The Medium, the Message, and Making It Work for You
It was nearly 50 years ago when Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “the medium is the message,” and it has taken us almost 20 years of the Internet and then Social Media to really understand what it means: that how we encounter/interact with/receive information is as impactful as―and sometimes even more impactful than―the content of the information itself.
And now that we have completely internalized the principle of media dominance comes a totally unexpected cross-wind as 2013 is proclaimed on all sides as the year of content marketing. Suddenly, it’s the content―the message itself―that really matters.
Content–new, borrowed, repurposed, broken into “micro chunks,” reconstituted into new formats―is all the rage in the marketing world. And, of course, the vast majority of that content is expected to be provided gratis. White papers, case studies, blogs, news briefs and their media cousins, webinars, are all to be made available to clients, customers, prospects, and surfers at no charge.
Why? To position ourselves as expert resources, to get information about the readers and downloaders―not just who they are, but their likes and dislikes, needs and concerns―and, in essence, to open a conversation with them that may lead to a stronger relationship. Or, put another way, content is the cheese with which we hope to bait the trap.
While it is welcome news (and recognition) for content creators, this new spotlight on information is a little scary, too, primarily because the hunger for such content can be ravenous. As the comedians of 1950s early television soon discovered, material that could serve a performer for several seasons as he presented it to audiences of 50-100 in venue after venue was gobbled up in a single 30-minute television episode viewed by several million and had to be replaced by something new the next week.
Television shows soon employed large writing staffs just to try to generate enough new material to feed the voracious appetite of the weekly episode. So how can the printing company owner with limited resources come up with enough content to keep customers and prospects coming back for more―and being satisfied―on a regular basis?
To begin with, consider what “content” really is: information. And look at the information that you possess through the eyes of a prospect or customer. Much of what you know about your business may seem old hat to you, but be fascinating and very useful to customers. Basic printing information about signatures, folds, finishing, paper, color, digital vs. offset processes, etc., will serve your customers and prospects well.
Secondly, look at how much content you need to provide. Most readers today have short attention spans―there’s that “medium is the message” impact again―and will not wade through a long and complex treatise. Instead of issuing one long white paper on the various aspects of paper selection, for example, create a string of weekly “briefs” of 250-300 words on understanding paper weights, matte vs. gloss, text vs. cover stock, papers for offset vs. digital, etc.
And, of course, conclude each content bite with a marketer’s “call to action;” An invitation to call or email you to discuss their paper needs or considerations, learn more about the current topic, or find out how you can save them money by helping them choose the right paper for their next project. If they respond, you will have converted them from a passive eavesdropper to an active prospect.