What I thought about at 35,000 ft

by Joe Pelissier on December 27, 2012

35,0000 ft = Time to think

In early December, as I flew back from Alicante, I thought about the contracts I had worked on 2012 and came up with 5 communication tips that are relevant to 2013 and what you do.

But first a quick cultural digression…

This year my work has taken me to New York and Sydney as well as numerous cities in Europe. Such trips give you a useful insight into different cultures and the way  communication teams think and behave.

In spite of the cultural differences, I find most teams remarkably similar in terms of the problems they face and the day to day issues they deal with. You realise that the corporate world is a very small place. You feel the global reach of major brands whichever city you are in and how English, in all its different forms, influences every aspect of written, spoken and visual communication.

Big brands like Nespresso, L’Oreal and Louis Vuitton, appear to float above a national culture. But that’s not strictly true. Behind the scenes such brands have their radar firmly locked onto the local cultural expectations of their customers. With this approach the client then feels they are buying a product or service tailored to their unique needs.

This applies to those working front of house (marketing) and those working behind the scenes (customer service). As is often the case, success is linked to an awareness of brand values, a topic dear to my heart and which so many communication professionals ignore (see 5. below).

Keep in mind that cultural nuances impact on my 5 communication actions for 2013. Here they are:

1. Develop a Video Communication strategy

You Tube = 90% of internet traffic ?

If for some reason, video is not on your radar, put it there – FAST.

And yes, it is going to cost money to produce.  Some of it you can do in-house (all companies have some whizz with a camera or editing software), at other times  you will want  professional expertise.

I wrote and produced videos this year that cover web presentations, how to’s and commercials. Some were modest affairs for small companies, others were decently funded for companies like Maybelline and L’Oreal and their dedicated YouTube channels. (Yes, how to create the sultry smoky eye look or a fashionable ombré are amongst my new found skills…ladies, the links will show you how.)

Whatever the size or type of company, it is clear that marketing teams are starting to think about video strategically. They are aware that by 2015 up to 90% of internet traffic is likely to be video.

If your company is going to have a meaningful role in all this, it means you have to start to think about

  • The multiple types of video it is possible to produce
  • The channels you will communicate across
  • Tailoring your videos to specific audiences
  • How you are going to measure ROI and effectiveness
  • The resources you need to make it happen
  • The video literacy of the people you employ or work with

It all requires time and thought – especially if you want to produce stuff that looks, sounds and feels professional.

In partnership with the agency MWP, I will be doing more strategic video consultancy and production next year.

2. Act as if you’re in the Publishing Business

Jaimie Oliver = Publishing Business ?

In April 2011, I wrote a guest blog post for eConsultancy called ‘Why you should start to think like a media publisher’ and for some time I was a lone voice promoting this thought.

You’re in the publishing business because people go to the web to have their problems solved. With luck, they will find the answer in an article you’ve published, a piece of video content you’ve produced or some other channel you operate.

It’s called Inbound or Content Marketing and in a recent survey by eConsultancy over 90% of respondents felt they would have their energies heavily focused in this direction in 2013. A little more worrying was the fact that less than half of companies reported having dedicated budgets (34%) or individuals (46%) to commit to it.

So if on 1 January you wake up and think ‘Yes, I’m in the publishing business’, you will need to

  • Think of the problems you solve and for whom
  • Learn how to communicate your in-house expertise via a blog, video post or newsletter
  • Have a weekly or monthly publishing calendar  – something you can keep to

It’s not as hard as you think. All you need is the resolve to go for it and the discipline to publish frequently. The writing and production skills you will perfect over time.

Here’s a great case study on how a content marketing editorial calendar will help grow your business. It about a company called Sales Benchmark Index and it’s by David Meerman Scott. It’s well worth a read if you’re going down this route.

Interestingly, hiring external writers is proven not to work. They don’t have the in-house expertise or passion that a team of internal writers has.

3. Master Social Media for Customer Service

Facebook = Remarkable Customer Service ?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that contacting your supplier directly via Facebook or Twitter is a great way to air your grievance or to ask a question. That’s why a growing number of brands have teams dedicated to managing social media.

Most of these companies don’t have guidelines in terms of tone and style or how to handle different types of request or situation. This is why so much of social media customer service is banal, repetitive and unimaginative. I’m working on a number of social media projects and have the research and experience to prove it.

On the positive side, what continually amazes me is the extent to which people will go to show how much they love a brand. They love being a part of it, sharing their passion and letting the brand know. Tap into this.

The winners are going to be those companies that decide to offer a REMARKABLE social media service rather than thinking that being there is enough.

Small companies will to have to get involved too. In the way that having a website is the norm, customers will expect their suppliers to provide a fast, professional and social response.

If you don’t have any guidelines for how you are going to cement relationships via social, 2013 is the year to draw them up.

 4. Communicate with ‘professional informality’

John Cleese and Ring-Tailed Lemur

John Cleese = Professionally informal?

This is a more subtle and harder action to initiate.

By ‘professional informality’ I mean the ability to write and speak in a conversational manner which is at the same time professional.

We live in an increasingly informal world and social media, mobile communication and the ‘speed of transmission’ influences our expectations. The perceived norm is that you go to work for a company and you follow the ‘professional’ guidelines set by it. Your social, more normal self, is let out at the end of the day and week-end.

With your professional self you tend to write and present in the dull, grown-up way society and your employer has taught you.

  • “With regards to..”
  • “Please be aware that…”
  • “Furthermore, it has come to our attention..

Who speaks like that these days? We no longer expect to receive written communication that is over-formal, long-winded and repetitive.

For many this mean unlearning the way you were taught to write. It also means giving yourself and your employees permission to write in a more conversational way.

In most of my training workshops this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks attendees have. They are all capable of writing informally but they find it incredibly hard.

More than anything, ‘professional informality’ is to do with mindset. And the choice is simple. You either continue to place a formal barrier between yourself and your customers or you find a way to engage with them using words and phrases that have a bit of rapport.

 5. Know your brand values

Albert Einstein - Man of Value

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value”

If you are still with me, you will notice we are ending where this post started.

I find that if a communication team has a clear sense of its brand values, either as a company or as a team, it is more confident about its identity and the way it wants to communicate.

A clear set of brand values influence visual, written and spoken communication. They are a a measurement tool – a way for you to check that what you are writing or saying reflects what you believe in.

If you know your values, find out who else does. You may be surprised by the answers. If you don’t, make January the month to come up with at least four.

Let me know what they are, I’m always interested to hear about the values that other companies have.

End Note

I think there’s a bit of something for everyone here. To those of you I have had the good fortune to work with in 2012, thank you for your continued investment in what I do and enjoy. I look forward building on what we have started and wish you the very best for 2013.

If you are new to my work, you will find this site and the occasional Pélixir will give you a feel for the communication work I specialise in. I would like to think our paths will cross in the coming months.

Here’s to a healthy and productive 2013.

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