Kathy Madison, Comtech Services

Dawn Stevens, CIDM Director, kicked off the 2018 Best Practices Conference by surprising her consultants and the attendees with a fun game of Jeopardy that covered all the important logistics for the event. A good time was had by all and it was a great way to get the energy level up for the keynote speaker, Kurian Tharakan from StrategyPeak.

Kurian’s session was entertaining and inspiring as he walked us through the key aspects of creating a highly successful brand. Your brand invokes an impression and a feeling, it’s your reputation, it creates trust, it differentiates you, it gives you power and it conveys why you matter. Brands are solutions for your customer’s pain and desired gain. Kurian had us break into groups where we worked on creating a brand for an imaginary documentation consulting firm. To help form the brand we used the Customer Brand Equity Pyramid (see figure 1) to address:

• Brand Identity: Who are you?
• Brand Meaning: What are you? What are your points of parity and differences?
• Brand Response: What about you? What do clients think or feel about you?
• Brand Relationships: What about you and me? What type of connection would clients like to have with you?

Figure 1: From “Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Mapping Brand Equity” by Kevin Lane Keller. © Pearson Education Limited 2013.

Once we had an idea for our brand, we created elevator pitches using Kurian’s advice on what makes a good pitch, i.e., pitches should say what you do, who you do it for, why your customers care, what’s in it for them and why your company is different. The best pitches start with a “grabber” statement that intrigue, startles and engages curiosity and end with a proof of benefit to the customers. One groups pitch ended up with a grabber statement of The Robots are Coming, referring chatbots, which became a recurring theme throughout the conference.

The keynote set the ground work for many of the sessions that followed, including a Lego Creative Play session where attendees used Legos to build representations of their brands (Figure 2). We created planes & trucks for transporting content into the future, bridges for leveraging teams, cranes for shoveling content around, archways to knowledge, a funnel to collect content and produce clear information, and windows to see what your customer faces. Not only did we have fun playing with Legos, we were able to fine tune our individual messaging.

Figure 2: Lego elevator pitches

There were several sessions on proving your value, up-leveling your team, creating a fan base, balancing structure with stakeholder needs and gathering and using metrics. Other conference favorites included a Management Therapy Session where participants got one-on-one advice from each other, Round Table demonstrations where we learned industry innovations, and a Birds of a Feather Lunch where we discussed industry hot topics, such as, working with global teams, measuring content quality, overcoming collaboration hurdles and applying design thinking.

Of course, the conference provided many informal networking opportunities, starting with the outdoor welcome reception on Sunday evening which overlooked beautiful Lake Washington and a view of the Seattle skyline. Later in the week, we had an opportunity to get out on the lake when we embarked on a dinner cruise (Figure 3). Shortly after leaving the dock we hit a sand bar which caused a bit of excitement. No harm was done, and we were quickly on our way with the captain pointing out the sights, including the Boeing plane facility and a glimpse of Bill Gate’s estate. Shortly after dinner, Dawn Stevens presented Laura Bellamy, of VMware, with the Inspiration Award for her team’s adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Figure 3: Some of the conference attendees on the dinner cruise

Thanks to all who participated in this year’s conference, especially the presenters, questioners and commenters who shared their knowledge and experiences; you kept the conversations interesting and informative. Next year’s Best Practices Conference slated for September in Austin, Texas is sure to be just as beneficial and relevant; hope you can join us.