Why Most Custom Publications Aren’t Measured

I’ve been on hundreds of calls with marketers regarding the creation of a custom magazine or content-based Web site. In each of those cases, there was always someone in the organization who championed the effort. For whatever real reason (and there were many), this person thought a content marketing initiative was important for the business to consider. At some point on each of these calls we came to measurement. Marketers would frequently ask how we could help them measure a custom magazine. To that, we began to dive into their marketing communications strategy. Frankly, what we learned was never pretty.
Rarely, if ever, did the marketing team have a solid idea of how the custom magazine fit into their overall marketing strategy.
 Strategically important questions, such as:
  • What do you want the reader to do?
  • What ultimate behavior are you looking to invoke from the custom publication after they read it?
These questions are very strategic in nature and would require a bit of thinking to figure them out. The messages that we construct as part of the custom publication would have to reflect that thinking. Without a clear purpose to the custom publishing project, true measurement is virtually impossible. Without an understanding of where the custom publication fits within the overall marketing communications strategy, how would the business know it is working?  What was it working to do? This always left us as custom publishers in a pickle. If we did our homework correctly, we wanted the business. But if we proceeded with the project without really extracting the purpose of the publication, we positioned ourselves as short-timers. Measurements then tend to be based upon an emotional connection to the publication, qualitative feedback from key customers or management, or price – none of which can be tied back to larger marketing objectives. It’s almost laughable that the custom publication, which has been around since the dawn of time and formalized in the late 1800′s, is still a struggle to measure by both marketers and custom publishers. The solution seems easy – define the purpose; define the objective. If you can define the purpose, you can most likely find a way to measure it. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. Most marketers still have only a basic understanding of the content marketing process. Most custom publishers are more concerned with landing the job now and worry about the consequences later. Frankly, in today’s technological age, both are unacceptable. To marketers – if you can’t determine the true purpose for your content project, don’t do it. To publishers – challenge your partners to determine that purpose. Get it on paper and put it in the Agreement that you both sign. It both saddens and amazes me about the number of custom projects that are out there that have NO measurement at all to them. The solution is evident, and both sides must take responsibility to make it happen. Now that’s what I call a partnership.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book, 
Epic Content Marketing
 (McGraw-Hill) will be released in the fall. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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