Corporate America morphing into content production

Corporate new-media campaigns are turning traditional brands into content producers

Corporate new-media campaigns are turning traditional brands into content producers

Corporations will have a harder time denying the importance of new media when the Israeli government has a video blog.

Digital video branding company Reel Biography worked with the government of Israel, through the Israeli consulate, to produce, a video blog where Israelis can post videos about their lives, passions, and activities.

"We were getting across the messages of the government, but doing it in a cool sort of way," says Marco Greenberg, Reel Biography founder and president.

Greenberg runs a communications training seminar for Israeli spokespeople with Burson-Marsteller cofounder Elias "Buck" Buchwald. Greenberg showed attendees Rocketboom, a video blog (or vlog) that has attracted a core audience for its irreverent take on media and tech trends, and asked if it resonated for Israel.

Seminar attendee Tamar Abramowitz said it resonated very much, and 36 hours later, she volunteered to film the first post. When the Web site launched, it received front-page treatment from daily newspaper Yedioth, over 100,000 hits in the first day, and, ultimately, traffic crashed the server. Greenberg says that corporations should be taking a similar tack in becoming content producers.

Reel Biography also works with Thomson Financial, through which the two have enabled multimedia executive summaries for Washington Mutual. Greenberg sees video as a potential outreach target for multiple constituencies in a particular company, citing how the company works with investment bank Friedman Billings Ramsey's HR department to create video content for training purposes.

"We're seeing more and more companies embrace becoming a content company," says Rob Key, CEO of search engine reputation firm Converseon. But, he adds, "It requires a reorientation of their thinking."

Key says that opportunities for enterprise-generated content are varied and plentiful, such as how-to info, advisory articles, vlogs, and podcasts. He adds that companies are already – or are contemplating – creating internal editorial boards whereby employees become managing editors of the content being created in the organization.

Greenberg says video has come a long way.

"At one point, anything that could be considered corporate video would have been an ugly stepchild of video produced for news," Greenberg says. He founded and ran his own PR firm NYPR before starting Reel Biography.

But companies have traditionally relied on the media to parse its executive comments and press releases to vet out the verbiage and platitudes to get to the compelling narrative. The robust debate occurring online about the future of the press release only underscores how companies are used to communication if left to their own choices.

Greenberg says that corporate communications, without the aid of the media, needs to revaluate its approach because the standalone content needs to be compelling on its own.

"[That compels] more responsibility in presenting information in a balanced way," Greenberg says.

"A lot of these organizations are grappling with authenticity," Key says. "It can't be corporate brochure language; it can't be traditional press release-like language."

As companies become more like content producers, Key says there will be a grappling with ROI when companies will wonder about the worth of a campaign. But he adds that such a strict approach is flawed.

"Companies like IBM have it right, where the blog effort isn't a marketing effort, it's a fulfillment of what the Web is about," Key says. "IBM is doing it because it's the right thing to do; it's an extension of the next generation of human communications."

Greenberg says the Israeli vlog is especially pertinent in explaining the need for corporate America to get over its reticence in direct-to-consumer media.

He points to the comments thread of posts, where, amidst praise, commenters have criticized the consulate for being too PR-ish and for trying to promote "multiculturalism," which "Mike" asserts "is dead."

"If we can moderate comments for the government of Israel, we can do it for corporate America," Greenberg says.

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