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Happy Holidays…Hanson Style!

Each year, instead of an annual Christmas Card, we put together an annual holiday video. It’s so much fun to put together, as it forces us to go back and review our year in pics. Just thought I’d share it here with you today.

Happy holidays from my family to yours–Hanson style!


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Talking Points Podcast: Is Social Media Losing its Human Face?

In this episode of the Talking Points Podcast, Kevin and I discuss trends impacting corporate communicators in 2016, the recent GE #DigitalSnowGlobe campaign and Limelight’s State of the User Experience Report.

SHOW NOTES – December 17, 2015


“Seven Tech Trends Chief Communications Officers Should Track in 2016”



SPOTLIGHT: “GE #DigitalSnowGlobe: Magic of Tech Meets the Holidays”



“Is Corporate Social Media Losing its Human Face?”



“The State of User Experience [Report]”



SHOUTOUT: Nolan Carleton, AT&T


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24 people I’d like to have coffee with in 2016

Almost two years ago, I ranted on this blog about how I was done with coffee meet-ups.

Apparently, a lot of people were listening.

I’ve heard jokes, smart remarks and comments from too many friends to list here about that post over the last year-plus.

Coffee shop

And while I’m not backing off my primary claims (no coffees with folks who want to “pick my brain” and phone calls instead of coffees with students looking for advice), I am making a concerted effort in 2016 to get back to coffees.

With a strategic twist.

The same strategic twist I mentioned in that post almost two years ago.

To make my OWN list and proactively reach out to folks I would really like to get to know better.

Now, that means I have to practice what I preach.

That means, giving people a compelling reason to give me 45 minutes-one hour of their time.

That means when asking, making it really hard for people to say no.

And it means making it easy for people to meet up with me–which means having coffee in a spot that’s convenient for THEM, not me.

And finally, that also means talking about my list publicly as a means of holding myself accountable.

Since I want to keep this fairly manageable, I thought I’d shoot for two coffees per month. That’s 24 a year. Doable, right?

And, I’m going to include a mix of people–those I don’t know at all (but hoping to know better, for various reasons), those I already know (but rarely see), and those that are well off my radar, but people I’ve admired from afar for a long time. (Note: This is not an inclusive list–there are many people NOT on this list that I certainly want to get together with in the year ahead; this is just a start!).

Here’s my list:

People I already know but don’t see enough

Kaitlyn Cox, Sleep Number – Even though I work with Sleep Number, I rarely see or chat with Kait. And that’s not good. Need to correct ASAP (especially since we live close by).

Amanda Brinkman, Deluxe – College classmate (albeit a bit younger than me :) who obviously has a lot on her plate these days. Looking for a way to rope her into the Winona State alumni work I help with.

Nicki Gibbs, Beehive PR – Former manager, and someone I have an immense amount of respect for.

Andrea Kopfmann, Open Arms – One of my favorite people that I rarely see.

Gabby Nelson, Cargill – Former client and friend I now have not seen in more than a year. And that’s a crime against our friendship.

Jeff Shelman, Best Buy – I’d like to call Jeff a “golf buddy”, but I rarely play golf. So, I’ll settle for calling him a “soon-to-be golf buddy” when I get that membership at Midland Hills with him in the future! (no laughing, Jeff)

Ed Heil, Storyteller – May already have this coffee on the books for January!

Kate McRoberts, Evantage Consulting – Former client and someone I think would really be great to get to know a bit better. You know those people who you can talk to naturally and it just feels easy? Yep, that’s Kate.

Molly Snyder, Target – Been trying to grab coffee with Molly for more than a year now. I think we may get lucky in 2016 :)

Dory Anderson, Lemke Anderson – We share a client (Andersen Windows & Doors), so I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dory for the first time. Sounds like I may actually knock this one off this week, too!

Kevin Smith – Former senior director of corporate communications with the Minnesota Twins, I got to know Kevin a bit years ago through his wife. Hoping to reconnect in 2016, despite his Iowa Hawkeye loyalties :)

Joshua Carter, Target – One of the busiest, most “about town” guys I know. If I only had half the style sense of this guy…

Anna White Lovely, Cargill – One of my faves from my old PRSA days.


People I don’t know, but would like to meet

Dane Hartzell, Honeywell – Run in similar circles, but I’ve never actually met Dane. Hoping to fix that in 2016.

Dustee Jenkins, Target – Have always wanted to chat with the head of PR for Target. This one might be my biggest challenge.

Matt Lechner, Park Nicollet – I’ve “known” Matt for years, but never actually met (or, had coffee, at least). Hoping to talk digital health care with Matt at some point next year.

Mike Fernandez, Cargill – A name that keeps popping up from some very smart people I know.

Bob Ingrassia, Children’s Museum – Amazing job with the recent #PlayMoreMN campaign. Would love to sit down with Bob and hear more in the months ahead.

Alyssa Ebel, Explore Minnesota – The face of Explore MN, you’ve most likely seen Alyssa Instagrammin or Facebooking her travels around our great state. And, she’s a new neighbor of mine in So Mpls!

Crystal Schweim, OLSON – Tried coffee in 2015. Didn’t take. Redo for 2016.

Andy Thieman, General Mills – Another guy I’ve heard tremendous things about in previous years, but never had the good fortune to meet. Also: An adjunct at the University of St. Thomas, where I’ve spoken many times before to Betsy Andersen’s classes–so, curious to chat about that, too.

Dave Schwartz, KARE-11 – One of my favorite local sportscasters (it’s the bow tie).

Amy Von Walter, Best Buy – Tough to get on a VP’s radar, but I’m hopeful for 2016.

Stacy Anderson, Anytime Fitness – Even tougher to get on a CMO’s radar, but here’s to trying!

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What I learned from my time on the MIMA board of directors

On Dec. 31, I will retire from the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association board of directors.

That sounds very official, but in reality, I’m just pulling back from commitments that fall outside my top two priorities at the moment (family+business). Sadly, volunteer opportunities like MIMA are falling by the wayside.

After two years of serving on the MIMA BOD, I’m stepping off and giving someone else a chance.

MIMA board

In those two years, I learned a TON. Like the fact that there are people, like one fellow board member who shall remain nameless, who are vehemently opposed to Bogart’s Doughnuts (one of the hottest donut shops in Minneapolis). Didn’t know that two years ago.

Or, the fact that some boards really, really, really don’t like Jimmy John’s. Weird.

Or, that Nathan can actually do that thing above with his left eyebrow Didn’t know that two years ago.

In all seriousness, I learned a lot of great lessons during my two years on the board. And since some of you reading this post might be considering a board spot at some point in the future, I thought I’d share some of those learnings today. Here are six lessons I learned in the last two years on the MIMA BOD:

People are what matter most.

During the 24 board meetings I was a part of, we talked a lot about the “business” of running a professional organization. We talked about finances. We talked about revenue. We talked about how we were going to drive that revenue. But at the end of the day, professional organizations like MIMA run on PEOPLE. People who care about the community around us. People who are passionate about digital marketing–and MIMA. And people who care about doing great work. Getting more people INVOLVED with MIMA is what matters. The more people involved, the more successful MIMA will be in the years ahead. People like Kristin Koonmen, who’s been a volunteer with our Summit committee for a number of years. People like outgoing president, Nathan Eide, who guided our ship for the last two years. People like Jamie Plesser who currently lead our fantastic programming efforts with the help of a rock star committee and people like Mike Bjorkman, Ashley Zeckman, Emily Rinde, Stacy Aase and Tyler Patterson. People like former president, Tim Brunelle, who routinely feeds us ideas and gives us feedback even thought he’s put in more than his fair share of time over the years. People like Whitney Johnson Larson, who leads our fantastic marketing committee. People like Mark Jenson, who I seem to see at almost every MIMA event. People like Kat Duncan, who single-handedly led our sponsorship efforts the last few years. People like former board member, Lauren Melcher, who was instrumental in Summit efforts for many years. Those are the kinds of people who make MIMA, MIMA. And, we have to be constantly looking for these kinds of people. Because THEY will be the future of our organization.

The more things change, the more things stay EXACTLY the same.

Years ago, I sat on the PRSA board here in the Twin Cities–another great experience. But, it’s funny. A lot of the challenges and topics we talked about at the MIMA board meetings were the exact same topics and issues I remember talking about with PRSA. Different angles, obviously. Different audiences. But, the same topics.

People want to be ASKED.

One interesting thing I learned during my time on the PRSA board years ago, held true during my time on the MIMA board. People want to be ASKED to participate. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but trust me, it is. You still want an open call for volunteers in regular communications–you will definitely get good people in through the front door using that approach. But, you’ll have much better success asking people to volunteer. Why? Because people will be flattered. Because those people are directly connected to someone who is already volunteering. And, because expectations are different when someone you know asks you to volunteers vs. someone who randomly opts in. It’s a strategy that worked really well for me over the last two years. In that time, I asked the following folks to be involved in MIMA in some way, shape or form: Holly Spaeth, Matt Woestehoff, Bryan Vincent, Brad Spychalski, Yuliya Crevier, Pat Schaber, Kaitlyn Cox, David Jungers, Erica Hanna, Sarah Hennen and a number of other folks. And, I’m so glad they all said “yes” :)

Ask volunteers WIIFY.

When I started recruiting people for the marketing committee a couple years ago, I wanted to be very clear with people: We are getting your time and skills. I want to make sure YOU are getting something in return. So, I would ask people what they were hoping to get from MIMA as a result of volunteering. Most responded with either “networking” or some form of “skills development.” When I’ve seen volunteering work best, it’s been a two-way street. The organization gets the skills, experience and time of the volunteers. And, the volunteers get SOMETHING in return. But here’s the thing–that sometimes doesn’t just magically happen. Sometimes, it needs to be facilitated. Sometimes, you need to ask people what they want–and then help them get it. Sometimes, you need to push people a bit to make sure they’re getting what they need.

Just do it.

Sure, boards like MIMA are designed to be “strategic” boards. Our jobs should really be to direct–rather than “do.” But, the reality is our board was part strategy/part tactics. I could see that early on. So, I chose to dive in and start “doing” as much as I could. Yes, I was sure to bring folks along and align with the board on key decisions. But, there’s a lot to be said for just “doing” when you’re working with a board that’s tasked with not only setting strategic direction, but also with helping carrying some of the water. One person I learned from early on during my board tenure: Lindsi Gish. If something needed to be done, Lindsi was quick to raise her hand and jump in. She did it with programming. She did it with Summit. She did it consistently. In large part, it was that “hand raising” that made Lindsi a great board member. Sometimes, there’s a whole lot of value in “just doing it”–even when you’re expected to operate at a strategic level.

A little recognition goes a long ways.

One thing I think we struggled with a bit when I was on the board: Recognition. Sure, we gave it lip service. We thanked the right people. We applauded key efforts. But really, we didn’t do a great job of recognizing all the great people that made MIMA, well, MIMA. Not at the board level. Not at the volunteer level. Not even at the member level (although I think we’re getting better here). And here’s the thing: A little recognition would really go a long ways with most people who volunteer. A hand-written note. A heart-felt “thank you.” Man, even just a hug. True recognition makes a big, big difference.

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Are we over-relying on data to make social media decisions?

Big data.

Data-decision decisions.




Big data

Isn’t that all we’ve heard the last few years? The data discussion has been so big, in fact, that there’s often room for nothing else when it comes to digital and social media strategy.

Now, I’m not here to debate the validity of data. I know it’s an important component to any successful digital or social media marketing program.

But I AM here today to argue this: Is it possible we may be relying on data TOO much?

I might say “yes.”

I’m of the belief the marketing, PR, and creative decision-making is not a one-trick pony. Making decisions based on data alone is a dangerous proposition. Instead, we should be making decisions based on data + experience, context and one of the best tools available to us all–our “gut.”

Let’s look at decision-making when it comes to social content, for example. And let’s look at a recent example from a big brand we all know: Kohl’s. Here’s was Kohl’s post on Thanksgiving day:

Kohls FB 1

Not all that surprising, right? After all, many brands make this kind of post on big holidays like Thanksgiving. And, look at the social signals–13,614 likes, 345 shares and more than 100 comments! This post worked! It “engaged”our audience! Let’s plan for more holiday posts!

That’s the thinking of folks that are driven only by the data.

I would encourage us all to look at the other side of the marketing coin when making content decisions.

For example, as a retailer, posting anything on Thanksgiving day may stir up thoughts and comments around why that store is open on Thanksgiving, and the inevitable backlash may follow. Especially with companies like REI giving their employees the day off after Thanksgiving. So, it wasn’t surprising to me at all to see comments like this from folks in the stream:

Kohls FB 2

Kohls FB 3

Kohls FB 4

They could have anticipated that backlash–anyone could have, really.

What’s more–what’s the standard, “do-what-everyone-else-is-doing” Thanksgiving post going to really get you, as a brand? What do you hope to gain? Likes, comments, shares? Seems like that’s all brands are after.

Finally, why do brands need to post at all on holidays? Are people really just waiting by their computers and phones ready for Kohl’s to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving? How does that impact brand awareness and reputation?

In this scenario, I might argue if the Kohl’s team sat down and thought through all the angles, they may have decided not to make this post. As it stands, it seems like a pure social metric grab. Based on the data, they know these holiday posts “perform”. They knew they’d get thousands of likes, shares and comments. And they need those to hit their monthly benchmarks.

But, if they had looked at the data AND thought about the “softer” side of the decision, they may have decided not to post at all.

This is just one example, mind you, but I see it happening more and more.

Again, I’m not saying data is the enemy.

I’m not saying you should ignore all the data at your disposal.

What I am saying is actually quite simple: Don’t OVER-RELY on the data. Take many different points of view into consideration when making your content, social and digital marketing decisions. Relying on data alone can be very dangerous.

photo credit: IMG_2491 via photopin (license)

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