First and foremost, be very aware that I’m on the advisory board of IZEA, the first and still most known company selling content marketing including paid blogging posts. I am biased. I am biased. I am biased. There’s bias in this piece. Are we clear?
I have written about content marketing a lot it seems. Heck, I’ve built part of my company on the idea that it’s what comes next.
I support Ted Murphy and IZEA. I support their intent to deliver quality content marketing with appropriate disclosure and clear delineation. That’s why I joined the advisory board. I want to help shape the way I feel content marketing should work. I want to be clear on disclosure. I want to help shape how this impacts blogging, and be sure that we keep all the various iterations for how and why people blog clear.
Reading this post by Andy Sernowitz (who I also like and whose book is a must-read) is a bit disheartening. Specifically, I take issue with this:
3. In my personal opinion, working with IZEA, PayPerPost, and Magpie is horrible. You risk public humiliation for yourself and your company. Turn their salespeople away at the door.
My first complaint: the word “horrible.” You may have a professional opinion, but “horrible” is putting a weighted opinion on a business who chooses to do things differently than your perspective. Sponsored content has been around for quite a while in other mediums. We’ve only had a few years of it in the blogging space, and as such, it’s required a bit of a learning curve. To blanket the practice with “horrible” is a bit too dismissive to me.
The case studies that came out of the IZEA projects for Sears and K-Mart report somewhat different findings than “public humiliation.” The Forrester report that came out in favor of sponsored posts (or at least cautiously optimistic) seems to feel the same way.
Another company that I feel is doing great work in content marketing is Federated Media. I’m quite excited by what they’re doing with AMEX Open, and some of the other projects they’ve launched. And again, it’s sponsored content versus otherwise.
It’s Going There
Did you read about The Ford Fiesta Movement? That’s sponsored marketing, too. I have a feeling it’s going to go well.
To me, it’s just ridiculously simple: disclose. Disclose. Disclose.
Ted Murphy put together DisclosurePolicy.org to have a conversation about best practices. Andy Sernovitz has his own take on it. Great. We agree that disclosure is important.
Kumbaya All You Want
Markets are conversations. Join the conversation. Here we are talking. Yep.
There are MANY great blogs that don’t give a rat’s ass about this sponsored post discussion and they shouldn’t. Want to read some excellent blogs? Read Jon’s 300 Words a Day or Ann’s Ann Archy. I’m not talking about blogging having to switch over to being a marketing circus.
Here’s what I believe: I believe that what came before, marketing and PR and business communications as they were practiced, don’t work exactly the same way now. Now, I could be totally wrong. I’m not a professional marketer or PR person. I don’t have a degree in either. But it’s probably better that way. I don’t have the same bias as others. I see tools and I see ways to use them to build business relationships.
I think that quality content, paid for or otherwise, is the current cost of entry for business communications. If you want me to love your widgets, I have to know they’re there, and I probably have to experience them in some way. I can blend up some iPhones or I can loan out a hundred cars for people to schmuck about in, but one way or another, I’m going to have to do something interesting to catch your attention.
Then, once I’ve got your attention, I’d better hope that a good level of word of mouth (digital or otherwise) is in place to influence the relationship even more. One won’t work out there and alone without the other.
Is It Really More Difficult Than This?
But which is marketing and which is PR and which is paid versus earned and all that? It’s so simple:
If you paid money for any part of the relationship, even if that money is in dispensing of products for review or the like, disclose it. A gift card or a loaner car or an airplane trip is the same as cash to the disclosure. Keep a disclosure section alive and well anywhere that these experiences take place. Be clear to the relationships that happen.
Is there more to it than that?
I really hope that more people pay attention and weigh in on the relationships here. I hope that Ted and Andy and others in the fray merit your thoughts and your consideration. If you’re a business, you will face the possibility of content marketing and sponsored posts as a potential way to build relationships. If you’re a media maker, you’ve already wondered what it means to you.
Let’s see that this stays an open conversation, with more than just knee-jerk reactions and holier-than-thou opinions. This relates to people’s business. It relates to my business. What’s your take on it all?
What are you feeling? What do you think it means for your business or your media making? What comes next?
Photo credit, Ted Murphy