CVM Makes [Radio] Waves!
A few days ago I did a radio interview with Maria Reitan of PurseStrings, a show about marketing to women. Because I get totally nervous when it comes to live media of any type (the irony, I know), I jotted down some rather extensive and meticulous notes beforehand. After all, I can’t be expected to answer tough questions like “Tell us about Channel V Media?” on the spot like that… (Hopefully I’ll nail that one some day.)
As these things go, I didn’t end up saying anything I wrote down, but there were a few good points—I think—so, I figure why not share them here?
If you’re interested in reading a transcript-of-things-I-didn’t-actually-say-but-would-have-liked-to, that is directly below…
Welcome to the show. Tell us about Channel V Media, which you founded just five short years ago.
We’re Digital Alchemy a digital marketing and PR shop in Manhattan. In terms of services, we do everything from web and mobile development to brand strategy, PR, social and content. A typical client might come to us looking for one of these things, but we try to shift their focus from tactics to outcomes: brand awareness, audience generation…market domination. That sorta thing.
Our clients span the spectrum–we work with b2b and b2c clients, so anything from a huge ad agency or law firm to green products, CPG brands, restaurant chains, technology, new apps, and beyond…
What led you to establish Channel V Media? And what do you think has led to your company having so much success in such a short amount of time?
My partner Kate Fleming and I were both working at traditional PR firm where we both saw a ton of untapped potential for content and online media. That firm was really good at what they did, but they only did one thing (PR). Meanwhile, it was clear that media was expanding to include blogging, social media, etc.–new and different ways of expanding brands’ presences and voices. I was also writing two top secret blogs at the time and seeing ridiculous traction there–opportunities, exposure, offers from publishers–and there was no denying the potential this could offer our clients. By limiting ourselves to only PR, we felt we were at the mercy of whatever our clients’ did to the rest of their brands. And often they weren’t doing very good things…
Regarding success: our secret is doing really good work and being honest. Oh, and understanding our clients’ businesses. These things probably seem cliche, but they’re not common. We hear all the time that no other firms a prospect has talked to asked them what their revenue streams were or questioned their poor branding. To us, that’s mind boggling. How can we support your business if we don’t understand it? We can’t.
And of course, sometimes the whole honesty thing backfires on us considering some people don’t like criticism–“your website is a liability,” “you’re not newsworthy,” “you don’t seem authentic,” etc.–but that’s how we’ve grown our business. We realized that we could get a client in the Wall Street Journal or on the Today Show, but if the client’s web presence was a mess or there was no way for new visitors to connect with them, then they would deem PR ineffective. So yeah, those are our tricks and I guess they’re working since we’ve accidentally become a 100% referral business.
Let’s talk about agencies and the “I” word. Agencies are all talking about “integration.” PR agencies, ad agencies, even digital agencies. What’s your take on integration and how do you decide what discipline “leads” to solve client problems?
Well, we’re basically the epitome of integration. It’s really just a way of life over here; it defines everything we do, although I don’t think we ever really use that word because it sounds too business-y. Or like a buzzword.
I think that most agencies that talk about integration are usually those who are trying to build on a core competency–like what you said: PR, advertising, or digital. The difference between them and us is that everything we do is our core competency and we don’t really lead with one over the other. Clients and brands that bank on the idea that they can just focus on one marketing discipline–say, Public Relations–are never satisfied. They’re never going to get what they want because it all has to work together–and it has to integrate with non-marketing efforts like sales, product development, and so forth. Brands with a bunch of disparate agencies, each handling different things–that can be a mess too. With us, it’s all tightly controlled and on the same page.
“Social” is changing every day. A new way to engage with consumers seems to pop up every week. What tools are you working with right now that you feel are doing a good job of creating that level of engagement brands are seeking with and through consumers?
Blogging will always be a go-to for us. That’s always in style over here. The type of blog posts that readers gravitate toward is always changing though–from long to short; from text-heavy to image-driven; and so on. We extend blog content and other content using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And we also like Pinterest and Instagram for imagery. Those are all the obvious ones, of course–but that’s exactly why we like them: they’ve reached critical mass. There are a million things out there that have really cool capabilities or cutting edge layouts–and we like to toy with those on our own time, but when it comes to our work for brands, we we stick to what’s going to get them the most exposure rather than what’s the coolest or newest.
Oh, and we do a lot of mobile. That’s good for engagement. If done right, that is. (That’s the perennial disclaimer.)
What’s the next big thing? Everyone wants to be one step ahead of the next Facebook or Pinterest.
Becoming your own thing is always the next big thing. Not being dependent on anybody else . Getting people to come to you. The social sites are the launching-off points for that, not the end goal. That’s where you go and cast the net, but you always want to bring people back to you.
Conversely, what’s on the decline? And has Twitter peaked?
I think Twitter needs some quality control but it hasn’t peaked. Everyone thinks it has peaked because it’s annoying. Or because they’ve finally figured it out. It’s no longer a mystery or a novelty, so they want the next big thing. (I mean, they’ll let anyone in this party!) I think that if anything, people are becoming more dependent on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
The stuff on the decline, unfortunately, are the cool platforms that can’t compete with these guys. It’s like when Starbucks came in and wiped out every unique coffee shop in the country. I seriously can’t find a good one to go to…
Content is king now more than ever. Consumer generated content is coveted by many brands. How do you light that fire under consumers to get them to participate in a big way?
There are contrived ways that feel icky, like always posing boring questions on social media and letting the responses poor in, or holding lackluster video contests and giveaway. But their are also authentic ways. I’ve always liked brands that let fans personalize something–like the Simpsonize me thing or the M&M-n-izer thingamajig from a while back–but really, the ideal way is to create a product or service that people want to talk about or somehow align with.
A brand like Spanx, for instance, is solving a huge problem for women, and as a result, women talk about it unprompted. All. The. Time. As Zig Ziglar used to say–“the best way to get what you want is to help people get what they want.” Spanx has figured out what its audience wants and it helps them get there. And their audience returns the favor. So if you want consumer generated content, I think the key is less about figuring out how you can get people to do specific stuff for you and more about how to figure out how you can do stuff for them. And then be open to what comes from there rather than setting your sites on a specific format like video or stories or whatever.
What about branded content? What do companies need to consider before pushing out content via YouTube, their own sites, etc? What should the goal be with branded content?
Before touching any piece of content, brands and marketers seriously need to ask themselves: would complex human beings with diverse personalities and emotions watch, read, or listen to this? Or is it better suited for lifeless robots? If the latter, step away from the content! I feel like companies forget that the people they’re trying to reach are, well…people. We tell our b2b clients that all the time: “Just because your subject matter is technical, doesn’t mean it has to be boring.” You can do really entertaining stuff around any topic. And should. Especially if you’re slapping your brand on it.
How important is design? Do consumers just want the information or is it critical that it comes in a great looking package?
It’s like asking how important good looks are. People will say they’re immune–and maybe they try to be–but they’re not. We’re all superficial to some extent, even if subconsciously. I don’t think that great design is crucial (although we strive for it), but good design is. Bad design will simply eliminate prospects and opportunities.
In regard to packaging–I was talking to Stefan Sagmeister a few months ago–he’s kind of a god of product design (whatever that means). He said that the products that need the best packaging are those like water or vodka–things that non-discerning consumers truly can’t tell apart aside from the packaging. This has stuck with me. It applies to my business and to my clients’ businesses. Professional services, consumer packaged goods, whatever–if on the surface you have no visible differentiator, and you do the same thing as the other guys, the only way the consumer can tell you apart is in how you present and position yourself. This affects visual design, tone, and beyond…
What trends are you keeping a close eye on as we roll into 2013?
I’m actually always looking at the people and brands that do their own thing and don’t follow trends. These are the ones that create the trends. Once something’s a trend, it’s out of style for those leading the pack. Of course, leading the pack isn’t always the goal. I just happen to appreciate those who are.