Busy, Just Not Publicly

Things have been kinda quiet around here. There certainly hasn’t been the kind of post volume I’ve come to expect from myself. Even the volume on Cinematic Slant has been down a bit as I focus on the Marketing Recap columns there. Yesterday I only published one post here, a Quick Takes link roundup, only narrowly avoiding a zero post day.

Looking at WordPress Insights, that’s only happened a handful of times in recent months. The most recent was in early July. All told in 2017 I’ve missed about a dozen weekdays without publishing even a single post here.

That’s not to say I wasn’t writing. It just wasn’t anything I wound up making public on this blog. Instead, here’s what I accomplished in that time (in addition to working a handful of retail shifts):

  • 700 words for a freelance assignment
  • A content calendar for a freelance client
  • Additions to a number of upcoming Marketing Recaps as I emptied Pocket of new trailers and stories to include in those posts
  • A half-dozen first paragraphs for posts I’m going to write over the next few days
  • Cleaning up and organizing my personal editorial calendar for the rest of the year
  • Kept working on Draft 3 of the novel I’m currently writing
  • Finally outlined three more ideas (novels? Short stories?) I’ve been mulling over
  • Fleshing out new feature ideas for here, Cinematic Slant and Medium

It may look like I’ve taken some time off. That’s not the case. Instead, I’m just working on other things and doing the best with a schedule this week that’s been less than ideal. It’s also a reminder that as much as I’m committed to living out loud here, there are times where I need to tend to the behind-the-scenes work that has long-term benefit (including getting paid) instead of holding myself to short-term pressures.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Expanded (Complete?) Agency Archives

Over the years I’ve been one of the primary writers for a number of corporate blogs for my employers. Those posts and articles represent a substantial portion of my professional portfolio and provide insights into what the prevailing conversations were at the time as well as how I viewed the blog medium and what I was doing with it.

Over the last week or so I’ve worked to make sure this site represented that history and experience as best as possible.

Bacon’s Blog

When I proposed the launch of a blog to Bacon’s Information, the Chicago-based media directory/monitoring service I worked for, blogging was still pretty new. I argued, though, that the company needed to have a voice in the growing world of self-publishing. Eventually, I was given the latitude to set up a TypePad blog (this is before WordPress was widely available and I thought Blogger might be a bit too low-tech) and give things a try.

While I got my hand-slapped a couple times, the effort overall was a success, I thought. It not only helped establish Bacon’s “new media” credentials but gave me a platform where I could write posts like this that responded to conversations about the company in a full and complete way. Monitoring blogs and keywords also allowed me to find situations, where people were upset with Bacon’s for some reason and reach out to them, leading to stories like this, were someone’s previous comments were retracted.

Unfortunately, Bacon’s deleted the blog a few weeks after I left the company since there was no one there who wanted to keep it going. Thankfully I archived all those posts and have republished them here for the sake of completeness.

MWW Group’s Open the Dialogue

When Tom Biro hired me at MWW Group in 2005, it was after we’d already been working together for a year or more. I’d been writing for AdJab and other Weblogs, Inc blogs in that time and Tom was the editor for AdJab and the two of us quickly developed a close working relationship via IM and other channels. Outside of that he was already a well-known media/marketing blogger, managing The Media Drop, a blog chronicling changes and updates in the media world. And he’d started Open the Dialogue, the official blog of MWW’s new media practice.

So when I came on board it was natural that I’d join him on that blog. Over the next two years we kept up a pretty steady cadence of writing there, each of us contributing as we had time, even if it was just one of our “LOTD” (Links of the Day) roundups of quick-hit stories we weren’t able to give more attention to. We live-blogged BloggerCon, BlogOrlando and more, reviewed books, weighed in on general industry conversations and more. Writing with Tom both there and at AdJab continues to be one of the highlights of my career, even outside of the incredible client work we pulled off.

Again, though, those archives were taken off the internet shortly after both of us left MWW in mid-2008. The site was redesigned and replatformed, which is why I’ve republished my posts, which I grabbed on my way out the door.

Voce/Porter Novelli/PNConnect

I wrote a lot in my time at Voce. Not surprising, given I was there for nine years. The Voce Nation Blog was already well-established when I got there thanks to the efforts and leadership of Mike Manuel, Josh Hallett, Nick Gernert and others. So I was honored not only to contribute but quickly become editor-in-chief of that blog, able to write my own stuff and manage the contributions of others. It was a great responsibility and one that I didn’t take lightly. After Voce was acquired by Porter Novelli I took over similar duties on that blog, as well as the subsequent PNConnect blog for the agency’s social media marketing practice.

While there are countless great things I did at Voce – check out my case studies for DC Entertainment and Sony Entertainment Network for just two examples – one thing I’m most proud of is the evolution of what would become a much bigger effort. At some point, probably in mid- to late-2009, I started sending weekly news roundups to the eight or nine folks within Voce Connect because not everyone read as extensively as I did. Eventually I realized that would make good blog content and so started publishing those roundups there. Years later that was formalized as PNConnect Weekly Reading, a weekly download on recent news that was first sent to the entire Porter Novelli network and then published as a public blog post.

Thankfully both Voce and PN have kept their blog archives alive, even if the activity waxes and wanes as time allows. While many of the posts are excerpted here you can read them in their entirety on the Voce, Porter Novelli and PNConnect sites. If that changes, I have the exports and can add the full posts here at a later date.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Two (More) Years of Movie Marketing

It’s been two years since I decided to relaunch regular posts about the world of movie marketing. Two years since I committed to doing this again after having taken almost three years off from doing so.

When I did so I was still employed full-time but thought my workload made maintaining marketing recaps as an ongoing feature feasible. That situation has obviously changed – I’m now freelancing full-time while also working a part-time retail job – but the overall workload hasn’t actually changed significantly. It’s just shifted to a different schedule, one that’s both more flexible and far less-so.

Part of the desire to restart what was then called Movie Marketing Madness but which has evolved into Cinematic Slant was that I felt there still wasn’t anyone providing any critical analysis of movie marketing. Just as in 2004 when I started this whole journey, lots of people (more than ever before) post and write about trailers and posters and other elements, but no one’s looking at it all with a marketer’s eye. That continues to be something unique I bring to the conversation.

Here’s to two another year and many more after that.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Introducing Cinematic Slant

It’s with no small amount of pride and enthusiasm that I introduce the world to Cinematic Slant. That site is going to be where I funnel most, if not all, of my movie-related writing. So that’s where you’ll find campaign review posts, film reviews and other news and opinion pieces about movies and other pop culture moments that make it into my radar. The plans there are ambitious, but an effort is being made to adhere to Daniel Burnham’s famous credo to “make no small plans.”

The site’s focus will grow and evolve but the initial thinking is to make it a substantial going concern on a number of fronts. Please consider subscribing either via email or RSS to stay up to date on what’s happening there. I’ll be linking to there from here for a while to gain some traction and attention, but eventually, movie-related items will live solely on that site.

So what does that mean for ChrisThilk.com? Well, it means I’ve also rethought the focus of this site as I try to make it more completely one that shows off my professional experience. This is the place that is and will continue to be the hub for my freelance operations, so the goal is to show that side of me off as fully as possible. There will be more coming soon and you’ll see the efforts of the new approach very soon.

As always, stay tuned for more.

How I Handle PR Pitches, Or: You Don’t Need To Be a Jerk About It

Since I’ve started writing for Adweek and The Drum I’ve been getting a lot more pitches from PR people. Some have been better than others but I’ve tried to consider them all and quite a few have wound up being super-relevant, resulting in stories for either of those outlets.

I’ve worked in PR-related positions for almost 20 years now and so know what goes on behind-the-scenes. While it’s been several years since I was actively engaging in media pitching, I remember those stress-inducing tasks. You try to find someone you think will like the story, you craft the best sales pitch you can and provide as much information and perspective as you can and then sit back and pray. You *are* judged based on results. How many hits? How many impressions? What’s the circulation or monthly site traffic? How important is this outlet?

Much of the responsibility for the actual pitching often falls to junior staff, mostly because their hourly billing rate is lower and so are more cost-effective to assign these kinds of tasks to. The higher-ups who are more expensive are busy overseeing things and setting strategy. And those junior staff are usually overbooked on projects, with four or five active accounts at any given time, all of which require 20 or more hours a week. That’s why burnout is so high at agencies.

Now that I’m on the other side of the interaction, I try to view all these efforts to get my attention with the knowledge of what’s happening on the other side of the email.

Recently I received a pitch for a marketing effort tied to one of this summer’s biggest releases, one the studio has a lot riding on. But while this particular tactic was interesting, it was incongruous with the rest of the movie’s campaign, taking a whole different approach to a certain aspect of the character than the trailers and press efforts. It seems like it would make good fodder for either The Drum or Adweek, but I knew I was going to point out some inconsistencies. I had two options to choose from:

  1. Write the story as I see fit. Thank the PR person, take their information and then call out the problems I had with it as it relates to the rest of the movie’s campaign.
  2. Tell the PR person what I was thinking. I might still write the story, but tell them why I might not and, if I do, what my perspective is likely to be.

It should be stated that I rarely write “mean” posts about how brands “just don’t get it.” Not never, but I try to avoid it as much as I can. There’s no upside for anyone in my taking that approach, even if it is a favorite among many of the big names in content marketing and one that dates back to the advent of marketing blogging. No, I’d be as constructive as I can be, but still, the tone isn’t going to be what this person’s client is looking for.

I’d hope it’s obvious I chose #2. I wrote back to the person thanking them for the information and saying it was an interesting tactic, but that it was way out of place when viewed in the context of the rest of the campaign. So I’d likely be passing on it unless she could provide a bit more information that helped inform me and which specifically addressed the disconnect. Her response was helpful and offered more information, but my skepticism ultimately remained and I told her unless I could come up with a constructive angle on it I’d be passing on the story, though would note it in my upcoming column on the movie’s whole marketing push. Fair enough, she agreed.

There’s nothing in it for me to burn this person, who’s only doing her (often thankless) job. An overtly negative story that hit out of left field would only have done some amount of damage to her in the eyes of her boss and others, who would question her judgment in reaching out to me for this effort. And I’m not getting any sense of superiority out of wagging my finger in remote judgment.

Instead, I hope, my honest feedback will hopefully be put to good use. Maybe the client will see that and realize that yes, as much as the effort was meant to achieve X goals through Y tactics, it’s out-of-sync with everything else going on. Maybe that will inform future press outreach. Maybe it will be used to evaluate future programs. Maybe the PR person I talked to will advance in her career because she was able to gather this kind of insight. Who knows.

There’s little to no margin in just being a jerk. It might be good for traffic to constantly be pointing out how other people suck and how you would never do such a thing if the company in question worked with you. But where does that leave you? I’d rather make a friend through some honest dialogue than an enemy by burning them in public.

Post Volume Decreases, Stats Drop. It’s That Simple.

About a month ago I was stressing out. There were a number of factors that were playing into my feeling that things were falling apart and I didn’t have time to get to everything I wanted to. As has been the case in the past, the first thing to be jettisoned was my commitment to this blog. I skipped a day here and there, barely publishing one post much less the thrice-daily cadence I aim for.

My daily traffic for the last month.

This stats chart reflects that. It is the perfect representation of “commitment” and the consequences for letting that flag. You can see the exact date when I didn’t have the time to publish anything. And when I did that week and the one that followed it wasn’t much, or it wasn’t very substantive. I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to hit my end-of-year goals, much less keep up the momentum I’ve managed to achieve since I started publishing regularly here almost two years ago now.

My monthly blog stats for the last 2.5 years.

When I saw these stats weren’t an aberration – there have been peaks and valleys before, of course – I reminded myself that you only get out of content marketing programs, which is what this is, what you put in. My goal here is not just to write about what’s interesting to me but also ultimately to make a name for myself find work, either full-time or freelance.

I’ve made some changes to my daily schedule that will get me back in the routine of publishing multiple (at least two) posts daily. That’s just necessary if I want to achieve certain things. Until then, those stats will stare at me accusingly, reminding me there’s value in maintaining consistent output, especially when those posts can speak to the audience.

I’m Here For Those Who Want More Email

As you hopefully know, you can already subscribe to an email version of Movie Marketing Madness (powered by TinyLetter) that will bring all the new columns straight to your inbox. I’ve been doing that for several months now and have seen slow but steady uptick in readership and engagement.

Well now I’m trying something new with a MailChimp-powered weekly newsletter called (tentatively) The Weekly Thilk. No, it’s not the best title in the world and will likely change, but it’s what I’m starting out with. The email, which I’m planning to send Fridays at 2 PM Central, will not only round up my own stuff – MMM, freelance posts etc – but also curated news from the worlds of content marketing and movie marketing. I’ve been trying to figure out something to do along these lines and have flirted with an email newsletter in the past, finally deciding to pull the trigger.

You can view the first edition that went out earlier today here and subscribe here if you’re interested. To be sure, this is going to evolve over time as I figure out what is and isn’t working both for me and whoever subscribes. But I’m hoping it will fill a niche need that some people may be experiencing.

Feedback is welcome, of course. Looking forward to people checking this out and hopefully finding some value in it.

The Motivation Behind Writing More Fiction

I have a notepad – two, actually – that contains the novel I’m working on. Draft one was done in Evernote but it’s…well…it’s a first draft. As soon as I finished it, the moment I typed the last period, I knew there were a multitude of problems with it, chief among them that it felt rushed. As I sought to revise it I found that editing on the computer just wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t focus on it. So instead of changing that draft I felt I’d leave it intact and go offline for the second pass. The experience has been drastically different. It’s more natural, it flows better and it just feels like a more cohesive story.

That novel is just one of a myriad of fiction I’ve been writing recently, mostly in the last year. You may have noticed I’ve been publishing at least some of that here, usually short stories of under 1,000 words, often spurred by a writing prompt of some sort or a funny scenario someone shared on Twitter. What’s odd is that it’s not really something I’ve done a whole lot of in the past, at least not since college.

But now I’m feeling the fiction muse flow through me more freely. It was like the first couple times I attempted it a cork was unstuck and now I’m drawn into more and more of it. Evernote may not be where I’m doing much drafting but it is being used to capture the scenarios and ideas I have for future stories.

Part of this too is just my wanting to stretch myself as a writer. I *like* writing fiction, there just haven’t been very many opportunities to do so in the last several years. Having some time recently, though, has taken that excuse or impediment out of the mix and I’m free to explore that a bit more.

I’m not going to claim to be a great fiction writer. I still struggle with making dialogue that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from an animatronic amusement park figure that was programmed using a script that was translated from English to Japanese and back again. That’s part of why I keep doing it, though, to get better at it.

The ultimate goals with this are three:

First: To finish the novel. That this is still not done is sitting there like a big open loop in my mind. I need to get it done and close the circuit so it’s not circling around my brain like a buzzard waiting for the wayfaring stranger to die so it can finally eat. I’m going to explore getting an agent and actually having this professionally published but if that doesn’t work out I will be working on self-publishing options.

Second: Just self-improvement. I don’t like not being good at a certain style of writing and so want to add this to the list of areas I can perform at a professional, reliable level at. This is part of why I’m publishing much of what I write, to show the work in progress and make it clear this is what I’m doing, it’s a part of the overall mix of my skills.

Third: Fiction capabilities make me more marketable. If I have a body of work I can point to, including published short and other stories then that’s one more component of my overall writing skills that can help me find a gig I might otherwise have passed by because there’s no chance I’m going to be considered.

Mostly, though, it’s just because it’s been kind of fun. It gets my brain moving in a different direction than Yet Another Op Ed On Movie Marketing/Content Marketing/Job Search. I understand that it may seem a little out of left field on this blog given that it’s not something I’ve written before and it may not be completely in line with making this a professional site that shows off what an Important And Serious Person I am. But, as I said, it adds a bit of spice to things and provides a bit more of a full picture into just the kind of creative and off-kilter mind it is at work here. I’d rather be true to myself and a bit weird than try to fit in and be boring.

HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification

Finally finished the course and now am HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certified.

2016 Movies Watched

Note: This doesn’t include any older movies I rewatched, just ones I saw for the first time in 2016.

  • The Trip to Italy
  • The Big Short
  • The Master
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Ex Machina
  • The One I Love
  • While We’re Young
  • Spotlight
  • Welcome To Me
  • Compliance
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Celeste & Jesse Forever
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  • The Iron Lady
  • Freeheld
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Truth
  • Our Brand Is Crisis
  • Chi-raq
  • House of Wax
  • Year One
  • The Rum Diary
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Suffragette
  • Rock the Kasbah
  • Pan
  • Crimson Peak
  • Special Correspondents
  • Somewhere
  • Don Verdean
  • London Boulevard
  • Little Black Book
  • Yosemite
  • Rubber
  • The Fundamentals of Caring
  • In Bruges
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • The Hunt For the Wilderpeople
  • Ghostbusters
  • Zootopia
  • Suicide Squad
  • Nasty Baby
  • Trumbo
  • Creative Control
  • Macbeth
  • Sing Street
  • The Angry Birds Movie
  • Moonwalkers
  • Elvis & Nixon
  • The Confirmation
  • Lamb
  • The Walk
  • John Wick
  • Last Night
  • Sunset Song
  • The Man From UNCLE
  • By the Sea
  • The Boss
  • Deadpool
  • Mascots
  • Big Eyes
  • I Give It A Year
  • The Late Bloomer
  • The Humbling
  • People Places Things
  • Price Check
  • Man Up
  • The Imitation Game
  • High Rise
  • Fruitvale Station
  • Sleepwalk With Me
  • The World’s End
  • Seeking a Friend For the End of the World
  • J. Edgar
  • Zoolander 2
  • Louder Than Bombs
  • Complete Unknown
  • Equals
  • Green Room
  • Dear White People
  • To The Wonder
  • This Is the End
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Yoga Hosers
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story