Tag Archives: content creation

Why Earned Media sucks (#5 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

This company opened its doors three years ago inspired by two decades of B2B ‘Earned Media’ experience. The goal was to build the best boutique media relations firm Europe has ever seen. Things changed fast. As intended, we built a team of PR and Social ninjas who ‘earn’ indecent amounts of exposure for our clients in national and business media, vertical press and the technology blogosphere.

But what we do now is very different from Old Skool PR. Earned Media sucks because it can suck you dry of content and fresh approaches. The reason? Consider these five radical changes to the media landscape –

1. Freelance blogger/analysts now vastly outnumber in-house journalists and work differently.
2. The editorial ‘action’ moved online and mobile – with radical consequences for content.
3. ‘Stories with legs’ have a shelf life of minutes, not days or weeks.
4. Done right. Social Media is finally proving as effective for B2B brands as B2C.
5. Publishers prefer to curate, rather than create, content – it saves cost

Another print title ends up as fish and chip wrapping

Newsweek’s last issue

On both sides of the flack/hack divide, these changes to Earned Media, what purists still call PR, have proven hard. Pleasingly, this meant Positive Marketing has flourished, growing six-fold as we did what all start-ups do – adapt. Our lesson learnt ? If you can learn fast, evolve and execute it is possible to create great advantage from the market forces bearing down on Earned Media (N.B. the opposite also applies).

1. Smaller editorial teams mean more curational opportunities for original content.
2. Stealth editorial outsourcing via ‘contributed articles’ makes editorial skills more valuable.
3. Brands can win or lose in the course of a Twitterstorm requiring social teams who are ‘on it’.
4. Despite the rise of gadget tech, B2B stories are more relevant in economic downturns.
5. Apple/FaceBook/Google link baiting is an editorial ‘fact of life,’ PR leveraging this is crucial.

On this last point means we regularly have to persuade cynical European media of the merit of a story without major brand as linkbait. This requires more planning than ever plus the sort of tenacity which generalist in-house teams may, understandably, not naturally possess – theirs is a wide scope of skills, but not necessarily those needed to succeed in today’s new world of Earned Media.
Speaking from experience, most in-house teams, are more natural content curators and storytellers than frontline ‘story sellers’ and may not have the stomach to hear a time-pressed journalist ‘call their baby ugly’ (rejecting their new product launch). In-house teams are also handicapped because they have only one flavour of story to sell (theirs), whereas agency teams sell many and frequently switch between clients in a single email or, increasingly rare, phone pitch.

All this makes content consultants, who can create great pitches and can convert these to great stories more valuable both to clients and writers, who still have to ‘feed the beast’ which devours online content, despite their much-reduced staffing rates.

Earned Media has changed irrevocably, so how do B2B brands make the most of it? Firstly, editorial coverage is still powerful, especially in reaching non Digital Native senior decision makers, who are partly for historical reasons, or, just because of time pressure, less likely to devote time to surfing blogs. For instance, The FT’s pink paper still rightly holds a jealously-guarded place in the heart of CEOs.

Second, as news reporting becomes commoditised and democratised, exactly the opposite is happening to news analysis, which is becoming a rarer, more valuable commodity, increasingly protected behind paywalls. Once a news story breaks, whether read first in a magazine or newspaper, on a tablet, PC or phone, readers immediately seek strong, trustworthy editorial opinions. This makes news analysis stories which make it through editorial scrutiny more valuable than ever as part of a brand’s customer perception. It is this ‘second bounce’ which is the entrance point for many B2B brands stories – especially when they missed out initially on editorial stories driven by link baiting.

The point of Earned Media is that it is earned. The harder earned, often the more valuable. This is why, while we do less media pitching these days, it is valued more highly than ever by clients who realise the newfound scarcity of quality B2B media outlets, drives value for their brands. If they needed any proof, they need look no further than the publishers, who while struggling to justify print advertising rate cards, are only too happy to capitalise on the demand for internet usage with higher-than-ever website reproduction fees once the story is online.

Earned media ain’t dead it just grew up a lot and now gets on better with its neighbours. What was once B2B PR, and unthinkingly labelled ‘free advertising’ by some, is now more complex. As publishing economics blur the lines between owned, earned and curated brand communications, it remains a tough, but worthwhile benchmark of a brand’s credibility. Customers know editorial endorsement matters, even though they will no longer pay directly to receive that editorial.

At Positive Marketing the game is on to achieve the optimal blend of Earned, Curated and ‘Paid For’ media and we think we play it more enthusiastically than anyone else. This post is one of a series of five exploring the myths surrounding today’s B2B marketing buzzwords and is designed to stimulate debate, reconsideration and in some cases mild nausea. Please do add your comments below. Sign up to the blog as a subscriber and we will let you know how to turn these five disparate marketing tactics into campaigns which work in today’s market.


Why Corporate blogging sucks (#4 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

We all love a good blog. Teens have their fan sites, Middle Aged Men In Lycra (MAMILs) lust after bicycle accessories and armies of mummy bloggers review all the latest kit online saving their families money into the bargain. Should corporates also wade in?


Yes! But avoiding the pitfalls below…

Literally billions of opinions a year are now exchanged online, in and out of work hours on computers and smartphones without and increasingly with, the distractions of radio or SMART TV’s in our now multi-screened world. High quality B2B blogs increase an organization’s digital footprint and can create demand if well executed. The opposite is also true.

Consider ‘skunkwork’ blogs, often created without proper scrutiny from the corporate tentacles of ‘The Marketing Department’, some are great, others pet projects which distract from ‘real work’ and in extreme cases, off-brand diversions from marketing objectives.

But a bigger (readership) is better, right? Perhaps not.

Unlike SEO, blogging, is not just a numbers game, quality of what is attached to the eyeballs one attracts matters. When you are paying by the ‘click’ all clicks are good. Blogging requires actual relevant content, which may not appeal to all readers and so as well as rewarding quality content, blogging involves more corporate risk. Consider how Twitter’s microblogging can literally result in an expensive libel case to see why a more measured approach may be advisable.

Positive Marketing has oodles of experience marrying corporate blogging strategies with the world of Social Media promotion and below we freely share our philosophy, outlining four stereotypical blogs which you need to avoid if your blogging strategy is not to suck.

1. The Time Traveller blog – Traditionally trained B2B marketing folks, the sort who count business cards collected at exhibition booths as leads, worry so much about SEO they pay ‘SEO consultants’ for ‘strategy’. At heart these [back through] time travelling marketeers love nothing better than a thick, glossy brochure. The resulting brochure copy is a huge online yawn |-o.

Symptoms you have a Time Machine blog include – marketing-speak instead of engaging language, no calls to action and severely long edit cycles.

2. The Well-Meaning Amateur blog – When passionate amateurs, often from the ranks of product marketing (harsh but true) decide to blog they often do so before anyone notices. It is tolerated because they ‘know more about the product’ than anyone else. The resulting semi-official company blog looks and feels more like a support blog, which may fatally undermine a well-crafted corporate image. Worse, support revenues may become cannibalised by the ‘free advice’ on offer.

Symptoms of a WMA blog include – Lots of comments from a few readers, unexplained acronyms, no marketing oversight.

3. The ‘Me Too!’ Executive blog – When time is short (as it always is) blogging falls down a busy executive’s ‘To Do’ list like last month’s expenses. This a blog made up of repurposed, masquerading as original blog content. But if this information is available elsewhere, e.g. in the online press center, relevance drops and Google’s new algorithm hates you too. Just like the unpaid expenses, some of those readers may never be reclaimed.

Symptoms of a MTE blog include – No original content, over-length slabs of repurposed copy, falling readerships.

4. The video-only blog – No matter how cool your company, video is hard. You may think your content is just perfect for YouTube but it probably is not: here is one that is. With video there are lots of additional expensive production wrinkles to resolve. Who decides on dress sense/telegenics, on audio/camera technical quality, on output formats and who sanctions studio editing? While one of the most powerful media currently available, with a message changing as fast as many of our clients, is half-hearted video a good use of time?

Symptoms of a video blog about to go wrong include – Large planning meetings, long waits for edited content a failure to seize the moment.

If these scenarios ring true, feel free to comment, or if you are feeling adventurous, let us critique your efforts, or better still, just get your blogging on track. Remember blogging will on its own, almost never bring in sales directly. But if you can avoid these pitfalls, it can become a credible hub to a modern ‘owned media’ strategy.

Long term readers of this blog will know this post is just one of a series of five iconoclastic posts on how isolated marketing tactics do not work. For other ‘Marketing Tactics that Suck’ start here. Next time we set our sights on the whole reason for PR, Earned Media and look at why, that too, sucks today. Look forward to hearing from you.