Tag Archives: marketing

Marketing = meaning

3 Aug

A while ago, @shackletonjones tweeted:

GemStGem twitter Gemma Critchley marketing learning innovation nick shackleton-jones


I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. The ‘somehow’ in that tweet has been under my skin for weeks. I agree wholeheartedly with Nick that marketing is the bridge, but how? Why?

I’ve seen it work. I’ve put marketing in place for ‘performance support‘ or ‘informal learning solutions’ (otherwise known as useful stuff that helps people do their jobs better). I’ve seen the things our team creates illuminated when cast in the glow of a clever campaign, but for ages I couldn’t articulate why.

It recently became crystal clear.

I’ve worked on quite a few projects to deliver performance support using our ‘resources not courses’ approach over the last few years.

A chap that I worked with recently on one of these projects said that very few people in our audience understood what performance support is and how it works, or what’s in it for them. Fair point, I thought.

All of a sudden, the answer was so clear: we needed to translate what we were doing in a way that would be meaningful to the audience.

We knew the resources that we were creating would be useful (thanks to the 5Di process), but if people weren’t into what we were doing – if they didn’t see what was in it for them and choose to pull on the things we created, then we would have only done half a job.

So we decided to tell a story, to show the benefits of what we’re doing, to share some examples and to give a strong call to action for people to find out more. In essence, we decided to do a marketing campaign.

The penny dropped.

Beautifully simple, blindingly obvious and laced with common sense in the way that most decent ideas usually are.

GemStGem twitter Gemma Critchley marketing learning innovationGemStGem twitter Gemma Critchley marketing learning innovation


By putting what we call ‘performance support’ into a marketing frame that speaks directly to the audience in a way that matters to them, we translate what we’re doing. It makes sense.

Marketing is tailoring.

Marketing is translation.

Marketing is sense-making.

Marketing = meaning.


Through marketing, the audience can easily engage with something that seemed foreign before. Heck, never mind just being able to engage with it; they might even actually want to.


Sharing stories to support learning

3 Dec

I’m speaking today at Online Educa Berlin about how to capture and share stories that stick with people to support learning.

Why not pick up your smartphone and capture some stories of your own? Share them with me on Twitter.

Here are some tips:


  • Uncover the learning need by speaking to your audience
  • Find out what their challenges and pain-points are and turn these into interview questions
  • Select the right person for the interview – not the most ‘PR-friendly’ person

Connect & prep

  • Before the interview, connect with your interviewee – even if just a phonecall
  • Build rapport
  • Ask them to think about stories and examples
  • Share an idea of the kinds of questions you will ask
  • Explain exactly what will happen in the interview
  • Cover off questions – what to wear?
  • Building the groundwork to gain permission to share


  • Allow plenty of time for your interview – 90 minutes for 15 questions
  • Aim for 30 mins getting your subject settled and briefing (5 warm up questions)
  • 60 mins of core interview (5 key questions)
  • 30 mins to go back over questions for in-depth points
  • Ensure the interviewee frames the question as part of the answer

Questions to ask to uncover stories

Think about this example: “Tell me what a good leader is” vs. “Tell me about the best leader you’ve ever had.” The latter will uncover a story, not just a list.

Ask structured, open questions. Think www: Who? What? Why? Then build in the detail buy asking: Where? When? How did you feel?). Try asking people to tell you about a time when ‘X’ happened. What was the situation? What happened? What was the outcome? How did they feel?

Example questions

What’s been your most challenging moment?

Tell me about your most proud achievement – what happened? Why? What was the outcome

What was the most frustrating thing that happened on this project?


Let me know what worked for you and if you have any tips of your own to share!


29 Oct

It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.

Same goes for designing compelling, useful, helpful experiences; whether these are for customers/learners/shoppers/whoever (read: users).

We need to design experiences around what people need to do, when & in which context, rather than giving people stuff that might be useful but that might require so much sifting, sorting & sense-making that it renders it useless.

Context > Content. Every time.

I read a cracking piece on this from Dave Trott, who writes for Campaign magazine. The focus is on marketing, but the line between what we do in learning & what marketeers do is so fine, that it’s a must-read regardless of your job.

What do you think? Should we be designing content or experiences? Or both? How should this play out?

Let’s see what the users think

21 Oct

I was in a meeting today (as most of my stories start these days), talking about how we thought a game we’ve been working on might be received by users. Was it too difficult? Was it difficult enough? Had we got the balance right? What about the tutorial? Did it explain the game properly? Should we change it?


All of a sudden, like the clear ping of a well-timed bell ringing out to a particularly hungry classroom before lunch, a colleague of mine said:

“Let’s not make any assumptions. Let’s see what the users think.”

And everyone stopped hypothesising and questioning and wondering and agreed.

I’m lucky to be part of a team that works in a collegiate, collaborative and creative way and so it wasn’t a surprise that we all wanted to put our audience first. This approach has made developing the game together a real pleasure. The questions and concerns being raised on the call were genuine ones in service of wanting to deliver a good user experience and for that, I wish my laptop could do the high five emoji (go team!).

However, I know not everyone is as fortunate when it comes to having everyone on the same ‘user first’ page. So, I captured some brain snippets I find useful when trying to bring people along on an audience-centric journey. Hope you find them handy, too.

We don’t have all the answers and that’s okay

In a time when Twitter is sagging under the weight of ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’, it can be tough to hold your hands up and say “I don’t know how this will work, so we need to test it.” Especially when you’re billed as a Subject Matter Expert in meetings. But a bit of humility is not only admirable, it’s essential to ensure you’re doing things right by the user. A lot of what we do in learning, innovation, tech & digital is brand new. It’s never been done before. So we need to try things and to explain to our stakeholders that only by trying them (and potentially failing) will we ever be able to make things better.

Show, don’t tell

Okay, this is an oldie but a goodie. People spouting theory about learning innovation (some of it very decent, I grant you) are ten a penny right now. But not everyone can show how this is applied and why it works. So start small. Create a minimum viable product that shows your idea in action. Go DIY and build it yourself if you have to, or find someone else who can help. Or just find something that’s as ‘near-to-damnit’ as you can. Innovation by its nature means a lot of what we talk about hasn’t been done before, and not everyone will find it as easy to grasp as a concept as the person who had the idea will. Find a way to bring the idea to life, and then let your stakeholders see it – or even better, let them have a play. Then ask them for their feedback as users, not stakeholders. Better still, take it up a notch and invite them to see your target audience using your product and get them to gather the feedback with you. Making them part of the process rather than a passive observer can be a great way to get them on board with a ‘user first’ mentality.

You can’t argue with facts (well, you can, but it’s harder)

One of the reasons we take the MVP approach is so we can make data-driven decisions. Tracking and analysing usage data will always present a clear set of facts about how people are using our product. this can then be used to inform future decisions around changes and iternations. Tell your stakeholders this. Don’t assume they know why you’re working in this way! Working to deliver minimum viable products and then iterating on them isn’t something everyone is used to, but if you can suss out who in the room is into facts and figures and then engage them with this, it’s an in-road to get them thinking about usage and user data and how powerful this can be.

if you have any tips of your own, please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, I’d love to hear!

Jeremiah Gardiner has some good thoughts on how you can do quick user tests as part of his Lean Brand Lab. I’d definitely recommend having a read of his blog for some inspiration.

(Image from Gamesthatrocked.com)

If we build it, they will (not) come

26 Jan

As a marketeer who relatively recently made the transition into the world of enterprise learning, I spend quite a lot of my time being surprised.

Surprised at how good some of the solutions being delivered are (portals, apps, video, storytelling, point-of-need learning); surprised at how unhelpful some tried-and-tested (and found to be ineffective) solutions are – and how they’re still being pushed onto learners; and surprised at how many people are creating amazing things, but aren’t sharing these with anyone.

I’ve spent the last 8 years of my career as a signpost. Not literally; but everything I’ve done has been to the same ends – show someone that something exists, show them how compelling that something is and get them to spend time or money with it.

Thinking about this, I’m reminded of this excellent short film about signs and signposting – which also touches on my love for storytelling, but that’s a post for another day.

If you take only one thing from reading this post; I hope it’s this: you can build the best app/portal/site/tool/resource in the world, but if your audience doesn’t know about it, they won’t use it. You have to market it.

So, some handy content marketing tips that can help you get people to the things you’re making.

Email newsletters
Many people will say email is dead, but until Outlook and Lotus Notes are banished from our workplaces forever, it still remains the number one channel of communication (and bane of many people’s lives) for most office-based people. So make your email helpful, useful – heck, maybe even entertaining! Cut through the clutter and get noticed.

But how? Well, make your subject line unexpected – you want people to open your mail and if it looks like corporate spam, they won’t. Take cues from places like Buzzfeed: ‘3 ways to make your life easier’ is sure to get a better open rate than ‘NOTE: productivity focus’ or similar. Make the content itself compelling, use imagery, be single-minded about your message and include a strong call to action: tell your users what you want them to do: ‘Be inspired by your fellow leaders’ ‘find out how to make Lync work for you’, etc.

Find out where your audience is spending time and attention
There’s no point in sending out email newsletters if your target audience is a group of workers who spend all day out in a field without access to a device, for example. Maybe they listen to the radio. Maybe they spend time in a canteen where you can put up posters or table talkers. Make sure your communications plan is tailored and specific, but most importantly that you understand the challenges that your audience faces.

Lean on social networks
Yammer and other enterprise social networks are just starting to bed in for a lot of organisations. By all means, start engaging early adopters on these channels, but don’t forget about those people who don’t use them. Look instead to other channels with a better level of adoption; for example LinkedIn.

Find your solution’s USP and link it back to your user
Think about how your solution is making someone’s life easier, their performance more effective or their time better-used. Then tell them about it.

Think about language
Never, ever talk about yourself when you’re trying to get someone to engage with a solution. Golden rule number one of ad copywriting: the word ‘you’ is far, far more engaging than the word ‘we’. People ultimately generally only care about how something will be useful or helpful to them, they’re not bothered that ‘we have launched a new performance support app’ – but they might just care about ‘your job made easier: download the performance support app and get more done today’. It’s all about understanding those challenges that your audience face and turning the solutions to these into the benefits of your products.

This post is just the green shoots poking out from the ground when it comes to content marketing. If you want to know more about how to better engage your learners, start to think like a marketeer. A good place to start is e-Consultancy, or hit me up on Twitter if you want more insights.

I’ll be talking at Learning Technologies about how I use storytelling and content marketing to engage learners at BP this week, so stay tuned to #LT15UK for more.

#oneaday 86: Limitlessness

27 Mar

Just got back from watching Limitless at the cinema. I have to say, it was pretty entertaining, if a little on the obvious side. I’ve seen it slated in a few places but I wouldn’t say it deserves that. I think the idea of the film is probably more engaging than the film itself – if you could take a drug to make you brilliant, would you? But it felt like what could have simply been a really gripping story about morals and power got heavily laced with a ‘drugs are bad’ message. Yes, we all know that drugs are bad. That wasn’t really the point of the story though, was it? I think the underlying message about the fact that we all have choices and these choices define us was much more engaging. The idea that we are all in control of our own destiny as long as we realise our own potential. When we stop realising our potential, that’s when we start to get rubbish, right?

There was a bit of gratuitous violence, an extra antagonist for no real reason and a couple of characters whose presence added no real value at all (Friel, DeNiro?) and there seemed to be a few bits in the film that seemed to fizzle out or become loose ends, but other than that it was a nice, easy-going, entertaining film. Limitless also had some quite clever viral marketing behind it, which made me like the film a lot. Plus, Bradley Cooper is bang tidy.

bradley cooper limitless NZT movie drug pill hot

I won’t harp on about it as I’m sleepy as anything due to the clocks changing (I’ve got jetlag now) and the epic spring clean that we gave to our flat earlier, not to mention the 13K I ran/cycled at the gym earlier. In fact, who needs NZT? I’ve been pretty productive without it today.

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