The New Marketing Conversation

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If Marketers could take one hour to re-think who they are and what they mean to consumers, this is the type of conversation they should have…

In the past little while, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the sphere of Marketing as a professional discipline continues to evolve. One of the most important (and dramatic) aspects of the evolution comes from everything we’re doing in these online channels. Breaking it down to a much more simplistic thought, Marketers must now be publishers as well. Not just publishers of advertising (as we have known advertising since the late 19th century), but publishers of legitimate, authentic and valuable content (for more on this, please read: No More Websites. Only Publishers.).

The problem arises when you start thinking about the differences between publishing and marketing…

Marketing is about:

  • Figuring out what to produce, how to price it, distribute it, and how to tell people about it.
  • Selling something.
  • Getting people to believe in what you’re selling.
  • Building a brand.
  • Building loyalty.
  • Creating word of mouth.
  • Positioning your brand in people’s mind.

Publishing is about:

  • The production and dissemination of information.
  • Creating a unique perspective and sharing it with a broader audience.
  • Distributing ideas.
  • Offering a new/different perspective.
  • Making something available for the public to view.

They are both dramatically different. They both require very different skill sets and very different philosophies.

The actual organization and structure of the Marketing department is going to have to morph (once again). This is also going to affect both Human Resources and the folks in the Communication department (yes, we’re talking about PR too) and beyond.We’re going to have to do a much better job of understanding the ramifications of the paid vs. earned media models, and we’re going to have to think differently about how we connect with consumers (and treat them). A lot of that original thinking came through in the early days of Blogging. We realized that this new, free, decentralized and democratized publishing platform was going to equalize the "playing field." But now that publishing in text, images, audio and video is so much more pervasive with such a lower barrier to entry, the time is ripe to re-evaluate how much Marketing your company should be doing versus how much publishing your company should be doing.

What do you think about a Marketing versus Publishing conversation?


  1. Great post Mitch. The concept of publishing also pushes the concept of a “marketing department”. As we discuss the generation of original content – many of the experts who could create this content reside outside of the marketing function.
    The same way that marketers work with media buyers etc to place advertisements in the right places – they must now work internally with content experts to create work that delivers optimal value for their audience.

  2. As the editor-in-chief of a free magazine owned by a media company doing some agency work (complicated, I know), I have been thinking about this “publishing vs marketing” dichotomy for quite a while now. Like many other practitioners out there, I think that “content”, more then any other term, defines what we’re about in the advertising/media/information/entertainment/web business. But creating a culture of “content” in an organisation is, I have realized, a tremendous challenge, especially when dealing with people who thrived in the previous Big Media era (I haven’t – I’m 24). The language of advertising and marketing still talks louder in the boardroom then the language of content and culture. That’s gotta change.
    Personaly, I think journalists and artists are better positioned then marketers and brand managers to create truly meaningful content for users. That being said, smart marketers need to hire the right creative people and give the user a content experience that will drive the conversation, and therefore, word of mouth and brand loyalty.

  3. Interesting discussion. Here is my take. Once you have differentiated between marketing and publishing, the next step is to look at your publishing and ask yourself whether it truly supports your marketing. Or, as I put it in a recent article, does your publishing attract prospects, or just readers?

  4. I’d say that Neil Bearse says it in a nutshell here – especially second paragraph.
    Now-a-days, marketing=communications=HR=production=delivery=PR etc etc and no part of a company is excused from branding.
    All very cool, but – as has been hinted – publishing requires a level of thought and expression that most Americans never attain. Sure, you have to market your biz, but to have to talk about it every day, think about its meaning in society, bear your brand’s standard every single day in public … this is new to us.
    Public education has a long way to adapt to internet technologies. We now need to train expressive people, as opposed to corporate workers. Whole new ballgame.

  5. I like Thomas’ comment about journalists and artists being more adept at creating good content. 20 years ago, anyone who could learn a desktop publishing software, thought they were designers and the advertising world was filled with schlock. Now anyone who puts up a blog things they are a writer. Effective content will come with the integration of both done well.

  6. Yes marketers now must be able to write and publish, and they must be technical enough to navigate online as well.
    This makes marketing an exciting profession as we need to branch into those different areas and challenge ourselves.
    For me writing content as well as “traditional / true marketing” go hand in hand, but I do agree with Thomas LeBlanc’s comment that journalists may be better skilled at writing content, but would that person know what to write about? Are they the subject matter experts? Or is it truly the marketer that knows what to write? The online community it not necessarily looking for beautifully written content – but informative, meaty content – that a marketer should be able to write.

  7. “Marketers must now be publishers.” Bravo for distilling down the changing landscape into 5 words.
    A few things I’ve been thinking about that may relate:
    – “Creative” Advertising folks (where I grew up in my career) always understood the power of ideas to market brands. We never believed in the hard sell, hit people over the head with your sales message. We believed in giving consumers insights that were unique to that particular product or service — distilled down to a crystal clear message. This is still necessary and important. But the way in which that will happen dramatically changes.
    – When you look at traditional media — say TV, you have lots of “content” (the programming) interrupted by “commercials”. Marketers would do well to still think about their own publishing efforts in a similar fashion. Give content that is purely designed to be helpful/informative/educational to your audience. But think about timing, quality and placement of sales messages within that.
    – A corollary to “marketers become publishers” is “publishers become product designers”. Nothing is better than getting out there and 1) talking about issues. 2) Getting your community to also talk about those issues and then 3) solving those problems. “Solving those problems” becomes your product development strategy.
    thanks again Mitch!

  8. i quite liked this post. i think this aspect to new marketing is where there’s “something for everyone” in it. i guess there always was, but nowadays we can officially say that having specific marketing knowledge isn’t necessary. it sure helps, but look at how the game is shifting.
    btw i stopped commenting under my psuedonym here. i started reading your book and this is something mentioned early on. so if i’m going to comment on your blog, i better follow your advice on personal branding ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I can see how the new communications Medias force a blending, an enlargement of the gray zone between the marketing and the publishing responsibilities that you so well describe.
    Will companies opt for more marketing and less publishing?
    OR Less marketing and more publishing?
    OR perhaps more of both?… As in addition to the traditional marketing activities destined to clients, the marketing department may inherit an intra-company advisor role. I don’t mean as a gateway for approval prior to publishing but as a recognized communications expert charged to develop a certain skill set (marketing know how and brand-specific) in every publisher for better complicity between the personal and corporate brands.

  10. What about conversation? Is publishing generating conversation? Bloggers reply “YES”, so do it. The real target is to deliver products and services that customers are waiting for or are dreaming about. We have all the tools to begin conversation but minds and organisations are still with the old “mass media” model.

  11. The old saying “You are what you eat”. Well that goes for publishing your content. What you publish define your brand. When you publish unique, compelling and though-provoking content, your brand will be perceive as being unique and interesting.

  12. We come back to the old content is king argument again.
    With so much content already out there, the only way to get any cut through is to target exactly what is going to resonate with your customers. Whether you’re talking about communications, supply chain management, sales or customer service, organisations need to have a marketing focus with everything they do in this era of the enlightened consumer where lack of choice is definitely not an issue.

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