Expect the Unexpected in 2023

Legendary college football coach Bear Bryant always said to “expect the unexpected.” For Bear, this meant creating a plan but being ready to respond to whatever arose, and putting forth the best possible effort to take advantage of opportunities. Call it flexible preparation.

Marketers are facing a similar playing field this new year. While 2022 turned out to be a successful year for many businesses, 2023 begins with some uncertainty and concerns driven by high interest rates, inflation, talk of a recession, and changing international conditions. Even when faced with these kinds of disruptions and unknowns, marketers remain accountable for increasing opportunities and awareness to drive sales. Our efforts are even more critical for business in challenging environments.

We believe focusing on the core areas of planning, creativity and technology will ensure you’ll seize unexpected opportunities, and your marketing efforts will achieve the best outcomes.


PLANNING

Blueprint for success

By focusing on evaluating and refreshing your plan first, you’ll provide a solid foundation for your entire marketing program.

The following basic planning steps are often overlooked and take dedicated effort to complete before spending resources on marketing execution:

  • Clearly define your immediate, short-term, and long-term marketing goals and strategy to help prevent a shotgun approach throughout the year.
  • Audience precision is a must for personalization and hyper-targeting, so ensure you know your customer personas and journey.
  • Review all tools available and choose the right channels and tactics for each audience. The more you precisely target, the more relevant and effective your campaigns will be.

Balance and allocate adequate budget and time needed to maximize effectiveness. Don’t get spread too thin and make sure you have the right resources in the right places.

The framework you establish will provide a solid starting point for campaign execution. Realize your plan is only reflects a snapshot in time; however, it gives you a baseline upon which to analyze and pivot.

In 2023, marketers are increasing investments in these channels

  1. Social media
  2. Websites/blogs
  3. Email marketing
  4. Omni-channel marketing
  5. Video marketing

Marketers aren’t relying on single silver bullet channels such as organic SEO. Research shows that 92% of marketers leverage more than one channel, and 81% use more than three.


CREATIVITY

The X-factor

In 2023, marketers will see even more fragmentation of customer attention. Creativity can and should be your north star. Create relevant, authentic content to enhance your brand, not just for the sake of generating content. No one has time for throwaway content – your team can’t waste the energy to manufacture it, and your customers won’t expend the effort to read it.

Check off these must-haves

  • Design: image-driven, consistent, appropriate for audience and channel
  • Copy: authentic, using just the right words
  • Video: interactive, engaging and powerful

Continue embracing the short form

  • Messages must be short and sweet to grab attention on mobile devices. Take your key messages and boil them down to soundbites and sentence fragments for short forms such as social graphics and videos.
  • Check out the videos on TikTok and Instagram reels. These are the formats grabbing audiences. The time is now to plan for posting short videos and to think about what might be effective for your business.

So much video: 86% of businesses already use video marketing and 92% see it as an important part of strategy


TECHNOLOGY

Extending your capabilities

To remain agile, marketing teams need to be able to extend their capabilities and effectiveness with technology. Tech also helps you focus on the quality of communication, not the quantity. Having the right platforms in place will allow you to:

  • Fully leverage tools and features for web CMS functionality, email marketing automation, search, and social
  • Create targeted landing pages, which continue to be a powerful conversion tool
  • Develop interactive tools like dynamic calculators and selection tools to personalize results, prove the value of products/services and streamline the buying process

What does the sunset of third-party cookies mean for tracking and lead gen?

Cookies help to improve UX by remembering certain user information, making it easier to interact with your site and helping marketers to show personalized ads. Third-party cookies are tracked by a website other than the one someone is currently using.

Google will begin phasing out third-party cookies starting in 2024, primarily to appease consumers who are increasingly uncomfortable with tracking that feels like an invasion of privacy.

What should you do to prepare?

Evaluate the alternatives to third-party cookies, including first-party cookies, affiliate marketing and your own user data.


CONCLUSION

Although 2023 may be volatile, effective marketing can always play a part in increasing sales and offsetting the effects of any downturns. Use planning, creativity and technology to rise and make the most of opportunities.

New Creative Director Joins Signal

Kevin Pojman

Signal has recently named Kevin Pojman as creative director. Kevin joins Signal with 20+ years of experience in designing print and interactive experiences. His extensive portfolio includes corporate & consumer identity, print collateral design, packaging design, branded interiors & exteriors, motion graphics, website and social media development for a host of clients from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations.

“We are excited to welcome Kevin to our team, focusing on creative excellence,” said Ricky Haynes, President of Signal. “I have personally known Kevin for many years and it’s great that we found this opportunity to work together. We are confident that his background and expertise will help Signal take our creative output to the next level.”

With a passion for unconventional thinking and visual problem-solving, Kevin has a keen understanding of all facets of design to create a completely integrated brand. Knowing how the components of print and interactive work together to create a client’s voice is a strength he brings to each project.

Kevin has led branding initiatives for clients such as Panera Bread, HanesBrands, VF Jeanswear, GlaxoSmithKline, as well as accomplished work for IBM, Kontoor Brands, HondaJet, Kohler, Sears, Nike/Jordan Brand, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Weyerhaeuser and Wake Forest University.

Kevin has received numerous awards for his print, interactive and video projects. His work has been featured in publications such as Communication Arts, How Magazine, Print Magazine, Step Inside Design, LogoLounge and Type Directors Club. In addition, Kevin’s work has been displayed at the NC Museum of Art, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, the Nasher Museum of Art and the Gregg Gallery of Art & Design. Most recently, the Library of Congress selected one of his designs to be part of their permanent collection. Kevin graduated from East Carolina University with a B.F.A. degree in Communication Arts.

A Digital Marketing Framework for Executing More Effectively

 

 
We often find that marketers are under such pressure to create and execute campaigns that they often don’t take a step back to clearly define and optimize their marketing strategy. Completing this fundamental step establishes a strong foundation for your entire program. Having this foundation allows you to build faster and more cohesive campaigns and to realize better results.

Signal developed a digital marketing framework to help our clients consistently showcase the value and benefits of products and services across key digital channels. This framework is designed to ensure campaigns are planned strategically and monitored consistently for maximum efficiency.

Completing this process will help your team:

  • Establish your marketing program goals and define priorities
  • Focus on the most effective use of your limited time and budget
  • And forecast and evaluate campaign performance and ROI.

Step 1: Define Campaign Goals, Objectives & Constraints

Tools used: Program Summary, Program Map, Content Outline

 
Start by creating a Program Summary to catalog current and future campaigns:

Name Purpose Budget Start End Channels
General Awareness Promote overall company awareness $50,000 Jan 1 Dec 31 Website, Email, LinkedIn, Search
Product X New product intro
Product Y Education Product Training

 

Establishing this bird’s eye view of your entire program clearly highlights your internal constraints (resources, budget, time) and can help your team prioritize campaigns and identify which dials to turn up and down. You’ll define the channels approach for each campaign, determining timing and assigning budgets.

Next, take inventory of what you’re doing and analyze any gaps.

Create a Program Map to give you a more granular and actionable view of your current marketing program. This flow chart will illustrate your marketing channels and how they are connected – how social, search, email and offline channels lead to landing pages and websites, and how those integrate with your marketing automation and CRM platforms, as well as other tools in your marketing technology stack.

Create your Content Outline, a simple catalog of your existing marketing assets – landing pages, print collateral, videos, case studies, and so on. This allows you to quickly see what content you can leverage and what gaps may exist, which is instrumental as you plan and build future campaigns.

 

Item Name Type Related Content Description URL
ABC General Landing Page Website/Landing Page Product X, Product Y Category homepage abc.com
Product X Landing Page Website/Landing Page Product Y Features and benefits abc.com/productx
ABC Infographic Infographic Product X, Product Y Infographic abc.com/graphic
Product X Brochure Brochure Product Y Download from landing page abc.com/downloadx
Product X Sales Presentation Presentation Product Y Links to all arterial sub-pages abc.com
Product X Solution Article Blog Product X, Product Y Product copy + features graphic abc.com
ABC Corporate Video Video Product X, Product Y Capabilities video abc.com

Step 2: Define Featured Offerings

Create a spreadsheet that lists your company’s products and/or services. Add positioning and categories for quick reference. This tool will allow your team to quickly prioritize campaigns with internal stakeholders.

Product Category Product Priority Related SKUs Description URL
Category X Product X 10 6 Insert positioning and benefits
Category Y Product Y 5 2 Insert positioning and benefits

Step 3: Identify Target Audience

Tools used: Personas and Customer Journey Maps

 

To be successful, you must thoroughly understand and connect with your audience. Creating customer personas and customer journey maps are critical to this process. These documents can be as formal as you want to make them, however, we recommend keeping it simple. Know that they are fluid, working documents and you can continue to refine them.

We suggest first talking with internal stakeholders to paint a picture of the target customers. If possible, also talk with actual current and potential customers to validate any internal assumptions.

Mapping the Customer Journey goes hand in hand with defining your sales funnel. A Journey Map typically includes stages and corresponding types of content:

  • Awareness Stage: blogs, infographics, social media posts, podcasts, short videos
  • Interest Stage: eBooks, white papers, explainer videos, conversion landing pages, paid/display ads
  • Consideration Stage: case studies, customer testimonials, sales emails
  • Purchase Stage: on-location and in-studio video testimonials, sales collateral

The Journey Map also captures the customer’s goals, process, problems and KPIs at each stage of the journey to ensure the customer’s needs are clear and highlight key opportunities.

UXPressia Persona and Journey Mapping Tool


Step 4: Identify the Competition

You won’t know how to stand out in the market until you have a clear picture of the competition you’re up against. Understand the landscape, including market share and activity. The first time you do this, you can focus on keeping it high level.

  • Positioning
  • Visual impact
  • Digital properties
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Calls to action

Doing this research will help you determine how you can compete and excel in branding, messaging, program offerings and content strategy. When you get into individual campaigns, you can begin to drill deeper into competition for that specific offering.


Step 5: Define How you will Measure Success

Tools used: Measurement Plan

 

How will you know if your marketing campaigns are successful? You need to define clear goals, determine KPIs and set specific targets to measure performance. Without a Measurement Plan, it will be difficult to monitor and optimize your campaigns to achieve the best possible results. Having a Measurement Plan also helps you set realistic expectations for the ROI of marketing efforts vs. simply focusing on increased sales revenue.

See Our Post on How to Create a Measurement Plan


What’s Next

Once you’ve completed these 5 steps, you have the necessary digital marketing planning framework and tools in place to chart your path forward. Now it’s time to confidently move into tactical campaign planning and execution.

Plan and execute each campaign by completing the following steps, referencing and continually refining the tools you’ve created:

  1. Select campaign channels
  2. Determine tactics and timing
  3. Prioritize budget across channels
  4. Set campaign goals and align measurement plan
  5. Develop campaign content and creative
  6. Launch
  7. Monitor and optimize

 

Ready to take your company’s digital marketing framework to the next level? The Signal team is here to help.

Reimagining Your Marketing Team and Budget

The new norm in marketing includes a shift in team roles and delivery models, with an increased emphasis on jack-of-all-trades team members who can roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. We’re seeing more and more organizations who need to micro-target opting to find partners who can think like a CMO or CTO instead of filling high-level executive roles.

Forrester also considers 2021 a year of reinvention for CMOs and their teams.

  • The research group predicts that leaders will integrate marketing and CX this year, no longer segregating acquisition from product utilization, customer service, retention and advocacy.
  • Because growth is tied to continued use of a company’s offering, it’s also imperative that marketing teams focus on acquiring customers who will stick around, reemphasizing full-fledged loyalty programs rather than frequency-based rewards.
  • Chief marketing officers will need to drive customer obsession within their teams, putting the customer at the center of everything they do – from leadership and strategy to operations.

CMOs are also prioritizing digital in their budgets.

  • The latest CMO Survey reports that while marketing spending decreased by 3.9% over the last year, marketers reported an 11.5% increase in digital marketing spend, showing us the shift in HOW they are spending their budgets.
  • Social media ad spend has continued to increase, leaping nearly 30% (Q3 2020 vs. Q3 2019). This trend will only accelerate as we pull out of the pandemic.

Key questions

  • Do you have the bandwidth to generate and nurture leads?
  • Take a close look at what skills you need on your team. Do you need to train existing team members, or hire new ones? Remember, the more senior the hire, the higher the investment across the employee lifecycle – from recruiting and training, to management and engagement.
  • What’s happening with your trade show manager and their budgets?
  • In fact, what’s happening with your budget overall?

In case you missed it, check out the other installments of our CMO Intelligence series:

Your Digital Presence is Top Priority

 

Insights for going digital, refining your plan and meeting the moment

The role of the CMO has never been more interesting. The entire world has turned to life online and marketing is evolving non-stop to address the impacts of coronavirus, including flexibility in budgets, tactics, execution, reporting and staffing. Uncertain times are causing major shifts in consumer purchase behavior and media consumption habits for both B2B and B2C. In this, the first of our new 4-part series, we’ll begin serving up meaningful insights for marketing efforts, resources needed and measurable goals throughout 2021.

As Forrester’s 2021 Predictions Guide notes, “The value of your company depends on how customer-obsessed, resilient, creative and adaptive you are in jumping to the next growth curve in your industry.”


First Up: Digital Presence Is Top Priority

Innovative digital engagement has never been more important to buyers than in the wake of this pandemic crisis. According to the Forrester’s Guide, more than one-third of B2B technology buyers say digital engagement channels have become more important to their purchasing experience, and four in ten indicate that human/analog engagement with sellers has become less important.

That makes digital presence a priority for marketers who have even more freedom to create engagement as buyers open up to new and innovative digital experiences. For example, as of the fourth quarter in 2019, 36% of US consumers had tried augmented or virtual reality, and in 2021 another 10-12% are expected to experiment with the technology.

Why? Because consumers are giving brands permission to be creative, entertaining and immersive in a way they never have previously, so long as the content is created consciously and sincerely without manipulative tactics that destroy consumer trust.

Take note: this isn’t just about AI or VR, but inviting your audience into an engaging digital experience across all your channels. At the heart is a thoughtful and strategic user experience (UX). We consider this a vital marketing endeavor – now and into the future. In fact, a positive user experience is absolutely critical to grabbing consumer attention and earning customer loyalty. Making UX an inherent part of your design and development process can help increase sales and conversion rate by 87% on average.

Why waste time and money trying to dress up a broken website, mobile app or digital interface that’s not delivering results during this challenging time? An audit and overhaul of your user experience (UX) will give you what you need to compete. If you haven’t done this lately, we recommend this ASAP.

Stay tuned for the next three installments of our CMO Intelligence series, coming to your inbox soon:

Streamline Your Training Program with Digital Tools and Technology


Companies are choosing to use digital learning for their employees, vendors and other stakeholders more than ever to make training more convenient, accessible and effective. The growth of digital learning tools continues to increase and accelerate as companies realize the content and robust functionality can be as engaging as anything offered in-person. Advancing LMS (learning management system) technology makes things like video breakout sessions and group work possible, helping to create a sense of community that mimics the face-to-face experience.

Digital learning also has the advantage of focusing the majority of company resources on what really matters. Consider the time and money spent on sending employees to in-person training events. It’s more than the travel time and cost – it’s prep and event time, too. An attendee could easily fall two days behind in other work for one day of training. With digital learning, the time lost and costs involved are dramatically reduced, and participants have more time to practice the concepts they have learned.

Customer training is another area where digital platforms provide continuity of education with an innovative experience. Signal works with clients who are instructing/certifying end-users on the proper handling of their products, on safety measures and other corporate procedures. So if you’re already developing employee training on an LMS platform, see if you can repurpose elements for both audiences to foster efficiency and cost savings by setting up training assets that could be adapted for internal or external use.

Today’s platforms enable e-learning for all

  • There are platforms for companies of all sizes – from nearly free programs to large-scale enterprise suites. Each offers organizations the opportunity to provide training without the need for face-to-face interaction.
  • Participants can be invited or can register to take courses online. These platforms offer automated invitations and emails, with the ability to segment users through grouping participants or providing a custom registration form that allows users to only see or enroll in those courses on their “track.”
  • Additionally, the platforms offer personalization of the content as well as the assessment style. Incorporate videos and existing PowerPoints, or whatever content you have available. Showcase your most important points and ensure that users see what’s most vital. Deliver the required content to employees, clients, or vendors and give them a certificate at the end.

4 best practices for implementing your digital learning program

  1. Understand your learning requirements. Before you begin your search for an LMS, consider your company’s unique training needs. Who are you training and where? Do you need global registration and online navigation of courses? Is it important to test participants on the content they’ve learned, time their responses, display their progress, or provide certification at the end of the training? How much personal interaction do your trainers need? Exactly what is required to take your current training content into a digital format? Having an in-depth understanding of your training needs is vital to finding the right LMS.
  1. Select the right platform. There are a variety of options in digital platforms – from low-cost and simple to expensive global enterprise suites with all the bells and whistles. Factors to consider include ease of integration, analytics and reporting; pricing; and the level of customer support provided. While it may be tempting to go for more expansive LMS options, keep in mind the features you actually require and will likely use to meet your training needs. Don’t overload your LMS with features you won’t use.
  1. Consider your course content. Gather content for your program and determine if it’s clearly organized and designed in a compelling format that will engage users. Use the right balance of text and supporting imagery and include audio narration, video or animations to showcase key concepts. Develop interactive assessments to ensure your audience thoroughly understands all relevant information.
  1. Plan out your success. Once you’ve chosen your LMS, know that you’ll need to take some steps early on to do it right:
    • Develop a learning community. You’ll be able to use your LMS’s tools to create engaging spaces for shared conversation among your users.
    • Preview your content. Audit your existing content. What do you have that can be easily adapted for an LMS? What core content needs to be developed from scratch?
    • Plan for interaction. Think about your content on a digital platform. What would the ideal learning experience look like? Where can you make use of virtual tools like breakout rooms and chat?
    • Personalize your participants’ learning experiences. Today’s LMS platforms allow you to deliver training by function, role, or seniority level – or assign employees to different tracks.

Project Spotlight: Signal developed a product application training program for growers based on Rise Articulate 360 and Docebo that included interactive presentations, quizzes, a certificate of completion and reporting.

Digital learning is becoming the top choice for many companies who realize the benefits it offers. Give Signal a call for help making your digital learning program the best that it can be!

Digital Path for Customer Experience

Clear the Digital Path for Your Customers

Clear Digital Path Customer Experience


In recent years, companies have been focusing on digitizing their customer experience to empower their customers online. Social distancing measures have only accelerated this trend, so it’s more critical than ever for businesses that depend on brick and mortar locations, face-to-face interactions or traditional paperwork to take action and implement an end-to-end digital customer journey.

Organizations that provide a comprehensive digital experience make their operations more flexible and scalable. They also differentiate themselves from competitors by offering the excellent service and control that customers expect. With powerful online tools at their fingertips, customers are now making large, complex and life-changing decisions and purchases completely online, without seeing physical products or speaking with anyone.

Combining a customer-centric approach with modern technology can transform traditional product and service offerings, and lead to game-changing results. Familiar examples include Rocket Mortgage’s “Push button, get mortgage” approach to the cumbersome mortgage application process, and Carvana’s turnkey model that allows customers to find and finance vehicles and have them delivered to their door without ever speaking to a salesperson.

While these are large-scale examples, the same approach can be applied on a smaller scale to remove friction when selling any product or service. Standard web technologies may be used to create user-friendly interfaces for your prospects and customers, and connect existing internal systems to remove any barriers to doing business.

Start with a digital customer journey map

To get started, create a digital customer journey map that outlines the ideal path for customers, from becoming aware of your offerings to becoming a strong customer advocate for your brand. These are some examples of areas in your customer journey that may need attention before you digitize the customer experience:

  • Awareness
    • Is your brand prominent enough on the channels where your audience is today (search engines, social channels, affiliated websites, etc.) to generate leads?
    • Do your website and other digital communications include the engaging content (copy, photography, video) needed to thoroughly showcase your offerings and generate interest? Rich media – such as videos or motion graphics – is proven to create an engaging customer experience, leading to a higher interaction rate.
  • Research
    • Do you offer digital tools (product selection, visualization/build your own, value calculators, FAQs) that help users connect with your products or answer common questions (Which product is right for me? or What cost savings or performance increase can I expect?)?
    • Do you offer enough educational and value-added content (blog posts, newsletters, etc) to highlight your knowledge and expertise and build credibility?
    • Do you utilize landing pages that speak directly to your various audience segments? Tailoring specific messaging and imagery is proven to improve conversion rates and sales.
  • Consideration
    • Do you make it easy for users to engage with sales to ask questions or request more information? This includes online request forms, live chat, text messaging, and video conferencing.
    • Can customers generate estimates and proposals online?
    • Do communications integrate with a marketing automation platform and/or your CRM to help automate quick, consistent and targeted follow up with prospects? Platforms like Hubspot, Marketo and Pardot trigger automatic, personalized follow-up at the right intervals and keep customers moving through the funnel.
  • Purchase
    • Do you offer e-commerce functionality that allows a customer to securely buy online?
    • Are any contracts leveraging digital workflows and signatures to make signing paperwork quick and easy for customers?
    • Do you provide customers with online profiles/accounts to track the status of their projects or orders and make updates?
  • Retention & Advocacy
    • Do you offer online support tools to allow customers to find guidance for common problems or request help?
    • Do you routinely collect feedback from customers to ensure they’re satisfied, resolve any issues and improve your processes?
    • Do you provide customers with reporting to show how they’re benefitting from your product or service?
    • Do you use automation to personalize and streamline communications with existing customers?
    • Do you offer social sharing features to allow customers to easily provide recommendations and referrals?

A digital customer journey map will clearly highlight the biggest obstacles that customers must overcome to do business with you. Prioritize the biggest challenges as the biggest opportunities to make a customer impact and pursue each as individual initiatives. By focusing on one project at a time using an agile process, you’ll improve the customer experience to ultimately help your company realize the benefits and success that a digital transformation offers.

What Makes a Supportive Corporate Culture?


In the HR world of talent recruitment and retention, corporate culture has always been a priority. There are many studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence to show the organic correlation between a healthy work culture and a healthy bottom-line. The COVID-19 pandemic has now forced businesses to truly view their employees as human beings as opposed to human doers. Paying lip-service with mere intellectual assent is no longer an option. People are being asked to juggle many stressful new demands: working from home at the kitchen table, homeschooling their kids, clocking back in after bedtime to catch up on emails, and possibly even absorbing a loss of income or work hours. In addition, there are societal issues that are requiring families to be vulnerable and have difficult conversations.  During challenges like these, your employees want to know that you’re looking out for them. Talk is easily dismissed, so demonstrate your commitment to their wellness with a focus on five critical areas. 

  1. Trust and transparency: Creating an environment where leadership is more than a title. Leaders who are respected as welcoming, dependable, and trustworthy can motivate the team to be focused and dedicated, even during challenging times.
  2. Vision and purpose: Everyone needs to feel a sense of purpose and understand that their contribution is making a difference. Taking time to update and live out your vision / Employment Value Proposition is time well spent.
  3. Open communication and support: Changes are a natural part of sustaining excellence. However, employees need managers who honestly explain why changes are necessary and how they will work toward the greater good.
  4. Empowerment and creativity: Your team will thrive when they have the resources and tools they need to succeed, and are then empowered to act on their creative intelligence.
  5. Listen with empathy and compassion: Your employees long to be heard and validated. Not every need can be met nor will every personal journey end happily. Control what you can by maintaining an “open door” policy, providing employees direct access to leadership. When possible provide resources, counselors or coaches that can help people navigate this new ground.

Once you determine what you want to communicate and why it’s important, you can focus on the internal logistics of the message.

  • Where to communicate: Take a look at your internal communications data or create employee surveys to learn which specific channels are performing the best for you right now as your employees adjust to working in a different dynamic. This could include video conference, email, intranet and videos.
  • When to communicate: Business-critical situations are changing at a rapid pace, and you will likely need to pivot to keep your cultural and competitive position. Stay agile, and ahead of the rumor mill, by finding a regular communication cadence. It will put employees’ minds at ease.
  • Who should communicate: Employees look first to leaders within the company who have earned their trust and have modeled integrity, to set the tone. Regular updates and messages of encouragement should come from those who can provide honest and articulate insights, with both optimism and inspiration.
  • How to support communications: Carefully craft your internal messages during times of rapid change. Be transparent and empathetic, using real data to validate your rationale while never losing sight that your decisions are impacting real people with real concerns in real time.

Stay tuned for more in our thought leadership series on the employee and customer experience (CX)! Making investments in your corporate culture will serve you well now, and into the future.

 

What’s the Touchstone for Your Business?


It’s said a thousand times a day, in a thousand different ways, that we are living in unprecedented times. By definition an unprecedented event is “without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled.” And while history is replete with other deadly pandemics, COVID-19 and our actions to subdue it have caused massive disruptions to our personal and professional lives.

We are learning as we go to adapt to new ways of educating, cohabitating, telecommuting, meal prepping, conversing, worshipping, and even grieving. The necessity to adapt is no longer a prerogative – as Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

However, even necessary course corrections without foundational grounding can lead to unintended chaos and uncertainty. In my personal mind/body practice, I have found the use of touchstones, also known as palm stones, to be very effective in keeping me focused and engaged on mission-critical objectives. I keep a touchstone on my desk and in my pocket to serve as a visual and physical reminder to adapt only with purpose and intention.

So, what is the metaphorical touchstone for your business – what’s your grounding, as you adapt? Are you adhering to the sound business principles that you know to be universal and true, regardless of the distracting noise? Are you all-in with supporting the health of your corporate culture, your coworkers, your customers, your business partners, and yourself?

We are indeed all in this together and I dare say we need each other more than ever.

The staff at Signal has made a commitment that grounds us as we adapt to our changing world.

We will endeavor to provide the very best service and creative intelligence for our customers.

We will promote a healthy and vibrant internal culture that will be intentional and manifest itself in our good work.

We will be mindful to live personally and professionally with great humility and gratitude for successes earned, and lessons learned.

With intention,

Phil Stephens & your Signal family

photo credit: Sandy Pogue

The Show Must Go On

virtual events


Virtual events aren’t a new trend, but during the global coronavirus crisis, they have become a necessity. Companies large and small are scrambling to replace in-person conferences with social-distancing-friendly online events. The Washington Performing Arts Gala is a stellar example. Originally scheduled for March 2020, the gala was quickly moved to a virtual event due to the virus outbreak. The rapid shift from in-person to virtual attendance occurred in just 14 hours. This included planning, installing, rehearsing, webcasting, and dismantling of the entire event.

Event organizers were able to meet the challenge and bring the gala to the guests. The team had to overcome several obstacles in the conversion process, including fitting the event into a much smaller space; re-writing the script to include virtual performances from several musicians; and preparing a broadcast studio to meet technical challenges in time for the original event date. In spite of the abrupt pivot, over 300 virtual guests were able to attend the gala, and an impressive $200,000 was raised to benefit the performing arts.

The Signal team is also currently helping clients with contingency plans for upcoming events. In just one example, we’re working with a global life sciences company to shift a major face-to-face event to a virtual one. The sophisticated setup, using YouTube as the main platform, will include features such as:

  • Simultaneous streaming across multiple platforms
  • Up to four independent cameras
  • Combination of live, animated and pre-recorded content
  • Custom on-screen graphics
  • Green screen keying
  • Production development
  • Live-to-video recordings for future access

What we can learn?

The Washington Performing Arts Gala organizers used many best practices for planning an online event, including audience participation, a compelling script, and high-quality video, audio and lighting. Most online platforms have interactive features, so we’d like to add that audience feedback during and after the event makes a big difference. Think quizzes and polling questions, and encouraging live tweeting as ways to engage participants. Another great way to use interactivity is by taking viewers behind the scenes. This creates an emotional connection and an authentic feeling of insider knowledge that others don’t have. Speaking of creating connection, a unique hashtag can help promote the event and foster attendees’ engagement, while providing important information to planners.

When planning your virtual event, make sure you’re choosing the right platform, content, design and interactivity. The Signal team is here to help you create an exceptional experience for your attendees.