Friday, May 29, 2015

My Wistiafest 2015 Experience

Last week I attended the second annual Wistiafest conference in Cambridge, MA.  We've become avid users of the Wistia platform at ThoughtWorks, and consumers of their content on doing great marketing using video.  Here's a bit of a recap from my perspective.

Welcome Party

Unfortunately I missed this as my flight got in a bit late, but by all accounts, this was great fun. The Wistia team welcomed everyone to their HQ and took a bunch of footage that Wistia included in the Day 1 "Good Morning" Video.

Day 1 Keynotes

Who doesn't love free swag?  We all do. But what's better than free swag is BEAUTIFUL free swag.  I already knew that Wistia makes great T-shirts, and we received a new one for the event.  That's not all, they also welcomed us with a packet of other fun goodies and a well designed program that were all really coordinated.  You can take a look at the package on Dribbble here.

I would also call out the really fun signage and sets for the conference, because I geek out on stuff like that.  The signage was hand-written style, white paint (crayon?) on cardboard.  The main stage featured a few silver screens of varied height and a big cylinder of multi-colored butcher paper.  The overall feel was like you were sitting inside of a video studio, which was cool.

Once, the event started, they kicked us off with a fun Good morning video which had footage from the prior night. It was a fun way to get to know the whole Wistia team (who were all in attendance, I should add - pretty rare for a company conference).

Chris Savage, started the talks with one called Driving Creativity With Data. It set the tone for the next two days by introducing some of the overarching themes, which in my assessment were: 
  • Your marketing should humanize your brand and video is one of the best tools for that
  • Unless you're one of the mega-brands with all the cash, you'll need to be creative to get attention, and more creative to keep it. This means we need to foster an environment that welcomes creativity within our organizations.
  • As marketers we don't experiment enough and we test even less. It's up to us to hold our teams accountable for trying new things. We should also use real data analytics to confirm that we're seeing impact.
  • Analytics is a hard game.  Tracking nothing is a missed opportunity, and tracking everything is stupid.  You should figure out the right balance for your company.
On the whole the examples of Wistia's hits and misses were helpful and honest, which I think everyone loved.

Phil Nottingham of Distilled followed up with a great talk called Building Your Social Video Strategy.  Phil has been a regular speaker on video SEO for many years. He is also an authority on when to host videos on site versus when to use services such as Youtube or Vimeo. This talk focused on changes to the video landscape during the last 12 months and how they affect marketers. Some of the items he covered included:

  • How should brands consider Facebook and Twitter video
  • Micro-video formats on Vine and Snapchat 
  • Live streaming video from Meerkat and Periscope

Phil advocates that brands design video for each channel and take advantage of their unique features. He provided some tips on how to customize content for individual channels without massive rework. Phil also provided guidelines to evaluate hosting video on-site versus on a social platform.

The great Ann Handley then gave a talk called "Uncovering Your Most Authentic Stories" (will link slides once I have them).  What I loved most about this talk were the examples that Ann chose to illustrate her points.  Ann drew her brand examples from higher education, healthcare and technology. Each one showcased their humanity by focusing on answering the Frequently Unasked Questions (FUQs) from their audience.

Day 1 Workshops

I attended the Marketing With Wistia track on Day 1, which was facilitated by Mack Fogelson, Ezra Fishman and Casey Henry. Links to the slides that I have are below.

I thought this track was a really a very practical compliment to the rest of the day's talks.  I won't go through all of the session details for these, but will call out a few takeaways.

Mack's session was an interactive exploration of how to workshop your business goals using a Focus Canvas.  The examples here were great as well: Patagonia, Traveling Vineyards and Help Scout have aligned their marketing with their strategic business goals.

Ezra took us on a tour of Wistia's content creation lifecycle including the concepting, promotion and learning phases.  I was already familiar with the concept of the 'table read', yet, it was helpful to know that the Wistia team now uses this to decide whether a piece of content should be a video at all.  My favorite part of this session was understanding the promotion cadence that the Wistia team follows for their new content. We've evolved our own tactics at ThoughtWorks, but it's always great to hear what other marketers are finding success with.

Finally, Casey walked us through how the Wistia team measures its marketing funnel.  He also shared research from his team on how video can improve landing page performance, particularly in the case of PPC.  There are some useful tips in the slides for those interested in retargeting, social promotion and analytics; I hope that Casey will write some blog posts detailing the findings.

Day one wrapped up with an awesome cruise on the Charles river with other attendees.

Day 2 Keynotes

If you've never seen Wil Reynolds speak, you're missing out on one of the most energetic, witty and inspirational cats in business today. "Building a More Human Brand" drove the point home that the humans we should be focusing on are our customers.  A couple of stories that he told that stuck with me included how Airbnb crowdsourced Vine video from its community to create the concept video which later became a television commercial, and Revzilla's focus on creating useful motorcycle product comparison guides that built up its online brand equity.

Sarah Green of Harvard Business Review gave a fantastic talk on how to build a successful video team and brought to bear lots of management science on how to do so!  It was also great to hear about HBR's journey into interactive and how it has looked to social and video to bring written content to life in new ways. Two great examples were this video on The Costs of Racial Color Blindness and this study, 'We're all terrible at understanding each other'.  Sarah was kind enough to share the full list afterwards.

Justine Jordan of Litmus loves email, and she also loves telling us about the common ways people ruin the medium.  Having seen Justine speak numerous times, she never fails to send people away with several ideas for improving their own email marketing.  This particular talk was focused less on the technical aspects of mail and more on the qualitative ways we can bring more humanity to the most popular and effective marketing tool out there (email).

Brendan Schwartz of Wistia closed out the keynotes by taking us on a tour of Wistia's explorations with data analytics particularly to understand a couple of key marketing questions:
  1. What videos appeal best to new users versus returning users?
  2. Does placement of CTA in videos affect performance of conversion (e.g. Turnstyle)?
During the course of the talk Brendan announced that Wistia would make our own new/returning data sets available to us for analysis, so that we can make some of the same comparisons for our businesses.  I'm looking forward to more analytics within the product along these lines.

Following the keynotes, I attended the workshop called "Building a Brand With Video" on Day 2, which was a treat as it featured folks from Mailchimp, All Star Code and BambooHR who all shared great examples from their own work.

It was an insane amount of content and fun for two days that couldn't be topped by much, other than a huge party with tacos, IPA, oysters and dancing.   My head was full, my belly was full and I left happy. Looking forward to come again next year.

Finally, if you made it this far, I'll leave you with a last treat which is the roll of speaker intro videos that the Wistia team made for the keynotes. Hysterical.

ps. Great thank you video from Bart@Work

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Launching a newsletter

For some time, I've been toying with the idea of a newsletter, for a couple of reasons.  First, I often have folks tell me they enjoy my shares, and think it could be a way to really effectively put my time into curating things I really like for my audience. Second, I personally have found that most of my own reading time is spent on reading curated newsletters.

If you're interested in subscribing to upcoming issues or reading past issues (just one available now :) head on over to:

Friday, May 01, 2015


This week marks the beginning of my three month sabbatical from ThoughtWorks.  One of the very special perks we have is the 12 week paid sabbatical after 10 years with the company.   I reached my 10 year milestone last August but it took until now to plan a suitable time and to prepare my team.

It's a pretty weird thing to plan on stepping away from your job for 3 months.  Immediately I was peppered with lots of questions from friends and colleagues:  "what are you going to do," and "where will you go?" The truth is when you have two toddlers at home, you're not going far, but the possibility of having that much free time on my hands again was very exciting.

That said, I do have lots of plans including:
  • Eating and sleeping well
  • Daily fitness activities, namely lots of Yoga, but also hopefully taking advantage of the many hiking trails around our house
  • A meditation retreat
  • Spending lots more time on my hobbies including gardening and music
  • Returning to working on my personal blog and website which has become something I don't make enough time for anymore. Considering starting one thats more professionally focused.
Proud to say that I've started off well with a great workout every day and an awesome trip with Jen and the boys to Stinson and then up the Highway 1 through the Marin hills.

I don't think I am going to live up to my original ambitions to blog daily, but I am going to set aside some time each week to work on it more, particularly some of the longer piece ideas I've had.

Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Digital Business Goodies from 2014

OK. Buckle in.  I've been saving up a number of digital business resources to share and its coming down to the wire for 2014.  Here's a collection of resources on digital strategy, social media, online engagement, tools, video and  industry trends.  

For your holiday reading pleasure and beyond...


On Objectives and Goal Setting
Social Media Effectiveness
  • Great study on Twitter Engagement from the folks at Stone Temple Consulting.
    • A few known truths here cemented in by further evidence as well as some new learnings. You can even digest the study in multiple formats, including video and info graphic!
  • Track Maven's Fortune 500 Instagram Report
    • Great report from the folks who deal with massive amounts of brand analytics from Instagram on a daily basis. Always great to get insight into how brands are becoming successful on this platform.
  • Track Maven's Facebook Report 
    • Another very useful report from the folks at Track Maven. Some useful tips to make sense of the Las Vegas Marketing Fiesta that is Facebook.
Nice Examples of Tools for Online Engagement
  • Great blogs about Infographics and Data Visualization
    • Just when you get tired of infographics, someone curates a great site like this to show you how many crazy things you can do with them.
  • Interactive Tools - Customer Journey to Online Purchase by Google 
    • Topically this is interesting to me because its relevant to me as a marketer. Overall I'm just loving Think With Google's use of interactive tools on the blog.
Online-to-Offline (020) and why we should care
If you're already versed in what O2O is about, this may or may not be useful. For those who are not, this set of articles is really to inform about some in-market-tests taking place as we speak which are bound to change the nature of projects we work on for clients, particularly if they are in B2C industries that involve storefronts of any kind.

For many consumer oriented businesses, one of the most expensive challenges of the last 50 years has been bridging the effectiveness of advertising impressions to buying behavior.  People spend most of their disposable income locally, but retailers and other local service providers have often been blind to how online media influences their in-store traffic and behavior.  The big ad players, namely Facebook and Google have been racing to get their solutions for in-store conversion tracking into the market; as you can imagine, these solutions rely heavily on your smartphone and location based services.

Here are a few brief pieces that describe how these pilot programs will roll out:

Monday, June 02, 2014

Goodbye Bourbon

Playtime at Home
Getting comfortable in the new digs
One week ago at this time, we were returning from the animal hospital where we had to put our Bourbon to sleep.  His condition had rapidly degraded to the point that he could no longer stand up on his own.  After so many times of wondering if he was near his end, only for him to bounce back even stronger, it was a bit surreal for the moment to arrive where it was absolutely clear that what he needed most was mercy.

As it was the evening of Memorial Day, we had one option which was to bring him to the pet emergency hospital where he once stayed for a week of treatment while he had severe seizures.  This time circumstances were different. He was calm on our car ride, and very agreeable with the staff.  They prepped him and brought him to us on a big comfy rug where he did not squirm or fuss. He just let us say our goodbyes. I probably could not have imagined a sweeter way for him to go; he fell asleep in our arms, snoring, before they gave him his final dose.

It's been a tough week. Although we cleaned out most of his things, each day you stumble upon something else that reminds you of him: a paw print in the concrete, the places he would sleep, the lack of a water bowl when you reach to fill it. Mostly the hard part is the silence.

Jen put together a touching post about B here, that I think summed things up pretty well:

I know that I did not know what Bourbon would bring to our lives, and although he was a great deal of work, he changed me for the better.

Bourbon, thank you for everything, most of all finding us. I miss you but I hope that you are now at peace.

Finding Bourbon at Homeward Bound
After Bourbon's first grooming
Family Dog 101

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Whose Data is it Anyway? The Rise of the Digital Ombudsman

Marketers are collecting more and more data all the time. The question is: What are they doing with it all?

The last decade has seen an explosion of customers analytics coming from social media conversation, web search and email - businesses have needed to adapt fast to include these channels in their strategies. The rise of a new profession, digital marketing, comes amidst a lackluster track record of marketing demonstrating business value to executives; a recent McKinsey Survey had 72% of CEOs reporting that their marketing departments continued to ask for more money with no evidence of business value. At the same time, we continue to see new business models built on top of popular digital platforms and businesses rise and fall based on insights gleaned via social listening.
Most of us in the digital marketing space are inundated with analytics, reports on how analytics can help you derive more value for the business, and more analytics. There is certainly every intention to deliver value, even while there is uncertainty over “what” is valuable.

Customer data compact

With all of this focus on the ‘innovation’ that can come from big data, there has not been enough focus on the customer whose data has become the engine that fuels the new tech economy. In his latest work, Who Owns the Future, Jaron Lanier points out how much wealth has been created on models which count on freely provided output of consumers through social content; he goes further to propose economic models for how to redistribute that wealth more fairly. If the data has become this valuable, it is time for a new customer compact to be driven out by marketing that can answer the following questions for consumers:
1. What their data is being used for
2. Who can see it
3. How to know it is being kept safe
4. How to obtain a copy
I contend that the transparency inferred here requires the creation of a new capability. This would consist of upgrading the user experience of digital channels to feature more obvious disclosure of privacy policies and terms of usage, developing internal protocols for handling customer data, and finally, providing ownership and accountability for the systems that ensure the former. Without this, marketing risks alienating the audience that has implicitly helped it gain new levels of credibility.

Customer data compact

Governing body or officer
Large advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, has suggested that alone this is not enough, and has proposed a management level construct to address the question of accountability. It created a new role called the Chief Data Officer (CDO), whose mandate is to:
● Develop and inform strategies for gathering and acquiring data and standardizing collection
● Assist in securing data from outside sources
● Develop advanced analytics approaches to predictive modeling and cross-channel data packages
Though the CDO approach has promise, I am not convinced that it is nimble enough to take on the challenges brought by an increasingly consumerist technology landscape in our enterprises. A centralized approach could just spur more rogue efforts that exacerbate the problems. Think of a marketing team that spins up its own social network to support product research and development, or a sales team that builds its own customer relationship management system using free cloud provisioned software or even a customer service group doing social media based surveys. These are all scenarios that are likely to have happened in many organizations today and likely for the right reasons since they empower the people closest to the customer.

Customer data compact
Governing body
or officer
Code of
With this in mind, the other missing component of our data governance model is a code of conduct surrounding customer data that educates employees on how to make responsible decisions for designing solutions and selecting software packages and vendors to support them.
This charter of sorts would describe the roles and responsibilities that exist in the organization for governing customer relationships, a summary of the systems available to represent customer data, and finally, a checklist of tradeoffs to consider in solution design, including:
● Collecting what’s essential versus everything possible
● Opt-in over opt-out
● Providing transparency of intent of data usage
Enterprises exploring the new frontiers of digital innovation need to develop a governance strategy lest they become overtaken by the competitors who have made this their focus. The components of this include a customer data compact that outlines policies for handling and use of data, a customer facing management role to champion customer interest (we recommend something more in the spirit of ‘Ombudsman’ than ‘Officer’), and the code of conduct to educate employees on tradeoffs to make in the course of doing business.

This post was first published on the Distilled Blog in March 2014:

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Cool stuff - January 2014

Sitting down on a quiet Saturday night after the kids have gone to bed and reflecting on the month. This week ended nicely as a record traffic week for our website after the launch of our new Technology Radar report. It was a great culmination of events, with some tremendous writing from our colleagues in recent weeks, lots of audience engagement, and some great new creative work launched. It's hard to believe we came so far with the site in one year, and we're just getting started with what we have planned.

Its ironic that spending your days running a content marketing organization makes you less likely to write on your own blog, but I suppose one needs to step away from the keyboard now and then. Regardless, I've actually found myself scribbling down lots of bits to share over the course of the month, and promised I would at least get out one post to share some of the cool things I stumbled upon in January.


For musicians who are also technologists, Overtone ( has got to be one of the most amazing discoveries that I've made. Thanks to a ThoughtWorker named Chris Ford, I've started dabbling with it, and in the process started learning Clojure, the programming language that makes it possible.


Whether you think Bitcoin will be a massive success or not, is irrelevant. It does seem to signify that momentum around digital currencies is really starting to increase. This month's great editorial by Mark Andreessen in the NY Times, Why Bitcoin Matters ( ) and the response by the Economist's Glenn Fleishman in Medium ( ) were just great reads that dive into the mechanics of what makes currency systems work.

There has just been quite a bit of tremendous writing on the topic of Bitcoin over the last year, and the more you ready the more you find, including this one from Reuters' Felix Salmon in Medium, The Bitcoin Bubble and the Future of Currency ( ).

Best of Presentations and Predictions for the coming year

So many great recap and fast forward posts during the last month that your eyes can start to glaze over just thinking about them, but there were several standouts, many of which were filled with parallax awesomeness.

Looking back

Looking forward

Super useful tools

I consume lots of great resources shared with me by others, so its only fair I pass them along. Here's a few:

  • I started a new bundle of Digital Marketing Essentials which is a gift to all of you.
  • For those like myself who always need a command line reference, Conquering the Command Line rocks and is free online:
  • Buzzsumo (not to be confused with the awesome, Buzzstream) is an outstanding app to assist with online outreach or even general content marketing research, and its currently free while they work on their application and business model. It's super powerful and I love it for seeing what headlines are viral and who influencers around a topic are. I almost don't want to share it, it's so good.
  • For nonsense names, Wordoid cannot be beat, and once you get one, the Squarespace Logo tool is a great way to make yourself known.

New reading and whatnot
It's always nice to find time to read for enjoyment. I still try and fit my triage of Prismatic into my daily routine, devour my Latest from Dave Gray and NextDraft newsletters, and stuff any random things I find into Instapaper for commute fodder. In December and January I came across a number of new bits:

Otherwise, it's been a tremendous month that started with family, a nice New Year's celebration, time off and fun with these guys.  One of whom just turned one year old, and the other who is just about to start pre-school. Lots of fun stories to come, no doubt.