Tag Archives: Sklar Wilton & Associates

How to win the battle between privacy and personalization

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

We’ve been hearing for years that if you get something for free, you are the product. But for a lot of people, that adage never really sunk in until the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the company was accused of misusing and failing to secure Facebook data from more than 71 million people.

Before the scandal erupted, Canadians were perhaps complacent about privacy. But, this Google Trends chart shows a stark reversal beginning in March 2018. Now, though interest in Cambridge Analytica has quickly dropped off, searches related to privacy continue to rise.

google trends

Privacy and personalization create a double-edged sword. For many people, personalization is what you get when emails and newsletters address you by your first name. Our names have been public information since the day we were named, so we don’t normally feel a huge loss of privacy when someone we don’t know uses that information. And for the 2 BILLION people who use Facebook, the personal data we share on that website, from friends and family to favourite musicians and politicians, is shared under the assumption that it will be safe and secure within the website.

But for early adopters who have plunged head first into all that technology has to offer, the broader application of personalization is the magic that happens with a voice activated home assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or Echo, Apple’s HomePod, or Google Home. When you literally tell a small electronic device such as Alexa to order more slow cooked beef pot roast, personalization of this device means that it recognizes YOUR voice. It knows that you usually buy pot roast from M&M Food Market. It uses your saved credit card numbers and places the order to be delivered to your home after 6pm that day. That instant gratification is the ultimate goal of personalization. And the consequence is the ultimate loss of privacy.

Many of us willingly give up our most personal and risky details to companies and brands, because we love them and believe that the relationship improves our lives. We give those companies our kids’ names and our credit card numbers because it makes things easier and lets us spend our time doing the things we want to do in the way we want to do them.

On the other hand, personalization can sometimes be a less than wonderful thing. Social media games that ask for personal information such as pets’ names, favourite activities, authors, books, and more, probably are used to tell you which celebrity you’re most similar to. But, in some cases, these data are also used to profile your shopping personalities and determine which products and services you could be persuaded to buy. Which isn’t necessarily bad. But in some cases, these data could be used to facilitate serving deliberately slanted or misleading information. As we are discovering from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

We need to find a happy medium.

We know that privacy standards, even when very strict and enforced, are not always sufficient to safeguard data. We know that we share too much information with websites we don’t completely trust. We know that laptops get forgotten, lost, and stolen allowing access to files and software that are highly confidential. We know that hackers around the world are actively trying to access private information, whether for fun, status, or malice. Privacy with technology is impossible.

The happy medium lies in giving consumers good options. Companies that are willing to put in the work to earn consumer trust will enjoy long-lasting success. Consumers will reward companies that have a track record of good behaviour, and quick and friendly customer service. Consumers will even reward companies that make the occasional privacy or security mistake as long as the desired and necessary apologies are quick, genuine, and the resolutions are purposeful.

It might cost more to create winning customer service experiences, and build appropriate compromises between personalization and privacy, but the reward is loyal consumers. And nothing is more valuable than that.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.

 

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From Bumbling Dad to Human Being: How advertisers are finally giving dads their due

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

As a kid, my dad played catch with me every day after work in the summer, took me to swimming lessons every weekend in the winter, made me wiener soup for lunch when my mom spent a day doing her own thing, and spent hours with me picking elective classes in highschool (history, because I was going to be the next Indiana Jones). I personally can’t relate to the bumbling dads portrayed in ads I watched growing up.

To a far greater extent five and ten years ago, men have been portrayed as incompetent fathers who couldn’t properly feed a child or do simple cleaning tasks around the home. That historical model in the marketing space used to match some segments in real life such that it made no sense to extend parental leave to dads – it was presumed that dads couldn’t take care of the kids and the home anyways. It made no sense to strive for equality in the workplace when there seemed to be none in the home. As the saying going, you cannot do what you cannot see.

However, a study released by Statistics Canada shows that men’s roles in the family have changed starkly over the last forty years, particularly in terms of how many dads are stay-at-home dads. Compared to 1976 when stay-at-home-dads were 1 in 70 of all stay-at-home parent families, today that number is 1 in 10. If you consider households where the mom is employed, nearly 11% of dads today are the caregivers compared to only 1.4% forty years ago (see chart). It’s a consistent trend across all of Canada. If they ever truly were bumbling dads, dads today are regular human beings doing regular child-rearing and home case activities. Dads are changing diapers, buying groceries, cooking meals, cleaning toilets, and are viable audiences and target groups for pretty much every product category. These are all real spaces for companies to grow their business simply by reaching out to their current audience, not just their historical audience.

Advertising leaders in the United Kingdom also have a hard time relating to the stereotype of the bumbling dad and they have decided to do something about it. The Advertising Standards Authority released a report exploring harm arising from media gender stereotypes that “relate to body image, objectification, sexualisation, gender characteristics and roles, and mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.” The organization intends to create new standards for ads that incorporate stereotypical behaviours. For instance, ads that might not meet the new standards include those that:

  • Depict family members creating a mess while a woman has the sole responsibility for cleaning it up.
  • Suggest that an activity is inappropriate for a girl because it is stereotypically associated with boys or vice versa.
  • Feature a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks

In another initiative, Unilever, UN Women, Mars, and Alibaba have bound together in the ‘Unstereotype Alliance’ to do their part to stop stereotypical portrayals of gender in advertising. In their research , Unilever’s chief marketing and communications Officer Keith Weed notes that progressive ads are 25% more effective and deliver “better branded impact.”

It’s been truly heartwarming to see brands plan for this change and make huge strides in response to the evolution of gender roles. Over the last couple of years, brands have begun to make great efforts to ensure their ads are more representative of the current population, They are focusing more on the way things really are today as opposed to taking the easy way out by using the stereotypes that have existed for innumerable decades.

When it comes to gender, and dads in particular, newer ads have begun to focus on men and dads not as lazy, ignorant bystanders or handsome supermodels with ripped abs, but rather as equal partners taking on their share of responsibilities in the home, and as human beings who genuinely care about the other people in their lives. Newer ads present dads in a manner that reflect today’s reality. Dads who don’t have time to go to the gym every day because they’re taking kids to hockey practices, piano lessons, and library sessions. Dads who turn on the oven and feed the kids while mom puts her feet up after a long day behind the welding visor.

Tide has fully embraced this trend with its television commercials. For instance, in this commercial, though mom and dad are packing suitcases together, it’s the dad who is first to speak up and take action when his daughter, and then his son, needs some last minute laundry done.

This Motts Fruitsations commercial shows a dad taking on the grocery shopping duties. Not only is he caring for his baby at the same time as every mom has always does, he is fully aware of what his other children are up over the rest of the week including their karate and gymnastics classes, and sleepovers.

This Dove commercial shows many dads including their young children, both boys and girls, in a huge range of non-stereotypical activities. From dancing with them in front of the TV, gleefully terrifying them in a plane or race car, pushing their wheelchair through a skateboard park, or saving them from crashing after a fall, these dads share joy and passion with their young ones regardless of whether ‘girls do that’ or ‘boys do that.’

And, if you need something to wipe away the tears and put some fun into your soul, enjoy this last commercial from Ikea. The young boy is clearly disappointed when he tells his dad that mom cooked macaroni all week. And of course, dad saves the day with a beautifully prepared meal. You’ll just have to watch the rest of the ad to see the conclusion!

I quite love these new portrayals of dads in the media. It’s a great reminder that stereotypes don’t always reflect current trends. Sometimes you need to really push beyond tradition to reach the broader set of your consumers. If you’d like cast aside stereotypes and find out who your consumers of today are, we’d love to help you. Please get in touch!

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.

 

Shhhh…. A Post in Which We Reveal the Midi-chlorians of Questionnaire Design

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

There are no midi-chlorians when it comes to questionnaire design.

Sigh. I’m sad to start the post like that but it’s true. There are no Jedi mind tricks that will make people generate better questionnaire data. There are no sacred texts on the market research version Ahch-To containing that one single piece of advice that will allow someone who’s never written a questionnaire before to create an effective questionnaire that generates actionable outcomes. The only Force at our disposal is careful training as a Padawan and years of experience. Fortunately, as a questionnaire Jedi Knight myself, having years of experience does mean that I can share a few tidbits I’ve learned along the way, tidbits not necessarily found in an academic textbook. So here goes.

spaceQuestionnaires aren’t about grammatically perfect writing: After perhaps two decades of primary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate school, many of us have learned an abundance of grammar and writing skills that we’ve been told are essential for clear communication. Don’t end sentences in a preposition. Don’t use sentence fragments. Don’t start sentences with ‘and.’ However, as questionnaire writers, we have a very specific goal: To write questions and answers that are understandable to as many people as possible. And sometimes, that means joining the Dark Side and ignoring the rules we’ve struggled to follow for years. With that in mind, when there isn’t a good alternative, it is indeed okay to write questions that end in prepositions!

  • Which country do you live in? [Or better, ask “Where do you live?”]
  • Which of these have you heard of?
  • Which of these have you seen before?

Questionnaires aren’t about professional and formal writing: Of course we want research participants to recognize that the questionnaire they’re completing is important and should be taken seriously. However, formal language can be a deterrent to questionnaire completion, particularly for people whose reading skills don’t match the writing skills of the researcher. Besides, participating in a research questionnaire ought to feel like entertainment, not like a 30-minute life skills exam. Banish that language to a life locked in carbonite and instead, choose a casual language style that people will feel comfortable with. (Oh, see what I did with that preposition!) You need to avoid slang, idioms, and inside jokes that are meaningless without context, but you can certainly inject a bit of casual but relevant humour along the way.

  • Are you ready to chat about carpet cleaners and vacuums? It might be a boring topic but we all need a clean home!

Questionnaires aren’t about comprehensive questions: Sometimes, in our attempts to be clear and focused, we end up writing questions that are long and complicated, subsequently making it difficult for people to deconstruct and comprehend the intention behind asking the question in the first place and causing the resulting data to be riddled with quality issues. The alternative is to break sentences apart. Short sentences make comprehension accessible to everyone. People who are reading in a second language can understand short sentences. People who have different reading skills can understand short sentences. Be part of the resistance when it comes to long questions and long answers. If our goal is comprehension, short sentences are always preferred.

  • In the last month, how many large bottles of detergent did you buy? (A large bottle is 1 litre or 1 kilogram or more. Please include liquid and powder detergent.)

Questionnaires aren’t about category comprehensiveness: When you start thinking all the questions that could be answered, it’s easy to stretch a 5-minute questionnaire into a 35-minute questionnaire. Use the force to avoid this inclination. Short questionnaires retain the interest and attention of participants and therefore generate much better data. Cut every question you know you won’t act on. Cut every question that won’t generate an actionable outcome. Cut all the ‘nice to know’ and ‘I wonder whether’ questions. If the questionnaire still requires more than 15 minutes to complete, then you need to move to step two – figure out whether it can be cut it into pieces. That could mean giving twice as many people half as many questions, or spreading the questionnaire out over multiple occasions.

Quality questionnaire writing is a rare skill: Whether it’s designing marketing strategies that double the business in one year, accurately translating mission statements into six languages, or writing effective questionnaires, everyone is a Jedi at something. Jedi Knights in the research industry have written entire textbooks on how to create a good questionnaire. They’ve witnessed thousands of fatal errors across many different categories and industries, and know many of the common and obscure mistakes. Even better, Jedi Masters have learned a plethora of techniques to counteract hundreds of cognitive biases that prevent people from answering truthfully. They’ve acquired a unique skill of ensuring questionnaires will meet specific needs and generate the best possible data quality. If your research outcomes are intended to feed into major decisions impacting the health of your business, it is essential that you seek out the advice of Jedi Master questionnaire writers.

And with these tips firmly entrenched, may the survey force be with you!

 

Annie Pettit, PhD, FMRIA, is a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. She helps marketers build research tools that facilitate clear and direct answers to key questions and problems.

Sklar Wilton & Associates has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them solve tough business challenges to unlock growth and build stronger brands. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Recognized as the number one Employee Recommended Workplace among small private employers by the Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell in 2017, SW&A achieved ERW certification again in 2018.

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Leading by Design: A leadership profile of Dr. Ann Cavoukian and her passion for privacy

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog

If you’ve read anything about privacy in the last few years, you’re certain to have come across the name Dr. Ann Cavoukian. And if you don’t recall her name, surely you’ve heard of her concept of Privacy by Design. With all the data breaches we’ve encountered over the last several years and the most recent debacle with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the value of privacy has never been more clear.

Ann Cavoukian, Privacy, CanadaPrivacy by Design is the idea that every piece of technology, every website, every tool and process ought to consider how to incorporate concepts of privacy from day one and throughout the entire development process. Historically, many products and services have been, and continue to be, built such that privacy is an afterthought – once the product or service has been fully developed, people try to figure out how to retroactively apply privacy components. This strategy can easily lead to unnecessary collection of data, awkward programming work-arounds, and privacy policies that are far too complex for regular people to understand. By accounting for privacy from the start, through Privacy by Design, many of these problems can be prevented or simplified.

Ann’s career is impressive. She had Privacy by Design in mind before serving three terms and 17 years as the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, the largest province in Canada. Now, she is a distinguished visiting professor and Executive Director at Ryerson Universities Privacy and Big Data Institute. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Ted Rogers Leadership Centre at Ryerson University, and a Faculty Fellow of the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

Her awards are numerous and include being named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada, ‘Power 50’ by Canadian BusinessTop 100 Leaders in Identity, and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General of Canada for taking her Privacy by Design concept globally.

What’s inspiring about Ann’s leadership is that she never wavered from her commitment to Privacy by Design. Twenty years ago, digital privacy wasn’t a thing. AOL Instant messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN messenger, and LiveJournal existed. Skype showed up in 2003, Facebook in 2004, and Reddit and YouTube in 2005. To the average person 20 years ago, privacy was boring and manifested as physically locked filing cabinets in locked rooms – impenetrable without two keys. Yet Ann had the foresight to realize that planning for digital privacy would become paramount. She’s held strong to this message for more than two decades.

Today, her Privacy by Design strategy has traversed the globe and been translated into 40 languages. In 2010, International Privacy Regulators unanimously passed a Resolution recognizing Privacy by Design as an international standard. As we progress with integrating artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning with our marketing technologies, we must take care to implement Privacy by Design. Not because regulators say we should, but because Ann has repeatedly demonstrated that it’s the right thing to do.

You can find Ann on TwitterLinkedinWikipedia, at Ryerson University’s Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence where she is the Distinguished Expert-in-Residence, or her foundation Global Privacy and Security By Design.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.

What to do when anticipating the gift of feedback makes you feel like a failure

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

For some people, feedback is an extremely valuable gift to be sought after and treasured.

For others, it’s a dreaded piece of torture that reminds them how terrible they are at everything in life.

Feedback is an essential component not only at Sklar Wilton, but also in the larger business world, one that is valued by high performing leadership teams, and one that helps every employee learn and grow and be better at the things they love. Well delivered and well received feedback can promote a positive workplace culture, build stronger relationships among employees, and contribute to growth.

So what is someone to do if anticipating and receiving a gift of feedback feels like torture? Here are a few tips.

feedbackRemember that there is more to your life than your weaknesses. You are also the dad wearing a tutu in the grocery store because your son wanted someone to join him, the mom who shovels the snow from the walkway for your elderly neighbour, the friend picking up mail for a colleague who is away visiting their aging mom in the hospital. You are a multi-faceted person succeeding in over-lapping areas of life from work to school to volunteer activities and leisure time. A weakness or two in one area of your life does not translate to weaknesses in all areas of your life.

Remember that it is impossible for anyone to perform at peak, all day, every day, while carrying around the emotional baggage that all of us do. We all worry about our kids, our aging parents, our health, the bills we need to pay, and so much more. We are not robots programmed with artificial intelligence to input and output based on perfectly programmed algorithms. By design, humans have weaknesses and are not perfect. We get tired, bored, annoyed, over-excited, over-worked, and stressed and that can only impact our work.

Remember that your successes are far greater than your weaknesses, as small or large as you’ve imagined them to be. Your failures might threaten your self-image and your identity. They might take centre stage with giant billboards in your brain. But your successes at work, both large and small, are certainly far more numerous than your weaknesses. Make the effort to remember all the great things you’ve accomplished at work over the last month, year, and decade, and how awesome they really were.

Remember that feedback is someone else’s perception. Sometimes, the feedback will be 100% valid and completely unknown to you. It could give you reason to improve specific behaviours you never realized needed improving, and jump-start you onto an even better future. And sometimes, though the feedback might not reflect your reality, it does reflect the other person’s reality, their perceptions. In such cases, you will need to recognize that someone’s unique experience with you is valid and deserves to be appreciated. In either case, feedback is a gift that will help you adjust your behaviours for the better, whether that means changing the behaviour itself or doing a better job of managing expectations and perceptions related to those behaviours.

When you do find yourself on the receiving end of the gift of feedback, be sure to ask your gift giver for specific, current examples. Examples from the far past or from one-time events probably can’t be acted on now. But examples from ongoing tasks present multiple opportunities for you to learn and implement real change. Be prepared to take full advantage!

Be open to hearing suggestions you’ve already thought of and discarded. If someone who has taken the time to offer you the gift of feedback has specific suggestions, it’s worthwhile to reconsider them. Find out more specifically what they’re referring to and see if they have more specific ideas of how those ideas could work.

Be aware of your words and your body language. Receiving feedback might be difficult for you, but it might also be difficult for the person offering it. Focus on listening and encouraging rather than defending and rejecting. Make sure your body language demonstrates that you are open and positive about the feedback even when you’re struggling to feel good about the words you’re hearing.

Finally, remember that feedback really is a gift. It means that someone cares enough about you to want to help you learn, grow, and become more successful. Accept it with many thanks.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.

 

Digital Networking for the Skeptic Leader

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

There are many reasons to love the internet but my top reason is that it shrinks the world to fit into my own backyard. Whether someone lives in Australia, India, Japan, Finland, South Africa, Venezuela, Mexico, or even in another province of Canada, I can communicate with all of them on a personal, one to one basis any time and any day I want. Networking with a global community of industry experts has never been easier and, given global accessibility and the accelerated rate of technological innovations, never more essential.

One of the main problems people have with social media networks and digital networking, however, is that the tools are boring, irrelevant, or waste a lot of time. A few quick tips might help to improve the experience so that you too can benefit from digital networking.

1.      Find the social network that’s right for you

There are hundreds of social networks but you only need to find and participate in the one that suits you best. If you are visually oriented, head off to Pinterest or Instagram. If you want to get to know people personally, Facebook is the place for you. If you like a mixture of personal and business content that is short and sweet, Twitter is the place for you. If you’re all business, all the time, LinkedIn will suit you perfectly. Indeed, anyone wishing to grow their brand or further their career should be active on LinkedIn.

There are many more networks to choose from but the bulk of English industry conversations take place on these networks. You could try QQ.com or Weibo.com if you speak Chinese, or Vk.com if you speak Russian.

2.      Focus on people in your industry

Most social networks try to help new users by suggesting accounts to follow. Bad idea! Absolutely never follow their recommendations. If you are forced to do so to get your account working, be sure to unfollow those accounts as quickly as you can. Following celebrities, athletes, musicians, and pundits might be fun at first but, over time, you’ll find that type of content to be sensationalist and boring. You’ll probably even give up.

Instead, seek out people in your field, including industry experts, keeners, and hobbyists. If your industry is marketing, search for keywords like marketing, advertising, branding, retail, customers, consumers, messaging, pricing, or targeting. If your industry is market research, search for keywords like analytics, data, ethnography, focus groups, insights. Identify the relevant hashtags such as #marketing, #advertising, #branding, #MRX, or #NewMR. Find your relevant industry association. Identify the people who use those words and follow their accounts.

Even better, identify at least one expert who is well known in your industry and follow all the accounts they follow. More specifically, take care to follow personal accounts that showcase the names and photos of human beings not business accounts with names and logos of businesses.

To ensure you’ve always got a regular stream of new, interesting, and unusual ideas flowing through your stream, follow at least 1000 accounts from around the world. You aren’t supposed to read everything from these 1000 people as if they’re emails or personal messages. Rather, glance at whatever is passing through your stream when you happen to feel like taking a peek.

3.      Go beyond surfing and lurking

Social networks are supposed to be social but that doesn’t mean you have to share photos of your dinner or your kids (actually, give your kids the gift of privacy and don’t share any information about them online). You also don’t have to fill up the interweebs with random chatter just for the sake of being able to say you participated.

In the digital space, you are encouraged and expected to communicate with anyone, even world renowned, industry gurus, about anything. When you do see a post that is interesting or thought provoking, reply or leave a comment for the author. Let them know you liked their idea or share your own experience with the topic.

In addition to replying to comments, be sure to share your own ideas. Many people think they have nothing interesting to say, nothing new to say, or simply nothing worth sharing. I can 100% assure you that this is wrong. Everyone is an expert in something. Everyone has a unique perspective on even the most ordinary topics. The trick is simply to recognize when one of those opinions has popped into your head.

When you do share and comment, you’ll quickly become part of a conversation with people you’ve never talked to before but who now look forward to hearing from you. You never know who you’ll become fast friends with, who might ask you to speak at a conference, or who might turn into your best client.

4.      Communicate on a personal level

Networks like LinkedIn try to be helpful by giving users templated responses, sometimes suggesting phrases such as “I’ll be in touch” or “thank you” as one-click responses. Unless you need to reply to a hundred messages in the next five minutes, don’t take the bait. Take the time to respond to every person individually with a relevant thought or comment, even if it is simply a more personal way of saying “thanks a bunch!”

Some networks allow you to send automated messages. For instance, Twitter can be set up so that any new follower automatically receives a private message thanking them for the follow. Some people create longer private messages that include further contact information about their products and services. Don’t do that. Most automated messages are unwelcome. In fact, they might even encourage someone to stop following you. If you truly want to thank people for following your account, take the time to do it personally.

5.      Social media is for social not selling

If your title begins with a C (e.g., Chief, Consultant) or has the word “business” or “sales” in it, chances are every time you talk to someone, your brain tries to force you to offer a sales pitch or to invite someone to review your products and services. Don’t do it. Turn off that part of your brain. Beginning any new relationship with a sales pitch is a sure fire way to encourage someone to click on the mute/unfriend/unfollow/block button.

Instead, get to know people. Simply chat with people. Engage in some genuine conversation about the state of the industry. Learn what industry topics are important to them and what their challenges are. As part of a normal conversation between friends. Over time, you might experience the ultimate metric of success… you might find that you are asked for a pitch.

6.      Keep your profile current

Over time, you`ll learn more about your industry, and your interests and experiences will evolve. The profile you set up on a social media account 3 years ago may have been fun and relevant then, but it certainly doesn’t describe who you are today. Sometimes, that very short profile is all that people will see about you so make sure it reflects who you are today, not the young and uninformed kid you were 3 years ago. Current photos help new friends recognize you in the conference crowd, and current websites help potential clients learn more about your services on their own initiative. Make it a habit to update, or at least check, your information once each year.

Above all, don’t stress. If you find a social network to be overwhelming or unhelpful, find a buddy who can guide you through the intricacies and help you find a strategy that works for you.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. Sklar Wilton & Associates has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them solve tough business challenges to unlock growth and build stronger brands. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Recognized as the number one Employee Recommended Workplace among small private employers by the Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell in 2017, SW&A achieved ERW certification again in 2018.

 

 

Five Things I’ve Learned While Reaching for Success

This post originally appeared on the Sklar Wilton & Associates  blog.

For many people, January 1st is the day of change. It’s the day to begin putting apples instead of cookies into the office kitchen or start arriving at work a half hour earlier every day to take advantage of quiet time. But really, there’s nothing magical about January 1st. It comes in the middle of winter for some people and in the middle of summer for others. It has the most daylight hours for some and the fewest for others. It’s a date with no special significance other than the year is incremented by a unit of one. In other words, there is zero reason to wait 4, 6, or 10 months until the year is incremented to start something. Indeed, in waiting, you’ll have lost 4, 6, or 10 months that could have been spent building a new brand, or innovating your services. Charles Dederich (1914 to 1997), founder of 1960s drug rehabilitation organization Synanon, famously said, “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” The point is simple. Stop waiting and start doing.

Tight deadlines have left me without time to find typos in a client report and SQL code that didn’t do what I thought it did. Of course, if I were to pause in my tracks until I had reached the ultimate of perfection in everything I do, I’d still be rehearsing for my grade 2 class’s rendition of ‘The Three Little Pigs.’ Perfection is a dangerous and unnecessary roadblock to progress and success. We need to take pride in and appreciate the work we’ve completed thus far and know that even better work awaits us tomorrow and next week. In the immediate intensity of a project, work might seem subpar. And maybe it is. But achieving perfection in all things all the time is unattainable and undesirable. Mike Knapp, the Founder of Shoes of Prey, says we need to get in front of customers even if the product or service isn’t perfect. Reject the need to be perfect.

When it was time for my cohorts and I to apply to post-secondary education, we were instructed to choose three university programs. If two schools said no, maybe the third would say yes. We were primed for failure. Robert Pirsig’s book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintencance” got 121 no’s before if got a yes. Jay-Z got no’s from every record label before he decided to launch his album himself. When you have an idea or goal that you truly believe in, keep pushing until it happens. Don’t give up because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t take no for an answer.

I’m a huge fan of Twitter. I chat about market research, statistics, charts, conferences, diversity of conference speakers, plus a lot of nonsense. What you won’t see me tweeting about, however, are my lows. I don’t tweet about the days I’m sick or unproductive. I don’t talk about my failures. To an outsider, my career path looks linear. I went to school (after getting rejected a few times), got good jobs (after hearing no many times), and success magically occurred (though I was laid off from one job). Everyone’s path to success has a completely different set of ups and downs and twists and turns. It may seem like everyone else’s path led directly to success but in reality, your path is probably no more complicated nor difficult than theirs. In fact, having experienced their own collection of ups and downs, older start-up founders are more likely to be successful than younger founders. There is no clear path to success.

More than anyone else, you know what you love and what you’re great at. You have a unique perspective of why you like or dislike certain products or services, and how you could improve them. As much as you’d like to spend weeks or months analyzing the competition, or strategizing the best ways to beat the competition, you can’t control what they’re doing. Your strength is your unique perspective, your unique team, your unique strategies. As someone striving to build products and services that people want and need, you need to focus on what you can do, how you can be great, why your perspective is great. Sure, it’s essential to know what your competitors are doing, but there’s a much bigger world out there. Don’t focus solely on the competition

If you can adhere to these five quick tips, you’ll be ready to make today is the day you start rejecting perfectionism. Know what your success looks like and refuse to take no for an answer.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. Sklar Wilton & Associates has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them solve tough business challenges to unlock growth and build stronger brands. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Recognized as the number one Employee Recommended Workplace among small private employers by the Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell in 2017, SW&A achieved ERW certification again in 2018.

#AI and #VoiceSearch and #Chatbots, oh my at the #TTRA2018 conference!

It’s hard to beat a lizard laden, sun shiny, ocean retreat like the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, but add in the Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA) conference and you’ve got my attention.

CDJ customer decision journeyI quite enjoyed a number of the talks. Michael Rodenburgh from IPSOS Canada spoke about behavioural data and offered some fascinating tidbits about where people go to and come from during the tourism and travel customer decision journey. Passive behavioural data collection is a fabulous data collection tool and if you’re careful about obtaining explicit consent, I’m a big fan of it.

lgbt gender question format

I was fascinated by a talk that Thomas Roth and David Paisley from Community Marketing and Insights gave about research with people who are LGBTQ+. Terminology seems to be in a permanent state of evolution and I never know what the most current respectful terms are. Needless to say, Tom and Dave will now be my go-to experts.

TTRA holds a number of academic tracks throughout the conference. In these tracks, graduate students and professors share their academic work which means there is a heavy contingent of highly trained, highly specialized researchers at the event. For those of you who love statistics and the nitty gritty of research details, these tracks are definitely for you. I love them for two reasons. First, of course, you learn about the research itself. But second, and most importantly for me, they are a great way to refresh your statistical and methodology training. ANOVA results take front stage and we see betas, f-values, p-values, and all the supporting statistics. People comment on and strategize over minute details. These discussions make me rethink what I thought I already knew and update my opinions about how to use statistics. Love it.

I was delighted to speak on the main stage Thursday morning about AI, chatbots, and voice search (my slides are below). I shared results from a Sklar Wilton & Associates white paper showing that the general population is fairly knowledgeable about the state of AI. AI can now write newspaper articles about anything you ask of it, AI can create humour that people actually laugh at, in some sense AI can even read your mind, and Google’s millions of dollars have allowed them to create an AI voice that is practically indistinguishable from the human voice. Of course, AI isn’t perfect and Joy Buolamwini of M.I.T.’s Media Lab has conducted research showing how facial recognition technology has trouble recognizing dark faces.

Technology for the regular folk who don’t have millions of research dollars backing us up has progressed to such a point where it is useful for customer service reps, marketers, and market researchers. Customers regularly use AI to book flights and hotels whether through chatbots on Facebook or voice assistants, we can now use AI moderators from companies like Quester to conduct surveys with anyone who has a voice assistant, and chatbots from companies like Elsient to conduct text surveys.

As fabulous as AI is, people are still unmatched for their ethics, emotions, and genuine caring for other people. This is what market researchers bring to the research table. Sure, we bring tech. Tech speeds things up and helps reduce technical errors. But people bring research results to life.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the diversity of speakers, put your hands up, they’re playing our song, 54% of speakers were women. Rock on, TTRA!

Thank you Kathy and Scott for putting on a fabulous conference. We’re off to Melbourne Australia next year!

Defying Stereotypes: A profanity-filled leadership profile of Cindy Gallop

If reading about profanity and sex aren’t your thing, you can read a tame version of this post on the Sklar Wilton & Associates blog.

Meet Cindy Gallop.

Cindy Gallop - I like to blow shit up.

Cindy likes to blow shit up.

Cindy Gallop is glaringly bold and contentious in sharing her opinions about the state of advertising, the lack of gender equality in the advertising industry, and misperceptions of what comprises normal, healthy sexual relationships among people.

She began her career in advertising and made a name for herself at the Bartle Bogle Hegarty agency. She later founded their US branch, eventually being recognized as the Advertising Woman of the Year by the Advertising Women of New York in 2003.

Now, Cindy is the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, an extremely ‘Not Safe For Work’ (NSFW) social sex website that aims to derail misperceptions about healthy sexual relationships. She is also the founder of IfWeRanTheWorld, a real-world experiment in tapping good intentions and turning them into tangible, do-able microactions that anyone and everyone can help you to do.

Just like Cindy, millions of people have worked hard, risen through the ranks, and founded companies. No big deal. Okay, it IS a big deal but that’s not the point here. The point, rather, is that when I think about people who are leaders, not simply presidents or founders or CEOs, I immediately think of Ms. Gallop. She reminds me on a near daily basis of four qualities I admire in genuine leaders.

1)     Be bold and fierce. Cindy isn’t meek, mild, and moderately opinionated. We’ve blogged before about the appropriateness of using profanity in the workplace, and Cindy has zero qualms about it. Her unabashed use of profanity and colloquial language to make her points clear and strong captures people’s attention and brings them into the conversation regardless of whether they agree with her.

I want to be very clear on this: Yes, MakeLoveNotPorn.com and All The Sky have enormous social benefit, but I am also out to make an absolute goddamn fucking shit ton of money. – MMLaFleur

I deplore the shying away that can go on, within women, from the term ‘feminist.’ I am, absolutely, all about being a feminist. – Ted.com

Cindy personified bold when Kevin Roberts, a top ranking advertising executive at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, resigned after a gender diversity controversy, She had no qualms issuing a public statement with a valiant dare, a statement that on its own caused even more controversy.

“I see that Kevin Roberts was paid a total salary of $4,137,786 last year, whereas, contrary to his remarks directed at me, nobody anywhere is paying me anything to do the work I do in this area. I note that PublicisGroupe/Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide now have a vacancy for a leadership coach, and I’d like to offer my services. Obviously, to ensure there is no gender wage gap, at the same salary Kevin Roberts was being paid.”

In her efforts to promote diversity and equality, she’s regularly accused of promoting ‘quota’ and ‘diversity’ hires that will lead to people who aren’t sufficiently qualified to be hired. Her response to those claims continue to be bold and fierce.

“Look around at the mediocre men who were hired just because they were men. Get hired because you are a woman or person of color and then do a bloody brilliant job in that role.” – AdAge

“Diversity raises the fucking bar.” – 3% Conference

2)     Defy stereotypes. Everyone is raised with stereotypes. Boys and girls are taught how men and women ought to look, speak, dress, and present themselves. Boys and girls are taught how ‘young’ and ‘old’ people are supposed to behave. Our culture has taught us that older women should be quiet, demure, and blend into the background, but Cindy has completely rejected those notions. Instead, she focuses on what is right for her.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy believes you shouldn’t hide your age. At 57, you could say she’s an older woman. And even though she’s not part of the Hollywood scene, she dresses however she pleases including wearing leopard-skin miniskirts, biker pants, python skin pants, leather pantsuits, and warrior outfits because what she chooses to wear is no one’s business but her own. Who’s to say that older women must show restraint and modesty in their clothing choices? Restraint is not Cindy’s modus operandi.

I consider myself a proudly visible member of the most invisible segment of our society: older women. I would like to help redefine what society thinks an older woman should look like, be like, work like, dress like and date like by the way I live my life. – The Guardian

3)     Ignore what haters and nay-sayers think. Cindy knows what is meaningful and important, and if someone isn’t comfortable with her use of profanity, her social sex projects, or how she presents herself as an older woman, well, they’d better get used to feeling uncomfortable. Cindy keeps on fighting for the causes she believes in, and she keeps on trying to mend misperceptions of sexuality so that people can have more realistic expectations of what a healthy sex life really is.

4)     Do what is right. Cindy has a firm handle on what it means to do the ‘right’ thing and she’s oriented her life to achieve that goal. Not in keeping with stereotypes of women, and particularly of older women, her end goal is to become rich. But at the same time, she also wants to create and support endeavors that have enormous social benefit. She’s managed to do this with both of her projects – MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld.

“When we launched If WeRanTheWorld, I said to my team, I want us to innovate in every aspect of how we design and operate this as a business venture, as much as the web platform itself – because I want us to design our own startup around the working lives that we would all like to live. Women and men alike.”Forbes

I say to women: you have to set out to make an absolute goddamn fucking shit-tonne of money. When you negotiate your salary, ask for the most money you possibly can without bursting out laughing – for yourself and for every other woman. – The Guardian

Cindy’s leadership style and her dedication to her projects has amassed her more than 60 000 devoted followers on Twitter. Her provocative Ted Talk (Make love, not porn) has garnered millions of views. If you’re not yet convinced that Cindy’s leadership style is one to be admired, or at least appreciated, watch her talk at Mumbrella360 on How Advertising Can Change the World. You might learn a few things.

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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.

Goodbye Luke Sklar

Luke SklarThis afternoon, visionary Luke Sklar is being laid to rest. After more than three years of experiencing severe depression.

I’ve known of Luke for many years as one half of famed Sklar Wilton & Associates but I’ve only personally known him for about a year and a half. In that time, I was his social media guru. He’d come to me for help figuring out all the strange and ever-changing nuances of Twitter and LinkedIn. He wanted to stay in touch with the current news, and he wanted to take advantage of new technologies. He was my regular proof that old dogs (though at 63, he wasn’t old at all) can learn new tricks, should learn new tricks, should be eager to learn new tricks. He had a sweet smile, a goofy grin, and kind words for everyone in the office whether they’d worked with him for thirty years or thirty days.

Luke was my occasional reminder that people who have depression can get better and that there is hope.

My first instinct on hearing the news was to share it with my colleagues and the rest of the industry who knew and loved him well. But I couldn’t. The inevitable question would come about – how did he die. And we all know that you can’t talk about depression. It’s not like cancer or heart disease or stroke. Shhh….. it’s depression. Don’t talk about it. It’s shameful. The most I could do was post a tweet begging people who are contemplating suicide to seek help. (Please, please, please seek help. We want you here, we need you here.)

So in the wake of this horrible news, I am grateful that Luke was not ashamed of his illness. I am grateful that we are allowed to say depression took his life. I am grateful that more people will realize the true insidious nature of this disease, and that mental health is as important as any other type of health. Amazingly brilliant people who’ve built award-winning businesses filled with amazing employees get mental illnesses too.

Clinical depression comes in all forms. For some people, medication helps tremendously but it still doesn’t cure the illness. The day to day sadness and hopelessness continues to be a minute by minute struggle. Hospital stays are frequent and long, and suicide watch is ever present. Their caregivers struggle to encourage them to live, to eat, to stand up, to finish a puzzle meant for a child, to colour a simple drawing for more than two minutes. They might disappear from social gatherings and you wonder whether they got bored of spending time with you. Or if they’ve moved. In reality, you’ll never know they have depression because you aren’t in their extremely tight circle of people who must know. Shame continues to be an undeserved sentiment that lingers around mental illness.

For other people, medication can take away the incessant life-threatening feelings and make presenting oneself to the world possible. Medication can even make other people think a depressed person is in perfect health. Laughing, joking, playing, working, all in seemingly wonderful health. You’d never guess they have depression because they are the life of the party any time you’re around them. You don’t see them after they close the door behind you and enter a world where the down is far more down that you can even imagine. All you see is their funny tweets, their hilarious Facebook posts, their goofy grin. You think you know. You think you can tell. But I guarantee you cannot. They’ve perfected the act so well that even their best friends could never guess. And then you never see them again because depression kills.

Luke was a firm supporter of Sick Not Weak, an organization dedicated to helping people understand that mental illness is an sickness, not a weakness. Their goal is to create a community of people who come to gain strength and stay to give strength, to help both sufferers and the people who care about them, and most of all to get as many people as possible, in a loud, firm, confident voice to share the words “I am SickNotWeak.”

I know a few people in our tight community of market researchers who have been brave enough to share their experiences with depression. I am truly grateful to you for your bravery and willingness to openly share your experiences. You are helping to save lives.

I know other people who have depression but I can’t talk about them. I’m still not allowed. But I can talk about Luke. You can talk about Luke. Please spread the word that mental illness is an illness. That you are sick, not weak.

Read Sklar Wilton & Associates news post

Donate to SickNotWeak in Luke’s memory

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