PR News Q&A With David Meerman Scott: Have You Asked Your Customers What They Want Lately?

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott, the best-selling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, has a simple rule for the marketing of content: Share your content freely.

Scott, who is also the author of Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn From the Most Iconic Brand in History, has little patience for organizations that create hurdles that block customers and audiences from content. He has even less patience for organizations that create content solely on their own schedules. If organizations want to be part of the conversations that are affecting their markets, they must engage in real-time content creation, marketing and PR.

Scott discusses these themes here, and will expand on them in his keynote address at Content Marketing World 2011, which will be held Sept. 6-8 in Cleveland.

PR News: What’s the most common misconception content providers, marketers and communicators have about their own content? 

David Meerman Scott:
Content marketers want to talk about their own products and services. They develop brochures, advertisements, attend trade shows—all in the service of talking about their own products and services. But good content marketing does not talk about one’s own products and services—it responds to what the customers want. The biggest problem is traditional marketers who default to the position of talking about themselves and what they offer. Nobody cares.

PR News: What are they afraid of most in the era of social media?

They’re afraid of getting started; they’re afraid of something new. That’s true of human nature. It’s difficult to do something new. The fear comes from not having done it before. This fear comes from top executives—they’ve always done it one way and are reluctant to try something new. Social media and real-time marketing require entirely different skills.

PR News: You often refer to the importance of taking control of the “second paragraph” of a breaking news story. How does that come into play for content marketing and professional communicators? 

In 99% of discussions I’ve seen about content marketing, the topic of real time is not discussed. Instead, time is discussed as a long-term campaign approach. You spend a lot of time doing research, a lot of time working on a campaign around that content and you produce your marketing on your time. Think of how long it takes to do a white paper—the research, the writing, the marketing. That’s a valid approach, but it misses the aspect of real-time communications.

The element that I see that’s a huge competitive advantage is releasing a piece of content when the time is best for the people you’re trying to reach. What that means is that if there’s something going on in the news that affects you and your customers, you’ve got to get content out about it right now. If you’ve got an opportunity to get a video out right now, do it. If there’s a regulatory change in your industry, you’d better get something out there right now. 

PR News: How can thinking and acting in real time affect the bottom line? 

What it does is engage people when they want to be engaged. It drives people to you who didn’t even know you existed. 

PR News: What’s the most important lesson content marketers can learn from the way the Grateful Dead managed its business?

What the Grateful Dead did is they lost control of the content—by design. They freed up their content by allowing tapers to record their shows. Don’t make people jump through hoops to get your content—you want as many people as possible consuming your content. That means losing control. For decades we’ve worked by having control. You have to change your marketing model.

David Meerman Scott will be a keynote speaker at Content Marketing World 2011. David Pogue of
The New York Times and film director Kevin Smith will also be keynoting. For more information about the event, please visit