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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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.

Publishing Companies, Time to Believe in Marketing

Having spent slightly more than a decade in B2B publishing, I’ve taken a good, long look and can confirm (for whoever still needs it) that most publishing companies (i.e., 99.2%) are behind the curve in terms of marketing.  That is, in their recognition of, belief in, investment in, attention paid to, and general acknowledgement given to…marketing.  They may have a couple marketers, or even more than a couple, who create the media kits and sell sheets and stuff.  Yet in my experience, the marketers are almost 100% (literally) unhappy with everything from the career opportunities to the training (i.e., not much of either).

Why one or several of the savvy B2B publishers doesn’t charge ahead and be a marketing leader continues to baffle me.  Their main customers in terms of revenue are marketers who make advertising decisions.  Wait, let me rephrase – marketers who make integrated marketing decisions.  So why the lack of investment in hiring creative marketers and implementing technology that helps them succeed?

A likely answer is the failure of marketers to demonstrate ROI for what they do (i.e., spend).  Another likely answer is that most publishing companies are run by sales and/or finance executives who focus on traditional publishing business SOP (hey, how’s that going right now?).

As Chair of the American Business Media’s Media Marketing Committee, I challenge savvy B2B publishers to make true investments in marketing — in hiring top-notch talent, in training and growing marketing staff, in using customer segmentation and data analysis to pinpoint opportunities, in using research to benchmark metrics.  There is real opportunity to be a leader and own the top talent in the market — and the business advantages that come with that.

Over on the event side of the B2B house, it’s mostly the same sitch.  Except for Reed — they get it right as far as marketing goes, and their events kick butt because of it.  If you’re a publishing or event executive in senior management and you want to get it right too, you should ask how they do it.

That’s not a plug for Reed either, it’s the truth. Look into it and you tell me if I’m wrong.