Digital disruption gives you the opportunity to challenge the status quo

New York –

 

We live in snarky times and that doesn’t make me happy.  

But it’s one of the reasons why I decided to leave the comfort of a steady job as a journalist and newscaster with American ABC News, and plunge into the uncertain,  exciting world of podcasting, where there are no rules or formats.

After more than three decades of reporting from four continents and more than 20 countries, it’s time to be part something new – and a little bit crazy!

Podcasting is the new Wild West.  Listening to a show or story is the most intimate way to connect with the outside world.  Just pop in your ear buds and listen to another human voice.

It’s a great way to build trust and imagination.  Any brand that already uses websites, social media and YouTube to deepen a relationship with followers and users should consider digital audio.  

Most of us spend hours each day away from our screens while driving, walking or doing the dishes.  But we can still listen.

Here in the States tens of thousands of podcasts are vying for attention – from a couple of friends having a conversation in their basement, to “Serial,” the breakout hit about a Maryland murder mystery from public radio’s “This American Life,” with 100 million downloads.

According to the 2015 Edison Research survey, more than 45 million Americans listened to a podcast in the past month.  50% were women.  50% men.  The percentage of regular podcast listeners has almost doubled since 2008. Nearly half of all podcast listeners are aged 18 – 44.

Car dashboards (the “center stack”) are rapidly changing.  CD players and simple AM/FM radios are being replaced by online audio entertainment systems that sync with drivers’ smartphones.  Apple has embedded a “Podcast” app on all new iPhones and tablets.  Major auto makers are installing Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay entertainment systems.    

With the technological revolution, brands of all kinds are facing disruption.  My business, the news media, has become atomized.  I believe consumers have changed faster than most of the brands that are serving them.

The internet, when it arrived with so much promise 20 years ago, promised to democratize information.  And in many ways it has – challenging the privileged media establishment and opening up a vast new world of information to anyone with the time and curiosity to learn new things.

But that promise has also brought new hazards.  Today, it seems, everyone is entitled to their own version of the facts.  Instead of gathering around the radio, as our grandparents did, or watching the nightly news, we sit on our own, searching Google for opinions that comfort us and screen out those we don’t agree with.

Confirmation bias has always been part of the human condition.  But the internet has expanded the size of our information bubbles and fed into partisan division and distrust.

I write this from New York, a place of extraordinary diversity, which has always been a city on the make.  But even in this noisy, commercial city the whiff of nihilism of late has become too strong. This year, politicians Donald Trump on the right and Senator Bernie Sanders on the left have built large followings that are fueled by anger.  

What passes for original thought is too often no more than an angry swipe at what we don’t like or understand.

It’s time to build constructive ideas in the public square. Branded content has a role to play as businesses look for new ways to engage.

Our new weekly podcast, “How Do We Fix It?”, is also one small attempt to be positive, going beyond divisions of left and right .  Instead of feeding the beast of division and distrust, we look for solutions to stuff that matters.  From fixing education and facing up to climate change and identity theft, to personal debt and diet, we seek out new ideas from out-of-the-box thinkers.

We’re edgy, even contrarian, but our intent is to do something different and have a little fun. Who knows if we’re doing it right, but it’s worth a try.  

We challenge our listeners to get into their DIScomfort zones.

How to grow your email list using meaningful content

The email list is a prized possession of business owners because it’s the one list you own that links you directly to your potential customers.

But you’re not alone if you’re having difficulty growing your email list.

It takes time and valuable content to drive interest and sign ups.

“If businesses are willing to put time and effort into creating that valuable content, I believe that they can set themselves apart from competition. In fact, truly, I believe, that when you provide incredible value, I don’t believe you have competition,” says Larry G. Maguire.

Larry is an email marketing pro who helps businesses build their email lists. This gives businesses a highly valuable tool to have in their pocket, and  they can be used for a variety of engagement and sales goals. 

Listen to the Brand Storytelling podcast or read on for Larry’s top tips. 

The top thing to keep in mind when you’re building your email list is patience.

“It’s not something that can deliver results overnight,” says Larry.

There are faster ways to target customers, says Larry. Things like Pay Per Click advertising. “But if you want to build a meaningful following, if you want to build a community around your brand and around your product or service, then I think you’ve got to go down the long road and expect it to take a little bit of time to be able to bring those visitors in,” says Larry.

Producing meaningful content is the best way to build your audience and grow your email list, but Larry says the first thing to review when getting started is whether your site is attracting traffic. Without traffic, you won’t build your list.

Next, Larry says, is to have good landing pages with clear-cut call-to-action steps. Don’t make them complicated. Don’t try to put too much into a landing page. Be clear, concise, and specific with your call-to-action.

“A landing page could be a product page—a very direct request like “buy now”—or it could be the beginning of a particular funnel or route for the buyer,” explains Larry.

In order to build your email list, your landing page should include something attractive and valuable to get people to want to exchange their email for your free gift.

Keeping people on your list requires “knowing what your potential customer wants,” says Larry.

This, of course, is not always easy to know and understand. That’s why it’s important to test which call-to-actions work better.

Online can be quite an invisible kind of platform and you need a means by which to engage with your visitors and the email marketing side of it can be very important for that.

— Larry G. Maguire

The content that you send in your emails should aim to engage at a conversational level without being stuffy or corporate-sounding.

Larry says that some marketers say you should always send emails with links that attempt to sell. He disagrees, “I think being helpful for the sake of being helpful has an enormous amount of value.”

An important key to doing email marketing right is automation. You have to stay on top of technology.

If [businesses] are going to make the online world work for them, they’ve got to embrace it and spend some time understanding how technology works.

— Larry G. Maguire

Larry’s Top Tips

1. Know your audience.

2. Think about what your audience is interested in.

3. Don’t always be selling to your customers.

4. It’s okay to create non-brand content.

5. Small talk in emails is good and often engages people on your list.

6. Understand that list-building can take time. Be patient.

7. Create content of value so that visitors are willing to exchange their email for what you’re offering.


Learn more about Larry G. Maguire

Larry G. Maguire is based in Dublin, Ireland. He’s dad to three kids, Ruairí, Cian & Cara, and husband to Joanne. Larry has a big love of communication and design, and, being a complete tech nerd, it proves to make a good mix for helping business people just like you establish a strong online presence.

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Is brand journalism news?

It’s no great secret that Australia’s media landscape has experienced great and unsettling challenges in the last decade or so.

The problems are well known; the river of classifieds gold has dried up, television advertising revenue has dipped markedly, and consumer’s attention span has waned as they divide their time between multiple devices.

In 2014, newspapers enjoyed just 10.4 per cent of advertising spend (down from 19.9 per cent in 2007) and the last couple of years has seen the arrival of overseas mastheads like The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed, which pose additional challenges for Australia’s great publishers.

Meanwhile the former dominance of free to air television is being challenged by the entry of international online streaming services like Netflix, which has so far crushed local rivals like Stan and Presto, both owned by Australian television providers.

The impact of the internet has had a profound effect on the news provider’s bottom line and has greatly impacted their ability to provide quality news.

This is highly problematic for both our cultural and democratic life. Easily accessible and widely available news is a crucial part of any successful society.

Media consumption on the rise

The good news is that while media outlets are seeing their year on year revenue drop dramatically, they have never enjoyed more eyeballs.

Although it has bastardised traditional media outlets, the internet has also given people greater choice. Media consumers are no longer as loyal as previously and are willing to explore new news sources and new ways of doing things.

It is for this very reason that the overseas digital entrants (all more or less in an experimental stage presently) have set up shop downunder. Now, as Australians shift to new news suppliers, is the time to strike.

The same can be said for brands, which for the first time have the opportunity to establish themselves as key and credible players in Australia’s news industry.

This phenomenon, often referred to as content marketing sees brands publish material on their own blogs, and in more developed cases, on a platform completely separate to their website. This is referred to as owned media.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing has exploded over the last couple of years.

Concerned with the gradually lessening impact of television, radio and print advertising, brands have started to redirect (or add to) significant parts of their marketing budget to creating their own stories.

AFL Media, with at least 116 staff that robustly defend their independence, is one example of a brand newsroom created from scratch. It’s coverage of AFL news is of high quality and individual reporters have been recognised for their efforts.

This is reflected by the numbers. In 2014, 84 million AFL media videos were streamed and the AFL’s in-house created newsletter was subscribed to by 400,000 readers.

CPA’s In the Black has also won awards for it’s effectiveness in content marketing and promotes itself as Australia’s highest circulating business and finance magazine.

It publishes a mixture of industry news and tips for accountants, opinion pieces, and economic news and enjoys a circulation of 152,987 worldwide, not to mention digital eyeballs.

ANZ is also leading content marketer, with a couple of dedicated channels. BlueNotes is targeted at the c-suite and publishes economic news and analysis relevant to the Asia Pacific. Your World meanwhile is designed to provide its readers with stories on people who have achieved remarkable feats or overcome adversity.

More and more brands are dipping their toe into the water and producing quality articles, both in terms of content and style.

Yes, but is it news?

The obvious rebuttal to any argument suggesting brands are credible publishers is the commercial agenda behind their enterprise.

There is no question this is the main aim of the game.

However the commonality between all the previously mentioned content marketers is that they do not push a sales agenda down customers throats. Content marketing would not be successful if it did.  

This is for two reasons.

The first one is practical. Google has changed its algorithm in recent times in a manner that rewards quality content.  No longer can marketers publish copy stuffed with SEO keywords and hope for success. They must produce content actually relevant to the specified search terms and of sufficient quality to entice people to actually stick around and read it.

The second reason is that the way we consume has change. As suggested earlier, people are no longer wedded to one source of news or one way of finding out what’s happening in the world (or, indeed, being entertained.)

Our addiction to technology has made our attention spans shorter, or boredom threshold lower. This means marketers must be supplying would be customers with content engaging enough to keep them occupied. In other words, there must be something uniquely compelling the reader or viewer has no choice but to hook in until the end.

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with advertising, most people are inherently suspicious of commercial messages.

The point is this: serious content marketers would be foolish if they are too overt about the purpose of their content. Yes it is intended to sell, but in the world we live in, you can’t sell without the customer identifying with your brand. You must tell a story or publish content that establishes you as an expert in your field.

In this context, consider our examples. Without exception they present as successful attempts at content marketing because they have thoughtfully worked out what their target audience would benefit from and have strived to achieve that knowing that once they have, their trustworthiness is established in the eyes of the customer.

Successful content marketing establishes brands as experts in their field by virtue of the original and newsworthy content they are publishing. In the content marketing context, this comes first and will organically lead to sales.

What about traditional media?

None of this is to argue that there is not still a place for the Fairfax’s, News Corp’s and FTA channels of the world. These big media outlets are still the dominant players when it comes to covering breaking news and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Their journalism is still an integral part of the Australian media landscape.

Where brand publishers can flourish, and where they play an important role is within the niche areas of interest to their customers.

And this is exactly how it should be.

The freelancer’s handbook: How to become a career storyteller

What is a career storyteller?

Digital strategist Christoph Trappe became intrigued with storytelling when he was young. He says that all of us at our core are storytellers but some of us lose the skill.

Why is storytelling important?

Because in today’s world, connecting with consumers revolves around the story. It’s what captures their attention and builds brand loyalty. The story is what separates a brand from its competition.

Unfortunately, it is a buzz word… everybody claims they’re doing storytelling; what they’re really doing is marketing…

— Christoph Trappe

But if you do storytelling right, it will resonate with your core audience and communicate a message that can’t be duplicated.

“One way to do that is by sharing your unique and true authentic stories,” says Christoph.

“The one thing that cannot happen to my stories is they cannot be commoditized because they are very unique to me or they are unique to an organization.”

Listen to the full episode or read on for the highlights and eight expert tips.

Becoming a career storyteller involves honing your skills to dig deep and tell stories that aren’t just fluffy and shallow. “I’ve heard a lot of journalists say, ‘Oh, that’s switching to the dark side but if you do true brand journalism it’s not actually marketing; it’s very close to authentic storytelling,” says Christoph.

To get there you have to change your mindset and understand that brand journalism is not the “dark side”.

It’s really about writing authentic stories. Christoph says, “Make up your mind you want to do it and then start doing it.”

Christoph says good reporting is a key factor in brand storytelling. If every story is positive, he says that’s “marketing”, not brand storytelling.

“But if you have a good mix of positive and negative stories that’s authentic storytelling,” explains Christoph.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to bash whoever it is you’re working for. But the stories that were actually called ‘negative’ actually build relationships,” says Christoph.

Top tips on becoming a career storyteller

1. Figure out the stories that are top of mind. Then dig deeper to see what the real story is.

2. Content marketing is an ongoing story, not a campaign.

3. When looking for a story, find the context of the story.

4. Don’t use superlatives in your writing.

5. Think about what the story is trying to accomplish.

6. Don’t over-think the story and what it’s supposed to do.

7. Edit like you’re running out of words.

8. Start a blog and participate on social media platforms.

Christoph says at the root of becoming a career storyteller is “re-learning” how to tell your unique and authentic story as well as taking a position.

Learn more about Christoph Trappe

Christoph Trappe is a career storyteller who has worked as a journalist, a nonprofit executive, and a content marketing strategist and consultant. His digital initiatives have been recognized globally. He is currently helping hospitals across the United States share their authentic stories. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015.

Authentic Storytelling Website

Twitter @CTrappe

Blogs and brands: why it’s important to have an online presence

The internet has altered the way consumers perceive brands, and as traditional forms of advertising are increasingly losing their pull, there’s a small margin of error for marketers to draw people in.

Why’s that? Well, quite simply, people switch off quicker than ever before.

There’s distraction after distraction, platform after platform – consumers will scroll after mere seconds if you’ve bored them.

In the eyes of the consumer there’s content to get through: 10 minutes on Facebook, 15 minutes on Twitter, a couple of minutes scrolling through LinkedIn followed by some catching up on Instagram.

If you don’t capture quickly, you’re impeding on the consumer’s social media rounds.

This is why it’s extremely important to have a sound online content presence – namely a blog on your website – that really does well to attach a story to your brand.

That’s the thing: consumers are aware that you’re a brand, so they immediately assume your motive is to sell them something, but to expose them to content will shift their perception of you.

It’s new-age advertising, and it isn’t intrusive. That’s because consumers don’t perceive it as advertising at all. You are, effectively, speaking their language and moving away from shoving your product down their throat.

In today’s online landscape every brand should have a content strategy because in the long-run the inbound rewards are endless.

Household names like Telstra, ANZ and Levis are examples of brands turning to a content-driven presence online, and the success of their strategy can be attributed to dedicated blogs on their websites.

It all adds to the user journey: there’s no pushing, no spin and certainly no forced sentiments.

In the digital age, content that speaks to the consumer puts your brand in the best position to stand out.

Finding your area of authority

Every company wants to grow a tribe of followers.

The challenge is knowing how to successfully lead that tribe.

To do it well, you need to have something to say to your audience that’s relevant to their lives and not just to your business.

One of the reasons this is so difficult is because we’re afraid of either end of the spectrum.

— Melanie Deziel, Director of Creative Strategy for Time Inc.

“On one side, if you only talk about your products and services, you seem really cold and disconnected from your audience and their needs. On the other end of the spectrum, some folks wonder, ‘if I tell stories that are too far away from my products, my services, and my offerings, then what’s the value, what’s the return on investment on that?’,” explains Melanie.

That’s why finding your area of authority is a key factor to delivering authentic content that resonates with your core target. Listen to the podcast, or read on for case studies and top tips.

Melanie shares a successful case study about the shoe company, Cole Haan, and its partnership with the New York City Ballet.

Cole Haan was coming out with a new ballet-inspired slipper but the company decided not to make their product the focus of their promotion.

Instead, through photos and videos, the company shared stories about what it takes to be a ballerina, the pain of training hard, the camaraderie, and competition.

“It was wildly successful. It saw a lot of traction among the dance community as well as just average readers who were curious about ballet and interested in the arts.”

Melanie attributes the success to the fact that Cole Haan told a story from a higher altitude.

Cole Haan was willing to take a step away and say, ‘Yes, we could talk about our shoe and all of the wonderful things about it but why does someone wear a ballet shoe?’ Probably because they love ballet….” says Melanie.

When a company doesn’t produce stories with only a goal to sell products, and instead brings value to a community through its authoritative storytelling, it deepens the relationship with that audience.

Melanie’s top tips for finding your area of authority

1. Brainstorm with your team to find your area of authority. What are your stories you want to tell? Which experts can you quote?

2. Identify your buyer persona: always think of your audience before you create content.

3. Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes before you create content. Would they click? Would they read? Would they trust? Would they share?

4. Use brandtale.com to scout out what your competitors and partners are doing in the native [?] space.

5. Study, learn, embrace, and collaborate with others. Sign up for industry newsletters, connect with others, and support each other.

6. Understand your authority and what to write about: Think of your brand’s area of authority as concentric circles, with your product at the center. Consider how consumers use your product, and how it makes people feel at the outermost ring.

Melanie says the gold standard for creating content in your area of authority is, “You really have to be able to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes.”


Learn more about Melanie Deziel

Melanie Deziel is the Director of Creative Strategy for Time Inc. Hear how she’s helping brands create branded content that’s featured in major media traditional publications.

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The Overlap League

10 content marketing tips small businesses can implement today

The belief that you need a big budget and large team to have successful content marketing is false. Small businesses are well placed to compete with the large players, and are doing so with increased success.

Some of the biggest content marketing challenges small businesses face are: lack of time, producing enough content and producing a variety of content, and inability to measure the effectiveness of their content.

These challenges can easily be overcome by implementing the below 10 practical tips in your small business today.

1. Make your content easy to read

Most people don’t read more than the first 100 words on any giving web page. Why? For the most part, this has to do with readability. You can fix this by:

  • keeping sentences and paragraphs short;

  • using headings and subheadings to guide your readers;

  • using images, video and bullet points to break up text; and

  • using white space to highlight content and give readers’ eyes a break.

2. Optimize your SEO

Optimizing your SEO is one of the best ways to get long-term traffic to your website. The most simple and effective way to make sure you’re optimizing every post is to use a plugin like Yoast SEO for WordPress. Plugins help to ensure:

  • you’re using a focus keyword;

  • your SEO title looks good and isn’t too long; and

  • your Meta description has a call to action.

3. Make it easy to share

Getting readers to your website is the hard part. Make it easy for those who are engaged to share your content on social media. Help get your content in front of others by:

4. Focus on creating evergreen content

Evergreen content continues to gain search engine traffic long after it’s been published. It’s not dependant on dates, events or specific research. To ensure your content is evergreen ask yourself:

  • Is it relevant all year around?

  • will it stand the test of time? Case studies, how-to articles, and definitions and explanations, work the best; and

  • can it be recycled – added to and built upon?

5. Produce value adding visual assets

The reason why visual content is an essential part of a content marketing strategy is because it works. When paired with text, infographics, images and videos allow customers to receive and understand brand messages and information easier. Want to use visual assets that add value? Ask yourself these questions first:

  • does this asset enhance my message in some way?

  • is this asset clear and easily read/understood?

  • is this the best possible type of asset for this context?

  • how will my audience react to this asset?

6. Personalise your service by using email marketing

Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers. Display an email sign up form clearly on your website and offer a small freebie to readers as a way of thanking them for signing up. Maximise your email marketing by using these tips:

  • play by the rules – don’t SPAM;

  • include social media sharing buttons;

  • use short and engaging subject lines;

  • make sure your email is mobile-friendly;

  • send at the right time for your industry; and

  • include a call to action.

7. Get feedback from your customers

Find out what your customers want and need. And encourage two-way conversations and feedback. Use feedback to tailor your messages and support business decisions. You can do this by:

  • using pop-up surveys on your website;

  • inviting product reviews on Facebook;

  • using exploratory interviews; and

  • usability testing.

8. Develop a content strategy

Using time-saving strategies can make your limited budget go further. Streamlining your publishing, editing and briefing processes, allows you to focus on strategy and quality. Use these three tools to build a content strategy that will lead you to success:

  • Content calendar template

  • Persona template

  • Story brief template

9. Create a word of mouth strategy

Organic word of mouth has long been a great way for businesses to on-board new customers. To benefit from word of mouth marketing (WOMM) you need to create a strategy to get people talking. Here are four tips to get you started:

  • be interesting;

  • make it easy;

  • make people happy; and

  • earn trust and respect.

10. Gain Insights from Your Web and Social Analytics

  

Using web and social analytics is a smart move for small businesses, as the tools are free and the insights they give are priceless. Web and social analytics help ensure you:

  • know your traffic source and conversions;

  • know your visitor behaviour;

  • set up key performance indicators;

  • optimize your marketing campaigns; and

  • know what content works and what doesn’t.

Why inbound marketing is the answer to growing your business

Have you ever wondered how much inbound marketing really helps?

If so, you’re not alone.

In fact, that question puzzles people so much that it can hold them back from trying inbound marketing.

Here’s a few quick stats on inbound marketing to paint a picture of its success over the past few years.

The days of disruptive advertising working well are over. Consumers want to engage with brands, especially before they buy.

The supporting evidence is in the research, according to a recent State Of Inbound 2015 study by HubSpot, companies are three times as likely to see higher return on investment (ROI) through inbound marketing — what HubSpot Marketing Director, Ryan Bonnici, calls “magnetic content”.

Magnetic content attracts consumers to your website. It helps answer questions that consumers have rather than disrupt them and bombard them with ads on the radio, TV, or pop-up banners on Websites.

But how do you know if your content is magnetic?

Listen to the full podcast to get expert advice from Ryan or continue reading for the highlights.

HubSpot creates many free tools for helping brands and marketers.

“One, in particular, that I am really proud of is website.grader.com. It analyzes the SEO effectiveness, the security, the mobile optimization of your site, whether or not you have social sharing links, the speed… it gives you a rank of how successful and how effective your website will be converting leads into prospects,” explains Ryan.

Millions have accessed this tool via HubSpot by simply entering their email.

This is a perfect example of an exchange of value which is at the core of good content marketing.

However, inbound marketing can be challenging because it’s a completely different way of engaging with your audience.

It’s the opposite of push; it’s all about pull

— Ryan Bonnici

“It changes the way your business needs to think about allocating budget because in a traditional inbound business you allocate much more business for internal staff who will be creating content and doing inbound tactics versus paying an agency that will be doing billboard ads and magazine ads and Pay Per Click,” explains Ryan.

This requires the business to be structured differently and the sales and marketing departments must be aligned.

“The sales team needs to function differently as well. If you’re practicing an inbound methodology and they’re practicing an outbound sales methodology, the handover of leads and marketing qualified leads isn’t going to work so well,” says Ryan.

Ryan’s three tips for growing your business with inbound marketing

1. Know your audience and define your buyer persona before you start inbound marketing campaigns.

2. Write really good content that offers information that’s unique. Usually these will be long-form pieces. But, Ryan cautions, don’t just write long posts; make them offer information that goes deeper than other content on the web and is very helpful.

3. Try Podcasting. This is a growing platform that is proving to be a great way to reach and engage with your community. While there are more audio podcasts, video podcasts are still very much in their infancy and can be an excellent way to gain mindshare.

4. Curate visual and live-streaming content. Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab are attracting consumers and brands and allowing yet another way to reach greater audiences. “When you’re engaging with new channels, we don’t want to use the same playbook that we’re using for one channel for all channels,” says Ryan. Instead, amend the content to make it work for the platform.

5. Repurpose content. Look at your content that already exists on your blog or podcast and repurpose it to use on other platforms and apply it and adapt it to new channels.

6. Consider using the HubSpot.com platform. “The platform incorporates a free CRM. It includes a blogging tool, a CMS, social media monitoring, advertising – you can create LinkedIn and Google ads within the platform,” says Ryan.

7. Use tools to help you identify what type of content is working and trending on the web.

 

For more expert advice see the full range of Brand Storytelling episodes. With guests including Amanda Gome, Jeff Bullas, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose


Mentioned in this episode

Blab

Canva

Periscope

Meerkat

Buzzsumo


Learn more about Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici is the Marketing Director at HubSpot Asia Pacific & Japan. He’s an experienced digital marketing leader, having held roles previously at Salesforce, ExactTarget, Microsoft and Qantas Airways.

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