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randallcraig

Big data, analytics, and competitive advantage

Ask your CEO, and they will say that your greatest asset is your people. Ask your marketing chief, and the answer will be your brand. And ask your CFO, your value is determined by your revenue or EBITDA. But is it possible that they may all be wrong… or may soon be? (Hint: how would […]

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Re-looking at the rush to digital

Does the trend to digital mean that traditional communications are effectively… dead?  That all of your traditional communication tools (newsletters, magazines, brochures, booklets, etc) are destined for the trash heap?  One only needs to look at the sorry plight of the newspaper business to see that the future doesn’t look rosy. The world has changed. Or have we […]

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Checklist: 20 Top News Sharing Ideas

When there is important news, how do you share it?  At the 30,000 foot level, the answer is simple: send an email and put it on Social Media.  When it comes to execution, however, many organizations miss great opportunities to get the word out. Here are 20 ways… Social Media Write a blog post about it, but tie the […]

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Leaving a Market Behind?

Have you ever slipped into the assumption that just about everything (and everyone) is fully connected over the social web?  That a connection is one click away on the latest smartphone? Recently I had a stark reminder, in the most unlikely of places, that this is absolutely not the case.  For several hours, I spent sorting […]

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Activating your learning investment

We spend hours reading books, attending seminars, and taking courses, but too often, the knowledge is lost, and virtually no change takes place. Must this always be the case? Instead, after you read, what can you do? Here are eight specific ideas… Summarize for colleagues Make reference notes Create an action plan – do something […]

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Insight: Improving Creative Potential

  What is the one rubbish statement that single-handedly limits our creative potential? “Some people are incredibly creative, and others are not.  I am more analytical than creative.”  Rubbish! Creativity is a skill to be mastered – not an endpoint of a so-called creative-analytical continuum. In the interest of providing practical ideas to improve creative […]

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Always-on Social Media Society

One of the major downsides of social media is the addictive nature of it: even when we are on vacation, we feel the need to post photos, check others’ Facebook walls, see who has viewed our LinkedIn profiles, and Tweet about what is important to us.  (We train ourselves for this by constantly checking our […]

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Agile Methodology

Project managers the world over build Gantt charts, PERT charts, Work Breakdown Structures.  They focus on delivering on-time, on-budget. No matter your role, is there something that can be learned from the profession of project management? In the olden days – and sadly, “today” for many organizations – the most common project management approach is […]

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Trust, Website Security, and SEO

Whether real world or on the web, trust is a powerful factor. For users of the popular Chrome browser, Google recently made a change that is sure to give many people pause.  Consider the image below: for the first time, the word “secure” appears within the URL bar. Contrast this, with this next screen shot, […]

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Insight: The Business of Risk

What if something goes wrong? Most people are not keen on taking risks. A small faction of people are definitely risk–takers. Whether you are one or the other, the decisions you make often boil down to one ratio: The Risk-return equation. We spend a lot of time on Return, and a lot of time on […]

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Six Top Thought Leadership Articles

For most people in senior roles, the holy grail of recognition is embodied in two terms: Thought Leadership and Trusted Advisor.  Yet too often, these very terms are thrown around, overused, and just perhaps, may be losing their value. Notwithstanding this, the underlying concepts are powerful – with a matching value in the marketplace.  Here are sex posts that explore […]

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Bloated websites: transparency vs accessibility

How often are you frustrated by websites that have so many pages, it is impossible to actually find anything? Unfortunately, this is an all to common a complaint.  Websites are often used as corporate dumping grounds for every bit of information from every new initiative, often spanning backwards into the decades.  And every time the website is […]

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Customer Service: Automated, Templated, or Customized

Many organizations struggle with setting up a social media (or email) response strategy.  How do you trust front line staff to answer properly, if they don’t know the policies?  How do you have a consistent response, no matter who responds, or when?  And how do you minimize service costs, while maintaining service quality? One thing is certain: […]

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Seven Disruptive Business Models

Do you see your website, CRM, social media, and other digital initiatives as a way to improve service levels, market your organization, or be a central part of your thought leadership strategy?  While important, at best these are tactical approaches:  too often the bigger opportunity of digital transformation is ignored. This isn’t surprising, as digital initiatives are often driven from […]

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Five Steps to Reduce Risk

Are you keen on risk?  Do you seek it out?  Most people and organizations don’t – and for good reason.  Yet risk is not necessarily bad: it is part of the risk-return equation; it identifies potential opportunity… and exposure. What is bad is unnecessary risk.  This simple framework can help: Step One: Identify all of […]

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New year, new thinking?

While the new year may in fact be refreshing, have you ever considered that your approach to marketing might be, at best, dated? That you might be following a strategy of incremental improvement, when a completely new approach might be what is really called for?  If so, you’re not alone.  But why? It is much easier […]

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Consumerization

Wikipedia defines consumerization as the reorientation of product and service designs to focus on (and market to) the end user as an individual consumer, vs an earlier era of organization-oriented offerings.  It speaks to growing markets by looking for a completely different category of buyer, who may also be an influencer for the organizational purchase. Of greater […]

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Brand values: reporter or columnist?

Would you rather be a reporter, or a columnist? Reporters have a great combination of investigative skills, communication skills, moxy, and pluck. Columnists are made from the same raw material, but they get paid far more.  Why? Readers care more about what a particular person is saying than what a generic person says. Said another way, a staff reporter […]

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Websites: strategic assets or the newest commodity?

There is an old “joke” in the web development world that is both funny and sad:  What is the difference between a $20,000 website, a $200,000 website, and a $2 million one?  Answer:  The gullibility of the client. In 24 years of building websites, we have yet to meet a gullible client, which is why […]

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Test Post

Test

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Building Front-line Buy-in

If there has been one significant change in the area of marketing and engagement, it is the almost complete ubiquity of “programs”.  Some of them have names like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.  Others have names like Salesforce, Marketo, Dynamics, and Infusionsoft.  Yet despite the great fanfare, why does the system’s promise rarely materialize? Consider how the system is […]

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Don’t tell me how to think: Trump, Trudeau, and the realpolitik of marketing today

Was there really a surprise that Donald Trump won the American election?  Or that Justin Trudeau won the Canadian one?  Or that Brexit happened? While Americans may eventually rue their choice of president, these three results have much in common: Politicians and insiders who are perceived as privileged, and think that they know better. An enormous group of pundits, intelligentsia, […]

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Inclusive Communications – Avoiding the Uniformity Trap

As a speaker or writer, one of the most powerful techniques is to look for common cause with your audience.  This may mean using words or imagery that conjure up something from a shared past, or play to a shared cultural experience. Unfortunately, this very same technique is unwittingly used to the exact opposite effect: it excludes.  And when […]

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How journalists improve reader engagement

What is the one lesson that appears in every newspaper article, every magazine article, and for that matter, every bestselling book?  Journalists and editors realize that they have to work exceptionally hard to get people to actually read what they write. And unless you actually do so, their work has no value – so they have become experts […]

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The Power of Diversity

The term diversity has become associated with the human rights movement, and lives in the same space with terms such as enforcement, quotas, and affirmative action.  Despite these seemingly negative terms, there is a powerful case for organizations to adopt a positive and proactive approach to diversity. The usual argument for diversity is that an […]

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A Different Market Research

You invest in events, send out emails, educate, and send invoices.  But how well do you really know your target audience?   Beyond the basic demographics, perhaps not as well as you might think.  Do you capture the answers to these questions? If asked to describe your organization to a third party, do you know […]

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11 ways to build creativity into brainstorming

Many leaders find themselves faced with the difficult task of harnessing their team’s creativity to solve challenging problems.  Yet so often, group brainstorming yields little or no significant benefits.  Why? Sometimes it is a question of facilitation skills.  Sometimes a lack of creative process.  But often it is because of one key fact that is […]

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Insight: Building High Performance Boards

Have you ever considered why some boards (or senior management teams) are more effective than others? While the usual reasons may include individual skills and knowledge, attitude, strong staff support, infrastructure, etc, one of the most powerful drivers of board performance – and also one of the most overlooked – is the onboarding process. Consider: […]

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20 ways to have more effective virtual meetings

One of the biggest drivers of efficiency (and cost-savings) over the last decade has been the growth of virtual team meetings. Who hasn’t received a request to join one, using a technology from Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or one of the dozens of other systems that allow remote connection, screen sharing, and video. […]

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Pricing strategy

If you are a service provider, how do you set your price? And if you are a buyer, how do you know whether the price that you are given is reasonable? Beyond the obvious, price itself is an indicator of a number of factors: value, credibility of the service provider, work effort on the project, […]

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Eyeballs and Friends: A Social Media Crash?

What do eyeballs and friends have in common with each other? Except for the fact that your friends have eyeballs, not much. Or do they? Let’s go back to the year 1999, the time the unshakeable belief that so long as you had “eyeballs” on your website, unstoppable riches awaited you. This was the age […]

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Commodities, Academics, Golfers, and Stars

Is there a gap between how you perceive yourself, and the reality that others see? Too often, we use self-descriptive marketing terms so much that we convince ourselves of their truth. And what the the biggest culprits? Here are two: Thought Leader and Trusted Advisor. It isn’t hard to understand why so many refer to […]

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Viewpoint: Pokemon Go and marketing strategy – virtual and augmented reality

Back in the 1960’s, the venue of discovery was outer space, and particularly the race to the moon. In the late 1980’s, Star Trek popularized the holodeck, a virtual reality simulator that people walked into and “experienced.” Today, we have the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Pokemon Go.  One can debate the merits of these specific […]

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Price, Expertise, and Trust – revisited

Most service-based organizations compete based on Price/Expertise/Trust. But do these dimensions by themselves generate sustainable competitive advantage?  Not necessarily: to develop competitive advantage requires taking each of these items to their logical conclusion. From price to value:  Not only is competing on price usually not economically sustainable, most organizations do not want their brand to be characterized exclusively by price. […]

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Viewpoint: Microsoft LinkedIn

What do you do if you have a spare 26 billion hanging around? If you are Microsoft, you buy professional social networking site LinkedIn.com.  What do you do if you are an avid LinkedIn user, or if LinkedIn is central to your organization’s engagement and marketing plans?   Be happy, but just maybe, also be careful. Firstly, […]

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Avoiding tech project failures

Has your organization invested in a “game-changing” software project, only to discover that the promised benefits never really materialize?  Or that the implementation was so flawed that the system is regarded as a financial and operating disaster? Sadly, this happens far more than it should… but must this always be the case?  Here are five […]

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Is Content Dead? (Yes… and No)

Many marketers have recently “discovered” content marketing.  The theory is that if you put more content out there, prospects (clients, job candidates, members, etc) will find it, self-identify, and then beat a path to your doorstep. The benefits of investing in content are legion: an easier education and sales process, better quality leads, better conversion rates, reduced cost of […]

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LinkedIn Connection Policy

Do you accept every LinkedIn connection request that comes your way?  Or are you somewhat selective? More importantly, is there an overall approach that can help you make this decision in a somewhat more strategic manner? The case for an exclusive black book strategy: Relationships are all about depth, not breadth:  Accepting only your strongest […]

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Avoiding a disastrous CRM implementation

CRM (Client Relationship Management) systems are known for two things: the promise of driving sales, and the almost inevitable disastrous implementation.  And the same is often true of other big tech projects.  But does this really have to be the case? Here are 11 key items that can make a difference between a successful implementation… or a costly mistake: Executive […]

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Trust Killers

How much does your organization invest in marketing?  Beyond thought leadership and inbound marketing strategies, there is advertising, promotional items, trade shows, CRM, marketing automation, the web and social media.  Any way you look at it, the investment is substantial. Yet despite this focus, and despite all of this strategy, why is marketing so often ineffective? […]

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Ten Questions to Improve Data Quality

Marketing has progressed significantly from the days of direct mail addressed to “occupant”. Or has it? I recently received a snail-mail letter from a major corporation, addressed to Rondo Greg – not Randall Craig. My wife recently received an email addressed to her work address, asking whether her company – a major financial institution – would be […]

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Branding and Web Security

What determines the confidence in your brand?  Yes, the visual identity and what people see.  And yes, the experience and interaction people have, both online and in the real world.  And yes, the social media (and traditional media) buzz – both positive and negative.  But there is another factor, hidden from most marketers, that can […]

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Viewpoint: Software as a Service – a Rocky Transition

There is no doubt that software as a service (SAAS) holds great promise, but are there downsides?  And for both software vendors and their customers, is it a disaster in the making?  (Maybe.) If you are not sure what SAAS is all about, it is the movement to rent software on a monthly basis, rather […]

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Digital Governance

In the olden days, “digital” meant getting a computer on your desk, and learning how to use newfangled spreadsheets or word processing programs. At some point later, “digital” meant email.  Today, it encompasses the broad range of technologies from the web, to social media, to marketing automation, CRM, mobile, and more.  It encompasses internal collaboration, external marketing, and client […]

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Insight: Building a Thinking Organization

In just about every organization, the focus is on action.  The connotations of words such as goals, objectives, action plans, and status updates are all positive, and are viewed as necessary for organizational, professional, and personal success.   (Even these Tipsheets, some 600 of them, each end with This Week’s Action Plan).  Yet is the […]

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Facebook as a leadership tool – you be the judge

For many individuals, Facebook is a way to connect with friends, family, and just possibly, play a few games. For professional marketers, Facebook is a way to grow the brand, nurture a community of interest, and just possibly, sell. But for senior leaders, Facebook might have an even more important role – and one that […]

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Viewpoint: The End of Twitter?

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Twitter is in its death throes. It won’t be around in just a few short years. And when this happens, there will be no shortage of pundits who: “saw it all coming”, or perhaps “Twitter is dead – long live Twitter!” It wouldn’t be the first Social Media death. Consider those who […]

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Digital Efficiency, and Findability: Anchors and Outposts

Where do you call your social home? Likely it includes LinkedIn and Facebook. Perhaps YouTube and Twitter. But what about Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo and _____ ? Or, the 500+ other social networks that exist? The significant challenge of SM is that you don’t know who is looking for you (or your services), nor where. What […]

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Building Your Marketing Stack

Most marketers think of themselves as builders. Their work grows the organization, grows market share, grows the portfolio of products and services. A bit more tactically, the marketer builds page views, conversions, and social engagement; underlying all of these activities, the marketer builds relationships. But is there merit in growing marketing itself? Not the ad […]

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Viewpoint: Spoiling the broth with a “bad” post?

It’s amazing how a “different” perspective-type post generates a ton of feedback.   Last week, I wrote a post on how to become invisible on the web.  The post described how to remove your footprint, guard your privacy, and generally how to avoid being digitally targeted. The post also generated a firestorm of comments – […]

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Monetizing IP: Online Learning

“The Internet wants to be free”: has been the internet anthem for decades. It has been sung by the academic world in the spirit of sharing knowledge, in the anti-spirit of corporate greed by anarchists, and by the “inbound marketing” crowd as a magnet to attract prospective clients. But at some point, intellectual property (IP) […]

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Action Bulletin: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

There is no doubt that SPAM – unwanted commercial electronic messages – is a major problem.  It consumes internet bandwidth, clogs our inboxes, and saps productivity.  The solution – spam filters – often makes the problem worse by wrongly filtering legitimate communications into the junk mail folder. Another solution, legislation, has existed on the books […]

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Stealing Ideas and Social Media

In grade one, we were told no cheating. In grade six or seven, we learned about plagiarism. By high school, we learned about citations, attribution, and the importance of quoting the source. In today’s world of social media, have these rules changed?  Sadly, there seems to be a range of experience and practices for content […]

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CASL: Double Opt-in is not Express Consent (and vice-versa)

With seven-digit penalties, many marketers are looking carefully at how they are addressing the new Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL). Unfortunately, many are making a critical error that may later haunt them – and cost.  They are assuming that an email “double-opt-in” constitutes Express Consent. Sometimes it does – and sometimes it doesn’t.  First, some definitions.  […]

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Marketing Fluff: Increasing your value per word

When you write, does everything that you put down on paper deliver exceptional value? Or is there a certain amount of low-value filler that invades your communications? There are three strategies that can significantly upgrade your value in the eyes of your audience: Target: right audience – right message: What is high value to one group […]

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Being Real

What’s your reaction when you read a company newsletter, instruction manual, or other corporate communication?  You probably think it sounds plastic, anti-septic, and homogenized.  If so, you’re like most people – they see corporate-speak as fake, and they can sniff it a mile away. The best communicators have always known that effective writing connects at […]

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Back-Stories, Lessons, Ali, and Hymie

Perhaps you know an Ali or a Hymie. Ali is just finishing his degree in biology. Hymie is 92, and sits on a stool in a restaurant all day, watching people come and go. Both Ali and Hymie share two things: a back-story and a lesson. Each summer for the last three years, my wife […]

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Not back to school – Lessons for every student

Just about every Friday for the last eight years and four months, I went to school – but no more.  I was a consultant to the Schulich school of business, where I gave 288 presentations, coached over 2100 students, and mentored 128 of them at 7am almost every week.  I interacted primarily with full and […]

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Viewpoint: Will Facebook Take Over the World?

You may not know it, but the game playing, ad-serving, stalker-friendly site called Facebook is poised to bust out of it’s walled garden and move into the “real world” in a very big way. And when it does, it will have profound implications for government, other businesses, and each of us as individuals. Unless you […]

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Goal Culture

Do you look for shortcuts in order to more efficiently reach your goals?  Do you feel jealous when others achieve before you do?  If so, it’s not surprising: you’ve been programmed that way.  Many organizations set annual goals for their employees; they follow-up with annual evaluations.  Compensation is tied directly to achievement… and the cycle […]

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Multi-snacking

When was the last time you ever gave anything (or anyone) your 100% complete, undivided attention?  If you’re like most people – and you’re honest – it was probably a long, long, time ago.  The question is why. As intelligent, capable, and busy people, we have trained ourselves to handle… as much as we can […]

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Blog Post Magic Bullet

Are your blog posts really that effective? Do they grab the reader, and convince them to read on? And is there a magic bullet that can immediately make this so? Too often, a blog post is an outgrowth of “stream of consciousness” thinking, and rarely hits the mark.  Adding strategy and structure can make a […]

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Nine Key Marketing Automation Sequences

Back in the dark ages of the internet, building “the list” was a best practice for email marketing.  The theory was great: send a monthly ezine, sales offers, and any other buzzworthy content down the pipe and a certain percentage of people will “convert.”  Money automatically transferred into your account as the list was monetized. Today, however, […]

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Testimonials and References

When you make a purchase decision, what is the one thing, more than anything else, that gives you confidence that the other party can (and will) do what they promise? Yes, statements of work, contracts, and case studies all play a role.  But what about references and testimonials? References are those conversations that happen just prior to […]

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11 killer copywriting techniques

Here’s a question you don’t get asked every day: how much do you really know about writing?  And more particularly, the craft of copywriting?  Unless you do this for a living or had extensive training , the answer is likely not very much. Yet no matter your particular role or responsibilities, copywriting is an exceptionally important skill: it educates, […]

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Viewpoint: the Unintended Consequences of Low Fidelity

It wasn’t that many years ago that both people and organizations craved higher and higher fidelity: 7.1 Dolby Digital sound, Ultra High Definition TV screens, and so on. Today though, mobile (and digital) is driving size in the other direction: smaller.  An unintended consequence, however, is that the fidelity of the user experience has also dramatically shifted downwards:   Mobile phone […]

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Today Marketing or Tomorrow Marketing

Think what it was like to be Lewis Downing Jr:  Back in the mid-late 1800’s, he was the President of the Abbot-Downing Company, one of America’s most celebrated stagecoach manufacturers.  He was at the top of his game, literally opening up the west with his vehicles.  Lewis Downing Jr. supported an entire industry, from wagon wheel makers […]

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Viewpoint: Expert-writers and Writer-experts

While the internet has changed the world of publishing fundamentally, the world of writing has been fundamentally shifted as well. Consider who is actually doing the writing: Professional writers are educated in the craft of investigation and written expression, and spend an entire career learning how to convey complex concepts to their audiences. Over time, […]

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Three approaches to mobile responsive design

If you use the web on a mobile device, do you ever get frustrated by a site that forces you to pinch-and-zoom to read the content?  Or a mobile website that seems to hide what you think is key information – like the street address and phone number? If your organization is considering a new […]

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Insight: How not to sell

Marketing and sales are at the core of almost every organization. Whether it is writing a proposal for a prospect, encouraging a person to join your organization, or selling an internal team on a concept, the act of gaining alignment and commitment is critical. More evidence of the importance of sales can be found by […]

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