content strategy

Navigating to complex world of marketing tech

We're off on a new direction again, advising companies about strategy and teaching content development. Our new video series will feature service vendors and customers to help you better navigate the complex world of marketing technology. Grab a cub of coffee and join the conversation 

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When developing content, don't follow the crowd

It’s one thing to create content that the market wants to read. It’s a completely different thing to create content that mimics what the market sees. Even the press has a hard time with that.

At the end of the Iowa Caucuses this year there was only one thing that was perfectly clear: the polls do not reflect how things are going to turn out. Yet for months now, the political press has been bombarding us with reports about who was doing well and who was not based on the latest of a plethora of polling agencies. Even though that was plainly clear, they have not yet stopped reporting on what the polls say.

The very simple reason the press continues to report faulty information is … everyone in the press is reporting it, therefore it must be reported. News is supposed to be about whatever is not usual. It is supposed to alert us to the extraordinary and it is supposed to be vetted before it goes out.

I had the opportunity to cover a presidential race in 1976 and was stunned to find out that the information I discovered with relatively little effort was not what the rest of the press wanted to report on, simply because no one else was writing about it. More specifically, if it wasn’t covered by a network, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post, then it was not covered by anyone else (This was before CNN and cable news, by the way. Yes, I’m that old).

There are other examples of the press not letting a dead story lie, but let’s not use this time to gang up on the press. The rest of the world is not much better, especially in B2B content.

Plagiarism is an ugly word, but I have found it to be quite common within the tech world when it comes to marketing and collateral content. In almost every case it is unintentional, but in every case it really messes up your program. Not only does it tend to destroy credibility when people recognize you are “re-using” someone else’s content, it’s a great way to drive your content lower in searches. I constantly see the same document published under different bylines on behalf of different companies. I’ve even seen stuff I originally wrote decades ago popping up under someone else’s byline, who got it from a client I originally ghostwrote it for. Let me explain why this is a really bad thing.

First, all the major search engines will scan new content and if they find large sections of a piece of content duplicated in another, newer piece, they newer piece will be driven down in the search listings, along with the URL of the company that publishes it. Original content is the number one, most important measurement for search engine rankings. That is followed by the number of people who actually take time to read it, and whether they share it and comment on it. It’s tough to get people to do those three things if they have already read it somewhere else.

Second, your content is what differentiates you from all your competitors. If you are the larger, more established player in the market, and every smaller competitor is duplicating and appropriating your content then there is no clear differentiator, and customers will always go with who they know. If you are the smaller player they probably don’t know you. So don’t copy the big player’s style or wording. Find your own.

You may think that isn’t you. You may think you have written the most important text document ever produced. That is generally not the case.

Footwasher Media evaluates all its potential clients according to their content and one of the first things we do is take their most recent content and run it through a plagiarism engine (there are many available and most for free). Nineteen of 20 companies have less than 10 percent original content in their material and are, frankly, surprised when we tell them that. If they don’t believe us, we don’t take their business. In many cases, they plagiarize their own content, but that, too, is not good. If you publish an article on your blog and then republish it on Linkedin, you will get dinged by all the search engines and by Linkedin. So just re-publishing content is just as bad as stealing it to the internet. Don’t do it.

There are ways to get around this and even re-use material effectively, but that’s a conversation that comes with an evaluation. Click here to get one.


Truth is relative in today's media, but that's about to change.

Much of what is happening in media, both in independent publications and in-house publications, is focused only on a single perspective and the financial investment in producing a multi-faceted approach is not welcome.

In this third part of our series on truth and trust in content, let’s get down to some nitty gritty and see how stuff is playing out in B2B tech media.  In the first two installments on this series I talked about the importance of finding truth in coverage, which requires a multi-faceted approach, not just truth from one perspective.  Unfortunately, much of what is happening in media, both in independent publications and in-house publications, is focused only on a single perspective and the financial investment in producing a multi-faceted approach is not welcome.  Let's take the gorilla in the room (IBM Tech) as an example.

I’ve written extensively on the changes at UBM Tech this past year and, most recently, some of the blowback I’ve been hearing not only from sponsors but potential sponsors as well.  There have been some responses from the UBM Tech team correcting some of the reports, but most of what I’ve written about (as well as plans to expand the program company wide) were confirmed a couple of weeks ago in an interview with UBM Tech mucky-mucks Paul Miller and Adrian Barrick in

In review, UBM Tech is downsizing is editorial staff, mostly senior people, and turning over the content development to mostly unpaid bloggers from sponsor companies.  The content is to be reviewed by less senior editors and the most egregious marketing fluff is to be screened out. Here’s Problem No. 1:  

As UBM Tech adds more content to the flow, the already overworked editorial staff  has less time to do proper screening, more fluff will get by.  

UBM Tech has been pointing to the fact that they STILL have a team of excellent journalists producing content for their publications, demonstrating they highly value those skills.  It’s true.  Junko Yoshida, Rick Merritt, Patrick Mannion and whoever else might be there (I’ve noticed the EE Times staff list page has been taken down, but you can still see the editors at are still formidable writers.  That brings us to Problem No. 2:

 See Problem No 1.  UBM Tech is requiring their editors to focus more on the news coming out of events, which are funded by sponsors and exhibitors and they are increasing the number of events, increasing the workload on the remaining journalists on the team... which has been causing valuable editors to leave (e.g. Brian Fuller and Alex Wolfe) for corporate jobs ... which has forced UBM Tech to hire journalists without significant experience in B2B Tech.

 Now before you get all up in arms to defend UBM Tech or to agree that it’s a horrible organization.  Let me point out that they are no different from any other organization.

I was having a discussion with a corporate manager recently who said he valued content production.  I asked him if he was paying more or less for content than he was 5 years ago.  The answer was less.  Then I asked him if he was getting more or less content production than he was 5 years ago.  He said more.  So I told him that it’s a great thing to say you value a particular skill, but when you require greater production at comparable or less pay, that immediately devalues the skill.

And this is especially true in every media corporation.  From tiny to large, the value of content creation is diminishing.  People want more, because while content is king these days, they demand the cost to be less.  That has a direct effect on the trustworthiness of the content.

This may be good financially in the short term for publications, but it is bad for the long term and it is not good for their audiences in general who are figuring out that content may be growing, but actual information is lacking. 

All is not lost, however, because good things are happening and we’ll get into the positive side of this in the next post.