CCO May 2022
Here's one vision of how Web 3.0 might reshape content marketing's future, plus tips and ideas you can use today to improve your content power.
CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER
<strong>In This Issue</strong>
Will Web 3.0 Thrust Content Strategy
Into Its Next Evolution?
How will blockchain, NFTs, and the metaverse reshape the way brands approach content marketing?
How Northwell Health Increased Trust Amid a Collision of Crises
Can a content marketing program thrive while battling multiple crises at once? The Well by Northwell Health proves that it’s possible.
How to Raise Your Brand's Voice on Issues That Matter
Sure, you’re being responsive by weighing in on a hot social issue or cause. But are you being responsible and authentic in how and why you’re doing it?
Take Your Content Around the World With This Proactive Plan
Should you standardize or localize? Translate or recreate? Watch this Content Marketing World presentation for a sensible and scalable approach to content globalization.
• General Manager: Stephanie Stahl
• Editor-in-Chief: Jodi Harris
• Creative Director: Joseph Kalinowski
• PR and Video Consultant: Amanda Subler
• Project Manager: Angela Vannucci
Questions or comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't Let Team Burnout Derail
Your Content Engine
A content team that’s too stressed out can’t function at its best. Fight back against fatigue with these expert tips.
Customer Journey Maps: Your Content Marketing Superpower
Journey mapping helps you see through the eyes of your customers. Use this streamlined process to keep your content focused on the details that matter most.
Earn an A+ for Content Originality
The best way to win the battle for audience attention is not to play like everyone else. Here’s how to break away from the pack and make your ideas pop.
Follow These Leaders for Content Education
Looking for your next binge-worthy marketing blog, podcast, or video series? You can’t go wrong with these CMI community faves.
Progress marches on – don't get trampled under it.
Content marketers are no strangers to game-changing disruptions. They've come so frequently that we've grown accustomed to wearing our adaptability like a badge of honor.
Our industry provides us with plenty of chances to experiment with emerging ideas and concepts. The tricky part is learning to turn each new challenge into an opportunity to improve our content and grow as skilled leaders.
Take the evolution of Web 3.0. Not all that long ago, the idea of a metaverse or a blockchain-based currency may have seemed like a science-fiction fantasy on par with The Matrix or Ready Player One. Today, they’re poised to reshape the way consumers engage with brands.
At least, that’s one possibility Robert Rose sees on the horizon. “In marketing, Web 3.0 may bring immersive participation and intelligent peer-to-peer transactions to the customer experience approach,” he writes in this issue’s cover story. “It represents a potential power shift in allowing consumers to control their personal data.”
Of course, whether that vision will come to pass remains to be seen. For now, Robert suggests that you proceed on any Web 3.0-fueled path with caution: “Take the view many adopted in the early 2000s toward modern digital marketing, content, and SEO: Pay attention. Learn. Evolve. But know that nonsense abounds.”
In the meantime, don’t ignore the need for ongoing improvement in your existing programs. We’ve packed this issue with tips, ideas, and suggestions to help you keep improving your existing programs while you keep an eye on future evolution.
No one knows for certain where our industry is headed. The more you embrace the possibilities and expand your capabilities, the more valuable your content program and experiences will be to your brand and the audiences of tomorrow.
<strong>Will Web 3.0 Thrust Content Strategy Into Its Next Evolution?
<strong> How will blockchain, NFTs, and the metaverse reshape the way brands approach content marketing?
Web 3.0 will revolutionize content marketing strategy. Maybe.
By Robert Rose
You can’t throw a rock these days and not hit a media site capitalizing on some primer on defining Web 3.0 (or Web3), NFTs, metaverses, and what it all means to marketers.
Go and read them. Most are pretty good. If you need some direction:
I won’t provide a bunch of definitions here. Instead, I’ll offer a point of view on what I think it all means to content marketing as a business strategy.
Spoiler alert: Web 3.0 has more kinship with content marketing than traditional brand and direct marketing and advertising. In fact, Web 3.0 may just be the evolution of content marketing.
Let’s dig in a bit.
Content marketing is evolving from owned media to Web 3.0
In the earliest days of modern content marketing (2008-2009), Joe Pulizzi and I said that the content approach to marketing wasn’t new. It had just found its time.
The oldest content marketing examples include John Deere’s Furrow Magazine, Michelin Guides, and Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, which promoted his printing business.
Most of these great examples were from brands looking to launch a new product or engage an existing customer base for loyalty. Looking at the history of content marketing, you’ll see so many customer loyalty magazines, employee engagement magazines, and content designed to teach customers how to use innovative products (Jell-O’s recipe book, for example).
In the early 2000s, content marketing evolved from side projects or campaigns to become a continuing and strategic business function. The trigger for this change was the expansion of the first disruptive Web 1.0 technology – web search.
The power of search engines forced product and services brands to become functionally competent at developing owned media properties. That enabled businesses and customers to circumvent traditional media and develop direct relationships.
I highlight that development because elements of Web 3.0 will prompt a similar trend.
Web 3.0 isn’t new – we’re just catching on to its promise
Early concepts of the metaverse date back to the early 2000s. The virtual Entropia Universe featured some of the first sales of digital property (what we call NFTs today). In 2009, a club in the Entropia Universe sold for more than $600,000 – the largest virtual world object ever sold at the time.
The marketing hype around virtual currencies goes back to 1999 with Beenz and Flooz (yes, those are real names).
Beenz positioned itself as “the web’s currency.” The site paid people in “Beenz” for doing things such as viewing ads or signing up for a service. The company raised nearly $100 million and is considered one of the greatest dot-com disasters of all time.
Beenz launched around the same time as Flooz, a virtual currency startup (promoted by actress Whoopi Goldberg) that used its internet currency as a loyalty program to internet merchants.
Watching Flooz ads with Whoopi puts in perspective some of the current crypto platform commercials featuring Tom Brady and Matt Damon.
Web 3.0 concepts in the early 2020s are like content marketing concepts in the early 2000s. The ideas aren’t new, but they may transform into solid business strategies because technology has caught up enough to make these concepts useful.
But it’s very early. So, take the view many adopted in the early 2000s toward modern digital marketing, content, and SEO. Pay attention. Learn. Evolve. But know that nonsense abounds.
Web 3.0 shifts the balance of power over customer data
We’re living through the earliest stages of a seismic transition in computing and virtualized digital connections. Web 3.0 technologies
almost certainly will impact the way consumers experience, consume, transact, and behave.
The early promise of Web 3.0 echoes content marketing. Why? Web 3.0’s first iterations are about how people acquire and share content as a
social signal, join virtual communities, and ultimately co-create valuable customer experiences.
In marketing, Web 3.0 may bring immersive participation and intelligent peer-to-peer transactions to the customer experience approach.
It represents a potential power shift in allowing consumers to control their personal data.
Here’s what that means: As Web 3.0 technology emerges, you can start to envision how a consumer might use a digital wallet to store not just cryptocurrency but also personal information (name, email address, company, location, etc.).
Consumers could share access to that data with any company they desire without handing over the actual data. And they could revoke that access any time they want.
Your marketing database, then, would consist of dynamic access to tens of thousands of wallets rather than tens of thousands of static entries in a database. You’d retain the ability to target content experiences based on correct data because consumers would have every reason to keep their data current.
However, the consumer also would be empowered to revoke that access (i.e., opt-out). Retaining the relationship would require delivering great value.
You can see how content-driven marketing experiences might evolve from paid, shared, and owned media platforms. In Web 3.0, the consumer
(not the brand or marketer) controls the connection, which allows the relationship to extend across all the platforms they use.
The blockchain reaction for content marketing
Blockchain technology enables these new decentralized capabilities for new customer experiences. It supports direct peer-to-peer transactions without a centralized service provider to facilitate them. You can already see this happening across the web:
- Decentralized finance decreases the requirement for banks.
- Decentralized commerce reduces the need for centralized cash register providers.
- Decentralized media networks decrease the dependence on social networks as virtual gathering points.
- Decentralized content, marketing, and advertising fundamentally change the digital relationship between customers and businesses.
I call this the “tokenized customer experience,” or “tokenized CX.”
Tokenized CX is just content marketing evolved
The mantra of marketing and customer experience is to “deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.” To know all three components typically requires businesses to track the consumer’s identity and their content behavior.
Marketers may soon be able to issue “tokens” (or smart contracts) powered by blockchain technology to enable more automated, secure, and trusted customer experiences.
These tokens can enable any transaction involving digital artifacts (including ads, downloadable assets, subscriptions, or access to communities). They empower consumers to help shape their experience and enable marketers to do that without surveillance-style efforts.
And they enable marketers to develop more creative content and marketing experiences. Brands such as Timberland and BMW have launched virtual worlds. Other brands have begun to create experiences within existing virtual worlds.
For example, JP Morgan set up a virtual lounge within the Decentraland metaverse platform.
The kicker? In all these early entries, the scope is almost entirely a content marketing approach.
Timberland describes its virtual world as a “vibrant tour of the brand’s history via a mix of storytelling, art, music, and characters.” The company declares, “(T)his is not a game; it’s a story.”
TimbsTrails – Timberland's immersive virtual experience.
The BMW virtual world is an education and thought leadership platform, creating an engaging way to learn about “electric mobility, urban mobility, and sustainability.” And the JP Morgan virtual lounge (for now) is simply a place to see presentations on the crypto economy.
Sound familiar? Each approach delivers a new content marketing experience.
Tomorrow’s content marketing
and Web 3.0
These are the earliest days of Web 3.0 technology’s impact on the customer experience. Anyone who says they have it all figured out – whether they declare it the biggest scam or the biggest revolution – is likely wrong. No one knows.
In the Content Marketing Institute’s early years, I often said content marketing was still in the first inning. Web 3.0 is still in spring training.
The early days of Web 1.0 were all about pages, emails, blog posts, and downloads of documents through a browser. So, marketers needed to focus on publishing content. Lots of content. Marketers needed to answer every customer question, provide a deep repository of knowledge, and make everything easy to find through commercial search engines.
Web 2.0 pushed marketers to create responsive (and contextual) approaches to delivering the right content throughout the customer journey. For the last 10 years, marketers have worked toward targeted one-to-one conversations and a 360-degree view of their audiences.
Along the way, data started to outshine content. The focus shifted from creating findable content to finding intent signals that let marketers anticipate needs and engage with people more effectively.
As data becomes more precious and content marketing becomes a more sophisticated business function, things are about to change again. How they’ll change remains a question.
Political, economic, environmental, and even social challenges may affect Web 3.0’s development.
But if it continues to develop along its current trajectory, expect a customer experience evolution based on tokenized CX. Empowered consumers will shape products or services as they interact with brand experiences. Marketers may develop a co-creation relationship with audience members and customers.
Put simply: Marketing in Web 1.0 helped customers FIND something better. Marketing in Web 2.0 helped customers EXPERIENCE something better. The promise of marketing in Web 3.0 is to help customers CREATE something better.
We’re not there yet. But pay attention. It will be an interesting ride. CCO
Robert Rose is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for the Content Marketing Institute. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow Robert on Twitter @Robert_Rose.
Dive deeper into Web 3.0 at ContentTECH
Join us for a session on Nonfungible Content: NFTs and Content Management, part of the Future of Content track at ContentTECH Summit on May 31 - June 2 in San Diego.
Explore the ContentTECH Summit program here and use promo code CCO200 to save $200 on registration.
<strong>How Northwell Health Increased Trust Amid a Collision of Crises
<strong>Can a content marketing program thrive while battling multiple crises at once? The Well by Northwell Health proves it’s possible. </strong>
A keen focus on customer data and empathetic storytelling improved Northwell’s content impact, grew its referral traffic, and reduced its marketing spend – all at once.
By Ann Gynn
Northwell Health diagnosed a multi-symptom problem in 2017.
“We were undergoing a crisis of trust. Amid misinformation and manipulative messages, expertise had never been needed more, especially in the world of health and wellness,” says Julie Shapiro of Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider.
Sound familiar? As it turned out, Northwell’s prescription for the trust crisis positioned it well to address the global health crisis that struck a few years later.
The Well by Northwell Health launched in 2017 as a digital publication on a mission to deliver expert guidance and empathy at moments of truth in people’s lives through documentary video series, advice columns, first-person essays, and magazine-style reported features.
“Our audience was frustrated with the health information they were finding. Publishers were monetizing anxiety, and other health systems were trying to sanitize it through cold, clinical information, delivered dispassionately,” as The Well and its agency partner Revmade explained in their Content Marketing Award (CMA) submission.
From the start, the publication’s content performed well and earned awards (including a 2019 Content Marketing Award for Best Content Strategy).
Then came the pandemic. Traffic exploded while quality remained high.
The site won 2021 CMAs for Best Content Strategy and Best Overall Editorial – Digital and earned finalist nods for Best Content Marketing Program and Best Content Marketing Program in Health Care. For her work as editor-in-chief, Julie earned a spot as a finalist for 2021 B2C Content Marketer of The Year.
Trusted content helps readers and brand
In January 2020, The Well team developed its first content on the novel coronavirus (they didn’t yet call it COVID-19) and published it in February. In March, the impact reached the United States.
“Our page views exploded because people were just starting to hear about this novel virus and were desperate for information,” Julie says.
Engagements on The Well soared to 3.6 million for the year, about triple the previous year. As Julie explains (and most of us remember), people felt terrified and struggled to find information they could trust. Many found it hard to believe or understand the evolving advice.
“We took the opportunity to figure out specifically what do people need to know and what are they searching for? And then we provided them with it,” Julie says.
Focusing on reader concerns helped the publication get more results from a smaller investment. “We've decreased budget every year,” Julie says, “but we were increasing our engagements because we had figured out what people wanted.”
You read that right – as The Well did better than well, its budget got smaller. “There’s a reason for that (budget reduction). We are really data-driven in everything we create now,” Julie says.
This year, The Well expects to earn more organic traffic than paid. “We’ve refined this process so much that we can count on it, and we don’t need as much money,” she explains.
A data-driven content development process
Julia shares the process The Well developed for its data-driven approach. It starts with an idea form that anyone at Northwell can submit. The form asks:
- What’s the idea? What are you looking to do?
- Who’s the audience?
- How will people find the content?
The Well team reviews the submitted ideas in a monthly editorial planning meeting with its Revmade consultants. The Revmade team gathers the submitted ideas, adds their own, and does the related search research. They present their findings in a pitch memo.
Each idea gets a single slide that includes the following information:
- Detailed idea and concept
- Search volume for targeted keywords
- Search engine ranking prediction
- Recommended writers
- Suggested subject matter experts
- Proposal to “FLOOD the MARKET” – doing multiple pieces or series – or treat as a one-and-done piece
Julie and managing editor Meghan Holmgren then go through the pitch memos, refine them, and assign the content.
From there, the process goes like this:
- Meghan works with the writers and interviewees and gets everything approved by the subject matter experts.
- Julie reviews the final product.
- The creative team handles the imagery.
- The development team builds the pages.
- The quality assurance team makes sure everything works properly.
- After a final review by a proofreader, the content goes live.
“We used to have a very large dedicated team, and it got whittled away. Now those people are dedicated to other things,” Julie explains. Now she and Megan are the only full-time employees dedicated to The Well, and they tap into other internal teams for assistance.
If they don’t have the capacity to write a piece, they contract with freelance writers.
“It’s always an ongoing discussion about how much content we can create. It depends not just on how much money, but how many people we can have to make it happen. It truly takes a village,” Julie says.
Handling exceptions and
That all sounds well organized and strategic. But health content can’t always be planned months ahead. Sometimes, the process goes out the window because certain stories can’t wait for monthly editorial meetings or in-depth research.
When “breaking news” interrupts the standard process, Julie says, the managing editor takes the lead on content development.
For example, when the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccination boosters and vaccinations for children ages five to 11, the managing editor reached out immediately to internal writers. If internal writers aren’t available to handle breaking news, she relies on a core group of freelancers who can do quick turnarounds.
“All the other teams that this project touches know that this is a priority, and everybody does it quickly,” Julia says. “We're not built to [be a news organization], but we do the best we can.”
Delivering big results
As detailed in their CMA nomination, The Well’s mission is clear: “Become a trusted partner; be there for them during life-altering diagnoses, to correct misinformation, and most recently, to guide them through a pandemic that changed everything overnight.
“We answer questions and address anxieties with expert opinion and advice, through empathetic stories and by delivering ‘I-feel-seen’ editorial. In simpler terms: We tell the truth about health and tell it well.”
How well does The Well do in accomplishing that mission? The team details three measurement areas that evaluated both audience and business impact:
- Brand trust: Through before-after benchmarking studies, they sought to improve trust in Northwell’s brand and experts.
- Audience engagement: Relationships with their target community are evaluated based on how their audiences spent time online (e.g., search, social, publications).
- Business referrals: Clicks to the main site, Northwell.edu, serve as the metric for moving from awareness to activation.
The outcomes indicate The Well works as an effective treatment for building trust in Northwell’s health care system:
- New York residents’ likelihood to seek care at Northwell increased by a 44-point margin after engaging with The Well’s content. The same study found a significant increase in Northwell’s trustworthiness among the community.
- Coverage of The Well’s content skyrocketed brand awareness, reaching audiences on Today.com, ABC 7, Apple News, and even top positions on Reddit’s coronavirus subreddit several times.
- The Well surpassed 2 million sessions in a year for the first time and nearly doubled its rate of new subscribers.
- The Well content generated 20% more direct referrals over the previous year.
- Referrals from The Well to Northwell.edu were more cost-efficient than other marketing activities as measured by site engagement and appointments generated.
- Media-spend efficiency set records, achieving a cost-per-landing-page visit of 21 cents, five times better than published benchmarks.
Go for data- and fact-based content
No universal cure exists for health-related misinformation and distrust of health care experts. Yet The Well has gone a long way toward rectifying the symptoms for their New York communities with a blend of fact-based and empathetic content.
Data allow the team behind The Well to understand and deliver the content their audience wants and needs. That content inspires trust in Northwell Health's expertise. And its success means the organization can spend less while getting more.
That sounds like an ideal prescription for all content marketers. CCO
Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.
The 2022 Content Marketing Awards
The largest and longest-running international content marketing awards program will recognize this year's best work in strategy, distribution, editorial, and visual storytelling. Learn more here and submit your entry by Friday, May 20.
<strong>How To Raise Your Brand’s Voice on Issues That Matter
<strong> Sure, you’re being responsive by weighing in on a hot social issue or cause. But are you being responsible and authentic in how and why you’re doing it?
Show up, or shut up!
Research shows 70% of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues. But before you use content as your podium, answer these questions to ensure your views will be received as credible, useful, and authentic.
By Ahava Liebtag
The words and actions of brands — including yours — matter. Politics and other areas of our culture are becoming more polarized. When you are authentic about your values and causes, you can build loyalty with your audience.
Not voicing an opinion could even hurt a brand’s credibility. According to a recent study by Sprout Social, 70% of consumers surveyed believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues. In that same survey, more than 60% thought brands had the power to reach large audiences and create real change.
Should you weigh-in or
Your organization doesn’t need to acknowledge every issue – especially if it might conflict with your brand’s core values. To decide whether to make a statement, your leadership team should reflect on these questions:
- Who are we as a brand? Does this issue intersect with our vision or brand mission statement? Is this an important topic, and can we make a meaningful statement? Will we demonstrate to our audience that we are accountable for our stance?
- What do our customers and employees expect from us? Are consumers asking or commenting about our brand and the issue? Do our employees want us to take a position?
- What do we stand for? What are our company’s core values? Does it make sense for us to say something or stay silent on this issue?
- What will our silence say? A brand’s silence can speak more than a statement. Consider what saying nothing may signify.
- Who should say something? In general, the CEO or leader of the organization should make a statement. In the Sprout Social study, 56% said it’s important for CEOs to take a stand on public issues. But if individuals from marginalized communities or people personally affected by an issue work for your organization, consider encouraging them to share their stories or voice their own thoughts, as well.
How to engage with your audience about social issues
When you opt to weigh in on a social or political issue, follow these tips to build an authentic connection with your audience, and take a lesson from brands that are mastering the art of social discourse.
1. Choose a unique approach
When Martin Luther King Jr. Day rolls around every January, brands predictably trot out some version of his “I have a dream” message on their social media to commemorate and pay homage. Unfortunately, that messaging has become so overused it barely resonates.
Before taking the obvious route, question whether you can message with impact. Be thoughtful and share with vulnerability to deepen your connection with loyal customers.
Example: This year, Ben & Jerry’s made Martin Luther King Jr. Day count. In an Instagram post, they discussed how diluted Dr. King’s message had become.
The company dove into some of King’s lesser-known quotes. They explain how his message wasn’t just against racism but also against poverty and war. In a blog post, they describe point by point how the U.S. is failing to fulfill King’s vision.
Ben & Jerry’s took that extra step to explain how they think King’s message relates to today’s injustices, making it clear where they stand on those issues. Some of their followers may not like this message, but others are likely to forge a deeper connection with the brand because of it.
2. Create a relevant connection to your brand
Do you want to release a statement about a cause that aligns with your brand’s value? Stop. Take a step back. Figure out how to say something in the most meaningful way possible. How does this cause intersect with your brand? Acknowledging that connection will make a stronger impact.
Example: BabyNames.com helps people discover and research names for their children. When they posted in support of Black Lives Matter, they tied it directly to their brand. The post – Say Their Names – was a list of names of Black people who died at the hands of police. To deliver that message with an extra gut punch, they emphasized that each one of those people was someone’s baby. Reflecting on how parents lovingly selected their children’s names and the tragedies that unfolded was heart-wrenching.
BabyNames.com published a statement to show its solidarity with the Black community.
3. Be accountable to your audience
It’s one thing to say your company fights for a cause, but it’s even better to show how your company is doing it. And if your brand has been guilty of contributing to the societal problem of focus, acknowledge what your organization is now doing to correct or combat it. Show your audience you care and are working toward change.
Example: Anheuser-Bush is the world’s largest beer company and maker of iconic brands such as Budweiser, Corona, and Michelob. They (obviously) sell alcohol and want to increase sales. But they also donate money and launch programs that fight alcohol misuse (including drunk driving, underage drinking, and binge drinking).
The company launched Global Smart Drinking Goals, a set of programs and initiatives focused on shifting social norms, consumer behaviors, and their organization’s business practices to reduce harmful alcohol use.
Their plan includes investing $1 billion in social responsibility marketing campaigns around alcohol and ensuring no- or lower-alcohol products represent 20% of their global beer volume sales by 2025. They also created an internal Alcohol Literacy Training Program to educate colleagues on responsible drinking. Each of their goals has clear deadlines and ways to measure whether or not they’re accomplished – a key part of being accountable.
It may seem counterintuitive for an alcoholic beverage company to even acknowledge alcohol misuse, let alone shine a light on the cause. But through those actions, Anheuser-Bush creates trust and connection with its consumers. As their CEO Michael Doukeris said in a webinar at Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, “There was a time in which companies could develop their businesses in isolation from what happens in society. That time has gone. We need to see ourselves as part of society, with all the benefits and all the problems.”
4. Provide resources to support the cause
Once you decide to make a statement about a cause, think about going deeper. Consider providing resources or support to people affected by your cause. That’s how you take your position from mere words to meaningful actions.
Example: Oreo celebrated LGBTQ+ Pride Month by hosting a sweepstakes, giving away boxes of colorful Oreos in the formation of various pride flags.
What they did next is where they had a real impact. They partnered with PFLAG, an organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents, friends, and allies, to create a series of Instagram posts. The posts give better response choices to the ones many LGBTQ+ individuals traditionally receive when they come out. In one post, the words “Are you sure?” are replaced with “I’m so proud of you.”
Oreo celebrates Pride Month on Instagram
Oreo also links to PFLAG’s Instagram channel, where people can find more resources to support their LGBTQ+ loved ones.
5. Don’t think you have to be political
to take a stand
In our polarized political landscape, some think when brands stand up for a social cause, they are making a political statement. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Organizations can focus on making a difference in causes that don’t fall on a particular side of the political spectrum.
Vot-ER promotes voter registration at health-care facilities.
Example: More than 600 hospitals have partnered with Vot-ER, which helps people visiting ERs or health-care institutions register to vote. These health-care organizations don’t affect which way people eventually vote. They’re just helping people have a say in democracy.
6. Make statements your audience cares about
You don’t have to take a stand on every issue. It’s up to your leadership team to determine which issues are important to your brand – and your audience. Refer to your personas to see if the issue is likely to resonate. Of course, some problems are so critical that even if some consumers don’t agree with your position, it’s still worth adding your voice to the cause.
Example: Patagonia asked its social media followers to participate when the U.S. Forest Service opened public comment on restoring the Alaska Roadless Rule to protect the Tongass National Forest. Reinstating the rule would support wildlife, tribal sovereignty, and carbon sequestration in the largest temperate rainforest on Earth.
It makes sense that Patagonia supported this initiative. The company is known for caring about the environment and fighting climate change. The people who purchase their products enjoy time in nature and likely care about saving the planet.
7. Think long term
Before making a statement or posting about a cause on social media, think about how you will support this cause or fight this injustice long term. Maybe you want to make recurring donations to designated charities? Or commit to revamping your organization’s hiring and promotion practices? Or perhaps it’s time to offer internal training? By taking action, consumers will see the dedication and intentions behind the words your brand put out.
Example: Many companies spoke out against racial injustice during the Black Lives Matter racial reckoning of 2020. Two years later, Pepsi is still fighting inequality. The beverage company launched a racial equality journey initiative and committed to a five-year plan.
Pepsi's efforts include making their workforce more diverse by recruiting potential candidates from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). They continue to promote their partnership with HBCUs and invest in the Black community.
Pepsi promotes its partnerships with HBCUs.
Implementing a good decision in a great way
Finding the right way to make a statement can feel like walking a fine line. But with deep thought, internal discussions, and an honest assessment of their unique contributions, brands may be poised to help make the world a better place. CCO
Ahava Leibtag, a 2020 inductee into the Healthcare Internet Hall of Fame as an Innovative Individual, has 20+ years of experience in content. She has consulted with some of the world’s largest firms to attract and grow their audiences. Ahava is the president and owner of Aha Media Group, LLC, a copywriting, content strategy and content marketing consultancy. She is also the author of The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web and loves a great logic puzzle, a long game of Apples to Apples and anything that has chocolate. You can connect with Ahava on Twitter at @ahaval.
<strong>Take Your Content Around the World With This Proactive Plan
<strong>A Content Marketing World 2021 presentation (exclusively for CCO subscribers).
Should you standardize or localize? Translate or recreate?
Apply these insights to your content to make sure it’s yours.
Enterprises tend to take a fragmented, ad-hoc approach to scaling their content for use across all the regions in which they operate. By developing a well-rounded content plan, you can better balance content globalization and localization and ease your team’s decision-making around both processes.
In her presentation at Content Marketing World 2021, consultant, author, and globalization expert Pam Didner explained how to build that plan, including the five key elements to account for and the information you’ll need to address each of them effectively. CCO
Click the image to watch this full-length CMWorld 2021 presentation.
Join us at Content Marketing World 2022, September 13-16 in Cleveland, for more strategies to meet today’s challenges and prepare for a profitable future. Learn more here and use promo code CCO100 to save $100.
<strong>Don’t Let Team Burnout Derail Your Content Engine
<strong>A content team that’s too stressed out can't function at its best. Fight back against fatigue with these expert tips.
Poor content quality and missed deadlines can be signs your team’s tanks are running on empty. Here’s how to get things back on track and keep your content engine humming along.
By Julia McCoy
The site hasn’t published a new post in over a week. Timely topics and keywords never get tackled because no one can look up from what they’re already doing. Poor-quality content gets published because the team just needs to get something into the world.
The effects of those and other headaches for time-starved, burned-out content marketing teams ripple. What can you do to minimize or even prevent them? How can you help everyone stay on track so your content marketing hums along without speed bumps?
These five practical ways can help you stay ahead and on point with your content schedule. And I’ll share bonus tips to help individuals avoid disruptive procrastination and burnout.
1. Set a regular publishing schedule the whole team respects
This first point may seem elementary, but it’s crucial. Don’t just say, “Well, we publish a blog every few weeks. It depends.”
That’s not a schedule – that’s an estimate nobody can pin their hat on. Get specific and document it in your content marketing strategy. For example, detail how many blog articles will be published each month – tie a number to a time, such as, “We publish one new or updated blog every week.” Get equally specific with all types of content you publish: videos, emails, social media posts, etc.
Your whole team should know and respect the documented schedule. Record it in your content calendar and keep the publishing cogs turning according to the schedule. That means deadlines are not nudge-able. They’re firm. A post must go out at regularly set intervals.
That said, it’s important to embed some flexibility into the schedule. For example, next week’s planned article could get pushed back if a subject matter
expert is unavailable. What can’t change is the deadline for posting an article. This keeps your content schedule consistent but allows wiggle room for human needs that pop up.
2. Optimize your calendar tool use
Your content calendar – and, by extension, the tool to create and manage it – isn’t just a calendar. It’s a living plan for how your content strategy will play out over time.
If you only scratch the surface of what your calendar can do, you’re short-changing your team. With the right tool and features, your content calendar can become the hub of your content marketing:
Don’t just use it to record publishing dates. Document everything – topics, keywords, assets, goals, creators, resources, and more – anything that helps track your content creation process and helps your team put together all the pieces.
Dive deep into your calendar tool to harness its full potential. Check out developer guides and videos and learn about all the features available. Teach yourself (and your team) as much about the calendar tool as possible, including further possibilities for automation and collaboration you haven’t touched yet.
I recommend Airtable over and over for managing topics, tracking publishing dates, and corralling assets like header images and document files. Its robust features include handy automation and collaboration capabilities.
3. Batch content brainstorms and other tasks, too
Ever heard of batching? You group similar tasks and complete them in one fell swoop. It’s a great productivity trick and can help you get ahead with your content calendar.
For example, instead of researching content topics piecemeal, brainstorm a batch of content topics for the month at one time. I’ve relied on this process since 2016. One day per month, I block out a few hours to come up with all the content topics we’ll publish in future weeks. It goes like this:
Batch content topics and set tentative publishing dates. Doing this gives you a bird’s eye view of how your blog or website will look. You can confirm publishing dates later.
Record them on the content calendar where the whole team can view them. They can prioritize tasks around the content schedule and execute their roles smartly.
With this system, you never have to scramble for new content ideas. A list of fresh topics tied to great keywords is recorded monthly on our content calendar. At any given moment, most of them are in production with writers, designers, or editors.
You and your team can batch a ton of other tasks besides topic generation:
- Emails: Instead of checking your email every 30 minutes, block out time to get your inbox clear once or twice a day.
- Editing: Review completed content pieces and give feedback all at once.
- Writing: Dedicate time for writing content so you can get deep into a creative mode with no distractions.
- Image creation/editing: Create all of the month’s header images in one chunk of time.
- Meetings: Choose one topic per meeting instead of bouncing around from subject to subject.
- Client calls: Designate a time to take calls with clients daily/weekly/monthly. Don’t schedule calls outside of that time block.
Here’s a great example of a schedule with task batching that goes from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., highlighting each task based on concentration level (light, moderate, deep):
If your team implements batching, make sure to communicate the designated times, so others aren’t trying to DM or call during the focused time. If you must, use do-not-disturb mode on your phone or create an away message on Slack to let people know you’re in focus mode.
4. Delegate smartly
The way each role is delegated has a direct impact on your content marketing. For example, does each team member have defined tasks within their role? Or do tasks – and who completes them – shift depending on which way the wind is blowing?
For small content teams, it might seem to make sense to keep roles amorphous and flexible, but you’re really just shooting yourself in the foot. Without clearly defined roles for each team member, tasks become muddled. Creative tasks start to feel like “creation by committee,” which ultimately can water down your marketing. Ann Handley aptly calls this “hot dog writing” because it’s (as she shared in her newsletter) “extruded
through so many messaging machines and opinionators and cogitators that you can’t tell what it was originally made of.”
A well-defined role with well-defined tasks allows each person to take full ownership of their responsibilities.
5. Document team references and guides
Do you see a theme emerging here? When in doubt, document. It saves a lot of hassle as your team gets in a groove with content production.
Document everything – style guides, call-to-action guidelines, processes, tool workflows, etc. Err on the side of specificity versus vagueness. When questions arise, your team can look at these guides first and refer to them as needed for consistency across your content and channels.
Plus, when you need to onboard someone new, all the documentation will be right there for them to digest and learn your processes.
Tips to help team members progress smoothly
Alongside these team-centric strategies, there are also actions you and your team members can personally take to keep things going smoothly.
Set boundaries: Does your work bleed into your downtime? Are you checking your email at the dinner table? With so many of us working remotely, the lines between work and play blur more easily.
It’s so important to set firm boundaries. My best tip is to strictly enforce a cut-off time for the workday. For instance, at 5 p.m., log off, silence all Slack notifications, and shut down your computer.
Setting an end time makes you prioritize tasks differently during the day. You only have so many hours to accomplish what you want to do, so you’ll work smarter to get it all done.
Prioritize rest, nutrition, and movement: This is your gentle reminder that mental and physical health are intertwined. Care for yourself the way you would care for a loved one. That means:
- Prioritize getting a great night’s rest
- Eat at regular intervals throughout the day (and not just junk)
- Move your body daily, even if it’s just a mid-day stroll around the block
Don’t give up: Most of us know, as content marketers, it takes a while to see results from our efforts. Content marketing is not an instant payoff game. Instead, it rewards patience and perseverance.
Take this mindset and apply it beyond content. If you’re frustrated, missing deadlines, feeling overwhelmed, etc., don’t give up.
Take small steps to make positive changes in your daily routine – work and otherwise. Take a step back and look at the larger picture. What good could happen if you persevere? What if you saw your current roadblocks as opportunities instead? What if …?
Get you and your team rolling along
If you are what you repeatedly do, then your habits truly define you. Taken alone, these small shifts in how you and your team operate might not seem like much. Taken together and repeated over days, weeks, months, etc., they’ll add up to major change for the better for you, your team, and your brand’s content marketing.
Which small shift will you focus on first? Whichever you choose, let this be the first nudge toward the bigger change you need. CCO
Julia McCoy is an entrepreneur, author, and leading strategist around creating exceptional brand-building content. At 19, she built Express Writers with a total startup investment of $75, and in the next decade grew it to $5M in sales through 100% organic, SEO content marketing before exiting. Today, she runs The Content Hacker, where she teaches entrepreneurs how to build a sustainable, content-first industry presence. Learn more about her methodology in The Content Transformation© System. Follow her on Twitter @JuliaEMcCoy.
<strong>Customer Journey Maps: Your Content Marketing Superpower
<strong>Journey mapping helps you see through the eyes of your customers. Use this streamlined process to keep your content focused on the details that matter most.
Transform random acts of content into connected experiences.
Convince & Convert’s Jenny Magic shares a journey mapping shortcut that will put your content at the intersection of your buyers' needs and your brand's CTAs.
By Jodi Harris
Did you bring a map (digital or otherwise) with you on your last road trip? Most people do – It’s the best way to ensure that you arrive exactly where you intended to go.
Yet relatively few marketers create a map when planning content. They should. A customer journey map is a great way to lead prospects and customers to a destination that meets their information needs (and your marketing goals.)
The journey mapping process also can provide the
strategic direction your team needs to know what
kind of content to create to help move website visitors and other prospects through the sales cycle.
Though journey mapping can seem like a complex and tedious time suck, it doesn’t have to be.
A streamlined journey mapping process helped fintech company Datasite transform random acts of content into connected, customer-centric experiences.
Convince & Convert’s Jenny Magic worked with Datasite Vice President of Marketing Americas Marcio Moerbeck to create the company’s customer journey maps. Here’s a detailed walkthrough of the process they followed (and a template you can use to get started) from their presentation at Content Marketing World 2021.
Marcio and Jenny also explain why customer journey maps are a critical part of any content marketing strategy and what they can help your brand achieve in this short video:
Datasite's Marcio Moerbeck and Convince & Convert's Jenny Magic explain why customer journey maps are critical to a successful content marketing strategy.
What is a customer journey map?
A journey map is a visual representation of the customer journey that defines:
- All the points where customers and prospects interact with your brand
- What they want to accomplish at each one
- The path they take from point to point as they move toward a purchase
Jenny describes it as representing the intersection of buyer needs and your organization’s calls to action.
“It's thinking about what they need, what we need, what do we want them to do, and why would they want to do it. It helps content marketers get out of their own heads and see their brand through the eyes of customers,” she says.
Journey mapping is a marketer’s “secret superpower,” Jenny says. “The intersection of your brand strategy, your personas, and your journey maps is true content marketing gold.”
Why create customer
Viewing your brand’s value through that lens helps you evolve your content experience to become more customer-centric.
That’s particularly important because customers want to do their own research. According to TrustRadius research, 87% of buyers want to self-serve part or all of their buying journey, and 57% of buyers already make purchase decisions without ever talking with a vendor representative.
And they’re less patient with marketing that prioritizes the brand’s messages and goals over a useful and contextually relevant content experience.
“Every single content preference study gives marketers a thumbs down on whether or not the content is objective versus being biased; whether it is focused on substance over style; whether it’s the right amount of material or an overwhelming volume, and finally, whether or not it’s extraneous to their research,” Jenny says.
“This means [marketers] are not doing a fantastic job telling them what they need to know to make that decision.”
Working through the mapping process keeps you focused on customers by:
- Enabling cross-team alignment around customer needs: The mapping process brings sales, marketing, and customer support together to define what customers need to know before they buy, what they need after they purchase, and the stories marketing can tell to support those interactions.
- Guiding content priorities: It's easy for teams to get distracted by the next shiny object, the next social media channel, or some exciting idea from the C-suite. A journey map that clearly articulates audience needs helps ensure the team stays true to what your audience wants and needs.
- Inspiring customer-centric content. Auditing your content during the mapping process can reveal topic gaps you should create content to fill.
A streamlined customer journey mapping process and template
Jenny's recommended process focuses on a narrow set of information selected to help you plan more effectively and create higher-performing content.
I’ll walk you through the steps of this process, using a template Jenny built in Airtable to illustrate the steps (you can access her template here). You can use Excel, Google Sheets, or any other project management tool to create a similar tracker.
Step 1: Define your personas
List your customer personas in the first tab on the far left of this template and fill in their most important characteristics. Jenny’s example shows details for three personas (A, B, and C), including their job titles, who they report to, and their role in the decision-making process.
For journey mapping, Jenny recommends including only those details that are relevant to the decision journey – mindset and motivation.
These are the must-have insights she includes:
- Triggers: What drives their interest in changing their current solution or taking action on a new purchase?
- Influences: Who or what influences them on decisions like this?
- Value proposition: Which of your advantages and benefits will resonate with them most?
- Motivations and frustrations: Why have they chosen to engage with your business, and what do they need to do or solve right now?
TIP: To avoid bringing unintentional biases into your work, don’t give your personas names. “If we use a gendered name like ‘Driven Daniel,’ we instantly picture a male, and that may not be [relevant] to the decision process,” Jenny says.
Step 2: Define calls-to-action (CTAs)
Click image for a larger view.
In the second tab, fill in your top 20 or so business CTAs – the activities that drive consumers toward a purchase decision.
Jenny says marketers tend to rush through this step or skip it entirely. But this step keeps content teams focused on desirable business outcomes rather than vanity metrics.
Think about these CTAs in terms of the behaviors you want to drive, such as:
- Assessing readiness to make a purchase decision
- Learning how to evaluate our type of solution
- Requesting a demo
Bring sales and customer support teams into your planning conversations to share insights and real-world scenarios at this stage.
“Sales might have a whole set of activities that they're judged and rewarded on that are often very different from the [marketing team’s] CTAs – and very different from what the support team wishes our clients knew once they signed on the dotted line,” Jenny says.
She recommends bringing the teams together and getting them to agree on which CTAs to prioritize. Although this part of the process can feel arduous, Marcio confirms that it delivers important benefits:
“The great moment of this exercise was that we came to a consensus on a set of CTAs that we can go and activate. Be patient and be resilient through that process because, for us, that was the win,” he says.
Step 3: Define your customer experience
When filling in the fields in the journey map tag, don’t nitpick every word choice or haggle over the fine details. Just summarize the essential information. In the remaining columns, Jenny recommends distilling your customer insights into answers to these four questions:
- What are they thinking about? What pain points and drivers brought them to this point of their journey?
- What are they asking? What questions do they have, and how and where are they asking them? What are they curious to learn or eager to understand better?
- What are they doing? What kinds of behaviors can we observe online to confirm our assumptions about them?
- What do they want? What will it take to satisfy their current needs and move on to the next stage? What behaviors could we trigger to move them through the funnel more quickly?
Then, add the most compelling CTA (from the list you compiled in Step 2) for each customer journey stage.
Think of this step as a narrative exercise that results in a first draft, Jenny says. It’s not meant to serve as a definitive resource to answer all your content planning questions.
But you can still celebrate making it this far: “The great moment of this exercise, outside of all the work that we did, was that [all parties] now agree on a set of CTAs to activate. That's important,” Jenny says.
Step 4: Audit your existing content
A comprehensive content audit is never a bad idea. But Jenny suggests speeding things up for journey mapping with this focused approach:
- List the titles of your 50 highest-performing evergreen content pieces. They’ll serve as a representative sample of your best content.
- Determine which of your CTAs would be most relevant for each asset.
In Jenny’s full template (not pictured), you’ll see additional fields you can fill in if they’re important to your business (such as the asset’s URL, and target formats and channels).
But even if you just outline the content you have and the CTAs each one aligns with, the process will reveal two key content insights:
- Gaps: You’ll find out if you lack content for specific CTAs or topics. This insight will help you set priorities for future content creation.
- Waste: You’ll identify topics you’ve covered sufficiently (or more often than you need to). You can deprioritize these topics in your list of new content to create. Transform random acts of content into connected customer experiences.
Guide prospects to the destination they desire
These steps help you create the framework for a living content plan you can build on by adding more insights and ideas over time. As you brainstorm new content pieces or look for ways to refresh and repurpose the assets you’ve already created, use this template to set priorities and track results through your creation and distribution workflows.
Deciding what content pieces to create – and how to connect them to provide a seamless, customer-focused experience – can seem intimidating in the absence of a linear process. Try Jenny’s suggestions to help simplify your decision-making, increase your strategic focus, and achieve better marketing results. CCO
Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.
<strong> Earn an A+ for
<strong> The best way to win the battle for audience attention is to not play like everyone else. Here’s how to break away from the pack and make your ideas pop.
Don’t mistake cookie-cutter commodities for creativity.
The real key to standing apart from your content competition? Never stop with your first idea. Keep searching until you find an angle that makes it unique.
By Jonathan Crossfield
Coming up with new content ideas isn’t easy in today’s content-saturated online world. But that’s not surprising when so many marketers compete to attract the same audience within the same topic while drawing upon the same information or facts.
If your business sells auto parts, you might publish regular articles on car maintenance. But how many unique or original takes on 10 things to check regularly on your car can there possibly be?
As it turns out, this hasn’t stopped hundreds of such articles from being published, as evidenced by the Google search results I received:
10 Important Things You Should Check On Your Car Regularly
Routine Vehicle Maintenance 101: What You Should Know
Car Maintenance Checklist: 9 Essential Steps That Anyone Can Do
10 Essential Car Maintenance Tasks That Anyone Can Do
10 Important Car Maintenance Tips
Car Care Basics: 10 Car Maintenance Tips for Beginners
Top 10 Maintenance Items To Keep Your Car in Top Shape
10 Things to Know About Car Maintenance
10 Maintenance Things Every Driver Should Know How To Do
Other than settling on a different number of things to check, there isn’t a whole bunch of difference between them. You can probably guess most of these things without reading the articles: tire pressure, oil, water, spark plugs, etc.
Why would someone read any of these articles beyond the first click? What additional value is gained from reading multiple variations of “check your tire pressure?”
Inside the auto parts company, a checklist might seem to make sense as part of its content library. But beyond its website, the content is in an impossible fight to attract readers – battling for rank, armed with the same keywords and information as so many others.
This isn’t content marketing; it’s SEO to the death – where the winning edge is more likely to be determined by each page’s Core Web Vitals than the oh so similar content.
The (non-)creative process
Here’s why I think this keeps happening.
A business sells doohickeys, so the marketing team maps a series of topics related to doohickeys and the problems they solve. Every possible content idea is dotted for each persona across the customer journey, from awareness to purchase and beyond.
They make this week’s topic about the common problems users experience with doodads because understanding the limitations of doodads is often the first step to deciding to upgrade to a fully-featured doohickey. The team checks the keyword list, jots down the first few ideas that come to mind, and starts writing the briefs.
However, at this stage, the content ideas are wholly undeveloped.
Anyway, the writer is briefed with a title and a bunch of keywords, so they develop a straightforward structure and smash out 800 words. Time to tell the marketing assistant to look up stock images of attractive women smiling or looking thoughtfully at laptops while sitting in the most impractical and/or uncomfortable places possible. (Does anyone really write their blog posts on the stairs?)
And that’s how the world gets yet another blog post titled 5 Considerations Before You Buy a Doodad.
All the information is accurate, the brief’s requirements are met, and the writing is perfectly fine. It’s just not original.
The process has led the marketer, the brief, and ultimately the writer to the same basic and predictable content as every other business trying to sell the same things to the same audience. Including their competitors.
Of course, not all marketers follow this process. I’m sure all of you reading this are brilliantly creative. (Group hug.)
But I’m also sure I’m not alone in having come across many such production processes that – for one reason or another – unintentionally reduce content to a cookie-cutter commodity with little if any room for creative development.
After all, that relentless week-in, week-out content schedule can’t be put on hold while the creative types stare out of windows or take long walks in the hope that inspiration will eventually strike.
As it turns out, that’s not how inspiration works at all.
The creativity myth
Many of you know the story of Archimedes – a bath, a splash, and a naked dash shouting “Eureka.”
To be exact, Archimedes would have shouted, “Heureka,” Greek for “I have it.”
To be even more pedantic, Archimedes’ bath was likely a hip bath he would have stood in while a slave poured water over him – proving once again that the best ideas happen in the shower. And if you want to be completely accurate, the whole thing probably never happened. But, hey, I’m making a point here.
True or not, the story of Archimedes in the bath has become a major part of the creativity myth, perpetuating the belief that inspiration strikes out of nowhere. An idea suddenly enters your head, and you instantly know it’s perfect. Eureka!
Except Archimedes’ great idea wasn’t a sudden or random revelation at all, but the culmination of a series of events and a lot of brain strain. According to the tale, Archimedes was consumed with solving how to calculate the volume of the king’s ornate new gold crown without melting it down. I’ll leave the whys and wherefores of angry kings and golden crowns to your individual Google skills if you’re curious.
The point is Archimedes was desperately searching for a method to measure the volume of complex objects. He had already been pondering hypotheses long before he stepped into his apocryphal bath. Otherwise, he would probably have missed the significance of the water spilling out of the bath entirely – just as he had every previous bath time.
The story of Archimedes reveals creativity isn’t a supernatural burst of inspiration but a way of thinking that we can all practice. Creativity isn’t born of a single thought or observation but of colliding trains of thought, of the known meeting the new, of connections between seemingly unrelated things, and – importantly – of actively looking for them.
And that means any of us can be more creative when trying to come up with original ideas for our content.
Finding the angle
In On Writing, Stephen King writes:
[G]ood story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere: Two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new. Your job isn’t to find these new ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
A haunted hotel is one idea – one we’ve probably seen many times. A young child with supernatural powers is another not particularly original idea. Bring together those two ideas, and you have The Shining.
His advice doesn’t apply only to bestselling horror novels. The collision of two ideas is a big part of what makes some content fresh and original, even when it may be treading familiar ground.
A second idea can give your content an unusual or memorable theme, perhaps a central metaphor that inspires a much more creative approach.
Or it could tackle the topic from a surprising and unusual perspective, placing the information in a different context or causing the audience to assess and consider the same information in a new way.
In short, the second idea is what helps the content to stand out. The second idea provides the angle that makes your content unique.
Back when I still ran content marketing workshops (damn you, COVID), the activities would guide attendees through the creation of personas, the selection of topics and themes, and the mapping of customer journeys. From there, they would extrapolate a handful of content ideas.
At this point, the best ideas in the room were unlikely to be that different from those published by any competitor targeting the same personas with the same information on a journey to a similar product.
So, the next activity was to come up with a second idea to give the first one a new angle or fresh perspective.
One of my favorite pitches to come out of this activity was from an agency marketer working with a veterinary pharmaceuticals company specializing in livestock vaccinations.
The topic was preventative care for horses, with the initial idea being a checklist for owners, which isn’t a million miles from 10 Things to Check on Your Car.
After developing the idea further, he decided to convey the information from the point of view of the horse.
The checklist was replaced by an online diary that would give the horse an opportunity to tell its side of the story.
The content would help owners understand how various medical conditions impact a horse beyond the visible symptoms. Plus, it would demonstrate how the conditions develop even before they might become obvious to an owner.
Each entry would focus on a different symptom or aspect of the horse’s medical experiences – thereby answering more detailed or specific questions a horse owner might have. Plus, each of these would also create more longtail keyword opportunities, so SEO wins too.
The beauty of this idea was that it placed the horse, not the medical condition, at the heart of the content. The inexplicably literate horse would be presented as a living, thinking thing, capable of feeling pain and discomfort, fear and confusion just as we would – fostering greater empathy and understanding between owners and their horses.
The workshop attendee was visibly excited. Sure, more thinking was needed to turn the idea into a concrete proposal, not to mention client pitches, budget discussions, and so on. But the creative process was off and running.
Never stop at the first idea
The key is knowing your first idea is likely everyone else’s first idea too. It comes to mind quickly precisely because it’s familiar, which is exactly how cliché works.
A good creative process recognizes this. A good creative process takes that first idea and asks, “What can I add to this?” A good creative process formalizes the search for a second idea to find a new way of looking at the first.
It’s why my own briefing templates include space for both ideas:
- Core topic – what the content is about
- Angle or theme – what will provide a new or unexpected perspective on the topic.
I can’t just put down “10 Things To Check on Your Car.” I need to provide something more. I need to think of something more.
Sometimes, the answer may be as simple as combining two existing-but-obvious ideas. That one about getting more value from your doodad can be combined with that one about common mistakes with doohickeys to become a new piece about how your doodad can improve your doohickey. Or something.
Other times, out-of-the-box thinking may be required to find less obvious connections with very different topics.
If you’ve read many of my articles, you may have noticed certain themes keep cropping up: ancient Greeks, literary quotations, children’s fantasies, myths, and legends. And that’s because I read a lot of them. I also have a small set of books that never leave my desk: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable (every writer should own this IMHO) and three quotations dictionaries:
If I’m stuck for an angle, I look up related keywords in these books. A Douglas Adams quote might suggest an interesting theme or an old piece of folklore might give me a fun way to explain a new piece of tech.
You get the idea.
Or should that be ideas? After all, you’re going to need two.CCO
Jonathan Crossfield describes himself as a storyteller because writer, editor, content strategist, digital marketer, journalist, copywriter, consultant, trainer, speaker and blogger wouldn’t fit neatly on a business card. Jonathan has won awards for his magazine articles and blog posts on digital marketing, but that was so long ago now it seems boastful to keep mentioning it in bios. He lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with a very patient wife and one very impatient cat. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Kimota.
Looking for more inspiration?
Check out CMI’s new e-book, 35 Examples of Brands That Are Winning With Content, and give the ideas your own spin for content originality! Download the e-book here.
<strong> Follow These Leaders for Content Education and Inspiration
<strong> Looking for your next binge-worthy marketing blog, podcast, or video series?
You can’t go wrong with these CMI community faves.
We asked the Content Marketing Institute community for their go-to resources. They came through with more than 40 storytellers they rely on to learn about new topics, dig into the nuances of familiar ones, and inspire their own content creation. Here are just a few of their top picks.
Blogs and articles
I came across their website and blog via the Tech Bound podcast. I think I’ve read close to every blog post on their site, scouring for more information as it relates to growth content marketing and content strategy.
They also have a Slack channel called Top of the Funnel, where there’s a lot going on. There are chats, conversations, webinars, AMAs. It’s a trove of content marketing resources. I also subscribe to their YouTube channel, where they house so many great guests and conversations around the world of growth content marketing. — Emma-Jane Shaw, head of content, Uku Inbound
Reforge is one of my favorite resources. The content they put together reflects the quality of their education programs, and you get great insight into the minds of experts – folks who have been in the trenches doing this work for a long time. Often, the experts haven’t built up a large social following nor are doing much education outside of their day jobs. And that’s because they don’t have to. They’ve built such credibility and are making enough money that they don’t need to invest in additional personal branding strategies. Reforge finds these folks and works with them to share their insights with their community, and it’s amazing. —Tracey Wallace, director of content strategy, Klaviyo
SEO by the Sea
SEO by the Sea is a blog run by a thought leader in the SEO and content marketing industry named Bill Slawski. It provides detailed, well-researched suggestions for optimizing web content to match search engine guidelines, especially Google’s, and our company’s site has benefited from my reading of this blog. One of the benefits of reading SEO by the Sea is that the author summarizes and distills many Google algorithm updates that would take hours to research independently. —Calloway Cook, president, Illuminate Labs
and video series
Online Marketing Made Easy
The program discusses a range of subjects ranging from content marketing to social media marketing to conversion optimization and marketing automation. Amy Porterfield also invites successful entrepreneurs and industry professionals to discuss their approach and strategy on her show. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, Rick Mulready of Online Advertising Experts, John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneurs on Fire, and several others have been on the podcast. — Mark Valderrama, CEO and founder, Aquarium Store Depot
Science of Success
The Science of Success podcast is one of the best motivators and improves your mindset. You can’t truly market to people if you don’t know how people think. Luckily, this podcast provides science-backed suggestions given by professionals in a variety of fields. Content marketing isn’t just about the content you can create; it’s about how to reach people. — Jerry Han, chief marketing officer, PrizeRebel
Storytelling Secrets by Jules Dan talks about the art of storytelling in marketing. Such an art connects your business to the audience – an important step to increase your customer base. The podcast hosts distinguished marketing experts who talk about the different marketing techniques. — Nathan Hughes, digital marketing and SEO manager, Diggity Marketing
Modern Millie is a content marketing educator who has found a way to make content that is useful and helpful for those just starting out. Whether you are an influencer or a marketing strategist, she knows how to create the right videos to inform in a way that anyone can understand and replicate. —Brittany Mendez, chief marketing officer, Florida Panhandle
Find more ideas and inspiration at CMWorld 2022
Join us at Content Marketing World 2022, September 13-16 in Cleveland, for more strategies to meet today’s challenges and prepare for a profitable future. Use promo code CCO100 to save $100 on registration.
Interested in bringing your team for a week of learning and inspiration? Discounts are available for groups of 4 or more. Email us for more information.