Inspiration and Lessons Learned from the 2018 Midwest Digital Marketing Conference

Weber Shandwick St. Louis
6 min readApr 3, 2018

By Weber Shandwick St. Louis

Despite the dreariness of last week’s weather, some brightness shone as marketing students, industry professionals and marketing and communications leaders gathered for the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference in downtown St. Louis. Weber Shandwick’s Digital Account & Engagement Lead Obele Brown-West led an engaging discussion on how brands and organizations are leveraging AI on social media to create compelling new content that drives commerce.

From (L) to (R): Chris Ward, Arielle Claypool and Rodney Pruitt promote their colleague’s MDMC session

Reflecting on Obele’s presentation, I wondered how much have I purchased through social media? How did these ads even target me as a consumer? This world of social commerce isn’t necessarily new, but it’s fascinating how easily it has crept into our daily lives and how rapidly it evolves. Obele mentioned that “this presentation will probably be antiquated by the time we leave this room.” As quickly as things change in the social commerce landscape, that’s definitely a possibility.

Combining the right tools and technology with social media means transforming the way we shop in our daily lives, and transforming how we convert consumers in our professional lives. Social platforms shake up the consumer experience and directly correlate to bottom of the funnel marketing objectives.

While my bias may tell me that my colleague’s presentation was the best of them all, there was still a lot to learn from many other experts attending the conference. From crisis management, to visual storytelling, read some of my colleagues’ thoughts and takeaways from the conference below!

– Rodney Pruitt, Associate, Client Experience Digital

Social Media Crisis Management Panel

Reputation takes years to build and minutes to dissolve in the wake of a crisis. Social media managers need to have the tools and know-how at the ready to manage an issue quickly and effectively, even if they are not crisis communications experts. While most PR professionals know just enough to be dangerous when it comes to managing a crisis, there’s still a lot to learn, much of which can only come from experience. A panel of local crisis powerhouses shared their insights on how to prepare before a crisis or issue, based on their many years in the trenches. Here’s what they said:

  1. Always have a crisis plan and escalation process outlined and approved, before a crisis happens.
  2. Identify the topics and issues your company or brand is most likely to face on an ongoing basis, and plot a course of action for how to deal with crises in those areas.
  3. Ensure everyone whose business channel could be affected by a crisis has a seat (and a voice) at the table from the get go.
  4. Groom your existing online/social fan base to be brand advocates, before a crisis happens. Offer them exclusive info, discounts, etc. on an ongoing basis and they’re more likely to come to your rescue during a time of need.
  5. Buy yourself some time by releasing a placeholder statement acknowledging the issue and that you’re looking into it, instead of delaying any response until you have the perfect, approved comment.
  6. When you do release a statement, do not bury the lead. Address the issue straight away and cut the upfront fluff.
  7. Tone is important. Speak to consumers in a human, relatable way, not in an overly corporate manner.
  8. Any internal crisis messaging or communication should be approved for external, as it’s likely to get out.

– Callie Rapp, Manager, Client Experience

DJ 18andCounting lightens the mood at MDMC 2018

Visual Storytelling: Creating a True Connection with Your Content

Whether it’s for creating a whitepaper, posting a short 30-second Facebook ad or sending out a direct mail piece, visuals speak louder than words.

Think of your favorite stories (ahem, Star Wars… the original trilogy), and think about what makes them the most compelling. The majority of them likely involve the hero’s journey: an ordinary human who receives a call to adventure, with the support of an aide or mentor, who overcomes trials, achieves victory and then returns to ordinary life having changed.

This session showed how highly entertaining, relevant and visual storytelling can use the framework of the hero’s journey to create some of the most captivating stories — even in short, branded content. Take for instance Vauxhall’s #parallelbarking campaign, which used a 58-second video to showcase how easy it is to parallel park with Vauxhall’s Park Assist feature. The hero? The viewer. The aide? Park Assist. The trial? Parallel parking. The victory? Parallel parking made so easy a dog could do it.

It sounds easier said than done, but with the right insights to your target audience and a compelling story that’s backed by quality visuals, you’ll see more conversions and better retention of your brand and its messaging.

– Arielle Claypool, Senior Associate, Client Experience

Social Video: 5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making

We’ve all sat through hours of PowerPoint presentations at conferences. And, yes, many of them are enlightening, thought-provoking and data-driven. But, if we’re being honest here, many of them aren’t one thing: entertaining. Thankfully, Jeremy Corray and Dionne Joffray from St. Louis-based Coolfire Studios (just down the street from Weber Shandwick) understand how to both play to the crowd and drop some social media science. Throwing out Voltron t-shirts to the crowd didn’t hurt either.

From the basic stuff people forget (Subtitle your Facebook videos! Answer questions from your YouTube community!) to the not so obvious (Control the video that auto-plays AFTER your brand video!) to the strategically thoughtful (use data and analytics to inform the type of video you should make). Coolfire ripped through thumb-stopping tips and tricks on how to deliver big impact in 5 seconds or less. In a nutshell version, their content strategy breaks down like this:

· Start with the audience — who are you trying to reach, and what platforms are they on?

· Define the goal — What do we really want? Awareness, Views, Call to Action, or All of the Above?

· Think streams not spots — Coolfire has embraced Google’s quarterly “Hero, Hub and Help” content playbook to drive engagement, grow followers and convert viewers into customers

· Share the wheel — Engage your audience, let them choose the direction of content, talk to them and keep them engaged

· Right Content. Right Platforms — It sounds obvious, but make YouTube videos on YouTube. Make Snapchat videos on Snapchat. Use the correct platforms in the correct way.

· Stop Listening To Your Buts! — “My Boss Won’t Let Me” or “There’s No Budget.” Production Value is subjective, so be scrappy and not crappy. And above all: GOOD AUDIO, ok?

All in all, great lessons and even better presentation from a pretty amazing company. Next year I’ll sit closer to get a sweet t-shirt, though.

– Chris Ward, Senior Copywriter

Level Up Your Marketing: Using Gamification to Enhance Marketing Campaigns

One of my favorite panels was presented by Mitch Canter from Vanderbilt University who segmented gamers into action-oriented behavior groups that can be applied to the general consumer. This was of personal interest to me because I am an avid gamer and wanted to see how I could apply these classifications to our influencer work. These classifications can give brands insights into how to reach the highly sought after millennial consumer in a non-traditional, but highly effective channel.

· The Achiever: Driven by in-game goals

o Brands can take advantage of this group through leveled rewards programs

· The Socialite: Driven by social and group actions

o Brands can give quests where consumers must work together to accomplish a goal.

· The Explorer: Driven by the thrill of discovery

o Brands can hide Easter Eggs in their content that can lead to prizes.

· The Killer: Driven by player competition

o Brands can host trivia within their rewards program to allow players to compete against each other.

With 84% of Millennials not trusting traditional advertising, using this model of action-oriented behavior groups combined with gamification and influencers may be the perfect solution to combat this skepticism. An example of this, would be using Instagram to have influencers challenge their audiences donate to a specific charity and the sponsoring brand will match a certain level of donations. When certain goals are met, the influencers would provide rewards to their audience. This example alone would hit both the achiever and the killer demographics.

– Greg Rusert, Junior Associate, Influence

Team Weber Shandwick at the MDMC

Stay tuned for more key insights and takeaways from our team!



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