THUMBS UP: Bit of action on Australia’s ‘corporate’ content marketing front

uomo ok

While I might get a little antsy at the lack of progress on the content marketing front from Australia’s corporate sector – let’s face it, it’s severely lacking, and what is a fast-growing trend has been very slow to manifest itself at the big end of town for some inexplicable reason – two major corporates have just weighed in with some decent content efforts.

So, credit where credit’s due, hat-tip to some nice work revealed this week by two major brands: NAB, and Bupa.


Firstly, the day after the the Federal Budget was handed down on Tuesday, I spied the NAB in my Twitter feed with a number of promoted posts featuring content largely from internal experts talking (on video) about the budget’s ramifications for certain sectors of the market.

A few years ago, the bank would probably have defaulted to crafting a jargon-laden press release and dispatched it forthwith to finance journalists. In keeping with most corporate press releases, it probably would have said very little and may have resulted in a few lines in Budget articles published in the finance media (who knows, this might still happen?).

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Fast forward to today and NAB has become the media channel, producing videos with little lead time and distributing directly to the public via Twitter. Now we’re talking!

This is content-driven social communications at its best: There’s a key milestone (the Federal Budget) – people want straight talk on how it will affect their sector (or lot in life) – and the NAB is endeavouring to help give them some value in this regard, quickly. And they succeeded.

The bank’s website also features a Federal Budget Hub where the Budget commentary/content is housed. While it’s not super-comprehensive like what you’d find in the business pages of a daily newspaper, for example, at least the bank has provided a showcase for its experts to weigh in on certain niches pertaining to the Budget. The hub also published relevant content in the run-up to the Budget announcement.

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(Financial software company, which publishes the popular Pulse blog, was also quick out of the gate producing several blog posts on the Budget implications for its core audience – small business – plus a whitepaper that goes into greater detail).


In other ‘corporate’ content marketing news, major health insurer Bupa has recently launched its new initiative The Blue Room (what is it with these major corporations and the word blue? ANZ Blue Notes anyone?).

This looks set to become a serious content marketing initiative providing ongoing contributions across three content ‘pillars’:

  • FAMILIES – “Managing the changing health needs of you and your family from pregnancy to raising children”
  • HEALTHIER – “Information to start making proactive physical and mental health changes at home and at work”
  • MANAGE & RECOVER – “Practical support for managing an illness and getting back into everyday life”

Much of content on the hub was published in early April but I have only just became aware of it through social media so I don’t know if it has been in ‘soft launch’ phase or I just missed its announcement. Either way, it has a good whack of content already in place and the core audience groups – and their particular needs and issues – seem to be well catered to, so I’m tipping this effort has been pretty well planned and is now being rolled out to a schedule.

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I also like how Bupa has humanised the content hub. Showing faces of contributors is a mandatory as far as I am concerned, so good to see they’ve placed emphasis in this regard (see below). No doubt they’ll add to the roster over time as the demand for content heats up.

The fact Bupa has co-opted blogger Debbie Elkind alongside their internal experts is also a positive sign – I expect more of this as Bupa has been building relationships with the blogging fraternity for a couple of years now e.g. the Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards.

However, using technical experts from within the company will also pay dividends for the brand because as the Edelman Trust Barometer study tells us year after year, they are one of the most trusted sources of information for an organisation.

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5 things small businesses are doing wrong on social media (and how to fix them)


The social web has been with us for a while now, albeit it has continually evolved at an incredible rate during that period.

However, there have been many etiquettes, or ‘truisms’ if I can put it that way, that have more or less been established around social media that unfortunately still get thrown out the virtual window.

The reasons why this occurs are varied, but probably come down to a handful of issues and attitudes small business folk have, namely (a) a desire for quick fixes or short term results, and (b) an entrenched traditional view of marketing being around the broadcasting of promotional messages.

Time, or lack thereof, is also no doubt a contributory factor.

So without further ado, here are some key mistakes I see small businesses doing on social media, and some tips as to how to overcome them.


(Issue = jumping on platforms without thinking too much beforehand – “everyone’s on Facebook, so we should be on it too”)

  • Have some goals in place, a purpose for doing what you’re doing.

  • Always ask yourself “why are we doing what we are doing?” (this helps stop you from defaulting to tactical execution straight away).


(Issue = many small businesses bang on too much about their products and services – it’s all about them)

  • When you don’t have a content strategy or plan, your default position will be to talk too much about yourself. Don’t do this!

  • Think about who you’re trying to reach on social media and tailor your content so that it addresses their needs – your mantra should be that it’s about them, your customers, not about you (sorry).


(Issue = not enough momentum is gained because social media isn’t given priority)

  • You might think tweeting once a day is an effort but if you want to start making inroads, you’re going to have tweet at least five, if not 15-20 times a day – add value along the way, engage in conversation with others and you will see results over the journey.

  • If you’re going to blog, one post a month is not going to cut it – in fact, it sends the wrong message: “What, haven’t you got anything to say?” – the goal should be to embrace less mediums and participate on them properly, with passion, purpose and regularity.


(Issue = too much posting of the same content across multiple channels using automated tools, without thinking about the audience of each platform)

  • Again, employ less mediums – get to know how each platform ticks, how people use them and interact with each other; for example, Twitter is a really different ‘beast’ to Facebook – understand the differences and map out your approach accordingly.


(Issue = businesses tend to hide behind logos, yet people do business with people, not logos!).

  • Take people ‘behind the velvet rope’ of your business, get into the habit of posting photos of things that are taking place at your office, show off your staff, show your people in your Twitter banner image, for example.

Try making some changes to your social media efforts – it will be worth it in the long run!

Good luck!


How infographics can be used to tell your brand story (Canva example)

canva banner

Infographics have been around the social (media) scene for a while now. While many brands have used the visual mechanic effectively, like any content medium it’s more often used and abused simply because it sounded like a good idea at the time.

So in the interests of highlighting quality of execution, here’s a great example of a startup company – Sydney-based graphic design app Canva – using an infographic to tell its story to date (see below).

It’s heavy on numbers, and that’s a good thing. Infographics work best when they bring data to life (or in the case of a complex topic, they use data to simplify things).

I also like how they used the occasion of hitting two million users as the reason to go out with an infographic.

Why is this infographic effective?

Mainly because it tells the Canva story in simple and easy-to-understand linear fashion. With just a casual glance we can get a great feel for what Canva is all about, plus the size and scope of their business. We see how quickly the business has grown, how active its users are, how dispersed its audience is, and what people are using the Canva app for.

Cleverly, Canva uses the infographic to hat-tip its community and in doing so, shows how much love people have for the brand.

Naturally, you’d expect effective content from a socially savvy brand such as Canva.

Take a look at the company’s blog and social channels – Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest - plus their free online ‘Design School’ that features 30 modules covering the basics of graphic design.

These guys understand how to market in today’s consumer-empowered, hyper-connected world – that’s why their business is not only going through the roof but also how they managed to secure Silicon Valley legend Guy Kawasaki as the brand’s chief evangelist.




It took the Queensland Police Service just 37 words to show why it’s better at social media than 99% of brands

I’ve always been super-impressed by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and how it has leveraged the power of social media to deepen the connection it has with the public.

I mean, how could you not like an organisation that holds a press conference to make an announcement and then (tongue-in-cheek) ties that announcement to World Zombie Day? - see video below.

A low-key post published today to the QPS Facebook Page (below) shows why this police department is head and shoulders above 99 per cent of brands out there when it comes to social media. In just 37 words, they’ve managed to tap into the pop culture news of the day (Game of Thrones) while at the same time deliver a timely safety message.

No gaudy visuals or slick video – just 37 words was all it took for 64,000+ people to like the post and nearly 4500 to share it. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty envious of those numbers :)


What can we learn from the QPS?

  • While we know visuals work well on social media (and QPS is excellent in this regard), sometimes well worded copy is all you need to get a reaction.
  • Show up regularly/daily e.g. QPS has tweeted 40,000+ times – how many times has your organisation tweeted?
  • Social media works best when imbued with personality – QPS is not scared to show its humorous side, and it’s a key reason the department has managed so successfully to engage its constituents.
  • Leading on from the point above, wrap important messages with creative execution (and if fun is involved, so much the better – QPS, for example, effectively taps into big cultural events).
  • Tell micro-stories, and don’t forget to find the humanity in your day-to-day business.
  • Take the public behind the ‘velvet rope’ of your organisation – and always feature your people!
  • Experiment with different mediums: QPS, for example, publishes audio to its SoundCloud page and streams live video on Livestream.
  • Get creative! – see below

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Bottom line, here is a government authority that operates in a pretty serious business.

Much of what the QPS does on social media is everyday police stuff – news reports, warnings etc.

But rather than use social media merely as a one-way broadcast channel to force-feed the public its key messages, QPS understands that community engagement is what makes social media so powerful – if you want people to follow you and take note of your more serious stories and messaging, then engage them in advance with human stories and content that’s executed in fun and creative ways.

Oh, and engagement also means people will like, comment upon and share your content, thus amplifying your reach and increasing the level of (visible) public endorsement you receive.

The Queensland Police Service gets this. That’s why you should keep a close eye on what they’re doing. We can all learn a lot from them.

QPS – by the numbers

Oh, I also like how QPS has a magazine-style content aggregation site that it sends the public to from Twitter – check it out here -


Think bigger than just your brand


It’s funny how so many companies and organisations – large and small – continue to focus on the tactical minutiae of social media.

They rail against Facebook for throttling the organic reach of their Brand Page, which has in effect stopped them from communicating with their audience unless they pony up cash (how dare they!).

They persist with using Twitter as a one-way broadcast channel and then wonder why no-one is following them.

They rarely post articles on their company blog yet decry the effectiveness of blogging (and if they do blog, the content is usually about them, the deals they’ve made, the awards they’ve won, and how good their products and services are).

They focus on trying to ‘game the system’ using automation and SEO and any other ‘hack’ they can lay their hands on (at the expense of building true relationships with potential customers and influencers).

But all this misses the point.

Instead of looking for ‘silver bullets’ that will bring instant results, brands are better off leveraging social media and online publishing platforms to:

  • deliver value to customers over and above their products and services;
  • bring their people out from the shadows of the boardroom and into the virtual light where they can interact with the community in which they operate;
  • spark conversation around topical issues and trends relevant to your business or expertise;
  • empower internal subject matter experts to provide content that helps educate people or inspire them to take action in a positive way (versus hoarding the information in the interests of ‘gaining a competitive advantage’).

Think bigger than just your brand. That’s when you’ll discover the real power of social media.

Anything else is just window dressing.

Check out these two quality local content marketing and brand journalism podcasts


I was lucky to recently appear behind the microphone as a guest on a couple of excellent content marketing and brand journalism podcasts – Brand Newsroom out of Perth, which has been one of my faves for a few months now – and Brand Storytelling, which features US-based brand journalist Phoebe Chongchua and Rakhal Ebeli, the CEO of Melbourne-based (disclosure: I’m an advisor to

I’ve embedded both episodes below. Take a listen if you get a minute, love to hear what you think – and if brand journalism is a topic that’s of interest to you, I recommend subscribing to both shows on iTunes. Brand Newsroom is really developing a strong following worldwide, while Brand Storytelling is only new on the podcasting scene but has already made the iTunes ‘New and Noteworthy’ list.

BRAND NEWSROOM – How PR is Changing in a Digital Age

In this episode I join James Lush, Sarah Mitchell and Nic Hayes to chat about how PR is changing in the digital age.  It’s a broad conversation that touches on the intersection of PR, content marketing and advertising.

BRAND STORYTELLING - What Content Marketing Can Do For Your Brand

In this episode of Brand Storytelling you’ll learn:

  • How to know your audience by focusing on your audience “avatar”.
  • What kind of content you should produce to connect with your target audience.
  • How to become a publishing brand.
  • Why you have to hire a brand journalist and how your brand should work with a journalist.
  • Why editorial content is read more than other content and how brands can make their own.

And if you are still in need of a podcast fix, my show – REPUTATION REVOLUTION: DIY Personal Branding for Business Professionals – is up and running. You can subscribe on iTunes here.


What is the difference between marketing and PR?


I’m often asked what is the difference (or perhaps more correctly, what are the differences) between marketing and public relations.

While I can provide a pithy (but ultimately unsatisfying) answer, it’s an issue that comes with a number of layers and thus deserves a deeper explanation. So here we go!

Definition of public relations

My definition of public relations is deepening the intensity of connection an entity (company, individual, organisation) has with the people who matter most to the success of their business, cause or issue.

These could be your clients or customers, industry influencers such as analysts, bloggers or journalists; it may also be a local council, industry body or government authority if they’re somehow integral to the successful running of your business.

Notice I did not mention generating media coverage for your organisation. While there’s a definite need for companies to gain editorial exposure for their brand, product or service, by just focusing on this aspect you will miss out on the myriad opportunities that fall under the PR banner.

If I was to ‘dumb down’ my definition, PR is very much about establishing, growing and maintaining reputation. Of course building reputation requires increasing awareness, credibility and influence of, and trust in, an organisation.

Why is reputation important? Because people do business with people and organisations they know, like and trust. In today’s connected economy, reputation is everything – indeed, it’s the foundation that holds up entire businesses.

Marketing, on the other hand (and in the interests of clarity, I’m going to be blunt here) – is all about ‘selling stuff’.

I’ve dealt with hundreds of marketers of all persuasions over several decades and the one thing they all have in common is they want to sell more widgets, they want to win more clients for the services they provide; they want to sign up more members to their website; they want more people to visit their venue.

Reputation versus selling stuff

Do marketers place equal measure on reputation? Of course they do – the smart ones realise people do business with brands they trust.

Are PR people interested in selling more stuff? If you’re in the marketing communications side of public relations, of course you do – you want your efforts to lead to tangible business results.

Example marketing PR tactics might include:

  • development of a multimedia platform (off which multiple promotional activities can ‘hang’);
  • staging an event-based brand experience, public stunt and/or social experiment (I love this campaign, part of a strategy developed by PR firm Edelman);
  • running a blogger and social influencer ‘outreach’ campaign;
  • leveraging a brand’s sponsorship investment;
  • initiating and managing community partnership initiatives;
  • creating and socialising content designed to facilitate conversation around a particular topic or issue;
  • … and yes, publicity and media relations activity (this could include everything from staging a media-only event through to direct one-on-one contact with journalists to pitch a story).

(By way of comparison, the corporate communications side of PR tends to be longer term in nature and more focused on building a favourable perception of a business or organisation; it includes functions such as managing crises and issues, communicating corporate governance initiatives, building relationships with key internal and external stakeholders etc. Importantly, there will often be crossover of corporate and marketing communication activities).

Public relations concept in tag cloud

Breathtakingly broad

I’m not a classically trained marketer but from my experience a professional marketer’s responsibility is breathtakingly broad and includes:

  • gaining insights from the market to inform new opportunities to increase revenue;
  • developing (and pricing) new products and services for the marketplace;
  • launching and promoting said products and services (including overseeing supporting advertising, digital and PR activities, and dealing with retailers in the case of physical products);
  • growing and developing product and organisational brands.

Each one of those marketing elements requires deep expertise, and I ‘dips me lid’ to those professionals who can master such a broad scope of work!

So just as PR people are more often than not boxed in as publicity merchants – and marketers painted into the corner of just advertising and promotion – we can see there is much, much more to both sides of the equation.

That said, I’m going to finish up by making the following generalised (but I believe, fairly accurate) statements:

  • Marketers will often put sales ahead of brand.
  • PR will put brand (reputation) ahead of sales.
  • But the good ones will find a way to align the two.
  • Marketers prefer pushing one-way promotional messages directly to consumers.
  • PR people prefer sparking conversation as a way of fuelling two-way engagement directly with consumers and stakeholders as well as via third-party influencers.

But the good ones on either side will see the other’s point of view and adapt accordingly.

And just to throw one final layer of perspective:

Marketers will often bring in PR people to add value to a campaign, but in some organisations, PR (or corporate comms or public affairs – the departments sometimes go under different names) will lead the way. Confused? :)

For small businesses, all you need to know is that much of what you do currently probably falls under a PR remit.

Creating content that builds reputation and authority; engaging with people and influencers on social media; speaking at events (or running your own), partnering with local community groups, or building relationships with bloggers, podcasters and journalists.

These activities, my friends, constitute PR today.

Consistency is key for social media success

Blueprint for success

The urge to jump on social channels to market one’s business is often overwhelming. You just want to get on there and get started!

Then the novelty wears off and the grind (for some) starts: Creating content for your various social channels, not to mention interacting with, and responding to, the public – these activities take time.

But more than just time, they require consistency if you’re going to have any sort of impact with your social media activity.

What does this look like?

Well it means showing up regularly, specifically to:

  • publish content that is interesting, useful and relevant to your audience;

  • respond in a timely manner to people who have complaints or queries;

  • spark conversation around topics or issues dear to the heart of your brand;

  • identify and proactively interact with ‘like minds’ and influencers in your space.

If you’re a big organisation with resources, the expectation you’ll do all of the above on a consistent basis is ever-present. If you’re a smaller business, not so much, but if you want to make a positive impact, then yes you need to pay attention to such things.

Let’s look at these elements individually:

Publish content that is interesting, useful and relevant to your audience

  • This is becoming more and more important, and critical in differentiating a brand from its competitors.

  • Make sure your content efforts have purpose – what do you want to achieve? Are you trying to provide utility and be ever-useful, or maybe your goal is to build reputation and demonstrate knowledge leadership?

  • Create your original content with heart and soul – don’t punch it out ‘by the numbers’, your brand deserves more respect than that.

  • Take a multimedia approach: Consider using audio or video in addition to text; remember you can now upload video directly to Facebook and Twitter, giving you extra opportunity to bring alive your brand story.

Respond to people who have complaints or queries in a timely manner

  • Today’s ‘connected consumer’ will in all likelihood never email or phone your business; if you’re on social channels, they prefer to initiate contact that way – indeed, if you’re on Twitter and/or Facebook, there’s an expectation you’ll respond reasonably quickly.

  • if you respond in a respectful manner and provide relevant information that’s useful, awesome! More kudos to you!

Spark conversation around topics or issues dear to the heart of your brand

  • This is where many brands fall down; they simply do not proactively ‘get amongst it’ on social channels, preferring to sit back and push out content.

  • Want to get a jump on your competitor? Why not strategically identify the conversations you should be (seen to be) leading around your area of expertise and use content (blog posts, videos etc) to ignite discussion on social networks accordingly. One tip is to start, or participate on, a relevant regular Twitter hashtag chat (here is a great example of what that looks like).

Identify and proactively interact with ‘like minds’ and influencers in your space

  • Every industry has its obvious influencers, and there’s every chance they’re on one social channel or another; these may be bloggers, podcasters and journalists – people who have a platform and an audience of note – but they might also be individuals who are active on social channels and who others in your space look up to and interact with.

  • The best approach when dealing with influencers is to build genuine relationships with them over time; add value, shine the spotlight on them – it’s not about using them to push your brand, products and services; you need to be more thoughtful than that!

  • Influencers today are not only more visible thanks to social media, but there’s also a lot more of them. Be considered (and considerate) when reaching out to them, and don’t forget to take the long term view!

In summary, rather than tend to your social media channels in campaign-like ‘spurts’, show up regularly and contribute value to the online community you want your brand to be a part of.

Do this consistently and you’ll increase the opportunities and benefits of your social media marketing efforts as a result.


Why company directors need to be ‘out, loud and proud’ on social media

Social Media Scribble

Do you know who should be a company’s biggest champions?

Employees, I hear you say. And you’re probably right, but that’s only going to happen if a company has a super-engaged workforce and its employees are actually empowered to spread the love via social channels, as well in offline forums (public events, with friends over the backyard barbecue). Actually, not only empowered, but motivated to do so.

This is particularly important today as social media can help spread positive vibes about a brand far and wide, and if these ‘social vibes’ emanate authentically from passionately engaged employees, then it’s a massive win for the organisation in question.

But as research tells us time and time again, employees are not engaged.

Indeed, according to a Gallup study in the US, many employees are confused as to what the company they work for stands for:

Too few “brand ambassadors” – According to the report, “Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.”  As always, such findings point to the need for more and clearer communication from senior management to all organizational levels. (SOURCE)

And herein lies the problem, and it’s not the fault of employees but more so a lack of passionate external communication (not to mention clarity internally) from senior executives and company directors.

I’ve always maintained the ‘C’ Suite, including company directors, should be at the forefront of a brand’s communication with the public. In the past that would mostly have meant being front and centre of dealings with the media (preferably sans stilted messaging and media-trained slickness).

Actively engaged

But today communications leadership also means being actively engaged on social channels.

If a company’s board is not out there championing the business they’re directors of, if they’re not leading conversation or generating debate around issues affecting their industry or trends relevant to the company they represent, then who will?

You certainly can’t expect your employees to embrace social media and become unofficial ambassadors for your organisation if you’re not prepared to do it yourself.

Nuances of new media

There’s also a second very important reason why company directors need to be active on social media.

They need to understand, with depth, how it works. They need to develop an intuitive feeling for the nuances of the new media landscape. They need to ‘get’ how consumers today are connecting with brands and with each other using social technologies. In short, company directors need to be fully ‘socialised’.

If you haven’t got first-hand knowledge and experience of the technologies that are disrupting the way businesses market to consumers (indeed, an understanding of how social media can impact upon the operation of a business positively or negatively), you will be at a distinct disadvantage in the boardroom.

Companies need directors who are not only passionate about social media but also willing (and keen) to use their social networks and online publishing platforms to create content on behalf of the brand and interact with customers and influencers.

Having directors who are part of a company’s social PR efforts, who are ‘out, loud and proud’ on social media, will speak volumes about your brand in a positive way.

This post was originally published on BUSINESS CONNECTOR.

Why the future of marketing is heart first, calculator second

heart first

It’s been some two and a half years since I publicly introduced my concept of The Connected Brand.

Just to recap, my definition of a ‘connected brand’ is a person, company or organisation that:

  • connects with the people who matter the most to the success of its business, or cause or issue;  
  • contributes to their lives in respectful and meaningful ways;  
  • cultivates relationships with those people who are already fans, advocates, supporters and allies; and  
  • collaborates with other like-minded brands as a means of reaching new audiences, as well as helping it to stay fresh, relevant and vital.

4shotcropHow do they do this?

Through content creation (and curation), by kick-starting, facilitating and participating in conversation with customers and stakeholders via social media and other mediums (events, for example), and building a sense of community (or what I like to call ‘village of support’) around its brand by being empathetic, responsive and inclusive.

Over time, the brand becomes better placed to instigate its commercial call to action. 

In other words, it has earned the right to pitch its wares and thus has a ready-made market predisposed to its message.

Too often we see businesses go for the sales ‘kill’ straight away without going through any of the above steps; they pitch cold without putting in the groundwork to build any semblance of a relationship with people. It’s akin to someone interrupting you at a networking event, shoving their business card into your hand and pitching you their new product or service – and we all know how well that works!

But please allow me to push this idea a bit further … and I apologise in advance for the length of this post – consider it a ‘stake in the ground’ – I’m building a case for a different way to market your brand, and you can’t do that in 140 characters :)

I don’t know about you but I’m starting to see a growing number of businesses and organisations – let’s for the sake of this article call them ‘connected brands’ – that are taking a human, holistic and heart-first approach to marketing, and it’s really working for them and, more importantly, the public they serve.

Where more ‘mercenary’ businesses see people as prospects and leads to be nurtured and converted, connected brands see human beings and thus treat them accordingly, with empathy and respect.

So while the make-the-sale-at-any-cost merchants are focused on the hustle (but often with little empathy for customers), connected brands are busy delivering value over and above their products and services, and are generating a positive impact on the marketplace and their bottom line as a result.

Now before you say “but hey, businesses are there to make money and build shareholder value”, let me state right here, right now: I get it!

I get that business is about making the sale and churning out growing levels of profit year in, year out. That’s not what this is about - I’m more concerned with how businesses go about marketing their brand; I’m saying there is a better way to do that in today’s socially-fuelled ‘connection economy’.

Every time you call us “consumers” we feel like cows looking up the word “meat.” (Doc Searls and David Weinberger/BACKCHANNEL)

Continue in ‘old school’ fashion – the traditional marketing model – and I can almost guarantee you’ll be overtaken at some stage by individuals and organisations who demonstrate empathy and generosity, who lead with their heart first, calculator second.

Remember: People are now empowered and they love it! They have more information at their fingertips than ever before. They have connections and influence. In a world of abundance, they don’t need you or your products and services. So how are you going to appeal to this increasingly discerning customer base?

The answer is inject a spirit of generosity into your business, bring your people out from the shadows and humanise your organisation, add value by providing helpful and relevant ‘non-salesy’ information, and most of all lead with your heart!

I’m not the only one who veers down this path of ‘heart first’. This philosophy manifests itself in many different ways as we’ll see below, but there’s definitely a pattern forming. Allow me to elaborate – and I’d love to hear your take on this theme as well :)

unsellingScott Stratten, in his book Unselling, talks about “community before commerce” (I often talk about ‘connection before commerce’ as per The Connected Brand theory above, but I like Scott’s quote way better).

Mark Schaefer has judiciously and enthusiastically leveraged the power of blogging and social media to build an international platform for his personal brand; today he’s a globally-recognised blogger, speaker, educator, business consultant and author. Schaefer has come from a traditional sales and marketing role but understands better than most the shifting sands underneath the feet of marketers.

In his book Social Media Explained, Schaefer writes:

In an always-on, real-time, global world of business communications, the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections. Connections lead to awareness. Awareness leads to trust. Trust is the ultimate catalyst to business benefits, as it has always been.”

How good is that?

Bryan Kramer is the author of the acclaimed book ‘Human to Human #H2H’, which focuses on helping CEOs and marketers to bring back the “human side of communication, in all its imperfection, empathy, and simplicity”.

Kramer believes “relationships are the new currency in today’s social world”. He recommends companies keep it simple: ”Just be helpful. Do what you say you’ll do. Become better storytellers,” he writes.

Gary Vaynerchuk understands …

Gary Vaynerchuk is a born entrepreneur who is all about the hustle but he still understands better than most that by putting value first, by interacting with your community and building relationships, you’re going to ultimately win the fight for people’s hearts, minds and wallets.

Adherence to this philosophy has seen Vaynerchuk skyrocket from liquor store obscurity to becoming a social media powerhouse – professional speaker, best-selling author three times over, in-demand media commentator, angel investor and co-founder of a social media branding agency that employs some 420 people and in 2013 generated revenue of $23 million.

In his book The Thank You Economy, Vaynerchuk writes:

If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond. They will connect. They will like you. They will talk. They will buy.” 

Ted Rubin talks and writes not about ROI, but ROR – Return on Relationships.

Rubin says: “Return on Relationship (ROR, #RonR), simply put, is the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship, whereas ROI is simple dollars and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing, and is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement.” (SOURCE)

How do you build and strengthen relationships with your audience (as a whole, and as individuals) to increase your ROR? Rubin says:

  1. Listen
  2. Make it be about THEM
  3. Ask “How can I serve you?”
  4. Aim for Ongoing Engagement
  5. Know the People in Your Audience 

Sounds like a heart-first approach to me!

In Unselling, Scott Stratten writes enthusiastically about Big Ass Fans, a company that designs, engineers and manufactures overhead and directional fans for industrial, commercial and residential spaces.

Founder of Big Ass Fans, Carey Smith, is quoted in the book: “Relationship first – then making money is good business.” Be part of the community, Smith advocates.

When you invest in the community, you know the pulse of those around you – your customers and your employees.”

Marketing software company HubSpot is all about people and education. 

The company’s co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah says: “The future of marketing is about being human”.

HubSpot walks Shah’s talk. With great emphasis on educating the marketplace and teaching people to become better marketers, HubSpot has earned its reputation as one of the world’s leading brand-led content publishers. Does it work?

Well, the company is certainly no slouch when it comes to generating leads and closing sales – its business booked $115 million in revenue last year (via HubSpot’s 2014 Year in Review).


Okay, so let’s recap:

We’ve touched on the power of connection and how brands need to use social media and online publishing platforms to build deeper relationships, or as Mark Schaefer says, to “provide consistent, small provocations and conversations through content that lead to engagement and interactions” (SOURCE).

But what does this look like in action?

Here in Australia, companies such as Firebrand Talent and Valerie Khoo‘s Australian Writers’ Centre are not just growing their audiences (their respective ‘villages of support’) via social media, but their businesses as well. I frequently refer to these businesses as being classic examples of ‘connected brands’.

Give away your IP – and reap the rewards

Cam McLellan and his team at the property investment advisory firm Open Wealth Creation give away a fair whack of their ‘IP’ via their blog and particularly their daily video series. In an industry  known for its fair share of ‘sharks’ and hard-sell tactics, this approach is not only refreshing but stands out like a beacon in the night (a beacon, I might add, that people are attracted to).

Cam didn’t start with the mentality of: “How many leads will this blog post generate?” No, he looked at his audience, developed empathy for their issues and pain points, and created and published content that gave away all his ‘secrets’ (and in doing so empowered people with information they crave).

And the strategy is working big time: Business Review Weekly last year ranked Open Wealth Creation 13th on its BRW Fast 100 list; the business turned over $6.1 million in 2013-14, with growth pegged at 137 per cent.

The Honey Bar’s Steve Vallas: Building a ‘village of support’ 

Steve Vallas from The Honey Bar is a purist when it comes to social media. He’s all about using the likes of Twitter and Facebook to build relationships with people as well as a sense of community around the Honey Bar brand.

And while that works for him personally, it’s also a highly effective strategy in growing the Honey business.

Steve’s a businessman and he’s very cognisant the ROI that can be achieved by building relationships. On achieving an outcome with social media, he says:

If the outcome starts with ‘I want to get them here drinking’, then chances are what you produce and the sorts of conversations you have are very one-dimensional – you’ve got to add some value to people, and whether the value is conversation late at night or whether the value is the space I’ve got to offer or an introduction I can potentially do – it comes in many different forms – the value is the key proposition”

For a deeper dive into how Steve uses social media to grow his business, check out the video interview above.

Brian Goulet: How can I help the most people? 

I love what US-based Brian Goulet and the team at Goulet Pen Company are doing – they are in my eyes the absolute epitome of ‘The Connected Brand’ philosophy.

Rather than approach their content marketing efforts from the perspective of “how much traffic and how many sales will this video generate?”, Brian asks: “How can I help the most people?”

And it works! Goulet Pen Company provides so much value to its ever-growing community of adoring fans, followers, supporters and advocates of its brand, it’s seriously impressive.

The lengths Brian Goulet and his team go to, to help people and answer their questions through content and social interaction, would put most larger organisations to shame.

If you want to know what people think about the Goulet brand, check out the comments on this blog post. Indeed, I urge you to take a look and see first-hand what a community of raving fans looks like, then ask yourself: Would this heart-first approach to marketing work for my brand?

“Goulet Pens experienced 200% growth during their first year of business and have continued to enjoy growth rates each year in the 50-100% range.” (SOURCE)

Buffer is brilliant!

Social tech business Buffer too is brilliant at being fun, human, useful and helpful beyond the call of duty. The passion the company shows for its community is obvious, and they’ve built a serious global reputation in a short space of time.

Companies could do worse than check out Buffer to see how they go about their business.

buffer twitter


Becoming a social executive

Dionne (aka ‘The Social Executive’) Lew gives heaps without the expectation of getting anything in return. For example, Dionne is terrific at connecting people with common interests.

She takes notice of what people are talking/tweeting/writing about and then introduces them if she thinks there would be a ‘good fit’ intellectually and personality-wise.

Along similar lines, one of France’s leading marketing bloggers Gregory Pouy tells this wonderful story about the real-life ROI of Twitter. He writes:

Twitter is an incredible tool for managing customer relations, promoting your products, and following the discussions involving your brand. But perhaps most importantly, Twitter allows you to connect with people who may very well change your life or your business. 

Mark Masters & The ID Group

mark_masters_1393192200_36And finally, we have the ever-cheerful Mark Masters (left) who runs a design and content marketing agency based in regional England.

Rather than always be pushing his promotional message on to people, Mark – who’s also a blogger, podcaster and author - prefers to explore topics and issues by creating content, telling stories and participating on social channels. ”Let’s talk about it”, he says.

He writes in one blog post (‘Make Deeper Connections, Not Throwaway Moments’):

It is time to discover the ways where we can make an impact on others and to cause a reaction where we can challenge, entertain and be seen as representing a credible source that can create moments for others to be part of.

It’s working for Mark as he’s quickly making a name for himself in international content marketing circles. His new book – THE CONTENT REVOLUTION: Telling a Better Story to Differentiate From the Competition – is set to be released any time now.

(I recently recorded an interview with Mark for my Reputation Revolution podcast if you’re interested in hearing Mark’s philosophies in more detail).

But I’ll leave you with a quote from marketing provocateur and professional ruckus-maker Seth Godin:

“What matters now:

  • Trust
  • Permission
  • Remarkability
  • Leadership
  • Stories that spread
  • Humanity: connection, compassion, and humility

And yes, I underscored that last bit for a reason :)

Sorry this was a bit of an opus – consider it my ‘line in the sand’ moment for 2015! – but I think it’s a conversation worth having and as taking a ‘heart-first approach to marketing’ can manifest itself in many ways, I feel it’s a good idea for people to see the how this theme is emerging across the various different industries as highlighted above.

Over to you – what are your thoughts on this subject?