It’s sort of like watching your little league team get an award at Fenway Park.
For a few minutes, the kids wave, the crowd cheers, and parents beam. Then the pros take the field, the announcer says “wasn’t that nice”, and the people at home see more beer ads.
For several months, the townspeople talk about it in the barber shops, then everything goes back to the way it was.
That’s how I felt reading An Apology to Content Marketers by Shel Israel over at Forbes Magazine. For a few minutes, it felt like content marketing was getting some respect in front of a wider audience.
It was an apology. At least for those of us who truly practice honest content marketing, as opposed to sending unsolicited junk. In fact, it was Lee Odden of the TopRank Marketing Blog, who definitely sets the standard for content marketing practices, who set the record straight.
A Noble Endeavor?
Let’s face it, we marketers are not Air Force test pilots, police officers, or teachers. We’re not running into burning buildings or discovering cures. We’re selling stuff. And sometimes we even get to innovate, but mostly to find new ways to sell stuff without people figuring out we’re selling stuff.
When you tell your uncle, a retired EMT who served in the armed forces and volunteers at the homeless shelter, what you do sounds a little sparse, doesn’t it?
“So you’re the guy filling my inbox with spam?” He asks. “You’re the reason I can’t watch online video right away? You put the dancing Santas on every website?”
I can understand his frustration. And I can understand why Shel Israel first wrote his rant Why I hate ‘Content Marketing’ and ‘Blogger Outreach’. It was in response to getting one too many automated pitches from yet another marketing campaign, called a ‘blogger outreach program’.
How To Fix Our Reputation
This little episode with Forbes tells us a few things: First, that we’re capable of getting noticed, even with impersonal, automated tactics; second, that this recognition can be negative if we keep doing the same things. I’ve compiled a few tips for not just mimicking real people when dealing with media professionals, but BEING real.
- Be helpful. As Lee Odden states, “Content marketers use customer insight, interests, goals and pain points to create editorial plans that provide utility, not noise. It’s meaningful storytelling…” If your audience is trying to solve a problem, and you have the solution, make it clear that you know their challenges. Show them real world examples of people using your tools or services and getting promising results.
- Be different. An online presentation is a type of content that captures attention better than text articles. It also performs better than video by itself, for the simple reason that it offers different pieces that appeal to viewers. Some like to see a video that demonstrates a product or shows an interview. Some like to read the dialogue, and others like to view diagrams and download supplemental items. Your presentation doesn’t have to be just a video or just a written press release.
Quick Tip: Make An Online Presentation Now
- Follow up. You can send out content all you want, but unless you contact people in a way that works for them, it ain’t gonna work. A writer or editor with a lot of things to do isn’t going to respond well to your filling their inbox with junk. And I define ‘junk’ as anything that isn’t relevant to them or that they don’t already know about. You should have told them your work was coming, and that means you…
- Establish relationships. It’s best if your media contact can pick you out of a lineup, but even if not, you’ve conversed online or have spoken by phone. It’s always better if someone in the media sees your email or incoming call, and thinks “I know this one, they always have something interesting,” rather than “Ugh, not again.”
- Stay away. Or better yet, know when to stay away. This is hard to do in marketing, but think about it: Are you going to get anywhere by annoying someone who doesn’t know you, and may even write about it in Forbes? Or is your time better spent sending helpful, interesting, relevant content to people who know you and expect it? When you stumble across someone who you’d like contact with, you should spend time building relations instead of sending junk.
These tips are not necessarily a comprehensive list, and obviously they are along the lines of common sense. You don’t want to be the one who triggers a rant on a widely-read business magazine. But like Lee, you should definitely be the one who helps to fix it.