Iron Road: Business Storytellers
The customer is the hero of your story
Good marketing inspires, educates, informs and motivates action.
In 2004 Colin Kennedy launched Iron Road on the back of his experience in journalism, copywriting, sales and marketing. The company initially started out offering only public relations.
“I had an idea (literally in the shower) that I could probably get more client stories into the media if l included an educational component to the press releases I was putting out. It was a way to add value; to give in order to receive and it remains a powerful technique to this day.
“The primary job of the media is, after all, to inform, entertain and educate…”
Fillers add value
Print media was still big and Colin knew from experience that it wasn’t unusual for advertisements or stories to be pulled at the last minute, leaving a hole in the publication. When that happened, journalists resorted to ‘filler stories’ (content that isn’t a priority and does not date) to plug the holes. Often it was a scramble to find something suitable.
“I started writing client stories that highlighted an issue and then offered some education on what could be done to prepare for, mitigate or solve the problem. I would clearly mark the press release: ‘For when you need a filler…'”
Journalists reacted positively and the media success rate skyrocketed. In addition the the media releases supported the website content writing services Iron Road offered because getting your name, brand or links published in high authority media also helped put clients on page one of Google’s search results.
The customer as hero
The media always puts the audience first. That’s why they get the traction that they do. Good marketing is good storytelling and good storytelling makes the customer the hero of the story – his or her triumphs, struggles, problems, questions and issues.
Start there and you’ll have no trouble building an audience.
The content marketing journey starts
In about 2006/2007 Colin realised that the content Iron Road was creating was as good as any that a journalist produced. He also knew that emerging channels like Facebook, blogs, Flickr, YouTube, Reddit and Twitter (among others) made it possible for brands to publish directly to their audience – namely, relevant, topical, educational content that helped solve problems instead of trying to just sell stuff.
In 2008 Colin read ‘Get Content, Get Customers’ by Joe Pulizzi and realised that what Iron Road was doing was called Content Marketing. “I immediately bought the URL contentmarketing.co.nz which I held for many years,” he says.
The rise of brand journalism
The work that Iron Road was doing evolved further when Colin, leaning on his journalism skills and experience, started interviewing third party experts, clients and suppliers on behalf of clients and publishing those as independent stories.
“For example, we were doing some work for Primary ITO (the primary industries training organisation). One of the realities of the primary sector is seasonal work and an issue that arises for employers is how to keep seasonal workers engaged.
“I found there was a book by a bestselling author in the United States, where seasonal work is every much an issue in California. In the book he talked about examples from Disney and agricultural companies over there. I called him up and did an interview on behalf of Primary ITO, which they were able to share with their audience.”
Including third party, independent expertise in a client’s content is called Brand Journalism.
Inbound marketing enters the mix
In essence however, content marketing, brand journalism, public relations… are all disciplines of marketing and related to clients need build a brand, persuade an audience or sell products and services online. The emergence of inbound marketing was a giant leap in the right direction.
Having followed HubSpot for years, Iron Road initiated contact with the global giant in 2013 and so began the agency’s works in the Inbound Marketing space
In this way, Iron Road has evolved as a storyteller that integrates a variety of disciplines to tell stories in a very unique way – public relations, copywriting, brand journalism, content marketing, inbound marketing, social media – together all these disciplines make for some very unique and compelling brand storytelling.
How does Iron Road get its name?
“My father worked for the railways,” says Colin Kennedy, founder of Iron Road. “So every year we had free tickets to travel by train, and at other times tickets were a third of normal price. It meant I spent a lot of time on trains. I especially loved the old steam engines.”
Iron Road is of course a colloquialism for ‘railway lines’. It was the advent of rail that revolutionised industry. In essence, railway lines were the first real sophisticated lines of communication that built business as we know it today.
That’s what Iron Road does. We build business through communication.
The Iron Road Philosophy
Stories move hearts and minds
People connect with people better through stories. Ultimately, every buying decision is an emotional decision — win the heart and the mind will follow. There is not more powerful way to touch the heart through storytelling.
Your customer is always the star of the show
Bruce Springsteen once said rock stars would never die so long as there were people in an audience imagining that it was them put there wowing the crowds.
This illustrates that even when people go to watch a rock concert, they are the stars of the show (not the performer).
If you want to engage your audience, make the stories about them. Not you.
Audiences want leadership
People want and need leadership because they know that they don’t know what they don’t know. People gravitate to leaders who are clear, confident and visible.
That is why thought leadership – the ability to predict, anticipate, advise and educate – in a way that is relevant to the audience, leads to liking, trust and business.
To be a thought leader, be visible, be relevant, timely, topical and always add value through education.
Give to receive.