Content Marketing Archives

The first rule of marketing communications should be “Don’t confuse your customers.” If they can’t figure out what you’re saying they won’t stick around to find out, much less trust what you’re selling.

Based on the pitches I’m seeing and my copywriting/editing work with clients, here are ten of the current “worst offender” terms that send customers clicking on to your competitor’s Web sites:

When You Say… Do You Really Mean…
Transparent Visible, or honest?
Resources Money, or people?
Impact Help, or hurt?
Solution Hardware, software or services?
Contextualized How something relates to or works with something else?
Purposed Used for?
Transform Really, really, really improved?
Optimized Eliminate what’s unneeded or duplicate?
On the ground On the actual scene? Seeing something for yourself? Most informed?
Align with Coordinate with? Work to improve?

Want more? I’ve got plenty. And if you want help replacing jargon with clear language in your marketing material, I’m available for that, too. What horrible, meaningless jargon are you seeing that drives you nuts?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

I’ve been too busy with clients for any shameless self-promotion lately, so it’s a pleasure to point out the Harvard Business Review just came to the same conclusion I did a number of month ago: There are still things human editors can do automated algorithms cannot.

A recent article by Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble and the President of the Board of MoveOn.org., lists seven things human editors can do better than the software that creates personalized “feeds” based on your previous on-line activity. These include anticipating what will be news tomorrow (vs. what is news today,) judging the social importance of stories vs. what is trendy (Lady Ga-Ga, anyone?) and trust that the news feed will alert you to something you may not have known to ask for, but will be glad you read.

To be fair, the HBR story focuses only on the algorithms that decide what content to send readers, not how the information for them is gathered, verified or written. Those are topics I also covered in “Content Marketing” Where to Place Your Bets”. This ebook lays out the entire “value chain” of content from capturing an event to fact-checking, putting the event in context, adding insight and, oh yeah, making it a pleasure to read.

It also provides handy tips for B2B marketers looking to decide where they should spend their scarce marketing dollars on outside help like me and where they can leave the heavy lifting to customers, bloggers or even software.

The HBR piece is part of a swing of the pendulum away from the idea that fusty, crusty editors and reporters can be completely replaced by low-paid, low-quality writers like those laboring in content farms. Recognizing the threat to its credibility and usefulness, Google recently changed its own ranking mechanism to prevent this dreck from taking over the world.

But enough chest-thumping. It’s good to see my clients (IT vendors) are seeing the need for quality content. Hopefully, we’ll all demand the same thing in the “real” world to help us make the really important decisions about, oh, war, peace, taxes, deficits…

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

A client told me the other day that if a blog post on his site doesn’t mention his product, or convince people to at least learn more about it, it doesn’t do him any good.

To be fair, the post in question was about the slow, but real, progress a customer was making implementing his product despite technical, political and logistical  hurdles. It wasn’t surprising my client didn’t jump for joy about how it would look. And, as it turns out, the customer had made more progress than they mentioned in the interview that led to my post. I reviewed a presentation the client had given, revised the post with a more rounded view of their progress, and all was well.

But this little incident got me thinking about the rules of the road for “corporate journalism” in which paid reporters cover an industry for a vendor. Sometimes the news isn’t all rosy, through no fault of the vendor, but because driving change with new technology can be difficult. A frank, no-holds-barred story about the struggles customers are facing is more compelling and would (in my opinion) draw more readers to the vendor’s site than one tilted, however subtly, towards the inevitable happy ending with the vendor’s name prominently mentioned.

If I were still writing for a trade publication, the “warts-first” story would have run and hit a chord with readers. That’s because conflict and trouble is part of people’s real lives and they want to know how others cope with it. But when does the attention-grabbing draw of bad news on a vendor’s Web site overcome the risk of casting a pall, however slight, over the product or service you’re trying to promote?

Thoughts?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Tips on New World of Content Marketing From SxSW

Spending a day clearing deadfall from the winter here in Boston may be no match for being in Austin for South by Southwest. But I was pleased to see a post from SxSW by Erica Carnevale from Text100 (on their excellent “Hypertext” blog)  with great tips for writing as a “brand publisher.”  They include:

  • Turn your real-time conversation monitoring into context for conversations. Break free of your schedule and let the insights and pain points gleaned from listening to your customers  drive your content strategy.
  • Don’t rely on one form of branded journo – content creation or owned media. Weave together a complete evolved media experience for your customers that brings together the best third-party content, original content created by your brand and content/opinions from peers – provide value to your customers by making it easier than ever to find the information they need – but be transparent and clear about your company’s role in each.
  • Involve external parties – people with journalism backgrounds and agencies with a pulse on your audience’s conversations and motivators – to help you craft your story and avoid creating “non-fiction advertising.” But be sure that your partners are steeped in you brand values or your content will be disingenuous.

A piece by James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly also provides some perspective that the late, great days of media maybe weren’t that great, and that there’s hope we will learn how to create something of value out of the editor-less, readership-driven, commercial media world.

Good to see others are thinking about when and where the “old” journalism values still have a place in the new media world. Blatant self-promotion: I do an in-depth dive on this in my e-book  examining when and where to spend.

Back to cleaning up the yard…

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

One of the things I often hear these days is that marketing people need to “think like publishers,” as if publishers spend all day writing and editing great, fascinating stories.

 Wrong.

In the newspaper and magazine world, the publisher usually has very little to do with what stories appear on the front page (remember those?) The publisher works on the business side, spending most of his or her time selling ads, dealing with unions (remember those?), hassling over budgets and trying to squeeze out enough profit they don’t get canned.

It’s editors who determine what a publication “feels” and reads like, with their day-to-day decisions about which stories get the biggest “play,” which columnists get to squawk about which subjects, and whether they want a down-the-middle or a snarky headline on that Charley Sheen story.

What does this have to do with content marketing? Everything. If you’re trying to sell with thought leadership, as so many are today, you can’t be pandering to advertisers like a publisher. You need to serve the reader like an editor, focusing on what they need to know – not the marketing spin you want to give them.

In the past, you could rely on a trade publication to deliver the straight news to hook the reader, and use your ad dollars to deliver your pitch. Today, you have to do both: Deliver honest and subjective (well, honest and subjective enough) news and insights to keep prospects reading, and add the “word from our sponsor” however you can.

 It’s not easy and there are built-in conflicts that come with being a “corporate” or “brand journalist.” But you’ll never succeed at using good content to draw prospects if you don’t pay attention to whether you’re publishing (for profit) or editing (to serve the reader.)

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Corporate Journalism Done Right, by a PR Firm

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether reporters hired to generate “journalism-style” content for companies are really journalists or just paid shills. In some ways, it’s an old argument because there have always been upright reporters and editors and those who push a certain cause, regardless of where their stuff appears. For the current debate, I’d offer a real journalist is someone 1) whose focus is on educating the reader rather than selling them, and 2) who goes further up the value chain from just reporting events to trying to make sense of them.

Text 100, a well-established PR firm with clients such as IBM, Nokia, Facebook and Skype, showed how to do it with their recent reporting from the Mobile World Congress. They began by describing how Twitter and other social media affected the distribution and pickup of news from vendors at the show, with specific advice for how future exhibitors should change their PR strategies at future shows. The reporter, Jonas Rugaard, then delivered a roundup of news and trends worthy of a first-tier trade publication, such as the emergence of dual-core processors and multitasking, and screen shots and video of hot devices.

Finally, he summed it all up: “I guess we all remember the famous tag-line; anything on any device at any time. This should now be replaced with the right content, to the right person at the right place. And so the Mobile World Congress turns to be less about the new products and phones itself, but much more on the entire ecosystem – connecting everything with the phone at the center.”

And at no time could I tell which of the vendors he mentioned, if any, were Text100 clients. If I were in the mobile space, or a mobile vendor looking for PR firm (even more to the point) I would start following their blog religiously because it leads with valuable information, not hype about what their clients announced at the show. And when I needed PR counsel, Text 100 would have to be near or at the top of the list.

That’s how corporate journalism should work, for the good of both the reader and the vendor.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Why Marketing Automation is Floundering (Amen!)

Trying to Get the Big Mo

A recent post by Jeff Pedowitz on Marketing Automation Software Guide argues that marketing automation vendors – selling tools that automatically send and track responses to marketing material to target prospects – are floundering, or at least not growing as quickly as they should. Pedowitz says they are 1) wrongly targeting marketing executives who lack the clout to make purchase decisions, 2) focusing too much on the software and technology industries, 3) not doing enough to educate customers, 4) requiring customers adopt processes that are too complicated and 5) making their tools too expensive for early adopters.
As someone trying to grow his own use of these tools, all of these shortcomings sound correct. But the two that strike closest to home are lack of customer education and making the whole process too complicated.
First, the lack of education. We can’t even agree on what to call this new market. Is it inbound marketing? Email marketing? Demand generation? Social media marketing? Content marketing? Inbound inline marketing? Closed-loop marketing? The people we’re trying to sell to are too busy trying to close deals and keep their jobs to stay on top of all this jargon. Software and services vendors – myself included! — need to look beyond our own pitches and provide a simple description of the benefits we offer.
Next, even if you’re sold on the idea of marketing automation, it’s WAY too complicated to implement. I’ve chronicled my hellish experience moving my blog to WordPress, which provides only the content management and presentation side of the puzzle. Developing, delivering and monitoring response to your content is a whole other can of worms. HubSpot, among other tools, requires a course and certification which I’d love to take advantage of, except for this small diversion of making a living. Kudos to Jeff for calling for best practice templates, pre-built programs, one-click activation and other easy-to-use aids for us mere mortals.
Marketing automation does have a future, as those early adopters with the right blend of skills in-house are showing every day. But the rest of us need some help crawling before we can walk, much less run. Anyone vendors out there with truly easy-to-use (and reasonably priced) platforms? And anybody got a good, catch-all description for what we’re trying to do?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

787 Lessons From Boeing For Content Marketers

Head out to Paine Field in Everett, Washington, and you’ll see 20-25 brand new, nearly finished 787 airliners sitting on the flight line.

Boeing can’t deliver them to customers (or get fully paid for them) until they perform more than 140,000 fixes. Various planes need different combinations of work on stabilizers, electrical systems, engines and even condensation that sends moisture dripping down the inside of the airplanes. Just tracking which plane needs which changes is a major challenge, as is juggling the repair schedule to match the delivery slots airlines paid for. Taking apart nearly-completed planes to fix hidden flaws plays havoc with the normal manufacturing sequence, cripples profit margins and lowers customers’ faith in the finished product.

Boeing’s manufacturing mess shows the limits of outsourcing critical engineering and manufacturing work, which Boeing did to an unprecedented degree with the 787.  But it also shows the importance of doing work right early in the production process, whether that end product is a long-range jetliner or a white paper.

In my business, writing marketing material, the work you need to do right at the beginning is knowing who your target audience is; what you have to tell them that’s fundamentally new and what is the unique value you offer. If you get this early research wrong (or don’t do it at all) you’ll deliver the wrong raw material to your  internal or external writer. Your written product, like those 787s, will need to be torn apart and reworked. And, as Boeing is finding out, that costs a lot more than spending time up front to make sure the underlying, basic work is done right.

Knowing what is the critical “news” you’re communicating to the world is only the first link in the value chain of content creation. Learn the whole chain – and how to use it to maximize your investments in content marketing – in my free ebook.)

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.
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