That Vocus would add email marketing to its portfolio is interesting enough, but for now, let's focus on how I found out about the acquisition.
Not too long ago, I would have read about it in the business section of my daily newspaper, in my weekly edition of PRWeek or in my RSS feeds.
The business section of my daily newspaper has shrunk to the point that there's no room for such reporting in the print edition. Increasingly, we're seeing paywalls blocking online content from all but paying subscribers. As more and more people turn to the Web for their news, paywalls mean that fewer and fewer of a company's target audience will see the articles media relations professionals worked so hard to get placed. (Michael Sebastien wrote about the new Los Angeles Times paywall in this morning's PR Daily.)
The cost of publishing has driven PRWeek to a monthly publication, the rest of its content posted to its website or delivered in dull emails. Even if I had checked PRWeek this morning, I wouldn't have learned about the VOcus-iContact deal; it wasn't there.
My feeds in Google Reader had the story-both in TechCrunch and Techmeme-but I saw it before I checked my feeds. That's because TopRank's Lee Odden tweeted a link to the PRWeb press release. It wasn't a matter of serendipitously seeing Lee's tweet whiz by. It was one of the items collected in my Paper.li daily.
You can set up and manage Paper.li collections as a content curation tool, but my daily-like many others-is simply a collection of the stories behind the links tweeted by people I follow on Twitter. People who follow me get an automated tweet when the daily is available, but it's mainly for me, a way to see what people are sharing despite the fact that I can't have eyes on my Twitter stream every minute.
The Vocus press release is a content object. The notion of a content object is borrowed from a taxonomy in which the object is an instance of a content class. The class defines the data structure; the object contains data. The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a specification with which online learning systems often must comply.
As adopted in the general digital media space, a content object is any digital asset that can be shared. Content marketing is the practice of creating and deploying these assets so your most important audiences will see them, talk about them and pass them along to others.
Getting the right people to see your organization's content once meant getting the article placed in the right media. With eyes turning to the web and trust shifting to trusted individuals, content marketing is no longer optional for any organization that hopes to gets its messages out and its story told.
(This is why it's so absurd to keep hearing people talk about the practice of public relations as if it's all nothing more than media relations.)
Companies like Vocus can't send out a news release and call it a day. It was by sheerest luck that Lee tweeted the link so it would find its way into my Paper.li daily. They need to make sure the release finds its way into the hands of the company's external ambassadors, the ones who want to share it (and reward them for sharing based on the intrinsic motivators that drive that kind of behavior). They need to get video interviews onto YouTube, a white paper discussing scenarios about how email marketing could support a PR campaign.
These principles of content marketing wouldn't come as a surprise to Vocus. In fact, it's exactly what they've done, with Peter Shankman interviewing the company's CEO about the acquisition:
Shankman has also tweeted the story:
Peter's tweet is a genuine note of congratulations. It's also a strategic bit of content marketing, something others might retweet; it's a potential source of buzz. The fine balance between authenticity and a plan for ensuring the message speads as far and wide as possible is just one dimension of a smart content marketing strategy.
If your company still relies on traditional media outreach as the cornerstone of its storytelling efforts, it's past time to become your own media company. Create media objects (like the video I so easily embedded in this post) and deploy them through your own resources. Activate your fans to help tell the story. Make sure the story shows up in the curated content collections maintained by trusted guides. Hire journalists to write company-sponsored columns about the significance of your news. And these tactics just scratch the surface of a smart content marketing approach.
The days of relying solely on the press to be your story-telling surrogate are over.
And, since I haven't already said it, congratulations to both Vocus and iContact.