Silence does not mean agreement

Silence does not mean agreement.

Only stated agreement means agreement.

Why do you think flight attendants make you say “yes” out loud to agree to help when sitting in an exit row?

This is important to remember as you kick off your content marketing and authentic storytelling strategy – especially in more traditional organizations.

Sharing authentic stories often doesn’t come naturally to many organizations. Sometimes people don’t buy-in. Sometimes they won’t change.

Chances are that if they don’t voice their support, they are not supporting the effort.

Get their verbal agreement on record, try to convince them or find new people who can help you move your strategy forward.

Why I turned comments on my blog off!

comments offI used to have comments turned on and every once in a while somebody would leave a comment. People might say that they agreed or liked a post. Yes, some of those were spam, too. Some disagreed.

Very little real discussion happened in the comments section – even for the articles that had them.

My first major run-in with comments happened when I set up topical websites at an Eastern Iowa media company in 2010-11. We partnered with a local event where people where sharing five-minute Ignite  talks with their visions for the community’s future.

dreamsThe talks were great, inspiring and some may even a bit unrealistic. But then dreams aren’t necessarily supposed to be realistic for today.

Many videos were shared dozens of times – some over 100 times. (Many community managers would love those kind of shares!)

But there were hardly any comments on the site. All the commenting and discussion happened on social media – Facebook, for the most part. What made it worse for yours truly: How can you measure all of this apparently awesome discussion? Continue reading

Being mobile: What if instant access isn’t about instant response?

Some days my phone is lighting up every few minutes – announcing the arrival of a new email. Let’s see who it’s from. Swipe right to read it in its entirety and respond immediately is often my reaction.

It’s a habit. Maybe even an excuse to divert attention from whatever else is going on right that second.

Katy Trail in DallasThe other day, I was running and walking on the Katy Trail in Dallas and my phone was buzzing away with messages and people having conversations with each other through emails.

Instant access gives us the possibility to respond immediately, of course.

It wasn’t always that way. I remember covering the police beat at a regional newspaper in the mid-2000’s and I had to drive back to the office to check my email on a desktop computer. Not a laptop, but a desktop computer. It had one of those big, heavy screens, too. Only executives had smart phones – then called Blackberries.

Either way, today, I can be connected to my email, Twitter and iMessages from just about anywhere. I can sit at the beach, while at the gym and even while out running.

So I was walking on the Katy Trail, my phone kept vibrating and messages kept coming in. I looked at them to see what was going on and even had some opinions. I had something to share. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m talkative. :)

But before I responded, I changed my mind. Not everything has to be instant. For the record: I do see the value in instant communication and I think it actually builds trust. But sometimes it’s OK to review the messages, digest and reply just a tad later. Even just waiting minutes can give us the chance to digest and think about our response maybe just a bit longer.

Taking a short break to think can help us give a better response and be a better participant in the discussion.

Auto direct messages on Twitter are not always bad

For the most part, automatic messages on Twitter usually seem irrelevant and annoying to me. People – usually after I just followed them – send messages like this:

Thanks for following. Please also connect on Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn and like my YouTube video here.

(Or something along those lines.)

Others would ask questions:

What’s the current marketing problem you are trying to solve?

At one point, the problem with questions was that if the sender didn’t follow you back, you couldn’t actually reply. Only people who follow somebody else could receive a direct message from that somebody else. Twitter has since changed this and you can now reply to people even if they don’t follow you.

I’ve found the direct messages that invite to another network annoying for a while. I’m already connected with you on Twitter and don’t really know you yet. Why do I need to connect on LinkedIn right now?

But, as the saying goes (and you may quote me on this): Annoying marketing techniques will continue until they stop working.

I was wondering: Maybe this technique does work. Then I wondered: How do we count “working?” If somebody sends me a question, and I can’t respond, there’s no way to measure anything. You can’t even measure how many people tried to reply, but couldn’t, since you weren’t following them.

Including a link might work since I can measure impact on the site. I decided to add an automatic direct message that says:

Thanks for connecting. I hope you’ll check out my blog at

Sending automated direct messages on TwitterI signed up for Crowd Fire and turned on their automatic direct messaging feature to do this.

I simply clicked on Automate and added a new Auto DM Marketing message. Easy enough.

I let it run for a while (and it’s still running as of the time of this writing). It has helped with traffic to my blog and I haven’t seen any huge increase in unfollowers on Twitter. (I now have over 10,000 followers on Twitter.)

I’ve also seen an increase in eNewsletter subscriptions on my blog. Some I could track back to this tactic.

Interestingly, I also received a lot of positive feedback in the form of reply direct messages. Notes like this one have been common. A number of people commented on how much they enjoyed the stories.

Auto Twitter Direct Message that works

Others told me they signed up for my eNewsletter – which means they’ll receive every new post in their email. They definitely don’t want to miss a thing – another loyal reader.

This was an interesting experiment, I thought. I will continue sending this automated message. In theory, it seems to be an annoying tactic – and I’m certain it is to some, but it also has converted social media followers to blog readers and I’ve seen enough positive responses to see that a fair amount of people find my authentic storytelling blog worth reading.

Automation can work great when the information presented is relevant to the person receiving it.

Update: Fellow content marketer Martin Lieberman pointed out that since the time I initially wrote this that Twitter now allows messages to users that don’t follow you. Thanks, Martin. 

PODCAST: The future of journalism and journalist is context and amplification

the future of journalism croppedI spoke to journalism students at the University of Iowa about storytelling and we also discussed the future of journalism – a topic discussed in this podcast.

Listen to the podcast below:

Audio not playing? Try the transcript below:  Continue reading

How will you make your impact?

Somebody asked me last year: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

I answered: “However I can make the biggest impact on the most people sharing their authentic stories.”

A couple of years ago, I did that at a United Way and helped other nonprofits share their authentic stories. Currently, I do that with hospitals across the United States. I get to travel and help them learn how to spot, craft and then share their authentic stories.

Making an impact is important. How can we leave a lasting impression on a community or communities by using our skills for the larger good?

Getting people to buy one time is not leaving a  lasting impact. Teaching people how to move their marketing message from traditional channels – because people ignored them there – to social media channels, is also not making a meaningful impact.

I want to make a meaningful impact by helping people and organizations to be authentic with each other and build meaningful relationships through their stories.

Imagine if all of our relationships are built only on transactions. You give me a dollar for that service, I give you one dollar for another service. But, what kind of experience is that? Only transactional. It’s a commodity. Many times, I can cut a relationship that is only held together by a transaction.

It’s much harder to cut a relationship if it’s formed around a shared story – a narrative that we believe in together. A story that connects us.

I remember a friend who once declined a job that appeared to be a fantastic career move because his current job – despite less pay – offered a shared story between him and his employer. They were connected, beyond the money, though the money was good.

The same is true for customer-business relationships. It’s easy to cut services that are a commodity. It’s harder to cut services that we feel connected to on a personal level.

Building meaningful relationships through our shared stories is a long-term strategy.

Good news is worth sharing

Marion Police in Iowa proved with its April 2015 Facebook post that good news is worth sharing and that people appreciate it.

Here’s what Marion Police posted on Facebook:

We received this information today from a Marion father about an incident last month and wanted to share:

“I want to acknowledge a great act of kindness and superior public service on the part of Officer Davis. My wife and I were traveling out of town on business and my daughter was coming home from her part time job at around midnight. She got a flat tire, the temperature was -2 degrees and she had never changed a tire nor knew how to handle the situation.
She was sitting on the side of the road and Officer Davis asked her what the trouble was and she told him she had a flat tire. Officer Davis changed her tire (in below zero weather) and instructed her how to change it should this ever happen again. He then followed her to put air in the spare tire and instructed her how to drive with the spare tire.

I want you to know how much this father appreciates public servants like Officer Davis. His exemplary service in helping out a young lady in need, on a terribly cold night, is a fine example of the quality of public service we get in Marion, Iowa. Please extend my deepest gratitude to Officer Davis and the Marion Police Department.”

Great job Officer Davis!

In just a few hours, the post was liked more than 800 times and shared 40-plus times.

This person’s comment summarized it nicely:

It’s nice to hear the positives instead of always reporting on the negative. There are so many more wonderful officers out there like him and unfortunately we only hear about the questionable ones in the news.

This is a great reminder of the abundance of stories that are around us. Whether it’s a positive law enforcement, healthcare or lawn care worker story, there are positive stories that happen and that are worth sharing. All the time. We just need to spot them and then share them publicly. It’s easy enough today with social media and blogs. Marion Police could have easily filed the note away after sharing it with Officer Davis and maybe the chief.

But instead, somebody took the opportunity to share it with a wider community by:

  • Recognizing that this story is worth sharing.
  • Taking the initiative and actually sharing it publicly.

This is much easier said than done. Recognizing stories can be hard and we can glance over them in our daily rush to get things done and checked off our lists. And even when stories are spotted, we might get lost in approval hell. Somebody somewhere might find a reason why something shouldn’t be published. Somebody – one person perhaps – might have a negative comment to offer.

Also 10 or 15 years ago, the only way for police departments (or any organization really) to get stories like this shared would have been by pitching it to the local media. Some reporter may consider it or more likely would have said: “Oh, good story, but we don’t cover things like this.” And that would have been that. Stories happened but were not told.

It’s great to see that the Marion Police Department continues to take the initiative and shares stories as they happen.

We can all learn from this and remember to share our stories – including positive ones!


That balance between structure and “just sharing” meaningful stories

I see posts like this all the time – probably weekly if not more often:

  • How to correctly format your blog post
  • Eight things every blog post needs to include
  • Five new tools to help you blog
  • Our 12-step process to get your blog post done

There are variations, of course, and some of this information is useful, and when applied properly can help us improve our blogging and storytelling.

But these kind of posts can also serve as enablers for procrastination. When we focus too much on some things we focus less on other things. Continue reading