Content Marketing is the New PR

April 4, 2013

That is the title of a recent Aberdeen Group report, Publish or Perish: Content Marketing is the New PR, which you can download for free (registration required) here.

Content Marketing Leaders and Followers

According to Aberdeen’s report, the companies it considers leaders in PR and Brand Management achieve greater performance metrics than followers, such as:

  • 23% of their marketing-generated leads are sourced through inbound or content marketing (vs 10% for followers)
  • 12% growth in year-over-year company revenue (vs 3.5% for followers)
  • 20% year-over-year increase in media mentions (v 2.7% for followers)
  • 15% year-over-year increase in social media mentions (vs 2% for followers)

The Changing Role of PR

One of the key insights from the research has to do with how PR has changed in the past few years. While the key mission for Public Relations in most B2B companies is still related to brand recognition and market credibility, the increasing role of content marketing in assisting PR with such efforts is now being seen as critical at most leading companies. The research points to 63% of respondents indicating that content marketing is being used as part of an overall PR strategy at their companies.

Companies considered “leaders” are the first ones to understand the importance of integrating content marketing into a broader PR effort, as their report points to 94% of leading companies stating that their PR function is now a component of their integrated marketing communications efforts and showing also that leaders are 50% more likely than followers to indicate that PR has evolved into a content marketing role.

Recommended Actions

Aberdeen recommends the following actions as you develop or reconsider the role of PR and your PR strategy:

  1. Align PR and Marketing: this involves a shared editorial calendar and unified web strategy
  2. Content Rules: you have to change how external PR firms and agencies are hired and evaluated, and also pay special consideration for SEO
  3. Search Engine Optimization: having PR work closely with the SEO team to navigate the new waters of content marketing, like correlating inbound website traffic with PR activity
  4. Measure what Matters: new measures for PR (inbound site traffic, web analytics, etc.) should be carefully considered in combination with more traditional ones (media mentions, advertising equivalents, etc.)

If you have been adopting content marketing strategies at your own company, the research results are probably not surprising but rather reinforce the notion that content marketing is here to stay. If your company has a traditional PR department or agency, now is a good time to start re-thinking your public relations strategy and how you approach it with content marketing.

To access the report click the image below.

Aberdeen Group Content Marketing Is the New PR


Best Companies Don’t Need Marketing

August 5, 2010

Interesting set of articles on Inc’s Magazine June Edition “Inside America’s Best Run Companies”, showing how the best small business companies run and the perks and benefits they have to attract and retain top talent. Take for example the following stats mentioned in the magazine:

  • 75% of companies offer educational assistance to its employees
  • 83% of companies practice open-book management
  • 28% of companies pay 100% of employees costs for health insurance
  • 95% of companies offer flexible work arrangements

On top of that, they highlight some of the nicest perks some companies offer, like:

  • On-site pickup and return of clothes that need laundering (McGraw Wentworth)
  • Subsidized meals delivered at employee’s desk (
  • Two weeks of full-paid leave to work for a nonprofit (Patagonia)
  • $5,000 spending money if you travel abroad plus one extra week vacation (LoadSpring)
  • Professional cleaners go to your home every two weeks, at no cost to employee (Akraya)

If you come from the typical 9 to 5 job where being there is what is expected and you look forward to vacations like a prisoner eager for his 1 hour outside in the patio, then the list above is nothing short of a paradise. The reality is, more and more companies are adopting practices like these (especially telecommuting and flex hours) because technology is such that not only allows you to do it, but makes you more productive.

But companies don’t offer these nice perks just because they are run by nice people. They offer them because the market for talent is fierce. Finding and retaining the best people has always been a challenge, no matter your industry. When you have a little bit extra to offer, being that the free lunch or whatever, you are a step above the competition. And the word gets around and your hiring costs are reduced because people are now finding you for a change.

The best marketing ends up being what the employees tell their friends about their companies. How they like (or don’t like) the perks, and when magazines like Inc pick that up and write a story.

Taming Your Brand Mascot

May 10, 2010

From Tony The Tiger, Trix Rabbit and Energizer Bunny to Ronald McDonald and even John McCain (?!) brand mascots are a common tool to promote your product or service. More recently even Twitter mascots have been showing up as a company’s public face.

The good ones are those that you don’t even think about until you decide to wear your marketer hat. That’s what makes them memorable.

A recent article I read on Harvard Business Review, “ Aflac’s CEO Explains How He Fell For The Duck” made me think about brand messaging and the use of mascots. The article is great because it gives you an insider’s view of how the famous Aflac duck came to being and the challenges Aflac’s CEO had to overcome to get it adopted.

The first Aflac duck debuted in 2000. The company reported $9.7 billion (US and Japan combined) that year, up $1 billion from the previous year. In 2008, revenues were up to $16.6 billion. Amos credits this increase mostly due to the branding initiatives related to the duck, an amazing feat for any brand mascot. Here are some highlights of the Aflac duck’s impact:

  • First year after the duck’s introduction, sales were up by 29%.
  • Name recognition increased 67% after two years of running the commercials. Today the name recognition is 90%.
  • The duck has 165,000 facebook fans in the US.
  • In two months 100,000 people posted spoofs of the Japanese duck’s song online.

How do you create a successful brand mascot? I particularly like the tips a FastCompany article, “Brands with character”, gives:

  1. Give the brand human traits
  2. Create a life, backstory to your character/mascot
  3. Plan for the long run
  4. Don’t overcomplicate

What mascots do you consider memorable and why?

The Fun Theory: How to Change Behavior

November 30, 2009

How do you change people’s behavior? Corporate America usually relies on some form of compensation system which basically uses a reward/punishment method that tries to coerce people into doing what the company wants. You have to fill out forms, get approvals, and meet goals otherwise there’s no pay raise or bonus. In other cases you try to get website visitors to navigate a certain path by placing links in strategically important places or enticing them with an offer. Books and theories exist on how to get people to perform their best or to change the way they behave (“Bringing Out The Best In People” comes to mind) but rarely we see those in action.

Volkswagen launched what became quickly a viral campaign with emails being forwarded, youtube videos with over 1 million hits and comments from all corners of the web. They call it The Fun Theory ( and the goal is simple: using fun to change people’s behavior for the better. The videos on their website (embedded below) are some great examples of what they mean.

How are you changing your customers and your prospects behavior? Can you make something fun that will entertain and educate them? And how about your staff or your company’s employees? Some food for thought.


The Six Minutes Challenge

November 16, 2009

Presentations can be boring. Yes, I believe you are nodding as you read this. You have sat through your fair share of hour-long PowerPoint displays that were accompanied with a not so good speaker. What if you could change all that and have the message, whatever is was, delivered to you in six minutes and forty seconds?

Welcome to the world of Pecha Kucha.

I recently attended the Business of Software conference where I participated in a Pecha Kucha competition. The rules are you have to present 20 slides with 20 seconds for each (total of 6:40). Sounds easy and I thought so too when I signed up for it, but is far from a walk in the park.

To present well in this kind of format you have to rehearse very well. More than your typical “and in this slide I will talk about X”, because since the slides are automatically timed, your delivery has to be on time all the time. What if we could change the way our companies treat presentations and just give everyone six minutes to tell their stories? We would certainly have shorter meetings and maybe better content.

So next time you prepare a presentation, think about how you’d do it if you had only 6 minutes. What is essential? What is just fluff? How can you present in a way that will engage the audience? Less is sometimes better.

Are you ready to present? 3…2…1… Go!

Suit over Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Big Marketing Ploy

November 6, 2009

In an earlier post I wrote about ZL Technologies lawsuit over Gartner Group’s Magic Quadrant, over what it considered “multitude of illegalities”.

And not surprisingly, the judge dismissed it.

Gartner’s comment about the decision focused on them being an independent research organization and denies they use “pay for play” in the publication of their reports.

So this should be the end, right? ZL lost and will go back to its corner. Well… not so fast! The way I see it, ZL had a minor victory here. Let me explain. Had the judge sided with them, the win would surely have been better but I have to think that they knew they didn’t stand a chance. So why go through the trouble? Because ZL can use Gartner’s arguments against itself and now have it documented by a judge to prove it. As they had stated on their website they were hoping to use the proceedings to get :

  • Fair Disclosure on Conflicts of Interest
  • Fair Disclosure on Evaluation Scores
  • Better Oversight

They won’t get better oversight (and that was a real stretch) but they did get from the arguments (which are now documented) that the Magic Quadrant is nothing but Gartner’s opinion about the market and not “hard facts” as some might believe. In recent emails they have started using this as proof that “(…) the market should take note that the defense on which Gartner prevailed was its argument that its reports contain ‘pure opinions,’ namely, opinions which are not based on objective facts”.

So how’s that for a comeback? I see as a great opportunity to market themselves and when talking to CIOs and decision makers that bring up Gartner’s MQ, they can simply point them to the result of the lawsuit and say “listen, as much as you like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, it is pure fabrication based only on their opinion. No hard facts. They said it themselves! So forget about it and let me show you the demo….”.

But how will ZL be viewed in the market? Can their tactic backfire? It seems that some people have already tweeted to this effect. Now is time for them to be very, very careful with the community they target.

Keep tuned because ZL can still come back to fight the court’s decision.

Magic Quadrant or Magic Numbers? A Judge Will Decide.

October 21, 2009

Gartner Group is known in the technology industry as a heavyweight analyst group that influences a lot of purchasing decisions. Big companies all turn to Gartner’s reports to help them on emerging trends and technologies. Software vendors like to boast when they are placed in a specific position on Gartner’s famous Magic Quadrant report. The Magic Quadrant (MQ) report has been around for years and is used to showcase key players in a certain industry, comparing them and ranking them against a set of criteria.

Gartner's Magic Quadrant is now on trial

Gartner's Magic Quadrant is now on trial

The problem? Gartner’s MQs have long been seen with suspicion by industry veterans and no matter what industry is showcased, it has always raised questions about why certain vendors were not included and why their view of the market is so different (like here about the DataWarehouse MQ,  here about the WCM MQ, and here when it tackled Cloud Computing just to name a few). Gartner analysts try as they might to correct what they see as misunderstandings again and again are facing an uphill battle.

That’s why I was not surprised when I read on Dave Kellogg’s blog that ZL Technologies is suing Gartner over the MQ. Is an interesting lawsuit because it brings up the question of whether these vendor reports can really help or hinder a company’s ability to grow. And it will help stir some debate about the usefulness of such reports to consumers in general and how relevant the reports are. From what some vendors say, depending on your space the analyst report won’t help you at all. Stay tuned!

Why Social Media Is Not For Everyone

July 21, 2009

While many are in love with the whole concept of Social Media as being the next big thing in marketing, the holy grail that will lift sales and enhance your brand, I have seen some detractors that insist in calling out the faults and dangers or adopting Social Media as part of your marketing strategy.

Taking the plunge into social media may not be the right thing for you

Taking the plunge into social media may not be the right thing for you

Social media is just another media

Experts, personalities and false prophets are all clamoring that social media is king. We’re told that if you have a good plan , if you follow a proven framework for rolling out your social media activities and integrate them with your sales efforts , then the ROI will be clear . That is, if you can translate all those additional site visits, downloads, and re-tweets into sales. Otherwise it’s just buzz.

Some blasphemous professionals on the other hand, caution us to be careful in our efforts, telling us we should really focus on those customers that love our product and not use social media targeting everyone. They caution us saying it could be dangerous to our business if incorrectly used and it’s only helpful to build relationships and goodwill .  Sales? Maybe not so much.

I don’t know about you, but so far it seems like Social Media is nothing more than just another media, another tool in the marketer’s arsenal. It’s like saying everyone should do email marketing, everyone should do podcasts, print ads and TV spots.

Choosing the right social media strategy

While some may say that since your employees are already using social media (facebook pages, tweeter accounts, linkedin posts, etc.) you should also jump on the bandwagon , I say there are several reasons for companies to be reluctant to embrace it wholeheartedly. The same questions you would ask before using any marketing tool available you should also ask of the Social Media tools. What is it for? Who is our target? What is our goal? What are our objectives? What resources will it require? Will we do it ourselves or will we outsource to someone with more experience?  Do we need to create rules or procedures for using it? How will we measure success?

At the company I work for we recently had an informal discussion about Facebook and Twitter, with people raising questions such as “why don’t we have a Tweeter page” or “let’s create a Facebook account and start inviting customers”. That is all nice and good, I said, but let’s first decide on why we are going to do it. Get people to buy our products! Tell them about a new release! And similar comments ensued. Yeah, but HOW do you do that? Just making sure you are Tweeting five times per day is not guarantee for success especially if you have nothing more to say that hasn’t been said already. As with any new tool or concept, it always seems easier said than done. Probably because it’s “free” (yes, you don’t have to pay for it but you do need to invest time), it is immediately implied that if you are not using it you are behind the times  and putting your company at risk.

Let’s put aside the fact that the press and the Internet in general are full of stories about how social media is transforming businesses and think in terms of marketing strategy. Why would you use a tool without first deciding how it will impact your brand, how it will impact your resources and how it will help you achieve your goals? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use it but I am simply cautioning you to use it as part of your overall strategy. If you want to create a corporate blog that focuses only on your 10 most profitable customers and you have good reasons to do it, then don’t think for a minute that you are doing something wrong. If you need to Tweet about what you had for lunch because somehow this creates affinity with your prospects and will eventually translate into sales, then knock yourself out.  Nothing is purely good or bad

Social Media In Three Easy Steps

Step 1: Learn how to use it

Before judging whether something works and the best way to use it, first attend a course, read a book, talk to people that are using it. There are several free online courses and resources on the web you can use to learn more about it. Only then will you be able to really make a good decision.

Step 2: Learn how to NOT use it

Now that you know what the social media tools are all about and how they are supposed to be used, check out the myriad of examples of companies that are doing it correctly and getting returns and also check out how companies are screwing it up so badly it is becoming a public embarrassment (recent United Airlines fiasco , IBM’s IT failure debacle , and Habitat’s tweet spam come to mind). Learn from others mistakes and then you will be ready to commit your own.

Step 3: Teach and listen

With all that good info you now gathered at hands, bring this knowledge to your company and spread it around. Educate the CEO, the sales manager, your staff and everyone else that you think can help you shape your company’s strategy towards social media. Then listen to what they have to say, you may be surprised. And don’t forget to give them the option of doing nothing. Whatever works for your business is what you should do.

How did YOU approach social media at your company? Please share!

Don’t Forget Your Company History

July 16, 2009

The recent advent of the lost NASA tapes (they lost the original tapes from the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, then found out that they had all been erased) got me thinking. At my company we do our best to keep “old” stuff like pictures, awards, magazine ads, even show signage. Sure, call us pack rats but we like going back in time and talking about the old days and how things changed. Not only that, we feel a certain pride when we look back in time and realize how much we have accomplished.

A project that has been on my list for some time now, is to get all of those pictures and select a few that we can use on our website as part of our company history page. Adobe and General Electric are just two examples that come to mind that make good use of their history to talk about their origins and how it relates to what they do today.

How can a company’s history be used effectively? Here’s a few additional options:

  • Sales can talk about the company’s past to reinforce the message that the prospect is dealing with an established, solid player
  • Human Resources can show new employees and interviewees what the company culture feels like by sharing photos of past events
  • Volunteer organizations, once they see information, pictures and nominations from past activities can get in touch and partner with the company for a future joint community event or non-profit activity
  • Putting up a timeline with pictures at the company’s lobby can not only entertain visitors but give them a quick lesson on the company’s origins
  • Managers can refer back to historic events and milestones to reinforce the message of the company’s mission and goals during staff meetings
  • Marketing can use the company’s history not only on the website (photos and videos) but also on collateral, either as part of a campaign or simply to reinforce a point about the industry, the company’s reputation, or to give the company a more human face

So how are you using your company’s history in your marketing efforts?

How to Use Social Media – Lessons from AMA Digital Conference

March 7, 2009

This past Friday (March 6) the AMA Tampa Bay chapter hosted an incredible full day event called the Digital Marketing Conference. The room was packet (the number I heard was 80 attendees) and a lot of information was flowing to and from the audience back to the presenters. Talking of which, all deserve credit here:

  • Deana Goldasich, from Magnetic, gave a thought-provoking presentation on web usability that took us for a ride on the evolution of websites since the early 90’s until today. I got a couple pages worth of notes from her presentation.
  • Ron Adelman, from WSI Marketing, discussed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in a down-to-earth manner that was refreshing at the same time very entertaining. The guy really knows his stuff.
  • Lisa Cardarelli, from Bayshore Solutions, had a more standard powerpoint and although some of the slides were tough to read (10 point font and 15 bullet points per slide), they were packed with good stuff based on a recent client they worked with and how they improved their pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Some good discussion about the integration between online and print advertising got everyone talking.
  • Brenda Young, from Marbay Group, shared her expertise on the solical media space by talking about what can be considered one of the top rules for any marketer around: Listen First! 
  • Albert Chen, from Google, flew directly from Boston to our cozzy Florida weather to grace us with his presence and gave a thoroughly entertaining presentation discussing what Google Can Do for You. I was prepared for a sales pitch but Albert delivered one of the best presentations of the day while at the same time informing us of all the great tools available for Marketers from Google.
  • Peter Contardo and Shaun Pope, from Endavo Media, gave us a great primer on monetizing online video, clarifying that although easy to create (anyone with a webcam can upload to Youtube), need some thinking before you can actually make money with video.
  • Peter Radizeski, from Rad-Info also known as the Marketing Idea Guy, and Shawna Vercher from the Society of Successful Women and the Huffington Post, delivered the most engaging presentation of the day. Forgoing powerpoint, they showed why they make the big bucks by doing a presentation in an interview style that provided a good respite from powerpiont and was also very educational and full of great tips and tricks on Integrating Blogging Into Your Marketing Strategy.
  • Chuck Palm, from Internet Podcasting Network, closed the day with “Social Media Mania – what should my business do about it?”. He reinforced some key messages we heard throughout the day and added some great stories about Twitter, blogs, and podcasting. The Zappos story about blue suede shoes stuck in my mind as a great example of social media, six degrees of separation, and pure luck 😉

The best of these events for me is actually the networking portion. Is great to be able to discuss your own challenges with other marketers and realize that you’re not alone out there… I met some great people and learned some stuff I can start using right now in my own company.

Just as a sidenote, I thought ironic the fact that for a “digital marketing conference” that focused on social media (blogs, wikis, twitter, facebook, etc.) the AMA Tampa Bay chapter didn’t have a blog, a wiki, or a discussion forum on their website where attendees could continue the conversation. Hopefully the board members also learned how to use social media and we’ll see it being adopted by the chapter.

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