Monday, May 4, 2009

How Do I Hate Lists? Let Me Count The Ways

Here are some blog titles I’ve encountered in the past few weeks:
  • 7 Deadly Sins of E-mail Marketing
  • 5 Tips for Evolving Your Digital Presence
  • 7 Tips for the Perfect Twitter Profile
  • 4 Secrets to Making the Perfect Digital Hire
  • 10 Ways to Drive Consumer Action with Video
  • 7 Ways to Get More Out of Your Creative
  • 8 Ways to SEO Your Personal Brand
  • 7 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid on Twitter
  • 49 Creative Ways You Can Profit from Content Marketing
  • 50 Trigger Words and Phrases for Powerful Multimedia Content
  • 7 Useful Links for Weekend Reading
What is it with marcomm bloggers and lists? I find few blogs more annoying—and more ineffective and damaging—than those that take this approach. Why? Because they presume that the work we do as marketing communicators can consistently be boiled down to a handful of bullet points that can be applied to every situation. They often promise unmitigated success if they are followed. And they ultimately ruin our credibility as communication professionals by presuming there is some recipe to be followed that can substitute for talent.

As much as it pains me to say this, marketing communications is far from a science. Yes, there are best practices, but adhering to those practices makes us better practitioners over time—they don’t necessarily result in better immediate outcomes. Our long-term success depends upon our ability to think strategically and choose tactics that best support our strategies. Those tactics can’t be boiled down to a handful of “things to do” that will ensure success. And if such a list does exist, we certainly shouldn’t be giving it away for free.

As I write this, I am mindful of the time I spent in marketing communications for the pharmaceutical industry. Never before have I worked with so many Ph.D’s. When they wrote papers or held symposia on scientific topics, they were always in-depth discussions of the science, the data, and the outcomes. I never saw topics like, “5 Tips for Developing Effective LC/MS/MS Methods”, or “10 Mistakes to Avoid when Developing Aerosols for Inhalation Toxicology Studies”. They didn’t approach topics this way because they understood that their science could not be applied to applications so broadly, and because they realized that what they were selling was their expertise in applying their science to specific applications for their clients. They wouldn’t dream of positioning themselves in a way that would make them look ignorant or would give away valuable information for free.

But that’s what we do every day. We do it because we are so hungry to be recognized as experts in the eyes of our peers and our clients. We each want so much to be believed, and we use the freedom of blogs and social media to vie with one another for that coveted “thought leadership” spot.

I say the proof of our expertise is in the pudding. Be successful for your clients, and let them do the talking. When you do share information, make it in the form of a case study, with a discussion of the strategy, your metrics (data) and the outcomes. And for heaven’s sake don’t just share it because you need something to post on your blog. Make folks pay for it, whether they are clients or colleagues. We all know the story of free milk and a cow. Let’s make sure we let the world know that we bring value, and that value has a price tag associated with it.

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