The more things change…

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

I spoke at the International Newsletter & Specialized-Information Conference yesterday. My friend Debbie Weil, author of the eagerly anticipated Corporate Blogging Book (due out in August) and I delivered a tag-team presentation called "Using Content to Sell Content: How blogs, RSS feeds, Podcasts, & Wikis can generate PR, traffic, and sales." Debbie is a great blogger and it was fun to present with her. We had traded emails and blog links for years but had never met.

Austin Kiplinger was one of the featured speakers and I was fascinated by his talk. I always think how amazingly fast things change: the web, podcasts, blogs. But hearing someone with vastly more experience in communications and marketing speak reminds me that while technology has certainly come a long way, we’re still just communicating and marketing.

Austin Kiplinger graduated from college in 1939, then became a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and served as a naval aviator in the Pacific during World War II. Television news was in its infancy when Kiplinger jumped to the new medium to cover politics for NBC and ABC and did the first TV show on business news. In 1961 he succeeded his father as editor-in-chief of the Kiplinger Letter, launched in 1923, the longest continually published newsletter in the United States. In 1947, Kiplinger's created the nation's first personal finance magazine.

"For 80 years, the medium has changed," Kiplinger said. But he went on to say as radio, TV, and online become mainstream, good journalism was still about telling stories and reaching an audience. "We have always sold via direct marketing," he explained. Kiplinger’s father sent personal letters to influential people to solicit subscriptions when he first launched his newsletter in the 1920s.

I learn a great deal about marketing and communications from the veterans. The marketing tools of today, email marketing, web sites, press releases, and blogs are natural extensions of communications tools used for decades.