If you are going to build an audience, who trust you over someone else, you have to be committed. Here are some key themes taken from Content Marketing World 2016 (during 7th and 8th September).
I am looking at the thread for some key themes that are intended to make us all more comfortable and successful with an owned media approach.
If you are looking to make that step outside of a world driven by heavy product messaging and weak measurement metrics, here’s where we all are today.
These are overall themes and I’m not going to focus on specific topic points.
For many businesses, I still see it. They are struggling to approach with a devoted mindset to become the change within their industry and take on board a message that is delivered on a consistent basis to a targeted audience. Proving the business value to board level is still where one of the main challenges lie.
Where it is becoming a success for business, it is now becoming scalable.
So, from looking at my notes, moving from Evernote, to paper and then breaking down even further to find an event that connected the dots, here are the key themes coming from the US in 2016.
YOU HAVE TO START AT THE END
You cannot treat a content/owned media approach as this altruistic hobby to be more helpful than anyone else and be the best answer (although it does make a difference).
The end goal for this approach is the same as anyone else; you create something that leads to profitable action, not the glory of collecting eyeballs.
The goal for us all is not necessarily to become the equivalent of the BBC when it comes to a podcast, or a seasoned Guardian journalist when it comes to writing on your blog. Strength is from being better at business that uses content to connect deeper with others.
When you connect with others, you create better results. This could be better leads, longer-term subscribers, increased attendees to events (online and offline), greater value in the eyes of an audience over time, better customer conversion rates and increased customer loyalty.
ENCOURAGE DEEPER THINKING
Depth will always win; not regurgitating what has already been said (read no one has heard your voice). Lets leave that awful culinary word, ‘snackable content’ to 2014/2015.
If you can discover and interpret a different story to the rest of your marketplace, you can redefine a category.
According to a BuzzSumo/Moz report from over 1 million articles, 85% of content published is less than 1,000 words long. To show depth of thinking within your marketplace, longer form wins. We don’t necessarily live in a world today where 750 words is the magic number.
It is your role to create things people want to engage with. According to the Pew Research Centre people will read longer form content on their phones.
Our attention spans are not waning; we just need to be more meaningful to those who want to interact with us. In an article earlier this year, related to long form thinking, I highlighted that, “If you can find a responsibility for what you do and deliver it to an audience who believe, that is far stronger than thinking you have to have an opinion about everything.”
It’s a simple mantra but you have to deliver the right value, to the right audience.
BUILD A NETWORK & DISTRIBUTION FRAMEWORK
A marketing principal over the years has been to apply a hub-and-spoke model.
This is where a hub becomes the central place where everything revolves around, most notably the website. The pain points identified and the solutions provided are within the hub. The spoke is the sub areas related to the hub, from distribution ie. social, email to broadcast ie. video, podcast. A spoke is intended to drive traffic to the hub.
With the ability to create deeper thinking (see above), should content linked to the main source be considered as merely a spoke? For instance, the Marketing Homebrew Podcast is a concerted weekly investment of time with its own audience and whilst it drives traffic to the website (the hub), it can be considered as a network on its own merits.
You create content within multiple hubs that are relevant to the audience (someone who prefers audio may not be a fan of the written word). The ability to build a network is to create content that people want to engage with.
IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW SLOW YOU GO, YOU CAN’T STOP
From Joe Pulizzi’s opening message of being committed to Ann Handley’s belief that we need to ‘slow down,’ both emphasise the value in thought with persistence. For a mindset to work, you have to live an approach.
It doesn’t matter whether you own a guitar shop or a law firm, both apply the same behavioural system where a problem is identified within a marketplace and a company is dedicated to serve an audience who will, in time, turn in their direction.
It is not a case of doing more. More just means you can, it doesn’t mean it will lead to anything, apart from time you won’t get back. Even if you commit to two solid articles per month, whilst that month may look a paltry effort when compared to someone else who is in free flow three times a week but saying nothing, over time an asset base is continually growing.
The important aspect to acknowledge is that you find a process and a rhythm. When a magazine is published every month, if you are a subscriber, you know the day it’s delivered. Similar to your business, if you have an audience who subscribe, it is your duty to serve and own the days that you bring everything together (from an email to print). In the words of Robert Rose, “owned media is not a short term investment.”
A SPARK SETS A FRAMEWORK
The ability to create is a fraction of the cost it was a few years ago. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that it will work. When a gut instinct gets enthused about doing all manner of side projects, from creating a video series to a host of events, if there isn’t a framework that ties back to the overall thing that you stand for, it just becomes a drain on time and resources.
You have a idea great, you can promote far easier than three years ago, even better. Just because Eventbrite is free to use, doesn’t mean it is the path to fame and fortune.
If there is a spark to create that puts you in a place that you haven’t been before ie. presenting, broadcasting, writing, that flicker has to be part of a structure that can be traced back to your overall objective (see point one). When there is a strategy in place, the longer-term reward is far more noticeable than a going with a gut instinct.
DEFAULT MEASUREMENT IS NOT VOLUME
Many businesses measure is the wrong metric. The pursuit of ticking boxes and reaching monthly quotas is steeped in an ongoing quest for volume.
Measurement should not be about content created, but the value derived from it. Value is about the audience, not you. Being subscribed and continually engaged helps to build an audience, that leads to better action. Flip the mentality from thinking that more random people coming to your site is a sign of success and create an asset called an audience, not the continual chase for leads and the reliance on automation.
AN ALLY IN CREATION IS AN ALLY IN PROMOTION
These wise nine words (above) were said by Andy Crestodina. You could write the deepest, most thoughtful argument filled with data, evidence and opinion but if there isn’t anyone to help with distribution apart from a search engine, it is a pretty lonely ride.
You have to continually think, ‘who will amplify my content?’ The Talking Content Marketing project has been an example where the ability to work with ‘influencers,’ has made an impact by finding allies the benefits have included: reach bringing new people to my side of the web; interaction with like minded people; others encouraged to share; a closer dialogue and becoming recognised in a marketplace. Why not have a read of a recent article that looked at ‘why interviews work.’
To become successful with a content marketing approach, we all need to focus on the content and the marketing, not just sit back and feel we have accomplished something just because we have created something new.
Lets Round Up
Whatever the issues and problems are within your marketplace, differentiation is achieved by being seen as a source that looks for a solution.
What was once seen as a role to persuade and broadcast has been replaced by the ability to transform others, innovate slowly and to interact, not just transact.
Everything still comes back to thing that you believe in and the change that you can make. It just happens that the ability to bring others to your side of the fence is a lot more accessible then it was. The sum of all these parts is to be better at business, not think that we have to be on a par with the media giants but allow content to guide others to your way of thinking that they associate and warm to.