Seconding That Emotion Can Be One of the Best Things You Do Now

“In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” begins a message on the SIPA member Ace Infoway site, “We take this moment to express our gratitude and support!”


What follows is a moving and emotional, two-minute video of a desolate Broadway, an empty San Marco Square in Venice, a “Sorry We’re Closed” sign, and then a tribute to the “Heroes fighting the Coronavirus.” “For Ace Infoway, things are not the same as before. We really miss working together… We take this moment to thank our Ace Internal Heroes. Our dedication to our clients is the only motivation we thrive on.”


With all the wonderful faces of Ace Infoway employees, it’s a powerful video. Marketing consultant Amy Africa once pleaded with us to use real faces from our businesses instead of canned ones, and you can see why. We respond to emotion, she said. “We have bartenders in our brain and they’re constantly mixing cocktails to become faster and smarter and more involved. We are not thinking machines that feel; we are feeling machines that think.”


Two years ago, at a SIPA Annual Conference, Rick Wilkes, OPIS director of marketing, talked about the importance of emotion in marketing.


“I think emotion is underrated in any kind of marketing, particularly with websites,” he said during a session titled Transforming Your Website into a New Prospect Magnet. “On the new OPIS site [and still today!] you see a refinery at sunset, and that’s the best a refinery is ever going to look. You’d be amazed in stock photography how many fuel places are within sunsets. It’s very soothing. So it’s a big bold image [and the words,] ‘Buy & sell oil & gas products with CONFIDENCE’—and the confidence is the emotional hook there.”


This was backed up by an article by Nick Hague, head of growth at B2B International: “A successful brand is based on a connection that includes trust and an emotional bond which fosters a long-term relationship. Indeed, with Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman finding that a whopping 95% of all purchase decisions are made subconsciously, it’s clear that B2B brands cannot afford to forget the importance of emotion.”


If emotion had value before the pandemic, it has only multiplied since. Last week I stumbled on a video posted by a bundled-up Wylecia Wiggs Harris, CEO of American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), standing in a park outside Chicago.


“Hi AHIMA members, this is Wylecia just checking in to see how all of you are doing… This is a period of uncertainty for all of us. And if we’re honest, there are fears and doubts and concerns that we’re all carrying. And yet the work that we do has never been more important. Know that AHIMA appreciates everything you are doing. We’re in this all together.”


Creating a New Vibe


Back in March and early April, many organizations moved quickly to build COVID-19 microsites to accompany their regular website. While many of those produced huge bumps in traffic, they also created a new vibe—we care about you, your health and how you are coping. Stephanie Williford of EB Medicine has talked about the pushback she got when their COVID site first appeared behind a paywall. They quickly moved it in front.


And, of course, EB Medicine is not alone. “PaperClip Communications knows how difficult and uncertain this time is, and we’re happy to offer these complimentary resources to help our colleagues during this crisis.” This appears on their homepage and then a very attractive resources page, where they list On-Demand Training, PDF Downloads, a Self-Care Calendar and Digital Newsletters.


It’s an emotional lift at a time when we all need it most.


“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing,” said the famous “Marketoonist” Tom Fishburne, quoted in an article on the site Instapage. They write: “Does it feel like marketing when you watch a poignant advertisement and connect emotionally with the subject? Does it feel like marketing when you read a genuine positive customer review of a kind waitstaff and great service?


“Emotional connections happen because we’re human, and we’re built for these connections, wired for them, and rely on them to live a rich, meaningful life. Despite our significant advances in science and technology, human emotion (mainly our subconscious) will always be core to our DNA. Marketing by appealing to raw and genuine human emotion is essential, smart, and pays off.”


Audio Articles Could Be the Next Big Thing for Publishers in 2020

Part of the success of podcasts—over half of publisher respondents in a new Reuters Institute study said they would be pushing various types of podcast initiatives this year—comes from the new demands on our time. We can listen to podcasts while doing something else, be it driving, commuting, working out, cooking, etc.

Now that same logic is propelling another trend: audio articles. In that same Reuters study, titled Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020, they write this in a section called What to Expect in 2020:

“Improved technology is enabling new opportunities for publishers in quickly re-versioning text output into audio. In Canada, the Globe and Mail is one of the first publishers to use Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service that sounds far more natural to the human ear than previous versions. Subscribers can listen to selected articles in English, French and Mandarin and choose their favorite voice.”

Okay, so being able to listen to one of your articles in say, Mandarin, would increase your possible audience only by a mere billion or so. That’s pretty substantial.


In Denmark, “slow-news” operation Zetland—which I’ve written about before for their trendiness—provides all of its stories with a (human-read) audio option. Around 75% of all stories are now listened to rather than consumed via text. 75%! That’s amazing. (This graphic is from that Reuters report.)

Zetland was one of the first publishers to put on live events, called Zetland Live, featuring their staff. In one video, their editor begins as the emcee with some type of fowl mascot behind her. Then we see a woman on a trapeze, a mini-symphony, a reporter talking about his coverage of Afghanistan perhaps, another reporter with footage of himself in Africa perhaps, audience involvement, a sports segment, storytelling, more music and an after-party (where the fowl returns).

Back to audio articles. “In Brazil the newspaper Estadão has teamed up with Ford to create a human-read daily audio service for Spotify. Each part of the newspaper has its own album, each news story has its own track. Many publishers see connected cars as a new opportunity to reach audiences and audio as a key way to deliver journalism in the future.”

Taking a quick look around the web, it seems that there are many affordable vendors now. Natural ReadersTTSReader and Text2Speech came up for me.

In an article in June, Molly Raycraft on the site B2B Marketing wrote about B2B brands incorporating voice technology in their marketing. She insists that your products should be voice tech accessible.

“Unquestionably the standard should be that you have either vocalized your product, or at least designed your website content to work with text-to-speech systems. So while you may have aspirations of doing something futuristic and ground-breaking with voice tech, make sure you’ve got the basics covered. This could even be as simple as filling in a proper description in the ‘alt text’ box on website images.”

Then she writes: “B2B tech copywriting agency Radix Communications gives a great example of how effective it can be to simply repurpose what you have into audio in order to increase its accessibility. As part of its podcast Good Copy, Bad Copy, the agency has been experimenting with reading its blogs aloud. This makes the content more accessible to those who potentially have a visual impairment, as well as those who are on the go and can’t sit down to read.”

Then there are flash briefings, where your company’s news can now be part of Alexa’s early-morning summaries. Besides being news-oriented, flash briefings can broadcast inspirational quotes, event listings, finance tips, random facts, etc.

From “Via an undeniably cumbersome interface, users choose which flash briefings they’d like to hear and the order in which they appear. Then, whenever the user says, ‘Alexa, tell me the news’—or the much clunkier, ‘Alexa, play my flash briefing’—the device will get the latest news from those sources, in that predetermined order.”

What a great way for a specialized publisher subscriber to get her morning update.