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Right on Q: 5 Questions With Sebastian Mayeres, CEO and Head of Global Sales for knk Software LP

This interview was conducted by special correspondent Thomas Marcetti

One of the many lessons the pandemic has offered so far is that publishers, marketers, and really anyone who communicates with people outside your organization need to be nimble. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.

On top of that, you’re not just competing with other similar sources of information. You’re competing in an increasingly crowded media space. At a time when your magazine is competing with Netflix, your e-blast competes with podcasts, your webinars compete with screen-free reading time, it’s more important than ever to know where and when to pivot to best reach your target audience.

To do so effectively requires—yes, you guessed it—data. There is not always going to be a pandemic to take away or complicate major communication channels, but there will always be a need to check your course to ensure you’re making the most of your content.

For a little more insight into the state of data in publishing, we sat down with Sebastian Mayeres, CEO and head of global sales for knk Software LP.

AMPLIFY: Big Data has been a hot topic for many years now, but some publishers are still hesitantly dipping their toes in. In your experience, how prevalent is this hesitation among publishers and why do you think they feel that way?

Mayeres: Of course, for the past two years, publishers have had other more basic problems to face, such as dealing with a workforce that became mostly remote, almost overnight. Many publishers struggled just to stay in place during this period. Now that we have adapted to the pandemic, I think publishers are beginning to think of data as a strategic asset again, [one] that is departmentally agnostic. In other words, it is not there just to feed operational legacy systems, as we noted above, but for data driven decision-making across the board and not just for top management.

AMPLIFY: What is the most common misconception publishers have about Big Data?

Mayeres. That [they] believe that Big Data is only relevant for top management. This is not true at all. With Big Data you are trying to get rid of decisions being made on a gut feeling, rather than the actual data. This is important for all levels of decision makers and not just for strategic long-term decisions.

Part of this problem is that publishers are generally underinvested in all their core operating systems. This leaves a big bridge to gap when attempting to move to more sophisticated solutions such as Big Data. Perhaps this was acceptable in an analog world, but it does not suffice at all in a digital world where there is rarely a point where content is final. The situation is fluid and publishers must adapt quickly. Traditionally, they are often organized around business functions such as marketing, sales, and production, for example. And the data that each department needs to address its own operational requirements has that insular nature we’ve talked about.

The problem is often made worse because many departments don’t work directly together, although they do share aspects of the same data. This can even result in some departments denying access to data that they regard as their own, based on the application in question. So there’s that question of how the publisher regards data—as an operational necessity, or as an opportunity to think big—and strategically.

AMPLIFY: What about legacy software?

Mayeres. Old legacy systems that were designed to address specific operational needs tend to isolate data into silos anyway. These silos are difficult to integrate into newer external systems that provide essential market views, and often are poorly supported because the skilled resources are no longer available. Loosely related legacy systems often accumulate in organizations that have no standard approach to technology and do not use a single technology platform. This is critical to a good outcome with Big Data.

So the unfortunate result is that publishers often have a lack of coordinated, unified data, where duplication abounds (often leading to turf wars and infighting over whose data is better), resulting in higher costs, poor productivity and very limited collaboration. It’s no wonder that management is frustrated with their inability to see the big picture!

AMPLIFY: Can you share an example of a particularly interesting or innovative way publishers are using data right now?

Mayeres: A good example is that of a well-known, on-line financial newsfeed that adapts its subscriber content using real-time data based on the viewer’s geographic location at the time the copy is being delivered. They actually shrink the feed to supply only geographically-relevant information that is much more likely to generate immediate interest and create a loyal long-term customer. The information is extremely valuable to the reader because it’s precise, timely and tailored to that particular reader’s interest on an ongoing basis. And a great use of AI and Big Data.

AMPLIFY: What sort of advancements, innovations or new trends do you see in the near future that excite or interest you?

Mayeres: The whole topic of AI in publishing is very exciting for us, and of course it’s made economically practical by the large computing resources that are provided by companies like Microsoft and their Azure cloud services. AI applications are available today, from the editorial processes all the way to the Audience Building, and Social Engagement systems and the back-end analyses in software products such as our own knk Publishing. They will only get better.

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‘Your ZIP Code Is Not Your Destiny’; EXCEL Awards Finalists Bring Power and Emotion

Judging by the incredible finalists in our EXCEL Awards, 2021 was a life-changing year for so many of us. Here are five examples of moving work, from the impact at the 20th anniversary of 9/11, to the commitment to the arts to change lives in a small town in Texas, to new narratives on breast cancer survivors that it may have took a minor revolution to uncover.

“I don’t know that parents, the community, and the legislators fully understand that the arts open the doors for these students that they couldn’t otherwise afford.” That quote comes from a stirring story from the National School Boards Association. It combines the words of contributing editor Glenn Cook with wonderful photos (such as the one here) that I just noticed he took as well.

Looking at winners and finalists in our Neal and EXCEL Awards is among the best ways to get new ideas. We’ve started a series on the Neal winners, but with the EXCEL Awards ceremony for association publishers set for next Wednesday evening—following the first day of our AMPLIFY 2022 Content & Marketing Summit—here are five finalists that stood out for me in the type of work they’ve created—moving and replicable.

How We PTA – encouraging change. In Best Pandemic Response Campaign, the National PTA did a storytelling campaign using “PTA” as a verb. “Learn How We PTA. Find inspiration from PTAs nationwide who have positively affected their communities with these stories of change that originated at the PTA with leaders just like you. Click a category below for stories about the power of the PTA.” The categories included: Advocacy, Building a Community, Social and Emotional Wellbeing, Bridging the Digital Divide and Addressing Food Insecurity. “There’s no wrong way to PTA. However you do it, it’s all an investment in your child.” The positive message resonates strongly.

Find a small-town story. Anything Is Possible, a feature story from the National School Boards Association, is nominated in the category of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. “Aldine Independent School District’s Carver High School (Texas) offers award-winning programs in visual arts, vocal and instrumental music, dance, and theatre, giving its students—many of whom live in poverty—a safe environment to discover and be themselves.” This incredibly positive article about the power of the arts included a series of moving photos. “We say it all the time: Your ZIP code is not your destiny,” says Aldine Superintendent LaTonya Goffney. “We want to make sure our students have the same opportunities and exposure to the arts as anyone, anywhere. They deserve it, and they benefit from it.” Look for articles that can touch your audience and show the best of what people in your niche can offer.

Deploy the power of video. Accident Case Study: Into Thin Air, is a Single Entry Education video from AOPA Air Safety Institute. “Join the AOPA Air Safety Institute as we follow the Bonanza’s likely encounter with high density altitude—an inherent hazard in high terrain significantly degrading aircraft performance. Deceptively upsloping terrain would leave no escape for the flatland pilots facing the canyon trapping them.” The 12-minute video provides huge lessons for that audience—and what went wrong with this undertaking. In this case, the video tells the story in a way that would have been hard for an article. Members get credit to their ASI transcript for watching this video, which “uses FAA ATC radio communication transcripts, NTSB documentation, and video animation to recreate accidents and share critical lessons, so we can recognize and avoid similar mistakes.”

Using a podcast to motivate and entertain your audience. For Best Podcast Series, the American Legion put together a series called 20/20/20—20 episodes leading up to the 20 days marking 20 years since the “attacks that changed the world.” In one episode, Tango Alpha Lima, the name of the podcast, remembers 9/11 with motivational speaker USMC Cpl. Josh Bleill. Working a corporate job in Indianapolis on Sept. 11, 2001, Bleill was so moved by that day that he soon found himself “following in his father’s yellow bootsteps at Marine Corps bootcamp. During a deployment to Fallujah, Iraq in 2006, a bomb exploded under the vehicle Josh was riding in. He woke up five days later to the realization that he had lost two friends and both of his legs in the blast. [His] journey through recovery led him to a new role as a motivational speaker, trying to help veterans and civilians alike move forward with positivity by taking just one step at a time.”

Drill down on a single issue. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is nominated as a finalist for Best Single Topic Issue for Breast Reconstruction 2021. What’s notable about the cover of the magazine is how diverse the women are. The tagline is ”WHEN YOU SEE US – Amplifying the Narratives for Thrivers of Color.” The issue includes stories on: Amplifying the narratives for survivors of color; Bringing home to breast cancer patients in Africa; Removing barriers to reconstruction in Louisiana; Supporting breast reconstruction efforts in California; Tips for traveling to another city for reconstruction; A survivor helping other women to stay strong and “fight pretty.” “Recent studies show more than 3 million women have a history of breast cancer in the United States. Every woman should know her options and have adequate information to make an educated decision about her breast cancer treatment.”

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Focus, Jot, Debrief and Smile Wide: Taking Full Advantage of Your In-Person Events

Editors, marketers, publishers, writers and more will be descending upon Washington, D.C., next week for our inaugural AMPLIFY 2022 Content & Marketing Summit. (See the agenda here.) For the majority, I would guess that it will be their first time at an in-person event in almost three years. Here’s a primer on getting the most out of your experience.

Yesterday I wrote about a campaign called How to PTA. Today’s article could probably be called How to Conference. Of course, it will be like riding a bike—once you start engaging, it will feel comfortable again—but there’s so much more that we can get out of these events if we come with a little preparation.

Another purpose of this column is for you to borrow these tips for your own event audience. The fall will be jam-packed with in-person events, so this can be a great refresher/primer course for your attendees. (It will be posted on the blog for Friday’s Week in Review.)

It is a DISTINCT PLEASURE for me to write: Here are 9 tips to get the most out of the events you will attend IN PERSON this year (and hopefully next week):

Jot down notes and information. Yes, I mean in longhand. When you get a business card, write down what made you ask for the card on the back. I can recall times when I empty my pockets after a long day at a conference, see a bunch of business cards, and don’t quite remember what I was going to check on or follow up about. Many designers are now leaving business cards blank on one side just for that reason. Of course, writing Notes on your phone also works.

Focus your attention on possible outcomes. “Many people think of networking as showing up, randomly interacting, and hoping something good will happen,” wrote Jeff Korhan, author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. “You have to be crystal clear about what you want so you can communicate it to others and recognize it when you see or hear it.”

Increase the probability of favorable outcomes. Korhan scripts his daily schedule for meetings, breakfast, exercise and all. For in-person events, he likes to show up a bit early; “it’s a great time to make invaluable connections,” he writes. “Simply put: Smart networkers always plan for serendipity at live events.” I love this having written a column recently titled, ‘You Want to Leave Room for Magic’; How to Plan for Serendipitous Outcomes.”

Listen up. “It’s easy to get distracted and think about what you’re going to say after the person you’re talking to finishes their point,” wrote blogger Nathalie Lussier. “Don’t let your mind take over! Instead, focus on what the people you’re with are saying and chime in without pre-rehearsing what you’re going to say in your head. I promise it will come out just as smart, but you’ll have the added benefit of knowing exactly what people are saying, and giving them your full undivided attention. People will notice!”

Debrief throughout the event. This is important. You will definitely experience information overload at AMPLIFY (and other events) so take a few minutes each evening to digest what you have learned and the people you have met. Call it “doing your homework before going home.” Take notes—about your interactions as well as from the sessions.

Articulate what your company has had success with. My favorite question in interviews these days is, Tell me something you’ve done recently that’s been successful. Everyone is looking for ways to grow their organization. So if you can clearly articulate what you are doing well, others will do the same for you. And that will facilitate a better discussion.

Do research about those you may want to connect with. Knowing something specific about other organizations always makes for interesting conversation. The best opportunities are often squandered because someone is not ready. Here is the link for the organizations coming to AMPLIFY 2022. You can also look at the EXCEL finalists in a specific category—maybe podcasts, website design—so that when you see a person from there you can ask questions.

Be determined to meet people you don’t know. Saying hi to old friends will certainly be more important this year—we’re all concerned about our friends’ and colleagues’ mental and physical health after these last two-plus years. And that’s certainly part of what makes a conference great. But you want new connections too—so much has changed out there. Perhaps it’s a younger person who looks a little isolated. These days, we can learn as much from them as they can from us. Or it’s someone who may not have a clique or posse to turn to.

Smile and talk to people. We’ve all kind of mastered the mask-smile these days—has to be a bit wider than it used to be. Raised eyebrows go a longer way now and can be more positive than it used to be. My experience so far in person has been that the joy comes back pretty quickly. We share so many more commonalities now about our home offices, kids, pets, Zoom backgrounds, etc. “Have you really read all those books behind you, won all those awards, have that beautiful garden?”

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2022 CODiE Awards Celebration Shows How Up Close and Personal a Virtual Event Can Be

“Welcome to the 2022 Business Technology CODiE Awards Winner Announcement Celebration!” And with that proclamation on Wednesday, an incredible two-day virtual pomp, romp and crowning of winners took off.

Mind you, even before that, participants could gather with fellow technology leaders in the NewSkyXR rooftop metaverse. SIIA lifetime achievement award winner Feyzi Fatehi discussed his recently published book Democratizing SaaS. And the SIIA policy team was on hand to discuss the issues that matter most to attendees. A Gather Voices video booth captured guests’ red carpet moments.

But the stars of the show were the winners—awarded for the 45 business technology categories and 48 education technology categories represented, including new leadership categories, recognizing individuals and teams. Since 1986, SIIA’s CODiE Awards have honored thousands of software, education, information and media products, leaders and teams for achieving excellence.

Videos from many of the winners added greatly to the celebration. One moment perhaps personified the spirit of the CODiES and showcased virtual at its best. Dreambox Learning won for Best Personalized Learning Solution, and David Woods accepted the award with his two daughters on his lap. “At Dreambox, we strive to deliver trusted, measurable and meaningful results to unlock the learning potential of all students [as he nodded to his daughter].” David and the girls said thank you to the sound of applause.

Special awards included:

Best Overall Business Technology Solution to Honeywell Forge by Honeywell which had the best scores from both rounds of judging of all of the products entered in the business technology categories.

Best Overall Education Solution was awarded to TutorMe, which had the best scores from both rounds of judging of all of the products entered in the education categories.

The Lifetime Achievement Award in Education Technology was presented to David Byer (pictured). “I was driven to come to Washington, D.C., when I was a kid, influenced by the social upheavals of the late ‘6os and early ‘70s,” he said. “Thinking Washington is the place where big things happen, and things needed to change. I’m forever grateful to be a part of that change in the form of educational improvement in the use of technology… We’ve accomplished so much, yet with those accomplishments we see how much further we have to go [as we] emerge from the pandemic. It will take the collective efforts of SIIA and other organizations to tackle [the challenges] head on.”

Other award-winning companies that AM&P Network members might know include (member) TechTarget, BlueConic, Honeywell and Discovery.

SIIA President Jeff Joseph praised the tremendous accomplishments and spirit of all the entrants plus the enthusiasm of the two-day event—not to mention the incredible work by longtime CODiES managing director Jenny Baranowski.

“The 2022 EdTech CODiE Award winners exemplify the outstanding products, services and overall innovation that enables learners of all types to connect with educators and educational materials,” said Joseph. “We are so proud to recognize this year’s honorees—the best of the best—that provide solutions to many of the critical challenges facing learners today—from access and equity, to personalized and tailored learning and beyond. Congratulations to all of this year’s CODiE Award winners!”

Virtual after parties to congratulate winners took place both evenings in the NewSkyXR rooftop metaverse, again allowing visitors to create winner congratulations videos using the Gather Voices platform.

The SIIA CODiE Awards remain the only peer-reviewed program to showcase business and education technology’s finest products and services. All of the nominated products were first reviewed by business technology leaders, including senior executives, analysts, media, consultants, engineers and investors, whose evaluations determined the finalists. Then SIIA members voted on the finalist products, with the scores from both rounds tabulated to select the winners. Winners represent the most innovative and impactful products from technology developers and related technologies.

Details about the winning products can be found here for ed tech and here for business tech.