Marketing Works Today

Integrated Digital Marketing & PR Consulting from Brown Ltd.

The First Blogs and Bloggers?

Blogs are considered to be a relatively new phenomenon in the last 20 years.  But are they?

In the 1500’s through the 1800’s, Ben Franklin, Samuel Sewell, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, and many others published what were called pamphlets – short small booklets with their news, ideas, and opinions (their content) about contemporary affairs.

Sounds like a blog doesn’t it?

There were thousands of these printed. In one reference they have more than 15,000 titles: Pamphlets in American History

How did a reader comment on another person’s pamphlet? They published their own as James Chalmers, a loyalist, did within weeks after Thomas Paine printed Common Sense.

The topics varied from war to women, civil liberties to labor, tariffs to free trade, taxes to finance, capitalism to socialism, religion to atheism, and many more.

Hmm, sounds like 2011, not 1711, doesn’t it?

A few examples are shown below:

The Rights of Man
Thomas Paine, 1791

Common Sense
Thomas Paine, 1776

Plain Truth
James Chalmers, 1776 (an answer within weeks of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense) – The first blog comment?

A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain
Benjamin Franklin, 1722

The Selling of Joseph (Is Slavery Christian?)
Samuel Sewell, 1700

Is the Governor Corrupt? – A Memorial of the Present Deplorable State of New-England
Henry Ashurst, 1707

How Does God Cause Earthquakes?
Thomas Prince, 1755

The Loyal Convert – A royalist pamphlet
Francis Quarles, 1644

Why is this important you ask?  Publishing content is an American tradition.  Anyone that could afford it, published – not just newspaper and book publishers.

The cost has come down and the form has changed (print = newsletter postcards), e-mail newsletters, and various types of Internet channels. But publish we do.

We publish on politics, economics, history, current events, religion, and of course marketing – after all at our core, Americans are merchants.

I was the first multimedia producer at the IBM PC Division. One of my roles was managing editor of one of the first professional blogging groups – 15 full-time freelance journalists that wrote about our products, services, and customers – in 1987.  The first brand journalism group that I know of.

We published on Internet Newsgroups, Forums, and Weblogs. Some of the content was used in an old medium: print [something called press releases… plus brochures, magazines, newsletters, and product packaging.]

Hey, who is that guy? One of the first bloggers? Maybe the first brand journalist.

 

So the next time you’re thinking about getting into blogging, remember, it’s not new – you’re just late in getting started.

 

 

 

If you need some help, contact me. My name is Mike – and I’m your publishing friend. MikeBrown (at) BrownLtd (dot) com

Filed under: Blogging, Brand Journalism, Content Development, Content Marketing, Print, Public & Media Relations, Writing, , , , , ,

Brand Journalist or Another Title?

Real Estate Brand Journalism via Email

You can call me anything you want as long as I get paid and you don’t call me late for dinner.

I’ve been doing “brand journalism” and content marketing since the 1980’s at IBM. Before that I was a national magazine and newspaper reporter, contributing editor, stringer, feature writer, managing editor, etc… Lots of titles.

It’s all semantics.

The lines between a classical journalist and a content maker are blurred almost beyond recognition.

I’ve had magazines ask me to write puff pieces for advertisers for their news section. I’ve produced videos for companies that ended up as segments on Discovery or a local affiliate, I’ve produced “News Minutes” for radio that focused on an advertiser’s product or service, and on and on.

Media company journalists are content makers. So are brand journalists.

The media company will say they are objective and don’t take a position on a story. The brand journalist clearly takes a position. Do you believe the media company?

I’ve learned since sitting in media company editorial meetings pitching stories: There is little, if any, objectivity.

The fact that an editor or editorial staff would choose to run a story on a celebrity divorce, instead of a story on the Marines that were killed this week in a war zone, automatically demonstrates bias. They are biased based on what their audience wants and their business model vs. what really is important news.

The act of choosing a particular story, one quote over another, who to quote, one fact over another fact, is an act of bias. There’s very little that’s “objective” about it.

And that doesn’t include purposefully spinning a story the way media companies do. They have their “editorial positions” on issues and as a reporter, you better follow them, or out you go.

Each writer and editor brings all their experience and baggage to the party. You can try to fake objectivity, but using judgment about a story is an act of subjectivity.

The news business is a business first. The “code of journalism ethics” is a fairy tale [Oh, there I’ve gone and said it – let the hate email begin]. Nice thing to aspire too but not followed or in most cases not practical. The code is to sell eyeballs and ears, as many as you can, so you can increase ad revenue, not some lofty goal of news nirvana.

Newsletter Postcard

The only reason there is evening news from a local affiliate TV station is to put content around the advertising – not the other way around. Do you really care about the car wrecks, burglaries somewhere else, weather emergencies outside your neighborhood, etc? What is the journalism “code” for that?

It’s great to tell all sides of a story. That’s what hard news and feature journalists are supposed to do. But it’s rare when it happens for a lot of reasons: time, space, budget, knowledge…

Most Americans trust journalists less than lawyers or car and real estate salespeople. Why? Because they know objectivity is a myth. They would rather that the writer/producer just be honest about it… like brand journalists are.

Brand Journalism (or whatever you want to call it) – helpful information that customers and prospects care about, usually told as a story – has driven more press to my employers and clients than thousands of press releases.

In fact, I have publishers from newspapers, magazines, and GMs from TV stations contact me to get in on the action. They figure it’s better to find a way to work together than compete. It’s all about the quality of the content and the analytics. Get more eyeballs than the press, and the press will come running.

How about this for a title: I’m a for-profit content maker. No? Better yet, just call me paid.

Filed under: Brand Journalism, Content Marketing, Print, Real Estate Marketing, Writing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing and PR 2.1

I was recently asked to speak at a trade association conference being held at The Breakers in the Town of Palm Beach.

It was a great group and it gave me the chance to explain:

  • The current state of marketing and public relations
  • How to integrate traditional and new media marketing and public relations
  • How to use content marketing to get more leads, prospects, and sales
  • Using Brand Journalism to reach customers, stakeholders, influencers, and the press
  • The new Marketing Mix 2.1
  • The importance of measurement and analytics
  • Customer Relationship Management and systems

Click below to see the presentation.  Let me know what you think!  Did I miss something?  Anything to add?

Filed under: Advertising, Blogging, Brand Journalism, Branding, Content Development, Content Marketing, Email Marketing & PR, Integrated Marketing & Sales, Internet, Lead Generation, Marketing Measurement, Micro Blog (Twitter), Mobile Marketing, Non-Profit Marketing & PR, Print, Public & Media Relations, Real Estate Marketing, Reputation Management, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Traffic, Video & YouTube, Websites, Writing, , , , , , , , , ,

The Little Secret Outside Marketing, PR and Ad Agencies Don’t Want You to Know

I’ve had in-house marketing and PR agencies at IBM, Motorola, and Pulte Homes.

I’ve always found that the cost of an in-house agency is about 1/3 of the cost of using an outside agency. I operate exactly like an outside agency, having a core group of hands-on managers and creatives and using the top freelancers and sub-contractors just like an outside agency does.

Cost is Important – And Other Reasons Too

Speed
In an in-house agency, our time to produce and roll out content and campaigns is much shorter.  We know the customers and their hot-buttons, subject matter, the benefits of our products and services, have the internal and customer contacts, can get teams together faster, get approvals quicker, etc.

We don’t have to constantly get an agency(s) up to speed and arrange formal approval sessions.  Often, we just quickly, and many times informally, meet the division president or principle that needs the content for a quick one-on-one, and approval is done.  No outside agency has that kind of access or speed.

Cost
I built an in-house TV & Multimedia Studio at Motorola (Business & Government Division) and the cost to run that became 10% of what it costs to go outside.  In fact, we spent $5 million to build the studio and equip it and paid it off with savings in less than 2 years.  It would be shorter now because of the lower cost and higher quality of broadcast quality equipment and software.  I’ve replaced a post-production system with less than $1,000 in software on my laptop.

See the Quick Case Study below for an integrated in-house agency example.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
As a CEO or marketing executive, you may like those lunches and perks that the outside agencies provide; but, you’re the one paying for them with your own budget.

Bottom line, in-house agency cost per customer acquisition is much smaller than using outside agencies.  Our cycle time is shorter.  And our brand awareness and equity expands much faster.

I understand that not everyone can afford a full-blown agency or a TV studio for his or her business.  However, hiring 2-3 key hands-on marketing and PR folks, with agency experience – and that also produce content for you in-house – will help you get the benefits for about 1/3 the cost of using a strictly external agency.

Strategy
In-house works especially well when you use an integrated marketing strategy that includes brand journalism, social media, and measurement systems.

Brand journalism is one of the best methods for getting believable content to stakeholders, prospects, and customers.  Producing that content from the inside makes more sense. There are so many moving parts and interactions, it’s hard to get a great story from multiple sources using an external agency.

Measurement
When you concept, create, distribute, and measure in-house, your results are more believable.  I’m not saying every external agency is like this, but they have a financial interest in getting you to buy more media.  They make more money.  I’ve seen campaign measurement results from outside agencies that were spun to recommend a larger media buy.  The goal of an in-house agency is to CUT cost.  The goal of an outside agency is to MAKE MORE MONEY for the outside agency.

Quick Case Study

As an example:  When I took over DiVosta Homes and then eventually Pulte Homes and Del Webb in Florida, we had 80 actively selling communities in the state.  We needed to sell over 4,000 homes a year for over a billion dollars in sales.

The annual marketing and PR budget for Florida, broken up in 7 divisions around the state, was over $20 million.  There were a dozen external agencies involved with the local divisions. I moved all the marketing and PR in-house and had 7 people total: graphic designers, writers (including me), traffic manager, and media buyer (me) to produce and place content.

We did web, email marketing, newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, outdoor, pitched stories to the press, events, etc., all in-house with some outside freelancers.  We produced hundreds of ads and stories every week… placed thousands every month.

The first year we cut $9.8 million from the marketing and PR budget, almost half.  We went from $3,000-$7,000 in marketing expense per home sale to less than $1,200 per home sale.  Our cycle time was much shorter to concept, produce, approve, and place.  All done with 7 great in-house people – and sales continued without skipping a beat.

In fact, when I took over they had 70,000 qualified contacts in their prospect system.  After the first year, we had over 300,000.  That’s results.

Think about it… those 7 people replaced a dozen expensive agencies.

In today’s world, it’s all about content marketing.  Getting out your honest and clear message by creating once, and publishing everywhere – and doing it for the lowest cost is the formula for success.

Contact me if you want to learn more:  MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

 

Filed under: Advertising, Blogging, Brand Journalism, Branding, Content Development, Content Marketing, Email Marketing & PR, Integrated Marketing & Sales, Internet, Lead Generation, Marketing Measurement, Mobile Marketing, Non-Profit Marketing & PR, Print, Public & Media Relations, Real Estate Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Traffic, Video & YouTube, Websites, Writing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Art vs. Results

My recent article about “How to Find and Hire a Professional Writer” is directed at copywriting and commercial writing, where the goals are to increase traffic, leads, prospects, brand perception, and sales.  The goal isn’t art.

Although we use similar techniques that artist’s use, the content that copywriters create must focus on driving results. It may in fact be quite artful, but it may not. A couple of examples:

One of my productions, “Everyday Heroes and Leaders” brings tears to the eyes of the audience quite often – especially the police, fire, and military crowd.  It has an “art” feel to it.

I believe the best commercial messaging in all media types has an emotional appeal as the primary tool of persuasion.  Logic kicks in after the emotion driven decision is made, usually to justify the emotional decision… a truism about almost all commerce.

But the goal was not art. The goal was to use the devices that artists use to change the perception of the Motorola brand in the business and government sector from a two-way radio technology company to a full-service communications company – that helps people work together.

You can see the spot on my portfolio here:

http://www.rmichaelbrown.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/everyday-heroes-leaders/

The campaign was so successful that the Business and Government Division was the only profitable Motorola division during the tech wreck before and during 9/11.

An example of less artful content is what is usually offered in direct response/direct mail sales letters. The wording still entices the emotions, but maybe not using techniques that appear to be art.

Again, the goal of the language is to drive results. The language might be artfully used; but, it doesn’t appear that way when you read it. You know they are trying to sell you something.  It’s obvious.

I’ve learned to use fictional techniques, 3-act plays, etc. in non-fiction, news, and marketing.  But I wouldn’t call what I do art.  I’m informing and selling stuff.

Mark Twain, Michael Shaara, and Somerset Maugham – that’s art.

My world is about the goals. The math is more important than the feelings and entertainment.  Clients pay me to bring them more traffic, leads, prospects, better brand perception, and sales.  If I create something that looks and feels like art or entertainment, and doesn’t do what they pay me for, they won’t be clients for long.

I hope that makes what I meant more clear. What do you think?

Filed under: Advertising, Branding, Content Development, Content Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Print, Public & Media Relations, Reputation Management, Video & YouTube, Writing, , , , , , , , , ,

How do you find and hire a professional writer?

More and more “writers” are appearing in the market.  They blog, write email, use Twitter, and are rabid Facebook users.  There is no shortage of channels for them to express themselves.  Are these the people you should hire?

According to Technorati, currently there are 133 million blogs indexed since 2002. An average 900 thousand posts on blogs happen every 24 hours. As printed newspapers get skinnier or disappear, more web channels are opening up from publishers, businesses, organizations, and others.

More than 72% of bloggers are classified as hobbyists, meaning that they report no income related to blogging.  Some actually write pretty well.  Of course they get to choose the topic.

But writing well doesn’t mean they can write to achieve a goal about your subject. You  have a stake in your topic, are risking your investment, or will spend your time and budget on this project.

If you are going to pay someone to write, I’m assuming you don’t just want them to express themselves.  You want something out of the deal.

Your goal may be to inform, persuade, enhance your image, increase the value of your brand, sell a product or service, drive traffic to your site or event, increase leads, expand your email or mailing list…. or much more.

If you were going to hire someone to run a company, you would want someone with a track record of success.  If you were going to hire someone to coach a team, you would want to know their win/loss record.  If you were going to employ a person to engineer a new product, certainly you would require someone with the right education and experience, and the actual physical item they made, so you can see and touch how well they did.

Hiring a writer is no different.

The bigger the track record of measured success, the better writer they may be for you.

The better the client list they have served, chances are they will be able to hit the mark – at least their brand name clients think so.

And if their portfolio (samples of their work) demonstrates a fit with the goals you have for the project you want to hire them for, chances are they are the best writer for you.

Sounds simple right?  Unfortunately, the mix of art and goals makes it more complicated.

First, before you look for a professional writer, you should have clear goals and scope of work.  It would also be helpful to know your budget for the project.  Then start the search.

As an advertising & PR agency hiring manager, former managing editor, and video producer, I’ve reviewed thousands of portfolios and hired hundreds of writers and other “creatives.”  if their portfolio has major clients and/or reputable national publishers or broadcasters, they get more than a double-take.

Goals are more important than art.  Almost anyone can write a great email to home, but very few can write to meet the clearly stated and measurable goals.

Professional writers are great communicators.  They have learned and practiced the steps to nail down the scope of a project up front, research the topic, write using the style necessary for the goal, and lead you though the review process.

Very experienced pros can help you publish, distribute, and measure your results.  Leaders in the field can put a team of creatives together and provide a turnkey service.  I have over 1,400 contacts in my cellphone for just this reason.

If a candidate’s portfolio shows great prose but their work hasn’t had to achieve measurable results, maybe they should be an essayist or write novels; but, not work for you.  Your goals are more important than their art.

Some great professionals in an organization I belong to, the American Medical Writers Association,  brought up a discussion recently about “Content Mills.”  These companies are signing people up to write for a few bucks an hour. I wish I had the time to do the research and write an article about them.  Ads from content mills are dominating Career Builder and other job sites now – right there with the jobs for selling AVON.

If you search for professional writers or freelance writers on the web you will run smack into many of these content mills on the first page.

From a quick Google search, the news is that the mills are making big bucks running a virtual sweat shop.  Anyone that can type fast can work for them.

These typists are known for a lot of plagiarism and fast “rewrites” of legitimate work they find on the web. If someone brings a content mill generated portfolio to me, I wouldn’t bother to look.

If a “writer” hasn’t been paid real money to do work, pass.  They aren’t a pro and your goals will get lost in the process.

This surge in the supply of writers isn’t surprising.  I saw this type of growth in the 1980’s when desktop publishing erupted.  Buy a computer – open an ad agency.  Early this decade, when video became affordable with digital cameras and post production on the desktop – buy some software and become a director and producer.  Now with the web and “cheap publishing channels,” more people are opening up a writing shop.

However, the marketplace has a way of lifting the talented to the top.

Great talent has the genes (and I’m not talking about Levis) in addition to the education and experience.  Professional writers either have it or they don’t.  You have to think about hiring a writer just like you would think about hiring an accountant, an engineer, or any other professional.

Do you want your accounting to run you aground?  Do you want your product, that an engineer makes, not work.  I’m sure you don’t want your communication to fail either.  Don’t try to find a writer on the cheap.  Chances are you will regret it.

The best source to find writers is to ask people you know that have a well-written website, collateral material, news stories, white papers, blogs, newsletters, etc.  Ask who wrote the copy.  Relationships and referrals are the best way to find reliable talent.

One of the top places to look for experienced professional writers is on LinkedIn.  I’ve had a lot of positive results hiring writers, illustrators, graphic designers, web designers and developers on this business site. You can also check in with reputable professional associations like:

• American Advertising Federation
• American Medical Writers Association
• American Society of Journalists and Authors
• International Association of Business Communicators
• National Association of Science Writers
• Public Relations Society of America
• Society of Technical Communication

Or you can contact me.  If I can’t help you, I have a list of top writers and will be glad to connect you.

In all cases make sure you check their portfolio, references, and ask how they, or their client, measured the results vs. the goal of what they wrote.

Professional writers usually have a portfolio online.  Mine is www.RMichaelBrown.wordpress.com

Good luck in your search and remember, hire a pro!

Filed under: Advertising, Blogging, Branding, Content Development, Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Marketing Measurement, Non-Profit Marketing & PR, Print, Public & Media Relations, Traffic, Writing, , , , ,

Marketing Works Today

This blog is to help you learn how to connect with customers. The goal is to show you how to get the most qualified leads, traffic, relationships, and sales for the lowest cost/customer. I'll write and aggregate content that relates to the goal. You're welcome to subscribe, comment, and post. Send me your news tips!

What’s In A Title?

I've had a lot of titles [Director of Marketing, Communications Director, Advertising Director, Multimedia Producer, Managing Editor, Reporter, Copywriter]; but, I approach every project as a digital producer... what does the audience need and how can I deliver it most effectively and for the lowest cost?

Sometimes I write with pictures or video, sometimes with words. I always keep the goal in mind: sales, leads, traffic, a better brand image or awareness, or just a really good story, etc.

Yeah I create content for money. But you'll see from my background that I'm way better at making money for others than I am for myself.

I wish I had 1%. I'd be surfing with my kids all the time now.

Contact me and I'll make some for you.

Mike Brown
www.BrownLtd.com
MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

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Search Engine Advertising

I have 8 years experience setting up, writing, and managing small business and simple product campaigns ($100/week Google Adwords) and large business campaigns with multiple divisions and product lines (up to $20,000/week in Google Adwords – more than $1.1 billion in annual sales). Contact me to create your campaign! MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

R. Michael Brown
Marketing Consultant, Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer: West Palm Beach, Florida

"I help organizations increase sales, and pump up the value of their brand, using media, for the lowest cost per customer."

Digital Marketing and Public Relations consultant, writer, and producer with over 20 years experience launching brands like DiVosta Homes, IBM Multimedia, Nextel, Motorola business and government sector, and SunFest Jazz Festival.

MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com
561-756-1674

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