There’s a really good post on Associations Now today by Ernie Smith headlined Email Marketing: Time to Rethink What’s Possible. He leads with an example from legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk who apparently faked riding a Back-to-the-Future-ish hoverboard and had to apologize to people who believed it. Then he learned that there actually is such a prototype called the Hendo Hover.
Smith’s point: Don’t think small; he wants you to imagine big and new. He might also argue that if New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had never imagined and then practiced catching the ball with one hand at crazy angles, he wouldn’t have made one of the game’s greatest catches ever Sunday night. (An interesting NYT article yesterday interviews the photographers who caught the catch.)
But Beckham thought new. Stacy-Marie Ishmael (pictured here) is all about new. She has been hired by BuzzFeed away from the Financial Times to be editorial lead for their forthcoming news app. At FT she helped start one of their first blogs, Alphaville, and as VP of communities, worked closely with FT Live which hosts some 200 conferences a year—new stuff at the time for a publisher.
Ishmael did a Q&A last week with Caroline O’Donovan for Nieman Lab. “I think for a long time, news organizations have struggled with figuring out how to create great experiences in digital,” she said. “…If the best ideas are coming from dating apps, we should try those. If the best ideas are coming from physical design and 3D printing, we should see what we can learn from that as well. I don’t think that only looking at things that other media organizations are doing is where you’re going to get most of your inspiration.”
Ishmael spoke about building an environment that allows for those new ideas, “where people feel simultaneously supported and challenged. The kinds of people who opt into working on products that don’t exist in a crowded marketplace at a super fast-growing technology company tend to have self-selecting personalities. It’s really easy for those teams to get obsessed with a particular problem, or take it really hard if they feel like they’re not making progress. It’s the responsibility of the people leading those teams to help people grow and learn and understand that we’re not going to get everything right the first time, and that’s okay.”
Smith’s column posited 4 new directions for email marketing:
2. Moving away from old-school designs: “Our users are on mobile more than ever, and our focus should start with them.”
3. Rethinking nature of email: “Quite often, we use emails to focus on messaging, to tell…about news relevant to the industry, or to simply remind people that we exist. But what if other strategies might be more effective…?” Focus on the progress instead of the ask, he wrote, pointing to startups iDoneThis and Launch Ticker.
4. Embracing newer tools: “What if the strategy we’ve used to turn emails into well-oiled machines made us miss some better strategies along the way? For example, I could see a lot of folks accustomed to hand-coding HTML looking at the Pocket-like email curator GoodBits and thinking … whoa. What if something like the dead-simple email service TinyLetter made sense in certain contexts?”
Ishmael said that she’s been obsessed with email for a long time and strongly believes in a notification strategy for it. “Your notifications could be direct from your app, they could be tying into IFTTT, it could be getting into email. I’ve been watching with interest what Evernote is doing…where, if you’re editing a note in Evernote Business, you’re going to see relevant things from Factiva and Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. It’s about: How do you get into people’s workflows in a way that doesn’t feel obtrusive and that is actually totally relevant to whatever they’re doing at that time?”
Think new—sounds like a good early-resolution.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.