KiKi L’Italien is CEO and creative technologist of the digital marketing consultancy Amplified Growth as well as the host of the hugely popular Association Chat, an online community and weekly podcast. She’s also leading the free course, Digital Strategy for Associations, which she recently created in collaboration with NextThought as part of their AssociationsNext initiative.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with KiKi about digital strategy including what it is, how learning businesses can leverage it, and how it’s different for associations. They also dive into her experience creating the Digital Strategy for Associations course and – since she is a podcaster herself – her insights and lessons learned related to hosting a successful podcast.
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arter of 2018.
Brought to you by NextThought, AssociationsNext is your opportunity to learn from some leading thinkers in eLearning and membership organizations, as well as giving you the chance to test drive the NextThought LMS platform. In this educational series, you’ll uncover new knowledge about instructional design, digital strategy, and staying true to yourorganization’s long-term goals in the face of rapid change. KiKi L’Italien, Tracy King, and Lowell Aplebaum lead the first three modules, and more courses will be added on a monthly basis. Visit AssociationsNext.org to enroll and experience the revolutionary NextThought LMS for yourself.
[02:53] – Introduction to Kiki.
[03:38] – For listeners who may not be tuned into it, what is digital strategy? And what do you do in your day-to-day work as a digital strategist? KiKi points out that nobody really knows exactly what digital strategy means because it’s different for all kinds of people. For her, being a digital strategist means that she needs to understand inbound social media and the way that an organization’s marketing stack works to help her clients achieve their strategy goals. KiKi shares an example of a client she is working with now and notes that with all that is changing with technology, a critical component that we all have to be working on is we have to constantly be learning. She says it’s exciting and challenging to stay on top of the ways that people communicate and none of these tools are staying the same, which is both good and bad. The good thing about it is we’re constantly finding new ways to engage with people and in a meaningful way that can have a great impact. The challenge is that just when you think you’ve got it, something changes.
[07:21] – I imagine that it has to be a “flavor of the moment” or “bright shiny object” syndrome that you have to deal with a lot—people saying they need to do Instagram or a chatbot, for example—and that you need to get people to step back and think about it a little more holistically. KiKi says that yes, there is a little bit of that because usually by the time they realize they need to reach out and engage her they think they know what they’re looking for. Usually what happens is, she comes in and helps them think about other options and things tend to shift a little bit. These days, she says there are things that are changing the game that are more than just “bright shiny objects”—things like voice-first for example. So how are associations developing content for that and how are they preparing for things like voice search? This is the type of stuff KiKi thinks organizations really need to pay more attention to that is critical right now.
[09:28] – How do you see digital strategy and marketing intersecting with what you see going on in the world of learning and education? KiKi points out it’s impossible not to see these things intersecting because everyone is trying to produce learning right now. Digital marketing, learning and education are intertwined in a way that she can’t see them not being intertwined in the future. It’s awesome and it’s frustrating all at the same time because there’s a lot of great, quality stuff that’s out there making it possible for so many more people to learn so much more than ever before regardless of class or any sort of situation they’re in. But who safeguards the quality of the content and how do you make sure that you produce really excellent content? And how do you compete as an organization? KiKi says that’s where digital marketing comes in and it’s an interesting time.
[11:35] – Have you had more (or any) organizations contact you to say they need a better marketing/digital marketing strategy specifically to help them with selling their educational offerings? KiKi shares they have—kind of. For her, it’s usually about bigger things that are more traditional like creating a campaign around their conferences. But she thinks these days organizations really need to look at reaching out and being effective bringing people into their online education programs, even beyond what their conferences are. So doing things like creating online challenges that are maybe free and lead potential attendees and students to exactly the type of content that the organization wants them to purchase. KiKi notes she doesn’t see nearly enough organizations doing this but it’s something that everyone needs to think about and she shares an example.
[15:36] – Tell us a bit about the Digital Strategy for Associations online course you have developed/are developing with NextThought for their AssociationsNext initiative. What does that cover? KiKi shares that she’s been developing online courses about digital media for different groups and it’s been unique working with them because they put her in touch with Dr. Jae Strickland (head of learning design and education at Next Thought) and it was all about mapping out the instructional design, something she had never really been involved in developing before. So while there are a lot of online courses, KiKi points out this one is really high quality and well thought out. She says the digital strategy course is kind of an “essentials” for any association executive marketing pro who wants to make sure they know what they need to know about digital strategy in a world where things have changed pretty dramatically. It covers everything from what you need to know about changes that have been made in SEO and how that can affect your website’s ranking to community building. Any 501c organization should have all of their marketing people check it out.
[18:35] – How is digital strategy different for associations? KiKi notes that it’s hard to generalize because not all 501cs are the same. So whether it’s a trade organization, professional society, charity, etc., they all face these unique dynamics with their mission. But if she had to generalize, associations are a little different in that they tend to be more risk adverse and some industries and trade associations in particular have to be extremely careful because they represent an entire industry. So these trendy notions that involve experimenting that a lot of us have adopted aren’t necessarily as simple for associations. A lot of times, KiKi says they need or want to have some kind of best practices put in place—or some sort of example of why this isn’t going to crash and burn for them when they try something new for technology in their digital strategy. This is especially important looking at how they communicate online so the speed of change takes a hit many times for associations.
[22:12] – From your perspective, what do you think the instructional design process added to the Digital Strategy for Associations online course that maybe you haven’t gotten when you’ve done other courses? KiKi talks about how when you’re the subject matter expert (SME) and asked to teach about a subject, that doesn’t mean you know the best way for people to learn. She says it was so refreshing because she knew the components she wanted to teach but what she didn’t necessarily know was the best way to get through to the learner. When it comes to the instructional design element, there’s nothing like working with somebody who is an instructional design expert and this definitely made it a better learning product in the end.
[26:35] – What tips do you have for listeners on how to work effectively with their SMEs to get the most out of you and make it the best that it can be? KiKi recommends that anyone who wants to create a better experience for the learner – and for the SME – should approach that person (with plenty of time!) and really get clear about what it is the learners is supposed to learn, what’s the best way to communicate that, and how will you know—and to offer up support in ways to make that better. She says so many organizations are just happy to just identify who those SME’s are that a lot of times the care and feeding of them to make sure the end/learning result that comes from it, falls by the wayside. It’s totally understandable how it happens, however when you start thinking about what the learners think when they leave, it’s not a good look for the SME – or the organization – if they aren’t going after the best quality that they can have. So time, effort and really trying to discern what the most valuable pieces of knowledge are and getting very clear on that and figuring out the best way to communicate and support that.
[29:45] – Switching gears a bit, I’d like to get your perspective on podcasting. What do you find compelling about it and are you bullish on it as a medium? KiKi admits that she loves podcasting and that it’s fascinating to her. She had a more practical, utilitarian type of approach when she first started with it because her purpose was really in trying to communicate interviews and lessons with as many people as possible. KiKi talks about how the podcast has evolved over the years and that lately she’s been moving into a more artistic, human approach to where she feels she’ll enjoy it more, as will the listeners. This is because what she sees now with so many truly amazing podcasts is a renaissance of story and she talks about how inspiring this is. If you listen to Association Chat, KiKi says you will notice that she’s been trying to apply this and she emphasizes that there’s something there with storytelling that’s just beautiful and powerful amid so many advances in technology. Jeff adds that he now feels inspired and motivated to do this with the Leading Learning podcast.
[35:16] –KiKi shares some advice for anybody considering podcasting:
- It’s going to take more time than you think
- Consistency is key
- Think about what is something people will find the most value/meaning in
- Long form, one hour interviews aren’t easy – you may want to start with something shorter like a flash briefing (check out KiKi’s flash briefings here) or micro-podcasting where you come up with a tip for the week, for example, and learn more about editing
[37:54] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education? KiKi shares that it has been around overcoming some of the challenging times in her life. But the most helpful thing she wants to tell listeners is that she’s gotten to a point where she’s been connecting with other people who are dedicated to learning. In these groups she engages in regular, purposeful learning to push outside of her comfort zone to get into deep learning. She also gives some examples of the types of things she’s working on in these groups.
[44:10] -How to connect with KiKi and/or learn more:
- https://associationchat.com – podcast, flash briefings, etc.
- https://www.amplifiedgrowth.net – KiKi’s digital consulting firm
[44:59]– Wrap Up
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[47:04] – Sign off