I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Joe Chernov—Joe is the VP of Content Marketing for Eloqua, Co-chair of WOMMA member ethics panel and also the brain behind the “Blog Tree” series of infographics. Joe and I discussed the relevancy of blogs, influence, and today’s most significant business challenges for marketers.
David Armano: Tell us more about the “Blog Tree”: Who came up with the idea and in a world of Facebooking, Tweeting, why is a blog tree relevant?
Joe Chernov: I laugh when I think of this story. I came up with the concept – this sorta feel-good, tranquil visualization – while boxing. I literally dropped my gloves, grabbed my phone and called Leslie Bradshaw (my partner at data visualization firm JESS3). At the end of my rant, I half expected her to no longer be on the other end of the line. But she loved it. Leslie is a heady person, totally high concept. So she went with it, adding to the idea, changing it. She even suggested gnomes. But fortunately we drew the line at forest creatures. Anyway, a “blog tree” is relevant now because the jig is up on “best of” lists. Everyone knows that a “top blogs” list is a SEO trick masquerading as value. It’s self-serving aggregation. The Blog Tree is curation. It’s a visual exploration of what content matters and why.
DA: You decided to use Edelman’s BlogLevel to rank blogs listed on the tree. What drove your decision and more importantly what do you think are the indicators of successful blog?
JC: We went with BlogLevel for several reasons. To me, the Edelman brand is synonymous with “trust” and I think that a valuable blog is one that earns the readers’ trust. Take someone like April Dunford (Rocketwatch blog). She may not have the traffic of a top 20 blog, but I trust her perspective as much as I trust, say, The Economist magazine. That has to count for something. It’s also worth noting that today’s Blog Tree is our “new growth” edition, meaning it’s only blogs that are less than two years old, so raw traffic is a poor proxy for success for these blogs. BlogLevel looks at much more than traffic. It gives a holistic perspective on a blog – influence, trust, engagement.
DA: Eloqua’s focus seems to be on scale, measurement and automation of marketing. Let’s take one of the three and dig deeper—how should marketers be measuring success these days?
JC: Ultimately it comes down to revenue. To what extent are your marketing efforts generating revenue, shortening sales cycles, or reducing attrition? Historically, marketers have been great at treating symptoms. The client is introducing a new product? We prescribe a massive PR launch, point-of-sale collateral, some influential endorsements, etc. Eloqua is focused on helping companies diagnose which efforts contributed to what amount of revenue. I think where Eloqua’s goals and the industry’s goals are tightly aligned.
DA: Marketers are more challenged than ever in capturing and holding the attention of the people they wish to reach and take action. Given your position on WOMMA’s ethics panel, what are some of the best practices when it comes to ethical practices, which yield results?
JC: First off, I get it. I am a marketer too. I know how incredibly hard it is to “get heard” on the noisy social Web. But attempting to short-circuit the system by obfuscating identity, creating fake profiles – or inducing others to do these things on your behalf – ultimately never works. And the irony is that these tricks, even if they were to work, are unnecessary. The real power of the social Web lies in transparency. It’s why the Edelman brand identity is so powerful and timely right now: credibility on the social Web comes down to trust. It’s the single most important attribute you can earn. I’d say that the best practice is to ask yourself before any marketing program: If all aspects of this campaign were made public, would my audience trust me more or less? If you even have to pause before answering, then I’d revisit the plan.
DA: Back to the “blog tree”: this year’s graphic surfaces some new voices compared to last. What is your prediction for blogging in the next year? Can we expect another tree?
JC: I was talking to my brother about how the first half of super hero movies is always more interesting than the second half. He said something interesting. He said, “Becoming is always more interesting than became.” That’s exactly why I think the New Growth edition is more interesting than the original Blog Tree. C’mon, most people already know you, Fred Wilson, Valeria Maltoni, and Brian Solis. To help people discover Caterina Fake’s personal blog or the incredible data visualizations on Information is Beautiful or the blog/community built around Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker’s book “The Dragonfly Effect”… well, that’s value of a higher order. We’ll keep The Blog Tree series going for as long as the public finds the infographics valuable. We have a few ideas already.