Ever wonder where companies get the content they pump onto their websites?
Just had a company reach out to me to see if I would be interested in writing some blog content and maybe a tweet or two for their clients for a fixed price per blog or tweet. The deal was, they would show me the client’s web page and I would research topics relevant to that business. I was told I would get little to no input from the client-company as long as I stayed in the general industry and delivered on a weekly or monthly basis.
The blogs were to consist of around 4,000 words per article. The tweets have their own guidelines and you needed to push out two or three a day.
Can’t say I was totally naive to the practice as I had a writer friend who used to do some work for a local PR agency and he did exactly that. He tweeted and blogged for an opthalmologist in Seattle who never saw any of the content. Too busy I guess. Nor did he ever inquire. He just paid for his on-line presence.
My friend used to just Google benign references to the eye ball and post them every day. He told me this particular agency did this sort of thing for all its clients. I thought it was pretty shabby at the time and he actually got paid peanuts. He said it was so easy it didn’t feel like work. He could actually post while sitting in meetings with other clients. Nice work if you can get it. He got it.
What I never knew until recently, was how wide spread the practice is. “Content fillers” as they are called, are pushed to fill acres of vacant web space with unoriginal blogs and tweets for cash. They are actually pretty lousy jobs, paying anywhere from $8.00 to $50.00 per piece. Nobody ever sees $50.00. Man, that’s a lot of hustle and the turnover rates at these sweat shops are high.
You’d probably improve your writing chops quickly but it’s not a very fulfilling experience for what you’re paid. And the subject matter, which can be science and technology or worse can be a technological nightmare. What a bullshit world we live in. How unoriginal, uninspiring and untrustworthy.
I read a book once “Trust Me I’m Lying” by Ryan Holiday. He’s a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, his job is to control blogs-as much as any one person can. It’s a good read but you’ll probably feel bad about all the content companies fling at you that doesn’t contain one ounce of originality.
Hey, I pump out a lot of content but at least it’s my own shit.
Which brings me to a larger point. In the years I spent in big pharma, Bristol Myers Squibb in particular, as a creative producer, I was always trying to get whoever was at the top of the food chain to consider blogging to customers and internal employees. (I use food chain for a reason) I would cite all their captive plane time to at least jot down their personal feelings down about how he or she felt about the direction of the company, the employees’ efforts and how proud he or she might be of the organization. But knock off the corporate bullshit I would advise. Everyone can smell it.
I thought, since they can’t always get mic time or stage time, this would be an informal conversation from the general to the troops in the trenches. If you could get nowhere faster, you should let Elon Musk know. In those BMS years, I grew extremely cynical of large companies and their haggard, cautious, sometimes paranoid (with good reason), and overwhelmed leaders. Of course, any heartfelt, original thinking, would have brought out the nanny state, HR, Legal and Corporate Communications to micro manage the message down to something you could get off the back of a cereal box.
When I have to check out the web site of a potential client, I keep a trash can close by in case I lose it. I’m looking at a medical imaging web site right now and it is 1997 all over again. An afterthought right out of the Sales Prevention unit. Why bother having a web site if you’re not going to use it as a tool to gain interest and provide information? Lame is the only description for this excuse to keep a domain name.
While I’m on the subject of lame, for whom are these agonizing company highlight videos intended? Fifteen minutes of talking heads and calculated b-roll rattling off how long they’ve been there, how they all get along and how they wake up every day to fulfill the company’s mission, vision and values. Is it a recruitment tool? Is it an onboarding tool? Damned if I know, but most of them are the most sleep inducing, self indulgent, rambling travelogues I’ve ever seen. But hey, it’s up there. Check.
I’ve produced hundreds and the formula hardly ever varies despite my protestations.
So when you need to check out a company for whatever reason, just be aware that a PR agency is responsible for most of the content. If there is a CEO blog, it’s been vetted by the gestapo and half the employees on that hostage tape have either retired or died.
If you have any questions or need advice, please feel free to reach out to me here.