The Kids Are Alright: the Mutual Benefits of Mentoring

SMF
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.

mediapreneur
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.

SMF 2
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.”

Advertisements

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? 

434270-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-wallpaper
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.”

Culture’s vital role in digital transformation

Mediacorp

It’s no secret that the traditional media industry faces challenges. Today consumers are experiencing an unprecedented era of choice, not just in variety, but also how and when they choose to consume content. Traditional media companies are under extreme pressure to digitally transform and national broadcasters like Mediacorp are not exempt from this grim reality.

Often when it comes to digital transformation, much of the emphasis is on organizational restructuring, new processes or technology upgrades. But from experience, the role of culture is always underestimated. Without a deliberate plan to change company culture, any new initiatives will simply fall to the wayside as legacy and old habits inevitably creep in.

Recently I spoke at the Singapore Management Festival, hosted by the Singapore Institute of Management, and shared my experiences with Mediacorp’s digital transformation journey.

Media: a disrupted industry

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals, among many things, the erosion of trust in media, with traditional media reflecting the sharpest decline. The shift is a reflection of influence flipping: from a traditional model where what is deemed fit for public consumption is decided by a minority such as the government or other institutions to a system where anyone can be a publisher. What good are state controls when a blogger or YouTube creator can enjoy a larger audience than a newspaper columnist or a television news program?

The changes are also impacting media companies where it hurts most: their traditional revenue models. Consumers are increasingly rejecting classic forms of advertising, from the 30-second TV commercial to the ubiquitous online banner ad. This is evident whenever a consumer pays for a Netflix subscription or installs an ad blocker on their smartphone.

In order to counteract these shifting behaviors, media companies must reinvent their approaches to content creation and distribution. Mediacorp is making inroads into these new spaces, such as its foray into OTT video streaming through Toggle, the development of its own creator network Bloomr.sg and even embracing Transmedia storytelling with popular programs like Tanglin.

Innovating means embracing risk-taking

It’s not unusual these days for large, incumbent corporations to borrow language from Silicon Valley. One of the most often invoked phrases is the need for companies to “fail fast.”  Too often, this is pure lip service.

Announcing that you are encouraging employees to take risks means nothing if employees continue to fear the consequences of failure. I once worked for a company where one of its senior executives would frequently encourage risk-taking by publicly announcing, “Don’t worry, if you fail nobody will kill you.” During one such townhall, a colleague leaned over to me and whispered, “Yesterday I was in a meeting with him and he told all of us, ‘You’d better be right because if you’re wrong, I will f**king kill you.’”

Trust is a two-way street. If you want to build an innovation culture where employees are emboldened to take chances, a company must demonstrate that it trusts its employees.

Twitter rotation curation
Full control of the corporate Twitter handle @Mediacorp is given to a different employee each week

One way Mediacorp has demonstrated trust towards staff is with its Twitter rotation curation. Since July, Mediacorp has been giving full control of its official corporate Twitter handle to a single employee for a week. During that week the employee can, quite literally, post anything he or she wants. No mandated content calendar or schedule. No screening or approval process. For seven days, the employee has the reputation of the whole company in his hands.

 

Celebrate individuality

Often companies will focus on more outward manifestations of promoting creativity and individuality: casual dress codes, recreational facilities, etc. While Mediacorp has embraced those things in its own way (including an open seating concept within the Mediacorp Campus building), we turned as well to social media as an instrument for driving cultural change.  

In many companies, especially in Singapore, the typical employee’s attitude towards social media goes something like this: “I’d better keep things low key or I might attract the attention of HR.” A colleague once told me when I asked why she wasn’t more active in LinkedIn, she explained, “My boss might think I’m looking for another job.”

SIM event
Presenting at the Singapore Management Festival with my partner-in-crime, Nadeem Ashraf (right)

Earlier this year, Mediacorp began encouraging its staff to be more active in social media by sharing their stories. Since April, over 60 individuals have been featured in the corporate Instagram account, each with a personal story in a style inspired by the Humans of New York series. These stories are meant to celebrate the different backgrounds, personalities and inspirations behind the people of Mediacorp.

Also read: the importance of skills & capability training and celebrating champions

During the presentation at SIM, another speaker referred to the Human Resources department as a bottleneck or obstacle towards cultural change. My experience at Mediacorp has actually been the opposite. In contrast HR (demonstrated by my co-presenter, Nadeem Ashraf), together with colleagues from the corporate communications team, have very much been our “partners-in-crime” for all of the initiatives referred to here. Far from being hurdles, these pushes for cultural change have only been possible through the triumvirate of HR, Brand & Communications and the Digital team.

Mediacorp’s digital transformation journey is still very much in its early years but I take great pride in the accomplishments we have made so far.

Listen: brand storytelling, content marketing and transmedia storytelling in Click2View’s podcast

Celebrate your Champions

When driving digital transformation within your organization, it’s important to recognize your top internal advocates

wp-1472698798041.jpg

Driving a shift in company culture is no small task, especially in companies with long established ways of working.

This year, Mediacorp began working with Avado and Google to bring employees into Squared Online, an over 20-week online course in digital marketing. This month, the first 22 students from Mediacorp graduated so we decided to throw this first batch of digital advocates a small graduation ceremony, including a small breakfast spread with wine & cheese.

When driving digital transformation in your organization, your early converts are among your best advocates. These are the first employees who have stepped forward to embrace the challenge and blaze a trail. They will be your first internal champions, the ones who will win over others and infect them with their enthusiasm. They are the ones who now speak a common language and will incorporate what they’ve learned in day-to-day business operations.

wp-1472698773944.jpg
Mediacorp’s first batch of “Squares”: early adapters of digital transformation

Events like this, although relatively modest, help to foster a sense of community among these early adaptors. Recognizing their accomplishments and applauding their contributions, not just among their peers but with the senior leadership team, is essential.

wp-1472704768442.jpg

Mediacorp’s first batch of “Squares” not only finished the course but helped drive the March cohort (the programme’s first in APAC) well over of completion and performance averages set in the UK. By the end of the year, over 50 Mediacorp staff from manager- to senior leadership-level from across 13 business units will have gone through Squared Online training. This signifies a significant investment for the company and is yet still one of the first steps towards full digital transformation.

 

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑