Transcript: Scott Stratten UnInterviewed

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For podcast release Monday, July 13, 2015

KENNEALLY: Organizations turn to Scott Stratten when they need help guiding their way through the viral social media and relationship marketing landscape. Stratten is creator and chief proponent of what he calls “UnMarketing” – the trick and the talent of positioning yourself or your company as a trusted expert in front of your target market, so when they have the need, they choose you.

Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book. Picture Scott Stratten as a cross between a hipster and a revival preacher. Bearded and tattooed, he paces the stage for companies like PepsiCo, Adobe and the Red Cross, Hard Rock Café and Cirque du Soleil to evangelize for engagement. His mission is to promote the authentic over the affected and to shame the freebooters.

Scott Stratten is author of four best-selling business books, with the latest, UnSelling, named sales book of the year for 2014 by 1-800 CEOREAD. On Twitter, he has 178,000 followers and almost as many tweets. He joins me now from his home office near Toronto. Welcome to Beyond the Book, Scott.

STRATTEN: A hipster and a preacher is probably the nicest thing I’ve been called all month, so that’s beautiful. Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re delighted that you can join us. And it’s an opportunity today to turn the tables on the co-host of UnPodcast, and in the spirit of that show, which promises to filter out bad advice, misinformation and other sort of misuse of business tools, let’s open by giving you a chance to explain what we shouldn’t do online. For example, I think you really believe that we should never, ever pass the buck. You’re all about taking responsibility, no matter how ugly the situation.

STRATTEN: Well, that’s the key thing. I think people have to realize, especially with the explosion of things like social media and even review sites – things like Yelp and TripAdvisor or wherever you’re looking that people can leave feedback – is, when people complain, when people say something in public online, first off, it took a lot for them to get to that point. They usually have gone through other means before, and we could have seen the problem earlier. But once it gets to that point, people are actually looking for validation first. They’re looking to say, hey, we hear you. Message has been received.

Yet, a lot of times, business’s reaction is more of a defensive mechanism. They’re trying to save face. They’re trying to pass the buck and saying, it wasn’t our fault – there was this problem or it was this problem, and sorry, but we’re not sorry. What people want is for you to own it. They don’t want for the airline to be renamed to them and a private plane for the rest of their life because they missed their connection. They want to say, you know what, we’re sorry about that. These things happen but, regardless, we never want this to happen. And I think we’re all human, and we just want to have felt like we’re being treated as a human back.

KENNEALLY: Right. And so what the company is saying in that response is we want you to stay our customer.

STRATTEN: That’s exactly it. That’s the whole thing about – we talk about loyalty and then how do we form customer loyalty? Well, a lot of times, it’s just delivering what the customer’s paid for. And that’s why something like “UnSelling” means it’s everything after the sale as well. It’s that customer service. It’s that operations. It’s that follow up. When the problems hit, that’s really, to me, when a brand earns their stripes. That branding isn’t about, when I say a company name, what their tagline is. Branding is, when I say a company name, what’s the word you think of first? And that word, that impact to people, is usually what happens when it hits the fan.

KENNEALLY: Well, it’s interesting, because I think some companies and some people, even, think of social media as a bit of a burden – oh, my God, I’ve got to post to Facebook or tweet and so forth. But this is really an opportunity. In the past, if you weren’t happy with the meal you got served in a restaurant, you just didn’t come back. Now you’ve got a chance to recapture that person.

STRATTEN: It’s amazing to me that, just like you said, before, if I didn’t like that meal, I left and I never came back. The worst type of customer complaint is the one you don’t hear, because we can’t do anything about it. So now, to me, it’s a huge opportunity to be able to say, look, people are actually giving us a chance. We’re not looking at it that way, but they’re giving us a chance. If they didn’t care anymore, if they didn’t want something to happen, they would have just not come back. You want to hear this as a business. You want to be able to improve. The problem is we don’t like looking in the mirror and thinking maybe the fault is our own.

I had somebody at a conference once, in a Q&A after a talk, say we have a lot of complaints about our product on Twitter. How do we stop them? And I’m like you make a better product, that’s what you do. You don’t have a social media problem these days, you have a business problem that is addressed through channels like Twitter.

KENNEALLY: Well, it’s funny you say that, you don’t have a social media problem, you have a business problem. I think it’s true. Like with the NFL, people are always saying they’ve got a PR problem. They don’t have a PR problem. They’ve got an HR problem.

STRATTEN: Exactly. They’ve got some poor people. If you have people doing bad things, it’s a personnel issue, I think, at the end of the day.

KENNEALLY: Absolutely. Now, with UnSelling – this is your fourth book in a series that really probes this notion of UnMarketing – just briefly, tell us why we live in an age of UnMarketing. Why is the old way of doing things just not going to work today?

STRATTEN: Well, I think it’s just because our attention and our focus as consumers have gone other ways. You tell me an industry, especially consumer-facing ones, that haven’t changed drastically, if not entire seismic shifts of them, from companies like Uber, because had enough of the way the taxis have worked, to TV.

Like here’s the perfect example right now, yesterday, I donated to Goodwill 350 DVDs and Blu-rays, all of them, our whole collection. Why? Because I haven’t touched them in over a year and a half, because we are now fully streaming. Our customer preferences of channels have changed, which means, on a marketing side of things, that ad channel, that place where you thought, well, our broadcast ad spend would be over in TV, I’m not watching that on TV anymore. I watch, we watched five TV shows last night without one commercial. I haven’t read a newspaper since I don’t even know when. So those ad channels, those classical marketing channels, are disappearing.

The problem with businesses right now, they’re saying, well, we’ll just take those ads that didn’t work very well previously, and just shove them into the digital space. It’s just repeating kind of a bad recipe that the ingredients didn’t work out for. We have to think differently. We have to figure out and position ourselves differently, so when somebody has the need for our product or service, they choose us.

KENNEALLY: Well, it seems to me, Scott Stratten, that it’s not just the businesses that have changed but the people have changed. Consumers’ expectations and the way they read what’s coming at them has changed. And so you’re really, again, promoting this notion of authenticity. We’ll explore a bit more about what that means to do the right thing. But again, briefly, why is the authentic so important over the affected?

STRATTEN: Well, because the authentic is the truth. And here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter if you, as a business, want to use things like social media or you want to respond to reviews. The most weight is placed on things that are deemed authentic. So that’s why people will trust review sites, and they’ll trust strangers on these review sites 100 times more than they’ll ever trust a brand statement. That’s what we look for. When I go to eat somewhere when I’m traveling, I’ll use Yelp. I’m listening to 100% strangers and their opinions based on it, because it’s a collective authentic opinion versus what a brand is trying to say.

So it doesn’t matter if you want to be authentic as a brand. That authentic message will find its way out. And then, if the message that’s getting out is not congruent with what you’ve been saying, that’s when that detach happens, and that’s when it can hurt you the most.

KENNEALLY: Right. And one of the things about being authentic, of course, is it has to be yours. It has to be your own expression of enthusiasm for the restaurant or disgust with what they served you. And so that authenticity and owning things is also about really making sure you do own it. And you’ve taken up this cause of freebooting and sort of not so much railing against it but really trying to suggest to people, this is wrong, they shouldn’t do it. I guess, for our listeners who may not know what freebooting is, tell us what it is, and really why, for you, is it so inauthentic and so not the thing to do in this age of social media?

STRATTEN: So the gold rush these days, in this digital world, are Facebook likes and views on a platform like Facebook. And obviously, Facebook is the predominant place in the world digitally, at least for us in North America. So brands set up pages. And brands have now put this kind of false currency on likes and views, because it’s a good vanity metric to use. Facebook now says, OK, if you upload native content to our site, so ones that you’ve directly uploaded from your computer or your phone, whether it used to be pictures and now it’s much more, it’s video, we’re going to give a huge bias to that content to make it favorably shown to your audience.

So Facebook has an algorithm called EdgeRank. And that’s where they deem what’s worthy and what gets showed in your news feed when you log on to Facebook. They use a formula about decay, which is how old the post is, relevance to your peers and a bunch of other things, but there’s a huge part where, if I take a video of me, let’s say I’m talking about a marketing topic, and I link it to a YouTube link, that will be very, very fractionally seen, as if I put the video natively up into Facebook’s system, because that would be shown by 10, 20, 30 times more people, because I gave Facebook the content itself.

Now, freebooting is the practice of taking a video already proven to be viral, so that’s you go to YouTube, you look, hey, that video has got a million or sometimes 20 to 30 to 50 to 100 million views. And then you steal the source video file of that. And there’s plenty of sites and apps that’ll do this for you in 10 seconds. You steal the actual video file itself. And then you natively upload it to your Facebook page. You already know it’s going viral. You already know it’s popular. You take it and, for the majority of the time, there is no link back to the original video, there’s no credit given, and now your page becomes the source of that video. So when it gets shared and spread on Facebook, you’re the one, you’re the originator of the content.

I don’t rally against this. I have a fundamental moral issue with this, especially when it’s a business doing it. And people say what’s – I got called on it two days ago. Somebody says what’s your problem with this? It’s just a video. Well, no, because businesses are benefiting from this, because they’re using a Facebook platform to sell. They’re using it for commerce in one way or another, which means they are directly or indirectly profiting from copyright infringement. And that’s a huge problem to me.

Now, if my buddy decides to do this and his seven friends on Facebook see it and he eventually gets 20 views, I’m not going to hold a protest sign in the middle of the street downtown against this. But it’s a business whose business is selling things and they’re profiting off of it, that’s my bigger issue.

KENNEALLY: Right. So you’re making a distinction, and an important as well, certainly for people at Copyright Clearance Center, between sharing, which is what goes on, as you say, with your friend, and this kind of infringement.

STRATTEN: Right. It’s taking a source file and ripping it. Now, if you just share a YouTube video you thought was hilarious, which I do all the time, you say I love this, and you share it on your page with the link, that is still originating from the source. And I think that’s perfectly fine. That’s what the Internet has been made of, sharing content, as long as it goes back to the source.

But this is just like stealing a photograph. This is just like taking something off a stock photo site, or from a photographer, not only taking it and uploading it, but then not even giving credit or asking permission for it. And this is fundamental content theft. And it just seems to be OK with everybody, minus a select few people. And I just don’t think it is.

KENNEALLY: All right. Well, we’ve been chatting today with the Reverend Scott Stratten in the church of high engagement, Scott Stratten in Toronto, author of UnSelling and proponent of what he calls UnMarketing. Thank you so much for joining us today on Beyond the Book.

STRATTEN: The pleasure is absolutely mine. Thanks for having me.

KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines and blogs as well as images, movies and television shows. You can follow us on Twitter, find Beyond the Book on Facebook and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at our Website, beyondthebook.com.

Our engineer and co-producer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.

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