Monthly Archive: May 2014

First, Focus On Brand. Brand Informs Advertising.

Small business advertising used to be the lifeblood of local media, both print and broadcast. Today, SMBs continue to spend on advertising, but they’ve moved their ad dollars to more productive DIY advertising venues like Facebook and Google AdSense.

Here’s a random sample from my Facebook stream:


Ryan Wallerstein of Ramify Media, a branding and social media consultancy in New York, thinks advertising on Facebook is a “cart before the horse” situation for many small businesses. He wants SMBs to focus on their brands first.

The challenge for small businesses is that branding is complex work, and most small businesses lack the capital and expertise necessary to undergo a quality branding process. They don’t have access to big brand resources, and are sorely in need of guidance from branding experts. Herein lies Facebook’s opportunity to be a hero, taking ownership of the branding issue before small businesses dump millions of dollars into inefficient advertising campaigns.

Facebook wants ad dollars. I doubt they want the additional task of helping to educate SMBs on brand. Media companies don’t care about brand. They care about ad placements, which is why newspapers, radio stations and TV stations will make an ad for you, often for free. That’s how bad they want the ad revenue that is generated by you running the ad.

I consistently counsel against taking these kind of short cuts. If you want to run ads, great. Have something worth saying and an elegant means of saying it. You get ads worth running from firms like Bonehook, not from a media company.

Use Lean and Agile Design Thinking To Inform Your Approach To Content Marketing

I traveled to Bend this week to deliver a talk on lean and agile design principles and how they can have a positive impact on content marketing, which is often perceived to be a taxing and timely endeavor, especially for small- to medium-sized enterprises.

The event was hosted by Bend Web Marketers at Tech Space Bend. The room was full and there were several good questions. One of the tougher questions came from a copywriter:

What’s the difference between ‘copy’ and ‘content’? My clients want web content?

The difference between ad copy and content is this: Ad copy is a smart way to differentiate a product or service. Content is about the customers.

After the presentation, I was pleased to see an #Amen from Shannon Hinderberger in her Tweet stream.

It’s always nice to go up and over to the high desert and experience a different part of Oregon. Like Boulder, CO, Bend is more than it seems on the surface. Look around and you see a lot of fit, tanned, mellow people. Look a bit deeper, and you find techies, entrepreneurs, designers, content strategists and agency execs from California who like to play golf.

Bend is also the smallest city with the largest appetite for craft beer in the world, so naturally a group of us repaired to Silver Moon Brewing after the event. One young woman I met recently relocated to Bend from Long Beach. She said she’s never been to Portland before. At first, I was incredulous, but clearly Bend is its own draw, and a magnet for talent in its own right.

One item of note that I left out of the presentation: In the summer 0f 2004, I was between agency gigs in Chicago. I flew out to Portland and drove to Bend (on my own dime) to interview with Kevin Archer at Citrus, which has since been acquired by HMH in Portland. For my efforts, he told me I was interviewing at the wrong place. He said the right place for me to look was Time-Warner in NYC. Naturally, I was incredibly flattered, if not a bit stunned.

A footnote on my footnote: Three months after this fateful 2004 meeting in Bend, I launched with my former colleague from Bozell, Shawn Hartley. AdPulp will turn 10 this October, and I can thank Archer in part for the courage to pursue journalism and publishing again. Having a foot in media and another in marketing is natural to me, and given the rising demand for long-form brand-sponsored storytelling, I am grateful for this pivot and Bend’s roll in it.

Create Consistently Compelling Content That Your Customers Crave

As a business owner, I must own not just the business, but my own mistakes as an operator. It’s the only way to get better—I have to be the most ruthless critic in the room. When I am not, someone else will be.

Here’s the thing. I have not conveyed my deep expertise in content marketing in a way that delivers consistent and meaningful new business. I have what many brands badly need — real life experience building and running a content department from scratch. But too few of my prospects know this crucial detail.

Slice, Dice and Sacrifice from David Burn on Vimeo.

Naturally, I have written extensively about content marketing, talked about it and shared details in various face-to-face meeting and presentations. It’s my job to consistently present working answers to our modern day MarCom riddle:

Where do I find the time and the know-how to produce consistently compelling content that builds my brand and drives traffic to my store?

Now, to properly grow my company I need an even tighter focus on what we actually deliver to customers, and greater clarity around how I present this offering and myself to the people I meet.

Like many good things, content marketing is a bandwagon. There are genuine experts, and there are charlatans in all sorts of strange disguises. So, let’s keep it simple. Ask your current resource, or an agency you’re considering for content and social marketing if they have any legitimate traction online. If you’re not certain, ask the agency if they have a popular website hiding somewhere in their stack of trophies.

Ask me, and I will show you three:, and

I taught myself to hard code html in 1999 and have been experimenting with innovations in digital media ever since. Not as a geek, as a writer and publisher driven to be heard above the din. In 2006, long before “content marketing” was a buzzword, I was promoted at BFG Communications from Senior Copywriter to Content Director. I hired four full time journalists and hundreds of freelance writers, photographers and videographers to make media for the agency’s large lifestyle brands.

In 2008, we relocated to Portland. In 2009, I launched Bonehook. Bottom line, I can help you identify the right content and social media marketing solutions for your company and help you build out the necessary framework for a successful brand newsroom. I can also help you successfully outsource key parts of your content and social media marketing needs, track results and grow long-term interest in your product and/or service offerings.

Let’s discuss over lunch, provided you’re located in the Pacific Northwest. If not, let’s schedule a call. You can reach me today at or call 503-970-3862.