Category Archives: Innovation

Transformation and Disintermediation In The Publishing Industry – Final Word Of 2011

To make an end is to make a beginning - lessons from 2011

To make an end is to make a beginning - lessons from 2011


I’ve written about the different facets of transformation and disintermediation in the publishing industry throughout 2010 and 2011 but I wanted to share a more personal angle and distil the lessons I’ve learned into ten key points that will guide me in 2012.

  1. You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Abandon any attempt to make a horse drink water and focus on achieving something of less resistance. Continue reading

Content Marketing: how to think like a publisher

Content Marketing Think Like A Publisher The Original Michelin Guide Rouge 1900

Content Marketing Think Like A Publisher The Original Michelin Guide Rouge 1900

In a recent blog post for Smart Insights, the UK’s premiere digital marketing portal, I asked the question: “Why might a company that sells goods or services want to act like a media company?”

The point I was trying to illicit was that all non-media companies now have the chance to embrace content creation to attract, win, convert and retain customers.

Compelling content attracts and retains customers 

Yet most businesses plod on with old school marketing, churning our content that is neither compelling nor relevant to their audiences. Audiences have become adept at filtering out messages that are irrelevant to them.

I’m conscious that if thinking and acting like a publisher were easy, then more businesses would be doing it by now and the discipline would move into the mainstream. Instead content marketing, despite being the new marketing muscle, is only used by innovators and by a handful of very early adopters (visionaries) who understand that customers will more willingly be attracted and “pulled” toward a brand, product or service if the content is helpful.

Why do so many businesses fail with content marketing and which businesses succeed? 

The problem is that most businesses today are not resourced or structured appropriately to enable them to develop carefully crafted, relevant and timely content that supports prospects and customers along the buying cycle.

Yet some non-media companies have successfully used content marketing as their core marketing strategy for decades even centuries. In 1954 Guinness printed 1000 copies of The Guinness Book of Records. The book was a marketing tool or give-away, rather than a money making venture. Similarly, the first edition of Michelin’s Red Guide was published in 1900, originally to help drivers maintain their cars, find overnight accommodation, and eat well while touring France. The “Guide Rouge”, as it is known, included the locations of petrol stations, mechanics, and tyre specialists, along with tips on tyre and car maintenance. Michelin only started charging for the Guide in its twentieth year of production, when the Michelin brothers realised that copies of the Guide were being use to prop up workbenches in garages.

Content marketing is not new. Those non-media companies understood that people are willing to be ‘pulled’ towards a product, service or brand if they see that its providers are offering them something entertaining or of value which fulfills an informational need or desire for entertainment.

Content marketing: from specialty to ubiquity 

Those were companies with vision and publishing in those days was not core to their business. Today though, the tools for publishing are ubiquitous and are central to all integrated marketing communications. That’s because the obstacles of media production and distribution have dissipated. But to be effective and to win a return on investment, businesses which produce compelling content need watertight methodologies if they are to succeed in a crowded ad noisy marketplace. To be successful in content creation, businesses need to think in a joined-up way that ensures all their efforts and resources are geared toward providing compelling content that sticks, that is shared and which attracts (pulls) the bees (prospects) to the honey pot (brand). Achieving this outcome in support of sales requires both resources and process. What follows is a summary of both.

Content marketing: resources and process 

Content marketing needs to ensure both resources and process are leveraged to perform the following with consistency:

– Identify the needs and personas of its target audience

– Audit and categorise its content assets and sources

– Put the right people on the right task (sadly too often content creation and social media are pushed down to the most junior people in the business)

– Define the roles and responsibilities of the people in content creation, editing and production needed to fulfill the business objectives and maintain the editorial activity over the long term

– Understand and support the customer along their journey at the varoious touch points and negate their pain all along their journey

– Ensure content production is scheduled and fulfilled (editorial and production calendars)

– Provide the rules and guidelines for the team and the contributing authors, designers, editors etc.. to abide by

– Plot the above onto a milestone plan

– Create a content/editorial calendar – define the strategic orientations, formats and frequency of output

– Design the layout of content

– Copy edit and guide internal and external contributors, experts, authors

– Control production

– Provide keywords and ensure all posts are optimised for search (SEO)

– Metadata tagging and image selection

– Style corrections

– Resource and manage the production and delivery (video, webinar, ebook etc)

– Distribute the content though all appropriate channels and measure effectiveness

– Cost, budget and allocate resources for and to the above

– Negotiate terms with contributing authors/ experts/freelancers

– Develop customer relations via social content

This process  is no mean feat, and when content marketing fails, it’s mostly because process fails.

Ensuring the content marketing process works

Below I have reproduced a glimpse of a milestone plan I developed for a client in the technology sector.

Content marketing milestone plan

Content marketing milestone plan

Content marketing  resources

The internal coordinator or manager of the process oversees this process from A to Z to ensure that all tasks and goals within the plan run smoothly and that the plan delivers the marketing goals. The same person manages the resources for editorial and production. In turn editorial and production manage content creation and production. Thus the content creators (employees and contributing authors) are given clear guidelines to work by so that their time can be dedicated to creating the content.

If you visualise this workflow as a critical path plan like the one above, you can begin to see how the workflow for the team is shaped and how resources need to be allocated in order to deliver the volume of content needed, with the frequency of output and to ensure distribution is achieved in all marketing channels.

Help with content marketing

If managing the content marketing process is something your business finds challenging, I work independently, and with some of the best digital agencies in the UK, to ensure your business develops the content marketing methodologies and disciplines needed to accentuate sales. If you’d like more information on my approach, please contact me.

You can also view my LinkedIn profile here 

Entrepreneurship: Like Minds With Luke Johnson

Entrepreneurship: Like Minds With Luke Johnson

Entrepreneurship: Like Minds With Luke Johnson Photo credit: Adam Tinworth Flickr

Big business stifles creativity and innovation

At this year’s Like Minds Autumn Conference, I attended a talk by Luke Johnson @LukeJohnsonRCP chairman of Risk Capital Partners and a former chairman of Channel 4. Luke’s the guy who popularised Pizza Express, taking it from its origins as a fab and distinctive restaurant in Coptic Street (London) and turning it into a (sorry Luke) rather sterile but successful chain of 250 eateries.

Luke spoke from the heart and shared lots of stuff about what he’s done throughout his career, which he openly admits would have been harder to do without the benefit of education.

 A Spirit of independence, freedom, tenacity and risk-taking 

In his talk, Luke emphasised the entrepreneurial values of independence, freedom, tenacity and risk-taking; qualities most often found in people who own their own businesses (for example amongst foreign nationals who do not have the required qualifications to enter mainstream employment in the UK) and not very often amongst the leaders of large enterprise who are “entombed in the cosy, airless coffin of big business” (quote from Luke’s article describing leaders of big business).

Whilst I found myself not always being able to agree with the large, sweeping over-generalisations Luke made about entrepreneurial qualities, his point about how large corporations kill employee motivation, personal drive, confidence and creativity did resonate closely with my own experience of corporate directorships.

Robots not mavericks 

His talk was peppered with references to the sorts of vacuous and uninspiring directorships I’ve held myself within large international corporations, be they UK, French or American. At their heart one major cause is responsible for the problem: large corporations that are not founder-run, very often replace humanity with robotic and sterile management, and become compressor machines that clone people and preclude the sort of maverick qualities businesses need.

Furthermore, large corporates are rarely anchored in community, they have no affinity with place, region or country and only seek to impose standardised work and culture models that emanate from their own home markets, which means they end up ignoring the local differences that make a business unique, innovative, creative, differentiated, appealing, genuine, personable and successful.

Sheep not shepherds 

The trouble with the big fat corp model is that it breaks everyone’s balls (excuse my French) and imposes a skill set that is closer to that of sheep than it is to that of shepherd, making every employee tow the line, and not innovate. This breeds leaders that lick the bosses proverbial “a”, and it suits people who, in their childhood, spent their lives doing what their parents expected of them because this, not being free-spirited and different, was the only way they could successfully gain their parents’ love. How sad it is that these people end up in positions of leadership, stifling the motivation and innovation of their staff.

Broader insights 

These are my own views and I am conscience that, not unlike that which I accused Luke of: making generalisations about leadership qualities, I am in danger of making similar sweeping generalisations about working for corporates, which stem only from my own personal view.

Anyway, Luke’s engaging talk struck a chord and resonated deeply with me, I am thankful to him for providing me with food-for-thought on my walk today on the wild, windy moor.

However, if we’re to avoid stereotyping good and bad leaders, innovative and sterile businesses, I’m keen we open up the discussion and aggregate the views of others, so please share an experience you’ve had of working for a big or small business, or perhaps owning your own.