Contacts books and content marketing – we need to talk

February 20, 2014 9:56 pm

A great contacts book (now usually virtual rather than a rolodex or dog-eared notebook) has always been – and still is – what marks out really good journalists.

That ability to get a direct line through to someone quickly for comment on a breaking story or for an exclusive interview or just to pick their brains in an off-the-record chat for background is invaluable.

Interview by reporterBut for content marketing purposes? Many brand journalists are finding the ground rules aren’t quite the same. Picking up the phone to ask someone for comment when their words will appear in, say, Wired or the FT is an easy sell and understood by both parties.

Getting that person to agree to talk if the same feature is to appear on a branded B2B website for a tech company or a customer magazine for a big consumer brand suddenly becomes a harder sell.

Part of that is simply a lack of awareness and understanding of what good content marketing is.

A personal example relates to sometimes needing independent expert comment on a topic by the big technology industry analysts and research houses. Only too happy to flog costly reports and consulting they are normally easy to get on the end of a phone when a quotation or two appears in a mainstream editorial publication. But we have found the door can be firmly shut if you come knocking for exactly the same article but for a brand publication.

On the one hand it’s easy to see why. A big chunk of revenue for analyst houses traditionally comes from charging brands and vendors for that kind of added value service. Why should they now give it away?

But that’s short-sighted. In today’s content marketing world these brand publications are light years away from the clunky old advertorial vehicles of yesteryear. With good content at their foundation and growing audiences, many would be viable and popular publications in their own right without the brand sponsor. And they arguably hit the target buyer audience in a much more targeted way than most pure editorial publications.

Not everyone has this attitude. We have found plenty of trusted contacts who have been more than willing to be interviewed and provide comment for articles. They get it.

The ground rules are still hazy on all this but our advice to those creating content is to be honest and open. Explain to your contacts clearly what the publication is, where final copy will appear (online, print, both), who the target audience is and what the level of brand involvement is.

Be aware of any potential conflicts of interest for them by appearing under the brand and show them examples if you can.
*photo credit: Patrick Feller via photopin cc

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