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Does your brand’s voice reflect who you are?

Your brand’s voice should be unified across all your content to accurately reflect your brand persona.

I was reading a statement of work for a project I was joining and could tell immediately who had written it. At the time, our desks were across from each other, “Brad, you wrote this SOW didn’t you?” I asked. His initial response was “You make me so self-conscious about my writing.”

My past life as a high school English teacher occasionally makes my colleagues uneasy; he was prepared to hear me criticize his punctuation. To his relief, it wasn’t because of anything “bad” in his writing that allowed me to identify him as the author. I knew it was him because it sounded like him; I heard his voice as I read. There were words and phrases he uses frequently, and the sentences reflected the way he speaks conversationally. His personality, or voice, was present in the writing.

Hearing an author’s voice while reading isn’t limited to people you know. Voice reflects the personality of the person or organization speaking to you. An individual’s personality is often easily conveyed in face-to-face conversation, and the same is true online through their voice.

Your brand's voice should reflect your organization's persona in all your content.

A clear voice is part of creating a unified brand identity across all content.

Organizations and individual brands need to have a clear, singular voice in their content in order to engage with their audiences. However, many organizations have either an inconsistent voice or one that is empty.

When a brand’s content is generated by a variety of people, the organization’s voice may be inconsistent. There may be too many people “talking.” When it comes to branding, your customers don’t get a clear sense of who you are if your voice is inconsistent.

When a brand lacks a voice, it lacks personality. The brand appears impersonal, and customers take notice. This may not directly hurt the bottom line, but it certainly won’t help. Have you experienced an automated phone system when calling customer service? No matter how human-like the voice, I have yet to encounter one that has a personality or makes me feel like the organization values my business. Your content shouldn’t feel automated either.

So what causes an organization to come off as unfeeling or devoid of personality? Think back to your experiences writing research papers in high school and college. You were probably taught to write in third person in order to appear unbiased, to avoid second person because it was too informal, and to avoid first person because it was immature and self-involved. (Yes, I’m about to blame your English teachers for this one.) Academia calls for being impersonal and detached.

In business, detachment turns off clients and prospects alike. Your organization’s content should read as a conversation with your audiences– a conversation where only one voice is heard and represents your brand’s personality and values.

Your brand’s voice should be included as part of your brand standards and should include key attributes that need to come across in your content and key phrases that are significant to your identity. Create a persona for your brand and write through the perspective of that persona. Before publishing content in the name of the brand, check it against the brand attributes your team has established. If it doesn’t sound like your brand’s persona, tweak it until it does.

Creating your unified voice comes through knowing your organization and your brand. It requires you to “become one” with your brand. When your audience connects with your brand’s persona, you know you have established your unified voice.

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Are Your Visitors Flying Off?

Have you ever watched a hummingbird? They move rapidly from tree, to flower, to bush in search of nectar or small bugs to consume. They do not linger in their search. If what they visit lacks what they are looking for, they move on quickly. Are your visitors consuming what you offer on your website?

Are your visitors consuming what you offer on your website?

In that respect, visitors to websites are much like hummingbirds. Visitors come to the web in search of knowledge, entertainment, and goods to consume. They click into a website. If it isn’t what a visitor expected, they leave as quickly as they came and are on to another site until they find what they want to consume.

For businesses, visitors who fly off websites take with them opportunities for conversion.  Whether you think about conversion as time on site, ecommerce purchases, sign-ups, or completing a contact request form, if your visitors aren’t staying, it’s a problem.

This is where content strategy comes in. Evaluate your offerings by reexamining your content. You have to offer what your audience members are looking for before you can convert them. Think back to when you set up your site. How did you decide what information to include?  Were you focused on what you wanted to say or on what your audience would want to find?

It seems like content should begin with the essential messages you want to communicate about your business, but that isn’t the best place to start. Businesses that begin focused primarily on what they want to say often miss the mark. It is essential to analyze and strategize your content according to your target audiences if you want to see conversion.

Begin this analysis by identifying various audiences, their respective needs, interests, values, and priorities. It also entails anticipating what your audience knows and the language they speak. Developing this detailed knowledge of your audiences will help you greatly in developing content to convert them. If you have multiple audiences, you will need to cultivate content for each of them. If you can’t convince your audiences you know what their needs are, you cannot expect conversion.

I had an experience with this as an audience member a few months ago.  I was exploring the idea of buying my first home and decided to get pre-approved for a mortgage. I had contacted a lender referred to me by my realtor. The lender had sent me the application and all the paperwork,. When I reached the section of the forms where I was asked which loan I was applying for, I was at a loss. So I went to the bank website expecting to see a description of each loan, the benefits of each, and a comparison to differentiate the products from one another.

But that wasn’t what I found. There were descriptions with interest rates listed, so I could see differences. Each loan listed its term length, but the rest of the description was technical. Filled with acronyms I was unfamiliar with, it didn’t give any information that indicated which loan was right for me. So I abandoned the site and instead emailed the lender for an explanation of their loan products. He then directed me back to the bank website, but I already knew it had nothing to offer me.

Neither the bank nor the lender I spoke with took into account that a member of their audience would be unfamiliar with home loans and the lending process. Despite a word-of-mouth referral from a reliable source, this bank lost my attention and an opportunity for conversion because it failed to think about what I needed. Its content wasn’t relevant to me nor was it easy to understand. Had they used a chart to detail the differences and included explanations for technical, the result might have been very different for them.

Content extends beyond just the information you are trying to communicate. Content consists of:

  • what you say (your message),
  • what you say it with (its medium– a picture, video, music, a website),
  • how you say it (style and tone),
  • where you say it (in print, at a conference, a social media platform, a website, a billboard),
  • when you say it.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to tailoring content to one audience, let alone to multiple audiences. If you want to convert them, you have to offer relevant content in forms that resonate with each group.

The bottom line is that if your content isn’t relevant and readily available, audiences may fly away from your site. On the other hand, if you create relevant content, you’ll be in a good position to retain audience attention, garner their interest, and increase your conversions.

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3 Questions that are Infinitely More Powerful than “What’s Next?”

Tis’ the season for summation of the past and prediction of the future.

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, oodles of articles about what 2010 has been, and what 2011 will be, will litter magazines, twitter streams, and television programs across the nation.  In 2010 experts weighed in on a variety of fascinating possibilities which included: Expanding location based services, user-interface advancements, a world of screens, and my personal favorite, Gink. Spend 2 minutes looking, and you’ll find no shortage of people asking and answering the question, “What’s Next?”.

It makes perfect sense that it’s a common topic of conversation.

Emerging technologies and applications have changed world of marketing, PR and communications for organizations dramatically in the past 5 years, and the next 5 will bring more of the same.   So it is natural and responsible for organizational leaders to strive for understanding of the technologies and trends that will be affecting their world, right?  I propose that there is a better way.

To ask “What’s Next” can be a helpful exercise, but only to a point.

The problem with this question is that even with unlimited research and wealth, the answers are varied, vague, skewed by trends, and are fundamentally reactive in nature.”What’s Next” is tied to the future of the broader marketplace, not to the future of your organization.

Even in perfect execution the answer to this question yields you nothing more than a first mover advantage, which is a good start, but needs competent execution to be tied back to revenue.  There are only a handful of organizations positioned to benefit much by taking this high risk, limited reward approach.

Want better return on your time and energy? Try framing the convergence of technology and your business by asking the following 3 questions:

  1. What problem or objective haven’t I been able to solve or achieve?
  2. What technologies/communication media (old or new) could I employ in a fresh way that could help me?
  3. How can I implement this technology/communication strategy in a way that:
  • fits my budget
  • works in concert with current efforts
  • leverages momentum to amplify results
  • can be tested against established objectives

True innovators are those who take a fresh approach and pioneer a unique prescription to fulfill their organizations’ goals.  They set the industry standard instead of following it.  Their initiatives are custom built around their objectives and challenges, and always have clear ties to revenue.

It’s a subtle distinction but can make a big difference.  Will you spend next quarter scouring the business journals and social media looking for articles about the next big thing, or will you enjoy being touted as the subject of that article?

Questions/Comments? Please feel free to email me at or follow Brad at @bradbierwagen

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Finding Your Fans on Facebook: Helping Brands Connect with Target Audiences

Odds are, some segment of your target audience is part of Facebook’s 400 million active users. But how do you make sure you’re talking to the right people? Is Facebook even right for your brand?

At Indy Social Media Breakfast’s Social Media Workshop tomorrow morning, Facebook for the Beginning to Intermediate Marketer, I’ll be discussing how to find out if your target audience is on Facebook, and if they are…how to engage them.

Engaging people on Facebook goes beyond just pushing coupons and running contests. We’ll spend some time discussing the Facebook Page. Pages allow businesses to share their brands with Facebook users in unique ways. Attendees will learn how to set up a page, how to effectively use your page’s content to engage your audience, and ways to expand upon the basic page to drive increased fan interaction.

Marketing in the social space doesn’t just apply on social networks themselves, so we’ll discuss how to use social plugins and other techniques to drive users to a page. Finally, because marketing and branding efforts on Facebook shouldn’t stand apart, we’ll talk about ways to integrate offline and online brand experiences.

The workshop is TOMORROW, Saturday, June 12, 2010 from 9:30 AM – 12:30 at 8th Floor Theatre. RSVP online at the event page below.
Thank you to Indy Social Media Breakfast for inviting me to speak and Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association for supporting the workshop!

More information:
Event Page:
Facebook Page:
Event Hashtag: #indysmb
Host Tweets: @indysmb

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Eating Your Vegetables and the Interconnected Age

I am fan of vegetables…not just the lovable pop culture staples (raw carrots w/ranch,  baked potato), but the hardcore, traditionally scorned, green vegetables.  Although their deliciousness can be a divisive topic,  few deny they are an important part of a balanced diet and essential to a person’s healthy development.

Disagree?…stay with me anyway – relevance to your organization can be found shortly below…spinach

I credit my parents with my personal affinity for the fresh and green.  With my older sister, my parents took the “You can’t leave the table till you’ve eaten all of your peas” route. It turns out Kristin is almost as stubborn as my father, so by the time the vegetables were choked down and everyone had been fighting for a few hours, it left a literal and metaphorical bad taste in her mouth. She’s picky about vegetables to this day.

Mom and Dad tried a different method with me. I never had to stay at the table till my veggies were eaten – but they did ask that once every six months I give the vegetables I thought I didn’t like an honest try. I couldn’t just make a predetermined decision, stick them in my mouth and spit them out quickly. I had to take a few good bites and really give them a chance.  If I did, I was off the hook.

Little by little I came to like the idea of trying new things, and enjoyed the vegetables more and more.  I believe this same technique holds true for new media and organizational leadership.   It’s our job to guide and inform, not to force ourselves into what everyone else is doing.

As a business developer for MediaSauce, I meet with and speak to a variety of groups, in varying industries every week. Between and within vertical markets, there is a wide spectrum of understanding and adoption of online tools. Rapid Change, Industry Regulations, Technology Infrastructure, Liability Issues, Privacy Problems, Leadership that sees little revenue potential in new tools, and budget constraints are all cited as reasons for avoiding commitment to online as a communications strategy.

If your organization or industry requires that you be more cautious, or you are a later adopter, that’s ok! Organizations in every phase of innovation adoption have good reasons for being there, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each phase. However, much like vegetables, a great online presence is a vital part of a balanced communications strategy and is essential to organizational growth. It is good for you to be connected, and it is something any organization can learn to leverage.

Champions of new media sometimes hurt their cause by forcing the issue within the group, especially in organizations that are slower to embrace new technologies. Their reaction is to list others’ success stories, and when challenged with organizational bottlenecks the value prop doesn’t directly translate.  The trick (like with food) is in the context and presentation.

I encourage you to facilitate a high level conversation around the growth of online communication and how it will continue to affect your organization. Every six months (or more often if possible) bring your leaders together with the objective of simply having an open-minded discussion about the implications of an interconnected, online world.

The goal is to honestly consider costs and risks of pursuing something new, AND weigh them against the opportunities for success and potential for revenue growth. Think about some of the ways that you can use new tools to create relevance and value in everything you do. Consider the costs of maintaining status-quo. These are the conversations that connect and resonate with executives, board members, and organizational leaders.

What will be the outcome of these conversations? I can’t say. The reality is some of the available tools still will not taste right to your organization and that is ok. But, if you are approaching the conversation around costs and benefits, and making an effort to do so regularly, great steps forward will be a natural outcome.

Be careful though, or you may find yourself pleasantly surprised as a new fan of asparagus, organizational transparency, or Foursquare.

Questions/Comments? Please feel free to email me at or follow Brad at @bbierwag

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Are you as irrelevant as the Post Office?

The USPS is has been in the news quite a bit lately as it battles plummeting volume, high fixed costs and massive losses.

Proposing no Saturday deliveries and raising stamp prices merely strikes at the branches and does not deal with the root issue of whether our beloved USPS is still relevant.

The truth is – Saturday deliveries or not – this downward spiral will continue to occur.  When the USPS has to keep increasing fees to continue covering losses, it drives more and more communication on-line.  With such a high fixed cost structure, the Post Office will be forced to continue drive prices higher and send their customer base scrambling to consider more economical modes of communication.

The heart of the issue here is our Postal Service is no longer relevant.

A few years ago I was asked to keynote a national panel of CD and DVD duplicators/replicators about the future of their industry.  Guess what, it didn’t go over too well…

As a tool to measure relevancy, I presented a concept of the “recovery time.” I simply asked the audience to consider the ramifications of eliminating their products and services from the marketplace.   The “recovery time” is the degree of pain the market would endure before the product’s replacement leaves us no longer wanting what we once had.

In addition to its application for the CD/DVD industry, I asked the audience to consider the “recovery time” of the newspaper industry, the corner video store, and the Postal Service.  Think of the long-term disruption if each of these were yanked away never to return.

Think about your own business and more specifically, how relevant are you to your clients and prospects?  If you’re feeling the world would have a short recovery time in your absence, it’s critically important start defining your real value by asking a few questions:

  1. What would your 10 best customers say they value most about you, beyond your product and service?
  2. What root issue, pain, or gap does your organization’s product or service solve/fill?  (Think transportation not wagon wheels, think editorial content not a physical newspaper)
  3. What are your organizations unique talents?
  4. What are there things you ask your customers and clients to pay a premium for, because you do them better than anyone else?

By asking yourself these sometimes uncomfortable questions and framing your discussions around them, you are addressing your business challenges at the root, and you may just find the additional relevancy and margin you’ve been seeking.

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If Brands Are About Experiences, Shouldn’t Digital Drive Brands?

Brands are really just a fancy way to talk about a compilation of your customers’ experiences with your business. These customers experience brands a lot of different ways.

As customers’ interactions with companies (brands) are increasingly online, shouldn’t we shift our focus? Why do we still believe traditional marketers should control branding? Why are we afraid to put branding power in the hands of the digitally-driven folks? After all, for many current and future customers, your website is your brand. It’s the hub, the driving force behind all of the experiences customers have with your company. People are spending as much or more time online as they are watching TV these days – and that’s not just the teens and 20-somethings. Digital is already driving brands, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

Online-only businesses are obvious examples, but increasingly, traditional brick and mortar and B-to-B businesses are reaping benefits – and raking in sales – by creating digitally-driven brands.

Let’s review a familiar example: Best Buy. They’re still an electronics store with lots of semi-annoying helpers in blue. The face-to-face experience will never go away. It’s just enhanced by a bevy of online communication tools.

For example, customers can reserve products online (on a phone or a computer) and pick them up in stores.

Once they take products home, they can talk in real-time to Best Buy’s customer service folks through Twelpforce, a group of 2,200 Best Buy employees who answer customers’ questions and solve issues via Twitter.

If customers come up with grand ideas that would make their experiences better (a key component of branding), they can share them at Best Buy’s IdeaX.

Best Buy has tackled everything from creating a streamlined mobile site to customer and employee forums, blogs, and Facebook applications on their fan page. They’re all over digital branding. In other words, they create positive customer experiences through the tools, accessibility and information they provide online.

Now, I know you’re thinking: well of course she believes in digital branding…she works at a digital agency! And that’s fair. As an early adopter and digital marketing geek, it’s easy to see why I’d be a proponent. But there are plenty of people backing me up these days. And there is plenty of new research that supports the theory. An example? How about this Razorfish report about digital experiences driving brands. I think you might like it.

Slide 8 is my favorite:

  • 65% of consumers have had a digital experience change their opinion about a brand.
  • 97% of consumers say their digital experience influenced whether or not they eventually purchased a product or service from that brand.

So tell me: how do your customers experience your brand in this Digital Age?

Miranda McCage is an Associate Digital Strategist at MediaSauce. She’d like to hear about how you’re developing a brand with digital. Contact Miranda at 317-284-5683, on Twitter @mirandamccage or email her at

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Conversion Is The Metric That Matters

A lot of businesses get caught up in the analytics game, looking deep into their site metrics to find trends, identify new referral sources and see how their site is growing. It’s easy to burn hours pouring over these reports – often the only tangible piece of data you have to judge your site’s success.

The problem is, the number of unique visitors, page views, or time on site is only an indicator of a site’s success. The real measurement is the number of actual conversions that happen on the site.

In this context, we define a conversion as “a prospective customer taking a marketer’s intended action.” These conversions are tracked through form submissions, data tracking and other methods that reveal to you insights about your visitor, their behavior and ultimately that they conduct some form of transaction with you.

Let’s explore a few different conversion concepts:

  1. The form. The most simple and direct form of conversion on a web site is the use of a form. Often asking for a direct inquiry of the customer to your business, the form provides a direct method of a site visitor to reveal who they are and what they want. more

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The Path to Irrelevance: 10 Red Flags

Maybe you’re going to retire in the next five years. If that’s you, then don’t worry about a thing. But, if you plan on working in 2015, you should consider your relevancy now. As technology facilitates behavioral change, organizations of all sizes must develop new strategies. A clear path to irrelevancy is to ignore change or, worse yet, fight it.

If you continue to do business as usual, running your career and business day by day, then you will find that you might not be needed. Consider these red flags:

  1. You don’t have a mobile strategy, yet you spend all your time relying on your mobile device to connect and communicate.
  2. You have no defined online strategy, you just guess and explore, yet like eighty percent of all c-level executives, you  spend up to 4 hours a day on the Internet. more

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Get Organized In Social Media – Because Time Matters

Launching your company’s social media presence is a big step – both in terms of shifting to a more engaging and customer-centric marketing approach, and because of the resources you’ll need to dedicate to make it succeed.

As a strategist at MediaSauce, I’m often charged with helping clients launch their social media initiatives. I’ve found that the most challenging thing for most marketers isn’t learning how to use new tools. It’s knowing how to get digitally organized.

Time management, baby.

Now, I should clarify. These tips are for businesses. If you want to spend 5 hours checking out your old high school friends’ family photos, by all means, feel free. Your time, your dime! more

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