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20 Ways To Streamline Your Content Marketing

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No matter the size of your business, content marketing is a monumental task. But for small- and mid-sized businesses, finding the time to produce enough social updates, blog posts and other media that people want to view, read and share can be really, really difficult.

Last week, I shared these 20 content creation ideas as part of a workshop for small business owners and entrepreneurs. I promised I would add the script to my website, so here’s a big shout out to all the attendees of the NJ Makers Day: Be A Business Maker workshop at the Warren Township Library. This is for you.

The following ideas will help you create content that prospects and customers will love, but that also doesn’t demand too much of your time.

1. Brainstorm ideas

Start by creating a list of ideas and a plan for what you want to post. It takes only a few minutes of brainstorming. Write down all the possible topic ideas in a list, and then organize into themes by month.

2. Work from an editorial calendar

Then, schedule specific ideas in an editorial calendar. You will not believe how much time this will save. Scads.

3. Delegate the work

Content development is time-consuming, but it becomes more manageable when you enlist others to help. Delegate the work to your staff. For example, assign each employee one blog post to write each month. Or put one staffer in charge of Twitter and another in charge of Facebook. No staff? Hire a virtual assistant for a few hours a month.

4. Create bite-sized content

Focus on developing content that is very, very short and takes only a few minutes to create. Snap a behind-the-scenes picture and caption it. Use your phone to record a quick video interview with staff. Or write a short tip of the day. Example: Accountants can share tips during tax season.

5. Share other people’s content

How often do you read an article that is relevant to your business and interesting enough to share? Every day, perhaps? Share these finds with your followers. If you like a quote someone has shared on Facebook or Twitter, pass it on to your followers. Not only will it feed the very hungry content monster, but it’s a nice way to give a shout out to others.

6. Bullet it: create a listicle

These 20 ideas are a listicle, and it’s insanely easy for experts in their fields (such as you) to create. Every one can come up with 20 ideas about their business, from 20 ways to decorate (interior designer) to 20 of your favorite recipes (restauranteurs).

7. Rank the top 10

A variation on the listicle is the top 10 list. For example, as peak housing season approaches, realtors can create a list of the top 10 things you must do to sell your house. Or, create a trend piece from your own data that you can also pitch to the press. For example, the top 10 towns ranked by number of houses on the market.

8. Quote others

People love inspiring quotes. If you discover a quote that fits your business, combine it with a photo to create an image to share. Pixabay offers free images, and Picmonkey is a free service that allows you to easily upload an image and overlay text.

9. Produce how-to instructions

Share your expertise. The most popular type of content – next to cats, of course – is useful information. If you’re a plumber and can show people how to fix a leaky toilet, viewers will love and remember you for it.

10. Ask questions

Chances are, your customers ask lots of questions. This is a good indication that there’s interest in the topic. Thus, your answers make great fodder for a blog post. Likewise, you can mine your FAQs as a source of blog content.

11. Get your customers to speak for you

Are your clients complimenting your services? Ask if they’d be willing to record short case studies and testimonials on the spot using the video recorder on your phone.

12. Steal from the news headlines

Major events are an opportune time to share your expertise. Let’s say there’s a hurricane. If you’re an insurance agent, get out on social media and tell people how to protect their property, contact agents, and what questions to ask if they want to file a claim. And be sure to use the storm’s hashtags to find a wider audience.

13. Recycle old material

Blog or social posts that are older than six months can always be updated and reposted. If you’ve produced content in nondigital formats, these works can have new life online. Have you published a book? Written a paper? Contributed to a journal or been interviewed by the media? Get extra mileage out of the work you’ve done in the past.

14. Publish your speeches

Have you recently given a speech or presentation, perhaps to the Chamber of Commerce or a local networking group? Post it on Slideshare and share it in social media. In fact, you can even wrap it into a blog post.

15. Be a video or radio star

This idea may take more time than the others on this list. But if you’re a talker, you might find it easier to record your ideas on video or audio. Try new apps such as Periscope to live stream your own show.

16. Ask others to write for you

Invite clients, partners and suppliers to be guest contributors. Everyone can identify at least twelve people in their circles who would be willing to contribute. That’s one blog post a month for your editorial calendar.

17. Share your own experiences

Each year, PR firm Edelman conducts a survey that gauges who people trust most. For the last several years, Trust Barometer respondents say they trust people like themselves more than celebrities and CEOs. That’s why sharing your own personal stories are so important. They can make you more relatable and can help readers connect with you. Share the story behind how you started your business, how you learned your craft or what charities you support and why.

18. Give a little bit at a time

We often make the mistake of tackling a big topic all at once, usually in a blog post. But doing so makes the task overwhelming. Instead, take the topic and break it into several blog posts – or even smaller bits – as little as 140 characters.

19. Chunk the work

When you group like tasks together, you’ll achieve economies of scale. I use Mondays to write the outlines for all my blog posts, for example. The more you can group similar tasks together, the faster you can finish them. Set aside an hour to schedule all your social posts on Hootsuite. Or use the 10 minutes between meetings to find content to curate.

20. KISS (Keep it short and simple)

Great content doesn’t have to be lengthy. Aim for pithy. For example, visit marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog. He writes every day, sometimes as little as a sentence.

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Can Brand Journalism and Ethics Co-Exist?

brand journalism ethic coexistDo ethics matter in business? Do they matter in journalism? How about brand journalism?

Let’s consider a fictional example.

“Did you use exceptional measures?”

“IF we used sarin, here’s how we used sarin.”

This is a pivotal exchange from an episode this season of Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom, which just ended its second season on HBO. Actually, the turning point is not this interview of a general who is – in the hopes of the questioning TV producer – whistleblowing on the illegal use of nerve gas during a Marine rescue in Pakistan. It’s the surreptitious editing of the clip after the interview to remove the word “if” by the mission-driven producer.

Of course, he was wrong to do that.

It’s easy to sit back in the armchair and throw darts at journalists in the heat of a story. Boo them even. Tell ourselves that yes, they are as devious and evil as we believe them to be.

Not that what the character Jerry Dantana did was right, but we CEOs, marketers, brand journalists, and PR pros all need to take a hard look at our own ethical behavior. How different are we, actually? We use influence every day to earn more revenue. And when we do, how truly honest are we in our drive to land that big contract?

For businesses, whether they are media companies, retailers, food giants or manufacturers, the line between persuasion and truth is fine indeed. But it’s important for us to hold that line. After all, we hold social contracts with our markets. Customers expect businesses to treat them well and fairly, and they should expect us to try to make the world a better place.

One thing I’ve learned from working in big corporate media companies: They are run by people, most of whom are well-intentioned. Yes, there are employees who, like Jerry Dantana, will believe that sliding the line just a little bit is okay if it helps the greater good. And I believe that many people come to work each day convinced that they are making the world a better place.

But when things go wrong – and they often do – it’s because it’s hard to see the big picture when you are just one small cog. The food industry is a good example of this phenomenon. I recently finished reading Michael Moss’s book, Salt, Sugar, Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us. It would be easy for me to cast the food giants as evil, greedy corporations. After all, they’ve engineered our food to encourage us to eat more calories than we need – literally expanding their market.

But what I took away from the book is that many of the players believed they were doing good, by giving consumers what they wanted or solving the hunger crisis by making food more affordable. Over time, they held onto these beliefs even as they played a role in changing consumer behavior and shifting the problem from hunger to malnourishment (and making quite a lot of revenue and profit).

Journalists and businesspeople aren’t all that different from each other, much as we like to think they are. Both have the same goal: to persuade and influence. (No editor, producer or journalist will admit to this, of course. They’ll say that it’s the truth they’re after. But they do influence, whether intentionally or not.)

What sets journalists apart is a strong code of ethics to tell the truth for the betterment of society. Businesses might also have internal codes of ethics, and they might say that they’re doing good. But they also have a fiscal responsibility to owners, shareholders, and yes, customers. That fiscal responsibility means that brands have an inherent conflict of interest.

Their mission is to make more revenue and to do that they must sell more of their products. Objectivity plays a much smaller role. The only place you’ll find Macy’s Santa directing customers across the street to Gimbel’s is in the movies.

As brands become publishers, though, we need to reconsider the ethics of providing one-sided or incomplete information. There’s good fiscal reason to lean toward objectivity at the risk of sending customers elsewhere. People buy from brands they trust, and socially responsible companies tend to have higher revenues.

As marketing becomes more fact-based and news-driven – more focused on brand journalism – we need to recognize that it might be in our best interests not to edit the clip.

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Become a Guru: Be a Thought Leader in Your Field

Whether you’re a brand, small business, or an individual, establishing thought leadership in your industry is critical to your success in content marketing. But I’ve seen some people hesitate when describing themselves as a thought leader. The truth is: we’re all experts in something.

So, what does it mean to be an authority on a topic? A subject matter expert? A guru? Let’s look at some commonly accepted definitions of these terms:

guru teacher expertGuru: teacher, leader, a leading authority

Expert: A person with exceptional skill or knowledge in the field

Authority: an expert

Master: A person with exceptional skill in a certain thing; a person qualified to teach

These are high standards, aren’t they? Perhaps, but we have to remember that they’re imbued with a certain set of expectations that are sometimes just a bit over the top. For example, when I hear the word “guru,” I usually think of that wizened old man at the top of the mountain, who knows with absolute certainty what is the truth.

The Internet is full of gurus, though. Is it possible for each and every one to be as all-knowing as the guru on the mountain? Of course not. Like most of us, they’re still learning – and they’ll always be learning – new things in the area in which they’re experts. What they do have is a preponderance of knowledge in their specific field that they’re willing to share.

So if you’re having doubts about whether or not you too can be a guru, have no fear.

If you’ve been running a small business or following an interest or a passion for some time, then you’ve probably accumulated knowledge that others would find useful to learn.

Think about it: How many formal classes have you taken? Do you have a degree in your field? How many clients have you worked with? How many new scenarios have you faced? How many problems have you solved? How many industry, trade journals or blogs do you read?

Chances are, you’ve mastered your field of expertise, and you’re uniquely qualified to teach others how to be successful.

And that’s what a guru really is: a teacher. It doesn’t mean that you must know everything, or to be that expert or that guru on the mountain who knows all. You just have to know more than those who want to learn.

That may seem like a trite concept but that’s really what’s playing out on the Internet right now. Many people were sharing their expertise through blogs, videos and online courses.

Here are five steps to becoming a guru in your field.

Be confident. You know more than you give yourself credit for. And you certainly know more than your clients (that’s why they hire you) or the people who are just getting started in your field.

Don’t stop learning. Many of us believe that we must know “all” before we can teach. But if gurus waited until they learned all they could learn, there would be no teachers.  The experts are constantly educating themselves about changing developments in their field, and they learn new things all the time. Does this sound familiar?

Share your knowledge. Blog about it, create a video series or an online course. Your authority increases with the amount of knowledge you share.

Share what others are saying. Don’t keep what you’re reading and watching to yourself. Share it in social networks and offer commentary.

Connect with other gurus. Reach out to influential experts in your field and make those connections public. By building your network, you’re also building your reputation.

Continuously sharing your knowledge with a ever-widening range of people can draw huge benefits. You’ll connect with new clients and partners, your fellow experts will ask your assistance with problems, and the media will seek commentary on breaking news. Not bad, guru.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

Albert Einstein

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

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What the Perfect Editorial Calendar Should Include

editorial systemI have a problem with editorial calendars for content marketing. Maybe it’s just that I’m spoiled by my years as an editor in the newsroom, but spreadsheets and Word docs just aren’t cutting it for me. And yet, today, as I download yet another “how to plan your content marketing strategy” ebook from a marketing agency, here’s what they recommend: a spreadsheet.

Yep.

Editorial calendars are the nervous system of your content marketing strategy. Heck, they’re the nervous system of your whole marketing strategy. But they really need to WORK for you. And spreadsheets are just clunky. They aren’t easy to edit, to insert images into, to capture links, or use for collaboration in teams. You can’t hold a discussion or leap nimbly from Web to spreadsheet to social network.

What’s more, there’s no easy way to create a bird’s eye view or effectively manage dozens of social accounts. It makes both strategic and tactical planning cumbersome and inefficient.

But if I’m really honest with myself, what I really want is an editorial system. I want something that allows me to plan several months out, manage the process and all the specifics easily, allow for agility and flexibility when situations change or opportunities arrive, and distribute across my marketing channels effortlessly.

Dear journalist friends, does this sound familiar? That’s right. Media outlets do this every day. They have publishing systems, style guides, and processes that make it possible.

Here are my requirements for the perfect content marketing editorial system (and this is just a start):

  • Ease of planning
  • Short term view
  • Long term horizon
  • Ease of sharing (with clients and teams)
  • Ease of collaboration (for clients and teams)
  • Integrated real-time monitoring of topics (to easily curate)
  • Ability to distribute and share to multiple channels
  • Ability to customize messages for each channel
  • Ability to repeat posts easily (copy / paste)
  • Copyright compliance detector
  • Plagarism detector
  • Analytics (graphics, customizable data points, ability to download to a spreadsheet)
  • Mobile enabled
  • Fully integrated with all platforms from CMS to social network

How about you? What are your requirements? Tell me in the comments below. I’d love to hear them. And I promise to consolidate them into the ideal wishlist and publish it here for reference.

I’ll even go a step further: Over the next few months, I’m going to test, evaluate and review tools for managing editorial calendars and social media. I’ll use our ideal list to do that. So, comment away!

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

 

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Advertising in Reverse

Journalism Notebook

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A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Gretchen Peck of Editor & Publisher about marketing tactics that publishers could use to drive traffic to their websites. Publishers, I said, really needed to think about advertising in reverse. That is, syndicating editorial content to brands for use on their websites.

Some top publishers (like the Huffington Post) and aggregators (Newscred and Contently) are already doing this. Now, Fortune has added a new product for advertisers: Trusted Original Content. Already, it has signed up Capital One, for which it will be creating custom content under the Fortune brand.

We’re all familiar with the idea that “everyone is a publisher.” That’s because search engines rank websites according to how much relevant content they include about a particular topic. The goal is to send searchers to sites that are authorities on a topic. That means strategic use of specific keywords and lots of inbound links.

The problem is that most marketing teams don’t have the skills to create journalistic copy. It’s not merely about writing skills, it’s also about the ability to build editorial calendars and produce timely, newsworthy content in all forms (print, graphical, video, audio) — frequently and on deadline. Publishers are expert at this. What’s more, they’re set up to do it properly with a proven process and skilled journalists, producers, artists and editors.

I spent years working for one of the world’s top publishers and straddling the line between journalism and marketing. It makes perfect sense to me that creating or licensing journalistic quality content to brands for use in their own media channels is the next frontier.

And while I’m sure that many of my editorial friends are horrified at the idea, I’ve no doubt that this is a future business model for publishers. I expect we’ll soon see more publishers moving toward advertising in reverse.

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Why Marketing Will Soon Look Like a Newsroom

Newsroom panorama

Credit: victoriapeckham

Social media is changing marketing, reshifting priorities. That’s clear in the spending trends: AdAge reports that 59% of survey respondents say they’ll spend more money on social media ads in the next 12 months, with social media advertising jumping to 27% from 22%. (The survey was conducted by Advertiser Perceptions.)

And it’s not just advertising: CMOs say they plan to increase their social media budgets to 10.8% in the next 12 months from current levels of 7.4%, according to the latest CMO Survey from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But social media marketing is different from traditional marketing, and a key reason is that it requires content – good, quality content that helps readers solve problems or understand issues. This is vastly different than traditional marketing, which relies on pithy and memorable campaign slogans.

This is why content marketing is the hot, new buzz word for marketers. There’s a lot of information available about how to create content that grabs the attention of your audience. (The Content Marketing Institute is an excellent resource.) But what does it mean for the structure of the marketing department as we know it?

Content marketing is going to require marketing heads to rethink the composition of their staff, the skill sets that are required, and the tools that they use. What’s a better place to look for a model than the newsroom, which has a strong track record of producing informative content? And by newsroom, I envision a hybrid of TV, print, magazine and online, with a dash of customer service thrown in.

▪   Hire an Editor in Chief. Eventually, CMOs will take on this role. But as the marketing newsroom evolves – along with the skill set of the CMO – the most important hire may be a former journalist or editor who understands editorial calendars, assignments, and most importantly, determining the editorial focus based on what’s important to the readers.

▪   Producers. Content is not one-dimensional. It can’t be merely words on a screen. It needs animation, images, video, audio, and graphics. Like TV producers, they have full creative responsibilities, making decisions about everything that appears in the final version, from script to spokesman.

▪   Writers. Tasked with researching and writing stories, posts, scripts, and status updates, in line with the editorial focus.

Community managers already do some of this, in addition to managing the company’s responses to questions from fans and followers. Perhaps this role will morph into the modern day equivalent of the editorial page editor.

I’ll be writing more about the marketing department of the future – the tools it will need and the skillsets of its employees – over the next few days. Stop back and let me know what you think – and how you are thinking about reorganizing your marketing staff to meet social media marketing challenges.

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