Monday, October 5, 2015

Heavy Metal Passion Beats in the Heart of Content Marketing

If you’re into rock and heavy metal concerts, the following excerpt will make total sense to you. If not, keep reading. It’ll all make sense soon.

As I wiped the dirty sweat and blood from my eyes and brow, I gazed around at the rest of the moshers in the pit with whom I’d shared the last forty-five minutes of physical chaos, forever bonding with those who also beamed with pride and sonic satisfaction….We looked like we had emerged from the trenches of a desert war, having just survived a fury of colliding bodies and flailing limbs, animated by the sounds of Black Label Society. Our union was much more than that of ordinary fans. We were Berserkers.
-       Eric Hendrikx, “Bringing Metal to the Children”

Ok, that may scare some of you (not guys like Jason Miller, Mike Hale and Mael Roth!) and it may be a bit of an extreme vision, but I use it to illustrate the passion of heavy metal fans. Zakk Wyle and Black Label Society have their Berserkers. Aerosmith has their Blue Army, Kiss’s Kiss Army, Sammy Hagar’s Redheads, Grateful Dead’s Deadheads, Jimmy Buffet’s Parrotheads … we like our armies and heads.

I’ve met many people at concerts and standing in line for hours to get tickets. (Remember camping out overnight to get concert tickets?) Complete strangers with diverse backgrounds, we’d talk for hours to pass the time. The heavy metal community is accepting of all. In fact, a recent study by the International Society of Self and Identity shows that those who were heavy metal fans growing up “were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college age youth comparison groups.” This is due to the sense of being included in the heavy metal community and having people who understand you and what you’re going through growing up.

Where am I going with this? Rock stars have fans…not exactly a news flash. Well, think about it without the reference to heavy metal. Does it sound familiar? Especially if you were at Content Marketing World, it should. The content marketing community is very similar to the heavy metal community. Both are incredibly strong and supportive groups. Here’s why:
  • We are the outcasts and rebels: Heavy metal fans have always had the stereotype of being the outcasts who rebel against authority. There’s an air of danger, evil and trouble. We don’t fall in line with the accepted norms. In most cases, these perceptions were based on face value without taking the time to understand us or the music.

    In content marketing, we’re also looked at as the outcasts of the marketing industry who cause trouble with different thinking. “Authority” figures don’t understand content marketing, so they dismiss it without actually learning how it might just benefit them. It doesn’t fall in line with traditional marketing tactics, so it’s ignored or barely supported.

  • We share a bond with others in our community: Heavy metal fans share a bond through the love of the music. We’ll strike up conversations easily because we can relate to the music. We share different stories about our favorite bands, concerts we’ve been through, and even life experiences where music played a role.

    Content marketers share the same type of bond for our love of content marketing. We might call it “networking”, but we can quickly find commonality in our struggle to implement content marketing and issues we deal with. We share stories of strategies that worked for us, how we try to influence our bosses and executive teams, and genuinely try to help each other succeed.

  • We spread our message to anyone who will listen: There’s nothing heavy metal fans like better than to turn someone on to a band they love. Music is meant to be shared. These days, it’s easier with social media and digital music. Years ago, you’d vote for your favorite video on MTV (remember when they showed videos?) and record tapes for your friends to check out a new band.

    As content marketers, we share articles and blog posts. We tell everyone we can about our favorite books and podcasts. We support thought leaders by sharing their content and by creating content based on their thoughts.

  • We flock to see them in person: When we hear our favorite band is playing in our town, we rush to get tickets. For those two hours or so, you’re locked into the band. It always ends before you want it to, as you know they won’t be back for at least a year, maybe two, maybe never (catch every farewell tour you can).

    Most of us are only able to go to one marketing conference per year. We find the one that we think is the best (in my case, Content Marketing World here in Cleveland!). I look at conference more like festivals because you get a collection of the best speakers at one time in one place. Think of Content Marketing World as Woodstock, only they’re able to do it bigger and better every year. Instead of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker, we have Joe Pulizzi, Jay Baer, Ann Handley and Scott Stratten. As a result, people come to Cleveland from all over…more than 50 countries this year!
  • We dress for the occasion: Heavy metal shows are a sea of jeans (how Aerosmith’s Blue Army got its name), rock T-shirts, and maybe a little leather. Even now that many of us our older (a little…), we have our concert gear.

    For Content Marketing World, there’s just one word: orange. Thanks to Joe Pulizzi’s love of all things orange, we all don our favorite orange items…all the way down to our shoes in some cases. I always wonder what the average Clevelander thinks when they see so many people wearing orange for 2-3 days in September, especially when it doesn’t say “Cleveland Browns” on it anywhere.
Well, there it is. We, content marketers, are our own community. An incredibly strong, supportive fraternity that is doing great things. One worthy of a name. The Orange Army? That seems a little too easy. CM Heads? It rhymes…kind of. What do you think? We need something that will stick and, just like the term “content marketing,” will define and unify who we are! I can’t wait to hear your suggestions! Tell us below.

Related Articles:
3 Foo Fighters Experiences that Marketers Should Strive For
Marketing and Branding the Sammy Hagar Way
When Rock Music and Content Marketing Collide
What Can Keith Richards Teach You About Marketing Influencers?

Image Sources: BenThereDoneThath via Flickr (license CC 2.0)
Keami Hepburn via Flickr (license CC 2.0)
SunriserJay via Flickr (license CC 2.0)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inspiration and Motivation Delivered at Content Marketing World 2015

Note: This post originally appeared on the PR 20/20 blog

It’s hard to believe that Content Marketing World has come and gone for another year. It seems to fly by faster each year. But, as always, there was a ton of information packed into my two days (I didn’t attend any workshops). It’s no wonder that we all leave inspired, motivated … and a bit dazed. It's the perfect opportunity (especially for Cleveland marketers since it's local) to ask questions of the experts and learn the right ways to incorporate a content marketing strategy in your business. 
With so many tracks and speakers to choose from, the key takeaways really are a bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The difference here is that whichever adventure you took led to a great outcome. 
That said, there were a few overarching themes that emerged throughout the main keynote presentations and were reinforced in many breakout sessions. Following up from #CMWorld, below are what I found to be the most interesting keys to success in the future of content marketing.

The past, present and immediate future of content marketing.

The title of Content Marketing World 2015 was “Bright Lights Big Content” with a nod to some of Hollywood’s best movies. A lofty title to live up to, but in true Content Marketing Institute (CMI) fashion, they exceeded all expectations. How? They started by premiering their own movie on the history of content marketing, The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing
This 43-minute documentary weaves some of the most extraordinary content marketing case studies with commentary from some of the top thought leaders in the space (such as CMI-ers Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, as well as Jay Baer, Ann Handley and Andrew Davis to name just a few). For those that still don’t understand what content marketing is, just show them this film.
If that wasn’t enough of a history lesson, and for those that have asked why Content Marketing World is held in Cleveland, Joe Pulizzi’s (@joepulizzi) opening presentation included a thorough explanation of Cleveland’s historical importance in publishing and, subsequently, content marketing. This included how the unifying term “content marketing” was established.
Pulizzi then transitioned to the current state of content marketing. He used Gartner’s Hype Cycle to illustrate the adoption curve of most new technologies and where content marketing sits on the curve today (see photo to the right). Doug Kessler (@dougkessler) wrote an article that analyzes this much better than I can, but the quick version is that things are going to get tougher with content marketing in the immediate future.

Without the struggle, there can be no progress.

According to the model, we’re past the initial hype of content marketing and realities are setting in. One of the biggest struggles in implementing content marketing strategies is the understanding that it’s a long-term play that requires patience. Many marketing leaders abandon the practice when they don’t see quick results.
According to Pulizzi, we’ll likely start seeing some of the greatest failures in content marketing. But, we’ll also see some of the greatest successes for those that stick with their programs. “Without the struggle, there can be no progress,”Pulizzi pointed out.
How will we progress? Pulizzi previewed a few stats from the upcoming annual research report from CMI (@CMIContent) and MarketingProfs (@marketingprofs):
  • Companies that have a documented strategy are 4x more effective.
  • Companies that have an editorial mission are 3x more effective.
  • Companies that have clear success metrics are 3x more effective.
  • Companies that have a content marketing budget are 2.5x more effective.

We don’t need more content marketers … we need passion! 

Jay Baer (@jaybaer) got our attention when he said, “We don’t need more content marketers.” As time goes on, we’re all getting better at content. We’re hearing the same messages, learning the same best practices and attending the same marketing conferences,. 
So, how do you stand out when we’re all churning out the same type of content? Passion.
Passion separates the good from great; passion will set you apart.
Baer uttered the question that became the biggest theme of the conference: Are you making content, or are you making a difference? We are in a position to make a difference with our content. It’s up to us to do it.

Create the least amount of content for the maximum return. 

Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson) believes that we’re struggling with content marketing. Why? Because we assume content will solve all of our problems. So we create more and more. Our content marketing strategy should start with answering “Why.” The strategy then acts as the guardrails to keep our content in line.
We don’t have to be everywhere doing everything. We want to say yes to everything, but Halvorson stressed that there is a power in saying no. We need to learn how to make great choices and to focus with our content. Another theme, originated by Robert Rose (@Robert_Rose), was the idea that we should create the least amount of content to get the highest return.

Focus on the valleys.

Andrew Davis (@TPLDrew) extended the “less is more” idea to content distribution. We’re addicted to chasing data spikes. This drives what he called the “vomit content distribution strategy,”in which we promote our content everywhere at the same time.
The problem is that we’re focused on the wrong goal. Davis said, “Our content marketing strategy is not defined by the height of our peaks. It’s defined by the depth of our valleys.” Build momentum that will smooth out the graph into an overall upward trend. 
Do this over time by focusing on one channel at a time. He advises leveraging the half-life, or the time it takes for the audience’s interest to fall to half of its peak value. In other words, monitor the growth of interest. You’ll see it plateau and then fall (see photo below). Once you get to the half-life point, start your promotion with the second channel following the same pattern. Follow this until you run through all of your channels or you no longer see growth.

Make a difference.

Joe Pulizzi repeated Jay Baer and challenged all of us: Make a difference. He believes that we’re in a unique position to change the world in a way that others aren’t. Many sessions explored how to create difference-making content. Here are just a few examples:
  • Ann Handley (@AnnHandley): Tell bigger, braver, bolder stories. The biggest missed opportunity in marketing is in playing it too safe.
  • Scott Stratten (@unmarketing): Don’t be first. Be right first. Ethics still matter. Stand up for what’s right in business.
  • Jay Acunzo (@jay_zo): Everyone can create content, but does your audience want to consume it? In an effort to create more “stuff,” don’t take shortcuts. Ask yourself what story you want to tell, not the result you want to see.
  • Rajiv Chandrasekaran (@rajivscribe): Good stories come down to fascinating characters, compelling human experiences and setting the proper context. Above all, be authentic.
  • John Cleese (@JohnCleese): Embrace your unconscious mind. Break away and get some space. Get past the thoughts that consume your mind and ideas will come. Return to your analytical mind to figure out which ideas are great and worth pursuing. Cleese summed it up with, “It’s getting harder and harder to do these days…but good luck anyway!”
What inspired you the most? What takeaways are you going to implement first? To echo Pulizzi’s challenge, how are you going to make a difference? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Behind the Writing: How to Defeat Writer’s Block

How to defeat writer's block

Oh, writer’s block…you come in many forms! You usually associate writer’s block with staring at a blank page with no idea what to write. In this case, I had the outline, the hook, the resources and everything else in my head. But, it wasn’t translating to the page the way I was envisioning it. To help you avoid what I went through, I’m taking you behind the writing for a look at how I defeated writer’s block.

This example comes from my blog post for PR 20/20 (@pr2020), Are You Experienced? Ushering a New Marketing Era like Jimi Hendrix. The post reviewed Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing by Robert Rose (@Robert_Rose) and Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson). I loved the book and the angle I was taking, so couldn’t wait to write it. Now it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t get it written the way I wanted. So what did I do? I thought, “What would Ann do?”

By Ann, I’m referring to Ann Handley (@annhandley). I mentioned in my review of her book Everybody Writes that I’d be referring back to it often. I used her steps here to get through the block. Below are the specific steps that were most helpful.

Writer's Block

Follow Your Writing GPS

I was following the writing GPS to focus my thoughts and to create the outline. I knew where I was going and which points I wanted to hit on the way. The issue was in the journey itself. I had the pit stops, just not the road to get to each place, so it was coming across stiff and robotic.

I decided to continue on with the draft with just getting down the facts that I had in my outline. I figured if I could at least get those on the page, it might help me figure out the transitions.

The Ugly First Draft

I got the facts down and all the pieces of the outline. Then, I wrote the intro (rewritten three times) and the transitions between sections. This truly was an ugly first draft. It was a little better than when I started, but just didn’t have the personality that I wanted. Something was still missing.

The post’s main hook was the similarities between Jimi Hendrix and Experiences. The each ushered in a new era of guitar and marketing, respectively. It finally hit me that I used the comparison in the intro of the post, but that was it. I went back to each segment of the post and added in further comparisons back to Hendrix. Finally, it was starting to come together.

Use a Great Editor

At PR 20/20, we have a review process for editing and I trust any of my co-workers to review my writing. I submitted the first draft for review. I included a quick note of some areas to focus on that I still wasn’t overly happy with.

To my surprise, it came back with only a few edits and a note on how much she liked the post. That gave me a bit more confidence that I was closer than I thought to publishing.

Set a deadline

I followed Ann’s advice to set a deadline to have it completed by the next day. I had already spent a lot of time putting the piece together and I could have spent a ton more time. I needed to limit how much longer I would take fixing things. I read over it a few more times and made a few more edits, and that was it.

Publish It

I was happy with the final draft, published it and promoted it on social media. Soon after, I received nice comments from both Carla Johnson and Robert Rose. It doesn’t get much better than that.

For whatever reason, even with being prepared, this was one of the tougher posts to write. But, by going back to the basics and following Ann’s steps, it turned out well. If you’re ever experiencing writer’s block, just follow her advice in Everybody Writes.

How do you get past writer’s block? Do you have a different process? Share it in the comments below. Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends.

Photo Credits:
First: via Sharon Drummond (CC 2.0)
Second: via Peter Alfred Hess (CC 2.0)