360DigitalInfluence

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

A few weeks ago John Bell, managing director of our Digital Influence practice, made the case for every company to have a video content strategy. I agree (he’s breathing easy now) but it occurs to me that far too many companies don’t have any sort of content strategy to begin with.

Most try to coordinate messages and spend a great deal of time worrying about the content on their Web site – but that’s as far as it generally goes. Furthermore, the larger a company gets the less able it is to ensure that even this relatively small amount of content is in any way coordinated. Quality control is easily sacrificed.

For most of my career this wasn’t much of a problem. Companies had limited opportunities to place content anyway, so why worry about it? Today, however, there’s an almost moral (and certainly a business) imperative for clients to produce more and more content. The media is increasingly more accepting of it (more fuel to drive Web site traffic and increase ad revenue), and self-publishing is, of course, a breeze.

Still most companies struggle because the executives and in-house experts counted on to be the sources of content have – who knew – regular full-time jobs that – shock – do not include writing (or even reviewing) articles and blog posts, recording audio or video commentary and so on.

One solution may be to recognize that ongoing content development is a business priority and create a content department responsible for devising a company-wide content strategy and shepherding all content to completion.

Of course creating and staffing a department full of twitchy creative types and content queens isn’t likely to be any company’s idea of a business priority – but the companies that get this right will reap the benefit.

And if they can’t do it, well there are plenty of PR firms – see our shiny new copywriters – that can help them.

I’ve worked with a lot of tech start-ups; many had ill-defined paths to revenue. Some had no path at all. I share Om Malik’s skepticism (see here and here) towards the soundness of all that VC money deposited in the bank accounts of developers of “Widgets, Facebook Applications, OpenSocial Web 2.0 gee gaws.”

Of course, a lot of start-ups require a large amount of capital to fund product development, marketing, etc. But developers of these ‘demi-apps’ don’t necessarily need much funding to get going or thrive. Furthermore, social networking facilitates a level of user engagement that – to me anyway – presents a much more tantalizing opportunity for funding than VCs.

See this article in the June issue of The Atlantic about Senator Obama’s “Amazing Money Machine.” With the passion that some users have for widgets, and with the technology to build and leverage strong networks of like-minded people, doesn’t it make more sense for these companies to try to tap into their users for funding?

There’s been a lot of moaning and groaning about Twitter outages recently (not a widget I know, but bear with me). From what I see on CrunchBase the company has raised $5.4 million. With their user base, however, and the obvious passion that user base has for the service, maybe the ‘Obama money machine’ might help solve the problems.

To be sure, tech start-ups don’t necessarily have the appeal of a candidate for the presidency of the United States, but who says they need to raise $50 million a month?

This AP article by Peter Svensson strikes me as potentially very significant. The digital divide has always referred to the imbalances between those with access to information technology and those without. Now we see the term applied to imbalances within relatively tech-savvy populations caused by next-generation broadband.

The article quotes Dave Burstein, editor of the DSL Prime newsletter saying: “a quarter of the U.S. is going to get one of the best networks in the world.” The rest of us have to make do with DSL and cable – the horror.

But actually I think there’s something to this; in fact, I think the issue is deeper and more problematic. It’s very easy to think that everyone is embracing the latest thingamawhatsit but most people have, if not better, then at least more important things to do.

If we are about to be divided by connectivity speed then there’s every reason to believe that we will also be divided by either our ability to use, or our affinity for, social networking, blogging, twittering, current Web 2.0 applications and future applications enabled by the semantic Web.

If the pace of technological change is creating digital subdivisions – and I think it is – it’s going to create communication and marketing challenges for certain, but will also lead to real societal and cultural divisions that have the potential to be as profound as any that have come before.

I may be wrong as to the degree, but there’s no question in my mind that ‘digital divide 2.0’ is coming. What does everyone else think?

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide