Becoming Mobile and Social – Reflections from the IMCA Creative Forum

Finding really valuable take-aways from industry conferences can be a challenge. I went into the IMCA Creative Forum in Atlanta on Feb. 21 with a vested interest (full disclosure: I am on the IMCA board), but also some anticipation to learn more about everything from mobile marketing to social media integration.

Jon Beber of BilltoMobile opened the forum with insight into the incredible impact mobile marketing will have on our lives and the strategies of marketing and communications pros – smart phones, not computers, will drive everyday life and “PC analytics will not work with smart phones.” Mobile marketing needs to be part of the integrated communications mix.

James Wisdom, Director of New Media at Aflac, was a great follow-up with “The Power of Authenticity.” In this context, he discussed Aflac’s response to customer services issues raised on Facebook and their use of the Facebook Causes app: “If social media is talking about a cause, people are okay getting hammered about it.” More information I could use.

John Coombe of Liberty Mutual built on those ideas, describing their success with the Liberty Responsibility Project. He explained how this helped Liberty overcome consumer distrust about insurance and raised brand awareness 50 percent. They engaged customers in a dialogue and celebrated their customers’ responsibility – engaging over 10 million unique visitors. He also pointed out that 67% of agents are engaged in social media. That’s a tidbit that will help.

These are all great ideas and tidbits of information, but how do I sell these to my clients who may be timid or help them pitch their forward-thinking communications ideas to management? No worry – it was Sam Harrison up next with great tools for pitching ideas, all built on that great David Olgivy quote: “Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea until its presented to them by a good salesperson.” And he added 5 ideas for pitching ideas to management, emphasizing that “passion is a transfer of enthusiasm.”

After lunch, Tom Pytel of Allied World showed how his in-house creative team breaks through the marketing boredom and never lets budget limit creativity. Innovating collateral is not specifically relevant to my work, but it was inspiring to all of us who may be tempted to succumb to mediocrity.

And finally Howard Yermish (he claims to be the only one by that name) on “Internet Marketing, Creativity and Stravinsky.” He captured my interest with: “If you think you can control the flow of information from point A to point B, the Internet will kill you,” and kept on with an inspiring, hour-long presentation on unlocking our creativity using lessons from composers. We then broke into groups to put the theories to the test.

As you can probably tell, I walked away from the Creative Forum bursting with new ideas, my left and right brain feeling some connection. Not only did I gain practical information on mobile marketing and more, but I was inspired to push our clients with bolder ideas – and I have better tools to sell them on these ideas.

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Camps and Crises: Lessons for 2011

About this time of year, every year, I have to ask question that nobody wants to think about: what disasters could shut down a summer children’s camp?

This is the time of year when I begin speaking to the children’s camp community about managing and preparing for emergencies and crises in the coming season. I’m beginning the 2011 season with a presentation at the American Camp Association National Conference, which kicked off Tuesday in San Diego.

As you can imagine, there are certain concerns camps must be prepared for every year, like potential camper injuries. However, it’s already clear that 2011 may offer particular challenges for camps:

  • Food allergies: Has it seemed like more and more kids are coming to camp reporting food allergies? It turns out that food allergies truly are on the rise on the rise in the U.S.
  • Extreme weather: On the East Coast, we’ve been experiencing one intense winter. Experts are predicting that extreme weather may continue to be a problem this year. Unusual weather around the world is already affecting global food prices.
  • Infectious disease: With increasingly numbers of children not being vaccinated, we’re seeing an increased potential for outbreaks of childhood diseases that Americans haven’t encountered in decades, like measles and mumps. Plus, pertussis made an unfortunate comeback in 2010.

Of course, some of these concerns may seem like distant possibilities, but H1N1 took camps by surprise in 2009 and no one really knows when or how an emergency will emerge. That’s what makes it so important to prepare for every eventuality with a well thought out emergency response plan. And beyond the logistical considerations of emergency response, camps must also consider communications.

Believe it or not, camps can learn a great deal about effective communications by paying attention to corporate PR blunders. Toyota failed to communicate quickly and effectively about their massive 2010 recalls, sacrificing its reputation (see my earlier post on this). In the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s reputation took an even bigger hit because of their ineffective front man and misguided attempt to spin the situation.

Americans angry about the oil spill also took to Twitter and Facebook in droves, with one critic going as far as to create a Twitter account that satirized BP’s corporate PR. Social media and the rise in internet news sources are also relevant to a camp director in times of crisis. This is making it more important than ever to communicate quickly and effectively over a variety of media, even for camps.

What do you think camps should be prepared for in 2011?

(Are you at the ACA conference? You can attend my session on Thursday, February 11 at 10 AM, in Aqua 311.)