Comms Corner with Emily Martyn

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In our latest #CommsCorner we chat with Emily Martyn, Corporate Affairs Lead at Hostplus. She shares her favourite c-words and explains how she got “hooked” on communication!

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

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The day we brought dairy to Canberra

From cars to cows; chocolate to competitive investment returns; I am passionate about many c words – most of all, communications! I’m an energetic and constantly curious PR practitioner with experience across in-house corporate and government affairs, not-for-profit and agency communications roles. I enjoy being kept on my toes, trying new things, immersing myself in different industries, meeting new people, learning new skills and taking my infinitely transferable ‘comms toolkit’ with me along the way.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

I roll over to my 6am alarm and check the day’s latest news clippings – what’s being said about the business, our industry, the sectors we serve and our competitors. I’ll identify if there are any opportunities to leverage coverage and promote the business; or potential risks to manage and protect its reputation from. Outside of media relations, my average day consists of several touchpoints with different business functions on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and investments-related matters, new product launches, community relations, marketing and sponsorships. I also work closely with the CEO’s office and Group Executive, and support industry lobbying and advocacy on a number of external committees. To wind down from my day, I enjoy walking around Albert Park Lake (whenever I can), playing tennis, painting and cooking up a nutritious feast at home.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

When I left school, I started studying Architecture at Monash University before soon realising the old-school concept of pen to sketching paper I romanticised in my head, was really a thing of the past. Whilst I loved the creativity of it and was pushed to challenge any preconceived ideas I had, the highly complex three-dimensional computing and mathematics lost me. Second to my love for visual design and art, I knew I really enjoyed English at school, which is why I applied for public relations work experience at Mango (DDB). Here, I realised there was a big bunch of like-minded people who were creative, working with impressive clients and shaping the reputations of many hugely-successful household brands. I was instantly hooked and applied for a PR degree at Deakin University the next week!

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I’ve been privileged to have a few mentors in my life – some that have grown organically and others part of a formalised workplace program – however there has been one who has truly made a significant impact in helping me to where I am today. I met Natalie Collard, who was CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) at the time, at a PR networking function hosted by Deakin University. Nat and I both remember that event very clearly and the instant connection we had through the similar values we shared, our approach to work life, and the bigger life goals we were aiming to achieve. At the time, I wasn’t sure why however I knew I had to stay in contact with Nat.

When my 12-month contract was coming to an end, following a challenging year for the business (where we announced the closure of Holden’s manufacturing operations), Nat was the first person I reached out to. It just so happened at that time, ADF was in dire need for extra resourcing to run their first National Dairy Farmers’ Summit and after a short phone conversation, asked if I could start next week! Ever since, Nat has very generously taken me under her wing, helped me leverage my strengths, pushed me out of my comfort zone (on several occasions), been a constructive feedback loop and trusted confident, and most of all, a wonderful friend. We catch-up every few months and remain in regular contact over the phone.

Which tools can’t you live without?

On a digital front, definitely my iPhone, Meltwater and iSentia. However, I also can’t go a day without my old-school journal – there’s something about learning through writing that I just can’t achieve when typing!

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

The 24-hour media cycle can make finding the right work-life balance challenging when you’re expected to be ‘on’ all the time. I know I’m at my personal best when I give myself an hour or so each day to do something outside in the fresh air, away from my phone and laptop. Being a Libran, achieving balance is both my biggest strength and weakness…it’s a day-to-day battle!

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

During my dairy days – working at Australian Dairy Farmers with Natalie – and in response to New Zealand’s lucrative free trade agreement (FTA) with China which has seen their exports sore to around 40 per cent of global market share (versus Australia’s meagre 7 per cent), we launched a social media campaign to place Australian dairy on a level playing field with NZ in China.

To spread the message, we urged the Australian dairy community to get behind our #FTA4dairy ‘selfie’ campaign to promote a positive China-Australia FTA (ChAFTA) for all Australian farmers – rallying support from dairy farmers, industry groups, Federal and State politicians, ag students and everyday consumers. Our not-for-profit efforts (carried out on a $500 budget) received bipartisan support, were quoted in Hansard in several Senate Hearing Committees and played an instrumental role in the outcome of the signed ChAFTA in June 2015, which has started to see the removal of all Australian dairy export tariffs to China (to be fully completed by 2026).

Which campaign do you most admire?

One of my favourites is Dove’s Real Beauty campaign which ramped up in 2006, turning a brand associated with a plain white bar of soap, into a household name challenging the status quo and opening young women’s eyes to the narrow definitions of beauty we all grew up with. This campaign stemmed from Edelman’s research of more than 3000 women in 10 countries, exploring what beauty means to women today and why that is. This integrated marketing campaign is still as relevant today as it was 10 years ago, and has moved beyond a re-branding exercise into a US-based charitable fund (among other initiatives) to raise awareness about online bullying and photography projects that capture the beauty girls see in the world around them. It’s a tremendous case study.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

Being in my mid-twenties with five years’ experience under my belt, I can only offer a limited perspective on this, however I have observed that the comms landscape for businesses and corporate leaders has dramatically changed with the speed, reach and inter-dependence of social and traditional media. Today, we see more risk from not being involved on social media, than being involved – this has been a clear behavioural and issues management shift over a short period of time.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

From a PR perspective, we’re very lean on the ground here with myself as the corporate affairs resource and media monitoring/reporting support from Meltwater. However, if we needed to cut something from the larger marketing budget, it would definitely be merchandising – whilst it’s a nice-to-have; the show can go on without it (…my marketing colleagues may not agree though)!

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

Being a naturally curious person, I admire like-minded comms people who aren’t afraid to ask ‘why’ and challenge preconceived systems, processes and ways of thinking. Just because the business has done something one way for many years – a ‘legacy’ thing, if you will – doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way forward. We need to be constantly evolving and trying new things to remain relevant.

I also think flexibility is equally as important. Particularly today where corporates are constantly in a state of flux and going through large transformation programs – you need to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to the ever-changing situations we find ourselves in. It’s what keeps our comms jobs interesting and continually evolving.

What’s your favourite brand?

At Mondelez International, I was privileged to work on a portfolio of iconic brands including Vegemite, The Natural Confectionery Co., KRAFT Peanut Butter, Pascall, Oreo and belVita, however nothing can top the heritage of Cadbury. From the UK brand’s humble beginnings in Birmingham selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate, to being owned by the second largest confectionery brand in the world, Cadbury has been inventing, inspiring and investing in British and Australian (and most recently Indian and Chinese) chocolate-lovers for almost 200 years. Last year alone, Cadbury generated more than US$3 billion in global net revenues. It’s also my (not-so-secret) source of indulgence…

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ’ is a must-read, exploring insights into our two minds – the rational and emotional – and how they together shape our destiny. This book draws on psychology and neuroscience discoveries to demonstrate how emotional intelligence determines our success in relationships, work and even our physical well-being. Knowing that words account for less than 10 per cent of our overall messages, this is a great read for all comms practitioners; however, I’d suggest breaking it down to bite-size chunks to digest and reflect over time.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

Comms is a necessary requirement in every industry, business, function and team. Whilst it may be in your job title; it doesn’t mean it’s your role to carry the load for the entire organisation. The best way to set yourself up for success, alongside the business, is to help colleagues understand the benefits of setting and implementing a strategic comms plan, and reporting back on its deliverables. As comms professionals, we have the most impact empowering others to take control of their personal communication needs, whilst providing directional guidance and constructive feedback along the way.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

Key – to success in life, work and relationships.

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A strategic approach to content curation

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Content curation is nothing new. Museums, galleries and libraries have been honing and managing their collections of content for hundreds of years. Content curation occurs in all sorts of contexts, from radio broadcasters selecting playlists to attract and retain an audience, through to companies producing catalogues of retail items.

But for our purposes we’re focussing on content curation in the social media context. Content curation is not to be confused with content marketing, and it doesn’t include creating new content. Instead, it’s best to think of it as the activity of discovering, compiling, and sharing existing content.

For communications professionals it can be an important tactic for maintaining a positive online presence, and a way to provide value to your followers without having to actually produce the content yourself. It provides an opportunity to highlight your organisations’ interests and tastes. Your audience derives value from this content because they themselves do not need to dig around to find it. Who has time for that?

How then do you make content curation work for you and your organisation?  The first and most important consideration is to be sure that you align this activity with your organisation’s strategic goals. This can tie into a ‘personal brand’ if you’re an individual or to a larger ethos if you’re an organisation or business.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

Don’t just add to the noise of your audience’s already over-cluttered online environment. Humans are excellent pattern recognition machines, and they will quickly identify new things that they haven’t seen before. It’s essential that your content offers them both quality and uniqueness. Don’t just re-use content that the thought leaders in your area of interest have already disseminated. Chances are that your clients have already seen it. Go that extra step of locating valuable and on-trend content. This is what will make you stand out from the crowd.

That extra step means going outside the usual streams of information like Twitter and LinkedIn. It means using techniques such as RSS feeds and alerting services like Google. It requires a high level of information assessment to ensure you’re not picking up junk. Just remember, the extra effort will pay dividends in increased awareness for your organisation and improved engagement with your followers.

Content context

You can have all of the highly relevant and quality content in the world but if your audience isn’t connecting to it there’s really no point. Make sure the content that you’re disseminating is compelling and attractive by framing it within the interests of your target group.

There are several techniques that can help you achieve this.  First of all, ensure your content is timely and scheduled appropriately for your target audience. Use language and keywords in a creative and/or humorous way so they both signal the intellectual aspects of the content as well as add your own perspective on it. This is tricky and requires both flair for language and a working knowledge of your subject area. Adding your own commentary is a great way to get your ‘brand’ across and engage audiences (but be sure not to veer into too controversial territory).

And don’t forget to consider the structure and look of the content you are putting out. Are photos cropped and sized appropriately (there is nothing more unprofessional than a fuzzy undersized image, right?).

Compliment the creator

As well as ensuring that you comply with copyright and fair-use (see below), engaging with the original content creator can be a great way to further leverage value from content. Using handles and appropriate tags can both alert the author that you are re-using their content, and also give them an opportunity to engage with you. This is a way to develop a potentially fruitful relationship with them (and expose their followers to your own channel at the same time).

Tools of the trade

Be sure that the content you’re disseminating is hitting the mark, being noticed by your target group and increasing your profile. To do this you need to take an evidence based approach. And there are many tools out there available to assist you with this task. Google, for example, offers an in-depth tutorial on the fundamentals of working with analytical tools, for free!

Consider using mind-mapping tools, either online (of which there are countless available), or by putting pen to paper. Mind-mapping can help you understand and visualise the concepts you are trying to hit with your curation. It’s an excellent way to brainstorm content ideas and to ensure they fit into your overall strategic framework. In our experience this can also be an expedient way to take concepts directly from the brainstorming phase into your social media calendar.

Citation management is an essential part of avoiding the violation of copyright and ensuring fair use. But it can also be tedious and time-consuming (just ask any academic or student). Fear not though, as there are all sorts of brilliant online tools to expedite the process of proper attribution of other’s intellectual work, and these tools can also benefit content curators. Try using a tool like Zotero, which can be used as an internet browser add-in. These tools allow you to cite, store and manage found online content as you discover it.

Lastly, consider signing up for a good ol’ RSS feed or two from outlets that you know put out high quality and unique content. While RSS seems an almost old-fashioned term in this day and age, it’s still an incredibly powerful tool for uncovering otherwise obscure and shy content that other people won’t be seeing. And some of the oldies but goodies  are still readily available such as Digg and Feedly. Just remember, make sure you monitor sources that have a high percentage match to the key criteria that will be relevant to your audience, otherwise you’ll find you spend too much time trawling through irrelevant information.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

 

Comms Corner with Ross Monaghan

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This week, we’re at Deakin Downtown with a group of university students helping us promote the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Their mentor is the award-winning educator from Deakin Ross Monaghan (AKA @themediapod). Enjoy our chat with Ross. 

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Ross hams it up during a visit with some of his PR students to the National Gallery of Victoria

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m a communication lecturer and passionate about helping great students launch their career.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Like most communicators, no two days are the same for me. Some days I’ll be delivering a lecture, marking assignments and meeting with students one-on-one to help them find the perfect internship, other days I’ll be leading a study tour or industry project that will help students gain better industry insights.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

I became passionate about communication a few second before I asked the editor of the Warrnambool Standard for a job as a copy boy. I was in year 11 at the time and wanted a new surf ski. I was introduced to him by Warrnambool’s Mayor at the time, Toni McCormack, who had given me the role of PR officer for the Warrnambool City Junior Council.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of great mentors throughout my career. At the top of the list would be John Bown who was the Public Affairs Manager at BHP’s Port Kembla steelworks in the 1990s. He was an “old school” practitioner (who once infamously pushed a Channel 7 camera operator during a Greenpeace raid on the steelworks) but was willing to embrace my ideas and push to introduce new technology such as desktop publishing in to the communications department.

Which tools can’t you live without?

The espresso machine. Once I’ve had my morning coffee, I can deal with anything.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Keeping in contact in a meaningful way with the hundreds of students, alumni, co-workers and industry colleagues that I call friends. Each year my network grows as hundreds of students graduate and begin their communication career. I catch-up regularly with many of them, but not as often as I’d like.

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

This is an easy question for me. I spent many years in the steel industry. Heavy industry is extremely dangerous, and large employers with thousands of employees on one site rarely go more than a few days without a lost time injury – that’s an injury so bad that an employee has to miss at least one day of work. I think the record before the campaign was about four days. My research indicated that many employees weren’t concerned about being so injured that they’d have to spend time at home. They’d be home, and being paid after all! I decided to video interview a range of employees who had been injured. Many broke down in tears on camera explaining that they were in constant pain, on day-shift pay rates (without significant night penalties and overtime rates) meaning many had lost their homes, and some resulting in family breakdowns. It was very emotional, and I was very grateful that the injured employees were happy to share their story. When I first showed it to the GM, a former crew supervisor at the steelworks, he cried, and demanded that every supervisor in the works must see it within 24 hour, and all employees within the next week. The result was that the steelworks went without a lost time injury for about three months.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

I began my career as a journalist using a manual typewriter. That, and the fact that I rode a dinosaur to work, are the biggest changes.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

If I had a budget…

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

A good ethical compass. Sometimes the truth might be ugly, but it’s still the truth.

What’s your favourite brand?

BHP will probably always be my favourite brand. Whilst it’s not the company it was in the 1990s, BHP has played such a vital role in Australia’s development and progress, and much of that has largely gone unrecognised.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

That listening is the most important skill in communication.

You have two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

Communication is a two-way process.

Creating a voice for your social media

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img_1646It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that the difference between a good social media channel and a superlative one is having a strong and consistent voice. No matter how much strategic planning, executive buy-in and resources you throw at your social media presence, nothing will endear you to your clients and stakeholders as much as creating a unique and memorable voice.

Your social media voice encompasses all the words, terms and expressions that flow across your social media channel. Their purpose should be to foster and reinforce engagement between your company and your clients. The voice should depict how you want your clients to see you.

That’s all a rather dry way of explaining something that needs to come off as organic and spontaneous. Do you want your company image to be hip or helpful, sophisticated or irreverent. With so many options to choose from, and with humans being as they are, it’s all too easy for your social media content to have an inconsistent and erratic voice, something that no business in their right mind would want. When your voice differs across your channels it can be almost impossible to achieve an authentic identity that is so essential to fostering trust between you and your clients.

Strategies that you can employ to improve and clarify your social media voice don’t have to cost the world or take a long time. But they are a valuable exercise to assist you with connecting your social media content with the image you want to portray. The following are some pointers on how to clarify what you want your organisations social media character to be.

Culture and community

Your social media voice should stem from the culture of your organisation. If you decide to adopt a whimsical, sprightly voice for an organisation that is serious and no-nonsense, then this will become obvious pretty quickly. At the same time it’s also important to think about your community of stakeholders. They will be gauging how to interact with you through your social media voice. You can do this by making sure you’re speaking their language and projecting a clear and consistent image.

Storyboarding

Think of the social media voice as they great narrator of the story of your venture. As such, techniques like storyboarding are a great method to develop character and story, just as you would when writing a script. Figure out everything your organisation likes, dislikes, your goals and who you want to be. Through this you’ll be able to define your voice with even more precision.

Develop your feedback loop

It’s important that you have a consistent approach to how you respond to those who engage with you on your social media channels. Do you know what to say when you receive an adversarial or negative comment on Twitter? Are you making an effort to strengthen your relationships or just providing glib and shallow responses? Ensure all your interactions have the same goal, to reinforce your desired voice.

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Watch your language

Are you trying to connect with an audience that has a niche sensibility and knowledge-base. Is jargon appropriate? Will speaking frankly on certain subjects alienate people or stimulate conversation? Do you have an appropriate balance of colloquial and professional language across all you channels? Asking yourself these questions can help you make sure you don’t confuse, or even upset, your audience.

Once you have a good idea of what you want your voice to be, it’s time to start thinking about how you can highlight this across different social media channels. You might think about creating a social media style guide. Hitting the right tone can be tricky and guiding your social media authors can help them, and you, avoid heartache. It’s no use going to the effort to define all the elements you see as essential to creating your ideal social media voice, and then the intern retweets the latest inappropriate meme.

Hootsuite have a very handy list of what your social media style guide should include. Even if you don’t need a formal style guide, it’s still a great checklist for everything you need to be thinking about when strategising for your social media voice.

Hootsuite’s suggested template for a social media style guide

  1. A list of active accounts and contacts
  2. Your social media goals
  3. Audience breakdown
  4. Tone of voice
  5. Terminology
  6. Publishing
    1. Ownership (i.e. should individual authors sign-off on their posts)
    2. Cross-platform publishing
    3. Where to source content
    4. Punctuation guidelines
    5. Hashtags
    6. Emoji
    7. How to give credit
    8. Using links
    9. Platform-specific guidelines
  7. Scheduling
  8. Content calendar
  9. Image and design guidelines
  10. Legal considerations

Happy tweeting, facebooking, insta-ring …. etc!

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Jackie French in the #CommsCorner

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Low res 1This week we chat with Australian author Jackie French AM in the #CommsCorner.  As well as being the author of more than 200 books, Jackie is the patron of literacy programmes across Australia. When she’s not writing, she’s cooking for friends and family in her kitchen at the top of the gorge in the Araluen Valley.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

Author, honorary wombat (part time), passionate advocate for the power of story and the right of every child to read; Australian Children’s Laureate 2014-2015; Senior Australian of the Year 2015.

Tell us about your typical day as an author?

  • Have coffee.
  • Procrastinate.
  • Answer emails. Mutter at too many emails.
  • Procrastinate
  • Begin to write.  Return to reality five hours later when husband yells ‘dinner time.’
  • Feed wombats.
  • Feed husband.
  • Answer emails. Mutter.
  • Speak sternly to wombats.
  • Bed.
  • Possibly wake at 4am and jot down note for next chapter.

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I was three years old when I realised that books were created by humans, not picked from trees. (Though I am still hoping to find that Book Tree).

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

Socrates, executed for encouraging the youth of ancient Athens to question everything.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My favourite cooking knife and wooden spoon; laptop; chainsaw (the road out of our place is long and tree strewn), iPad.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Sleep, and getting time for same. Answering 94 requests a day, most of which are heartbreaking.

Which communication campaign do you most admire?

The 1972 ‘It’s Time’ campaign. It sold a dream with no specifics whatsoever; yet the specifics were radical, utopian and thought out.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

I am extremely old, ie pre television. Also I gave up watching TV entirely 46 years ago. I am not the best person to ask about communication changes in the past 50 years. Extremely good however if you want to talk about communication changes in the past  five millenia.

 

What quality do you look for in your writing collaborators?

Integrity, perfectionist, imagination.

What’s your favourite brand?

Home grown.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

The one that moves you most. Being honest about what you want to read tends to lead to honesty in your work.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out as a writer?

Speak only the truth, and with passion or with laughter. Otherwise shut up.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

The best communication is a story. Each physics breakthrough began with a story. Women were killed and no one listened, then Rosie Batty told a story. Find the story and you can twist the world.

What Twitter can learn from that time Coca Cola changed its formula

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We thought we’d share this great article from The Conversation – a few more characters than 280 though… thanks Collette Snowden, University of South Australia

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Twitter is experimenting with 280 characters.
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The 140-character message limit has defined Twitter. But the company is now experimenting with its format, doubling the length of some users’ tweets to 280 characters. Why are they taking such an enormous risk, playing with the characteristic that defines and differentiates the service?

The reason is that Twitter’s user base has been stuck at about 320 million for some time. If this doesn’t change, entropy will set in and Twitter could collapse.

We can learn a lot about what Twitter is going through by looking at the time Coca Cola decided to change its recipe, and unveiled “New Coke”. The change was rejected by customers, and the company had to backtrack.

Another thing pushing Twitter’s move is that it reported a slight decline in users and a loss of US$116 million in the most recent quarter. It was punished by investors and put on notice, so increasing users and ad revenue are important corporate objectives.

 

Users still don’t want to pay

Twitter’s problem, like all social media and news platforms, comes down to the unwillingness of online users to pay. Older forms of media – newspapers and the like – are just holding on despite declining advertising revenue, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult as traditional consumers die and younger consumers expect all media to be accessible online.

By experimenting with longer messages, Twitter will be hoping to solve some of the problems faced by advertisers. At present, advertisers prefer to spend their money on other platforms because they have many more active users who are more attentive, and provide better data on how to both target consumers and evaluate impact.

The capacity to reach audiences and provide content on Twitter is severely limited by the 140-character restriction. While Twitter belatedly tackled some of the limitations of its format by allowing the addition of images, videos, and weblinks, the short message format remains restrictive for promotional communication.

Longer tweets will keep users on a screen for longer, and allow advertisers to “push” messages to users. But the risk for Twitter is that this is precisely what its most loyal users want to avoid.

Twitter urgently needs to find a way to meet the demands of its advertisers, but by doing so it risks alienating users – the people who create the network that makes Twitter valuable.

Remember Friendster? Remember MySpace? The latter’s former head of online marketing, Sean Percival, once noted that among the many mistakes made by MySpace, disrespecting users was a key one.

Most social media users treat the online space as a public service without much awareness that the vast technological enterprise that delivers it must be paid for.

Lessons from business history

Twitter might ponder what happened when Coca Cola changed the formula of its signature product in 1985.

At the time it was believed that the change was a reaction to the increased market share that Pepsi enjoyed after its hugely successful marketing campaign featuring artists such as Michael Jackson.

The New Coke formula also tested well against Pepsi in focus group studies that included 200,000 taste tests. But an account of this episode, written by Constance L. Hays, argued the real motivation behind the change was US$50 million in annual savings by reducing the use of more expensive ingredients.

In interviews with Pepsi chemists, Hays was told: “Coke turned its back on the very thing that made it great.”

While the company recovered well from the public relations crisis, and now tells a positive story about it, for a time Coca Cola was in grave danger. Tellingly, it was saved by the people who loved the product enough to pressure the company to reverse its decision. These customers organised a boycott and other public campaigns that saw the old formula restored after three months.

An important lesson for marketers from the New Coke experiment was that in spite of the rigorous market testing, other factors had to be considered. Marketers learned about the importance of habit, tradition, brand loyalty and affinity, or more simply, the truth of the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

While Twitter is not selling a much loved soft drink, the tech world is also littered with cautionary tales of failure like TiVo, or the Microsoft Zune, and “tweaks” to successful products and applications that have damaged companies and brands, like Vegemite iSnack 2.0 (now rebadged as Cheeseybite).

Are they solving a problem for users?

One of the common features of both human and computer networks is that weak connections lead to network instability and breakdown. Yet this is precisely the risk Twitter is taking by changing its format. Longer messages may drive away loyal users who love the current format without attracting new users to satisfy and reassure investors and advertisers.

Many people are asking serious questions about the value of their time spent on social media and various studies show use of social media sites is starting to decline.

Creating longer messages won’t solve this problem, especially as it threatens to make Twitter even more time consuming. People will have less time to follow other users as they spend more time writing, and less time reading and sharing posts.

Twitter might be seizing the day – Carpe Diem – to change its primary product or test the waters to gauge public reaction, but it’s worth remembering that those two powerful Latin words are from a longer phrase by the poet Horace.

Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero

which translates as:

While we’re talking, envious time is fleeing: seize the day, put no trust in the future

The ConversationTwitter might consider Horace’s longer message before it commits to the introduction of 280-character posts. Its future may be at stake.

Collette Snowden, Senior Lecturer, School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The art of naming a company

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The Duke of Cambridge with his son Prince George on his first day of school (Image: @KensingtonRoyal)

We’re a little clucky at the c word with the recent joyous news from Kensington Palace that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child. And with the punters racing to choose a name for the future prince or princess, it has got us thinking about the challenges and opportunities involved in naming a new enterprise … such as a child or a company.

It’s a question that I’m often asked – how did you come up with your company name? the c word? I wish I could say it happened over night, but in fact it took months and months of contemplating ideas … some downright dreadful … until one morning I was walking back from a Friday office coffee run … staring at the C= coffee in my hands and thinking about how it fuels so many communicators … and it struck me… C= communicatin, coffee, champagne … I have to call my company the c word!

Most outside the professional world of communications might consider naming a company a somewhat arbitrary task. But those of us with an appreciation of branding know that the name of your business not only needs to encapsulate the essence of your corporate entity, but convey this information in a clear and catchy way that people will remember. A name should express the entire image you want your business to have. It also has the power to influence the behaviour of your customers and clients. Just think of how the word Nike, as a synonym of victory, has played into that company’s astonishing success.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Generally there are three approaches to naming your company. You can choose a name that has nothing to do with the services or products you actually provide (think McDonalds, or Apple).  Or you could choose something that directly conveys this, a la ‘Toys R Us’. The third option is to make up an entirely new word that you’re hoping will come to mean what you want it to mean, such as Skype or Google.

So how can you be confident that you’re picking the right name? The first and primary thing to keep in mind is the people and groups you want to reach out to. For example, something trendy and edgy won’t suit a business wanting to appeal to a conservative corporate crowd. On the other hand, being too bland won’t help you stand out from the crowd.

Cognitive fluency

An essential concept to wrap your head around before you undertake the task of naming a new business is the idea of cognitive fluency.  Essentially this is a term used to indicate the ease with which information is processed by the brain. It is a measure of how easy it is to think about something and the difference between simplicity and complexity.

circle

Image above: Which is easier to understand? A description of a circle, or a picture of a circle?

Without wading too far into the neuroscientific weeds, the main point to take away from this idea is that cognitive fluency affects decision-making. For example, psychologists have found that companies with easier to pronounce names have significantly more investors than those with harder to pronounce names.

The other aspect to remember is that one person’s attribution of cognitive fluency can be totally different from another’s attribution. In a nutshell, past experience and current context play heavily into how people will interpret your business name. So it’s best to stay away from controversial terms, and again to think about your desired client/customer group.

So with all that in mind there are some general tips to follow:

  • DON’T use initials (especially strings of initials).
  • DON’T use words that are foreign to your target audience.
  • DON’T use words that can be pronounced in several different ways, or that are difficult to pronounce.

If you are going with an entirely new word (think of the skype example from above), it’s important to remember a few things. You can use word segments that imply something that you wish to convey. For example, you can combine ‘Rapid’ or ‘Express’ with other words to imply speed. Or combine two words that describe what it is your business does (e.g. Kwikcopy, or Travelodge). You can also attempt to create an image that will influence how customers see your business.

Finally…

Before you make this important decision it is essential to ensure your proposed name goes through some standard user testing. Focus groups, user-surveys and graphical interface testing are all useful exercises. Not only will these allow you to pick a name that clients will react positively to, but it will also help you to avoid embarrassing or unintentional meanings.

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew