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Why I Love Chris Koch

October 12, 2010 , , ,

I’ve been following Chris Koch, blogger & B2B IT marketing strategist, for about a year and I read his weekly blog about 80% of the time—something I can’t say about many professional blogs that I follow. Koch writes for the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) as a paid intellectual in residence—and of course does a whole lot of evangelizing through his blog, related ITSMA publications and speaking events.

Here’s the thing about Chris (surely we are on a first-name basis after professing my love): he’s attracted thousands of loyal blog followers using a format that would make most marketers sweat.

Chris’s posts are usually over 1,000 words. (I am constantly reminding clients to keep their content short for terminally distracted readers.) He also uses blander than bland design for his blog, with few graphics of any kinds in his posts.

How is it that a long-winded, visually limp blog has captured the attention of so many (according to Koch, he has 300 people signing up for his blog every week)? Why is Chris Koch a content demi-god even while he breaks so many long-held rules?

Why is Chris Koch a True Thought Leader:

(1) As we say up here in Massachusetts, Chris Koch is wicked smart. But more than that, he is also very passionate about the topics he covers. This combination of uber-smarts and passion is toughest to find—and any organization that places a strategic focus on content marketing must identify and find ways to channel their smart + passionate experts. Whether content marketing is relegated to the marketing department or outsourced to a 3rd party, you still must make sure that the content is tightly tethered to your subject matter evangelists. Without smart, passionate SMEs, your content will not ring true and will be unlikely to achieve the desired echo-effect in social media circles.

(2) Koch doesn’t mind being controversial, such as when he weighed in on the uproar sparked by Forrester’s decision to ban personal blogs by Forrester analysts. Controversy is a tougher sell for organizations trying to build a following (after all, who wants to alienate a prospect). The important thing is this: content marketers must be willing to wrestle with their subject matter, seek out new information through rigorous research and intellectual curiosity, and then have a disciplined process to bring ideas forward. If you are too comfortable with what you are saying, chances are good that many others have said the very same thing before you (read: boring). See one of Koch’s blog entries deals with this subject (in 1,600 words… youch!): Thought Leadership Is Dead. Long Live Idea Marketing.

(3) Koch’s pedigree as a journalist (former Editor at CIO Magazine) is evident in the way he thoughtfully analyzes topics, methodically unpacks solutions, and engages his smart & influential readers. Want to know why journalists make first-rate content marketers? I blogged about this very topic for the Content Marketing Institute a few months ago.

(4) Koch’s writing style is smart with a touch of irreverence. Who says things like, “Trying and failing to dislodge the IT hairball?” Smart, after all, can sound boorish if a writer is wooden and pretentious. I can’t really articulate what separates boorish smart from engaging smart, but talking about IT hairballs has something to do with it.

What do you think? Who are your favorite thought leaders and why? Can you think of any other content rebels who are different—but very successful—at their craft?

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Hi Clare,

(You bet we’re on a first-name basis after this post.) I am terribly flattered (conflicted people who don’t know how to accept compliments use words like terribly in situations like this) by your post. In fact, after reading it, I felt a lump in my throat (or maybe a hairball)? Seriously, thanks very much for your kind words about my blog.

Now, as a former journalist, I have to clarify some of the facts in the story. Regarding the number of readers of my blog, I wish I was adding 300 a week. I think I was writing so *passionately* that week that I didn’t make it clear that I thought I had 300 readers *total* at that point. So I should have said I don’t know why 300 subscribers would read my blog each week. I’ve gone in and made that correction. If I understand Feedburner, which I’m not sure I do, I am now up to about 500 subscribers. Daily traffic averages 50-100 visits. So your readers should take my example with a grain of salt (or maybe an entire salt lick). In fact, maybe you’ll want to delete the whole thing.

Second, you’re clearly a lot smarter than me. I barely made it through a state school and you understand Melville.

Third, I’ve never been able to write much of anything below 1000 words (what am I at on this comment so far?) so my method is really more like madness.

Fourth, the only reason I was able to come up with “hairball” is because my cat was sitting on my lap at the time.

But I do agree with you that thought leaders that communicate on behalf of their companies must be passionate. If they aren’t able to make that passion come through in whatever channels they choose to communicate to customers in, then they should hire a fine writer like yourself to bring that passion for them. I also think that having an ugly blog like mine that is way far away from the corporate firewall creates a layer of separation between blogger and brand that allows you to be passionate and controversial while still protecting your brand (and your job).

So I guess my question at this point is, umm Clare, after all that I’ve told you, do you still love me?

Chris Koch

October 13, 2010

Chris: I still love you! The lower number of subscribers just makes me love you more since I can say, “I knew you when.” Thanks for the comments. I really do appreciate your blog for digging so deep and thinking through difficult issues and suggesting frameworks/processes that others of us can use to improve our services. I only work tangentially in IT (some of my clients are IT/financial services), but I find your advice to be applicable in all B2B consulting/service industries. I’ll keep trolling your blog but promise not become a creepy stalker! :) – Clare

soloportfolio

October 13, 2010

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