The Kids Are Alright: the Mutual Benefits of Mentoring

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Teaching creators at the Creators x Singapore Media Festival Ignite event about how to work with clients / potential sponsors.

 

Sulu: “She’s supposed to have Transwarp drive.”
Scotty: “Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.”
Kirk: “Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.”

That bit of dialog, from the motion picture Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), depicts how an older generation is typically cynical of the ideas of a younger generation simply because…they’re new. Personally, I could never understand the stereotype that the older one gets, the more intolerant one becomes of the younger generation. I believe that one of the reasons why I have managed to constantly adapt to different industries and reinvent my career over more than two decades is because I find there is always something new to learn. And more often than not, those lessons come from people much younger than myself.

Most people will credit a mentor for being the guiding hand in their careers but for me (although I have my own mentors, too) much of the guidance I recall comes from people that I managed. Most of what I know about influencer marketing, I learned from a young lady who introduced me to toy designers in Japan and content publishers in Thailand while working at Nokia. Most of what I know about search marketing, I learned from a young man in his 20s whom we had just hired when I worked at Wego.com. Even today, I continue to learn about transmedia disciplines, storytelling workshops and content creation from my (much younger) social media team at Mediacorp. Among the many highlights of my time as part of the digital transformation team at Mediacorp is the chance to work with and learn from students, young entrepreneurs and content creators.

Through the Mediapreneur program, I work on and mentor local technology startups. In many ways, the opportunity to regularly interact with young minds with fresh ideas, attitudes unencumbered by corporate politics and bullshit, have been a welcome respite from the doldrums of working within a large corporate organization. The hope that many of the technologies, solutions and approaches they develop will soon be a part of Mediacorp’s media ecosystem.

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Our Mediapreneur startups and mentors gather at the Mediacorp Campus.

This year, I was also part of Mediacorp’s partnership with Nanyang Technological University’s Peak program, where their best students are put into groups of five and given a real business problem to tackle. Two teams I was assigned to mentor where tasked to provide recommendations on how to best utilize Mediacorp’s radio / digital audio assets in order to stay relevant to the 18-35 year-old audience.

NTU Peak
The NTU Peak students meet members of Mediacorp’s radio team to hear their ideas on how to make our digital audio strategy relevant to Millennials.

Listening to these students talk about their attitudes towards “radio” — more accurately described as digital streaming audio — was a genuine eye-opener to myself as well as our own radio teams.

More recently, I have been working with the content creators in Bloomr.sg, Mediacorp’s own creator network. Part of the Singapore Media Festival, Bloomr hosted Creators x SMF Ignite, a workshop where YouTube and Instagram creators from Southeast Asia learn from seasoned content marketers, advertising and media practitioners about how to develop media strategies and campaigns for advertisers.

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Industry veterans and YouTube & Instagram creators meet at the Creators x SMF Ignite event.

The two-day event culminated in an activity where groups respond to campaign briefs that are judged by veterans from advertising agencies, Mediacorp’s own Brand Studio and myself.

While I admit there is satisfaction in the knowledge that I am able to impart some wisdom from my own career, I continue to find the interaction with younger colleagues both educational and rewarding. The learning never stops and, as a wise man once said, you must always be ready to “unlearn what you gave learned.”

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Brand Storytelling is Crucial to Achieving Loyalty

Loyalty to a brand stems from share values and values are conveyed through the stories a brand tells

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Humans have passed on information and values since men first told stories using oral narration and cave paintings.

 

Brand loyalty goes beyond product. While having a strong product obviously helps, in many categories the difference between one product or another isn’t always obvious or tangible. Does Starbucks truly make the best cup of coffee in the world? Or the cheapest? Is there really a remarkable difference between the 200 brands of shampoo on the shelf when you walk into a store?
This is especially true in low involvement categories like financial institutions or telecommunications service providers. How often does one think about his insurance company or his mobile phone provider, for example? For these cases, the differentiation isn’t just product but also customer experience and, of course, the customer’s opinion of the brand.

The most powerful brands are the ones whose values are so clearly defined that they don’t shy away from taking a stand on issues, even controversial ones. Many tech companies in the United States banded together to voice their support of “Dreamers” and decry the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz took a gutsy position on LGBTQ rights when he said, “If you don’t like marriage equality, feel free to sell your Starbucks stock.”

Part of telling a good brand story is taking a stand, even at the risk of putting off some existing customers. As a result of the coffee giant’s position on same-sex marriage, the #boycottStarbucks movement was formed. But clearly Starbucks had taken that potential backlash into account and decided it was worth the risk. They believed it would endear them to a larger audience and further cement loyalty among customers who felt the same way on the issue.

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At the “Loyalty in the Age of Disloyalty” panel discussion at Mumbrella 360: I am joined Facebook’s Geoffrey Pickens (left) and Circles.life’s Megan Yulga (middle) on how to win brand loyalty from today’s increasingly fickle consumers.

 

Brand storytelling comes in different forms. Including advertising and, increasingly, content marketing. Industry giant GE, for example, demonstrates its role as a leader in technology and innovation through its GE Reports website. Through both written stories and video, GE’s team of journalists report daily on the company’s breakthroughs across multiple industries, from medical technology to power generation.

Brands often partner with media companies or publishers to share brand stories. Last month, Johnson & Johnson Vision partnered with ChannelNewsAsia.com to build awareness and dispel misconceptions about eye disease, portraying patients and their life-changing experiences after cataract surgery.

When it comes to telling a brand story with intriguing characters and a compelling narrative, video is the medium of choice. Earlier this year, VISA in Thailand moved audiences with #TokyoUnexpected, the story of a young woman’s journey of self-discovery while traveling alone through Japan. Despite its nearly 15-minute run time — considered long by conventional content marketing standards — the video has already seen over 20 million views on YouTube and Facebook and is considered a viral hit.

Loyalty, the act of consistently choosing your brand over others, stems from trust. Trust, as with people, comes from shared values. If the consumer feels a brand adheres to the same principles that he himself holds dear, then he is more likely to remain loyal to that brand.

Those brand values are conveyed through the stories the brand tells. Storytelling is an key part of what makes us human. It is through stories that information and values are passed from one person to the next, from one generation to the other.

This article is part of a series called ‘Unlearn What You Have Learned: Rethinking Content Marketing with Lessons from Hollywood.’ A version of this article was originally published in Marketing Interactive.

Debunking the short-form content myths

Human attention spans are getting shorter, says almost everybody. So why are people spending more and more time with long-form content? 

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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, the 2nd highest-grossing movie of the year so far, clocks in at 2:21 hours.

We’ve all heard the cliches, too often presented as “facts”: humans can only absorb content in short bursts, vying for attention on your Facebook news feed. Our attention spans are now at the same level as the poor, maligned goldfish. We are told by experts at marketing conferences that the “ideal” length for video content is 30 seconds because “Millennials” can’t handle anything longer than a minute or so. Even the President of the United States now sums up complex foreign policy in less than 140 characters. (Sad!)

For everyone who accepts all of this at face value, step back for a minute and think again. If we really had the attention span of a goldfish, would any one of us be able to leave a room? Wouldn’t we forget how we got there or where the door was or how a doorknob worked? Or for that matter, how could humans drive a car, fly a plane or file a tax return? Are we really so unfocused or easily distracted?

Think of your own content consumption as a consumer. How much time are you willing to spend with a movie or your favorite TV show?

The second most popular film of 2017 (so far), Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, which made over USD 800 million at the box office, has a running time of 141 minutes. The #1 movie with over a billion dollars, Beauty and the Beast, clocks in at two hours and nine minutes. Arguably the hottest show on television today, Game of Thrones, is already running at around 67 hours! (Thereabouts, anyways. I can’t remember how many two-hour episodes there were.) And there’s still one more season to go!

It may surprise you to learn that, according to research by video technology company Ooyala, long-form video is now the most popular form of content consumed online. Long-form content (defined as greater than 20 minutes in length) now represents the majority of time spent watching video across all screen sizes: desktop, mobile, tablet and connected TVs.

The magical formula that dictates your video must only be 90-120 seconds  is a myth propagated by companies who want to sell you 90-120 sec videos (and the platforms that carry them).  I was recently reminded of how this misconception is propagated when I found myself quoted (out of context) in an article that argues short-form video is the “next big thing.”

It’s not true that people today will only watch short videos. What most consumers are unwilling to watch for longer than a couple of minutes is bad content: content that’s poorly conceived, with a thinly-veiled yet obvious commercial message, designed to interrupt you as you’re trying to get to the actual content you wanted to see in the first place.

The fact is that if the content is good, as the entertain industry demonstrates, consumers are willing to watch for hours and hours non-stop. The challenge for brands is how to develop content that is interesting enough, offers true value and features characters and a narrative that compels the viewer to follow all the way to the end.

If your brand has an amazing story to tell, breaking the 90-second video mold is the way to stand out. VISA’s delightful Thai-language #TokyoUnexpected mini movie clocks in at nearly 15 minutes and has already over 10 million views on Facebook (mostly organic).

Even a B2B player like industry giant GE regularly shares its many technical innovations through a series of videos, from cool things they do with drone technology to power plants, each clocking in at over five minutes each.

That’s not to say short-form content doesn’t have its place. Marketers need to think of short videos in the way that Hollywood uses trailers or preview clips: easy entry points leading to the main event. Or how comedians like John Oliver have used short clips to build a YouTube audience as large as his HBO audience. The problem is that many marketers confuse one medium with the other, treating the short form route as if it was the main content. And just as Hollywood has learned to do, marketers must also learn to convey a brand story with a Transmedia mindset, across multiple platforms and formats.

Whatever approach you decide, make sure to avoid that other great video content myth: that the content you produce, in order to be considered successful, has to go “viral.”

When Obama and the PM appear on your UGC social media campaign

4 small victories people working in Social Media Marketing will appreciate

Working in Social Media can be thankless, especially when you work for brands that sometimes attract negativism or trolls. But every now and then, the digital marketing gods throw you a bone or two, making everything worthwhile.

160804 #ThisIsUs screen grabMediacorp is currently running a campaign to celebrate Singapore’s National Day. Instead of attempting to interpret national identity, as many brands do at this time of the year, Mediacorp decided to let ordinary Singaporeans define what makes up their Singapore, using user-generated-content (UGC) and the hashtag #ThisIsUs. The campaign is running across the network’s television, radio and online properties, with the participation of on-air personalities and artistes. UGC content is posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and then aggregated on the campaign page thisisus.sg.

It’s been quite a challenge for the team. Much time has been spent either on location shooting video content (workdays and weekends), huddled around conference calls with the agency or in the campaign “command center” surrounded by monitors displaying dashboards from campaign management and listening tools.

But there have been some rewards as well. And for anyone who puts together campaigns like this for a living, here’s a list of familiar triumphs that keep social media marketers motivated.

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Channel NewsAsia presenter Steve Chia shares family moments for #ThisIsUs
  1. When your colleagues get on board. In large organizations, people can easily operate in silos, oblivious to what other departments are doing. It also sometimes feels like your own colleagues are the most jaded and reluctant to embrace your campaign. So when you start to see contributions coming from within the company, it feels like a pat on the back.  It’s especially gratifying when that participation includes a willingness to share photos of their own families.
  2. When senior management gets behind you. Mid-campaign, the team got a shock — I mean, pleasant surprise — when Mediacorp CEO Shaun Seow dropped into the command center at lunch time to ask how things were going. Later, highlights of the campaign-in-progress as well as photos of the command center  were shared with the staff during a town hall session. A simple gesture but it can mean a lot to a team when they know their work matters and that senior leadership has taken a genuine interest in their activities.160804 #ThisIsUs screen grab2
  3. When you see real diversity in the contributions from users. Playing with UGC is a roll of the dice. Even the most innocuous campaigns unexpectedly incur the public’s ire. And on the flip-side, a campaign that is met by indifference can be equally devastating to a marketing team. But when you get a great mix of content in photos, videos or even animated gifs, when you see such a rich variety of images of kids, elderly people, families, social gatherings, beloved pets, everyday street scenes, landmarks, etc that’s when it starts to feel like magic.
  4. When really famous people show up in the content. No, not those celebrities. Mediacorp is, after all, a media & entertainment network and so some of the country’s most well known
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    Hanging with the PM
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    The POTUS photobomb

    faces are in the company’s employ. The victory is when people you wouldn’t even dream of appear in your UGC stream. In this case, a Singaporean in the US posted photos from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s state visit on Instagram using the #ThisIsUs hashtag. Imagine our surprise when not only did the PM appear in a photo but so did US President Barack Obama!

If you’re working in social media, hopefully you’ve experienced all four in the course of your career. Are there any other victories that I’ve I missed?

 

5 tips for digital content

Presenting at Content 360 in Singapore

SingTel has spent the last three years refining and investing in its social media and digital content strategy. In the last year alone, SingTel has produced a wide variety of content, from educational infographics to award winning video campaigns like #Need4GSpeed and #HawkerHeroes.

For brands looking to venture into digital content designed for social media for the first time, the path forward might look daunting and pockmarked with risks. Here are five tips to guide you:

1. Aim for the heart, not the head

One of the first things we learned from working with the giant social media network Facebook was the useful sanity-check question: “Why will they care; why will they share?”

When a consumer decides to share a video or re-tweet an article, it is usually either because he found the content thoroughly upsetting (to which the reaction was “I have to share this!”) or he found the content so amusing (to which the reaction was “I have to share this!”).

#HawkerHeroes worked particularly well for SingTel not just because of the presence of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay but also because it delved into an issue close to Singaporeans’ hearts: local heritage and cuisine.

As tempted as it sometimes gets to fill marketing content with information, just remember that if this was only about appealing to rational minds, social media would be about the viral distribution of white papers.

2.Accept the fact that you are not Ellen DeGeneres

“Please make this viral” is a phrase social media marketers dread. Too often, making a material viral is seen as the only goal worth pursuing. But unlike Ms Degeneres, most mere mortals (or brands) will never be responsible for the next Most Retweeted Tweet in History.

Instead, understand where this piece of content fits into your overall campaign strategy. Is it meant to educate? Or call attention to an issue? More realistic metrics such as video views or clicks to a campaign site would then be more sensible goals.

3. Have a good budget for production, but set aside a budget for distribution first

Often all the resources are poured into production with an expectation that something so brilliantly creative or funny is sure to go viral. (See Tip #2.) But even the best creative work is wasted if no one finds out it exists. Especially in today’s extremely cluttered media environment where hundreds of hours of video are being uploaded to Youtube every second, the chances of your shiny new video being discovered organically gets smaller by the day.

Combining an influencer outreach programme, traditional PR and an initial burst of paid media can give your content that boost it needs to get an audience’s attention and get that Share snowball rolling.

#HawkerHeroes, SingTel’s most successful campaign from last year, may have looked like a random viral campaign. But it only came to life through a complex, multi-channel strategy whose execution was planned down to the minute-by-minute detail.

4. Get your consumers involved

The best content campaigns are the ones where the audience gets in on the action. Consumers can be valuable co-creators, as we have seen in a number of campaigns from Old Spice to Oreo.

SingTel’s own #Need4GSpeed enlisted consumers to provide their best applications of a high speed mobile connection which were then translated into comedy sketches by comedian Hossan Leong.

5. Keep it simple

One common mistake brands make is to make participating in a campaign too complex, which can be an obstacle to a social media campaign’s success.

I personally prefer apply the “60-second Rule”. Ask yourself, would responding to the content or participating in the discussion take more than 60 seconds? Years ago, brands relied heavily on mechanics like photo submissions and anticipated no more than 10% of the audience would actually participate while the rest simply watched. Today the hashtag offers a much simpler way to participate and lowers barrier to entry.

Content-led social media campaigns need not be so daunting. While there are always risks, they can be extremely rewarding for any brand with the right concept and adequate planning.

This article was originally published in Marketing Interactive and was based on my presentation made at Content 360 on 3 April 2014 in Singapore. Full presentation below:

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