Every startup founder gets asked, “Why did you start your business?”
My answer: I want to teach people what I have learned about brand journalism, content publishing, digital marketing — and how to prosper by leveraging them with a “Content Hub” designed to grow a customer audience.
“Media Manipulation and Journalist Integrity” with Moderator Jonathan Allen
From Startup Socials NYC’s “Future of Journalism Series”
Presented by Longneck & Thunderfoot and The Call List
I wrote and produced my first website in 1994. Since then, I’ve advised and produced over 100 websites and Content Hubs. The best and most fulfilling ones are part of integrated marketing campaigns based on thought leadership and an honest presentation of my customer’s story that connects them with their audience. As a result, I have generated hundreds of millions of revenue and capital for my clients.
3 Things: Quality, Authenticity and Alignment
Here’s what I know: Prospective customers want your ideas, an emotional connection, news, and expertise. They do not want a sales pitch. Your content must establish you, and your company’s brand, in their minds. First impressions are everything, and it is up to you then to create a positive bias in the customer’s mind that your company is an advisor, a trusted confidant. That is the why for content and Content Hubs are an effective tool to deliver the goods.
Here’s the secret: Quality trumps quantity when it comes to marketing content and digital media.
Here’s another secret: Production value is vital, but it’s not the most important thing; authenticity is.
Here’s the final secret: Quality, production value and authenticity will work only if the message is aligned with your customer audience’s goals, needs and expectations.
Craft Your Stories Based On Your Perspective
During the Q&A session of a webinar master class I recently presented, I was asked, “Do you ever use ‘StoryJacking’ where you relate a current or relevant headline to your brand?” It was a term I was vaguely familiar with and I related my answer to curating news on your content hub as part of your content stack. (The term is actually “Newsjacking” and was coined by David Meerman Scott. “StoryJacking,” by the way, “is a clever term that might suggest elevating one’s own life story or, potentially, “hijacking” one’s thinking to shift internal dialogue, according to a reviewer on the site of author Lyssa Danehy deHart, who wrote a book with the title. But I digress.)
The key point is that I have since received questions about whether newsjacking is ethical. The clear and definitive answer is: It depends. Does it align with your perspective? Do you have the online credibility to align with the story? Would Google rank you well for trust and authority on the topic? Will other leaders link to your story? Will people stay on your pages to read what you have to say, or watch your video because it connects with them? Does linking the news to your brand make sense to your audience? Do you offer quality insights? In other words, is your brand’s conversation on the topic authentic?
Authenticity builds credibility and trust that are at the core of publishing and journalism. I have been writing and speaking about brand publishing, and trust in the media, for several years in response to the rise of marketing automation. In 2017, my good friend, collaborator, and fellow brainstormer Jonathan Allen invited me to speak on a panel he moderated: “Media Manipulation and Journalist Integrity” as part of the “Future of Journalism Series.” On the panel, I made the case that today there is a “third way” in the debate between the extremes of advertising and journalism. Fast forward two years and people are writing about the need for and proposing brand journalism standards.
Why is this important? Brands today have a fiduciary responsibility to produce relevant, interesting and accurate information in their content publishing, because the new ROI model for media is the value of acquiring and keeping customer relationships.
If you are to succeed in your digital marketing, you must approach the effort with all the integrity and “factual truth” of a journalist. You must assemble the information for your customer audience, and use literary techniques to express your ideas. It’s OK to have a perspective on the facts. Customers want your perspective. Ever since Ben Franklin invented the modern media industry, publishers have always offered a perspective. All one needs to do is look at MSNBC and Fox News to see that journalism involves perspective. And, like these media outlets, not everybody will agree with you. But that’s OK. Publish anyway.
Why Publishers Act This Way
As Jonathan says, “When you act like a publisher, people treat you like a publisher.” Content that showcases your expertise, empathizes with the pain points you hear in sales calls, and provides insights, learning or entertainment that “add value” will attract and retain your online “customer audience.” This type of recognition as a thought leader will grant you credibility, build your customer audience, fill your pipeline with leads and enhance your pricing power in competitive markets.
As prospects get to know your company better, they will feel comfortable telling your sales team their story. Soon, they will ask for proposals or drop offering into the shopping cart. It takes hard work to build online credibility, and it’s easy to lose if you don’t give it some thought or have a methodology — or worse, do something that blows your credibility.
Publishing’s Impact on Your Business
“Content is king.” The bigger your Customer Audience, the higher the probability some of them will become leads and you will write proposals. The key to success is to build a Content Hub and integrate your sales and marketing into a single funnel using technology. Marketing automation and a CRM (whether spreadsheets, Infusionsoft, Hubspot, Marketo, Act-On, or Eloqua) will help you scale these conversations and manage deals with prospects in an orderly manner.
What are your Goals, Opportunities, and Constraints?