Remember the days when you had to develop a creative brief to kick off a project? You know, when budgets were not an issue and the three-martini lunch was standard?
Yeah. Neither do we and we’ve been at this for over 40 years.
But, don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of this great tool. Creative briefs can make your job much easier, help avoid mistakes and keep your project focused from start to finish.
What is a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a planning and guidance tool. It outlines the critical information that’s needed to deliver a successful project.
It’s a simple document, usually one or two pages, that keeps the project team focused on what matters by answering important questions.
Creative briefs typically provide the following information:
General project information
Project purpose and goals
Target audience info
Requirements and restrictions
Why Use a Creative Brief?
A creative brief helps the project sponsor set the project up for success by allowing them to think through the important questions before diving into the project.
A good brief helps the creative team by defining boundaries. Many people think of the creative process as something that should be wide open. They’re afraid that the results might be stunted if they impose limitations. But, oddly enough, the opposite is true! We deliver our best work when we have boundaries.
It also helps all the stakeholders by defining what a successful project will look like. You may be an experienced marketer and can tell good design when you see it. But, can your boss? How about your board? What about your business partner?
Not everyone understands marketing, but many times they are put in a position to evaluate or even approve a design project. A creative brief spells out the problem, project goals and target market, giving non-marketing stakeholders a focused, logical set of data that they can use to evaluate the project’s success, keeping them away from subjectivity.
Elements of A Creative Brief
So, what should a good creative brief contain? The following elements should provide you with a guide to creating your own creative brief.
The name of this element is self-explanatory. Right?
Trebuchets R Us Store Promotion Campaign
A brief summary of the project in a few sentences.
The Trebuchets R Us Store Promotion Campaign is designed to drive traffic to our new retail location in Miami through a direct mail campaign.
Explain your current situation, challenges, what’s wrong, what needs to be changed and what’s working. Talk about why you need to do this project and what you hope to achieve by it’s successful execution.
Trebuchets R Us recently opened a store in Miami, FL. This is our first retail store. We are having trouble getting people to visit the store.
Market research shows that people do not know about our store and they don’t know what a trebuchet is or how it can be useful to them. We want to alert people of our existence, educate them about trebuchets and communicate the value of a trebuchet for the average suburban home.
Here you define your audience and identify any unique characteristics it may have. This section should include any demographic information you have, distilled, of course.
Our target audience is grouchy white males, aged 56 to 75. We know that they are not worried about their safety. But, they do worry about neighbors walking on their lawn and want to find a way to keep people off it without building an expensive fence. These men take great pride in their lawns, live on a pensioner’s income and drive a GM vehicle.
What are the primary goals of this project? It’s important to have goals that are measurable because without measurable goals you can’t know if the project was successful. You’ll be left evaluating things like how much your coworkers liked the direct mail piece or how nicely it was to work with the agency.
The general goal of Trebuchets R Us is to drive traffic to our new retail location in Miami. Specifically, we have 10 people a day visiting our store. We need to increase daily traffic by 50%, which equals 15 customers a day.
Requirements and Restrictions
In this section we define any requirements that have to be met and any restrictions that need to be placed on the project.
Typically, both requirements and restrictions are technical in nature. You don’t need to address things like budgets or the fact that your CEO wants to approve everything before it goes.
- Three mailings executed within one month
- All printing to be done by InkMaster’s House of Printing
- All mail fulfillment handled by Stuffer Sam
- Mail piece format must be based on USPS standard sizes
- Restricted to existing marketing database. No new names will be purchased
This is where the project’s schedule gets defined. It can be as specific as a timeline with dates or more general with blocks of time assigned to each phase, or simply a due date.
Project complexity will drive the level of detail needed. As always, simple is best. If you want tons of detail, leave it out of the creative brief and make a Gantt chart.
Jan 2 - Project kick-off
Jan 18 - Initial concepts
Feb 3 - Final concepts
Feb 6 - Final concepts approved
Feb 7 - Files to printer
Feb 22 - Printed assets to fulfillment house
March 1 - First mail drop
March 15 - Second mail drop
March 30 - Third mail drop
Here you identify who has a stake in this project and what their involvement will be.
This helps you think through who to include in the process, both internally and externally.
Also, this helps the creative team to know who they need to consider when doing the project. If it’s clear from the outset that accounting gets final approval then the agency can present their solution in terms that make sense to the accounting department.
Ed Big, CEO - Ed will have final say on pretty much everything
Wilma Barney, Product Manager - Wilma will take part in initial brain-storming session and sign off on all copy
Chet Armstrong, Marketing - Chet is project sponsor and will be involved in all aspects of the project
Sam of Stuffer Sam - Sam will handle all fulfillment aspects
Michelle Breeze of MB Creative - Michelle will art direct the project and handle all client and vendor relationships
Who Should Write A Creative Brief?
Finally, who should write the creative brief, the client or the agency?
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule--either can do it. The key is not really who writes it, but that the document is a collaboration.
The marketer sponsoring the project at least needs to be able to help answer the key questions: general information on the project, its purpose and goals, the target audience, requirements, restrictions and timelines.
The agency can take the lead on developing the creative brief and help the client flesh out their answers. Both the client and the agency need to approve the document once it’s done for it to be valuable.
Now you know all you need to develop a creative brief for your next project. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know if you found this post to be helpful.
I meet with my local competitors as often as possible. Rochester is a small community and it's nice to get to know the people working in our industry. Recently, I met with two different competitors and was struck by the difference in each of their approach to online marketing.
I won't get into all the details here, but the point that struck me is this: One agency was throwing all its resources and energy behind social media. Everything in their view was about leveraging the communities of Twitter, FaceBook and the like. The other agency, although social media savvy, viewed social media as just one tool in the marketer's toolbox.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter (@mikegastin) or works with our firm knows that I align closely with the latter. Social media and SEO are tools. They're important and can be useful in a greater strategy, but at the end of the day, they can't carry your company's marketing needs on their own. In fact, I don't believe any one tactic is enough, traditional or digital.
How about you? Have you dumped collateral, direct mail and print ads all in favor of on line marketing? If so, do you have metrics to show how it's worked out? Or, have you decided to keep some of your traditional marketing efforts and mix them with on line marketing? I'd love to hear about your experiences, so please leave a comment!
Content strategy calls for regular content on your web site and that's great, but only if it's useful and relevant to your prospects
Maybe you’ve noticed a lot of talk lately about content strategy. If you’re a savvy marketer, the idea of driving traffic to your site by providing awesome content makes perfect sense. Ideally, you’re already developing a strategy to provide your target market with useful content.
I want to address one aspect of developing a great content strategy that often gets overlooked: relevance.
The potential to connect with our prospects via our web sites is exciting. We know that prospects are continually searching the internet for information. We also know that traditional media is delivering less and less of the return on our investment than it used to.
So, we create as much content as we can and publish it to our site.
But, for our content to truly be effective—meaning for it to draw in prospects—it has to be relevant and useful. Just putting content up on a regular basis is not going to drive sales unless that content is somehow worth something to your audience. It’s like a magazine for dog lovers. If the magazine is chock-full of articles about cats, well, there’s a good chance that its readership will drop off significantly.
I know that’s a bit extreme, but it’s not far from what a lot of companies are doing because they are publishing content, but its worth to their target market is dubious.
I’ve been following a publicly traded high-tech company with close to a billion dollar market cap as they foray into content strategy. They have a blog, video, news releases and regularly revised sales info. Not bad, right? I mean, they’re doing it by the book. But, almost all of their content is a sales pitch. Their blog posts can be distilled down to, “Hey! Look at our cool new thing we’re offering!” Their videos are product demonstrations. Their news is about what trade show they’re attending. Who cares, other than the company itself?
What they should be doing is first drop the sales pitch and start to provide information that impacts their prospects' lives. What problems can they help solve? What information can they share that will make their prospects' jobs easier or make them more successful? How can they make their company more accessible in ways that are useful to their prospects?
We, as marketers, want to publish information that we are excited about. “Look! A new product!” But, our prospects are trying to solve problems and their problems are not the same as our problems. Our prospects aren't worried about our lead-gen campaign or our sales quotas.
Start giving your prospects content that helps them with their problems and you won't have to worry about quotas. Instead you’ll have to figure out how to deal with your new sales volume, and who doesn’t love problems like that?
Google's Jon Orwant reveals his company's approach to parsing content by corpora. Learn how you can take advantage for a stronger content strategy and better search results
I attended a talk recently by Jon Orwant. Jon works for Google and is in charge of Google Books. He made a comment that caught my attention and might help you with your content strategy and Google search results.
Jon said Google separates all content into 'corpora': video, books, blogs, etc. When it receives a search query it first tries to figure-out which corpora is most relevant and then pulls results mainly from that corpora.
He gave the example of someone searching for "Michael Jackson Thriller". He said the books corpora would not raise its hand very high whereas the video (youtube) one would raise its hand really high. Google would then search through the video content and weight the results from that corpora.
Sounds simple enough, right? But, this has significant ramifications for businesses using content marketing strategies. If you have a content strategy that is focused on getting a high page rank on Google’s search results, you need to consider Google’s corpora approach. Are you publishing your content in the best formats?
Marketers typically ask if they’re publishing the right content. Is this white paper relevant? Is this blog post useful? (I say typically, but amazingly, a lot of marketers don’t even ask these questions!) But, marketers rarely ask if the content is in the right format.
Should your case study be published as a video rather than a pdf? What about your white paper? Would that be better off as a podcast or as an eBook? Or should you release it in multiple formats?
Just publishing in a number of different formats is not enough. You can have tons of videos out there, but if the content does not make sense for video, then Google is not going to serve it up as a relevant search result. And that means no one is going to watch it.
Questions to ask:
1. Is my content relevant?
2. Do I have enough content formats?
3. What formats make the most sense for my content?
A smart content strategy will focus on the needs of the target market and will take into consideration the ways search engines parse and serve results. Google’s corpora approach is simple and is consistent with a smart content strategy: offer useful content in formats that make sense for both the content and the target.
Wired Magazine's Chris Anderson reveals his journey to discovering why the iPad and tablet computers will be the future of his company
I attended a talk today given by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired. He was part of RIT’s Future of Reading conference and honestly, his presentation made my registration fee well worth the spend.
Chris talked about how Wired has been dealing with the changing options for publishing—print, web and tablet—as well as their economic impact on his publication. We’re all hearing of the terrible bloodbath in print media but here’s the thing: Wired is doing better now than it ever has!
It's clear to me the secret of their success is that Chris and his team are not afraid to think.
I say that because Wired has figured-out what business they are in. They’re not married to any sort of format, delivery mechanism or content type. In fact, Anderson said he’s thinking of trimming some portions of wired.com because it just does not lend itself to their business. He knows that because he knows what business he’s in.
Wired asked itself two questions.
1. What is a magazine?
2. Do people still want magazines?
The first question gets at the essence of what they offer. Chris believes a magazine is the following:
A magazine is a periodical
It’s an event. It’s heavily produced and then revealed at a specific time and on a regular basis.
A magazine creates suspense
Since it’s a periodical, it creates a sense of secrecy and suspense until it is revealed. What will the next issue be about? It could be about anything, so we have to wait and see.
A magazine is a curated collection
It’s a collection of content with a theme. It’s controlled by the creators. You can’t break it into it’s smaller parts and have the same value because it's really a collection.
So, the second question then begged to be answered. Do people still want an immersive, curated, periodic event?
The answer, of course, is yes.
Listening to Chris, I realized he’s not going to let romance or history or legacy dictate what he can and can not do with Wired. He has to think honestly about what business he is in and how to keep that business healthy.
Chris and his team evaluated their options. They have a print asset already in place and it works quite nicely as an immersive, curated, periodic event. At a time when everyone is crying that print is dead, Anderson knows his print will thrive.
They’ve developed a web version of Wired, but it’s not successful as a magazine. It’s hard to deliver an immersive, curated event on the web because it's too immediate and too atomized. Users want to get in quick and get out even quicker, the average time on their site being something like three minutes!
That leaves the new tablet-based options. Well, for now the only option worth mentioning is the iPad. Of course, when other tablets roll out with color, sound and interactivity that will change.
Since Chris knows his business he had to only figure-out three things.
1. Will the tablet become ubiquitous?
2. Will people want to engage it in a way that's immersive?
3. Will tablets allow Wired to create sustainable economic relationships with its subscribers?
Wired decided that all three were true and that the tablet is the future of their company. That’s a big commitment, which tells you what they think of the future of the tablet.
Anderson showed a demo of what Wired looks like on the iPad and it’s ridiculous! Seriously, these guys have figured it out. Watch the clip in full screen mode to get the full effect and then tell me if you want to run out and buy an iPad. I know I did when I saw it.
Of course, Anderson has an award-winning publication at his back while he figures this stuff out. Being part of Conde Nast, having access to deep financial resources and an army or bright minds does not hurt either. But, look, that never guarantees success, does it?
We can all learn a lesson from Chris and Wired. What business are we in? Telephony? Design? Law? High tech manufacturing? Anderson figured out that he's not in the paper magazine business, but that he sells immersive, curated periodic events. That freed him to create and deliver an amazing new experience that's quickly becoming the key to his company's future.
Don't be afraid to think, to ask tough questions. Figure out what business you're in, distilling it to its essence. We all have to do this because knowing what business we're in is the only way to make smart, bold decisions in the new world.
The original post stated that Wired was considering cutting significant portions of it's online content. After communicating with Chris Anderson we realized that was incorrect. The post has been updated in the interest of accuracy. Chris' comments follow.
We did an audit of Wired Magazine content on wired.com (magazine content represents considerably less than 10% of the content on wired.com, and the site is run by a different team, not me). We found that about a quarter to a third of the those stories (but less than 10% of word count) were getting almost no traffic, mostly because they were shorter items designed for print with a heavy integration of words, pictures and design, and they didn't make much sense when stripped of the design. So we decided to make those stories print and tablet only for now. We'll put them back on the web when we have a way to do so with design intact, be that Adobe Air, HTML 5 or some other method.
So just to be clear, that's <10% of <10%, or less than 1% of the content on wired.com that we're temporarily making print and tablet only while we wait for a better web-friendly solution.
Dave Mammano, founder of Next Step magazine and NextStepU, talks about social media, traditional publishing, the iPad, branding and entrepreneurialism in a recent interview with Mike Gastin.
Dave and I sat down over a cup of coffee near his office in lovely Victor NY to talk about his business, publishing, marketing and social media. Dave's a great guy and has a lot of experience in publishing and advertising. Check out his thoughts on where traditional publishing is going and his experiences with social media.
Mike: You started the company 15 years ago and I’m curious how the idea for NextStep came about.
Dave: I decided I wanted to start a business before I started on the idea for NextStep. I ran the school newspaper in college and loved it. I mostly sold ads. I knew I wanted to stay in ad sales so I went to radio sales for three years and never fell in love with that business. I did OK with it and I liked my bosses, they were nice guys, but I hated having a boss. I hated taking direction, I hated being boxed in from a creativity perspective and I decided that I just needed to do my own thing. I was 25. I thought about all the friends I had that left college directionless. So I thought, wouldn’t it be neat if there was a magazine that could help students while in high school decide on the right, post-secondary choices?
I realized I could do this! I know print, I know how to sell ads, I know how to write a little bit. So I went and created a demo issue, a 12-page little dummy issue. I brought it around to potential advertisers in Rochester, mostly colleges, some local banks, bike shops, Record Archive, everything.
I ended up selling about $15,000 worth of ads, which was enough to print about 10,000 copies. I distributed them free to about 50 high schools around the 5-county area. We broke even on the first two issues and then by the third issue we made a little bit of profit so we expanded to Buffalo and Syracuse—about 30,000 copies in about 150 high schools. By the sixth issue we really developed a good model for cash flow and then just kept expanding. In ’97 we went to all of New York State, and then later expanded nationwide.
Mike: What were the big marketing challenges when you started the magazine?
Dave: Well, it’s a tough demographic to reach. I mean our audience is college-bound high school students so that could be inner city, Pittsford, African-American, Asian, white. It’s a big audience to try to market to. So to advertise traditionally was gonna be very tough so what we decided to do is a lot of guerilla marketing—be where they are physically. We would sponsor events, college fairs, career expos and go into the high schools and speak. We don’t have the budget to do TV and radio.
Mike: How have you leveraged social media? Did you have any early missteps, did you learn anything?
Dave: We did have a misstep. We tried to jump into the social media thing about two years ago. We did some stuff on Facebook, we started blogging, but we didn’t really do anything with it. We let it sit there and sure enough, we didn’t really get much momentum with it.
Then about four months ago we jumped back into it but this time we came up with a whole plan. We really started promoting the Facebook page, our fan page, and the magazine to our database of users. We promote our Facebook page in our newsletter that goes out to 300,000 students, on our web site and in our magazine. We promote the heck out of it and now in the past few months it’s gone up to almost 500 fans. Six months ago it had seven fans.
Also, Laura does a really great blog. So she’ll post,“Check out my blog” on our Facebook wall and she’ll promote the blog in our magazine.
In addition to that a couple times a week we’ll give away something for free from our advertisers. We promote it on Facebook and then we’ll promote that someone won. Hey! John Smith from Tulsa won a University of Buffalo sweatshirt!
Mike: I have to imagine your advertisers, when they hear what you’re doing with social media, feel more confident to say I’m gonna spend here.
Dave: Right. We get viewed more as an educational media company instead of a magazine.
Mike: I noticed you rebranded the company. You went from NextStep Magazine to NextStepU. What motivated that?
Dave: We were known as NextStep Magazine, our web site was NextStepMag.com, and we were losing buys, frankly, because people, buyers would pigeonhole us as print only. Advertisers wouldn’t give credence to anything else we were doing. We do a lot of custom publishing, we have some great online products, we do a lot of digital publishing, we do custom publishing digitally, we were going to be moving to the mobile world in the Fall and the iPad.
Mike: Oh, interesting! Are you developing an app?
Dave: We’re gonna have an electronic version of our magazine on the iPad in the Fall. And then we’ll look at developing some cool apps after that. But step one is just to be able to read the magazine on the eReaders.
We chose NextStepU is because it gives credence to repositioning the company. So now you see NextStepU and you’re like, what’s that? NextStep Mag you say, that’s a magazine. NextStepU, what is that? We position as an educational media company that offers many media platforms including print, online, digital, mobile, custom publishing, and we’re here to help you.
Mike: You started out as a print mag when the commercial internet was in its early stages. What struggles have you experienced making the transition from solely a print offering to print plus digital?
Dave: I’ve experienced that mass publications, mass circ publications, are hurting. Obviously Newsweek just went on the block two weeks ago.
Mike: I think I saw it on Craig’s List.
Dave: (laughter) That would be a good place to sell it, right?
I think that there’s so many other choices today to get your media. I mean there’s Google News, there’s the internet in general, 24/7 news stations. We used to get our news from the newspaper and Tom Brokaw and that was it. Now, by the time you get to work you’ve probably checked out MSNBC.com and then maybe you’ve watched a little CNN while working out, so you already know the news. You really don’t need to read that morning newspaper too much anymore. And really is there a need for Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report now? People don’t have the time to read two-hour articles anymore, and so those mass magazines or newspapers, they’re probably gonna reinvent themselves to some extent to find their place of relevancy but I think there definitely will be some purging along the way.
But from a print perspective, what I think is going to make the cut better is the small niche-oriented magazines and newspapers. You might subscribe to your Messenger Post newspaper regionally because your son is playing soccer and you want to see his picture in the paper. Gatehouse Media’s strategy is good because they’re really focusing on local stuff that you can’t find on CNN or the internet. They’re finding their place of relevancy.
Magazines I think are going survive by being very niche oriented. Instead of a circ of 30 million or 20 million, it could be 200,000, but guess what? You’re super serving a very fine niche that people want to reach. Everybody has a hobby or two and a lot of times people will subscribe to magazines to support their hobby. If you look at niche-oriented magazines, most of them are actually doing very well.
Mike: Your magazine is a niche because it’s serving a very specific population and a very specific time in their life.
Dave: Well, you know the metaphor, and it’s kind of comical, but we’re like a bridal magazine. You read it for a year or two and then ideally you’re never gonna read it again, right? You know, same thing with NextStep. You’re gonna read it when you go to college and then you’re done with it. But the cool thing is you’ve always got people on deck coming up. There will always be brides, there will always be students.
Mike: Do you have data on readers of the magazine versus users of the web site, meaning, are they two different groups or are they the same people using both?
Dave: It’s like there’s two circles and there is some overlap. It’s like 30% overlap. But a lot of our readers will go for the print magazine and will also go to the web site. We show that about 74% of our traffic actually types in the URL.
Mike: OK, so it’s direct traffic.
Dave: Which means that they either dream it or they saw the magazine. What I have found is there’s people in general will read print to go deep. People don’t stay on the web and read for a half an hour. They just don’t. The average time spent on the web is like seven minutes, so they’re browsing, they’re getting the headlines, they’re getting their quick tidbits, that’s why blogs, successful blogs, are like 400 words. No one’s reading a six-page Newsweek article online most of the time. But if you’re on the airplane or you have some time to yourself at home, you could get cozy with your magazine. It’s tough to get cozy with your laptop and read a six-page article or in bed.
Mike: I think Apple is hoping that’s what the iPad’ll do.
Dave: Yeah, the iPad is definitely a game-changer. No doubt. I’ve seen Time Magazine on it and it’s great! It’s full of color, it’s beautiful, you know, get your little finger and turn the page and it’s great!
Mike: You talk to a lot of advertisers. Can you share a common mistake that you see?
Dave: The common mistake is people are judging too heavily based on ROI. They’re not giving any credence to traditional advertising. They divide the number of leads they receive by the dollars they spent. But you can’t track all this stuff. You can’t track it being part of a bigger marketing picture. You can’t track all the people that saw the ad, that went to your web site and then eventually enrolled. So a lot of CMOs are letting resources go that are very helpful in the overall picture.
Mike: Do you have advice for publishers?
Dave: Don’t get tricked into abandoning what made you successful by abandoning your core. Most of our revenue still comes from print. If we were just to say we gotta fold print, we’d be out of business. You know, we would have completely changed our business model so I would say find a way to preserve the core while slowly turning the ship towards all this new stuff and offer your advertisers the full surround sound of marketing opportunities. We say, hey, we could offer you branding and awareness all the way up to real-time lead generation and everything in between. The clients that do best with us do everything—they do some print, some online, some lead generation stuff. They do a good mix because the audience is always new and you need to do the branding and awareness advertising to make the introductions. Otherwise, no one’s going to click on you for a lead if they don’t know who you are. So it’s all full circle that needs to be included.
Mike: I asked you about advice for publishers, do you have any advice for marketing folks?
Dave: I think the advice for marketing folks is don’t be lured by just doing all the bright new shiny stuff. Don’t run a social media strategy without a traditional marketing campaign to back it up. If you use traditional media well, it’s gonna drive people to your social media stuff.
Mike: And vice versa.
Dave: And vice versa, exactly. So don’t forget the full surround sound of marketing opportunities out there.
Mike: That’s great advice. Dave, thanks for taking the time to share with us!
Marketing pros, entrepreneurs and executives—win Jeff Hayzlett's best-selling book on business: The Mirror Test. Enter early, enter often!
We're giving away a free copy of Jeff Hayzlett's new book, The Mirror Test! All you have to do is email us with your contact info of choice—phone number, email addy, Twitter handle—and you're entered into the drawing. And don't sweat sending us an email, as we're anti-spam. You'll not receive anything from us other than info on the drawing. Okay?
Jeff Hayzlett is a larger-than-life marketing expert, who until recently was the Chief Marketing Officer for Kodak. Word on the street is he's moved on for a television show. Only time will tell. Until then, give us your info and get in on the chance to win Jeff's book.
We'll be announcing the winner early next week, so enter now!
It's time for the Marketing Tip of the Week, a feature dedicated to helping marketers get that extra edge.
This week's tip: Realize You're A Publisher.
What business are you in? High tech manufacturing? Health care? IT? Marketing? It doesn't matter what industry we find ourselves in any more because we're all in publishing.
With the advent of web sites and their use to promote companies, we all became publishers without even knowing it. Every business that matters in America has a web site. Even my dry cleaner has one! If you're in business you have to be online. It's just that simple. And, if you have a web site then you are publishing content.
So, the question isn't if you're a publisher or not. We're all publishing. The question becomes are you a good publisher or a lousy publisher? Are you putting out great content that your customers and prospects want to consume? Or, are you careless about content?
Some marketers get this. They see their web site as a digital printing press and they use it to regularly put out great content that they know their audience will love to consume. They're building loyalty, credibility and sales by being great publishers.
But, some folks just don't get it at all. They throw a site up and leave it there to moulder. The content is poorly written and it's not relevant to the needs of the users.
There was a time in England when owning a printing press was illegal. The monarchy knew that a press was a powerful tool that could be used for subversion and so only very trusted people were approved to own a press. The king knew that the ability to mass communicate was power. Today, we marketers have that same power sitting right in front of us. Are we using it?
Buy an offset printing press today and you can easily spend a quarter of a million dollars just to get started. But, a printing press is only valuable when it's in use. You wouldn't spend $250,000 for a press and then just let it sit in your warehouse. But, that's what businesses are doing today when their web site just sits there, unused.
Realize you're a publisher and use the power of your web site to make your business more profitable, stable and healthy.
Business people who have figured out Twitter’s power know that it’s an amazing tool for intelligence gathering, trend spotting, networking and business development. Its usefulness is easily under-realized and if you think Twitter is mainly for chatting, think again.
Let’s say you need to find an expert on solar energy for an article you’re working on. You can search people’s bios on Twitter using Google. You would construct a search string to look for bios that contain solar energy. Within a few seconds you’d have a list of people from all over the world that have something to do with solar energy. Then, it’s just a matter of following the ones that look promising and reaching out to them via Twitter. Within an hour you could be on the phone with an expert getting the info you need.
In addition, by searching for solar energy trends on Twitter you will find all kinds of discussions, news stories, articles and published research, which would be valuable to your article. You could use Google and search for relevant web sites, but Twitter provides you with real-time conversations—not just indexed content. That’s powerful.
Twitter & Journalism
This kind of power and time relevancy makes Twitter a must-use tool for journalists and publications. It’s like having your very own police scanner except you can tune-in to any topic you’re interested in.
Remember when a reporter had to move heaven and earth to ‘get the scoop’ on a story? Or how hard they had to work to find and cultivate sources? All these things can be done so easily using Twitter that it’s a no-brainer. Savvy journalists use it to follow important people, trendsetters and insiders, find experts, watch trending topics and get the jump on their competition.
I was poking around over the weekend to find local journalists using Twitter because I wanted to start cultivating relationships with the local press, something every small business owner needs to do. What I found amazed me.
I started at the RBJ. There’s nothing on their web site about Twitter. I had to really dig around the net to find their main account which is a feed of stories. Okay, but I want to connect with reporters, not receive a feed of headlines.
I searched Twitter to find ‘rochester business journal’ or ‘rbj’ in users’ bios and found one relevant hit: editor and vice president Paul Ericson. Wow! A guy at the top, this is a good sign, I thought. When I clicked through to his Twitter page I found that he had only one tweet and it was from January of this year. He had two followers and followed two users, one being his employer. That’s it. One staffer with a four-month old tweet. Not savvy.
The Democrat & Chronicle has fully embraced Twitter. They’ve even got a page on their web site that lists everyone on their staff with a Twitter account. It’s quite impressive. After following some of their reporters and staff, it’s clear that they use it actively. I’m amazed at how well they engage the community. That has to pay dividends for a business that makes its living reporting local news.
I’m no print media expert. But, I’ve been involved in business development, networking and research for decades. It seems obvious that if your job involves connecting with people, finding information and developing content, like a newspaper must do every day, you need to be using tools like Twitter. If you’re not you can expect to be left behind. It’s that simple.