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The campaign approach to content–and how it’s killing brands (you can thank Barbie)

Oh you remember the blitz back in late June. “Entrepeneur Barbie” was everywhere.

Including LinkedIn. Predominantly, LinkedIn, actually.

The new tagline: If you can dream it, you can be it.


Fans could follow Barbie on LinkedIn for business inspiration (don’t laugh), news about her company (what?), and social media updates (I can’t wait to hear what Barbie has to say on social media!!!!!).

I’m hardly alone in my skepticism–see what Forbes had to say about Entrepeneur Barbie.

The whole thing had a huge campaign feel to it. And, according to Barbie/Mattel, since Entrepeneur Barbie was going to be all over LinkedIn now, I should expect a steady stream of content from her, right?

The business inspiration.

The company news.

For God’s sakes, the social media updates!!!!!!!

And what do you think happened?

Not more than two months in and we’ve already seen Entrepeneur Barbie’s content bubble burst.

After a flurry of posts in late June/early July, Babs has only posted three times since then.

And those posts have been pure PR playing up media stories Barbie has been featured in lately.

Oh Barbie, how you disappoint me.

Where is the business inspiration?

Where is the company news? (OK, ONE piece of company news)

Where are the social media updates?!?!?!!??! (I want to know what’s up with you, Barbie!)

I know we’re only a couple months into this, Babs, but the whole thing wreaks of agency campaign approach to me.

Let’s recap, shall we:

* Big, splashy launch. Did I mention Barbie was everywhere in late June?

* Extensive media coverage. Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider. The list is long.

* Big content push. Barbie made 16 updates on LinkedIn in those first few weeks.

Sounds like a campaign launch to me. And, that’s fine. In fact, Mattel did a great job with the launch–again BARBIE WAS EVERYWHERE!

Except, we didn’t see or hear much from Barbie AFTER the campaign launch.

And that’s too bad.

Companies like Mattel put hundreds of thousands of dollars into a launch like this, only to let the momentum slip away month by month because the long-term content strategy dried up.

Now, there are probably a host of reasons for this type of behavior. Money dried up. Lack of long-term vision. Competing priorities internally (or changing priorities).

Regardless, feels like a missed opportunity for Mattel. And, sadly, a movie we’ve seen a number of times before.

So, the next time you’re planning that big product launch, or big content push, take a few moments to think about the long-term content effect for the brand, and your team.

Where are we going to come up with the content?

Who’s going to produce it?

How often are we going to post?

Toward what specific and measurable goal?

I can’t believe I’m saying this. It’s 2014 folks. Haven’t we learned by now?

How to avoid the content “click-flu”

I wish I had come up with that term: “click flu.”

It’s a term coined by Jake Athey in this NextWeb post. And, he shares some interesting analysis in the post.


His rationale: Companies are focusing too much on “snackable” content across social channels–to the point that they’re disappointing customers and potential customers and damaging brand reputations.


He goes on to cite some pretty interesting facts:

* Long-form articles (3,000-10,000 words) rack up far more social shares than those snackable content pieces (according to the HuffPo)

* There is 16 times more content UNDER 1,000 words than there is content OVER 2,000 words

Interesting fodder for discussion, right? I thought so–which is why Kevin Hunt and I discussed this post in our weekly Talking Points Podcast (see full podcast and show notes below).

While Athey is right about the “click flu”, the reality is long-form content doesn’t apply to every brand and every situation. Sometimes, snackable content is the answer.

But, generally speaking, I think Athey is on to something here. Brands have swung so far to the side of short-form content that they’ve forgotten all about those pieces of long-form content that can be so valuable to customers and prospects.

I just had a conversation with a company yesterday–an organization that lives in the B2B world and thrives on innovation and thought leadership. One glance at their social accounts showed me a lot of that snackable content. In fact, it was almost ALL snackable content. Here was a company that PRIDES itself on innovation. Has a rich history of thought leadership and an inventive spirit, and they had very few pieces of content that I would call “long form” content.

No blog posts. No white papers. No decks on Slideshare. No infographics.

Just those small, visually arresting graphics that have become so popular on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

And, it’s hardly the first time we’ve see that.

Has the pendulum swung too far toward snackable content? Listen in to this week’s episode of the Talking Points Podcast for more discussion.


SHOW NOTES – August 28, 2014

“The 2014 Fortune 500 and Social Media: LinkedIn Dominates As Use of Newer Tools Explodes”


“Fanta Pouring Big Bucks Into Vine Video Comedy Series: Seven-Figure Campaign Aimed at Teens”


“Stop giving people the ‘click-flu’: When to start giving a damn about your content”


“7 Content Marketing Metrics You’re Probably Undervaluing”


“Twitter Confirms Changes to What Users See in Their Timelines”


photo credit: MoHotta18 via photopin cc

6 golden rules to responding to client emails

Thanks to my friend Allan Schoenberg, I ran across this Muse post the other day.

While I applaud the concepts and ideas in this post (don’t we all?) the harsh and unfortunate reality is that email still rules all as a business communications tool. And it’s going to be next-to-impossible (fight the good fight!) to get colleagues and clients to adhere to these rules (not to mention the fact that I can’t IM or text most clients).


And since email is still the gold standard of business communications (whether we like it or not), we’re still chained to it. Almost literally in some cases.

But, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be rules around HOW to better use email. Especially when it comes to communicating with our most important audience–our clients (also applies for corporate folks–you still have “clients” even if you’re internal!).

So, what are these golden rules for using email with clients? I came up with five, in no particular order:

#1 — Use the “reply all” with EXTREME DILIGENCE.

I can’t emphasize this one enough. In fact, no amount of emphasis would be enough based on how I’ve seen full-grown adults using the “reply all” function lately. In a business setting, you should be very careful about using that “reply all.” In fact, I would almost argue you should very rarely use it. The classic instance is when you’re copied on a “reply all” with a series of to-dos and bullets within it. Resist the urge to reply all. Instead, only send to those who actually have to know what it is you’re responding to/with.

#2 — Resist sending the “Thanks” email.

I know, as communicators, we want to over-communicate. We want to dot every “I” and cross every “T”. But, by sending all those “Thanks!” emails, you’re just cluttering up your colleagues and clients inboxes. And, in effect, you’re accomplishing nothing. They sent you the note. They assume you read it. Leave it at that, if you have nothing substantive to add.

#3 — Never respond after hours–unless it’s, you know, an actual emergency.

You want balance? Here’s your chance–but you have to set the ground rules early. Resist the urge to respond to emails after hours and on the weekends. Most of it can wait until tomorrow/Monday anyway. Now, in crisis or emergency-type situations, yes, by all means, respond. But I would argue those are pretty few-and-far-between. Once you start responding to emails after the bewitching hour, that colleague or client will expect you to ALWAYS respond to emails after hours. Don’t do it. If you can help it.

#4 — If you’ve traded more than 3 emails, give her a call.

Classic case: You email your colleague about a project and a to-do he’s responsible for. He responds clarifying your question. You respond with more information. He responds that he still has a few questions before he can execute. That’s when you pick up that thing we call a telephone and call your colleague to hash it out. You see, some things are just meant to be managed voice-to-voice. Not everything can or should be done electronically, believe it or not.

#5 — Use your subject lines wisely.

Picked up a good tip early in my career that has served me well over the years: use those subject lines shrewdly. For example, if you have an urgent need and you need to communicate it via email (vs. the phone), use “URGENT–IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED” in the headline. I know this probably seems offensive to some (and for others, it’s a style thing), but I’ve found this to be very useful in spots. Another case: You know your client is mobile, but she’s checking her phone. Why not try to use the subject line as your chance to get her attention and immediate action? Instead of listing out an email full of details which she’ll never have time to read, why not use “Got 5 minutes for quick call to discuss an urgent item?” She’ll see this in scanning her phone (because it’s the subject line) and if she has the time, I’d be willing to bet she’ll respond. Use that subject line wisely.

#6 — For God’s sake, keep it short!

A while back, I had a boss whom I remember sent very short emails to clients. I mean, ridiculously short. And I remember thinking (initially), “that’s odd, why would she send such a short message to a client.” Years later, I know the answer: They have limited time. Most “clients” are stuck in meetings most of the day–or they’re, you know, doing work and stuff. Much like us, they don’t have time for 150 emails over the course of a day. So, the shorter and more succinct you can keep your message, the better. Bonus points for using bullets and one-line sentences when possible.

OK, those are my quick tips. What about you? What’s worked well over the years when it comes to responding to client emails?

photo credit: xJason.Rogersx via photopin cc

Is it all downhill from here?

Yesterday, I turned 42. My “silver” birthday, as my son tells me.

I had a great birthday, too. Maybe my favorite in recent memory.

It started with a surprise round of golf (organized by my wife) with my brother, Mom and Dad. That would have been good enough on its own merits, since I haven’t played golf (amazingly) with those three people all together in probably 6-7 years (we used to play golf together fairly regularly in my younger years). But, I also managed to shoot 73–my best round in 10-plus years.


Follow that up by an afternoon hanging with my kids and wife, dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (Al Vento) and the legendary Hanson chocolate cake. Yeah, it was a good day. A damn good day.

And I couldn’t help but wonder: It this as good as it’s ever going to get?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot from many different angles lately.

Professionally, I’m working for myself doing something I love to do each and every day. I actually look forward to Mondays! Every Monday!

Personally, I have two healthy kids and a wife I love. My parents are healthy. My brother just got married.

And, if I really think about it, I don’t want for anything. We live a pretty modest live. Don’t have a huge house. We drive reasonable cars/trucks. Sure, we go on a few more vacations than the average person, but that’s probably the one thing we spend money on.

So again: Is it all downhill from here? How could it possibly get better?

I don’t say all this to gloat. To throw my good fortune in your face. I certainly know there are many people out there less fortunate than I. And I definitely know how lucky I am.

I say this merely to consider the fact that I may have hit my personal and professional apex in life. And, I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s been a heckuva ride, to be honest.

But, I’m also reaching that point when life will inevitably change.

The older I get, the less attractive I am as a consultant and (potentially, down the road) employee (older employees make more money and are often easier to cut than younger employees who make far less money).

The older I get, the more health issues I’m sure to have.

The older I get, the older my kids get, which means the closer they are to leaving the house, which means….hold up, I don’t even want to think about that yet.

The older I get, the older my parents get, which I also don’t love thinking about.

I realize it’s not really that bleak, but the older you get, the more you think about this kinda stuff.

What if we took out the personal side of things. Professionally: Is this as good as it’s going to get?

I’d like to think the answer to that question is ‘no’, but I’m also smart enough to know that you can never take anything for granted.

So, my approach is as it’s always been: One day at a time. I figure, if I look at life (professionally and personally) that way, I’ll never get ahead of myself. And if I never get ahead of myself, I really can never go too far.

Would love to hear what others think about this–especially from the professional side. For those in their 40s, do you feel like you’re topping out in your career? Or, do you look at your career more as a journey with peaks and valleys?

The Talking Points Podcast: An interview with Lee Odden

I’m posting this week’s Talking Points Podcast even though I didn’t participate in in! I’m up on the North Shore with my family for a few days so my co-host Kevin Hunt took the reins.

It wasn’t the best podcast to miss either as Kevin interviews one of my favorite local bloggers, Lee Odden, owner of TopRank, author, and worldwide speaker.

In the podcast, Lee talks about repurposing content, building an effective content strategy and PR lessons from the much-discussed Ice Bucket Challenge.

I’ll be back next week–in the meantime, hope you enjoy this week’s episode with Lee.


SHOW NOTES – August 21, 2014

“How to Build A Content Marketing Strategy eBook”

“Audience Development for Content Marketing eBook”

Visual Content Marketing Strategy eBook

Lee Odden/”Optimize”

TopRank blog

“American Express’ ‘Favorited’ Tweets Triple With Artist-Created Posts Instagram ‘likes’ are also up”

“Recycle, reuse … re-publish? Publishers make what’s old new again”

“New Business Wire Survey Reveals Daily Use of Corporate Press Releases, Multimedia and Online Newsrooms by Top Media Outlets”

“Ice Bucket Challenge Donations Reach $22.9 Million to The ALS Association”

“ALS Association Donations Top $15 Million Thanks to Ice Bucket Challenge”

“The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’: A case study in viral marketing gold”

“22 People Who Should Have Definitely Not Taken The Ice Bucket Challenge”