Content marketing writers try to tell the story of the company that hires them. We should focus on customer problems instead.
Most of the time, I like David Meerman Scott of WebInkNow renown, and agree with what he has to say. I think he has come to “believe his own stuff” and go on a bit, but most of his observations about marketing and PR are cogent and valuable. I was working on the rewrite of a white paper about a telecommunications technology last month, when one of Scott’s posts came to my aid.
From a tangle of techno-doggerel . . .
The original paper was a real chest-thumper, filled from cover to cover with a technical marketing manager‘s concept of what the company does best, and why everybody reading the paper needs it. There was a technical dimension to the paper, which was an opportunity for an under-the-hood look at how the product works. But even that was wasted in a tangle of techno-doggerel:
- “end-to-end turnkey solution”
- “scale horizontally across platforms and channels”
- “robust, frictionless infrastructure driving the business model of the entire ecosystem”
It was easy for me to see what we needed to throw away.
But I didn’t have a clear picture of how to replace it.
Until I read the Scott post that evening, “Single most essential PR pitching tip:”
So here’s the single most essential media and blogger pitching tip for PR people:
Don’t pitch your product.
Most journalists don’t care about products.
Instead…tell us how your organization solves problems for customers.
Here’s a guy who used to work as a PR manager, and who now gets pitched six ways from Tuesday. He’s tired of uninspired pitches, but knows a good one when he sees it. A good pitch loudly proclaims, “This is the problem, and this is how we solve it.”
. . . to insights into customer problems
I gutted the outline the content marketing writer had begun to put together. I turned it inside out to focus on the problems the reader might face, and how this technology would solve them. The managers who commissioned the paper liked the idea and told me as much.
So, I decided to push my luck.
“Let’s collect some competitive intelligence and put it into this paper,” I ventured. “Put yourself in the place of the people reading this: you’re investigating half a dozen products, including ours. Wouldn’t you like somebody to save you time by helping to assess the fit of each vendor, even if it’s not a completely unbiased perspective? As long as we’re not slinging mud, I think we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
They had misgivings about it, but I convinced them to give it a try. We’ll see how the paper turns out, and how it’s received.
I suspect that, after “Which problems do you solve for your customers?” Scott would probably ask, “What do your competitors do that you don’t?”