About a month ago I had a conversation with the CEO of a major construction clothing manufacturer; work gloves, boots and so forth. We were talking about his branding and marketing efforts and he told me he was sticking with his tried and true strategy of advertising in magazines. You know, working guy trade publications, 'Oil Drillers Weekly' and the like. I of course was incredulous--magazines? Now?
'The guys I'm selling to just don't use the Internet,' he said. 'They don't have access in the field. They read magazines.'
So today when Reed Business Information announced it was ceasing publication of all but one of its regional magazines for the heavy, highway and non-residential construction markets I thought of that guy. I wonder how he's going to brand and market now?
'It's the video, stupid.' That's been my mantra now for almost a year. And every day that goes by with another newspaper closure or downsizing, and another decline in television ratings or talk of 'regionalizing' local news, I just keep saying it over and over, both to myself and any business leader or public relations or advertising firm that will listen.
'It's the video, stupid!'
While you can argue about why the 'traditional' media landscape, everything from public relations to advertising to print and broadcast, is changing, there is no argument that it is. And with change comes opportunity. An opportunity for businesses to promote and control their own 'story', and for public relations and advertising agencies to help them do it. But first they have to embrace the change and quit trying to figure out how to be the 'last man standing' in a zero sum game. In 5 years the game will be over.
I grant you it's no easy task. Businesses of almost every stripe are traditionally 'risk adverse'. PR and advertising firms know how to get 'placements', their business clients understand 'placements', so the world revolves around--you got it. Get your client's name mentioned in the WSJ or NYT, or the holy grail, on 'Oprah', and it's instant renewal. On a more regional, and realistic basis, it's been about getting on the local morning show, or in the 'Living' section of the local newspaper. Or placing your client's ad in the right place and the right time in the right medium.
But as the traditional opportunities evaporate due to a whole list of reasons--cut backs, shifting audience numbers--where do you go? What do you do?
'It's the video, stupid'
Unlike a CEO who told me a few months back that the Internet was...'...still too experimental...', the answer to a great degree is indeed the Internet. First, a company, with the help of it's advertising and PR firms, needs to use its branding and marketing prowess to drive customers to its Internet site. Then when they arrive, the customer, client or consumer needs to be greeted with a robust experience, allowing companies big and small to control their story, their 'pitch'. Yes it will need to be fair and focused. No, it can not be just one big piece of 'hype'. Yes it will have to include one thing in particular.
Video is 'the' driver on the Internet and it is 'the' difference maker between sites that tell their company's story and sell their products and those that do neither. But wait, won't the public, the consumer, the client, be skeptical? Won't they know that it's the company that's doing the telling and the selling? Yes it will.
That's an 'old world' question actually. In this the 'age of the blog', where 'unvetted' information abounds, the responsibility has fallen to the reader, or viewer, to determine what he or she believes. In this new age it will fall to the companies and businesses to tell it well, tell it straight or suffer the consequences should they be found out, and they will be. You can find out almost anything on the Internet.
Companies and their PR and advertising firms can embrace this new reality, or, I can give them the number of that fellow who is still advertising his wares in the magazines. He'll have plenty of time to talk to you.