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Why I Joined Content Marketing Forces with Lush Digital Media

logo for Lush Digital Media, a content marketing agency in PerthI’ve just finished the first month as Head of Content Strategy at Lush Digital Media in Perth, Western Australia. It’s been an exciting time as more and more businesses in Australia wake up to the benefits, if not the necessity, of content marketing. I’ve been working in content marketing for more than five years and have rarely seen anyone take such a committed approach to a new discipline as Lush has done.

Brand journalism

Lush is a full-service content marketing agency focused on brand journalism. Or, as they say, ‘Authentic brand storytelling with a media mindset.’ James and Alex Lush are media veterans having started at the BBC in the UK. They truly understand brand journalism and the media. Their experience extends to many different mediums including television and radio. The Lush  reputation for video production is incomparable. Paul Plowman, the new CEO of Lush Digital Media has an amazing communications background in both business and government. He was a content marketer long before anyone thought to give it a name.

I could tell you a long story about how I first met James in Cleveland, Ohio at Content Marketing World or how Brendan Lobo, the COO at Lush Digital Media, has been picking my brain for nearly three years about content marketing. I could tell you about the brilliant Creative Director, Gavin Carroll or how I met Ian Bignell, one of Lush’s Senior Producers, at Content Marketing World Sydney. I could go on and on about the talented staff, friendly people and the smart vibe running throughout the new office – but I won’t.

Content marketing with a media mindset

What I will say is Lush Digital Media has been working a long time to fully understand content marketing. They’ve hired the right people. They’ve made sure their existing staff have the best training available. They’ve invested in new offices with impressive production facilities. They’ve invited people like Nic Hayes from Media Stable to share office space to ensure they can provide all facets of content marketing to their customers. I was thrilled when they offered me the chance to be part of their company.

As a consultant, I’m limited to how much I can do in any given day, week or month. I’ve been ‘sold out’ for more than a year and turn work down every week. By joining forces with Lush Digital Media, I have the opportunity to work with more people and have a whole team to support it. Importantly, Lush Digital Media has a strong grounding in visual media, something becoming increasingly important as mobile devices dominate our personal and professional lives.

What this means for you?

I’ll still be blogging at Global Copywriting but I’ll also be lending a hand at the Lush Digital Media blog. I’ll have the ability to help produce more content marketing strategies, more public speaking and write more often. Importantly, there’s now a fantastic group of people in Perth willing and able to deliver on all different content types and do it from one service provider. You can call them an agency but that’s probably the wrong term. They’re a media company advising business on how to establish brand newsrooms and helping them create branded content.  That’s why I joined forces with Lush Digital Media. It’s why I’m excited.

What steps are you taking towards brand journalism?

Why I’m Not Going to Publish on LinkedIn Pulse

I keep getting asked when I’m going to start posting on Pulse, the new publishing platform from LinkedIn. At the present time, I have no intention of doing it and here’s why.

When Pulse originally started, only a select group of influencers was allowed to post. These were people widely recognised as experts in their particular field. It was a terrific opportunity to hear from the best business minds in the world. Popular leaders like Jack Welsh, Richard Branson and Bill Gates were early contributors. You didn’t have to be connected to them to read their posts.  All the content published at LinkedIn Pulse was original. I followed a few favourites and found people I’d never heard from before. It was a place I could always find something interesting or thought-provoking. It was a place to go when I wanted or needed my thinking challenged.

Contemplating the opportunity

When LinkedIn invited me to start publishing on Pulse I was excited and a little daunted. I knew I had to come up with a killer topic and put some thought into what I wanted to say. I knew I had to be original – turn a little sod – if I wanted to get published. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, for sure, but I also wanted to make sure it was worthy of the other contributions at Pulse.

Todd Wheatland, Head of Strategy at King Content nailed it when he wrote about leaving a great company.  His post provided insight and lessons learned without being preachy. It was well written and precise, giving me something to ponder over the coming days and weeks. Wheatland made it look easy but influencing the way people think is never easy.

What’s so special?

Before I settled on a topic, LinkedIn opened the doors to Pulse. You probably know the rest of the story. I get daily notifications saying someone in my network, “published a new post.” For the most part, none of these posts are influencing my thinking. The site has become diluted with titles like:

  • 7 Things That Annoy Hiring Managers
  • Can You Trust a Retailer?
  • How Would Don Draper Tell a Powerful Story about Jeans?
  • Increase Your Sales By Going Through Your Own Checkout Process
  • Dos and Don’ts for Young Freelancers

In other words, LinkedIn Pulse, as a publishing platform, is no longer anything special. The influencers are still there but they’re lost in the clutter of the mundane and boring.  It’s just another channel shifting a lot of the same old stuff and I can’t get excited about it.

image showing rent vs. buy

Why pay rent?

At Content Marketing World in Cleveland last year and in Sydney earlier this year, Joe Pulizzi cautioned against building your content house on rented land. In light of that advice, contributing to Pulse seems like a good thing for LinkedIn but not so much for Sarah Mitchell. Posting on Pulse is akin to renting land from LinkedIn. I’d much rather keep blogging at Global Copywriting and continue to develop my own patch of influence.

I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts about LinkedIn Pulse. Leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree with my thinking on this.

 

The Big Problem With Content Marketing and Tragedy

The MH17 airline tragedy highlighted a major problem with many content marketing programs, one I see every time a catastrophe unfolds. As Twitter inches closer to a mainstream news outlet, and brand journalism becomes more commonplace, it’s essential for content marketers to understand how to react in a crisis to avoid brand damage.

As the story unfolds . . .

I woke up on Friday, 18 July to the awful news. As is so often the case with breaking news, the first place I read about the plane crash was on Twitter. Suffering from jet lag, it was essentially the middle of the night in Australia and just a few hours after the event happened. By early morning, my Twitter feed was full of details and speculation as the world tried to make sense of what happened. I immediately started firing notes off to my clients. (More about that later.)

Unfortunately, my feed was also full of brand content such as:

    • Attend my FREE webinar on Tuesday
    • Find out how to save $$$ off your mortgage
    • Time is running out on our winter sale
    • New research suggests people with cats live longer
    • 15 ways Instagram can transform your business

Okay, I invented those titles to protect the guilty but you get my point. As I was trying to grasp what had happened, those posts on Twitter – and to a certain extent Facebook – made me angry. They appeared vacuous and insensitive. It demonstrated marketing programs that were on auto-pilot. I took note of a few of the bigger brands, brands that should know better, and decided to boycott them on the spot.

What journalists know

Here’s something publishers and editors understand that brands are slow to figure out. Sometimes there’s only one story. Sometimes you have to put things on hold. Sometimes the world needs to absorb a single event without interruption. Sometimes the noise just has to stop. Take a look at the front page of any newspaper during a tragedy and you’ll see every single story is on one topic.

JFK IS DEAD headline

What content marketers should do in a tragedy

Earlier I mentioned one of the first things I did after finding out about MH17 was to email my clients. Actually, the very first thing I did was to suspend all automated social media updates, not just for me but for my clients, too. I didn’t even bother to ask.

Once I knew the posts I had scheduled to run that day were suspended, I started to email my clients.  (I have the backbone of my social updates scheduled about a day in advance so I’m not sitting on Twitter and Facebook all day.) I explained the situation, told them what I’d done, and advised they go “radio silent” for the day. Here’s one of the notes I sent to a marketing director:

I’m going to advise we go silent on Twitter and Facebook, at least for a day. If you haven’t heard, they’ve just confirmed 27 of the 298 dead on MH17 are from Australia. That’s actually immaterial for you since you’re a global brand.

 My concern is if you’re tweeting about business as usual, you appear to be seriously disconnected from reality. Brands get bashed every single time something like this happens. I’ve moved the posts I had scheduled for today to tomorrow. Let me know if you feel otherwise.

One thing brands should NEVER do

Humour and comedy have no place in a tragedy. Regardless of the event, when people are dealing with death or struggling to comprehend a massive calamity, it’s better to shut up than try to make light of the situation.

How brands can make a positive impression

Inappropriate Tweet from Kenneth Cole during Cairo uprisingIn some situations, it could make a lot of sense for your brand to get involved in the news cycle of a tragedy. If you have information or expertise that might help or console victims or survivors, by all means share it. But you need to be very careful. If your company benefits in any way, it may put you in a bad light. Kenneth Cole learned this the hard way in February 2011 when he tried to pitch a shoe sale on the back of the Egyptian uprising.

Welcome topics include:

Safety – Where people can go for aid, how to identify hidden dangers like downed power cables, or how to ensure your drinking water is safe are all examples of useful information.

Support – Mental health hotlines, where to find support from faith-based communities, and availability of food stations or shelter is the kind of information people need.

Donations – Where to donate blood, food, water, money and clothing is useful information that helps your audience take appropriate action.

Volunteering – In tragedies large or small, people want to know how they can help.

A crisis can bring people together but that doesn’t mean there’s a place for your content in a disaster or calamity.  Traditional journalists know that at times there’s only one story. Brands and content marketers need to learn the same lesson. Your business won’t collapse if you scale back for one day.

What do you think? Should content marketers observe journalistic customs during a tragedy or disaster?

The Difference Between Journalism and Brand Journalism (and Why It Matters)

graphical image showing brand journalism is different than traditional journalism

Do you know the key difference between brand journalism and traditional journalism? A lot is being written about the need for business to employ journalists, but it’s not as simple as you might think. As brands begin to adopt a publishing model as they move towards content marketing, an essential understanding is required about how editorial standards differ between business and news.

Friction between journalists and marketers is on the rise.   Traditional journalists are railing against native advertising but don’t necessarily distinguish between advertising and marketing. Others insist journalists are better suited for content marketing than copywriters. As someone who possesses both marketing and journalism credentials, I can see the sense in arguments on both sides. But I also see the debate isn’t very helpful for brands trying to establish a content marketing strategy. So let me give you some clear guidelines on what’s required for brand journalism.

Tell the truth

First and foremost, brand journalists must tell the truth. Credible reporting is a hallmark of journalism and there’s no reason why brands shouldn’t be held to the same standard. The credibility lost when a brand abuses the trust of their consumers can be catastrophic to business.

Be transparent

Businesses can produce content and maintain journalistic integrity; there’s no reason why they can’t. Citing references, conducting research and providing a balanced view of your topic sends a strong signal to prospective customers that you’re delivering a valuable service. Again, transparency goes a long way to building the trust necessary to cultivate loyalty within your target audience.

Tell stories

There’s nothing more snooze-inducing than marketing copy. Yes, consumers want to be educated and informed but they also want to be entertained. They’re not interested in you; they’re interested in how you can help them. Tell a story and you’ll have a lot better chance of keeping people moving through your content.

Be persuasive

Telling the truth and being transparent are classic traits of journalism. Being persuasive, however, runs counter to most journalists’ dedication to objectivity. Good reporting lets the reader form their own opinion based on the information provided. The best reporters never let their own opinion leak into a story. This is where brands must depart from traditional journalism. The job of a brand journalist is to persuade the reader to make a decision that benefits the company. News reporters don’t include a call to action in their stories. Brand journalists must always include a specific request to the reader that, when actioned, will benefit their business.

Tell the right story

Journalists are after the “big” story. Brand journalists need to resist the temptation for a big story and look for the right story – the story about your company, products or services. It requires discipline to resist a topic when it seems everyone else is commenting on it.  Unless the hot topic is directly related to your business, there’s no point in jumping into the fray. Brand journalists must remain focused on conversions.

Support brands

My personal opinion is brand journalists should never slam another brand. If consumers feel like you’re doing a smear job on your competitors, they’ll become suspicious of you. Think about the low opinion of tabloids and you get an idea what I’m talking about.

Brand journalism done well gives you the opportunity to position your products and services against a competitor without ever mentioning them. A good example is to imagine competing against Henry Ford and the Model T. Ford famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

A good brand journalist can exploit that limitation without every mentioning Ford. Instead, they can speak about the different colours of paint offered for their cars and make sure that information is featured in the appropriate content. Consumers are smart enough to connect the dots.

What does brand journalism look like?

To give you an idea of how brands incorporate journalism into their content marketing, here are some good examples of different types of content developed with a journalistic eye.

Do you know how much your commute is really costing you? is an example of a blog post using journalistic practices. The blog is for a property development company in Perth but the post makes no mention of a specific project. Instead, it focuses on a topic that would be interesting to people considering buying a new home and uses current research to provide independent opinion on the cost of commuting.

Announcing ezytire: A Complete Online Marketing Tool for Tire Retailers is a classic case of brand journalism crossing over into mainstream media. The press release for ezytire from Tireweb Marketing was written like a newspaper or magazine article. As a result, the “story” got picked up in hundreds of publications, many of whom provided valuable backlinks to the ezytire website.

Lush Digital is producing a series of interviews with thought leaders in a variety of business and government roles. What makes them compelling is that James Lush interviews each person as if he were running a television program focused on business leadership. No one in the interviews is pitching digital marketing or endorsing videos even though that is where Lush Digital makes their money. Check out this interview with former iiNet CEO Michael Malone.


If you want to understand the power of storytelling in marketing, Jonathan Crossfield is doing a masterful job. Check out his blog on the topic, Why Stories + Examples > Facts + Statistics for an explanation that’s also a fantastic example.

I could go on forever providing examples but you get the idea. In a world where everyone is hungry for original content, the brands delivering honest, well-written news written in a journalistic style are going to be published more frequently. It’s this earned media that consumers prefer over traditional marketing.

Remember, it’s not the job of a brand journalist to be objective, but they should be honest, transparent and tell the right stories. Ultimately, brand journalists need to persuade their audience to make a decision that somehow benefits their company.

What other qualities does a brand journalist need?

 

6 Top Ways to Get an Editor to Print Your Story

I’m super excited to have Daniel Hatch guest post on the Global Copywriting blog today. If you’d like to get your content published in traditional media – and who doesn’t? – then keep reading. Dan has loaded this post with one meaty tip after another and you won’t want to miss a word of it. -Ed.

image of a keyboard

If you find getting the editor of a newspaper, magazine or an online publication interested in your idea for an article an almost impossible task, you’re not alone. In fact, a surprising number of people who actually specialise in “communications” don’t seem to be very good at it either.

I’ve been a reporter for 15 years and a section editor for two. I’ve had people pitching stories to me my entire working life. A lot of them I’ve turned down. Thousands.

A bad pitch is a waste of everyone’s time. So what I share here, I share in the spirit of helping you come up with a better pitch – something an editor might actually want to print.

Actually have a good story to tell

A lot of unsolicited story pitches fall at the very first hurdle. That is, the people on the end of the phone don’t actually have anything to say.

Reporters and editors aren’t interested in promoting your business (that’s what the advertising department is for). They want to tell their readers something new, something interesting, something that affects them.

Editors aren’t interested in the fact that you’ve been trading for four years and that you’ve grown in staff numbers, etc. That is not a story. That’s background information. But they might be interested in your revolutionary new product, your takeover of a well-known local brand, or the fact that you’ve headhunted an executive from Google.

Imagine what the first paragraph of the story might be. Then ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a story like that printed in that publication. If not, then you’re unlikely to get very far.

Get your angle right for the publication

Take the time to actually read the publication you’re pitching to. Get a feel for what they’re interested in, who the readers are, and what kind of stories they print.

Do they run news features? Are there product reviews? Do they do Q&As with business executives? Do they use humour? Do they target one industry, a particular demographic, specialists, or Joe Public? It makes a difference. Bear this in mind when you’re making your pitch.

Make sure the story is news (with a capital NEW)

All too often an unsolicited pitch involves statements like “our new product has been featured in publications X, Y and Z”.

Something isn’t news once it has been printed elsewhere.

Also, this is really dumb. Firstly, you’re basically telling them you went to other publications first, (which tends to indicate you don’t think as much of their publication as others).

Secondly, there’s not much editors hate more than being told that other editors thought something was worth printing and, therefore, so should they. You’re not just telling them their job, you’re telling them they’re bad at their job.

Reporters and editors love the word exclusive. We will always ask you if something you’re pitching has already appeared elsewhere and who else you’ve pitched to.

Let your story speak for itself

Editors are an eclectic mix. We all have different ways we like to engage with the people we write about. I’m the sort who isn’t interested in free lunches or invitations to openings. I’ve been doing this for too long to be impressed by Caesar salad at Nobu. And I cannot be bought with macaroons delivered to the office. In fact, quite the opposite: If you’re sending me macaroons I assume there’s something wrong with what you’re selling.

What I can confidently say about all editors is that they’re interested in genuinely good stories. A decent pitch for an exciting (and exclusive) story will do for you what 100 free lunches could never do.

Build a working relationship with the editor

Get to know your editor and their interests. I don’t mean whether they do Bikram yoga at the rec’ centre on Tuesday nights. I mean, find out what kinds of stories they are interested in.

I like to meet all new contacts for a “get to know you” coffee. (You never need longer than an hour, and 40 minutes is preferable). I take this opportunity to ask the person about their business so I understand it properly and then tell them what kinds of stories I’m interested in. Often the story they are pitching isn’t the one I go back to the office excited about. There’s almost always something they have in the pipeline that I ask them to keep me updated on, with a view to running a big story on it in the future.

Once you know what each other are interested in, you form a good working relationship. Once you have delivered a couple of good “scoops”, you’ll have built up a bit of trust, and pitching a story might be as easy as sending a text or DM on Twitter.

Be aware of deadlines

Honestly, you’d be horrified at the number of good stories that never got printed because the reporter or editor found out about them too late. It happens all the time: The sub-editors have placed the stories on the pages and sent them off to the production department (sometimes the presses themselves are already rolling) and an email or phone call comes through with a big story. At that point, it’s too late. It’s not like the movies. We don’t actually “stop the presses”. (It’s way too expensive!)

So prepare. Get your info to the editor earlier rather than later. Or let them know if something big is likely to be coming close to their deadline. Take them into your confidence about what it is. Editors aren’t going to hold space for you if you say “I’ll drop you something big at 2pm”. You need to say “we’re signing a $4 million deal with ICI – the press release will be with you just after 2pm and I’ll call you for a quick chat to see if you need anything more.”

Editors are on tight deadlines. We love efficiency above all things. Even above correct spelling and grammar.

headshot of Daniel HatchDaniel Hatch is a freelance journalist and commercial writer. He is also the marketing and media editor at The West Australian Newspaper. His website is www.danielhatch.co.uk or you can follow him on Twitter at @daniel_hatch.

What tips do you have for working with editors in traditional media?