Monthly Archive: August 2011

Ann Handley Explains The Need For “Personable Content”

Content Marketing is on the rise. But there are still plenty of questions about what kind of brand-sponsored content is most compelling and effective.

To address some of these questions, Patricia Redsicker of Business 2 Community recently spoke to Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and co-author of Content Rules about a variety of content marketing topics, including how to use personal stories in content marketing.

I’m a big believer in using stories to engage, but I also make the distinction between personal and personable content.

On a personal blog, you can bare your soul and “tell all” like I do on my blog, Annarchy. But with corporations and content marketing, it’s about delivering personable content. It’s about giving your products or services a pulse and talking about the stuff that makes your product real to people so that they can relate to it.

That’s a great explanation. Because content marketing is about breathing life into a company’s products or services, the executions need not be laden with benefit-driven copy (like you might find in a direct mailer). The persuasive arch in content marketing is much larger because “the conversation” can be extended for days, and in some cases, forever.

Digital — where so much content marketing takes place — is a campfire. And content is the fuel. Run out of fuel and the fire goes out. Of course, you won’t run out of fuel when you properly tap your customers, prospects and staff for their stories, then task the agency with working these various sources, along with the brand’s own contributions, into the fire.

Photo Credit: Flickr user, Mack Collier

Client Showcase #11

When the context is right, I like to say things like, “Every company is a media company,” or “Media is a marketing service today.” Thankfully, I also get to live these maxims — a fact that conveniently turns them from new media platitudes into tangible case studies.

For instance, last spring, Karsh\Hagan in Denver hired me to write a series of lifestyle articles for their client American Crew. The first batch of articles are now beginning to appear on AmericanCrew.com, where men go for grooming advice.

Visitors to AmericanCrew.com can now pick up few more tips while online…about where to vacation, how to talk to a stylist and get the perfect haircut, and which films to watch with their girlfriend, just to name a few.

Given that lifestyle content is my specialty and a passion, I have to say, I’m thrilled to be working on this on-going project. “Paid, owned and earned media” is another call to action for brands today, and for those who help brands achieve their communications objectives. I came up on paid and migrated to owned, where I’ve been for a good five years.

I think it is worth noting that the owned media space is the ultimate venue for branding. This point tends to get lost in the shuffle for digital supremacy, which is a problem. When making an ad campaign for the paid media channel, the content of the campaign is meant to interrupt people. Content that lives on a brand’s site, or social media page, is another story — it doesn’t interrupt (via a clever headline or striking image), it attracts (thanks to its utility or entertainment value).

Sing, Sing A Song

Northwestern student and aspiring journalist Drew Gannon has a feature piece for her tear sheet titled “How to Choose an Advertising Agency” running in Inc.

I certainly don’t want to pick on aspiring journalist, but I will challenge her conclusions (it’s a professional obligation).

Many small businesses just out of the entrepreneurial gate rely on their own abilities and the abilities of their staff for in-house advertising and marketing needs. But for most emergent companies, a partnership with an advertising agency is an unavoidable step in the growth process.

Excuse me? Lots of successful firms have neatly avoided ever hiring an ad agency.

Furthermore, hiring an ad agency isn’t a negative, it’s a chance for the company to sing.

Gannon has more advice for brand managers seeking an agency…

With an RFP in hand, it’s time to start the actual search. Remember that agencies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors: there are thousands of them, and they are constantly changing.

No. RFPs are lame. I, like many of my peers in this business, have a talent for putting things on paper, but there’s much more to initiating and maintaining a successful client-agency relationship. It begins with chemistry, and in the best cases is followed by mutual respect and a long-term friendship.

Believe me, I wish that it was as easy as searching the Web for the right agency resource, but it’s not. People who sling ideas for a living typically need to come highly recommended, because the creative arts are a mystery to many. Just like medicine, law and accounting.

With Economies In Turmoil, Brands Feel The Pressure On Price

According to National Retail Federation’s 2011 Back-to-School survey, Americans are compensating for the soft economy by purchasing more store-brand or generic items (39.9%), comparison shopping more online (29.8%), and shopping for sales (50.0%). Additionally, nearly half of survey respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general (43.7%).

Chart: Back-to-School 2011 – B2S and B2C Spending by Year_small

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Back-to-School 2011 - B2S and B2C Spending by Year_small

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“Back-to-school shopping may be exhilarating for kids who ride along, but for mom and dad this is serious business,” said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director, BIGresearch (the company that conducted the survey for NRF).

Speaking as a brand builder, these are not good signs. Stoking brand value in an economy where few can afford to pay a premium is challenging work. In my opinion, it’s also a great reminder to invest in the brand, and to do a gut check, making sure your product or service is worthy of your customers’ hard-earned money.

When times are tight, there’s literally no room for poor customer service or poor performance of any kind. This includes producing less than amazing marketing communications. Now is the time for a tightly constructed brand strategy and an efficient means of working through said strategy. Let me know how Bonehook can help.

[UPDATE] I mentioned “Back to School” as my “Story to Watch” on last night’s recording of The BeanCast. Please click over to Bob Knorpp’s site and give the show a listen.