The first time I uttered the term “Engagement Marketing” was in the middle of a client pitch. I was trying to bring an online weekly column into existence, and came up with the phrase on the spot. I remember feeling pretty pleased.

After all, this was nearly a decade ago – long before “blog” was a word. At the time, pitching an online columnist – a humorous fictional character with a deeply irreverent bent named The Portal Guy – was a tough sell. Ultimately, we published several columns, but the portal project utlimately fell victim to corporate politics. (Read The Portal Guy here [.pdf alert]).

So OK, the Portal Guy died, but “engagement marketing” lives on. Large companies are rushing to embracing it (witness Nike’s “Joga” site for soccer fans), and the ROI looks brilliant.

So why aren’t more small and medium-sized businesses leveraging it? The technology’s easy. The concept is obvious. And competition is slim. What’s the problem?

It’s the content.

Few organizations have a staff position for “Engagement Content Generator.” And fewer still encourage authenticity in their marketing – a key element of engagement.

The goal isn’t to deliver traditional “interrupt” marketing content through new channels. It’s to demonstrate a commonality with your customers – making it clear you share their passions and values (exactly the point of “Joga”).

To most businesses – who practice what amounts to a semi-adversarial approach to marketing – authenticity and passion are the first victims of hype and corporatespeak (e.g. – dead Portal Guy). And nothing’s less engaging than a blog stuffed with PR and clumsy stealth marketing.

When you’re crafting a community, be authentic. Be passionate. Be engaging. Don’t let the Portal Guy die.