Joy Parks

Archive for the ‘business development’ Category

The (Beauty) Content Queens

In Beauty, business development, content, content strategy, Cosmetic queens, great writing, Helena Rubinstein, retail, What works on February 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

The first business book I read—without knowing it was a business book—was Madame: Intimate Biography of Helena Rubinstein by Patrick O’Higgins (1971). It appeared in my small town public library when I was about 11 or 12. Better than any romance novel, I loved this rags to riches story of how Chaja (later Helena) Rubinstein, a Polish medical student and the eldest of eight children, was shipped off to the loneliness and drying winds of her relatives’ homestead in Australia, and built an empire on a “scientific” cream made of sheep’s grease scented with lavender and water lily. Not just a business empire—between opening spas and launching products and getting very rich, Helena hob-knobbed with the art and literary set of Paris between the wars and lived the kind of life odd but ambitious and vengeful young girls like I could only dream of.

Since that time, there’s been a special place in my heart for the queens of the beauty biz, no matter how many warts are revealed in their biographies. I’ve read Jane Trahey on women and power: Who’s got it? How to get it? many times—Jane was an advertising legend who made it big back in the day when most women didn’t—but I most loved her descriptions of dealing with her client, the bitchy-beyond-compare Elizabeth Arden, particularly her account of the day Arden opened a window and dumped an entire season of cosmetic ads down on 5th Avenue.

Then there are the more contemporary beauty queen stories that recognize that they are also business content, like Lessons of a Lipstick Queen: Finding and Developing the Great Idea That Can Change Your Life. Poppy King, also hailing from Australia (it must be the weather) made it her life’s mission to create the perfect lipstick, which adoring fans, including me, will agree she accomplished with her Lipstick Queen line (Try the Medieval Red, it’s as perfect as lipstick gets.) The book outlines her vision, her girlish zest for playing with colors and instructs on how to get perfect looking lips, but it deals with the challenges of financing, product testing, manufacturing and distribution in one of the world’s ugliest and toughest businesses.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who can’t get enough of the beauty queens. Just last week, Ruth Brandon’s <em>Ugly Beauty: Helena Rubinstein, L’Oreal, and the Blemished History of Looking Good was released and widely reviewed in lofty venues like the <em>New York Times</em>. I could hear the serious literary types bemoaning all those column inches being wasted on stories of grown women who got away with adolescent temper tantrums simply because they made a good buck hawking lip liner and eye shadow.

So what do the beauty queens have to do with branded content? Plenty! In addition to the fact that most of these women were bona fide marketing geniuses, the entire beauty industry is pretty much all about content: the valuable how-tos, the lavish descriptions of product ingredients and their poetic origins, the hopeful mythology surrounding product lines that leads us to lay down large amounts of money in the belief that this dab of cream or that bit of color will make us younger, smoother, happier and more desirable. That is all the work of content—and darn good, incredibly effective content at that. Even though I understand the mechanics, even though I know I’m being played, I can still be seduced by the bad girl graphics and truly brilliant product names of Benefit, the brainy girl, civil engineer-turned-cosmetic maker story of Hana Zalzal’s Cargo brand and the self-righteous green chic of Aveda’s ingredient lists.

But also at work here is a second level of story, the very personal tales of the beauty queens behind the brands. The women who gave birth to the beauty industry were a rare breed and what has practically immortalized them is not so much their products or their brand or their logo (although every time I see a red door, I do think “Elizabeth Arden”) – it was the careful telling of their life stories, their business achievements, their marriages, their riches and their place on the social registry, stories that allow their female customers to bask in the attendant glow and feel they too, can get exactly what they want in life, if only they followed the instructions on the back that beautiful sea foam green and gold foil package. The beauty queens understood brand and the value of branded content; they enlisted the power of storytelling long, long before it became a common part of the marketing vernacular. Since an appetite for their stories remains to this day, clearly there’s still more to be learned from them. Apparently it’s true that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

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Look in the crystal ball… and see content marketing.

In business development, content, content strategy, The future on January 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

Royal Mail recently commissioned a report that looked forward to marketing trends in the relatively near future, 2020. What did they see? Less intrusion marketing, more permission contacts, more relevant messaging, a blurring between traditional marketing communications and consumer media, plus the gravitation towards more innovative way of providing information and interacting with customers–which may not be with us yet.

Sounds a lot like content marketing to me.

Branded content now commands 32% of marketing communications budgets

In business development, content, content communities, content strategy on May 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

The Custom Content Council, working with ContentWise, today released their 10th annual industry study “Characteristics Study: A Look at the Volume and Type of Content Marketing in America for 2010.” And the future couldn’t be brighter. Despite a recession and reduced ad spending in traditional paid media, U.S. spending on the production and distribution of branded content has increased to $47.2 billion. The large bump, the details of which are available only to Council members, is attributed to the inclusion of electronic and other forms of content marketing for the first time this year.

Highest proportion of spending on branded content ever
According to the Council’s news release, the most common forms of branded content (also known as custom content) are “website updates of articles, blog posts and e-newsletters, while the least common are mobile and e-zines, such as flipbooks and interactive PDFs.” And while mobile content may not be widely used right now, the study notes “it does rank as the medium that most marketers believe they are likely to add or invest in next year.” Even more optimistic is the study’s findings on the proportion of marcom spending on branded content—a whopping 32% of overall budget, the highest percentage of spending dedicated to branded content in the study’s 10 year history.

For both companies looking to benefit from their own content marketing program and the content strategists and creators who already know the value of branded content, the news doesn’t get any better than this.

Conversation Agent demonstrates why strategic content and good writing demand respect

In business development, content, content communities, content strategy on April 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

This morning, Valeria Maltoni’s Conversation Agent, the number one blog on the Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs (as listed by branded content expert Joe Pulizzi) carried the headline “Top Company Blogs Require Content Strategy, Expertise, Good Writing.”

Granted, my first response was “you think?” But considering the number of semi- or soon-to-be-abandoned (you can always tell) corporate blogs I’ve seen—and the fact that content for far too many websites and other online communications is done as an afterthought, not part of the strategic plan, it dawned on me that for someone not involved in the marketing of writing and content strategy services, this idea might be quite revolutionary. So kudos to Conversation Agent for bringing the value of good content forward—and for so dramatically showing the direct relationship between professionally written, strategically-developed content and corporate success.

Timing is everything: Why (and when) you need a content strategist

In business development, content communities, content strategy on April 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm

While plenty of people are writing about content creation and why it has to be done (Junta42’s Joe Pulizzi just issued his list of Top 42 Content Marketing blogs, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg), there hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about who exactly is supposed to plan, create, manage, organize and preserve all this content.

More and more, I’m seeing the term “content strategist,” but the work description hasn’t been all that clear—and there’s not a lot of mention of the value they bring to a company’s overall communications efforts. So I was thrilled to see Magnify.net CEO Steve Rosenbaum’s blog entry on fastcompany.com, “Filter or Be Flooded: Do You Need a Content Strategist?” It’s the most clear-cut explanation of what a content strategist can do that I’ve seen so far. One of the most important points he makes is when the content must be dealt with in the planning/strategic process.

“… content isn’t the thing the copywriter does at the end of the design and development phase of Web site development, it is the output of your site, fresh and evolving every day in a conversation with your visitors and your customers and your partners.”

Sure, a content strategist, particularly one with a background in writing, can write your site, ghost your blog, script your video; in short provide the actual content—much like a copywriter. But the greater value lies in their role in understanding your company, your customers and your expectations, and charting an ongoing, all-encompassing content development and delivery strategy from the start.

Says Rosenbaum, “As you dig into the Content Strategist world, you see that there’s a theme that develops. Once you get outside of conventional content makers (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.) the role of content is pushed down in organizations to copywriters who often have little say, little time, and little respect. But in the new world of content absorbing PR, Marketing, CRM functions, media relations, support, corporate and investor relations, Content comes out of the back room and moves to the front page–content is the “face” of the always-on corporation. So, Content Strategy takes on a mission critical role for all public functions.”

Which means that if you’re expecting your staff (including in-house copywriters, if you have them) to develop content, you can still benefit from including a content strategist in your overall online communications development team. While your staff may be able to write well enough to communicate your corporate message, can they deliver the right content in a compelling brand voice that will develop the right kind of relationship with customers? Do your in-house copywriters feel secure enough to potentially defy their colleagues when it comes to determining what customers want and need to know versus what marketing wants to tell them? And do you really think, considering current workloads, that you can count on even the keenest employee to blog or tweet regularly? Even if you are confident that you have the means of developing your own content, think of the content strategist as part coach, part editorial director, part long-term planner and sometimes, part referee. But definitely think of him or her before you get too far along in the content development process.

If not, you simply may not reap the full value of your investment. Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web (and interviewed by Rosenbaum for his blog) admonishes businesses to “Treat Content like a critical business asset…if you treat Content as an 11th-hour issue, you’ll have bad content, unhappy employees, disappointed users, and budget overages.”

Every company must be a publisher. But what does that mean?

In business development on March 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Every company must be a publisher.

This is pretty much the underlying premise of every piece of information ever written on the value of branded content. But what exactly does it mean?

Once upon a time, publishers were very powerful because they controlled the flow of information. Publishing was a very expensive business; not just anyone could publish and someone had to be the gatekeeper. So publishers (and the editors they hired) were the ones who made the decisions about what books, magazine and newspaper articles and other information made it into publication. There were vanity presses, which allowed authors to pay to be published, but they had a feeling of desperation about them. Since they had neither gatekeepers, nor access to the channels of distribution afforded real publishers, vanity books seldom got much notice or had much impact.

Back then, getting out information on your company, your products, your growth was a long, difficult and risky process. You made a list of trade magazines and had your communications department or PR company send out a press release to reporters. If you were lucky, a reporter got interested and went to his or her editor—who in turn may have had to get buy-in from the powerful publisher. If you were really lucky, the reporter got permission to do an article—and after a three-month lead-time, your story ran—right beside stories about your competitors.

Now we’re genuinely lucky. Businesses can communicate directly with their audience. That’s why in The New Rules of PR and Marketing, David Meerman Scott advises businesses to write news releases directed not at reporters, but at customers, at consumers. There’s no need for gatekeepers anymore (which may explain why the publishing industry is in trouble). Companies can shape their own messages, determine what they want to say, when they want to say it and to whom. They have the luxury of publishing branded content, online or sometimes in print, to create a loyal following of customers who feel their needs are understood and that their business is valued. Companies are beginning to realize the value (and ease) of communicating with their customers even when they aren’t trying to sell them something. Some companies get it. As time goes by, lots of others will too. That’s why all companies will need to be publishers—because their ability to control not just what information potential customers receive—but how—is going to give them a competitive advantage.

Ain’t progress grand?

You are not a pharmacy

In business development on February 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Have you ever noticed that pharmacies are one of the few types of businesses where customers will make the effort to buy something not displayed on a shelf in front of them? No one would ever ask a sales clerk in a shoe store if there are different styles of shoes hidden away in a back room or implore a grocery store employee to check the warehouse for a cereal that’s not on the shelf. But no one thinks twice about the fact that much of what pharmacies sell is locked up in drawers and cabinet and out of view. It’s available only if you (or more specifically, your doctor) make the effort to ask.

Web designers and developers—you are not a pharmacy. If you want to your clients to have written content on their site that works at the same level as your design—meaningful content that is as compelling as all the functionality you build into the site—then you have to let them know it’s available. Writing for online vehicles—websites, enewsletters, social media program or blogs—shouldn’t be an afterthought. It needs to be approached with the same degree of professionalism and skill as the visual and technical elements you worry over. It’s not enough to pull from your client’s print pieces and it’s not fair to ask them to provide content that works with what you’re creating unless they have specialists in-house who can do it. Chances are good they don’t.

Honestly, why wouldn’t you want to offer your clients branded content services? It gives your shop a competitive advantage and can mean a longer-term relationship with clients—and recurring revenues. Think integration, think overall impact, think value-added service. Then think about having a professional writer who can sell, plan and write the content at the very first meeting. Most clients won’t think to ask for the service—it’s something you’re going to have to put on display if you want it to sell.