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Express, Expressive Marketing

The New York Times recently announced the formation of a new “Express Media” team. The new team will “quickly and smartly weigh in on issues and questions that are attracting attention around the world.” Replace the words “around the world” with “relevant to our prospects and customers” and this is exactly how companies need to think about their content marketing initiatives .

“Express” is a great term because it has multiple meanings. One definition relates to speed. The Express is the fastest road, train, check-out aisle or other time-optimized option. The other meaning is to convey thoughts and emotions in an especially vivid manner. To be “expressive.” The most compelling content is both express (timely) and expressive (vivid). The Express Media team at the New York Times benefits from both of these connotations.

Express and Expressive are also great terms for marketers. Express Marketing requires more of a think-on-your-feet reactive content creation and curation process. Expressive Marketing means that you’re conveying stories that resonate with your prospects and customers. The combination, Express Expressive Marketing, is effective because it addresses immediate customer concerns, answers questions and solves problems.

Several years ago David Meerman-Scott coined the term “Newsjacking” to refer to marketing that meshes with breaking news. It’s a great concept and embraced by by a growing number of marketers. But there’s a downside to the connotation of hijacking news. Companies have gotten in trouble for trying to leverage an event that isn’t relevant to their business, or worse yet, totally inappropriate to mix with a marketing message. For example, The Golf Channel infamously tweeted “tweet your ‘golf’ dream on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s ‘I have a dream’ speech using [the hashtag] #dreamday.”


Hopefully there aren’t many marketers who would be this tone deaf but the risks of dissonance are greater if you try to tie marketing in with national news and events. After the death of David Bowie, Doug Haslam also cautioned about the misuse of pop-culture newsjacking in his “Social Media Top 5″ post.

“Maybe for now we should just call a moratorium on all types of ‘newsjacking’ until further notice: until people stop straining relevancy beyond its breaking point to load the web with clickbait.”
– Doug Haslam, Senior Consultant at Stone Temple Consulting

Approaching your marketing as both express and expressive is essentially the same as Newsjacking but within a well-defined niche that you know a lot about. Yes, Oreos received national acclaim for a single tweet “you can still dunk in the dark” during the Superbowl, but that type of attention and timing is not realistic for small and mid-size companies. The goal of Express Expressive Marketing is to ensure that your content fits into trends and conversations taking place within your industry.

Here’s an example: Imagine you work for a company that provides data security software. Within the industry there’s an active debate about which feature is more important — intrusion detection or damage mitigation. Industry experts (e.g. analysts, bloggers, and journalists) regularly publish articles describing the way that Chief Security Officers — your target customer — should weigh these aspects of security. As a participant in this industry your need to have a voice in this debate. As quickly as possible, you should:

  • Get your CEO or CTO to answer some questions about how your software addresses these aspects.
  • Conduct a video interview, live Q&A or podcast.
  • Comment on blog posts and articles; provide reasons why you agree or disagree with the main points.
  • Write your own articles and post them on your blog, LinkedIn, Medium, or, better yet, write a guest post for a trade publication.

You’re hijacking news only to the extent that you’re becoming part of it; you’re expressing your position and expertise in a way that’s helpful for current and potential customers. With consistency you’ll also likely be consulted by bloggers and journalists who cover your industry. You achieve the goal of all marketing, PR and sales — becoming part of the conversation and being a trusted source of information without the risk of your commentary being perceived as hucksterism.