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What do TV news outlets and Ellen DeGeneres have in common? They both use Skype to interview guests. So why shouldn’t association professionals?

By now you know that creating video is an excellent strategy for bringing attention to your association. Video is an important communications tool to further your nonprofit's cause, market to prospective members or engage existing ones.

Skype is a relatively easy way to produce content in-house without hiring an expensive video production crew. By installing a free or inexpensive third-party plugin, Skype can record all parties involved (with their permission). Recordings of interviews or panel discussions can be repurposed as on-demand webinars to be viewed later.

Case Study
One of our clients, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) has a certification program, attained at the company level. The certification demonstrates proficiency in the best practices of the system integration profession. One of the goals of the organization is to promote CSIA Certification to the degree in which prospective clients require that only CSIA Certified system integrator may submit a bid. The more their clients understand what CSIA Certified means, the more likely they are to do this. 

One way we encourage clients to “spec-in” certification is to conduct video interviews of our Certified members discussing how requiring a certified integrator can reduce risk and increase efficiency for the client’s operation.

This comes with some major challenges.
1. CSIA does not have the budget to send staff to 400 member offices to capture this content.
2. Our members do not have budgets to allocate to video production crews.
3. Nor do not have the time or resources to produce or edit a video themselves.

With a little planning, a solid internet connection, decent lighting, and great audio, we have learned to create, edit and publish these interviews on our YouTube channel and public website.

Techniques
Interviews may be conducted in one of two different styles:

Confessional: In this format, the interviewer is off camera and not heard in the final version of the interview. The viewer only hears and sees the subject of the interview. This requires more editing so that the final video contains the “parroting” of the questions along with the answers. This is a technique used in many reality TV shows; a producer debriefs the “contestant,” but you only hear the interviewee speaking.

Side-by-Side: Show one to four subjects in the interview on one screen with as many as 10 participants. The latter may look a bit like the old game show “Hollywood Squares” but could be interesting if you carefully coordinate who speaks, when.

Audio Podcast
You could also repurpose the audio from the Skype call into an audio-only version and turn it into a podcast. In a slide-less discussion, listeners can enjoy the interview while multitasking or commuting.

Software Solutions
There are many third-party software plugin solutions for recording the call, for both Mac and Windows. Many have free or limited trials, or licensed versions for only $20 or $30. 

Conclusion
Conducting a recorded Skype interview or panel discussion is easy to set up and conduct. The best thing is that the final product can be used by other departments in your association, from marketing, education, and even the board.

Additional Resources
How to Record a Skype Interview
Four key elements to shooting better videos
How to be a reporter’s favorite source: Ten tips, plus bonus tips for recorded interviews

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AM2017 logo as doc banner
When our graphic designer, Kristin, first released the branding for the Society of Wetland Scientists’ (SWS) 2017 Annual Meeting, we all knew that the little tree frog that was featured was going to be a star. There had already been extensive discussion among the Society’s board as to the accuracy of the frog, in relation to the meeting’s destination: Puerto Rico. As a group of wetland enthusiasts, it made sense why they were so passionate about the frog’s geographical accuracy. With that conversation alone, it was clear that SWS had already embraced him as the unofficial mascot of the meeting; so, staff thought, “Why not just make it official?” From then on, the tree frog was at the center of all meeting promotions.

We started using the frog as a mascot as a way to promote different aspects of the meeting. At the end of each meeting-specific email, the frog spokesman would include an interesting fact about the meeting’s theme, field trips or hotel and convention spaces.

Humberto meetinginfo
In a similar way, we would use these “Did You Know” facts to promote Puerto Rico as a destination. While the Society of Wetland Scientists is an international association with over 3,000 members, most of membership resides in the continental United States. Therefore, most of our annual meetings do, as well. With that in mind, it was that much more important to support this year’s “destination” location.

Humberto passport
As members became more acquainted with the mascot through email, we determined that it was important to put a name to the face (plus, he was too cute not to name). And with the association already so invested in this little guy’s authenticity, it made sense to put the power in the membership’s hands.

Humberto namethefrog
We polled the membership on Facebook and Twitter, keeping it as simple as possible, by asking them to either comment on the Facebook post or tweet at us with #namethefrog. Admittedly, suggestions were hard to come by at first; however, once prominent members within the Society started submitting suggestions, others soon followed.

By hosting the contest via social media, we knowingly limited the member response. Yet, it was strategically marketed to encourage others to “like” and “follow” our social media pages. Those who had subscribed to our pages were then rewarded by having the privilege to vote for the frog’s name.

Humberto votethefrog

In the end, SWS cared just as much for the authenticity of the frog’s name as they did for his physical form. “Humberto” was chosen specifically for its connection to the Spanish word for wetland: humedal.

Humberto name
We used the momentum from the #namethefrog contest to create Humberto’s own Twitter account. Those facts that we had been including in the meeting emails were then also highlighted as #frogfacts on Twitter. While the account was specifically created to promote the annual meeting, we’ve since used it to cross-promote other SWS event and marketing campaigns. For instance, to celebrate Earth Day, we’re encouraging followers to share and tag us in their Earth Day photos, using #SWSEarthDay. To kick off this initiative, we had Humberto share one of his photos.

Humberto EarthDay
Social media, specifically Twitter, has enabled members to actively engage with Humberto. It has become a main source of meeting information and a direct line to ask meeting-specific questions. Any interaction helps to increase visibility, not only for the meeting, but for the Society, as well.

Humberto cousin
Humberto was originally intended to be an outlet for relaying important meeting information, organically. He has since formed a personal brand that has helped reinforce the overall brand of the 2017 meeting, and to some extent, rebrand the Society of Wetland Scientists, as a whole. SWS will always be a professional society, focused on wetland science, but its membership has shaped the Society into one that appreciates fun, too.

Mascots won’t work for every association, nor will they help for every meeting. In this case, from his inception, SWS was invested in this frog. Members’ dedication to accuracy, paired with their willingness to embrace his mascot status, made this marketing campaign successful.

 

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chasm image Veroeven

 

I've long believed in the power of inbound marketing fueled by content, but nothing solidified my understanding better than when Adrianne Machina uttered the following words below during her presentation at the 2016 Annual Conference of the American Marketing Association-Madison Chapter.

"The chasm between never heard of you and your name sounds familiar is deep and wide."
– Adrianne Machina of Tornado Marketing, speaking about the effectiveness of content marketing and an inbound lead strategy

Mind the gap
If your company’s sales and marketing strategy relies solely on cold-calling and emailing, your staff might end up like the gentleman in the picture — in danger of a fall/fail. He's unlikely to make it safely across to "your name sounds familiar."

A potential client is more likely to accept a phone call or read an email from someone they’ve heard of than from someone they haven’t.

When a potential customer is not ready to listen to a marketing message, he ignores phone calls, emails and voicemails. In these instances, cold calls and emails will rarely initiate a conversation. So what should a company do when the prospective client isn't ready to listen?

Build a bridge with content
Customers do business with people they like and trust. So how does a company cross the chasm from, “never heard of you” to “your name sounds familiar?” Build a bridge with content.

Educate them. Share an informative article with them. Entertain them. Evoke an emotional response. When they are ready, they will answer a call, complete a form or perform the desired action the marketing staff wants them to do, because they trust the company, brand, and, ultimately, the business development staff who have been grooming them.

It is the fundamental concept of an effective inbound marketing strategy: groom prospects to enter the sales and marketing funnel as strangers and exit as customers.

What is inbound marketing?
According to industry expert Hubspot: “Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.”

David Meerman Scott sums it up practically in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: "You can buy attention (advertising.) You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales).  Or you can own attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publish it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, an infographic, a Twitter stream, an eBook, a Facebook page."

inbound marketingHubspot's model of Inbound Marketing Funnel

Inbound marketing in real-life
Companies that receive the most traffic are the ones that have videos and blog articles and other relevant content in the search results. Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, inbound marketing works for any industry.

Unless a business is in some ultra-niche market, it is difficult for a brand to land on page one of a favorite search engine's results, especially if all they have on a website is an about us or products page. Search engines are fickle; they "like" pages that are dynamic, and have relevant information. If you don't keep your site up with fresh information, the search engines will move on to a website that does.

Proof that content marketing works
In a 2012 study, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that inbound content marketing:
• attracts the most visitors of all marketing efforts
• creates higher engagement with an audience
• is the best tool in your marketing arsenal

An inbound marketing strategy develops your audience. Over time you won't have to find your audience; they will find you.

But…But…But…
There are lots of excuses for not investing in content marketing:
• Don't have time
• Don't know where to start
• Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business

Consider outsourcing. Many marketing consultants already specialize in your industry, or will learn it in order produce resonating content.

Producing content doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Some companies start with posting a one-minute impromptu video on YouTube.

Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business? Everyone should be in such a position. For the rest: a good inbound marketing strategy will only make it easier for customers to talk about the company, service and quality work.

Conclusion
Reaching today’s modern customer is challenging with unsolicited phone calls and emails often perceived as spam.
The chasm between “I never heard of you” and “your name sounds familiar” is deep and wide.

Will you take a chance at jumping the gap, or building a bridge?

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press release IV

Next month marks the 100th birthday of the press release. On October 28, 1906, more than 50 people lost their lives when one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s new electric service trains jumped the track and plunged into Thoroughfare Creek near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Railroad was a client of Ivy Lee, a publicity expert who is largely considered to be a father of modern public relations. Concerned about the potential for bad press and negative media speculation, Lee wrote and distributed the first-ever press release on behalf of the railroad. He issued an announcement about the incident to all major newspapers, and also invited members of the press to ride a specially-designated train out to survey and document the scene for themselves. The approach was widely applauded for being open and honest. And the strategy was considered revolutionary. Not only did it facilitate journalists doing their job of providing accurate reporting, but it helped put rumors to rest, shoring up the brand and its side of the story.

Some may argue that the press release’s time has come and gone. But, here at AMPED, we have been successfully growing the media presence of our clients in industry publications, and a key component of our strategy revolves around using press releases. They remain a great way to spread the word out about our clients, while building their credibility and branding. While no longer considered even remotely revolutionary, press releases have certainly come a long way since Ivy Lee’s time.

I have compiled ideas below to help you maximize your time and effort put into using press releases.

Writing and preparation
Today, the content of a press release is often published as it is written, especially online, so write as if you are preparing an article for your target reader’s direct consumption. Focus more on the story and less on the accomplishments and accolades. Include photos, video, infographs and other assets that will help media outlets convey your story.

Consider how your press release fits into your sales process cycle. Every press release should include a call to action. Let readers know what you want them to do.

Finally, make sure your press release is optimized for SEO by including key words and using text links back to relevant web pages.

Distribution
Use this opportunity to develop and strengthen your relationship with your industry publication contacts. Rather than sending a blanket communication to your entire contact list, send it out individually, communicating why your story matters to the audience they serve, asking if they will consider featuring your content and exploring how you might continue to work together in the future.

Finally, don’t forget about social media. Repurpose key nuggets from your press release into sharable social media content. And, certainly, amplify the effects of any resulting media coverage by promoting it through all your social media channels.

Just this morning, a colleague shared that she had received two requests for additional information from media who received a press release from us last week. The press release is not dead, but the times have changed.

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Several years ago it was all the rage for company presidents and executives to write a blog. The idea was to give one’s organization a voice of leadership beyond the motto, mission statement or "about us" page.

In theory, this is excellent. Since the executive is the visionary and chief cheerleader to the organization and its members or customers, she should have a voice both internally and publically to manage morale, politics and issues the company or association faces.

But creating a well thought-out post of 500-750 words can take hours of writing and editing. To establish and maintain a public presence, some CEOs and presidents have taken to having a ghost writer write their weekly post. This could backfire however, as the writer may not capture or channel exactly how the executive speaks or communicates. The constituency or membership may say ghostwriting is inauthentic and is contrary to the spirit of the idea of the president blogging to begin with.

There is another way, with a little time, to capture your president’s thoughts, share them with your customers or members, and perhaps even make a deeper impact.

How? Video. You’ve probably already heard that video is becoming the medium on which we are all learning, searching, communicating. It’s not inconceivable that YouTube will surpass even Google as a search engine.

CSIA 2016 complete the survey

You can create a simple video in less than 15 minutes a week that may, for all intents and purposes, be more powerful than a blog. Check out this video we made with AMPED President Lynda J. Patterson. Here Lynda addresses attendees of an upcoming association partner conference and builds anticipation. And here, in a post-conference video, she asks attendees to complete the conference evaluation.

I shot and edited these videos on my iPhone, and uploaded them to YouTube. Both took me fewer than 10 minutes to complete. Lynda put together a few bullet points, rehearsed briefly, and executed these well.

I like them because they don’t look too polished, but are professional enough to send out to the masses. These didn’t cost us any studio time or any money other than the initial investment in inexpensive equipment, totaling $125, plus a smartphone. You don’t need a studio or expensive equipment, just a smartphone, lapel mic, a tripod and a mount

I recommend that you reference my article, “Four key elements to shooting better videos” for some easy tips and tricks to making videos very easy and accessible.

Good Luck!

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