As content takes center stage in marketing efforts, marketers need to embrace custom publishing in order to survive. So said Joe Pulizzi, founder and chief content officer of Junta42, a custom publishing company, during an American Business Media breakfast panel discussion last month in New York.
In the past, custom publishing was about creating brand awareness and appealing to the masses in an “interrupt and repeat” traditional marketing fashion, but that strategy doesn't work anymore, said Pulizzi, a former Penton Media custom publishing executive who moderated the panel discussion.
“As a marketer, to survive, you cannot surround the media. You have to be the media,” he said.
Paul Dunay, global director of integrated marketing at management and technology consultancy BearingPoint and a panelist at the ABM event, agreed that, particularly in an environment where there are more than 100 million blogs worldwide, marketers need to use content to engage customers in an ongoing dialogue.
“Don't interrupt what interests people,” Dunay said. “Be what interests people. No "punch the monkey' banners.”
That doesn't necessarily limit creating custom content to the traditional print format. Content should cut across all media channels, panelists said.
Martha Peterson, managing partner, global solutions at ad agency Mediaedge:cia, said that in the case of one client, Genworth Financial, this meant shifting the channels used.
“Before, 70% of our budget was in cable and 30% in print,” Peterson said. “This year, we spent 2% on a tailored TV effort, and 98% went to print and online.
Genworth's content has taken many forms, including the creation of an online community for financial professionals, media experts and journalists called Springboard Forum. The forum is tagged on the front page as sponsored by Genworth but contains no advertising elsewhere on the site.
Peterson said Genworth is also sponsoring podcasts with Bloomberg that feature financial expert Jane Bryant Quinn and is working with Dow Jones & Co.'s SmartMoney on a monthly tips article.
“Wherever we see dialogue happening, that's where we'll go,” Peterson said.
The U.S. Postal Service created a custom print magazine, Deliver, that debuted three years ago, and last year it added a companion Web site, delivermagazine.com, to extend that content online.
“We get to breathe life into our customer publication [with the online presence],” said panelist Cat Moriarty, program manager-corporate advertising for USPS. The site enables USPS to offer marketers such things as Web-exclusive case studies, interactive polls, downloadable white papers, video case studies of successful marketing campaigns and podcasts—all of which encourage reader interaction. “You need to give your audience a place to respond to you,” Moriarty said.
Deliver has become an integral part of USPS' efforts to reach corporate marketers. According to a recent reader survey, 43% of readers said Deliver had increased their intention to spend more on direct marketing; 67% said Deliver had increased their overall opinion of direct marketing.
Another panelist agreed that custom content can be powerful but cautioned publishers to exercise restraint and make sure the content is truly of value.
“Do not overassume people will want to read volumes of what you are talking about,” said Lynne Esparo, senior director of marketing for Nuance Communications, a speech recognition company.
“Custom media has to be timed right and [be] enticing. You need to give them a small amount at a time,” she said. “Once you have a relationship with someone, then they really have a tolerance for you. But think about how much information you are pushing out to people.”
Esparo said publishers that provide the content Nuance uses are important partners. “You help us with that third-party validation,” she told attendees. “You are the experts. You are who our customers are reading for nonbiased information. We have a symbiotic relationship.”
The final decision about whether to create custom content organically or buy it depends on several factors.
BearingPoint's Dunay said the choice hinges on the size and prominence of a particular program, and on its objectives.
Mediaedge:cia's Peterson said each client obtains content in a different way.
“Someone like Chanel creates all their own content, versus Genworth, which looks to us for that,” she said. “You have to be flexible in the role you play with any marketer.” M