A central challenge for B2B content marketing is to keep copy free of promotional efforts. Traditional B2B publishers have handled this–with varying degrees of success–by erecting editorial walls, barriers to separate “church and state.” There are rules of engagement that limit just how much advertisers, via the publisher’s sales people, can influence editorial. But in content marketing, church and state are one and the same–the advertiser is the publisher, and by definition, the editor works for the advertiser.
One solution to this problem is what might be called a “virtual” editorial wall.
Though this may not have been her intent, Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions has proposed just such a wall this week. First, she wrote about how to control the editorial influence of various corporate interests, such as legal and corporate branding. She followed this up with a post describing how to use an “editorial style baseline” to “to keep your content on track with solution developers, brand stewards and legal folks.”
Her baseline document aims to steer writers away from talking about their company and brands, and towards focusing on the interests and concerns of the reader. As she puts it, the baseline is a “way you make sure your content doesn’t slip back into company-focus which can diminish the levels of engagement you’re working so hard to build.”
In other words, a kinder, gentler editorial wall.
I have yet to see a discussion of editorial walls per se in the context of content marketing. But as traditional B2B editors move increasingly into this field, it’s a concept that can be useful. Albee’s baseline might be one good place to start that discussion.
That’s an interesting way to phrase it, but I’m not sure “wall” is the right term. I don’t necessarily want to block or control the various corporate interests but I do want to create a way to ensure our messaging stays on a buyer-focused path. The only way to do that consistently is to combine the editorial preferences of all the sources into one merged approach that meshes with buyers’ needs and preferences.
I think the reason I’m not cozying up to the term wall is that it indicates a hard stop once something hits it. With the nature of continuous change in our business environments, that could be detrimental to ensuring your company keeps pace with buyers.
So perhaps my question is – How porous is a “virtual wall?”
Thanks! You’re post is giving me new ideas.
You’re right about the negative connotations of the word wall. It’s the traditional term editors use, which perhaps suggests their embattled state of mind. The goal should be, as I mentioned, a “kinder, gentler” wall. That probably means finding a different word altogether to describe its function. I do think, though, that if content marketing is to fulfill its ultimate mission, there have to be some fairly effective rules limiting the promotional impulse. Your baseline is an example of such “rules,” I think.
Yes, you’re correct. So we need a new word for wall. Hmm. Love a challenge.
Membrane – back and forth with some checks?
Filter – same type of concept
That’s amusing – the word “Membrane” came to mind reading John’s response – then I see Ardath used it in her response. Possibilities could include: Partition, subdivision, division, boundary …