Tag Archives: Content Marketing

How’s my writing?

It’s appropriate that my first post in 2 years is inspired by a professional writing course led by Jeanmarie Alessi.  Writing is a discipline you need to work at constantly.  As Jeanmarie says, “It’s just like going to the gym: It’s not always easy to get started, but it sure feels great when you’re done”.

Good writing also requires a good process.  Our marketing team have been focusing a lot on value propositions and messaging maps over the past few months – I can’t even start writing without these tools now.  But it’s still daunting to stare at that blank page and know that a deadline is looming to ‘get something out’.  And more daunting still, you only have a few fleeting seconds of your customers attention to get your message across.  For that reason alone, clarity is key!

I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.  Mark Twain

I’m glad to know we’re not alone in our writing challenges, and relieved to have a clear framework for editing.

I’m also inspired to start blogging again as I head back to the classroom at General Assembly.  2018 will be a year of continued learning, and I look forward to writing more about my journey here.


When Newsjacking Becomes Newsworthy

AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Don’t newsjack a negative story” says marketing expert David Meerman Scott. Disaster is not something that should be capitalized upon, and you can imagine the negative backlash if a corporation were to do something in such bad taste.

Newsjacking is normally associated with brands trying to insert their message into a trending topic.  The most famous examples have been highlighted during major cultural events such as the Oscars and the Superbowl.  When things get serious though, it’s very hard to read the room and know if it’s inappropriate to voice an opinion, or worse, a thinly-veiled pitch.

In a very subtle example of newsjacking recently though, I saw one small NGO find an opportunity to gain some exposure for their cause, within the depths of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.  And it worked because their tone was appropriate for the intensity of the tragedy, and the serious work that their organization is doing.

Meerman Scott explains that newsjacking is ‘injecting your ideas or commentary into a breaking news story and generating stacks of media coverage’.  When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on March 8, the news coverage went into overdrive as the world clung to hope that the plane would be soon found.  Days turned into weeks however, and the search turned from the skies to the sea.  But the search for answers turned up nothing.  Nothing, but garbage.

In late March, the media caught onto the issue that the sheer volume of rubbish in our oceans was making it impossible to know what could have been debris from the missing plane.  I’m sure we’ve all been told about the amount of waste polluting the sea, but this was the first time many of us had realized the extent.

The 5 Gyres Institute quickly became THE authority on the matter and shared their insights and expertise with media organizations all over the world.

“That’s a massive tragedy that’s brought to life this other tragedy that’s happening”, co-founder Marcus Eriksen said to Santa Monica Daily Press.  “It’s bittersweet that it took a couple hundred lives lost to bring attention to a global catastrophe,”.

Marcus Eriksen on CNN

This was a very traditional PR approach though, and they credited their communications director for their appearances on CNN for 4 days in a row.  Within a week, most major media outlets had picked up on this angle to the story, and Eriksen was quoted in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Mashable, Nine News Australia, CBC, and National Geographic to name just a few.

This was also an exceptionally long news-cycle (longer than anyone would have wanted or expected), and most instances of newsjacking take place much sooner in real-time.  Not many go straight to TV either, rather they start in the digital space with content such as a tweet or a blog post.

5 Gyres did have a short video clip that was shared in many articles, driving traffic back to their own sites.  On social media, @5Gyres certainly shared the media attention, but did not elaborate too much (though they did call out CNN for using plastic water bottles – tut tut!!).

What surprised me was that when the media was in need of subject experts, they didn’t go to more well-known environmental organizations such as Greenpeace.  Meerman Scott says that it’s fear that holds most people back from newsjacking, and I suspect that this might have explained their low-profile on the issue.  I really feel that they could have done more though.  5 Gyres showed that their insights were presented at just the right time, when journalists and audiences were still desperate for news.

Interestingly, Ocean Conservancy were much more active on twitter around the same time, blogged about the issue, and had a very sharable infographic.

Ocean Conservancy Ocean Trash Index

I’m sure the message resonated with their existing community, but it didn’t seem to get picked up by such a wide audience.  It makes me think that a combination of digital strategy and an old-school PR push might be needed to really make an impact.

Above all, newsjacking is about sharing content and building trust through thought leadership, not pushing products or sales.  I do hope that when it comes round to fundraising or advocacy for both 5 Gyres and Ocean Conservancy, that they have more support than ever from a more informed public.

5 Gyres / National Geographic

How to tell if you’re in a dysfunctional (online) (B2C) relationship?

Reading the recent NYT article on Gary Vaynerchuk is both invigorating and exhausting.  The author, David Segal, really captures what it must be like to work around the hyper-engaged, always-on, self-proclaimed hustler, who uses social media to propel brands into the hearts and minds of customers.  But after all, isn’t this the energy that brands have to convey online to stand out in front of audiences?

Vaynerchuk advocates that a constant stream of microcontent is what is needed to reach niche audiences on social media, and that if done cleverly and persistently, brands will be rewarded with sales.

On the other hand, Spenner and Freeman argue in their HBR article: ‘To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple’.  Their research finds that we are all are overwhelmed with the excess of online content. Therefore, smart brands should focus on making sure the right information is available for the customer to find at their particular stage of the buying process.

Sure, social is a huge part of where customers might look for, and engage with content.  However, in this chart from the article, you can see the disconnect between the differing views of how marketeers should use online and mobile to connect:

What Customers Really Want

So have we all been wasting our time trying to forge B2C relationships online? Has anyone cracked the code yet on how to convert ‘likes’ to sales, in a truly sustainable way?  Both articles agree that too much of the same thing eventually makes it redundant over time.  Put brilliantly in a quote from Segal: ‘marketeers take methods that work and then beat consumers with them until numbness sets in, at which point the methods stop working.’

There is such a fine balance for marketing and social media managers to get right, while also staying top-of-mind.  How much is too much?  You’ll probably only know once you’ve crossed that line but lost some of your audience in the process.

That said, from traditional to new media, the rule from Marketing 101 has always been to know your customer.  Only then, can you understand their persona, buying journey and ‘relationship needs’ with your brand or product.

For example, I don’t particularly want to hear from my bank or insurance company, unless I decide I need their services.  It’s nice to know they’re there for me, but I have boundaries that need to be respected.  In their case, simplicity is key for our ongoing relationship, and I trust them not to test this by encroaching on my social media happy place!

For Oreo and Coca-Cola however, their brands are built upon emotions and being part of the social conversation.  So as long as this is working for them and their fans, I say, keep up the good work!

Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine?

This week Al Jazeera America posted a very interesting opinion piece by Sindre Olav Edland-Gryt, defending the use of satire in content marketing for their aid organization, SAIH. It is not surprising that their videos have generated a lot of traffic, and a lot of media coverage.  Nor is it surprising that some have taken offense to the tone of the content.

Take a few minutes to check out their short mockumenary, Let’s Save Africa – Gone Wrong, the Africa for Norway Radiator Appeal and Charity Single.  It’s easy to laugh.  SAIH’s mission is to liberate through education and expand political consciousness, and their ultimate message is clear:

Stereotypes harm dignity

SAIH are adding to a growing amount of satirical content on the topic of aid, particularly Western organizations in Africa. Opinions are divided on the appropriateness of satire in this arena.  It raises the question: are we dumbing down the issues for a fickle online audience, or is this a reaction to the years of cliched campaigns that have come before?

The issue resonated with me, as I faced my own quandary earlier this year when I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program.  The prospect of a 7-day adventure in Guatemala, helping to build houses, was for me the trip of a lifetime.  But I really wanted to downplay any delusions of grandeur. Most of all, I was skeptical of how much help we could really be.

But after a week spent doing some very hard work, alongside the benefiting families, skilled local masons, incredible Habitat for Humanity teams and my fellow volunteers from all walks of life, my perspective changed. I was proud that our work was as much about hauling bricks and shifting sand, as it was in sharing our story within our own communities, thereby doing authentic PR for the charity and hopefully encouraging more to donate and participate on a local and international level.

Habitat volunteers in action

Several weeks later as I was looking through all our photos on Facebook, I cracked up when I saw this Onion article titled 6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture.  It was funny because it was true, and while I had come full circle with my own experience, I was still very aware of how it looked on the surface.

Edland-Gryt says in his article that ‘laughter has the power to punctuate the savior mentality and crate new approaches to conversation about development”.  Certainly, if similar content is being put out there, perhaps it is opportune that charities fit themselves into this conversation.  And if humor is cutting through our growing apathy, can capture readers attention and encourage sharing by connecting to our emotions, it must be a good thing right?

However, I do feel that organizations in the know have an obligation to set the record straight. To do this they need to make sure that their message and call to action is one that benefits the causes, rather than shooting themselves in the foot.

Within the comments to the opinion piece, Chris Dunford, former president of Freedom from Hunger, warns that the proliferation of this content risks both the good and the not-so-good aid organizations being tarnished with the same brush.  The greatest risk for charities is that ridicule will cause donors to reconsider their vital funding.

What is clear, is that satire is very tricky to get right, and opens itself up to misinterpretation.  As a marketeer, I am more concerned that the content is reaching the right audience and justifying ROI with results.  If budgets are being put to creating content marketing, is this at the expense of other fundraising programs?  NGO’s have very limited resources, and face higher scrutiny on spending than most corporations.  They therefore have to be extremely clever in how they best use the power of the internet for the good of their causes.