Why I Love Asynchronous Communication (a.k.a. Emails)

I love to write, and emails are a breath of fresh air.

No editing.
No fancy words.
No issues over length.
No need for profundity.

It has been almost five years since I left Bell Mobility to pursue a career in marketing, and one thing that has drastically changed is how often I communicate via email.

I miss the simplicity of it all.
I miss reaching out to my clients daily.
I miss the back-and-forth motion that builds connection.

At Bell, I had so many great relationships; I used email to build better ones along the way. It was just so damn efficient. Templates allowed the writing to take shape quickly. In mere minutes, I was sending off concise and compelling messages. Over and over again. Each email was re-read once, at most twice, and then sent so I could continue to the next case. It was a beautiful workflow, and it was all supported by Salesforce.

The strategy behind it? Starting, stopping, continuing. Perpetually. The true definition of email really—asynchronous. This is also marketing. For a later topic!

And by the way, I am trying to write more like Seth Godin. Also, finding my way back to my university days. My favourite professor and mentor, Paul Woodrow, graded an essay I wrote on the fallacies of Coca-Cola, commenting in tiny writing and bright green ink, “Swift and punchy, Chona!”

So begets my email manifesto –

I will always try to write swift and punchy. 

If I can remember to, that is.

Alas, I have a pop quiz for y’all.

I want you to decide which entry below is authentic, meaning not edited. And which one is “fake”, as in completely and utterly revised from its original style + tone.

How can you tell?
What gives it away?
Which is written better?

Ah, so many questions to ponder, but if only we had more time.

Off to bed, now, enjoy the exercise!

Entry 1

For all my years as a Corporate Account Manager at Bell, some of my fondest memories included writing emails. I loved how fluid and uncomplicated it was to craft messages on the spot without spending copious amounts of time editing. I would not mind working on some ideas to “wow” our current and prospective customers with something easy to read, memorable, and impactful!

Entry 2

I spent many years as a Corporate Account Manager at Bell, crafting friendly and professional emails. I thought it was so exciting (yup, I love communication!) to be able to write something on the spot that didn’t require any editing. It’s an art form really. Would love to work on some ideas to incorporate more emails into how we communicate with our customers.

From Job Hunt to Employment – My First Week and Journey Joining Clearbridge 

Empowering you to do your best work.

Job hunting can be gruelling. For six months, I searched for the perfect fit. I did everything I could to embrace the energy, excitement and engagement that comes with it, but frankly, I was exhausted. Each step required work. Hard work. It felt like a fight for my future. I was gaining momentum, but I did not feel empowered. I wanted to make positive decisions that would bring me closer to achieving my goals. So I created a mission statement to give me a sense of purpose. I added it to my resume with gusto – 

My vision as a marketer is to empower and inspire people to make a difference in their daily lives

These words, within my experience, proposed change as a way to improve and move forward. Suddenly, I was motivated to find the next step in my career and not just a new job. Suddenly, I was searching for similar words in job descriptions as a way to feed out mismatched opportunities. I felt like I was in control. By developing this meaningful statement, I was working on myself. I started to see that helping others was important to me, and I wanted to find work that would help me grow into a person who could Make Change Happen.

Then I came across a job posting for Clearbridge Business Solutions

Making my routine move, I visited their website. A sentence, written in white, spread across the front page drew me in. Helping you do your best work. It reminded me of my mission statement! I envisioned the word empowering substituting the word helping and knew at that moment that my marketing mind was intrigued. Then I thought, what is my best work? The answer to that? Me. I decided right then and there that Clearbridge was invested in this tagline—they want to empower their customers to do their best work and employees to be the best versions of themselves. This brief exercise in recognizing worth drove me to apply, and the rest? Keep reading.

#bestwayspossible

We always have a choice and the option to take the first step. In the context of job hunting, if we choose the best option, that is, making positive decisions that bring us closer to achieving our goals, then we are empowering ourselves. The concept of connection becomes a critical building block here. Connection is about linking two entities that work better together (think: peanut butter & jelly). When you take time to recognize a connection (they stick so well together) and then work toward building that relationship (how many versions of a pb & j sandwich could you make), you are creating the best ways possible to put yourself in a favourable circumstance (eating the pb & j sandwich), and there is nothing more empowering than that (delicious).

Learning to see

Since becoming a marketer, I’ve been inspired by the work of Seth Godin. He says you can’t be seen until you learn to see, and this was my experience applying for the Marketing Coordinator position at Clearbridge.

My first interaction was with Amanda, the People Operations Coordinator. Bright and outgoing, she started our conversation with a compliment. Now, how often would that be the way to begin an interview? I was drawn to this approach. She acknowledged me (creativity and all), and I appreciated that. Acknowledging or demonstrating gratitude and acceptance is one of the best ways to get to know someone (am I right Amanda?).

After a spirited discussion about my interests, work history and marketing experience, Amanda reinforced our connection through her use of positive language and overall eagerness to empower me through the next step. I was impressed and wanted to learn more about the position and the company. I was starting to see what Clearbridge was about! She scheduled a meeting with the CEO (Ryan) and Operations Manager (Allison) early the next day.

The interview went smoothly, and I noticed something about Ryan and Allison. They were both contemplative, friendly, and engaged. There were moments when I got stuck on a few questions—I get nervous. I used these opportunities to find inward answers and show my resourcefulness. There was a lot of feedback. It felt like we were all learning from each other. By the end of the interview, we were smiling pretty hard, and for the first time in a long time, I felt seen.

I returned to work feeling ecstatic about the new connections I had made. It felt like they were offering me the opportunity to take my career to the next level, focus on what mattered the most, and grow as a person and creative marketer. Minutes later, I received a phone call from Amanda. To my delight, they offered me the position!

Finding #better

Doing better is often described as arriving home. This is what I felt when I joined the team at Clearbridge. Suddenly, there was a better space for me to dream and create (more peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, right). I was welcomed into a cool, bustling office filled with natural sunlight and a sense of possibility. During my first week, it felt like each day was a chance to do better and become a better person. Someone my peers could rely on. I learned that my true calling was not just about fulfilling a lifelong dream or pursuing an arbitrary passion. It was about being connected with the right people and being in the right place at the right time. 

Sitting at my new workstation, I leaned back into my ergonomic chair and beamed. 

When you know something is just right, you know it is (I can’t stop with the pb & j references!). But there are a lot of clues that can help you see better. 

Here are some I can take away from my first week at Clearbridge:

  • When the team takes time to put you through a well-thought-out onboarding process, you know they are devoted to empowering you, helping you feel ready to take on the responsibilities of your new role.
  • Working in a space that promotes collaboration for someone with creative inclinations is living the dream. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
  • Joining a company that embraces change is everything. This especially matters when you’re creative because ideation thrives in a facilitative environment. If I’m able to grow creatively, I know I will become a better marketer and, in turn, can create and develop the best ideas because I am part of a group of people now who value that too.
  • Feedback is essentially a means of trust. It allows us to discover possibilities, and at the same time, we earn the right to discover our peers’ communication styles. Once we unlock this type of interaction, we can evolve as human beings and accomplish larger goals, like I’ll be honest—changing the world!

In pursuit of innovation

Seth Godin says, “The first step on the path to making things better is to make better things.” This is now my truth since joining Clearbridge.

I’ve always been driven and ambitious. From a very young age, I partook in various extracurricular activities, from public speaking to creative writing and sign language classes to competitions with my classmates on who could act out The Babysitters Club book series with the most panache. Life back then was always about showing the world who I was and what I was capable of.

In my first week at Clearbridge, I feel like that kid again, taking on my dreams as if there were no limitations. I’ve also learned a thing or two about communication strategy. For one, you need a dedicated team that wants to make change happen for anything to improve. You also need to be laser-focused on outcomes and putting the best systems in place to win in every situation. We must constantly be challenged to innovate in our domain, then share our knowledge with one another, our customers, and partners.

We are doers

From snacks of every kind (lots and lots of chips, locally-made ice cream, and most critically, Phil & Sebastian coffee) to a business book library, the environment at Clearbridge supports doing. There’s no hiding in a cubicle as if you didn’t exist. It’s more like—look around you and see. See everyone and everything in its place. I’ve already started working on a social media strategy that will educate and engage our audience around technology, helping them find pertinent information (hello cybersecurity), how-to-dos, tips, tricks, and hacks that every person can find handy. I am also working on a company manual that entails everything from branding guidelines to who we are to our communication strategy. It will be a living document and serve as an introduction for future Clearbridgers.

Building great relationships with great communication

So, it all comes down to this—through empowerment, connection, communication, and the desire to do better (and find the best ways possible), we can succeed in work and life. I know that’s a big statement to make, but since joining the team here at Clearbridge, I feel that is the journey I am on. What’s more, I am starting to build strong relationships founded on intention. We are all here to do great work. We all want to understand that. I hope my time will be productive, meaningful and filled with positive transformation for Clearbridge and me.

How did you feel when starting a new job and what made you think it was the right choice? Share your comments; we would love to hear them!

Learning Your ABCs – A Quick Guide to Effective Communication Practices

Effective communication is simple, straightforward, and accurate. 

a

b

c

It follows a linear path and is easy to digest. 

a a

b b

c c

Still, in its best forms, it can empower and inspire us to uncover new ways to respond to business demands and challenges. This is change!

a b c 

For example, by understanding what type of communication drives our customers to choose us over the competition and then using that data to promote growth, we can harness communication to cultivate opportunity.

a b c 

a b c 

Here are some things to consider:

  • Be self-aware and understand the need to adapt your message to your audience
  • Communicate what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are going to get there
  • Build a system or process, then be accountable and track your progress
  • Focus on transparency, empathy and consistency to elevate trust 
  • Create opportunities for learning and development
  • Practice active listening to understand and feel the situation
  • Share your milestones, challenges, concerns and victories 

How do you develop an effective communication strategy? What are some important values that support your communicative work?

Food for Thought

We all wonder about things, everyday things, that lead us to research and ponder.

For example, are you starting a new diet? Curious about trying fresh, healthy food? Just nosy about the history of something? Well, these graphics will satiate you.

The #AllAbout campaign explores a variety of fresh, local, and healthy products, giving customers the chance to learn something new in a colourful and digestible way. As part of an ongoing strategy to define the tagline #TrulyFarmtoTable, I explicitly position an image at the bottom of a newsletter, like my brother Alan would say when we were kids eating dinner at the dinner table –

“The Ultimate” a.k.a. the last bite.

It satisfies and perfectly wraps up the meal (conversely idea) (metaphorically conversation).

Are you munching on words or proverbial nuggets or just vegan nuggets?

Well, these images will work in the same way! Once again, satisfying and perfectly wrapping up your dinner.

Another analogy – who didn’t chew Bazooka bubble gum only to unwrap the tiny comic folded neatly on the inside? Take it apart. Pop the pink gum. Immediately unravel the humorous reward.

It’s a ritual in a sense, and these graphics were indeed a ritual to create. So, I hope you enjoy them and that they will entice you to…Munsch!

Instagram Grid Layouts

grid, which features multiple images split into a visually appealing frame, is one way to brand your business on Instagram. 

Three benefits (that connect in the end) – 

  • Command attention: make a lasting first impression; if a viewer’s average attention span is about eight seconds, they will have some time to absorb what you have to present to them.
  • Stand out: imprint your audience’s mind with a quick taste of your identity; give them immediate access to your information and interests while establishing credibility and authority.
  • Tell a targeted story: communicate who you are to your existing and potential followers while stimulating emotions, and on a practical side, organizing the layout of your images into a narrative.

I created these grids when reviewing the masses of content I have made over the past year for DirectFood. store’s email marketing strategy (a whole other topic on its own). I like how the colours and shapes seem to speak to one another, and the creative copy helps deliver a message in tune with the selected graphics and photographs.

If you like this sort of work, let me know. I’m happy to share more impromptu design posts here for you!

How Ad Imagery Could Translate Into Product Packaging

The stack of magazines was impressive. Elle, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit and People. As a 13-year old, I just wanted to fixate and rip, fixate and rip, fixate and rip. Slowly, I was adding to my expanding wall collection, and I was proud. How were the ‘best’ images selected, and what made them ‘iconic’? What mattered to me at the time—creativity, originality, colour, composition—made it onto my closet doors, locker and school binder clear insert. If I could think of these images in my sleep, they became iconic. I will never forget one in particular. The triangular red and white logo juxtaposed against a black and white photograph of a girl pouting while a man anticipates… 

What intrigues us about this image? Almost instantly, we find ourselves peering in, linked to the experience. We sense she is in the wrong place; however, we do not feel that she does not belong or would rather be elsewhere. Time and space are interrupted. We ask ourselves, “Will it occur?” But the chain of events does not matter. What matters is that we are suspended in a rare and captivating moment. And because the image is black and white, we are transported to the exact scene where the ‘film’ unravels. Then the bold red of the typeface and the logo bring us back to life, and we are suddenly alive; the advertisement has won us over…without a guess!

If we know that people can impact an ad’s efficacy, should we consider using people on food packaging? Could we use the interaction between a man and a woman on a coffee bag, for example? In my opinion, yes. Imagine this. A tired corporate executive finds herself standing in a Whole Foods Market. There is no one around. Soft music flutters in and out of her ears. She is standing in the coffee aisle, looking at bags and bags and bags. There’s so much unique packaging, she’s not sure what to choose. But then she sees it—a couple set in black and white. The photograph is beautiful; the packaging seems bound by eternal love as the image wraps fully around the product. It portrays something the executive longs for on a deeper level. “I’ll go for this,” she thinks, grabbing it to pay.

Using people in ad imagery is not a new concept, but could potentially be an innovative idea in the food and beverage domain. We know that ads are geared to make us think and feel. And there’s a whole range of themes emotional ads can trigger, from love to empathy to excitement. I don’t think I’ve ever spent valuable time and money on a product that didn’t trigger an emotion somehow. Even if it may go unrecognized—the power and influence of an emotional experience are unforgettable.

Should packaging portray a feeling using images of people? And if so, what are the most effective ways this can be executed?

How Art on Food Packaging Affects Decision-Making

Oldhand Coffee

Koichi Kiyono

Process

Luna Coffee

AI 2

This is a follow-up to AI (Share of Voice).

Humanistic data governance is my description of AI or:

The process of managing the availability, usability, integrity and security of data in global human societies, based on internal data standards (emotions) and policies (law) that also control data usage (science).

Effective data governance ensures that data is consistent and trustworthy and doesn’t get misused.

This is crucial. My observations from the past ten years show that misuse occurs when governing bodies are unstable, in other words, not properly equipped (mentally, socially, physically, spiritually) to manage said availability, usability, integrity, and security of data.

So, what then is data in my interpretation of AI?

It is energy or every interaction (digital and human) we make.

This energy exists on a conceptual framework or platform. In essence, it can be continually transmuted (actions and results) without much intention required from either the digital or human end.

Much like a geographic information system (GIS), energy provides us with the ability to capture and analyze spatial and non-spatial data.

Part of this data includes our insights, behaviours, and emotions. We capture energy through action and produce a result that causes a chain reaction in human evolution and thought.

There are many points for me to cover here, which demand much more time and consideration. For now, I will try to get my words and ideas down, then perhaps we can come back to it in a couple of months and reassess.

Noninterchangeable: not able to substitute with another. 

For some reason, AI is not readily accessible. It is readily available, but coming across an entity that fully understands its definition within a humanistic context is variable, if not completely unchartered and arbitrary. Still, you can, or perhaps I should mention myself in this situation, look at a person and consider them, as if reading their humanistic data governance level. Again, we come back to the same problem over and over again.

Oversimplification. Redundancy. Incorrect assessments of human error.

Why does it matter? Perhaps, I am too futuristic here? Do I even know the answer? I could have known it in a previous life, let me try to unearth my potential here.

In AI, I spoke about a physical product as a term best used to describe an outcome. I suppose this is the differentiator. We have yet to determine what the physical product will be. We are continually creating new products that utilize AI; however, we have not symphonized the ultimate result.

Oddly enough, the appearance of COVID-19 altered our progression, mostly due to isolation. Without physical interaction, we lose our common ground. We can choose to see this as intentional or casual. Again, I wrote:

In digital reality, a new power takes actionable items related to spatial and non-spatial information to influence a decision-making process, which leads to a result.

If the digital reality we create is not appropriate, lacking power or substance for the sake of laziness and against the challenges/problems we are facing like – damage prevention, protection of the environment, safety regulations, reporting, food shortage, food security, and traceability, then the laws that possibly govern us from a higher resource may have put a stop to it.

That’s the problem. We are starting from square one. 

Product direction requires a dream that can be unlocked following precise steps as if when you awoke from your goal, you could remember every vibrant detail.

As if we were previously positioned in individual dreams, with rulers and usurpers systematically working together, ‘after’ coronavirus, we are retracing our steps, back to the models we have built, starting the race yet again with our shoelaces untied.

The funny thing about being in digital marketing is that this race is entirely peer-driven. The humour is not even funny. We have come to a full-stop and truth be told, there is cooperation, albeit, indifferent. I’m just referring back to new power. As Dave Gerhardt, CEO of Privy mentions in almost all of his LinkedIn posts – how we communicate is vital, and we can’t keep talking about things so that people don’t understand what they’re reading. Well, we could, but what would be the point in that?

And I haven’t even delved into the idea of machines! This is TBC, of course…

For next time,

A conceptual framework is an analytical tool with several variations and contexts. It can be applied in different categories of work where an overall picture is needed. It is used to make conceptual distinctions and organize ideas. – Wikipedia

 

 

 

The Audience Journey

Hey everyone!

As writers, we encounter roadblocks. For myself, one main challenge is believing that my voice, tone, and style are appropriate for business. Letters are usually a personal message sent to a loved one or friend. They can also be a crucial marketing piece, a clever (business letters should be clever) tactic to generate warmer leads.

So, how then do we craft a letter to a prospective client? And is there a way to write a letter that has the voice, tone, and style of a personal message?

In my mind, I envision a communicative piece that is not only unique (resonates with the world) and relatable but effective in portraying a brand’s core message and purpose. After all, at this stage, we are not trying to sell, we are building momentum to get to the selling point. Through powerful storytelling, our approach should stir emotion, provide vital detail, and promote a new relationship that could ultimately blossom into conversion.

I’ve put together notes based on a course I’m taking about brand strategy and expression. The notes identify our writer, audience and customer along a certain trajectory, starting with an introduction to their wants and needs and ending with a transformed sentiment that ushers the participants toward exploring whatever they have defined it to be, on a deeper level.

Have a read and let me know what you think!

Existing World

Using what we know about our audience, we want to paint a picture of our customer’s backstory. This backstory includes what they are familiar with, and how they see themselves. Our goal is to distinguish what type of information could draw the customer in. By identifying relevant demographics and psychographics, then establishing a matching voice, tone, and style, we can conjure an experience that the customer will be ready to associate with.

Obstacle

Whatever our customers may be struggling with is presented to us as their wants and needs. We must ask ourselves, what is their current conflict, what do they need from us, and what emotions should we spark throughout the entire experience. To capture our audience at this stage, messaging must resonate and provide an opportunity for our customer to feel empathy with the characters (voice, tone, and style) that we have now established.

Call to Action

At this step, our audience carefully embarks on the journey, as they have made the decision to call upon this obstacle in their life. Either through increased stress or via messaging that sparks action, our goal here now is to express in a clear and articulate manner the reasons why we are here for them on the journey, emphasizing benefits, launching a revelation or some educational insight.

Meeting the Guide

Here the customer finally meets the guide, who is us, the brand. After being presented with a call to action, the customer has assessed his situation, wants to be further enlightened, and find this so called trajectory to embark on. We have their hand the entire time, and soon after, they become the ones to guide us.

Challenge

Upon the new journey, the customer must now reveal her vulnerability and innermost fears. This can be accomplished through emotional investment or writing that breaks up the challenge into little pieces, making it easy to consume and digest. Our audience may be struggling, however, their desire for a resolution has been roused, so they will continue to explore the presented avenue, unafraid, because they are one step ahead of us.

Transformation

Once we have piqued our audience’s desire for change, mutual reciprocity can be established. The brand’s efforts are paying off and the audience begins to see the rewards. At this stage, it is important to portray contrast between what once was and what is today. This same contrast can be shifted slightly to represent what is today and what the future holds. The emotion felt now is hope, which leads to trust status between the customer and the beloved brand itself.

The New World

Armed with trust, our writer has a new perspective. The obstacle has been overcome and they are inspired to take new, specific actions toward changing the very framework of their business. At this step, belief is established and can continue to blossom under an established agreement or circumstance. I may not meet you, but you will meet my brand and it will help you to do your work, become a better entrepreneur and commit to a brand new cause, because we are here to create solutions for the betterment of humankind.

Go big, right?

Of course, writing the actual letter would not be so dramatic, and roles so cryptic. But what really works well reading the above, is watching a top-rated advertisement on YouTube (try using Elton John & John Lewis & Partners Piano Christmas Commercial), then immediately after, reading this post. You might find that the storyline makes more sense, and ultimately you should be able to apply it to your business letter sales process. 

Have fun ingenues!

Who Are We Campaign – Identifying Top of Funnel Marketing Strategies

This all began at the end of the day, Friday afternoon.

I was leaving i-Open a little bit late. I was put in charge of sending out a Stablebuzz priority newsletter speaking on frameworks released by leading equestrian organizations ensuring a safe return to work for stable owners. My managers (I pretty much work with only managers) were stuck in meetings all day and I was waiting for one to review the final test newsletter. I couldn’t go without his approval. Anyway, long story short, I was finally finished and hopped into the elevator with another man standing there. I did not know who he was, but he definitely worked in the building. He moved into one corner because of COVID-19. He asked how everything was going in the office with us all being back and followed with a classic job interview question: what do you guys do there? I was quick to respond, we’re a tech company and he laughed saying that’s obvious, but what do you do there?

We are all told to have an elevator pitch prepared, but who else only reserves coming up with one for special presentations and interviews? This campaign is based on that idea. The idea that we assume our audience are experts, primed in communication and language technologies. But the truth is, this may not be the case. I’ve spoken with countless business owners, in one role trying to sell digital marketing services. As touchpoint rules say, it always took 3-5 interactions before they were really willing to talk to me. First interactions were like this –

Hey there!

My name is Chona, I work across the street at a company called VanWhistle Media. Do you have some time to speak?

Business owner: Hi. Not really. I am busy at the moment.

So, as you can imagine, not much more can be said there. I could either say no worries, and leave, or, I could provide a more basic, and general description of my goal.

Ah, no worries! I can imagine you are super busy. I have a one-pager that describes what we do with a little more detail. It’s easy to read and my card is attached, so please reach out to me if you have any questions!

Our immediate messaging must be enthusiastic, and look after our audience’s basic needs. Once a certain level of safety or security is established then perhaps, we are able to provide a little something more. Using a hook, we can then present a very basic/general value proposition. In this case, the hook is the one-pager. (I can never forget and it always works out this way – the medium is the message à la M. McLulan!) The value in that is that yes, perhaps the business owner was truly busy, but this does not mean they are not interested. The one-pager gives just enough information to get them hooked. Then once they realize they have interest the relationship begins.

So, why are we in this relationship? As Ezra Firestone, marketing maven and e-commerce guru would say: this is the game. We are all people and we are essentially communicating through various mediums. What this means is that, we are all on the same level in one way or another, however we must learn how to communicate with each other using said various mediums. As a marketer, this means not making the assumption that my audience is interested in what I have to say, but moreover is interested (subliminally) in HOW I am saying it.

I’m about halfway through a Facebook ads mastery course and in the process I have developed a creative ad campaign strategy that touches on the essence of why our group at i-Open Technologies is doing what we’re doing. I’m excited to present it to my team this Friday! Cheers!