Ep 32 – Connecting Your Community Online and Offline With Guest Expert Bo Browne (Cork Chamber)
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Ep 32 – Connecting Your Community Online and Offline With Guest Expert Bo Browne (Cork Chamber)

This week on the digital marketing scoop
we’re talking with Bo Browne the marketing manager at the Cork Chamber of
Commerce, Thanks very much for joining us today thank you very much for having
me So you’re the marketing manager in
the Cork Chamber and if you would just tell us a bit about what that
entails? So I’m a support function really here for the team at the chamber which
is about 20 strong and my work spans a lot of the services and functions that
the chamber provides to our members in the community here across the cork
region, we have a lot of communications channels and we have a very significant
amount of content that is created across the team and my role is in
delivering that content and working to channel it and focus it and ensure that
it’s appropriate for the right channels and audience to keep engagement strong
and support our brand and what it is that this organization looks to do. Excellent, so I suppose the cork chamber I don’t know exactly but it’s been
around a long time anyway long before digital marketing existed, well that’s
right, it’s 200 years old this year, so marketing as a term probably wasn’t even
in existence at the time but I suppose marketing as an ethos was a general way
for business for a long time and indeed the chamber hasn’t always had a very
formalised marketing function here, it’s only in recent years that the
organisation has looked to formalise the function and dedicate a resource to it, a
lot of what we do is revolving around communications and it comes naturally in
what we do as a member services organisation, if we’re not communicating
properly we’re not working properly for our members. Cool, Well I suppose
with the chamber being around for so long there would have been at some
point anyway a good marketing structure in what we’ll call the traditional
marketing channels, how has the I suppose the digital transformation
how has it effected ye and how did that transformation take place for you? Well our digital transformation is still
taking place and it’s hard for us as it is for every organisation to keep a pace
with that and I suppose we have to be discerning and what works for us and
what we have capability to take on board and to manage well. Our goal would always
be to make sure that what we’re doing we’re doing it well, traditionally as a
as a member organisation we were very focused on networking, very personal
contact, and we never want to lose that and that’s what we’re all about and
still to this day we have a huge schedule of events that target on
industries or sectors that bring key stakeholders in the community together
and that helped focus our message across across a national basis as well as just
locally and our I suppose more recently in recent years we’ve worked really hard
to employ the benefits of online media and digital media to further enhance
those projects and that personal connectivity. One of the big things is to
try and keep that balance between having personal connection with our membership
basis and the individuals representing the companies and how we’re communicating
digitally and there’s a tension there that we that we walk on and
balance on on a daily basis between getting the communications out to a
large audience but also making it feel tailored and appropriate in order to
engage that audience well. Very good. As a member one thing we see a lot of is email marketing from ye, yeah and that’s a great way that you can keep in
touch with your members and are using a CRM system? how exactly are you and how
do you decide what kind of content do you push out and that kind of thing? So
really I suppose our website in terms of content you mentioned there, the website really is a hub for our content and we have a really significant website and
I’m sure any one user only sees a portion of the content that’s relevant
to them but if you really dive through our website you’ll see that there’s a
lot, not just those events and booking facilities but also our public affairs
team publish their reports there, we put on the submissions that we make, so
there’s a lot of very varied content on the website but we use that as a hub
then to drawdown for our various channels, email marketing is a huge part
of how we connect with our audience on mass and also on a more one-to-one and
targeted basis and we have two systems that we use we have our own in-house CRM
system and we have a third party email marketing system and we balance the two
of those for various types, so on a weekly basis every Wednesday religiously
come hail, rain or snow we send out a digital eZine to our audience and
that’s a mass communication and you will see our readers in that will see a
little bit of everything in there, a little bit about public affairs, what’s
happening in the community, a little bit about the events we’re running, a little
bit about what we’re doing from our international team maybe some missions
we have going out abroad or inbound trade missions, so it’s a little bit of
everything and importantly in that as well we have our member News,
member events, member offers, so that’s a really important staple in our weekly
diet and it’s very well read, our open rates are quite high in that and our
engagement rate is high in that and we support that email campaign with more
tailored email marketing so we will use our own CRM system then to channel some
of those pieces and deliver them to appropriate sectors or groups where we
feel it’s appropriate. That’s really like as well, I mean you have
such a personalised approach offline with the networking and you’re meeting
people face to face constantly but then when they get, sure that the mass message
is great because people get a little kind of eye into the full sphere of the
chamber because I mean if you work in finance you’re
your focus might only be on policy or certain areas of the chamber where it’s
actually it’s nice to see the full spectrum
especially from such a small team inside here but as well as that then the
tailored approach kind of really goes well, so I’m gonna get a little
glimpse of everything but also I’ve got my perfect tailored message as well
which is really great Absolutely and say you know as an
example of what you’re talking about there our membership team often it might
be Deirdre, Helena or Annie will follow up having met somebody at an event and
they realise oh god yes we should really we should really remind this industry
or these representatives about this event we have coming on because they
could benefit from it and they can deliver a personal message from
themselves which contrasts a little bit with the eZine which is a news
piece you know and and we find we get a higher level of engagement from that CRM
emailing because it’s tailored content, it’s targeted to the person and
it’s personalised. Yeah it’s hello Mary or whoever and from Deirdre or whoever as well which when it appears in your inbox it looks like someone sat
down really and they have taken time out of their day to go this will suit you
and kind of tailor that to them and people recognise that as well Very good yeah I
think I think in a any channel the more you can narrow down your audience
and get more specific yeah you’re always going to get much better engagement from
them yeah and just even for the chamber it’s a little bit unusual I think because and
you’ve got you could have 20 things going on 20 messages going out to
tailored audiences whereas actually a lot of other businesses would be going
right we’re X company we deliver this service and we must only target women
between ages of x and y and moms and who are doing this that and the other whereas actually you’ve got ten target audiences going on even more at the same time so
it’s a it’s a lot for one kind of organisation as well yeah. And that is probably the biggest comms challenge we have is our content and it’s the
absolute opposite to everybody else we have so much content generated out from
each of the teams and all of it worthy for a specific audience you know, so yeah
it’s to get that content out there, give it all
its due time and effort and share a voice in our channels and test out what is
right on what channel, Yeah yeah very good. So with the chamber I suppose
one of the big things it does is it creates this amazing community of business people and how are the challenges of bringing that
feel of community, bringing that online I suppose whether it’s on Facebook on
Twitter, Linkedin wherever might be how how have you managed to really kind of
create that it was that community spirit on online as well? I mean nothing
competes directly with meeting in person and the networking and events and
it’s hard to recreate that sense of atmosphere when you’re inside in a room
you’re meeting people that you knew from before or making new connections it’s
very hard to replicate that online but what you can do is support that, Twitter
I suppose is our biggest social media channel by audience numbers however
LinkedIn is our biggest social media channel by engagement rate so we’re
working hard to increase our audience following on LinkedIn while keeping
the engagement rate high which is the challenge and what LinkedIn offers that
is maybe harder to replicate on Twitter LinkedIn offers a more industry cluster
community approach because there’s that lovely tension between your individual
personal profile and the company you’re representing or the sector you work in
and so if Bo Browne likes and shares something on LinkedIn that’s happening
in the industry of the chamber it’ll go out and connect with other people or
if I share something around marketing all the other people I know working in
the field of marketing and comms and maybe PR will see it so LinkedIn gives
us a great opportunity to have people and individuals and representatives and
professionals and experts engage in our content and
share it out and therefore endorse it and so it helps us to create a
network beyond our own immediate reach and it’s hard to define that and it’s
actually hard to define that as a community because when you say a
community it nearly feels like you’re a circle of friends but really what
LinkedIn it’s empowering us to do is stretch on to friends and friends and
connections of those professionals and it’s really powerful for us our
community and our members and the people who represent the company members in the
chamber are our best brand advocates and our community are our brand in a way we
serve them we represent them and there’s a lovely connection there so LinkedIn
has proven over the last year to be growing and giving our brand a greater
power kind of through the communication channel of LinkedIn that said we do use
Twitter absolutely. The chamber twitter does be hopping! The chamber twitter is
busy and twitter is very forgiving because you know as I mentioned earlier
we have the challenge of a lot of content because our team might be at ten
different things in a day they might be supporting a member opening a new office,
somebody else might be at something at county hall about some news around the
county we might have a submission or a report out on infrastructure and we
could also have an awards event that we’re hosting ourselves or something you
know so the content is very varied and twitter is very forgiving, it means that
we can we can pump out a good amount of content in a day that is relevant to a
wide variety of people and you know we know not a lot of people come
on to our profile page and read down through it that’s not really how
Twitter works you know, so it allows us to show a lot of what we’re doing within
one 24-hour period, Yes even some of that as well on Instagram stories and
where again it’s somewhere you can really churn out a lot of content
like the other night I know the event in Dublin there was a rake of
footage and imagery from that event up there and announcements on the night
absolutely an Instagram it’s such a lively platform and it allows the other
side of our personality to come out a little bit because as a business
representative organisation our tone of voice and our brand voice is a somewhat
serious voice I suppose and Instagram allows the slightly lighter hearted side
of the chamber world, a lot of our members are on there and they like to
engage in it and it’s yeah it just brings a different side to it too, a fun side to it absolutely you know and when you are at events like our Dublin dinner or the
CDMA Awards they absolutely lend themselves to you know sharing that fun
side of the networking because the networking is fun, people are there
they’re making business connections they’re kind of laying some foundations
for future contacts themselves but at the same time having a lovely time you
know and that’s what we like to do and Instagram really shows that well it does
and it’s it’s content that as you say you wouldn’t really put a put up on
LinkedIn but it’s perfect then for a a platform like Instagram stories or Twitter
okay just about knowing your platform, knowing the audience on it and
then and in your case where you have all the content anyway I suppose it’s more
the the decision on which content as opposed to what would we create? Yeah
yeah I mean that’s it a lot of certainly my role here in the company is not around
content generation ever it’s about content adaptation, curating and cutting and slicing it and pointing, really I’m a signpost, a human
signpost really. It’s such a contrast see usually you know as an agency
we’re sitting down with clients to go right so what do you do day-to-day and how can
we create content and is there opportunity to make a video is there
opportunity and do your staff know how to use it, can they integrate with this
and stuff and it’s completely opposite side of the coin here like it’s
such a tailored approach you have to really tailor your approach
yeah and it’s as well in that case of people not wanting to maybe be on camera
be on podcast, be and stuff like that that’s a big thing as well yeah
it’s a tough point for smaller businesses especially, especially one-man
shows and things like that it can be hard to do everything and then whip out
the camera at the end of the day and try tell an audience what you’ve done and
everything as well. Well what I would say to them is that you don’t have
to put yourself on camera you know and aside from being in the odd social pic at an event I myself don’t put myself on camera, you can point your
camera the other way maybe you know, for other people it’s the biggest challenge
for small companies and we see this with our membership as well is to allocate
the time and resource to it and you know the chamber has tried to kind of
ring-fence my role here to do that to allocate the time to grow the channels
and the online channels being a good chunk of that, I know myself even
though my role isn’t a digital only role I could I could easily spend my entire
week on digital channels they eat up time you know and and they deserve
the time and so I suppose that’s the biggest challenge for SMEs and new
companies is to allow yourself and encourage yourself and challenge
yourself to allocate a bit of resource each day or each week to your social
media to grow it, you know yourself it won’t grow without it, it really won’t
you know and LinkedIn as a channel we’re working to grow it because it is
responding so well our membership and network is responding really well to our
content being signed posted to it but it takes time to grow it and I don’t myself
even get to do it every day but you have to sit down and try and make sure it
takes time to tag on LinkedIn you know it’s time-consuming to tag the
people you met, to tag the people that were speaking, to tag the panelists at the
event but it works and that’s how it does it and you’ll see each time you do
it that’s really rewarding because you’ll see a jump and 20
followers they’re hard-earned but it’s rewarding then and your impressions go
up exponentially then. Yeah we’re finding LinkedIn at the moment whatever the way they’ve structured
they’re organic, their alorithm has changed there’s a lot more organic reach there
yeah it’s like Facebook five years ago yeah like we did a podcast recently
with Fraser Cottrell and he was saying this just like that it’s like Facebook
5 years ago but for business people so it’s perfect like people do go
on to LinkedIn people do scroll through the newsfeed on it and it’s unusual the way
at the moment as well you’d see a lot of like creation in the newsfeed that you
wouldn’t have seen even a couple years ago like people are putting up videos
people are kind of really broadening out what content and what
they create on the platform as well it is in some ways not to the level of
Instagram or Twitter I know but there is what we’ll call less professional content
there’s more kind of personal-like content going yeah stuff you’d see on YouTube almost yeah, it’s still very different, it is definitely the organic reach on LinkedIn is well
worth investing time in because you’re you’re going to as you say
you’re going to get the reward from it yeah and they’re releasing a live
feature soon and that will be interesting for the Chamber, I see a few people have it Ye go live a lot on Twitter, yeah we do but I myself struggle a bit with going live on
Twitter because you know when you take a photo you can look at it and
see does it look good and you know or when a photographer we often have
professional photographers at events and their pictures are always A1 of
course but the live feed is so dependent and we don’t have a nice professional
camera setup like yourselves you know we use it from our iPad or a phone you know
and I struggle a little bit with that quality should we do it shouldn’t we do
it and yeah you should we share out that amount of content or not and that’s
struggle again with content should we put it out there or should we hold back
a little bit or not you know it doesn’t come across as well even out of
the room you know and that’s that bridge of offline and online when you’re in the
room lovely you’re meeting people you’re
having a cup of coffee or having a croissant you’re at your business breakfast but
when you’re out of the room you are hearing the content out of the context
of the room out of the atmosphere those still down moments where people
are walking or not up and down off the stage you’re not at a table where you
chatting to the people beside you yeah so all those kind of intangibles
are so different offline I struggle with that question of is it worthwhile doing
or not? we still do it at the moment but I question it. Yeah I think for us when
we talk to clients about it as well we always kind of say that a little bit of
imperfection is perfect for a live video because people can’t it’s impossible
to have a perfect live video and if you’re aiming for a perfect live video
it’s not gonna, it can even come across fake, like somehow you’ve managed to put up this prearranged video live – that would be a feature I’d love to figure out and maybe you know I think
other channels like you know on YouTube and stuff when you when you see say
youtubers doing their live pieces you know it’s one or two people kind of
speaking to camera or doing a kind of live host or whatever it is they’re
doing but you know I think the atmosphere in a large room of a hundred
people is kind of different you know and there’s a lot of factors out of your
control there so yeah that’s just a question I have does that translate well
enough from offline to online yeah I think it is I mean for Twitter
anyway I think like any time the say if I’m sure if Chamber member
couldn’t get to an event but was say on a train or something somewhere it’s
great to be able to pop in and listen to the speaker or something like that so I
think sometimes it’s great but I don’t know, until we have virtual
reality everywhere it’s gonna be near impossible to recreate things perfectly
online and offline So Bo if somebody is listening and maybe they’re
not a member of the chamber or it’s not something that they’ve kind of
interacted with before, where is the best place for them to start
looking online or offline to start interacting with the chamber and see how
it could help them. I suppose our website is one port of call where people will
find out a little bit about what we do and the breadth
of our services and you know we have a full members area there that our
membership use for their own promotion as well but we have all our services
listed on there, our social media channels are a great way to see what
we’re doing and how we’re involved in the community here in the Cork region
and how busy we are and the breadth of what we’re doing and the out and about
aspect of us. Great, thanks for listening that’s been this week’s episode of the
digital marketing scoop.

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