The Importance of Moments

Finding those points in time to deliver personalized, meaningful moments your community will love


This is the first in a series of companion pieces tied to my session, “The Power of Data, the Importance of Moments and the Future of Storytelling,” held on 9/9/2015 at HubSpot’s annual conference #INBOUND15.


“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” — Rose Kennedy

Our lives are comprised of thousands of moments stretched over a lifetime. A moment of achievement. One of failure. Of inspiration. Another of disappointment. They can be large or small. Life affirming, or even life changing. These moments ultimately serve as the impetus for the stories we write about ourselves and with others.

Reflecting on my work over the past 20 years, I’ve come to realize that it has been widely influenced by individual moments, (and by the notion of moments itself). Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, I have been given moments of opportunities that changed the course of my life. A smile or conversation here. A friend or job there. These moments have led me to connect with others and engage the world around me.

The importance of moments became much more visible to me during my time at Georgetown University. Working with Dr. Daniel Porterfield, who at the time was senior vice president of public affairs and is now president of Franklin & Marshall College, I learned how much moments mattered in shaping the experiences of students and alumni.

Dr. Porterfield worked tirelessly not simply to deliver teachable moments, but to engineer moments that sparked an imagination, brought others closer together, eased the grief of a pained heart, or nurtured the insecurities of someone discovering who they were.

He understood the power of moments and the weight they carried in shaping our experiences and enabling one to write their own story.

“The way that you remember your life, it’s never linear. You have flashes of different moments of your life, and the flashes aren’t equal; they have different styles.” — Marjane Satrapi

Moments present themselves in all aspects of our lives. As we spend time with our family. While at school. Or at work. Crossing the street. Or shopping in the store.

These moments aren’t all equal. And many will fade from our memories with time. But they all have the power to affect our lives in one way or another — large and small.

— Moments can be used to inspire. While at Georgetown we brought students together with Liberian human rights activist Samuel Kofi Woods to hear his life story. As he sat in a room where some of the world’s renowned academics have debated, he shared stories from his days at university confronting the various regimes of Liberia to uphold basic human rights and being targeted by them for death.

The students in the room — realizing he was their age during these confrontations — began to feel small in comparison. They began to grapple with the gift of privilege they’ve been given living in the United States. And shared with him all of these feelings, including dismay, and began to wonder aloud how could they measure up to such a man.

He spoke with wisdom and grace that one should never compare themselves to someone else; doing so will always be a losing proposition. But rather to understand that throughout the course of our lives we will be presented “moments of opportunity” — choices — and it’s what we do with these choices that matter.

— Moments can be used to create anticipation. During the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles at the Staples Center we engineered a moment to build anticipation for President William Jefferson Clinton’s speech. It was a classic technique employed by boxing and WWE wrestling — follow the fighter from the back to the center of the ring for the fight of the century, or at least for that night.

With a camera trained on President Clinton the audience was shown the footage on the video walls as he made his way from back stage. Every step he took, he came closer and closer to taking the stage. And with every step the crowd grew more and more into a frenzy. Until the moment he stepped on stage and everyone in the building erupted into a roar.

This collective moment produced a fervor and energy which propelled the night. President Clinton fed off the enthusiasm of the crowd, which in turn left the audience entranced during his speech.

— Moments can bring surprise and delight. At National Geographic we used our Friday Facts to deliver a piece of trivia that was meant to highlight the awe and wonder of the world around us. Using simple status updates and tweets we captured the minds of our fans for a few minutes every week.

Friday Facts weren’t meant to drive a transaction or even traffic, as they had no links associated with them. They were, however, meant to deliver the feeling of awe and wonder, disbelief and skepticism (the number of times we were called liars was staggering) and maybe even produce the occasional “WTF!?”

It doesn’t seem like much, but this simple moment we engineered allowed us to serve one of National Geographic’s greatest roles: that of convener. In less than 140 characters we were able to entertain people while getting them to talk to one another — debating the merit of the fact, cracking jokes with one another, and sharing more information for others to learn more.

“What we value about music and literature are the moments that they create in our minds when we encounter them.” — Stephan Jenkins

Unfortunately, many marketers and brands only see their consumers through the lens of a funnel; as conversions. What they ignore is that they are people. And as people the relationships we build with brands are actually multi-dimensional. Conversions on the other hand are binary, either the person converted or not. If they didn’t, many brands simply move onto the next one.

This is an incomplete mental model especially as it relates to the devices, data, and technologies now enabling people in their daily lives.

Instead of simply looking at ways to make your community “convert” or “transact,” spend time engineering moments throughout the engagement cycle (e.g., acquisition, activation, retention, referral, revenue, and recapture). Find those points in time to deliver personalized, meaningful moments your community will love.

Learn how to deliver moments with different weights, styles, and intentions. So when your brand does present a person with a moment, it is tailored and relevant to them in the right way and at the right time, increasing the likelihood of engagement. Doing so will build a deeper relationship between your brands and your communities.

“The moment was all; the moment was enough.” — Virginia Woolf

Enabling Your Own Brand Moments

1 // Pay attention to the actions, activities, and behaviors of your community — data shows patterns, patterns provide insights

2 // Insights illuminate moments of opportunity to provide the right types of engagement in the right ways to your community

3 // Enabling moments empower the ability of community members to share stories which foster connections and engagement

4 // Delivering relevant, memorable experiences will enable brands to create greater value by enabling their community to create value

#MomentofClarity