Content as the Glue in Direct Relationships With Customers

Mitch Joel

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced heavy criticism when he proclaimed that "corporations are people." Six Pixels of Separation author Mitch Joel would turn that statement around and say that corporations should behave as people by creating and sharing content that can help them develop direct relationships with their customers.

The Montreal-based president of digital marketing agency Twist Image and keynote speaker at Content Marketing World 2012 envisions a future in which smart brands will function as responsive, human entities that build direct relationships with their customers, in part through the creation of valuable, shareable content. Joel offers a preview of his Content Marketing World keynote address in the following Q&A.

PR News: What essential message do you want to share with Content Marketing World attendees?

Mitch Joel: At the core there are some big changes in business and in how business conducts itself in terms of connecting to people. We live in a world where Twitter and Facebook and blogging and podcasting are the future of how brands will advertise. And the truth is the output of those platforms are fundamentally content. So we’re in this strange world where "content marketing" becomes a catch-all for everyone who thinks the phrase “social media” is passé or that blogging sounds a bit old.

PR News: What challenges do brands face with content marketing?

A lot of brands are discovering that content marketing is not as fast or as immediately pleasing as advertising. For content marketing to work it needs to have utility. That’s the challenge. How do you create real content that isn’t just slanted toward making your brand look good and actually create content that people want and will share?

PR News: What has been the most important change or shift for content marketers since the publication in 2009 of your book Six Pixels of Separation?

Joel: What has changed is the value of the direct relationship that brands can now have with consumers. When the book came out it was about making sure that you are doing better than your competition through what you could do in social channels. Suddenly these direct relationships now are not just about your competitors but about the people you’re in business with. You—whoever you are—want the direct relationship with the customer. The other big change is the immediate feedback you get with social media.

PR News: Is blogging less or more influential as a content marketing tactic now than it was three years ago?

Joel: If you look at what blogging was in a vacuum—an online journal where people share their thoughts and those thoughts can have comments on them—that’s become somewhat less popular. We have images now, we have video, we have audio. We have shorter forms like Twitter. But if you look at the macro perspective, you as a brand can publish a thought in long or short form text that’s instantly for free to the world and fresh as a baby. So I look at things like Huffington Post and TechCrunch and I’ll say, wow, look how these became major media forces. So as a brand you have the opportunity to create a massive media channel that creates a direct relationship with consumers.

Catch Mitch Joel's keynote address at
Content Marketing World on Sept. 5 in Columbus, Ohio.

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