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Breaking News: Storytelling Is In. Corporate Writing Is Out.

By now, many of us in communications know how difficult it can be to break through the noise and make sure our messages and stories are heard. And while this is an exciting time to be a corporate communications professional, it’s also a time to get with the program and think different about the way we are telling our stories.

Social SuggestionsLast week I was given the opportunity to attend and speak at Ragan Communications’ 6th Annual Employee Communications, PR and Social Media Summit. The conference had three different tracks and was packed with information and best practices for PR, social media and employee communications professionals. But across all of the various sessions, the one message that resonated most for me was the importance of authentic storytelling.

Here are five tips to make your next story great:

  1. Clarity above all: Clear concise writing is key. Stop with the corporate jargon.
  2. Be a verb nerd: Collect verbs you want to use. Often times we use words in our writing we would never say out loud. Stop that.
  3. Know your goals: If you don’t have a specific reason for telling a story, it will fail. You must always have a goal – and know how to measure against it.
  4. Quote me: Use quotes to add spice to your story.
  5. Who’s your hero? Every story needs a hero.

The bottom line: People rationalize buying decisions with facts, but they make buying decisions with feelings.

Make sure your story pulls at the heartstrings and lets the reader know what’s in it for them.

Curious to learn more? Take a look at one of my favorite Cisco video series, which tells a story in an authentic, human and compelling way while also communicating key businesses messages.

Our Cisco.com Homepage: 5 More Insights

In mid-June, we shared how video and live steaming perform on our Cisco.com homepage, particularly during Cisco Live. Well, since then we’ve continued to test and learn along the way on our Cisco homepage. It receives more than 2.5 million average monthly visitors and it’s truly a melting pot with 58% of visitor traffic coming from outside the US, so it’s a great place to innovate.

Here’s my latest top 5 insights about the Cisco.com homepage:

1.  Big is not always better.  We like to call our large banner ads on the homepage our “ hero” ads. They make a big bold statement and the hero ad in the number-one carousel spot receives the highest traffic on the page. That said, after analysis for several months, our smaller “feature” ads toward the bottom of the page actually receive more traffic and engagement overall per month. They seem to drive more value and are perceived as less marketing-oriented, at least that’s our theory for now. Read More »

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Bridging the Gap Between Social and Digital Media

October 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm PST

I’ve come across many articles touting the differences between digital and social media. Here’s one, for example, that suggests the words have lost their meaning entirely. It raises some good questions. What does digital even mean, anyway? And isn’t all media basically social in nature? A great take on it comes from Cisco’s Vice President of Digital, Mark Yolton, who provides deeper insight into “What is Digital?”

As marketers, we must think beyond social media and consider how digital components like web, mobile and video can further enhance the user experience and boost the perception in such a way that ultimately leads to a purchase. That’s exactly what we’ve done at Cisco. We did it by aligning social, web, mobile and video capabilities under one organization so that we can offer customers, partners and influencers an integrated experience. Clearly, social media is a huge part of today’s digital journey.

mobile apps concept

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Focus on ROI, Data Preparation, Communication for Success : Takeaways from Predictive Analytics World, Boston, 2014

The recently concluded Predictive Analytics World 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts, was chock full of insights from organizations who have successfully implemented analytics in a variety of settings. A few points stood out and I will attempt to capture them here:

1. Focus on ROI measures:  This is spoken of very often, but frequently in an attempt to develop the “right” or “perfect” model, the focus on ROI sometimes begins to waver. Being driven by ROI implies understanding which variables are controllable by the business, which data observations are of real interest and sometimes making adjustments to accomplish that. This may mean considering variables that are otherwise not significant, or oversampling certain data observations and so forth. But a relentless focus on ROI will yield the desired results.

2. Eschew Complexity: Seek simpler models, fewer variables, and explanations that make sense. Given results, the human mind will find ways to explain it -- so do not rely on interpretability as a defense of your models. But let the sheer simplicity of models tell their own story.

3. Ensure algorithmic Data Preparation: As all practitioners know, Data Cleansing and Preparation is 80% of the effort -- but what is sometimes forgotten is that Data Preparation is not a one time effort, but is subject to the algorithms being considered. Understand not only the assumptions, but the limitations of the algorithms being considered -- and do for the algorithms, what the algorithm cannot do for itself.

4. Consider Ensemble Techniques: Ensemble methods such as Random Forest, Gradient Boosting and others have proven repeatedly to provide stable and usable results. Master these techniques and more.

5. Simulations are often a good Communication technique -- All practitioners understand that the ultimate success or failure of their efforts depends upon successful communication of their findings. Leverage simulation of your results, and the likelihood of success or failure of your model in real situations to help further communicate and define your findings.

And incidentally, if you wish to understand the analytics maturity of your organization, visit this link at the INFORMS website!

Automation and Ambassadors. Smart Move?

October 7, 2014 at 9:00 am PST

In today’s marketing world we’re bombarded with automated solutions to help us meet our goals. For every objective we set there are ten platforms ready and waiting to assist. Ambassador Programs are no exception, and when vendors show you all their sparkles and bells and whistles it’s tempting to jump on board. But how do you know if you’re making the right decision? What do you look for when you’re shopping for a solution? In this article I’ll share three important guidelines to use when exploring Ambassador Program platforms. But first here are two important lessons I’ve learned. Read More »