Posts tagged ‘Brian Solis’

Does ‘Branded Journalism’ Work?

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I wrote earlier this year about the move towards sponsored content, also known branded journalism or content marketing. Whatever  you call it, it’s a powerful concept. Companies publish interesting and informative content to cultivate an audience and connect with influencers, all without going through the media filter.

That’s the strategy, but does it really work? By ‘work’ in this context I mean can it achieve measurable communications and marketing objectives. In the past few days two differing views on the question have been published in two influential blogs.

Tom Foremski writes the Silicon Valley Watcher blog and the IMHO blog for ZDNet. He left journalism for full-time blogging way back in 2004, so he saw very early how the Internet was fundamentally changing the media. In his post “Social Media is Not Corporate Media,” Tom claims social media is only for conversations, it cannot be a channel to support sales or marketing. He feels corporations will destroy the integrity of social media and create a “mutant form of corporate media,” with consumers retreating to more private networks and communities.

Former technology journalist turned agency content strategist Kyle Monson disagrees. In a guest post on Brian Solis’s blog, Kyle talks about how brand journalism is practiced at the J. Walter Thompson agency on behalf of clients.  He jokingly uses the well known term “the Dark Side” to describe agencies and their work. But he says that by thinking like journalists and focusing on speed, relevance and transparency his agency makes it less dark, and predicts they are on the forefront of how all companies will communicate in five to ten years.

So who’s right? On one level, it’s not surprising that the PR guy says it works and the blogger/ journalist says it doesn’t. Beyond that, both make good points.

Tom talks about how companies don’t listen enough, and are too often focused on control rather than information exchange. No argument here on those points. But he misses a critical point, which is EVERYTHING a company does should show ROI.

It’s not realistic to expect companies to engage in strategies that don’t support the bottom line. I made this point via a comment to Tom’s post, and my partner Marc Hausman really takes him to task in his blog Strategic Guy.

Kyle makes some good points as well, and I certainly try to be fast, relevant and transparent on behalf of my clients. But he leaves big questions unanswered, especially when he talks about partnering with “some of the biggest tech publications and journalists.” What exactly does that mean, and who controls the content produced?

And what about performance metrics? He says they have been very successful for clients like Microsoft, but how does this all help the bottom line?  I wrote recently about how some campaigns in the b2c space are judged successful without ever having to show ROI — seems incredible but true according to Fast Company.

For my part, I can say this approach has worked for my clients in the b2b and b2g markets. We’ve used sponsored content to improve organic SEO and assist in deal capture. We’ve supported lead generation and moved prospects faster through the sales pipeline. The approach most definitely works, at least in our markets.

But it’s not easy, and the client should never underestimate the culture change required to truly become a publisher.

August 4, 2011 at 8:51 am 3 comments

When Does PR Become Digital Marketing?

Earlier this month there was an excellent guest post in the PR 2.0 blog written by Brian Solis. Its theme is how social media is making successful PR today a lot more like digital marketing. While not focused on the b2b market, it’s an excellent read:

As I say it’s a good read, but the majority of my b2b clients would have a tough time adopting all of the recommendations listed.  Most of them are offering technology solutions that are not purchased based on a search engine result. And they are certainly not ready to abandon “traditional” PR and put all their eggs in the social media basket.

And that’s — OK. No agency right now (at least in the b2b space) can succeed as just a tradition or social media agency — you need to do both well, and Strategic certainly does. Clients don’t need a terribly high level of IT sophistication to begin making sure their PR efforts are in synch with online marketing. I’ve had a lot of success with clients starting with these basic tenets:

  • Repurpose content – every company has lots of quality content in multiple forms. Word docs, powerpoint presentations, white papers, etc. The key is tweaking that content as necessary and using it for social media purposes — blog content, Twitter tweets, distribution via user generated areas of publications like Fast Company and CIO.
  • Find your audience — the great thing about social media is audiences self identify. In vertical and horizontal social communities, they clearly state what they are interested in. Most companies have a good profile of the target customer, but not necessarily where they there are online. A social media audit is essential to establish how to reach your target buyer.
  • Establish a baseline — to get an idea of how many people you’re engaging via social media, get a baseline level of your typical web site or community traffic prior to a new PR program. It doesn’t need to be expensive — for many clients Google Analytics can suffice. You just need a picture of traffic level and where the referrals are coming from.
  • Optimize — this isn’t some black magic that only a few can decipher. What we often do is get a list of the keywords clients are bidding on when we start an engagement. Then we look to work these words and phrases into our social media content, gradually improving the client’s organic search results. And eventually, lowering their paid search spend.
  • Stick with it — Here’s where the right PR firm can really help. It’s not easy to consistently churn out quality content that engages, educates and entertains. It’s hard work, and having a firm with a track record of success launching social media campaigns for other clients is essential.

My clients are not interested in being on the bleeding edge of social media. They are interested in what works, and what can quantifiably increase customer engagement, thought leadership, lead flow and deal capture. The steps above can put them on the right path.

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September 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment



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