Friday, July 27, 2012

When worlds collide: word of mouth v. social media

By guest blogger Sophie Halls Anning

Did the headline of Monday's AFR, 'Word of mouth trumps social media' send marketing folk seeking out recommendations on the best word-of-mouth agency? Questioning whether Twitter might just be an ivory tower containing only a few of their most vocal target audience? Wondering whether the high production value of the clip on socionomics might have contributed to a misguided leap of blind faith? Or, did it have them doing as I did, Googling word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing and seeing what insights traditional, online and social media as well as wikis and websites could reveal about this underground speciality?

I recall WOM fighting for share of PR budget a few years ago, rather than being seen as a discipline in its own right. Social media, by contrast, could swallow up to 17.5% of total marketing spend over the next 5 years, up from the current 7.1% estimation, perhaps because, unlike WOM, it's quantifiable and its reach on numbers alone, is vastly superior.

Australian agencies emphasise that they don't pay the people on their database to spruik products to their networks. They just give them free stuff on the basis that these people possess a voice. Does their status as Citizen Smith rather than a media personality or celebrity neatly side step the classic 'cash for comment' accusations made famous years ago by Lawsy and more recently the SA Tourism Commission's Kangaroo Island campaign?

Andy Sernovitz's Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, endorsed by Seth Godin offers some great tools to get started in word of mouth.Sernovitz suggests starting with the basics: "a clever product name, a special service, a choice of uniform, a well-worded email, or being a little bit nicer to your customers". The stand out here is that nowhere does he mention giving free stuff to people on a database in exchange for chat. By all means, share a good experience over a coffee or on your Facebook status. But talking up a wine sent to you by a company that's being paid to have you talk about it? I'm not so sure. Because once consumers find out that recommendations aren't entirely as independent as they thought, the danger lies in them quickly losing respect for your brand, product or service.

As the SA Tourism Commission discovered to its peril, conversation on social media has a pace which makes the Hush Puppies epidemic referenced in Malcolm Gladwell's seminal book The Tipping Point seem slow. And, as targeting and reach continue to improve day by day, if not minute by minute, it seems clear to me that social media wins.

Sophie Halls Anning is BlueChip Communication's General Manager

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Finally a lesson from politics worth keeping

By guest blogger Bruce Madden

A week is a long time in politics. But it's just a tad longer for journos covering the often bizarre world of hung parliament politics. Add in this week's COAG interplay between the Feds and the States and bizarre goes to downright absurd.

As a former editor turned PR/media trainer who has spent the best part of a decade educating Financial Services executives how to behave when a microphone is switched on, I am on the constant lookout for examples to illustrate a few key points.

By the way, the expression "media training" has its own identity crisis, which is a whole other story. But in my book, training people for media is actually about helping to shape people as worthy participants in the game of media. I don't endorse the rote learning approach to media training which is to have folks memorize a bland statement and repeat, no matter what the question. I stick to the basics. Or stuff you might assume to be basic.

Like don't attack or threaten a journalist. Don't ever offer a dead bat "no comment" to a question, especially the questions you don't like. Don't, under any circumstances, avoid answering a question, feign a faint, spontaneously burst into song or walk away from a doorstop interview pretending to speak on your mobile phone, throwing a lame threat over your shoulder to call the cops!

Yes, I refer here to the Labor Senator Mark Bishop's efforts in Canberra airport this week. A classic piece of footage that went to air on the ABC this week and which will provide much for future BlueChip media training programs.

The past week yielded another gem - in the media "what not to do's" category. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's declaration of bankruptcy ahead of the COAG meetings goes down as one of the best.

As they say in Spain "sin duda ha sido una larga semana en la politica"

"It surely has been a long week in politics."

Bruce Madden is BlueChip Communication Director and co-founder

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to get social. Stat.

By guest blogger Michelle Ryan.

Social media. Sick of hearing about it? Well, you'd better get used to it, because it's not going anywhere but up.

In fact, regardless of what business you're in - whether in financial services, retail, manufacturing, FMCG etc - the influence of social media is growing, and its impact on your company shouldn't be ignored. Or if you do, you do so at your own peril.

That might sound dramatic. But you need only look at where most news is broken these days - via social media - to realise this is where consumers are living and playing. So to not be part of it would be to ignore your current and potential customers.

So how to get up to speed with social media quickly?

You may have heard us recommend using social learning to get yourself, your colleagues and, ultimately, your business comfortable with using social media ... for the benefit of your company.

In this post, I want to take a very quick look at 'why' you should explore social learning.

What's in it for you?

If we take the impact of social media as a given, then our next step is how to make social work FOR you - and not the other way around. And doing this involves one key element: training. When it comes to training, social learning is pretty much best practice. In short, it allows you to combine expert teachers, with your own home-grown 'experts', otherwise known as your staff, to teach and learn from each other. 

This great info-graphic goes through what such training might involve for different people in the business. Remember: not all employees are created equal. So in order to train them effectively it might be best to separate them into groups based on their web literacy i.e. the digital native vs. the digital contrarian.

Where to from here?

In terms of the benefits of social learning - don't just take my word for it, take that of some of the absolute global best practice in this space.

In this article, Dell, Intel and Constant Contact talk about building social media through this kind of training. In particular, Dell talks about its 'unconferences' which it has used to train more than 5,000 employees - using experts and employees to drive the session topics.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo call their training Social Media and Responsibility Training - or SMART U. Employees said they'd love to share their PepsiCo pride, but they wanted Pepsi to explain the social media policy first. So they did. And they also educated them on social media tools such as Twitter, giving them lots of examples to help them tell the story. Which they then did.

If these examples inspire - and you are keen to give your own internal social media conference a try - this post will give you some tips on how to get started.

Michelle Ryan is an Account Manager for BlueChip Communication.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

LIBOR scandal highlights the perils of living in the bubble

By guest blogger Kaitlin Walsh

I don't know whether, how or by whom Barclay's was advised in what's now being billed as 'banking's tobacco moment'. But I do know that it appears that lack of objective 'outsider' advice over how to handle the LIBOR scandal has both compounded negative fallout and provided a(nother) scary confirmation of how far off course an entire industry can steer when it loses sight of accepted moral touchstones.

As the tentacles of the LIBOR scandal multiply and creep ever outward to implicate a growing number of major financial institutions worldwide, there's a lot to be learned from some media coverage of the event.

In some reports, the focus is not so much on the innate perfidy of the offence itself, but Barclay's (and the regulator's) failure to anticipate the outraged public response to exposure of its illegal activities.

In these stories, the attention has been very much on the bank's responses to being sprung, rather than the moral dimensions and practical fallout of the rate fixing itself. The behaviour of the bank has been described in terms such as 'mis-steps' and 'being caught flat-footed', because neither it nor the UK regulator, the Financial Standards Authority (FSA), were 'banking on the furore' that would ensue. Both were guilty of 'badly underestimating public opinion'.

Other reports chew closer to the moral bone. 'The Economist's' headline from 7 July, 'The rotten heart of finance', pretty much says it all. In this piece, the sheer 'everydayness' of the recalcitrant bankers' behaviour is highlighted. The fact that those involved appeared so cavalier about their own wrongdoing is chillingly reminiscent of analyses of some of the worst of human behaviour, what we might term 'the banality of evil', the phrase coined so famously by Hannah Arendt in her observations of Adolf Eichmann's trial.

'The Economist' piece goes on to look at the cultural and other issues which contribute to illegal and unethical behaviour becoming, by all accounts, normalised. Small wonder then that transgressors lost sight of the way their actions would be construed by 'outsiders'.

No matter which slant on the events speaks more loudly to you, a common thread emerges. And that is that, living in their 'bubble', the key players became cut off from basic ethical, legal and moral touchstones. They were either wrapped up so completely in a toxic culture that they cared not about their own wrongdoing, or miscalculated so completely the magnitude of their crimes that they were caught unawares by the outcry when they were exposed.

Whether their moral compasses became warped by self-interest, desensitized by over-exposure, corrupted by arrogance, distorted by a misguided sense of 'right-doing', thrown awry by peer pressure - or all of the above, is a question for others to answer (or at any rate, for a different blog).

But one thing that was clearly lacking here and could have made a real difference - if not to the behaviour itself, then to the subsequent 'mis-steps' in owning up to it - was objective outside advice. Akin to a giant magnetic pole, the right advice can unfailingly indicate where the 'due north' of acceptable legal (at the very least), ethical and moral conduct lies. This in turn can better prepare one for owning up and ultimately, one hopes, making amends.

Because the fact is, even for those with the best of intentions there's real danger in making judgements using only the sounding board of one's own peers. Consulting only those whose interests are closely aligned with your own is a great way to get the answers you want. It's also a great way of cementing yourself into a giant, artificial bubble which, when it bursts - as bubbles do - is likely to create one giant hell of a mess.

The morals of the story are many. But I am highlighting just one. If in doubt, don't close ranks. Instead, throw open the doors to objective counsel and trusted 'outsiders' who can provide fresh perspectives. At best, they can help you stay a 'due north' course. Should the worst happen, they can help you minimise the mess.

Sniff the 'Rotten heart of finance' at

Mis-step with Barclays and the FSA at'

Become an instant LIBOR savant at

Kaitlin Walsh is BlueChip Communication's Director of Client Strategy & Content

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking at social media? Then start with an internal media conference

By guest blogger Michelle Ryan

Recently my colleague, Carden Calder - BlueChip Communication founder and social media aficionado - posted a blog about social learning. It looked at the benefits of sharing knowledge and experiences in and out of social media, with a special focus on financial services firms.

Rather than give you the complete low-down on the post, you can read it for yourself here, but I did want to expand on one of the points it contained.

Top ways to kick off social learning...

In her blog, Carden listed three key suggestions to help financial service firms, that want to give social learning a try, get started. 

One of those suggestions was to hold an internal social media conference.

What is that, you ask? Allow me to explain ... in 140 characters or less. No, kidding, I will need a few more words than that, but here is a brief outline.

Get started on social learning by running your own internal social media conference...

An internal social media conference involves presenting relevant information about social media, stimulating ideas and inspiration among staff members. It's a safe, fun, social media training ground, that ideally should work as a springboard for lively discussion. It's also a great opportunity for staff to get their hands dirty and have a 'play' with various social media platforms before they launch into the 'real' virtual world on your company's behalf.

Five steps to hosting an internal social media conference

  1. Decide on the topic and develop some guidelines for content
    • Be very specific about topics you want covered. Choose, say, a social media channel, concept or service.
    • Choose a topic that is directly relevant to your staff and your social media goals - if you're not going to use Facebook, don't go there, but if you are launching a Twitter handle at a conference, you need to get your staff across the who, what, when, why and how of this before you launch it.
    • Invite staff to send questions ahead of time so speakers can tailor their presentations or run Q&A sessions if appropriate.
  2. Find an external speaker and brief them
    • A quick search online for social media buzz words will show you a number of people who purport to be, or in fact are, experts in social and digital communication. Ask around, check references and other bona fides to be sure you get the real deal.
    • Use your conference topics as starting points in your search and look for an external speaker with direct capabilities or experience in this area.
  3. Get staff involved and have them present
    • Yes, engage the speaker, but don't overlook the capabilities of your own staff.
    • Do you have someone already on staff who can share their knowledge and experience? If so, do what you can to encourage peer-to-peer, or social learning - for example, appoint that person as a champion or ambassador of your social media campaign. This is a great way to fast track results and keep the all-important conversation alive in the office once the internal conference has finished!
  4. Review
    • Ask your staff and any external speakers to rate the conference so you can improve or build on its lessons. A quick Survey Monkey questionnaire (incentivised if you are serious about getting a response) will allow you to get this information quickly and easily.
  5. And rebook
    • Once you have the feedback - use it! Book in another session (perhaps aim for one a quarter) to discuss a different topic and to hear from different 'experts'. With social and digital media changing constantly, you'd be unwise to believe you have heard or learnt it all before.
Michelle Ryan is an Account Manager for BlueChip Communication

Monday, July 16, 2012

Social: saving lives by building a better GP

And how far behind is financial services?

If anyone you know is still wondering about whether social media has commercial worth, here's one to shout from the rooftops. 

News from a medical study today is a huge signal to the medical establishment about social tools for Australian doctors and patients. And a harbinger of what's to come for our banks, insurers, wealth advisers, financial planners, credit card companies and financial services providers as they serve us on our own personal journeys towards better financial futures.

Listening to ABC Radio 702's breakfast show this morning I heard something everyone should know. 

The Medical Journal of Australia is going to develop a collaborative social tool (a wiki) to help General Practitioners (GPs) deliver the best possible care to patients. At least that's the summary version I've gleaned from news media and the MJA website


Almost half of Australian patients don't get "recommended care"

Because a recent study suggests adult Australians are receiving "appropriate" (read 'good enough') GP care at 57%. That leaves a whopping 43% of GP care in the sample group of more than 1,000 who did not receive "appropriate care".

The potential extrapolation to the Australian population (think in particular regional or social-economically under-served communities) is frightening.

Now while there will be headlines in those stats, here are some realities:
- GPs are among some of the most overburdened in our health care system
- They have limited time and resources to diagnose (and often treat) thousands of diverse conditions
- No medical  professional is omnipotent...and we're unreasonable if we expect them to be...which we often do!

So how does a busy GP ensure (ie be certain or near enough) they're doing better than getting it right half  the time? Use a wiki that, overseen by experts, provides a "dynamic, centralised and inclusive platform — openly available to all to contribute to and use — that will help empower clinicians to deliver the best care."

It's a huge leap for practitioners, who for sometime have been complaining about "Google Doctor", but have, on occasion, been well behind the eight ball when faced with an intelligent, curious and well researched patient.

Personally I use healthy caution when it comes to Google Doctor. I have the words of my late grandfather, a specialist and pioneer in his field, that a little bit of knowledge is indeed a very dangerous thing. 

Personally? Google+ motivated parent > GP

But, and it's a huge but, I have used Google twice to identify and correctly diagnose rare conditions affecting my children.

After failing to arrive at answers to serious questions in several consults, I was forced to look for answers myself in the only medical database I have access to (imperfect as it is) - Google. 

After that, and with the germ of an idea I went to yet more doctors to be told (on occasion) I was wrong. And then, upon persisting, finding advice from more specialised doctors in particular fields, that I was right.

OK so that's probably an unusual example. Still, it suggests a worried parent with Google, some basic biological knowledge and the ability to use Boolean search terms beats 15-30 minutes with a busy GP or paediatrician any day. 

And that's just wrong. 

Simple access to information is putting medical professionals, and their patients (most of us!) at a huge disadvantage.

Why? Because many doctors, while great professionals with specialist diagnostician skills, don't have the time or tools (here's where the wiki comes in) to get the right answer. In some cases, they may also lack the humility or intellectual curiosity to get the right answer, but that's another, and thankfully, less common, story.

The God-complex revived: in a wiki

This signals a very real application of social tools to one of the most important ares of our lives - our health.

Here are a few key lines from the excerpt in today's MJA abstract covering the study, which was designed to measure how well we deliver “appropriate care” to patients in Australia (doi: 10.5694/mja12.10510). 

"The researchers were aiming to reproduce a landmark 2003 study that found that only 55% of patients in the United States received “recommended care”...findings are essentially the same — that almost half of patients are not receiving appropriate care....

"...challenge that practitioners regularly face — how to access reliable, updated and credible information about appropriate care, and how to make clinical decisions in the absence of this information.

"...Runciman et al suggest a way to achieve national agreement on clinical standards...we (the MJA) are already working with the Cancer Council Australia to deliver a “wiki” guideline tool on our website...a dynamic, centralised and inclusive platform — openly available to all to contribute to and use — that will help empower clinicians to deliver the best care."

We can't reasonably expect our GPs to be God, or even close to omnipotent, but we can expect that when such a tool exists, they can use it to improve their diagnoses.

Still wondering about social media in financial services?

Here we have a wiki - a social, collaborative tool - that may well lift the standard of GP care in Australia. Well used, that means savings lives, improving quality of life and lower health care costs as we improve prevention and treatment. 

How long before such a wiki helps financial planners, and their clients, arrive at better decision about long term financial planning? Or helps you make better decisions about the cheapest and best credit card? Or when to flick the mortgage provider and change banks? Choose a super fund? Or how to really cost the services the bank provides? 

Sooner than we think.

Hopefully such solutions will be made possible by joint industry efforts, collaborating with consumers, to develop social tools that give us all access to better financial decisions.

It would seem that whether we seek to be healthier, wealthier or wiser, the democratisation of information long predicted through social is reality. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Social learning: buzzword bingo winner or simply better education?

Experiential, collaborative and common sense

Once upon a time, as a postgraduate research student, I learned a lot about research methodologies. One was "action learning". It was as it sounds like - learning through action. At the time I thought some flaky social science academic had made that up to justify a lack of empirical data in their thesis. And they may well have.

But as time (frighteningly some 20 years) as elapsed I've come to value "scar tissue". Things that can only be learned by doing. Actually by failing and re-doing until we learn painful lessons.

And decades on from the horror of the group assignment, it's clear to see why we (and generations since) were made to do them.

Because the process is sometimes as important, or more important, than the outcome.

And because in any organisation, big or small, collaboration is key to success. And through collaboration a whole new horizon opens up - the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. It's an opportunity to learn from three, three million or three billion.

And finally action learning, particularly collaborative action learning, makes perfect sense.


Tony Bingham, President and CEO of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) defines social learning as "learning that happens outside a formal structure or classroom ... the way people have always learned from each other. Social learning centres on information sharing, collaboration and co-creation."

Social learning is learning with and from others. It happens at conferences, cafes or online - with or without social media tools.

Why is it important?

Maria Ogneva, Director of Community at Yammer, says, "If your goal is to increase customer satisfaction, perhaps the impact metric you are looking for is the increase of speed of a response to a customer, and how collaboration helps you do that. For any social effort to be successful, it has to tie to a business objective."

So in short the team who learns together, works better together.

And in social media or social business working (fast) across distance, division and medium is a basic survival skill.

Who is talking about it?

Who is doing it well?


Using social media as a tool to learn about their products

Developing mobile educational products (Nokia Education Delivery, Nokia Life Tools and Nokia mobile mathematics) Nokia reaches out to those who may not have had learning so accessible to them.

Some useful links:

An info graphic ... not great resolution but some good facts on social and online learning

Top three ideas for financial services?

1. Try a social media internal conference
Use both staff and external speakers and share experiences - with careful content curation it will lift everyone's social expertise

2. Get the C-Suite into a "social sandpit"
Over breakfast or lunch, have every senior executive in front of a laptop or tablet with their own Twitter, a Facebook account and a Pinterest login. This is about safe, anonymous learnings by doing

3. Social superheroes
Everyone wants their five minutes of fame ... a quick employee survey can reveal untold social talent. Given guidelines, secret social superheroes can teach everyone else a lot, and feel rewarded along the way