Algorithms, artificial intelligence and code oh my!

Article originally published on LinkedIN

Nearly all of you have taken an UBER in the last week or two…

Corporations have begun to change in ways that would be unthinkable a few years ago, technology has transformed businesses in ways that are both uncomfortable and remarkable. The idea of Skynet takes on a whole new meaning; I think James Cameron had it half right with the Terminator movie franchise. We won’t be at war with Robots and AI, the reality is that robots, AI and code are entities with which we as humans will need to coexist with across a variety of situations and sectors…the truth is we already do it that we haven’t thought of it in this particular way…

Let’s look at a couple of recent pieces of news; Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn replaced laborers with 60,000 robots, the Philippines is using code to replace call center jobs while investing to re-train their workforce to provide higher end services and believe it or not the European Union is in talks to create a robo-bill of rights and companies are required to pay social security taxes on the electronic people they employ in the future.

Everyday professionals like you and me are following schedules and instructions given by software whether sent from a desktop, mobile phone or tablet device. And Uber’s automated management system is evaluating performance and compensation for over 200,000 workers. Could software serve as a CEO? Why not, a great CEO needs to be credible, competent and objective. These traits could be programmable.

According to a Gartner analyst, in 2018 3 million people will be supervised by robo-bosses, these smart machines will assess performance in dispassionate ways that could effectively manage the workplace.

So, could we be seeing a reality where a line of business or organization is headed up by a piece of code or managed by robot?

Era of mobile transformation

It’s been a long while since my last post, and a lot has changed in digital hasn’t it? Digital is here to stay, so much so, I’ve identified three particular areas where this is true, 1) the meaning of digital transformation has changed 2) new paradigms have emerged and 3) what was new before is now business as usual.

1) Meaning of digital transformation has changed – what it means to become a digitally driven enterprise has changed in the last year and a half. Lets face it, being a digital forward organization used to mean, shift more marketing/communications budgets/approaches towards digital and/or digitize what is “offline” to digital and/or pressure from wall street to take advantage of digital to shift to a new business model.

Digital Transformation

The illustration above probably encapsulates the maturity level and business aspects of the digital transformation to which we applied solutions. We’ve all been there, either leading and/or supporting, yet it’s always catching up or missing a crucial lane here or there which presents a tremendous amount of waste and frustration.

We now know that there will always be challenges along the way yet even that mindset has to change. The interpretations presented by Mckinsey, BCG and other consulting shops will have us believe that solving the business problem will enable the change.


However, in order for large businesses to accelerate digital acumen isn’t to ignore the business problem, existing non-digital assets and infrastructure that’s driven businesses to growth today but rather understand how to shift to consumer first, tackle the customer pain points and then calibrate the strategy, operations and processes accordingly in a smart, continuous and agile way.

2) New digital paradigms have emerged – Cloud based products, the IoT (Internet of Things) is taking full shape in our lifetime, someone you know has a smart home or a series of connected devices, a hive of communications and a virtual mobile living room.


Companies are struggling to keep up with the changing landscape and this transformation is happening at various layers, both consumers and employees are looking for products and workplaces that are not tethered. It’s inconceivable that before 2012 Snapchat didn’t exist or that Netflix would be in the movie business or Alibaba would produce Star Trek Beyond! These forward thinking companies are following the consumer, understanding the behavior and solving for there needs. Snapchat an ardent consumer experience focused company is now growing at a velocity that even Facebook couldn’t keep up with.

3) What was new is now business as usual – there isn’t a digital revolution, it has come and we are past the digital chasm. More prominently, mobile is the new revolution, it’s consuming all that is digital and bringing it to the physical. Smartphones are how we consume, read content, view movies, communicate, work and even pay each other.

Mobile Transformers

Mobile has been a catalyst to changing consumer behavior, for example we went from active participants, to being witnesses and to now merely sharing experiences to families, colleagues, friends, etc. It’s not just changing the consumer mindset but small businesses as well. As an example, small businesses receive from direct feedback from consumers, even collecting payments directly. In essence, they are disintermediating the VISAs and MasterCard. How do businesses tackle this new behavior?

What’s more, is that it was inconceivable three years ago that Verizon would by AOL, the mere fact that Verizon a telecommunications company would be in the business of culture and advertising. What’s changed?

Consumer behaviors have given mobile companies a huge leg up and of course the ability to naturally apply continuous learning. I hope that as professionals we’re all challenging the notion of business first and thinking about consumer first to understand the natural desire for consumers to be mobile and combing the worlds of digital and physical together.

Can your press releases still be effective? With digital marketing they can!

Tip of IcebergPurist Public Relations professionals need not read further. Why? Google is the Wall Street Journal of the Web.

I’m going to discuss the 5 reasons as to why Press Release Optimization is critical to any organization and business considering managing and maintaining their public image. BTW: I’m not a scientist, I’m a professional who’s been doing a lot of digital marketing, public relations and search engine optimization for a long time.

Traditionally, press releases served to communicate vital information to key members of the media. Classic press releases were distributed to newswires and so on. However, with the proliferation of search engines and social media and the radical adoption of search engines, a new approach has emerged. Many digital marketers have found that press releases are not one dimensional, they can be considered a part of multi-tiered strategy to achieve certain objectives such as creating awareness, driving sales/acquisition and engage customers.

Multi-tiered from an targeting stand point: By this I mean, that there are really three types of audiences in order of importance with a focus on “the message” mainly what is it that you are about to communicate?

  • Distribution Channels
  • Members of the Media
  • Constituents

There are two points to keep in mind, 1) distribution channels are dependent upon the media consumption habits of your constituents. By media consumption, I mean, how are your constituents acquiring information. And, 2) distribution is indeed your target audience.

Now that I’ve laid out, high level, the multi-tiered thinking, what we should do is quickly discuss why we’re doing this and the data to support it:

  • 75% of the media, according to Jupiter Research, use news search engines.
  • 85% of Americans online use either a search engine or social media, Pew Research
  • Press releases due its content rich nature are naturally search engine friendly

A couple of what if questions. What if you were in the business of a new programmatic advertising technology and a staff writer at Time was doing a roundup of cutting edge programmatic advertising technology who went on Google, did a search for “programmatic advertising companies” and couldn’t find your company or press release in the search or news results pages? What if the staff writer, because he/she couldn’t find you, didn’t know you had an exciting product, went on to write about your competitors and other unknown companies? Then your management reads the article says, hey, we would have been perfect for this round up, what happened?

The story above has happened to companies countless times. The PR team have their top-tier lists, yes, you and thousands of other PR firms and individuals are trying to get the big piece of media coverage on a handful of top publications, online or otherwise.

Now before you go and edit your release, revisit and audit your boilerplate. Yes, this is a persistent and constant element that will help your press releases bubble to the top. I had a client who wanted their press releases to come up for hotel suites yet they didn’t even mention it in the boilerplate a representation of the brand position. Yikes!

Now let’s focus on the how to do this on a press release:

  1. Determine the message and who you’re communicating to.
  2. Research the appropriate keywords and determine a primary term and a few secondary terms.
  3. Draft copy (minimum 500 words) based on your terms but make sure your primary term is included in the headline.
  4. Determine appropriate anchor links to take folks to appropriate areas of the website.
  5. Decide whether rich media and imagery is appropriate
  6. Select appropriate traditional and online newswires
  7. Setup a search engine ranking solution* and measuring tool** to measure effectiveness of your releases

*Advanced Web Ranking or Webposition

** Google Analytics (it’s practically free)

For your enjoyment I pulled this from Wikipedia:

“The advent of the Internet has ushered in a new kind of press release known as an optimized press release. Unlike conventional press releases of yore, written for journalists’ eyes only, in hopes the editor or reporter would find the content compelling enough to turn it into print or electronic news coverage, the optimized press release is posted on an online news portal. Here the writer carefully selects keywords or keyword phrases relevant to the press release contents. If written skillfully, the press release can rank highly in searches on Google News, Yahoo or MSN News (or the many other minor news portals) for the chosen keyword phrases.

Readers of optimized press releases constitute far more than journalists. In the days before news search engines, a press release would have landed only in the hands of a news reporter or an editor who would make the decision about whether the content warranted news coverage. Although the news media is always privy to online press releases in the search engines, most readers are end-users. Optimized press releases circumvent the mainstream media which is formerly—but no longer—the gatekeeper of the news.”

2013 round up of programmatic digital marketing and technologies

Programmatic Spending
While we’ve been fascinated with the development of programmatic digital marketing & advertising the past year, there have been major technology related advancements in 2013. From, Elon Musk’s high speed transport system to democratization of big data and, well, everything in-between. From Microsoft finding finally itself vis-a-vis Windows mobile to the quantifiable self and of course how can we forget the wearable technology goodness of such stuff as Google Glass. It’s nice to see that technology is enabling enabling us to do more and that there are indeed pioneers and innovators of our century.

2014 will be a year of practicality, we hope, as it would be nice to see enterprises and consumers, pros and otherwise start consuming the new stuff practically and helping the innovators continue the journey of truly taking technology to new heights!

So, I thought it’d be good to still kick off the new year with a round up of relevant 2013 technology and advertising coverage from various publications we enjoy reading:

  1. AdExchanger – The Programmatic Year That Was: AdExchanger’s Best of 2013
  2. AdWeek –’s Top 10 Technology Stories of 2013
  3. iMedia Connection – The Bold Ways Marketing Evolved in 2013
  4. Mashable – The Most-Searched Entertainment Electronics of 2013
  5. The Verge – The Year In Review:  the biggest stories of 2013


By the way, programmatic generally is the automation of the buying and selling of desktop display, video, paid social and mobile ads. Programmatic capabilities are dependent on the maturity of a country’s advertising market, for example, Programmatic is widely available in the US a developed market whereas, it’s rare in APAC countries as they are developing.

Forbes – Programmatic Advertising – My Curious Quest Continues

NY Times – The New Algorithm of Web Marketing

NY Times – Elon Musk Unveils Plans for Hyperloop High-Speed Train

This is merely a smidgen of what we’ve accomplished, just think how much we’ve done and how much more we can achieve. I’m bullish about everything programmatic, of course selfishly, I’m hoping advertising and marketing becomes more and more automated where we as marketers and business folk can focus on higher order elements and return to listening to our customers versus chasing the proverbial conversion rate and so on.

Feel free to send me any articles you think would complement this round up and most of all enjoy!

Agile principles in digital marketing and acquisition

Agile Software Development methodologyIn the past decade or two, I’ve had the opportunity to truly explore and learn more about the “supply chain” of digital marketing through the lens of an agency and from the view of an in-house digital marketing executive. I’ve also had the opportunity to work within the top most important verticals such as Financial Services, Travel & Hospitality and Retail and learn about the opportunities and challenges each have faced to deliver high-fidelity digital strategy to drive business growth.

What I’ve learned is that in every experience I couldn’t help seeing a tale of two cities, on one hand organizations stumbling into adopting agile software development methodologies while on the other hand, marketing organizations working to adopt waterfall methods.

Ironically, real-time digital marketing is the very essence of what agile is all about, how else could you possibly deliver on its promise, operationally and to scale up? We just don’t think to apply the very ingredients that have made agile a success in software and product development the past decade to marketing and in particular to digital transformation.

That got me to thinking, why not share my view and craft principles that have helped me and cross-functional teams where ever I’ve been to balance and deliver the productivity, quality and delivery of great service, particularly, if you think about service as a software. The leap then to applying great software development principles is easier to digest. Would love your comments or thoughts and of course before I do that, I thought it’d be good for me to copy/paste Wikipedia’s description of Agile Development:

“Agile software development is a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. It is a conceptual framework that promotes foreseen interactions throughout the development cycle. The Agile Manifesto[1] introduced the term in 2001.” Source: Wikipedia

A few prerequisites to align on within your organization:
a) Clearly define who your customers are. Invariably they will be the consumers of the work your team delivers
b) Establish what your service, product and deliverable (example deliverable could be a report) are meant to provide
c) Facilitate feedback and change

Principles for Digital Marketing In An Agile World

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through rapid and continuous delivery of valuable services and deliverables
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver high quality working services and deliverable frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale and rhythm.
  4. Business people, technology, analyst and developers must work together daily throughout a project.
  5. Build projects around motivated team members. Provide them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the work done.
  6. Make face-to-face conversations mandatory as its the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team.
  7. Functional services and regular deliverable is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team should reflect on how to become more effective, then tune and adjust its process and behavior accordingly.
  13. Communicate what’s work and what has not including how the team will adjust it’s process and behavior

Update June 23, 2013: published an interesting piece a couple of months after my post, unrelated of course, that I thought I’d share. The gist is similar, however, it’s primarily agile in marketing versus Agile In Action: How Four Brands Are Using Agile Marketing

Does your organization enable digital marketing innovation in this new era?

New-HeightsFolks, it’s been awhile since I posted something and there is generally no good reason not to. Let’s face it, we’re all busy trying to figure out what 2013 will bring to us.

I thought I’d share a point of view on a particularly interesting topic, “Innovation” or in my world, specifically, “digital marketing innovation” and how an organization can encourage it.

the cliche that change is constant is a nagging truth. With the daily barrage of information and ideas, how do we as business leaders fuel innovation and as a result growth? Digiday just ran a piece on just how Intuit does it and here are a couple of highlights:

1) Your organization should be somewhat dynamic
2) Develop processes and guidelines to facilaite regular cross-training or swapping opportunities. There is no reason to prevent a finance person to consider marketing and vice versa!
3) Make sure that you’re collecting the feedback as staff swap roles, i.e. work with them to build case studies and learning

Here’s the full Digiday article: Why Intuit Encourages Job Swaps

When should you be a general manager versus a subject matter expert?

We all have a few “real life” examples of when we were required to modulate our approach in certain situations between putting a general manager hat on versus your expert hat on. Hindsight is 20/20 and while we take it for granted, you can learn a ton from past mistakes. In the end, I believe that you should be yourself and focus on doing the right thing.

The scenario is this:

You work for a superb company, the company is filled with phenomenal individuals with a diverse set of cross-functional skills and experience. You’re presented with a situation that needs you to press the pause button on your domain expertise and years of experience to support a solution a key collective of individuals within the organization is advocating.

The right thing to do:

Easily said than done and always consider the short and long term implications of your behavior as well as actions. Show that you trust your key partners and empathize so that their ideas coupled with yours could be a much more powerful alternative to consider.  Key here is “empathy” and you’ll see you’ll elevate to the general manager approach and ultimately your colleagues will value your inputs.

Feel free to share your stories so that we can learn and be informed about how to improve our collective general management skills.

The enterprise marketer can transform businesses

Indeed it has been awhile since I’ve spoke at a conference. So thanks to the folks at x+1, an innovative and agile enterprise business platform, I was invited to sit with Verizon and JP Morgan Chase’s key advertisers moderated by Sarah Fay!

I think the key takeaway for me was the general management aspects of marketing, focusing on leadership, innovation, team building and cross-functional  shared vision that could make or break an organizations efforts to build enduring marketing departments.

John Ebbert of Ad Exchanger covered the panel and the conference, NexTargeting. Hope there will be more as I had the unique pleasure to participate and meet some really terrific people:

What’s your plan in persevering in life and work?

It’s been several months since my last posting, so I’m overdue. This next topic though is an interesting one and of course we can all agree that anytime is a good time to review our respective professional development plans. We all work extremely hard for many different bosses, our teams, goals and objectives. I’ve found myself asking various different questions related to this and it’s been useful in my quest to ensure I’m heading down the path that will ensure optimal success. I suppose the biggest question in my mind is, “Have I left an impression so far?” I’d say, “no” at the moment but I’m working on it!

How about you? I don’t quite have visitors yet but hopefully someone will stumble across this blog and join in this conversation. I’m optimistic. So I’ll leave us with a few questions and a couple of interesting measurement techniques. Would love to hear from you.

  1. What is your life objective? (could be personal, financial and/or professional)
  2. Are there specific and intentional strategies laid out for you to achieve your objective?
  3. What investments have you made in achieving success? (Time, money, labor, coaching, and/or anything goes in terms of investment?)
  4. How often or are you even asking yourself, “Am I doing all the rights things to ensure success?
  5. How are you measuring success to achieve that objective? (It’s OK if you’re not sure about where you are, if you are, then it’d be a very good thing to revisit/reinforce it.)

The velocity of change in our personal and work arenas can be overwhelming. Of course if you have a framework that works either from business school or life experience, I’d love your comments as well.

Here’s what I’d leave you all with, my principles:

  1.  Identify the right goals and outcomes: I use a basic approach to ensure there’s a balance between me, my family and others.
  2. Develop a timeline achieve to them: I will make sure that the timeline is realistic yet “aspirational” focused on both the now and the future. 
  3. Create a measurement plan: I will make sure the goals are easily measurable, taking into account feedback from key stakeholders mentioned in bullet #1.

I’m actively using this framework, it’s easy not too complex and doesn’t “hinder” me from achieving my objectives. The problem is, I’m a late bloomer, I only started this a year ago. Life, work  and stuff will throw you curve balls, yes, one thing you can count on is that change is indeed a constant. Live with it, cherish it and most of all learn and apply and you will persevere in life and work.

Developing a personal brand

Creating a personal brand isn’t a new concept. I think it’s important to note the following key points

1. Your personal brand should a natural extension of yourself

2. A brand is more perception than reality

3. Decisions and choices will affect your personal brand

I could say that a personal brand is the antithesis of an archetype though it cannot be so niche that it’s no longer relevant. A few tips to consider:

A. Define A Brand Headline – What’s the key headline that encapsulates you and ultimately your brand?

B.  Establish A Brand Cheat Sheet – What are some key talking points that succinctly describe your brand profile?

C. Communicate Your Brand Consistently – Take A and B to the social and professional spheres!

I’ve oversimplified this but I think it’s enough for you to at least get started on your personal brand. By the way, I could practice what I preach but I’m sure you’ve read or heard of the infamous cobbler and his shoes fable?