Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Buzzwords and the Bull***t Generator

The buzzwords are getting to me.  Previous B-to-B Blog posts have addressed this same topic, but lately I’ve got buzzword fatigue.

In meetings, I’m hearing phrases like: “Dial it back”, “Let's get on the same page”,  “Let’s table this”, “Circle back”, “leverage”, “disconnect”, “synergize”. Are these words supposed to streamline communication and boost work camaraderie?

They seem to be having the absolute opposite affect.

Much of marketing-speak is the same way. Why make it difficult for prospects?  Why put a high falutin name to a product to make it so much more complicated then it is, which only serves to confuse?

Example:  why call something a “manual scribing implement” when it is simply just a “pen”? 

Please Hold the Fluff
A fast look at high-tech marketing materials reveal a plethora of meaningless marketing words including:

  • Leverage
  • Empower
  • Best-of-breed
  • Functionalities
  • Integration
  • Mindshare
  • Synergistic (ergh!)

The Bullshit Generator
Today’s exercise of wading through volumes of buzzword-laden documents reminded me of a funny website I recently stumbled upon called “The Bullshit Generator”

The online calculator randomly generates phrases like:

  • streamline innovative methodologies
  • enable dynamic communities
  • reintermediate user-centric networks

Just hit “enter” and you’ll get gems like: “Seize mission-critical convergence” Wow!  What fun!

Less is More
Corpspeak, buzzwords, lingo and marketing-speak can drive me crazy.  It drives readers crazy, too.  Fluff adds no value.

And I’m guilty of generating these terms myself.

The trick is to make copy concise, clear, and actionable.

Keyword: Usability
I’ve been lucky enough to participate in several “Writing for the Web” workshops as part of Nielsen Norman Group Usability Week Conferences.  

When writing for the web, or in any marketing communications,  experts  remind us: that “people read very little on Web pages. They tell us “marketing communications folks not to waste word count on generic, feel-good material. It's not going to make prospects feel good anyway. They care only about getting their problems solved as quickly as possible so they can leave your site.”

Amen to that!

Enough Said
I just visited the Bullshit Generator again and it randomly spewed this phrase: deliver cross-media schemas.  There are a few clients I know who would love that phrase, but what the heck does it mean?

Please, hold the fluff!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Hashtags (but were afraid to ask)

You likely know about Twitter, the micro-blogging site where folks post updates and interesting content in 140 characters or less.
Many previous B-to-B Blog posts address Twitter’s use in business-to-business marketing communications. 
When executed strategically, Twitter makes a big impact for folks in a range of business-to-business sectors.
What is a Twitter Hashtag?
A hashtag is a word that includes placement of the “#” character in front the desired keyword.
In the Twitter Universe, inserting a Hashtag in a Tweet helps Twitter users “tag” updates with keywords. These keywords categorize a Tweet.  They are then useful for performing Twitter searches in order to find updates related to a particular topic.
For an example, here’s a Tweet about this very post, with strategically inserted hashtag that folks in the marketing world follow on Mondays. It also includes a hashtag of the word hashtag…how #zen, eh?
Ever wondered about #Twitter #hashtags?  Blog post answers all http://ow.ly/5IoUT #marketingmonday
How are Hashtags Created?
You, along with the Twitter community, create hashtags.
A hashtag is essentially user-defined, nobody owns them per se. Anyone can create and use their own hashtag in a post or comment. (remember #winning?) Other Tweeters are free to either use it or ignore it. Like many aspects of social media, it’s an entirely democratic process that polices itself.
How Can You Use Hashtags?
Folks Tweeting about marketing communications use hashtags often.  In other sectors, like corporate training or HR consulting, use of hashtags is growing.

How does one know what hashtags are out there?

An easy way to do this is to simply use Twitter Search and put the # symbol in front of a word.

The results show popularity of a hashtag. Other tools to monitor Hashtags include:

-       Twubs.com
-       hashtags.org
-       twemes.com
-       Tagalus
-       HashDictionary
-        What the Hashtag?!
-        What The Trend?
This screenshot shows a result from hashtags.org.
Why Hashtags?
Hashtags broaden the distribution of your Tweets.
When a Tweet does not contain a hashtag related to the topic, your followers are likley the only people reading it, and that’s if you catch them with Tweets in their message feeds.

By adding a hashtag to your tweet, more people read it who are interested in that topic. You have a better chance of engaging with relevant followers, which after all, is the point of the thing.
For instance, if you Tweet about manufacturing, add the hashtag #manufacturing to each tweet. This categorizes the tweet for those who search for that topic on Twitter. 
If you’re a corporate trainer specializing in leadership developing, Tweet relevant content or blog posts and use the hash tag #leadership – this way a lot more people will find it. Why?  Those folks are looking for related content by using the hashtag. You will engage with related and like-minded folks this way. 
Hashtags are useful at live events. You can see all about that on a previous post.
Using the hashtag designated for an event, it’s easy to follow the proceedings on Twitter. Tweet about the proceedings or any conversations during the event. The key is to create and publicize the hashtag before the event starts.

Hashtags help with "virtual events" such as the 

#pr20chat for a weekly discussion focusing on public relations trends and management.  

WARNING WARNING:  Only use hashtags if it adds value to the topic.  Don’t stick a non-related popular hashtag in a Tweet just for more exposure.  That strategy can backfire big time.

 B-to-B Hashtag Directory

Here are a few popular hashtags related to business-to-business marketing communications.

Please suggest other hashtags in the comments to keep this fresh.

General Industry Hashtags include:
#marketingmonday – a good day to Tweet about marketing!

Virtual Discussion Hashtags include:

#imcchat- chat about integrated marketing communications

#journchat- chat with journalists, bloggers and PR pros 

Additional Sources to Review:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Art & Science of Business Story Telling

Two projects for Rogier Communications clients, Leader Dogs for the Blind Media Relations and IntegriTime Hospitality Case study, received Awards of Honor and Merit.  

Two Market Strategies &PR team awards received recognition -- a business-to-business web redesign and a b-to-b marketing communications program.

A Story of Welcome
One of the joys of the evening was hearing the opening remarks from my former employer, Gerry Turgeon, founder and principal of a fantastic agency known as Turgeon Group Marketing Communications.

It struck me during Gerry’s welcome remarks the power of good story telling. 

Instead of reading from a PowerPoint slide or script, Gerry relayed from memory a moving story about the power of connections and community, whether in a personal or  work setting.  

Gerry recalled a story about a time-tested experiment from middle school science, where folks relay static electricity when joining hands.  His engaging story was an analogy reminding us that working together, connecting for a common cause, is more effective than when working alone. It was an artful and meaningful presentation from the heart.

Gerry’s remarks are memorable several weeks later because of the story.  If Gerry just read bullet points from a series of projected slides, this level of recall would not be possible.

Association of Story Tellers
All who were gathered at the IABC Detroit event are in fact story tellers, weaving their tales in the business-to-business realm.  The stories tell of the value organizations provide, whether in multi-media, website content, printed annual reports, online communications, direct marketing, advertising or other mediums.

The professional communicators gathered that evening realize, whether they work for non-profits, health care institutions, Universities, professional service firms, manufacturing companies, hi tech or other sectors, purposeful and strategic use of narrative achieves a practical outcome with an individual, a community, or an organization.

 Stories help communicate complex information. A good story helps the receiver connect, learn, participate and remember.

That’s why in software marketing, testimonials, or articles written by the customer’s point of view, carry more impact then if the vendor provides a laundry list of features and functions.

Tweet Me a Story

In b-to-b social media, it’s more effective to Tweet a story or link to a larger story, then simply push out promotional content. 

As an example, which is the more memorable and interesting Tweet?  If you were another manufacturing supplier, which 140 character Tweet entices you to click for further information?

“Finally, no more cabinets full of paper!” Supplier avoids hassle of printing 20,000 quality documents each month.

Software automates documentation processes to avoid costs of printing.  
Learn more here.

The first Tweet lets prospects relate to the pains and troubles another manufacturer had with the hassles of quality control documentation.   

So What’s the Story?

It appears there is a resurgence of interest among today's business and organizations in the art of storytelling.

This is a powerful concept at a time of boundless electronic communications – online videos, social media postings, mobile messages, location-based applications, etc.

As my MSU English professor used to remind me so long ago in a writing class, show, don’t tell.