Ah… content marketing. The hot new kind on the PR block. It’s all the rage these days, isn’t it?

“Let’s do some content marketing!” they say. “Yes, let’s get a newsletter out!” they say. “Join the conversation!” they say.

I love hearing all this. And I love it when companies do it right. And it is so, so frustrating when they don’t walk the talk.

When content marketing lets you down

Exhibit A is this footer from an (unsolicited) email I received yesterday. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So instead I posted it on Facebook, where several of us laughed over it together. And of course, then I decided to blog about it.

confused content marketing

You can probably figure out where I’m going with this, but I’m going to spell it out for you (what good is a blog post if it doesn’t do that?!).

1. I did not opt in to this email list. Not cool.

2. The content is primarily New Jersey-focused. NJ is to me like a ham sandwich is to a vegetarian. i.e. nice to look at, but not of much use, since I don’t live there. What happened to research?

3. Look. At. What. I’ve. Circled.

People! Don’t give conflicting information! Though, as my friend John Friedman said on Facebook, “Well, I guess that constitutes permission.” I guess it does… but still, do you want your audience wondering what you really want them to do?

First the rant, then some perspective

Now, for some perspective. This was sent to me by another consulting outfit, so I’m not likely to be a strong prospect, i.e. someone who would hire this company. But I must have some value for them, else why would they have harvested my email address?

So what might my value be? Well:

  • If I like their content, I might refer them to someone who might indeed hire them.
  • If I like their content, I might go so far as to connect with them on LinkedIn, and see how else I could help them. Which might lead to referrals.
  • If I like their content, I might recommend them for speaking engagements. Which might get them more business as well as their “name out there.”

But I’m not going to do any of that, because they didn’t ask my permission to invade my inbox, they didn’t even do some basic research to see if I’d be an appropriate add to their list, and they don’t seem to know what they actually want readers to do.

Frankly, I don’t think they even thought about any of the above. They simply added my email because they found it (and I’m pretty sure I know how), and they wanted to build their list… without actually thinking of whether or not I, as a new reader, would a) find value in their content, and b) actually be someone they should target.

This is a classic case of being let down by content marketing. It’s not just something you do; it has to be strategic and thoughtful. And most of all, it has to be clear.

A cautionary tale for a Friday. Carry on.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke