By Ryan Skinner (email)
In Deadwood Part II, I advised marketers to begin exploring new routes to marketing and communication via online discussion forums. The point of this whole exercise is this: Communicators need to start thinking like publishers. Why? Because more and more they will be.
Companies have always focused on the market's needs, served its interests and given advice to clients or customers. This is the same way a publisher addresses its community or readership, yet companies have traditionally relied on the press to reach their audience. Why? Because the tools to reach the audience were out of the companies' reach. That has changed.
Here's the dig (and you can clip this out, quote it, paste it on your door, your bathroom mirror, please, just remember it): It has never before been easier or cheaper for anybody, or any company, to become its own media channel than it is today. You as a brand can become the most attractive conduit for information and news about your business and products, anywhere, and you can do it cheaply and quickly.
Why rely on the trade journalists who - let's admit - don't live and die for your products, to write about them? If you're Schat-Harding, you live and breathe lifeboats. They're exactly what you burn for. And you can make a channel today, five minutes from now, about your passion. In fact, you can begin using studio-quality video, audio and editing tools and publish this all live to the world for far less money than ever before, and zero formal training.
The tools and equipment necessary to make this happen have rocketed downwards in price, and the online technologies to carry all of this are ready to use. Video editing, blog publishing, audio editing, video streaming - all of these are either free, or nearly, and so easy to use that they're practically boring. Everything best-of-breed is ready for you, often as a subscription service.
In other words, big company or small, there's every reason to create your own media. Your own slim channel. The kicker is this: It's not only good for you; it's also good for the market, your customers and the trade media. For people searching for information about lifeboats, there is now a dedicated channel, or many, that covers the topic. What could be better?
Why advertise with the traditional media, in the hopes that a stray eyeball may happen to lead to new business, when you can target your potential market directly? If someone is looking for information about lifeboats, they google lifeboats. And, because Google loves rich content on specific topics, they will find just that - the channel dedicated to lifeboats.
I said that this was a good thing for trade media, and it is (if they can get their finger out). There is an enormous opportunity for online trade media to offer companies interested in setting up slim channels with a place to do it. Wouldn't it be ideal for a www.lloydslist.com or www.fairplay.co.uk to possess a number of specific channels devoted to each little niche in the industry? They could then surf on, mash and mix-up the content from many slim channels for a mainstream audience. Would they not become the go-to place for information, something they've always wanted?
They must act quickly though. It is only at the start that brands will see the value in the traffic juice that major publications can offer. Soon enough, they will discover that they can drive more than enough traffic in their own right. Then the point of paying to piggyback a site with big traffic numbers will be lost.
Some prigs will pooh-pooh this, and say: Silly little company, you don't possess the necessary skills and expertise to create high-quality content. You will harm your brand. Bull. People who say that are generally less interested in your brand than they are protecting their take. And they're not right.
The Internet today is rife with great content that is produced by the rankest of amateurs. Some of the greatest texts, videos, images and podcasts online today were made by people with zero qualifications, and zero formal training. The crowd that obsesses over commas can eat shoot leave and shove it. The Internet is global. The Internet is interested in the content, not comma splices.
This change impacts my job as a PR professional. I see a situation developing where more and more customers drive their own content and stories, and my role becomes one of offering guidance, training and inspiration. It's pushing us to be more ambitious on behalf of clients that are seeing this great new potential emerge.
There are two major ways to follow this up. First, how does a company specifically go about setting up a slim channel? Second, how does a slim channel create a great basis for measuring impact and targetting the audience? These will be covered in a later instalment of the Deadwood series.