Lessons Learned at TOCA 2018
The following articles contain valuable professional development tips and education, as presented at the 2018 TOCA annual meeting. Read on to learn more!
By Britney Riggs, Digital Marketing Specialist, Xylem Marketing
The TOCA roundtables were a great way for us all to share and learn best practices and tips from each other. Below is information from two roundtables:
- Measurement + Evaluation; and
- Productivity + Hacks to help make your job easier.
Roundtables: Measurement and Evaluation
Measurements of which to be aware:
- How conscious consumers are of a company
- Example of measurement: social mentions
- How consumers interact with a brand
- Example of measurement: comments on social
- Growing your customer base
- Example of measurement: Twitter follower growth
- Spend 15% of a project measuring
- Do not waste money on stuff that doesn’t work
- If you’re not going to measure a project, think twice about doing it
- Before you start a project, figure out the success measurement you want to use
- Compare campaigns and see what you need to cut
- Do A/B testing
- Long periods of time are useful to get an accurate picture
Roundtables: Productivity and Hacks
Biggest time wasters:
- How to minimize the time waster: have an agenda, try standing meetings, and block off time
- How to minimize the time waster: turn off notifications from time to time, look at your email only a few times a day (set a reminder in your e-mail provider), put emails in to do lists, and use time tracking tools, like Basecamp or Workfront, to organize projects from e-mail
Signals to alert co-workers you’re trying to be productive:
- Close the door
- Wear ear buds
- Use red and green (or any agreed upon colors) cards to signify you really need to be productive
- Green means they can speak to you
- Red means you really need to work
When you really need to get stuff accomplished try:
- Deep focus music on Spotify
- Coffitivity – Recreates the ambient sounds of a café to boost creativity
- Meditation music
- Stay later
- Beat the crowd
- Walk somewhere else, like a Starbucks if you can
- Limit multitasking
- Do not open another web browser unless necessary
- Take small breaks
- Nope button – The app that sends a call to your phone when coworkers are distracting
Lessons Learned at TOCA 2018
(Note: Ren LaForme, from the Poynter Institute, gave a two-part presentation at the 2018 TOCA Annual Meeting. Scott Covelli recaps through his observations the first part –Digital Tools for Modern Storytelling — while Jill Odom summarizes the second part — Tools for Connecting with Audiences.)
Filling Your Digital Toolbox: Poynter Keynote Presentation
By Scott Covelli, EPIC Creative
“A hammer doesn’t make a good carpenter.”
But it’s awfully helpful, isn’t it? Ren LaForme of the Poynter Institute shared this metaphor early on in his presentation about digital tools — and it set the tone for a presentation at the TOCA annual meeting full of useful tools for journalists and marketers. No tool is going to turn you into a good storyteller, but a unique digital tool can help take your story to the next level.
LaForme challenged the room full of marketers and journalists to ask the question: “Is there a better, more interesting way to tell this story?” Then, he gave us some ways to make that possible. He said that many people don’t use digital tools because of money, time or because of the “haters” who denounce them, but the tools he shared are almost all free, and actually save you time in the long run.
The first chunk of tools all came from Northwestern University’s Knight Lab. They centered around engaging the reader or viewer in your story. LaForme reminded us to always think of the audience. What would make them understand the story better? What would catch their eye or keep their attention?
In a wonderful whirlwind, LaForme introduced us to these digital tools for storytelling:
- StoryMapJS: This tool helps you illustrate events or locations on a map to tell your story. If you’re showcasing fun nightlife spots in a city or highlighting the memorable holes on a golf course, this can be an engaging visual element.
- SceneVR: Zoom in to different parts of a photo to immerse yourself in the details.
- TimelineJS: Similar to StoryMap, but organized in a horizontal timeline.
- JuxtaposeJS: Compare two images with a slider function, best used for before-and-after type stories.
- SoundciteJS: This tool puts audio into a hyperlink right in your story so you don’t have to break up the layout with what looks like a banner ad.
As we’ve heard for years now, we’re in the most visual age ever and video content is crucial. LaForme addressed that issue as well with some of these key video tools:
- Verse: It features all kinds of applications, including Q&A organization, chapters, and clickable “hotspots” on videos.
- Videoshop: It’s intuitive mobile video editing when you’re putting together content on the go.
- Videolicious: Add in b-roll to a story in real-time.
- Clips: Automatically adds captions to your videos that you can edit.
And of course, we can always be more productive and efficient. Great tools help us do a great job while also saving us time. He had some answers to those problems too:
- Tetra: This app records your phone conversations and transcribes them for you, perfect for phone interviews.
- Trint: This one does the same thing as Tetra, but for videos instead of phone calls.
- Descript: If you’re editing audio, it transcribes it and then you can edit it based on the words instead of the sound file. It’s like magic.
- Calendly: Regardless of what kind of email service you have, Calendly helps send seamless meeting invites, or time frames so you can plan meetings better.
As he wrapped up, he gave some final tips on how to get buy-in from your team on adopting some of these tools. First, he simply said to try it. There’s nothing like hands-on experience, and you won’t know how you like it or benefit from it until you try it. Also, LaForme recommended committing to a trial period. More people will be willing to test something if there’s a defined trial period (three months, two weeks, whatever you decide). Lastly, you need to debrief on it after the trial period to hear people’s honest feedback.
When we use tools that make our stories—or our clients’ stories—more interesting and help us be more efficient and effective, we do better work and we’ll feel better too. And we can all get behind that.
Lessons Learned at TOCA 2018
Pointers from Poynter – Engaging with Your Audience
By Jill Odom, Total Landscape Care
Ren LaForme, Digital Tools Reporter, Poynter Institute
Ren LaForme, from the Poynter Institute, shared pointers on the digital tools for connecting with reader audiences at the 2018 TOCA Annual Meeting in May in Cincinnati.
LaForme also presented information on improving modern storytelling and transitioned to his new topic by saying once you have shared the story, you need to engage with your audience.
“The storytelling process used to be talking to your source, typing it and publishing it,” LaForme said. “The additional step is now engaging with your audience.”
Although Facebook was just introduced in 2004, when it was still called ‘thefacebook’ and MySpace was still functioning, social media has come a long way and is now used abundantly both at work and at home. Below are some of the tools and methods LaForme shared
that can help engage audiences.
Some of the first tools he highlighted were True Anthem and Echobox. While these tools are not free, they serve as artificial intelligence that ensures the right content is posted at the right time for the most reach and also looks for related content to share.
Sparemin Headliner allows professionals to combine a picture with audio, called an audiogram. This tool is very technical, according to LaForme, but it allows users the potential to have audio go viral because it can now be shared on social media.
Canva is a website that allows visitors to create images for social media. There are sizes specific to different social media platforms and predesigned layouts. LaForme says the most you’ll pay for an image on the site is $1, but you can also upload your own images to place pull quotes over.
The site Pablo is similar to Canva and is just a little faster with less options to consider.
CrowdTangle is a tool that monitors social media traffic and can be used to watch competitors as well, notifying users to when something is over- or underperforming. It can set up content discovery for certain topics. This platform is free to use, but there is currently a waitlist for access.
Yet LaForme says the best tools for connecting are the social networks themselves. Some people may be looking for the next thing to go viral, but he says this is not feasible nor sustainable in the long run. LaForme says drive-by clicks aren’t nearly as good as returning visitors, which is why cultivating audience engagement (aka loyalty) is so important.
“Audience engagement is building a relationship with your audience,” he said.
Some of the ways LaForme says you can build a relationship with the audience is by sharing interesting and related topics, sharing something personal at times to let them know you’re human, and not ignoring the wisdom of the crowd. LaForme says it’s wise from a business standpoint to know details such as your audience’s age, income, gender and career level so you know who you are posting to.
He says there are three main levels of engagement. For the low-level engagement, this is simply acknowledging what’s going on in the comments. Pointing out facts to trolls can sometimes actually lead to future stories and tagging the subjects of your work can prompt them to engage as well.
When typing social media posts, LaForme says you should stop and ask yourself if you would interact with the post. This will help you craft sentences that open the topic to discussion.
This leads to mid-level engagement, which is when you ask questions that your readers can answer (avoid the rhetorical and technical ones).
LaForme also says to be mindful of what people are engaging with and to circle back around to those topics.
High-level engagement is asking people to share pictures or stories of their own. Be mindful to have a good sense of humor about the information you’re sharing and once again ask yourself if you would do it if you saw the post.
Another option LaForme offers for engaging with your audience is to interact with them at different times during the publishing process. You can let them know what you’re working on beforehand, tweet a summary during the process and promise more, and share it with sources and on multiple platforms after publishing.
“You have to be engaging to engage users,” LaForme said.
In order to be engaging, LaForme encourages communicators to be personal but positive. Although social media is always changing, LaForme’s final thoughts on the matter is to: “Keep your chin up and to have fun. “
Lessons Learned at TOCA 2018
Lessons in Content Marketing
By Dawn Rigby, Managing Director, Xylem Marketing
Content Marketing Panel at TOCA 2018 Annual Meeting, featuring from left to right Veronica Biczo, Bethany Chambers, Matthew McArdle, and Jason Schmaderer.
During the content marketing panel discussion at the annual TOCA meeting in Cincinnati in May, experts representing the green industry media, agency, and manufacturer perspectives shared the latest trends in content marketing.
Bethany Chambers, director of audience engagement at North Coast Media, Matthew McArdle, creative copywriter at Hunter Industries, and Jason Schmaderer, account director at Swanson Russell were panelists. Veronica Biczo, public relations manager at Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply, moderated the discussion.
The word “content” encompasses many different forms of media, and within the subject of content marketing, there are multiple terms and buzzwords used throughout the industry. The discussion among panelists began with definitions.
What is content marketing, why is it important, and what are the benefits of it?
Chambers explained that North Coast Media’s content marketing committee defines content marketing as, “the marketing technique that emphasizes the communication and distribution of relevant, interesting, and educational content that is targeted to the audience and meant to generate engagement.” She also defined sponsored content as the content itself and native advertising as one delivery method that exists within the content marketing technique.
Chambers cited research from the Content Marketing Institute indicating that customers preferred reading articles over traditional ads. She went on to explain how quality content contributes to building a reputation, and that while traditional advertising is useful at generating buzz and building excitement, it is less effective than content marketing at building lasting relationships with customers.
McArdle described content marketing as anything that brings value to their customers and helps them engage with the brand and build trust with them as a manufacturer. Content marketing allows a manufacturer to be a trusted source of information, education, and value for customers.
From the agency perspective, Schmaderer defined content marketing as any quality information that helps move someone along the decision journey. He described traditional marketing as being about the interruption. Today, customers are in charge, and they choose when to engage.
According to Schmaderer, “It’s our job as marketers to find out where our customers are, when they’re going to be there, and what they want. Content is one format to give them what they’re looking for when they want it rather than interrupting.”
How do you measure the effectiveness of content marketing?
While the panelists agreed that there is no one perfect way to measure content marketing, each shared advice on the subject. Schmaderer recommended connecting the line between marketing and sales and comparing results of content marketing against other forms of marketing. Chambers suggested defining what you consider success, and McArdle described specific metrics
used to measure success.
Quantitative metrics, like click-through rates, time on pages, social shares, and the number of followers, are useful indicators to measure the effectiveness of content. Social media also provides qualitative data, like customer comments, which allow marketers to adjust their campaigns in real time based on real-time feedback.
How do you get approval to spend resources on content marketing?
McArdle spoke to the corporate marketing side from the perspective of Hunter Industries, explaining that managers can see value and results from content marketing. While he did not see it as a big challenge, McArdle suggested sharing analytics with managers to gain support and funding for content marketing.
From the agency perspective of convincing clients to invest in content, Schmaderer explained that most brands already see the value in content marketing, but clients can be nervous about the unknown, like shooting video or recording a podcast. Ultimately, it all comes down to the client’s objectives and the key performance indicators being measured. Schmaderer explained, “Can we move the needle using content marketing to drive the actions that our client wants to see happen? And if we don’t think we can do that with content marketing, then we look to other options.”
How should PR folks share their content with editors?
Chambers shared advice for building successful relationships with the media. Get to know the editors, and only send content that is relevant to their audience. Go to your media partners, ask about opportunities and share your expertise. Submit your news in a timely fashion. Most importantly, build relationships. Chambers said that events like the TOCA annual meeting are increasingly incredibly important for your PR strategy because it is an opportunity to build relationships.
What makes remarkable content?
Regardless of whether you are in the publishing, manufacturing, agency or association side of the green industry, try these expert tips from the panelists for creating remarkable content.
- Tell a story.
- Share an “aha” moment.
- Use mixed media and multiple platforms.
- Select delivery channels based on your audience and the message.
- Vary content to keep it fresh.
- Inspire your audience to think differently.
- Focus on the customer.
- Embrace digital content like videos and social media.
- Don’t be generic in your content.
- Try new things and test them.
- Less is more. Do a few things very well.
- Share content that is relevant, valuable, and entertaining.
Lessons Learned at TOCA 2018
(Note: As a first time attendee to an annual TOCA meeting, we asked Courtney Mullen to give us her impressions of the Cincinnati meeting and the impact it had upon her. This is what she had to say.)
First Time Attendee
By Courtney Mullen, Xylem Marketing
To quote Rick Blaine from Casablanca, “TOCA, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
When I first began my job at Xylem Marketing, I was a newbie to the marketing world. My press releases and content writing pieces were a little rough. When my mentor (and boss) mentioned TOCA and the skills she learned from the seminars, I was excited to be able to attend. I hoped to take home valuable insights on how to improve my work.
TOCA did not disappoint! From the panel discussions and roundtables to the keynote speaker, I came away inspired. I discovered new ways to tell a story and, most importantly, how to make it memorable. The panel discussion on the first day focused on what makes up good content and how to relate to the customer and become their trusted source of information.
The second day built on crafting great content with the keynote speaker Ren LaForme sharing the latest in digital marketing tools and strategies for connecting with your audience. Later at the roundtables, I had the opportunity to meet with experienced professionals and ask their advice on everything from achieving career goals to submitting articles to their publications.
The educational and networking opportunities were top-notch, but I came away with more. As a content writer, you can sometimes feel like there is nothing more to say about a topic or this story can’t be told more interestingly—it’s just boring! However, the events at TOCA proved that you can always find a way to be creative and tell a great story. I was introduced to many great stories during my time there — like the presentation by Bradley Dick on restoring Detroit’s community parks and the incredible impact a revitalized park has on a neighborhood.
The awards program on the last night proved we could do some amazing things in our industry. The award-winning work was impressive and motivation for stepping up the creativity. Not to mention I was thrilled that a few of my colleagues were recognized for their work.
When I left TOCA, I felt re-energized in my work. I came home with new ideas and a desire to challenge myself and see what new things I can bring to the industry. If a friendship is supposed to inspire and support, then yes, TOCA, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.