Conversations with Ellen: The Value of Writing

Blattel Communications Founder and CEO Ellen Blattel recently sat down with Account Executive Vicky Jay and discussed the value of writing as a marketing and communications tool as part of our “Conversations with Ellen” series.

Vicky Jay (VJ): If you are a partner at a busy law firm, how can you find time to write? Should you look to tap associates as co-authors?

Ellen Blattel (EB): Absolutely tap associates as co-authors! Not only does it support a partner with limited time in developing content, but it elevates the associate, particularly if the partner is willing to include the associate’s name on the byline too. Additionally, engaging associates in article development demonstrates their significance to the firm, allows them insight into the firm’s business development processes, and reinforces the importance of using marketing tools for business generation.

VJ: Are practice group blogs mutually beneficial to byline article writing?

EB: All content development is beneficial, but professionals must be strategic – evaluate your target audience and determine how they prefer to receive information, then deliver. Generally, bylines in trade publications (print or online) are educational and offer credibility and visibility that can lead to new business. Depending on the practice area, maintaining a blog and/or contributing to leading blogs in the space can also drive leads. In all cases, blog postings and byline articles should be leveraged to support each other – byline content can often be placed on a blog, and conversely, blogs can lead to opportunities for byline article publishing.

VJ: What’s the best process for developing articles for publication?

EB: Again, upfront strategy is critical. Work backwards. First, identify your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? Where do they fit within their organizations – C-level executives, managers or in-house attorneys? What industry are they in? Then, consider what’s keeping those potential clients up at night. Answering these questions will help determine topics on which you might write and potential outlets for the article. The topic should then be preplaced, based on a short synopsis of the article, to ensure there is interest and to secure all author guidelines. After this is completed, the article can be written and edited – specifically (and strategically) for the desired audience/outlet.

VJ:  Once a byline article is published, how can it be leveraged?

EB: The content should be leveraged on firm bios, LinkedIn profiles, blogs, e-newsletters and other social media channels. When really applying strategy, we’ll look at an attorney’s target clients and see what topics resonate. From there published articles can and should be shared with potential and existing clients and referral sources – ideally with a personalized note that offers insight into why the article is pertinent to the recipient.

VJ: Do you ever advise a client – looking to market themselves but struggling to write – to choose an alternate vehicle?

EB: It depends on the client. If there’s existing content that has been developed for other purposes, such as speaking engagement outlines, we’ll recommend using that as a starting point to help get the creative juices flowing. If an author is still having trouble approaching the subject or relevant content isn’t available, a “Top 10 Tips” angle is a great way to go. The most common challenge tends to be timing. If that’s the case, and we feel like an article is an important business development tool, we’ll work with the author to get to a rough draft that we can then edit and finalize. We’ve also set up interviews to discuss a topic and ghostwrite content. Because we see such a strong correlation between content and new business, we try to help our clients overcome any adversity to writing (maybe a podcast!?!).

Ellen Blattel, as told to Vicky Jay.

March 20, 2018 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

Social Media and Content Creation with a Purpose: Less Filler, More Substance

If professional services firms really care about their content readers and their long-term value proposition to them, I urge them to consider this concept: Slow News. This is content that has taken time to develop, that has depth and is written in a precise and forward-looking manner. After its creation, it is disseminated in a broad, but strategic, manner. Necessarily, this means the professional services firm might not be first-out-of-the-gate when a development occurs. But, if done correctly, this approach yields an article, blog post or newsletter column that is sought out versus being the first to landing in the in-box.

A long-term content backlash is brewing, similar to the trajectory of processed food manufacturers’ fortunes and reputations in the face of the “Slow Food” movement. What made their products so tantalizing – salt, sugar, fat and preservatives making for long shelf-lives – are also their undoing. Consumers are increasingly shunning these “middle of the grocery store” options in favor of fresh fruits, vegetables and other products that are better for them. The analogy is clear: nutritionally minimal/devoid processed food is like the vacuous content dominating social media. It may offer quick, immediate satisfaction, but you will be hungry soon after.

Part of my impetus for this post was an interesting piece in the New York Times by tech scribe Farhad Manjoo titled, “For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.” Manjoo had three takeaways for readers interested in a better, less distracting news experience: 1) Get news; 2) Not too quickly; and 3) Avoid social. Adapted for professional services providers, here are my mantras: 1) Create content; 2) Take your time; 3) Use, but don’t worship, social.

Create Content

This seems somehwat self-evident; but, the number of missed opportunities to promote event participation, update biographies and LinkedIn accounts, author byline articles and comment as an expert are myriad. As professional services firms rise and fall on the knowledge and thought leadership evidenced around the service they provide, content creation needs to be consistent, timely and organization-wide, with a focus on producing multiple touch points from a single activity. Communications professionals are often called in after an event of significance has happened, sometimes months later, and asked what can be done. The simple answer: not much. Similarily, when a major piece of legislation passes or a case decision is announced, the window for comment opens and closes in a matter of hours. Days, weeks and months later, the news has moved on and the bar to pique a journalist’s (or potential client’s) interest is much, much higher – and as such, the content output must be that much more thoughtful.

Take Your Time

Groupthink is dangerous and its infected much of the marketing gospel preached to pro-serve companies. One cherised tenant is that you have to be the first to issue a client alert on a topic, if not, your piece will be buried in an avalanche of emails and, ultimately, ignored. Allow me to borrow one of Manjoo’s comments, “Real life is slow; it takes professionals time to figure out what happened, and how it fits into context.” The first-out alerts tend to be shallow recitations of the information, often offering little more than the news flash that pops up on a smartphone. By choosing this route, you do convince your clients that you follow the news, but not that you actually understand its broader implications – or its impact on them. By consistently crafting quality client alerts that provide useful analysis, a firm will develop a real audience and have a greater chance of generating real client engagement and valuable shares. (And this probably should happen within days – not months.)

Use, But Don’t Worship, Social

I’m a big proponent of social media. Channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram are target-rich environments built to deliver content. Where I start to deviate from some advocates is on valuing retweets, likes and comments over the quality of the content in evaluating “success.” It has become a cottage industry to market social media   and consulting services that boost raw numbers. For professional services firms, devoting substantial marketing dollars and attention to these metrics is chasing the wrong kind of “engagement.” Blogs and social media channels should look to incrementally build audiences, acknowledging that the audience growth slope will go up and down – and may even plateau. Most importantly, overall value needs to be considered in two ways: 1) contribution to holistic marketing and communications efforts, especially with respect to leveraging content; and 2) contribution to business development. These two points are core contributions of pro-serve marketers. Feedback from clients on the value of updates and understanding, via client intake processes, the motivating factors for inquiry provide important insight. Questions can be as direct as, “Do you follow us on Twitter?” and “Do you receive our legal updates?”

It’s an interesting time for social media as its ubiquity makes one wonder if a generational backlash is looming. Just as we saw with successive generations of eaters abandoning processed foods, trends tend to go heavy in one direction and then swing to a middle-ground. Long-form, subscription news sites, like the sports-focused The Athletic, and growing newsrooms at venerable publications, like The Atlantic, would seem to defy the suggested trend toward less text and more video. For professional services, if content isn’t a) high-quality, and b) a true value add, then don’t make it and don’t promote it. It really is that simple. Ultimately, when a fiscal belt tightening occurs, the spend on chasing clicks without an underlying and clearly defined revenue-driving purpose will not survive.

Michael Bond

March 13, 2018 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

Reflections on Super Bowl Marketing Moments

Blattel Communications’ Michael Panelli makes good on his wager with colleague Michael Bond and chows down on a cheesesteak.

Another Super Bowl (and epic mass media marketing event) is in the books and the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history. The game was a nail-biter and Blattel Communications even had its own friendly rivalry between West Coast-Michael (Michael Panelli, Patriots fan) and East Coast-Michael (Michael Bond, Eagles fan). While ratings dipped slightly from last year, it was still a true “water cooler” moment for the nation, drawing 103.4 million viewers who also took in a batch of ads aimed at heart-strands, patriotism and funny bones. Blattel Communications’ team members offer their picks and a few nuggets of marketing wisdom:

Traci Stuart – I’m giving the win to Tide on this one! Way to “go big or go home” with the game day ad! We always say repetition is the key to successful advertising, and Proctor & Gamble definitely nailed it on consistency – to the point where folks expected Tide to pop up in many of the other brands’ spots. The series had it all, including throwbacks to iconic ads of the past; social media tie-ins (#thisisatidead) with celebrity comments (@terrybradshaw and @bettymwhite); and a big ol’ nod to a pop culture phenomenon with a family friendly (and probably slightly more affordable) celeb in David Harbour from Netflix original #strangerthings. And, nobody needed to change the digital and water cooler conversation quite like Tide given that teens have been eating and meme-ing the company’s colorful Tide Pods.

I’ve also got to give a hat tip to NBC for the promo and timing of “the big Jack episode” of This Is Us. Super Bowl tie-in, emotional tug of a quintessential “dad moment,” and clever foreshadowing of the post-Super Bowl, janky-Crock-Pot, Jack-doomsday apocalypse.

Michael Panelli – Danny McBride starring in a fake trailer for a new Crocodile Dundee movie? What’s not to like? Too bad it’s not a real trailer. It was a different type of Super Bowl ad; it actually made viewers believe a new movie was in development! (The “movie” actually had an entire pre-Super Bowl campaign, adding to the wonder about a “real” project.) Using a fake movie trailer to get people’s attention – for visiting Australia – was novel.

Joey Telucci – The clear winners of the Super Bowl (besides the Eagles) were obviously Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. Their interpretation of the Dirty Dancing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” routine was legendary and would make Patrick Swayze proud. It was definitely my favorite of the night and got the most laughs from the group I was with. Too bad it was just an NFL commercial: it would have been a great pitch for any number of products. Kudos, NFL. Kudos. Close second was seeing Danny DeVito (AKA Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) portray an M&M. Classic Frank (if you watch the show).

Blattel Communications’ Ellen Blattel, Penny Desatnik and Vicky Jay also picked this spot as their favorite.


Michael Bond – Joey Telucci’s silver-medalist is my gold-medalist. The evolution, or devolution, of Danny DeVito with his role on Always Sunny is fun to watch and the M&Ms ad shows that he is a good sport about his physical stature, or lack thereof. For a classic comedic actor to be so uninhibited is refreshing, and the spot evoked a delighted comment, “Of course, HE’s the M&M!” from one of my viewers. Candy is one of those categories, and M+Ms as a product in particular, where I’m not sure if ads really move the needle in terms of sales. M&Ms are iconic, delicious and without a real substitute. Still, the brand’s campaigns are consistently witty.

Shifting gears, I also really liked the Budweiser disaster relief spot. Regardless of one’s opinion on its suds, the company consistently cans and supplies out much-needed water to communities affected by natural disasters. Every time they do so, great press ensues with images of pallets and pallets of water enjoying print and airtime. While I’m a perpetual cynic*, I do think this is a move spurred by doing good first rather than by getting good press.

*Here is my super-cynic Super Bowl moment: Remember how Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa was predicting an Eagles win? I firmly believe that this was a strategic choice designed to generate media interest, and it did. If she had picked the favored Pats to repeat as champs, it would likely have been far less of a story. However, as an Eagles fan, I still enjoyed the prediction – and seeing Panelli dig into that cheesesteak (if only he’d been in a Foles jersey.)

February 9, 2018 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

Conversations with Ellen: Value of Listening

Below is the first in a series of one-on-one chats with Blattel Communications Founder and CEO Ellen Blattel titled, “Conversations with Ellen.” Below is a dialogue with Assistant Account Executive Michael Panelli on the value of listening.

Michael Panelli (MP): One of the things you’ve said has been helpful in life and in business is being a good listener. Can you say a little about this?

Ellen Blattel (EB): One of the most important skills in business is listening. Without really listening to clients or customers, it is easy to offer advice and counsel that is off base. I almost always recommend establishing a foundation for the discussion and then letting the client provide pertinent information. You can guide the conversation, make clarifications and ask smart questions to ensure you get to the information needed to be strategic and effective.

MP: Is part of listening also deciphering what wasn’t said and then diagnosing where clients may be looking to go in the future?

EB: Absolutely! Listening entails assessing what was said, what was implied and what was — intentionally or unintentionally — left out of the dialogue. It is important, at the end of a discussion, to briefly reiterate the highlights, decisions made and agreed upon next steps.

MP: Do you have a particular philosophy when it comes to note-taking at meetings? How do you organize and act on these takeaways?

EB: I remember a new client pitch where several PR agencies were brought in for interviews. At the meeting’s conclusion, the potential client told us we were the only group to take notes. She thought this was impressive because it would allow us to better reflect on the conversation and to make better recommendations – and it demonstrated that we listen. We landed the business and worked with the firm for several years, increasing its market visibility and credibility to position it for sale. I am pleased to report that a successful sale occurred!

I recommend designating a primary note-taker prior to meetings. This should not be the lead. While lead presenter should also take notes, these will not be as detailed to allow for a meaningful conversation with direct eye contact. Follow up with a thank you note, highlighting next steps and important deadlines, to confirm how well you were listening.

MP: Can you talk a little about the importance of follow-up calls and “just checking in” moments?

EB: We all know communication is the key to success. It is always important to provide clients and team members with regular updates as a way to solidify relationships and be accountable. You never want a client (or supervisor or teammate) to wonder about the status of a project. You want to communicate before they feel the need to reach out to you (and well before it keeps them up at night).

MP: Do you have any strategies for when a client isn’t listening to your counsel and the relationship seems to be at a disconnect?

EB: Acknowledging that we have different perspectives on how to approach a situation is always important – particularly in judgment-intensive positions like professional services. This comes up often in crisis situations when we’re dealing with existing or potential media coverage and sensitive situations. These interactions can put stress on even the best of working relationships. If there is a big disconnect, I usually follow up with an email highlighting the approach or messaging the client desires and then addressing, in a professional manner, our recommended approach and why and how this is different. Putting it in writing can be pivotal. In some instances, this gives the client the space to consider a different perspective and variables that may or may not have been top-of-mind during the initial conversation. The goal is to be both accommodating and professionally opinionated and direct.

Ellen Blattel, as told to Michael Panelli

January 23, 2018 at 6:32 pm Leave a comment

Senior Media Director Michael Bond Looks at “Making Marketing Plans That Work” in LMA Mid-Atlantic Newsletter

Blattel Communications Senior Media Director Michael Bond authored the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) – Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter article titled, “Make Marketing Plans That Work.” The piece considers how law firm marketing professionals and attorneys can take advantage of the enthusiasm of a new year to create and execute impactful, achievable marketing plans. Text of the article is below and can be accessed on the LMA Mid-Atlantic Region’s website by clicking here.

Make Marketing Plans That Work

One of the great things about the new year is that it offers a fresh slate. Most of us make a bunch of “New Year’s resolutions” and charge into the chill of January with renewed optimism.  Six months later, we wake up and accept the reality that we didn’t learn how to sail, drop 40 pounds and read six books and that these goals are probably not going to happen by year’s end. Marketing and communications plans often end up unfolding similarly. With this dynamic in mind, let’s consider how to create a plan that is achievable.

Keep it Simple, [Silly]!

Don’t let your ambitions outstrip your time. Attorneys, and the marketers who support them, are wise to stick to three-to-five goals. Limiting what one hopes to accomplish lessens the tendency to start a raft of projects and never bring any single one to completion. This self-imposed limit also provides focus on the true priorities.

A short list of goals needs to be practical. For instance, “Being regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal” or “Appearing on 60 Minutes” are low-probability media goals. When presented with minor or major delusions of grandeur, marketers need to shift expectations. “I know your goal is to be quoted regularly in The Wall Street Journal. That may be hard to achieve. Let’s work on a media strategy that creates wider exposure for you and raises your profile such that the Journal is more likely to come calling,” is the kind of advice and counsel that steers an ambitious attorney back onto the tracks of feasibility.

Have a Purpose with Social Media

A goal marketers may hear is that an attorney wants to “get active” on social media and create lots of “buzz.” If the tools the attorney has lined up to do this are a threadbare Twitter account and a LinkedIn profile with a photo from 1996, this promises to be a tough road.

Oftentimes, well-meaning voices outside the professional services realm have their advice – which is more aimed at the business-to-consumer market – picked up by attorneys eager to leverage “new” tools, such as social media. No attorney – with rare, high-profile exceptions – is going to create the kind of buzz that rivals the Kardashians. And, if “buzz” is defined by raw follower numbers – especially on Twitter – the end goal remains fuzzy. Chasing followers without purpose is not a good use of time. Not every attorney can or should look to generate a mass of Twitter followers. There simply isn’t the direct-to-business pipeline other industries enjoy; and, the time it takes to achieve scale has a very real cost.

For 75 percent of all attorneys, “getting active” on social media means dusting-off and cleaning-up LinkedIn profiles. Every account should be stocked with current information and regularly updated with bio changes, new article postings and civic/charitable engagements. And, attorneys need to be in the habit of turning business cards from networking events into LinkedIn connections. This is one goal that should be in pen on any marketing plan.

Be Specific with Writing Goals

Countless plans are minted every year with the goal, “Write more byline articles.” Assuming the attorney in question wrote one last year, we have to start with how many do they want to write this new year? Drilling down, the question then becomes what publications should be targeted and why? Then, what are the desired topics, and what is a reasonable timeline?

The first draft of a personal marketing plan may express the stated goal as follows: “Write more byline articles.”

The final draft should be: “I want to write five articles, about one per every two months, targeting the following publications…”

If the writing goal is to increase the number of posts to a firm or practice area blog, start by setting a rate that is reasonable. A good target is at least two new posts a month. However, ideally, a practice or industry blog will feature numerous voices. One way to space out content and ease the load for an attorney is to get others involved by creating an editorial calendar and working in advance. There is real value in moving the goalpost for an attorney from “more posts” to “more posts with underlying guiding strategy” and shifting them from sole/principal writer to contributor and editor.

Let’s Talk About Speaking Engagements

Speaking engagements tend to require the most build of any marketing initiative, a fact of which attorneys may not be aware and the reason expectations often have to shift considerably in marketing plans.

Plans tend to target big national or statewide conferences and are tied to not-fully-baked concepts. As with other components, speaking engagement goals need to be broken down into steps and aligned with a range of targets – from the readily-achievable to the entirely aspirational.

A good short term goal is to craft two-to-three paragraphs breaking down the proposed program’s contents and how it would address and benefit a target audience. But, beyond the content of the program itself, it is crucial that speaking engagement goals include taking the time to make key connections in targeted organizations. Encourage attorneys to attend educational and networking events and go with specific people to meet in mind. Marketing and communications teams can assist by tracking events and creating “facebooks” of leadership contacts – complete with photos, interests (mined from LinkedIn and the actual Facebook) and potential alumni network connections.

It is OK, during a planning session, to end up with a shared goal of simply making progress towards securing an engagement. These can be multi-year builds; but, once achieved, repeat sessions are more likely and the business development payout can be great.

Be Yourself

A marketing plan, at its core, needs to be an extension of the person writing it. This means there is little point to “planning” to write byline articles if doing so is a constant struggle or tripling attendance at networking events if the lawyer is painfully shy and a perpetual wallflower.

Today, there are so many avenues for attorneys to explore for business development and marketing. Social media, blogging, byline articles, networking, speaking and expert commentary – and any combination thereof – are just a start. Marketers need to do more than just pass around a standard, static survey: they need to connect one-on-one with attorneys and help them find the tools and outcomes that work best for that individual.

Create Benchmarks and Points of No Return/Pivot

One of the hardest things to do as a planner, or one charged with overseeing a plan, is pulling the plug on an initiative. There is a tendency to equate doing so with failure. This just isn’t true. Rather, marketers and attorneys need to see this as often a very courageous and practical move.

Plans are meant to be fluid. When an initiative is clearly not working out – judged by results/progress over a set period of time – it’s time to get out the eraser and write a new goal. Both attorneys and marketers suffer when progress isn’t measured and goals languish. Marketers also position themselves as strategic partners rather than facilitators by crafting shared goals and tracking outcomes.

Just Do It!

Creating marketing plans is a great way to understand what attorneys and firm leaders want to accomplish, especially when starting a new year. The process often uncovers goals unvoiced before and leads to a realigning of priorities that can better organize a marketing department’s priorities. The new year is a great time to make a plan.

January 16, 2018 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Very Merry Media: BC Holiday Traditions and Picks

This holiday season we polled the professionals at Blattel Communications asking what media they will be consuming. The resulting list is a potpourri of movies, TV shows, books and even a newspaper section. We wish you happy holidays and merry media!

EllenEllen Blattel When I’m not enjoying the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, I plan to turn to more serious subjects that will help put today’s politics in perspective. I intend to read Steve Swatt’s Game Changers: Twelve Elections That Transformed California. To get me in the mood of the season, I like to listen to my collection of holiday music sung by cats. Yes, each note of a tune is a different, recorded “meow.” It makes me laugh because it’s so silly (but I do love cats), and it drives my husband, family and friends crazy, which is fun!

MichaelMichael Bond —  I started and hope to finish John Hodgman’s most-recent book Vacationland. Hodgman, of Apple commercials (He played PC.) and Daily Show fame, has authored a memoir on his life and “minor celebrity” (his words) status. This new title follows three humorous compendiums of fake facts he previously published. I find Hodgman to be incredibly witty and incisive, and just a great writer. Check out an interview with him on the NPR/Maximum Fun Podcast Bullseye, itself always a great listen.

ChuckChuck Brown — I look forward to completing the series of Preacher, a comic book published by Vertigo. Consisting of nine graphic novels, Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher in a small Texas town that is accidentally possessed by a supernatural creature named Genesis. I read the first book after watching the television show based on the comic book. It will be enjoyable to finish the series and immerse myself in the crazy supernatural world created by the authors and artists.

PennyPenny Desatnik —  I’m looking forward to finding the time to dig into season two of Netflix’s The Crown. I’m a total anglophile and love to see such an important part of history played out in this beautifully written, acted (hello The Doctor!) and filmed series. I have some travel time coming up and am looking forward to filling my hours with the Queen and her Corgis before coming back to the real world.


VickyVicky Jay One of my holiday goals this year is to finally watch Elf, starring Will Farrell! Every year someone inevitably quotes the movie and I’m typically the only one that doesn’t get the reference. Aside from watching holiday movies, I’m excited to clear out the clutter in my apartment while I catch-up on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. A stand-up comedian who is also famous for his UFC commentary and hosting the original Fear Factor, his podcast is a long form conversation with friends and guests that have included other comedians, musicians, scientists, historians and authors. The content is always interesting with an inquisitive and intense comedic style.

Michael PMichael Panelli I plan on reacquainting myself with one of my passions – criminology and criminal psychology. Watching Netflix’s Mindhunter reignited my interest in criminology for the first time since earning my B.S. in the field. I have a few books on my shelf that I plan on reading to immerse myself in the fields of crime and deviancy.

I also plan on taking in many visual forms of media, including catching up on the latest seasons of Homeland and Vikings and seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters at least one more time.

TraciTraci Stuart — There are several special editions of the San Francisco Chronicle I relish annually, and the Geography Quiz that runs in the paper’s Travel section over the holiday is pretty high on the list (coming in just behind Michael Bauer’s annual round-up of the Top 100 restaurants, but that’s a spring thing). It’s a perfect read-aloud (over coffee) to test the family’s worldly knowledge (or reveal their lack of), pick up trivial tidbits to casually drop at seasonal gatherings, and fantasize about your next big trip. And if you’re an early riser that devours the paper before most are awake, you have a decided advantage when the final quiz results are tallied. (Although, my high schooler does have geography this semester – and it would be quite the gift to see him best me!)

JoeyJoey Telucci — Besides my annual binge of The Office Christmas episodes, I always look forward to watching my favorite holiday movies – some of which I’ve seen 15+ times. My #1 is definitely Elf with a close second going to such 90s classics as: Jingle All The Way (yes, with Sinbad and the Governator), All I Want for Christmas and Home Alone. A newer holiday tradition for me (since 2013) is watching the Warriors play on Christmas Day. It’s always fun to mix in a rivalry game with the usual Christmas activities – especially when it’s against the Cavs (even if the rest of the country is beyond sick of that matchup).

December 21, 2017 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Quick B2B Takeaways from the Pending Blockbuster Disney-Fox Tie-Up

At first glance, it may seem there are few implications for professional services companies from last week’s announcement that The Walt Disney Company is acquiring – pending regulatory and shareholder approval – many of 21st Century Fox’s assets; however, the deal speaks to larger macro media and consumer trends that impact marketing and communications strategies for B2B companies.

Traditional Advertising in Decline – Disney’s stated long-game with Fox’s assets is to bolster its forthcoming streaming services, one for Disney/Pixar/Marvel fare and one for sports. Increasingly, young consumers are “cable-nevers,” picking and choosing entertainment options on demand and with far fewer commercials than the standard cable bundle. This accelerates the move away from ad-supported programming. A lower tolerance for explicit sales messages means an increased reliance on branded content – companies “advertising” through subtle messaging and by creating compelling media that drives thought-leadership. Bottom-line: traditional ads are more and more passé while blogs and podcasts are rising in status.

Adapt or Suffer – Netflix used to be a company that stuffed DVDs in envelopes and mailed them out to customers. Today, a whole generation has never known that side of the company, as it has transformed into a content aggregator and now creator – with an estimated yearly original content budget between $7 – 8 billion. Disney wanted Fox because it’s engaged in an arms race where millennials favor device and content accessibility and care little about brand pedigree. Professional services companies – especially post-Great Recession – are also finding that the name on the door isn’t a bulwark against disruption. Brands still matter, but consumers are more open to alternatives than in previous generations, and legacy defenses – “geographical fiefdoms” and the cable bundle – are no longer as meaningful. Professional services companies do well to avoid a mindset and marketing and communications strategy that dwells on company history without regard for where and how the consumer mindset is shifting.

Content, and Lots of It, Is Still King – Consumers today have access to virtually limitless entertainment fare – more TV shows, movies, news and music than ever before. Disney wanted Fox because it gives the company even more content to offer, from The Americans to The Simpsons. There is increasingly an expectation that professional services providers not just be good at the technical application of their jobs, but will also be insightful and personable. Consumers are more inquisitive and have more resources to learn about issues than in past generations. This is yet another reason that byline articles, blogs/guest blog posts, speaking engagements and third-party commentary should be the norm for business-to-business professionals.

Michael Bond

December 19, 2017 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

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