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Last week was Marketing Week Vancouver 2017 (April 3-7), and marked by events throughout the region, from meet-ups to full-on conferences of 1,500+ attendees. Smart, Savvy + Associates had the pleasure to sponsor and attend some of the events, including the BCAMA Vision Conference in Vancouver, and the CIMC event in Squamish.

What happens when you gather together hundreds of the brightest, energetic, innovative marketing and social media professionals? Fun—this isn’t a quiet group. Insights—virtual lightbulbs turning on and shining bright. And tweets! So many tweets; we wanted to share.

Tweet, click, scan, repeat…

Digital is today’s predominant marketing tool, but content still rules. While the audience (and their resulting actions) are target, the pushes and pulls are for the content. Authentic, good, honest content delivered to be memorable.

Stats might be the easy message to share, but it’s a good story that sticks. Who tells the story? Whenever possible—a real person. Celebrities have long been used to endorse products, which can be a huge hit—or take a hit when lifestyle doesn’t meet brand. Endorsements are being balanced with influencer marketing: a non-promotional approach to marketing through use of opinion leaders for an authentic voice.

Businesses may not always have a product ripe for product placement, but corporate communications can take a page from the same book. A spokesperson doesn’t always suit the situation, and pulling the CEO out of digital darkness for crisis communications can be awkward. Research is showing that effective CEOs have social media presence, with a major focus on business, and a small percentage of personal sharing. Ann Charles, founder and CEO of BRANDfog says of her executive clients, “"I want them to be recognizable to people who know them in the real world—not just a robot talking about the latest news.”

CIMC attendees had the incredible experience of hearing from Pixar’s Matthew Luhn, whose job it is to “make us cry.” And laugh, and cry, and laugh some more. Effective storytelling is like a rollercoaster: up and down, with unexpected twists and turns. It keeps us on the edge of our seats.

The good news from Luhn is that storytelling needn’t be clever to be successful. Authenticity and relationships don’t come from “clever,” they unfold over time, through open and honest communications. Should crisis strike, the relationship has been made and the honestly proven (if communications have been honest), both for customer relationships and internal ones.

“When they can digitally share their brains…leaders will be able to provide insight, even wisdom, without being physically present.” - Robert J. Thomas and Yaarit Silverstone, hbr.org

Leaders who are visible to the world outside their company’s walls will benefit from hearing customers’ voices, and from having their own voice heard. When that voice is honest and fair, good things may follow.

Moving conversations out of the board room and into the digital airways may feel like a leap. It is a big leap, and the more radical changes usually require some training and preparation. And that’s okay—leaders are not just storytellers, they’re also learners. And soon enough, the next big shift will be on the horizon.

Sheryl Gray

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