Are you channel surfing or tuning in?

Consider the idea of channel surfing versus tuning in. We’ve all been in the presence of incessant channel surfers. Perhaps you’re even one of them. Surfers skip from channel to channel, certain they can multi-task and watch numerous programs simultaneously. Some just surf out of boredom, looking aimlessly for something to grab their attention. I’ve noticed this habit carrying over to social media as well. Perhaps you recognize it in yourself? Surely it can’t just be me! We skip from platform to platform, one video to the next, an endless crumb trail of links as we chase the shiny object of our fleeting momentary interest.


So here’s my question to you: Are you using the same channel surfing approach to reach out to your customers? Many companies seem desperate these days to keep up with all the new social media platforms and new features. Make no mistake, I think things like Instagram’s new “stories” feature will be beneficial for many. It’s a great feature to engage through visuals and invite one on one contact through messaging, rather then open comments. But it’s not for everybody. Building an audience on new platforms takes time and effort. Blab is super cool, but so was Periscope. Both require audience building. And the channel is only as useful as the reach of it’s audience. Plus the effort to utilize numerous channels often leaves us needing options to manage and schedule content (unless of course you have more then 24hrs in your day to deal with all this stuff). Twitter is a great channel, but there are a lot of people just scheduling content out into the universe in the hopes that it will break through the fire hose of other information. Their auto-responders reply to follows and comments. That’s not being personable or engaged.

We get folks to tune in to content when we engage a channel fully. But it means we need to be present and personable in that channel IN REAL TIME.

As many of you know, I advocate building your marketing presence leveraging the five pillars of your media: owned, rented, earned, embedded and paid. Within these pillars are media vehicles and individual channels. What really has become evident to me, as I’ve observed the actions of wildly successful marketers, is how they have all used the five-pillar approach, but more importantly, how they had selected one or two individual channels to truly engage their audience. Of course those channels were selected with their target audience in mind, and they had a strategy for what they wanted to accomplish in each channel. Seems simple enough eh?

Let me give you a couple examples from the National Speakers Association conference I attended in Phoenix, AZ recently.

Jeanne Robertson, a very successful keynoter and now theater circuit comedian, uses many platforms, but Facebook is undeniably where she truly engages her audience. Link to her Facebook here. It leads to many other places such as Youtube, Twitter and her website, but her primary “channel” is Facebook. Have a look at how she engages and is present in that channel. Note the recency of her posts, the personable responses, the type of “knowing” questions her readers post, obviously familiar with her stories as fans. She is tuned in, and so are her followers.

Scott Stratten, the “unmarketing” guy is another great example of the channel concept. Make no mistake, Scott is virtually everywhere online with his unconventional take on marketing mistakes, but he got his followers initially with a Youtube viral hit, and later as an early adopter on Twitter. @unmarketing is his handle there and he has over 183,000 followers on that channel. But here’s the curious thing: he DOESN’T AUTOMATE POSTS. He only posts in real time. And he only posts when he has something cool to share, and he is present on the channel in real time with exchanges that follow that post. By deciding to actually be social and not an automated app endlessly tweeting into the fire hose of content, he has garnered an audience that tunes in.

It’s not just online channels that work this way. Off line can be a goldmine. Kay Frances is another great example of someone virtually everywhere online for her motivational humor, but her channel of choice for engagement is direct mail. She has built a killer database and she sends out notes and fun promotional pieces to the people who hire her regularly.

I could go on with examples, but what really struck me was many of these successful folks had selected a particular channel to tune in with their target audience, and then they made themselves fully present on that channel. That’s the thought I’ll leave you with. Are you channel surfing, trying to be everywhere with your marketing, or are you tuned in on your channel of choice?

What do you think? Email me with your thoughts.  I’m present on this channel and always happy to hear from you with comments too. Or if you’re more into Twitter, my handle is @marycharleson


Why do people share online content?

This week I’d like to consider the question, “Why do people share online?” At the heart of understanding this is the key to making content go viral and increasing the spread of your content marketing. That’s pretty important stuff if you’re looking to increase marketing effectiveness for minimal budget.

A friend sent me a link to this article by Brent Coker, called: PR Secrets, How to go viral. Essentially he argues it’s about social currency. “People share things because they want to be seen in a certain way – your friend who constantly shares TED talks likely wants to be seen as intelligent, while your friend who shares memes wants to be seen as funny.”

Basically he is saying people will share if they think it will enhance someone’s opinion of them. My friend noted this was likely obvious, but she hadn’t made that link before.

I’d like to add my own spin on this, and ask you to consider this: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. IT’S ABOUT THEM.



I think the secret to having your content shared is to consider the next person in line to share, not yourself. Knowing my audience, if I give you something that you will in turn look good sharing, I have pretty much guaranteed you will continue to share the content. And the cycle will continue. That’s the secret of going viral. Essentially it’s less about making myself look smart, funny, insightful or connected to an inner circle. It’s about celebrating you taking credit for it.

Ruminate on that one for a while. It just might cause you to think differently about what you share and how you do it.

What is your flag? Who do you serve, how do you do it, and why?

A flag is a symbol. It’s a highly recognizable label of a country or an organizations brand. As such, that brand reflects the values, beliefs and character of the nation or the group. As a Canadian I fly the red and white maple leaf. These days it has come to represent freedom, compassion and inclusiveness. That give me pride because it aligns with my values.


But how would you define your PERSONAL flag?

Your personal flag summarizes what you stand for, your ideals and why others should gather around you. Really it comes down to responding to three simple questions:

Who do you serve?
How do you help?
Why do you do it?

This week, I invite you to take 10 minutes and make some notes. Try to answer these three questions in a tight, and quantifiable manner. To get things rolling, here is how I define my purpose and my flag.

  • I serve entrepreneurs, marketing managers, students and anyone who wants to market their business or ideas.
  • I speak, write and consult, but ultimately teach and inspire.
  • I help you connect what you do well with an audience that cares. It’s about helping you sell your products, services or ideas.
  • I do it through teaching, consulting, speaking and writing.
  • I share, so others can be successful. That’s what gets me up in the morning.

But I’d like to also add a fourth question for you to consider…

  • Is what is on my “to do list” today advancing those goals? I’d like to suggest that if it’s not, get it off your list!

I have to admit, this is one I struggle with daily, but being crystal clear on my flag and purpose certainly does help keep the meaningful stuff in focus.

What Crocs, Uggs and Earth Shoes can teach us about good marketing

I distinctly remember the season I spent walking up hill. It was the year that earth shoes were all the rage. For those who weren’t yet born, or would just like to forget them, earth shoes had a sole with a higher rise at the front than the back. The width of the toe was also decidedly broad, presenting a less then sleek and glamorous look poking out from your jeans. Thank goodness flares were also in fashion, or we might all have looked like clowns. Take that back, I think I did anyway. Graced with size 11 feet at the age of 12, the variety of available sizes for my footwear fashion choices peaked early and has been pretty much in decline ever since!

But back to earth shoes. They were ugly, but they sold like hot cakes.


Just like Crocs, those very comfortable, colourful, holey things that really don’t belong in the same sentence as fashion.

crocsLikewise for Uggs, a decidedly bizarre hot weather footwear choice to emerge out of Australia that became all the rage with teen girls a couple seasons ago.


Each of these three items touted comfort over style, but in evoking desire for their comfort attributes, they became stylish despite themselves. Such is the strange world of marketing and creating demand.

What might we learn from Uggs, Crocs and Earth Shoes for our own marketing?

1. You can create desire for almost anything with good marketing.

2. But nobody will buy your product or service more then once if it doesn’t do what is promised.

While simple enough in principle, in practice we often overlook number 2, thinking that number 1 is where our efforts should be. Summed up another way – get good first. Then worry about how to broadcast your value. This message becomes particularly important in an era where word of mouth and word of mouse (online through social channels and off line the good old fashioned way) is so important. It’s also where earned media kicks in when your business becomes newsworthy. And as regular readers will already know, that earned media then begs to be leveraged through your owned and rented channels.

Have you ever bought something because of really catchy advertising, then been disappointed in the product or experience? Likewise have you ever bought something and been absolutely delighted, and then gone off telling everyone?

It’s all about getting good first. That’s the best marketing out there.


Taking a risk! How a new audience can grow awareness and business

Last last week I conducted a little experiment. I was curious about expanding the audience for my written work about marketing in the Huffington Post. I usually publish to the business section, targeting an entrepreneur audience. However, this past week I did a personal branding piece and went on a bit of a rant about grammar, and how your written word in private and public forums is a reflection of your personal brand. I targeted millenials as the largest offenders in my piece. Admittedly it was a well-articulated rant, and a bit of a poke with a stick into the hive of 20-somethings. But here’s the key. With some trepidation, I deliberately left a grammar error in the article. I was hopeful that the editors at Huff Post would miss it – and they did. And so to press it went, fully exposed and vulnerable to criticism, with a piece about using good grammar, when I knew there was a mistake within it.

What I was counting on was a new audience sharing it, commenting, and being confident that eventually someone would find the mistake, out me on it, and the sharing would then accelerate even further.

Lower torso of woman standing with arms crossed

I had my fingers crossed that a 20 – something would be the one to find the error, and not one of my older, word-wise editing type colleagues. It went live on Huff Post Living section on Monday and generated considerable likes, share and lively discussion. And then on Wednesday, it exploded. A young gal in high school criticized me about using “poll” instead of “pole” in one sentence. Her millennial friends immediately pounced on board too, vindicated and adding to the discussion. Admittedly it was uncomfortable for a while, but I let it roll along before responding about the social experiment that had gone down, and then asked her if I might hire her! I have a number of clients who could use a good writer and proofer, and I was quite serious about connecting her to the opportunity.

If you’re curious to read the piece, “You’re being judged, you just don’t know it” – here’s the link. The grammatical error has since been revised however.

So what was at play here?

  • Exposure to a new section of Huff Post and by default a new audience interesting in personal branding.
  • Exposure of the Facebook post, Huffington Post article, my website and blog to a new audience.
  • But here’s the kicker: measureable spiked traffic to my “owned media platform”(website and blog), plus increased enewsletter sign ups, where I then get permission to engage one on one in the future. Experience has taught me that future business is generated from those that I engage with and share useful information on a regular basis. We buy from those that we know, like and trust.

My point with all this is – sometimes we need to shake things up and do something different to grow our businesses. And sometimes we need to take a risk, or become vulnerable. I’d love to hear about what risk you have taken that paid off for your business.

5 Tips to get more earned media

You can’t beat the credibility of earned media. In an era where it seems we are all fighting to be heard above the noise within social media, it is easy to dismiss the simple and massive reach of more traditional media methods. All successful print and broadcast channels these days are also amplifying that content via digital means online, which means you actually achieve even further clout should you get coverage. And, once that coverage is online, it is there for you to further broadcast it through your own channels. The magic of course being that it is third party endorsement, and you can attach your success to the media’s brand.


Achieving media coverage is a pretty compelling value proposition and certainly one worth devoting some effort towards. So here are five tips to make the task simpler and increase the likelihood of success.

1. Know a reporters expertise. Reporters are inundated with press releases and pitches daily. If it’s not related to their area of coverage, they will hit delete. Ideally you are familiar with a reporters beat and have read or heard their stuff. Over the long term this will also gain you a respectful relationship with them, so that when you do send them something well targeted, they are more likely to respond. If you’re always shouting to everyone, nobody will listen.

2. Make the reporter look good and help them serve their audience. Your real job in writing the pitch is to make that reporter look good to their boss. The best way to do that is to help the reporter serve his/her audience. The reporter lives and dies by how they serve their audience. The media outlet is also in the rating and social sharing game. They are obsessed with going viral. They want a story that readers or viewers will share online. The bottom line here is: it’s about them, not about you. If you can frame your pitch from that perspective, you will be ahead of 95% of the pitches sitting in reporters email boxes right now.

3. Send media a story they are hungry for. What is in the news right now that is hot? (Britain’s bid to exit the UE? Donald Trumps bid for presidency? Forest fires? Global warming? Foreign ownership and real estate prices? The Tragically Hip’s final tour?) The news can be international, national or local, but you should frame your take on it from the geographic area where you are and where you want to achieve coverage. What are some trends of interest? Is there a celebration day that is relevant for timely coverage? (Father’s Day in June, July 1st Canada Day or the 4th of July in the US for example) Lists are hot. Browse the headlines of Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post and you’ll see lots of lists – The 5 things you need to know… How to get a promotion in 3 easy steps…) Lists are good because they are finite, organized, have a takeaway and are shareable. They’re also ideal for a population conditioned to receive information in bite size nuggets, which is increasingly the case in our time-starved society. The key here is to look at the publication or station you would like to target and see what would fit with their editorial style and reader or viewer interest. This of course requires you to do some homework, but it is that work which will help you stand out from others.

4. You absolutely, positively need a compelling subject line. I’m talking email subject line here, but it could also be a catchy headline on Twitter if you were tagging or personal messaging a reporter on Twitter. Make the subject line clever, but simple. Shorter is better, and if you’re not sure how it will display on mobile (which is where it is most likely to be previewed or deleted), send yourself a test to your mobile device. These days your subject line needs to be mobile friendly. You want that headline to display fully and grab the reporter to click and read more. Frankly it doesn’t matter what is in the email if the recipient never makes it past the headline. Do your research, and model the existing style for the particular media you are targeting with your pitch. Check what kind of headlines they write. Get creative and draft yours in a similar light. Just remember while clever is good, don’t over complicate it.

5. Keep the pitch short, simple and tight. If your communication is written poorly or is unclear, a reporter won’t have time for you. Make sure you tell the reporter what is in it for them and their audience right at the very beginning. Essentially respond to questions such as, why is this relevant, and why now? Try to make a human and emotional connection. Put a short bio and contact information at the end. The reporter will read the headline, if it captures their interest, they will skim the text. Keep all of this relatively short, and again, remember the context of mobile viewing. Send yourself a test copy. Did it grab you? How long did it take to skim the copy? Sometimes an image within the body of the email (no attachments!) can tell the story quickly and hit an emotional hot button. If you’ve got an image that tells the story in fewer words, by all means use it, but be sure to size it right for the email so it loads quickly and displays properly. Again, send yourself a test first to your mobile device.

Of course these points are just about how to get the reporters attention. There is a lot more to consider if you score coverage, especially if interviewed. Practice thinking and talking in sound bites, since your interview will likely be edited.

Just in time for the May 2-4 weekend: Molson Canadian – meet Budweiser “American”

Last week I received an email from a former marketing class student about Budweiser beer reportedly changing the name on cans over the summer from “Budweiser” to “America”. She thought for sure it was a hoax, or at the very least a publicity stunt meant to garner headlines for an established brand in a mature category fighting for every last incremental decimal sales increase. On the latter point, she was correct, but evidently the plan to change the name is real. Go figure, only in America.


The campaign, called “America is in Your Hands,” will run from May 23 through November and will include on cans and bottles passages ranging from Pledge of Allegiance to lyrics from “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” It will all fall into the hands of a drinking public bracing itself for a presidential election unlike any before it. The new cans and bottles will include images like a magnified view of the Statue of Liberty’s torch and Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. It’s important to note that Budweiser has ventured into this patriotic territory before. Following the 911 attacks, they showed in a commercial, Clydesdales crossing the Brooklyn Bridge pausing by the World Trade Center.

Within hours of the news breaking, FOX quoted Donald Trump saying he took the name change as an endorsement for his campaign. Perhaps someone should inform the Donald that he hasn’t yet trademarked the term America, but whatever…

Not withstanding the fact that Budweiser’s beer sales will likely tank in Canada this summer, they no doubt will climb in certain parts of the US, since the new brand name will resonate with many, despite political connotations otherwise. Indeed we have had Molson “Canadian” for years, and it has served the company well.

My point this week however is about how Trump attached himself to the headline. Budweiser was all over the news, and he grabbed yet another opportunity to ride their coat tales. Love him or hate him, the man knows how to get publicity.

Publicity is “earned media” – that stuff you get for free, usually the benefactor of the broad reach of an established players broadcast or print footprint. Here are 3 ways to leverage headlines for publicity gain:

1. Monitor the news. Follow what is gaining momentum, and if you can, attach yourself to it while the item is taking off. Headlines are usually short lived, so you need to act fast.

2. Be creative. Use play on words, tap a common held inference, or be slightly sensationalized or unbelievable. Keep in mind whatever you do must make sense for your brand and be in keeping with your values and culture. Otherwise you risk being seen as unauthentic and chasing the headline purely for monetary gain.

3. Be provocative. Newsmakers and the internet love controversy. The trick with using shock headlines is to always be able to back it up with substance.

When Prince George was born a couple summers ago to Kate and William, and the Royal family, newsmakers went nuts. It was an absolute publicity gift to baby industry businesses in Prince George BC, in fact, any business in Prince George BC. I wrote about it on this blog that week, but largely the opportunity was lost, except for a few government officials capitalizing on it. However Tourism Las Vegas did pick up on the news. Hot on the heels of Uncle Harry’s Vegas indiscretions, they declared in an ad “Congratulations on the Royal Addition. See you in 21 years!” The ad of course was paid, but the media publicity hype and coverage they garnered around it for a well-played inference was brilliant. They attached themselves to the news item and gained far more coverage then what they paid for.

Vegas_PrinceGeorgeThat’s my point with all this. In an age where earned media can give your brand tremendous reach, and then further give you the golden gift of that earned media being infinitely shareable on social media to earn word of mouth, I think it’s worth our while to leverage news headlines where we can.

 founder Daniel Dubois’ five key insights for entrepreneurs

When a desirable offering meets a growing audience at the intersection of trends and technology you likely have a winning business prospect. When you compliment it with the disruptive forces of the sharing economy and add passion and purpose, you get Daniel Dubois and, likely to do for adventure tourism, what AirBnB did for global accommodations., launched earlier this month was created with the goal of increasing access to outdoor adventure. It lets people search for and book activities led by local outdoor enthusiasts or certified guides depending on the risk involved. Offering an alternative to big tours and travel packages, participants are invited to experience a new area like a local., essentially acting as a portal uniting buyers and sellers, takes 15% of each booking with the balance going to the trip leader. Currently operating in the Vancouver/Sea to Sky corridor, the company plans expand the offering across BC, the Rockies and Calgary during the summer. They have plans to be coast to coast by year-end, and to have taken the concept North America wide by next year.

It all started when Dubois watched a TED Talk by Rachel Botsman on the rise of collaborative consumption. At the time, the concept of the sharing economy, and the idea that “It’s not what you own, but what you have access to” was in its infancy, so Dubois packed his bags and went to meet with the mayor of San Francisco and the founders of AirBNB and Uber to learn more. What he found was a shift in economic thinking that really aligned with his values and purpose. Doors opened up. He subsequently went on to launch, a website where people could gain access to outdoor gear and equipment based on borrowing from others near by, through an access portal online. While that business venture proved a great testing ground to learn, and is now at the core of MEC’s retail rental offerings, the testing of various trip options as an additional offering to Share Shed helped Dubois realize users were seeking community in the outdoors in addition to the use of gear. was an answer to that bringing together buyers and sellers of authentic outdoor experiences. This concept is infinitely scalable and is right on target with a future we crave that uses the power of technology to connect with humans again.

Dubois has raised over $1 million and has a dream team of investors including Ryan Holms founder of Hootsuite and Mike Walsh a seed investor in Uber. He won the Global Student Entrepreneur Award to represent Canada along side 50 other students from 50 countries in Thailand this summer. He shared the stage with a director of AirBNB and an Apple co-founder while speaking to an audience at Interdome in Banff last summer. In 2015 he spoke to 20,000 youth at WE Day, sharing the stage with Kofi Annan, Romeo Dallaire and Martin Luther King III, about the sharing economy and collaborative consumption. He’s lectured at MIT to a class of entrepreneurs. Last summer he was a G20 delegate to Istanbol, and this summer he will again be joining the G20 Summit in Beijing as part of the Young Entrepreneur Alliance to shape international policy.

Not bad for a guy who still hasn’t graduated from Capilano University. Still five courses short of earning his degree in business, Dubois figures he’ll “graduate someday.” Arguably, he’s learned far more outside the classroom then the balance of those credits will ever merit.

Dubois’ 5 Key insights for aspiring entrepreneurs 

1. Follow your passion and purpose. Dubois notes that entrepreneurs that are growing their businesses are the ones that are aligned with their purpose. He suggests making decisions based on your values. Use your values to ask, “What’s my big why for doing this?” If you want to be excited about something that keeps you up late and gets you up in the morning, understand why you are doing what you’re doing.

2. Understand trends & disruptive forces. Big trends viewed from the 30,000-foot level can offer a sweet spot for innovation and disruption. Dubois notes that the sharing economy and the notion that “It’s not what you own, but what you have access to” has disrupted the traditional economic model. It’s the reason why Uber and AirBnb have been so successful. The one-click economy and on-demand economy with real time inventory control are forces that are shifting demand. The sharing economy is part of that bigger overall trend. Security, automation, the mobile internet, effects of demographics and population shifts, disruptive payment and delivery systems are also areas creating opportunity.

3. Storytelling is key. Being able to articulate the story about your business creates an emotional connection and gives people a reason to care. Sharing it verbally and in writing goes a long way to gaining a following, be that investors or customers. While it’s not mandatory, it’s even better if you as the founder are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. Dubois has learned at a very young age to deliver his story in a relaxed, passionate and charismatic manner which charms all who listen.

4. Make connections and do your research. Very early on Dubois ventured to San Francisco to interview the founders of Uber, AirBnb, Google and others in the hotbed of technology innovation and the sharing economy. It formulated his knowledge of opportunities, but it also allowed him to score a pretty impressive list of connections that later fueled investment in his business.

5. Test the market and make your offering scalable. Dubois talks a lot about market testing both the supply and demand side of since the offering as an online portal for adventure is at a unique intersection of both sides of the economic model. He stresses the importance of testing the market, making mistakes and doing corrections prior to expanding. Ultimately for a business to be wildly successful it will require scaling. Be sure to have the systems in place to do that.

And what’s with the two “ii’s” in Far from a typo, Dubois notes it makes the brand unique and it represents two people getting outside for an authentic adventure. He’s an impressive young man with an incredible grasp at a very young age, on what it takes to be successful.

Content marketing & the REACH factor

It used to be that advertising was all about planning reach and frequency. To a certain extent it still is for paid efforts, but when you’re trying to milk free platforms, like your own anchored content through blogs and enewsletters, as well as social media, earned media and embedded editorial, REACH is the name of the game. You CAN control frequency of your own platforms, but not the frequency of earned media. And earned media is a major pillar in your media empire.

Media reach matters.

That point was driven home to me this past week. My son Alex Charleson is a professional longboard racer. He was the 2015 IDF World Junior Champion. We don’t get to choose what our kids get good at! He is currently ramping up for the world circuit, and in an effort to promote himself and benefit his sponsors who pay for his travel, he got his branding and media in order. Call it a prompt from Mom, and a little insider consulting advice. He now has his website up and running, and linked out and back to all his sponsors and social media channels. While doing that, he finally posted a video to Youtube that was shot last year in Colorado. That prompted the guy who shot and edited it to submit the video to “People are awesome” which has a substantial media reach through Facebook (over 3 million who follow the page and receive daily featured videos), Youtube (with over 1.1 million subscribers) and the website  (with over 3.6 million subscribers) and countless media features on platforms such as CNN, FOX, TED, Huffington Post, TIME and SUN media.

Low and behold, the video got featured April 27. Link here and scroll to that date to watch it.

My son got the heads up it was being featured about 8 hours after it was posted. The friend from Sweden who had filmed and edited it was a few time zones ahead of him. I watched it on Facebook over coffee in the morning and then shared with friends. It was at 164,000 views, which I thought was pretty remarkable. I went to refill my coffee, and then checked back on the post. It had gone to 167,000 views – up 3,000 in about 2 minutes. That’s when I went investigating the REACH of this channel and was blown away. Within 24 hours it had gone to 276,000 views. Currently it sits at over 335,000 views.

PeopleAreAwesome_FBpost Why the fixation on a longboarding video?

Besides being out marketed by an 18 year old, which still hadn’t had a shower that morning, he had taught me an incredibly important lesson.

The REACH of your media matters. Few of us have platforms with that kind of subscriber base, but if we can tap into earned media with that kind of reach, their vehicle will do all the heavy lifting for us. All apparently while you’re taking a shower!

We of course want to build our owned media platform reach as well as followers on social media platforms, but at the end of the day, we’re unlikely to have the same degree of reach and influence as an established media player. So why not focus on getting earned media on those big number platforms, and then share it out on our other channels – our owned and rented platforms?

In Canada those big reach players might include: The Globe and Mail, Canadian Living, CBC, Huffington Post or Buzz Feed. In the United States CNN, Fox, NBC, the New York Times and Time magazine are but a few. Obviously crazy popular video sharing platforms fall into the mix too. I am now officially addicted to “People are awesome” for my daily adrenaline dose!

3 insights from Sweden to harness media & generate word of mouth

The “Curators of Sweden” was a great example of tourism marketing. The campaign featured an overall initiative where the controls of the countries @Sweden Twitter handle were handed over to Swedish citizens for rotating one-week stints. People from all over the world were invited to ask questions and exchange thoughts in an unedited forum. The trust and openness was meant to reinforce the values the country wanted to portray. Plus it certainly earned them some significant media coverage, especially in a global political era where freedom of speech is not had by all. Learn more about the Curators of Sweden campaign in this summary video.

Well, Sweden is at it again.

And they certainly know how to churn up word of mouth to leverage social media and both online and offline traditional media. The latest campaign by the Swedish Tourist Association launched April 6. Sweden now has its own international country phone number, +46 771 793 336, where callers are connected to speak to a random Swede. Once again, people are encouraged to ask ordinary Swedes about anything they want from hiking, feminism, snow, gay rights, parental leave, northern lights, Ikea meatballs – whatever! Volunteer Swedish ambassadors, who have downloaded the app, are the ones who receive the random calls. So far more then 11,000 calls have been placed. The initiative is to celebrate 250 years since the country abolished censorship. Pretty cool eh?

Watch a video about how it works here.


Admit it, you’re going to try calling the number aren’t you?

And that’s the point, there’s and irresistible temptation to this campaign that taps human nature.

So far the video has garnered over 378,000 views, and has earned them media coverage from the New York Post, The Guardian in the UK, Time Magazine, Australia TV, and countless other smaller media outlets worldwide.

This initiative is a great example for learning how to harness social media, traditional media, and generate word of mouth. Key insights:

1. The power of story. To leverage word of mouth, mouth and mobile online and off you need to wrap your message in a story. People love to hear and share a good story. Who wouldn’t want to hear about crazy random phone calls being made to Sweden with uncensored responses?

2. Video + visuals. While the PR folks can send out releases and contact traditional media, nothing brings a story to life like visuals and video. Having a video that is searchable and linked to the publicity push helps gain coverage. Media love stories with visuals, and visuals are what will get posts shared to social media noticed.

3. The unbelievable / remarkable / absurd / funny element. Whenever a story has an angle that prompts people to scratch their heads or react with a “OMG – I have to see that” you know you’ve got something word of mouth worthy. This particular campaign screamed trust and authenticity, something sadly lacking in many parts of the world.

Of all these three, I have to say it really does all evolve out of great storytelling. Without that, the other two really don’t matter. When you learn tell great stories, you have truly mastered one of the key elements of marketing. And when you are constantly on the lookout for an interesting story, or how to frame a story around your business, it makes leveraging your media so much easier.

What stories do you tell about your business? How could you make those stories irresistible for others to tell?