Marketing in the tumultuous world of digital communications and the denouement of a global financial crisis can feel like ‘boldly going where no man has gone before’. Unless you happen to be Joel Roberts.
“Everyone now is part customer and part competitor,” is how Mr Roberts categorises the new communication – and, hence, marketing – challenges of the digital age.
“But that has spurred entrepreneurship in a way that could not have happened before,” he happily qualified.
Joel Roberts, one of the leading media consultants in the US, will be in Brisbane for his first Australian public appearance on September 10, as part of the Wealth From Marketing single day event that also features the man credited with creating ‘guerrilla marketing’, Jay Conrad Levinson.
Mr Roberts is a former prime talk show host on KABC Radio Los Angeles and his company, Joel D. Roberts & Associates, now consults to many Fortune 100 companies to help them harness the power of the media. He specialises in assisting major publishers and best-selling authors, such as Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup from the Soul) and Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), with their marketing in an age that is often accused of destroying the traditional publishing industry.Mr Roberts said the original catalyst for such tumultuous change – and the confusion that still reigns among mass media and publishers -- was not the global financial meltdown but rather the onset of new communication technologies.
“Revolution predated the cataclysm,” he said. “The west exported the technology – cable, satellite broadband etc – that allowed the rest of the world to compete with us.
“As Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has said, ‘Anyone can plug and play then anyone can connect, compete and collaborate’ .”
While Mr Roberts acknowledges the challenges on the modern communication landscape, he also lauds its opportunities. He said writers, journalists and publishers – good storytellers – retain the upper hand.
“What I tell my clients – and many of them are top business leaders in the US – is that the technology of modern communication has been democratised, but not the techniques. Every business person and every entrepreneur needs to understand what these techniques are and how to use them.”
“The field of the competitor and the customer has increased dramatically. It is the democratisation of broadcasting and publishing – but not all podcasters are up to the task.
“It is a matter of what’s worth saying – and then how do you say it? This is a move back to pure communication. One on one,” Mr Roberts said.
“Learning the language of marketing is no longer an option, it’s now an obligation.”
In a way, Joel Roberts is excited by the purity and clarity of communication that the new landscape demands – it’s a secession of power to good storytellers.
“What we are doing, in many ways, is the same as it was. But, expectations have changed,” Mr Roberts said.
A good example of how Mr Roberts’ understanding of the marketing metamorphosis is regarded is the variety of organisations now calling upon his services.
Joel D. Roberts & Associates is the largest media coaching company in the US to the publishing industry, but recently he was asked to conduct a seminar with 100 top US trial lawyers, locked down in a resort on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
He told the lawyers a host of reasons why they needed to go back to basics and master the techniques of storytelling and strong interpersonal communication, in order to perform better in their own profession.
“Just because the jurors are captive, it does not necessarily mean they are captivated,” he told them, illustrating how the fundamental techniques of the storyteller are where the ultimate influence now rests. “They may be seat bound but not necessarily spellbound ... The techniques of the courthouse steps need to be brought into the courtroom itself.”
He said the international attention span is ever dwindling. The universe now for communicators starts higher than ever before. What are the sure-fire techniques that will work today?
Mr Roberts admitted that was the daily tussle for marketeers, journalists and storytellers in general. His message for professional communicators is not to despair -- there is still a way to make money.
“Is brevity the name of the game? Brief is good, but not always …” he said. “Not every profound truth can be explained in just a few words. But you do need to write the short memo on why the longer memo is necessary.”
He said there was more opportunity than ever to use various forms of communication to send out the “tantalizing aromas” that draw people to the real story.
“We, as writers and broadcasters must realise the new environment,” he said, “but story telling is still story telling.
“We are seeing the democratisation of everything. People will pay for education, they will pay for journalism.
“The New York Times is still profitable but in a different kind of way to what they were before. The matrices are more complex than ever – the advertising earn may take the form of a fee for information. It requires all of us to be creative and adapt.”
Especially in the US, industries have found ways to use digital to reinforce other communication elements.
“The New York Times or the Sydney Morning Herald or the Washington Post are all still very much alive but the relationship between online and newsprint has changed. The Economist, for example, still thrives in an actual physical version,” he said.
“It is a matter of figuring out now how your audience may want to relate to you.” This is a compelling message Mr Roberts imparts continually to media professionals.
“Maybe the current generation wants to see your face – so you are not just a byline? All of us are broadcasters and journalists now. There is no escaping it.”
Mr Roberts is himself a former professional broadcaster, best remembered as a primetime talk show host on KABC Radio, Los Angeles. Having spent more than 5000 hours behind a microphone, including live talk shows that featured a vast array of guests ranging from US Presidential candidate Ross Perot, to actor Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue and Don Henley of The Eagles – and producing a syndicated radio program called The Best of Health interviewing bestselling authors in the field – he unfortunately developed a rare hearing condition as a result of an accident.
He lost 40 percent of his hearing and could no longer war earphones for long periods of time. His radio career, as he had envisioned it, was over.
Because of the work he had been doing with authors, Mr Roberts was casually drawn into the field of media consulting and coaching for authors and publishers.
When a coaching session for a high-ranking Novartis Pharmaceuticals spokesman, aimed at maximising impact on an interview with the ABC Network’s leading business program, exceeded the company’s expectations, “next thing I know the communications director walks in with 12 of her brand managers to articulate the same for them …
“That was when I realised that a media background had application for the business arena.”
From that time, he said, he has been teaching corporates and CEOs, business owners and sales and marketing people to use the art of storytelling to their own advantage and for their companies and their products.
He said even highly successful people could enhance what they do by focusing on telling their stories better.
“Could Steve Jobs (head of Apple Inc.) have envisioned the extent to which the technologies he has helped create would change society and the way it communicates? Possibly not. We are still learning, day by day, how to explore and exploit these opportunities.”
Mr Roberts teaches common sense about communication that carries across whatever delivery medium is being used.
“The whole world needs to speak the language of impact,” he said “This is the new literacy and it’s an international phenomenon.”
He said most people agreed the 20th Century as the US’s century. The 21st century is mostly regarded as China’s.
“But I’d say the new international language is not English, Chinese, or Hindi. I think the international language is the ‘language of impact’ – and we all have to master this.
“If you are a good storyteller, you’ve still got a future somewhere.”
Joel Roberts feels the US is mastering the new communication paradigm a little faster than other countries, including Australia – and had put it into commercial practice more rapidly.
That was the impetus for Mr Roberts to join with US marketing legend Jay Conrad Levinson, who is credited with creating ‘guerrilla marketing’ for the Wealth From Marketing day series, organised by Universal Events.
The event is free, with pre-registration, and it takes place in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne on September 10, 11 and 12.
“Four leading communication, sales and marketing speakers will each present for 90 minutes, covering the experiences of the US market and how techniques learned may be applied to Australia.
“I just love teaching,” Mr Roberts said. “I love seeing the ideas light up in people’s minds and get carried away with them.
“I can assure you, people will get real value right then and there from that stage.”
The seminar is billed as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime event’ to provide Australian business owners and entrepreneurs with expert advice on how to make more money and reach more customers using low-cost, high-impact marketing strategies.
Organiser Universal Events said the fundamentals attendees could expect to take away include:
- Simple, easy to use tactics to double profits
- The secrets to guerrilla marketing and how to turn them into cash.
- Understanding the psychology of influence and using it to win customers and increase sales.
- How to get your message heard in today’s media environment.
- Tools to make millions through joint ventures.
- How to get top search engine rankings.
Wealth From Marketing, featuring four of the world’s leading marketing experts, will launch on September 10 in Brisbane at the Mercure Hotel, North Quay.It will be staged on September 11 at the Wesley Convention Centre in the CBD, and on September 12 at Melbourne’s Crown Conference Centre, Southbank.
Valued at $597, complimentary Wealth From Marketing tickets can be obtained at www.wealthfrommarketing.com.au