Content Marketing World 2011 Recap

Posted on September 19, 2011 by Comments Off

Earlier this month, Kiersten Lawson and I traveled to Cleveland for Content Marketing World 2011. And there, along with 600+ of our communications brethren, we listened and learned about how to best navigate and define the digital space.

CMW 2011

As you might expect for a conference for digital communications pros, thousands of tweets were generated. So lots of great content spilled out 140 characters at a time. However, for those of you looking for a curated recap, here are some of the big ideas, quotes and highlights that resonated most with me. And the best part is I’m going to give this all to you completely free of charge.

  1. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.
  2. It’s good content marketing strategy (as you’ll read here).

Ready. Aim. Go.

Best definition of content marketing (of the several I heard).
“The goal of content marketing is to create a customer that creates a customer.”

“C” is for content, that’s good enough for me.
“Content is a cookie that, once people are done eating it, they’ll want more. But only if it’s good.”

There is no such thing as a boring product; only storytellers who fail to identify the passion people feel for products.
A product wouldn’t be successful if somebody, somewhere didn’t think it was important. As storytellers, it’s up to us to find out who these people are, where they are and what they’re passionate about. Then we need to feed this passion with stories that matter to them most.

Build the road and the car simultaneously.
Plan your content distribution at the same time as your content development. Don’t let distribution be an afterthought (as is often the case).

Give it away, give it away, give it away. Now.
Give away your best content. All of it. Build a following, then build a business model around it. (Not everyone agrees with this, but it was an idea shared by several during the conference).

You should be using Prezi.
Prezi rocks. It just does. Rather than the linear experience we’ve all become accustomed to with other presentation programs, Prezi turns your presentation into a diving, spinning, up-and-down-and-side-to-side storytelling experience. When you use it, you’ll wow people. And you’ll look like you’re on the cutting edge of digital storytelling. (Reason: You are.)

Infographics are hot! Which means a lot of people are out there making terrible ones.
If you’re going to produce an infographic, it needs to serve both the content and the medium. To make sure this happens, remember:

  • All infographics need to simplify the complex.
  • Data is the lifeblood of every good infographic.
  • If an infographic can be beautiful and informative, great. But do NOT mistake beauty for a high-quality infographic. It needs to inform first.

To be filed under: “Duh, but it’s worth repeating.”
Good story matters. So does authenticity. If your story isn’t both, don’t even bother. You’re wasting everyone’s time (including your own).

To be filed under: “So simple it must be true.”
User-generated content is powerful because, “People like hearing other people’s stories.”

When life hands you a white paper, make a podcast.
It’s not always necessary to create new content from scratch. Do a content inventory. If you uncover a dusty old white paper, don’t throw it overboard. Consider turning it into a podcast or a video.

Why should you put more emphasis on content gamification?
Because games are fun. Because games make us happy. And because, as Fusionspark Media co-founder Russell Sparkman noted in his presentation, gamification is predicted to jump from a $100 million to $1.6 BILLION business by the year 2015. That’s why.

Quote I liked that I’m simply going to tee up with a “Quote I liked” headline.
“We’re good at lots of little.” – Eloqua’s Joe Chernov on content consumption today.

Make your content easy to consume and easy to digest.

  • Use short sentences.
  • Break up copy with subheads.
  • Use bullet points.
  • Bullets work.
  • They do.
  • See how easy this is to read?
  • Told you.

Create valuable content – check.
Ahava Leibtag created a step-by-step checklist for creating valuable content. No joke. It’s free. Get it. Use it. Print it out, stick it to your wall. You’re welcome.

An important step in branding – define your audience.
You can’t define a brand story until you define your audience. And this process is a two-way street. Learn about your brand from your audience; learn about your audience from the brand. The brand story will unfold organically.

That content marketer sure plays a mean pinball.
Marketing used to be like bowling. Pick a lane, take careful aim at the pins in front of you, and try to knock them all down. We can’t take such a narrow approach to our target audiences any longer. Think pinball, not bowling.

Everybody has content, everything is blog-worthy.
Empower everyone in your organization to blog. They all have a story to tell.

Everybody is influential to somebody.
Social media’s wide reach means everyone matters. A consumer doesn’t need to have a huge Klout score to be deserving of your attention. Think about ways to make millions of small ripple effects instead of a handful of huge ones.

Image by ShashiBellamkonda.

The Life Lessons and Sonic Treasures Hidden Inside the Music of Justin Bieber

Posted on September 21, 2010 by 2 Comments

I’m a man well into his 30s. So it should surprise no one that my music collection is relatively Justin Bieber-free. I say “relatively” because I came across a brilliant twist on The Bieb’s music recently that both blew me away and got me thinking about pushing limits and evolving in a creative environment.Justin Bieber

Last month, music producer Nick Pittsinger gained viral Internet fame when he used a free audio editing program called PaulStretch to slow down Justin Bieber’s song “U Smile” by 800 percent. The result, whether by accident or design, was a yawning, aching, spectacular soundscape that washes over you in waves and melts your brain into lava lamp globs. No joke. Put on the headphones, close your eyes … this song will make you fly. I promise.

Did Pittsinger know his experiment in sound would transform JB’s normally cavity-inducing, bubblegum pop into a soaring work of sonic art you could easily file alongside Sigur Rós or Dead Can Dance? I seriously doubt it. I mean, he knew he’d end up with something different. But I don’t think he could possibly have imagined the result would be as magical as it is.

At Waggener Edstrom, we put a lot of emphasis on creativity. And to achieve creative results, we often challenge ourselves to attack common ideas or problems from many different angles. Take something you know, turn it on its head or run it through various filters, and see what you come up with.

There’s no guarantee the time and energy you invest in creative experimentation will yield the “happy accident” outcome Pittsinger found. And when you’re as busy as we all are, setting off on potentially fruitless endeavors is difficult to justify. Still, as this song reminded me, unexpected and beautiful results often lie at the end of untraveled roads. If we’re going to find what’s there, we need to walk them.

Image by Daniel Ogren.

Ira Glass on the Art of Storytelling

Posted on August 27, 2010 by 2 Comments

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hearing Ira Glass give an insightful and inspirational talk about storytelling to a sold-out crowd at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. For those who don’t know, Ira is the host of This American Life — a weekly public radio program he started in 1995 that has since gone on to become the most listened to podcast in the country.

Ira GlassNow, the reason a public radio host can sell out 2,500-seat halls and earn the rabid devotion of millions is this: Ira Glass is a master storyteller. From the moment he opens his mouth, he owns you. His narrative and delivery draw you in immediately, he carries you along for as long as he wants, then spits you out gently on the other side — usually with a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.

I’ve been a TAL fan for more than a decade. And the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how effortless he makes storytelling seem. But make no mistake, Ira Glass has worked very hard to become Ira Glass. And he’s done so by identifying the basic elements of storytelling and employing them to great effect.

Ira’s Benaroya Hall talk expanded on a few ideas he laid out previously in a four-part video. And for those of us who wake each day intent on finding and telling great stories, this is a worthwhile way to spend 17 min 31 sec of your day. A few nuggets of Ira wisdom to get you started:

The anecdote is a powerful tool.
It doesn’t matter how boring the facts of your story are. If you present the facts in anecdotal form, you’ll create suspense, give your story momentum and keep audiences engaged.

Every story needs a moment of reflection.
At some point, you need to pause and let your audience know why they should care about what you’re telling them. It’s not enough to communicate action. You need to give your anecdote meaning by revealing some greater truth.

YouTube Preview Image

Finding great stories is sometimes harder than telling them.
It often takes as much time to find a decent story as it does to actually write/produce it. But to find these gems, it’s up to us as storytellers to dig deep and try different things.

“Not enough is said about the importance of abandoning crap.”
If our goal is to tell great stories, we need to be honest with ourselves when one isn’t coming together as we’d hoped. If you know in your heart a story is a dud, as difficult as it may be, you need to summon the strength to kill it. Because, as Ira notes, “By killing, you will make something else even better live.”

“If you’re not failing all the time, you’re not creating a situation where you can get super lucky.”
We’ve established that finding and telling great stories is difficult. And doing so while the media landscape shifts under our feet is, of course, a challenge as well. The good news about telling stories in our Brave New Digital World is that there’s a lot of room for experimentation and growth. Not every effort will succeed. But it’s important to fight through these failures. Because it’s only through taking chances and, frankly, falling on our faces from time to time, that we’ll achieve the greatest successes later on.

Image by lantzilla

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