Being Mindful

Hello everyone!  Today isn’t going to be about marketing; there is a self-help technique that I would like to share instead.

There is a lot of talk on the internet about being mindful as a path to having better days and a better life.  I have been practicing it for the past nine-or-so months, and the results have been profound; I am happier, more energetic, and get more work done.  As such, I wanted to share one of the simple ways that I practice mindfulness that is also a great way to improve your writing skills.

Mindfulness and being mindful is the result of paying attention to your senses to the point of “not thinking”.  It relies on sensory input to be effective.

A Beautiful Space

My house is on a hill that overlooks the East coast of Vancouver Island.  Unfortunately, it is not high enough on the hill to be above the treeline.  However, there is a nearby trail that ends up at a bench that is well above the treeline.

It is at this spot where I am able to be mindful most easily.  I usually trek up to it in the evening, and there is so much sensory information that it is nearly impossible to think.   This is the view at about 7pm:

I can see rectangles of green and yellow farm fields in the valley between where I sit and Douglas Mountain.  I hear the surges of traffic on the highway, and the occasional siren of an emergency vehicle.  On these summer evenings, the breeze feels warm against my face and thick with the moisture given off by the swathes of trees between houses and roads (temperate rainforests are my favourite).

There are the blinking red and green lights of planes landing at YVR airport.  Red warning beacons pulse in the Strait of Georgia and a lighthouse on one of the islands swings its beam of light past at regular intervals.  I can see the orange glow of Seattle and Vancouver (especially when there is a layer of clouds), and I often catch glimpses of bats as they glides by my head, close enough that I can feel the air disturbed where they pass.  The lights illuminating Vancouver’s ski hills glimmer amid the haze of the city’s own lights.

Describe!

You can read what I did there.  I described what I could see, feel, and hear.

Description is one of the most important parts of good writing, and observation is one way to be mindful.  Marrying the two is the easy way to get better at both.

Make It Your Own (& a couple more suggestions)

I like to rely on an abundance of sensory input, but you don’t have to.   I know of some individuals who focus on a single sense, like the authoress of this article on Tiny Buddha, who explains how she practices mindfulness when kneading dough.  

I also practice mindfulness while walking.  It has become habit to pay attention to the sensation of each footfall; my joints flexing, my muscles contracting and relaxing, and even what the ground feels like.

However you do it, practice mindfulness.  Hopefully what I have written here can help you do just that.  

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!  You can use the comment section of this post, or email me (russell@rggraham.me).  

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Jay-Z the ‘Droid, Ribnecks, Social Media followers, and Cannes

Jay-Z feat. Sumsung

Jay-Z has an album in the works, and he has teamed up with Samsung to promote the release.  Galaxy and Note smartphone users will be able to preview the album 72 hours before its release using an app.  it is unknown whether or not the app will be free.

When I consider buying music, I want to try it before I buy it.  A good example of that is Queens of the Stone Age’s marketing campaign for their new album, …Like Clockwork, allowed potential customers to hear the album at least three times long before its release.  It included videos, live concerts streamed online, and streaming of the album.

The partnership between Samsung and Jay-Z is more narrow.  Only specific phones and a specific operating system will be able to preview the album.

It seems like Jay-Z is targeting music reviewers with the campaign, as they may at least be able to find a co-worker with an Galaxy or Note smartphone.  Also, if the album is truly great, then users who download the app will begin to spread positive word-of-mouth, whether they are reviewers or not.  It seems that everything will hinge on the quality of the album.

Uh…Ribnecks?

Boston Pizza is rolling out a campaign for its new slow roasted pork ribs.  The commercial features a family of “ribnecks” who exclaim at how good the ribs are.  You’ll have to watch it to believe it:

The video relies entirely on a negative stereotype.  Lines like “These ribs are so good they make mama want to bang these logs together” do not inspire me to want the new ribs.

Some will find it funny.  I think it propagates stereotyping.  What do you think?  Tell me in the comment sections below.

Social Media Stereotypes

I suppose “archetypes” or “personas” would be the more appropriate title, but it wouldn’t be as good of a segue.

ReachLocal has put together a fantastic infographic is the 7 personalities they have run into on social media sites.  If you are doing any kind of marketing on social media, personal or business related, you should take a look.

It will be at the end of this post, as it is a large image.

Cannes Nominees

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity honours creative uses of visual media, and has released their shortlists for Cyber, Design, and Radio categories.  Thirteen Canadian agencies have been nominated.

You can take a look at the shortlists here.  Search for some of the nominated spots; many are 100% brilliance.

The Wrap

That’s all for today, folks!  As promised, you can find the 7 social media personalities infographic by scrolling down a bit farther.

How well did I do?  Did I miss anything?  Leave a comment and let me know!

social media followers archetypes personas
Oooh…pretty colours…

Twitter Canada, Traditional Media, and more…

Hello all!  I have decided to add something to this blog: my summary of the morning’s marketing news that comes across my desk.  I will aim to have this published every weekday around noon.

If you have any suggested sources, please forward them to me.  I am always interested in new information.

Onwards!

Twitter Canada Open for Business 

The ubiquitous 140-character text broadcast service had opened its Canadian outpost.  It seems like their focus is on business; the article mentions several tools such as Twitter Amplify and Ad Targeting.

Amplify is video service that sends “real-time” video embedded in a tweet, and the Canadian office managing director says it will be useful for radio broadcasters.  I have no clue how it will manage to be “real-time”, but the concept is interesting.

Ad Targeting Isn’t quite what it sounds like.  It is a method of engaging people who have just watched a traditional television advertisement to create a community around a show or advertisement.

Both tools seem designed to enhance interaction with traditional media.  It is worth noting that the managing director, Kristine Stewart, used to work as the executive vice president of English Services at CBC – in fact she only changed jobs in April.  It is good to see a veteran broadcaster heading services designed to enhance traditional media, especially in an age when radio revenue is stagnant and television profits are plummeting.

Traditions

As just noted, traditional media is suffering.  Marshall McLuhan’s line between hot and cold media is beginning to blur.  The drop in television profit, according to the story linked above, is a decline in advertising sales.  Television has been hot media in the past, but YouTube’s on-demand entertainment is much more convenient than waiting for your favourite show to come on – and there space for advertisement.

Apparently radio advertising sales have increased, despite Canadian radio’s bottom line immobile.  News and newstalk stations are staying profitable because listeners are paying attention (beautiful words to any advertiser).  Ontario radio stations are the most profitable in the country – not surprising if you know what the 401 highway in Toronto is like.  Radio’s lower entry price than television and use as background ambiance in small businesses are also contributing factors to the medium’s continued success.

One interesting side note from the linked radio story: CBC alone employs about the same number of people as private broadcasters CTV, Global Television, City and Quebec’s TVA combined.

Why is Traditional Still Alive?

It isn’t surprising that marketers are sticking with what they know – and what is simple.  This infographic says it right: trying to keep up with the data provided by social media is like “trying to drink from a fire hose”.  Personally, I like my water in glasses; it’s much more manageable.

Media like radio are much easier to define.  A station will broadcast specific content that will (with some exceptions) attract a specific audience.  Television is the same.  When it comes to awareness campaigns based on advertising, a reliable audience is key.

However, that doesn’t mean that all new/digital media are hard to use.  Google has been busy beating the hell out of other advertisers when it comes to mobile ads.  That isn’t surprising: Google’s simple but effective keyword based advertising platform combined with their integrated services (Gmail, YouTube, search, etc) makes it easy to get the right message to the right person.

So…Why Should I Care?

Media literacy.  Having a perspective on the media landscape is important so that you – the consumer of media or a business owner using media – can make decisions about what is right for you.  Whether you are watching or creating the commercial, a little knowledge can go a long way.

Great Reads

What is the most important job skill of the future?  The ability to interact face-to-face.  

The press is tired of bad press releases.  Give them a break and get the coverage you want by reading (and memorizing) this style guide.

Foxy Foxy

I’ll leave you with an introduction to the head of Twitter Canada.  Other than working for one of my favourite broadcast companies (support public broadcasting!), the managing director is also a foxy lady.

kristine stewart Twitter canada managing director
Gaze into the eyes of Twitter Canada…

The Wrap

Did I miss something?  Is my sentence structure awful?  Send me an email: russell@rggraham.me.

4 Twitter management tips

I like Twitter. I’ve already said this once. Nonetheless, it can turn into a gargantuan stream of Tweets that you will ignore like a bad book.

That’s why I decided to create this guide on a few simple tools to organize your Twitter feed.

Hashtags

Yup.  The hashtag.  Twitter’s ubiquitous symbol.

So what the hell is a hashtag, anyway?  Twitter itself defines the operator as this:

Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

I use them to refine who and what I want to follow, read, and talk about.  Some of my personal examples include #guitars, #marketing, and #music.  However, my actual use of hashtags is more refined than that.

The best part about hashtags is that they work like search terms, so it is easy to refine what you want by using multiple tags.  A more refined hashtag search (such as using #rock and #music instead of just using #music) will usually get more relevant results.

Saved Searches

Once you know what you want to watch and follow, you can use saved searches to find specific new content.  For example, you could save a search for #bacon or #driving or #shoes, or #drivingshoes or any combination of search terms (including those without hashtags).

Search terms can include users; however, I think that the following method is better for organizing Twitter users you follow.

Lists

Twitter lists are one of my favourite ways to find what I like and share what I like.  It’s easy to set them up while browsing Twitter and following users, but I find it’s easier to use Hootsuite or TweetDeck to display my lists (the next section will cover these platforms).

By using lists, I organize the users I follow into something like a text-based television channel.  For example, I created a list of the Twitter accounts associated to the CBC Radio shows that I listen to.  Other users can also create lists, and those lists can be followed.  I follow Alan Cross’ Music News-Biz list and Brian Thompson’s Music News list.

Publishing Platforms

If you find content online like I do over the course of the day and want to share it without posting 20 linked articles in the space of half an hour (or if you are using social media for your business), then platforms other than Twitter itself may be what you need.  Hootsuite and TweetDeck are well known and widely used for a reason.

Social publishing platforms like Hootsuite and TweetDeck allow for feeds of searched terms, lists, individual users, sent tweets, and every other action associated with the Twitter account.  They can also schedule posts for a later point in the day, week, month, or year.

I have used Hootsuite to manage all my social media accounts.  If all you need is a more organized Twitter feed, this is one place to start, though it does include functions that you may not find useful, such as link shortening and analytics.

I am still testing TweetDeck.  The interface is more straightforward than Hootsuite as it only covers one social network (Twitter).  It has more advanced functions like link tracking using bit.ly.  I will be testing TweetDeck over the next couple weeks and will report back with my findings. 

Does that cover everything you need to organize your Twitter feed?  Send me a tweet or use the comment box below if you would like help organizing your twitter account.  Happy Tweeting!

One Rule for Every Social Media Account

In the past three months, I have contacted many people using Twitter. It is one of my favourite platforms for reaching people because if you can find a company or person, they can be contacted.  The 140-character limit means that one must be concise.  To an aspiring professional like myself, Twitter is a fantastic networking platform.

However, it is not all sunshine and roses.  Some Twitter users seem to have forgotten the golden rule of a platform that allows anyone to send them a message:

REPLY.

It is called social media for a reason, after all.

I’ll share some examples.

The Lurker

Earlier this week, I noticed that someone had looked at my LinkedIn profile.  I reviewed theirs and found that the only easy way to directly contact them was using their personal Twitter account, so I sent a Tweet.

Hello! I saw that you viewed my LinkedIn profile. Is there any way that I can help you & [company name]?

No reply.  How long did it take you to read my Tweet?  Probably 2 seconds or less.  So this user has the time to lurk my LinkedIn profile, but replying to a Tweet is too much?  At least saying “no” would have been nice.

The Follower

Months ago, the Twitter account of a company’s CEO followed mine.  I checked the company’s website and was impressed, so I followed the CEO.  I also sent a Tweet complimenting him on his work and asking a similar question to the one above.

No response.  A “thanks, but no” would have been more than enough.

The Company

Google has many twitter accounts.  One for every product, as far as I can tell.  twice in the past year I have had some trouble with Gmail in Google’s browser, Chrome, so I Tweeted the company’s Gmail twitter account.

Nothing.  Not even a “we can’t help you on this account, but this is where you can get help”.

The Take-Away

Am I asking the wrong questions?  Maybe.  I can’t be sure.

Would I mind if any of the Twitter users above told me that I am asking the wrong question?  No.  I would love to know that.

Would I like to be shown a minimum level of respect in the form of an even one-word reply?  Yes, please.

Is my respect for the non-tweeting individuals/company diminished?  You bet it is.

If your company is Google-sized and has social media accounts, gather 10 people in different time zones to monitor and reply.  If you are an individual on Twitter, take two seconds to read the Tweet and two more to reply (especially if your company specializes in online/digital/social marketing!).

If you’re on social media, other users will expect you to be social.  So even if it is just two letters and a punctuation mark, take a moment to reply.

Branding, Marketing, and some Queens

One of my favourite podcasts is the Rock Star Branding podcast put together by Brian Thompson, Michael Brandvold, and Greg Kihn.  This week’s podcast focused on the difference between branding and marketing.  These terms are often used interchangeably, and as a marketer myself, I find that confusion to be dangerous to entrepreneurs and business owners.  Brian, Michael and Greg did a fantastic job of explaining the difference in the podcast, so what I will do is show you my current favourite example of each.

First of all, let’s start with textbook.  The 3rd edition of Marketing An Introduction defines it as “…the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, partners, and society” (Armstrong, Kotler, Cunningham, & Buchwitz, 2010, pg. 7).  A bit of a mouthful.  

The same text goes on to define as brand as “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (Armstrong, Kotler, Cunningham, & Buchwitz, 2010, pg. 328).  Less intense than the first, though not as all inclusive as I would like.

Queens Branding & Marketing

I’ve been on a Queens of the Stone Age kick for the past month.  The marketing campaign for their new album, …Like Clockwork, has driven me into a fanatic, frothy-mouthed frenzy of desire to purchase the album, and while the record will be released by a new record label (QOTSA was signed to Interscope, now signed to Matador), the band’s brand has remained in tact during the course of the campaign.

When I think of Queens of the Stone Age the words I associate with the brand are “mysterious”, “blunt”, and “uncompromising”.  Lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme is notorious for not divulging more information than he has to.  Given that he never gets asked about his personal life in interviews, I have a hunch that he has a long list of rules for an interview (and yes, those are a real and normal thing – ALWAYS talk to the journalist before the interview and lay down the rules).  Homme and the band are well-known for being uncompromisingly blunt to the point of being rudejust plain silly, or accidentally explaining his rude outburst at Norwegian Wood.  Regardless of your personal opinion of Homme’s behaviour, you understand how forthright he is and that the band is an extension of how he brands himself (though his branding may just be personality over purposeful choice).

Homme is a representation of Queens of the Stone Age’s brand: an image created and maintained across every medium the band uses to communicate to and with the public.  Marketing is about campaigns designed to encourage purchasing the upcoming album.  As I already mentioned, the marketing campaign promoting …Like Clockwork is a brilliant example of how branding and marketing interact to enrapture fans and non-fans alike.

Clockwork Campaigns

I picked up most of the album’s marketing campaign via Facebook, though it campaign utilized FacebookTwitterYouTube, the likeclockwork.tv website, and an iPhone application called Vine.  By using short, assertive sentences with ambiguous or meaning, the mystery, bluntness, and uncompromising image of the brand is maintained and the marketing campaign rolls on.

Below is a gallery of the Facebook posts that are part of the marketing campaign.  Read the text and take in the images.  To me, each post reads as a mysterious and blunt – just like how the band has branded itself.  The images are bleak and mysterious.  The copy and images are branded content that are part of a marketing campaign.

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The Take-Away

Branding: How a product(s), service(s), person(s), and/or company are presented and what they stand for.  Think of it as the image or words that come into your mind when you consider the product, service, person or company.

Marketing: Campaigns meant to spread awareness, encourage purchase, build brand loyalty, maintain brand image in the customer’s mind, and/or any other objective related to building at business/brand.

Does that make sense?  Comment below, email me, tweet me, just make sure you tell me if this still doesn’t make sense.  I am more than happy to help you understand the two concepts discussed above.

All images are copyright of their respective owners and publishers.

Electile Dysfunction

Yeah, I’m writing about the election, but I’m not talking about politics.  “Election but no politics?” you say, “Russell, you must think we’re fools!”  First of all, I would never think of you as a fool (unless you put effort into it), and second, I’m talking about the mechanics of the election, not the politics of the event.  So fear not!  There will be no political analysis (or whining).

Onwards!

Need-to-Know Basis

There is an acronym used by marketers: SEO.  It means Search Engine Optimization, which is a fancy way of making sure a web page can be found on Google and other search engines.  The simplest trick is knowing keywords used when users are searching for a site.

I originally wrote this post on election day (Tuesday May 14, for those who missed it) when I realized that I had misplaced my voter information card, so I did not know where to cast my vote.  I opened my web browser and Googled “where do I vote”.  Nothing.  “where do I vote victoria bc”.  Nada.  “Where to vote”?  No results.  I tried a dozen combinations of search terms.  None of the search results told me what I needed to know.  The only Elections B.C. page that came up was their voter registration page, which did not contain what I needed to know.

My next step was Elections B.C.’s website.  Oddly enough, there is a page called “where to vote”.

When I searched that exact phrase on Google, that page did not show up.  Google does not know that page exists.  Anyone using Google will not know that it exists.  So how does this relate to SEO?  Elections B.C. does have page to help find voting stations, but Google could not find it.

Elections B.C. has a tough job.  They need to ensure that voters do their part and vote, especially younger voters as they have not been showing up for last two elections.  However, lazy and/or nonexistent SEO is not going to help.

I expect laziness from the government, but an organization dedicated to how B.C. residents exercise their democratic rights cannot afford to be lazy.  Voter turnout has been low for years, and Elections B.C. is not making it easier for voters to get where they need to go.  Speaking of low voter turnout…

The Non-Vote

Approximately 52% of eligible British Columbians went to the polls last Tuesday.  That’s 1% more than the previous year, and the number may increase: there are still ballots to be counted from those of us who went to the incorrect voting station.  Regardless, 1,629,422 out of 3,116,626 is not a great turnout (data courtesy of Elections B.C.).

Such low numbers make me wonder if low voter turnout is indicative of a larger issue.  The most common reasons to not vote I hear are that:

  1. “There is no candidate in my riding that meets my values”
  2. “I don’t believe in the political system as it currently exists”
  3. “I don’t know how the hell the political system works”

The last one is by far the most common, but I’m not soap-boxing about why people don’t vote.

An election is an opinion-voicing mechanism: say who you want to govern, but it does not capture the opinions of those who do not vote.  There is no empty circle where I can mark “abstain”, nor explain why I did not vote.  Mind you, I doubt anyone wants to go to a voting station just to say “no”.  So how could Elections B.C. measure the non-vote?

My father and I discussed the issue, and we reasoned that the voter information card mailed to every eligible voter in B.C. is the best space.  Postage is already paid, so why not use it to gather feedback?  Hell, just look at all this blank space:

Blank space.  So much blank space.  Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!
Blank space. So much blank space. Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!

Is it as easy as that?  Probably not, but that’s the best my father and I can come up with.

What do you think?  Comment below about how you think the non-vote could be measured!

Hello!

Hello Internet!

My name is Russell Graham. I am a writer, music geek, marketing nerd, data-lover, guitarist, bassist, automotive enthusiast, linguistics & history freak, son, friend, and lover, and this is my blog.

What I will do for you is to demystify marketing, advertising, and business use my knowledge and experience.  I won’t always be right, but at the very least I can give you some perspective on a vilified and misunderstood part of the communications industry.