What does HBO, Steven King and ESPN have to do with it?

A Lot . . . the reveal is at the end of this post.

At FLIRT we continue to view events as critical intersections where valuable personal interactions happen between coworkers, customers and partners.

We believe that events should spark conversations that ignite an on-going dialogue. This communications chain reaction is our single-minded objective. Every event has unique opportunities to ignite conversations that transform data into information, ideas into insights and valuable content into stories.

While this communications chain reaction sounds like a no brainer on paper, successfully orchestrating a conversations campaign over months can be a challenge.

Crafting relevant and timely content that your audience will talk about and share with peers is critical to long-term success. Another challenge? Not all of us are born great storytellers who can spin the ordinary into something extraordinary.

We’ve recently lost our last great corporate storyteller, Steve Jobs. Steve was able to deliver the Apple story single-handedly, but few corporations have one iconic figure they trust who can carry that weight everyday. Most corporations’ communications strategies are very short-term and designed by committee and often delivered by committee. They go quarter by quarter not chapter-by-chapter, like great novels. We suggest slowing down and taking your time getting to the final chapter – the ending is the best part! Attempt to create intrigue, interest, inspiration and maybe even a little mystery along the way!

SAP is one corporation who is playing doing this well. The Sapphire NOW Conference in Orlando was a great example of the next generation meeting with their always on, integrated conversation strategy. SAP approached this event as an opportunity to invite unique connections between attendees that would ignite conversations. These conversations were designed to build, twist and turn (like a great novel) all on their own. Conversations emerged before the event, during the event and well after the event. SAP leveraged social platforms that we all have access to like the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, virtual town halls, Storify and satellite broadcast. These platforms are always accessible so conversations become spontaneously combustible. SAP doesn’t fear combustible conversations; in fact they’ve learned to fuel them! So we ask, if the technical infrastructure is there for everyone why does this conversational strategy often fall short of its promise?

The answer is very simple and this is where HBO, Steven King and ESPN come in! It’s all about content development not content distribution.  SAP invested in great storytellers, targeted content, industry experts, brilliant strategists, technologists, insiders and even hired journalists to ensure content was being collected and crafted. SAP also understands that if your not saying something relevant, smart or insightful, people will walk before they have a chance to talk.

HBO invests heavily in content development, brilliant writers, producers and directors who produce great stories. Their competition focuses on digital distribution to repurpose, repackage and replay weak content. Steven King is up at the crack of dawn everyday typing words that create sentences that turn into chapters that create stories that end up on the New York Times best sellers list! ESPN is pure genius. They don’t develop content they just know where to find it! ESPN knows where live, pulse-pounding content is developed for free, 24 hours a day, worldwide. They do a great job of following it, covering it, and capturing it and most importantly, sharing it and shouting about it passionately.

Corporations need to consider a more serious investment in crafting stories like HBO, or learn to find them like ESPN. Great content is out there. Exploring as many dramatic story lines, points of view, relevant topics, roadblocks and successes takes an open mind. Going beyond the top down (senior leadership) approach to a more 360-degree approach is our future.

We admit it takes courage to kick this habit.  It means losing a little control but it also means gaining more commitment and confidence from your audience. This approach is more collaborative, more social and more inclusive.  We believe that empowering your coworkers, customers and partners to help you develop content and craft stories will increase the potential for a communications chain reaction! After all, if everyone is invited into the conversation . . . they feel part of it!