The 24-hour news cycle affected businesses and consumers in ways that we might not have anticipated. News and journalism felt an immediate impact, but as it turns out, the marketing business is confronting a similar upheaval.
Ted Turner launched CNN in 1980. Almost overnight, the notion of audiences hustling home in time to catch the 6 o’clock or 11 o’clock news became outdated. Governments and companies started paying attention to when and how they timed their announcements now that people expected “news on demand.”
After CNN, television news, newspapers and publishers all felt the pressures of continuous content creation and production. The industry probably had another jolt when mainstream awareness and use of the Internet arose in the mid to late 1990s. Access to information became immediate and almost frictionless, and broadcasters and publishers took a financial hit that is still reverberating through the industry today.
While CNN and the 24-hour news cycle are milestones in the news publishing and broadcast industries, marketers soon began to confront a similar kind of economic and operations pain.
Always On Marketing
The social media-driven web created a new era of information sharing and interaction. Soon the always-on consumer became a reality that no brand, no company, and no marketer could ignore. In the same way the 24-hour news cycle upended the news and information paradigm, the flow of social media interactions began chipping away at the accepted notions of marketing.
If the consumer is always on, does marketing and customer care have to become continuous too?
Marketing and ad agencies traditionally built their activities around campaigns. One day, four weeks, three months — campaigns tended to have a fixed duration and the agencies and their clients could come to agreement on budgets and resource allocations that were indexed to these defined periods of marketing activity. But how do you plan, staff, and budget for continuous marketing?
The news publishing and broadcast industries backed their way into solving at least part of the continuous problem long ago. There are a few parallels that can be applied to the challenges of continuous marketing. Here are some of the key components to think about if you want to build a continuous content marketing business unit:
1. Hire hundreds of editors, writers, project managers and producers. Actually, hire thousands.
Do you know how many people work for CNN? That network runs 45 editorial operations with around 4,000 employees worldwide. That enables CNN to reach two billion people in over 200 countries. If you were Coca-Cola, Unilever, or Mercedes-Benz, wouldn’t you want to have that kind of reach too?
Sure, you can buy media on CNN, but when it comes to content and social media, you suddenly need to think about producing content in a similar way to CNN. So you need a network.
2. Hire subject matter experts. Hire the best ones you can find and fight like hell to keep them.
The New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal all have their star writers, editors and correspondents — otherwise their audience would be less invested in their content. Take that same headspace and apply it to content and social media marketing.
Why is it that we still see social media handed over to the intern or entry-level staff? If your marketing department or ad agency is handing content and social media over to lightweights to manage, fire them. Seriously. Fire them.
3. Throw out the campaign calendar, and have your content and social media marketing teams work around the clock.
Four-week campaign? Three-month campaign? Not good enough. The audience is now continuous. BBC World News is continuous, so is CNN. Technology solves part of your problem, but you’re going to need people somewhere around the clock if you’re really committed to this, if you really believe in building a customer-centric brand or company.
Forces of Disruption
None of this is easy. Continuous marketing, continuous content creation, and always-on social media are bloody hard challenges to grapple with. Not all marketers, brands, and companies have the stomach for it. Many will retreat back to their traditional comfort zone. Weak. How uninspiring.
Let those traditional agencies sink, and let the forces of disruption clean house.
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