Making a WordPress Media Corps

In my Big Picture post from January, one of the major obstacles I mentioned was our stagnating growth. To me, our first order of business to tackle this problem is to get a coordinated marketing push underway and despite significant effort we have not been able to do that. I acknowledge that there is blame to share, and I’m sure no one wants to argue process nonstop. The requests made by the Make Marketing team over the years are clear:

  • Influence over the product roadmap
  • Influence over brand standards
  • Influence over marketing strategy
  • Marketing budgets
  • Direct access to or more influence over official WordPress properties

With the exception of the possibility to influence marketing strategy through normal feedback/proposal review processes, these are not requests that I am able to fulfill for a variety of reasons from logistical to philosophical. However, I do want to find a way for this team to feel that their contributions are more impactful and, by extension, have a more meaningful contributor experience here.

Given that I cannot offer you the type of access and resourcing that a dedicated marketing team needs, I believe it is time to change the scope of the work. Since it’s become clear that we (sponsored and volunteer contributors alike) cannot collaborate effectively to market on our client’s (WordPress’) behalf, I would like to enable folks who are marketing independent of us to be able to do so with more confidence and less effort.

A WP Media Corps

It has long been the case that WordPress’ most successful marketing has been chalked up to word of mouth, but our substantial network of WP media partners has never been included in any definition of that. I know that we rely on outlets like WP Tavern Jukebox, Underrepresented in Tech, Do the Woo, Gutenberg Times, and countless others to get our information out to users of every variety. And for all these years, they’ve had to know the right people and read the right stuff to get accurate and up-to-date information into their content for their audiences.

I would like to enable their independent marketing to be of excellent quality with less chasing of people by creating a Media Corps which can be managed through this team.

What does that look like?

From a high level, this would mean weekly or bi-weekly media corps meetings where qualified media partners would receive highlights on progress toward project goals, a list of upcoming dates to know, and any future items on the horizon that they should keep an eye out for.
A qualified media partner would:

  • have 80% WP content
  • have high quality journalism/writing
  • follow WordPress community guidelines
  • honor embargoes
  • etc.

The work of Make Marketing would encompass:

  • For anyone wanting to participate in this new concept, the contributions are around managing the media room (recruiting, vetting, and coordinating media folks, etc).
  • For anyone still wanting to provide written content, the contributions are around our current growth area: enterprise clients and deciders. So, content on /showcase and /enterprise.
  • Sponsored contributors will host the media corps meetings until we sort out cadence and process.
  • Stretch: help us monitor trends and/or identify which features need a stronger marketing push.
  • Stretch: spin up a companion property to that focuses on users.

What about the current tasks and projects we’ve got?

It’s been my experience in WordPress that when we close things as wont-fix it is heartbreaking. Even when we understand that we can’t fix it because of intractable problems, closing something without movement registers in the “loss” column of our mental tracking.

  • For those tickets that can’t move forward because of access or control that I cannot provide, it makes sense to put them in the ice box at least and come back to them when the situation seems more flexible.
  • For those tickets that can move forward based on what is currently available, let’s triage down to the most impactful few and close those out while we’re getting the media corps ramped up.
  • For tactical execution of existing campaigns, the sponsored contributors will continue that work.

What if I don’t like this plan?

This solution doesn’t offer any of the direct access our current team wants, but it does give a considerable amount of power to groups who already have curated audiences and have much more autonomy (and budget) to market on WordPress’ behalf. It also gives us a better chance of having clear and consistent information being communicated on behalf of the project. And finally, it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the years of work that the WP media folks have already put in to our collective success.

It’s not a full set of wins, but I think the wins balance the losses if we keep an eye on the stated goals and obstacles I outlined in January. And if this is not what you were signing up to contribute to, if you can find a way to see that this has the potential to solve some problems that WordPress has, even though it doesn’t solve all the problems Make Marketing has, I encourage you to whole heartedly join this experiment. If you can’t, fortunately there are many other teams where you might find your niche!

Let’s Talk

This is a dramatic shift. I want you all to be able to ask any questions you have to see if this is an experiment you can participate in. You can ask them asynchronously in the comments, or I will be answering questions synchronously today in #marketing at 9am CDT and 6pm CDT (1400 UTC and 2300 UTC).