Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How big? (mouth media)

One of the 'wows' I got at SES London this year was at how large bigmouthmedia had become. Gosh. We were just a small company back when I started. How we've grown!

I was very aware of the fact that I was to do a case study for my session and in my experience SES audiences don't really come to listen to rivals go on about how well they've done. I wanted to share a little something else - so I touched on some of the challenges of working with large clients and working in a large company.

Remember; this my personal blog so when I use expressions like "big enough to cope, small enough to care" that's not an official bigmouthmedia strapline or boiler plate. That's me being as cheesy as I like! (I like to be cheesy.)

What "big enough to cope, small enough to care" means to me is good communication and a real desire to learn. Every day we have bigmouths who read SEOMoz, SEOBook, Search Engine Land, WebProNews as well as Brand Republic, SEO Chicks, New Media Age, etc. Every day we dig up a whole host of blog posts or news articles that'll interest others elsewhere in the agency. The trick is to be able to share this information as widely as possible... without spamming people.

Here are some of the tricks we use
  • Email groups - we've one just for sharing breaking news
  • Intranet - can't stress how important a company wide intranet is, you need a place to store, sort and coordinate information. We began with a wiki and have grown into something rather more hardcore!
  • Teams - we operate in teams. You've got to have people close to your work who can brain storm with you
  • Skype or VOIP - The image with this blog post is my Skype. I need to make good use of groups with sensible names. I also don't put every bigmouth into my Skype (I'd be swamped if I did!) people who I'm working with currently stay in the connected panel. I'm afraid I'm especially good at pruning 'external contacts' to keep that list down
  • Internal conferences - it is very good practise to, once and a while, collect up all your affiliate managers from around the world and run an internal conference. Certainly make a point of regular meetings of departments within the same country (so that means London, Manchester and Edinburgh for bigmouthmedia UK)
  • Knowledge Bank - make sure there's a central pool for people to collate intelligence. When I download SES or SMX presentations they go into the Knowledge Bank. The bigmouths who attended the conference then produce a summary of which presentations/PDFs are worth reading if time is short - and why
  • RSS - bigmouths use Google Reader's Share feature to easily swap stories with one another

Once the infrastructure is in place to help facilitate good communication and if you've hired the right people - you'll find that communication/information exchanges then happen naturally.

Bigmouths gain notice and credit for finding interesting stories and sharing with the right people and teams. This encourages people to do it. You also gain notice for querying whether the blog post/news article/forum discussion might be wrong or right. However, it takes experience to know how to pace a conversation.

For example, I recently sent around a screen grab of a really bad (I thought) PPC Creative. It looked like pigeon English was being used to promote a big pan-European brand. Other bigmouths disagreed, though, and some wondered whether the choice of wording was to tie in with an offline marketing campaign. There was a quick exchange of ideas over email but that then quickly moved to a Skype text group chat between the key debators (as there was no reason to 'spam' everyone else).

I still can't fathom why the (rival) PPC agency choice that particular phrase but what I am certain about was that the screen grab of 'quirky' ad was shown to the right people and then the correct, select group, debated it further. It takes infrastructure and processes to allow for the possibility of the debate but then it takes experience to know how to conduct it. The debates themselves are very good - this is how agencies stay ahead of the game and experts stay experts.

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