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Hi, I'm Tom Woolf and I have been practicing public relations and offering marketing communications strategies for 20 years. And I'm still learning from people like you. Drop me a line!

  • 14Mar

    I saw an interesting post last week on Silicon Valley Watcher. Tom Foremski was commenting on PR firm LaunchSquad and their launch of a new social media and marketing service, Original9 Media. Apparently, this new company was specifically created to combine content creation with online marketing. Foremski quotes LaunchSquad co-founder Jason Mandell as saying:

    We will offer a full spectrum of premium content services including strategy, distribution, analytics, creative, web and mobile content and site/app development, infographic programs, blog creation and management and influencer recruitment, among others.

    This is part of a reinvention plan that’s been underway at LaunchSquad for several years. It’s a new time for marketing and PR and we believe an amazing time to create new types of services based on the original creation and distribution of high quality content.

    It’s the middle ground between ad agencies and PR firms that everyone is acknowledging and running toward…

    Foremski’s response:emperor_has no clothes

    The creation of Original9 is interesting because it seems to split-off that work from the list of PR services that a PR firm such as LaunchSquad would offer. Will clients notice the difference? Or is this a move to help add revenues that would normally be funneled through PR services?

    Thank you, Tom, for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. C’mon. We do content development now! In fact, I would argue that 90 percent of my job these days is developing and distributing content created to reach customers, and perhaps press and analysts along the way. With the increased decline of reporters and publications and the increase in online publishing and self-publishing, those of us who used to feed the media information are now feeding the social media machine and the web. It’s basically the same process with a different audience.

    As Foremski notes, “In many respects, Original9 is acting as a publisher — a media company.” This move essentially positions Original9 to become a paid content provider, creating information to appeal to a target audience, just like a publisher, or a PR firm for that matter. Semantics aside, what this new firm is doing is the same thing the old firm was doing, but now they get to change the labels and mark up the prices.

    We already offer content services, strategy, distribution, analytics, etc., etc. In fact, targeting blogs and writing for blogs has become a major focus for my consulting firm. So if I call it something different, does that mean I can charge more for my services? I think my clients would notice. And I think they would go to a more cost-effective resource to help them spread the word.

    Call it PR, or marketing, of content development, it’s still working with clients, helping them package their story, and get that story into the hands of people who matter to the client. Whether you do it through handbills, press releases, or blog content, the process is the same.

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  • 30Aug

    I ran across an interesting factoid last week, complements of Marketing Pilgrim – nearly half of all marketers are willing to pay for posts on blogs, web sites, and social media. As blogger Cynthia Boris notes:

    Now, paying for posts, Tweets, Facebook shoutouts or video mentions is not only acceptable, it’s good business.

    According to new numbers from eMarketer, 48.8% of marketers have used a sponsored blog post. 39.4% have sponsored Tweets and 50.2% said they were open to using some kind of social media sponsorship.

    Paid-for-Post programs run the gamut from sketchy clearinghouses pushing articles on windows blinds and times shares, to well-funded, creative properties that pay people for posts they would have written anyway for free.

    As a marketing professional, my reaction was, “Cool, a new way to promote clients and maybe make some money.” I was particularly impressed with the amount of coin that sponsors are willing to pay for content – as much as $100 for a blog post. Not bad wages for freelance writers.

    imageThen I thought about the flip side of this coin. If there is a market for paid posts, that means that any number of web sites, Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds, and more are willing to pay for contributors to generate content. This seems counter to the spirit of social media. Do paid posts undermine the power of social media campaigns and online marketing?

    If you are paying for content from third party contributors, does that undermine the value of your social media outlets? How do these social media channels reflect your brand if you are taking paid contributions from a host of contributors?

    It also reminded me that blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds can’t be confused with conventional, or dare I say “legitimate”media outlets. When you see a byline in a publication like Forbes or BusinessWeek, you know that it was either a paid contribution by a staff writer or freelancer, or it is a contributed article by a guest expert. The publication makes it clear, and you can read the article using the appropriate filter and adjust your skepticism accordingly.

    The rules for web contributions aren’t so well defined. Content providers come from all corners of the web. Some have a story they want to share to add to the conversation. Others have a product to sell. And still others are apparently now using a pay-for-placement strategy which looks a lot like advertising to me.

    What separates the web, and specifically the blogosphere, from traditional print journalism is transparency. Journalists have a code of ethics and specific rules they must abide by, and when they fail to abide by those rules by misrepresenting the truth, manufacturing a source, or selling their influence in print, they are publicly censured and usually lose their position. The same is not true of the web. The code of ethics is different, and you can’t be clear about the objectivity of motives of the party on the other end of a post.

    So while social media is great for building buzz and can be good for business, we all still need to view what we read on the web with a grain of salt (if not the entire shaker). Web sites masquerading as news sources are potentially dangerous, and can undermine the entire concept of legitimate journalism.

    As a PR professional, I now have to ask myself, do I pitch or do I pay?

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