“If you name the band after yourself, you can never get fired.” That bit of rock-‘n’-roll wisdom prompted me to call my company “Matthew Rothenberg LLC” back when I limited my liability and procured my EIN in 2008.
But lately, I’m beginning to think that what was good for the Jimi Hendrix Experience may not be so hot for my corporate profile. In fact, I’m inclined to decouple the name of the company from the name of its founder.
Wigberto Serpa. Tanya Cheeks. Ty-Shonn Evans. These are all names stamped on the bottom of brown paper bags I get at restaurants and retail shops. It’s become a habit of mine to look under my bag and find the name of the person who made it, so I can wonder about what else they do or find a match for a name I already know.
I don’t know what the manufacturer had in mind, but the personal moniker is a cool touch of humanity that reminds me real people are making this stuff. I’ve Googled the bag makers and learned a little about them. (If you look up “Wigberto Serpa,” you’ll see I’m not the only person who’s interested in his name.
(My buddies over at Contently included an essay of mine in the latest version of their Content Strategist magazine. I’ve been doing a lot of content strategy work for different clients … and I’m watching the term turn into a catch-all for anything from editorial to marketing to body copy to UX. Here’s a stab at sorting out the mess.) “Nowadays, ’content strategist’ is another phrase for ‘unemployed editor,’ “ my colleague laughed.
Ouch! There’s a sting of truth in those words. Granted, the title is better defined in some sectors — such as digital agencies, where it’s closely aligned with user experience. In other spheres, it’s quickly been devalued as a catch-all phrase for any activity that generates blocks of words.
That’s especially true for companies outside traditional publishing, where words haven’t been a source of revenue. These enterprises are accustomed to content marketing, and they’ve heard that content strategy is important. Nevertheless, they may not see a role for customer communications beyond “brand enhancement” or “thought leadership.”
The result? Many job descriptions for “content strategists” that aren’t strategic at all, and lots of corporate microsites half-full of articles that live in isolation from the actual business of the company.
Think about it: A manufacturer of cleaning products launches a WordPress blog and hires someone to populate it with articles about housekeeping. Is this strategic content, or is it simply commoditized copy that is (a) disconnected from the business of driving glass-cleaner sales and (b) just another small voice in a Web already teeming with household tips?
There’s a better way for companies to approach content — one that’s truly strategic. To me, the key to genuine content strategy is integrity, both in aligning with the company’s brand and its business goals.
Next step toward getting real with this blog: transferring it to a more flexible platform that will let me turn matthewrothenberg.com into a lean, mean self-promotion machine.
That means porting the blog over from its old digs on Blogger to a hosted WordPress environment I can skin like a bunny. I’ll also try to apply plug-ins to maintain whatever modest links this pig has collected over the years.
I’m looking forward to a technical assist from my pal, former Amazons bassist and Sceneroller partner Jason Brownell, who’ll be visiting from San Francisco tomorrow. We’re going to be talking about next moves for our software … and setting me up in a better position to publicize it won’t hurt!
Stay tuned for this blog to start looking a little more legit in the next few days. (Isn’t this meta?)
There is at least one Rothenberg who’s taking real advantage of blogging as a tool for personal branding: my 81-year-old father Jerome Rothenberg, a lion of experimental poetry with more than 80 books to his credit.
My parents’ participation in the “little magazine” movement during the 1960s and ’70s inspired my own excitement about the DIY power of early desktop publishing in the 1980s. (I remember blue-lining literary magazines from about age seven.)
My folks have not slowed down, and my father hasn’t lost his interest in new ways to spread the word. He started his own blog, “Poems and Poetics,” in 2007, and he has built a substantial following based on his own reputation and his steady attention to adding new content that combines poetry with personal insight and autobiographical detail.
Jerome Rothenberg recently added a Facebook account to his arsenal, quickly picking up a set of fans along the way, and has been using it to great effect to promote the work on his blog. Next stop, Twitter?
Like Geraldo Rivera prying open “Al Capone’s vaults,” I broke a few electronic locks on this blog and slid into the dusty darkness. And like Geraldo, the results are pretty underwhelming — a few bottles here, some mummified rats in the corner, and not a lot of content.
For a blog titled “matthewrothenberg.com” — a blog that bears the domain of someone with decades in the business of communicating, mostly via the written word — this place really sucks. To start cleaning up this mess, I might as well consider how it got so musty and flyblown in the first place.
Confession #1: I only set up this blog as a container for my resume. Back in October 2006, my friend and then-Hachette colleague Chris Herring pointed out that while I’d been happily participating in social media for years (including curating the user-generated content for ZDNet News), I’d never gotten around to taking this simple step toward self-promotion. D’oh!
I’m spending half of Saturday in the Douglass campus cafeteria at Rutgers while my kid takes tests preparatory to beginning her college career this fall at Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Cooling my heels here is a chance to reflect on two things: the welter of social media I need to update (this blog is the most neglected patch of my online turf, behind my CBS MoneyWatch blog, Che Underground blog, Sceneroller, Facebook, LinkedIn, about six Twitter feeds and all the social media we’re warming up at TheLadders) and the excitement I feel about my daughter’s college trajectory.
Like many friends my age, I kind of backed into college — and even more than most, I hurried through it with no particular idea of what I wanted to do when I got out the other side. My alma mater of UCSD is a top-notch school, and staying in San Diego occasioned the wonderful adventures documented in Che Underground. But I have a great deal of respect for the career focus my kid has demonstrated and much more regard than I ever did for the process of applying to a variety of schools, making decisions and possibly facing rejection. (I’m proud that she was accepted into every program for which she applied, but that reflects in a large part the specificity of her career goals. Few of us had such clear ones at her age!)
It’s risky to live vicariously through your kids, and I wouldn’t trade my choices considering the joys I’ve experienced as a result. But it’s an awful lot of fun to watch mine make their own choices and see those choices rewarded with success.
Mazel tov to The Other Matthew Rothenberg for a story in today’s New York Times that features a fetching photo and his views from high atop the Flickr digital-photo empire.
As my own social graph will tell you, the presence of two high-tech Matthew Rothenbergs has caused a bit of confusion at times and reminds me of the inconclusive negotiations my father had back in the dear, dead analog days of the early ’60s with The Other Jerome Rothenberg, an architect who also happened to write poetry on the side.
And while my wife Nancy Tobin remains at No. 1 in the Google sweepstakes, she’s in a similar pickle: For some reason, art attracts Nancy Tobins like poetry attracts Jerome Rothenbergs and Internet technology, Matthew Rothenbergs. She vies with a sculptor, a photo researcher, and a sound artist.
I’ve suggested to Nancy that they all team up and do a big “Nancy Tobin” show. In the same vein, my doppelgänger suggests “we go in 50/50 on something like whichmatthewrothenbergdoyouwant.com , put a line down the center, our clickable faces and bios on opposite sides of the page, and then pile on the google juice till it becomes the number one search result for our name. We’d be providing a valuable service to the world! (Well, the very small yet incredibly savvy portion of the world who is looking for a Matthew Rothenberg).”
I’m in … There can never be too many Matthew Rothenbergs!