A while back I got an email from Wendy. She was extremely interested in getting into an Internet Strategy Forum panel in NYC. ISF is a very unique organization with some rather select rules for joining. So it’s not like you can just go and buy a ticket and get in. You have to be a member or invited by a member. Since Wendy was a part of the campaign to save CHUCK that used Subway and had a degree in marketing she was hoping to get in, mingle, and find out more about internet marketing strategies that could help CHUCK and NBC for saving CHUCK.
With a little help from me and some brilliant maneuvering on her part she got invited by NBC’s Director of Digital Strategies. So she was able to go to the panel, mingle with NBC and Subway suits, and learn. She wrote me up an article about her time at the event which you will find below. I’m extremely happy she got in and was able to learn from it. It may just help with CHUCK’s future. NBC is very aware that Wendy went and that fans showed that kind of interest.
Anyway enjoy her article…
Making the Right Moves for Digital Growth in Turbulent Times
Although the panel was very industry focused, it gave me some perspective on the corporate digital goals and objectives of big companies like NBC/Universal. Here are the key points discussed…
Understanding the Customer – Gathering baseline info, exit surveys, observing online habits, and building engagement. Utilization of interactive content such as casual games is a big driver for site traffic. Social Networking arenas such as Twitter, Facebook, forum boards, etc, provide a great wealth of customer information.
Prioritizing Ideas for Investment and Development – Critical parameters to consider are revenue/profitability, fast project time line, & demand potential (customer interest).
New Technology – Determine if it’s a trend with a future or a fad. Twitter is still undecided because modeling and monetizing that platform has not been accomplished successfully. Mobile content is on the rise, but usability and cost models are still unrefined. Also, consider carefully whether it’s best to develop technology in-house or outsource/license.
Revenue Models – Revenue sharing, diversifying streams, partnering with a distributor for content, and advertising alliances.
Marketing Channels and the Right Mix of them: Search marketing and optimization. Selective portal partnerships are costly, but if done right, highly effective. Take a daily pulse on customers and advertisers to gage their happiness and adjust strategies accordingly. Standardize customer experience across different business units.
Competitive Environment: Constant vigilance…keep an eye on the competition, but don’t develop your strategies around them. Don’t lose sight of your company’s business goals and remember the strategies should be developed around the CUSTOMER needs, not in reaction to competition!
Gaming: As much as 10% of traffic on websites can be linked to the offering of casual games. NBC has developed ‘Quidgets’ – combination Quiz and Widget technology which has gained in popularity via Facebook. Rewarding people for their game point aggregation is being considered, with the intent that such a program would draw in repeat users, building loyalty.
During the meet and greet afterwards, I met some wonderful people in the marketing industry and even talked to a guy from the online segment of Nielsen Media Research. It was really odd trying to explain my presence to the other attendees…they’d ask for my card, and then I’d have to explain that I wasn’t there for my day job. Which lead to the whole ‘I’m a big dork who loves Chuck and asked people to buy Subway sandwiches to support the renewal campaign efforts’ story. Suprisingly, a lot of people in that room had heard about the Save Chuck campaign and I was kinda embarrassed to find out that some of the panelists were told the whole Finale and Footlong tale by Mr. Huang the night before during dinner. After a couple deep, composing breathes, I was able to push aside my self-consciousness and focus on my objective for attending…to learn about NBC’s digital goals and foster some contacts for the Chuck fan base.
The panelist for NBC, Mr. Mike Levin, is Director of Digital Product Development but he works mostly with NBC Learn (their educational arm), which was quite fascinating in it’s own right. However, he did tell me about gaming technology that they’ve developed and they have as an app on Facebook that Chuck fans might be able to use to drive interest. (Maybe we could have quizes after each ChuckMeMonday episode…from what I understand, they may be able supply us with the game platform if we supply the content/questions…I’ll need to clarify.)
The moderator, Mr. Huang, is the Director of Digital Strategy and he stayed to talk with me after the event was over to expand upon our phone conversation from earlier in the week. I helped him clean up the conference room while we chatted about fan efforts thus far and potential future projects. I explained that one of our biggest hurdles was finding a valid communication pathway because of the complexity and density of NBC/Universal. He told me that 99.9% of people at NBC would not be able to help me…then he smiled and told me I was lucky because he’s part of the 0.1% that probably can. He’s a little unsure whether it’s better to connect the fanbase up with someone in his group or more on the production side of things.
In order to determine this, he asked that I put together a PowerPoint presentation outlining the success of the fan efforts to date (Finale and Footlong, Write/Buy/Share, Have a Heart, Chuck Vs. the Podcast, etc), current projects (ChuckMe events & Twitter trending), and future ideas. He said that he’ll overview the presentation and then send it out to key individuals and once he’s got a better picture of the best contacts and path forward, he’d like to talk again. That’s way more than I think we could hope for and certainly more than I expected. I’ve been in contact with Mel and Gray over at ChuckTV.net to gather some facts and figures because one of the hot button issues that came up repeatedly during the panel discussion was the importance of metrics and monetizing your efforts (or at least quantifying them).
One of the really positive messages that came from the whole panel was the importance of customer feedback and utilizing that to improve your strategies. I kept circling back to that element in my discussion with Mr. Huang and I even mentioned about the NBC forum mods and their propensity to ban users who discuss other sites (like ChuckTV, TWOP, GMMR)…he agreed that it was a short-sighted tactic that doesn’t’ support growing an engaged audience. Hopefully, one of the contacts we’ll make will be someone in that sphere who can help support the Chuck fans. NBC really needs to capitalize on the openness of the Chuck fan base (among others) and recognize that supporting discussions and community efforts outside their network & website is key to growing their brands. (It’s been said before, but part of the trouble with advertising on NBC is that you’re advertising on NBC and now that they’re #4 overall, they need to look at unique ways to spread their message OFF network.)
There’s a lot that I want to convey with this presentation, however, if I can only get one take away message across, it’s that the Chuck fans want to collaborate with NBC to build a larger engaged audience for S3 and in order to accomplish this, we need a more clearly defined means of communication between the fan base and the network. Given Mr. Huang’s receptiveness, I’m cautiously optimistic.
I don’t know if I’d call it fun, but it certainly felt as though I was able to accomplish something at the event…even if I was picking up trash while I did it. But I think that helped endear me to Mr. Huang, so I’m not going to complain!
I’ve got my first draft of the presentation almost complete and I’m looking to send that over to Mr. Huang tomorrow. Fingers crossed that this actually goes somewhere and we’re able to bridge the current communication gap that exists between fans and the network. The only thing I know for sure is that nothing will change if we’re all sitting on opposite sides refusing to listen to one another.