Barclays’ Latest “Kwandry”

Humanizing your Brand is Good Business, Plain and Simple

The Kwan email sent a messageIf recent news reports are accurate, Justin Kwan, the former Barclays analyst who choreographed his own 15 minutes of fame with a tongue-in-cheek email to an incoming crop of summer interns, has departed the firm.

I assume his exit was anything but voluntary. And, if there’s truth to The Carlyle Group canning Kwan before he was slated to start this summer, thanks to “Emailgate,” the poor guy’s a two-time loser in a race few people ever get to run.

While Kwan’s email was an ill-conceived blend of wit and silliness, he clearly meant no harm.

Perhaps that’s why he’ll likely never ascend to the legendary heights of Greg Smith. Smith, you may recall, is the former Goldman Sachs executive director who famously quit his 12-year stint at the storied firm via a vitriolic New York Times op-ed. Some folks, it seems, swing for the fences while the rest of us settle for a life of singles and the occasional double.

Back to Kwan. So, Barclays allegedly showed him the door just days after his email checked all of the boxes on the laws of unintended consequences, going viral faster than news of the stork’s impending visit to the Kardashian-West household. Maybe his departure was performance related, but the timing from the click of the send button to the slam of Barclays’ front door are just a little too close to make this coincidental.

So what can we learn from this unfortunate turn of events? Think twice before hitting “send.” That’d be a good one. Keep your powder dry; that’d be another. How about engage brain before acting? There’s wisdom in that, too. But that’s not the lesson to which I’m referring.

Businesses Like Barclay's Should Show Their Human Side

Businesses should show their human side

Simply put, we’ve forgotten how to laugh at ourselves.

Wake up, Corporate America, when did you start taking yourself so seriously? Did you forget how to laugh at yourself? No one else has, and this sure isn’t going to help. What about making lemonade out of lemons, or turning a frown upside down, or making a mole hill out of a mountain?

My advice to Barclays, if they hadn’t already pulled the trigger, would be this: Your brand is under enough assault in the U.S. to revive The Full Employment Act for your communications teams (opinion, not advice, I’ll give you that).

Instead of heavy-handing your response, take whatever fallout may have come from the email and fashion it into a positive. Publicly celebrate the youthful (if not slightly misguided) intelligencia of your analysts. Leverage it to humanize your brand; imbuing it with a chromosome or two of personality can go a long way.

Why not welcome the summer interns with a public response that heeding Kwan’s advice (#1 on his list), senior leadership has pledged to wear bowties to work on the first day of the internship – men and women, alike?

Let the world know the next generation of Barclays’ up-and-comers, as well as current leadership, has humor and personality, as well as smarts. Laugh at yourself just a little and the account will instantly be relegated to the annals of history. Maybe people will even feel good about your brand and the sporting way in which you handled this episode.

Unfortunately, acting as you did has only served to breathe enough life into the story to sustain it on and off for weeks to come, one embarrassing jab at a time.

And guess what? Kwan’s name will be forgotten by week’s end. Barclays, on the other hand, will be remembered not for its artful handling of an innocent gaffe, but as just another corporate behemoth who bobbed when it should’ve weaved.


How to Handle Social Media When You Have a Million Other Things to Do

You're not the only one struggling to find time for social media -- we're all busy bees.

You’re not the only one struggling to find time for social — we’re all busy bees.

In an ideal world you have oodles of time to find or craft the perfect social content, spend only minimal amounts of money to promote it, and then once you post it a rainbow of new followers bursts into your notifications.

But that’s not the world we live in. If you’re like many companies, one day your company decided that it needed social media, and as the youngest/most tech-savvy/least objectionable person, you were chosen for this mission.

Finding or drafting great content is most of the battle, especially if you don’t have dedicated copywriters and designers. Here are a few ways to gather content with haste:

Assess what you have At Water & Wall, like many other companies, we email each other dozens of industry articles a day about media, marketing and finance. Ok, and maybe puppies too.

If your coworkers are chirping about an article, it’s likely worth sharing. Think it’s too fun/unprofessional in nature? Every brand is different, but remember, those who follow you on social are people too, and people love a good laugh. So long as it’s appropriate, this can actually enhance your social profile and help you further engage with your target audiences.

Crowdsource You may be the one in charge of social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If you’re at a company that requires its employees to do any type of research or learning (read: every company), it’s likely that your colleagues are coming across good, sharable content already – they just might not be sending it to you.

Social media is a group effort,

You don’t have to work alone.

Think of yourself as a cheerleader for sharing. Ask your coworkers to send you an email when they come across something interesting during their client or prospect research, even if it’s just the link. Assessing gives you content specific to your industry, but crowdsourcing gives you content specific to your clients. This combination is perfect for social.

It will take time for everyone to get in the habit, and you will need to remind people often. In your reminders, highlight what makes great content, and show them that what they look for to share with clients is the exact same thing you’re looking for. If anything, this could improve their own relationships with clients. Soon, when a coworker comes across a great piece of content, the first thing that pops into their mind should be “I should send this to our social media manager.”

Tag It It may have happened once or twice that a rock star colleague emailed me a good piece of content, but I’m unable to read or make sense of it at that time. Maybe more than a few times. I have a “Social Media Fodder” tag in my email menu, and whenever I get one of those emails, the first thing I do is tag it.

For me, I also include which client. This way, when you do have a minute, you can easily search for emails tagged “Client A” and “Social Media.” For in-house professionals, it might be good to tag the nature of the article (think “evergreen” or “immediate”). Having some starter content always help me lunge forward into discovering and sharing even more.

Not that into email tagging? There are more tech-savvy ways to do this. Buffer allows you to schedule a post to several platforms right from the article itself – and there’s even an overlay for mobile.

You can reuse links on social media

Don’t throw away perfectly reusable content!

Reuse I know it’s hard to hear, but the odds that even one of your Twitter followers have seen every tweet is extremely slim. After all, some people have lives outside of social media (or so we hear). Because of this, it’s ok to reuse the same article, with a caveat.

No one wants to keep reading the same tweet – in fact, Twitter will delete a tweet if you repeat it. Mix up the content and timing for the posting of the same article, but highlight two different parts of the article and post a few days apart at different times of day.

Use Lists Still coming up short on content? Set aside one afternoon to create a Twitter list of the biggest voices in your space. These people likely tweet multiple times a day, so when you’re stuck, you can read a feed of these influencers for ideas on content and engagement.

Don’t Stress Like everything else in life, stressing about a project can often take up more energy than the project itself. Miss a few days of posting? Life will go on. Pick up where you left off. The more fun you have with social media, the more fun your followers will have. And that creates brand loyalty.


“You Can’t Shake Hands with a Fax”

file0001524506440Many years ago, I represented Marriott Hotels & Resorts, during which time I got to interact a little with Richard Marriott, CEO of the global chain and its “chief brand ambassador.” It was 1993, right around the time of the first World Trade Center bombing. One of the residual effects of that event was that Americans stopped traveling beyond the confines of home and work. Long anticipated vacations were canceled, business trips gave way to conference calls, and hotels, resorts and airlines who relied on Americans’ travel dollars rang with empty echoes.

It was with Dick, during this dark time for his business, that I learned a crucial lesson that’s remained with me for the past two-plus decades.

As a travel industry leader, Dick took to the road, meeting with travel agency leaders, airline and hotel CEOs, and others whose companies’ survival relied on the reemergence of a healthy travel industry. His objective: show would-be business and pleasure travelers that it was perfectly safe to continue with their travel plans.

When asked why he was taking so much time on the road meeting with travel industry leaders, Dick answered, “Because you can’t shake hands with a fax machine.” His point was that in-person meetings have a value well beyond any message that could be conveyed via fax, phone, or in writing. (In that era, the fax machine was pretty much at the top of the communications food chain.)

file0001899888709Today it’s practically effortless to stay in contact using communications advances that have made us more efficient, more responsive and part of what Mark Anderson, chief of the Strategic News Service, termed “AORTA,” — Always On Real Time Access.

This hyper-connectivity notwithstanding, the law of unintended consequences has raised its ugly head, with people less frequently taking action on Dick Marriott’s sage advice.

Communications professionals have a responsibility to keep open the lines of communication with clients, prospects, journalists and employees in other offices. In our personal lives, we have the same responsibility to family and friends, but it’s incumbent upon us to do so, in as much as it’s possible, in person.

    • Make “House Calls” – Plan to see your clients in-person monthly, quarterly at the very least. Out of sight may not necessarily be out of mind, but it’s a quick trip to a bad place if your face-to-face meetings are relegated to keeping the business from slipping through your fingers


    • Schmooze or Lose – Not every conversation requires business-speak. Maintaining relationships requires the gift of the gab, so fill your repertoire with interesting facts, funny anecdotes, and news of the day.


    • Cross Boundaries, Carefully – Clients are people, too. Without crossing boundaries, try and get to know them as individuals separate from the brands they represent. Show interest in their families, their kids’ accomplishments, or where they’re vacationing. Importantly, use your “spidey sense” to make sure your clients are okay with this approach; not all of them will be. If you feel they’re uncomfortable, pull back.


  • Don’t Hate on Ma Bell and Snail Mail – Email exchanges are little more than what used to be phone conversations broken up into a series of electronic submissions. Clearly, email has upped the efficiency quotient for most of us, but it’s also driven the personal element out of communications. Every now and then, use the phone to supplement your emailing. And, if you really want to get something noticed, use the post office to send it. Email has become so ubiquitous that receiving something worthwhile in the mail will make a strong impression.

What to Know about Social if You’re in Finance

Social Media Week has us even more pumped than usual to talk to you about social, content, and digital advertising. In the social media spirit of keeping it short, here is what you need to know about social if you’re in the financial sphere:

Don't let social media be the elephant in the room

You can’t keep ignoring the elephant in the room.

    1. Social won’t come to you. It’s here.

Financial brands, including B2B, are leveraging social in meaningful ways. For finance, LinkedIn and Twitter continue to dominate, but now we’re seeing brands push into Instagram and even Snapchat for talent recruitment.

    1. Listening tools are your friends.

It’s time to tune in. One of the best things to do before starting and while maintaining a social media channel is listen to your customers and competition.
There are a host of tools to help answer your burning questions – Is the competition paying for social media ads? Are people already talking about your brand? Are they already talking about when interest rates are going to rise? There’s a tool for all.

    1. Stop shouting for people to love you.

Have you been on social media lately? Even in a personal capacity, it can be truly overwhelming. So many brands are competing for consumers with waning attention spans and that trend doesn’t seem to be reversing.

What does this mean? You can’t just produce content, you need to produce good content. High quality media, like photos and videos, is more important than ever, and what you dispatch can’t be just about you (*ahem* those tweeting only when you get news coverage).

Think of it like dating: if you want to make a good impression, you wouldn’t go on a first date, talk only about yourself, then text that person 10 times in 24 hours asking them if they like you. Same rules apply for social media.

LOOOOVVVEEE MEEEEE! (Don't be this guy)

LOOOOVVVEEE MEEEEE! (Don’t be this guy)

    1. You have to pay.

Organic reach isn’t dead, but it certainly isn’t what it used to be. Brands need to understand that social media platforms are charging more and more to reach audiences – even when users have already opted in.

This isn’t all bad news. With the emphasis on paid reach, social platforms are stepping up their analytics capabilities. So, while it might be hard to reach someone organically on Facebook, there are now over 100 search parameters about your target individual. And with the testing capabilities, you can quickly build a campaign better than ever before.

Brands are using these avenues to push users into funnels that are more controlled – like email marketing – and seeing big ROI.

    1. It’s not just a number.

We know it’s tempting to put a number on the exact value of social media. How many click-throughs? How many likes? How much engagement? These are all valid questions, but thinking of social in only this way is missing the mark. It’s the same as the ad-revenue matching that traditional PR has tried in the past (a hit in WSJ = $x because an ad in that same place would cost that much). Sure, now you’ve got a number to report to your boss, but it’s missing an important part of the story.

The brands that do social best know that there’s no catch-all way to determine the value. They’re tracking engagement, looking long-term, and testing. Especially for financial brands, which traditionally have long sales cycles, metrics should focus on engagement and branding more than an exact figure.

    1. Good campaigns take planning.

That viral post everyone seems to be talking about? The infographic that just appeared on your feed? They both probably took weeks, if not months, of careful planning. While there are in-the-moment posts they garner lots of attention, what you see is just the tail of a carefully planned message. Analytics. Listening. Messaging. Reach. Audience. The most effective brands are thinking about all of these things when it comes to social, and you should be, too.

Excited? Overwhelmed? Confused? All of the above? We should talk and explore your opportunities together.


America’s Next Top Model: Water & Wall

After many requests (read: Bully begged us), the Water & Wall team has added photos to the “About Us” section. Huzzah! Now you can better picture our smiling faces when you call us to chat (except Andrew – he wasn’t over the Rangers loss yet.)

Of course, none of us were pleased with the results. After sifting through the “linebacker” and “neighborhood creep” photos, we selected the ones we posted to the site. More importantly, we learned a few lessons we thought we’d share.

Always have an elevator pitch ready. When we first met our photographer, he immediately asked us to tell him about ourselves. Sure, he’s a photographer and not a financial reporter, but you never know where a connection will lead, so it was important for us to have an intro ready. This is true for everywhere you go – what you ate for breakfast isn’t exciting (sorry, Instagram), but your company’s objective is.

Serious faces can be scary. Either in photos or on TV, try to relax while speaking with a journalist. If you look too serious, you may come off as angry and unapproachable, which won’t endear you to the audience. Be as friendly and amenable as possible, and your points will find the audience.

The photographer is your friend. As previously stated, not every photo was a “glam” shot. We learned that the smiling-while-not-smiling-and-not-being-creepy pose is tough. We can’t imagine having to get the look right while being under the pressure of questioning!  Our biggest lesson: the camera man is the expert, so take the advice seriously.

Account for warm-up time. Listen as much as you can to the people directing you; they are only trying to help you improve. But even with great advice, it still takes time to warm up and look right. Make sure to have a break between a meeting and a journalist interview – 5 minutes to focus and run-through your ideas will have a big impact.

Take a look for yourself! We think we are a pretty handsome bunch.  That said, we’re hoping this won’t happen again for a while.


Who’s that new hottie on the block? Oh it’s the WSJ!

Have you read a story in the WSJ recently and felt like it belonged in BI or Buzzfeed? It’s not just you. Between a fake story to get you out of work for the USA-Belgium game and an opinion piece titled “Hooray! The War on Women is Back,” The Journal seems a little more hip.

Illustrator Kevin Sprouls created the now iconic hedcuts in 1979.

Illustrator Kevin Sprouls created the now iconic hedcuts in 1979.

Why is this a big deal? It wasn’t so long ago that the Journal printed its first image, the now iconic hedcuts. That move, designed to steal eyeballs from competitor USA Today, was decades after its competition had been employing images. The fact that a publication this traditional is quickly going contemporary means these experiments are ones to notice.

While shocked by the headlines, we can’t say these moves are surprising. The paper has been able to increase readership as many long-standing publications crumbled, so leadership is clearly thinking creatively. As click-bait publications like UpWorthy and Buzzfeed take a greater share of even the business audience (remember, CEOs are people too!), leadership had to take notice of what’s working.

What does this mean for you? If publications are looking for 2.0, then your stories and pitches need to lean that way as well. Editors care increasingly about time on the website and social shares, so if your story doesn’t have a click-worthy hook and visual, it’s time to start creating them.


What you need to know about The State of Media

newspaperThis week Pew released State of Media News 2014, giving us insight into the industry we work with every day at Water & Wall. The report is chock full of interesting figures as to how people are crafting and consuming the news, but alas, it can be a bit… long. A few highlights:

Paid content –AKA native advertising – is growing rapidly.

Or rather, your ad dollars might be best spent creating stellar content that reads more like a story than an ad. In the same way you need a story to pitch press, when you are playing press there needs to be intrigue. You may be able to work with news outlets to better position your message, but if the content isn’t resonating with their audience, you won’t be asked back.

Most outlets are still keeping editorial and advertising separate (though at NYT they now sit together), but the walls are eroding.

Media is rebuilding its global staff.

News outlets see the world as a big place, and they’re looking to triangulate stories. We regularly see US stories translated for a foreign audience, which means editors are going to look for stories that impact the global citizen.

VIDEO watching is up 44%.

While people can’t get enough videos, there are only a handful of video producers. Consider making video part of your marketing. Despite the extra production time, it’ll be worth it to stand out. Additionally, this means TV interviews are especially pivotal, since they provide your marketing team with more video fodder.

social-mediaPeople are reading their news on social media – even when they don’t intend to.

Almost everyone is viewing news on social. However, most of these eyeballs are focused on content shared by friends, not brands. As cracking the social algorithm gets tougher and more expensive, it’s critical for your content (see #1!) to speak to people enough to share. The good news? While business ranked as the least-read type of news on social, 31% of Facebook users still see business news there. However, users who read news on social are less likely to interact than those going directly to the website.

Fox is kickin’ it.

CNN and Fox increased their daytime viewership, and at night Fox has more viewers than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. This makes sense, because Fox has been pouring money into talent and content recruitment. So a mention on Fox gets you an extra snap.

Washington Post had more views than Buzzfeed.

Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Similarly, despite years of dwindling ad revenue, the media industry is still making a greater profit than Google. #thereishope

Print isn’t dead.

It seems everyone is calling print dead, but apparently it still accounts for 71% of news circulation. We’re a little skeptical of the methodology (delivering a paper does not mean the paper is read), but it’s still worth pondering.

Events are hot.

Live events can bring together an outlet’s editorial, circulation, social, and ad staff to create a power-play for readers. More outlets are catching on to this concept, but they’re newbies. Be on the lookout for an increase in media-sponsored events – and consider lending your own expertise to the right one.