A fellow communications practitioner told me a story once that made me simultaneously laugh and cringe. He recounted how he was on the phone pitching a certain prominent tech reporter at a major metro newspaper, when an unnerving sound interrupted things. “Zzzzzzzz–.”

“Um, excuse me? You OK?” my friend sheepishly asked.

“Sorry, I couldn’t stay awake. What were you saying?” the reporter intoned. No, the reporter wasn’t really snoring. He was just supremely uninterested (and a bit cranky). You have to credit the guy with creativity. I mean, you can always just tell someone their content sucks. Or, you can feign boredom-induced sleep apnea and snore like a hibernating grizzly bear. Point made—go away and don’t bother me until you have something interesting.

I thought of that story when I read Chris Boyle’s great article over on DigiDay about why agencies tend to screw up content marketing. (Chris’ take: because they “show their brief,” i.e., they think about the client instead of the audience.)

To add to the conversation—and despite my friend’s painful experience—I’d argue that communications professionals with a background in PR have an advantage that many of our step-brothers and –sisters in advertising and marketing sometimes don’t. It is precisely our (sometimes painful) experience dealing with independent media that affords us the perspective, and gives us the ammunition, to help clients create audience-centric content.

I have a particular interest in helping B2B tech companies—a sector that some unfairly consider “snore-worthy” by nature—in this area. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Offer something useful. This is the territory of trade magazines, which appeal to like-minded communities by understanding their challenges and offering up information and real-world case studies that can help people do their jobs better. I really like what Gemalto is doing in this vein over at /review, where “smart insights for a digital world” manifests itself in dozens of interesting takes on everything from the intersection of mobile with physical stores to case studies on Starbucks, best practices in social b2b and much more.

Be funny. I love my former client Cisco’s “Fast Innovation and the Slow Waiter” videos. Cisco seems to have figured out that (a) CIOs are living, breathing human beings (b) in addition to work and responsibilities and the imperative to drive business results, human beings have a sense of humor. Huge extra points for the use of video, and even more for simply having the courage to try something new.

Curate. Drowning in content? We all are. The simple act of curating the best stuff from around the Web can be hugely valuable. I like the way VMware does this via things like its communities and Planet V12n, the latter of which aggregates “the best virtualization blogs from around the planet.”

Partner with the media. The lines are blurring as journalists increasingly blog on the platforms of major tech brands, while brands increasingly publish on media platforms. NetApp has had great success working with Forbes (while adhering to the above best practices, and many others, too).

No matter how “deep tech” or seemingly “b2b-boring” you might think your brand is, taking an audience-centric viewpoint can help ensure your content passes the snore test.


D. Bailey


David Bailey is an Executive Vice President for Airfoil, an integrated marketing communications firm, with offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, London and Hong Kong.  Follow David on Twitter: @dbails