Thursday, June 27, 2013

Content Ain't King...But...

Your humble blogger got hooked by the subject line of a recent email from Target Marketing Magazine: “Why Content Isn't King.”  The linked article was a disappointment but it prompted your humble blogger to examine why I bit on the subject line bait.

Target Marketing Magazine knows their readers.   I clicked through seeking support for my beliefs.  I've argued (and posted regarding “Curation”) that “Content ain’t King, content is noble.  Cash is King.”  This was a way of saying that success, for most enterprises, is measured in currency.  Currency, not content, rules.

People in direct response who read Target Marketing are probably sick of hearing “Content is King.”  But my subsequent research helped me appreciate an alternative view.
Bill Gates is often credited with coining “Content is King” in a remarkably prescient essay in 1996, (The year the Conference Department started business).  It appears that others advanced the phrase before him but Bill Gates had the power to project the message.

Gate's message, 17 years ago, was that the Internet provides a new distribution system for information and that the value of the Internet system will be derived from the value of the information distributed, the content.  What he predicted was that countless opportunities would be created by the technology, to sell information in new ways (thanks to Craig Bailey et al for tracking this down).

Utility then is at the essence of the phrase.  Like new communication and transportation networks before it, postal services, canals, railroads, telegraph, telephone, radio, TV, etc. the value of the Internet is in what it conveys to and about the users.  Your humble blogger, a committed media utilitarian, can hardly argue with the point.

The problem comes when the phrase is misused to imply that content or “great content” will do all the work; that “great content” is your key to success in selling content or using content to sell something.  It is like saying what you need to succeed in the restaurant business is “great food.”  Great content or great food is a small piece of the puzzle.

Dethroning content has been your (now humbler) blogger’s way of putting the focus on the rules of the game.  It is not that I don’t care about content.  My personal motto, for years across all media, has been “First figure out what you want to say, then figure out how to make it pay.”  The payoff is usually in currency but it could be in votes or some other metric of success.

What we used to call editorially-driven media products are often the most effective because the editorial commitment tends to make the product more valuable for customers.  However an “editorial success” is an old euphemism for something that doesn't make money.  Without a rich patron, an editorial success will die young.

So content is noble.  King Currency cannot rule without the support of his noble court.  Turning good information into good business is like assembling a puzzle – in the future your humble blogger will be more careful to observe that noble content is a key piece of that puzzle!

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Keep Paddling ‘Til You Hit the Beach

A state government executive, serving for an effective Governor, once told your humble blogger that the Governor continuously urged his cabinet to “run through the tape” with their initiatives.  Your humble blogger recently summoned his aquatic version of this track aphorism, learned in kayak racing, which applies to event production.
Everyone is paddling hard at the start of the event
With the MyRWA Herring Run & Paddle finish line in sight, I reminded myself “Keep paddling  ‘til you hit the beach!”  I knew that that the end looked closer than it was and that I might be able to pick-off a competitor or at least knock minutes off my time by keeping up my pace and focusing to the finish.  I came so close to passing three guys that even though I was exhausted after racing for 12 miles, I was wishing for a longer race!
Every event is a show and in show business, you can’t stop performing until your reach the finish.
  • Plan to end strong.  We've all had fiascoes at the start of an event and any pro knows about the importance of detailed planning, drills and rehearsals to make sure the first experiences of a live event are good ones.  But too often people let events fizzle by failing to apply the same level of attention to the final impressions.
  • Make sure your contracts fit the plan.  Your arrangements for venue, permits, onsite services, and transportation need to be checked against your final plan.  You don’t want to have your grand finale cut short because the buses are leaving.
  • Keep it crisp.  Even if your event involves participants relaxing at the end, keep all program elements tightly scripted and well supported.
  •  Keep the body heat up.  If your venue is outdoors make sure it is not going to be uncomfortably cold.  Don't let your participants feel lonely - adjust your venues for the normal declines in numbers toward the end.
  • Keep the spot light on your program.  Don’t neglect lighting especially in outdoor venues.  Don’t allow distractions like a noisy breakdown operation to mar your conclusion.
  •  Keep testing all equipment.  Your tech. crews may be thinking about the big job of breaking down but everyone needs to focus on the more important job of ending right.
  • Don’t let your team go home early, in spirit or in reality.  If you are presenting or sponsoring an event make sure your visible representatives are still visible at the end.  At the end of a conference I advise my team, and especially the most senior people to be right at the door thanking participants and encouraging them to return again. 
  • Keep selling as long as you see a customer.  Take advantage of event magic as long as you are face-to-face.
  • Don’t schedule a debriefing too early.  Nobody (least of all your humble blogger) wants to hear what went wrong right after the show.  Instead keep thanking everybody for what went right.

Congrats to Andrius Zinkevichus won the 12 mile race with a time of
1:36:47 which is an 8:04 minute per mile pace!
Ending well is one of the most important parts of any communication or experience.  Let me end by reinforcing that I am here to help.  If you have any questions about moving hearts and minds with events give me a call at (781) 729-8611.

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