Category: Integrated Marketing Communication Tips

Violence – balancing awareness and engaging targeted audiences

Chicago is a phenomenal city that is well-known for arts, entertainment, and great shopping. Celebrating milestones in sports, visiting museums from far north to far south and enjoying music and dance in some of the best and well-known venues in the country doesn’t scratch the surface to what Chicago has to offer. Unfortunately, violence concentrated in neighborhood clusters has overshadowed the vibrancy of Chicago’s nightlife.

Tackling violence in Chicago has become national news. In political campaigns and community events, the focus is on education, poverty, drugs, and gang activity. Having the spotlight on Chicago most impoverished and economically despaired neighborhoods has opened the opportunity for important dialogue.

In a 2012 documentary, The Interrupters, by Director, Steve James and best-selling author, Alex Kotlowitz (Cure Violence), the film exposes the harsh reality of surviving in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. The film shows all the complexities and challenges to reach and engage the perpetrators and victims of violence.

The interrupters primary goal is to reduce and prevent future spread of violence by mediation. Gary Slutkin, Founder of  Cure Violence, compares violence to disease epidemics. In a Ted Med video titled, “Can violence be cured?” Dr. Slutkin says that the geographical maps in areas where violence is more prevalent remind him of the clusters of disease.

Mr. Slutkin’s logic is to interrupt the spread of violence by hiring workers to shift the norms in these communities. The workers are violence interrupters and outreach workers with credibility and trust access. By engaging in community activity, remodeling and public education, they are uniquely positioned to change the way community members resolve conflict and control their emotions in hostile situations.

Interrupters are poised and prepared to handle the dangers of going into neighborhoods and talking to the people. They show empathy because they grew up on the same streets and in some cases committed the same crimes. They ultimately build trust and find ways to neutralize hostile situations. The youth in these neighborhoods is a part of the epidemic. Spreading violence and retaliation is all they know. It’s all about survival. In the documentary, there is a clear sense of hopelessness. There is a kill or be killed mentality.

Prior to viewing the great work of the interrupters and Dr. Slutkin’s Ted Med talk, I naively thought the solution is to simply go to the community and talk to these people. Let them know the wider population cares. Get to the bottom of the issues. Find out why violence is the answer to every conflict. Then share information with anyone that has enough power and influence to take action and make changes to help the communities recover. What’s missing in my thought process are factoring in poor schools, broken homes, drugs, absent fathers, racism and built up anger.

Finding the right balance between awareness and having productive conversations is critical to get to the bottom of why the problem continues to perpetuate in certain communities. Having access to media and social networks, leaders create opportunities to discuss issues and try to resolve the problem of violence. The primary issue is that conversations slow down and sometimes end when there’s a drop in crime rate.

Having statistics on crime rates in Chicago is a great start to determine the concentration of incidents and the effectiveness of programs that are designed to combat violence. In addition to having this data, a deeper understanding of microcultures in urban neighborhoods is needed. On the south side of Chicago, there’s a distinct behavior; community members believe they are alienated from the wider population. In the Interrupters, those interviewed feel they have no power when it comes to law enforcement and other public officials.

From a marketing and communication point of view, finding the right balance in awareness and engagement is critical to start moving to more positive and long-term results. Because we are in a high-tech and fast paced environment, communication-based in storytelling will create more authentic dialogue.

I will suggest the following steps:

  • Integrate as much as possible. Hit as many touch points as possible when advocating for change.
  • Create content from different perspectives. Give community members the opportunity to tell their own stories through organized campaigns using social media. Encourage authors to share and continue discussions across multiple platforms.
  • Use Analytic tools such as Google Analytics and Social Mention to build future conversations and content.

Storytelling – 3 tips to keep your brand story’s heart beating

It’s a brand new day. No pun intended. Having a compelling story in today’s social media is critical to survive in a highly competitive environment. Having an emotional connect with your targeted audience will not only create engagement but will increase sales.

Stirring up emotions, getting attention, and triggering engagement is great provided that your targeted audience trusts that the story will resonate over time. Often times, great stories become irrelevant as customer needs change. As marketers, we should focus on keeping the story fresh and conversations vibrant and ongoing.

When was the last time you got excited about a product launch and couldn’t wait to get your hands on it? Many times, we see people in line waiting to be the first to purchase. In that line, consumers are sharing stories, their brand experiences or why he or she is a first-time buyer.

I found this incredibly insightful article, “Science of storytelling.” This article gives the following six fantastic tips to help incorporate sophisticated storytelling into digital marketing efforts:

“Develop a true understanding of your target audience.”

“Through your conversations, identify emotional drivers your buyers experience.”

“Prioritise authenticity as much as possible.”

“Whether you are using Facebook, a blog, Twitter, direct mail or even a billboard, use the strengths of your channel to tell your story appropriately.”

“Give your stories credibility.”

 “Encourage user-generated content to share different perspectives of your overarching story.”

Storytelling is at the heart of every great brand story and we know how to get to those stories. The challenge is to ask the right questions, find out what matters to consumers, and to simultaneously share meaningful stories across multiple channels.

I’d like to offer three additional tips I believe will be valuable in your next story campaign:

  1. Purchase intent– Find out why your customers/clients bought or plan to buy your product or services.
  2. Listen/observe– Use social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, read comments on company blogs and websites, and evaluate behavior triggers.
  3. Timing– Reach your audience at the right time and place to get the best results from great content.
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