Key to custom is not getting stuck on one media channel

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Joe Pulizzi, founder and chief content officer of Junta42, is one of the most vocal advocates for custom media. Pulizzi, former VP-custom media at Penton Media, launched Junta42 in 2007 as an online resource for content marketing and custom publishing. He recently spoke to BtoB about some of the current trends in custom media.

BtoB: How has the recession affected demand for custom media?

Pulizzi: It's affected prospecting-oriented custom publications similar to most other media. We've seen more money go into retention-oriented activities, as in all recessions companies are focusing on keeping the customers they have. That means really focusing on their needs and making sure [marketers] are there to help. That kind of effort takes lots of content, whether it's blogs, Web content, custom magazines or newsletters. You've also seen a drive into social media experimentation.

BtoB: What distinguishes custom content online from, say, a blog or white paper?

Pulizzi: Nothing. For any content project, large or small, you need a content strategy, and then you decide on the content deliverables based on your target audience and the story you are trying to tell. It doesn't matter whether it's an e-book or a million-plus-circulation magazine—it's custom media [and] content marketing. Custom media is the delivery of valuable, consistent content to a customer or prospect to change or maintain a behavior. That can be done with many different tools, and probably another 10 will be created tomorrow.

BtoB: What role is print playing in custom publishing?

Pulizzi: It continues to play a prominent role because it's so effective. When you hear case studies about how much time is spent with custom magazines [an average of 25 minutes], and direct buying decisions result from great custom magazines, it's an option all b-to-b marketers should consider. That aside, there are a hundred other ways to reach marketers, and there could be better options depending on the strategy. But print custom isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

BtoB: What are some of the more effective ways marketers can include custom media in integrated marketing packages?

Pulizzi: We've seen banner ads that drive to content, magazine ads that drive to white papers, online and print programs that drive to webinars, blog posts featured on Web sites that link to e-books—the list goes on. The problem is that so many times, marketers get focused on the tool—magazine, blog, white paper. They have to take a step back and really figure out what their cus-tomers' informational needs are, as part of their marketing strategy. Marketers have to keep in mind the overall goal when figuring out what content marketing program to run. Leads? Go with white papers, e-books, webinars. Engage-ment and thought leadership? Go with custom magazines or newsletters. Relationship-building? Go with road shows or executive roundtables.

BtoB: How are marketers blending social media with custom publishing?

Pulizzi: You can't be truly successful in social media without great content. So before you develop your social media integration, you better have a good handle on your content strategy. Want to get active on Twitter? You better not be sending out sales pitches or product alerts. You better be delivering helpful content. Same goes for Facebook, or LinkedIn or your niche trade portal. We get more than 20% of our total traffic from social media sites, but those don't go to product pages. They go to blog posts, educational articles, e-books and white papers. 

BtoB: How does measurement of custom media differ from traditional media spending?

Pulizzi: The biggest difference is that every custom program is measured differently, which is also the problem. There are no silver bullets to custom media measurement. It all starts with your marketing objectives. Once you know that, use whatever tools necessary—readership studies, transaction reports, online behavior—to develop what I call an “ROO” or return on objective. The ROO is the custom media measurement plan based on the specific marketing objectives you have for the plan. —M.S.

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