If you’ve watched the news over the last few nights then you may well have seen something that I consider to be one of the best pieces of content marketing of the last few years, possibly ever.
Quoted heavily in the recent story about the US Justice Department filing charges against members of a Chinese hacking squad was a report by technology firm Mandiant. Released last year, the report was the culmination of an investigation by Mandiant into the activities of the squad, a report which eventually led to the news stories of the last few days.
The report by Mandiant is possibly the ultimate piece of content marketing. With findings that were so significant they were immediately picked up by a series of US news networks, Mandiant put themselves at the very forefront of cyber security in the US and increased their visibility by an immeasurable amount.
Described in Businessweek around the time of the report as ‘the go-to security firm for cyber-espionage’, Mandiant have put themselves in the position to be just that. Having seen the report on the Chinese hackers - and if they didn’t see that, they certainly saw the news coverage - major US firms had only one place to turn when addressing their own concerns on the subject: concerns directly tied to the hacker's aims. As the Businessweek article says, when US newspapers learned they themselves were targets, ‘the Times and Post contacted Mandiant’.
Around a year after the Businessweek article, and after the final release of their Chinese spying report, Mandiant had been acquired for $1 billion by security company FireEye.
It’s unlikely that any of us are going to uncover a Chinese hacking ring attacking foreign companies, but the principles of content marketing, used by Mandiant when conceiving and producing their report, are easy for all of us to follow.
- Produce something new - Mandiant told the world something they didn’t know and they had the exclusive data to back it up. Whether it’s via a simple survey or great research (or anti-hacking efforts!), we all have the power, knowledge and expertise to do the same.
- When you’ve got a good idea, commit to it - Mandiant were talking about Chinese hacking long before their report came out and are still talking about Chinese hacking now the report is out and charges have been filed. If you know you’re the expert in something people are interested in, don’t miss an opportunity for comment.
- Give it away for free - Mandiant did not release how much the report cost them, but it took several months of hi-tech research. They gave it away for free. Why? Because they charge $650 per hour and they know they can charge that to more people if more people are aware of serious cyber threats.
- Give it to the right people - Mandiant didn’t just release their report. They gave an advance copy of a headline breaking reveal of state-sponsored cyber warfare to the New York Times. The result? An instant exclusive in one of the world’s best read newspapers.
Mandiant is a dramatic example but this is only the case because their stage is bigger than most. They wanted the attention of the US’ biggest companies and they found a story they knew would get it. Whose attention do you want and what story do you think they are interested in?
by Jon Pittham. Jon is MD of ClientsFirst, which he launched in 2010, having previously worked in financial services. Away from the office Jon heads out into the Peak District for relaxation and exercise, counting camping, golf and running the occasional half-marathon amongst his hobbies. Find him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.