The 5 lessons I learnt interviewing 239 people.

Interviewing was a task that completely daunted me.

I still remember my first one, it was speaking to a guy called Fred who was set to present at a Retrofitting conference. When I heard that Fred was well known for a particular area of façade design and that it was my job to get some content from him.. I Panicked. I went out and bought a pack of highlighters and decided that this was it, make or break time for if this was something I could do.

3 years and 240 interviews down the line it’s become a passion, I’ve been pretty lucky getting to fire questions at Hospital Chiefs, University VCs, Finance CEOs, CMO’s, Government Leaders, EAs and a whole host of techy people.

A few tips matter, no matter who you’re interviewing.

Do your research
Why highlighters? It was apparent from the off that research was going to be key. We’re very lucky to have a host of background research available. Start with the company website, narrow in to the name of the person you’re interviewing – check if they’ve been in the press recently, if they have a blog, an active LinkedIn, a mention on their company newsletter. Prepare.

You don’t need to become a subject matter expert, you just need to know what makes this person unique – What makes them special? Why are you interviewing them In the first place? Use this to prepare your questions.

Why? Quite frankly you don’t want to look like a fool. Also, the key part of any interview is finding the ‘sexy’ angle. You won’t find it if you haven’t researched what’s already out there…

Be nice
Be friendly and approachable. I approach every single interview wanting it to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Over the years I’ve been amazed by the amount of CEO’s and pretty influential leaders that still feel nervous in front of the camera. It’s not just you that feels nervous, and it’s important to put people at ease.

See the interview as ‘a chat’ and communicate that to the person you’re asking the questions to, right from the off.

Why? In addition to it being a much nicer experience for everyone involved, you’ll find people will relax and open up more – telling you the real stories, not the brand approved ones. They will also be more likely to work with you in the future.

Listen
The difference between a Q&A and an interview is huge.

I’ve always sent questions in advance, allowing time for preparation and to instil some ease. However, I understand that by doing this, it means I may end up with responses prepared by the Communications team. That’s why you have to listen rather than just move through the questions and take the answers, listen and ask follow up questions – drill into each answer.

Information you find out during an interview can also benefit wider departments.

Why: Again, it helps you find the angle and ask follow up questions. It also helps to generate future content ideas. Once someone has given you their time to be interviewed – pick their brains, make the most of being with them.

Use a formula
Each interview should be personal, no doubt about it. But there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a raw framework to your question development – it helps you develop the content following the interview. Mine goes a little something like this:

Overview of Journey

Macro impact

Challenges

Above and beyond

Lesson Learnt

For example, the challenges question may end up being something like:

Change Management was clearly one of the biggest challenges of the project – could you tell me a little about the strategy you had in place and what hurdles you were faced with along the way..

Go the extra mile
It’s the simple things that count here, share a copy of the video – edited and raw footage, add some value to the experience.

Communicate where it’s been used and what the feedback is.

Being interviewed can be a real personal development tool. It will also increase your chances of getting the video shared with new networks. People are generally more than happy to self-promote, exponentially increasing your coverage.

Facebook on a quest to revolutionize financial services marketing

With 12 million users in Australia, Facebook has developed into a core marketing platform to help organisations achieve their business objectives.

The organisation has been through a bit of a transformation of late, with the initial focus being the social networking customer experience – adding features to revolutionise the way we communicate and share with each other. Now though, the spotlight is well and truly on the business world, to leverage the wealth of information Facebook holds to drive efficiency and experience for financial services.

Here in Australia, Paul McCroy joined the Facebook team 12 months ago and his role as Head of Travel and Finance tasked him with the objective to build a team that can work closely with financial services to use Facebook. Paul explains: “It started with the team we created. We’ve hired a group of people to really understand the problems industry is faced with; we have people who worked in finance now working for us. It’s a constant focus to understand the problems faced by industry and build our Facebook platform to solve those problems. From there we want to work closely with financial services here in Australia to help them use Facebook in the best way possible.”

Whilst some of the big four were initially sceptical about the potential threat of Facebook in the financial services arena, the social networking giant has insisted they want to grow new users and enhance experience, rather than create banking services of its own.

Mobile

There’s a huge focus on mobile and it’s clear to see why. Digital advertising overtook traditional advertising for the first time last year, drive mainly by the onset of mobile. With 10 million active daily users and 85 per cent accessing via mobile devices – it’s easy to see where the potential lies for many a marketing team. Paul explains:

“Digital has overtaken television and mobile is the new upstart. Facebook became a mobile first business two years ago, transforming from desktop. Here in Australia, there’s a higher mobile percentage than any other developed country. Facebook represents an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that more people are consuming media on mobile phones.”

It’s this drive to mobile that’s seen a surge in app development over recent years, with the finance industry among the top performers for app engagement, providing customers with ease of access like never before. But with many banks allocating huge resources to develop their own assets, is there really any need to tap into the Facebook pool? Paul explained where the potential lies:

“One of the immediate benefits is the opportunity to capitalise on the trend. Mobile Banking was developed to service the customers where they are. It is also the most cost efficient way to service customers and has been quoted by Mckinsey as 1/8 the cost of servicing via the call centre.

“One in every five minutes on a mobile phone is spent on Facebook properties. When you want to speak to people who are on a phone, Facebook is where you should go. Our biggest growth area is banks taking their apps to our platform and promoting their advert in front of their customers. Customers then go and install that app unit. In terms of results, we’re the most cost effective for getting apps installed – 30 to 40 per cent of app installs come from Facebook.”

“Phase two is where the banks have people with the app installed, but they’re not necessarily engaged. We have developed a tool that helps with app engagement. Essentially, once it’s installed, you continuously re-engage them so that they use it as a utility. By them frequently engaging on the app, it takes the pressure off the contact centre and service channels, so the overall experience has been a success.”

Easing data concerns

There are some real alarm bells that often get triggered thanks to some serious spotlight on large data companies like Facebook and Google. Naturally an integrated banking service would lead to some data concerns, an area Paul insists is at the core of that they do:

“We don’t give anybody data. We have 12 million Australian users who do a lot of things on our platform. What we do is provide a targeting interface to enable advertisements to people that fit their interest behaviour. That data is never given back to an advertiser, it stays with us. Our primary goal is privacy. We’re one of the largest data companies the world has and will ever see. Everything we do is about keeping our site secure. It works well with banks, as it’s exactly the same as what they do. Whilst some people see data as a problem, we see it as a really nice fit.”

 Driving experience and efficiency

The team at Facebook are already seeing results creating unique experiences by targeting the right people, with the right content, on the right platform.

“When it’s done well, the conversions are huge. There are key challenges facing industry right now – efficiency, scalability and profitability.

We know certain media channels are becoming more expensive, every company in the world wants to achieve their goals in a more efficient manner. Where in the world is there more scale and engagement than Facebook? Our users are very engaged and it’s a huge opportunity to reach your customers and prospects at scale.”

Paul will be speaking at Digital Financial Services 2014: “I want to impart some of that knowledge to the audience and provide real life examples. A big thing we want to bring is what we see trending and how we can work with you to capitalise on some of those trends. We’ll also take a look at what we’re developing in the future.”

Visit www.digitalfinancialservices.com.au or follow @digifinance for more information on the event.

View the full interview with Paul here: http://youtu.be/t196-WP4_8U

Content Marketing World Sydney: What I took from day 1

I’ll be honest, when I rocked up to Content Marketing World Sydney (or #CMWorld), I was a little sceptical. Primarily because i work in the conference industry so I understand how hard it is to get a decent coffee at these things. Secondly, because I had a feeling the day may be centred around ‘the art of story telling’.

Don’t get me wrong, and you can probably tell by the name of this blog – I love story telling. Ultimately though i feel like that’s where Australia has got a bit stuck when it comes to content. Articles, podcasts, webinars, ebooks, infographics – in my current job we’ve been doing these pretty well for over a year now.

Yes, i know i should be doing more videos, but i was looking for a little more from CMWorld – APAC’s largest gathering of content experts.

It’s the end of day one now and i’ve been pleasantly surprised. The event is really well run and the speakers are very energetic and passionate about what they do. The lunch was pretty tasty too. Coffee, yeah it’s a bit rubbish but you can’t win them all.

Anyway, i wanted to share a few key points i picked up today:

  • Content Strategy – Network Strategy

This was the big takeaway for me. We’ve been fine tuning the content strategy for a while now. The term network strategy came up during the morning session and it’s exactly where i want to focus our own efforts. The thing about digital (and no i don’t think print is dead) is that it’s built on a series of platforms, it’s spread by a series of influencers. Those influencers used to be sports stars, actors, musicians, models… Not anymore. Absolutely anyone with a twitter account and blog can become an influencer – let’s try to become them and let’s try to engage with them.

Social proof is becoming paramount. If you look for a picture of a cat in a box – are you more likely to share the cat that only 3 people have looked at, or the cat that has had 300 views? (Personally i’d go for this one.)

There’s a few key things for network strategy: a) find the influencers in your business  – websites like Klout can help you find out who has the potential to spread content widely across the network by scoring the people you work with on their social influence. b) appinions – I think toilet roll is a boring subject matter. But if i’m developing a toilet roll product, is my influence matched with the rest of the market? For example, i say no one wants to read content around Claims Leakage in insurance – but what am i comparing that with? Are there conversations happening without my content? Appinion can provide the tools to check you’re not missing a gap. c) People – they are everywhere talking about everything under the sun, let’s find them, let’s engage with them and let’s work together to spread the word beyond our internal campaign cycle.

  • Customer Centricity

Without waffling on too much about this, as someone who works in b2b content – it’s something i’ve written about a lot. Today served as a strong reminder to check that i’m talking the talk in my own content marketing practices. 1000 photo’s are added every minute with the #me on instagram. No joke. The new marketing mix isn’t about the ‘4Ps’ anymore – it’s about principles, people, ideas then launch – it’s all about the customer. Marketing is giving people something to talk about. The challenge from today was set: It isn’t the best idea that wins, it’s the greatest understanding of the customer.

  • Be honest and fail

The other key area worth a mention today all centred around trial and error. Be honest in your content – if you’re speaking to someone because they are sponsoring your product – tell the reader. If you’re interviewing someone that bought you an ice cream – tell the reader. Also, it’s ok to fail. Push the boundaries. Those ideas that give us a bit of fear… give them a go. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.

Few key people to follow from today: @MarkSchaefer, @BernadetteJiwa and @TimWasher.

To sum up in one line we need: relevant audience, meaningful content and consistent engagement.

Looking forward to the breakout sessions tomorrow…

 

The airport v airline debate: why it needs to end

To put it simply, airlines and airports share a common goal; operating as many flights as possible to increase revenue.

However, achieving common ground and good communication has continued to be a challenge since the enforcement of airline deregulation.

To get some insight into exactly where the disparities lie and start to look at how they can be fixed, I spoke to Kevin Gill, Chief Operating Officer at Townsville Airport. He’s in a unique position of having experience from both sides of the coin; he worked as General Manager for privately owned ‘Macair’ for 8 years before joining Queensland Airports Limited (QAL) in 2008.

Where do the potential opportunities lie for airlines and airports to be maximising their revenue streams – have you any examples of this?

The traditional airport has been a landlord. The more contemporary airport immerses itself in understanding the airlines that would fit their destination, because ultimately an airport is a conduit to the destination. If we look at the Gold Coast Airport for example, you’ll tend to focus on typically low cost carriers, which are the correct fit to deliver tourism.

If you’re an airport like Townsville, it’s broader based with strong business content. The first step is to understand the correct airlines that would suit operating to your airport. Be proactive, and look at the emerging trends in your destination that could drive new destination ideas that may be of interest to your targeted airlines.

We have an example of that here; QAL’s research department identified a direct Darwin to Townsville service as an opportunity, because to get to Darwin, often meant a journey through Cairns or Brisbane. It became apparent that there are synergies with Darwin that were growing, between the two cities, those synergies were generally the mining industry and its on-going growth.  Both destinations have strong Defence connections, and there’s also Darwin’s increasing relevance as a gateway into Asia, and Townsville’s lack of connections into Asia.

As a result, the airport started to pitch a direct service to the airlines. AirNorth recognised the opportunity existed and commenced the route which has been very successful and is growing rapidly.

It was a new thinking of airports saying – “we’re not a landlord – we know our destinations, we know the opportunities, and we know our target market, let’s see where we can take this one”.

How does Townsville Airport ensure good operating costs for airline rates – where’s the focus?

Airport charges increased markedly at the start of the century, but if you look at the contemporary airport now, airlines get a lot more than a runway.

Looking beyond that initial price spike, investment in Australian airports has been very strong since they were Federal government owned.  If you look at airport charges as a percentage of airfares, they are still modest.

Airports now work hand in hand with airline partners to ensure that the Airport experience is seamless.  This maximises operational efficiencies and thus an Airline’s OTP.

Can you talk us through some of the common causes for disparate objectives between an airport and airline?

I’ve spent most of my career in airlines, so have seen both sides of the story.

Larger Airports have enjoyed strong financial performance in Australia but people often don’t understand the high levels of capital that are required to maintain and develop these assets. The airline industry has a history of uniformly not making much money.

Airports take a long term view with infrastructure development with planning horizons often beyond 10 years.  For example an airport may wish to increase the footprint of their terminal to meet long term projections and invest accordingly and pass on an increase charge to the airline.

On the other hand, the airline will not reap the benefits of the expanded footprint immediately and accordingly could be reluctant to agree to the increase charges in the short term.

That often causes a disparity in terms of short term versus long term thinking.

Different airlines also have different needs as dictated by their customer base.  FIFO operators only require a minimal facility whereas Virgin for example may require lounge and meeting facilities.

Certain airlines potentially may consider that they end up benefitting more from new infrastructure than other airlines.

What’s the key to successful communication and collaboration? 

The first thing that goes through my mind is empathy.  Until you’ve worked at an airline –  you don’t get to understand the pressures that airlines are under.

A jet airplane costs up to $8,000 an hour to operate, so if you’re an airline operator and the airport encourages you to start a new route, the costs rack up really quickly.

When an airport comes to an airline and advises them of a major redevelopment there is often a cost increase that is added to the list of increasing costs that an airline faces. Ultimately, the passenger ends up paying for it. Therefore it is imperative to ensure that the airlines feel that they are getting are getting value for money.

Airlines are trying to reduce costs and create a margin. This is typically 5% of turnover.  Airports are thinking about the longer term to ensure the correct infrastructure is provided to meet long term demand growth. If the parties can understand each others perspective then they are much more likely to collaborate effectively and reach mutually acceptable outcomes.

There’s no doubt that airlines and airports have to be partners.  We are increasingly immersed together. An airport is reliant on airlines adding capacity to grow their business and enable them to reinvest. There are other ways that airports can assist airlines. QAL for example, provides ground handling support services and also aircraft maintenance services to airlines.  It’s about having a deeper relationship beyond being a landlord.

What do you envisage the airport of the future to look like – what will be the differentiation between those that succeed in becoming cash flow positive and those that don’t?

If the destination is strong, then the airport should prosper, the airport needs to be proactive, and support destination growth.

Work with what you’ve got.  If you know what your destination key trigger points are, then again, be proactive.  Look at new route opportunities and drive the agenda with airlines with constructive ideas. Know you’re the industry you’re operating in.  You’re in aviation; you can’t be a passive landlord.

Airports that are smart really look at all of those negative touch points in facilitation, and try to overcome them, whether it be front of house road transport congestion, or runway congestion.  Technology enabling smart solutions is also going to be very important.

 Join Kevin at Regional Airport Development 2014 where he will be delivering the presentation ‘Attracting Airlines and Strengthening Relationships’.

 Find out more by visiting www.regionalairports.com.au