Tag Archives | Content marketing

20 Ways To Streamline Your Content Marketing


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.

High Quality Content Defined

high quality contentThere seems to be a perception that all content marketers have a common understanding of what high quality content is. But do we really? Is there a common definition of high quality content that we can all agree upon? For those of us who started in editorial and became brand journalists, I think there is.

In some ways, I think high quality content is the same as newsworthy. Like porn, I know it when I see it. But unlike porn, I can define it.

High quality content that is also reader-worthy has three core attributes:

  • It’s not an advertisement. Marketers tend to break this rule, thanks to a longstanding tradition of believing that everyone will be as captivated by their products or services as much as they are. But those days are over, as Google and other search engines tinker with algorithms so that they return content that is interesting and relevant to the searcher. It’s why so many content marketers tell us to stop talking about ourselves.
  • It’s new. The best content tells readers something they didn’t already know. It’s one of the reasons that education and how-to videos are so popular.
  • It’s interesting. It’s something that readers want to read – and probably can’t get enough of.

There are other attributes as well – it can be funny, or heartwarming, or emotional – but these three are the common core.

As content marketing evolves into something more robust, we need to take a few lessons from journalists about creating high quality content. It’s not a coincidence that the best types of content originate in traditional media.

Five Types of High Quality Content

Here are five types of content that if you produce, you have a good shot at creating high quality content worth reading or viewing.

  • News analysis. What does a recent event mean to your readers? Analysis is the objective description of the potential implication of change.
  • Interviews. You can’t go wrong with a Q&A. All that’s needed is an interesting guest and 4-5 questions. Most people love to talk about themselves. And you don’t have to be the Larry King of interviewers. Look at the popularity of Reddit’s AMA’s: the questions are asked by everyday people. Good or bad, interviews make for fascinating content.
  • Features and profiles. Here’s your chance to be creative or hard-hitting – take your pick. Choose a leader in your field and write a human interest piece about him, exploring how he structures his day, what he eats for breakfast, how he got to where he is. Or, dig deep into a new development such as a rule or regulation. Investigate the background, interview the players and uncover the real motivators.
  • Opinion. All news outlets stake a position. Some are conservative, some are liberal, but none are neutral. Don’t just regurgitate the facts from “trusted” sources around the Web. The best brand journalists take a stand.
  • Trends predictions. Most of us are busy working in the weeds, so sometimes it’s hard to pick up our heads and see the bigger picture. Your readers need to know where their industry is heading, and what they need to do to head off disaster and seize opportunities. Be their beacon.

How to Use Storytelling to Persuade an Audience

I’ve just started work on a new presentation (about Parenting Generation LIVE, the kids who are growing up with always on technology), which reminded me of my favorite resource for presentation development: Duarte. If you’ve not picked up Nancy Duarte’s excellent book Slide:ology, I urge you to get it right away. (The team at Duarte helped create Al Gore’s award-winning presentation, An Inconvenient Truth.)

Nancy has analyzed many presentations and identified the best method of storytelling to influence and change opinion. It’s all very scientific, and her discussion at TEDx (below) is worth watching. A good way to spent 20 minutes on a chilly Fall Friday! Enjoy!

Brand Storytelling Lessons from “Breaking Bad”

Brand Storytelling Lessons from Breaking BadSo, it’s over. Walter White is gone, the “Breaking Bad” story concluded. Pundits and critics will be discussing the series finale for weeks. But I’d like to focus on something altogether different: the long narrative arc, the short story that is each episode, and what marketers can learn from Vince Gilligan to improve their brand storytelling.

Let me start by saying that I’m a latecomer to “Breaking Bad,” having  started the series just a few weeks ago. At least I have the pleasure of continuing on, while many fans now are in the unenviable position of series withdrawal. I’ve still got three and a half seasons to view, which I’ll watch leisurely over the next few months – if I can stand to slow it down.

And I have another advantage: I’ve read ahead. Don’t be shocked! I do this all the time when I read novels. I like to know where the story is going, but I’m also keenly interested in story construction and character development. And I’m always looking to borrow from other disciplines to hone my own brand storytelling skills. So I’m glad I’ve read the dozens of articles about White’s transformation and the eventual end to his story. I now have time to fully appreciate and learn from Gilligan’s talent in storytelling.

There’s much that brand marketers can learn from Gilligan and this series. When we think about how to tell our brand story, we often think in terms of corporate messaging and individual campaigns. In an ideal world, these two types of narratives need to snap together. More realistically, in large organizations and fast-moving markets, that may not always be the case. Consistency of story is always a brand challenge.

Brand Storytelling and the Long Narrative Arc

Vince Gilligan pitched Breaking Bad to the studio with this one line: “This is a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.”

That sentence says a lot about what Gilligan sees as White’s brand and direction. It answers the question: What does Gilligan want Walt to be? To support that vision, he weaves a narrative in episodes that turn Walt into a badass.

Every company has a vision for what it wants to be, although it may not exactly want to be known as a badass corporate entity. Nearly every one will want to be known as innovative or the best in their class. How they express that ambition, however, is widely different.

Apple, for example, has built a its reputation for innovation on the idea of originality. Its campaigns (“Think Different”) and product development (Mac, iOS, iPhone) have all supported that broader vision. Another example: Pepsi targets a youthful audience with its soft drinks. And of course it wants its customers to associate the brand with fun and entertainment. Its long narrative arc therefore taps into pop culture.

The long narrative arc is where brand storytellers and strategists must start. It’s ground zero. The questions are:

  1. Who are your customers and what do they think of you?
  2. What products and services do you offer?
  3. What is your promise to your customer?
  4. What does the brand want to be?
  5. What is your big picture story?

Some of these answers are very concrete, but others can and should be aspirational.

Campaigns as Short Stories

Each week, Walter White made another step toward Gilligan’s vision of badass. In season 1, the catalyst was a diagnosis of cancer. The first action toward building his badass brand was to start cooking meth. Each week after, Gilligan unveiled another proof point, whether it was Walt cutting deals with drug lords, abusing Jesse, lying to his wife, or cutting down adversaries.

With every episode, we had more proof of who Walt is. Each installment snapped neatly into the longer narrative arc.

Marketers must align every campaign that they run with their longer narrative arc. If a campaign isn’t consistent with the storyline, it needs to be rethought or even killed. Every campaign must be another building block in the story.

But here’s another thing that Gilligan did very well: He helped his audience become emotionally invested in Walt himself. In literary terms, Walt is an anti-hero, and by the end of the series, fans had divided on what they felt should happen to the man. While this division isn’t quite the fan investment brands desire, we do want our fans do care about us emotionally.

Here are the questions that brand storytellers and campaign managers need to ask:

  1. How does this campaign build our brand?
  2. How do we make an emotional connection with fans?
  3. What is the mini-story we want to tell?
  4. What do we want our customers to believe and feel?

Of course, brands can run campaigns without the bigger picture narrative or an emotional connection, but they’ll never build the kind of loyalty and love from customers that will insulate them from pricing and market challenges. For this, they need to develop that longer narrative arc and support it with proof-point campaigns – over and over again.

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

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.


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


Tips for Staying Creative Every Day So New Ideas Will Flow

I’m a creative person by nature. But even I − a brand journalist who is faced with the need to generate new ideas for custom content every…single…day −  even I get burned out. You can’t create custom media without fresh ideas.

I do have a few tricks to help me find my creative mojo again.

  • Golden Gate Bridge is reflected in a soap bubbleTroll the Web. OK, admittedly, this sounds like a poor idea. And really, I wouldn’t recommend it as the FIRST thing to try. Maybe not even the last. But there are some amazing things on the Web. Museum websites are great sources of creative inspiration, especially for new types of custom media. Just don’t let yourself get TOO distracted or hours will go by in a flash. Oh…and stay away from Perez Hilton.
  • Watch a TEDTalk. I don’t consider this surfing the Web because I watch these on my iPad while doing the dishes. They either have me running back to the computer with 15 new ideas − or leave me up to my elbows in soap bubbles and tears.
  • Take a shower. Without singing. (I’m banned from singing in the house after a disastrous attempt at the Happy Birthday song a few years ago.) On slow days, I’m squeaky clean.
  • Play the “I wonder if” game. You know, ‘I wonder if this story would be more interesting if told it in Q&A style.’ or ‘I wonder if things smell the same way to cats as they smell to us.’ 
  • Get outside. Take a run along the pond, walk to the local coffee shop, sit outside the local library and people watch. This often brings out the journalist in me, which often leads to new ideas.
  • Welcome the bad ideas. One thing I’ve learned over the years about the he process of generating new ideas or new ways to tell stories is that bad ideas often spark good ones. Don’t be afraid to let the dogs out.

Golden Gate Bridge is reflected in a soap bubble (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday Reads: Annenberg, Content Marketing, Cinemagram

Here are some of the things worth reading, viewing, and checking out this week.

  • USC Annenberg released their GAP VII survey of the PR industry a couple of weeks ago, but PR Squared posted a nice summary of the research by Burghardt Tenderich, associate director of the center. Bottom line: PR has a seat at the table, social media and internal comms are on the rise, marketing/product PR is on the decline.
  • If you haven’t had enough of the iconic Steve Jobs after reading Walter Isaacson’s biography, Fast Company has the legacy tapes, which cover the years between Apple stints. Be sure to check out the quotes.
  • On the importance of headline writing: there’s just too much out there to read, so a headline has got to speak to you. Another reason for hiring a trained journalist for your marketing newsroom.
  • On storytelling: how characters move the brand story forward, from Spin Sucks.
  • Can traditional marketers transition to digital marketing? Personally, I think many will not. Here’s Mike Moran’s view.
  • McKinsey Quarterly discusses how companies can harness social media to shape consumer decision making. My favorite line: “Knowing that something works and understanding how it works are very different things.”

Launch of the Week:

MaryLee Sachs, author of The Changing MO of the CMO, launches her new consultancy to help CMOs deal with the rapidly shifting sands of marketing.

Product of the Week:

Enterprise customer intelligence company, FirstRain, launches FirstTweets, which filters out the junk tweets and delivers companies high-quality, business-relevant tweets. Reviews are promising so far, and I’m testing it out. Look for a future blog post.

Video of the Week:

2.5 million views and more than 30K likes. In 10 days. I think that qualifies as viral.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faIFNkdq96U&w=560&h=315]

Design of the Week:

The folks at The Mechanism, who have lots of cool things on their blog (and do cool design work of their own), shared this Aussie site. It meets my (very high) standards for quality and creativity.

App of the Week:

Credit again to the Mechanism blog, but I too am having fun with Cinemagram. My cats, not so much.

Created with cinemagr.am

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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