Social sabbatical week 4: It’s a wrap!

Wow, four weeks went by really fast! Our last week in Chennai was a very hectic one. We presented our findings and recommendations to our client on Tuesday. It was a long presentation but we had a lot to share! We started with an overview of our findings from the interviews and current state of their communications processes. Then, shared with them a framework to create messages based on their different audiences. We developed the core messaging for the top audiences and explained to them how the framework works so they can continue to use it in the future. After that, we dove into the data analysis and recommendations that we did for all their communications channels. Finally, we reviewed the brand guidelines and went over the additional deliverables that we wanted to leave behind by the end of the week.

Farewell dinner

Farewell dinner

Based on our client’s feedback, we developed a few more core messages for additional audiences and worked on a few other items per their request. We worked on the final brief presentation that we were scheduled to deliver on Friday. We also had some internal de-briefing sessions as well as an early farewell dinner for one of our colleagues who had to head home early for personal reasons. On Friday, we had the wrap up and final presentation. The event was intended for all the clients and Sabbatical participants to learn what the different projects were about and what was done during our month there. It was interesting to hear about their experiences and their projects as well as to hear from the clients what their final thoughts about the program were. It sounded like we all blew our clients away!

Newspaper article

Newspaper article

On Saturday, April 30th, an article was published on The Times of India talking about the program and our experience. The title was ‘One memorable sabbatical for 11 SAP employees from world over’ and highlighted the types of projects that we worked on, some of our clients’ expectations, the importance of the program for the company and the impact on its employees. Check it out: http://bit.ly/1SBRgfQ.

Four weeks went by really fast. Lots of new experiences and learnings. Many new friends. A memorable experience indeed…

Social sabbatical week 3: Putting it all together

Week 3 of our social sabbatical was all about focusing on our deliverables and getting the final details and information in. We split up the tasks among the team and got together to discuss ideas, findings and recommendations. We concentrated on what we promised to deliver to our client while continuing to advance on other materials that we would like to leave behind.

We made great progress on our communications strategy plan including messaging. Working on the audience segmentation was an interesting learning experience. We identified the audiences with the help of the people that we interviewed, validated the groups with our client and started researching and defining them. Thanks to the interviews, we were able to gather a lot of information such as what motivated each audience, how best to communicate with them and how to tailor the different messages. We came up with some initial messaging for each group which we will continue to work on next week with the feedback from our client.

We also worked on analyzing the activity of several of their communications channels (e.g. website, social media, etc.) and started coming up with recommendations for future improvements. In addition, we put together some industry benchmarks to provide additional context and to highlight opportunities and risks.

Another deliverable that I spent time working on was a Brand Identity Guidelines document to help the organization strengthen its brand image and recognition. It has been fun putting it together because people already have a positive image about the organization. I analyzed their materials, voice, colors, etc. and tried to integrate what they already use and how they feel about the organization into guidelines that could be easy for them to adopt. The final objective is to help them ensure the consistency of the brand’s image as they continue to grow while nurturing all the positives that are already associated with the organization.

In the evenings, we got together for dinner with the rest of the group and tried different restaurants (Indian, French, Italian, Thai). Also discovered a few shops around the office and the hotel including a couple of super markets where we all ended up with our hands full. One day, I got coffee to go and this is what I got:

Coffee to go

Coffee to go

Next week, we will share our findings and recommendations with our client and incorporate their feedback as we finalize all of our deliverables. Can’t believe our month in India is almost over!

Puducherry, Auroville and Mahabalipuram

Formerly known as Pondicherry (it used to be a French colony – with a few interruptions by the Brits), it’s currently a Union Territory of India (1 of the 7 UT in India). The name was officially changed to Puducherry in 2006.

Auroville is an experimental township founded in 1968.

Mahabalipuram is an ancient historic town that hosts a group of sanctuaries carved out of rock (there are temples, caves, sculptures, etc.). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

More to come…

From the promenade in Puducherry

From the promenade in Puducherry

Gandhi Statue on the promenade in Puducherry

Gandhi Statue on the promenade in Puducherry

Bharathi Park in Puducherry

Bharathi Park in Puducherry

At the Manakula Vinayagar Temple in Puducherry

At the Manakula Vinayagar Temple in Puducherry

The Matrimandir in Auroville

The Matrimandir in Auroville

Pancha Rathas at Mahabalipuram

Pancha Rathas at Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

 

A weekend in Kochi

Also known as Cochin. Pictures for now…

St. Francis Church (Vasco da Gamma was initially buried in this church)

St. Francis Church (Vasco da Gamma was initially buried in this church)

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

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Coconut water

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A view of the beach from the hotel

Backwaters boat tour

Backwaters boat tour

Backwaters boat tour

Backwaters boat tour

Backwaters boat tour

Backwaters boat tour

Social sabbatical week 2: making sense of everything

We finished the discovery phase during week 2 of our social sabbatical and started reviewing and making sense of all the data, comments, feedback, suggestions, recommendations, opinions, etc. that we received. One beautiful thing that I noticed in common from the 20+ interviews that we conducted was the passion that everyone has about what they do. While they were explaining things to us, their faces would lit up and their emotions would just shine through. What they do is coming from their hearts and there is nothing more authentic and inspiring than that.

It was also captivating to see how everyone is so willing to work on their ideas and create programs and projects around them while rallying others to help them out. There is a strong sense of community where everyone is willing to pitch in and make something happen. There are so many differences between the corporate world that I live in and the non-profit sector here in India.

On Friday we participated in a Joy to the World activity at one of the local orphanages. The idea is that children write down what they wish to receive as a gift and then the wishes are matched to donors who want to make them happen. Usually these gifts have to do with basic necessities such as shoes, backpacks, books, etc. Once all the gifts are collected, Bhumi gives them out to the children. It was very touching experience!

Leadership workshop

One of the deliverables that we worked on during week 2 was a leadership workshop for our client’s top management team. We put together some content that we thought would help them understand their roles as leaders better. Some of the topics that we covered included emotional intelligence, personality types and leadership skills. We asked participants to take some tests during the workshop and then discussed analyzed the results among all of us. We also had some exercises and activities to go deeper into some of the concepts. Participants had a great time talking about the results and each other. It ended up being a very constructive activity.

National Conference on Volunteering

On Sunday, we attended a conference co-hosted by our client. The event is called National Conference on Volunteering. The event was about volunteering and touched on many aspects: how to set up a volunteering program, how to create volunteer opportunities for skilled volunteers, how to leverage citizens as volunteers, how to use technology effectively to reach volunteers, etc. It was a very interesting and educational conference with speakers from different organizations and participants joining for different cities in India.

Living in Chennai – The Food

I have to say that when I first found out that I was coming to Chennai to spend a whole month for my social sabbatical, I was a little hesitant because of the spicy food! I don’t eat spicy food at all and Chennai is well known for it. However, after almost two weeks of being here, I have had no problem finding options that are not spicy when eating Indian food not to mention a lot of different kinds of cuisines all of which have been very good.

Here are some options that we have tried for Indian food: Krishna Restaurant at The Woodlands Hotel (Southern India, in business since 1935), Minar at the Savera Hotel (Southern India, roof top), Copper Chimney (Northern India), Saravana Bhavan (vegetarian).

Thali at The Woodlands Restaurant

Thali at The Woodlands Restaurant

Other cuisines: Tuscana Pizzeria (Italian, pizza), Sandy’s (global dishes), Benjarong (Thai), Mainland China (Chinese), Kaidi Kitchen (global dishes), Dario’s (Italian), Zara Tapas Bar, Barbeque NationNando’s (home of the famous Portuguese flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken), Pantry d’or (Continental, Bakery, Cafe), L’Amandier (French bistro).

Dessert at a French café near the office

Dessert at a French café near the office

Never thought I would find so many different and great options! Oh, and coffee is really good around here!

My social sabbatical is finally here!

It all started sometime last year but it became real about 7 weeks ago when we started the preparation calls for the work that we were going to do while on our Social Sabbatical. I’m part of a group of 11 employees from different countries who have been deployed to Chennai, India to work with 4 local NGOs on specific, short-term projects. With 2 colleagues, we were assigned to work on a communications plan for a non-profit called Bhumi.

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Getting to know each other

We didn’t know much about the organization when we first arrived in India so for the first week, we got to talk to many volunteers and employees as we gathered as much information as we could take (it really was a lot of info!). We also met two of the founders as well as the President of the organization and very quickly realized that Bhumi is a remarkable organization that is trying to make a real difference in the lives of underprivileged children in India. They offer education programs to help children acquire and develop skills that will prepare them for life through volunteers who teach and mentor them. The organization was founded in 2006 in Chennai and is now in several cities across India with thousands of volunteers.

NGOs introductions

NGOs introductions

At the end of our first week, we narrowed the scope of our project to those areas where we could contribute the most based on our skills, experience and knowledge. There is so much that we would like to help with! Since we only have 4 weeks to complete the project, we will focus on one of the challenges that they would like our support with – a comprehensive communications strategy and plan that will support the growth expectations of the organization for the next couple of years. I’m very excited about this project – Bhumi is a great organization with a ton of potential!

7 strategies to promote your mobile app

It’s not enough to create a mobile app in order to get noticed. You need to promote it in a way that will make it stand out from the thousands of apps that are uploaded every day to the mobile app stores. Here are 5 strategies that may help your app stand out:

  1. Make it viral: not only by offering a creative application but by leveraging the friends and networks of the people downloading your app. Add a ‘share’ function to your app to make it easy for people to suggest it to others. If possible, add an interaction element that will allow users to play against or interact with others. Try to integrate your app with existing social apps such as Twitter or Facebook (e.g. log in using your Facebook profile).
  2. Promote it within the blogger community: reach out to application bloggers in order to get your app reviewed. But be creative in the way you approach them as they are frequently inundated with this kind of requests. It may be a good idea to offer them a ‘sneak peek’ before your app becomes available to the public. Provide as much information as possible about your app to the blogger so that it will be very easy for them to write the review (e.g. screen shots, clear description of the app, relevant links, value of the app, etc.).
  3. Price it right: people are usually looking for apps that they can try for free before they consider purchasing the app. It’s a good idea to offer a ‘lite’ version of your app at no charge. This version could offer limited functionality – but enough to let the user understand how the app works. Offering a ‘lite’ version also provides the company the opportunity to get listed twice within the search engine results as both the lite and the full, paid version will be ranked in the results.
  4. Get rated and reviewed: users will have a favorable perception of your app if they see reviews for your app (and the reviews are positive) as well as how well it’s ranked. In order to initiate the process, ask your friends to try your app and if they like it to post an honest review.
  5. Choose a good name and a great logo: include your main keyword in the title of your app as it will help you rank higher in the search results. In addition, when creating your app logo, make sure that it is well designed and aesthetically pleasing. It should represent what the app is about in a very simple way.
  6. Write a compelling app description: think of it as a value statement that highlights what makes your app different and its value to your target market.  Be concise and use a format that makes the description easy to read. Use descriptive words that can help your app create relevance within the search engines.
  7. Promote, promote, promote: if you have a website, mention your app on your homepage. Add links to marketplaces where your app can be downloaded. Use your social media channels (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to spread the word. If it makes sense, promote your app using pay-per-click and display ads using a strong call to action (e.g. Download Today). Submit your app to app directories and lists (keep a list of these sites so that you can go back and check from time to time to ensure your listing is still there and to monitor reviews or comments).

6 types of mobile ads

(From left to right: in-app ad, display ad, SMS ad)

Thinking about adding mobile ads to your marketing/advertising plans? Here are some types of mobile options to consider:

  • Display ads: similar to web ads, mobile display ads are graphics placed on a web page. When visitors click, they are taken to a specific offer or page ad. The banner can be a static, animated or rich media ad. It can also be a text ad. It’s important to ensure a clear call to action. Not all phones show the ads the same way (if using animation, make sure that the first image frame contains the entire message in case the phone doesn’t support the animation). It’s one of the most common types of mobile ads used.
  • SMS (Short Message Service): limited to 160 characters, SMS messages can be sent and received by anyone. SMS messages are short text ads. They can include URLs and phone numbers (click to call and click to web capabilities). They should be used as part of an opt-in advertising campaign.
  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging): it allows mobile users to send messages including graphics, photos, audio, video and text. These ads are not supported by all devices or networks. The Mobile Marketing Association recommends the use of MMS images with a width of 216 pixels and files of no more than 300 KB.
  • Apps: in-app ads can be static, animated or text banners. They are displayed within a mobile app. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, there are three kinds of apps: Integrated ads (an ad that is integrated with the app or game experience and is compatible with the content used in the app), branded mobile apps (reflect the brand attributes – can be entertaining, informational or functional, are available through app stores), and sponsored mobile apps (e.g. a sports app featuring Red Bull as a sponsor).
  • Location based: these ads are served to mobile users based on where they are. Location-based ads are every marketer’s dream because of their relevancy and immediacy. According to BIA/Kelsey, local advertising revenues will reach over $151 billion by 2016.
  • Rich media: considered effective because of its engaging capabilities, rich media mobile advertising (RMMA) is still an emerging product. RMMA offers different options for users to experience an ad on their mobile devices such as ad banners that can expand across the page for users to interact with the content, displaying real time content changes without reloading a mobile web page, and simplifying interactions with users (e.g. click to call).

Here is more information about Mobile Advertising Guidelines from the Mobile Marketing Association.