From the desk of Patrick Ward...
space, we have spent some time describing the shift in traditional news
consumption and the impact of new and social media on traditional journalism. Both are well-discussed
concepts and, while important to note, they are familiar to all of us.
The question then becomes, now what?
We noted somewhat in passing that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of news sources people routinely consume; and that increase has undermined the traditional news brands. And we truly believe that. But, we also believe that brands consequently have a new opportunity to become their own media company.
A startling story made this clearer to us than ever. Last winter, a friend and colleague told us about an experience that succinctly related the dynamic relationship between the media, social media and critical audiences. His company, GoodData, is one of the hot ones, sporting all the ingredients for a successful start-up. Its CEO, Roman Stanek is a serial entrepreneur with a great reputation having sold a previous company to Sun and another to HP, by way of Mercury Interactive. The company boasts people like Esther Dyson and Tim O’Reilly as individual investors and Andreesen/Horowitz, the ‘it’ VC of the moment, led a round of financing last year. Oh, and their business plan has the word ‘cloud’ in it. Enough said?
So, when Bob Evans at InformationWeek published a glowing success story on one of GoodData's customers, no one was surprised, except the VP of Marketing, our friend, Sam Boonin, who waited to see that story translate into web traffic and potential leads. Neither happened. And this was a big story. To give it some legs, the management team, all with healthy personal and professional social networks, started to push the story out to friends, colleagues and gawkers through Twitter et al. That’s when the traffic began to come and in bunches. In fact, traffic from Tweets and re-Tweets was 10 times higher than direct web traffic from InformationWeek.
We don’t think that means that these executives’ personal brands are more influential than InformationWeek’s brand that has been built over 30 years. Or do we? It’s probably not an either/or, but more of a complementary relationship. We can’t deny that the magazine’s brand helped when people read the Tweets. But, there is a clear argument to be made that GoodData’s brand and Stanek’s and other execs’ personal brands offered significant credibility.
The other thing we noted about this story was that content was a driving force. True, the content was promotional (not in intent, but in practice) and so it should drive people to the site. But, a series of Mashable pieces last month extolled the promise of content as a marketing vehicle and we think the preceding story bears that out. We had a client last year, Daily Makeover that used content as a way to attract users to its online try-on tool which women used to sample virtual cosmetics. Tips about spring looks, easy ways to look natural etc. filled their site and got four million women to that site monthly, giving Daily Makeover one of the richest databases of personal cosmetics preferences in the world.
But most business-to-business companies don’t have content as part of their everyday outreach to customers. In a world where people are so starved for information that they have an incessant parade of alerts, and where news organizations are losing their audience daily, why shouldn’t companies fill the void with interesting and entertaining content. We think they should and content gives PR firms, like ours, a formidable tool to advance client’s positions and/or opinions.
We are advising clients to start thinking more like media purveyors and rely less on intermediaries — from analysts to reporters — to tell their stories for them. That’s a radical shift for some to grasp, but in a forthcoming post, we’ll offer some insight into how that can work.