January 18, 2010
Constant Builds Brands, Passion Builds the Long Tail
Someone unsubscribed to my feed recently and the reason was as I expected it would be: the content was no longer relevant. My assumption of course was that they subscribed many years ago when I wrote about RSS and aggregation more than anything else.
That hasn’t been my focus for years of course. That said, I really haven't had a specific focus for awhile now so it's no surprise someone who wanted a regular flow of content on a specific topic, would not only find my content irrelevant, but inconsistent – it is.
It's because one day I might write about theatre, dark chocolate and intense walks through the streets of Rome, the next about an initiative in southern Africa and the next about some cool new app for Facebook or the iPhone.
Not being focused typically won't result in a lot of traffic. It won't garner the kind of repeat readers Mashable and TechCrunch get consistently because their readers know what content they’re going to get every day. It’s predictable and constant……..on purpose.
Constant builds brands. Constant means consistency to readers, consistency builds trust and trust ignites brands. How many times have you heard a Yank say that they sought out a McDonalds or Starbucks overseas because it was consistent, they knew what they were going to get? Bottom line, it’s familiar and they didn't have to think about the result.
Recently in Paris, I ran into an American who was there for 28 hours and learned that he spent 8 of those hours in a Starbucks. While not a surprise, it crushed me to hear this because constant deflates my spirit, not ignites it. My spirit isn't a brand nor is it constant.
Without garnered trust, you may not be taken seriously, at least not by the group of people who crave constants.....and the latter as we know, are the mainstream who build numbers, create a massive following and over time, build your online brand.
The alternative to being taken seriously is just to be taken. Ahhhh yes, passion. Let’s look at the long tail for a moment. It’s filled with thousands of obscure niche interests of people from around the world in categories you never knew existed. Green knit suits from Thailand, tasty blue love potions, Dragon dolls, and talking dustbusters, bring ‘em on.
Let’s think about the word “taken.” Such a visual, vibrant word isn’t it? You could be taken by a fragrance, a taste, the sound of a deep cello mixed with a harp, a flower garden, the texture on a Picasso painting or a man’s voice. Very few of these luscious incredible feelings, emotions, and senses are constant. Thankfully no………for the result makes life interesting.
I'd rather be taken to everywhere and everything but the constant. The ever-changing landscape of rolling hills for two miles only to be hit by large boulders and sharp cliffs around the next corner. The ever-changing hot and cold personalities of a redhead as she samples vegan pizza one moment and ostrich and foie gras the next.
The ever-changing dialogue between an elderly man and his granddaughter which increases as the weeks and months pass by. The ever-changing energy of a scooter on a busy Berlin street and the local baker's four-table cafe in a small Malaysian town.
Mix up the colors. Mix up the notes. Mix up the ingredients. Mix up the tempo. Mix up the tones. The hours. The sunshine and the rain. The puddles and the snowflakes. The glass and the wood. The flute and the drums. The A's with the M's. The Mac and the PC. The musicians and the lawyers. The artists and the engineers. The scientists and the bohemians. A German Shepherd and a Costa Rican butterfly.
Send me. Take me. Show me. Teach Me. Energize me. Push my boundaries. Ignite my fire. And with it, make sure that in any given day, that I'm never motivated and inspired by any one thing, whether it be technology or art alone.
Isn’t it great that one day we can choose a consistent and constant brand and the next a long tail passion that sets us on fire? Isn’t it great that we now have more choices and places to find that uniqueness on the web even if you have to do a little digging to get there?
Given that we have those choices, make them. Opt out of the large constant brand that you trust from time to time and you may find that you want to change your 80/20 rule and have the 20 be your constant, not the 80. America would be a very different place if we all chose the 20%; if we demanded that the 20% show up more; if we treasured it, praised it, voted for it and not the constant…….if we all increased our standards and did a little more creation and a little less observing.
It's an opportunity for the biggest mashup of all times and we haven’t even touched the tip of what’s possible yet. The online world is but a babe...still in its infancy. The digital gold rush is most definitely not over.
Enter more passion, diversity, and uncertainty. Enter waves, thunder, ponds, gardens, birds and buffalos all at the same time. Yes, all at the same time.
December 29, 2009
Consultants Can't Be Media Influencers Can They?
If you generate high quality content or a substantial amount of it, but consult, then you're clearly not a media influencer. If you have an audience and a voice that people listen to, but consult, then you're clearly not a media influencer.
That's how some view the world. After re-reading David Spark's recent post about an incident that prohibits him from generating content, I thought about how many times this has been an issue over the past several years -- for me and for others who wear both hats.
This isn't just about this one CES event; it's about old and new editorial voices and more importantly, it's about how to deal with influencers and manage content creators in a converging world. The landscape has changed so much that conference and event organizers need to throw a policy, any policy that has a black and white rulebook about whether you're an influencer who matters or not, out the window.
He was apparently sent an 11 year old 'rule book.' Rule books are designed for followers and structured entities, not visionaries. Egads, even if it's an 11 month old policy, it likely needs re-visiting. If anyone hasn't noticed, things have changed DRAMATICALLY in 11 years AND in 11 months.
11 years ago, media influencers included smaller vertical market niche publications that had a readership a quarter the size of my blog but oh yeah, I'm a consultant.
11 months ago, the third wave of full time journalists were laid off, more newspapers closed their doors and glossy magazines with once large entertainment budgets and hefty publisher salaries no longer have revenue or a brand. Crikey, Steve Wildstrom was even let go - and it's not because he isn't an amazing writer or thought leader. Know how many other award-winning editorial superstars are out of work?
Of the laundry list of do's and don'ts, I particularly resonated with this one: "don’t negate journalists that wear other hats - your sponsors are looking for quality people that represent media outlets they want to appear in. That should be your deciding factor. Not whether that person makes all their money from journalism and nothing else."
I'd extend this statement even further. Isn't it more interesting if journalists and bloggers ARE doing something else? It means they have another platform in which to tell a story. Who knows, maybe within those walls, a new deal may happen? A new voice unveiled?
Industry analysts have always been 'treated' as press in the context of which he writes, some of which were NOT part of a renown brand that wore Gartner Group or IDC on its door. They consult. They have clients and want to recruit new ones. And, while we're at it, don't publishers and editor-in-chiefs who attend a media event also want to nurture existing advertisers and recruit new ones? I would if I were in their shoes.
A separate agenda? Sure. I hope so - visionaries and leaders -- editorial or advisor, often have multiple agendas. They're thinking about and working on a number of different issues, topics and gigs. If you're a specific beat reporter with a list of who and what you can cover or not, your range is a lot more limited than an independent, freelancer, blogger or columnist who can write whatever they want, whenever they want.
And, a few more things from a consultant who generates a helluva lot of content... I have sometimes spent 90% of my time reporting and covering an event I've attended and paid for and told by some that it was the more interesting content they read of the event. Some of the traditional full time journalists at the same event didn't write a thing.
I'm not suggesting they should or are required to write. My point is that there are lots of important voices out there who are not full time journalists with traditional credentials. Whether they consult or not is irrelevant as long as there's full disclosure.
I've seen hybrid folks on media lists and not others. Who decides who is 'worthy' and has a more valuable audience than another?
Isn't it time we looked at the consultant/content creator/journalist relationship in a different way?
Isn't it time we rewrote the rules?
And she said....."understanding is a two-way street." --Eleanor Roosevelt
August 30, 2009
Advertising, Marketing and PR Suck: Now What?
This past week, I was on a panel I didn't wildly promote, and when you hear the name of it, you'll understand why. I thought: better not to provoke the sharks although in hindsight, the sharks could have added some teeth to the discussion and so feel free to start a dialogue that will start a feeding frenzy.
One of Guy's questions was: what would you do if you only had $10K for a launch? Steve held the viewpoint that advertising is still effective and let's not nuke it just yet and replace with grassroots efforts using social media tools alone to drive word-of-mouth (he was aghast at a $10K budget to launch a product - "What can you really do for that?"). Interestingly enough, the majority of the room supported his view.
You can't really answer that question effectively without additional data, such as what product or service is it? There are very different solutions to how you launch a $300,000 enterprise solution into the market vis a vis an online tool like Seesmic that is enjoying success through viral buzz and community efforts alone.
Let's be clear about one thing: word-of-mouth and viral has always been effective. It's not new. The difference today is that instead of 20 or 200 influential outlets and voices who can make or break your product, we have 6,000. And, how much time do you spend at the very end of that long tail?
Despite how active he is online, Louis put on a 'real world hat' and reminded us that there is a world beyond Twitter and social networks when you think about your reach.
Creating buzz online through so called authenticity everywhere your customers are, commenting, responding, engaging with an existing community or creating one is great and critical - I couldn't agree more, but let's be honest here: it's incredibly time consuming and doesn't scale.
Not only doesn't it scale, but not everyone in your organization is going to present themselves with perfect etiquette all the time, particularly as you scale. In other words, I'd argue that as the number of people who can influence our product or service grows, the need for smart, strategic PR grows too.
Loic argues that traditional PR and marketing does not work to build a community. No, it doesn't when done poorly nor does it help to build a community when you don't do what PR should do well - be an honest communicator with all of your audiences, not just press.
In the training I had in London in the late eighties and early nineties, PR was never about just press - ever. Nor was it ever one directional. The problem is that there are far too many cases where that has either been the case OR perceived to be the case.
So, over time, flacks got a bad rap. As everything becomes more and more transparent, they're the first to get buried next to those equally dishonest marketers, lawyers and advertisers.
What PR can do effectively moving forward is jump into that thought leadership role, jump into that strategic role and jump into that master communicator role. In other words, now we need 'community managers" engaging with customers and everyone else hanging out in the Long Tail more than we ever had in the past.
If you really "get" PR's role and what it can do powerfully well, then you'll see where messaging, etiquette and creating a vision for the company will play a vital role in the new media economy. Not everyone in the organization necessarily has the skillset, know how or frankly, personality to execute on that vision effectively and cohesively.
Messaging will always be important. Great messaging wrapped around authenticity, directness and proactive engagement is key and PR is smack in the center of all of that.
Combine the above with the Tribes mentality that Seth Godin writes about in his latest book and you've got a magical formula.
If you're not honest and admit that we're all in this together, testing out new approaches as things evolve where every 'hat' can play a valuable role in building community and creating a loyal customer fan base, including PR, then you're not thinking long-term.
The video is up as well. Due to the typical time constraints, it's in 8 parts:
Part I below: