Content Marketing Without a Strategy is an Act of Philanthropy

By Kath Walters @kathwalters

Compared to buying space for advertisements in media mastheads, content marketing is an incredibly cheap way of getting your message to the people that matter to you. For less money, you get way more value, too, because as consumers, we never really like being “sold to” anyway.

But content marketing isn’t free. And the bar is getting higher – as more brands adopt content marketing, quality and quantity is increasing. You need writers, editors, sub-editors, production staff, technology, and IT geeks, and someone to control all that stuff. Or, alternatively, a content-marketing agency.

Of course, the more resources you invest in your CM program, the better your content will be … with one exception.

Without a content marketing strategy, your wonderful, timely, relevant and trusted content will be a waste of money!

You will be a philanthropist, not a content marketer. 

Personally, I think that is a beautiful thing, but I’m guessing that your company’s chief financial officer will not be so delighted.

A bit of data about that

Remarkably, just 52% of Australian marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, according to a recent report by the US Content Marketing Institute and local marketing peak body, ADMA. And only 33% of marketers thought their content marketing was effective. 

However, having a written content marketing strategy is the defining difference between effective and ineffective content marketing programs, the research clearly found: 55% of those who rate themselves effective have a written strategy compared to 13% of those who feel their content marketing is mostly or totally ineffective.

Not another bloody strategy

Yeah, I know: strategy shm-ategy. But actually, it doesn’t have to be that hard. For one thing, there are lots of really cool FREE guides to creating a strategy on the web. My favourite is this one by Skyword: Seven Steps to Kick Start Your Content Marketing. 

Recently though, I saw this little beauty – The One-Page Content Marketing Plan – which is an attractive proposition, although in fact, they have much in common. 

Knock these two big problems on the head – Now!

The two most common mistakes I see companies make with the content marketing programs are these (you’re not going to believe this):

  1. It’s really hard to sign up to the e-newsletter. The sign-up box is hidden, it requires too much information, it doesn’t work, or there is no reward for signing up, like a nice juicy e-book. I get that corralling the IT department into changing the website is super hard– which is why so many marketers set up micro-sites for their CM so they can easily control such matters themselves. But it’s got to be top priority.
     
  2. The powers that be are not using the right metrics to measure success. The killer metric for the success of a content marketing campaign is subscriptions to your e-newsletter (as I have written before on this blog). Once you have those emails, it’s up to the sales and marketing folks to convert the leads. You are building brand profile, trust, loyalty, and retaining your lovely existing customers, yes. But your primary metric is bringing new leads in the door.

I’ve just finished reading the absolute classic Rich Dad Poor Dad (15 years too late!), so I will end with some wisdom from its author, Robert Kiyosaki. 

The difference, he says, between the rich, and the poor (in which he includes the middle class) is that the rich invest in assets, while the rest of us spend money. Enough said.

 

Personal Branding Tips for Journalists

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

For a freelance journalist, having a strong personal brand can mean the difference between work and no work. That said, many journalists shy away from building a personal brand, feeling uncomfortable with the idea of ‘selling themselves’. 

But branding is not about self-promotion. It is about being you – with consistency and clarity. 

For those who still cringe at the thought of their personal brand, here are some tips to make the process pain-free and effective.

Follow your passions

The most successful personal brands tap into what inspires a person. Be it travel, music or a penchant for French literature, when people share their passion they attract interest and attention. Passion is magnetic. For journalists, it is also a chance to show character outside of the newsroom/office/station. Think of SBS reporter Lee Lin Chin. The self-described “fashionista” has become one of the most recognisable newsreaders through her distinct sense of fashion and style. 

Engage

Brand psychologist Mary van de Wiel believes a brand must be active if it is to stay relevant. The same is true for personal brands. To avoid being a “dead brand walking” as she describes, journalists need to actively engage and cultivate their network. This may be by contributing articles, creating a blog, participating in online discussions, investing more time in social media or attending relevant industry events. In short, there are lots of ways to engage. Find the way that is authentic to you and your interests. 

Don’t be afraid to share an opinion

This is perhaps the trickiest point. With an opinion, there is always the risk of a rebuttal. There is also the risk of misinterpretation. But it is important to put these risks aside. They can be mitigated with tact and diplomacy. In personal branding, opinions matter. This does not mean you need to be divisive. The idea is to take a stance that could be on the future of the economy or the latest trend in Belgian cinema. As Jon Lombardo, Brand Strategist Enterprise Technology at LinkedIn explains, “People don’t buy your product, they buy your perspective.”

Help Fix Content Marketing In 2015

By Kath Walters — @KathWalters

Like a train without breaks, content marketing is on the brink of careering out of control.

I don’t want to rain on your parade. In principle, everything about content marketing is good.

The job of content marketers is to inform, entertain and engage customers and potential customers. Today, consumers are just too sophisticated and informed for old-style marketing with its inane messages.

As consumers, we want information that respects our intelligence and our right to make up our minds about where and how we spend money.

The best content

To be trustworthy, content for marketing purposes today has to be unbiased and have the customers’ best interests at heart. 

It has to inspire readers to click right now on the stories, and make those stories essential reading. Trusted, timely and relevant – the three ingredients of quality content in my view.

At its best, content marketing is journalism with a new master. It is journalism democratised. Once media companies dominated the flow of information. Now, if you are in business, you are a publisher or you won’t be in business tomorrow. And traditional media is in decline.

Content marketing can potentially outgun traditional media as they have a deeper knowledge of everything about their industry: competitors, challenge, corruption, stars, and disruptors.

Companies willing to be courageous, to reveal the bad things about the industry in which they work, to share the good operators, to report on the challenges, and be generous about the opportunities – can do the work of journalism, and contribute to the fourth estate.

Here’s the thing

Instead, content marketing is becoming less and less sophisticated. Too much content marketing is becoming self-serving and superficial.

How many stories can we read about the five essentials of this, and the seven secrets of that? Of course, I write them too. They have their place.

But there is too many opinion and how-to stories, and too little reporting.

The better players

There are exceptions. In ANZ Blue Notes, there is a story by former Australian Financial Review journalist, Andrew Cornell, about whether or not the banking industry is facing a “Kodak moment”, the kind of massive disruption that could spell the end of its business model. Yes, it is an opinion piece, and yes, it does come out in favour of the survival of banking sector. (Would it have been published if his conclusion was that the banking sector is doomed?) But Cornell argues his case, and provides evidence in support of it. And he is tackling an important challenge facing banking in Australia and internationally. If he is proved wrong, we can hold him to account.

Recently, I spoke to Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, about the latest State of Content Marketing in Australia report.

Pulizzi pulled no punches in naming the problems within the sector. “Most marketers are really horrible story tellers,” Pulizzi said. “And, in order for content marketing to work, you don’t talk about products and services.” Pulizzi despairs when he conducts a content audit for his clients, and typically finds over 95% of their content is about their own product and services.

Five tips to make you a better content marketer – NOT

I don’t think there are a bunch of easy answers to the problems I’ve raised here. It’s an ethical question that can be kind of condensed into a quote from songwriter, Bob Dylan. “You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody …”

Who is it gonna be?

The Do’s and Don’ts of Brand Publishing

Create compelling, engaging, viral content. Understanding the goal is easy. Reaching it is harder. By Melissa Kitson.

While few doubt the value of good content, there are scarce guidelines on how to actually create interesting, shareable content.

To provide some guidance, Newsmodo has put together a few dos and don’ts of brand publishing.

DON’T talk about yourself (too much)

Brand publishing is an opportunity to engage your audience and build a reputation as a credible source of news and information. Readers are savvy. If they sense a sales agenda, they will switch off. Remember: Good content does not need a slogan.

DO create exclusive content

The most successful examples of brand journalism are from brands who don’t just report the news – they are the news. Take for instance Red Bull’s Felix Baumgartner stunt. Red Bull Media House carefully documented the journey of the skydiver as he attempted the longest free fall in history by jumping from outer space. His final descent was the watched in real time by 9 million people across the world. Even legacy media covered the event.

DON’T think about the pieces. Think about the whole.

Brand publishing requires commitment. Developing a content strategy across the editorial calendar will provide greater traction and build a stronger readership. Consider ANZ’s BlueNotes. Instead of creating discrete content, the ANZ bank developed an entirely new platform, hosting regularly updated pieces on the economy, finance and business.

DO show your expertise

Knowledge is an asset. While a reader may switch off if you try to sell them a car, they might be interested in the history of the automotive vehicle (in one colourful infogram?), how changes to engine efficiency are making cars faster or what the future holds for automotive technology (and why it will change driving forever).

DON’T be afraid to use emotion

Emotion, particularly emotive headlines give context to content. They say: Read this because it will make you feel sad/inspired/angry. There is no reason why ‘serious’ companies can’t use emotive language. The trick is in finding the right tone – one that is in keeping with a brand’s image that still has an emotional pull.

DO use professional editors and journalists

Brand publishing can be daunting. Collaborating with a professional editorial team can help a brand find a happy balance between what readers want and what they want to say. Don’t underestimate the value of an eagle-eyed editor!

Follow Melissa Kitson on Twitter @mnkitson

Developing A Practical Content Marketing Strategy

By Jody McDonald – @ContentQuill

You can’t leave great content marketing to chance−you need a clear strategy. The tricky part is not getting bogged down in planning so you can produce a useful document that truly guides day-to-day decisions.

The difficulty with developing strategies often lies in where to start, and then effectively prioritising. Because you can’t do everything. A practical content marketing strategy sets a framework for why and how you are dedicating energy to certain content. To make this priority-setting easier, I like to start at the end.

How will you know if it works?

Think about the results you ideally want to see if (when?) your content marketing is wildly successful. Be as specific as possible about the kind of actions you want people to take or outcomes you desire. This step alone may result in lots of ideas, so you need to prioritise immediately – choose 5 of the most desirable outcomes.

Then examine each of these separately, and work backwards by asking:

·       What do I need my audience to do to achieve this outcome?

·       Is it easy and convenient for them to do this?

·       Have I made it clear how it’s worth their while?

·       What factors might be stopping them?

And crucially, in terms of content marketing:

·       Who are the people I’m targeting and what do they care about?

·       What can I give them in exchange for their action?

·       What is the best way to get their attention and keep them engaged?

·       What are the existing trusted sources or channels for my target audience?

Hopefully you will have ideas and answers that overlap so you can see what activities might give you the best bang for your buck when fully fleshed out. But before you delve too deeply into tactics, the next step is…

What works now?

If you have the data: look at how your existing content is performing. Emphasise engagement and action when considering the success of content. Are people reading this? Are people buying or interacting as a result of this? Which channels generate the best leads? Are there common threads to the types of content that keeps people interested for longer, that compels people to convert to being a client? Look at the visual style of the content, the writing quality, the headlines, where and when it was shared: all are vital clues. Analyse and include your key findings in your strategy so you can remember it later.

However, knowing what will work and why is not an exact science so don’t worry if you’re starting from scratch and making it up as you go. Making your content work will rely heavily on the quality of what you produce. If you’ve got a hunch that videos are the way to go, you can still benefit from research into what your competitors are doing and best practice tips from marketing blogs.  Make considered choices about the length, style, formality and subjects areas you want to cover in your videos and write this into your strategy. But before you get into production, you also need to consider…

What are you already committed to?

Being pragmatic, it’s important to recognise that your strategy does not exist in isolation. So put the ideas you’ve got so far into context by compiling the following information:

·       your company vision, values statements, branding guidelines etc.

·       events, publications, advertising and other promotional activities you have booked.  

·       significant business, product or service developments your committed to.

·       major industry events, holidays, anniversaries, or periods of high activity.

Now be shrewd. Does your brand personality or company values align better to certain types of content or channels, and rule out others? How can you leverage the inevitable research, insights and communication or relationships that will be generated by other members of your team? Can you boost and expand on existing activity? For example, you might develop an in-depth case study, video or series of posts around a big contract that can be used to attract similar clients.

When presented as a calendar this list of activity also gives you a great starting point for understanding when content will be needed and have the greatest impact, so you can establish timeframes for planning, creation and maintenance. Which leads us, finally, to…

What resources do you have?

You need to understand the budget you have for content production and distribution, because this may limit the amount or type of content you can make. Your time is also a resource so you need to be realistic about what you can manage while maintaining high standards.

If you create most content in-house, your strategy should lay some ground rules for workflow and how different people contribute. You may want to draw on internal experts with terrific knowledge but find they have poor writing or presentation skills. Conversely, you might discover people with a flair for storytelling. Determine your resources first, and then create clear roles and responsibilities to include in your strategy. Crucially, make sure you clarify who determines when content is appropriate (aligned to your strategy) and who decides if it has approval to be published

What next?

Answer these questions, make choices about what is most important and achievable, and present all of your insights in a straightforward way−then you’ll have a practical strategy that ensures your content marketing is more purposeful.  You may need other documents to guide how you will implement your strategy, such as buyer personas, style guides, editorial calendars and so on. Luckily, your well thought-out strategy makes that job easier.

Your content marketing strategy will give you a reference point when you can’t decide whether a piece of content or a new channel is worthwhile, or when you’re talking to your boss about how you’re prioritising time and budgets, as well as when you’re asking for help to create content or briefing external writers and producers. This clarity will no doubt save you time and allow your content marketing efforts to be a greater success. 

Why Brands Need Editors

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

There’s no such thing as a harmless typo. Unfortunately for publishers, any error be it a typo, a formatting glitch, inconsistent capitalisation or a mismatched pronoun, is never harmless. It says, “We don’t know what we’re doing.” Readers (admittedly, not all) look out for this. They prowl for errors, eagerly awaiting the chance to pounce on a misused semicolon or incorrect contraction and declare their editorial prowess.

Sadly, this is often to the detriment of the content. To ensure content has maximum impact, brands need skilled and professional editors. An editor is crucial to maintaining quality – not only to pick out typos but to protect a brand’s voice, message and story.

As brands look to create their own brand newsrooms, it is vital that they understand the following:

Editors protect investment in quality

Brands that choose to define themselves by the quality of the content they produce need the experience of a professional editorial eye. Falling short of these high standards can have dramatic effects on a brand’s reputation and relationship with their audience. With an editor, a brand has insurance against this risk and greater security that their investment in high quality, well-researched content will achieve the desired result.

Editors connect brands to audiences

An editor looks at more than just typos. They look at how well content meets the brief, captures the client’s voice and engages the target audience A good editor is at once a brand champion and reader advocate. They find the balance between what readers want and what brands want to say.

Content creation is a process

An editor oversees all stages of the content creation process. As content develops, a good editor will look for ways to highlight a brand’s values and message. They filter out the irrelevant, hone in on the important and shape copy so that it best represents what a brand stands for.

4 Critical Steps For Creating A Successful Brand Newsroom

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

Brand newsrooms are transforming the publishing industry, creating a platform for new voices, stories and ideas. This new concept for creating content is quickly changing how audiences engage with brands and marketers, developing relationships built on trust and reciprocity.

But while a newsroom can greatly improve brand credibility, there are some important points to remember in creating a successful brand newsroom.

Develop one voice – not one room

There is a common misconception that a newsroom is a centralised office. A brand newsroom is not a physical space; it is a connected space. Some of the most successful newsrooms are virtual, built on the talent of freelance writers, editors and videographers. What’s important is that the organisation shares the same vision not the same space. Creating a strong, unified voice and style consistency is the first step to making impact.

Invest in talent

Great stories are told by great writers. A brand that wants to ensure their content does not get lost in the digital abyss needs to invest in talented writing professionals. An experienced storyteller will know how to capture the imagination of the target audience while remaining true to a brand’s key messages. Don’t invest in one writer to cover all topics. Engage the best journalists for each project via Newsmodo.

Put quality before quantity

High volume content has little effect if it does not add value. If brands are to gain traction, it is important for them to invest in quality over quantity. Over time, this investment will create a more engaged and loyal readership. It may requires patience but ultimately, a slow and rigorous journey to produce quality content will deliver far greater results than a campaign to inundate a reader with substandard work.

Adapt

A successful brand newsroom needs to be nimble. Having a flexible approach that responds to audience interests, without losing focus, will ensure content remains relevant and news worthy. By measuring and monitoring the performance of content, a brand will learn when to adapt and change tact.

How to stay ahead in 2015 – Top tips for freelance journalists

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

Let’s face it; creating the perfect, work-filled, stress-free freelance career is never going to be easy. Luckily, there are ways to make the experience a little smoother. With careful planning, freelancers can avoid many of the hiccups that define freelancing life and start to see greater traction.

By taking stock, setting goals and planning the year, freelancers have the chance to make 2015 the year of getting (and staying) ahead.

Here are some ideas on how to get started:

Update your Newsmodo profile

As a freelancer, it is easy to get caught up in either meeting deadlines or chasing work. This often means you forget to collate and organise your work. Entering 2015, it is important to take time to track down published pieces and update your portfolio.

Clean-up your computer

Never underestimate the power of a good computer clean-up. Purging old files, re-homing random articles and organising your filing system is an easy and very satisfying way to organise yourself for the year ahead. As work comes in, you will have a ready-made system and will not loose time remembering where you have saved documents.

Do a financial stock check

A sometimes grim but always useful task, checking your finances will help you begin the New Year with greater focus. Review your income, expenses and taxes. How are you poised for 2015? What do you need to take care of? If you don’t already have one, use this time to create a system for managing and tracking your invoices. Apps like Curdbee, Make Some Time and Wave may make the task less onerous.

Develop a personal brand marketing strategy

Taking charge of your personal brand is crucial to your success as a freelancer. This involves defining your niche and developing a plan of action to make yourself more visible.  Consider building a website, strengthening your social media presence, creating a blog calendar, joining professional associations or even attending industry events. The goal is to have a clear conception of your personal brand and a time-based strategy to build a following.

Why long-form content rules

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

Keep it short and simple. Make it ‘snackable’. Think in tweets.

There are a lot of mantras advocating concise, easily digestible content. And while there is value in this, the value of long-form editorial content can often be overlooked.

Long-form content is an important compliment to short-form. It builds on initial interest fostering stronger, longer-term engagement.

Think of it like dating – while short-form may arouse attention, it is the ongoing long-form content that leads to a committed relationship.

After all, long-form content:

Increases user engagement

Long form content encourages a higher quality reading experience. Research by blog platform Medium found the highest performing content takes 7 minutes and is around 1,600 words long. By introducing long-form content, companies typically see an increase in the time spent on each page and a higher number of return visitors. Readers return for the brand not for the utility the brand offers.

Establishes expertise

With long form content, there is greater opportunity to showcase your expertise. It is a platform to flex your industry muscle. Be it tech, automation or media, long-form is an invitation to show you know what you are talking about. By building credentials, a company also builds trust. According to a 2013 survey of 31,000 respondents by the Edlman Trust, people who are considered “subject matter” experts inspire greater  “trust and credibility”.

Increases search engine traffic

Long form content generates more organic traffic from search engines. This occurs for a number of reasons. Firstly, in general terms, more content equals more opportunity for search engines to locate your website. But it is much more than that. Guidelines for Google’s Quality Rating assess websites on expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT).  Websites enriched with high-quality and informative long-form content are more likely to win EAT points and perform better in online searches. Indeed, data from SerpIQ shows that top-ranked content is around 2,450 words. What’s more, Google has a created a designated space for in-depth content where content, deemed higher value, is prioritised.

Content marketing’s golden metric

By Kath Walters @kathwalters

If you are in the content marketing game, you are a publisher. You are creating regular, trustworthy and timely content for your customers and potential customers in order to win their trust and build a market for your product or services.

So why, I wonder, are companies confused about which metrics they need to measure to capture data about their return on investment?

Only 20% of content marketers believe they are successfully measuring ROI, according to a recent survey of 251 Australian respondents by the Content Marketing Institute and Association of Data Driven Marketing (ADMA).

In addition, just 24% of marketing professionals judge their own content marketing to be ‘effective’ or just 5% say ‘very effective’, the survey found.

Publishers measure only one metric – how many readers they have (circulation) – and that is the most important metric for content marketers to measure, too.

The survey reveals a fatal flaw in many content marketing programs, says Joe Pulizzi, the founder of CMI. “By far number one metric content marketers measure is website traffic [60%],” he says. “It is a meaningless metric.”

The most important metric – growing subscribers – ranked at the bottom (32%). “It is a little troubling,” Pulizzi says.

Many companies make three fundamental mistakes when it comes to building their list of subscribers. Here they are:

1.     Their content does not match the needs and interests of their customers and prospects. They are (still) trying to use content marketing to sell, and not to engage.

2.     It’s too hard to subscribe – the subscriber box is hidden, subscribers are asked too many questions (email only), or the instructions are not clear.

3.     There is no free offer to tempt subscribers over the line. Email addresses are currency. Our inboxes are overflowing, and we are increasingly choosy about who we invite into them. Every subscription offer should include a free e-book, or another offer of value to your new subscriber.