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Talking Points Podcast: Should Brands Really Have an Opinion?

Fun show this week. Kevin and I talked about the #PlayMoreMN campaign, why brands need to have an opinion (big topic!), and the rough-and-tumble life of today’s blogger (insert sarcasm here).

Hope you enjoy the show!

SHOW NOTES – October 15, 2015

“How to Work with Journalists: Straight from a Tribune Panel”


SPOTLIGHT: “#PlayMoreMN case study: Why the “tell us your story” approach is NOT dead”


“Why Your Brand Needs to Have an Opinion”


“Does creating content make you dumb?”


SHOUTOUT: Jen Swanson


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#PlayMoreMN case study: Why the “tell us your story” approach is NOT dead

If you live here in the great state of Minnesota, last week you probably noticed an explosion of tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram pics in your feeds last Wednesday.

That’s because the Children’s Museum of Minnesota unveiled a new one-day campaign (as part of a larger brand revamp) named #PlayMoreMN.

The premise? In our go-go world of email overload, social media addiction and multiple devices, the Children’s Museum is taking a stand (and it’s a good, on-brand stand for them to take): We need our kids to play more.

They asked Minnesotans to do three simple things: 1) Make time to play today. 2) Take a pic or video. 3) Post it to social media with the #PlayMoreMN hash tag.

We’ve seen this movie before, right? And, typically, it doesn’t turn out too well for brands.

It’s hard getting user-generated content from your fans–despite what the “experts” might say.

It’s hard to get your customers to “share their story” on social media.

It’s just not nearly as easy as most people would have you believe.

But, sometimes a brand captures lightning in a bottle and executes the right way.

The Children’s Museum of Minnesota is a perfect example.

Here’s why it worked:

They engaged a key online audience: Mom influencers

Samara IG

The Children’s Museum actively engaged a slew of mom “influencers” across Minnesota. People like Samara Postuma (kids pictured above), Melissa Berggren, and Jen Jamar. These are Moms I’m guessing have visited the Museum many times with their kids. They’ve probably talked about it online before. I’m sure the Children’s Museum has noticed that. Maybe they did some outreach before the event (which would have been smart). Maybe they didn’t. Regardless, this loyal audience showed up for them on Wednesday. And they were key to the success of the campaign.

They engaged their corporate partners and donors

The Children’s Museum’s corporate partners showed up big time on Wednesday. Companies like Cub Foods and Best Buy were posting across different social platforms with their support.


Other non-profit organizations were also posting in support of #PlayMoreMN. Orgs like the United Way and Family Fun Twin Cities.

United Way CEO LI UW IG


Even media partners were showing their support.



Another smart move by Children’s. Take advantage of ALL your audiences. In this case, corporate, non-profit and media partners provided a HUGE lift for #PlayMoreMN throughout the day, as many of these accounts has tens of thousands of followers.

Active engagement–in spots

Most likely, The Children’s Museum had a few key goals with this campaign. They wanted to drive awareness for their organization–no doubt there. Awareness for the “cause” (playing more with your kids). Traffic to their web site. And, most likely, some form of engagement metric (RTs, mentions, favorites, etc.). With so many people posting pics and sharing videos of their kids and families, acknowledging, responding and engaging would only make sense, right? And, you saw Children’s show up consistently–throughout the day.



It was a lot of traffic, so most likely Children’s may have had a hard time keeping up. While they showed up fairly consistently throughout the day, there were bunches of tweets, Instagram pics and Facebook posts that did not receive responses. And, that’s probably OK. But, it did represent a missed opportunity to engage the community that much more. Most likely just a resource issue–remember, we are talking about a non-profit organization.

Many opportunities for fans to engage and learn

My favorite part of this campaign is that it really wasn’t just a social campaign–it was a DIGITAL campaign.

Just look at the site where Children’s was driving traffic–what do you see?

Childrens web 1

Right at the top, you see a short video designed to set the stage for the entire campaign.

Childrens web 2

Scroll down and you see the easy-to-follow rules and ways to engage with #PlayMoreMN. But, Children’s didn’t stop there. They added even more ways to engage with the campaign–see the #PlayMoreMN tattoos. And, a more “official” way to engage by taking the pledge (read: We will send you information after you take this pledge! :).

Childrens web 3

And, lastly, Children’s took the opportunity to educate parents about why “play” is important for their kids. A slew of posts around the topic show up at the bottom of the site. Smart. Curating their best “play” content around this specific topic on this specific day.

All in all, a lot to like about what The Children’s Museum of Minnesota did with the #PlayMoreMN campaign. A big kudos to Bob Ingrasssia and Sara Kerr! And, for showing us all that the “tell us your story” approach to social media marketing isn’t quite dead just yet.

It just needs thoughtful execution.

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7 creative ways to promote your company’s corporate volunteer efforts

When it comes to corporate volunteerism and social media, isn’t this what we normally see from brands?

Pella Volunteer

Good story. Great, model employee. Driving traffic to the web site. All good things. Except, the Pella folks forgot to amplify the content. 637 views and 36 likes ain’t gonna cut it folks.

We also see posts like this from the Home Depot:

Home Depot Volunteers

What is Home Depot trying to do here? What’s the desired action? To me, this seems like a straight information post. Great, but what do I “do” with it?

Posts like these are all too common when it comes to corporate volunteerism and social media for big brands.

Instead of posting photos and stories like we see above, community relations folks should be asking themselves one simple question:

  • What do I want from our social media activity? More volunteers? Employee engagement? Enhanced brand reputation?

Of course, the answer is probably “all three.”

What community relations folks really want (from a marketing metrics perspective) is:

  • More traffic to key volunteer pages on the corporate site asking employees to volunteer.
  • More likes, comments and shares.
  • More impressions.

Easier said than done though, right? So, I thought I’d share seven ideas for how community relations folks can work to squeeze a bit more out of their social involvement, while driving toward some of those key goals we talked about above:

#1: What about allowing employee volunteers to “takeover” your corporate Instagram account for the day during volunteer events?

#onlyinmn 2

One of my favorite local Instagram campaigns is #onlyinmn. Essentially all Explore MN does is enlist the thousands of Instagrammers from across the state of Minnesota to tell its story for them. Simple, but brilliant.

One execution of that campaign was its 10-Day Minnesotans project which asked a select number of influencers to visit Minnesota for a week and document their experience on Instagram. What a great way to give folks a different perspective on our great state!

Why couldn’t brands do something similar with volunteers? Allow a select number of volunteers to “takeover” your corporate Instagram account for the day and share their volunteer experiences–through THEIR eyes! Of course, you’d have to set up guidelines and parameters with the employees. But, what a great way to engage key employee volunteers AND tell your story, from a unique perspective!


#2: What about producing your own interview series live from volunteer events?

Target Periscope

Remember the #LilyforTarget launch? I blogged about it earlier this year. One interesting part of that launch–Target was experimenting with Periscope as a tool to give fans exclusive content from NYC during the launch.

Couldn’t companies use Periscope to help give employees and other volunteers an inside glimpse into corporate volunteer activities? Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to shine the light on the corporate volunteerism work? Wouldn’t that make it warmer? Wouldn’t it bring some of these compelling stories to life?

#3: What about broadcasting volunteer rallies so far-flung and virtual employees can participate and feel involved?

Or, what about broadcasting your volunteer rallies via Periscope so remote employees and those working in satellite offices can experience what it’s like in a virtual setting? Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to include those audiences?


#4: What about live streaming unique volunteer perks so even more volunteers feel engaged?

U.S. Bank is the title sponsor for the new Vikings stadium here in Minnesota. Recently, a friend and colleague who work for USB got a tour of the facility. Wouldn’t that be a great perk for volunteers? Couldn’t you live stream the tour and promote that to your existing volunteers as a nice way to let them experience that virtually as well?


#5: Could you orchestrate virtual experiences of unique volunteer events as a way to recruit new volunteers?


Don’t think companies are using virtual reality yet? Think again. General Mills recently used Oculus Rift headsets to give University of Minnesota-Carlson School of Management students a tour of their corporate campus in Golden Valley. Couldn’t companies do the same thing with volunteer experiences? What about using VR to simulate volunteer experiences and then use that to recruit new volunteers?


#6: Could you identify your star volunteers—and help them tell their volunteerism stories via LinkedIn?

John Foraker LI United Way CEO LI

With so few employees using LinkedIn Publishing as a storytelling tool, couldn’t companies hand-pick star volunteers, and provide a bit of coaching and assistance in helping them tell their volunteer stories there? Wouldn’t that be a different way to reach other employees–and prospective volunteers? Wouldn’t that work better than publishing an informational post (see above) that gets 46 impressions and 2 likes on Facebook?


#7: Could you identify one key executive with a passion for volunteering and help him/her tell their volunteerism story via LinkedIn?

United Way CEO LI

Twin Cities United Way (disclaimer: client) CEO, Sarah Caruso, is one of the few executive leaders I could find in the Twin Cities who is using LinkedIn Publishing. Opportunity, right? Every company has at least one exec who has a certain passion for volunteering. Find that exec, work with them, and encourage them to tell their story for why they volunteer via LinkedIn Publishing (tip: You will probably have to ghost write the post for them). Maybe make it a series that details the executives volunteer experiences over the course of a year?


Just a few ideas to get you thinking. I’m pasting in the full presentation I gave below. Hope this helps stir up some new thoughts to get you thinking differently about how you tell your volunteer stories via social and digital channels!

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Why “I want to get on Buzzfeed!” is replacing “I want to be on Oprah!”

A friend and colleague of mine posted the following on Facebook last Friday:

“Potential new client just said this: Magazines are great but we really want to have online coverage. Magazines have a short life span and everyone is reading news online nowadays and it lives forever. Please focus on that.”

Did that just happen? Are clients really now preferring placements in Buzzfeed, Mashable and other online “publications” rather than more traditional outlets like The New York Times, USA Today and Good Morning America?


The tide may have shifted more than you think.

I have no hard data evidence to back this up, mind you, but I believe more clients ARE thinking this way.

Here’s why:

Online placements = more shareable

Goes without saying, right? A quick click, and readers can share online placements with thousands of friends and family. Pretty tough to share an article in the most recent hard copy of Shape Magazine. I mean, unless you plan on cutting it out and sending it to a friend via U.S. Mail (which, I have done in the not-so-distant past!).

Online placements = more searchable

Interesting post over on Jay Baer’s blog got me thinking more about this. How, in a simple search for Google’s recent Alphabet news, more “op-ed” blog-post like posts came up on page one vs. hard news stories from major mainstream media outlets. Online placements in non-traditional outlets like Buzzfeed and ReadWriteWeb are inherently more searchable than mainstream news articles. Weird–but, may prove to be true.

Online placements = better traffic drivers

Sure, having your brand on Good Morning America is going to drive a spike in awareness for your brand. No question there. But, it’s just that. A spike. And, worse yet, it’s usually a spike that’s tough to measure. And, a spike that may or may not result in sales and traffic to your web properties. At least with an online placement, you have a better chance of generating that traffic via links and other items (bios, if it’s a bylined article, for example).

Online placements = More credibility (believe it or not)

Think about today’s Millennial. They don’t watch Good Morning America. Hell, they’ve probably never heard of GMA! And, hard copy magazines? They’ve never opened one. But, Buzzfeed? Yeah, they read that. Snapchat? They may use the Discover feature to access news. Report after report has shown us Millennials aren’t accessing traditional media as much as their Gen Y and Gen X colleagues. So, if you’re targeting a younger audience, an article in the USA Today might not mean nearly as much as an article in Buzzfeed. Yes, I just wrote that sentence.

photo credit: P1100934 via photopin (license)

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Why are influencers still not disclosing paid relationship? (and why brands should really care)

It’s 2015, and we’re still seeing posts like this:

IG sponsor 1

Big deal, you say. Seems like a perfectly innocuous Instagram post by an “influencer” to me, right?

Let’s look a little closer. While this post doesn’t seem to clearly be affiliated with a sponsor or brand, what about this one?

IG sponsor 2

Now, I can’t say this influencer is getting paid for this post. But the signs lead me to believe otherwise:

  • The same images show up in both posts. Curious.
  • The influencer calls out @Applegate by name. Curious.
  • Both posts include the same Honest Kids drink.

Now, those could be coincidences. Maybe this influencer is just really excited about kids lunches and likes calling out brands by name.

But I’m not buying it.

I think this influencer is getting paid for these posts.

And, they’re not disclosing.

She’s hardly alone.

Here’s another example.

IG sponsor 10

More red flags:

  • Um, you can see the Chevy folks (presumably) taking video of her in one of the shots!
  • Using #grateful in the post – wonder what you’re grateful for!

And one last example:

IG sponsor 4

More red flags:

  • Again, the influencer uses the brand handle. Curious.
  • The influencer also calls out the product by its exact name. Curious.

Now again, could be a coincidence. But again, I highly doubt it.

Another influencer post. Another failure to disclose.

It’s all too common. And, as much as the influencers are at fault, it’s the brands that are going to be financially penalized if they’re caught.

In case you didn’t notice the FTC recently amended its FAQ page earlier this year to include a slew of common questions and answers. The message: You’re on notice, brand folks.

So, what’s a brand marketer to do?

Let’s use the following example and assume you were the marketer working for @Candelles below.

IG sponsor 5

First, make sure to be clear about disclosures from the very beginning.

Once you consummate the relationship financially, that’s a good time to start discussing disclosures with an influencer.

Remember, disclosure doesn’t have to be complicated.

In this case, a simple #Sponsored would have done the trick in this post. Other options: #ad #partnership #parter #client

Make sure you make your request to the influencer in writing.

Get it in an email. Get it in multiple emails. And make sure you save those emails. That’s your paper trail if the FTC comes calling.

Don’t just ask–follow up with the influencer

It’s not just enough to get your request in writing to the influencer (although that’s a damn good start). Follow up and ask the influencer to disclose. In this case, I would have sent an email the second after I saw this post to the influencer, asking them to amend the post to include #Sponsor somewhere in it.

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