Monthly Archives: July 2012

10 Things Forbes.com Does Better Than Your Website

Forbes.com is not your grandpa’s pub.  In the last 2 years the website has doubled usage by rethinking their approach to publishing.  The 95-year-old company is now an online experiment engine – using search data, social media and digital tools to run rapid tests that maximize sales, page views and content sharing.

Bruce Upbin, Forbes managing editor, hosted a video town hall at Intuit recently where he shared the news organization’s best practices for engaging readers via digital participation.  With more than 29 million readers and growing, it’s a story worth noting.  Below is a quick recap of the 10 simple tactics that Forbes.com is doing better than most websites.

1. Individual as brand.  Each of their 900 freelance contributors takes ownership for the success of their content, with Forbes as a facilitator and central resource.  Writer compensation is proportional to viewership so the best rises to the top.

2. Data is everywhere. Take a stroll through the website and you’ll notice that each article’s performance metrics are pretty easy to discern.  This “data transparency” builds mutual accountability while ensuring that readers can easily navigate to what’s most relevant.

3. Outsource control.  When talented, empowered contributors meet a century-old news organization, the staff’s job is to get out of the way.  While they inject guidelines, best practices and editorial reviews into the process, Forbes also maintains a level of professional autonomy that sparks wonderful dialogue.  Some of their more controversial articles are here, here and here. Oh, and can’t forget about this one.

4. Social sharing is caring.  Forbes uses big, prominent social sharing tools that make it easy to promote the content you care about.  This one is a no-brainer.

5. Transparency and openness.  Each writer has a clear bio and profile that provides an instant snapshot of their agenda, profession and body of work.  As the line between journalism and blogging gets increasingly blurry this practice helps build credibility by allowing the reader to decide for themselves.

6. It’s still about journalism.  There’s no panacea formula but the Forbes.com approach is simple: great insights, experiences and news written about people we relate to by people we relate with.  They are far from perfect, and readers are quick to point out their editorial mishaps, but they do remain progressive.

7. Power of partners.  Forbes works with brand sponsors and media allies to bring this real-time production to life.  Most recently, they carved out a portion of their blog platform (built on WordPress ) for brands to use to power their own conversations.

8. Content is content.  The Forbes story count has increased by 45%.  While news articles and stories are cornerstones of the content mix they are not the whole pie.  Videos, imagery and multimedia can sometimes tell stories in ways that words  can’t.

9. What they stand for doesn’t change. In 95 years the Forbes approach to news values has remained steady.  What they represent is part of their DNA, how they represent it will continue to evolve.

10. Build a scalable content model.  Each morning Forbes.com holds a content planning session to map out the day’s digital activities while using Campfire, a web-based group chat tool,  to maintain real-time conversations with editors, contributors and collaborators.  They can flex up at a moment’s notice and ensure the publishing workflow is moving forward.

Search and social have doubled their portion of inbound traffic to Forbes.com and its readership outpaces similar sites.  I continue to be an avid, sometimes rabid, reader of the site and can vouch for the tactics above.  Forbes has transformed their online offerings by building a platform that embraces experimentation and adaptability.  So what’s the catch?  This approach also required relinquishing control so they could focus on grander goals – engagement.

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What is Intuit’s Approach To Building Agile Content?

 

Back in April 2012 I led a discussion at the PR Newswire Content Marketing & Communications Leadership Forum in Dallas to discuss best practices and swap updates.  PR Newswire wrote a quick overview of the session that can be viewed on their blog.

During a video interview after the event they asked me a very simple question: what is your approach to agile communications and content?

I gave a not-so-simple answer.  Check it out below.

 

 

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3 Steps To Discovering Your Personal Brand

Q: What words best describe Adrian Parker?

In its simplest form, your personal brand is the answer to this all-important question: what do people think about me?

Or, stated a more complex way, what equity does my reputation have in the minds of those who matter?

For most of us, our personal branding efforts consists primarily of doing a good job, working hard and treating people with respect.  After all, this is what leads to promotions and positive job evaluations, right?  Maybe, but why leave something so important as your reputation to chance?  Why not invests a little time to discover how your peers see you now, before you need anything.

We recently did just that at our office and I’d like to share how truly easy and eye-opening it can be.  In fact, the word cloud above is my personal brand at Intuit (so far, wait till they really get to know me).  Follow these really simple steps to get an understanding of what your peers think about you and start managing your proactively personal brand.

  1. Make a list of people you work with. They should be familiar enough with your work style and personality so that their feedback is relevant.  Also try to mix it up between direct reports, your supervisors, cross-functional peers and even people you assume may not have the most positive opinion of you.  The goal is get a balanced point-of-view from a good sample audience.  Try to list between 8 – 12 people.
  2. Send this list to someone on your team to serve as your “survey administrator.”  This person will send a quick email to everyone on your list (blind carbon copies or BCCs are OK) asking a very simple question:  What 3 – 5 words best describe your feelings and thoughts when you think about [your name]? What words best characterize the impression he/she has in your organization?In this email, ensure your survey administrator promises confidentiality while encouraging frank, direct comments.
  3. Collect all of the words and create a word cloud that reflects the feedback.  Have your administrator dump all of the words (duplicates included) into a word cloud generator so you can marvel at your brand blueprint.  Wordle.comis a free and easy word cloud generator that I used when doing this exercise.  After generating the cloud, your administrator simply sends you the finished product – read ’em and weep.

I was surprised by a few of the descriptors on my list (Acquiescent? My wife wishes…) and also pleased that there were positive attributes to be found.  I’m so glad someone thinks I’m smooth and happy.  Give it a shot and see what brand positioning you really have.  Asking for feedback is a step in the right direction.

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15 Signs of a Great Community Manager

From Fortune 500 corporations to mom & pop shops, community management is arguably the most pivotal function of any social media team. A brand is the sum of its parts and oftentimes the person behind the social channel becomes the eyes, ears, voice and face of your brand’s online footprint. Choose carefully.

I’ve been lucky to meet, work with, teach and even learn from some of the best Community Managers in the industry. Whether you’re looking for new talent or assessing the performance of your current roster, these are 15 signs of a great Community Manager:

      1. They have immediate access to the pulse of what’s going on in your industry and among your customers. A great Community Manager doesn’t wait for the weekly company buzz report, they write it.
      2. They have empathetic eyes, possessing an ability to view online content and campaigns from the consumer’s perspective. They know their audience and continually seek ways to improve the customer experience from the inside out.
      3. They don’t just seek ways to improve (see #2), they actually act on solutions. Great Community Managers have a bias for action.
      4. They are multilingual when it comes to media. They produce videos, pictures and promotions with the same ease as writing posts and articles.
      5. They have a passion for engagement and conversing with customers that is infectious. They overwhelm you with creative ideas and are a constant source of good thinking.
      6. They are “professionally offended” if their content fails to get engagement and immediately seek constructive ways to do better next time. Great Community Managers never stop optimizing.
      7. They spend more time conversing with customers than sitting in a room talking about them. They monitor your social channel metrics daily and don’t depend solely on Radian6 to be your online ears.
      8. They regularly scrutinize your brand, your peers, competition and influencers to garner ideas of what can be done better or differently.
      9. They love to test, learn and derive insights from new technology. Change doesn’t paralyze, it invigorates.
      10. They are mobile-savvy and equally comfortable engaging on a phone or tablet as a desktop. They have created the proper barriers between the work account and their personal accounts to prevent social snafus.
      11. They engage on evenings, weekends and holidays to ensure your brand has a human voice that participates in relevant cultural and industry happenings. They do this without being asked.
      12. They know your company’s vision and can clearly articulate your strategy and how social impacts all of the above.
      13. They have an urgent desire to amplify your online presence tempered with an understanding that it takes time to grow. Great Community Managers are patiently impatient.
      14. They spend time each day reading about trends, happenings and people in order to develop a perspective for your brand.
      15. They have an expert understanding of each social channel’s publishing, reporting and administrative tools. Don’t assume this is common knowledge.

Perhaps the best sign of a great Community Manager is fairly simple: they read lists like this and immediately identify key areas where they can do better to help your brand. I’m grateful for the great folks I know.

Are you a Community Manager? Let me know what you think of the list and what indicators you think are valuable when looking for competent talent in this emerging space.

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Filed under Interactive Marketing, Learnings & Insight, Social Media

8 Lessons I Learned From Leading Change at Intuit

Five months ago I resigned  as Director of Social & Digital Strategy at RadioShack to embark upon a new challenge with Intuit.  As if the task of building an enterprise-wide social practice for one global brand wasn’t enough, I was brought to Intuit with an ambitious goal: do it again, faster.

But this time around things are different.  When I began crafting the blueprint for RadioShack’s digital proficiency, I was entering an empty lot.  There was no foundation or framework, no sheetrock or shingles – simply potential.  Conversely, at Intuit’s Accounting Professionals Division I’m more renovator than architect, responsible for casting a vision, enhancing the skills and upgrading efforts.  I traded my jackhammer for a paint brush.

In just a short time, I’ve learned numerous insights about effectively leading change for lasting results.  Last week I was invited to share these lessons with my fellow Intuit execs and I believe they apply to leaders outside our organization as well.

1. Package before distribution

During my first week at Intuit, before I memorized my telephone extension or PC password, I delivered a framework to the entire team that summarized how I would approach change.  This package, entitled Project R.U.N., immediately gave everyone a common language and chronology for the months ahead.  By packaging the ingredients of change into smaller, traceable containers the team was better able to understand my perspective.  Even the heaviest items are easier to hold when you give them handles.  (Note: I’ll unveil the inner-workings of Project R.U.N. in a later post)

2. Let the team in the lab

From re-orgs and acquisitions to layoffs and promotions, oftentimes organizational change is something that simply happens to us.  We waltz into the office one day and everything is different.  In some instances it is easier for a leader to administer change much like you would a drug treatment.  Lockdown the lab. Concoct the cure.  Convince the boss.  Inject the drug. Observe the behaviors.  But are the side-effects of this approach worth it?  In my case, I used surveys, one-on-one meetings, team offsite events and informal conversations to deliberately let the larger team into the lab with me.  Sure it takes more time in the beginning but I’m betting on the long-term benefits.

3. Decide how to decide

Unsurprisingly enough, great decisions are the product of good planning.  Effectively making decisions requires leaders to carefully consider the proper approach for gathering critical inputs that impact change.  Will you consult with select colleagues and then make a decision?  Or perhaps you seek 100% consensus among the team?  And then there’s the good ol’ fashion unilateral decision where you pull the trigger all by yourself.  No matter your approach, it’s important to diagnose your particular business situation and then select the criteria that works for you.

4. Acceptance vs. Agreement

Acceptance is critical, agreement is convenient.  Don’t confuse them.   Acceptance is the oxygen of change, an essential requirement for building shared vision towards an area of enhancement.  Acceptance listens to unique and opposing perspectives by going beyond simply respecting an individual’s right to an opinion and actually valuing it.  Agreement is simply the support of an idea, a convenient nice-to-have but far from a requirement for successful change.  On the other hand, acceptance of your team’s point-of-view helps translate individual perspectives into collective action.

Group session from a Project R.U.N. meeting at Intuit.

5. Inspire by doing

Just like Hernan Cortes sunk his fleet of ships when he arrived in the New World to signal to his men that turning back was not an option, leading change means modeling the behaviors you desire among your team.  I didn’t slash my tires to demonstrate to the Intuit team that I wasn’t turning back, but I did attempt to model social and business best practices to build trust and credibility.  For instance, when we wanted to incorporate more video content into our customer conversations I began incorporating videos into my team communications. The fear of uncertainty is the biggest enemy to progress, making a leader’s actions vitally important to cultivating courage.  As a leader, to figure out what actions need modeling ask yourself these 2 questions: What is the #1 thing only I can do?  What activity will have the biggest impact on the business if done with excellence?  The intersection of those 2 answers is your starting point.

6. Speak honestly and openly

Weaknesses, challenges, gaps, fears and hopes aren’t values you’ll find in any business case but they are all a natural part of leading human change.  While becoming a cyborg would certainly prove beneficial, a robotic approach to change is no replacement for honest conversations.  Don’t be afraid to share your own story and be transparent about the road ahead.  To spark real conversations, start with real inquiries: What would you do if you were me?  What are you most concerned about?  Given this change, what changes the most for you individually?  What big win would you like to contribute to?  How can I help you?  How can I do better?

7. Know yourself

For me, change in any area of my life has a way of becoming a much-needed mirror into areas of strength and improvement.  It’s beneficial to identify and own your personal attributes – both good and bad – since they affect your response to change.  What triggers you at work?  What workplace behaviors do you find totally reprehensible?  What actions encourage you?  Our team spent a day going through the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and exercise to discover and share our natural talents.  By increasing your emotional and cultural intelligence and awareness of team dynamics, you increase your change IQ.

8. Fear fuels creativity

Margaret Wheatley says it best: “The things we fear most in organizations — fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances — are the primary sources of creativity.”  Conflicts are opportunities to change, invent and innovate for the better.  Remember, feedback is a gift you can only unwrap with your ears.

At Intuit, I’ve learned to embrace change and leverage it as a signature capability.  As innovation becomes the norm and disruptive forces shape how we go-to-market, leading change will become synonymous with leading.

What lessons has change taught you? Leave a comment below as I’d love to compile this feedback for future blog posts.

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