– Jeremy Bednarski, Senior Consultant, PR 20/20
Note: This recap was originally posted on the PR 20/20 Blog. I recently spoke with the Cleveland American Marketing Association Special Interest Group for content marketing about the key trends that emerged from Content Marketing World. If you were unable to attend, this post covers most of what we discussed.
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.
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, the following 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 doesn’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.
- Companies that have a documented strategy are four times more effective.
- Companies that have an editorial mission are three times more effective.
- Companies that have clear success metrics are three times more effective.
- Companies that have a content marketing budget are two and a half times 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 short cuts. 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.