Tag Archives: Content Marketing

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.

Advertisements

Why Content Marketing sucks (#2 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

As mindless jargon goes Content Marketing is right up there. To ‘market’ anything, from salt to silicon chips, requires informational content in addition to the goods themselves. Whether that’s a brandmark or, that holy grail of Content Marketing, the pseudo-scientific but not peer-reviewed Whitepaper. The idea is to reassure buyers that branded goods are of high enough quality to justify the additional premium buyers are expected to pay.

Technical buyers are different from salt or pepper shoppers. They want to know exactly WHY a solution will work for them by understanding HOW it works first. The Whitepaper and its ‘live’ equivalent the Webinar were until recently effective, if time-consuming, tactics to educate buyers about the HOW. They build credibility, helping convince IT buyers that a particular technology could work for them.

Content Marketing is reassuring, WhitePapers downloads and Webinar registrations (or even attendees) are measurable. Today though, the vast Whitepaper ‘farms’ hosted on technology publications’s websites give buyers an experience as confusing as Borat in a US Supermarket. Image

If buyers like the HOW from the Content Marketing, they could next learn WHY a solution might work well for their company. Traditionally they did this in three ways;

     1. Asking peers (if they were not competitors)
2. Consulting technology analysts (if you had deep pockets)
3. Reading ‘Success Stories’ from companies like yours who had implemented
the technology in the media.

This last means of checking, although prone to intervention by Positive Marketing and others seeking to push their clients’ successes, did at least have one guarantee of independence; the technology writer. The editorial process claimed to debunk as much ‘PR spin’ as possible and help readers understand if the claims made by vendors were true.

Now though, with B2B technology journalism in decline and advertising revenues moving online, Content Marketing has ‘worked around’ this journalistic scrutiny. In fact it has co-opted the very journalists who used to ‘look after’ the interests of their readers. Inboxes are full of ‘Last chance to Register’invitations and ‘Latest Technology News and Expert Advice’ apparently sent directly from the editors of publications. Although on checking with them, it turns out most know nothing about these email blasts, which are in fact sent by the advertising teams.

Short term, this is a problem for the press. Where once credible writers used investigative skills and strict editorial guidelines to provide a valuable service to their readers, now they pimp unscrutinised Whitepapers and Webinars at readers whose inboxes are now overflowing with very similar offers direct from marketing pros. Where once they could be relied upon to check the truth of the claims made by brands, now they are sending out un-edited propaganda in their own names, making them, well, samey and undermining their role.

Medium term it is the brands themselves who suffer, with pay-to-play Content Marketing now just seen as a form of brand advertising (never popular with technical buyers). The sheer volume of webinars and Whitepapers as a tactic also means they are having diminishing returns. Undifferentiated marketing makes for a lower brand premium over time.

Longer term, Content Marketing, as we know it today is doomed. As always with marketing, differentiation, authenticity and innovation will win out. Content Marketing is just too samey, too generic and plain lazy a tactic to keep the attention of discerning buyers. If you can’t tell your story these days in a better fashion, perhaps with the help of animation, video or an Infographic, you risk appealing only to IT folks of a previous era, one before smartphones, respected opinionated bloggers and ‘Try before you buy’ freemium software – all of which change the decision-making process.

The future will be much more Social, which implies briefer content, more fleetingly sampled, but delivered in increasingly integrated marketing campaigns, where content is less formulaic. We are building some of those campaigns right now and would be happy to explain more, so feel free to get in contact. Feel free to check out our previous post in the ‘Marketing Tactics that Suck’ series and check back for some ideas which do not suck.

Why Inbound Marketing sucks (#1 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

Inbound marketing is hot. Who says so? The opportunists taking lots of VC money and building fast-growing businesses ‘while the sun shines’ and before the inevitable ‘consolidation of platforms’. We too love fast-growing technology businesses but the hype level here is off the scale. As one prospect we met last week acknowledged, the high-pressure “Create Marketing People Love” message is just not credible.

Full disclosure, Inbound Marketing competes directly for marketing budget with one of our core offerings, influencer relations. But that is not why it sucks for its buyers. It sucks because the vendors who are selling high-ticket item solutions for Inbound Marketing are claiming they have a Holy Grail a One-Size-Fits-All ’ERP for marketing’, a panacea to make B2B marketing easier.

Of course it is great to have a ‘Web to Lead’ process more sophisticated than first generation web forms and for SEO it is also fabulous to have click tracking which can automate the A-B Testing of headlines, copy and images, especially as Web Designers charged so much for these basics in the past. However, automation alone is not a strategy and the dirty secret is

A better mousetrap is useless without cheese

Without a compelling message and great content , it doesn’t matter how you track ‘website journeys’. If you just don’t have the traffic, you just created your own Zil Lane, which a select few travel up and down as they please, while the world moves on around it.

As the ultimate creator of content, Einstein, once said ‘Not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that can be measured matters.”. Belatedly, to address this gaping hole in their offerings, some of the leading players have been farming out a ‘commoditized’ version of content creation out to their partners. You can see this sneaking concession to the all-important content buried here on a leading inbound marketing provider’s website. This in itself tells a story – not so much ‘Who moved my cheese?’ as ‘Please sir can I have some more?’.

The truth is while you want an industrial strength mousetrap to be built sturdily in a factory, most of us prefer the taste of hand-crafted cheese to processed squares (even if the barcodes are great for tracking where we buy them). Great content is a pre-cursor of Inbound Marketing. Without it, the promise of torrential leads effortlessly flowing into websites rings as hollow as ‘jam tomorrow’. Just check out the outbound emails in your inbox and sales calls from inbound marketing firms for further proof.

Next time we debunk another ‘great white hope’ of modern B2B marketing – Content Marketing. Feel free to comment on what you have read so far and expect us to come out swinging again next time.

POSITIVELY NEGATIVE – Five B2B Marketing tactics that, individually, suck

With a brand like Positive Marketing, you would expect us to be upbeat. We are – ridiculously so. Our clients notice how much we high-five and giggle as we create results. In fact we know how important it is to laugh hard while working harder.

To change things up a little and be contrarian, our next series of blogs looks at five of the hottest, some would say over-hyped, buzzwords in B2B Marketing and explain how, on their own, they portray a negative impression of our sector’s progress, especially compared to our slicker B2C brethren.

1. Inbound Marketing sucks
2. Content Marketing sucks
3. Thought Leadership sucks
4. Corporate blogging sucks
5. Earned Media sucks

Given we do all of the above, you may wonder why we are so down on them. Well, all will be revealed as we conclude the series with an article which explains how you can change these buzzwords from sucking the life out of you to sowing the seeds of career-defining success. As always, we welcome your feedback, negative as well as positive. After all, it helps if marketing creates an impression…

Now let’s get going, with our first critique