She'd just arrived in town at 4:00 AM because of a series of missed connections, but the audience would never have known it from her polished, entertaining, and informative presentation.
Here are some of the insights that Arianna shared during her remarks, and a bonus video from a reception afterward in which she graciously took a few minutes to answer a question for MarketingProfs.
According to Huffington, marketers need to follow "megatrends" and tell stories that are in keeping with the zeitgeist of the "new media" era.
First, every communication needs to engage your audience. "Marketers need to listen, as well as talk," urged Huffington. Since the Huffington Post launched online, users have posted 260 million pre-moderated comments. The site invests in sophisticated technology with an algorithm that filters most spam and vitriol, but human moderators still review comments. At this point, most of the trolls have left for greener pastures: 90% of comments posted receive approval.
"Marketers cannot hide behind a press release or a perfect ad and disappear," said Huffington. "You have to be willing to be in the arena." Businesses need to respond to customer complaints, ideally before they escalate to Twitter, but as quickly as possible. Acknowledge mistakes immediately—the sooner, the better.
Marketers need to be ready to respond to current events, as Oreo did with its "Dunk in the Dark" campaign during the Super Bowl. If companies have too many layers in the approval process, jumping on these kinds of opportunities is impossible, so stay nimble.
The Move from Storytelling to "Story-Doing"
People think in stories, not statistics, and marketers need to be master storytellers. But to encourage your audience to take action, you need to move beyond storytelling to "story-doing." Huffington Post provides a platform for anyone to discuss the issues that matter to them. Instead of spending money on media buys, offer people a platform to share their stories about your brand.
Don't be afraid to add a little drama or playfulness to your marketing. Write great headlines, and give stories on your site the prominence you think they deserve. For instance, Huffington Post went against popular design theory when it featured one story at a time, splashed prominently across the homepage. Contemporary wisdom was to post as many stories as possible to increase click-throughs, but Huffington Post found that it increased traffic by cycling through feature stories, because people kept checking back to see what the newest "hot story" was.
"Less Stress, More Living"
Huffington is a passionate advocate of sleep, not just for herself but also for Huffington Post employees. The HuffPo corporate offices have two nap rooms, and despite some initial hesitance on the part of employees to take advantage of them, the rooms are now always fully booked.
"We suffer from a stress epidemic," said Huffington. "People are burning out. That' s not a sustainable work environment."
Women especially need to redefine success, she said. "Our goal should not be to be at the top of every profession the way men have designed it," said Huffington. "Our job should be to redesign it." That involves more than just striving for work/life balance. The question is, "How can we be sane, healthy human beings and professionals?"
Along these lines, I asked Huffington about how employees can overcome reluctance at their company to adopt a more flexible approach to work. Check out her response in the video below.