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Old skills for a new marketing age

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

I started in old media - really old. I trained on local papers where often, the printing press was on the ground floor and journalists like me slogged in hot and dusty offices above. Lorries would deliver the paper on estate-car sized rolls to be attached to massive presses that lurked in a part of the building we were rarely allowed to enter.

For the evening paper, the presses would start to roll at about 2pm. The entire building would vibrate as the stories we'd worked on from late the night before and in the morning would be stamped onto pages, rolled out, cut and folded in a matter of hours.

It was as fast as written news could be, and although many of the methods and technologies have changed, I think the core skills are still crucial for today's digital world.

The ability to produce regular content to hard deadlines remains the key to making digital marketing work. There are various recommendations about how often to publish to social media - 3 times a day for Twitter; 3 to 5 times a week for LinkedIn. The point really is to be disciplined enough to meet a deadline that you set at certain points in the week. Automated services such as Hootsuite can help, but you still need to sit down and write the stuff.

Of course, there's no point at all putting anything out there on social media if it's not working for you and your business. Re-Tweets of other people's content are fine, but it's not going to win you any followers.

Finding the stories and knowing how to angle them for the audience is another 'old' skill that's central to success on new media. Having a grasp of the wider industry issues - new legislation; campaigns by big groups in your sector; the latest news stories - and being able to explain them to your audience will make for winning content.

One of the most important aspects of a local paper was that it was part of the community - pretty much at the heart of things for people in that town. Its job was to cover topics important to locals to ensure they were kept informed.

And that too is an important lesson to take into social media marketing. Content is about making connections and long-term business relationships. Offer people something they need to know about; help them with a challenge they face (what does that legislation mean for their day-to-day work?) and they will remember you - and be far more likely to buy from you in future.

Printing presses may be falling silent, but understanding the importance of content and having the discipline to deliver it regularly are old skills that stand the test of time.

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