Employees are family

This is the last of three posts from the MOOC Content Strategy for Professionals.

I have seen two exceptional presentations from IBM employees about how they use social media as part of the company’s intranet and internal comms plan. One was Stuart McRae and if you don’t already follow him on Twitter you should. Both times I was blown away so I was over the moon when the last set of lectures on the course was a series of interviews with Jon Iwata, IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer and Mike Rhodin Head of Software Solutions. Unfortunately these videos don’t seem to be on Northwestern University’s YouTube channel but if you search YouTube for Jon Iwata there are plenty of similar presentations by him about the future of comms which should inspire you. In the meantime here’s what I gleaned from Jon and Mike from the MOOC.

Your intranet

Provide the tools and environment for employees to network and create their own content. This will flatten the organisation’s hierarchy. Everyone has an opinion but if they’re going to share it they have to be aware of the consequences. Over time this creates social norms. It’s the democratisation of information sharing with a purpose – collaboration and problem-solving rather than just broadcast communication.

IBM marketing

Big data blows mass communication out of the water – now we can talk to the individual. Based on what we know about you, here’s what we think you’ll need.

Employees are family

Have a social media policy. It should begin with ‘We think it’s in your best interest to get good at social media. Are you speaking as yourself or on behalf of the company? If you wouldn’t say it in a meeting, don’t say it on social media.’

Give employees messages that they can pass on via their own social media.

Millennials work well in teams because they have grown up collaborating – they share everything.

Design content to be shared, rather than consumed.

Not all social media channels are the same, have the same audience or the same culture. Master the language and culture of the channel before you try using it.

If you know the customer and tailor the content and channel to suit your content won’t be adding to the information noise – it’ll be adding value to the customer’s life.

What tools and skills should a content strategist have?

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  • a knowledge of data analysis and stats is essential to help look for the patterns that influence decisions. These days data should drive comms
  • storytelling
  • and interest in human behaviour, social psychology and behavioural economics

And guess what – there are free MOOCs in all of these things available through the Coursera database. Go look. Come and join me.

Tune of the week

I can’t think of a better storyteller than Gil Scott-Heron so here’s I Think I’ll Call It Morning.

Don’t tweet me in that tone of voice

This if the second of three posts gleaned from the MOOC Content Strategy for Professionals which I recently completed.

Tone and voice

The voice you use in your content should be the same as that of a phone call from a trusted friend.

The tone is the quality or mood of your voice – be yourself, be direct and be specific.

These are things I’ve always stressed when talking to people about creating content for the web. You want the web experience to be like sitting next to a really warm customer services person, otherwise why would they choose the web over the other channels.

Media platforms

Each platform is a different opportunity. What is the best media window for your information? Think especially about the commute and which platforms would work best with this captive audience.

Storytelling changes across multimedia. The format should follow the story – let the story tell you which platform to use.


Design is a never-ending cycle of improvement. Users need to be studied using your content, at the prototype stage and all through your content’s life-cycle.

Deciding what is a successful outcome will allow you to measure the improvement of your content.

Users should be the ones to evaluate your content design, not senior managers.

What is social?

Go beyond social networking and check out We Feel Fine.

We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a blogs since 2005. Every few minutes, the system searches newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds them, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence. The age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like:

  • Do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans?
  • Do women feel fat more often than men?
  • Does rainy weather affect how we feel?
  • What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s?
  • What do people feel right now in Baghdad?
  • What were people feeling on Valentine’s Day?
  • Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual. The particles’ properties indicate the nature of the feeling inside, and any particle can be clicked to reveal the full sentence or photograph it contains. The particles careen wildly around the screen until asked to self-organize along any number of axes, expressing various pictures of human emotion. We Feel Fine paints these pictures in six formal movements – Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds – artwork authored by everyone.

Virtual communities – understand their mission and the nature of the challenge they face. Create a guiding policy – how can you help them. Plan coherent action – create a set of actions they can perform to help them accomplish their goals.

Find out where are people talking about your topic so you can take your content to them.

Work smarter not harder. People don’t have time to read but they can watch or listen.

Differentiated messaging

Use A/B testing to test the success/shareability of your messages. You can use a tool like Bitly for this.

I have one last instalment to content strategy which I’ll do next week. Till then have a tune which will get you dancing. I’ve decided to keep the recipes off this blog but I can’t resist sharing a good tune now and then 🙂

Do you have a strategy for that content?

Holy cow, it’s been a while since I blogged but I was made to publicly promise that I’d knuckle down and get on with it so here goes.

I’ve been MOOCing again – Content Strategy for Professionals at Northwestern University. It was a tad slow to start with but there were some nuggets in there I thought I’d share. There’s too much for one blog so I’ll split it up a bit. I thoroughly enjoyed their content and their video lectures were just the right length to fit in a coffee break or eating sandwiches at lunch so I could do it at work.

You can add it to a watchlist over at Coursera and they’ll let you know when the next one is due to start.

People are being bombarded with more and more information but we have the same 24 hours in each day to process it. The world is getting more and more complicated. This why we need content strategy.

Decide on your organisations main goals and objectives. All content should be aligned with these.

Understanding your audience

People will only learn about things they want to know. There is no such thing as a mass audience any more.

Organisations need to understand the step before motivation ie. understand self-interest and social identification. You should understand your customers’ interests and lifestyles so well that you can predict their need before they know they need it.

Creating personas

Spend time with the target audience to find out what motivates them and how they spend their time. The media you use should meet people where they are, not where you think they are or you want them to be.

Targeting the audience with experiences

Once you understand the audience’s self-interest you can tailor the message to create soft-touch time-out experiences – those moments that people turn to their device for time away from work, the kids, life.

Understand the target’s definition of storytelling – it will be different to the organisation’s.

Marketing and branding content

Content is a product and should help your product/service. Brands relate to experiences – see a classic Coke bottle and think long, hot childhood summers. How does your brand/content relate to an experience?

Create a positioning statement:

  • to (target) ————————- —- who (characteristic) —————————–,
  • this brand (what it’s like) —————————–that is (different from) ———————–.


Experience = emotion

What do you want people to feel. Engagement is about emotional experience with your content, not just page hits or likes.

All content creates a user experience and experience drives usage. Content strategists have control over user experience. The audience’s concept of the experience maybe different to what you intended.

Content should:

  • make the audience smarter
  • look out for the audience’s interest
  • be easy to access
  • give the audience something to talk about or share

I think that’s enough to be going on with but next I’ll cover tone and voice, design, what social means for content strategy.