Making Connections: A Step by Step Guide to Curating Content for a Killer Blog

This post is a deep dive into slide 9 of my presentation titled, “Finding Your Voice: How to Write Authentically to Engage and Retain.  For those of you attending the upcoming AMA Iowa conference on February 23, 2018, I will be delivering that presentation and this post is the “Extended Version,” of Slide 9, not unlike an extended LP or EP in music.

Slide 9 is titled “Make Connections.”  That’s easy to advise and much harder to do so let’s take a look at the actual process for making connections with relevant and tangential topics as well as authors who may not be well known or even consider themselves “authors” and why making connections will make you a better, and more engaging writer.

If you are anything like me, you feel pretty overwhelmed much of the time as you work to keep up with the moving target of content marketing, let alone analytics and marketing in general and sometimes you want to put your head in your hands and cover your ears with headphones blaring Rage Against the Machine.  There is no way anyone can keep up with all of the information promulgated so we all have to learn to be selective, to trust our instincts, and find the content that truly captures us.  And guess what?

That content does not necessarily have to be marketing content.  

Consuming content is hard. We all have jobs to do, groceries to get, houses to clean and emails, oh my stars, the emails.  They never end.  Plus, we need to relax once in a while and focusing on marketing content 24-7 does not a well-rounded writer make.

CONSUME CONTENT 

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I subscribe to five different podcasts and I listen to an additional two or three and only one of those podcasts is about marketing (it’s Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable) but the ones
I enjoy the most and the ones that seem to spur the most innovative ideas (possibly giving myself too much credit here) and enable me to think in an interdisciplinary fashion (which is how I believe strong marketers think) are the surprise topics that The New Yorker podcast serves up.  One of my faves is an interview that The New Yorker writer, David Remnick conducts with Bruce Springsteen.  Remnick sits down with Springsteen for an hour on the stage of The New Yorker Festival and whether you are a fan of Springsteen or not, I would question you at length if you did not find the interview compelling and interesting.  Again, not about marketing at all but my takeaways (that apply to marketing) are as follows:

  1. Deciding what to write and when matter (this stems from the question to Springsteen about why he decided to write his memoir).  Kinda begs the question of when one begins to reflect on their own life and very much begs the question of timing.  When it the right time to address the topic–whether it’s an innovative marketing concept or net neutrality *gulp*, timing is everything.  For example, there is no way I am touching the net neutrality issue until the smoke clears a little.  I would like to learn from others and their views on the subject before I start spouting about it.
  2. Find the (writing) voice you are comfortable in that normally might feel awkward and keep at it.
  3. Express yourself authentically or don’t bother (in a super charming way, Springsteen cops to the fact that the subtext of every one of his songs is a cry for or about Daddy–how authentic is that?) He actually goes into his relationship with his dad in detail and both heartwrenching and relatable.

And that’s just one podcast from The New Yorker.  Some of the other topics that have captured me range from “Slut: The Play,” an Empowering Story for Young Women” (and a great way to hone your empathy) to an interview with author of “My Struggle,” “Karl Ove Knausgaard on Near Death Experiences, Raising Kids, Puberty, Brain Surgery and Turtles.”  I mean come on, if you can’t find something compelling and applicable to content marketing from that podcast, you should take a walk in the woods and re-awaken your imagination.  And if you can retain your Midwestern, American sense of humor, you will be utterly charmed by the ever-existential Scandinavian.  Don’t forget that Scandinavia is the land of Soren Kirkegaard, the father of existentialism and honestly, that perspective is pretty helpful sometimes.  Case in point is my favorite Kirkegaard quote, “Once you label me you negate me.”  That feels pretty timely, don’t you think?

I consume my content on long walks so my advice to take a long walk in the woods is advice that I adhere to as well.  It is incredibly helpful and taking the time to listen to content while walking seems to open up my mind and enable me to make connections in a way I am just not able to do while sitting at my desk.

Podcasts are, of course, just one form of content.  If reading is your thing, then read and pick up magazines and articles you might not normally read.  I cannot tell you the wealth of ideas (and knowledge) I gain by reading Omni Magazine.  Before you contradict me and tell me that Omni Magazine went out of print in the 90s, check again.  They just quietly relaunched a quarterly publication that is worth a review, as is Scientific American.  

I dig how reading about science engages another part of my brain and I feel I gain a great deal of valuable and applicable knowledge from reading about the mind and how the mind functions from a scientific perspective.  Makes senses for us marketers to know a bit about that, don’t you think?

DO A LITTLE DIGGING

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So now that you have consumed content that goes beyond the same information about SEO and SEM and Google Adwords and such, you can do a little digging and begin to make connections that are rather innovative.

For example, articles about the mind and brain function lend insight into empathy (which is something I feel every good writer should have) and how empathy can lend itself to strong content marketing.  But this time, instead of backlinking to the other content marketing articles on empathy, you can provide new insight into empathy by linking to “off the beaten path content” and aid your readers in thinking in new ways as well.

START WRITING

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Now it’s time to start writing.  Sometimes I use a loose, handwritten outline but for the most part, I just start writing and as I write the thread begins to emerge.  Sure, I may have to go back and do a little more research on one topic or another but the only way to get words on the page is to start writing and keep writing.

For inspiration and guidance in that area, I look to publications that challenge my own experiences.  One of my “go-to’s” is Deep South Magazine.  I am not a southerner and I honestly know very little about the southern American experience so reading articles like “The Greatest Bromances in Southern Literature” and “The Real Roots of Southern Cuisine” are fascinating.  The magazine is a window into a culture very far from my own, but arguably, one I should understand since we source our products for The Fat Plant Society from North Carolina and Kentucky and some of our customers are from the south so it’s a market I need to know and know well.

Of course, some days the words flow out of me faster and easier than others but the bottom line is that the words won’t appear on the page unless you type them.  Get some content on the page and worry about finding the thread and editing it later.  Just keep writing and it will come.

Once you start making connections between seemingly disparate concepts, you become more interesting and so does your writing.  

As David Remnick tells Bruce Springsteen, every good song, like every good piece of writing has brains, soul, and heart.  

 

 

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The Void in Video Marketing: On-Camera Media Training for Marketing, Sales, and CEOs

I was on a walk while I was listening to the Marketer to Marketer podcast featuring Marcus Sheridan, the Founder, and CEO of  The Sales Lion and Sherri Powers, the Director of Marketing at TechSmith Corporation. on sales integration and video marketing.

It was chilly so I was walking at a good clip, but when the podcast was about halfway through, I noticed that I was running so as to get back to my desk and get my thoughts down.  The topic of video is a topic I love.  It is also a topic I hate.

We all know that we should be producing video and as a marketer who literally does everything, video to me is, at times, just one more thing I have to learn and master when it seems that there are never enough hours in the day.  We actually have a video in production right now and to underscore how intimidated I am by it, I will share that we outsourced it to an up and coming video production agency that does really great work.

However, hiring Intrepid Creative is not going to be financially feasible for our business every time we need fresh video content.  This production (in my mind anyway) will be a cornerstone piece but as our products continue to grow and develop, we will need to capture that too and what we do is so gosh darn visually appealing, we’d be utter morons not to keep the footage coming.

Plus, there was Jeff Julian’s post that marketers need to pick up the dang camera and I have been following Storyboard Media out of NYC partly to learn and partly to torture myself about what I am not doing.  But just as I was about to commence full on self-flagellation, Marcus and Sherri hit on an aspect of video marketing that made me feel a whole lot better for entirely selfish reasons.

As a Director of Communications for nine years, I found myself in front of the camera for local news fairly often.  As a former teaching professor and hardcore extrovert, I am extremely comfortable in front of groups and pretty comfortable in front of the camera.  I am not great by any stretch but I have had (and taught) media training for on-camera interviews.

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What I got really excited about and what I had not even considered until I listened to the full episode with Sherri Powers and Marcus Sheridan on Video Marketing and Sales Integration, was the salient point about media training for multiple roles across an organization.  From sales to the CEO, there are so many more people who should be and need to be in front of the camera, but they also need to be trained.   

In the long, long, ago time, it was a given for PR folk such as myself to get media training and/or train themselves through self-study and trial and error.  Everything I know about being on camera and training others, I learned from Richard Brundage.  Mr. Brundage has done it all–from television director, news anchor, and lecturer who has trained some of the world’s top CEO’s, high ranking government officials, celebrities and sports figures to appearances on 60-Minutes and Dateline NBC, Brundage has anchored television news programs, lectured at universities, worked with celebrities and conducted media workshops for senior executives of major corporations around the world.

I got to see Mr. Brundage present to a group of my colleagues because his Center for Advanced Media Studies is conveniently located in Overland Park, Kansas, the suburb of my West Plaza, Kansas City home.  I internalized everything he said because it all made so much sense to me.  Then, I got to train my colleagues in my organization which cemented the concepts further and I’d like to think that everyone who attended my media training workshops still remembers at least one or two of the concepts to keep top of mind when in front of a camera.

Things like this: 

  • Know your key talking points like the back of your hand and keep returning to them (especially in an interview setting) so that your talking points roll off your tongue naturally. 
  • You are the one in charge because you are the one in front of the camera and there is an artful way to keep the conversation headed in the direction you want. 
  • Soften your face (drop your jaw, don’t clench, it makes you look tense and angry). 
  • Don’t nod while the interview is asking you questions because you might look like you are agreeing with something you don’t. 
  • And for heaven’s sake, wear solid colors. Please. The camera may not love your houndstooth patterned jacket.  And the camera’s almost invariably hate stripes. 

So in as much as these are solid tips for on-camera broadcast news interviews, they apply pretty well to just about any on-camera situation.

Honestly, I could train marketing and sales professionals in on-camera prowess all day, every day, and never grow tired of it.  It is immensely rewarding to see people who were convinced they could never be great on-camera, get great at being on-camera.

I also believe nearly everyone can be trained to look and sound fantastic on camera, it just takes some solid training and, of course, practice. 

But as Marcus and Sherri point out, this is a piece of the video puzzle that is often missing from the packages most video production agencies offer.  Yes, they focus on editing and telling a good story, but seldom do they train the on-camera talent.

IMG_1940Media training does not take very much time and the return on that investment is huge.  I acknowledge the difference between being on-camera on the local news and being on Facebook Live but the goal and the outcome of these two things are exactly the same: get your point across clearly and do it authentically.  Don’t try and mimic teenagers on SnapChat, be the professional you are and don’t be afraid of that dang camera.  If I can figure out how to shoot and edit video almost like a pro (and I will) then you can build media training into your campaigns and make sure everyone who will be on-camera will be ready.

As Sherri Powers and Marcus Sheridan note, video marketing is no longer the future, it is the now.

 

Why Choosing the Right Succulents for Indoor Spaces Makes a More than a Design Statement

This is a tough time of year for plant experts and novices alike as the decisions we have to make about what to bring inside and what to sacrifice to the cold are really tough decisions.  Many of us have learned the hard way that no matter how much you love the plant, you can’t love it enough to enable it to survive inside during the winter months.  Believe me, we have tried.  Stopping barely short of ripping out the carpet in the attic and replacing it with soil, we have tried everything to create a microclimate for plants in the Midwest.  And we have often failed.

There are the plant varieties, particularly the tropicals that can gimp their way through the winter with a lot of TLC and monitoring but they will need to be cut back (way back) in the spring before they go back outside and you can pretty much count on an aphid infestation unless you have significant air circulation.  But life is full of lessons and in all of these failings, we’ve also learned more than we’ve failed so let’s take a closer look at a couple of succulents that do incredibly well indoors and remain gorgeous while they do so.

Enter ZZ plant.  You tell me you kill every plant you own? I give you a ZZ plant.  There are people who think of the ZZ plant as the plant of the shopping mall but it just isn’t so.  The leaves are shiny and range from bright green to dark and they sprout like mad, especially just after they are brought inside.  We have one partying like a rock star right now and she needs very little light.  She is just going to hang out and be shiny all winter long.

ZZplant

Because it is a succulent, the ZZ plant needs less rather than more water. Water the plant only when the soil has dried out. Though really hard to kill, the one sure way you can kill this plant is to over water it. If she starts turning yellow, it means she is getting too much water and its underground rhizomes may be rotting. You can literally forget about watering it most of the winter.  Check every so often and know that the ZZ plant will grow faster with just the right amount of water but only when the soil is very, very dry.  We feed ours but ZZ plants are also happy without fertilizer.  We recommend feeding the ZZ plant in the spring before she goes outside for the summer and only when it has warmed up for good.

The other hardcore, punk rock succulent that does well indoors in any environment is the mother-in-law tongue or sansevieria.  This succulent is also known as devil’s tongue, jinn’s tongue, bowstring hemp, snake plant and snake tongue.  Because of the variegated leaves, this plant is more than green.  Green, yellow, light green, and even white shades run up the sturdy leaves and the snake plant and like the ZZ plant, the snake hardly needs water and remains robust and strong–a nice counter to the fussy ficus tree that loses its leaves every time you look at it sideways.

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Snake plant just wants to be admired and wants practically no water.   In fact, you should only water it when the soil is totally and completely dry.  Even in the summer, this can be as seldom as every three weeks.  Like the ZZ and the rest of us, Snake plant likes a good meal now and then so fertilize it.  We use some custom mixed soil and have some slow release fertilizers such as Osmocote that we recommend so feel free to give us a call and we can talk you through the right amount for the size of the plant.  It’s very important not to give them too much food, they hate that.

So look into these incredibly low maintenance succulents.  We find the bigger the plant the better and more impactful design-wise but whatever the size, they are an easy and enjoyable way to keep green in the house all winter long.  And because they take virtually no water all winter, you get to make a statement about sustainability as well as design.

Yours in the love of all things green,

The Fat Plant Society

http://www.thefatplantsociety.com

Succulents and Moss: The Sustainable Cost Saving Solutions for Green Design

It is not exactly “breaking news” to make the statement that environment has a direct bearing on creativity, productivity, and mood. There are oodles of articles on office design and how to design an office to the benefit or detriment to creativity.  In fact, I bet you can quickly rattle off the top five things that create stress in a given environment.  High levels of noise are always at the top of the list of complaints, be it an office/work environment, restaurant, or hotel.

Ever left a restaurant because it was too noisy?

Ever tried to conduct a business meeting in a loud, crowded coffee shop or workspace?

And for many a business, the bigger challenge is how to create a welcoming, beautiful environment that stimulates productivity and creative thinking without incurring expensive, ongoing maintenance.  Whether an office, restaurant, or hotel lobby, mitigating noise can be a challenge.  Enter succulents and moss.

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We love the work of Misako Inaoka of Kyoto, Japan.  He began working with moss an art material but as is clear from the photo above, the art also serves a utilitarian, noise-dampening purpose as well.  The benefit of real preserved moss is that it is zero maintenance.

Moss has become incredibly popular in public and private spaces in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates for its beauty and cost-savings.  As noted in an article in The National, the benefits extend far beyond beauty.  “Beyond aesthetics, the beauty of the moss wall is that it hardly requires any upkeep. The lichen feeds on moisture and other particles in the air and does not require any photo-stimulation, so you don’t have to worry about watering or adjusting light levels. What’s more, Sag walls absorb sound, repel dust (so are naturally self-cleaning) and can be attached to any surface.”

IMG_7214Succulents are another cost-saving solution to introducing green into a space because they are hearty, require very little water, and can be propagated easily so taking cuttings from the original plant and propagating them can be a nice “supply-chain” to ensure the succulents always look great.

We supply succulents to more than one local restaurant and the plants hold up against the public remarkably well.  We check on them periodically and occasionally we need to replace one or two of the plants but for the most part, the plants are maintenance free for our customers because we offer three to six month care contracts and we happily take care of any replacement plants for free (because we propagate our own of course)!

Our customers tell us they love the flexibility of both our moss and our succulent products.  They hold up well, they look wonderful and there are numerous color options for both moss and succulents so we can tailor the planters, moss frames, and moss installations to fit seamlessly with the existing decor.  The added benefits of sound absorption and little to no maintenance are the other key selling points.  Last but certainly not least, moss and succulents are also very calming; you get to bring nature indoors, without having to worry about maintenance.   We make vertical gardens as well but we coach our customers on vertical planters because though equally beautiful, they do require more maintenance and may not be the best option for public spaces or people who don’t have the time to dedicate to pruning and watering the vertical frames.

HolidayplanterIt is also inexpensive and easy to dress up the succulent planters and moss frames for the holidays by adding spruce, pine, and holly and once the holidays are over, simply remove those adornments and the succulent will continue to look fantastic all winter long.  See, succulent go dormant in the winter months (in winter climates of course) and caring for succulents in the months of January, February and March are even easier—they only need to be watered every four to six weeks.  As long as the plants are getting enough light, they will happily “hang out” until spring comes.

So don’t think that providing the calming and welcoming feeling of real greenery will break your bank.  With the little to zero maintenance options now available, you can create a “wow-worthy” space for little money and even less work.

We do offer free consultations so don’t hesitate to give us a call.

http://www.thefatplantsociety.com

816. 933. 9509.

 

 

 

We Know Everyone is Feeling Anxious and Sad, Maybe This Can Help Just a Little: The Fat Plant Rx

There is no getting around the fact that virtually all Americans are managing an inordinate amount of stress at present.  Even those of us that have been fortunate enough not to have been directly impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria or the horrific mass murder in Las Vegas (the worst mass murder in U.S. history), the refrains of these tragedies play over and over in our minds and create significant anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.

These intense emotions seem to come in waves and just when we start to think we are okay, another wave hits (Hurricane reference intentional).  We admire those who have survived and persevere despite their own losses and we ache for those who are gone.

 

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The North Atlantic as seen from the coast of Denmark.

 

You see, here at The Fat Plant Society, we have been feeling really helpless amidst the destruction, chaos, and violence of late, and while the urge to go to bed, pull the covers over our heads and hide or scream at the top of our lungs is quite pronounced, we have this business to run.  And because we are human, we (like everyone else) have additional issues to contend with on top of the stress our nation is under– from losing a parent to chronic illness, to how the heck to pay for health care.  This is life.  It can be tough.

These are tough times for all of us.

And nearly unbearable times for others.

We wonder how others find the strength to keep going.

We have found that for us, it is the plants themselves that have been helping us through these terribly tough times.

We certainly do not purport that buying and caring for plants is the penultimate answer to these horrors and tragedies, but we would like to humbly submit a way to help manage that stress and anxiety (if only a little) and we even have the science to back it up.   

So we gave it some thought, talked it over, and decided that we wanted to share just five reasons that going to work and getting our hands dirty has not been tortured, in fact, it has been immensely helpful in coping and here’s why:

 

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Echeveria in Bloom in our garden at home

Plants connect to us living things and take us outside of ourselves.      

We have noted our inclination is to feel that we are alone in the anxiety, panic, and feeling of helplessness–that our own worries and concerns (from the great, big, scary, world to the financial stress of building a business) are winning.  The reality is that today, pretty much every American feels that way and that is how it is likely going to be for a while.  So the task is to not beat ourselves up for feeling anxiety but to find a way to get outside our own heads for a while.  Essentially, plants and live moss help us relax and get outside of ourselves.

 

Nurturing is good for our self-esteem 

Everyone gets a self-esteem boost from nurturing–be it a child, an idea, a business, or a wonderfully simple plant.  Plants are incredibly easy to nurture and we can see the benefits of our nurturing almost instantaneously. Plants help us relax.

Plants contain microbes that fight depression 

Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance that scientists have been studying and it has been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil stimulates serotonin production, which makes us happier as well as more relaxed.  As the folks at Gardening Know How note, “studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.”

You can read the full post on the Gardening Know How Website: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm

Gardening keeps us in touch with the cycle of life through ritual 

The bright minds at Psychology Today understand the human need for ritual and perhaps that need is amplified in times of great stress, anxiety, fear, and sadness.  As Sarah Rayner notes in her article, Petal Power: Why Is Gardening So Good For Our Mental Health?, 

” Rituals can help us work through difficult emotions, including grief, and gardening is a form of ritual involving both the giving of life and acknowledgment of its end; it’s symbolic of regeneration. It’s no coincidence we create gardens of remembrance and mark the scattered ashes and graves of our loved ones with roses, shrubs, and trees; by doing so we’re acknowledging that from dust we all come and to dust we return.”  

This is in no way meant to diminish the horrendous grief so many of us are feeling but ritual can be a means of helping to process that grief…in due time, of course. 

Plants are actually social and help us work toward a shared goal

All the way back in 2003, Mental Health Nursing Researchers concluded that for those in mental health units and prison, the social nature of group gardening is beneficial because it centers on collective skills and aspirations. At the same time, caring for a plant and garden is wonderfully individual and allows for the use of creative skills along with the nurturing skills mentioned above.  We have noted that when we work together to meet a project deadline and ensure all of the plants look their very best, we foster a sense of team that is inspiring and energizing in a way that we just can’t find without our human and plant connections.

 

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Handmade Succulent Crate 

Plants need us and they give back so willingly and freely 

Without our daily care, the plants will literally die.  Honestly, sometimes that is reason alone to get out of bed, even on the toughest day.  The plants are sweet and innocent and they need that water and food and we could no more neglect them than we could neglect a child or a dog in our care.  But they give back in the form of oxygen and brave, inspiring, constant growth.  They keep growing and changing and that is what we aspire to do as well.  Plants remind us there are no constants.  And we like to think, optimistically, that growth and positive change is always attainable.

So as we extend our very most heartfelt condolences to those who have lost in immeasurable ways of late, we very humbly submit that caring for plants may help, just a little, as we try and process the tragedies all around us, all the time, every day.

However corny or trite is might be to quote the immensely talented Tom Petty the day after his death, this song, like the plants, sings of hope.  We are all in need of hope right now.  Thank you, Tom.  Rest your soul.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free

Thank you for reading.  Don’t lose hope.

-Morten and Kasey

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Why Moss Installations Can Save Businesses up to $3K a Year (and Inspire Creativity)

IMG_8542Living walls and other green accoutrements have come to the forefront of office and retail design for a number of reasons.  Firstly, plants and greenery of all types are beautiful and make every environment more welcoming and attractive.   Secondly, we all remember elementary school biology that taught us that plants eat CO2 and provide O2. However, not all businesses have the staff, the time, or the budget to take care of them.   We had already worked to be as sustainable and low-maintenance as possible with our handmade succulent planters that seldom need watering but plants, at times, do need to be replaced and while that is not a financial burden for us since we propagate many of our own succulents, it is a problem for business owners and retailers for whom staff are already plenty busy with other tasks.

The Fat Plant Society business model is heavily focused on sustainability.  We had already worked to be as sustainable and low-maintenance as possible with our handmade succulent planters that seldom need watering but plants, at times, do need to be replaced and while that is not a financial burden for us since we propagate many of our own succulents, it is a problem for business owners and retailers for whom staff are already plenty busy with other tasks.

HogsheadKC.MossWall.Install.7To figure out how to “green-up” office and retail spaces in a more cost-effective manner, we took our cue from a trip to the Valley of the Sun last fall.  We stopped into Plant Solutions in Scottdale, Arizona owned by Joe Zazeera and Pat Mahan who had already struggled with the problem and developed the Moss Wall Art solution. “It was 2009, the height of the Great Recession.” says Joe, “Our clients loved the living walls we designed, but a lot of them were reluctant to take on the watering and maintenance costs because their business was uncertain.” Using sustainably harvested and naturally preserved moss, lichens, ferns, and downed wood, they developed a set of proprietary artisanal techniques that bring the sensation of nature into a wide range of interiors — at four-fifths the cost of a living wall.

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Our pal Joe Zazeera of Plant Solutions puts it so well; “We think of these as biomimicry art pieces, mimicking the outdoors we would rather be playing in, and connecting us to our human nature and innate love of living things,” says Joe. “Each one is a like a little miniature shrine at the edge of the wilderness between our offices and our primeval nature.”

Companies that add natural features to their workplace save more than $3,000 per employee per year thanks to the air-cleaning quality of zero maintenance, real moss. The plants use CO2 and circulate the air in the room, removing VOCs from the ambient air. This reduces the negative health effects associated with VOCs and poor indoor air. Moss walls, therefore, improve air quality through photosynthesizing; absorbing CO2.

On a psychological level, plants can provide a calming effect as well as increase worker efficiency. Quantifying a psychological benefit from plants in a person’s space is somewhat difficult. However, qualitative reports of a general improvement in mood and calmness are common in measuring effects of plants on human psychology.

At The Fat Plant Society, we design each wall and frame to spec so each creation is true, one-of-a-kind, plant art. Plus, they are an affordable, maintenance-free way to bring outdoor beauty and calm into our indoor spaces, creating an atmosphere that connects us to nature—and helps us thrive, collaborate, and be more creative along the way.

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http://www.thefatplantsociety.com

B2B Marketing CAN Be Creative, Compelling, and Share-Worthy: Key Lessons from Carla Johnson via a B2B Newbie

Fisheye.TruckAs a marketer who has recently found herself in B2B after many years of B2C marketing, not only did I take copious notes while watching Carla Johnson‘s talk at  the BMA KC on January 31, 2017, I started researching and digging around because for the life of me, I still cannot come up with the creative brand that I want to be more creative than…

Let me back up a little for those of you who have not watched her talk in its entirety (seriously, though, take the time to do so because it’s well worth the time investment)! Carla has coined an accurate term that many of us experience in real-life, every day: BRAND DETACHMENT DISORDER.  You know, that brand that you are so sick of hearing about that you turn off and tune out when you hear about them–even when it is second or third hand?  I can name three of those brands easily and without too much thought.  But the challenge that Carla Johnson issues is much tougher (for me anyway)–she challenges us to fill in the following sentence:

“I CAN be more creative than (Insert Favorite, Best, and Most Creative Company Here).”

And who doesn’t love a good challenge?  But how the heck do I get there?  Carla has a road map for that and I am going to provide you with my current experiences as a concrete example of how to suss out a highly creative and compelling campaign that will not only engage your current and potential customers but will also endear you to them.

We have to start with the premise that Carla Johnson starts us off with,

“Creativity is something everybody can do at any time.”

Okay, I believe that and while it may take work, it is highly likely that I can be creative in promoting this valuable business to the businesses who need our services.  But it gets even better than that because I have the excellent fortune of working for a B2B business that is incredibly interesting, fast-paced, and compelling.  Additionally, there are so many exciting and gripping stories that I can’t see how one wouldn’t’ find what we do compelling.

“Connect the dots” between our services and the people I need to reach.   

For the most part, the people I need to reach are television producers, many of whom have been in the game for many years and have seen, well, a heckuva a lot.   IMG_7062Again, I was taking copious notes during Carla Johnson’s talk so I know that after considering how to best connect the dots between our services (giant Ku Band and C Band satellite trucks and a guarantee that every live-shot and satellite media tour will come off without a hitch) and the television producers I need to reach, I must now consider what those television producers are worrying about how the services my company provides can solve that problem.

*Lightbulb comes on* Ratings!  Producers care about ratings.  We can help them increase their ratings.  Now I just need to engage them. *Gulp*

FEAR kills creativity. 

Carla Johnson expounds on that statement and provides fantastic examples but the gist is that I not only have to consider my own fear and how it may be crippling or stifling my creativity, I need to remember that a highly creative, “out-of-the-box” campaign may also be frightening to company leadership.  But Carla has an answer for that and one that I can back up with evidence,

“Small steps with creativity = Huge Outcomes.” 

Remember that even if the step you want to take is a giant leap (like a Red-Rover, Red-Rover leap), the organization and the audience might not be ready for that leap so start with a small step.  Execute a small creative leap (for free through your owned media) and track the results.  The data will speak for itself.  If the creative baby -step doesn’t work, re-work it and try again.  I can actually hear Bill Murray from “What About Bob?” talking to the camera during the Good Morning America interview, “I couldn’t be happier about ‘Baby-Steps.”

“Inspiration can come from anywhere.”

As Bob would say, “it’s the horse-sense of it all!”  Yes, creativity can come from anywhere and for many of us, thinking on those creative lines does not stop when you pack it in for the day.  Creativity needs to be nurtured and whether it’s watching the series Abstract on Netflix or reading the Wall Street Journal cover to cover, there are ways to seek out and further develop your creative sensibilities.  I would humbly add that being a good listener can also aid in honing creativity.  I find I learn and observe differently when I keep my mouth shut.

“Creativity is a muscle.” 

The creative muscle, like all muscles, gets stronger with use.  Many of us train our brains as we *ahem* get longer in the tooth with tools like Lumosity and the New York Times crossword puzzle, so why not exercise the creative muscle by visiting a museum, watching the best live shots on YouTube from the past three years, or flipping through an anthology of great American artists and their work?

“The content should pay for itself.” 

Having spent much of my career with a meager budget, that statement gave me so much pause that I rewound to make sure I heard it correctly.  Carla Johnson was talking about one of her clients who feels that content should be so compelling that it is shared by virtue of its intrinsic value.  In fact, he would prefer to not pay to get the content out in the world, he would rather the content stand on its own merits. I couldn’t agree more!  Earned publicity through owned channels is a brilliant goal and an excellent test of the creative mettle if you will.

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While I am still searching for the company that I want to be “more creative than…” I am optimistic, confident, and inspired that creativity within B2B is achievable!  Thanks Carla Johnson!

 

 

 

Hey Marketers! Bet You Didn’t Know Satellite Uplink was an Option…

As a PR professional, I have spent many years organizing press conferences, company-wide meetings, and, of course, trying to get the word out about a given subject to local and national news outlets.  I have recently had an opportunity to see (up close and personal) the value of satellite communications including the satellite media tour.  In 2017, a world of wireless communications, HD television and global access to the Internet, there is another option that provides incredible advantages: satellite communications.

My friends at Telesat spell it out extremely well and answer two key questions:

Why does the satellite industry continue to grow? When is satellite the best solution?

  • Cost Effectiveness – Cost of satellite capacity does not increase with the number of users/receive sites, or with the distance between communication points. Whether crossing continents or staying local, satellite connection cost is distance insensitive.
  • Global Availability – Communications satellites cover all land masses and there is growing capacity to serve maritime and even aeronautical markets. Customers in rural and remote regions around the world who cannot obtain high-speed Internet access from a terrestrial provider are increasingly relying on satellite communications.
  • Superior Reliability – Satellite communications can operate independently from terrestrial infrastructure. When terrestrial outages occur from man-made and natural events, satellite connections remain operational.
  • Superior Performance – Satellite is unmatched for broadcast applications like television. For two-way IP networks, the speed, uniformity and end-to-end control of today’s advanced satellite solutions are resulting in greater use of satellite by corporations, governments, and consumers.
  • Immediacy and Scalability – Additional receive sites, or nodes on a network, can readily be added, sometimes within hours. All it takes is ground-based equipment. Satellite has proven its value as a provider of “instant infrastructure” for commercial, government and emergency relief communications.
  • Versatility and More – Satellites effectively support on a global basis all forms of communications ranging from simple point-of-sale validation to bandwidth-intensive multimedia applications. Satellite solutions are highly flexible and can operate independently or as part of a larger network.

The satellite media tour (SMT) fits neatly under the sub-heading of “Versatility and More” and when I came across this article by Alex Hinojosa, SVP at 4media Group Inc, I was thrilled to see that I am not the only one that sees the value and PR potential of the SMT.

 

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Freebird Communications Truck outside Applebee’s International Headquarters 

As Alex writes, “A satellite media tour (SMT) remains an effective public relations tactic that can often generate high-quality results that matter to your clients. However, an SMT in 2016 is very different from 10 years ago, back when we all had MySpace accounts. Today, across the PR services spectrum, it’s all about the PESO—the Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned model—and the same is true for an SMT.”

 

In my capacity as chief marketer for Freebird Communications Inc., I have recently had the chance to see the benefits our customers find in the SMT and in SNG (Satellite News Gathering) in that there is no more cost-effective option for reaching a vast audience be it your own staff and shareholders to your current and potential customers.  Plus, there is an authenticity to live communications that one just doesn’t find in recorded videos or even podcasts.  Don’t get me wrong, those formats have great value but from conferences to corporate news, the ability to communicate nation-wide or world-wide at such an affordable price can engender significant loyalty and move an organization leaps and bounds in one, fell, swoop.

 

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Freebird Communications live shot for Fox Business News

 

Take this example from Ernst and Young  who turned to News Generation for assistance in reaching corporate decision makers in advance of tax season:

News Generation targeted business and general news programs and networks with a goal of securing 20 high-quality interviews.  The satellite media tour setting was ideal for this topic, as it gave television anchors the ability to customize their questions.  “Given that taxes are one of the more complicated subjects, stations enjoyed the ability to ask follow up questions and delve deeper into particular topics of interest to their viewers.”

The satellite media tour reached more than one million viewers across twenty info-filled, consumer-friendly interviews.  Nationally, an interview aired on First Business which has 108 affiliates across the country, including WMGM, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and KCRA, the NBC affiliate inSacramento.  Fox Affiliates in Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St. Paul conducted interviews, as did NBC affiliates inDenver, Albuquerque-Santa Fe, andDaytonOhio.

We, marketers, know that purchasing that kind of exposure through an on-going campaign would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Coupled with the fact that we marketers (and PR) folk are all too aware that our current media contacts are ever-changing and keeping an updated media list is a daily challenge, reaching that many viewers through that many stations is not an insignificant feat!

SMT is not only for large, multi-national corporations like Ernst and Young, either--read about the remarkable work by Moldow Communications out of New Jersey.  They helped the Asthma and Allergy Foundation achieve their goals and won an award for the work to boot.  Having spent much of my career in non-profits, I can attest that budgets are never exorbitant.  So, Satellite Communication and Satellite Media Tours are much more affordable than you might think. Depending on your goals, the ROI can far exceed the expense.  

What Does It Mean to be a Global Marketer? (And other complicated questions)

I had listened to Jeff Julian’s interview with Jason  A. Miller earlier this month and I remember getting extremely twitchy and jumping up and down because it is such a gosh darn, interesting topic.  I just listened to it again and started bouncing in my chair because Mr. Miller has a very sweet gig and I am envious of his adventure.  He is doing incredible work for LinkedIn and Mr. Miller, I can tell you from personal experience that I saw LinkedIn explode in Denmark in the summer and fall of 2015.  From this writer’s perspective, if you are a professional and you are not on LinkedIn, you are truly missing more opportunities than I can spell out in one post.  I also started talking to my desktop PC because I might have a couple of ideas to add having recently lived and worked in Copenhagen for the second time and can still vividly recall my time in the workforce in Bejing, China (but that is a post unto itself)!  If you haven’t listened to the podcast or watched the video as of yet, please do because not only will you get a taste of Mr. Miller’s experiences in London and his expertise in global marketing,  you will also be treated to some primo 80s movie and music references.

Global marketing has always fascinated me because it is so tough to achieve effectively.  I used to teach Principles of Advertising and always included a unit on global advertising because it invariably elicited a chuckle from students to see how often a concept simply, doesn’t translate.  img_2225But what does it mean to be a global marketer?  Does it mean that you develop campaigns that are always global in scope?  Does it mean you have to have a working cultural knowledge of all the countries in which you market (which would be awfully difficult)? Do you tailor each campaign for the specific market that may be a market within a market (as is the case for rural Denmark)? The answer is: all of the above and Mr. Miller nails it when he says, “You can’t have a global marketer who lives in the U.S.”

Mr. Miller reminded me about Pam Didner who is a wealth of knowledge in global marketing.  I remember chatting with my brother in law (a creative for the Danish Lottery) about the marketing of the lottery in our respective countries and telling him about Ms. Didner and the fantastic book she wrote on Global Marketing that I read shortly after it came out.  Ms. Didner is incredibly sharp and addresses everything from the development of global content to how to scale a campaign.  There are, however, some things that one can only learn through experience and Jeff Julian and Jason Miller both aptly address the value of not only living but working in another country.

As they discuss, some of the most apparent differences are the ever-present newspapers and magazines!  Print is still quite popular in much of Europe and in many countries, a great deal of value is placed on rich, artistic, images that harken back to the “golden age” of advertising depicted in Mad Men.  That is not to say that marketers in Europe aren’t embracing other marketing practices including data-gathering to enhance the customer experience–they just do it in a slightly different way.

img_2088Here’s an example: I did all of my cosmetic shopping at Matas in Copenhagen and signed up for their rewards program and like all rewards programs, I began receiving emails from Matas about sale products.  In fact, I am still getting emails from Matas because now that I am back in the U.S., I am not able to unsubscribe because in order to log into my “Matas Profile,” I have to verify my identity using a code that is being sent to my old mobile number in Copenhagen that no longer exists.  Very clever Matas!  This “profile” is protected for very important reasons, though:

  1. Due to different laws and practices than in the U.S., Matas does not utilize my purchase patterns to market to me.
  2. As the Matas consumer, they ask me to go in and set up my profile (in great detail I might add)
  3. When I visit the Matas Website, a pop-up informing me that it is collecting cookies appears as is the case with nearly all Websites in Denmark.  In fact, some of the warnings are so explicit that I actually deny them access!

Contrast my experience with that of CVS–CVS knows everything about me!  I signed away all of my rights to privacy in that regard when I signed up for the CVS rewards program.  CVS sends me coupons for the specific products I use and frankly, I find the program very useful.  The degree of personalization that CVS offers me would horrify most Danes in addition to the fact that the degree of data gathering we do here in the U.S. is actually illegal and/or considered unethical in Denmark.  And that brings us back to Julian and Miller’s point that it is very difficult to truly grasp cultural differences if you have never lived outside these 5o states.

So what can one do to get closer to a global perspective or (as in my case) try to hold on to the lessons I learned living abroad?

  • Watch BBC and Al Jazeera World News (in English) to see what stories from the U.S. are resonating around the world and why and to stay informed about the political climates and conflicts in other countries that affect global markets every single day.
  • Watch television and films from other countries (with subtitles) to get a sense of another culture, how they use visual imagery, what slang they use (and how often they use American slang and profanity), and what type of marketing is depicted on billboards and through commercials that are easily accessed online.
  • Test your assumptions with your global contacts.  I am lucky in that I am married to a European and when I was working in Copenhagen, I would run my jokes and anecdotes by him first to see if they would work with my Danish audience.

As Mr. Miller points out, marketers are creatives but ensuring that our creativity translates globally is not only a skill, it is an art.  An art that requires a larger perspective and intentionality.

My advice is to work to develop a global perspective even if you never plan on living abroad.  As a marketer, you are likely to find yourself in a global arena at some point be it through a global enterprise or marketing conference abroad and you want to be informed.   That’s just my advice but as the slogan for Matas goes, “Good Advice Makes the Difference.”

 

 

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