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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Still True: the more things change, the more they stay the same

A recent blog post from Ford Kanzler of Marketing/PR Savvy has been getting its fair share of attention on Twitter and the blogosphere.

Kanzler's post, "Content Marketing Has Been a Successful PR Strategy for Decades," makes the claim that the term Content Marketing is a shiny new term for an age-old marketing and PR technique.

I couldn't agree more.

To me, Kanzler's post is a reminder that although the public relations profession has morphed in recent years -- as have many professions, thankfully -- the PR person's keys to success have fundamentally remained the same for eons.

Case in point:  creating exciting content and distributing it through targeted channels has been part of the PR pros daily regimen for years.  Today, it's called Content Marketing.  The reality is that PR pros have been practicing Content Marketing for years.

We just used to call it PR.

Here's how Junta42, a content marketing firm, defines content marketing:  Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience -- with the objective of driving profitable customer action. 

Sound familiar to any PR pros out there?

When we, as PR people, interview a product manager about a new software release, we turn it into (hopefully) remarkable content in the form of a press release -- just as we have forever. And then we market it to specific audiences.

When we interview a client's customer about how our client's solution saved their customer time and money and improved product quality, we turn it into exciting content in the form of a case history, a blog post, a by-lined article, an instructional podcast or Webinar, Web site or You Tube video, etc., and then we promote it.

When we want to pitch a story to an influential journalist or blogger, we create content in the form of one exciting "teaser" paragraph to peak their interest.

Yes, how we exchange this content and measure it has changed significantly, especially in recent years thanks in large part to technology advances.  And we reach our clients' audiences in new formats and on new devices, and this will always be changing.

Joe Chernov, Eloqua's director of content, said in a recent tweet:  "'content marketing'" is different now, w/rise in SEO, collapse of print, networked customers who need info to share."

His points are very valid.  Content marketing is different now. 

But so is Kanzler's point, who says, "Just don't think that calling it content marketing makes it something entirely new."

What do you think?  Is Content Marketing an updated handle for a battle-tested discipline?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where is the Second Internet Bubble?

I read an interesting blog yesterday by Christopher Mims, a blogger who writes for MIT Technology Review and other publications.  In it, Mims poses a question that has puzzled me recently.  Six times more U.S. households are online today than during the dotcom era, but why have we not experienced a second Internet bubble?  Where is the inflation we experienced in the early days, and why are there no crazy speculative investors throwing money at companies destined to create wallpaper stock?

One could assume it is because lessons were learned.  But, come on, this is about money.  The American investment community gets real irrational real fast about entire sectors when one company has a favorable exit of any kind. Late money -- dumb money --  is never beyond the reach of hungry entrepreneurs who can point to the latest market forecasts and woo investors with the potential return of gaining only a fractional percentage of a multi-billion dollar market forecast. I've experienced it myself as the COO of an early stage company with no profit and barely enough revenue to buy coffee cups listening to otherwise intelligent investment bankers from leading global firms telling the company why we should choose them for our IPO.  

Mims points to the work of Shane Greenstein, an economist at Northwestern University. Writing for the IEEE Spectrum, Greenstein cites serval interesting points, two of which ring particularly true to me:

1. For all the negative memories we harbor, the era created incredible new e-commerce successes like Amazon, eBay and Expedia that generated significant value, and

2. The second wave of internet business has not been about value creation, but cannibalization of brick and mortar retail. 

If you believe the past helps us define the future, you will be interested in the very negative impact of the Internet that Greenstein describes. He and Mims have a lot more to say on the topic. It's a good assessment that reinforces what we know -- real value usually is borne of innovation and effort not remodeling.