Why Relevancy Matters in Content Marketing

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Category: Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 1 comment

Like most of you, I rarely pay attention to commercials. (What about during the Super Bowl? Nah. Not too interested.) I zip through them. (Thank you, DVR!) If I can’t skip the commercials, I use the time to catch up on reading or play Fairway Solitaire (darn you, Gutsy McDivot!) on my phone. But then I caught a woman talking with her hands. Stop. Rewind. Play. As a deaf person, I couldn’t help but be interested in what Mary had to say.

This speaks volumes about relevancy, or lack thereof. As you watch the video, think about what type of company could be behind it. (The video has subtitles, but you can jump to the script.)

What did you think when you found out the company? Watching this made me think about bullying and how deaf folks want to be viewed as a person like everyone else. Maybe it was a public service announcement or an ad for a nonprofit organization.

It took three views before I could remember the company behind the ad. First time, I couldn’t recall. Second time, right type of business, but not the name. Third time, I wrote it down.

Mary said that people who are deaf want to have friends and be treated with respect. Agreed. And then what? It had no closure, no real point. How was this relevant to viewers and the advertiser’s business? Buy insurance, get friends and respect?

Relevance isn’t just about the audience. There needs to be some connection between the content and the business. This video showed how the lack of relevancy made it harder to remember the company.

Granted, the company attempted to tell a compelling story … but the story didn’t go anywhere, showed no connection to the business and failed to be relevant to the audience.

This video reiterates the importance for marketers and advertisers to create content that’s valuable and relevant to their business and, most importantly, to their target market. An Ascend2 “Email Marketing Strategy Outlook Report” survey says that most effective tactic to achieve email marketing objectives is “creating relevant and compelling content.” And yet it’s also the most difficult tactic to execute.

Why does it matter? When something isn’t relevant, it won’t connect with the audience and be memorable. It also affects a company’s reputation. Content marketing is rife with examples of irrelevancy.

What did you think of the ad? Can you recall a time when you came across something that was not relevant to you? What other ways do companies fail to be relevant? Please let me know your thoughts in comments. Love hearing from y’all!

Video script

My name is Mary and this is my aha moment.

I think we spend too much time fingerpointing and saying, “Oh, that’s their problem.” It’s just so awful.

Deaf people are just like people who can hear. They want a family, they want friends, they want the opportunity to go out and experience various things and they want respect.

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A Little Deaf Education

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Category: Tech 4 comments

I’ve been busy over at Bionic Ear Blog as two great blog posts inspired the two recent posts. I’m sharing them here as that blog and this one have different audiences. You may be interested in learning a little more about what it’s like for a deaf person to hear and the different types of captioned videos available.

Closed captioning symbolFurthermore, I want to open the door to your questions about deafness. Ask anything. I know how hard it is to ask someone such questions — unless you know the person very well — because you don’t know whether that person is sensitive or open. Ask away.

Closed-Captioned Video Examples has actual videos of different types of captioned videos so you can see how they’re different. If your business produces videos, it will give you things to consider in creating accessible videos. (This is only a small part of accessibility. There are also accessible videos for people who are blind.)

What Do Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants Sound Like? does exactly that and includes videos.

What questions do you have about deafness?

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The King’s Speech Lesson

Monday, February 28th, 2011 at 5:09 PM | Category: Business, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 4 comments

It’s human nature for people to not look past someone’s speech to discover the person first. I know it because I live it. Oscar winning film, The King’s Speech, echoes this message. Zach Anner, co-winner of Oprah Winfrey’s Your OWN Show, reinforces the message that people with disabilities want others to see them as people first.The King's Speech

It’s happened many times in my life. People giving me all kinds of looks as soon as they hear my deaf accent.

Nod … Nod … Nod …

Saying, “What?” also stresses me because it gives  people another reason to think I’m less than intelligent. Of course, everyone says, “What?” However, add the accent to that and it sends a different message than a simple, “I didn’t catch it the first time.”

No wonder many people like me have “head nod syndrome.” We’d rather nod our heads to indicate we understand when we don’t because we don’t want to make trouble or risk others seeing us as inferior.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” While true most of the time, people with disabilities know that humans often judge the wheelchair, the stutter and the monotone voice before the person.

Qualifying for the Job

On Your OWN Show, Zach Anner mentioned that he didn’t want people to think he got this far just because of his wheelchair.  Some think people with disabilities get a pass to meet diversity quotas or some other reason. Although it can and probably happens, it wouldn’t happen repeatedly because we need to be able to do the job.

Many people with disabilities are harder on ourselves than anyone ever could be. Growing up, my mantra was “Keep showing them you’re just as good or better as anyone else.” Had I been born with hearing, I may not have had the successful life that I have. That mantra is what helped me work for what I have.

Oprah along with co-hosts of Your OWN Show Nancy and Carson were right to worry about Anner’s stamina. Oprah explained that doing a TV show is grueling work. Even Anner worried about that when he found out he was a finalist for the show. When I was a kid — like most little girls did, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. Of course, I later realized it wouldn’t happen.  I never expected to have a career in front of the camera, on stage or on radio because I don’t have the speech quality needed for these jobs.

What about the whole “set your mind to it, make your dreams happen?” Even if I wanted to be a news reporter or in a front-of-the-camera job, it still demands high quality speech. I took speech therapy for years, and no therapy can fill in the key component that helps speech: hearing. However, I’ve been on TV and did a couple of plays. They were memorable experiences.

I also appear in BBS: The Documentary. Director Jason Scott asked if I would be offended if he added subtitles to my portion. I thought it was a great idea. In fact, Cupcake Wars sometimes adds subtitles for French pastry chef’s Florian Bellanger’s comments. Good for Cupcake Wars. The show didn’t let Florian’s accent stop them from using his expertise, which enhances the show.

It’s Business

I never considered having my own business and fell into it. I love the work. I love the clients. I love the diversity. Thank goodness for technology for making it possible and allowing people to see me as a business person first.

Marlee Matlin stars in the upcoming edition of The Celebrity Apprentice. It will be interesting to see how she handles business especially since people rely heavily on cell phones. I read somewhere that contestants must use the speaker phone to avoid legal issues. Well, if she’s like me, she’ll be sending text messages — if that’s allowed.  So it’s not just about her dealing with challenges, but also the rules of the show and the contrived situations.

An uncaptioned preview (Meaning: this is how I interpreted the preview without the words to go on) of The Celebrity Apprentice showed Nene Leakes fake signing as if she was mocking Matlin. Though negative, you have to give Leakes credit for treating Matlin like any other contestant. They mock each other all the time.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

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Special Needs Parenting: Three perspectives

Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Category: Books, Business, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog 5 comments

As a kid …

I’ve been on both sides of the special needs parenting relationship. Well, I don’t think I was a special needs kid, but I do have a unique challenge because I’ve been deaf since birth. My parents always told my teachers to treat me like any other kid with one exception: make sure I sat where I could read lips.

Eggistentialism 1.5 or Three of a Perfect Pair
Image by bitzcelt via Flickr

However, my parents championing for me didn’t stop there. In third grade, the school put me in the lowest reading level and in the middle of the math level. Mom disagreed with the placement. The school moved me up to the middle reading class and to the highest level math class. It worked well except my mom didn’t like the reading teacher. One advantage of being a “sort of” special needs child is that I picked up this championing skill from my mom and put it to work with my child.

The magnet program started in fourth grade in my school district. The magnet program is an honors type program where kids worked with harder material and faster. I didn’t make the magnet program because my standardized test score wasn’t high enough. Mom had me tutored and retake the test over the summer and I entered the magnet program in fifth grade. It was one of the best years in grade school.

As a Mom …

As a Mom of three kids, I’m on the other side of the coin and have one child with unique needs. While I’m open to talking about what makes him different, I don’t write about it online. It’s not for me to reveal. I don’t want to affect his future (not that it should). You and I know that the Internet has a memory of a million elephants and exposes its memory to everyone.

The downside of not talking about it publicly is that parents in the same situation don’t have me as a resource to know they’re not alone. I came across a blog about a Mom in my situation and appreciated her sharing experiences. Instead of posting online, I talk to parents in my area. However, I sent a message on Facebook to one parent I rarely see to find out how her moving was going. Her family hadn’t moved yet and she told me about her child’s current challenges.

I told her about a program in our public school system. She knew nothing about it. At least, she was in touch with the right administrator who can help her child get into the program that I spoke of.

No matter what support they have, parents of special needs kids never stop fighting for their children. Even with my child in a special program, I have had to go up to bat for him when something wasn’t working.

As a worker …

Thanks to freelancing, I have the flexibility to be there for my kids when they need me without the guilt. While I always put in my hours, I felt stressed when I had to leave the office outside of lunch time. Goodness knows, we have lots of appointments and meetings with teachers. These meetings occur during the day, a time when corporate parents struggle to leave the office. Then, they may have to make up the time by working late — more time away from the kids. A vicious cycle.

Fortunately, more companies offer flexibility. I believe that as long as the employee gets the work done well and meets goals, then flexibility shouldn’t be an issue. Of course, if the hours start shrinking too much — then the manager needs to address it.

Companies may fear hiring parents of kids with special needs or people with special needs. But we tend to stick around longer, which keeps turnover low. When we find a good company that’s flexible, we tend to be more loyal. Because of the work parents do for their kids, they tend to put the same type of knowledge and energy into their jobs. Also, people living with a unique situation have creative ideas because they look for solutions that few need. Just read Chynna Laird’s bio below and you’ll see what an amazing person she is who does more than most parents of children with no unique challenges.

Inspiration for this post …

Not Just SpiritedI wrote today’s post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for Not Just Spirited by Chynna Laird. The book is a memoir of a mother fighting for a diagnosis when countless doctor’s told her that her daughter was just “spirited.” Chynna shares the heartbreaking reality of mothering a child with a severe “No touch” rule. She calls it “Mothering without touch.” Although Not Just Spirited is the perfect match for parents of children with sensory processing disorder (SPD), the determination and victories shown in the book will encourage anyone parenting a child with special needs or working to overcome an obstacle in their own life.

Chynna has also written a children’s book, I’m Not Weird, and resource book about SPD, At-Home Strategies for Managing Sensory Processing Disorder: A Guide for Parents. She is now working on another book, White Elephants. When not writing, Chynna is a mom to her three young children and a student wokring on her BA in psychology.

Win …

If you comment on today’s post by 11:59pm on December 1, 2010, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The unbiased and robotic Random.org has the honor of picking the commenter whose name will go into the WOW drawing for the book. To read Chynna’s post about parenting and a list of other blogs participating in Chynna’s Blanket Tour for more chances to win, visit The Muffin.

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  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans

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Lessons from Language Barriers

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 at 9:16 AM | Category: Language, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog 2 comments
A man of many language symbols
Image by eyesplash Mikul via Flickr

I’d love to read more stories like these two. They provide valuable insight in human nature, perception and more.

The Executive and the Branch Manager

The first lesson is in perception. I caught this nugget in a New York Times article [Link: Jack Scharff]. It’s a valuable lesson involving a language barrier that applies to people with hard-of-hearing or deafness. I’ve run into this many times in my life.

The interviewee asked Robert W. Selander, retiring chief executive of Mastercard, “What are the most important leadership lessons you have learned?

Brazil is a big country. I was living in Rio and it’s like living in Miami. I was out visiting a branch in the equivalent of Denver. Not everybody spoke great English and I hadn’t gotten very far in Portuguese. As I was sitting there trying to discern and understand what this branch manager was saying to me, and he was struggling with his English, the coin sort of dropped that this guy really knows what he’s talking about. He’s having a hard time getting it out.

As I thought about the places I’d been on that trip, I realized this was probably the best branch manager I’d seen, but it would have been very easy for me to think he wasn’t, because he couldn’t communicate as well as some of the others who were fluent in English.

I think that was an important lesson. It is too easy to let the person with great presentation or language skills buffalo you into thinking that they are better or more knowledgeable than someone else who might not necessarily have that particular set of skills.

I can’t tell you how many times I open my mouth and see the expression on someone’s face change when hearing something different about my voice. If I should ask someone to repeat, I’ll get a similar reaction to the one Selander described. Is it any wonder I love interacting online and social media? It filters out my accent and voice leaving the “language” barrier behind. This allows me to express myself and thoughts without any interference.

The Friend and a Family

The second lesson is in energy. A friend went to a foreign country and had dinner with a family. The family, of course, spoke in their native language. My friend only knew a touch of their language and struggled to follow the conversation. She shared this story and told me how exhausted she was after the conversation. Little did she know she taught me a lesson that I hadn’t learned in over 30 years.

I thought I wasn’t a high energy person by nature. This has nothing to do with enthusiasm, but everything to do with being able to go, go, go — which I can’t, can’t, can’t. I’ll go, go, go when I need to. However, I try to avoid it.

Listening to my friend’s story helped me realize exactly why I don’t have a lot of energy and why I collapse after just one day at a conference. Even though English is my native language, I have to work harder than the average person with hearing to “translate” everything from lips to words. Not everyone’s lips are easy to read, thus my eyes and brain go in overdrive. (It’s true that lipreaders only catch one-third of what the speaker says. Imagine reading every third word in this post.)

While this second lesson won’t affect many of you — it offers unusual insight into my life as a person who is deaf. Maybe you’ll get a different lesson out of this story.

What lessons have you learned from foreign travels or talking with people whose native language isn’t yours?

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What I Learned from Limits

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 at 9:31 AM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 7 comments
Relax Speed Limit

Image credit: Josh Klute

Limits. That stayed out of my vocabulary even though I first appeared in Harris Hospital in Fort Worth without hearing. My life became about proving  I could do as well as anyone, if not better. This nurtured my competitive spirit, which worked for and against me in my life.

The phone had the honor of being the first limit. I didn’t have a teletypewriter (TTY) until the first job after college. I never considered the inability to follow TV programs a limit because I enjoyed cartoons and Sesame Street. Besides, I stayed out of the house always going to practice here and a game there as I played all kinds of sports.

Then I received my first closed-caption decoder at age 13. No more than 10 shows, if that, contained closed-captions. I think the first captioned program I ever caught was a James Bond movie. The first TV series I loved watching was Dynasty. I adored Joan Collins’ British accent (I still love seeing accents especially the British) — yes, I could lipread and recognize accents although I couldn’t place them all.

Today, the majority of national TV shows come with captions. Now I can choose what I want to watch. Back then, I’d watch anything that was captioned. I, of course, hope this will happen with videos and shows on the Internet. However, I’m a realist. I understand the problem of some folks being hobbyists and it would take a lot of time to caption longer videos. Videos under 10 minutes are easy to caption even I caption my videos.

Whenever someone sends me a link to a video or posts a video on a web site, I ignore it most of the time knowing it most likely won’t have subtitles or captions. I do catch the ones without words, but they don’t come along very often. A bill, HR 3101, is working to change this.

Often, I wonder how much more I could accomplish if I could hear. I’d be a better listener — rarely needing to ask people to repeat themselves or tell me what topic we’re discussing. I’d speak without a deaf accent avoiding the stares from young eyes thinking I’m strange or adult eyes thinking I’m not bright. I’d be able to go to networking events and conferences without a worry whether I’ll make the most out of my investment. I’d be able to make and receive phone calls. I’d be able to conduct phone interviews. I’d be able to attend online conferences.

But then I remember my being deaf compelled me to work harder. If I didn’t have that difference, would I have worked as hard? Maybe I would’ve resigned to living an average life as I would’ve felt I had no limit or anything to prove. Maybe I’d still be in a corporate job.

It took me years to learn that I may lead a better life as a deaf person than as a hearing person. After all, motivation can make a huge difference.

This is a contribution to the Group Writing Project What I Learned from Limits. You have until Sunday, October 12, to join in! I’d love to hear your thoughts (pun intended — but really I’d like to read your thoughts) on the topic. Thank you, Robert, for giving an idea for a post.

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Speech to Text Software: Attempt Number One

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008 at 10:16 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech, Writing 15 comments

This post will show you what I said and what this stuff where code [Line spoken should be, “the software heard”]. I strike out the software’s mistakes and picked [put] the correct version in practice [brackets]. Here we go…

For those of you not familiar with beast to pick up where [speech to text software], you begin by planting the stuff where [training the software] with your voice [for]. I completed a puce shim at this Nilan my guess asked them to wood made the top then the average user. [I completed a few sessions of this knowing my deaf accent would need more help than the average user].

Victim … err… product is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred. I opted to go with v9 instead of 10 to save cash and not worry about crashing problems it supposedly has.

Needless to say, I’m not to let that [I’m off to a bad start].

I’m trying the speech recognition software. Unhorsed for get a pass when I say [I’m hopeful it’ll catch what I say]. Starla far [so far] it’s not perfect. It looks like it needs blood twanging [more training]. IM into this to write auto close [I’m anxious to write articles].

I have not been able to write because to [of] have my hand touchingly [surgery]. I have t will [it typed “two,” so I said “backspace backspace” and “o”] may [lay] off use and [using] my hand because of Salonika [swelling].

Let’s go back to planning [training].

(Conducted more training… another attempt…)

Comeau nutcake [communicate]

I talk to my clients regularly and ensure they are happy with my luck [work]. I’ve gone [learned] from mistakes and client platform things [preferences]. I aim for high quality and provide personal sofas [service].

Bill pays not to worry [Build A Lot 3 review (awesome game, by the way)]

Linked [I couldn’t wait] to play this game. The previous two games Laden [captivated] me. I could not imagine it could get better. That [but] it did.

We talked a to Gravenhurst and you [Return to Ravenhearst review (another superb game)].

To blame for is it that it’s week he is as gay yeah [Return to Ravenhearst is the best Mystery Case Files game yet]. If you compare at the first list week he file game to the latest [the first game to the latest…]

That’s still the see at clout a.m. it [cursing here. No translation as this is a family friendly blog].

MP3 of the above script (opens in new window so you can follow script). I talked slower than usual for the software’s stake.

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Hey! Your Life Sucks! Life Is a Gift

Thursday, December 11th, 2008 at 9:54 AM | Category: Books, Business, Life Tips, Meryl's Notes Blog 3 comments

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

“Failure is an event, never a person.” –William D. Brown

It’s been too easy for me to fall into a pity party and woe is me situation. OK, maybe I did that for three minutes. I consider myself lucky to have a spouse, three healthy kids (for the most part, one does have a couple of challenges), a comfortable home, and a home office business that I love.

The first part of this story is over at Bionic Ear Blog because it talks about what not having an MRI due to a cochlear implant.

Several people inspired me. The first being Daphne Gray-Grant. She had her second stroke in six years! My dad, who died on 24 December 2007, died from complications of his April 2007 stroke. I knew her story was incredible and her attitude most impressive. She wrote, “Life is a gift. Use it. Write with it.”

Right before my surgery, my friends mentioned, Stuff Happens (and then you fix it!): 9 Reality Rules to Steer Your Life Back in the Right Direction. I don’t usually order books right away as I’ve got plenty to read. But it struck me and I felt like I needed to read it. Another inspiration comes from Karen’s “Deaf and Thankful,” which published right after the surgery.

It only took a day to read the book, if that. It contains stories of people getting pass roadblocks in their lives. One person had a lot of money from the dot com days only to lose the money and everything. He rebuilt his life.

Our failures are not failures. They tell us what doesn’t work and we keep on trying. This alleged quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Notice these were events, not a reflection upon him as a person.

Although I can’t do as much work for my clients as I can or do much laundry (both of which puts heavy duty guilt on this gal), I remember that I have my life and family.

My clients all understand the situation and that’s why I put high value on being personable and building relationships with my clients most of whom are friends. In fact, one of my first clients and I met in person when he flew to Texas from Minnesota for a family celebration.

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Writing Tip: Be Conversational

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008 at 7:45 AM | Category: Blogging, Language, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing No comments

When you read a book or article, do you “hear yourself” reading the words in your head or move your lips without making a sound (sub-vocalizating)? Doing this helps you have conversations while you write — without making a sound.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m deaf or not, but I’ve always “heard” people’s voices in my head as well as my own. If I didn’t have my hearing aids turned on, my head hears a person’s voice while he or she speaks. It sounds very real.

Hearing voices in my head has become such a habit that whenever I have hearing tests — I’m not sure if I heard the sound or if my head tricked me as it expects to hear something. It doesn’t take much to play tricks when you repeatedly hearing beeps and buzzes.

As I write this blog entry, I hear these words in my head and it sounds conversational. To verify you’re writing conversationally, read your writing out loud and see how it flows. When I stumble or feel awkward during the reading, then it’s a sign to make edits.

Many formal publications — newspapers and magazines — used formal writing that rarely appeared in the first person or in a conversational way. The Internet and blogging changed that. Now you see this writing in the big publications including The New York Times. Publishers learned that conversational writing tends to be easier to read and more enjoyable.

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Marketing to People with Disabilities

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 8:20 AM | Category: Business, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 1 comment

Nadine Vogel has a great article on marketing to people with disabilities, but it is not available online. Her article references a U.S. Census Bureau report that says 20% of adult Americans have a disability. 20%! That’s one out of every five people you talk to. With numbers like that, why would marketers want to overlook this market?

One reason Vogel provides is that “People are generally uncomfortable with disabilities.” True statement. This year, I am taking a break from doing PTA Web sites for two local schools. I’m friends with one of the women who does the webmaster job and she tells me about people contacting her with requests.

I never had this many or these types of requests in my five years as a webmaster for one school. It isn’t long before the tune sounds familiar. People who take over my job receive more calls, requests, and comments than I did when in the job. Over time, I have figured out that some people may not be comfortable telling someone what to do when that person has a disability.

It sounds silly plus I have friends who ask me to do many things for them, but it’s the only logical explanation. My friend takes her duties seriously — so I know it’s not a factor of she isn’t keeping up. In my corporate career, I saw co-workers receiving constant phone calls and visitors while I had a hardly a drop. I understood about the phone calls, but not stopping by?

Seeing this makes a girl question herself. Was there something wrong with my personality? Did my voice annoy them? Or did the plain fact I was deaf make them uncomfortable?

No matter. People with disabilities have the same wants, needs, and hopes as an average person. We want people to like us. We want to succeed. We want to have family and friends. We want to look stylish. We want to come across as smart and valuable.

Marketers did get one thing right — targeting the Baby Boomers. If they can target that market because of “age,” then they should be able to take a similar approach with people with disabilities. Guess what? Many of these Baby Boomers face disabilities that come with aging.

Don’t shy away. Talk to us. You might be surprised and you might impress the boss.

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