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Monday, July 13, 2009

Publishing Synergy: Blog, Twitter and Ulitzer

Have you ever been given the task of building and executing an aggressive customer outreach program? Well I received my assignment about a year ago and trust me; the budget was not commensurate with the assigned goal. My particular need was to educate prospective Federal government customers on a new information technology trend. Known as cloud computing, this new approach blends service oriented architecture (SOA), virtualization technologies and a "pay-by-the-use" sales approach into a new IT delivery business model.

Although this new approach promised the delivery of better constituent service at a reduced cost, risk adverse Federal agency decision makers needed to know much more before they would even consider cloud computing as an option. During a time of economic collapse and fiscal crisis, competing security, governance and procurement requirements would also need to be adequately addressed. Unfortunately, "elastic computing" still needed an "elastic federal procurement" companion.

Our initial approach to this challenge was to rely on traditional media outlet tools. After first securing prominent positioning and ad space in an industry leading print magazine, we aggressively sought opportunities to also publish related print articles. Although we were very frugal in our negotiations during this initial campaign, creative development cost, content review timelines and limited publication frequencies all contributed to making this an untenable budgetary option. Attempts to salvage this traditional approach with parallel email campaigns were also less than satisfactory. High list acquisition cost, weak channel linkage and an inability to gauge our relevance to targeted readers led to very low click through rates.

After this dismal start, we finally made the jump into new media with the launch of a customer focused blog. This shift began to deliver results almost immediately. From a budget point of view, our burn rate reduced significantly. For the first time, we were also able to directly measure the efficiency of our outreach program (blog visitors per dollar spent). Creative development cost plummeted, content review times shortened and our publication frequencies increased dramatically. Since our visitors were self-selected, blog post relevance was also directly measureable. Even with this enhanced flexibility, however, the one obvious shortfall was distribution. Without an established readership or broad web presence our industry impact was minimal. That's when we turned to Ulitizer.

We first linked up with Ulitzer through an author site. With Really Simple Syndication (RSS), blog post were automatically published on selected Ulitzer topic sites. This single move increase blog post readership from ~150 per week to over 150 per day!! These rapid results emboldened us to tackle the editorship of a couple of topics. This move doubled our readership yet again! With these two simple moves, we quickly addressed our distribution shortfall while maintaining high flexibility and a low budgetary burn rate. Recently, we've extended our foray into new media by "tweeting" links to our newest blog post and Ulitzer articles. Although detailed topic statistic are not routinely made available by Uliizer, they have told me that our two topics have a combined 1.2M views per month, 80,000 of which are from unique visitors.

In the six months we've been using Ulitzer, the platform has definitely demonstrated its value in the delivery of true publishing synergy with new media. Through it, we have built an effective, responsive and fiscally conservative customer outreach program. Industry thought leadership, as measured by article readership, has exceeded all expectations. We look forward to future enhancements and will certainly leverage the many other related offerings.