The scoop on flavorful approaches to social media
ON THE MENU THIS WEEK:
NAME: Benjamin Bryant
TITLE: Managing Partner/President
COMPANY: Bryant Zamberlan Group
Benjamin Bryant is President of the Bryant Zamberlan Group, a highly regarded, Washington D.C.-based integrated marketing and communications firm, whose clients include important global entities in business and industry, as well as U.S. government and military operations. An interpersonal communications expert, broadcaster (most recently as a guest contributor to America Tonight, Al Jazeera America’s flagship news show), and award-winning writer, Bryant is called upon frequently to consult with high-level government working groups, investigations, and commissions. He served in a senior editorial role for multiple reports prepared for the Secretary of Defense, United States Congress, and President of the United States, including the DoD’s independent review of the events surrounding the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and its comprehensive review of the issues related to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
He is also one of the country’s most in-demand communications coaches, using validated assessments and personalized coaching to evaluate inter-personal interactions and recommend improvements to more effective communications among corporate working teams, managers and employees, and business partnerships.
A special offer for readers of the Ice Cream Social Blog:
As part of his communication skills evaluation and relationship improvement consulting process, Bryant uses a number of assessment tools such as DISC, skills-talent matching, and Emotional Quotient assessments, each of which identify validated communications styles, professional approaches, and areas of mismatch and stress between individuals. Ben has graciously offered to provide an initial assessment and a debriefing with him at no charge. (I’ve already signed up and will post results in a future edition of the blog!)
Please contact Ben directly if you’re interested.
SOCIAL MEDIA URLs:
FACEBOOK: Benjamin Bryant on Facebook
LINKED IN: Benjamin Bryant on Linked In
Q: We have access to so much news on a daily basis. What kinds of information do you consume at the start of your day?
A: As a broadcaster, I love rotating the 24-hour news channels from around the world. They’re on in the car, and in the background while I work, keeping me up to date. I love news websites, because they offer diverse perspectives at the click of a button. Aggregate blogs are fantastic because once I trust the curator, I’m able to get the best of the web daily without having to spend a lot of time searching. But, print remains a very special experience for me, though, due to my journalism school roots. When time permits, there is absolutely nothing like settling in with an old-fashioned newspaper or magazine and having that tactile experience. It’s a rare treat.
Q: How do you use social media?
A: I’m such a people person—talking and interacting with others is literally my stock in trade—but there aren’t enough hours in the day to maintain relationships as closely as I’d like. I primarily use social media to help me manage and maintain the many personal and professional relationships I’ve developed over the years. It helps me stay up to date, share information quickly and informally, and keep track of the important moments in the lives of the people I care about.
Q: How has social media changed your life?
A: Social media has given me something I never dreamed I’d have. I grew up in a military family—moving every two to three years. It was pre-Internet, so apart from the odd handwritten letter, there were few chances to form the kind of lasting, lifelong friendships that others growing up in the same place could. Social media has allowed me—and so many like me—to reconnect with the special people from our past and pick right up where we left off. I went to three high schools in two countries, so you can only imagine the kinds of reunions and reconnections social media has facilitated for me. It’s been amazing.
Q: Do you think social media has enhanced or diminished our personal relationships?
A: Like anything, it comes down to specific circumstances and what you make of them. For me, social media brings me closer to my extended family, friends, colleagues, and clients all over the world. It helps me “be there” for the triumphs and sorrows, the personal and professional milestones, and keeps a line of intimate communication open. That said, I see some so immersed in their Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat interactions that they ignore the people sitting right in front of them! That’s unfortunate on so many levels. And then there’s something I overheard recently: a woman noting how tedious conversations with her family are for her now that she knows how much shorter they could be on chat. That scares me a bit. We don’t want to “unlearn” how to relate to one another in person.
Q: What organizations, brands or personalities do you follow? What makes them worth following?
A: I’m a big world-affairs nut, and I’m fascinated with how some of the major players in our world are navigating social media. I follow President Obama @barackobama, Jens Stoltenberg @jensstoltenberg (Secretary General of NATO), and the Pope @pontifex, not just for the content, but to observe HOW they leverage social media to communicate their message. I also follow a lot of my friends and former classmates, mentors, and colleagues in the news business, including Joie Chen @joiechen, Betty Nguyen @betty_nguyen, and Evan Smith @evanasmith. Not only can I keep up with what they’re up to, they’re great curators of socially shared information. Of course, I also follow my clients and my favorite TV shows. I love a good spoiler!
Q: What kinds of posts spark your interest?
A: I love to learn! So anything that teaches me something new or interesting is going to get me to stop scrolling. And it could be anything—story behind the story, how-to, and long-form features exploring current events or reframing history. I’m down for it. I can waste hours on my computer just reading everything I can about something new. I also enjoy how social media gives me a peek into other people’s everyday lives. Following people on social media, you really see how, despite our many outward differences, we all face the same kinds of challenges and share the same kinds of simple joys. I love that sense of common humanity.
Q: What is/are your favorite social media platform/s and why?
A: I’m a communicator—a writer and a talker—and I recognize that everyone communicates differently. So I really look to platforms like Facebook where users have many options for expressing themselves. I like how Facebook so seamlessly integrates traditional status posts, photos, videos, links/shares, and now reactions. People can share and consume information in whatever way feels right to them on Facebook, making the entire experience more personally resonant than you tend to find elsewhere online. In many ways, Facebook has taken on the variety, flavor, and even chaos of a real life community and I love it. Other platforms, including social powerhouses like Twitter and Instagram, feel limiting to me—requiring communication to occur within a fairly rigid set of constraints that may or may not work for everyone. I’d also note that LinkedIn is fantastic for research and networking purposes. I use it every day.
Q: Favorite hashtag or one you’d like to see?
A: I love the #HONY hashtag and its variants, because I love Humans of New York and the affecting peek into humanity it offers. I’d love to see more of those kinds of things. Maybe a #restoresmyfaith hashtag for those stories that balance out the frustrating ones that just make you want to scream.
Q: What advice would you give to a brand about how to get started with a social media program or make their existing one more effective?
A: Figure out where you need to be and focus on that. There are so many social media options and too many brands try to jump on every single one—and end up never doing a great job with any of them. I’ve had clients who primarily deal in highly technical or even confidential matters who insist they need Twitter and Snapchat accounts, despite having no appropriate content for those platforms. Similarly, I’ve had those who overused platforms that aren’t suited for their types of content or customer relationships, simply because they were more comfortable with that platform and intimidated by the others. The key is to figure out which platforms match your communications goals and communications content. Start by asking questions – Are you seeking real-time two way interactions with customers, partners, or the community at large? Are you seeking a targeted way to reach specific types of readers? What’s the average age (and other relevant demographics) of your desired reader/customer/consumer? Is my content best presented in a short, long, or multi-media format? – and then pick one or two social media platforms that best meet your needs. Then put all of your resources into making those the best they can be. By not dividing your attention and cutting out inefficiencies and wasted effort on platforms that don’t support your communications goals, you’ll have more focus on the ones that do and achieve greater results in the process.
Q: If you could follow any historical figure on social media, who would it be?
A: It’s an odd toss-up between Eleanor Roosevelt and Jesus, and for similar reasons! Both seem like naturals for social media as they were storytellers, conveying their respective messages through stories and shared experiences. They probably would have made incredible use of a real-time two-way platform.
Q: Cone, cup, or straight from the container?
A: I’m disaster when it comes to food! If there’s a way I can spill something on a beautiful suit, I’ll find it. So for the sheer purpose of minimizing risk, I’m a cup guy, all the way.
Q: Favorite flavor?
A: I love all the Nutty Cone flavors. They have a chocolate ribbon, nuts, and bits of ice cream cone in the ice cream itself! It’s perfect for me. I get my cone, and eat it (in a risk-free cup), too!
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