Calling ALL CEOs... Cut Out The Middleman

8/31/18

You hear content is king a lot these days. It’s become a cliché, but the reality is before it was ever a cliché, content was already king in my life.

I was blessed to be on a journey in co-founding a sports broadcasting network at my alma mater 15-plus years ago. At the University of Montevallo, a Division II school just south of Birmingham, Alabama, a good friend and I were able to start building this network using a new medium of the time to distribute our content. That medium was internet streaming.

In finding that network, I found a passion in creating content. Back then we just called it video or audio, but today I realize that’s what it was – content. We streamed live radio broadcasts and used the local student television station to broadcast video.

I was able to really hone my broadcaster persona and skills in creating content at a very young age.

Little did I know then that I was going to become an entrepreneur and that more digital mediums (YouTube, live video streaming and social media) would be created to connect me directly to the people. Today I can connect directly to the audience I want to see the content I create so that I can get my messages in front of the right markets.

From that journey, all the way to today, I realize no matter what business I am leading, I have to act like a broadcast network and create content around my message for the right audiences to consume. This is vital to relate, connect and engage with the marketplace and allow others to know what I stand for and what my brand is doing to meet a need in society, based on the problems we’re solving.

LAUGH, CRY, THINK

No matter what industry you’re in, unless you’re highly innovative and creating something brand new like the iPhone, you’re in an industry that is already a line item on a consumer (B2C) or business’ (B2B) budget. For you to really stand out to a prospect so that they buy from you, regardless of whether you’re selling a product or service, you have to establish a relationship first. The best way to have a relationship with a potential customer is not by leading with a call-to-action. Instead, it’s by providing information that is engaging.

Guys, what I’m talking about is the digital answer to what you would do if you were on your first date. You wouldn’t ask for her hand in marriage the first time you have dinner. You’d get to know her and vice versa.

I define engagement simply with a quote from main man, Jim Valvano, who just days before he passed away, made a speech at the 1993 ESPYs. It still plays every year during Jimmy V Week to raise money for cancer awareness.

“There are three things we all should do every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. And No. 3, you should have your emotions moved to tears. If you laugh, you think and cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

This is a core value in my companies that I live by, hire by and lead by. We hold ourselves accountable to those three things on a daily basis, because it means we care. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned that I can’t survive in an environment where my fellow brethren don’t live by this. It suffocates who I am at my core. I care. We care. We are passionate.

To engage, your content should make people do one of those three things – laugh, cry or spend time in thought. Whether you’re an athlete with a natural attention on your social media or the CEO of a small business or large corporation, a nonprofit or a political campaign, whatever it is, if you can create content that makes your desired audience laugh, cry or spend time in thought, you will engage them much more than any call-to-action. Eventually, you’ll establish a relationship with this group that will enable you to sell them your product or service.

The beautiful part is with social media and the technology that is out there, you can capture your audience and retarget them later. Instead of leading with a call-to-action, you can invest dollars to reach audiences that you assume have the right demographical data you want to market to, and then follow up with the call to action once they have engaged with your content.

QUANTITY OVER QUALITY

Whenever I hire a content producer, I always began with this question; “Quantity or quality?” Most content producers are not entrepreneurs, they’re artists, and artists want their work to be absolutely perfect. The problem with that is that it paralyzes you from being frequent, and if you’re not frequent, you will not stay on the mind of your audience within the distribution networks of social media. You’ve seen platforms like Instagram Stories and Facebook Live become very popular, not because of their quality, but because they’re quantity mechanisms. They let you into the daily and weekly life of the person whose channel you’re watching.

Really understanding that you need to be set up for quantity over quality. You should never have 100 percent quality or quantity over the other. There should be a healthy mix of both, but sometimes you can lean more toward one or the other. On certain platforms (Instagram Stories, Facebook and Instagram Live, Twitter) you can pull the quality lever down and go higher on quantity, and then on other platforms (Facebook video, Instagram photo or video, YouTube video, Medium blog) you bring the quality lever up and your quantity can come down a little bit.

INVEST FROM THE TOP DOWN

We are all influencers. Entrepreneurs, we are influencers of our employees, our clients and our competition. Athletes, you are influencers of your fans and the fans of the league or team you are associated with.

Your message must come from the top down. You have to dedicate dollars, time and energy from the CEO down to create content in your industry that can help potential customers engage with your business by laughing, crying, and thinking in topical relevancy to your space.

This won’t happen as a side project.

“Influencer marketing” has become a buzzword of late. Reality is most influencers are considered influencers because they have a following of maybe 100,000 or even a million people, but the bigger the following, the harder it is for that influencer to engage with their following. Engagement rates decrease as the following gets bigger.

When looking at who you target, it is opposite of producing content. It’s more about the quality of your followers than the quantity. The way to have a high engagement rate is to produce a lot of free [aka organic] content, on a regular basis. This is content, like I mentioned above in “Quality Over Quality,” that is pushed out on all of your channels regularly. A lot of big name athletes do not take the time to produce their content regularly, so they don’t have a true organic following and they don’t engage with that following. When they go to do a big paid campaign, they don’t get high engagement rates.

That’s why brands are investing more into “micro influencers”, which can be as small as 1,000 to 10,000 followers and as big as 100,000 max. Those folks have much bigger engagement percentages because they push out more organic content, so when they do put a message out about a brand they know and use, their followers listen.

I’m a big believer that people don’t follow brands, they follow people. That’s never been more real than today. It’s always been something that big brands have known about. That’s why endorsements exist. Nike’s logo is not as big as Michael Jordan or Lebron James. You use the people to create the engagement, but then your brand can come in and target the audience with the product or service. What that looks like for me is right now you’re reading this blog, because I spent the dollars to make sure you saw it, but only those reading my blog are going to learn more about the opportunity to be served by a product my company is selling.

The only way for this will work at your company is for the CEO to buy in, which is why I am doing a workshop on this in January at Innovation Depot in Birmingham for the first 50 CEOs that respond.

CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN

When my friend and I were building the Falcon TV/Radio Streaming Media Network at Montevallo we did more than 100 internet radio broadcasts. We didn’t have a radio frequency or a master control to call back to and pipe in ads. We could have come up with a ton of reasons why we couldn’t do broadcasts, but because of a new streaming company called Stretch Internet, we were able to do more than 100 in our two years. Equipment was cheaper and distribution was cheaper. There might not be a better example of the opportunity to cut out the middleman than in the music industry, which has been flipped on its head because you don’t need a record label anymore to produce, master and ship your album.

Today, you can go directly to your viewers and be your own broadcasting network on social media – producing real-time content - and this has evened out the entire playing field. A fan can scroll through and see highlights from a Division II Montevallo game in the same feed as Monday Night Football highlights. Back then, we would have had to be on ESPN to get that kind of level playing field. In Africa today, you can find a man walking around with a smartphone in a country that never had landlines, but he has the same access to information as me and 10-times more than the President of the United States had in the 1990s. Think of that. We have skipped over because of technology, everyone is on a level playing field.

Social media leaders in Silicon Valley have a goal for sports teams, and their athletes, even your business, to act like broadcast channels.

We’ve been fortunate at INFLCR to achieve our big vision early on, which is helping sports brands be their own broadcast network on social media by partnering with their brand ambassadors (recruits, athletes, former athletes, etc.) as affiliate networks on social media. This is why it is so important to create content and engage with your following, because then viewers, in critical mass, will watch your message on your network rather than on CBS, NBC, ESPN, etc.

The level playing field is available to you, and you must embrace the responsibility in how you use it for your brand.