He started his career “1,000 years ago” working for Prudential. He was doing what he says is one of the hardest things in life, let alone marketing: changing perceptions.
Though he worked “in marketing” he had never taken a writing class. Even so, he was inspired to pursue writing and creative work in his efforts to persuade. He broke through and earned a role as a copywriter. While he later promoted to creative director, among other marketing leadership roles, he says an appearance in AdAge was his first big break.
He is still writing today and if you’re in marketing or PR, you might know him today from his column in Forbes. Today, we turn the tables and ask him the questions. He is Steve Olenski and he’s my guest for this edition of the Off Script series.
1) What effect do you think the rise of content marketing has had on marketing overall?
Well, on one hand, it’s provided marketers with yet another catchphrase to hang their collective hats on. I joke that marketers can’t get out of bed without a new catch phrase or acronym to ‘play with.’ Remember when ‘social media’ came into vogue? Every marketer had to be ‘doing social media.’
The fact is content has been around since the beginning of time. It’s just that we never called it that. We just called it marketing. Ah, but insert the ‘content’ in front of it and suddenly an entire industry is born.
On the other hand, the rise, as you aptly refer to it, has caused marketers to finally wake up and realize that relevance is king. That’s right kids, content is NOT king. Relevance is king for if what a given brand sends to a given person is not germane to said person… game over.
2) How would you characterize the state of content marketing maturity across business?
Building off my previous reply far too many brands – of all shapes and sizes still operate under the ‘more is better’ mantra meaning they believe if they pump out enough crap (technical term) that we consumers will eventually buy something – even if it’s just to stop the incessant flow of crap in the first place. So, the maturity level, as you put it, leaves a lot to be desired. Many brands still need to ‘grow up’ when it comes to content marketing.
3) Is there a difference between content marketing vs. marketing content?
It’s a very intriguing question. If you read this post from last year you would come away thinking there is a discernable and marked difference between the two. The author of the post essentially states that ‘content marketing’ deals mainly with the top of funnel content whereas ‘marketing content’ is holistic and “is every asset your organization creates to attract, educate, convince, convert, and retain a customer.”
With all due respect to this writer, I disagree. Let me take that back. I staunchly disagree. To me, this is yet another example of what I referred to previously re: the need for marketers to have a label on everything. I am a firm believer in that we humans, in general, tend to overcomplicate as much as we humanly can. But marketers take it to a whole new level.
Give the person on the other end of that line what they want, when they want it and the channel they want it on. An over-simplification? Damn right it is. But that’s precisely the point.
See these related interviews:
Startup Marketing? Creating a Great Culture; Off Script #24: Kevin Sandlin
Good Martech Talent is Hard to Replace; Off Script #23: Allison Schneider
They Don’t Make Marketers in Law School; Off Script #22: Ginny Allen
4) What advice would you have for a team pushing for content marketing in face of skeptical business leaders?
Well going under the assumption that the teams in question and their leaders look at content marketing as something different than what marketing has always been, there are no shortage of statistics on the effectiveness of content marketing. My advice would be simple: Google the term “content marketing statistics” then pick and choose the ones that best make your case for you when it comes to facing skepticism.
5) What has changed the most about marketing over the course of your career?
This may be the easiest question yet the hardest for so many marketers and brands to come to comprehend. What has changed the most is the fact that consumers are now in full control.
Doesn’t matter B2C or B2B, the person making the purchasing decision – from martech to microwaves is driving the bus. It amazes me how many marketers still operate as if it’s 1990 when they could send out message (AKA content) after message, regardless of relevancy and assume or hope and pray someone would buy something.
You, me and every single one of us is in 100% control.
6) What value does marketing bring that you think generally goes under-recognized?
Your question has multiple answers for it depends on whose value you’re talking about. Internally or externally?
Looking inward there’s a great line I read that I want to share for it sums up my thoughts perfectly:
“Without marketing, you may have the best product ever invented or the greatest service solution imaginable, yet no one knows.”
It really is that simple yet many take this for granted. Think of sales teams and where they’d be without marketing? Of course, getting the sales teams to actually utilize marketing collateral is a whole other story.
Turning the lens outwardly marketing can help educate people on a great number of things including things that can save their lives, literally.
7) Just for fun…fill in the blank:
- One person you recommend following on Twitter is…Michael Brenner.
- One publication or blog you read regularly is… (other than Forbes, of course) there way too many to name. I’ll look at eMarketer for research for example then go to WSJ or NYT. Or I’ll go to Marketing Land or Marketing Profs or Social Media HQ.
- If you weren’t doing what you do now you’d be…doing in sports. Been a huge sports fan my entire life so be it in the booth, or branding or marketing, something to do with sports.
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If you’re hiring, Steve Olenski is currently looking for his next challenge. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (267) 738-9935, and you can find more from Steve by reading his regular contribution to Forbes.
Here are a few recent pieces he’s written that stood out for me:
- Forbes: 4 Lessons for CMOs from The Boring Company
- Forbes: 5 Places Where Sales and Marketing Can Collaborate In 2018
- Forbes: 5 Factors That Can Make Or Break Your Marketing Strategy
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Diversity, Politics and MBAs in the Business of PR; Off Script #20: James S. Walker