Brands and CMOs: don’t compete with creators and storytellers. Instead: inspire, invest in, and support them

Marketing has always been about achieving the best results by getting the right message to the right person at the right time using the right channel. That mantra remains as true as ever, but the techniques, long-accepted and built on the now-crumbling foundations of broadcasting messages at anonymous audiences in sufficient numbers that some of these messages eventually stick, are increasingly redundant.

What’s changed is the consumers. They are to be found on their mobile devices, managing their everyday work and personal life commitments, making choice about who to like or engage with, and to turn to, every waking minute. Overwhelming consumers with mass-market branded messages is increasingly ineffective, often prevented by ad-blocking technology, becoming expensive quickly, and still often misses the individual and their context.

The consumers are in control. And the secret to engaging with them lies with the true creators and storytellers.

Last night Digivizer supported Thom Whilton and Lisa Teh, natural storytellers, entrepreneurs and creators with whom we’ve had a long partnership, at the launch of their new book Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion.

The book builds on Thom and Lisa’s on-line content and editing success, and celebrates Australia’s fashion industry innovators, leaders who create Australia’s leading designs, and those who tell their genuine stories to the industry and to consumers.

I joined a panel alongside Daniel Watts, managing director of Thames and Hudson Australia, Janice Breen Burns, former fashion editor of The Age, Lisa Teh, and blogger and influencer Lana Wilkinson as moderator. Despite our different backgrounds and careers, early consensus appeared:  a brand telling its own story no longer holds the same equity and interest for consumers. Consumers want a new and different story to be told by someone they trust, one that is entertaining and informative, and that aligns to their passions and values.

Thom Whilton & Lisa Teh, co-authors of Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion

The evidence is in the data. Digivizer’s analytics show that those brands that work with great creators and storytellers gain greater consumer engagement, loyalty, interest and sales. They outperform those trying to control the branded messaging and solutions.

Brands must understand that to win, they must deliver the best experiences and provide great reasons for individuals to engage with them. One of the best ways to do this is to work with the people consumers already turn to for information and inspiration: the creators, the innovators and the storytellers who have already earned and built engaged communities of like-minded individuals sharing common interests, passions and values.

Consumers are savvy. They know who is being authentic and what is contrived, and they spot undeclared paid-for influence or comment. Even ahead of increasing regulation around declaring paid-for comment, brands should look to earn consumers’ respect for what they really help create, rather than look to trick or mislead. This comes through investment, inspiration and collaboration of these exciting possibilities via this new generation of creators and storytellers.

The process of engaging with individuals starts with great stories, but consumers quickly vote with their thumbs on their mobile devices. As they do, they leave clues about their intentions, connections, needs and preferences, many with the expectation that brands will act on these clues and engage with something of interest and relevance.

The opportunity sits in the precision of being able to act on these real-time actionable insights intersecting with the actual conversations and content engagement taking place on the social web.

The choice for brands seems clear: embrace the new role that supports, commissions and inspires the storytellers and creators to deliver genuine and inspiring collaborations that in turn fuels real Australian and global innovation.

Brands need to invest in, not compete with, the creators and storytellers.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.
Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion was launched Wednesday 8 March in Melbourne, as part of the 2017 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival IDEAS program. Follow the social conversation at #australianstylebook #vamff. Digivizer was the primary sponsor of the event.

 

Digivizer creates additional annual day of paid leave to celebrate International Women’s Day for all employees

Today we make a commitment to workplace equality and diversity to recognize International Women’s Day: Digivizer is introducing an additional day of paid leave for all employees.

A fun Digivizer dress up fundraising initiative for Loud Shirt Day (supporting deaf children)

I wanted to make the sentiments behind International Women’s Day around equality and diversity tangible for all our employees. Granting an extra day of paid leave to all employees, to be taken whenever it suits them each year, helps put the focus on work flexibility, and allows them to acknowledge and celebrate the commitment they make, and the support they receive from their partners and families.

One way to support every employee is to provide a flexible workplace that helps them find balance across all aspects of their life, including family, health and wellbeing. If we define success by the outcomes we create, who we are, and the value we deliver, rather than defining how, when and where this is done, businesses and people will flourish. Workplaces of the future should always be about results, not effort.

If we recruit the best talent we can afford, true workplace diversity will follow.

To make the workplace of the future meaningful and real, we have to change now. Some of those changes will be large in scope, others simple to make. Our responsibilities as leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners remain clear: make decisions that empower all employees to be the best they can, in workplace environments that allow them to succeed.

Thank you to all of Digivizer’s employees, for their contribution and commitment! As International Women’s day reminds us all, Be Bold for Change!

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Innovation leadership follows a focus on action

I applaud the publication of the latest StartupAUS Crossroads Report. You can download a copy here.

It pulls the complete Australian tech startup ecosystem together into 182 pages.

It’s powerful because running through it, almost like startup DNA itself, it is a focus on action.

The Crossroad report outlines using numerous examples, that a key success requirement is to create and ship value early. As an early growth company ourselves, we know that success comes from focused commitment and a strong belief in our vision, something we know all successful startups share.

At Digivizer, we chose to develop new technology and then deploy that technology to the benefit of our customers early and do so without undue reliance on external investment. If you primarily bootstrap as we did, it keeps you keenly sharp and ensures a deep focus on delivering customer value and fit to market. You must stay “on point” as revenue must pay for your people and growth.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of this report is the focus it brings to where Australia sits in the world tech startup ecosystem. We must take our skills and smarts globally, because we represent just 0.33% of the world’s population. Some of these observations are more sobering, but as we say at Digivizer, everything starts with data. So, for example:

  • on ranking, Sydney (as the Aussie representative) is ranked 6th for talent (good!), but only 20th for performance, with its growth index second-lowest (just ahead of Moscow – less good!)
  • with the South Korean government funding an AU$4 billion fund to support accelerated startup growth, Australia’s Federal Government commitment of AU$1.1 billion as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda compares reasonably – but is still less than our Asian peers
  • revenue per employee is greater at Atlassian than for the entire Australian mining, tourism and agriculture sectors combined. Apple’s is four times Atlassian’s
  • Australia is last, or close-to-last, for measures of software companies in national top-50 lists, exit volumes, economic complexity, city start-up destiny, and angel investment per capita

Crossroads provides 14 recommendations, all  worthy of action. As companies and individuals, we also have a responsibility to ourselves, our employees, customers and our investors, to continue our own actions, and be responsible for driving our own success.

No-one will reward any of us for saying, “we wanted to wait until the tax breaks were better” or “I needed funding to be successful”.  Our view is funding helps accelerate growth. Good ideas, coupled with focus and action will fund themselves and attract that additional funding to accelerate.

In addition to the 14 recommendations made by StartupAus, here’s a complementary action plan:

  • be clear on what your proposition is. Be flexible as you move forward, but stick hard to your vision
  • don’t create something better – create something different
  • by all means focus on a local market to start with – but have the world in your sights right from the start. That’s where your real markets lie
  • create value as soon as you can, something a customer is prepared to pay for then keep building from there – it’s great for cash flow
  • attract and hire great talent from wherever you can find it (we note the report’s recommendations about visas)
  • investors are your friends, but there’s always a deal to be struck – don’t give too much away too soon
  • give your team permission to experiment, but do so within your strategy

Whatever you do, a good idea is not enough. Ensure focused action.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.
(Disclosure: International Towers and Microsoft, partners of this report, are customers of Digivizer)

Your digital brand is the foundation to today’s success

We’ve just changed our brand. The change is part of our evolution from a disruptive startup founded nearly six years ago to disruptive early growth company now looking to make our social technology available to all organizations globally.

It is much more than a new logo and set of design guidelines. It represents a shift in the way we can more easily engage our market and reflects the core of what we believe, that our customers and employees are digital and mobile first, and thus so must we.

How do we feel about letting go of our foundation brand?

We do so with a sigh of relief! We acknowledge that the original brand helped establish ourselves as a newcomer to the social analytics technology space 6 years ago. Like most start ups, it was a bare-bones approach to branding, which supported the generation of our revenue to date, acted as an anchor when approaching our first private investors, and supported our growth from three people to 38 today.

But as the saying goes, what gets you here won’t necessarily get you where you need to go next.

We are making our technology more accessible to more organizations. We are focused on our customer’s success and experience. Making it easy for them to analyse and action the conversations taking place about their products, brands and contexts that matter to them on the social web, serve content to those individuals who matter, compare individuals’ social profiles and activity across different social media channels, and target them with relevant messaging and call to action from a single view. A key aspect of this next stage of delivery is to make it easy for our customers to be the drivers of what they create, view, action and measure in their social programs and ROI within Digivizer products.

For larger companies, many that are customers today, the new brand makes it easier to synthesize our information and marks a new step forward in the way we present data and analytics in the programs we execute on their behalf.

For our employees, we want them to feel proud to work for us. The competition for great talent never lets up: we have to stand out at every opportunity.

What makes our new branding so exciting is that it comes from our team itself. They are the designers, architects, engineers, champions and protectors of our new brand and ways we engage and deliver value to our customers.  This perhaps is an even bigger reflection of our shift in size, capability and likelihood of building a recognizable and world-leading Australian Technology company.

Brands are no longer islands: they cannot remain disconnected from the digital world.

You can not just “socialize” or “digitize” something that already exists. It must be about embedding your digital brand and values at the centre of all you do.

For more on how the Digivizer team developed and published our new brand, check out our new blog Trendlines

Welcome to the new Digivizer.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Diversity in teams means everything (but what does diversity mean?)

Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum at Davos-Klosters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now-famously said: ‘Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world.’

He was talking at a social, national, political and national security level, in the context of opportunities for those living and seeking to move to Canada,.

And as we celebrate International Women’s Day today it set me wondering about diversity in the workforce, often debated and much misunderstood: what it means, how it delivers, what responsibilities we have to a global workforce, how we balance new entrepreneurs with deep experience.

I attribute the success we’ve had at DIGIVIZER to date to how we’ve gone about building our team and culture.

The outcome is a remarkably diverse group of employees, but the goal was to never set out to be “diverse”.

So why is this the natural outcome?

Further to Trudeau’s remarks, I too have realized that meaningful diversity comes from opportunity, and from hiring the best-possible skills that we can, from wherever we can.

By focusing beyond technical skills, to things like offline experience, attitude, and personal and behavioural attributes like entrepreneurial spirit, preparedness to embrace uncertainty, and being prepared to commit to a cause, we have a team of men andwomen, young and old, from ethnic backgrounds as diverse as Chinese, Korean, British, Fijian, Tongan, Sri Lankan, Indian, New Zealander, American, French and Australian.

Vision, and that elusive great idea, might provide the spark, but the fire that follows will only be kept alight by great people doing clever things who are prepared to collaborate, learn, teach, apply.

We’ve created our own success by hiring great people at DIGIVIZER, and true diversity has been the result.

We’ve not had to adopt forced quotas or a window-dressed facade masquerading as diversity.

Everyone is bound together by the commitment, investment and sacrifices they all make in choosing to stay with us, and we’re extraordinarily proud of them.

It’s a very special moment when a group of people with a number of options at their fingertips choose to go with you.

What’s been tremendously exciting in our first five years is seeing this diverse team sharing our vision with our customers and the market, helping them make brave decisions to change the status quo about how they market and sell to, and more importantly engage with, their customers and prospects.

Helping our clients break free from constrained thinking and convention about what’s best for their customers.

Creating market-defining technology that rewrites how marketing and selling are done.

Defining – and delivering – new-style influencer programs, and active audience paid targeting, underpinned and supported by real-time data, that deliver measureable increases in sales, brand reach, market awareness, and more (with the data to prove it).

Any start-up and early growth company measures progress by the milestones it passes. They lend substance to what you seek to achieve.

More importantly, our team holds me accountable for real progress, not just some illusion of progress. Behind that accountability sits meaningful, wonderful diversity.

It keeps me firmly in a learning mindset, which serves our company well.

This article is also publish on LinkedIn.

How to win in today’s social world

Businesses that master real-time, mobile-driven mass-personalization will win in today’s social world.

The foundation principle of this is being where your customer is.

Consumers by nature will naturally look for the easiest way to get what they want.  For businesses to provide relevance and value, you need to make it easy for them to reach you and be there when they need you. This means making it easy for them to search, engage, assess, buy and measure in a highly personalized way.

It also requires businesses of all sizes to know more about their customers. To know what is of interest to them, what they are engaging with today, and then to personalize and serve up relevant content and offers based on each customer’s declared interests, life stages and activities.

This is much more than simplistic monitoring of social media posts, this is live insights actioning.

Those that adopt this approach to selling and marketing see significantly greater results.  And since consumers always vote either with their feet (and wallets), those who do this well will win.

This has been talked about over the past few years, but few companies do this, and those that are early adopters here tend to be large enterprises.

Small and medium businesses deserve to benefit as well, and they can more and more as real-time technology that analyses the social web and serves personalized content through social channels in real-time becomes available.

However it needs to start with the desire first to create great customer experiences and using the large amount of data on social to do what we have always wanted to do as marketers. That is to get the right message to the right person at the right time using the right channel. The wide adoption and real time sharing and engaging nature of social allows for this.

Those who harness the power of this data source for personalization and creating great experiences will win.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Key Speaker for Government’s “Women in Global Business” Conference

Emma is invited to speak and present a case study as to the key ingredients to achieving global success at the July

Women in Global Business Speaker Series.

Here are some of the details being shared to promote the event:

Australian women will have the opportunity to hear from prominent women who have succeeded internationally at the Women in Global Business Speaker Series in July and August.The annual event held in states and territories across the country will feature speakers from a variety of industry sectors, providing businesswomen with practical advice on venturing overseas.

Women in Global Business national program manager, Cynthia Balogh, believe the event is beneficial in helping women overcome international barriers, particularly those in the Middle East.

“The Middle East presents quite specific barriers for women; some of the Asian and South American markets can do the same,” she said.

Balogh told Dynamic Export the event offers business owners the opportunity to learn and network with like-minded people.

“It’s an opportunity to see their role models, who have often had quite tough journeys to expand their businesses into those market places, women often learn from seeing role models. It helps them overcome some confidence issues, whether it’s personal confidence or confidence in business,” Balogh said.

Digivizer CEO, Emma Lo Russo, who will be speaking at the Sydney event can relate to the personal challenges women face when growing their business.

Lo Russo believes the event will provide shared mentorship and allow women to learn from real-life experiences.  “Having real honest examples of what works, is quite empowering. Instead of feeling like you have to navigate the unknown or have a goal and do it alone”.

Details & registration for the event can be found here :

Thursday 26th July 2012

8.30am – 12.30pm

NSW Trade and Investment Centre, Level 47, MLC Centre, 19 Martin Place, Sydney

I’ll post more about my key points to achieving international success here soon.

Commonwealth Bank exploring how the social web can de-risk their decisions

Last week I spoke to 75 of CBA’s Risk, Institutional & Business Banking team to help them see how leveraging the digital footprints of people on the social web could de-risk their organization’s decisions.

I shared how insights from the social web can be used to help make better decisions around relevant targeting and personalization of offers. This is made possible when a customer base is linked to the social web (something DIGIVIZER offers).

The questions and discussions that followed regarding applications were active, positive and encouraging. They continued for a further 2 hours following the presentation and it seems for a few days following.  Feedback was positive and the discussions continue:

“Emma did a great presentation for CBA last week on “How social web can inform and de-risk your organisation decisions’. She certainly raised awareness and promoted significant debate both during and for days after her presentation. Highly informative and all delivered with an engaging and passionate approach.” Trina Edgar, General Manager, Commonwealth Bank

There is lots of discussion about Social CRM and many companies are making good in-roads into leveraging real-time insights within their marketing programs.

You can find out more about how you can use the social web to get closer to your customers and increase sales and profit here.

Hope powering change

Last night I attended the Sydney Festival event Hope 2012 with the theme “Citizens seizing the day”.

My name is HopeSocial Media was hailed as one of the agents of change.  Certainly it has made it possible even in oppressed societies for citizens to reach more people and help gain momentum and support for their plight and desired change (think recent people lead change in Egypt as well as community support generated for those affected by QLD Floods, NZ & Japan Earthquakes etc).

However social media really only represents an easy, low-cost, high reach and engagement channel.  It is not the channel that brings change but the opportunity it presents and the people who engage within it and the messages they share.

Listening to the personal stories of the great speakers last night and those across Australia, there were some common and consistent messages that suggest a blue print for bringing about change. They point to the cause of which the channel is only the conduit:

1) Hope Powers Change – you must first genuinely hope to bring about change . Hope then provides the fuel and momentum for you to continue in the face of adversity, inequity, barriers, and power imbalance. Hope also binds people together behind a common cause.

2) It starts with the first step – no matter how small, everything you contribute to bringing change no matter how small can make a difference.  The benefits of taking 1 minute of your time, showing or demonstrating your encouragement and support, donating something small (time, message, money, resources).  Just taking an action can generate, add-to or complete some great act of change in someone’s life. It has the added benefit of impacting you positively too.

3) Look for, understand & stand for basic human rights – equality, freedom, opportunity  for everyone – how can you ensure this is enjoyed by everyone. Identify how many of your rights you take for granted that are not available to others.  Identify the basic human rights that are being challenged all around the world including in our own back yard (and our legislation).

4) Connect directly with people affected – it is too easy to be disconnected from the person and people who needs help.  Listen to their story.  Listen to their hope.  It is impossible to ignore and will help you know the right action to take.

5) Have Courage – it requires courage to stand up, have a voice, be counted and more importantly to act.  It starts with the courage to ask yourself “why is this happening and what can I do to change it?”

It felt easy to applaud those making changes last night however significantly more difficult and uncomfortable to ask ourselves how much are we doing at the individual level to bring about change.

It matters not how much we have done to support required changes in the past, only how much we can do moving forward.

I reflect on the great George Bernard Shaw quote:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

It points to the need to stand resolute and that we must first look to ourselves as the instruments of change.

May 2012 be your year.  Allow Hope to power the change you desire.

Choosing the right mentor

carriergoodwill1

I was recently asked what someone should look for in a good mentor.

The first thing to do is to recognize the value in engaging a good mentor or coach to help you hold yourself accountable for developing yourself and taking your career to the next level.

The value of seeking a career mentor is in how they can help you bring clarity to your career goals over the near, medium and long term, to help you prioritize your next steps towards your goals, how to strategize and evaluate options in light of your goals and values, and to help you stay accountable to the path you wish to take.  Through formalizing this relationship with someone, it provides a regular, safe and confidential sounding board to bounce your fears, aspirations and future challenges.

Finding the right mentor is based on how inspirational they are to you, how experienced, how insightful and how good they are in facilitating the right discussions. High Emotional Intelligence would rate as the key characteristic of a great mentor and just as you would look for a great employee, you want in a great mentor someone who has demonstrated that they are smart, talented, have a history of delivering great results and have built many great relationships and people through their leadership and association.

Finding the right mentor is based on how inspirational they are to you, how experienced, how insightful and how good they are in facilitating the right discussions. High Emotional Intelligence would rate as the key characteristic of a great mentor and just as you would look for a great employee, you want in a great mentor someone who has demonstrated that they are smart, talented, have a history of delivering great results and have built many great relationships and people through their leadership and association.

In a busy working world, it is too easy to rationalize to ourselves what we do and why we do it.  Much harder to rationalize to someone else. Particularly if they are asking you the right questions and you are looking inside yourself to provide the right answers.

Both you and they will know when you are making excuses or seeing things through a narrow field of vision.

If you want to take your personal life or career to the next level, it may be time to engage a mentor. The benefits of having someone else push, question, strategize with you through mentoring can only lead to greater success.