Brands Use Content as a Marketing Tool

But you already know that brands use content as a marketing tool, because I’ve been talking about it since April 2009.

Kudos to David Carr and the New York Times for finally arriving to the party.

Carr just wrote this excellent article in the Times about luxury brands publishing content and downright getting into the media business. And it’s true, brands are creating content and using it to drive engagement across a variety of vertical markets, both B2C and B2B. They’re shifting dollars of out publishing ad spend to do it, and they’re delivering content in the form of print magazines, digital mags, blogs, content-rich websites, and more. Plus, they get better tangible metrics than publishers offer, because they drive traffic to their own content, URLs and places where they can track and analyze deeper.

Yet Carr’s article comes almost a full two years after I wrote a series of blog posts that described how marketers have a role in the future of content (the other two posts in the series are here and here…the second one even takes a journalist to task for not seeing the shift).

I think the mainstream media are finally starting to notice since, as Carr’s article highlights, some high-level journalists and content experts are making the leap to direct content on the brand side.

Andrea Linett, the former creative director of Lucky, has gone on to become eBay’s fashion creative director, while Melissa Biggs Bradley, the founding editor of Town and Country Travel for Hearst, is now the chief executive at the travel site Indagare. And many journalists who were pushed aside as publishing withered are now finding that brands in search of an audience are still interested in what they do.”

Well now that the Times says it, it must be true, right? So take a good, long look at what kind of content your customers consume, and charge ahead in terms of providing it to them in a way that creates engagement with your brands and products. I’m not saying you have to hire editors and build a media empire under your roof — but hired experts are clearly an effective way to do it. You also have other ways to create and provide content, like social media, whitepapers and even Twitter.

Once you make the leap to content provide and educator, you gain trust and credibility, and you gain an incredible amount of context that you can use to market your products/brands.

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My Fun Awards Program Assignment

Recently I had the honor of being a judge in the American Business Media’s Sales Promotion Awards. As Chair of the ABM’s Media Marketing Committee, I’m proud to say that my committtee helps the ABM frame and conduct this awards program — so I do have somewhat of an advantage when it comes time to select the judges.

I want to thank Kevin Arsham, Partner at MediaCom, for also taking time to participate as a judge in the awards program. Kevin has been a willing and consistent supporter and participant in my committee’s activities, and we’re very grateful.

Watch the video below as Kevin and I walk through the top-performing entries, as well as some general points for B2B media marketers to consider when developing promotional materials and media kits.

If you have any questions about the awards program or interest in joining my committee, leave me a comment and we’ll discuss.

The Future of Content, Part 3

I feel refreshed today.

No, it’s not because I got to the pool today after along day on the road at a conference. 😉

It’s because, for all the journalists who don’t get it, like I mentioned in my last post, there’s one who takes a good, long look and sees it like it is. And by “like it is,” I mean “the customer now dictates what constitutes content.”

The Twitter phenomenon epitimizes the kinds of technology-enabled shifts seen in the ways consumers communicate and seek information over the past few years.

And yet again, I emphasize that the opportunity is there for marketers — we have as big a role in the future of content as journalists do. Bring people together with the content they want, and you are their trusted source. It’s news they want? Tweet from a show floor (like I’ve been doing all day at this conference), an event, a concert, a press conference. Expert analysis? Create a path to experts — a CEO blog, a unique Twitter solution like ExecTweets, or a mashup of content. Personal viewpoints or reality reporting? Build a community where people can identify and network, like Facebook or Sermo in the healthcare space. The list goes on.

The beauty of Twitter is its simplicity. Of course, that’s also what some dislike about it. But that simplicity, in all it’s brevity, makes for one whole boatload of content when you add up a few hundred followers, whether it’s your sister, five cousins and grandma or it’s Ashton Kutcher, Kathy Ireland and Sanjay Gupta. When you charge ahead with your particular solution, it may end up being as simple as Twitter or it may be much more complex.

Just make sure it delivers the content your customers want and you’re golden.

The Future of Content, Part 2

In a recent post, I discussed how marketers have a role in the future of content. Sitting here on yet another JetBlue flight, I came across two articles that highlight this position even further.

I’m reading an issue of Medical Marketing & Media — it’s actually a recent issue for a change, typically I’m catching up on magazines two or three months later. The first article touches on the launch of FacetoFace Health, an online community that lets patients find other patients based on similar conditions or medications. Many times, this is exactly the kind of content people want — not second-hand knowledge pieced together through interviews and research. Interviews that people can now do first-hand via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking communities. And research, mind you, that people can do themselves online via robust tools like Wikipedia. The FacetoFace site, like many social media sites, provides first-hand interaction with people based on experience, interests, likeness or non-likeness, or anything else. Your agenda…not someone else’s. It’s a real-time, ever-changing window into a give-and-take world of content. If you’re a marketer, talk to your customers, find out what they need to know or who they want to know, and build a community that delivers it. Welcome to the future of content.

The other article is written by a PhD and entitled “Healthcare journalism needs a recovery plan.” My impression (no evidence whether it’s accurate since I’m on a plane and can’t research it) is that this person isn’t an active participant in social media, and thereby not destined to be an active part of the future of content. A few pearls of wisdom from the article center on a new survey of healthcare journalists. 65% say the quality of health coverage is fair or poor, 48% think health journalism is heading in the wrong direction, 43% say training opportunities have declined. Really? The training opportunities have declined? When whole new communities like FacetoFace spring up overnight? Are they thinking about social media as an opportunity to get “trained” every day on meeting customer wants? Obviously not.

I can see why they feel journalism is headed in the wrong direction — because customers are now in control of content and where they get it. As I said in my earlier post, they want different types of content from different types of content providers. Time and again it sounds like journalists don’t see that journalism, in it’s traditional form, isn’t as tethered to the future of content as it once was. But the opportunity is there to them to take a good, long look and evolve and be part of it, just like it does for marketers.

Because comments like this one in the article sure aren’t the way to charge ahead into the future of content:

I’m going to hope that we’ll see demand for health and science reporting increase as we continue to shake off some of the anti-intellectualism that has bogged us down.

HUH? I guess I’m not an intellectual, because unlike those who think journalism is just going to bounce back, I’m with all the other marketers who are helping building solutions to meet customer demands in the future of content.

Wake up and maybe we’ll see you there.

Marketing has a Role in the Future of Content

This post is proof that a small spark can lead to a roaring flame.

I began the day reading a column from former colleague Ray Schultz, one of the best marketing journalists of the last several decades. Hours later I’m on a plane, some thoughts still kindling from reading the column, and a raging blaze emerged. Cue up the iPhone with mobile WordPress, and here we go.

The topic of Ray’s column is the future of publishing. To those who haven’t noticed, that particular future is not looking bright right now, with flagship entities like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and countless magazines (both B2B and B2C) bleeding jobs and flat out disappearing. Not to mention advertisers slashing budgets unmercifully (for good reason). The column also speculates about the future of journalism — undoubtedly tied to the future of publishing with a heavy chain. Clearly jobs in journalism, especially in the print world, are not a good spot to be in right now.

After thinking about this for a little while, this key thought became obvious: it’s not at all about the future of publishing, or the future of journalism. It’s about the future of content.

Sure, as a business or industry or career field, you can speculate about publishing and journalism all day. Yet neither is necessarily connected at all to the future of content. People can get content in many ways without publishing or journalism involved. Many people don’t even want content from journalists at all. They want content from people just like themselves — or people not like them at all. They want content from people right in the moment — in the euphoria of victory, throes of defeat, fear of chaos, or other states of happiness or misfortune. They want dialogue, engagement and interaction — the hallmarks of social media — and not from an unreachable person behind a printed page. The future of content is give-take. It’s Twitter, it’s YouTube, it’s Facebook, it’s blogs, buzz and beyond. It’s still some printed media too. It’s whatever customers and consumers want, however they want it.

And so presents the opportunity for marketers to take a good, long look at how and where we can fill a much-needed role in the future of content. We can build communities of people (or, if you read Seth Godin, tribes) arguably faster and better than any publisher can, because we know our customers well (or at least, we’re all supposed to, right?). And customers want content. They want to talk to other customers. Happy customers want to share their experiences. Angry customers want a voice, too — and brands want an opportunity to win them back. Many people, customers or not, just want objective information. And don’t give me that “marketers can’t be objective” schpiel — time and again that’s been proven wrong, especially when it’s the community driving the content.. And journalists can be just as biased as anyone, you have to apply the same filters you’d apply when evaluating any information source.

So charge ahead and provide the types of content people want about your brands, or more importantly, about your market and about each other. Build communities of knowledge, and you’re building content. And your an active part of its future.

New Whitepaper on Web 2.0

In such a challenging economy, the number of value-centric offers is becoming overwhelming. Everyone is offering more for less — or more for free — and letting you know about it.

Now you can add this blog to the list too.

The freebie you get here is knowledge. You get it in the form of a free whitepaper on Web 2.0 best practices for B2B media companies, which I think is worth a good, long look. As Chair of the American Business Media’s Media Marketing Committee, myself and some highly-skilled colleagues pulled together and put in the time to create this whitepaper. I’ve put in some good time on Web 2.0 and social media projects, especially lately, and my committee members from Business.com, MarketingProfs.com and Questex Media Group have as well. Kudos to Ben Hanna, Tara Curran and Michelle Mitchell for their input on this project.

The whitepaper focuses on education for B2B media executives who may not be highly familiar with all of the Web 2.0 tactics and technologies out there today. Or maybe their companies have been slow to embrace the potential (and potential costs) of Web 2.0 — believe me, among B2B publishing companies, there are definitely some guilty of moving too slow on this.

This whitepaper includes results of an email research survey we created and sent to ABM members. It included some surprising results on the use and perceptions of Web 2.0 — only 15% consider themselves “pros” on Web 2.0 and social media. That number has to improve.

Hopefully this whitepaper is a good first step in that direction.

Get the free whitepaper right here before you charge ahead with your plans for Web 2.0.

Where’s Your Value Proposition?

If you work for a B2B company (hell, any company that sells stuff), and you’re busy selling or marketing 2009 initiatives, please stop right now and look for your value proposition in your messaging.

Believe it or not, it’s not the customers reponsibility to do you a favor and do business with you. You need to make it clear where the value is.

Take B2B media, for example. Many times lately I’ve received messaging and proposals from publishers in my market (I buy some media to market healthcare events). And it’s surprising that, in 2008, despite all the trying economic times, marketers (and ultimately management) at these publishers haven’t put alot of thought into delivering clear value propositions. Isn’t now the time where you have to make the case more than ever why someone should give you their money?

Yet time after time, there’s just something missing. There’s audience and ad rates and frequency — yet shouldn’t the “how this solves your problems” be in there too? Hell, shouldn’t you be asking about my problems before you give me any of that other info, to know if it even makes sense to give it to me? A sales rep sent me an email on Tuesday and led off the email with pricing discounts and frequency buys, before ever even getting to audience or even my goals and needs (never asked what they were). Not a recipe for success.

Same goes for any marketer. Why should a potential customer buy your product or service if you’re not telling them why it solves their problems, how it’s unique, or why it’s the best solution? More importantly, you need to be asking them what their problems are, and what trends affect them, what keeps them up at night — take a good, long look and get to know them, and then you know how to meet their needs. Too many marketers just dont’ do it. And never mind sales people — at least in B2B media, far too many are too quick to look for the dollars and don’t focus on knowing and meeting the underlying challenges their customers face.

Let’s all make a resolution to improve that in 2009.