Content Marketing Suite – Parfait in #YGK

Content Marketing from Attachmedia.com
Image Source: Attachmedia.com

It has been a long journey, but my fellow classmates and I are now in the final days of the semester and that means all reports and projects are due for Interactive Marketing Communications at St. Lawrence College.

Today, I will be sharing the creative strategy and final pieces from our Content Marketing Plan for Parfait, which is a fresh and frozen yoghurt bar in downtown Kingston. Parfait is a young business that is wants to grow its brand via new and innovative tactics.

My hope is that over the holidays, I will be able to post the full report to my Portfolio, so I will not go into the full research and decision-making process. However, I will share the objectives and creative strategy that led to the creation of 4 types of content: An infographic, a video, a podcast, and a subscription email newsletter.

PLAN OBJECTIVES
  1. To create 4 pieces of informative and valuable content for Parfait’s target audience to increase awareness and engagement with the brand online.
  2. Create a positive relationship with Parfait’s brand.
  3. Establish the brand as a unique & essential part of the downtown community.
TArGET AUDIENCE

Our primary target for the campaign are women between the age of 20-35 who are ambitious, active, and concerned about their health.. These women are involved in the community and are constantly looking for healthy options when it comes to food.

CREATIVE STRATEGY

Parfait is a new business (5 months old) and this plan will target consumers in the awareness stage and consideration stage. All creative content will focus on the freshness and simplicity of the yogurt product, as well as fueling a healthy body and an ambitious lifestyle.

We really liked the idea of yoghurt as a natural fuel for healthy and ambitious young professionals and students, and this creative idea shows up repeatedly in our content. The last consideration was to maintain a tone that is informative and inspiring.

INFOGRAPHIC

Parfait Infographic 

VIDEO

Both our video and newsletter feature expert advice from a local nutritionist. We really wanted to focus on the kind of content for people who are making informed choices about what to put in their bodies.

PODCAST

Our podcast continued to build on the idea of yoghurt as a clean and natural fuel by asking community members ‘What Fuels You?’, with the understanding that this could be an ongoing series on healthy living in Kingston, ON.

NEWSLETTER

The newsletter is slightly different in tone as it is less of an awareness piece and is more positioned towards customers who have become loyal to Parfait and have submitted their email address for ongoing content. Once again, this piece is highlighted by expert advice from a local nutritionist, but there would also be a monthly inspirational quote, as well as select pieces from health and lifestyle blogs. *Click on the image for the full email PDF.

newsletter-screenshot

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE PROJECT

In the end, this was one of the most enjoyable projects of the semester because the variety of content meant that we were working on something different all the time. It was also challenging because there is such a fine line between content and promotion. A small local business (especially one that is less than a year old) can produce their own content, but they also need to consistently connect the content to their brand in a way that is not pushy – but rather continues to offer information and value to either potential or current customers.

I believe that we were able to successfully walk the line between content and promotion, but I would love to hear other opinions – especially from those professional marketers out there. Please feel free to add your comments below, or you can reach me through the contact information at the right side of the page. ~~DJB.

Storytelling for your Nonprofit: Best and worst practices

Image credit - Fresh Air Photo from www.storytellingcenter.net
Image credit – Fresh Air Photo from http://www.storytellingcenter.net

I’d like to start by thanking readers for the positive responses to my last piece. I had suspected that writing about marketing for Nonprofits might be a niche where I can contribute, and you verified that suspicion with your encouragement through email and social media. With that in mind, I am going to stay on the topic of Nonprofits – this time with more attention to the tactics used to communicate the value of your organization to the public.

I am currently taking a Content Marketing course as part of my graduate program at St. Lawrence College, and our focus for the past few weeks is on the role of storytelling in content marketing campaigns. So, I set about hunting for blogs and articles that apply this concept to Nonprofit marketing, and there is no shortage of blogs with hints and tricks. I’m going to share some of the highlights (for me), but if you are playing a Fundraising or Communications role in a Nonprofit, I will recommend that you go ahead and make the search for yourself…after you’re done reading, of course.

The first article I am going to highlight is Why Nonprofits Need to Be Storytellers. This piece is done in an interview format, which I find easy to digest through the separation of topics. However, the primary reason I chose this one is because before you figure out the ‘How’ to execute a concept, you need to ask ‘Why’. Here is an excerpt that gets to the heart of the matter:

We have stories in our brains about how the world works. And they act like filters. They act like software. The stories tell us what facts to accept and what facts to reject. So whenever you’re trying to influence someone’s behavior, you have to ask yourself first, “What story is in their brain? What stories are they holding onto that make them behave the way they do? And if I want to change that, you need to ask yourself, “What new story can I give them?”

The interview ends with a couple of solid examples of how storytelling helped contribute to a couple of successful Nonprofit campaigns – which makes for a good transition to best practices. There are a lot of articles out there with tips to help you tell stories for Nonprofits. The article I would like to highlight is ‘Nonprofit Storytelling: Seven Tips for Sharing Stories About Your Work. I chose this article because the site itself looks like it could be a useful tool, and the post is quick and streamlined list that got me thinking about ways that I could tell better stories for the organizations that I am involved with. This is especially true for Tip #7:

The best stories are told by the person themselves. Clients telling their own stories are the most moving way to share how your organization makes a difference.

This kind of storytelling is the most prevalent in politics, where testimonials and personal recommendations mean so much. If someone tells a story about how a representative/party was willing and able to listen and respond to their issues, it means so much more than if I am simply self-promoting. Unfortunately, I also came to the realization that with my work as the Fundraising Chair for Kingston Community House, I had (so far) completely missed the opportunity to let our members tell the story of our value to the community. It’s a mistake that I hope to change ASAP.

Some honest and thoughtful reflection is a must when you are part of a volunteer-based organization, and I recommend that you set aside a block of time to do this after any event or campaign. However, I think we could all benefit from avoiding those mistakes in the first place, so I will leave you with ‘9 Storytelling Mistakes Your Nonprofit May Be Making’. The most significant point on this list is 7) Silo-ing the Storytellers. It is very easy to forget that the role of collecting and telling stories belongs to all volunteers and workers in an organization. Please remember: Sometimes your Fundraising Chair feels horribly alone with the task.

I’ll leave you with some video content, so you can see how Nonprofit storytelling works through that medium. I hope that the articles here helps you to start planning your next Nonprofit campaign with an eye towards telling stories in a more effective way. As always, I would love to hear from you if you found this information helpful, or if you have some hints or mistakes that weren’t covered here. You can contact me through the comments or through any of my social media accounts in the sidebar.

Your Nonprofit work is important. Keep fighting the good fight. ~~DJB.

**For more examples of video storytelling, go to http://www.socialbrite.org/2011/04/21/8-great-examples-of-nonprofit-storytelling/.

Get Your Horns On 2014: Inspiration and Perspiration

Get Your Horns On 2014 It has now been a week since my return to St. Lawrence College for the fall semester and honestly…it has been a blur. As a matter of reflection, I want to write a few words about my experience coming back to the School of Business for Year 3, and the best tool to explain how I feel is my experience with the 2014 edition of our Get Your Horns On fundraiser.

For those who know nothing about this fundraising drive, it involves the mobilization of most of the School of Business and the sale of MANY horned Viking hats. The money raised goes to the college’s Business Student Initiative fund, which allows business students to take part in special projects, as well as directing money to other worthy causes such as KIVA, TEDx, and the Ryan Taylor bursary. You can find out more at the link above.

I have to admit that as a 3rd year student, I did not experience the same verve and drive this time around. I have a distinct memory of having my competitive juices flowing freely last year, and I think this is a phenomenon shared by many upper year students. This does not mean that I (or others) see the fundraiser as any less a worthy activity, but I felt myself being far more concerned with sorting out my student loans, class schedule, and figuring out my lifestyle logistics for the busy final year that we have been promised by the faculty.

I recognized my lack of inspiration for GYHO from Day 1, so instead of forcing the issue I tried to draw upon my love for volunteering by playing more of a cheerleading and helping role for the Orientation Leadership. Roughly speaking, this means that I took my joy from handing out helmets and encouraging the first and second-year students to put their best foot forward.

In the end, my fundraising totals were far below last year, but I eventually did find great inspiration in the ingenuity and work ethic of our new business students. The blurry picture above was a team that became especially notable to me because they were able to pull together an incredible amount of donations, gift cards and swag from local businesses in the span of 2-5 hours. From my perch in the Student Association lounge, watched them make many phonecalls on that first day and simply could not believe the kind of community support they were able to drum up in an afternoon.

Impressive as that was, the team above did not take home the grand prize. That went to another group of new students who became recognizable to me because I met all five of them selling helmets downtown at 9PM on Wednesday night. If you are willing to sell helmets downtown in the dark, you are showing the perspiration necessary to do very well in our School of Business…So they really must be congratulated for that, as well as for inspiring my pride in our student body.

Thanks again to all of the teams for their hard work. Thank you to the faculty for giving their time and energy. Thank you to our amazing Orientation Leadership in Emily and Beth for bringing it all together. Now…if I can only memorize my fall schedule, then maybe this year will turn out just fine.

~DJB.

Canada Post: Research and Ethical Decision-making

Stepping Stones believes that Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra should be fired.
Stepping Stones believes that Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra should be fired.

This will be my last ‘official’ post on our Canada Post research project, which means that I technically do not have to complete any more for our COMM 57 assignment. However, I have pushed myself to build the research page to try to carry this topic through to the point where I will post our research findings over the next 3 weeks.

In the way of a quick update, our team does have quite a bit of data to sort through now, so I am budgeting a couple of weeks to sort through it all, come up with some scintillating graphs, and put it in a report form that we can be proud to submit. I will offer my thanks to everyone that contributed their opinions. If you would like to fill out the survey or the interview sheet you can find it on the research page.

The assigned topic for today is Ethical Considerations, which will probably make this post a bit lighter on links and heavier on my opinion. I suppose I could go out and search for specifics articles on the importance of ethics and objectivity in research, but I am not in an academic mood. I want to shoot from the hip.

The first point of ethics I would like to discuss was touched on in my February 14th post. I admit that I have been critical of crown corporation management from the beginning because it seems like the decision to cut home delivery and raise stamp prices was done virtually in a vacuum. There was very little public input, no access to market research, Canada Post employees were not engaged sufficiently, and the decision was announced the day after the House of Commons exited their winter session.

None of the above aspects imply any kind of business rationale or accountability in decision-making for the crown corporation. This would be completely unacceptable for a publicly-traded corporation, so I cannot understand how CEO Deepak Chopra has escaped more severe public scrutiny. Canada Post continues to be mismanaged and I have trouble understanding why this man still has his job…UNLESS his decision-making is really being directed by the Canadian federal government, which is who appointed him in the first place.

This leads me to the question of the redacted and minimized market research that should be guiding the process of decision-making as Canada Post moves forward. When the company is part of public life and public interest, is it ethical to leave this document to collect dust on a shelf? How can we assume that the decisions made were anything but political decisions, when the business decision-making process has been ignored? I don’t need to tell Canada Post workers that their jobs are at stake, as is the quality of public services. This is not a small matter.

I will end my comments with a disclaimer that even without the business proof, I would be in favour of saving those jobs and continuing delivery service. I believe the benefits of public service contribute more to our economy than the cost. However, if I can bear down and use business principles to try to chart an honest and accountable path forward, I don’t see why our federal government cannot do the same. That is the thing that bothers me the most, because the Conservatives are awfully quick to invoke business rationale in their principles – but I just don’t see it in practice.

DJB.

Canada Post: The Marketing Communications Gap

 After a week’s hiatus, Stepping Stones is back for a fifth installment on our Canada Post research project. This should be the second-last post focusing specifically on the project before I move on to other community/public issues, but I will do my best to finish strong on a topic that affects all Canadians.

Tonight I am releasing a link to our research survey through FluidSurveys.com. This survey has now been completed 212 times, surpassing our goal of 200 responses, but a hard and fast rule of research is that your accuracy increases with a greater number and variety of participants. With that in mind, I would urge you to complete the survey if you can and please share through social media or other platforms.

Additionally, I will use this blog’s Canada Post Research category to share the personal interview that we created for the purpose of research triangulation – which is a fancy way of saying that it is the third source of research data. You can look for a link to a PDF version around 10:00 PM eastern tonight.

This is a short 8-question open-ended questionnaire that is designed to give more depth to our research because it allows for more thoughtful answers. If any of you would like to fill out the questionnaire for submission to our research, you can send a copy to dbeals21@student.sl.on.ca.

Those are all of the updates fit to print, but I should say a few words about the topic of Canada Post and Marketing, since that is the assigned topic for this week. If you have read our research proposal you will see that one of our assumed problems with Canada Post is a lack of communication with the public regarding the services that are currently offered. At first glance, this assumption has been supported by public opinion, but I look forward to sharing the results.

To be honest, it is not a great stretch to say that Marketing Communications has been a problem for the corporation. Canada Post has a website that I have shared many times, but is anyone aware of anything beyond a handful of news articles over the past two years that spoke about efforts to modernize Canada Post or promote the services that are offered? This kind of marketing promotion would be standard practice for a private corporation and it has to have had an impact on the use of services.

After all, we already know that the federal government is not shy about spending public dollars on advertising when it suits their self-promotional needs, but it would be nice to see them do it for a crown corporation that provides services and economic benefit to all Canadians. As a marketing professional and a public representative, this further influences my opinion that the government has made a concentrated effort to sabotage the success of Canada Post because they clearly know the benefits of a strong marketing communications plan, but have done nothing communicate with their customers.

LCBO - LCBO's 20th annual Ontario wine promotion
The LCBO employs an aggressive marketing promotion strategy

I will leave you with the contrasting strategy of the LCBO, which is a provincial crown corporation that has been very aggressive with its marketing communications and business development. While I have not always agreed with the LCBO’s treatment of its employees, I do appreciate that they are actively striving to be successful because the LCBO’s profits benefit all Ontarians. Why should Canada Post be any different?

Canada Post and Canadian Cultural Identity

It is Friday night and that means that it is time for another update on our Canada Post research project. I had hoped that we would be able to debut our postal service survey and interview formats, but I will do that later in the weekend because I want to go over them one more time to be sure that they meet all of the criteria for objectivity and variety of questions.

What I can tell you beforehand about the survey/interview questions is that it was very difficult for me to separate the objective customer research from my subjective valuation of what Canada Post means as a Canadian institution. Personally, I think this abstract ascribed value is what makes these kind of governmental decisions so difficult and the reaction to those decisions will vary from person to person.

As a marketing researcher it is one thing to dispassionately question our customer base about the value of home delivery service, but in the case of a crown corporation that dates back 250 years, there are also additional questions regarding the cultural value of public postal service and what that really means to Canadians. Putting a price on that value is not easy, and in the end I believe that you have to include some questions that directly engage the issue of meaning and cultural identity.

The question that follows is that if you can use research to quantify the cultural value that Canadians ascribe to Canada Post, does that mean that the institution must necessarily be treated different than a younger and less culturally significant brand? For instance, would the decrease of services at a retail outlet like Home Depot be met with countless articles like this one in MacLean’s?

This is the point where what would normally be seen as a business decision crosses into the realm of our public and political lives, which is why I led off this piece with an opinion poll. These are the same kinds of questions that the mainstream media was asking throughout December and into the new year.

Lastly, there are the politicians on the government and opposition sides who have to gauge the mood of their constituencies, often without the aid of an objective research project. How are we who claim to be representatives supposed to intimately know when the cultural value of a service or institution is worth more than dollars and cents?

I don’t have a good answer for that question at this time. The best I can do is to leave you with a clip featuring Canada Post from the Rick Mercer Report from 2007. If it is featured on Rick’s show, doesn’t that mean that the service is already iconic?

Canada Post Research: Reliability and Relativity

www.redactedrecord.com

This is the third installment in a series on our research project regarding the future of Canada Post. Our assignment for this week is to write about the framework of the research, but I have to admit that I am not inspired by this topic, even though I will concede that the theoretical framework is extremely important to all research.

I searched for a definition of research framework, only to find many academic papers that seemed impossible to distill  into something useful. For the best example of the framework we will be using, I suggest you read my teammate’s blog at eculhane09.wordpress.com. She does a great job of defining the classical pieces of research framework.

In my quick and dirty terms, your research framework should expand and explain the methodologies you will be using – including timelines and the steps you will be taking to make the research objective, reliable and relevant. In our case, our methodology will be to use secondary (statistical research) provided by the federal government, as well as primary research in the form of surveys and personal interviews.

I am going to post the final copy of the research proposal once I finish this entry, so you will have to be the judge as to how reliable and/or relevant or research will be. However, I have found myself becoming frustrated with the quality and quantity of federal research that has been completed on Canada Post, so I want to talk about the potential (ir)relevance of that information.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, it is reasonable to assume that Canada Post Corporation has been aware of the need to renew Canada’s public postal service strategy for some time. So it is not surprising to find out that there was a “secret” study done on the advantages and profits of offering of postal banking and other diversified services through the crown corporation. Unfortunately, when this research finally became available, they found that 701 of 811 pages were redacted by the federal government.

Discovering the absence of this research is obviously problematic for a project that requires timely and relevant secondary research. However, when I put on my other hat as a politician and community representative it is downright frustrating and infuriating because we have a government that is hiding relevant information on potential diversification strategies just days before slashing public services and jobs.

Thankfully, the government is not the only potential source of this kind of research. This is a paper available from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I should also point out that I did not build this blog as a showcase for my righteous indignation with government decision-making, but as you can see in this case, even if I was an apolitical researcher I would have good reason to doubt the reliability of federal research and decision-making on the future of Canada Post.

I will leave it there for now, except to provide our long-awaited final research proposal. Wish us luck and please do not hesitate to point out potential problems. I am most obviously a soapbox preacher first and a researcher second.

~DJB.