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Understanding Millennials

October 31, 2011

This is what I knew about millennials: I wasn’t one. I also knew that if I intended to communicate with this next generation, that was no excuse.

I got a great head start at understanding millennials at our PRSA Kansas chapter’s professional development day. Jeff Fromm (@JeffFromm), senior vice president of sales, marketing & insight for Barkley, shared stats and attitudes from his agency’s study of nearly 5,000 millennials and non-millennials : American Millennials, Deciphering the Enigma Generation.

First, three reasons why it’s important to understand, decipher, and communicate with millennials: size, spending power, and influence.

“Since the Millennials generation is larger than the Baby Boomers and three times bigger than Generation X, marketers’ understanding of Millennials’ needs, tastes and behaviors will clearly shape current and future business decisions,” said Fromm, when the survey findings were initially released in August.

Some of the findings us non-millennials could guess: Millennials are “digital natives” and multitaskers. Others were surprising: They support big government and want to become involved with causes.

Here are more details and highlights:

1. Millennials are the first generation of “digital natives.”

  • The research showed that  millennials are 2.5 times more likely to be an early adopter of technology than older generations.

2. Millennials are interested in participating in social marketing.

  • Millennials are significantly more likely than  to explore brands in social networks. And when it comes to making purchases, millennials are far more likely to favor brands that have Facebook pages and mobile websites.

3. Millennials believe in cause marketing.

  • Millennials are more likely than non-millennials to develop a more positive image of a company as the result of cause marketing programs. More millennials than non-millennials attempt to buy products from companies who support the causes they care about.

4. Millennials crave adventure.

  • Significantly more millennials than non-millennials described themselves as adventurous and expressed a desire to be considered a “done-it-all.” More millennials reported a willingness to encounter danger in pursuit of excitement, compared to non-millennials.

5. Millennials strive for a healthy lifestyle.

  • 60% of millennials say they try to work out on a regular basis. 26% consider themselves health fanatics.

6. Millennials seek peer affirmation.

  •  68% of millennials usually don’t make a major decision until they have discussed it with a few people they trust.

Lots of good insights on how to better communicate, market, friend, work with – and for – this powerful generation. Thanks to Jeff Fromm and Barkley for sharing this data and helping make millennials less of an enigma.

Social media as a continuum

January 20, 2011

Social media, Facebook, Twitter, FlickrFacebook hubs have replaced web sites. Shareable social objects have replaced lifeless content. Earned relationships have replaced marketing collateral. Relevancy and context is the communicator’s — and the consumer’s – new battle cry. So says social media experts Brian Solis (@briansolis) and Jason Falls (@JasonFalls).

They presented — or should I say, enthralled – - at yesterday’s Explore and Engage Wichita event. My to-do and to-think-about lists are overflowing in terms of social media tools and strategies.

Some sound bites from Brian:

We are all competing for relevance.
Tools don’t matter. Engagement does.
Authenticity and transparency are keys to social media success.
Businesses have been run with a top-down approach. We are introducing a bottom-up approach.
Listening and hearing provide the tools to impart relevance.
Brands are no longer destinations. We have to build bridges back to them.
One-to-one-to-many is far more effective than one to many.
Social objects (tweets, posts, photos, videos) are the future of marketing.

Beyond the soundbites is Brian’s call for research, strategy and thought leadership: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alj2xxGf5XQ.

Jason echoes this approach, offering these steps:

1. Know your audience

2. Set goals.

3. Build a content strategy.

4. Choose the right tools.

5. Implement and activate.

In his words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owBU9zlCtLU.

Brian and Jason stressed measurement of outcomes — not a new business recommendation, but one we often forget. The other challenge: Once we earn relationships and thought leadership, we must nurture this privilege. Social media is a continuum.

The tremendous opportunities ahead…

#140conf Small Town

November 1, 2010

It was quickie grilled cheese for the kids tonight. And, the bottle calves were fed just a little late. They forgived me, though. I had a good excuse. I spent the day soaking in social media knowledge, tips and strategies at the 140conf Small Town in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas. Our mission: Explore the State of Now.

This was the first and only 140conference to be held in a small town. Previous locations included  New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. We looked at the real time Internet in a specific context — what it means for small town America. I was proud to join the voices talking about the intersection of social media, small towns and agriculture (@ZJHunn, @Kst8er76, @KSFarmGrown, @RocketGroup, @DebbieLB, @TykerMan1).

The line-up was simply outstanding. The topics ranged from tourism to education to entrepreneurship to PR to friendships, even to the lost children of El Salvador. The organizers — and visionaries –  Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) and Becky McCray (@BeckyMcCray) provided the framework: “The next person you meet could change your life.” (By the way, Jeff and Becky organized the 250-person event almost entirely through Twitter and one phone conversation.)

I just wished my traveling farmer could have been there — both for moral support (could they see my knees shaking?) and to see how the ag community is coming together through social media. I think we can change lives, as we communicate and educate to preserve the family farm legacy.

Thanks to Jeff and Becky and their army of volunteers for providing the forum. And, mark your calendars. The next #140conf Small Town is already set for September 20, 2011 in Hutchinson.

Social media branding

September 22, 2010

PR Evolution Social Media Workshop, PRSA KansasRamsey Mohsen, social media specialist with Digital Evolution Group (DEG), describes personal branding as a “green field.”

“There are no right answers,” he said at PR Evolution, a social media workshop sponsored by the Kansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, www.prsakansas.org. Mohsen and Neal Sharma, chief executive officer and principal of DEG, presented on the topics of personal and corporate branding using social media strategies.

“A societal shift has happened,” Mohsen said in terms of social media. We all have a digital footprint — and we can influence that footprint through smart, authentic and consistent use of social media tools. Mohsen offers his “4:1″ rule for guidance:

For every one social object (content) we create, we should create four other objects that fall into one or more of these categories:

  • informative
  • inspirational
  • entertaining
  • engaging
  • re (markable) – something others want to comment on or share
  • promotes others

Sharma expanded on the topic of social media for personal branding with his “rules of the road” for companies and other organizations.

“Eighty percent is strategy; 20 percent is technology,” he said. Companies need to ask:

  1. Can we devote the time?
  2. Can we sustain the effort?
  3. Is there a commitment to transparency?
  4. Is there executive sponsorship?
  5. Are we prepared to take action on the feedback?
  6. Do we know what we want to accomplish?

Strategies must be tied to objectives, he says. “If not, don’t do it. It’s a distraction.”

Mohsen and Sharma shared valuable information with our chapter — and motivated us regarding the responsibility and opportunity social media offers.

Listen to part of their presentations here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7RD_UKgO-8.

Download their complete presentations at the PRSA Kansas site: www.prsakansas.org, along with:

  • Inside the Golden Triangle Trends in Social, Real-time and Location-based Media by David Kamerer, PhD, APR, Assistant Professor, School of Communication, Loyola University – Chicago
  • How to Make Great Video by Jess Huxman, director of content, KPTS

Women 4 Ag

September 16, 2010

Gayla – with  her shoulder-length curls and awesome purple cowgirl boots — greeted me when I arrived a the Agriland booth at the Kansas State Fair. I was volunteering for the Kansas Agri-Women, one of several groups that sponsor the booth.

Gayla squeezed my elbow, looked me deeply in the eyes, thanked me for joining and for helping out, then said, “Let’s go find a spot for your purse.” Loved it. She embodied what I admire about many I meet in agriculture — warmth, simplicity, authenticity and always being ready for a hard day’s work, no matter where they are.

She introduced me to a long-time leader of the group — who is still active in the organization at 80 years old. I took over at her station, a scale where kids could be weighed and then compared to a farm commodity.  The kids loved hearing they weighed as much as a baby calf (about 75 pounds) or were only a few pounds shy of a bushel of corn (56 pounds). Surprisingly, parents and teachers joined in.

The booth was loaded with other hands-on activities — a combine cab, buckets full of seed, a soil tunnel, even Blossom, the full-sized cow with her squeezable udder. (“Squeeze, don’t pull,” the sign read.)

It was a fun day of answering questions and listening to stories. Gayla’s grandson stopped by. I’m sure the little boy, who was barely walking, has a limited vocabulary, but he exclaimed, “Big. Cow,” when he came upon Blossom. It was the  powdered sugar on my funnel cake of an afternoon.

Learn more about the Kansas Agri-Women and the national group, American Agri-Women here: http://americanagriwomen.org/kansas-agri-women. Follow them on at Twitter: http://twitter.com/women4ag.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

So, what do you think of the term? I saw it a few weeks back in a Twitter post. Sorry to say that I lost its owner. (Please claim if it’s yours.) It spoke to me. One day, I’m a PR counselor, the next day a journalist. And, on the third day, I’m both, writing journalistic copy for a client.

I’ve written before about this mini identity crisis. Am I not an authentic journalist if I also do PR? I’ve moved on. I’m claiming the title. Good communication, whether it’s for editorial or PR, is all about finding a good story, conducting solid research, following ethical guidelines and convincing an audience why they should care.

My goal as a writer isn’t to fit a category, but to excel regardless of the format. Here are some resources and experts that are helping me become a better communicator. Thought you might find them helpful, too:

Poynter News University – Online journalism and media training center

Mindy McAdams – Professor of online journalism at the University of Florida

Society of Pofessional Journalists Digital Media Handbook – First part published in March, second half by year-end: http://bit.ly/9CsIv8

Mashable.com

 Ann Wylie – Writing and business communications expert

Andy Goodman – Expert in public interest communications

Public Relations Society of America

AgChat Foundation – Site to educate the ag sector re: social media tools, www.agchat.org

Agvocating

April 16, 2010

AgChat, which started as a moderated Twitter chat (@agchat), has now developed into a multimedia resource for farmers — the AgChat Foundation, www.agchat.org. Its founder Michelle Payn-Knoper (@mpaynknoper) and other strong advocates for agriculture – agvocates — are leading the way, using social media to tell ag’s story. Does it matter? Yes. Should you care? Yes, regardless of whether you’ll ever set foot on a farm.

Why you should care: Our modern agriculture system means we have food and plenty of it. The 2008  Time Use Survey shows we spend only about 30 minutes a day on food preparation and clean-up. Yet, our fridges and bellies are full. And, there’s no apologies to be made for it. Modern agriculture is based on science backed by the nation’s leading researchers in the Extension System. Does that mean farmers get a free ride when they pollute or treat animal poorly? Of course not. However, today, agriculture is facing a fight like no other. It’s critical that farmers tell and show what their livelihoods — and legacies – are all about.

I’m trying to do my part, but I failed recently. I was on a call with other ag writers, when one person said that farmers have been complaining for years. Maybe that’s true. However, today’s battle with HSUS and the like is on a whole different scale. But, for one reason or another I did not delve in to make that point. I will next time, though, taking cues from those in the AgChat Foundation. It really is that important.

Logo lessons

March 29, 2010

Bill Gardner, a Wichita-Kan.-based national logo trends expert, gave a captivating presentation at our recent Public Relations Society of America – Kansas  lunch program. The topic: the top 15 design trends for 2010. Gardner has tracked trends for several years through research and the online database he created, www.logolounge.com. The site now boasts more than 133,000 logos, all searchable by keyword, designer, timeframe, country or more.  His 2009 report can be found here, with the 2010 posting soon: http://www.logolounge.com/logotrends/.

The logos he presented were fascinating, even beautiful. However, Gardner’s take on what logos can — and should — do for a company also fascinated.

“Design makes a difference in purchasing when products are homogenized,” says Gardner. He asked such questions as ‘What does your logo sound like?’ and discussed logos that confront, or make you interact. He also talked about how some companies use words (taglines) as part of the logo, to make the most of that impression with the customer.

Gardner’s presentation reinforced the message that knowing who you are as a company — and reflecting that in all you do — is a powerful tool for success. You can check out more of his thoughts on trends in the sixth of his LogoLounge book series, due out soon.  Follow him, too, on Twitter: @logolounge.

 

(Guest blog post on www.lifemeetswork.com)

LifeMeetsWorkA funny thing happened on the way to my home office. Actually, it’s not all that funny. I’ve lost my knack for time management. Here’s why.

Read more here:  http://www.lifemeetswork.com/blog/blogdetail.asp?sectionID=3&articleID=150

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