Content Marketing As Journalism?
Posted June 21, 2011on:
Content Publishing Is Hard
One of the hardest things about inbound marketing is coming up with content, particularly content you hope will rout into sales. The problem is, as Mitch Joel points out at Six Pixels of Separation, marketers want to publish about their goods. We’re like those two men selling fruit. We need to unload our product. The entire point of publishing content is to help us do this. But if all we do is egotistically tout our wares, we’ll bore our readership and they will never come back. Worse yet, we won’t make a sale.
There are a few ways to go about content marketing successfully. You could be like Hubspot, which publishes tips and research like a stripper takes off her clothes. Not all of it, just enough to get you to really want more. Or you could be like Joel, who writes more like a journalist, commenting on industry developments. Either way works; neither is easy. Other strategies are popping up all over.
But not everyone can publish the same stuff. Most of the rules of thumb are agreed upon by this point, and though there is still plenty of debate in our industry, there is not really enough for everyone – all the freelancers, contractors, consultants, and organizations – to each have a large audience. There will be some, like Hubspot, who get the audience, leaving smaller firms without.
Hiring Journalists Could be the Answer…
Joel suggests that companies should hire a journalist to publish for them, hopefully creating interesting content that doesn’t just laud the company’s goods or services. This is a pretty good idea, encouraging companies to focus more on the industry than their own profits.
If you look at Joel’s blog, that’s pretty much what he has done. His blog is called “Six Pixels of Separation by TwistImage,” TwistImage being his company. This is something like a sponsorship with the corporation providing hosting. This is probably why he is suggesting that companies that have difficulty cutting out the hard sell from their blog copy should hire a journalist and adopt this set up. He says, “Maybe the reason this Blog has some level of success is because it’s more like journalism than it is about what Twist Image offers and sells (I prefer to write relevant articles about this industry).” The only thing that challenges this rosy picture is that Joel actually is the President of TwistImage.
…But I Disagree
I would argue about what success means in this context. It seems Joel is taking success to be a large readership. To me a corporate blog is not about the industry, it’s about the corporation’s take on that industry, their perspective and point of view. When job seeking, this is one of the first places I go to see what the company is like. When looking at potential business partners or service providers for clients, the blogs help me judge possible synergies. The number of readers is irrelevant compared to the quality of the leads. Six Pixels of Separation is valuable to TwistImage precisely because it is written by Joel, the company President. The blog shows how he understands the industry, a valuable insight and selling point for possible clients.
If a company hires a journalist, they are really publishing a small magazine or sponsoring a blog. This is advertising, and like advertising, the goal is to get in front of as many people as possible. The company may be better off purchasing sponsorships in existing publications. In Joel’s version, the journalist is taken to be unbiased in order to establish industry street cred, but it’s easier to piggy-back off of someone who already has established credibility, potentially multiple someones. And it would probably be a bit cheaper, too.