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Dancing With the Genie (or The Ongoing Plight of the Omnipresent Media Brand)

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

DVI0775032The New York Times recently debuted its re-launched weekly magazine with the February 22 edition of the paper. Besides the usual self-aggrandizing about the new typefaces, columns, departments, and paper stock, the publication presented a compelling statement about its multichannel strategy on page 44 titled, “Beyond the Page.”

If the title sounds like a Harvard Business Review whitepaper, it’s a vision statement that all publishers aspire to — and which is easier said than done. The perfect recipe is content distribution through print, website, daily emails to mobile, podcasts, events — a 360 degree universe of readily available, current information services. Doing it all well and managing costs is an enviable dream for any organization charged with keeping the paying customer — its readers and sponsors — satisfied.

Even as the universe of ad dollars is being stretched across a burgeoning community of niche media properties, publishers like The Times have also had to contend with increased costs to populate content in multiple forms. As the saying goes, best practices means “giving the reader what they want, when they want, however and wherever they want it.” The old joke about putting the genie back into the bottle rings true. In 2015, the challenge is evident: The genie ain’t going back in, so we might as well enjoy the dance. Editors are charged with delivering well-researched, well-written, specific information for what amounts to an audience-of-one, catering to all levels of knowledge and specialization, meeting all reader expectations across many channels — and they need to do this on a publishing cycle that is as close to 24/7 as possible.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, publishers have the age-old challenge of trying to attract new readers to the pipeline, infusing the existing audience with younger members and ensuring that the development path is replenished and healthy for the future.

The Times announced another round of staff layoffs, letting go of about 110 newsroom jobs and closing its popular “Home” section this week. According to Keith Kelly and The New York Post, The Times print ad revenue fell 4.7 percent last year as readers continued to migrate to other digital venues. Sports Illustrated, an industry icon for its prose and breathtaking action photography, recently announced that it was letting go of the six remaining staff photographers, along with another round of cuts to the editorial staff.

Associations, as non-traditional publishers, are in a similar position. With an easy twitch of their Google-bound finger, members now have access to thousands of sources of news, analysis, data, shared insights and networking that professional memberships once exclusively offered. Reeling from the changes caused by technological advances and ubiquitous communication, executive management teams at these professional organizations are looking beyond traditional sponsors and turning to something called “non-dues revenue,” or ancillary revenue streams.

It’s all a necessary adaptation. Revenues will need to fragment into smaller pools just as the reader communities have fractured into their own niches. While events continue to produce successful sales results for associations and other publishers, these companies will need to establish and grow alternative ways to monetize their content. Ad agencies have done the same thing. If there was once a handful of revenue sources, many more streams were cultivated over the last twenty years and today, it’s not uncommon to see a plethora of offerings like research, data and analytics, mobile services, SEO, social, tie-in’s and cross-promotional deals, product placement, event marketing, and more — each profit line being mostly smaller in value for the agency.

One would think that conference and event strategies might be more prominent for associations, since in-person, face-to-face interaction is not the one thing that the Internet can’t offer.

In our office, we get a lot of queries from associations asking for our recommendations or best practices in multichannel publishing. Catering to their customers hasn’t been an easy task. Microsites and magazines are constantly being created to serve smaller, targeted segments of their universe of readers. Perhaps chasing their members’ ability to access niche content in the field of interest, publishers have continued to launch and sustain specialized technical and trade media properties. In this way, professional publishing has followed the path of its consumer counterparts. (Fishing magazine becomes Saltwater Fishing magazine, which becomes Eastern Saltwater Fishing, which becomes Florida Saltwater Sports Fishing, and on and on.)

Association managers need to know that they are in good company. Virtually every content-based organization is learning to manage new, real-time publishing cycles and multichannel strategies. It may not be a pretty dance, but there is abundant opportunity.

If you would like a consultative meeting to review your publishing and content strategy, please contact our office to set up a time to speak.

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For the Right Audience, a Print Redux

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Evercore_IT_Winter2015_low_7We like to say that we’re “media-agnostic,” meaning that we are open to whatever strategy and channel works most effectively. Depending on the audience needs, printed thought leadership may be an important component of a larger, 360-degree, integrated content marketing program. Such is the case with Evercore Wealth Management, which publishes Independent Thinking four times annually.

Our team redesigned the publication in 2014 and through a partnership with the client organization, continues to design and produce each edition. The publication is but one part of a system of content being published by Evercore Wealth Management, with each of the main articles coordinated to appear on the rotating carousel of the firm’s website. The winter edition, featured here, shares insights on Tax-Efficient Wealth Planning, the Investing Outlook for 2015, and Planning to Achieve “The Number” — that milestone which leaves us financially independent.

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Elegance With Entry Points: A sophisticated composition can also include a “tiered reader experience,” offering the reader twenty, ten, and one minute engagements

Working with the client team, we’ve collaborated to package a best-practice corporate journal — elegant design fitting for the audience, with a compelling composition of industry insights, thought leadership, arresting photographs, and current data shown as easy, clear information graphics.

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For more information, visit www.evercorewealthmanagement.com. If you have an interest in improving the quality of your content marketing or corporate communications, please visit www.iridiumgroup.com.

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Case Study: Burford Capital

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

burfordcapital_2In 2014, our group led a strategic redesign of the flagship website for Burford Capital, a legal financing firm that helps clients with business risk solutions and funding for corporate litigation. The site was just recently launched, reflecting a culmination of many months of work in research, planning, design, and development by IridiumGroup and the client team.
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A phase of stakeholder interviews shared insights into the company’s strategic goals, audiences, communications and channels, brand image, competitive set, and content needs of the site.

A proposed navigation, site structure, and wireframes were developed to meet the usability needs of several key audiences on both the legal and the corporate, client side. Burford Capital’s marketing leaders directed the content and navigation. It was important to deliver the proper messaging and desired user experience to all audiences, whether the purpose was to explain litigation funding, convey its business value, report progress to investors, share whitepapers, or to provide a deeper tier of reading and related links.
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The discovery that was done with Burford’s executive management team provided critical insights that guided and informed the design. Burford Capital works predominantly in academic, intellectual property and provide a full suite of solutions, but in some ways is also an investment institution. Early in the process, it was clear that the design should be typographical, or word- and content-driven, with a focus on delivering information in a clear, simple, easily accessible manner.

Also, we wanted to provide a visual expression and platform that would appeal to corporate attorneys, CFO’s, in-house counsel and corporate risk professionals. Our team worked to deliver an approachable, engaging, and inviting experience — but also, one with a quiet, restrained, and elegant presentation of data points and information. It was our goal to project a brand image of global thought-leadership in the emerging world of litigation finance and legal risk solutions. For more information, visit: http://www.burfordcapital.com/

 

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A Brand Image That Fits

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Throughout my career, I’ve seen examples of great organizations that lacked the proper dress or attire. By this, I mean that once inside the company, I observed impressive capabilities, special insights and knowledge of the markets they served, and sometimes, a rare level of integrity and commitment to deliver on their brand promise — but with marketing communications (the corporate dress) that did not accurately and appropriately represent those qualities in the messaging and visual standards of their brand.

IridiumGroup_Pitch_EvercoreWealthManagement2Expression of a brand is a tricky thing. More often than not, companies are aware of the burden they are bearing in “ad hoc,” produce-as-you-go-marketing. For relatively new companies, there’s always the point in time where they recognize the need to up the ante and call in a professional design team to strategically and systematically architect and craft new ways of projecting their brand image.

This was the case in 2014 with Evercore Wealth Management. I am proud to say that we recently redesigned and re-launched their website and thought-leader journal, Independent Thinking.

One of the interesting things about my job is the diligence phase: The ability to ramble around in the back of any organization, conduct interviews, and learn more about the operational model. From the beginning, it was evident that Evercore Wealth Management was actually living the brand attributes that many of these firms tout. They are passionate, knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated to projecting an accurate, sophisticated image in their marketing materials. The firm’s leadership — from the CEO, who was hands-on with copy and messaging, and all of the partners — is a model of professional excellence for other organizations to follow.

The company was founded five years ago. The marketing literature and website was understandably a humble reflection of the true capabilities of the firm. By 2014, it was time to audit and challenge the way the company communicated with various audiences.

To achieve their goal of better articulating their differentiation and positioning, and establishing the firm’s point-of-view in investment and trust services, Evercore publishes a range of original thought-leadership content.

IridiumGroup_Pitch_EvercoreWealthManagement5One of our first recommendations was a communication strategy with a quarterly frequency that would allow for a simple, easy integration of content and branded imagery to both the website and print publication, Independent Thinking. We worked to make the thought-leader content serve as a flagship for marketing strategy, and sought to illustrate the firm’s perspectives though compelling, thought-provoking visual metaphors. Unexpected images — the kind one doesn’t anticipate in business communications — were selected to accompany original content, and ultimately functioned as an anchor for website homepages.

The photographs suggest wealth or family trusts services, but if one looks more closely, there are additional layers of meaning, which help reinforce the ideas behind each article. The design approach reflects the level of financial intelligence at Evercore, as well as to its sophistication, approachability, and leadership. The images are intended to evoke a simple, artful elegance.

IridiumGroup_Pitch_EvercoreWealthManagement1 In leading many of our branding initiatives, my primary purpose is to serve as a responsible steward for each client brand. I’m not a spiritual adviser, business analyst, or strategist, but there are important components of all of these roles in my job. With Evercore, we set out to deliver a platform of communications tools that could not only share, with clients and prospective clients, the company narrative in an easily updated, cohesive way, but also, clearly communicate the character or spirit of the firm — the intangibles.

A brand, expressed appropriately, should fit perfectly and “feel right”; it’s akin to choosing the perfect suit or dress. Part of our job that isn’t discussed often is how to get the nuances? The answer lies in the ability to conduct — i.e., ask the right questions to the right people — and to interpret and analyze research.

In choosing IridiumGroup for both front-end research and the visual identity that flows from it, Evercore could not have selected a more suitable agency-partner. For twenty years, we have helped academic- and research-based organizations on the nonprofit side, or worked in business services, data and analytics, and information services on the corporate side. We’re an exceptional fit with erudite organizations that are content-based in their business model and marketing communications strategy.

Through our own research and design, we always aim for that rare intersection where high art, intelligence, and practical purpose reside. Call it “art meets commerce,” with a twist of academic reason.

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A few of the results for Evercore Wealth Management are proudly shown here. Professional team members included:

Frank McGill, Research
Yi Son Ko, Creative Director
Janese Castro, Project Manager
Abby Hassan, Print Production Manager
Minho Kim, Lead Developer
Ali Hoffman, Senior Designer
Cindy Hon, Senior Designer
Ezra Cohen, Executive Producer
Salvatore Salpietro, Technology Adviser

 

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DWAYNE FLINCHUM
Founder & President,
IridiumGroup Inc.

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