You must unlearn what you have learned

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.

Thought Leadership  |  Long Tail  |  New Rules of Marketing and PR  |  Buyer Persona  |  Public Relations  |  Marketing

When I first started writing The New Rules of Marketing & PR there was significant debate about "new." Is this stuff really new or is the title just a hook? Yes, I admit that the book title was partly chosen to help position the book and generate interest.

Brian Clark over at Copyblogger
was one of the first to jump in. Many people such as Brian asked: "Does marketing and PR on the Web really require 'new' thinking?"

More than ever, I am convinced the answer is "yes."

Robert Scoble, in his terrific foreword to The New Rules of Marketing & PR
suggests: "It's a new world you're about to enter... if you understand how to use it you can drive buzz, new product feedback, sales, and more." I couldn’t agree more, Robert.


Some recent discussion with my friend and colleague Steve Johnson helped to solidify ideas around 'new." Steve reminded me of this quote: "You must unlearn what you have learned." – Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back.

It can be really, really difficult to unlearn what you have learned. Which is way so many people have trouble implementing great online marketing & PR.

Don't believe me? How many spaces do you type after a period? It took me nearly a year to unlearn typing two spaces after a period. A year! Just to stop typing a space! Twenty-something years ago I learned the "old rule" - that you always type two spaces after a period. So I always typed two spaces until I started to write books and magazine articles. I was required to obey a new rule: One space only or manuscripts were rejected. Wow -- that habit was ingrained! Try making that little change yourself.


Old rule: Buy your way in with advertising

As marketing people, we've all learned rules that worked in the offline world. But to succeed on the Web using the new rules, old habits must be unlearned.

As Steve Johnson says, "Stop shouting BUY MY PRODUCT!" (people turn off overt advertising, especially online). You need to unlearn the marketing habit of constantly pitching your product. Instead create content to help people answer their problems.


Old rule: Beg your way in with PR

Your buyers are not nameless faceless metrics. They are people like you and me who want to consume valuable content.

You must unlearn the idea that media and analysts are the only ones who can tell your story. Instead, the web has made PR public again.


New Rule: Publish your way in with great content that your buyers want to consume.

> You must unlearn the use of gobbledygook about your products and services. Instead start from the problems and needs of your buyer personas.

> You must unlearn spin. Instead, understand that people crave authenticity and transparency.

> You must unlearn interrupting people with "messages." Instead, publish online content they want to consume.

> You must unlearn marketing to the masses. Instead understand who your niche buyers are and reach them with targeted Web content.

> You must unlearn being egotistical and trying to force people to adapt to your terms. Instead create online content that addresses buyer problems.

> You must unlearn the assumption that you must buy access. Instead, create something that goes viral and let millions of people tell your story for you.

> You must unlearn the idea that the "clip book" is the only way to measure your communications efforts. Instead, consider how you can reach people directly.

> You must unlearn the idea that "leads" are the only way to measure your marketing efforts. Instead, consider how you are engaging your buyers and building a position as a trusted resource.