4 Steps to Fixing your Content Marketing Program

By Joe Basques
Footwasher Media Vice President Shapeimage_5

A short piece in Entrepreneur.com looked at "7 Inconvenient Truths About Content Marketing” provided a nice summary of some of the major pitfalls to avoid in your content marketing program.  Anyone starting a new content marketing program, however, would be a bit discouraged in the endeavor because it did little, to tell you how to avoid, much less fix, these problems.   

So let’s fill in those blanks.

1.  Strategy, Strategy, Strategy...

The article points out that content marketing without strategy is essentially worthless.  I agree completely.  Strategy is the cornerstone of any content marketing program and documenting it is crucial.  Multiple research studies (Forresters and Content Marketing Institute to name two) have demonstrated that companies with a documented content strategy are seeing tremendous results from their programs with measurable ROI.  Those without a strategy are not happy with their programs because they have no idea what the ROI is supposed to be.  Here’s the kicker: The studies show that between 80% - 90% of the companies interviewed for the survey do not have a documented strategy.  My own personal experience confirms these numbers.

I call that wasting your time and it’s why so many pundits are claiming that content marketing is dead. The reality is, in the case of most companies, content marketing is dead on arrival because it lacks a strategic focus.  

While the article also points out that strategy isn't free or easy. We know that it doesn't have to be expensive.  Yes, it will cost some money for a comprehensive strategy, but without it you won't see the ROI and you're wasting your time.  It's the foundation of your program, so seek professional to help.  Footwasher Media will even give you a free evaluation of your program to help you get started.

2.  Everyone's An Expert...

I think this is the single most common sales objection we hear at Footwasher Media regarding content development.  Most anyone and everyone who's ever passed an English class thinks they can write content for their website.  The truth is, you may be proficient for an English class, but writing content or creating a video that people want to share and engage with is completely different.  

Footwasher Media takes a journalistic approach to content because journalists are trained to find the unique angle in just about every story.  They'll find things you'll never think of because they don’t come from the angle of the corporation but from that of the user. 

Marketers and engineers generally only look at what they think is the upside of their products/technology without actually considering the perspective of the user. Most of them can’t do anything else because they are so immersed in their own messaging. The problem is that how they describe their technology is generally the way they’ve heard the competition describe theirs. So if your content is not unique, your customers can’t tell the difference between you and your competitors, which mean you’re still wasting your time.  The world of content marketing is constantly changing.  

Content marketing is about much more than content.  It’s about platforms, infrastructure and metrics too.  The metrics you are looking at now are probably not the metrics that demonstrate ROI. Even click bait sites like Buzzed are learning that merely reposting someone else’s content is a good way to kill your readership. They are changing their measurements from unique visits and clicks to time spent on the site and sharing. If you want to measure true ROI, hire an expert.  We're constantly studying the changes in platforms and metrics and will get you the best ROI.  When you visit a doctor for critical help, you want someone who’s versed in the latest tools and techniques because your life depends on it.  You should want no less from your content marketing team because your business depends on it.

3.  All content is NOT created equally...

It's generally true that you get what you pay for.  We know many content providers that will repurpose content by including a bunch of keywords.  This doesn’t work and creates useless content.  It’s garbage because it's cheap, easy to do and everyone is doing it.  This ties in to the point above.  Journalists are trained to find the unique angle in just about every story.  They'll find things that are really interesting and your readers really want to engage with and share.  Here's something else to think about: Google’s algorithms know the difference between useless info and quality content and so do customers. We recently did an evaluation for a small tech company and found that even though they were producing copious amounts of content, their SEO was in the toilet and no one was reading their stuff.  The reason, they were plagiarizing their own content in multiple sites and the search engines were dinging them for not having original content… even though it was their own original content being reposted. As the experts, we were able to see that almost instantly.

So hire an expert. It doesn’t have to be a full-time person or have a long-term contract and committment. You can bring them on for evaluation and training only. We believe the best use of our skills and knowledge are on a short-term basis. We look at your current program and resources and help you find the additional tools and gain the understanding of how media works. And then we can move on after a few months. You don’t need to sign a year-long agreement and you don’t have to bust your budget.

4.  It's a lousy time to have a service business...

This is where I really disagree with the article.  It's not a bad time to own a service business.  I work in a service business.  Even product-based companies are service businesses. No matter what kind of business you are, though, you have to find what differentiates you from everyone else and write about that.  Most of the time, what you write about isn’t about the widget you sell but how you make your customers’ lives better and more efficient.  Each one of us has a unique perspective on life.  If you can’t figure out what that is, hire an expert and they'll help you figure that out. What makes you different is often something only someone outside of your walls can figure out.


Are lead-generation services worth the investment?

... and the answer is, maybe. Chart-spam1

Lead generation services are abundant and there is absolutely no reliable data on who is good and who isn’t, but there are enough customers for all providers to make a decent living or to at least persuade investors to support new technologies.

I get about five requests weekly to have a new lead-gen service demonstrate their wares. All of them use an almost identical pitch to describe the quality of their current lists, the abilities of their list screeners or the functionality of their artificial intelligence that scours the web for leads. I have tried about two dozen in the past year and I have discovered that none of the work as well as internal list development.

Let me clarify: the companies I work with (and my own company for that matter) do not try to reach millions of potential customers with their marketing. Footwasher Media does not do retail business. If you are in the retail business and you get a two-percent positive response from a 500,000-lead list, that’s a good investment. A B2B company looking to do a million-dollar deal with each of 10 customers in a year, a two-percent return would be good, too. But I have yet to see a B2B company get any return on a purchased list of lead-gen service, and zero-percent return is not good.

Why can’t these companies do what they say that can do for high-end B2B? First, because they all dip into the same set of Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes to start their process and those codes screw up all the data. For example, I have taken flyers on a half dozen lead-generation technologies to see if they could deliver decent results. The process begins by me either giving them a list of 50-100 of my current customers (or client customers), or filling out a form that lists the industries, titles and revenues for the kind of companies we want to reach. That data is punched into the system and out comes…

Lists of lawyers, accountants and HR professionals.

That would be great if I was trying to reach those three groups, but I never am. None of those people ever invest in communication or marketing. Furthermore, they know nothing about communication and marketing. However, when they are filling out their industry classification that will list every kind of industry their clients work in. So if I am asking for a list of executives in the semiconductor industry, every lawyer, accountant or HR professional that works with semiconductor companies will be included in the list, even if I specifically request that they NOT be included.

The second reason lead-gen services fail to provide valuable information is the mobility of the leads. People move from job to job or get laid off. Right now, layoffs in the tech world are rampant, especially in middle management where initial purchase decisions are made. Companies regularly fail to update their websites and companies go out of business without taking down websites, yet that is the second source of data the services relief on.

There are Lead-gen companies that feature real human beings making phone calls to real human beings to validate the data they scrape from the SIC codes and web, and they charge anything from $12 to $100 per lead, based on what I’ve been pitched. Now, compared to trade show leads in B2B industries that cost about $200 per lead, that may be a bargain, but the question is, do they turn into business deals? Usually, no. but the human intelligence of this process is much more effective than the web scraping described above.

The services that do human screening usually have minimums in the thousands. So at the low end, you could buy a thousand leads for $12,000 and still have to close the sale. You might screen through them and find 10 percent are warm enough to make an initial meeting so you can say you’ve spent $120 per lead which is better than trade shows. However, Footwasher Media has discovered that internally developing that intel is more effective than hiring it. We can find a young, personable individual with no more than a high school education can be paid $15 and hour to take an internally developed list and create 100 warm leads within 8 hours or $120: $1.20 a lead. Those leads were developed using marketing automation software that costs $1000 per month for a subscription bringing the total cost to $10.20 per lead. For our clients, if one of those leads turns into a sale, it’s a 100x ROI.

There are lead-generation services that are results oriented (you don’t pay until you get the expected results) but they are just as expensive as the “humint” services, sometimes even more. In fact, we have discovered that the cost of third-party lead generation is as much as you would pay for a content marketing agency and marketing automation software per month, both of which do all the work in finding and turning leads into sales before the lead hits the salesman’s desk.

This is not to say you should not consider hiring one of these services, but remember, they are pretty much all alike and deliver pretty much the same results, so factor that in when you are making the budget decision.

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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.


This is the year when your content marketing will disintegrate

In September, Gartner's Jake Sorofman predicted the flame out of content marketing as the industry reaches the end of the peak of inflated expectations and enters the "trough of disillusionment."

Of course he is right. 

There are three kinds of marketers: those who have rejected content marketing because it doesn't jibe with how they view how marketing works; those who have embraced it as merely another media channel; and those who have realized they need to change how they communicate with the market. The first will feel vindicated by the coming slaughter (they will still be wrong). The second will either join the first or lose their jobs because they failed to produce as they promised their bosses. The third will be hailed as gurus and the market for content marketing will shrink.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has mirrored the Gartner findings in their 2016 outlook with a further insight: 55 percent of B2B marketers have no idea what effective or successful content marketing even looks like. As the caterpillar said to Alice, "If you don't know where you are going, any path will take you there."

CMI's numbers showed the reason for the growing discontent and confusion: 67 percent of surveyed marketers are immature practitioners. In other words, two-thirds of all marketers don't know what they are doing when it comes to content.

To me, this is all good news. The hardest thing to convince clients is that their content is really pretty bad because it mirrors the same kind of one-way communication they've always had with their customers and they don't know why it doesn't work anymore. What's more, marketers continue to fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to a content strategy, meaning they have prepared nothing to guide the company regarding strategic content.

So you have a double whammy when it comes to content marketing: you have people who run it that can't create original, engaging content, nor do they have a plan to measure what is and isn't working.

Are you one of those companies that has been dabbling with content marketing and being wholly unsatisfied with the result? I have two freebies to offer you. First is the CMI white paper on documenting a strategy. Second is our free evaluation of your current program. We can get you on track quickly.

Why are freelancers so expensive?

The Freelancers Union recently published a study on the affect of nonpayment to freelancers on the economy and to business in general. The report concluded:


Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge.

"Late and nonpayment is one of the top challenges facing the independent workforce today. These workers are at greater risk
of nonpayment than traditional workers, but the law does not reflect this reality. The current way that independent workers must deal with nonpayment is inequitable, time wasting, damaging to one’s finances and harmful to the economy. Instead of having to deal with nonpaying clients on their own, freelancers should have access to worker protections similar to those extended to traditional employees. These workers comprise one-third of the U.S. Workforce; they deserve protections suitable to such a significant part of the economy."


Having been a freelancer for a couple of decades I can relate, but the report missed one thing. If you wonder why the rates are so high for freelancers, this is the primary reason. What you are getting charged for freelance work is already, generally lower than what you would pay a full time employee, based on 40 hour work weeks, benefits, insurance, equipment, office space, etc., but the hourly and project rates you pay are also making up for the losses the freelancers take on one out of three projects. Yes, that's right. The report states that as much as a third of their income is lost through nonpayment.

In the past 20 years, my business has racked up $180,000 in unpaid invoices, or the equivalent of three years of work. I even had a client stiff me on $13,500 after promising to pay me the next day. I went to their offices the next day and found the place emptied and later learned that they had packed up in the middle of the night and went back to China, leaving millions of dollars in unpaid bills and payroll that were unrecoverable.

The report states that construction firms were the worst offenders in this area, either by late payments or nonpayment at 82 percent. The electronics and software industries are close behind in my experience, however, with 3 of 4 either paying 90 days late if at all. 

The benefits of being your own boss are being able to set your own hours, work where you like, and always being able to choose the most interesting work to do. But the next time you are hiring an agency or a freelancer and are ticked off that they are demanding a retainer or lawyer-evle hourly rates, keep in mind that you are on the receiving end of a practice that your company may have encouraged.

Censorship is not the way

As a free speech advocate I’m growing increasingly alarmed over the trend among many to limit speech that offends as well as the freedom of the press to report news. It is happening with increasing activity on college campuses and within much of our national dialog. While this is not unusual outside of the US, it’s becoming commonplace in the US. This essay was promoted when I heard Robert Scoble of Rackspace make an endorsement of the idea of filtering content that he disagrees with on his own Facebook feed. 

I have a great deal of respect for Scoble. He is a journalist of integrity and an important voice for innovation in technology, but for someone like him to come out and recommend technological advances that stifle free speech by creating a freedom FROM speech was disconcerting.  Article-2411817-1BA0651D000005DC-297_1024x615_large

Scoble’s recommendation came during the last week’s national discussion about whether Syrian refugees should be allowed into the US. The fact that I had not yet made up my own mind as to what should be done and rather than state an opinion, I decided to conduct a Facebook experiment to help mold my opinion while, at the same time, demonstrate how objectionable content can be used constructively. That is the point of this essay.

I began with three assumptions:

  1. I do not know everything.

  2. What I do know may be wrong.

  3. Someone else might know more than I do. 

Next, I read as many arguments and news stories as I could on both sides of the argument (they should be let in/they should not be let in) from reputable sources from places like the Washington Post, Foreign Policy magazine and The Economist (to name a few). After reading them I posted them without comment. Then I waited for comments from my friends and acquaintances.

Just about everyone had a specific side to take. It was obvious when they had read what I posted and when they had not. Just about everyone had a strong position based on their own political leanings. Conservatives angrily disagreed with opinions posted by Liberals. Liberal derisively disagreed with Conservatives. There was no middle ground and very little of it was civil to opposing sides. In some cases, I felt obliged to respond to some of the bile but I resisted. Instead, for each response, if necessary I asked for a clarification of their reasoning. This is where the conversation became more thoughtful.

Yes, there were still obvious biases in each respondent. Some went off on rants and diatribes but even in these emotional statements arose common threads, and the most common was, fear that they did not know everything about the issue; that they might be wrong; that someone might know more than they did. Xenophobia, political bias and outright bigotry played a part in all of it, but it was the fear of the unknown and what could possibly happen if their particular solution was not followed was the primary driver. 

I sat back for a day to think about all of this and I came to approach it using the three assumptions.

First was the fear of the unknown. Realizing that approaching an animal that is fearful or even wounded is a good way of getting bitten played into my reasoning. Many respondents described situations that legitimately established their fear of the refugees, while other described situations regarding close friends and relatives. Telling them that they were wimps, whiners and over-reactors (as President Obama has done) doesn’t get them to back down. It gets them to dig in their heels even more. To approach a wounded animal safely requires patience, the ability to properly assess the state of their wound and the means to affect healing.

Second, the fear of being wrong. These people tended to have lots of facts and philosophies at their fingertips. The rejection of German Jews in WWII was widely used. The poem on the Statue of Liberty, another. All of these arguments lacked one thing. Empathy for the fear expressed by the first group. Even when cooler heads addressed the arguments with reason the respondents replied back with aggression to whoever disagreed with them.  Conversely, the people who took exception to the logic snapped back at them in anger, not unlike a wounded animal, because they were afraid, deep down, that they did not know the real answer. 

Finally, the fear of being ignorant. There were some response to the pro-refugee folks that were quite convincing, but because they tended to point out the ignorance of the other in their argument, the response was angry and went in a completely different direction and away from the discussion at hand: whether to allow Syrian refugees in.

In this process I began to consider the fears, ignorance and polemics of the discussion as all valid for the individuals and then produced a single statement with my position:

“We need to accept the refugees as soon as the FBI has established a protocol for screening them. I'm more interested in making sure families are allowed entry. And I am in favor of each family being sponsored.”

This position first acknowledges the human tragedy that is Syria and that humanity demands a graceful response. It also understands the need to take every precaution to keep the nation safe while providing for the needs of the refugees and integrate them within the larger community. It establishes priorities for entry and prevents naturally occurring ghettos of Syrians that could become resentful of their isolation (as we see happening in France and Belgium). 

Instead of taking a side, I assimilated the emotional basis of each side into my position. Remarkably enough, there was not a single comment on they position, but the number of people the “like” the Facebook post spanned the spectrum of political though among my Facebook audience. So let’s bring back the issue of free speech.

If I had my feed filtered, as Scoble suggested, I would not have had the opportunity to come to a clear position, one that heard and understood each side, and came to a conclusion that was not, in fact, agreeing with anyone in particular, but satisfied the concerns of everyone in general. I could not have come to this point without all the raucous and uncivil discussion I saw on Facebook. Every position generated value. 

I do not know everything, but I have access to much knowledge and as I am often wrong, I can find correction relatively quickly. Listen to everyone, consider where they are coming from and respond in kindness. It’s not easy to do and I don’t often do it. But now that I have discovered how to do this, I no longer need that massive filter we seem to want now.

Content marketing works. Numbers don't lie.

Adding the analysis as a foundational part of our methodology was incredibly important in being to understand what is happening in this clients outreach to new business, but what brought about the changes was a fundamental shift in how they communicated and the quality of their content.

Last year, Footwasher Media solidifies its approach to content strategy by incorporating analysis as a foundation stone in the methodology. We partnered with several marketing automation companies and started telling prospective clients that unless they adopted and used something other than Google analytics that we could not take their business. That requirement significantly limited how much new business we took on because 9 of 10 companies and organizations were not will to use it.

After almost one year of changing to the new methodology I'm happy to say that ALL of our clients are experiencing remarkable growth in their business.

I've chose one particular company to highlight (that I won't name) that has had the most improvement because they had the most work to be done.

When this company came to us in August of last year, we used several measurement tools to evaluate where they were. Their website had been up and running for a couple of years so there was some data to grab. On avert, the site has an atrocious 96 percent bounce rate, had only 14 percent of their traffic coming from direct searches, 14 percent from search engines, 1.2 page views per visit and 0.02 minutes per visit.  Oh, and they average 2 visitors per month.

We engaged with them in October and immediately began implementing a strategy using the Sharpspring marketing automation platform, our lowest cost partner. By December we had renovated much of their content and implemented a strategic plan to develop a quarterly email newsletter program. Their budget was extremely tight but we worked with what we had.

By the end of January, two months before we sent the first newsletter, we started seeing significant increases in the website traffic and lead generation. That growth has continued as we approach the end of the first year.

The bounce rate has dropped to 62 percent on average with an outstanding 20 percent on months when we sent out the newsletter. Admittedly 62 percent is nothing to crow about, but is dramatically better than what it was. What was truly gratifying is that the site average 42 percent of the web traffic directly from the emails. Often, visitors use the email to fund the site as a repeat visitor, rather than going through search engines, however even search engine visits have almost doubled over last year. 

The best part was the engagement of the visits that went from 0.2 minutes to a stunning 8.7 minutes as of October 1. That is the average time of visit for the period between October 31, 2014 to October 1, 2015.

Adding the analysis as a foundational part of our methodology was incredibly important in being to understand what is happening in this clients outreach to new business, but what brought about the changes was a fundamental shift in how they communicated and the quality of their content. 

This methodology works. The numbers don't lie.

What no one is telling you about the media.

We see rumors and conspiracy theories popping up every day and some people believe them because they fit in a particular world view. Just because it sounds true doesn't mean it is true.

There is a phrase that pops up in a lot of blogs, social media posts and general conversation that really annoys me.

"The media is not covering this."

It doesn't matter what the socio-religio-political position of the person making the statement because it is a universal belief among all stripes that something they consider crucial is being ignored by the news media. This article is to describe why your crucial information is being ignored.

  1. You don't actually read general news media so you have no idea if it is being covered or how it is being covered if it is. Few people actually read legitimate news sources anymore. More people get their news from click-bait sites or gossip shows like TMZ; partisan blogs and news commentaries; and social media posts than they do actual news organizations. Those people also don't know how news and opinion are two different forms of information. Part of that problem is there is more media investment in the low-information content because there is a greater return on investment. Stating an uninformed opinion takes a lot less work and cost than digging out a news story.

  2. What you consider news is actually not true.  We see rumors and conspiracy theories popping up every day and some people believe them because they fit in a particular world view. Just because it sounds true doesn't mean it is true. News professionals are supposed to take their time and research information to report truth. It is the first tenet of the professional journalist code of ethics: Seek truth and report it. Now it is also a truth that many professionals don't do a very good job of the seeking part, especially lately. That doesn't necessarily mean they are lazy, but that they don't actually have time to do their jobs well, which brings us to point three.

  3. The news media you think exists died out a decade ago. I've been a media professional for 40 years. I started out as a reporter and branched out into marketing communications, PR, and communication strategy, so I have been intently watching the contraction of the news industry. In the Electronics Industry media alone, less than a third of the publications I used to work for and with still exist and 95 percent of the professional journalists have been replaced by marketing executives and low-level engineers who hated to do engineering. Hundreds of newspapers and broadcast news organizations have disappeared in the past decade. We have more access to media channels than ever before and less than half the personnel to cover actual news. Jobs that used to go to professional journalists at one time are now going to people who can be entertaining rather than good at finding truth. I recently saw a "news" story by a freelancer on a cable news network who I had seen previously doing standup on the Comedy Channel. So if the media is, in reality, not covering a particular bit of news you consider important, it probably because they do not have a human being available to cover it.

So what can we do about this?

  • First, maybe you can pick up a newspaper once in a while and actually read the news. Several times a week I read two local newspapers, I subscribe online to Al Jazeera, The Economist, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post and Politico. I also have www.snopes.com in my bookmark bar so I can quickly review if what I’m reading is accurate.

  • Second, on Facebook, rather than follow pages like Huffington Post, moveon.org and TMZ you could start following the really boring stuff that may or may not coincide with your theological and political views. Instead of watching MSNBC or Fox and Friends, watch the news programs on ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS... and NOT THE COMMENTARY sections.  Instead of reading opinion pieces on what was said on Meet the Press and Face the Nation, I actually watch them to see what was really discussed. Online sources of information are not all bad. scotusblog.com is a great source of information about Supreme Court news, for example. 

  • Third, a good filter for any online source is any that does NOT use the phrases, "What they are not telling you...", "A little-known fact...", and "what the media isn't covering." 

  • Fourth, stop listening to people that tell you what you want to hear. Step out of your comfort zone.

  • Fifth, don't trust anyone under 30 with an opinion (OK, just kidding about the last one... sort of).

If you follow these guidelines you will not only find out just what is actually being covered, but you will hone your BS meter’s ability to make you properly skeptical.

Lethal Generosity comes out next week and you should read it.

...,if you see competitors using social platforms and technology making money while you are not; If you want to sell your business to someone for a good price in the next 10 years. READ THIS BOOK!

I was given the honor of reviewing Lethal Generosity, the latest book on communication and technology from Shel Israel, before it is released next week. I spent the time to read it through twice (and it is quite readable so that took little effort). I’ve come to the opinion that it might be the most important book a business person or professional communicator could read this year. But before I explain why, let’s weed the field a bit.

If you have no plans to sell your products of services to people under 30, ever, don’t read this book. 

If you plan to retire or shut your business down in 10 years, don’t read this book.

But if you are struggling to understand how to grow your business; if you see competitors using social platforms and technology making money while you are not; If you want to sell your business to someone for a good price in the next 10 years. READ THIS BOOK!

Israel has written several books on how to effectively communicate with today’s marketplace. This particular book is a sequel of sorts to his most recent, The Age of Context, that he co-wrote with Robert Scoble. I saw that book as a description of the kind of technology that was available to reach audiences and grow businesses. But it was a little light on the application. Lethal Generosity picks up from that point and talks about how some companies are using that technology effectively, why it is working and who is most influenced by it.

Here is a short description of those three areas:


  1. Very few companies are actually using the technology and even fewer are using it properly

  2. It works for those few companies because they understand it is no longer about reaching thousands of potential customers in hopes of attracting a few dozen, but reaching those few dozen who in turn will attract even more through electronic interaction.

  3. It is most effective at reaching the Millennial Generation than any other.


Starting with the audience, Israel describes a generation that is as visionary and energetic as the Baby Boomers, but is as pragmatic as the Greatest Generation that fought WW II (This is my description, not Israel’s). They relish collaboration and want to change the world, but see it as a process not a revolution. One step at a time rather than all at once. As a Boomer, I participated in the Civil Rights Movement, The anti-war movement, feminism and politics and like most of my compatriots I am pretty disappointed in what we accomplished. It was a revolution but the product is still kind of half-assed. 

The Millennials I watch today, and as Israel points out, look at fixing problems one at a time and in cooperation with other problem solvers. They personify  the story of the boy tossing starfish back into the ocean after a storm because while he might not be able to save all, but he can save some. They do this in groups, or as Seth Godin describes them, tribes. They are less competitive than my generation, more charitable and more community oriented. They listen to each other more than they listen to corporate messages. And they are more in tune with generosity as a social requirement. That brings me to the title of the book.

“Lethal generosity” is about doing things that seem counter productive to my generation. It’s about recommending a customer go to a competitor because they actually have what the customer needs. It includes unrestricted warranties on products and services. It gives back to the world as an automatic reaction to a sale. Most importantly it obliterates barriers to sales by facilitating them through technology.

In the “lethally generous” world Israel describes, a customer can find a store on a mobile device, find what they are looking for in the store, get instant feedback  from friends on the product and the company that makes it, and then make the purchase, all before the customer enters the store and picks up the product.

It’s not just about sales, though. It’s about building communities. Midway through the book, Israel tells the story of Summit, an entrepreneurial organization that provides mentoring, resources, funding and other forms of support to new businesses. It includes some of the most influential people of the 21st Century as well as thousands of members. But you probably don’t know anything about it because they operate exclusively through invitation by current members. The organization is highly connected through social media and electronic communication.

Some people, mostly my generation, think that this dependence on technology is actually fracturing the social contract between us; building barriers to communication that we have come to rely on. Yes and no.

Our current paradigm of communication is to talk at people until they give in and do what we tell them. It is minimally effective and actually more divisive. The new paradigm allows people to listen to a conversation before entering it. It allows them to vet potential relationships and thereby set appropriate expectations. Finally it builds relationships probably more effectively that any form of communication we have had since the oral tradition. Israel describes observing Millennials meeting people face to face for the first time, after they had known each other for years electronically. They are as close to each other as they would have been if they had grown up together.

This book, Lethal Generosity, describes how technology makes that happen by greasing the skids, blowing up barriers, and building real communities for business, rather than just spreadsheets. It’s available on Amazon next week in both print and electronic forms.

Get it.

The cost and potential of speaking engagements

Unless you are already mind-bindingly successful and in demand as a speaker, don’t count on being able to get people to pay you to show up and speak… or even speak for free.

Every client I have ever had makes one request that can never be satisfied: Obtaining speaking engagements.

It’s not that it cannot be done, but that the client either lacks the patience or resources to make fulfilling that request possible. So I thought it might be a good time to actually put down how those engagements actually happen.

First, one needs to understand that speaking engagements are generally offered 6 months before the event actually happens because events just don’t start spontaneously. Most of the planning stages begin the day after the event last occurred, subject matter is decided upon and the search for participants in the program begins. Who is chosen to participate generally comes down to the following:

1. Sheer luck.  

This occurs when a person originally selected to speak has to bow out at the last minute and there are no other options immediately available. I recently placed a client in an opportunity that literally arose 5 days before the event. We had to quickly put together a presentation that shoehorned the client’s technology into a narrow application and, while the talk was generally well received, several of the attenders made a point during Q&A to say that the technology really didn’t match the subject matter. It was an acceptable alternative to the organizers because they had a hole to fill. This doesn’t happen often. In fact it may never happen for a client. Don’t count on it.

2. The speaker is very well-known and in demand. 

One of the deciding factors on who gets to speak is that the main speakers will attract more people to the event. For example, Thomas Dolby, a musician and producer popular in the 1980s, was chosen as a speaker at a tech conference I went to a couple of years ago. He received a pretty good check and had all his expenses covered by the organizers for coming to the event and talking about how he had pioneered electronic music. It was a good talk, but he was well known by the crowd and was quite entertaining. The room was packed and enthusiastic. I have had clients that became well known after a few years int he business, but by then we had moved on to other clients. 

Unless you are already mind-bindingly successful and in demand as a speaker, don’t count on being able to get people to pay you to show up and speak… or even speak for free.

3. You have a non-promotional presentation of significant value to attendees of the event.

Many conferences invite people to submit ideas for presentations to a review committee. The committees receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications, but can choose only a few dozen. Those applications are screened for promotional material and technical importance. You also have to get by the bias inherent in the selection process, much of which will be run by people you compete with. 

I’ve been involved in this process with a dozen different organizers. One of them has the person in charge of PR for the event on the committee. This person also represents several companies that exhibit at the event. Unsurprisingly one or two of those clients gets a speaking slot every year. So most of the selections in these events have more to do with politics and money than merit. That brings me to …

4. Money, money money, money.... MONEY!

At one time, a keynote address was only one slot in the schedule. It was a coveted slot and events would labor to find someone who would do the entire industry proud. Then the organizers came to realize that the keynote was also something that CEOs of corporations would pay a great deal of money in order to get the slot.

Did you ever wonder why Bill Gates was always the keynote speaker at Comdex/CES? It’s because Microsoft always bought the largest exhibit booths. Apple also had several keynotes at Comdex before they backed out in favor of their own events, but one of the reasons they never came back was because they thought they were high enough that they shouldn’t have to pay. 

Microsoft has also downscaled their participation in CES, which is why Intel, with it’s large presences, got the keynote this year. So when it comes to speaking slots, money talks and innovation walks.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money at an exhibit to get a speaking slot, but you will get more opportunities to speak when you buy exhibit floor space or sponsorships.

From this we can determine whether your PR/marketing folks can get you a speaking engagement:


  1. Highest potential - Fame and fortune. No cost but you probably don’t qualify 

  2. High potential - Pay your way onto the program 6 months in advance. Could as much as $100,000 so you have to determine if the value of the opportunity is worth that much. 

  3. Crap shoot - Submit a non-promotional tech presentation. Increase the odds by buying space or sponsorships. Ask if it is worth it first.

  4. Lottery ticket - Last minute program addition. No cost but highly unlikely.


So let me wrap this up. Speaking engagements are a good way to raise visibility, but they are not cheap or even free. If you have limited resources it may not be the best course. If you are good at speaking a better option is podcasting. If you have engaging content and aren’t selling stuff, you have a good chance of building an audience. If not, at least you will have made your CEO feel good about himself, and some days, that’s important.


Time, talent and desire to connect make Linkedin valuable

This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.

In my previous posts about Linkedin I talked about the value of the platform, the frustrations users are having, changes that Linkedin might consider to reverse those frustrations and how you can screen contacts more effectively to minimize spam. This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.  Leverage-linkedin-for-success

A communicator is a person who can bring disparate and anonymous people and groups together through the distribution of information those people and groups find valuable. If you don’t care if they find that information valuable, or you don’t really like bringing people together, you might consider avoiding social media altogether. That is a valid option.

There are people that have plenty of business and don’t really need more. There are people who are considering retiring from business altogether and they don’t need more connections. There are people who just don’t like human interaction. For all of those people, social media is a useless place to be. But there are billions of people who do need to know how to do it right and, for business, Linkedin is a very good place to be, but its value to those people is dependent on whether the people they want to reach find their information valuable.

Linkedin is an excellent blogging platform. I maintain a professional blog, a political blog and a theology blog but only with the first one do I make an effort to expand my audience as the rest are just hobbies. However, my audience on my Linkedin community is larger than my blogs, my Facebook pages and my Twitter accounts, simply because the target audience for what I have to share is primarily on Linkedin. I’ve also used Linkedin to boost traffic to client sites, as well as my own. I’d like to think that’s because people on Linkedin find me to be a brilliant writer, but it’s more likely that I post information and comments that people find interesting.

Developing interesting content, however, is not simple and there is no real formula for developing it. There are tools and techniques for writing effectively, but finding out what is interesting to your audience takes time and observation.

For example, when I wrote a post about how things are getting better in online journalism no one cared. Essentially, all I did was point out a few observations I made.  But when I write about a problem and offer a potential solution, like the first post I did about Linkedin, there was a mammoth response. 

That’s the beauty of social media. You can get almost instantaneous measurement of the value of your content and adjust accordingly.  It’s a constant work in progress and, again, takes time and effort.

Producing timely information is another way to boost your audience. For example, I did a piece about the Tesla battery product a few months back that got thousands of views and hundreds of responses, but follow on posts about alternative energy have not gotten anywhere near the response. That’s because when I wrote the piece on about Tesla it was the same day that the company announced the product. It was fresh and on the minds of my audience. The followup pieces lacked a breaking-news hook.

That does not mean, however, that small responses are not valuable. In social media it isn’t about how many people follow you or read your material, it’s whether the right people do. My followup pieces attracted twice as many valuable connection requests than the Tesla piece did.

That final point is the real value of Linkedin. If your profile and content attract 1 new piece of business, or one new partner, or one investor for a client (and this series has done all of that), it is better than getting thousands of views without a single connection request.

You need three things to make Linkedin, or any other social platform, valuable. First is your ability to create attractive and engaging content, the willingness to put in the time to study the responses, and the desire to increase your potential market. If you lack one of those three, find someone who does have the attributes you lack and get their help. 

And if all of this feels a bit overwhelming, feel free to give me a call or shoot me a request to connect.  I’d be happy to give you an analysis of your current program and put you in touch with someone who can take care of all of this for you.

Keeping crap out of your Linkedin feed

If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation.

The input on my concern about Linkedin’s future has created a massive response in the past week. More than 30 comments in my Linkedin post and a couple hundred direct messages and emails. All of the input is consistent.

While comments range from power users who say the will continue to be power users, to those that say they are leaving Linkedin altogether, but the consistently say that the level of SPAM is increasing, which makes the platform more difficult to use. So today I’d like to talk about techniques to eliminate the SPAM and make Linkedin useful for you. Linkedin-icon
If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation. 

Step one, when you join Linkedin, do not automatically add everyone from your contact lists until you’ve taken time to go through those lists and weed out useless contacts. If you don’t feel you have time to do that, don’t make those connections. Several respondent in the discussion said that when they joined they started getting all these requests to connect from people they said they didn’t know. But I had one of them check one of their contact lists (in this case, Yahoo) and he discovered all the names of the people asking for connections. He had no idea those names were in his list.

For the record, I did not add my lists to Linkedin until about 5 years after I joined and had gone through hours of cleaning up those lists.

Step two, actually look at the profile of the person asking to connect. Do you actually know them? Do you want to have them in this particular virtual community? If the answer is no, then you don’t have to accept it. But before you say know, check out their profile by clicking on their name in the request. This might be someone you want to connect to or it might be a fake profile. Here’s how you know:

Linkedin has a standard request and whenever I connect with someone I try to change it and make it personal to let them know why I want to connect. This doesn’t work when I use the app, because it doesn’t give me that option, but from the desktop I always state my case. If someone doesn’t make that effort that’s strike one. So next I go to their profile and if they don’t have a picture that’s strike two, if they do have a picture and it looks too slick (which happens more often when I see a picture of a young, pretty girl, I do a Google image search to see if they are that person. Many times, they have stolen the image from someone and in most cases, that’s where I stop altogether and delete the request. If they pass those two tests I look at who they work for, where they went to school, what their experience is and if it would be advantageous to both of us to connect. Fake profiles usually list the workplace generically (“a direct marketing firm”) and their title is just as generic. If they are not interesting or are just too generic it’s strike three. They are out.

That is not a foolproof system, however. I recently was approached by someone who claimed to be interested in investing in a client. I went through the basic vetting process and everything clicked. We began a conversation on Linkedin and certain forms were filled out. However, my intuition started tingling and I decided to check it out a bit further. The photo was right, the job description was right… but his email address was off. It was exactly the same as the legitimate company, but he added a dash between words to go to a fake site.

So that’s step three: Don’t be gullible. Take the time to look into the people who you are getting involved with. It really doesn’t take more than a few seconds.

 Linkedin and all the other platforms are not magical. They don’t operate without personal effort any more than a ream of paper can produce a great novel until you pick up a pencil and start writing. If you follow those three steps, you will dramatically see a reduction in your SPAM almost immediately.

The next and last installment will be how to get more legitimate contacts through a content strategy.

A Linkedin power user growing dissatisfied with the social network

This is a real problem that could damage the effectiveness of Linkedin and maybe they should start thinking about what to do about it.

Last week I published an audio interview with IdaRose Sylvester about her doubts about the value of Linkedin. She echoed some of the concerns that I expressed although I'm not about to give up on the platform as yet. She introduced me to Todd Herschberg, a former Linkedin Open Networker (LION), who she said might have had a different perspective. Not quite. In fact he agrees with her more than me.

In this 20-minute interview, we got even deeper into the problems of Linkedin which focus primarily on spam and fake profiles that are proliferating on the platform. This is a real problem that could damage the effectiveness of Linkedin and maybe they should start thinking about what to do about it.  Here's the interview.


One businesswoman looks at Linkedin

The rising SPAM flow in Linkedin is causing some of the more valuable members to flee to other platforms.

A couple of weeks ago I provided my input on the benefits and weaknesses of Linkedin and promised insights from others. The first to respond was IdaRose Sylvester of Silicon Valley Link. IdaRose is an incredible international networker, an angel investor, former analyst and business consultant and is exactly the kind of person you would expect to be a power user of Linkedin... but she is not. And for good reason. 

As I mentioned in my post, the rising SPAM flow in Linkedin is causing some of the more valuable members to flee to other platforms. We recorded the interview. Check it out.


Are ethics and integrity arising in web journalism?

The answer these four sites have determined is not business as usual. They have to do something about the lack of integrity and conscience in their work. People are less entertained by the salacious and are hungering for believable information.

We are interrupting our series about Linkedin to day to take a look at a new trend in journalism that’s arisen in the past few weeks: A concern about journalistic integrity.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone talks about that in the field, but where it’s come up as a trend is what is fascinating. In the past month, four popular click-bait sites that claim some sort of journalistic value have pulled back a bit and said, “maybe we are going too far with this content thing.”

First, Upworthy made an announcement that they are moving away from curating content and focusing on original material. This is more of a business decision than an editorial one. Upworthy became the fastest growing media company on the internet by merely grabbing interesting videos from the web, adding a breathless, over-the-top headline and getting people to click on it to grab their data. Google and Facebook algorithm changes, however, are killing their numbers because original content gets better search and display.  That means they will have to answer for their poorly crafted, inaccurate stories rather than point out that they had nothing to do with them.

Then the Huffington Post announced that they would no longer cover Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in their political section. Instead their coverage will go to the entertainment section. They believe doing that changes their responsibility for covering a grandstander. It’s a pretty piss-poor way of standing up for principle, but it is a start.

Prior to both announcements was the dust-up between activist, volunteer editors on Reddit over Ellen Pao’s staff decisions. I am not getting into any discussion here about whether Pao or the editors were right (I think it was all a great cock-up), but lost in the discussion was the reason for the changes instituted by Pao: the lack of integrity and honesty among a significant group of Reddit contributors. The intention was very good even if the execution was horrible. 

Finally, and the one I have been really enjoying, is the controversy at Gawker. In short, the epitome of online “yellow journalism” published a story about the CFO of a publishing company paying a gay porn star for a night in a Chicago hotel. Then, the CEO of Gawker, founder Nick Denton (who is also gay) wanted to pull the story, to the objections of the editorial staff. Instead of unilateral action, he took it to the board of directors, who by majority vote chose to take it down. The executive editors and several reporters resigned because the felt the action breached editorial discretion. 

Taken individually, each scenario is rather insignificant, but taken together and because they all happened within a matter of days, shows me something more is going on.

Back in the days of broadcast and print news, there were time and space constraints on the news. You only had so many seconds of time to do broadcast news band only so many column inches of space each issue inn print. Journalists spent considerable time personally and collectively deciding what was going to go into that days news budget and that required figuring out which stories were the most important to tell that day. Not everything got in. Even the motto of the New York Times was built around that process: “All the News that is Fit to Print.”

The advent of the Web 2.0 changed all of that. There are no time or space considerations in web content. You crank out as much as you want/can and then see who reads it. It doesn’t matter if it has value. That reality sent the quality of journalism into the toilet because there was so much indiscriminate crap on the web, and it created a journalist fringe that believed that it didn’t matter if it was important as long as it was true and the people would consume the content. 

As H.L. Mencken once observed, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” People did eat up the crap from Gawker, Huffpo, Reddit and Upworthy for a long time making those companies worth a lot of money. But the changes in the search algorithms boosting content that was original and reliable have cut into those money machines. Readers have gotten tired of the click-bait techniques and trust of the web mills is at an all time low. That has not gone unnoticed by the websites’ bean counters.

The answer these four sites have determined is not business as usual. They have to do something about the lack of integrity and conscience in their work. People are less entertained by the salacious and are hungering for believable information.

It was inevitable and it is a welcome change… as long as it catches on. 

One man's view of the state of Linkedin

This is our second installment on our series on Linkedin and it's value and I’m going to look at it from a very selfish perspective: How I use it, where I value it and where my frustrations are. We’ll follow up with input from other sources in the next installment for perspective.

First off, I’m a big Facebook user. I’m on it several times a day and I crowdsource a lot of information there. I barely pay attention to Twitter. Linkedin falls in between the two. I do a little in Pinterest, Instagram and a handful of others just to experiment and say I know something about them, but that’s where I’m focused.

At the top of the value list I put Linkedin Groups, which is like diamond mining. You have to go through a lot of mud, rock and dirt to find something of great value. I participate in multiple groups, some more than others, and have launched a couple with varying degrees of success, and I regularly add and cull from my list. I’ll get into why I do that a bit later.

For me, content on Linkedin tends to be more timely and unique than what I get in my Facebook feed. There are fewer shares of of general news because people rarely share articles from the Washington Post and Politico and I’ve never seen shared content from click bait sites like Gawker and Vox. Most of the shared content on Linkedin I see is business and technology related. In fact, Linkedin is a great way to get away from national politics,

Linkedin is very valuable as a blog platform. I’ve learned more on what interests people, what specific types of people are interested in, and what subjects are generally a waste of time. Thoughts and information that someone found interesting in random one-on-one discussion rarely get a lot of attention, but put those thoughts and information in context with a news event of that week get huge amounts of attention. I share most of what I create on Linkedin with my Facebook and Twitter followers as well, almost invariably, my Linkedin content sharing is more popular on those platforms than on my own blogs.

That’s the good.

The bad is the spam.  My Facebook and Twitter accounts are properly filtered to keep spam at a minimum. I haven’t found a good way to do that on Linkedin. There are multiple learning sites and articles in Linkedin support that tell you how to set your profile to limit that unwanted content, but it also limits who sees you or can see you. Unlike Facebook, where you can filter individual content and help the page to learn what you don’t like, Linkedin has an all or nothing approach. That means lots of annoying people can contact you with useless offers to buy stuff and services.

In my case, because I have written about SEO and where it fails, I am barraged by SEO, lead generation and other marketing services asking to have a chat and demo. I also get blind requests from people who have paid Linkedin to scrub information from some of the groups I belong to and send me blind email requests. When that happens I go into the groups that they indicate as common to us and reevaluate whether I should continue in them. Two of three inspections usually ends my membership.

As I said before, I’ve had some success using Linkedin to raise visibility and drive lead generation for several clients as well as for Footwasher Media. It takes time and thought to do it right, and it isn’t a good medium for email-blasting. It’s good for making valuable connections. That, in the end is what it is all about.

That’s my view of the state of Linkedin, but that’s one man’s view. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be doing a pod cast as the third part of this series to get the view of other Linkedin users. If you’d like to participate, got to this form and provide me contact information and a brief statement about what you think is good and bad about it platform. We will pick a couple and get back to you.

Is Linkedin a valuable business tool or a spam bucket?


We are starting a new series today discussing Linkedin, looking at where it is as a social network, its strengths and weaknesses and how to best use it as a business and individual. Linkedin continues to grow in popularity as a business tool for finding talent, business networking and B2B marketing. The bad news is that it looks like it’s hitting a plateau.

At the end of 2012, Linkedin was growing at almost 100 percent quarter to quarter. That boosted its stock stratospherically and with good reason. As of the end of last quarter that growth had slowed to less than 35 percent and continues to drop. That growth decline looks like it began with the steady introduction of marketing tools, specifically lead generation, near the end of 2012 and took a major plunge with the launch of their expanded marketing platform in February.

I’ve been hearing about the rapid expansion of spam in Linkedin for several months (We plan a live discussion of the topic of Linkedin spam soon, so watch this space for details). I also noticed a significant growth of spam in my own inbox recently.  Several major influencers told me that they had already given up on Linkedin because of the crap flowing steadily to them, joined by malicious code and sophisticated investment scams (which I almost fell prey to and will be talking about in the live discussion).

Linkedin will need to address these issues soon if they are to stop the bleeding, but there are some simple techniques you can use to minimize the flow of unwanted material and keep this platform a valuable source of information and connections. Come back next week and we will let you in on a few of the secrets we’ve discovered.

If you can’t wait that long, click here, fill out the form and get a free consultation.

A brief history on the rise and demise of SEO

Google took the issued of keywords and shoved its priority to the very bottom of SEO and pushed paid search to a specific box on their search page. Suddenly a new group of sits were climbing rapidly to the top of the search engine… traditional media sites. Newspapers, broadcast organizations and bloggers. How could that be? Because Google had changed the algorithm priorities.

 Google has always kept the lid on the secrets of their search algorithm, but since the beginnings of online search, the secrets have leaked out and been discovered by very smart people. These people make up the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry.

There are multiple points of SEO, but from the start, key words were the most important. At first, putting the words in the header of websites was the major starting point so the SEO experts, mostly web designers, made that the primary focus of their counsel to clients. Finding what the most important words were became the definer of the successful site design.

Then Google saw how much money designers were making with this understanding and started selling key words and the designers went wild buying up key words like they were candy and using them for their own resale opportunities. The problem was that you could put ANY key words in the header, even if they had nothing to do with your company.

So Google changed the algorithm to say that for the key word to be valid, it also had to be used in the viewable content. That made it tough for designers to use the key word “President Obama” in a website about boner pills. So designers started grafting in content from other sites and scattered it through websites just to meet that requirement and people using search got pissed off that they were getting links to sites that had absolutely nothing to do with their own search. And the designers were making even more money. 

So Google instituted paid search making companies that wanted to be first in searches pay for the right to bee seen first. That was the first step in killing the importance of key words and the value of traditional SEO.

But searchers didn’t want to be slapped with dozens of ads when they did search and the resulting backlash served as a boon to social media. For the first time, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin started taking searchers away from Google, Bing and Yahoo. Something had to be done. 

Google took the issued of keywords and shoved its priority to the very bottom of SEO and pushed paid search to a specific box on their search page. Suddenly a new group of sits were climbing rapidly to the top of the search engine… traditional media sites. Newspapers, broadcast organizations and bloggers. How could that be? Because Google had changed the algorithm priorities. There are actually dozens of priorities but for our purpose, we just need to concentrate on the following six.

  1. Amount of time spent on the content

  2. Degree of comments (no comments first, one comment second … 57 comments big time)

  3. Amount of shares, likes

  4. Number of views

  5. Paid key words

  6. Unpaid key words

At present, when you talk to web designers and SEO experts, you will find they fall into two categories:

  1. Off-shore click factories that build quick and dirty websites from half a dozen templates and still focus only on key words for SEO. They are dirt cheap, promise the world and prey on small businesses. They send out massive email blasts and fill your Linkedin box with requests to connect because they “saw your profile and believe they can help your company.”  They are to be avoided at all costs.

  2. Experienced web designers/SEO companies that continue to make a good living off of small to large company management who think they know how everything works. These service providers know what the story is, but they follow the philosophy that the customer is always right so they will deliver only what is expected. Their costs range from reasonable to very high and they can be directed, grudgingly, to do the right thing if you know what to tell them.

Footwasher Media won’t work with the first because we know the way only leads to pain and suffering. We will work with the second as long as they realize that we are not going to be taking the easy way. The recalcitrant providers are not on our list, nor are customers who insist on letting them do what they want. 

Keep in mind, however, that neither group are content strategists or providers. They take only the content provided them by the customer. That’s you. If you know how to create engaging content that delivers results, you are on your way to greatness.

If you’re not, contact us.

State of CORPORATE media

When I started this blog it was dedicated to following the movements of journalists from one publication to another in the electronics world. That was over a decade ago. Now I cover a lot more than that but I think it is fascinating that the movement of journalists is noteworthy not because they are moving to a new publication, not that they are moving to an corporate job, but that they are now moving from one corporation to another.
At the 52nd DAC (where exhibitors appear to be down 15 percent from last year) the news of the acquisition of Atrenta by Synopsys was eclipsed by word that Brian Fuller, editor in chief at Cadence Design was moving to take over content strategy at ARM ltd, and Richard Goering, dean of EDA journalism, was officially retiring.

When I started this blog it was dedicated to following the movements of journalists from one publication to another in the electronics world. That was over a decade ago. Now I cover a lot more than that but I think it is fascinating that the movement of journalists is noteworthy not because they are moving to a new publication, not that they are moving to an corporate job, but that they are now moving from one corporation to another.

On the show floor was all kinds of rumors about who will fill the gaps at Cadence, which has become something of a model for content strategy under Fuller's direction. Early favorites appear to be John Blyler, recently "liberated" from Extension Media and Dylan McGrath, currently blocking the newsroom exit at EE Times (Yes, I'm being snarky. Tepid apologies).

ARM's decision to hire Fuller is momentous as it may herald an era that they will actually invest in staffing rather than just technology, but it will be an uphill climb, and more than it was at Cadence where some of the trailblazing had been done by Goering and then by the late Anna del Rosario who brought a real vision for modern communications strategy to the company. The foundation she and Fuller laid will serve whoever comes in well.

ARM has a greater depth of subject matter to draw from than Cadence, however, which draws 90 percent of it's revenue from tools (OK, maybe less, but still a lot). So that depth may help Fuller breakthrough the bureaucratic logjam there. It's definitely a challenge that Fuller can take at least two out of three falls.

Overwriting is not a FANTASTIC way of getting the job done. It will not BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!

The first thing most people want to do when writing something is to prove that they are smarter than the reader regarding the given subject. Really bad move. That’s the best way to turn them off. What works best is to tell a story they can use to determine where they stand in this budding relationship with you, which is what every piece of content you create should do.

I’m not writing this for marketing people. I’ve worked with marketers for a long time and they, for the most part, don’t have time to be concerned about effective communication. I’m writing this for salespeople because, in the world of social selling, they are beginning to understand that being trustworthy and forthright are the keys to making sales and revenue grow.

Let me tell you a story.

I was sent a document today with a request to post it on my website.  I had to say no, and not because it wasn’t useful information. It was just too hard to find the information because it was horribly overwritten, like much marketing content is.

End of story. Let’s look at how they could fix their document.

Occasional grammatical errors and typos are excusable because mistakes happen. A decent spell checker app can fix most of that, so use it. Intentionally overwhelming a reader with empty prose, however, is not excusable. It turns the reader off, damages your web statistics, bores your audience and kills sales.

The first thing most people want to do when writing something is to prove that they are smarter than the reader regarding the given subject. Really bad move. That’s the best way to turn them off. What works best is to tell a story they can use to determine where they stand in this budding relationship with you, which is what every piece of content you create should do.

In the story that started this piece, I established four potential characters: the person who is partnering with another company, the person in charge of the company’s partner relationships, the reader of the content and a professional marketer. Whoever reads this piece will be one of those four characters. Whoever doesn’t fall into those categories doesn’t need to read this piece. Moreover, the story was very short. Two sentences, 46 words. It established the relationship and the purpose of the communication. If you can’t do that in less than 50 words, you’re complicating things and you’ll lose the audience.

Avoiding adjectives is another good practice. In the story above there are exactly two adjectives. It needs no more, and they were entirely appropriate to paint a picture. Most marketing content creates a false picture that is easily ignored. Words like “exciting” and “Industry leading” are meaningless because they do not describe anything .  As Mark Twain put it:

“When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of Mark_Twain_pondering_at_desk_crop1
them, then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are far apart.”

Finally, ignore the committee input. When any document goes into development, committees become writing teams filled with people who have no business writing. Take press releases, for example.

Every press release begins with one person developing the content. They will spend multiple hours crafting the story if they have any ability at all. Then it goes to the committee where 90 percent of the time will be spent on “punching up” the headline; making sure the quote from the company executive (usually the CEO) tells how “pleased” he is about this announcement; and making sure the lead contains all the buzzwords that have been committee approved.

Almost every journalist I know ignores the headline, lead and quote (as well as the boilerplate last paragraph) to find out what the news is. Because only 10 percent of the effort went into that part of the release, it generally means that there is very little news. The committee and approval process of marketing content is dedicated to ensuring that nothing of value is stated.  

Committees are of value only when they set the parameters of what must be included in the content. The approval process should be nothing more than a checklist of those parameters and the actual prose should be the domain of the person with the ability and experience to write it. That way you speed up the process of content creation and, if the content does not produce the results, you know that the parameters were faulty, not the content or the medium.

Of course, that requires that you have someone on the team that can write. If you don’t, call us, we can help.