The End of the Press Release and Corporate Website?

No sooner had I posted my last blog than I noticed more content marketing research showing a drop in the outsourcing of content creation from 56% to 40%. This makes more sense to me – you can’t outsource your voice to someone else, but you can hire in people who are able to bring your stories, culture and values to life – articulate them in a way that engages others.

CocaCola have recently created a new blogger network of experts. Watch the following video, which says a lot about changing attitudes to content marketing. It only lasts a couple of minutes, but in it Ashley Brown from Coke is able to give us a glimpse of the future:

  • The corporate website is dead – think beyond it and turn it into a media property.
  • The blog is more important.
  • Kill the press release – by 2015 in Coke’s plans
  • Create something that you would want to share if you weren’t at Coke – spark emotion and connection
  • Hire brand journalists

To fully understand brand journalists we need to think about what we understand a journalist to be. According to author David Meerman Scott:

“A story teller is a story teller no matter who is telling the story”

Anyone who writes or creates something, who understands the need of the reader, could therefore be classed as a journalist. As the journalist Dan Gillmor said:

“We are all creating media. Any one of us can, and many of us will, commit an act of journalism. We may contribute to the journalism ecosystem once, rarely, frequently or constantly. How we deal with these contributions – deciding to try one, what we do with what we’ve created, and how the rest of us use what’s been created – is going to be complex and evolving, But it’s the future”

As I said in my most recent post, it is the blogger who is most likely to be able to articulate the brand for the reader that you want to engage.

And I’m now finding this through experience – companies are currently approaching me to write for them not because I am a trained writer, but because I can write things in a way that engages HR professionals and InHouse and Agency Recruiters. They are my network, and an audience whose needs and concerns I understand.

A future without a traditional corporate website, press releases and old school comms may seem a big leap but it will certainly happen. If Coke can envisage this for 2015 then smaller businesses can be looking at this now, leading the way and innovating.

It will start with understanding your customers and employees, their journeys and needs, and finding story tellers with the insight, authority and creativity to talk to them.

Bloggers, Brand Journalists and The Importance of Content


If there’s a word that’s been impossible to escape in 2012 or 2013 then it’s CONTENT. Even more than ‘Talent‘ it’s been a word that unites sectors and disciplines, marketers and HR, managers and non-managers. A word on which everyone has a view, for which every business has a need, and one that inspires many to claim that they know all the answers.

As someone who spent the last two and a half years creating, curating, sharing and searching for content on behalf of a major digital business I can tell you that there’s a lot of it about – much of it of questionable quality and value.

I’ve also spent almost 5 years creating my own, through social channels and this blog, but when it’s for you then the odd misfire is acceptable (still can’t believe how few of you interacted with this blog on my favourite band Wilco, and what we could learn from them about talent management!) and the attempts to try something different aren’t always as critically viewed (although I accept you’ve probably seen enough pictures of my fish & chip dinners on Instagram).

Earlier this year the Content Marketing Institute produced this presentation on 2013 trends in content marketing…and some of it’s survey findings would have come as no surprise:

  • Top challenge is producing enough content
  • Next top challenge is producing content that engages
  • Other challenges such as variety, integration and measurement seemed much less important
  • The main goal for content marketing is brand awareness
  • The second goal is customer acquisition
  • The goal of customer retention/loyalty came in 4th
  • Case studies were deemed the most effective tactic
  • Larger companies tend to outsource content creation

So let me get this right, given that it came from marketers themselves – content marketing is mainly aimed at awareness and getting new customers, volume over quality is the challenge, and someone else is being trusted with your voice. Hmmm.

Does anyone know the customer journey? At what point the potential new customer may be interacting with the content? How is it being shared? How many existing customers (seemingly unimportant) are being turned off by this noise? And why is someone else talking for us?

For social platforms, as with email and the phone before, is it a case of new shiny communication routes being flogged every which way to try and create as much noise as possible? Because noise = success. Right??!!

The content that’s right is the content that works, the stuff that connects, informs, enlightens, educates, amuses or captivates – all or any. So it’s important to get the right balance and the right people producing and sharing it. The number of likes has ceased to be of relevance – it’s the quality and identity of those likes that are important. Repurposing the old marketing approaches for a new platform will miss the opportunity to create something fresh and vibrant that will capture the imagination.

And strategy is important too…is keeping and building loyalty with your current customers really only the 4th most important??

There seems to be a trust of external agencies. I’ve heard many reasons – they can scale content, produce a broad range, have access to the tools for video and graphics – but what about the words and pictures? Have they got the knowledge, insight and authority to write them? Can they authentically speak for you? And do they understand your customers and clients? Can they really create a connection? How will they share the content that they produce – or support your sharing? What are the social profiles of the people who will be working on it?

In my last (short) blog I featured a current newspaper analysis of how the retail industry is looking to Pinterest to save their Xmas trade – sorry guys, but a social platform doesn’t do it by itself…it needs time and attention, to be planted and watered, and tended with care and engagement.

But if we are to trust agencies, why not individual bloggers?

This post on predictions for 2014 via IBM makes reference to the importance and increasing relevance of ‘brand journalism‘ and the positioning of their business as a ‘media house‘ that doesn’t rely on the media, but on getting people onside and into your business who can tell your story. This includes employees too.

And crucial to telling this story will be journalists, bloggers and influencers. People with authority, followings and reach, and the skills to create the type of content that engages, connects, inspires and informs.

In the hospitality sector many companies are already teaming up with bloggers to marry social networks and content marketing campaigns and are able to leverage their networks for greater reach as well as gain further insight to how their customers and potential customers think.

As the Content Marketing Association said, writers, bloggers and the like “already understand that the craft of storytelling is based not on sentences or arresting straplines but on a journey in which characters represent our lives“.

They are also able to bring knowledge, network, access to information, influence, trust and authority. You need to get the best people – they will be your voice and the cost of not getting it right will be greater than the savings from doing it cheaply.

At this point, if I were a tech or consulting business I’d be topping and tailing this blog with some self serving research that showed I was the solution to everyone’s content problem…but I’m just a humble content and social engagement guy hustling for some new work who happens to tick all the boxes above 😉

Let me know if you want to talk more about content…

(image via

If you want to find out more about what good content looks like and how recruiters can use it to source and attract the best talent through social channels then book your place on this one day workshop when ace social recruiting trainer Katrina Collier and myself will tell you how

#HRTechConf – 5 Observations From Across The Pond

HRTech panel

Recently back from Vegas having attended my first HR Technology Conference in the US…a three day extravaganza of exhibitors and demos, content and parties, and most importantly, connections and networking.

I was lucky enough to have an access all areas blogger’s pass so here are some of my random thoughts on what stood out for me as a first time attendee…from a UK perspective, obviously!

1) Its Huge. The Expo was larger than anything I have seen in the UK and the press room alone was big enough to hold a one day conference! Massive scale but still with a personal touch as everyone I came across took the time to network, get to know you and talk enthusiastically about their particular area of expertise/interest.

We’ve all walked round expo floors dodging glances from slick sales people manning the stands and looking to collect business cards and email addresses to help them spam you with messages and calls. I wasn’t sure how this one would go but have to say that every exhibitor I spoke to wanted to engage in a conversation (OK, maybe it was my accent) and talk you through their product, usually displaying a real passion and pride in what they do. That may be because my inbuilt anti-sales radar kept me away from the others.

2) Bloggers Count. At this event bloggers are important. We had our own room, sponsored by Dice, and numbered about 30. I remember Rob Jones writing about how having blogger as opposed to a sales prospect’s job title on his badge at CIPD11 elicited a more ambiguous approach from exhibitors. Not here. Most businesses wanted to engage the bloggers and tell us about their tech and what it could do. They seemed to see us as important conduits of their message. They scheduled meetings with us, made sure we were at all the parties and receptions, sought our views on trends and generally saw us as a valuable, and influential, channel…something UK event organisers should take note of. I really appreciated, and learned from, time spent with Glassdoor, RoundPegg, Success Factors and MTM Recognition.

The impression I got was that bloggers were seen as an important part of the conference and an important link for exhibitors and speakers.

3) Swag and Parties. From some of the blogs I had read covering previous years I was expecting to need an extra suitcase for all the swag on display – I’m a sucker, I really did think there would be t-shirts with slogans like ‘HR chicks/dudes do it better’ ! As it was, amongst the stress balls, pens and flashing party specs I will make use of my Cornerstone on Demand shirt proudly proclaiming that I’m a Millennial at Work (I took a survey, honest) and my limited edition ‘Seize the Night’ Virgin Pulse launch one. Not forgetting my SumTotal iPhone/iPad charger, Glassdoor lip salve, mints and torch/bottle opener key ring, Technomedia USB, Broadbean beer cooler and many more!

The parties…well, I’ve shared what I need to on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! There were many of them, often 3 or 4 on at the same time, offering part networking and part fun. No expense spared either. My top three were courtesy of Reputation Capital/Blogging4Jobs/Technomedia, Jobvite and Virgin Pulse/Starr Conspiracy. If you really need reasons to go to this conference then the parties are as good a good place as any to start!

4) Content. The actual conference part provided me with a mix of great, good and average. The keynotes from Don Tapscott and Jason Averbrook were excellent. The panel sessions were good value too. Some of the breakout presentations were less insightful though – maybe I was spoiled by attending HRevolution the day before as there was certainly more energy, ideas and insight at that event than in some parts of the larger conference. Will be interesting to see how this shifts with Steve Boese now at the helm of HR Tech.

Of course the real big noises of the content show were that perennial fave ‘talent management’ which jockeyed for overuse with the younger rising star ‘big data’. For me both are default terms that cover for a lack of more interesting conversations…would have been good to have a deeper dive into both these areas particularly with reference to the end user. We heard how both Amazon and LinkedIn know more about employees than their employer does but no real insight as to the relevance and impact of this.

For me the three most interesting, and encouraging, technologies at the event were about sourcing & candidate identification, using social reach and conversations to provide something a lot deeper – Dice’s Open Web, and two emerging businesses that didn’t exhibit but were certainly active participants in the conversations – eitalent and entelo.

5) Connections and Conversations. This was a huge part of the conference experience and one of the strongest. Some really great conversations and insights were shared, with the opportunity to have face time with many people who are often just avatars on a social networking platform, being a particular highlight. It’s difficult to put a value on this kind of interaction, but I know that this part made the whole trip worthwhile for me.

As you may have gathered, I enjoyed the experience. The interactions, insights and social aspects were hugely important. Technology is an enabler, a delivery platform that is now embedded in almost every action that HR and Recruiters take on a daily basis. From payroll to on-boarding, rewards to succession planning every professional needs to understand how technology can help deliver an improved and enhanced service, and experience, to current, past and future employees, managers and directors.

This event was a great place to start – I’m planning on coming back next year!

(Image from Trish McFarlane)