go home all along.  

Hollywood Example: “The Wizard of Oz”

2. Underdog

Shawn reminds us that the key to a good underdog story is an unmatched rivalry. Think of Globo Gym and Average Joe’s of Dodgeball”. Globo gym is better in athleticism, finances, and every other way that matters. Average Joe’s doesn’t stand a chance. But luckily for Joe’s, underdog stories also require a “wizard” that help give them the tools to succeed. With the help of dodgeball legend Patches, Average Joe’s had the dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge skills to get them through the tournament and defeat Globo Gym.

Hollywood Example: “Cinderella”

3. Transformation

Stories of transformation focus more on the origin than the destination. In fact, Shawn says transformation stories spend more time on the disgusting and miserable parts of normal life. But then something happens and the hero’s life becomes better. Like a weight loss before and after photo, the difference is dramatic and significant.

Hollywood Example: “Wild”

Ready to Start Telling Stories of Your Own?

Ask yourself:

  • Whos the hero?
    • Psst… it’s never you!
  • What’s normal life?
  • Why change?
  • What will be different?
  • Whats next?

Shawn’s last piece of advice? Watch a movie, read a book, or find a story and try to recognize the thing about it that makes it special.

So we want to hear from you in the comments below. What do you plan on watching or reading next and why are you excited about it? Personally, I’ll be starting the new Netflix series “Ozark” because of its complex plot and leading man, Jason Bateman.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Learn how to Become a Better Storyteller with Insights from GoDaddy’s Shawn Pfunder |

The post Learn how to Become a Better Storyteller with Insights from GoDaddy’s Shawn Pfunder appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®