I was honored to be invited back to speak this year at the SIPA (Specialized Information Publishers Association) Annual Marketing Conference this month in Miami. There were a few interesting things about my experience at the two-day event (aside from the Paparazzi nearly trampling me at the beach to get snaps of some celebrity I didn’t recognize):
Getting Outside the “Social Media Bubble” is a Must
Most of the time, those of us in social media marketing and PR attend trade shows populated by many others like us– and it is valuable to exchange ideas and case studies, and network within your industry. However, it is equally valuable to get outside the safe-embrace of like-minded power users, to commune with people who have a different comfort level with social media, and who also have deep experience in an industry that can teach us a few things. Surely, publishing has a lot to say to PR, which has evolved to take on more content-producing capabilities.
First of all, I was astounded to see that some of the examples that we now see as trite and old hat are not so in other circles. In the opening keynote, my speaking partner of later in the day, Matt Bailey of Sitelogic, brought up the Will it Blend? videos. Old hat, right? there were oohs and aahs from the audience. So, right audience for that; everything is still new to someone.
While I stayed away from cliched examples if I could when I spoke with Matt later that day, we both pared things down to commonsense, and rather than spreading social media pixie dust, reminded folks to think of business goals before adopting tools, while at the same time having someone in charge of experimenting and trying- well, everything they can.
Also, I love being reminded that the tenets and tactics of traditional marketing are still important- right down to email marketing response rates and direct mail (don’t try to tell me that’s dead, even if you don’t use it anymore). There is a reason I listen to the Marketing Over Coffee podcast- to keep my social media thinking tethered, even a bit, to the traditional marketing world.
The Publishing World is Aware of the Need for Quality Writing that is Also Commercial- Are Trained Journalists Aware of the Converse?
In one of the sessions Mequoda Group’s Don Nicholas talked about the approach writers need to take for niche publishing. There is a sense of commercialism in much professional writing – certainly that is often true in our clients’ content- but a need for quality, trained writers. The speakers specifically spoke of the need for hiring writers that were trained in journalism. The question now is; are journalists, finding fewer opportunities in the straight journalism world, ready to re-orient their craft for commercial means? I definitely agree that we will see more of that, as we already have in the last year or two, with former TechTarget and eWeek writer Dennis Fisher being a prime example, now authoring the Threatpost blog for Kaspersky Labs.
Publishers Have a Lot to Teach Us
One of my favorite sessions of the SIPA conference was a case study on the National Journal‘s shift in publishing strategy, affecting its paywall business. Gwen Tomasulo, who presented the case study, described what the Journal did in a mere six months; take a high-priced subscription product, redesign the print, and add to the paywall-only online content a free news site.
Aside from that being a lot of work, it remains to be seen how the paywall-to-partial free move will work. In PR, we wonder all the time how that will affect our relationships with journalists, as well as the perceived clout of the publications (are they devaluing themselves with more free content? Are they losing readers by going behind a paywall?). I should add that the National Journal does not consider the free site to be a lead generator for a subscription that costs thousands of dollars, but is merely supported by ads. Is that sustainable, and worth it for the benefit s of SEO, shared content, and the ability to attract high-profile writers who like to flog their personal brands on behalf of the magazine on television shows and other media?
For our clients who produce content, there are related concerns about creating barriers for a higher-quality audience versus releasing things for free for maximum SEO, PR and branding value.
As I dive back into the world of Tweetups and Social Media vendor events, I remind myself to keep looking for expertise outside of my own peer group. It’s out there.