C. Edward Brice, the senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing at Lumension, recently shared his thoughts on the impact Web 2.0 is having on B2B marketers in a fascinating interview on the SavvyB2BMarketing blog.
During the interview, when asked, “What lessons have you learned that could benefit other B2B marketers?” Brice said:
“Content is king. You need to make sure it’s relevant — and valuable — to prospects based on where they are in the buying cycle. Think about how you can educate and inform your target audience with your content.”
If that’s true, and, I believe it is, then, how do B2B marketers generate “valuable” and “relevant” content?
The key to the kingdom of quality content can’t be found in the shabby online freelance marketplaces were “race to the bottom” bidding on content development is rampant among non-native English writers. Sure, these writers churned out content for a penny or two per word, but the “content is king” aspect is lost. Generally speaking, the content created through a low-ball bidding process is exactly the opposite of what Brice is suggesting when he tells B2B markets to “think about how you can educate and inform your target audience with your content.”
It takes a skilled and experienced writer to produce content that can rise to the level of quality that Brice recommends. If content is truly king—and I believe it is—then you need to find, hire, and nurture a kingmaker.
Corporate Journalism, or what David Meerman Scott at Web Ink Now has dubbed Brand journalism, is "a hybrid form of journalism devoted to creating interesting information online that serves to educate and inform consumers." Savvy marketers now realize Web marketing success comes from creating content-rich websites, podcasts, photos, charts, ebooks, white papers, and other valuable content, according to Scott.
Agreed. Now, someone, preferably with experience, needs to create that content Scott and others assert is essential.
The Corporate Journalist
Who will create the content that they need for their online initiatives? Scott suggest companies leverage the research and content development skills of freelance journalists. A trained and experienced journalist can bring perspective and professionalism to content that lends credibility and gravitas to content that might otherwise ring hollow. Corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, and educational institutions are saying, "We need help. If we knew how to create great content, we'd already be doing it."
Some journalist may scoff and say, "How is this different from traditional PR work?"
The difference lies manly in the approach to the content. Today, to rank highly in searches and to attract and build a community, the content needs to go beyond marketing hype to deliver something of value. While savvy PR people have the capability to generate such content, a trained "corporate journalist" provides the unique skill set necessary to create content that benefits the company, educational institution, or nonprofit and the readership those entities hope to attract to their sites.
While some companies have the internal skills necessary to generate content, an already thinly stretched staff might not have the time to generate enough content to satisfy the insatiable demand of the Web. Companies must resist the urge to outsource writing to unqualified, low-bidders. Rather, seek out freelance journalists, companies will benefit from stronger, stickier content at surprisingly affordable rates. It's worth a few more cents per word to engage an audience rather than merely fill space. That's always been true in the print world, and it's even more important online.
The July issue of Technology & Learning features my article on reporting in the era of Federal Stimulus. The Data Dilemma article examines at how states and school districts are gearing up to comply with the new data reporting guidelines.
Information wants to be free is a summation of Chris Anderson's new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion; $26.99). According to Anderson, it's the death knell for professional journalists. However, Anderson throws out a lifeline by saying, "Out of the bloodbath will come a new role for professional journalists," he predicts, and he goes on:
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According to a post on Duct Tape Marketing, when social media experts gather to discuss how to create momentum for a Web site, they look to its content. There's a lot of talk about the importance of educational content, especially for business sites looking to capture an audience. Duct Tapes' …true engagement, engagement that leads to
customers and partners, is created with content."
Here's the dirty little secret: a lot of content for Web sites is farmed out to penny-a-word, non-native English writers on sites such as guru, rent-a-coder, get-a-freelancer, etc. Everyone is looking for a magic bullet, preferably on the cheap, when it comes to content. And it shows. If engaging, "sticky" content is the key to driving traffic and captivating an audience, it can't be cobbled together for a cheap buck. There's no magic fairy dust to sprinkle on weak content that turns it into gold. Lots and lots of cheaply produced content doesn't lead to engagement with an audience. It only leads to high bounce rates.
The best content is produced by those most passionate and closest to the subject at hand. In a small business, this is the owner. However, it's not realistic or practical for an owner, product evangelist, or C-level manager to churn out copy for the company Web site or social networking campaign–no more than it would be for that person to prepare the taxes or wire the office security system. And no CEO would turn over his company's taxes or security to an unqualified person–no matter how cheap they're willing to work.
If engaging content is the key to building valuable and essential traffic for a corporate Web site or blog, hire a writer that can bring the same passion and understanding to the project as the founder of the company would if copy writing was their trade. It'll cost more than a penny a word, but the resulting engagement with your key audiences will more than make up the difference in cost.