FIR B2B podcast #67: Is it Time to Kill the Term ‘Content Marketing?’

In a recent LinkedIn post, Kyle Cassidy proposed Why ‘Content Marketing’ Needs to be Killed Dead and Buried Deep. Cassidy is a former ad agency content marketer who has grown tired of the term and wants to see it retired. His well-written – and somewhat tongue-in-cheek – post gives some solid reasons why the term should be put out of its misery, including over-inclusive usage that renders it meaningless, not unlike the cutesy names that are now applied to departments that used to be called “personnel” and “marketing.” Given that our hosts both come from a long-standing journalism tradition in which the quality of our words was Job #1, he does have some salient points to consider.

I had an opportunity to discuss this on a recent podcast that I do with Paul Gillin here. If you don’t know Paul, he is cut from the same cloth as I: a long-time technology journalist who has started numerous pubs and websites and has written several books.

Cassidy writes about the “hot mess of skills” that can be found in the typical content marketer, who as he says is “a steaming pile of possibility” that combines “a savvy copywriter, editor, and brand strategist” all rolled up into one individual. True enough: you need a lot of skills to survive these days. But one skill that he just briefly mentions is something that both Paul and I have in spades.  We consider ourselves journalists first and marketing our “content” a distant second.

Cassidy has a good point: “Content Marketing is a meaningless term. PR is content. Product is content. Blogs and social are content. Emails are content. Direct mail is content.” Yes, but. Not all content is created equal. Some content is based on facts, and some isn’t. Without a solid foundation in determining facts you can’t market anything, whether it is content or the latest music tracks. You have to speak truth to power, as the old Quaker saying goes.

Of course, fact-based journalism – what we used to call just “journalism” – is under siege as well these days, given the absence and abuse of facts that is streaming live every day from our nation’s capital. The notions of fake news – what we used to call rumors, exaggerations, lies and misleading statistics – is also rife and widespread. And even the New York Times seems to have trouble finding the right person to quote recently.

Part of me wants to assign blame to content marketers for these trends. But the real reason is just laziness on the part of writers, and the lack of any editors who in the olden days – say ten years ago – used to work with them to sharpen their writing, find these lazy slips of the keyboard, and hold their fingers to the fire to make sure they checked their quotes, found another source, deleted unsupported conclusions and the like. I still work with some very fine editors today, and they are uncanny how quickly they can zoom in on a particular weak spot in my prose. Even after years of writing and thousands of stories published, I still mess up. It isn’t (usually) deliberate: we all make mistakes. But few of us can find and fix them. Part of this is the online world we now inhabit.

But if the online world has decimated journalists, it really has taken its toll on editors who are few and infrequently seen. Few publications want to take the time to pass a writer’s work through an editor: the rubric is post first, fix later. Be the first to get something “out there,” irregardless (sic.) of its accuracy. As I said, you can’t be your own editor, no matter how much experience you might have and how many words a week you publish. You need a second (and third) pair of eyes to see what you don’t.

When I first began in tech journalism in the mid-1980s, we had an entire team of copy editors working at “the desk,” as it was called. The publication I was working for at the time was called PC Week, and we put the issue to bed every Thursday night. No matter where in the world you were, on Thursday nights you had to be near a phone (and this was the era before cell phones were common).  You invariably got a call from the desk about something that was awry with your story. It was part of the job.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to do freelance work for the New York Times. It was a fun gig, but it wasn’t an easy one. By the time my stories would be published in the paper, almost every word had been picked over and changed.  Some of these changes were so subtle that I wouldn’t have seen them if the track changes view wasn’t turned on. A few (and very few) times, I argued with the copy desk over some finer point. I never thought that I would miss either of those times. They seem like quaint historical curiosities now.

So let’s kill off the term content marketing, but let’s also remember that if we want our content to sing, it has to be true, fact-based, and accurate. Otherwise, it is just the digital equivalent of a fish wrapper.

Going back to our podcast, Paul and I next pick up on the dust-up between Crowdstrike and NSSLabs over a test of the former’s endpoint security products. Crowdstrike claims NSS tests didn’t show its product in the best light and weren’t ‘authorized’ to review it. It’s even taken NSS to court. Our view: too bad. If you don’t like the results, shame on you for not working more closely with the testers. And double shame for suing them. David has been on the other end of this scenario for a number of years and offers an inspiring anecdote about how a vendor can turn a pig’s ear into a silken test. Work with the testing press, and eventually, you too can turn things around to benefit both of you.

Finally, we bring up the issue of a fake tweet being used by the New York Times and Newsmax in regards to the firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn earlier this week. The Times eventually posted a correction, but if the Grey Lady of journalism can be fooled, it brings up questions of how brands should work with parody or unauthorized social media accounts. Lisa Vaas has a great post on Naked Security that provides some solid suggestions on how to vet accounts in the future: Look for the blue verification check mark, examine when the account was created and review the history of tweets.

You can listen to our podcast (23 min) here:

FIR B2B podcast #66: The Robot Who Fooled Me, Block That Buzzword and Domain Name Insanity

Paul Gillin and I discuss a variety of topics this week. First, the notion of automated phone attendants to provide outbound sales support is taking on new meaning when Paul’s got a call from Brian the fund-raiser. Turns out Brian wasn’t a real person, but it initially fooled Paul!

Next, perhaps it’s time to sharpen our use of language. We talk about lazy usage of meaningless words, such as flexible robust high-performance. Say what?

I note that the latest crop of domain name extensions is completely out of control, not to mention pricey and making it harder for brands too. You can listen to our 20-minute podcast here:

FIR B2B #65 WITH SAM WHITMORE: WHY CUSTOMER REVIEW PLATFORMS ARE PR’S GREAT MISSED OPPORTUNITY

Both Paul and I have known Sam Whitmore since all three were at PC Week (now eWeek) back in the go-go 1980s. Since 1998, Sam has been running his own consultancy for PR firms, called MediaSurvey. We spent some time talking to him about a fascinating series of posts on his site that began with an open letter that purported to be from a fictional agency to its fictional B2B client. The letter explains, from the agency’s point of view, why the relationship isn’t more productive. It inspired several comments, as well our own curiosity about Sam’s motivations.

The letter makes three points, with the basic thesis being that “We need max access and a budget bump,” meaning that PR budgets have to reflect a more approach to what agencies do. The fictional PR firm asks to be given better access to customer feedback and become a more strategic partner of the client’s marketing efforts, and to have better relationships with content gateways that will outlast a point product release. The tone of the letter is snarky, but also to the point, with good suggestions about the brave new world of what Sam calls “content platforms” such as ITCentralStation, ProductHunt, and SoftwareAdvice. Whitmore calls these the “IT version of Yelp,” and notes that they’re increasingly powerful in shaping buying decisions. Do you know about them? I actually contributes product reviews to the first site and have seen impressive results, but Paul had barely heard of them.

You can listen to our 27 minuter podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #64: SMART INFLUENCER RELATIONS, A FAKE NEWS NIGHTMARE AND FIVE WAYS TO OUTSOURCE PR

This week we cover a grab bag of stories dealing with B2B marketing, some good and some bad. We look a why Medium.com failed to deliver revenue, blaming this failure on its advertising model. The story ran in Bloomberg after the company had a significant recent layoff. Washington Post homepage editor Doris Truong was caught up in her own private PizzaGate fake news saga when trolls on the Internet spread a terrible case of mistaken identity about her, pictured here. Then we discuss understanding the kind of PR program you’re really looking for and how you need to set your expectations accordingly. The article mention five kinds of potential startup PR programs that are typical.

Finally, we cover this interesting story about building a brand, the Chinese way. Networking and communications giant Huawei (annual revenue of US$60 billion and the #3 smartphone vendor) paid a few dozen influencers to attend their September trade show in Shanghai and promote to their social media connections.

You can listen to the 21 minute podcast now.

FIR B2B #63: PRODUCT AND CORPORATE MARKETING: WHAT’S THE DIFF? WITH DENA BAUCKMAN

You won’t find many product marketers with advanced certifications in the technologies they market, but we found one. Our guest is Dena Bauckman, director of product marketing for email encryption provider Zix Corp. in Dallas. Dena has held similar titles at Sterling Commerce and BancTec.

Bauckman’s perspective on the interplay between product marketers, corporate marketers and product managers is distinctive. She stresses how all parties need to understand where each other is coming from and be tuned in to their needs and schedules.

You can listen to our 25 minute podcast here:

FIR B2B Podcast: More on fake news and gaslighting

In our last podcast, we spoke about the rise of fake news. Turns out we have more to say on the topic, which has ballooned across mainstream media in the past couple of weeks. Paul talks about building brand loyalty and trust from his research. I mention this article in Teen Vogue of all places, where the reporter brings up the movie/play Gaslight and how our future president is using similar tactics to setup problems and then offer “solutions.” And we cite a column by Christina Farr who talks about how PR reps need to stop inserting themselves in the conversation when not requested or needed. You can listen to the podcast here:

FIR B2B #61 podcast: The care and feeding of fake news

We  are awash in a sewer of fake news stories, and we only have ourselves to blame. It has become an epidemic, and a profitable one at that for these purveyors of click-bait that sound like the truth but are far from it. In this episode, Paul and David discuss why this has happened, who are the players who profit from these stories, and what the major web operators such as Google and Facebook can do about it.

Listen to the 12 minute podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast: do’s and don’ts of marketing research

Grant Gross’ excellent story in CIO.com goes into more detail about why you can’t pin the exit polling failures of last week’s general election on big data. Paul and I use these failures as a starting point to discuss the lack of quality in survey research, particularly in the B2B tech marketing space. Both of us have been the recipients of lousy survey “results,” or more accurately, wishful thinking on the part of marketing and PR people. So save everyone’s energies: don’t produce these 200-person SurveyMonkey polls that have no real meaning. Better yet, when a reporter wants to see the survey instrument and the underlying methodology, send it. You’ll gain plenty of street cred and may even get some ink too.

Our recommendations are to pay careful attention to survey size, understand the sampling methodology, make use of a professional pollster or research analyst or statistician and learn from the experts.

Listen to our podcast here:

FIR B2B Podcast: PR tips and my 21-year newsletter streak

In this week’s podcast with Paul Gillin on B2B marketing, I talk about my 21 years of writing a weekly Web Informant email newsletter. Last year I summarized my efforts in this piece with lots of links back to the early days.

Also in our podcast, we pay tribute to Bill Machrone, editor of PC Magazine and an all-around fine human being, for his recent passing after battling brain cancer for two years. And we address a listener’s questions about the importance of images and about C-suite demands that PR pros support the brand’s lead generation efforts.

Listen to the 15-minute podcast here:

FIR B2B Podcast with Andy Hoar

We talk today with Andy Hoar, the Vice President and Principal Analyst for Forrester Research for many years. Andy wrote a seminar work 18 months ago called The Death Of A (B2B) Salesman. In that piece, he stated that a million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce websites by the year 2020.

“If I know what I want, I should be able to buy it immediately,” Hoar says. “When it comes to cross selling and qualifying buyers, all of this can be done better in a digital environment. There are a lot of impatientB2B buyers these days.”

Listen to our 22 min. podcast with Hoar below: