You Are a Publisher (Whether you like it or not)

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If you are a major corporation, a small business, a restaurant, a nonprofit, a consultant, a brewery or even a band – guess what? You are now a publisher. Well, that is, you are a publisher if you want to be successful. With the rise of content marketing through digital media, publishing content to get your product or brand in front of consumer’s faces is now part of what you do. (And if it’s not, it should be.)

All of us in digital marketing have been doing this for quite some time – whether we were updating a website with a new feature story, sending out email newsletters, tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook. And finally, the head honchos are starting to realize the value of content marketing. For instance, Yahoo hired Katie Couric and Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post.

Content marketing through the web, social media and email is a welcome step in the evolution of marketing because it offers a brand the perfect opportunity to continually shape and more deeply define their image. It gives them the chance to implicitly and explicitly tell the story of who they are and why they do what they do instead of just telling the what about their business or nonprofit.

The widget or service you are selling is not what connects with people – your unique story about why you do what you do is what connects with people. And the web and social media give you the perfect mediums to share that story in bite-sized, accessible pieces to your customers and potential customers.

There are two really important things to keep in mind about content marketing, though:

1) What you write about, post or tweet shouldn’t always be about you. Folks on the interwebz want content that benefits them, so give that to them – for free. You don’t even have to brand it or sneak your sales pitch in it. Just become a source where people go to for a certain kind of content.

2) It doesn’t all have to be original content. Small businesses aren’t usually able to staff a full-time digital content manager. But, you don’t need to! The key is to take a day and find as many web sources as you can who publish content in or related to what you do or sell. Or who publish content that might appeal to your customer demographic. Bookmark those blogs or websites, follow those Twitter accounts, add those Facebook pages to a custom interest list. Then, when you sit down to post to your social media – you have tons of resources you can pull from to share info from. Just make sure to add your own comment to it as you share it to show your brand’s personality. You want to be a curator, an aggregator of the best and most relevant content for your audience.

Some great examples of not-your-traditional-publishers doing great content marketing:
Peter Shankman (PR/media consultant)
Tough Mudder
Denver International Airport
Noosa Yoghurt (small biz)
Bighorn Firearms (small biz)

Is all this going to take time and effort? Definitely. But content marketing is an essential piece to your success in today’s fast-paced digital marketplace.

Networking (part 2): Sharing Your Passion

A while back, I wrote a post about networking and the importance of connecting on a real human level, not just a “so where do you work” level. After continuing to go to more networking events, I’ve realized something else that is key to successfully connecting with people: sharing your passion. To be more specific, if there’s something you want, share that with everyone you meet.

A good example of this: When I was in college, I played in a band that got some attention in the Dallas/Ft. Worth music scene (yes, I’m originally from Texas…shh!). Lance, a good friend of ours who was largely responsible for getting that band together, decided from the outset to be our booking agent and band manager. When he was a teenager, he started a production company called Spune Productions with the goal of bringing concerts to small West Texas towns where the kids wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see live music.

I noticed that every single person we met who was in the music scene – and even a lot of people who weren’t – he’d tell them about Spune and about his passion to bring great music and well-known bands to the small town where our college was. But he wasn’t just sharing his goal…he was sharing his heart, his aspirations. At the time, I saw that is a bit self-centered. But looking back, I see that he was bringing other people into his vision in a way that got them excited, in a way that made them want to join in the mission and help in whatever way they could.

Because of his networking savvy, within a year my band that he was managing had played shows with a number of really well-known indie bands at the time and even played with the Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot. Lance moved to Dallas after graduation and several years later was named Promoter of the Year there. Since then he’s also been named “Best Booking Agent” and “Best Record Label” by local press. To say the least, he’s having continued success with his business and is doing what he always wanted to do.

He knew what he wanted to achieve, and he told almost everyone he met about it. And it worked. I want to adopt this approach in telling people about my passion to help businesses and organizations communicate effectively and authentically through social media and grow thriving online communities that lead not only to more business but also improve the lives of their customers. I want to tell them how their company (whether for-profit or nonprofit) can have a mission that can make the world a better place. And it all starts with a handshake and “Hi, my name is Matthew.”

Play it safe or innovate?

The problem with the creative process that I’m seeing really has nothing to do with the creative process itself. At the nonprofit where I work, I’ve been a part of teams that come up with really great stuff – from clever contests to innovative campaigns that would definitely generate buzz. We all leave those meetings sorta buzzed ourselves about the ideas and their potential.

But then comes the approval process. Up the chain of command, sideways to another department and various other people throwing in their opinions even though they shouldn’t be involved in the process at all. By the time everything comes back to the people who had the ideas in the first place, the work is barely recognizable. It gets watered down. It gets turned into something safe and bland (i.e. bureaucra-tized). Or it gets shut down altogether. Well, that doesn’t happen all the time. I’d say a good 2% of the time, a phenomenal idea gets through and shines in its true, original glory.

And I think the issue boils down to one thing: some people want to play it safe and only do what they’ve done before while some of us want to innovate and push the envelope. And there’s the perennial dilemma: the play-it-safers want the creative people to come up with something new, edgy, innovative – but not really. Because new, edgy and innovative are rarely safe.

These conflicting perspectives are interesting to me because, though I’m definitely a creative type, I think I’m also a bit more analytical and formal in some ways than some other creative folks I know. So even though I can see both sides, I still would always rather take a risk than play it safe.