Friday, September 16, 2016

Content Marketing World Strikes Back: The Commitment

It was bound to happen. We've dragged our feet for too long. We knew it was coming, but did he have to do it so publicly? In front of 3,600+ Content Marketing World attendees, Joe Pulizzi gave us an ultimatum: 

Fully commit to content marketing and go all in...or get out.

Many stated, "We're taking our first steps." To which Robert Rose chimed in, "You've been taking your first steps for the last six years!" Wow...has it been that long? Well, we've been doing what we can, haven't we? Where's this all coming from?

Joe said, "20%."

20%? What does that mean?

Joe explained the soon-to-be-released research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs revealed one glaring stat. Only 20% of respondents said they were fully committed to a content marketing strategy. That means 80% aren't all in. This leads to mediocre content...or worse. And that's when Joe said this:

The crowd let out a gasp as that sentence sank in. He went on to explain that the 20% are:

  • Most successful.
  • Able to measure their ROI.
  • Most clear on what defines success.
What are they doing that the rest are not? It's all the things we've heard for the last six years:

  • Focus on one audience with one message.
  • Tell a different story.
  • Be consistent over time.
  • Build value outside the products and services you offer. 

Joe understands what happens if you don't go all in. His first company Junta42 didn't make it. It wasn't until he fully committed that we saw the launch of Content Marketing Institute. And you've seen the results!

And then he said, "It's time."

Suddenly, the lights started flashing. Something was happening. Joe was transforming into...Morpheus? (Yeah, I know the theme is Content Strikes Back, so why the Matrix reference? Just stay with was a whole sci-fi theme.) The spotlight shined down on Joepheus (see what I did there?) as he extended his hands. In each palm was a pill, one orange and one blue.

He said "Choose the blue pill and your story ends here. Choose the orange pill and stay in a content marketing wonderland. Experience how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Mind. Blown. Those of you who were there know. If you weren't, that's a close rendition of what happened. I may have enhanced a couple of things here and there, but you get the point.

As you can gather from my retelling of Joe's keynote, "commitment" was the major theme this year. It was a recurring subject in many.

After last year's "Trough of Disillusionment," this seems to be a logical step forward. Now, with realistic expectations, we can re-commit to our content marketing strategy.

Commitment to Content Marketing

That's not to say getting your company to buy into content marketing is going to be any easier. Enter Robert Rose's session "Content Marketing Is Broken: Here's How to Fix It and Tie It to Real Business Results." It was a retelling of the origin story of content. I can't do it justice here. You really had to see it, but I'll go over the highlights.

Companies don't want to do content marketing for the following reasons:

  • There's too much content and we can't stand out.
  • It costs more than ads.
  • It's too slow.
  • We can't be different.
  • We can't tie it back to revenue.
What these companies don't understand is that content marketing is not a super-charged campaign. It's not a campaign at all. It's not another piece of marketing collateral. It's different. The goal isn't consumption. It's to create a "subscribed audience." That subscribed audience is what offers value back to the company. 

And guess what? It's not easy. In fact it's hard, especially when we already have too much on our plates. So how do we do it? With these two steps:

  1. Start with the end: Understand your business goals and align your content strategy to reach them. Design your measurements to your specific strategies. There are no templates as we all have our own goals and strategies.
  2. Figure out what you can STOP doing: Question why your current projects are important and if they'll help reach your goals. Stop doing those that are ineffective. Focus on creating the content that will build the audience that will take your company to where it wants to go.

Commitment to Quality

Creating less content was a theme at last year's Content Marketing World. It emerged again this year with more force and elaboration. It requires a heavier focus on quality. Understanding WHY you're creating the content can help you make it more impactful.

Here are examples of how three of the keynote speakers are accomplishing this:

  • Lars Silberbauer, LEGO Company, Ltd.: LEGO understands why they're in each of the channels in which they engage. Everything they post and publish addresses only two themes:
    • Building together.
    • Pride of creation.
           Through this laser focus, LEGO engages with their customers and inspires their creativity. They receive billions of social media views every year. And, their fans create 20 times the amount of content that LEGO publishes. Silberbauer says this is what makes the difference.

  • Ann Handley, MarketingProfs: Handley took us a year into the future to show us the key to content success in 2017. Simply put, SLOW DOWN at key moments. Marketing is impatient, but slowing down allows you to focus. Ask yourself these three questions:
    • So what?: Keep asking "so what?" and answering "because..." until you get to the essence of your content. Ask and answer from the customer's perspective. Why will they care?
    • Wait, what?: This helps you align on your WHY before the HOW.
    • Does this sustain us?: Are you proud of what you're creating? This question helps you to say "no."
  • Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media: Armed with a treasure trove of data, Crestodina showed how to achieve the most engagement. Create content with:
    • Strong opinions.
    • Original research.
           He emphasized using your blog to be the best answer to your customers' questions. Strive to create the best page on the internet for your topic.

Commitment to Relevance

We've all talked about creating relevant content. In this case, we're talking about the platforms and distribution methods you use. Are your delivery methods relevant to your audience? Are you using tools that your customers use or just the latest gadgets?

While Ann Handley took us a year into the future, Scott Stratten wants us to focus on being good at 2003! By that, he means we need to write better emails, create smart websites, and put usability back in the forefront.

We shouldn't jump on every new technology just because it's out there. We hurt our brand when we use the wrong methods or make mistakes with the channels. Stratten says (as only he can), "Content marketing should not be a training bra. We should not just try things in content marketing."

Examples of tools we should only use if they are relevant to our audience include:
  • Live video: It's unforgiving and people are awkward.
  •  360-degree video/augmented reality/virtual reality: Does your product need a 360-degree view of it? If not, don't do it.
  • Pop-Ups: They're so annoying that Google will be penalizing sites that use them.
  • Instagram: Be sure to differentiate yourself and that your branding is clear.
  • Newsjacking: Make sure there is a true tie-in to your brand so you don't create a public relations nightmare.

Podcasting is another tool that continues to increase in popularity. There are some excellent examples of marketers doing it right. Mitch Joel and Jay Baer believe brands have the potential to create the top podcasts in their industries. 

Baer says that out of all the platforms he uses, podcasting is the most powerful.

To be successful, Baer says your show must be the favorite of at least a subset of your audience. Joel breaks down three factors, in which you need to have at least one to capture attention:
  • The Host: Does anyone know who you are and/or care?
  • The Guest: Start with relevant people you know and with whom you have a comfort level. They can help you look good.
  • The Content: Are you offering useful information your audience cares about?

Commitment to Yourself

Find Your Punchline

This year, one keynote speaker caught most of us off a good way. Comedian Michael Jr. kicked off Thursday morning with a comedy set that was more than we expected. He explained the mechanics of a good joke. The setup is using your talents and resources to move your audience in one direction. The punch line is an unexpected turn in the other direction.

He equated the setup to our WHAT and the punch line to our WHY. What makes him effective is understanding his WHY. This makes his WHAT more impactful. He took the concept one step further to explain his philosophy about life. His setup (or WHAT) is his talent to find comedy anywhere. He discovered his punch line (or WHY) when he noticed a homeless man after a set one night. That inspired him to bring comedy to audiences that wouldn't normally hear it.

He showed a video of an abused boy who was so scared of everything that he always wore a Spider-Man outfit, including the mask. 10 minutes into his set, he heard the boy speak and then take off his mask. He challenged us to think about what we can give from ourselves and to find our punch lines.

Follow Your Own Inspiration

The theme for Content Marketing World was "Content Strikes Back." It only made sense that the main keynote speaker was Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill! Hamill had a lot of stories, including how he never gets tired (publicly) of Star Wars. He knows he needs to give the public what they want.

He commits to the roles that he takes. One of his funniest stories was about training to lose 48 pounds for the latest Star Wars movie. Then he read the script.

His advice was to believe in ourselves and grab our opportunities. They don't come back. He urged us to follow our own inspirations, work hard and never give up. Create new things or repurpose (don't steal) the things we love in our own way. He believes that tenacity is just as important as talent...if not more so.

I could go on and on about all the things I've learned. I'm sure many will make their way into future blog posts. I came away inspired and ready to commit more than ever before. I can't wait to bring this excitement, motivation and knowledge to my next job. Thanks to Content Marketing Institute for topping themselves again!

What did you take away from Content Marketing World? How will you implement what you've learned? Tell us in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

 If you have any content needs, know of any  job opportunities or just want to talk more Content Marketing World, please reach out to me at

Photo via Elaine Ball

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