Brand Thunder for The Washington Capitals
COMMENDATIONS OF EXCELLENCE:
PUMA Running with coBRANDIT
Ford with Social Media Group
Sony PlayStation with Voce Communications
COMMENDATIONS OF MERIT:
Radian6 with Altitude
Digital Influence Group
Yahoo! with Voce Communications
Category: Media Creation
Company: Brand Thunder for The Washington Capitals
After several challenging seasons, in the midst of a rebuilding period for the team, National Hockey League’s (NHL) Washington Capitals (http://capitals.nhl.com/) management tapped its new media department to help re-engage and re-connect with their core fan base.
With the disappointing seasons of the recent past and the rebuilding efforts suggesting further delays in division and playoff success, the Capitals wanted to drive participation in an online initiative that would open a consistent line of communication to keep fans active in the rebuilding process.
With sports fans getting their team information from multiple sources including magazines, newspapers, radio, fan web sites and blogs, the ability to shape fan expectation was in the hands of professional and citizen journalists more than the team. The main official channels of communication were from the Capitals web site and from the owner’s blog (tedstake.com). A more direct line of communication to the fan stood to strengthen their bond with the team.
Previous Internet outreach efforts included an AIM icon, Wallpaper downloads, Screensavers and Fan Videos/Images. Other, more interactive, new media programs showed promise. Facebook resulted in almost 3,500 friends, the YouTube Channel acquired 1,000+ subscribers with over 40,000 videos viewed, and the Discussion Boards drove over 5,300 members.
The target audience consisted primarily of the visitors to the Washington Capitals web site (capitals.nhl.com). However, the team was interested in extending its reach to the fans who do not frequent their site.
The following goals were set for the program:
• Provide an Internet tool to allow the team to connect to its fan base.
• Achieve an adoption rate that would meet or exceed other new media initiatives.
• Be visually and functionally compelling to the fan. The Capitals partnered with Brand Thunder to deliver a downloadable custom browser theme that enhanced Firefox’s visual style, added functionality and included team logos, colors, links and news feeds. (http://capitals.nhl.com/team/app?service=page&page=NHLPage&bcid=fan_WashingtonCapitalsBrowserThe ).
The product created a branded presence in the browser of their fan and provided a persistent connection between the team and the fan whenever the fan was online, and regardless of what web site was visited.
The browser theme was launched and promoted on the Multimedia/Download page within the Washington Capitals site. The offering also gained attention from the owner who blogged about it, and gained a viral lift across fan sites of the Capitals and other NHL teams since this was the first offering of its kind. Additionally, the custom theme was promoted on the Mozilla Add-ons site for enhancements to the Firefox browser.
Firefox penetration was 15% of the browser market and only 12% of the Capitals site traffic. There were questions raised about pursuing a strategy aimed at a subset of the team’s audience.
Brand Thunder (http://brandthunder.com/) built the product which combines both a theme and toolbar extensions, two separate but customizable areas within the Firefox browser, in a single download.
Sean Parker, Director or New Media, Washington Capitals
Patrick Murphy, Founder, Brand Thunder
Brij Charan, Director, Technology & Design, Brand Thunder
Sean Parker was responsible for gaining commitment from team management for the concept and seeing it through launch.
Brand Thunder was the provider of the design, build and technical aspects of the program.
In less than a year, the Capitals achieved:
• More than 10,000 downloads of the browser theme from the Capitals site and through Brand Thunder’s marketing on non-partner sites.
• 4% penetration of the existing Washington Capitals web site audience.
• Received over 2,000 visits per month directly from the links integrated into the browser.
• Exceeded performance of all previous new media initiatives by the Capitals
• Reached additional fans previously not frequenting the Washington Capitals site.
• At launch in April 2007, Firefox was under-represented on WashingtonCaps.com with only 12% of browser traffic. Firefox market penetration, at the time, was 15%.
• One year later, Firefox penetration on the Capitals web site more than doubled to 25% while the broader market share of Firefox usage had grown to just 19%.
• Offering a product to a subset of the internet market, the Firefox user, did not limit its success.
• The Washington Capitals enjoy a persistent desktop presence whenever that custom browser user is online and regardless of what web site they are visiting.
• A “branding elements only” version was tested and delivered an additional 180,000 downloads.
The objectives were achieved.
• The product provides team news directly to the browser of their fan giving them the news as soon as it is released.
• The look and feel is well suited to the Capitals hockey fan.
• The integration into the browser keeps the team presence felt whenever the user is online.
• Adoption was almost double that of any of the team’s previous new media efforts, and if the branding only download is considered – total adoption went well beyond the reach of the Capitals web site.
Category: Media Creation
Company: coBRANDiT for PUMA Running
PUMA’s running division (PUMA Running, http://www.pumarunning.com/) faces a tough marketing and PR challenge–the competition is better known to runners, while PUMA has generally been regarded more as a lifestyle brand than a true athletic brand. With the Beijing Olympics approaching it was decided to highlight PUMA Running’s sponsorship of the Jamaican National Track Club’s elite runners, particularly 21 year old Usain Bolt, an up-and-coming star on the international scene. But how to promote this relationship, establish credibility in the running world (and beyond), and demonstrate PUMA’s deep involvement with and commitment to the sport?
PUMA is adept at producing beautiful flash-based websites, games, and activities, but for this effort decided to also make it’s first full-scale foray into social media, with a focus on video. Lacking expertise in distribution platforms and community outreach, there was a lot to learn. PUMA wanted its efforts distributed in formats that would allow online running communities and other, wider audiences to easily view and share content, while also driving traffic to flash-based PUMA properties such as pumarunning.com and delivering positive SEO results. PUMA Running needed strategic advice and operational partners who could execute quickly and flexibly, and be able to react to events in Beijing.
The primary audience was the hardcore running community and the regular followers of running events. Secondarily PUMA desired to reach a wide range of individuals interested in sport and human interest Olympic stories.
For a first time effort, PUMA Running set the bar high. The social media program had to 1) create great web PR for Usain Bolt and his PUMA sponsorship, generating an increased level of online chatter about PUMA, 2) drive traffic to specific flash-based PUMA Running properties, and 3) lay the groundwork for future social media outreach by identifying PUMA Running fans and loyalists.
It was decided to follow Usain Bolt in a series of blog posts—text, photos, and video–as he prepared for and participated in the Olympics and related events. The content would be displayed in full at chasingbolt.com, a flash based site associated with pumarunning.com, and would be publicized primarily via web video placements on top sharing sites such as YouTube and Dailymotion. All placements would observe best practice conventions for titling, tagging, and describing videos, and would include links back to chasingbolt.com and pumarunning.com properties. Facebook was identified for its rich community building attributes, so a custom app. would be developed that could serve as a locus for Chasing Bolt blog posts, videos, and other activities. Through the app. we planned to further engage the viewing audience with calls-to-action: upload your good luck photo message to Usain Bolt and receive a limited edition t-shirt (for example). We also planned videos in which Bolt would address viewers directly, and challenge them to beat him in a flash racing game at chasingbolt.com (This later turned out to be our single most popular video).
Developed in tandem with the app. would be a cross-platform video widget that could be embedded almost anywhere, driving traffic back to Facebook and to chasingbolt.com. The widget would allow on-the-fly updates and messaging, so we could adjust it instantly as needed. The widget would in effect place the chasingbolt.com channel on any site that embedded it, with regular updates and custom messaging.
From a technical standpoint, deployment consisted of building out and launching all the necessary Chasing Bolt channel components with a unified look and feel consistent with PUMA Running’s brand message. Specifically: The chasingbolt.com main page, the flash-based racing game, 16+ chasingbolt channels on prominent video sharing sites, the Chasing Bolt Facebook app. and the video widget…as well as the look of the videos themselves. Details on how this was done follow later.
From an outreach standpoint we did a lot of one-on-one communication in advance with site owners and managers, letting them know what was coming, why they would want to be involved, what was in it for their visitors, and how to embed our videos or the widget. As the program got rolling we did kept in touch with them and took advantage of any special programs or features that would allow our videos (and the related tags and links) better placement on their sites. We also responded to individual comments on the videos when appropriate, to answer questions, etc. and facilitate conversation, and we vigorously friended, subscribed, and response-videoed as necessary.
The greatest challenge (or fear really) when running a campaign around an athlete is that the athlete will get injured, or melt down, or otherwise fail. You need to figure out in advance how you’re going to handle public failure gracefully. In the case of Chasing Bolt, we were lucky: he won all his events, setting new world records in each.
Operationally the biggest challenge was optimizing and managing video in so many locations simultaneously, and reacting quickly to new input. This challenge was met with long hours and manpower, as well as streamlined communications between program managers. Small teams work best: the fewer people with input to decisions the better. With the Chasing Bolt program this was somewhat forced upon us by communications issues coming out of China.
There were four organizations collaborating on the Chasing Bolt program:
PUMA built out the flash site and game, and PUMA Running’s International Marketing Manager followed Bolt to China with a laptop and a video camera. He and his team produced the content and FTP’d video segments to coBRANDiT (www.cobrandit.com), who then took over social media outreach.
coBRANDiT served as consultant to PUMA and as social media program manager, providing strategic and operational assistance to the program. In this role coBRANDiT coordinated video releases and related uploads, community messaging and calls-to-action, media buys, approved placements and opportunities as they arose and generally acted as liaison between PUMA Running’s managers and the audience. coBRANDiT was greatly assisted by two organizations:
Pandemic Labs uploaded and optimized the videos across 16+ video sites, communicated with site managers, managed daily channel activity, tracked metrics, and provided regular suggestions for improvement.
Involver built the Facebook app. and widget on their platform, and managed video and program content through both while consulting on best practices. Involver also arranged a modest media buy to publicize the program within Facebook.
Usain Bolt won every event he entered in the most spectacular fashion; couple that with our outreach strategy and you get some big numbers:
Total View Count : 2,000,000 plus (1.1m through the widget)
Videos made the front page of YouTube, AOL Video, Dailymotion (twice), top running sites trackshark.com, letsrun.com (twice), runnerspace.com, and speedendurance.com. On YouTube chasingBOLT was the 24th most subscribed-to channel in August 2008, with one video the #1 most responded to for the week in sports. The channel has 1000+ subscribers, 280+ friends, and over 3,000 very positive comments. One of the videos was talked about on an Australian nightly news broadcast and they showed a bunch of it. That video was the #9 most watched that week in the sports category.
On Facebook more than 4,800 people helped promote Chasing Bolt by adding the app. and putting the video on their profile pages. On average these people shared the video with 2 friends each, and they came from many countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Colombia, Chile, Australia, Jamaica, Turkey, Norway, Sweden, China, Belgium, Finland, Poland, Germany and others. The chasingBOLT Facebook app. received over 28,000 pageviews in a two week period. 38 people uploaded good luck photo messages to Usain Bolt as part of our call-to-action.
These metrics map to program goals pretty successfully:
Goal 1, generate online chatter: The front page of AdAge’s August 25, 2008 issue notes that global online chatter about PUMA increased 64%, compared to 17 and 18% for brand competitors (Zeta Interactive). Search any top running blog or community forum for PUMA Running or Usain Bolt and you will find a link to Chasing Bolt content.
Goal 2, drive traffic: Site traffic to pumarunning.com increased tenfold in August 2008 compared to August 2007, with most of the increase coming from links in Chasing Bolt social media placements (Omniture, Inc).
Goal 3, lay groundwork: And perhaps most importantly, PUMA Running has the beginnings of an engaged community with which it can interact in the future.
PUMA Running views the Chasing Bolt program as an experiment that showed how to successfully promote flash-based properties with social media outreach and PR, work with independent bloggers and media sites to integrate content, and actively engage an online community. The challenge now is to continue meaningful, regular dialogue with key fans, away from the fireworks of Beijing.
Category: Media creation
Company: Social Media Group for Ford Focus
In today’s media culture few would deny that online content producers wield tremendous influence on a brand or product. However the rules of engagement vary widely between journalists, serious bloggers and other content producers.
While many journalists may be satisfied with a traditional Press Release, many bloggers, on the other hand, consider them spam. In an extreme example, Wired magazine editor and blogger Chris Anderson compiled and published a “blacklist” of public relations people who had submitted off-topic releases to him and was no longer accepting any emails from them or the companies they worked for. The central problem was to provide relevant content for online content producers without ramming it down their throat.
In our work with Ford (www.ford.com), we at the Social Media Group (www.socialmediagroup.com) wanted to involve interested online content producers (not just bloggers) in the press events around the Focus launch, and to also give them the content they needed to tell the best possible story. So we decided to create a Social Media Release (SMR) for the Focus. However, rather than hosting images and videos on Ford servers, we saw the benefit of leveraging the native sharing properties of existing web platforms such as Flickr and YouTube. There is also an added benefit that the content becomes findable on the platform as well, rather than just via the release itself. Furthermore, we made all of the content available under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license, which was somewhat revolutionary in itself.
Of course, we certainly didn’t invent the concept of the SMR. Shift Communications originally developed the first template for a Social Media Press Release in May 2006. However the prevailing notion was to treat an SMR as a one-time communication, our vision was to use the platform to tell an evolving story over time. To achieve this we used a syndicated feed (RSS) so content producers would be alerted as the story changes.
The Focus has a fairly broad audience, but communications tend to target well-educated and middle-income car buyers under the age of 35. However the actual audience for Digital Snippets is Bloggers, videographers and other online content producers.
1. Increase non-traditional coverage of the launch of the 2008 Ford Focus
2. Ensure that online content producers use the best quality and correct photography and digital assets
3. Reduce the friction associated with traditional press kits and make them easier for amateur and semi-pro content producers to obtain
4. Establish Digital Snippets as the credible source for information and content on the Ford Focus
“Digital Snippets” (www.digitalsnippets.com) updates the story with any combination of available multimedia assets including photos, videos, audio clips, graphs, pdfs, textual facts and any other type of story update imaginable. Since the new influencers are generally not paid to write, nor are they interested in spending more free time than necessary to create a post, podcast or article, we don’t wish to ask them to sift through 2000-3000 word press releases looking for “the point”. We want to give them the latest information in easily digestible chunks and we want them to be sure their source is credible.
A SMR speaks to this and unlike a traditional press release, can be updated to tell an evolving story. Subscribers to the information get an editorial-free update to the SMR as a “Digital Snippet”.
Phase 1 (October 2007) – The first version of Digital Snippets was a custom-built project for the Ford Focus launch. It was proposed as a pilot project to Ford.
Phase 2 (early 2008) – The excellent online response to the Focus Digital Snippets launch led to several additional requests for Ford corporate releases and other product announcements. We recognized that we would need a more robust system to manage several Digital Snippets at once. Social Media Group then funded and developed a back administration interface and display template based on the WordPress open-source blogging platform.
Phase 3 (September 2008) – While the migration to the WordPress back-end made deployment much easier, the system still required technical expertise to develop and launch a new snippet. After clients outside of Ford expressed interest in the Digital Snippets platform; we funded, developed and launched the third iteration of the service. With the latest version we have moved to a “self-service” model where our clients can easily develop, edit and manage their own Digital Snippets as simply as editing a document.
Ford was extremely receptive to the Digital Snippets project from our first discussions, however the largest barrier was overcoming the legal department’s concerns. After some education, case studies and several discussions about Creative Commons licensing with the legal team we were successfully united in our approach.
The second barrier was in communicating the availability of the snippets to interested content producers. An extensive outreach program conducted by Social Media Group approach was successful in socializing the concept among several leading online content producers and bloggers.
The first version of Digital Snippets for the Ford Focus was a custom-build. SMG quickly funded, researched and developed a modified version of the open source WordPress (wordpress.org) blogging platform. All other work on the project was by developed by Social Media Group.
Maggie Fox (strategy & client management)
Collin Douma (concept & design)
Rob Clark (programming)
Heather Angus-Lee (writer)
Whitney Drake (client Phase 1)
Scott Monty (client Phases 2 and 3)
Our first release on Digital Snippets for the launch of the Ford Focus received hundreds of unsolicited blog posts all with rich imagery and facts provided by the Digital Snippets platform, including the coveted Autopia section of Wired Magazine.
Recognizing the success of the Focus launch, one of Ford’s competitors released much of their content under a license similar to ours very shortly afterwards. Finally, the Digital Snippets platform itself received a great deal of coverage along side Ford including News.com for its innovative implementation of the Social Media Release concept.
Increased Coverage – Over 15,000 unique visitors to the SMR and over 271 links referencing directly to the Focus SMR.
Correct Use of Assets – The high-quality photos, tags, links and quotes provided in the SMR were almost universally used by online content producers.
Ease Process of Obtaining Assets – The assets were freely available and usable without constraint. The widespread use of the official assets proved the value of releasing them under creative commons licensing and without registration requirements.
Credibility – Wikipedia links to and references the Ford Focus Digital Snippets in its entry for the Ford Focus
Category: Media creation
A very small number of robotics firms have begun marketing “companion robotics” to the public, in fact, 2008 has been dubbed “the year of the robot” by numerous major media outlets. Yet this entirely new product category is hard to explain to an as-yet-unsophisticated public, and the balance between expectations and price is wildly out of sync with reality in this early market stage. (Tell the public you have a robotic pet for them, and they want it – for $300 – to not only be cute, friendly, autonomous and ambulatory, but also to fetch the paper, to respond to thousands of commands, to learn tricks and make mixed drinks. Oh, and can you drop the price to $75?!)
How could UGOBE (www.ugobe.com), the creator of a startlingly innovative new robotic companion – Pleo, best communicate with this as-yet-ill-defined market of consumers about its complex new robot and encourage those early adopters who DID understand the value proposition to pass along their enthusiasm to a second wave of mass consumers? And how could it do so on a small start-up’s communications budget?
Primary market: 25-40 year old adults in the US, Canada, UK and western Europe with income $80k+ – falling either into a “technophile/gadget freak” basket (skewing slightly male) or a “pet lover” basket (skewing slightly female). These may be single adults, couples or “affluent families” with children 8-12.
Secondary market: 18-35 year old single adults in Asia/Pacific, skewing female.
1. To sell more Pleos to those who “get it”
2. To create “references” for the product on the product website (pleoworld.com) that would make it more comfortable for a new customer to relate to a product owner and take the leap to purchase
3. To create buzz in the blogosphere and tech/business press
4. User generated content creation propagation on our site and on social media portals
To design and deploy a website built on our owners and THEIR passions. We designed Pleoworld.com to be a place where owners (and prospective owners) could come, create home pages for themselves and their Pleos – to post photos, videos, stories and questions – and to network with each other not only online, but also OFFLINE. Searching for OTHER Pleo owners by zip code, country or interests enables you to bring your Pleo together in real life to see how one Pleo interacts with another. (They sing together, and sometimes catch colds!)
So each member of Pleoworld gets the chance to create not only a user profile (sort of like a Facebook page) but also to build a “plog,” a blog about their Pleo.
The site also features other neat community features like custom badges; a full-featured Forum for chatting, asking questions and fantasy role-playing; and a “Pleo of the week” award.
We built Pleoworld from custom PHP code running on Linux servers. We invited our 2000 “first hatch” Pleo owners to sign up and start the first Plogs.
Our start-up sized miniscule budget was the chief obstacle.
A dreamteam list of open source tools:
Symfony installation on Linux
User generated content streams in from YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and more sites. Plus, people upload media directly to OUR servers!
Sarah Lefton, Online Strategy manager
Al Chang, web developer
– Total Registered Members: 17,318
– Total plogs created: 1060
– Total Posts: 25,527
– 1010 videos created
– 278,034 hits in the blogosphere, including stories running frequently from top tier sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Wired and Popular Science.
– Stories on our product and website on all mainstream media (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Good Morning America, Nightline, etc) reference our fanatical user base and their plogs! We receive requests for contact information from some of these “ploggers” by the press all the time. – A smashing success in having owners create referenceable material about their Pleos on our website!
– Tons of user generated content in circulation, such that people researching the product online find videos, writing and photos of the product in their lifestyle that cost us nothing to create.
– Tons of free (to us) media created about our product!
Category: Media Creation
Company: Voce Communications for PlayStation
In November 2006, two NYC teenage rappers (“Charlie and Jeremy”) want their parents to buy them Sony PSPs for Christmas, so they create a fan blog called alliwantforxmasisapsp.com. One month later, readers of the site uncover that it’s a fictitious blog (i.e., a “flog”) created by Sony PlayStation (http://www.us.playstation.com/) and authored by marketing folks at the company’s brand agency. Sony PlayStation receives a tremendous amount of criticism and ridicule from industry media and customers at a critical time in the company’s sales cycle (i.e., the holiday shopping season). Here are just a few sample headlines that surfaced in this timeframe:
“When Sony’s Viral Marketing Campaign Became a Virus” (1Up.com)
“Sony Fakes PSP Fan Site” (The Inquirer)
“These Days You Just Can’t Trust Some Blogs” (The SF Chronicle)
“All Sony Wants for Christmas is a Better Marketing Company” (Kotaku)
“Sony’s PSP Blog Flog Revealed” (The Consumerist)
The website was taken down quickly, an apology was issued and the PlayStation communications team, which had no idea this project was in the works until it was too late, was left wondering how they would respond to sentiment like this:
“I was actually planning to buy a PSP, but I just can’t give my money to a company that thinks I’m a moron…”
PlayStation’s corporate communications team wanted to develop a communications strategy to not only counter and address the alliwant… mess, but more importantly, to create a new “official” online forum for open conversation and information related to its business.
The target audience for PlayStation’s new communications efforts would range from hard core game media like Joystiq and Kotaku, to consumer enthusiast bloggers and “fanboy sites,” to traditional media and analyst audiences seeking fast, timely and accurate information on all aspects of PlayStation’s business.
There were initially three objectives for PlayStation’s new communications efforts:
1. Rebuild loyalty and trust in the “PlayStation experience,” by operating and providing more transparency into the company’s business.
2. Get the company out in front of online speculation and rumors, by developing a communications strategy that’s nimble and capable of rapid response.
3. Begin “officially” participating in a ridiculously large ecosystem of game industry conversation online.
The plan was to develop the first “official” PlayStation blog in the U.S. where multiple contributors could share accurate and timely information and content on all aspects of PlayStation business. The blog would also be the official go-to place for conversation and dialogue with the key people within PlayStation, as well as top-tier third-party game developers and content producers.
PlayStation’s corporate communications team, lead by Patrick Seybold, began the internal approval and development process for an official PlayStation blog in the winter of 2007. The blog launched on June 11, 2007 (http://blog.us.playstation.com/2007/06/11/welcome-you’ve-been-waiting/ )
Yes, there were several. Ensuring there was top-down commitment and support of PlayStation’s blog was an initial challenge. Executives in the U.S. were obviously sensitive to producing “another bad PlayStation blog.” It was also a challenge communicating the purpose and rational for the blog to Sony Entertainment, the traditionally conservative parent company in Japan.
Technical development and design was another challenge, as was creating a content development workflow that wasn’t overly complicated or “corporatized,” but remained responsible for a large company like PlayStation.
Lastly, effective participation was a challenge. The game industry is extremely active and vocal online and there were concerns about whether or not the company could keep up with the volume and velocity of comments, blog posts, links, etc., in a manner that was in keeping with the original spirit and purpose of the project.
PlayStation’s blog was developed with WordPress and is hosted internally at Sony Computer Entertainment America.
PlayStation developed two custom plug-ins for WordPress to address some unique challenges with highly-active corporate blogs. Those plug-ins were open-sourced for all bloggers to use and benefit from: http://blog.us.playstation.com/2008/01/28/responding-directly/
As we understand it, PlayStation is one of the largest companies to date to contribute code *back* to the WordPress open source community.
Patrick Seybold oversees PlayStation’s overall social media strategy. Jeff Rubenstein manages the day-to-day blog management responsibilities. CNP_studio and Voce Communications (www.vocecomm.com) provide ongoing technical development, design and consulting work.
PlayStation uses a mix of hard and soft metrics to measure the success of its blogging efforts. Hard metrics like subscribers (30k), visitors (1M/week), page views (2M/week), inbound links (60/week), time on site (3mins), comment counts (~1.5k/week), video views (1M/video), etc., all have been tracked and plotted on a week-to-week basis since launch. The PlayStation team also tracks its progress via Technorati Rankings. In the 15 months since its inception, the blog has jumped from absolute obscurity to a rank of 675, surpassing top video game industry blogs, top competitors (e.g., Microsoft’s “Major Nelson” and “Gamescore” blogs) and is beginning to rival the reach and influence of several regional daily newspapers according to Google Analytics Benchmarks. The PlayStation team is *very* pleased with the hard metrics for its blog and can provide actual figures at the Judge’s request.
In addition to the hard metrics, the PlayStation team looks closely at soft metrics too. This includes ongoing analysis of the tonality and sentiment of comments and inbound links, as well as the overall response to the content appearing on the blog. The team recently implemented a reader post rating module (1-5) at the bottom of each post. The average PlayStation blog post averages a 4.1 rating.
In addition to weekly metric and sentiment monitoring, a larger quarterly analysis is conducted by Voce Communications which aggregates, weighs and scores a number of inputs to calculate the “Influence Index Score” for the PlayStation blog.
1. Strong upward growth across all the hard metrics indicate PlayStation’s blog is becoming increasingly cited and linked to online as a go-to resource for “official” company information and opinion. This ranges from game industry media and bloggers and other online enthusiasts all the way out to the largest print and broadcast outlets in the nation.
2. The content that PlayStation is producing and sharing via its blog is spreading further online, indicating that a larger company voice (and point of view) is being received and heard.
3. The volume of comments, both from consumers and from PlayStation authors alike continues to increase, indicating a deeper level of engagement and at very least, a more qualitative level of dialogue, is taking place now that otherwise wasn’t prior to the launch of the PlayStation blog.
4. A big driver for the above measurements of success are the people inside PlayStation who are contributing new layers of access and insight into all the things the company is doing — ranging from PlayStation’s big game title announcements, console news and industry events. All of these things combined are providing PlayStation blog readers with a heightened level of access and transparency into PlayStation.
PlayStation has also, over the last year, done a number of things to proactively engage with its community of readers online, but also offline too. A few links following that show some examples of the company’s commitment to its growing blog community:
Category: Media Creation
Company: Altitude Branding for Radian6
Interest in social media is high amongst marketing, communications and customer support professionals in agencies and corporations. However, fully understanding the impact of social media it requires “jumping in with both feet,” including engagement and participation in various social media channels. With so much information and buzz around social media across the web, it is difficult for many professionals with demanding job responsibilities to filter it and uncover the social media best practices that are relevant to them.
At the same time, consumers have already embraced social media as a way to express their opinions about brands, needs, and issues. The breadth and depth of the social web allows each customer to have a voice and share their thoughts and opinions with hundreds or even thousands of other customers at a time via blogs, forums, and social networks.
Marketing, communications and customer support professionals know they need to be listening and engaging in these discussions but they don’t necessarily know how to do so effectively and efficiently. Manually searching social media can be daunting and time consuming, especially for professionals that are new to these sites and tools.
They need concise, actionable insights and best practices from industry professionals, and introductions to solutions like Radian6 (http://www.radian6.com/) that can make the job of monitoring and engaging in social media easier and more efficient.
The webinar series was designed to target marketing decision-makers who wanted to learn about social media but had yet to embrace it in their own marketing activities. This included marketing, PR, and communication professionals, in both corporate and agency environments.
These professionals would be the ones not only responsible for guiding their company’s participation in social media, but for monitoring their company’s online reputation and the results of that social media engagement.
Radian6’s social media monitoring platform monitors blogs, forums, online news, rich media, and networking sites and helps clients analyze the impact of comments, views, and links in real time.
The company understood that interest in its social-media-monitoring platform depended on a wider adoption of social media by marketing and communications professionals. As their involvement in social media grew, they would more easily be able to understand the value offered by the Radian6 social media monitoring technology.
Originally, Radian6 planned a traditional webinar series that would aim to educate corporate and agency marketing and communications professionals about social media. The series was to include interviews with several social-media pioneers that were recorded with Chris Brogan of CrossTech Media during the Web 2.0 Expo and the Society of New Communications Research’s (SNCR’s) NewComm Forum; both conferences were held in April 2008.
While attending these industry conferences, Radian6 VP of marketing David Alston noticed a disconnect between social-media veterans and newcomers. While the newcomers busily took notes during conference sessions, those already active in social media were connecting with each other and discussing the content both face-to face and via back-channel conversations on Twitter.
Radian6 saw the advantages to everyone being involved in these types of interactions and actually using social media in parallel with the presented content. Unfortunately, a regular webinar did not lend itself to that approach, so Radian6 instead set out to develop a more dynamic and interactive experience that would encourage its participants to get involved in social media and participate alongside veterans in the business.
Those interested in the webinar content would need to jump in with both feet and sign up for Twitter to be able to follow and participate in the entire back-channel conversation. By structuring the sessions this way, Radian6 aimed to provide both valuable, actionable content for these professionals about social media best practices, and encourage them to join the active and valuable Twitter community.
The Twebinar was designed as a free, multi-dimensional webinar, and positioned as an experiment with three main objectives:
To provide quality content and insights from social media’s leading experts: The series, titled “Game Changing Moves: Doing Business with Social Media,” was hosted by co-creator Chris Brogan, a ten-plus year veteran of the social media world. The Twebinar included in-depth video interviews (conducted during the Web 2.0 Expo and SNCR NewComm Forum conferences) with the likes of Richard Binhammer of Dell, Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and Shel Israel of FastCompany, among others.
To incorporate social media technologies into the conferencing platform: Real-time conversation on Twitter took place during the online webinar video, hence the name “Twebinar.” Participants were encouraged to sign up for Twitter accounts to get the full value of each one-hour experience and either follow or join in the Twitter conversation during the event. “Making everybody a participant enriched the entire experience,” said Alston. “People interacted and reacted to what we put out there and had their own detailed conversations, and we tried to stay active and responsive to everyone’s comments so that they felt heard.”
To foster networking among speakers and participants: Participants were encouraged to follow @twebinars, @chrisbrogan, @davidalston, and the Twitter accounts of the various speakers (provided on the Twebinar Web site at www.twebinars.com) as a way to make valuable business contacts and keep up with the latest on the social media scene.
“As part of this experiment it was our hope that the open nature of the messaging platform would facilitate connections between the speakers and the participants and amongst the participants themselves, before, during and after the event,” says David Alston. “This was a big improvement over the traditional webinar experience where participant connections could not happen during the event and certainly didn’t continue on afterward.”
Radian6 began announcing the event—which took place on June 26, 2008—two weeks prior to the first Twebinar in the series with emails sent to Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) members and subscribers, the SNCR mailing list, and CrossTech Media subscribers. The company also posted an ad on Facebook targeting users from Fortune 500 companies and agencies with a marketing/PR profile, and set up a website to direct people to for additional information.
Most of the publicity, however, came through word-of-mouth endorsements spread via the following:
Blog posts: Chris Brogan began mentioning the Twebinar on his widely read blog, which inspired other bloggers to “chime in” and alert their own readers to the new event. Radian6 also discussed the event series on their blog to spread the word.
Advocacy from the experts: Social-media authorities interviewed for the series also helped spread the word by publicizing their involvement to their own audiences through their blogs and social networking accounts on Twitter, FriendFeed and the like. Because of their wide readership, word spread quickly through their communities.
Twitter itself: Alston and Brogan, both of whom have strong followings on Twitter, tweeted about the event, and the exposure snowballed as followers commented and posted their own tweets. Many were people excited to be a part of the new experiment; some were bloggers who went on to share the news with their readers. A few even grumbled that they were already tired of seeing the term “Twebinar” in discussions, which further worked to the company’s advantage. The more people would talk about the use of the word, the more exposure it would get. Curiosity would drive others to ask about it, visit the website, and even sign up for the series.
There were a few obstacles that needed to be overcome during the series.
Twitter signups – the use of Twitter was integral to the value participants would receive from being part of the series. To encourage new users to join up, the Twebinar website highlighted what Twitter was, how to use it and who to follow for the series.
Multiple streams of content simultaneously – There was no question that having to track multiple conversations on Twitter (20 tweets per minute), respond to a few tweets, and take in the valuable video content at the same time was very overwhelming. Interestingly, many pointed to this as why social media is an adrenaline rush for them and why they are attracted to it. During the second and third twebinars we tried to structure the events in a way to allow for more directed live question flow, live interviews and encouraged discussion to continue after the event on Twitter.
The twebinar series utilized a number of different tools and vendors.
CrossTech Media: Chris Brogan and CrossTech Media provided the video and live event production for the event. CrossTech Media utilized Adobe Connect for the video delivery platform for the three Twebinar events.
Twitter and Summize (search.twitter.com) – Twitter was used as the backchannel discussion and networking portion for the series. It was also heavily used for organic marketing support.
Radian6 – Analysis of the buzz was tracked by Radian6 and graphs were posted on the Radian6 blog. Radian6 also tracked all of the coverage of the Twebinars so that bloggers, participants, and other contributors could be thanked and encouraged.
David Alston – VP Marketing at social media monitoring solution company, Radian6. David’s focus is building the firm’s brand internationally with marketing, communication and customer support professionals through the use of social media monitoring and engagement. David was a co-creator of the Twebinar series, and was responsible for promotion around the concept to ensure maximum participation including launch and management of Twebinars.com website.
Chris Brogan – Social Media Strategist and VP Strategy & Technology at CrossTech Media. Chris is a ten-year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses and individuals. Chris was a co-creator of the Twebinar concept, and CrossTech Media assisted with the technical components of the series including the video production and management of the live webinar platform. Chris also served as the host for the webinars.
The Twebinars series included video interviews previously filmed at industry conferences and edited for flow and cohesiveness. The videos were shown live via the Adobe Acrobat ConnectPro platform. Chris Brogan hosted the Twebinars live, and monitored Twitter during each event to collect the questions and comments coming through.
The Twebinars team also set up a specific Twebinars account on Twitter, so participants could easily find news about upcoming events and report on troubleshooting issues or other suggestions during the live events.
A website was set up at www.twebinar.com to announce upcoming Twebinars and to post information about the interviewees of the videos. At the conclusion of each session, the website was used to house the video archives of each Twebinar session.
Over 1,500 people registered for the first Twebinar—five times as many as a typical webinar—most of them the targeted PR and marketing professionals. The word-of-mouth campaign also generated significant blog coverage and Web site traffic from 71 countries. 2,000+ tweets were recorded about and during the first event. The subsequent events also had record registration numbers, though less than the first one partly due to the summer months in which they were held. Both the second and third twebinars generated in excess of 1200 tweets and multiple blog posts reviewing the content and format.
By analyzing the tweets and blog posts, and making a request through Plurk.com, Alston further collected a good amount of feedback, which was used to improve the following Twebinars. Suggestions included live Q&A with the hosts taking questions from the Twitterstream, an improvement that drew accolades from the audience.
The campaign became a textbook example of the power of online word-of-mouth marketing, due in large part to several strategic components:
An attention-grabbing name: The word “Twebinar” retained enough of its constituents “Twitter” and “webinar” to be easily deciphered and played off the exposure Twitter has been receiving in the media. It was also quirky enough to make people look twice, and easy to track once people started using it in their communications.
Quality, in-demand content: Information on social media—considered marketing’s next frontier—has become highly sought after. The series incorporated real-life insight from the people who are experimenting with the medium and offered free access to anyone interested in learning more.
The perceived privilege of being a part of something new: Radian6 generated extra buzz by telling people the Twebinar was an experiment that they as participants would be able to influence, and many in turn expressed their excitement by telling friends and colleagues. Several of the speakers, too, honored to be regarded as experts, spread word of their involvement and broadened the web of exposure.
The very nature of Twitter: Each published message on Twitter reached more and more recipients as new connections were made with @twebinars, @chrisbrogan, and @davidalston; the various speakers involved (Ogilvy’s Rohit Bhargava, for example, received over 150 new Twitter followers through the promotion); and the participants themselves.
The event was successful in pulling new people into the social media curve as well as in generating goodwill and growing brand recognition for Radian6. Although Radian6 has so far refrained from mining the Twebinar registration list for leads, the company is still benefiting from word-of-mouth surrounding the event and inquiries about demos of the platform from participants.
“People want to get to know us better. They want to talk to us, and they respond better when we reach out to them,” says David Alston. “These are seeds of potential who can grow into customers once they start using social media and see that our tool can help them manage it, monitor it, and analyze it in a more efficient way.”
Altitude Branding (www.altitudebranding.com)
Category: Media Creation
Company: Business Wire
Education has always been a cornerstone of Business Wire’s (www.businesswire.com) client outreach since its founding in 1961. Through the years we have spent substantial time and resources teaching people about our industry – from PR 101 to new technology for communicators–usually through luncheons, seminars and live panel discussions.
In late 2006, we launched EON: Enhanced Online News, our search engine optimized, web-only press release posting platform. Immediately, we noticed our clients frequently had no idea what we were talking about when addressing Web 2.0 communications challenges. Acronyms like RSS, SERPs and SEO were foreign concepts to them; terms and phrases such as social media, keyword analysis and The Long Tail, begged for explanation. At the same time, clients were often embarrassed to admit they didn’t understand much of the new jargon, tools and tactics.
Quickly we realized our product presentations were not being understood by our clients. They needed to be educated—and fast. At the same time, the economic squeeze, time constraints and expensive gasoline made participating in our longstanding live luncheon seminars, where we traditionally had provided education and enlightenment, more difficult–for us and our clients.
The challenge presented: how to educate our clients, colleagues and others in the ways of Web 2.0 and how it applies to press releases, so they understand our service offerings, and can thus utilize them if appropriate?
We needed a way to educate as many of our thousands of clients as possible, as well as all of our staff, helping them to feel comfortable in the new Web 2.0 environment. We had to reach people efficiently, cost effectively, and in a way that was convenient for them.
Business Wire had invested substantial time, energy and money in developing new tools, tactics and technologies to best leverage Web 2.0, turning press releases from stagnant media relations documents to full blown interactive web pages that function as online marketing tools. Unfortunately, many of our clients had no idea what we were talking about, and often were too embarrassed to ask.
Enter the FREE Business Wire webinar series, launched in late 2007. By utilizing web conferencing and screen capture technology through our service provider GotoMeeting, we found that when we used this approach to showcase a series of presentations by our well-versed team of new media specialists, we got great results.
Time saving: With cutbacks and limited resources, our clients are experiencing a major time squeeze. Being able to participate in a learning seminar from your desktop (or watching the replay at your leisure) holds strong appeal. Discretion is an added benefit. We find that clients frequently are too embarrassed to raise their hands and ask a “stupid” question. Webinars offer an attractive kind of privacy where one doesn’t have to admit ignorance publicly, especially in front of peers.
New methods: We felt that “walking the talk” was important in terms of demonstrating our own embrace of new media tools. With just a small learning curve, the GotoMeeting interface is amazingly efficient, easy and effective. Our team’s use of presentation software, video, links, and social media sites for storing resources, coupled with personalized email follow-up contributed to the program’s success while also demonstrating that we ourselves were using these tools.
Flexibility: Because of the nimble technologies we’re using to do the webinars and presentations, it’s easy to change and update content along the way—an imperative in the organic Web 2.0 landscape. The ability to store webinars online for later, more convenient viewing also provide added value to participants who want a replay or for those who choose to share the wisdom with others.
Business Wire clients and colleagues are generally professional communicators, marketing personnel, financial professionals and executives at companies and organizations of all sizes. They range from freelance publicists to investor relations professionals at publicly traded companies. Just about ALL of our clients are grappling with Web 2.0—how to understand, navigate and leverage it. THIS was our audience.
We’ve had webinar attendance from our clients and offices in Tokyo, New Delhi, London, Frankfurt, Paris and beyond.
NOTE: Our FREE webinars are open to all professional communicators and interested individuals—even those who are NOT Business Wire clients
– Educate communications professionals about Web 2.0 and the role it plays in the communications industry in general, press releases in particular.
– Encourage best practices for creating web-friendly press releases by providing do’s and don’ts, tips and tools.
– Reach a larger audience than our in-person seminars were able to do while maximizing time and budget.
– Create quality content that could be utilized by our staff, clients and others to reinforce best practices for press releases and other communications.
– Increase sales of our EON: Enhanced Online News service suite.
To stage a series of FREE webinars, usually once a week, addressing different aspects of Web 2.0 and how the it applies to the communications industry in general, press releases in particular. Webinar content generally was born of our account team’s experience with clients in the field, and attempted to address questions and ignorance that occurred in phone, email and client meetings.
Each webinar was promoted separately via email, advertising, and other outreach as a stand-alone event. Interested parties could register for one, all or simply view archived webinars at their own pace.
Business Wire webinars
1. Be an SEO Hero: Optimizing Your Press Release for Search
2. Lost in MySpace: The Most FAQs from Business Wire’s Webinar Series
3. EON: Enhanced Online News
4. Your Text Needs a Partner: Using Multimedia to Drive Press Release Results
5. Desperately Seeking Google Juice: Crafting Web Friendly Press Releases
Creating the presentations, training the team on the webinar interface and keeping the series content fresh and ongoing have been the only challenges.
We use GotoMeeting as our webinar conferencing service provider. We develop a monthly webinar series, issue a web friendly press release, repurpose the info as a blog post, post the schedule on our highly trafficked website and do numerous email blasts, as well as advertising in online industry sites like BullDog Reporter. Our account team also cultivates participants in their client meetings, daily calls and email, at trade shows and other communications, so its very much a hybrid approach. We recently have experimented with promoting the series on Facebook and Twitter.
Following each webinar, we make the presentation available as a PDF, direct participants to our EON Resource page, and send personalized email follow-up to each participant who has specifically requested information. These emails are sent in addition to automated email follow-up provided by GotoMeeting.
We have a team of nine new media specialists on staff who have volunteered as “teachers.” This has proven to be a great leadership cultivation tool for staff, and it’s no coincidence that those who become specialists also excel in sales and other areas.
Generally, two new media specialists agree on a topic, develop the presentation, then present the webinar to an audience. Webinars generally include polling, chat and interactive questions typed in by participants, with intense follow-up by the webinar hosts, who also put participants in contact with the Business Wire local office for in-person meetings, if appropriate. Again, we are big believers in the hybrid approach, combining new media with face time and other proven methods of outreach.
As of this writing, we’ve staged 50 webinars with 4,539 participants in attendance. Our survey results average a rating of 4 out of a maximum 5. Positive appreciative feedback, literally hundreds of emails, has been overwhelming.
Meanwhile, our EON: Enhanced Online News sales increased by 90% through July 2008 over the same time last year.
Equally impressive is the fact that our staff is extremely informed, educated and able to enlighten clients and prospective clients. We’re finding that being an authentic resource provides us a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.
We really had no idea when we set out how much the webinars would contribute to our bottom line, our competitive advantage, or the perception of us in the community. We can say without a doubt, though, that it has been overwhelmingly positive on all fronts.
Category: Media Creation
Company: Digital Influence
Fanista, a community for entertainment enthusiasts, started a corporate initiative to drive awareness and generate consumer participation for the US Campaign for Burma. Digital Influence Group (www.digitalinfluencegroup.com) developed a comprehensive branding and outreach campaign to educate Americans about Burma’s struggles and motivate people to take action.
Audience: Young males and females in the US
Use social media to drive awareness and generate consumer participation for the US Campaign for Burma.
• The team developed an identity for the campaign that included a logo and all the brand attributes to make up the look and feel for the initiative. The identity for the campaign centered around an image of Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner now under house arrest in Burma.
• 50 short web videos were filmed with entertainment and music celebrities describing the horrible situation in Burma and asking for public support. The videos were distributed on a YouTube Channel.
• Videos direct viewers to a community microsite. This provides additional information about Burma and encourages people to spread the word about the deplorable conditions in the country to help raise money to support the relief efforts. Burma It Can’t Wait Community Microsite.
• To expand the reach deeper into online communities, a Facebook app was developed to provide information on the campaign and to promote the message virally
• An aggressive social media relations outreach program was conducted to bring this community to people across the web wherever conversations were occurring
Challenge: Break through the noise to get people to focus on this important human rights cause. Leverage the power of consumer influence to spread the word to many others in the community.
Tools: YouTube, Facebook
Team: Aaron Hughes, SVP Creative
• Videos were viewed over 1 million times on YouTube and on the microsite
• Hundreds of blogs embedded the videos
• Achieved YouTube Editorial Spotlight – became “most discussed,” “top favorites” and “top rated” in countries around the world
• The campaign was covered by over 200 media articles including a New York Times feature and a LA Times article
• The Facebook App generated thousands of downloads with friend-to-friend acceptance rate twice the average rate
• The microsite had a 6:48 min average user engagement time – 6 times the web average
The campaign increased awareness of the deplorable situation in Burma. The campaign helped people spread the word about the US relief effort so they can get involved to support the cause.
Category: Media Creation
Summary of the Tactics:
In early 2008, IBM (www.ibm.com) sought to develop a creative “viral” video to promote IBM’s SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) conference called IMPACT. We wanted to present an entertaining “sneak preview” of the conference to entice new attendees and market to previous key conference attendees. The goal was to bring the conference alive via a mix of real-world customer presentations, product information & practical tips that would be “lively” and “entertaining.”
The communications issue to be addressed was how to present a SNEAK Preview of the conference that would be appealing to many audiences and be entertaining. Because the conference was to be hosted in Las Vegas, NV, we had the idea of paying homage to the old 1960s Ocean’s 11 movie trailer, showing Vegas billboards, mixed with images of gambling, music and the highlights of the conference. The video is created around the concept of three imaginary friends strolling through the IMPACT conference via a Las Vegas wonderland. As they walk, they see colorful billboards, the conference highlights, and Vegas style entertainment. The video features rolling signs for customer case studies, product demos, the B-52s concert, famous keynote speakers plus flashing casino lights. In the background, premiere spotlights fan the skyline and a plane flies into Vegas. That aspect is portrayed as if it was a real Hollywood “sneak preview movie.” The entire sequence is presented in an easy to watch, quick 1:23 runtime movie.
The target audience for this spans many types of IBM customers, plus press & analysts.
IT Managers, application developers, and business technology specialists, CIOs, CTOs and Business Process Management Specialists.
GOAL: To create an effective sneak preview movie to be promote IBM’s yearly IMPACT conference. The movie needed to be compelling & effective in communicating IBM’s message to the target audience. We wanted to let viewers know that the IBM conference would not only be educational, but fun! To do this IBM created the look, feel, and style of a Hollywood film movie trailer. The film has fulfilled many needs within IBM. It has become an online marketing tool as well as a sales enablement vehicle. Many IBM sales representatives e-mailed the link to the movie out to their clients to extend an invitation to the conference. We also used the link to the video in conference e-mail and advertisements.
The movie offers viewers an advance “preview” of the conference and was key to our objective of raising conference registrations to over 6,500 attendees this year. The video was created using select video clips from the 2007 conference, plus animated previews of the coming attractions for the 2008 conference.
The plan was to build the video and have it in market 90 days before the conference to give an extra push to conference promotions. Also to embed links to the video in IBM Blogs, e-mail invitations, print ads and IBM newsletters. We wanted to give users a real taste of the conference using the “sneak preview” movie format. The video was posted to YOUTUBE in Feb 2008.
Following that, it was more widely deployed in IBM Blogs, emailers, print ads and viral marketing tactics.
The initial sneak preview video was such a success, it was followed by technical sneak preview videos, and a Day 1 Highlights video posted at www.youtube.com/hallsoa
on their own YouTube channel.
Using the format of a movie trailer is an innovative way to use the web as a canvas to paint the picture of what our annual conference is really all about. This concept of using a video as a promotional tool for the conference was a new concept at IBM. Our challenge was to find footage of customers from the previous conference to make it compelling. We firmly believed that we needed actual customer testimonials to make the video interesting. After much work, and a little cajoling, we were able to get those customer & partner endorsements and consents for their use in the video.
Another challenge was blending the videos with the animation to make them seamlessly flow together. At the end of the day, IBM was able to do that.
You can view the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txJz-gR-3go
The Centerline Agency created the video blending new animation (flash) with film from the 2007 conference.
Mary Hall, IBM Marketing Manager developed the concept & created the storyline with the Centerline Agency.
Mary Hall, IBM Marketing Manager, Video Concept/Idea and Marketing Promotions for the IMPACT conference
Erin Craft, Project Manager Centerline
John Lane, Director Creative Services Centerline
Drew Martin, Editor/Writer, Centerline
Shawn Lammons, Project Manager, Centerline
In February, 2008 we posted the video in You Tube to drive attendance to the April conference. The video achieved over 3,400 views in a 45-day period. The Video link on You Tube was embedded into blogs, emailers & ads that went out to conference attendees. The video link enjoyed a high click-thru rate and a 5-STAR rating from YouTube viewers. It was a key component to achieving over 6,500 registrations for the live conference.
We could track the trend of the video views growing as conference registration grew. The video views mapped to our registration and helped us showcase the conference to prospective attendees, both returning attendees and new prospects.
The number of visitors to the video map to the program objective of creating interest & increasing registrations for the IMPACT 2008 conference. Via the video, IBM showcases everything going on at the conference in a quick format on a colorful canvas.
Category: Media Creation
With its annual VISION user conference looming on the horizon, Symantec (www.symantec.com) sought to develop a creative way to engage the 4,000 conference attendees and ultimately drive increased awareness and traffic around the happenings at its partner expo hall. At its VISION 2008 conference in Las Vegas, Symantec welcomed some 4,000 attendees who came to learn about future products and services, get technical information and network with other attendees.
As part of the event a partner exhibit hall consisting of some 40 vendors was set up apart from the primary conference area within the hotel. In years past, simple audio announcements before/after keynote sessions were the primary method used for alerting attendees to exhibit hall activities. In 2008, Symantec sought to do something different. The challenge was to inject creativity into the ‘traditional’ tradeshow experience—with an ultimate goal of driving awareness and traffic to the happenings within the partner exhibit hall.
This project targeted a variety of audiences, but most directly it was aimed at Symantec customers, partners and the 4,000 VISION 2008 attendees.
Indirectly, the activity aimed to raise excitement and awareness for social media among Symantec employees (from engineers to product managers to the corporate communications team) who were on-site.
First, Symantec sought to provide its partners with an additional communications vehicle to market their activities at VISION 2008. Another goal was to find a creative medium through which awareness could be raised around happenings within the partner exhibit hall. Finally, Symantec sought to showcase its innovation and thought-leadership around social media to all conference attendees.
The plan was to develop a visual mash-up of the partner exhibit floor and Twitter, the popular and free micro-blogging service. The mash-up would be called the Symantec “Broadcast Board.”
This proprietary software application would enable VISION 2008 exhibitors to send Twitter messages alerting attendees to items of potential interest (i.e. educational seminars, in-booth presentations, party invites, booth giveaways), with the messaged displayed in real-time on 60” plasma monitors that would be strategically placed throughout the conference area at the hotel. In addition, Symantec event managers would use this platform as a broadcast message system for housekeeping and general conference schedule updates.
The “Broadcast Board” would have a visually appealing exhibit floor map, as well as a scrolling message board for Tweets. Each Tweet would pop up over the relevant exhibitor booth on the map and remain there for 10-30 seconds, and would then be catalogued on the scrolling message board.
Again, the overall objectives were to provide additional content and dynamism for event attendees and offer another communications channel for exhibitors.
With the “Broadcast Board” application developed, Symantec set up Twitter accounts for each of the 40 partner exhibitors. Pre-conference, Symantec arranged for each exhibitor to “Follow” the master VISION 2008 Twitter account, ensuring all exhibitor Tweets would be displayed on the “Broadcast Board.”
Next, the Symantec team held virtual training sessions with each of the VISION 2008 exhibitors to walk them through the concept, process and guidelines for utilizing the “Broadcast Board” while on-site.
With the “Broadcast Board” application running, exhibitors issued Tweets that were displayed in real-time on the four 60” plasma monitors. The Symantec team canvassed the exhibitor floor to help iron out any technical difficulties and to continue to educate partners on how to use the tool.
There were many challenges. For starters, leveraging Twitter in such a manner at a major tradeshow had not previously been done in this fashion; meaning every step of the process presented a new obstacle to overcome (from development, to display, deployment and beyond).
In addition, the project was undertaken during a time in which Twitter’s uptime issues were at their peak—making development, testing and implementation nearly impossible at times. It also proved challenging to educate a wide variety of partners on how the tool worked—particularly for those who were less technically savvy.
• Proprietary code
• Four 60” plasma televisions
The team consisted of Bite Communications (www.bitepr.com) for concept and application development. The Symantec events team provided logistical support and setup and the Symantec Corporate Communications team drove the project overall.
Overall, in only ~10 hours of exhibit hall time there were roughly 150 Tweets issued by VISION 2008 exhibitors.
Specific feedback from exhibitors included:
“Really like the new venue for communicating with attendees”
“Live messaging system has great potential”
“This is the coolest thing I’ve seen at an event in years.”
Each objective was met, specifically raising awareness around exhibit hall activities during the conference and providing exhibitors with a creative, unique communications vehicle during the show.
Category: Media Creation
Company: Voce Communications for Yahoo!
How would a large brand, like Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) effectively articulate a collective point of view through the insights, opinions and observations of all the people within the company? Also, was a company of Yahoo!’s size capable of listening, synthesizing and addressing what its marketplace was saying online? Yahoo!’s corporate communications team has always had a strong traditional media relations component of its outbound communications, but like many companies, the team has long lacked the means to directly and openly respond to the media directly. Additionally, the team has had no means for effectively communicating directly with consumers — other than through its own customer care efforts. Finally, there was a growing desire within the company to capture and share the “human side” of Yahoo! corporate culture, something that’s not easily done using traditional communications tactics.
There were a variety of important audience segments that Yahoo! recognized. Media and industry influencers were of course considered a priority, as were consumers, however, with a focus on consumers that were early adopters, vocal brand enthusiasts, and perhaps most importantly, consumers that were detractors or otherwise unhappy with their Yahoo! experience. Additional audience segments included existing/potential employees, partners and investors.
Creating a new (and trusted) resource online for company opinion and perspective, across a variety of subjects, was certainly a primary objective. Creating an open forum for conversation and dialogue with its market was also very important, as was providing new levels of access and transparency into Yahoo!’s business.
The plan was to develop a single corporate blog where multiple contributors/authors could share their insights and opinions on all aspects of Yahoo!’s business. The blog would also be a place for these contributors to engage in conversation with the marketplace online. Finally, the blog would be a place where content from Yahoo!’s 30+ business unit blogs (e.g., the Yahoo! Search blog, the Yahoo! Mail blog, etc.), could be aggregated and shared.
Yahoo!’s corporate communications team, lead by Nicki Dugan, began the internal approval and development process for an official Yahoo! corporate blog in the spring of 2006. The blog was quickly approved and named “Yodel Anecdotal” (www.ycorpblog.com) through an internal employee contest and officially debuted on August 1st, 2006 (please read this introductory post and see the associated video here: http://ycorpblog.com/2006/08/01/yet-another-self-serving-corporate-blog ).
Challenges: Yes, there were several. Ensuring there was top-down commitment and support of Yodel Anecdotal was an initial challenge. Technical development and design was another, as was creating a content development workflow that wasn’t overly complicated or “corporatized,” but remained responsible for a large public company like Yahoo!.
Tools: Yodel Anecdotal was developed with WordPress and is hosted through Yahoo! Small Business web hosting.
Team: Nicki Dugan and select members of the Yahoo! corporate communications team oversee the health and management of Yodel Anecdotal, including content development. CNP_studio and Voce Communications provide ongoing technical development, design and consulting work.
Yahoo! uses a mix of hard and soft metrics to measure the success of Yodel Anecdotal. Hard metrics like subscribers, visitors, page views, inbound links, time on site, comment counts, social bookmarking, etc., all have been tracked and plotted on a month-to-month basis since launch. The Yahoo! team is very pleased with the hard metrics and growth of Yodel Anecdotal and can provide actual figures at the Judge’s request.
In addition to the hard metrics, the Yahoo! Search team looks closely at soft metrics too. This includes ongoing analysis of the tonality and sentiment of comments and inbound links, as well as the overall response to the content appearing on the blog.
1. Steady upward growth across all the hard metrics indicate Yodel Anecdotal is becoming increasingly cited and linked to online as a go-to resource for “official” company information and opinion. This ranges from independent bloggers and other online enthusiasts all the way out to the largest print and broadcast outlets in the nation.
2. The content that Yahoo! is producing and sharing via Yodel Anecdotal is spreading further online, indicating that a larger company voice (and point of view) is being received and heard.
3. The number of comments, both from consumers and from Yahoo! authors alike continues to increase, indicating a deeper level of engagement and at very least, a more qualitative level of dialogue, is taking place now that otherwise wasn’t prior to the launch of Yodel Anecdotal.
4. A big driver for the above measurements of success are the people inside Yahoo! who are contributing new layers of access and insight into all the things the company is doing — ranging from Yahoo!’s ongoing green initiatives and community development work, to product managers talking about the latest news announcements to top executives talking about high-profile industry trends and business issues. All of these things combined are providing Yodel Anecdotal readers with a heightened level of access and transparency into Yahoo!
Voce Communications (www.vocecomm.com)