You center a lot of your offerings around creating and building thought leadership for your clients. Why is this tactic so important to maintain as we get ready to leave 2021 behind us?
Thought leadership is an essential tool in the reputation and visibility arsenal. Our clients are vying for customers, employees and investors. The marketplace and media landscape are exceedingly crowded. Getting visibility and building a curated reputation takes a big investment. Living with the uncertainty of the pandemic also means that a brand can be damaged in minutes without a strong presence to keep its story and truth out in the public sphere. Brands and organizations need a voice, a point of view and a reason for engaging with the public. Without that, they are either invisible, irrelevant or waiting for competitors to define them.
I think content is going to become more important than ever for storytelling initiatives in 2022 as more people want to find their own information in their own way. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Content will be very important in 2022 for searchability, reputation, brand building and customer relationships. Content has many purposes with numerous channels and formats. How a brand tells its story, where it is shared and who reads it are all integral to deciding the content themes. Too many content creators crank out large volumes of content without an overarching strategy, which can be a waste of time and resources. It also clogs the inboxes and undermines the patience of the audience with whom you are trying to communicate.
So, if producing a content program for 2022, be sure to have a plan that is clear about what you are intending to accomplish, who you are looking to engage, the call to action you are issuing, and what content pieces (with what frequency and channel) have the best chance to be read.
Social media feels toxic to me on most days, but it's a vital part of the work we do. How can we, as professionals, cut through the bad stuff and emerge on the other side with an effective social media strategy?
Social media needs to be more thoughtful. Many marketers have social media tactics but lack an actual strategy – not just a social media strategy, but a content strategy. Some assign the work to an inexperienced employee who is not connected to corporate strategy and decision making. If you do not have a clear and distinct brand and story, then posting a stream of items across social channels can provide output without outcomes. Social media strategy and content need to cascade down to disseminate and ladder up to company values, goals and major occurrences, brand stories and initiatives, and customer interests. Social media content needs to reflect the brand voice through visuals, copy and selected channels. It needs to differentiate and express your unique brand.
Sometimes social media posts offer a valuable platform for sharing customer feedback. Other times social media attracts detractors to respond or provides a forum for antagonists to attack a brand. Since social media is a living, breathing communication, strategies for addressing any of these challenges are often developed in real time, but corporate communications professionals should have protocols in place and responses ready to address potential scenarios that are negative or potentially damaging based on a brand’s vulnerabilities. Responses should be crafted in advance for possible customer requests and complaints, while tailored to the real-life situation and designed to move the customer to a personal engagement to help solve their concern in real time.
Even by limiting your social media presence, it is possible to still be included in communications that a brand may find unpleasant. So, it is generally best to have a deliberately curated presence so you have the option to navigate a situation, and more importantly present a long time well-populated discussion that tells a compelling story about the brand.
You talk a lot about how context shapes content. What does that mean?
The American media landscape of the past few years – both news and social -- has taught us that people may have similar information or experiences and interpret them very differently. The reality that as a society we have debated if facts matter and where the lines sit between fact and opinion reflects blurred lines between what individuals and institutions we trust and what information we will use to make judgments and decisions.
All of that is CONTEXT.
Each person’s world view affects what they see, how they interpret it and what they communicate. Based on what we know, see, experience or believe, there is usually more than one way to present a situation. What sports teams do you route for? What college colors and mascot do you cheer for and which do you jeer? Did you or a loved one have chicken pox as a child? Or did someone in your family get hit by a drunk driver? Do you have a preference for certain ethnic food? Did you have a bad experience with a particular financial institution or type of investment product? Do you assume that children add value and warmth to a party or that they will be a distraction or disruption?
It is amazing how seemingly small or inconsequential preferences or discomfort may influence how we interpret information and describe situations.
Without context, it is impossible to know if the information we are receiving and relying on to make decisions is factual, exaggerated or fiction.
It feels like most of us in marketing have been able to adapt pretty well to working in a pandemic. How has your work been changed?
I’ve worked from a home office with staff operating from their homes for the 20 years Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications has been in business.
The biggest changes have been 1) changing client relationships from phone and in-person to primarily Zoom/video meetings and 2) an isolation exacerbated by eliminating in-person meetings, networking events, board and professional organization meetings, and social gatherings. I now see many clients more than ever, though on a screen, which has been great for strengthening relationships. It also makes overseas clients feel closer. Many professional discussions have evolved to sharing more personal stories and experiences, which has been valuable for our mental well-being. Many LinkedIn conversations have spun off to personal follow ups, too.
Finally, the question I ask everyone - what is the best book, fiction or non-fiction, you have read recently?