Roland Elgey is a former colleague (and boss) of mine who is currently President of a publishing services company called Content Connections. This is an operation that offers a number of different services and I asked Roland if he'd lay them out for us in a blog interview. Here's what he had to say:
JW: What is Content Connections business model and overall vision?
RE: We are an Arizona-based technology-based publishing services company with a proven methodology for both testing and developing various categories of content and identifying and creating an audience for the product. Hence our tagline: creating content that connects. We have been in business for seven years and our management team and key people have extensive publishing industry experience in college and trade.
Over the years we created a suite of proprietary online publishing tools focused in the following areas: Concept and Content Development, Audience Analysis, Competition Market Research and Comparative Analysis Primary and Secondary Market Research, Community Building, Market Development and Market Seeding/ Promotions. Yes, phew! We work very hard during the summer months as it’s too hot to go outside.
Our core business for many years has been college and educational publishing, but we have expanded our services to encompass trade, reference and K-12 publishers. We work directly with many authors on behalf of the publisher and along the way have encountered authors, prospective authors and professionals in other industries that write content who've wanted to engage with us individually. To meet these needs, we have created our AuthorBound program which will offer authors direct access to our tools.
In terms of the future, we see social media and social networking becoming an increasingly important extension of what we do for clients. Our business is really about relationship building at any stage of the publishing timeline, and social media tools enable us to help authors exploit their networks, develop viral marketing strategies and build a community of stakeholders in the product. Our Dynamic Author Page is the first of our social media enabled tools that provides a solution for content creators as they pursue these endeavors.
JW: The audience analysis service you offer is intriguing. Most publishers probably feel they can figure this out on their own. What are some of the success stories you’re able to share from this service?
RE: I'll preface my examples by emphasizing that audience analysis is really the first step in building relationships and becoming close to the customer. Many of our projects result in us touching a reviewer or participant multiple times and truly developing that relationship. Three examples of success stories I like to recall are: firstly, a publisher was launching an innovative, co-branded, four color series in their market segments. The initial audience reaction to many of the proposed elements of the series was not overwhelmingly positive but as we continued to engage them via a series of online and live activities, the participants became highly involved -- stakeholders or co-producers -- and helped redefine and tweak the series concepts and key features. The initiative has been highly successful for the publisher.
Secondly, we worked with a major medical publisher from market entry proposal through concept to execution and competitive positioning and market seeding over three years to help build a major franchise in the segment. By the time the products were published, a community had been created around the author brand by multiple market touches.
Thirdly, we partnered with a major technology company to profile a channel and community that had been designated as a strategic growth area and helped identify the breadth and nature of the content that would be appealing to this segment. I have to add, sometimes success can be categorized as providing feedback to an author or publisher that the idea or concept will not work in its present shape or form.
We have recommended next step actions that initially can be painful for the client but do represent the wisdom of the crowd and can result in future market validation if corrective action is taken.
JW: Your AuthorBound service is one that’s near and dear to my heart, particularly since I spend a lot of time blogging about the importance of author platform, companion websites, etc. What are the key ingredients to this service that help set it apart from the other options available to authors and publishers?
RE: We do not position ourselves as a quick fix solution to guaranteed publication if you follow Steps One, Two and Three. I know we’re not alone in that but there’s a lot of over-promising out there as you know. Our company has created not only a suite of tools and services to solicit and aggregate market feedback, but developed an underlying collaborative product development methodology we call the Access model.
Access stands for: Audience, Concept, Execution, Competition, Sales Viability and Social Networking. We work with the author along all or any stages of the Publishing Timeline to validate content at every stage, seed the market and create an ongoing community around the author/ product. We are not aware of any option that offers these components. We do not position ourselves as an agent, editor, designer, marketing or P.R. service or publisher. However, it’s pretty compelling for an author to present a proposal to a publisher or agent that showcases how their concept and sample content has been validated by a meaningful number of qualified reviewers, many of whom were prime potential buyers.
JW: Content Connections also offers marketing seeding and market development services. How important and relevant are these in this age of e-marketing?
RE: I'll clarify that we do not offer more traditional online or direct marketing or sales services. Having said that, the world is changing and we believe market development begins at the proposal review stage and continues on through the publication of the product to the new edition or revision cycle. Online feedback tools and new social media applications enable us to exploit new ways of communicating, collaborating, educating, entertaining and engaging our audience. This may be a new definition of sales and marketing but, in our opinion, is equally effective in influencing purchase and adoption behavior.
Examples of change: many trade publishers are looking at more creative ways to develop new channels and identify potential customers as bookstores become more selective in their product range. College publishers are similarly investigating new ways to differentiate products in increasingly competitive markets by both developing authors as the brand and getting closer than ever to their audience throughout the product development process.
JW: Can you tell us about one or two of the more novel e-marketing campaigns that Content Connections has been involved with?
RE: I referred to our Dynamic Author Page earlier. We are working with a couple of internationally recognized political figures and their publisher on a new product venture utilizing this social media and networking tool.
The Dynamic Author Page is updated in iterations corresponding to where the product is on the timeline; in this case proof of concept and testing sample content. The DAP, as we call it, allows visitors and reviewers to provide feedback on the concept and other material, and access videos, blogs, podcasts and other neat stuff regularly produced and updated by the authors. There are links to several of our tools and a host of social media applications that plug into the framework, including communication vehicles such as Twitter and Skype. Unlike the traditional promotional site, the DAP is a living tool that helps foster a vibrant and active community around the product by providing an engaging experience for visitors.
Another fun campaign involved students. Instructors regularly bemoan the lack of motivation of students. We worked with the publisher to create a video contest whereby participating instructors asked groups of their students to create a video based around some component or case study in their business course. The winners won prizes, the videos were posted on YouTube and the winners featured as part of the product package as a class activity. It was a cool project and everyone got involved and invested. The book will pick up new adoptions and word spread among the students.
Lastly, I have to mention that our founder and CEO is writing a book with Lon Safko for John Wiley called the Social Media Bible. We have, not surprisingly, been asked to assist with market development and creating a community around the product. We're going to have some real fun on this campaign. Maybe you'll ask me back to talk about it!
JW: I look forward to reading the book and I'll definitely plan for a follow-up interview once it's published.