How to Think About the Increasing Importance of Publishing in Your Marketing Mix

There's a move afoot that suggests Marketing is morphing into Publishing. In a recent webinar by Joe Pulizzi, a thought leader for content marketing, and founder of Junta42, Pulizzi advocated the creation of a "publications" function as a central part of any web 2.0 marketing organization. By publishing, I don't mean just a magazine or newsletter, on-line or off, but rather a full-fledged ability to engage customers in content which surrounds and supports a core value proposition. Is this the future of Marketing?

White papers have been around forever and are a staple of B2B marketing. Magazine and newsletters are nothing new either. But, the role of publishing and content in the marketing mix came into tighter focus in 2001 with the publication of "The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual," a sometimes over-the-top, but provocative treatise on how the web will (and has) enabled "conversational" marketing and the end of the "command and control" marketing hierarchy which reigned supreme for decades. The idea, fairly original at the time, logically suggests that marketing communications will become more complex, organic and conversational going forward.

This means that content will become more important--whether created internally or by users. Wikipedia defines publishing as "the process of production and dissemination of literature or information - the activity of making information available for public view." So, is Marketing becoming more like publishing? Well, yes and no. By the traditional definition above, Marketing already is publishing. But the explosion of new media channels, information, user generated content, etc. all of which are being enabled by web 2.0, are taking content marketing to another level entirely. And this has major implications for the Marketing mix and organization.

4 Basic Content Questions

1. Customer Needs -- It's so basic, it should hardly need stating. Content Marketing starts with your customers needs and your value proposition. There's a tendency to rush out and begin development of content without asking basic questions like: what, if any, kind of content does my customer want? How does content support my core value proposition? How will it engage my customers and better meet their needs? How will it differentiate my brand versus competition? Answering these questions is key to deciding if a content strategy is right for your brand.

2. Build vs. Buy -- Content can be sourced internally or externally. Huge amounts of content already exist and the CMO needs to ask the tough questions: do we have any business getting into the business of creating content? Can we really do this better than what's out there today? Are we better off simply buying or partnering to acquire the needed content? What's the role of user generated content? Let's face it--we're an invention culture and need to be open to the idea that perhaps there really are others--even our customers--who could do this better.