What I Learned About Content Marketing From Patti Smith and Pink Floyd, Part 3

Posted on September 30, 2011 by Comments Off

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series of three about Content Marketing World. The first two posts can be found here and here.

Lesson 3: You can’t turn back, but you can become the best.

Perhaps when performing to 25,000 crazed fans on Aug. 29, 1966, at Candlestick Park, George Harrison didn’t only look forward to the relief of never touring (“going through that madness”) again. Maybe he and his fellow Beatles (minus late-joiner Ringo) also pined for the early days of playing tiny all-night concerts in Hamburg clubs. But by stopping touring, the foursome was able to devote the scream-free studio time and creative focus to conceive their most ground-breaking — and rock-music-changing — albums (“Number nine!?  Number nine?!”). Beatles

The craft of songwriting — like the creation of all artistic and meaningful content — is a gift that develops through practice. Through failure and feedback and tenacity. Even if nobody supports our vision, we must keep perfecting our skills and practicing our crafts, against all odds, if you will.Then give the kids what they really want, not just what they clamor for.

As underrated Canadian band Red Rider’s songwriter Tom Cochrane wrote in the song “Can’t Turn Back”:

“Knew he was a misfit from the age of 17, had to do it his way, should be quarantined. He went looking to the east, looking to the west, looking for the courage to see which way’s the best. But he can’t turn back, oh no. … Try to see the forest for the trees, the wind storm for the breeze. No one ever said that it would be that easy. You make your way through the debris, cling to your beliefs, even though the world might say you’re crazy.”

CMWorld Refrains:

  • Brian Clark of copyblogger.com said, “People don’t want you. They want the you they want you to be. I put myself behind the brand, but I am still a part of it.”
  • Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing quoted a study by GroupM and comScore that showed “48 percent of buyers were led by a combination of search and social media to purchase.” He said “people expect to find what they need online and interact with it.”
  • Filmmaker Kevin Smith spoke (nonstop, Silent Bob he is not) about his newfound love of the podcast. He described how he encouraged a suicidal friend to exorcise his demons on tape, and it ultimately led to a TV deal. (The presumption being that nobody on TV wants to kill themselves.)
  • Pam Didner of Intel said, “I don’t need to think like a publisher, I need to think like a filmmaker.”
  • Jason Falls from socialmediaexplorer.com said the key to measuring whether your content is the best is simple: count. Don’t get distracted. Set goals. Translate them to calls to action. Measure those and track key (and all) performance indicators. Just keep counting.

 And inspiring and embarking and practicing.  And rocking.

What I Learned About Content Marketing From Patti Smith and Pink Floyd, Part 2

Posted on September 28, 2011 by Comments Off

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series of three about Content Marketing World. The first post can be found here.

Lesson 2: Keep your bible in your pocket.

Patti Smith – musician, artist, poet and the Godmother of Punk – said in the introduction to “The Anchor Anthology of French Poetry,” “When I was 16 … my salvation and respite from my dismal surroundings was a battered copy of Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Illuminations,’ which I kept in my back pocket. [It] became the bible of my life.” Patti Smith

Anyone who’s been inspired by Smith’s life-sized photo in the Rock Hall knows those sacred-to-her poems served her well. Of course she was far from the first artist to obsessively study her heroes before creating something totally original; she was following the model of teen-rebel poet Rimbaud himself. Salvational inspiration for him sprung from a different well, as it does for us all, but a key lesson I learned at Content Marketing World is to be yourself and remain inspired, through whatever tome or method speaks to you. This will draw an audience to your content.

CMWorld Refrains:

  • Dell’s Byerly said, “The writer is the brand; always be credible.” Dell now employs regional journalists to tell local stories and build Dell’s brand directly with customers.
  • Jeff Rohrs of ExactTarget said, “Build audiences like white blood cells, to defend you when the barbarians come to the social media gate, which they will.”
  • Simon Kelly of Story Worldwide described content marketing as “creating a customer who creates customers.”
  • Michael Stelzner, founder of socialmediaexaminer.com, said, “Make your content great and commercial-free. No one wants to be converted; draw an audience and let them opt in.

Tune in Friday to hear @kierstenlawson cull content strategy lessons from one of her favorite 80s Canadian rock bands. Sorry, it’s not Loverboy.

What I Learned About Content Marketing From Patti Smith and Pink Floyd, Part 1

Posted on September 26, 2011 by 3 Comments

Editor’s note: This is the first post in a series of three about Content Marketing World.

Following a rockin’ Labor Day weekend spent seeing my favorite 90s band play two shows in San Francisco, I jet-setted to music-loving Cleveland for the inaugural Content Marketing World conference. The event was conceived by Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe) and his content marketing firm, Junta42.

I was thrilled to keep my holiday musical inspiration humming at the conference’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame kickoff event. Of the two days’ and nights’ worth of scintillating content marketing and strategy ideas that were shared, the lessons with the most reverb can be framed by my experience exploring the seven floors of exhibits at the Rock Hall.Pink Floyd

Lesson 1: Chaos breeds breakthroughs.

The Rock Hall is modern-supermarket huge with escalators rising through open space from floor to floor (except for the top floor, housing the Women in Rock exhibit, which is only reachable by stairs, a detail I found telling). As I rose to the third floor, I was surprised and exhilarated to discover the great white wall and characters from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” looming over me. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!

Visitors walk through a small opening in the wall (Pinky wouldn’t have liked that) to find a quote from Roger Waters writ large on the massive inside surface: “I was faced with a choice: deny my addiction and embrace that ‘comfortably numb’ but ‘magic-less’ existence or accept the burden of insight, take the road less traveled and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit.”

The lesson I took away about breakthrough rock albums — and standout content of any kind — is to remember that revelations can spawn from pain or uncertainty. We must embark to discover

CMWorld Refrains:

  • Arnie Kuenn of Vertical Measures gave this simple directive: “Answer questions with content.”
  • Brian Clark, founder of copyblogger.com, said, “The creative process is crazy but embrace it. We teach content marketing and practice it at the same time. People aren’t deeply reading content until they see real reason to. What are people struggling with?  What are their desires?”
  • Jonathan Byerly, Dell’s director of online content, guided his Web team on a painful but award-winning content strategy journey, taking the site from a “root ball of content,” orphan pages and inconsistent approaches to a customer-centric experience with a persistent navigation strategy that helps customers make better decisions. He said, “There is room for poetry but not in your site navigation. Keep your org structure off your home page!”
  • Pawan Deshpande of HiveFire, in a talk about content curation, lauded Verne Global’s approach. It started by seeking out pain, then focused on an unmet need for trustworthy information about green database centers. It then created an online curated news site about the subject, which is now the leading site for information about green datacenters.

 Tune in Wednesday for more from @kierstenlawson on how Content Marketing World “turned it up to eleven.”

What We Talk About When We Talk About … Story

Posted on November 1, 2010 by Comments Off

This week NPR broke the shocking news that more than one person contributes to the creation of timeless tales.  Apparently prose-perfect Jane Austen had an editor.  Well!  I haven’t been this unsurprised since I learned “Beowulf” might have resulted from oral tradition instead of  “coming finished from the [newly invented] pen” of a somehow-literate Old English poet.

ink jar and quillsSarcasm aside, I was disappointed by the reporter’s missed opportunity to explore the reasons authors seem to be expected to function as one-person perfect creation machines.  Since when is creative collaboration a bad thing?

In the story, reporter Mary Louise Kelly interviewed the scholar leading a project to make a glut of Austen’s edited pages available online.  She asked,  “I’m wondering if you’ve heard from any of her diehard fans who are surprised, maybe disappointed, that the work that they always thought of as hers was actually a little bit different as it left her pen?”  Professor Kathryn Sutherland responded: “I have had some very extreme and, I have to say, unpleasant responses to my work.  … There are very few authors that we put in this extraordinary position where we feel that we should never say anything critical about them. … The idea that we can never question what she wrote I think is absolute nonsense.”  Kelly ended the interview there.

Preparing for another day of work helping communication professionals tell compelling stories, I exclaimed to myself,  “Why is it ‘critical’ to suggest writers have editors? Of course they do!”  One of my most thrilling educational moments was seeing a page of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” before and after his editor, the great Maxwell Perkins, took a pass at it.  Is the genius and clarion voice of Fitzgerald (or of Ernest Hemingway or Thomas Wolfe, who had the same great editor)  diluted by the fact that someone helped hone it?  Is a polished diamond less or more brilliant?

Of course there is a delicate balance – and implicit trust – at the heart of the creative partnership between storyteller and editor. 

A fascinating 2007 New Yorker article about the fraught bond between Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish, points out that, “In the normal course of things, editorial work is relatively subtle, but there are famous instances of heroic assistance: Ezra Pound cutting T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ in half when the poem was still called ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’; Maxwell Perkins finding a structure in Thomas Wolfe’s ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ and cutting it by sixty-five thousand words.”  As Carver felt Lish did, an editor can go to far, fundamentally changing a writer’s voice and vision.

Did Austen feel that way about her editor?  We’ll likely never know. But, with the conviction of an indelible Austen character, I declare that without creative inspiration and collaboration, no great stories can be told.  What do you think?

image credit: studentofrhythm on Flickr

Pot of Phonics, Not Gold, at End of “Reading Rainbow”

Posted on August 28, 2009 by Comments Off

Kiersten Lawson, Managing Site Editor, WE Studio D

Kermit the Frog on 'Reading Rainbow'I learned from NPR this morning that today marks the final broadcast of “Reading Rainbow.” The fact that several people I’ve talked to (and whose blogs I’ve read) didn’t even know the show was still on might explain why “no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show’s broadcast rights.”

As the NPR piece went on to explain, the end of the show reflects a philosophical shift in television programming for kids. These days it’s focused on the “how” of reading and not the “why.” We’ll teach them the alphabet and phonics, but no longer see the point in celebrating the pure fun of reading, and talking about, a book.

Luckily most kids I know don’t need a TV show to convince them that reading is awesome. But, as “Reading Rainbow” was never shy to talk about, not all kids are that lucky.

Suddenly I feel like renewing my volunteer commitment to SMART.

Photo: Muppet Wiki.

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Editing and Design Powers Unite: Form of a Winning Presentation!

Posted on August 27, 2009 by Comments Off

Kiersten Lawson, Managing Site Editor, WE Studio D

Powerpoint Presentation RehersalA recent BusinessWeek article by Carmine Gallo warns readers of “How to Give a Lousy Presentation.”

We copyeditors within WE Studio D were unsurprised to see #1:

1. Misspell words. Failing to check the spelling on your slides shows a complete lack of care. If you don’t care enough to proof your presentation, your audience will care less about you and your message. It’s the easiest way to look unprofessional.

Foregoing a proofread is deemed more unprofessional than turning your back to the audience and reading your slides word for word. Worse than telling a dirty joke! More offensive than not practicing your presentation in advance or committing dangerous design sins such as the use of color combinations more seizure-inducing than late-90s Japanese cartoons.

I’m sure my designer colleagues and I could debate which is worse — the embarrassing typo or the overstretched image — for some time. Even after multiple cocktails and games of pool, the sensibilities we each hold most dear would likely remain unswayed. But I bet we all could agree on cardinal presentation sin #4:

4. Use a really small font size. If you really want to drive people crazy, say something like this: “I know you can’t read this, but if you could, here is what it would say…”

Because believe you me, where there’s small font, there’s lots of it. And not only is it a design catastrophe to cram way too much text on a slide, it’s a fundamental communication failure. It’s a clear signal that you can’t distill your thoughts and present your message in a simple, compelling way.

Take it from someone who’s proofread her share of PPTs over the years. Move 90% of those words to the notes section, focus on clarity and creativity, engage a good designer and editor, and remember what my high school drama teacher used to say when I was rehearsing the soubrette role of Nancy Twinkle in Little Mary Sunshine: Slower, Louder, Diction.

And good design and a proofread.

Photo credit: Ian Ruotsala

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