The convergence of journalism and content marketing
When The Decision to Leave Seems No Riskier Than Staying: Why A Corporate Media Executive Reinvented His Career As An Entrepreneur
What does the online content marketing journey look like? The journey began with one man who had been pushed so far to the brink of uncertainty that the risk of venturing out on his own seemed equivalent to staying at his corporate job.
At his most recent former employer, Andrew Ellenberg, now President & Managing Partner of Rise Integrated Marketing, was solidly positioned in his sweet spot, doing the best work of his career.
One of his most noteworthy accomplishments was when he recruited Karen Mills, a fledgling interior designer and corporate refugee from IBM, to host the nation’s first interior design radio show.
It ran for eight consecutive years and generated 400 hours of original programming. As the executive producer, Ellenberg engineered an exclusive partnership with HGTV to populate the show with their celebrity guests. He branded it Living Large, which landed in the media popularization section of Wikipedia’s interior design listing alongside Martha Stewart Living.
But after his employer acquired one of the industry’s most venerable brands, the culture changed. What was once a locally-driven operation came under the command of executive leadership, centralizing creative control at the national level.
No longer empowered to launch new initiatives without corporate approval, it became apparent that his best prospects were on the other side of the exit door.
When the pandemic hit, Ellenberg lost half his revenue and income overnight.
“Faced with the prospect of rebuilding my business for three to five years, I decided that I would never again risk my financial security and future career opportunities on a company that I didn’t control,” Ellenberg said.
In January of 2022, he launched Rise Integrated Marketing to help other former corporate executives who reinvented their careers as entrepreneurs develop and implement a content strategy for their new ventures.
Ellenberg knew he needed to create a brand that would break through the competitive clutter to establish his company as a powerful new voice in journalism and content marketing.
He quickly realized that he needed to focus on writing inspiring stories and building an audience of passionate fans. It didn’t take long for business leaders to notice the difference between the standard blog fare they saw in their newsfeeds all day and the quality journalism that Ellenberg was creating at his startup.
A higher purpose drove him to help other business owners and executives find their true calling and make their proverbial “dents in the universe,” his favorite quote from Steve Jobs.
The result is a young company making a name for itself as an early mover in defining the future of publicity, journalism, and content marketing.
Ellenberg moved quickly to carve out a clearly defined niche in the crowded integrated marketing space. He reached out to the media executives he worked with as a creative director for ABC and product manager for Bloomberg in New York.
After initiating fifty phone and Zoom interviews with former executives in less than four weeks, he identified significant gaps in the news business that his company could fill with clear and compelling differentiators that would be difficult to replicate.
Media companies on every platform were slashing news budgets. Hiring writers out of college, their news directors gave them “rip and read” assignments to recycle news. The majority of newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio stations generate almost no original long-form feature and trend stories.
This dynamic played right into Ellenberg’s strategy of creating original content and then syndicating it to his media distribution partners, helping them solve their news budget problem.
“When you approach a media company that has no budget for news and supply them with a turnkey content package, they run with it all the way to the bank,” said Ellenberg.
Semrush surveyed content marketers in 20 industries across 40 countries. It discovered that 78% of those who believe their content marketing was “very successful” in 2021 increased their budgets by 10% to 70% of their total marketing spend. In line with expectations, businesses are already pacing to invest $230 billion in content in 2022.
His company’s mission is to create quality content that entertains, informs, and motivates the audience to engage with its clients.
“In this noisy environment, competition for consumers’ attention is high. You either are the news and entertainment or the intrusion,” he said.
Ellenberg’s charismatic leadership style is collaborative, attracting a team of purpose-driven writers, graphic designers, and marketing technology experts. The company lives and breathes its “powered by your passion” slogan.
Interviews with clients confirmed that they view Ellenberg and his team as an extension of their own. They say he is building a “culture of engagement” that ensures every member shares a passion for the work and consistently delivers their A-game.
Ellenberg believes his primary role at Rise Integrated Marketing is driving innovation and growth by maintaining a relentless focus on solving his client’s problems.
When he discovered that many entrepreneurs and executives balked at the high costs of retaining a PR agency, he began to diagnose the causes of the pain they were experiencing.
The consensus was that traditional providers charge exorbitant fixed monthly retainer fees or hourly rates on a billable hour model like law firms.
A common theme was that clients felt their representatives had no incentive to keep generating media placements. As a result, performance inevitably deteriorated over time, prompting them to conduct a review for a new agency every two to three years.
They also expressed that they wanted to see more transparent performance metrics to do some simple division and calculate the average cost per placement on their total spend at the end of the month.
Dissatisfied clients needed a more digitally savvy content marketing partner who would collaborate with them to measure the impact on their traffic, engagement, brand recognition, visibility, and rank.
At this point, he had heard enough about the entrenched incumbents to launch a frontal assault on their Achilles heels. He hammered out the broad strokes of his business plan before the Sun rose the following day.
Ellenberg had crafted a new business model that would address the pain points in the industry and deliver a sustainable solution that makes relationships stickier. It consisted of two primary value pillars.
First, he would eliminate expensive fixed retainer and billable hour compensation by switching clients to a pay-for-performance plan. In this scenario, clients only pay for media placements after going live.
Second, he would itemize invoices to track each placement with a link and metrics so clients would know what they were getting for their money, even if they reviewed them years later.
Ellenberg branded the new service, InstaCred Journalist Services because it would create instant credibility for readers, editors, reporters, executives, and entrepreneurs.
Positioning his new brand as the future of publicity and content marketing, the Ellenberg marketing machine kicked into high gear on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
He hired a company to book appointments with prospective clients, capitalizing on his momentum. It was Overpass, the first vertical freelance marketplace for remote salespeople.
He was so impressed with the results that he cold-called Lavie Popack, the CEO of Overpass, to share his experience. In that first conversation, Ellenberg introduced InstaCred to Popack, who respected his strategic thinking.
He opened the conversation by saying that his clients are typically attracted to Rise Integrated Marketing because they are frustrated with the high cost of traditional public relations and content marketing agencies.
This approach resonated with Popack. All Ellenberg had to do was communicate how his solution addressed the issues on the table: pricing and performance.
The next morning, Popack sent him an email awarding him the Overpass account and he was up and running with his first client. The relationship has been a valuable learning experience. Ellenberg has his proof of concept, and Overpass has a viable solution to its PR problem.
“Clients love how we help measure ROI by matching content metrics back to the last mile of the prospect’s journey when they become a customer,” said Ellenberg.
A natural extension of InstaCred is custom publishing. Initially, Ellenberg launched SWOT Report, Abnormal Business Intelligence for Extraordinary Minds, to seed the market for his emerging journalism brand. But after he launched the first issue, his phone started ringing.
Business leaders in technology, real estate, home improvement, and finance were impressed with the product’s response on the LinkedIn Newsletter platform.
They called to find out if he could create a custom publishing product for their vertical. On April 15, 2022, Ellenberg launched Life In Style for Team Real Estate, brokered by eXp Realty, the largest publicly traded real estate company.
He rolled out Reinvention Stories with Douglas Nichole, an executive recruiter for technology executives, two weeks later.
His experience as a veteran executive at corporate media companies with a 30-year track record of creating innovative new products, forward-thinking initiatives, and marketing campaigns prepared him for his biggest challenge: being the owner of a disruptive startup.
Andrew Ellenberg is President & Managing Partner of Rise Integrated Marketing, a global management consulting firm specializing in original journalism for national distribution. To submit story ideas or inquire about his custom publishing services and syndication services, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-506-1257.
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