I recently reflected on ten years of transformation from traditional marketer to content-obsessed communicator. The vows I made back then hold true today.
Enough about me. Content Marketing is about you, and what you hold dear.
For all the joys and woes it brings, I'd like to pay tribute to a content marketing staple: The Top 10 List.
Check out lessons and takeaways from a decade of diligence.
1. Be Nosy
The best of content marketing strategies can be wielded by simple questions to target audiences:
2. Rethink Thought Leadership
You have experts in your circles who can drop top knowledge in an engaging way. But keep in mind: no one wants to have to think all the time.
Maybe you can bring audiences value by giving them a needed mental break. Entertain them, distract them, or simply let them know you and your company are thinking on their behalf.
It's noisy out here. When it's time for your leaders to shine, make sure they're centered in the value they are willing to share, without the promise of immediate gratification.
3. Repurpose on Purpose
Don’t repurpose content because it’s simple, time-efficient, cost-efficient and useful. Do it because it supports a strategic business objective. Or because the timing is right. You could be either pressed for time, or have ample time to fully plot out a revamp.
Good content, like cheese, will suit different tastes at different stages of aging. The worst you can do is get too immersed in the flavor-of-the-week, that your best content gets neglected...and way past its shelf life.
4. [Insert Marketing Tactic] is Dead? Time For a Comeback
Events. Print. Content Marketing itself. We’re all happy to put tactics out-to-pasture to make room for the bright and shiny. Take a chance on a castaway medium or repurpose across various channels (see #3).
5. But Everybody is Doing it, Mom
Don’t "do" content marketing because it’s cool (or for you newer generation professionals, because it’s retro). Commit to the approach because it’s good business and it feels right for your audiences.
It’s a marathon, stacked on top of a triathlon, combined with a vision quest, and it's not for everyone. You will burn out if your heart isn’t into it, and you’ll be back to blasting salesy messages in no time.
6. Learn The Rules and Then Try to Break Them All
Read the articles, attend the conferences and dial into the webinars. Then, at every single chance, challenge the status quo and try something new. You can call on best practices and still be original (see 99 Amazing Content Marketing Hub examples on the Marketing Insider Group).
Author, speaker, and all-around marketing/media fireball Andrew Davis personifies the call for constant reinvention in this space. At the core of his multimedia world is a penchant for shining the spotlight on those with unique paths to extraordinary successes.
The CMO Club has a great description of the anti-data movement in its 2016 surprising marketing trends post. Content marketing is not paint-by-number, but there’s a lot to be learned from those that practice it daily.
Case in point: Propane. Our company consults on highest complexity of needs of organizations throughout the globe. So what’s one of the top visited pages on our website each month? A single, simple article on OSHA propane safety regulations. Client survey data may have never foretold the power of a content piece like this.
7. You Will Fail, You Will Learn
You will lose time, brain cells and likely some friends. You will spend months on a campaign that gets killed before launch. You will think you have a viral hit on your hands that is nothing but a mild infection.
All that you must know and master as a modern marketer is immense (and mounting). Things will fall through the cracks and expensive programs will flop. Keep good notes, learn from your failures and celebrate your wins in high style. Approach every project like it will be your Space Jam to keep the fire in your belly.
8. Enough About The Cobbler's Kids and Their Shoes
While I believe you must walk the walk, I know many successful pros who spend the lion’s share of time making clients great. Every client, audience and strategy deserves a unique approach, so kudos if you have the time and energy to make yourself and your clients’ rock stars in your respective fields.
Approach the task of staying active with your personal brand, and keeping up on new technologies and capabilities, as investments in the success of those you serve. There are teachers and doers, and if you work your tail off, you’ll get to be a bit of both.
9. Losing Your Voice
You’re a visionary, you’re talented, and you’re driven, but newsflash: content marketing comes with a side of humility.
It doesn’t amount to much without the buy-in of others. Put yourself in the shoes of your client, your boss, your company and your stakeholders. Put your ego aside to open up to new perspectives and the collaborative approach needed to achieve early wins.
Need to keep your energy up, creativity booming, and authentic voice well-tuned? Create your own personal platform and let it flow.
10. Finding Contentment
Celebrity keynoters from multiple Content Marketing World events have made jest of the phrase “content marketers” as being a “satisfied” group of professionals.
If you’re true to the game, you will always be hungry for challenges, and that in itself will breed a new kind of fulfillment. You get to contribute. You get to collaborate. You get to create. It’s a passion and a privilege.
Some Final Words
If this article has worn you out, I will offer one of my favorite excuse quotes, from Blaise Pascal: “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
We all have a voice, with much more to say, all with shorter attention spans to spit it out. That’s the challenge and opportunity to keep us moving.
If you’ve finished this post, you’ve read more than 1,000 words. You’re a web-reading rebel and get a gold star.
If you’ve scanned the 10 lessons and took one nugget back to your boss, I salute you.
If you’ve skipped to the bottom to experience the toll that ten years of content marketing takes on the mind and body, you are also a winner.
Spoiler alert: we are all winners in the content marketing game, because it’s never ending, and we write the rules as we go.
I may never contribute to a Fortune 500 brand, or keynote a major event, but to “content market” is wildly addictive, incredibly frustrating and undeniably rewarding.
Even if there is no pot of Birkin Bags at the end of this rainbow, my love for the craft will never be a matter of contention.
This is post 2 of 2 of my content marketing reflections. Check out “Ten Years' Content Marketing And Still True to my Vows"
Christina Capadona-Schmitz (@ChristinaCS & @DownWithSpitUp) leads marketing communications for Oswald Companies, a risk management and financial services company in Cleveland, Ohio. She is on the clock 24/7 with her parenting resource blog www.DownWithSpitUp.com, among other creative pursuits and community-based endeavors.
Now that the planning and prediction posts have settled down I’ve found myself reminiscing about 2006.
The first tweets were being tweeted, and we were all lamenting along to the song "Bad Day," but I was a bit distracted. Early that year I joined an agency startup built on the premise of value-based PR and marketing, and then shortly afterward, got married.
Life has thrown several curveballs in one decade of marriage (shocking, I know), and I'm now well into the throes of a corporate leadership gig. On the content marketing front? I’m still lovingly devoted to the same ideals from back then:
To Have and To Hold
Content marketing is a verb to me. It’s not a strategy; it’s a behavior, a mindset, and a passion put to practice.
It’s the value you’re willing GIVE, without a contract to RECEIVE (time, dollars, endorsement).
Its success is measured in YES or NO. Consumed or ignored. Action taken, or not.
It’s permeable and simple, yet overwhelming to put to paper and execute. Not to mention the challenge of gaining the influence to shift time, dollars and human resources.
Back in the day, our team at the time tried to spread the message to clients in the homegrown manner to which they could relate. Today, the team behind the PR 20/20 blog has it rightfully ranked among the top content marketing resources out there.
Joe Pulizzi brought it mainstream to the masses, along with the forums for like-minded marketers to mingle. Technologies caught up and soon content marketing had the mass to make it movement-worthy.
Earlier in my career I read article-upon-article on the subject, to learn the angles, tips, tools, and know-how. It got noisy somewhere along the way. I was already all-in, seeking ways to help influence those I served to shift their thinking.
My personal answer wasn’t to absorb more. It was simply to roll up my sleeves, put my fingers to the keyboard, and do the hard work that’s required. Write, create, rework, repeat.
With time and persistence I had small wins, and then growth, until it became the core behavior I applied to all of the marketing disciplines I manage.
In Good Times and Bad
Every day there are new folks saddled with impossible growth goals and mounting marketing responsibilities. Ready for a change and primed for disruption, or possibly after reading just one article they saw on LinkedIn, they become enlightened to content marketing and the new disciples of the cause.
And then, no matter how many times they’ve been told to “start with why,” they skip right to the “how” and “what,” and meet a frustrating fate of analysis paralysis. Been there one too many times myself.
The truth is that contenting marketing is a reflection of doing good business, delivered in a tangible, creative way. There are no shortcuts and nowhere to hide. There is no end because there are always new people to engage, and new ideas to explore.
It takes adopting the mindset of an owner and a customer (simultaneously) and producing work in a focused and purposeful manner, to get campaigns off the ground and through the clutter.
The opportunities never stop, so neither can our devotion.
As Long as Content Shall Live
It’s been said, ad nauseam, that content marketing has been a game-changer. Anyone immersed in it will be familiar with the John Deere “Furrow” case studyof 1895, and then there is, you know, the Bible. It may not be new, but it is certainly still shiny.
At its very core, content marketing is about behavior change, and thus why we are still busy talking about it in 2016, when it should be the very air we breathe as marketers and communicators. There is still much work to do, from the mom and pop shops, to global consumer brands, and all of us in-between.
Whether you’ve been content marketing five decades, five months, or five minutes, let’s renew our commitment to continually enhance brand experiences with all of our stakeholders: prospects, clients, employees, leaders and our communities at-large.
If I’m lucky in life, I’ll continue to feel the butterflies and have another 10 years to figure it out…content marketing, that is.
The marriage, mortgage and kid stuff? That's one case study that will always be my proudest work-in-progress.
This is post 1 of 2 of my content marketing reflections posts. For even more metaphors and idioms jam-packed into one article, view “Ten Years' Content Marketing And All I Got Was This Top Ten Post.”
Christina Capadona-Schmitz (@ChristinaCS & @DownWithSpitUp) leads marketing communications for Oswald Companies, a risk management and financial services company in Cleveland, Ohio. She is on the clock 24/7 with other creative pursuits and community endeavors. Connect with her at www.ChristinaCSMedia.com.