When a Conference Moves You to Action: Takeaways from #BreakThrough2019

On Wednesday, March 6th 2019, IABC-Waterloo held their annual Break Through Conference for communicators and marketers in Kitchener Waterloo. It was a nicely paced day with some great key takeaways.

The morning keynote address was delivered by Michael Grant from CSMLS, who broke the ice at the conference and spoke about how to earn your creative freedom. Mike talked about communicators and marketers being the driver of strategy, having a seat at the big table, sharing data openly, and helping to draw connections back to promotional work.

The key idea I took away from Mike was that using an iterative process to introduce a major change in directions has been key to his success. Instead of revamping everything at one time, make smaller changes over a longer period of time. This approach will allow you demonstrate success and gain people's trust along the path to major change.

Mike's video examples were helpful to illustrate his point. With each new year and each new iteration of a promotional video for lab technicians he was able to make incremental changes that eventually (years later) led to a pretty great video.

The latest iteration is a major departure from their initial video but it was a process getting to this place. Check out their latest iteration, the All Through the Night promotional video published on YouTube.

I find this idea key because change is hard, especially for older, well established, traditional brands, so using an iterative process could work to bring about major changes over a longer period of time.

Next up was Naheed Somji who spoke about social media, one of my personal favourite topics. My main take-away from Naheed's talk on the State of Social Media in 2019 was his note that Linkedin has low content inventory, compared to other SM platforms.

Having less content, and a less evolved content algorithm means that your content (should you decide to create some) will have greater reach and live longer on Linkedin than other platforms. I have noticed this personally as I've been spending more time on Linkedin lately and see that I am being shown a lot of posts that are 2-4 weeks old.

By "a lot" I don't mean 10-20%, I mean more like 50%. About half of the posts I am served in my main Linkedin feed are 2 weeks old or more. Having content "live" longer is ideal for marketers and communicators. I'm taking his insight and putting into practise here by writing this article on Linkedin [IABC note: Alyshia’s article was initially published on LinkedIn and then reposted here]. We shall see how it performs once I post it. If I'm lucky people will still be reading it a month from now (if that's you, please give it a like/comment so I know it's still alive)!


The second thing I got from Naheed's talk was VIDEO.

Of course, this isn't news to me or anyone else but it's always good to be reminded. Video is not going away, it's getting easier to make, it's getting more views and more interaction on most (all?) platforms.

Therefore, get yourself in front of a camera and try it out! Not only did I hear what Naheed said but I ACTUALLY DID IT after the conference. I got the Chrome extension for Vidyard's Go Video, wrote some notes, found myself a well-lit spot in my house and got it done! And you know, it wasn't so bad! #OvercomingFear

From Sandra Muir and Kim Elworthy's breakout session on social media platform strategies, I gained a new acronym: the ARC strategy. Each area should be considered before making every post. This is an approach they use in their communications jobs at Wilfred Laurier.

A - Audience : Will this post resonate with the audience on this platform? Who are you talking to on each platform? Which platform is your audience using? Are you talking to too many audiences on one platform?

R - Resources : Consider that every post requires consideration of 3T's: Time (to create content, monitor/interact with posts); Tools (to create video and images, props, equipment etc.); Training (know how of publishing unique content for each platform as they are constantly changing).

C - Content : Relevant for each platform and each audience. Content that is unique, timely and on-brand.

Sandra and Kim also reminded us that your decisions should be informed by analytics. If bringing customers to your website is a measure of success, how are the different platforms performing? Don't assume; look at the data.

Next up were the takesaways from Kendra Ross. By no coincidence she was speaking about video trends. Quick reminders from Kendra were:

  • Make videos that are valuable and useful to people

  • Video makes human stories easier; people will relate to you

  • Upload native embedded videos; don't link to YouTube

  • 85% of videos viewed on mobile are watched without sound; transcribe your videos

  • Be real, genuine, authentic

  • Just do it

Again, I must've been inspired by Kendra and Naheed's video talks because I've done it!

Our final speaker for the day was Alan Quarry who is best known (to me) for this vlog (is that term still used?) called "AQ's Blog & Grill." I have watched a good 75% of his videos and I'm a fan so I was pretty stoked to be able to hear him speak IRL. Here are my key takeaways from Alan:

  • Be relevant or no one is interested.

  • Content now is “real time”: find the right time and right place for your message.

  • Get your audience involved in your message - monologues are dead; connect with people and create a dialogue.

  • Think and FEEL like the customer.

  • Technology is a hungry beast and you've got to keep up. What differentiates us from the machines that threaten to take our jobs is that humans know what will resonate with the customer. Seek opportunities to resonate with your audience.

  • Adapt with the changes and shifts - "Don't be up SHIFT creek without a paddle!"

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Overall, I have to admit all the video talk was heard the loudest because it moved me to action. Or maybe it was the sugar high from the conference candy bar? Something moved me to "break through" the fear and make a video.

Long story short: communications and marketing is moving towards being authentic and engaging video is the best way to do that so, GET ON THE VIDEO BUS or get left behind!

By: Alyshia Bestard

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About the author

Alyshia Bestard is a digital marketing professional based in Kitchener-Waterloo. Her specialties are e-commerce, social media and digital marketing campaigns. Alyshia is passionate about social media and content creation. In addition to her digital life she enjoys travelling and organizes a monthly poker networking group called "KW Poker Chicks." Find her online at alyshia.com.

Kaitlyn Holbein