Category Archives: Publishing

How to create a B2B Content Marketing Strategy and Plan

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Content marketing. Don’t you just love it? No? Then read on.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got lots to say on this topic. Mainly:

  1. How marketers need to *add* content marketing to their current efforts, not use it as a replacement of their current marketing channels in the face of budget cuts. Get real – content is *expensive*. Take a look at the go-to content marketing case studies often cited on the web. Notice a recurring theme? The majority are by huge brands with £multi-million content and distribution budgets. Granted, they all claim to have saved millions since calling what they do content marketing, but hey, these guys were spending *a lot* to begin with. Also, try replacing the phrase ‘content marketing’ in their case studies with the word ‘SEO’. Notice anything?
  2. How we all mistakenly assume content marketing is something new when in fact we’ve all been doing it for a while – we just know it as something else eg SEO or PR

I say all this as someone who’s worked in both publishing and digital marketing since 1997. Content marketing is great. It means we all work. It means people are excited by online content, which is no bad thing. But please just be aware of the full picture before jumping in and betting the house on it.

Anyway, more on this later.

Broadly, there are four key elements you need to think about when it comes to content marketing:

  • Planning: audience needs and questions, buying cycle, answers to those buyers needs and questions
  • Content: production, format, sourcing and approval process, resourcing in terms of staff, support (internal staff / external agency help), related costs etc
  • Distribution: channels, paid, owned, earned, channel discovery and distribution process, resourcing and support (internal staff / external agency help), related costs etc
  • Measurement: as with most digital marketing channels, we need to measure lots of metrics and discover what they’re telling us

There are 000’s of ebooks, whitepapers and Slideshare decks on this topic and they all tackle the topic using variants of the four elements above. It’s essentially digital marketing (and all the paid media low cost tactics that go with that – if you’re smart) with a whole heap of content production thrown on top.

More on this soon…

Why user generated content makes web editors nervous

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I originally posted this in July 2006, but thought I’d reprise it. Enjoy.

A while back, I explained to a web editor how the BBC was planning to introduce more user generated content (UGC) to its site – namely its new Share/Find/Play strategy.

As is increasingly common among web editors now getting to grips with UGC, the following sentiment sprung forth: won’t that mean masses of useless content to wade through?

I’m finding this is an increasingly common concern among content professionals.

I’m not trying to sell in UGC services as a whole here, but I’d like to document some of these concerns and provide some of my own thoughts on why they exist.

User generated content means poor quality

By who’s standards exactly? Granted, UGC can be riddled with appalling writing, unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories but unless you’re running a talent website for writers or budding journalists, who are we to judge?

UGC is about letting users express themselves in their own way. Resist the urge of the sub editor in you to correct content. Editing or censoring ‘errors’ in your users content is a big no-no. Let them be.

The same applies if you’re looking for balanced debate or hoping that the quality of your blogs will raise the profile of your site. Have faith in your community and put trust in the adage that users vote with their mouse. The online stars of your platform will gather momentum as they gain a following, while the never do wells wither away and die from the drought of page visits and replies.

All that editing and censorship will mean massively increased workloads

So what? Isn’t your remit to increase user traffic and activity on the site?

UGC isn’t just about blogs and forums of endless editorial debate. Content suffers when UGC is half heartedly applied to traditional publishing models, where the user is constrained in what they can submit.

Why only allow users to submit written editorial content? It’s no surprise that web editors have concerns over UGC because, understandably, they’re looking for quality editorial. But why? The vast majority of people aren’t professional writers. Many don’t like writing full stop.

Instead, give the user access to a completely open platform, where they can submit any type of content – editorial, but also audio, videos and images.

As the likes of YouTube and Flickr are showing, users are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are evolving from ‘readers’ to multimedia content producers.

What if I have empty blogs, forums or no user comments?

I’ve yet to meet an editor or journalist that’s never written an article which is designed to inspire debate or gain a reaction from readers.

Avoid having empty blogs and message boards – roll them out to carefully selected users or offer only one forum topic at a time. Once they grow, open up more and cast the net wider.

Never open up a major network of forum or blog networks on day one. Unless you’ve got millions in marketing spend or you’re MySpace in a position where your URL gets a mention in virtually every news wire on a daily basis, you need to coax users in slowly.

I’ll have to deal with – ugh – the public!

Ever worked in print journalism? If you have, you’ll know that letters to the editor and opinion articles are the lifeblood of any publication. Having a healthy post bag and bursting opinion schedule is a great position to be in. It shows that your readers trust and respect you enough to engage with you and your brand. Thanks to UGC, readers can now take this brand engagement to a whole new level.

UGC is a fad. It’s a waste of time and money

We’re seeing more and more mouse potatoes take root (see what I did there?) at home and, much to the alarm of employers, in the office.

The web is moving away from being solely a lean-to technology focused on information retrieval. This is about taking the traditional publishing model and applying the benefits of the web – interactivity, the ability to publish at minimal cost, automation and search.

Quality websites with opinion and debate have the edge over others which simply break news. A team of quality writers can initiate that debate, but now you can allow users to actively take part and reinforce that role / value. More users spending more time on your site have obvious benefits, not least to your ad sales team.

Don’t under estimate how valuable UGC really is. The traditional web publishing model, by its very nature, pumps out content which appeals to a mass or large niche audiences. Even the best attempts to be super niche will assume some common ground among users.

Blogs, on the other hand, allow this homogenous content to be tailored by really niche users with heterogeneious preferences and opinions. UGC effectively widens the appeal of your content, making it relevant to more audiences, no matter how small or individual – all this is possible with very little effort on your part.

Weekly print mags should change focus, not die

I’m hearing much debate about the future of weekly b2b trade mags of late. What’s the point of weekly print mags now, bloggers are saying, when all news worth reading now breaks on the web.

I’d venture this isn’t strictly the right course of action for all publishers of print weeklies. There’s still a place for weekly print mags even if websites are beating them to the news – but primarily in areas of high activity and news output.

In a world of ever increasing information ‘noise’, I think more weekly magazines should consolidate and summarise the week’s mass of web news and blog output, and leave the breaking news for their sister websites. Mags like Media Week and PR Week have started doing this – and really well.

In other words, weekly print mags can still exist, but their content focus should change. Granted this will only work in areas of high volume news output where mags actually provide a valuable service in de-cluttering our news intake and providing clarity in the increasing ‘noise’ of news output and sources. Until mobile phones begin to give as good a reading experience on the train / tube as paper, the print mag should continue to live on.

Should men’s mags ‘upscale’?

Media Week recently asked four key media players (as in key people, not software) whether they agreed with reports that many publishers are now upscaling men’s mags to attract a more affluent reader and advertiser.

Three said ‘No’, while one said ‘Yes’. I’m still undecided. ‘Yes’, because more lower end readers are getting their fix online (hence the popularity of Dennis’ Monkeymag and IPC’s Nuts.co.uk and NME.com). But then I also say ‘No’ because there’ll always be an audience for men’s mags in the lower end. They perhaps just need to make them less embarrassing to read in public. The Sun, which is still going strong, is a perfect example.

So, if by upscale, we mean put less pics of bikni clad women on the cover a la GQ and Esquire, then I say ‘Yes – kinda’. I blogged about men’s mags upscaling a while back (and probably contradict myself).

Still on the topic of lads mags, great article by the Mirror’s Brian Reade today which pointed out the irony in Michael Gove MP blaming lads mags like Nuts, Zoo and Loaded for objectifying women. Brian wondered why Gove missed The Sun off the list, given that Page 3 was also a big offender. Surely nothing to do with Gove being a columnist for the Times, The Sun’s sister paper?