FIR B2B podcast #135: TIPS FOR TRANSITIONING TO A HOME-BASED WORKFORCE

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, businesses are being faced with setting up policies and procedures to enable everyone to work from home (WFH). Doing this presents several challenges, some of them brought on by new demands on your IT department and some by demands of a new way of working that you may not have anticipated. A good reference point for the complexities involved is this Twitter thread about what Slack did to move to 100% WFH model. In this podcast, Paul and I draw upon their own decades-long experience as sole business owners. Among our advice:

  1. Think about printing, email and sharing files and the IT services that will be needed to support that activity. Be careful about SaaS services such as Dropbox; if users aren’t trained property they could expose your corporate data unintentionally.
  2. Make sure your infosec is up to par. A VPN isn’t just the only thing you need to worry about it. Is your home router secured with an appropriate password? Do you encrypt your network traffic across the Internet? Has your laptop been screened for malware? These and other questions need to be addressed before rolling out any work-from-home solution.
  3. Does your staff have the right tools? Just because everyone has a laptop doesn’t mean anything, particularly they’re used to having multiple monitors and great audio/video gear. You may have to purchase additional accessories to make your staff productive.
  4. Make sure your staff has a separate workspace that is isolated from the rest of the house. You want to minimize distractions and unplanned family “visits” during the workday.
  5. Get a good mic (I use the Blue Snowball, Paul uses a Logitech wireless). You should be able to get something decent for $50-$100.
  6. Standardize on a video conferencing supplier (we both like Zoom at the moment, although there are privacy issues you might want to consider) and make sure all your gear provides solid audio quality when you use it.
  7. Make sure your home bandwidth is sufficient. Pay attention to upload speeds, because these can impact your latency and video quality.
  8. Learn new video conferencing etiquette, review our previous podcast on some of our tips here.
  9. Set up a shared scheduling tool for everyone to use and standardize on a corporate instant messaging tool, too.

Listen to our 15 min. podcast now:

FIR B2B podcast episode #134: Fred Bateman on the evolving role of PR in a fragmented media world

Fred Bateman has been around the tech world as long as Pual Gillin and I have: At the dawn of the PC era he worked for various PR firms and then founded the Bateman Group, which grew to 90 staffers doing tech-focused PR and content marketing. Fred recently announced that he will sell his majority ownership to his three co-owners, who have re-branded the company as Mission North. He plans to partner with nonprofits to teach disenfranchised groups of people the business, writing and communications skills required for a successful career in tech-focused PR.

Paul and I spoke with Fred about how far the PR profession has come sine the dawn of the Internet era, how PR and content marketing people need to work hand-in-hand and how branded news sites such as Adobe’s CMO.com have created new avenues of influence for marketing organizations. Fred also reflects on the skills that distinguish the best PR pros he’s worked with from all the other and the complex role of influencers in today’s media landscape. You can listen to our 20-minute discussion here:

FIR B2B podcast #133: How to Construct a Compelling Case Study

This week we discuss case studies — both ones Paul Gillin and I have written and others we like. The best case studies are really about the storytelling, having a solid narrative arc with a beginning, a resolution and a moral. They bring to life a hero – or in some cases an anti-hero – and describe the drama that led up to a crisis point and how the situation was resolved. The best ones are simple, don’t burden the reader with needless details and have a news hook that makes them compelling during the time surrounding their online posting.

My own story about the Avast CISO Jaya Baloo, who faced a security breach on her first day on the job, was instructive at showing the conflicts over how to respond to a breach and how to rally her staff to fix the problem, but it also provided insight into her personality and her leadership strengths. Paul’s story about the rise of Domino’s Pizza from whipping post to Wall Street darling starts out by describing customers who described Domino’s’ product as tasting like cardboard. It’s an unusual way to start a story but a nice narrative for a turnaround. The chain took control over its digital technologies and saw a 50-fold increase in its stock price as a result.

Sometimes stories – like Paul’s piece on J.C. Penney’s attempted turnaround – don’t bear the test of time. While Penney’s tried to restart its brand with members of a team that led the successful digital transformation at Home Depot, the story shows that sometimes hope is not the best marketing strategy.

And sometimes stories have anti-heroes at their core, as this piece that Kaspersky ran last year about the increase in the number of cities that have suffered ransomware attacks. It drew our attention as a reminder of how devastating these attacks have been, and why they continue to be attractive to hackers, using storytelling as a hook.

Finally, case studies can have a visual element, as this piece on rebranding cranberries for the millennial generation did. The folks behind marketing this seasonal fruit used the fascination that millennials have with taking pictures of their food to put together a nice social media campaign last Thanksgiving that moved what many consider a boring traditional dish into the spotlight.

Listen to our 12 min. podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast #131: How to Run Webcasts and Video Calls

Both Paul Gillin and I have run and participated in various webinars and online meetings over the years. For this podcast episode, we share some of their best practices. There are several things you can do to have great meetings. First, is preparing your speakers and in planning for the presentation. Do you have the right kind of slide deck? With our in-person speaking gigs, we try to minimize the text on our slides and provide for more of an experience and set the mood. For a webinar where you don’t necessary see your audience, your slides are more of your speaking notes, so your audience can take away your thoughts and remember your major points.

I produce a monthly webinar for the Red Cross that has a dozen speakers and an audience of several hundred. To pull this off with minimal technical issues, my team has put together a lengthy document that recommends how speakers connect (watch for poor Wi-Fi and don’t use speakerphones) and describes the various roles that different people play during the conference call (master of ceremonies, moderator, time keeper, slide wrangler, presenter recruiter, chat and notes helpers). Paul and I both suggest using a common slide deck for all speakers, which means getting the slides in order prior to the meeting. Also, with more than a couple of presenters you should test your speakers’ audio connections too; both of us have had more problems with wonky audio than video. And settle on a protocol for whether or not to show your face when the meeting starts (and check to see if you are appropriately dressed).

Both of us feel you should always start your meetings promptly: you don’t want to be wasting time waiting for stragglers. We both don’t particularly like Skype for Business, although “regular” Skype is fine (most times) and we have also used GoToMeeting and Zoom, too.

Here is an example of a recent speech I gave to an audience of local government IT managers. I also has lots of other tips on how to do more than meetings and improve team collaboration here.

If you would like to listen to our 16 minute podcast, click below:

Good luck with running your own online meetings, and please share your own tips and best practices as comments. And enjoy the video below.

FIR B2B podcast #130: Don’t be fake!

The news earlier this month about Mitt Romney’s fake “Pierre Delecto” Twitter account once again brought fakery to the forefront. We discuss various aspects of fake news and what brands need to know to remain on point, honest and genuine to themselves. We first point out a study undertaken by North Carolina State researchers that found that the less people trust Facebook, the more skeptical they become of the news they see there. One lesson from the study is that brands should carefully choose how they rebut fake news.

Facebook is trying to figure out the best response to fake political ads, although it’s still far from doing an adequate job. A piece in BuzzFeed found that the social network has been inconsistent in applying its own corporate standards to decisions about what ads to run. These standards have nothing about whether the ads are factual and more to do with profanity or major user interface failures such as misleading or non-clickable action buttons. More work is needed.

Finally, we discuss two MIT studies mentioned in Axios about how machine learning can’t easily flag fake news. We have mentioned before how easy it is for machines to now create news stories without much human oversight. But one weakness of ML recipes is that precise and unbiased training data need to be used. When training data contains bias, machines simply amplify it, as Amazon discovered last year. Building truly impartial training data sets requires special skills, and it’s never easy.  (The image here btw is from a wonderful movie starring Orson Wells “F is for Fake.”)

Listen to the latest episode of our podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast #129: We’re Pleased and Excited to Tell You What People Don’t Know About Social Media

My podcast with Paul Gillin examines three different articles that touch on various B2B marketing aspects in this podcast. The first one from Digiday and documents what the BBC went through to establish its fifth content vertical it calls Future. The channel deals with health, wellness and sustainability, and it took a lot more effort than you might think to create. Branded content is driving a lot of page views at the Beeb, as the Brits lovingly refer to it, and the reason is because of all the work that the media company puts into their creation, working with ad partners, their marketing teams and editors. An article on whether eating eggs is healthy brought in a million page views and had an average dwell time of five minutes, which is content gold.

The second piece is from Chris Penn, who does excellent marketing research. He came up with analytics that show several “happy words” — such as “pleased,” “excited,” “proud” and “thrilled” — litter the press release landscape, offering nothing in the way of real information. Does anyone really care if your CEO is having a good day because you just announced version 3.45 of some product? It might be time to eliminate these words entirely from your marketing lingo, have the language reflect reality more closely and perhaps get more reporters’ attention too.

Finally, we found this Pew Research survey that shows exactly how little the average adult knows about the digital marketing world. Pew gave more than 4,000 adults a 10-question quiz that asked things like what the “s” in “https” stands for, who owns Instagram and whether ads are a significant source of social media revenue. A huge chunk of respondents either answered incorrectly or didn’t know the answer.  Listen to our podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast#128: More SEO Secrets with Charley Spektor (Part 2)

This is the second of our two-part interview with Charley Spektor, principal at Saratoga B2B Group. Charley and his business partner, Paul Desmond, combine SEO and quality content to produce sustainable lead generation for B2B clients. In this second podcast, we discuss some of the practical tools that marketers can use to improve their SEO operations, common mistakes that marketers makes when trying to improve their SEO results, how to provide the best content mix to deliver solid leads and how to stay ahead of the constantly changing technology.

You can listen to part 2 of our interview here:

You can find part one of the interview here.

FIR B2B podcast #127: B2B SEO Secrets With Charley Spektor – Part 1

For the next two weeks we talk with Charley Spektor, principal at Saratoga B2B Group. Charley and his partner, veteran tech writer Paul Desmond, bring clients the one-two punch of SEO and content expertise for B2B lead generation. Charley was formerly lead managing consultant at Stone Temple Consulting for Home Depot, which has been one of the few great success stories of a brick-and-mortar retailer embracing e-commerce. In these two podcasts, we discuss what are the elements of success in a discipline that changes constantly, how B2B buyers use search differently than consumers and how even small companies can dominate search results if they pick their targets carefully. Read this this blog post about two recent Saratoga B2B customer success stories for further background on the case studies we discuss.

Listen to part 1 here.

FIR B2B podcast episode #126: unintended consequences

This week Paul Gillin and I discuss three examples of unintended consequences for B2B marketers that showed up in recent business marketing literature. Our first piece, which appeared in B2BMarketing.net, highlights recent survey by Acoustic that found a jump in email open and click-through rates in the past year – and in some cases a pretty substantial jump – thanks to new privacy regulations in the EU and elsewhere. The rules have forced marketers to hone their messages and to produce more precise email campaigns, which has resulted in better engagement with recipients. Talk about silver linings!

Next, we found a year-old survey from the British Marketing Week that found the influence of the marketing organization drops as brand value grows. This could be caused by several factors, including not understanding how customer acquisition and retention work or the fact that many marketers are still loath to employ data-driven technologies.

Finally, Inc. looks at a Harvard study about the unintended consequences of doling out awards to your staff. The researchers found that awards can have the revenge effect of actually de-motivating employees. Reasons include the unintended social cost of being singled out or employees slacking off once they realize they’re exceeding expectations. Businesses need to consider the reason people do the things they do and dig deeper to find out rewards that have more than just recognition value.

This could be an underlying reason why Facebook is thinking about hiding the “Like” counts on its posts, according to TechCrunch. Facebook says it wants to protect users from envy and dissuade them from self-censorship.

You can listen to our 13 min. podcast here.