Tag Archives: Technology Media Relations

What We Can Learn About Tech and B2B Marketing from Comic Books

3 Sep

My  deep, dark secret is that I like comic books.  I was hooked on super heroes the day my 5th grade teacher gave away his comic collection to his class, and though I stopped collecting years ago, I never stopped being a fan. I still follow the industry, and even pick up a title or two (or three) for escape or inspiration.

So with the planned acquisition of Marvel Comics by Disney making the news, I can’t resist the opportunity to combine my vocation with avocation.  And I’ve thought for a long time that corporate communications and marketing — especially B2B and technology marketing — has something to learn from an entertainment business like Marvel Comics.

The comics industry is fun to watch, and they do a number of things that translate into B2B and technology marketing.  To wit:

1. They remember that it’s about people. In comics, Marvel’s breakthrough was superheroes like Peter Parker and the Fantastic Four, who acted like real people with real problems.  It’s all about real people doing extraordinary things.

Beyond the product, your people vital are characters in the company story — from the visionary technologist to the insightful marketer (hopefully) to the customer service rep who goes above and beyond, businesses can grow awareness and loyalty by pulling back the veil and making the corporate more personal…and real.

2. They know that the customer owns the product. At a company like Marvel that has shared the soap opera of its character’s lives for nearly 50 years, the editors and creators clearly recognize that the characters and stories live in the hearts of the fans.  They are stewards of the story, responsible both to respect what came before, and to innovate in ways that keep the stories vital and break new ground.

There’s a parallel in B2B and technology — every purchase impacts the livelihood of the purchaser. It may be a part of their day to day business, or fuels productivity.  The customer, in other words, is invested in your success. So it’s only natural that they want to be respected and heard.  It’s why users groups and conferences are so important for many tech businesses, and why companies that are socially engaged in their markets tend to be more successful.

3. They know that being social gets results. Comic books are largely sold in specialty stores and online rather than through mass market retail.  Comic publishers like Marvel deal constantly with the push and pull of B2B channel marketing — their audience is store owners as much as the comics fan — often simultaneously.  Their channel to the audience is an often bewildering array of online and traditional magazines, national and regional cons, fan blogs, gossip columns, discussion forums, social networks and even a couple national newspapers.

The result is an industry where the channel, fans and media are incredibly close to the creators, editors and publishers. You get weekly interviews with the Marvel editor-in-chief, a teriffic ‘inside baseball’ blog by their executive editor, Q&A’s with writers on major storylines via podcasts and text, individual creator websites and forums, writers’ Twitter feeds…et cetera.  They produce news themselves, and participate in the hurly burly of the media market.

Of course, not every business generates the kind of passion that comics do.  The point is, they’re out there participating. And they are out there producing.  As a media business, they recognize that they have something to say every day, their customers have something to say every day, and they use all the tools available to say it.

Any other secret or not-so-secret comics fan/marketers out there?  What say you?

Influencer Marketing and PR’s future — Courtesy of Media Blather

7 May

I used to start new client conversations — particularly with technology companies — with a discussion of what we then called “the cascade of influence” — that set of influencers from tech gurus, industry analysts, conferences, trade shows, and journalists who influence corporate reputation and buying decisions for customers and prospects.  Influence, we thought, would flow down a neat little staircase to the customer. 

Today, it’s no longer a neat cascade (if it ever was), but more of a web of influence, one that connects to our sphere of professional life among friends, colleagues, professional media, bloggers, websites, experts and others. 

Paul Gillin and David Strom of Media Blather — a weekly-ish podcast that’s worth a listen — spoke to Nick Hayes last week, the co-author of a book called Influencer Marketing, that offers a compelling and, perhaps, controversial take on how to move people toward buying decisions.

Hayes’s thesis is that the influence of the broad range of non-profits, management consultants, integrators, associations, regulators, user groups, etc.  makes up 50% of the buying influence on any given purchase — or more.  These new influencers aren’t necessarily publishing anything, they aren’t journalists or analysts, and often “prefer to be under the radar.”

Hayes advocates that PR people be deployed to go out to broader organizations beyond the journalists and analysts — moving PR from “press relations” back to “public” relations.  It’s a practice that takes a whole new set of skills, but builds on the ones we have today — building one-to-one, personal relationships, personal relationships; the ability to identify the needs of an audience, and communicate a compelling story with them.  

The answer to ‘influencing the influencer’ in this world, in other words, isn’t just a focus on media relations, analyst relations, or blogger relations.  It’s understanding the environment in which customers make their decisions. It’s giving marketers and PR professionals the mandate and responsibility to build relationships with a wide range of people and organizations who are important to the company’s sales success.

Hayes’ advice: PR should go back to its roots — find out how customers make their decisions.  From there, it’s relatively easy to discern the web of influence that will impact customer decisions.

Listen here and tell me what you think.

 

Tech Media Trends

2 May

If you’re a small company just trying to get your story told by the old “big four” of IT media — Computerworld, eWeek, InformationWeek and  InfoWorld, it can be a bit bewildering. First, it’s not just reporters — it’s editors, reporters, contributing writers (freelancers and consultants), bloggers and columnists.  Second, their websites are a complex interwoven mix of news and opinion addressing every conceivable information technology topic — Computerworld lists 13 “knowledge centers,” 10 “Shark Bait” reader forums, 20 columnists, 15 blog topics, and 38 email newsletters

The point is not to say this is bad. I was talking with my friend Chris Murphy on this — a real tech media expert at my former agency.  I noted to him that in the old days, you’d find that one person to contact — and if you were smart, you’d avoid making multiple contacts at once for fear of stepping on editorial toes.  But these media today are set up to let online readers choose a very narrow selection interest areas — the home pages themselves are nearly unreadable.  Readers aren’t starting with the home page or the print magazine. They’re starting with the newsletters.

Here’s Chris’ take:  

“Their readers are online and mostly interested in very specific topics, be it security, storage, enterprise software, servers, etc.  And they want to get this news through email newsletters, or be able to find it quickly by going to a specific section on their site.” 

I’d add RSS and search to the mix and I think we’re there. The increasingly skinny print editions are where readers can skim cross industry news.  

The point we can take away from this is that we should look at these tech journals — and most B2B focused trade media in general — as online homes for some 40+ media outlets.  For any given company, there may be a half-dozen contacts — a beat reporter, columnists, bloggers, section editors and user forums.  This doesn’t mean blanketing press releases to the entire editorial staff.  What it means is that the contacts you identify as interested in your field and speaking to your audience — each represent an opportunity, and require their own evaluation, approach and ongoing relationship. 

It also means re-evaluating the results of your efforts — the biggest “hit” should be an online story that is pushed out in the appropriate newsletter.  The next biggest should be a positive story that ranks high on search engines…or a link that generates more interest by outside media.

Having a great strategy — and a commitment to building these relationships — is key.  That, and a little luck doesn’t hurt either.

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