Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category
One of the first things you’ll notice about Social PR Secrets: How to Optimize, Socialize, and Publicize Your Brand’s News by Lisa Buyer is how compact it is. Coming in at under 100 pages, this slim volume stands apart from most other business books simply by virtue of its slender profile.
It’s lack of bulk, however, is by no means due to lightweight content or skimping on ideas. It is, rather, a reflection of Lisa’s exceptional ability (invaluable to a top-notch public relations professional) to convey maximum information with minimal words. This is no wasted verbiage in this book, no fluff, no superfluous content. This is the bleach, the moonshine, the uranium of business books—powerful but highly concentrated.
In just eight dozen or so pages, Lisa demonstrates the impact that social media has had on the practice of public relations, and how professionals in the field need to adapt to these changes in order to thrive, changing the way they approach media relations; news release writing; content planning, creation and distribution; use of images and visuals; and the measurement and analysis of results.
A must-read for anyone in PR, the book is also of value to marketers, SEO professionals, social media managers, and executives who want to better understand the role PR plays in maximizing a brand’s total online visibility, credibility, and impact.
Indeed, while most PR professionals aren’t going to become webmasters (or vice versa), it’s vital for practitioners, and especially for marketing and PR executives, to understand how these roles as well as those of digital marketers, writers, graphic designers, social media, and advertising specialists need to be coordinated in order to optimize online presence.
As Google’s search algorithms have become more sophisticated, being highly “findable” and visible to relevant audiences online is no longer about tricks or gaming the system. Optimizing online results today requires creativity, great content, effective social interaction, and link-earning through relationships with key influencers, whoever those may be in your industry: journalists, analysts, bloggers, consultants, thought leaders and others.
Lisa doesn’t merely theorize about these developments; she has lived them, and her experiences both enliven the book and provide valuable examples that illustrate the concepts she details.
On the importance of content in both PR and SEO, for example, Lisa writes: “Everything in search” is about content, and “when you think about it, everything in public relations is about content—via a press release, media story, blog post, image, or executive bio.”
Each chapter helpfully contains “Social PR Secrets,” short paragraphs set off from the surrounding content in a different typeface. A few examples include:
- • “Leverage the power of Facebook Ads to promote posts to the newsfeed and generate publicity using a blend of organic and paid social PR.”
- • “Write three versions of a company press release: one for paid distribution version that includes a photo, logo, and video; another version for the company blog which might be shorter, a little more casual and have a different visual; and a website version…This will help index more content with search and avoid possible duplicate content issues.”
- • “Always, always, always post a press release on your website first, before submitting to the ‘wires’ to maximize authorship benefits and authority in the discussion—which also enhances visibility in search.”
- • “The simple application Buffer can be a secret weapon in bringing old blog content and news releases back to life and send new visits to otherwise dead pages.”
- • “PDF press releases and all text press releases are OUT, so make sure your press releases are accompanied with a strong visual such as an image, video, infographic or chart. This goes for your press releases hosted on your own website’s online newsroom.”
In today’s era of content marketing and social PR, Lisa advises PR professionals to “write (more) like a reporter and less like a marketer” and to support these content strategies by developing editorial calendars. “Social media has dramatically increased a brand’s number of owned media outlets, so smart businesses need to make the mental shift to think more like publishers. Managing content with an editorial calendar is a necessity.”
Another core element of social PR is having an online newsroom on your corporate website. While these have become fairly common, not all are well-designed or maintained, and “today the online newsroom can be an organization’s social PR secret weapon.”
Journalists today expect companies to have online newsrooms, and these should include, among other elements, news releases; prominent PR or media contact information; executive and product photos; biographies of company leaders; and “vital statistics: It’s really surprising how many organizations fail at incorporating the basic facts, background information, history, and milestones into the press center. More advanced content could include industry hot buttons, facts, and figures.”
Most powerfully, the online newsroom serves as an equalizer between large and small companies: “Expertise in a subject comes in all sizes, with 87% of journalists (say) they visit both large and small-to-medium sized organizations’ online newsrooms…today’s online newsroom is the command central for all company news activity and helps level the playing field for small companies to compete with Fortune 100 companies.”
As helpful as all of the information in this book is, two chapters in particular stand out. Chapter 8: The Art and Science of Social Publishing is a concise but brilliant guide to both the hard and soft factors that determine the effectiveness of social outreach, with three pages devoted to helpful tips like:
“Write for the Retweet, +1, Share, Like, Klout, and Comment: Facts, stats, tips, reports, studies, and breaking and trending news are good triggers for prompting a share. Ending a post with a question increases a post’s impression and reach.”
“The rise of visual social media marketing makes each image selection for a blog post critical and dictates that you must match each press release or media coverage recap…with an outstanding visual. Your article, blog post, and news release must be accompanied by a pinnable image to get your social PR news shared.”
Chapter 13: The Rise of Visual Reporting delves even deeper into the topic of matching relevant but compelling images to news content and announcements. Here, Lisa reports that “a recent PR Newswire analysis of its press release data revealed that press releases using multimedia assets garner significantly more visibility than text-only releases, up to 9.7 times more visibility.” She also provides a list of tools and apps that help with visual storytelling, as well as visual PR tips such as, “When launching a new product do not just have the ‘hero’ shot, take photos of the product in use or in application.”
And despite the book’s compact size, it covers an impressively wide range of topics. For example, Chapter 16: Avoiding a PR Disaster offers useful guidance on developing a social media policy that effectively supports PR: “To mitigate (risk of employees damaging an organization’s image on social networks), develop a company-wide policy that clearly defines both acceptable and unacceptable behavior on social media, and dictates how employees can effectively communicate your brand culture, voice, and message. Include guidelines about confidential and proprietary information and how each should be treated and balanced against the transparency that consumers increasingly expect from social media.”
Just a few pages later, she outlines her strategy for getting the most out of sessions at industry conferences: “I map out my session plan ahead of time and I always sit in the front row with my laptop or iPad, feverishly taking notes. Sitting in the front row gives you an advantage of having less distractions, more focus, and a better networking opportunity because most of the other front-runners are live bloggers or members of the media who are there to cover the session. Some of my best contacts and relationships have…been made sitting in the front row.”
Social PR Secrets packs an amazing quantity and range of practical, actionable knowledge into a thin, quickly digestible package. But it’s not a read-and-set-aside type book; you’ll want to keep this handy to refer back to key sections as your PR / content marketing / digital strategy develops. Anyone involved in PR, social media, digital marketing, content creation, or the management of a brand’s overall online presence will find this book an indispensable guide to working smarter and getting better results.
One of the most powerful impacts of social media is the way it has democratized brands. No longer is the brand, or corporate image, tightly controlled by a few senior executives, marketing communications specialists, and PR spokespersons. Every stakeholder in an enterprise—every customer, prospective customer, supplier, channel partner, employee, industry blogger, shareholder—has a voice. Those voices collectively shape the brand.
This reality can be scary as hell for brands, but it also creates new opportunities. Treating customers well produces an army of advocates, with far greater credibility and at far lower cost than traditional advertising. Invite bloggers to your company events, give them a peak “under the hood,” and the collective “media coverage” generated can be tremendous.
The most natural and knowledgeable group of brand ambassadors would seem though to be employees. They know the company’s products, people, policies and procedures from the inside. They (presumably) want the company to do well, as their livelihoods depend on its success. Those on the front lines, in areas like consulting and customer support, have a unique perspective and level of credibility. And collectively, particularly in large organizations, they can be a powerful amplifier of brand messages and values.
Yet companies big and small have struggled to capitalize on this potential. Asking employees to use social platforms on a brand’s behalf can easily feel awkward, or forced. Employees may not want to talk about the company on social media, or may not know how, or may want to expose too much, or may even use it in ways that damage the brand.
Of course, most organizations of any size now have social media policies in place; but these often only set the basic ground rules for discussing the company in social media (e.g., don’t discuss financial details, don’t disclose customer data, don’t talk about products in development). They don’t turn employees into effective and impactful brand advocates any more than merely knowing the traffic laws makes one an expert driver.
Into this milieu have stepped Cheryl and Mark Burgess with their book, The Social Employee: Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, and Cisco on Building a Social Culture. A must-read for any executive or manager who wants to understand how to unleash the social power of a properly trained, motivated and incentivized workforce, this book goes far beyond the do’s and don’ts of social media policy. The authors have gone inside some of the most respected brands to discover and reveal how these companies have made social media work by enabling and empowering their employees.
In today’s social online world, the linear model of brand engagement (awareness, interest, desire, action) is obsolete. Rather than being the end goal, the sale is often the beginning of the true relationship between customers and brands. It isn’t just the product that matters, but the entire customer experience with the product, with post-sale support, even with a company’s values, that shape the brand image in the social realm.
To introduce their concept of a non-linear model of customer engagement, the authors invoke the image of a Möbius strip: a geometric shape that is “somewhat unique in the physical world. While the Möbius strip appears to be a closed band like a bracelet, because of a twist in the band itself the object technically has only one side—although it appears to have two…
“We like the metaphor implied in this famous mathematical conundrum: here is an object that is easy to understand by experiencing it, but incredibly difficult to produce through attempts to quantify it. Such a riddle creates an unmistakable parallel with the nature of social employee engagement. Any brand can see the value of social of social collaboration once they’ve jumped into the fray, but it’s much more challenging to try to define the precise formula for why it works…Each of us behaves as an employee, brand, and customer—sometimes simultaneously—throughout the course of a single day.”
Later in the book’s opening section, the authors quote a McKinsey Quarterly article which argues that “senior leaders can harness social media to shape consumer decision making in a predictable way…(social media) is much more than simply another form of paid marketing, and it demands more too: a clear framework to help CEOs and other top executives evaluate investments in it, a plan for building support infrastructure, and performance management systems to help leaders smartly scale their social presence. Companies that have these three elements in place can create critical new brand assets (such as content from customers or insights from their feedback), open up new channels for interactions (Twitter-based customer service, Facebook news feeds), and completely reposition a brand through the way its employees interact with customers or other parties.”
Social media is fundamentally changing the nature of marketing, and employees are crucial to successfully navigating this transition. In the sections titled Employees Already Own Your Brand and Marketing is Everyone’s Job, the authors contend that “strong Business-to-Business (B2) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) communication outside of the brand’s walls begins with strong internal employee collaboration…Because of the many new demands that social media has created for internal organization as well as B2B and B2C interactions, brands are quickly coming to the realization that the act of marketing is no longer just the responsibility of the marketing department…This isn’t to say that each member of each department has to be on the frontlines of branding, just that everybody should have a role in spreading the brand’s message.
“The only thing preventing organizations from connecting employees with the necessary information and resources to drive real change is the willingness to develop a proper infrastructure…Many companies simply don’t know how to handle the changes in the work styles and attitudes that are emerging within the workforce.”
And that is what sets up the core of this book: lessons the authors share from seven leading companies in how to harness the power of social employees. Among them:
- • IBM: let employees develop the company’s social media guidelines. “In trying to determine the best way to address questions regarding the proper protocols of a social business, IBM struck on a novel idea: rather than confining a small group of people to a conference room to hammer out social policy, why not take the question to the people? IBM quickly set up an open wiki accessible to the entire network that would allow IBMers to establish their own computing guidelines…The results of the wiki experiment were quickly adapted as the company’s official social media guidelines. According to (IBM executive Ethan) McCarty, everything is still holding up quite well. ‘IBMers treat it like their Magna Carta’…The guidelines, which McCarty affectionately refers to as IBM’s social media Woodstock, have become so renowned in the business world that hundreds of other organizations have contacted IBM seeking permission to adopt them as their own.”
- • Adobe: promote social media policies and best practices as “guardrails” for employees, not straightjackets. Adobe’s Corporate Social Media team knows it can’t control or dictate every social media interaction, so it has instead “adopted a policy of `influence without authority’ in order to spread the brand’s social message…Larger brands simply don’t have the resources to micromanage social adoption practices for an entire enterprise. `We had little to no authority over (other internal) teams to mandate change,” (Senior Director of Social Media and Public Relations Maria) Poveromo said. ‘So instead, we had to learn ways to encourage these stakeholders to see the value of working together.’”
- • Dell: use tools and structure to monitor and address the torrent of social media activity happening outside the brand’s direct sphere of influence. “Listening to over 25,000 conversations daily produced a wealth of data, but the brand has had to be creative in how it sorts and utilizes this information. In 2010, Dell established the Social Media Listening Command Center (SMLCC) Led by Maribel Sierra. The brand has since designed over 300 monitoring categories in order to aggregate information by product line, customer segments, and various business functions. The SMLCC is able to sort data by criteria such as location/geography, basic demographics, reach, sentiment, subject matter, and social platform. To accomplish this kind of sorting, the SMLCC team uses Saleforce’s Radian6 technology to assess and report on the trending social media topics related to Dell.”
There’s much more, from Cisco (representing leader authentically builds tremendous credibility); Southwest Airlines (founder Herb Kelleher: “If the employee comes first, then they’re happy…A motivated employee treats the customer well”); AT&T (use social media to humanize the brand: “A fundamental trait of the social age is the fact that people expect information to come from a trusted resource with a human face”); and Acxiom (create a social employee “PACT”—short for passion, accountability, creativity and teamwork).
While the book showcases examples and practices from large organizations, many of the lessons are applicable to companies of any size—such as the importance of executive involvement on social platforms on behalf of the brand.
I’m thrilled and honored to have worked with Cheryl Burgess for the past three years honoring the #Nifty50 top women and men on Twitter. Cheryl and Mark have written an outstanding book for any leader seeking a roadmap to building and optimizing employee engagement on behalf of the brand in social media. As legendary management guru Tom Peters said of the book, “Social media is wasted without social employees…my social business favorite books #1: The Social Employee.”
In an era of increasingly transparent pricing, interchangeable products, and uniformly adequate service, the only remaining differentiator may be the “soul” of a company: is your organization the type of enterprise that people want to do business with? What do you stand for? How do you treat your people (which in turn determines how they will treat your customers)?
That “soul” is transparent as well. It’s reflected in the myriad social interactions an organizations employees have online. Employees who are empowered, energized and inspired by their organization’s mission and culture will paint a far different overall web presence than those who are micromanaged, disrespected and treated as headcount.
In the social age, the image of a company is no longer controlled by a charismatic CEO, clever advertising, or carefully choreographed media relations. It’s determined collectively by the firm’s customers and employees.
Such a collective effort can’t be tightly controlled. But it can be nurtured and encouraged. And the roadmap for this journey is laid out in a new book from #Nifty50 co-creator Cheryl Burgess and her partner Mark Burgess (soon to be released and available for pre-order now on Amazon), The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work.
Enterprises that embrace the concept of The Social Employee will be well positioned to thrive in the coming decade. Those that ignore this phenomenon do so at their own peril.
The phrase “content marketing” may well disappear at some point in the not-too-distant future. Not because the concept will fade away, but because it will be seen as redundant; there won’t be any marketing without content.
According to recent research, nearly 80% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing. And it’s not only marketing executives who are excited about content. The same study also showed that:
- • 90% of companies are already doing some form of content marketing.
- • 70% of customers said they “felt closer to a company as a result of content marketing.”
- • 70% of buyers would rather learn about a company through articles than through an advertisement.
- • 60% of people say they have been “inspired to seek out a product” after reading content about it.
And so it is that Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business has arrived at at opportune time. Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman have written the definitive guide to creating nearly any type of content, as well as adding life to traditional formats like customer case studies and FAQ pages. Content Rules is a must-read for anyone who wants to create compelling, useful information for their target audiences.
Creating relevant, quality, original content within a web presence optimization (WPO) strategy has become critical to marketing success because, as the authors note, “overwhelmingly, consumers depend on search engines to help them shop online.” They cite research showing that “three out of five shoppers said they always or often use search engines when shopping online…more consumers use search engines than they do coupon sites, retailer emails, consumer reviews, or shopping comparison sites.” The figure is even higher for b2b and high-value, considered-purchase consumer goods.
The book works well on several levels, and though it’s most valuable to practitioners—those who actually envision, specify, create, repurpose, and promote business content— it’s also helpful for senior executives charged with developing content strategy and coordinating creative efforts.
As the previous post here noted, Amazon.com has announced it will shut down its affiliate program in Minnesota at the end of this month. If this review, or any of the other book reviews here, inspire you to buy the book, please click on any of the book’s links within the post today to buy the book on Amazon. Thank you!
Divided into four sections, the book opens with the case for content (though that’s increasingly superfluous), the basic “rules” of content creation, and wisdom such as the importance of giving content both “roots” (ground it “solidly in your unique perspective, voice, and point of view”) and “wings” (distributed, promoted and shared across the social web).
It proceeds through sections devoted to the “how to” of content creation, success stories (“with ideas you can steal”), and finally a brief closing section with next steps and a helpful checklist to help content creators follow the “rules.”
Among the authors’ insights:
- • The benefits of content marketing compound over time. Jay Baer uses the phrase “information annuity” while Marcus Sheridan of River Pools calls content “the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.” This echoes the message that social media and content transform marketing from an expense to an investment.
- • “The more valuable the information you can give to others, the more you will become viewed as an expert and therefore gain their trust…the person with the abundance mentality wins.”
- • Stuck for a subject to write about? “Know your customers…and what keeps them up at night. What are their concerns and objectives? What do they care about? How will your brand help them in their daily lives?”
- • Getting high-quality backlinks to your website is crucial to achieving high rankings in search. But traditional link building is all but dead; so how do you get those links? “By creating compelling content. Every time someone shares a link to your site in some fashion (by blogging about you or sharing a link on Twitter, for example), it boosts your search ranking. Make a video that everyone is raving about or write a blog post that people can’t stop talking about, and you’ll see your site start appearing much higher on the results page when search for…the things you sell.” Which is pretty much what WPO is.
- • To differentiate their content, and companies, in a crowded market, content creators must “expand their traditional notions of corporate identity to include language, the words a company uses, and tone of voice. Branding, after all, is about differentiation. And describing a brand begins with words. Don’t rely on…worn-to-the-bone words and phrases and bland corporate tone.” Companies often struggle with this internally, particularly if the team has been in place for a while, but any decent consumer or b2b marketing agency should be able to assist in this effort.
- • A bit more on tone (love this): “In business, it’s tempting (and easier) to use the same boring words everyone else uses. But you’ll be far more approachable (and a whole lot more engaging) if you lighten up a little. I’d worry less about shocking customers than I would about boring them.”
- • “Literally speak the language of your customers. You want to appeal to them, certainly, but you also want your content to appear in search results when your would-be customers are looking for what you have to offer. How do your customers describe your product or service? What words do they use?” This is vital. Do keyword research, ask your sales force, and talk to your customers.
There’s much, much more on topics ranging from over-used buzzwords to avoid and methods for repurposing and re-using content to the six characteristics of great business storytelling and how to capitalize on events for content creation.
The authors provide such an effective and comprehensive overview of content development that it’s difficult to find fault with the book. A couple of minor quibbles regarding metrics though:
- • In the section titled “Set Your Metrics: What Does Success Look Like?,” the authors mention number of subscribers, inbound links, comments and “social validation” as key metrics, but don’t mention two other key measures to track: number of blog visitors who then visit other key areas on your website (such as product pages) and the number who take some conversion action (e.g., registering for a webinar, downloading a white paper, or subscribing to your newsletter). (One of our clients was generating, on average, 10% of all leads via referral traffic from their blog within one year of launching it.)
- • Similarly, on metrics for Ebooks and white papers, the authors cite number of downloads as a key metric—which it certainly is—but I’d add sources of traffic leading to these downloads as another vital piece of data to track.
All in all, this is an outstanding guide to creating, optimizing and sharing compelling, customer-focused information. Even if you’re an experienced content marketer, Content Rules will help you produce better content, produce content better, or both.
Today’s explosion of media channels has made it simultaneously more challenging yet more vital for companies to present unified messaging and branding to their markets. Businesses need to break down the silos both within their marketing and public relations (PR) teams but also more broadly between other departments, including product development and customer support.
Becoming a social business means change, which is never easy. But in Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era (Que Biz-Tech), authors Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston provide a roadmap to developing strategy, planning tactics, determining and executing the best approach, and finally measuring and refining a unified marketing effort.
Much more than just another tactical marketing field guide, Marketing in the Round aims to provide comprehensive strategy guidance. As noted in the introduction,
“Every contemporary marketing book is dedicated to the topic of social media, whether it be Facebook, return on investment, content, or customer relations. This proliferation of literature acknowledges the changes social media brings to marketing. These books fail to realize the full scope of the marketer’s challenge, not with social media, but in becoming a modern organization that works across media and tactics to achieve its goals.”
That description (as much else in the book) sounds a lot like web presence optimization (WPO), the framework for which has been covered here previously. But whether one speaks about WPO or marketing in the round, the fundamental ideas are the same: online, everything is connected. Marketing, PR and communication efforts within the enterprise need to be connected as well.
Throughout, the authors use the term “marketing round” as useful shorthand to describe the group of professionals from marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), PR, social media, content development, design and online advertising whose efforts need to coordinated in order to optimize online results.
The book, valuable to anyone who’s in (or aspires to be in) a marketing or PR leadership role, is divided into three main sections:
- Understand the Marketing Round and Develop Your Strategy
- Four Marketing Round Approaches
- Measurement, Refinement, and Improvement
The authors share a series of essential insights throughout section one, including:
- • “Rarely is one media moment, positive or negative, strong enough to form a full impression. Before the Web…a person needed to see a message seven times before a purchase decision is made. Today a person needs to see a message upwards to 20 times. Some of those messages can, and should, be delivered by trusted sources, including friends and family, and online friends.”
- Of course, for many b2b purchases, or infrequent and high-value consumer purchases, friends and family may not be much help. That’s where other types of trusted sources, from journalists and analysts to peers, can be crucial online information sources. Regardless, a web presence strategy is vital to achieving those 20 message exposures necessary for a purchase decision.
- • “Imagine your organizational structure as a wheel instead of a typical hierarchy. Think of marketing as the hub. The spokes are made up of public relations, advertising, Web, email, social media, corporate communication, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, content, and direct mail. They circle simultaneously.”
- This reflects the observation, noted elsewhere and in other contexts (such as in service and product innovation), that old-school command-and-control management structures don’t work any longer. Information no longer flows from the top down, but rather in all directions between multiple team members and stakeholders. The job of management is no longer to run things as much as to coordinate efforts and remove roadblocks to collaboration.
- • “Integration is not the same message on every platform, but you’re using all communications disciplines appropriately, with the correct massages for each.” True, though given the importance of search, it’s usually advisable to use common keywords.
- • “Communicate every week on how it’s going and what’s working, what’s not working, what changes you’d like to make. Keep the vision top-of-mind, and make sure it’s being communicated at every meeting, even if it’s in a small way.” This is where having a unified metrics dashboard can help coordinate efforts across marketing, PR, social media, search and online advertising specialists.
- • “(Metrics should also) include brand awareness, Web site traffic, and thought leadership, but be sure that all of those goals are combined with real, hard numbers, such as leads, conversions, sales, and profit—not just soft feel-good measurements, such as impressions, clicks, sentiment, likes, follows, fan, or plusses. In the end, your marketing round’s success will be determined by its ability to successfully impact business, not garnet attention.”
- Well…yes, but don’t ignore those other measures. While its true that maximizing online visibility isn’t the ultimate business goal (which is to earn a profit) in and of itself, that visibility is the vital first step. Without pursuing those “impressions, clicks, sentiment” and other soft measures, it’s unlikely that the “hard” goals of the business will be fully realized.
- • “In order to break down the silos, develop trust, and gain immediate buy-in, the marketing round should work on this task together. It’s not for you to develop in your silo and then impose upon the first meeting. It may take more than a few meetings to get it right, but it will be worth the time and energy spent later. Soon, you’ll be on your way to marketing in the round.”
- This is why a common, unified set of metrics that tracks all inbound online channels (press, social, industry, paid, and organic search) and content types (owned, earned and paid) is vital; it’s what gets everyone on the same page and keeps them moving forward in a coordinated manner.
There’s no question the authors know their stuff. Pages 25-39 of the book provide an outstanding examination of the pros and cons of nearly all possible media tactics, from TV, radio and print though direct mail, outdoor advertising, event sponsorships, and all manner of online channels. This reference is almost worth the cost of the book itself.
The second section of the book is built upon marketing application of the military strategies detailed in the classic text The Book of Five Rings by 17th-century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi. It outlines the elements, tactics, potential benefits and risks of each of four market approaches: top-down, groundswell, direct and flanking. It also provides guidance on when to use each approach, based on the nature of the market and competition.
Among the most insightful passages in the middle section of the book is this on content marketing:
“As a team, take an hour or two and think about what content you can create that will be valuable to your stakeholders and also will be searchable. To generate topics, consider questions people ask during sales meetings, challenges your products or services have, pricing, and the ‘versus’ questions.
“The questions people ask during sales meetings are…the easiest to answer. Ask everyone to write down five questions they’re asked all the time. Even if they don’t go to sales meetings, everyone talks to customers…
“Creating content around challenges or issues is uncomfortable, but it’s that kind of content that people search for when they’re online. Do you want to confront the challenges head-on? Or would you rather your competitors handle that for you?”
The book’s final section addresses measurement and continual improvement. Chapter 10 in this section includes excellent examples of using calendars to sequence different tactics, for example the different types of PR and social media marketing activities utilized leading up to and then following up on a major trade show or industry event.
Although the book is excellent overall, one could raise a few minor quibbles with it:
The explanation of strength-weakness-opportunity-threat (SWOT) analysis in section one is presented a bit lightly; this is a critical exercise to get right, and getting it right requires a fairly significant research effort. The research can be outsourced, but not skipped.
In “Risks of the Direct Approach” in section two, the authors write of social media:
“The time investments—both manpower and long-term cultivation—are unattractive to businesses that need fast results. To succeed in social media, relationships need to be built within online communities. Often they have to spend months of community investment online to build enough relationship equity to start generating sales. And when the sales do come in, the value is negligible in comparison to the costs of the staff time and associated design costs.”
While technically accurate (perhaps, though with regard to that last sentence, mileage will certainly vary), the paragraph ignores the “asset value” of social media. Creating and sharing content, and building relationships, produces a long-term asset, the value of which compounds over time. Contrast that with an online advertisement, which has value only as long as it is active; as soon as the ad comes down, its value evaporates. Social media marketing is an asset; advertising is an expense.
“Search engine marketing (SEM) isn’t used very often, but it’s extremely effective.” Actually, SEM is used pretty often; in 2012, 64% of b2b companies and 73% of b2c brands used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive leads.
From chapter 11: “You can’t skip to the end and start measuring before you know what you need to measure, and that’s why this topic is so far into this book. You need to build your marketing round, understand where the strengths of your team lie, really break down the silos (which is going to take some time), get your executives onboard, and discover which approaches and tactics you’re going to use before you can implement a measurement program.”
Uh…while specific metrics may be added, dropped or changed over time, it’s essential to begin efforts with a set of baseline measures to provide both a starting point and measure of progress as your strategy and tactics roll out. At a minimum, these should include presence metrics (e.g., number of backlinks to your website, keyword rank); competitive metrics (e.g., number of industry press mentions last month for your company and its top competitors); and performance metrics (e.g., web conversions by originating traffic source).
Still, these are at worst minor flaws. Overall, Marketing in the Round is a vital guide to coordinating not just marketing and PR but social efforts across the enterprise, to optimize business results in today’s Web-centric environment. It ranks among perhaps a handful of this year’s must-read business books.