Think Like A Cannon

IStock_000002517389XSmallShel Holtz has a funny way of blogging about stuff that I’ve been thinking about, but haven’t yet written down.  This week he posted about “edge content,” which he sums up in his advice to corporate marketers:

“(Organizations) are going to have to give in to the notion of edge content, which lets people experience your content wherever they happen to find it; consumers will be increasingly unlikely to want to make a special visit to your website…”

This sentiment echoes advice that we’ve been giving to our clients.  We suggest that it may be time to “think like a cannon.”  We say:

“You want to blow your content to smithereens.  Let shards of content scatter across the web; the trails of shrapnel created by this process will lead back to you and strengthen your brand.” 

What this means, tactically, is that some content (video, audio, graphic files, etc.) that starts with the Marketing Dept. ought to find its way into the hands of users, to do with as they please.  And “finding its way into the hands of users” will often mean that that content slips the boundaries of the corporate website all together.

Who knows what users will do with that content, once it’s in their hot little hands!?  That’s half the fun.  It could be as simple as embedding a well-produced video directly to their own MySpace page – or as scary as a wholesale revamp of the content elements.  Maybe the logo sprouts devil horns; maybe the CEO’s official headshot sprouts a bristlebrush mustache.  But maybe someone drops a Mento into a Coke bottle – and that’s not such a bad thing.  (I know my kids made me buy at least a dozen of those 2–liter bottles for some courtyard rocketworks!)

This is tough for some folks.  Rather than “think like a cannon,” many marketers still think in terms of “portals;” they obsess about driving traffic to their site.  This makes sense, of course!  For 10 years we’ve all seen “website traffic increases” as a big goal; whole industries have sprung up around it; SEO/SEM results have been codified as success metrics for number-crunching “quant” marketers.

But as Tim O’Reilly noted, paraphrasing Google CEO Eric Schmidt to define the Web 2.0 movement: “Don’t Fight The Internet.”  It seems to me that the 2.0 era is about empowering people; about making things easier for them.  If you force people to go out of their way to access your content, you may be asking for 1 click more than they are willing to give you. 

Let people find your content on the edge, where they are hangin’ out already.  I daresay that this approach may be harder to measure, but I’d also wager that the marketers who embrace an “edge content comfort-level” will reap the greatest rewards.

Posted on: May 8, 2007 at 10:56 am By Todd Defren
5 Responses to “Think Like A Cannon”


  • What cracks me up about Amanda Chapel is that this “avatar” is a completely social media generated phenomenon. That this personage is so against the advancement of media relations as a field is ludicrous. I congratulate you both for leading our industry into new innovation, as opposed to caving into reactionary fear.

    Whether or not the social media phenomenon lasts (and I think it will), the news release in its current form is Dead! See Sally Hodge’s June 5, 2005 article on Marketing Profs,

    In general, if social media advances my clients’ brand and generates buying interest from their community, then that’s that. Measurement is achieved. PR is a tactic as “Amanda” says, and as such it’s goal is to support a strategic mission: Education, growth, sales, votes, etc. That is the measurement that every professional must live by and as such, sustain our economic viability.

    -Geoff Livingston

  • “Todd”-

    Two things:

    1. The trend you ride to the bank that rationalizes PR’s content distribution on the Net… is NOT necessarily a positive or ethical trend. AGAIN, when we pitched the media as out primary mission, we had a vetting mechanism to protect the public. Take that vetting mechanism away and you have “surreptitious selling.” Surreptitious selling is a hare’s breath away from subliminal messages. Mark my words: you are going to see the FTC insert themselves here as they are now doing with VNRs.

    2. With regard to the post you site as “evidence of an experimental & fun campaign that was approached with a strategic mindset and, with an eye for measurement before the trigger was pulled,” okay. But what you’ve apparently done here is just recreate the old metrics of counting clips. Remember, “readership times three equals total positive impressions”? Same diference. Your metrics are similarly meaningless. Excuse me but we are in an era when PR is being pushed toward procurement depts. Their mindset: What are we buying exactly and what exactly can we expect re: the company’s strategic plan. Unfortunately, when we in PR say “strategic”… we forget we are a tactic on the client side.


    “Insisting on staying where nobody is paying attention any longer is irresponsible to employer or client. It’s like insisting that 30-second spots are still the way to go on the day that 95% of the population reports fast-forwarding through commercials on their TiVo’s.”

    I hear ya. And I think you’re exactly right! But I am NOT going to just submit to peer pressure because everybody’s doing it. First and foremost, as a marketer, I am going to design ways to get the audience into my client’s tent. I’d argue that ALL marketing efforts on the Net are about that. Just blasting shit out there with a hope and a prayer that it’s good, is irresponsible.

    To both of you,

    Sounds like your cart is a little bit ahead of the horse on your way to the bank. Regrettably, if the fad was blue ducks on crack, you guys would devise a rationale to support it.


    - Amanda

  • Shel Holtz says:

    “Amanda” raises a valid point about measurement. Of course, I can’t measure another company’s efforts, especially one they haven’t made. But I have no doubt Shell Oil would have had a far greater number of views of its video if it had been on YouTube — or even if they had provided their own embed code — than they got by squirreling it away in the bowels of the Shell corporate website.

    It’s equally impossible to know how many views Dave Neelman’s video apology for JetBlue’s Valentine’s Day debacle would have received if he had ONLY put it on the JetBlue site and NOT posted it to YouTube for broad distribution.

    I’m a huge believer in measurement, and if I were to undertake an initiative like this, I would certainly set a baseline and measure against it.

    What “Amanda” fails to recognize is that the world is moving in this direction, like it or not. Responsible communicators will communicate where results can be achieved. Insisting on staying where nobody is paying attention any longer is irresponsible to employer or client. It’s like insisting that 30-second spots are still the way to go on the day that 95% of the population reports fast-forwarding through commercials on their TiVo’s.

    It’s not that I didn’t like the good old days. I still miss my manual typewriter. (Man, you could FEEL those keys smack the paper.) But those days are gone, no matter how much I may wish they weren’t.

  • Todd Defren says:

    “Amanda” -

    I disagree that I am describing advertising rather than PR. First off, those lines are blurring. We get more frequent requests to assist with content creation (content of all stripes) than ever before. In speaking with other agency principals, I can note – anecdotally – that this is a trend.

    However, the content being described could also easily be created by advertising agencies, that’s true. The post is not just about PR; it is about Marketing.

    Secondly, in answer to “no responsible corporate communicator does anything for ‘half the fun’” and also in response to your comment re: metrics, I’d ask you to re-read this post:

    In this post you’ll see evidence of an experimental & fun campaign that was approached with a strategic mindset and, with an eye for measurement before the trigger was pulled.

  • First off, by definition, that’s advertising. What biz you in there Todd?

    Secondly, NO responsible corporate communicator does anything for “half the fun.”

    Lastly, let alone that you, Holtz, others have yet to articulate measurable benefits, now you again want us to turn a blind eye to the risks.

    Other than your opinion — not even accounting for the fact that it’s motivated by fees — why else should a client take this counsel?

    No thank you.

    - Amanda Chapel

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