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.

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.