Content Marketing

The Best Stock Photo Sources for Marketers With Small Budgets

3652851277_9c1339deaa_b

We all know the power of visual storytelling – content that contains visuals is more likely to be opened and viewed than content without visuals. As a marketer I’ve been using more visuals over the last 2-3 years in everything from blog posts to SlideShare presentations to my Pressly cover pages.

Once in a while I will purchase photos but unfortunately, I don’t have a huge budget to do this every time I need a visual. While Flickr is still the gold standard for free photos (requiring attribution), it isn’t the only option. Dustin Senos, a product designer at Medium, put together a great list of stock photo sites and I added some others to create a handy resource for marketers who don’t have big budgets.

Albumarium http://albumarium.com
Little Visuals http://littlevisuals.co/
Unsplash http://unsplash.com/
Death to the Stock Photo http://join.deathtothestockphoto.com/
New Old Stock http://nos.twnsnd.co/
Superfamous (requires attribution) http://superfamous.com/
Picjumbo http://picjumbo.com/
The Pattern Library http://thepatternlibrary.com/
Gratisography http://www.gratisography.com/
Getrefe http://getrefe.tumblr.com/
IM Free (requires attribution) http://imcreator.com/free
StockVault http://www.stockvault.net
Photo Everywhere http://photoeverywhere.co.uk/
MorgueFile http://www.morguefile.com/
Photos8 http://photos8.com/
Imagebase http://www.imagebase.net/

I’ll update this list as I find others. If you have any favourites to add please share in the comments.

Image source.

Marketing Communications in the Digital Age: Our Review of Spin Sucks

We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Any marketer worth their salt knows that attracting and building relationships with customers requires a different approach than what we’ve done in the past. It can feel overwhelming to synthesize all the advice, tools and strategies and figure out how to implement them for a brand.

Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks, a new book by PR maven Gini Dietrich, pulls everything you need to know about marketing communications into one useful guide.

If you are new to content marketing and PR, the book does a great job of teaching the fundamentals, including the difference between Paid, Earned and Owned Media and some background on how the social web and advancements in search engine technology have created an environment today where the customers have more power to influence people’s perceptions of brands than ever before.

Where this book really excels is in its exploration of some more advance concepts for content marketers. Everything from the darker side of content marketing – trolls, plagiarism and content farms – to how to operate in an era where customers control the brand, not the other way around.

What’s a marketer to do? Spin Sucks is packed full of useful tips, some which you can start implementing right away, even as you build a longer term strategy.

A couple of examples:

1) come up with ideas for content by looking at what gets discussed in the comments of your blog, or what is in your sent folder. If you are sending things over and over again to multiple people, there are probably many more who would appreciate reading/hearing about it

2) build community by having online office hours or a weekly question where you give some “free” advice to your audience

This is a great book to pick up if you want to learn how to effectively market your brands today, whether you are working in a small business or a large enterprise.

10 Storytelling Lessons from Google Creative Lab

If you’ve been exposed to Google Creative Lab’s powerful stories, you probably won’t be forgetting them anytime soon. One of their more recent ones, entitled “Reunion”, is so powerful that it brings viewers to tears. Google does more than simply push emotional buttons, though; their stories are not only moving, but also inform viewers about Google products.

Robert-Wong-Chief-Creative-Office-Google-Creative-Lab-600x358

Despite primarily focusing on digital content, Google Creative Lab won a print ad award for one of its stories. If you’re looking to tell better stories, have a seat by the fire and get cozy: here are 10 lessons from Google Creative Lab and its leaders.

1. Educational Campaigns: Chrome Shorts

Your product’s benefits over the competition matter little if your customers don’t understand their value. Often, the first step to demonstrating your solution’s value is to inform the customer. As former Google Creative Lab Creative Director Ji Lee said in an interview with Design Taxi:

Most people buy a computer and they simply click the icon that says “internet” to get online. They don’t really see the need of changing that, or downloading a new, better browser because the current way to get online works fine for them.

To spread awareness of the browser and explain Chrome’s benefits, Google explained the alien concept of the browser using a series of videos called Chrome Browser Shorts. These explanatory clips are presented friendly ways: one clip entitled, “You and Your Browser,” humorously illustrates a browser’s functions through the cat’s actions.

2. Build Prototypes

Although the movement of rapid prototyping has gained popularity in the technology space, Google Creative Lab’s Managing Director Ben Malbon and Executive Creative Director Iain Tait explains to Fast Company’s Co.Create that it’s also extremely useful in advertising:

Truth is, the advertising world has been prototyping forever: Sketches. Previsualizations. Storyboarding. Animatics. Treatments. They’ve all been used to bring ideas to life and give a hint of the emotions a fully formed “thing” might evoke–at least enough to convince a client to stump up the cash to go into production.

While storyboards and sketches still play an important part in the creative process, they’re not able to convey the richness of interactive experiences.

Malbon and Tait suggest three types of creation that help tell richer stories: making a video, staging a performance, mocking it up in Powerpoint or Keynote (my own addition: if it’s mobile, try Invision). Once you’re sure the idea is working, or when you need to refine the story further, build a working prototype.

3. Bake a Broccoli Cupcake

Google’s products aren’t inherently interesting. That’s why instead of giving people information about products, Google Creative Lab wraps an emotionally stimulating narrative around each solution. For example, Dear Sophie is a heartwarming story about a father creating a Gmail account for his daughter and storing her memories in the Inbox. Parisian Love is a romantic tale of an American traveller falling in love with a stranger.

While these emotional themes seem unrelated to Google, the videos are filmed in settings such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Translate, and various other Google tools. As the viewer follows the story, they also naturally discover how the tools are used. The emotional content is the cupcake, and the Google solution is the broccoli. As Executive Creative Director Robert Wong suggests in an interview with Communication Arts, put the education into the entertainment by baking a broccoli cupcake.

4. Know the User, Know the Magic, and Connect the Two

Google’s VP of Global Marketing, Lorraine Twohill, boils down Google’s recipe for storytelling in Advertising Age: “Know the user, know the magic, and connect the two.” They use their understanding of Google products to bake their product into their content. They test their content on the web before moving into mainstream media in order to gauge user reception. Then, they buy extra-long advertisement slots in primetime and iconic shows in order to connect the two.

Re-evaluate whether your content team, from the most high-level editor to the most inactive freelancer, truly understands the magic of your product’s technology. In case your content hasn’t been received well, you need to know the user better. If you haven’t been converting well, you need to understand the magic better.

5. Create a Story Pre-Product

Have you seen this first person perspective of Google Glass? Believe it or not, after viewing an early version of a heads-up display unit, Google Creative Lab imagined this product was finished and created video content for it. Because there were no working units, the team filmed the video through cameras on helmets. A design intern helped mockup the user interface. The story was straightforward; how this nonexistent product could fit in a regular person’s life.

This content helped drive product decisions for the future as the Google engineers viewed it. Google co-founder Larry Page even joked that the team should make a film every week, and Google should build products against these stories. As the video was released, this also gave Google an idea of what product demand was and could gauge users’ reactions to the Glass concept.

6. Get in Touch with the Community

One of Google’s most powerful stories started with a community attempting to empower the next generation. In order to prevent young members of the LGBT community from committing suicide because they were being bullied, Dan Savage and Terry Williams started a project in 2010 called It Gets Better. It was comprised of LGBT adults who uploaded videos on YouTube sharing the message that life gets better.

Google Creative Lab recognized this and decided to bring more exposure to this story. Tying in their products, YouTube and Chrome, they created a video documenting the movement’s success and bought advertising space on Monday Night Football to expose it to a wider audience. It paid off in tons of earned media exposure. It can be difficult to recognize initial ROI; instead, tap into the emotional core of consumers by standing up for what you and the community believe in.

7. Connect with Curators to Increase Reach

Google Creative Lab Creative Director Tom Uglow writes in Marketing Magazine that the world is creating more than it can consume. Instead of reaching our readers and consumers directly, we’re being drowned out by noise from all other sources trying to do the same. How can you ensure your story gets in front of users? Whereas previously consumers would only get their information from newspapers and other types of established media companies, the power has shifted online to a few different curators.

It’s now essential to connect with curators through techniques such as surfacing, getting into trusted guides, and building relationships with editors, stylists, and critics in your fields.

8. Be Your Own Case Study

Client case studies often make for great stories. They also show other prospects and consumers the results that you’ve produced. However, if you want to explore new potential benefits of your product or service, you will have to do this by using them in your own content marketing and campaigns before experimenting on clients.

Google Creative Lab demonstrated their live streaming and partnership opportunities with their YouTube Space Lab initiative. They then made a case study sharing the earned media results and the Google products and services used in this campaign. Similarly, you can incorporate this into your communications plan. It’s a relatively straightforward formula: share how you did it, share which products you used, and what the results were from the campaign.

9. Your Byproducts are Stories

Much like how logging companies sold firewood as their main product and profited immensely off byproducts like sawdust, today’s more intellectual byproducts are stories. Unfortunately, they’re often overlooked and discarded. This idea was published by Basecamp founder Jason Fried, who runs a software company and authored a book as a byproduct of the experience. As advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins writes in My Life in Advertising:

“But,” I replied, “others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.”

Google Creative Lab does a great job at this: during the process of creating their HTML5 game, Google Racer, they filmed a set of footage to show viewers what happened behind the scenes. In case you think this sounds obvious, it’s a technique advertisers overlook that companies have been using for years. Enter Hopkins again:

We told just the same story that any rival could have told, but all others thought the story was too commonplace.

Your story is more unique than you think. Share it with the world.

10. Empower Your Consumers

No matter how much creative talent your team has, sometimes the most unexpected stories come directly from consumers and users. Empower them to contribute, curate and aggregate their work, and package it into production quality content.

Google Creative Lab did this a few times: examples include Google Doodle and Androidify. A more powerful and engaging example is their entirely crowdsourced film, called Life in a Day, filmed by users around the world and debuted on YouTube.

Closing Thoughts

There’s the practical scientific solution, and there’s the fiction behind it. Stories often guide the way the world navigates; for example, Tesla and SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk recently built a technology solution he saw in Iron Man. (Coincidentally enough, Elon Musk influenced Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man protagonist Tony Stark.) Use some of Google’s principles to create and deliver better stories; even though you may not win a print award, you’ll still be potentially changing a client’s life.

Image Source

3 Techniques to Make your Content more Shareable

The majority of content does not get the reach it deserves. How is it possible for young media companies like Buzzfeed and Upworthy to regularly serve up millions of pageviews per month? Content marketers can learn a thing or two from these companies to make their content more shareable.

Sharing

Legendary advertising pioneer Claude C. Hopkins once wrote in his book My Life in Advertising, “‘Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.’ People want to be told the ways to happiness and cheer.” Being the man who introduced the habit of regularly brushing teeth in the world (for his toothpaste client Pepsodent), Hopkins knows a thing or two about sharing ideas. Why is it that happiness is a more viral emotion?

1. High Arousal (Awe or Anxiety/Anger)

In an analysis across the most shared The New York Times articles, Contagious author and professor Jonah Berger found that high arousal — either awe (positive) or anxiety/anger (negative) — proved to be more viral over a low arousal emotion (like sadness). For example, the gallery of the bankrupt city of Detroit features next to none of the homeless population. Still photos of the environment evoke more awe. Conversely, if members of the homeless population were included, readers may have felt the less viral emotion of sadness and sympathy.

As the photo gallery example illustrates, it’s very possible to build high arousal into the piece. While photography can evoke awe, writing is particularly effective at leveraging anxiety or anger. As the former marketing director for American Apparel, Ryan Holiday, quoted bestselling author Tim Ferriss: “Study the top stories at Digg or MSN.com and you’ll notice a pattern: the top stories all polarize people. If you make it threaten people’s 3Bs—behavior, belief, or belongings—you get a huge virus-like dispersion.”

A prerequisite to creating a viral piece is to craft a great headline. Not all topics are born equal, but it is possible to frame them in ways that raise the potential reader’s eyebrows. Upworthy, one of the fastest growing media companies of all time, gained its momentum by creating viral content. One of the secrets, as shared in this slideshow, is its content creators write 25 headlines for each piece of content. They pick the best few and A/B test them to see which one resonates with audiences more before picking a permanent headline.

2. For “Less Inspiring” Topics: Public Visibility and Environmental Cues

If you have a product that isn’t controversial or remarkable by today’s consumer standards, what other techniques can you employ to ensure more sharing? As it turns out, this report authored by Jonah Berger and assistant professor Eric Schwartz discovered that while high arousal is more effective to drive immediate short-term word of mouth marketing, ongoing long-term word of mouth marketing results when the topic is cued frequently and publicly visible.

Berger and Schwartz suggest that you may simply not remember the boring things you had mentioned to people. For example, if you’re in Toronto, you likely will remember discussing Rob Ford’s alleged drug video a few weeks ago, and not remember talking about how it was almost 17 degrees at the end of October, despite having conversed about both.

The managerial implications of the study showed that certain types of promotional giveaways are effective to public visibility. Within the content, make it inherently easier for people to share: if there’s a sentence or hook you think will draw readers in, embed it in a click to tweet message with a link back to your post.

Another possibility is to tie your content to regularly occurring events so that your brand naturally comes up. Much like the “Weekends were Made for Michelob” campaign, marketers are creating their own routines for publishing content (e.g., Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays). This trend started in pop culture; Grammy-award winning rapper and producer Kanye West led the trend with GOOD Fridays when he used tracks that didn’t fit the record to promote his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Today, Justin Bieber engages fans with content on Music Mondays. Over time, this association will naturally lead content consumers to associate content release with specific days of the week.

A simple tactic is to spread messages on social media channels on the same days of the week. Social media’s wide reach has created a new potent group of consumers that have a greater reach than traditional media companies such as CNN and Fox.

3. Leverage the “Bored-at-Work” Network

Huffington Post and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti explains how he helped these two media companies grow at such an accelerated rate: their content is tailored towards the millions of workers who take short breaks by browsing the Internet and share links through social media. Peretti calls this massive group of people the “Bored-at-Work” network. The beauty of social media is that it keeps the weak ties between people (e.g., acquaintances) alive — as this study demonstrates, weak ties are particularly important in ensuring a wide spread of information.

To take advantage of the “Bored-at-Work” network, try using what Peretti calls the Mullet strategy: business in the front, and party in the back! Ensure that portions of your content have a high probability of going viral, while keeping the other portions more serious and meaningful to readers.

Another strategy is to look at the content that most of your audience is predisposed to share: for general sites like Buzzfeed, the likes of Perez Hilton, animal lovers, and Apple fanboys (amongst quite a few other demographics) rule a large part of the internet. Content designed to help these people convey their identity to their network naturally gets shared. Also, keep in mind that mobile technology has created another network that you should leverage, called the “Bored-in-Line” network. Think lots of scrolling and feeds, short bits of information, and sites optimized for mobile or built with responsive design in mind.

Closing Thoughts

Newspapers used to have entire departments dedicated to circulation: specific employees would be dedicated to securing specific parts of the newsstand and manage distribution through the paper carriers). As Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser said in this TEDx speech, these circulation departments started disappearing when the internet took over. However, it’s simply not enough for content marketers to hit publish. Today, the key to wide reach is no longer in the hands of the circulation department, but instead is centered around making your content more shareable.

Image Source

5 Content Experiments Marketers Should Pay Attention To

As content marketing becomes a more popular method of customer acquisition, it also grows increasingly competitive. Increasing content marketing budgets also means increasing expectations of ROI. Effective content marketing requires constant vigilance: keeping a consistent eye on storytellers around the world, and how the best are doing it.

Experiment

These exciting experiments can be carried out by journalists, media companies, or other content marketers. If you want to stay competitive, have a look at these five experiments and their implications on content marketing:

1. Multimedia Content Marketing

Much like how traditional print publications are experimenting with all forms of media in order to evolve, content marketers will move from text-heavy content (e.g., blog posts, articles, and eBooks) and get into all types of media (e.g., video, slideshows, infographics).

To give you an idea of how this transition will take place, have a look at one of the most prominent publications to embrace responsive web technology, The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe has an entire team dedicated to creating multimedia content and exploring other avenues of communication. Media analyst Ken Doctor says in an interview with WBUR:

By 2015, 2016, these media companies that survive and prosper will all be multimedia. They may start out as newspapers or TV or radio — it doesn’t matter what the roots are. What readers or listeners or viewers want is what makes the most sense, it could be audio, video or words.

Even newspapers of record, such as The Globe and Mail and The New York Times, are introducing video clips into their content both in order to tell more immersive stories and to create new opportunities to engage readers with advertising. In the case of content marketing, this means more opportunities for various calls to action.

2. Long-form Advertising

A couple of years ago, The New York Times blew up the blogosphere and social media with a new story entitled, “Snow Fall”. The story was formatted like none other in mainstream media at the time; the text was completely integrated with video interviews, animated imagery, and embedded slideshows. It quickly got the attention of readers and journalists.

In response, magazines like Complex have embraced this type of format and explored it with cover stories (here’s one with artist and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams). Complex also took it one step further: they built an interactive long-form piece for their sponsor, shoe manufacturer Converse. They built a story around the shoes and have sections linking to the product page at sportswear retailer Champs, where readers can purchase the shoes.

This type of long-form piece could be the new landing page, or a precursor to a product landing page. Long-form content can tell stories in much more engaging ways, and have opt-in boxes or offers built into different sections of the page.

3. Hacking Charts

A chart can easily explain what passages of text can’t. With all the data out and about on the web, charts could also be an easy method of creating original content based on a source’s raw data. Digital publication Quartz decided to create a Chart Builder for its team’s individual writers and contributors to easily create charts on data they come across online. (Here’s an example of how one of its charts look.)

Quartz uploaded this tool online for all publishers to use. (Here’s The Atlantic using the plugin. Naturally, Quartzz decided to stamp their name on all images produced with the tool.) Now, all designers and writers have the option to use this simple tool to quickly create charts.

4. Adaptive Journalism

Content marketing changes according to the context the content is consumed. The Washington Post’s Cory Haik displays this with his own publication’s attempt at adaptive journalism. He likens this to how “day parting” advertising is done – the practise of displaying different types of advertisements for daytime TV and primetime: “content parting” means displaying different types of content during different times of day.

During the times you know the reader is likely on the commute to work, the story you launch should probably be shorter and snappier, with fewer graphics to prevent a long load time. It should also fit the mobile device screen comfortably. In order to drive this type of shift, Haik collaborated with designer Katie Park and producer Masuma Ahuja.

Much like how adaptive journalism will be how publications engage readers, adaptive content marketing provides new chances to draw readers in, but will also mean a change in the skillset of current content marketers.

5. Brands and Subbrands

Effective marketing requires tailoring your content to more narrow segments of different consumers. This is why microproperties are often more effective than just company blogs. Media companies are also distinguishing between brands and subbrands; for example, The Atlantic separates itself from its subbrand The Wire. Atlantic president M. Scott Havens says in an interview with Digiday, “From a business standpoint to take that next step forward to what we believe can be a definitive news platform, it needs to have its own identity.”

Different types of subbrands, or microproperties, enable companies to deliver different types of content in different types of packaging. While The Washington Post is an extremely credible publication, its young cousin Know More is able to display content that doesn’t exactly meet the editorial standards of the main site. The microproperty also mitigates any collateral damage this experiment could have on the main site.

Closing Thoughts

While firsthand experiments could result in the most lessons, secondhand learning is a much more cost-effective method of acquiring knowledge and understanding the reasons behind certain strategies of tactics. These content experiments being carried out in the world of journalism will be indicators into the future of content marketing, and staying on top will give you opportunities to act proactively and delight your readers and potential clients much more than your competitors could.

Image Source

How to Assemble the Ocean’s 11 of Content Marketing

Few teams, fictional and non-fictional, have collaborated as well as the team from Ocean’s 11. For those unfamiliar, the film’s plot starts with the protagonist, Danny Ocean, and his friend Rusty Ryan finding and recruiting nine teammates. Their goal is to pull a heist on one of Las Vegas’ most well-protected casinos. While the film is fictional, the principles behind it aren’t: the team was successful because it was built around well-defined roles and functions.

Image: Copyright Ocean's 11

For instance, since Danny needed to somehow disable the security systems, he recruited Basher to do it. Danny also needed to manipulate the casino’s technology, so he found Livingston. Each team member has a very clear function, whether it’s funding, decoys, inside information, or some other specialty. This principle can similarly be applied to building your content marketing team.

Let’s break down an effective content marketing team’s roles, and where you can recruit teammates:

1. Content Creators

Content creators are generally the writers on the team (although it can also include graphic designers, audio/video producers, etc.). In essence, their work resembles that of the the Malloy brothers (a pair of extremely talented mechanics) or Frank Catton (the inside man): their roles are absolutely crucial, and are very focused on execution. In order to qualify, they must excel at their craft.

That’s one main reason why you should avoid content farms, or outsourcing sites (such as Elance and oDesk) to recruit content creators: while there are a few talented and experienced freelancers amongst the less experienced, budget-friendly options, separating the wheat from the chaff can be a time-consuming (and unrewarding) task.

Conversely, you can find a ton of qualified writers or content marketers by using LinkedIn’s search function. Similarly, many enterprises are hiring journalists from media companies in their niches to contribute on a freelance basis or to work as an editor.

Once you’ve found a journalist or content creator, use this neat hack from Moz to qualify them by looking at their past work. Past work speaks volumes — Danny Ocean already had relationships with most of his team members in the past, or had at least kept his eye on them. Conduct a simple Google Search query with inpostauthor:“Author’s Name”. If they’re regularly contributing their content to websites, or have done so in the past, they are likely more open to writing for your site.

2. Subject Matter Expert

One major goal of all content marketing is to build thought leadership for your organization. Thought leadership helps build the company’s reputation as a group of experts, which puts potential clients’ minds at ease and can generate more inbound leads. Danny Ocean is essentially the subject matter expert of his team; the team wouldn’t have assembled without his credibility, and he is the one who draws much of the mark’s attention.

A subject matter expert is a client-facing representative of the company, such as a company leader (e.g., CEO, CMO, or other executives), a high-ranking salesperson, or an individual who focuses on business development. By building this trust with potential clients and delivering value through content, subject matter experts can build credibility and gain exposure necessary to generate more revenue.

Lastly, content can be the reason for sales teams to get in touch with potential clients and already-existing leads. Sharing an insightful blog post provides more value than simply reaching out and checking in. Your sales team will stand out from the dozens of other sales teams who constantly ask prospects for meetings, without providing anything of value.

3. Content Lead

A content lead needs to take direct responsibility for content marketing results. They will work closely with subject matter experts to create a strategy. They will also be responsible for leading the execution by managing the editorial team and content creators. This is the Rusty Ryan or Linus Caldwell (in a smaller capacity, later in the film trilogy) of the team.

Cisco’s head of digital media solutions for services marketing and communications Heather Meza describes a major part of the content lead’s role as helping to execute strategy and maintain order. (Note: Meza calls the content lead a “content evangelist”.) Introducing a new content marketing strategy could require constant reminding of your purpose for the project, and encouraging teammates to stay focused. It also means keeping an eye out when content creators or subject matter experts are making mistakes, ensuring the team works well together, and updating the stakeholders from various other departments.

In addition to content strategy, content leads also need to develop and refine a workflow that works for content creators. This cadence will contribute significantly to the success of the content marketing initiative and how frequently readers are engaged. The process of finding Rusty Ryan won’t be easy: according to The Next Web, Kinvey CEO Sravish Sridhar calls finding his content lead the hardest startup hire in his city. Sridhar had snagged his content lead from Eloqua. One of Intel’s content marketing initiatives, Enterprise Efficiency, is led by a former senior editor of an industry trade organization. Similarly, in order to find your content lead, get in touch with content leads and marketers from other companies, or editors from media companies and trade organizations.

4. Editorial Staff

While content leads can take charge of the content initiative, they can’t be everywhere at once. When Rusty was executing on his own important projects, he would have Livingston Dell stay behind the monitors and keep an eye on the team via surveillance cameras. Livingston would keep everyone accountable and walk them through their tasks on their earpieces as necessary.

Editorial staff’s roles are to manage strategy, often in the form of an editorial calendar, and to refine the content workflow of the content creators. They can be found under the title of managing editor, content strategist, or something to that nature. To give you an idea of team proportions, iAcquire’s marketing team consists of “four content strategists, three assignment editors, seven writers, six editors and one infographics specialist.”

As a starting point on refining workflows, here are some sample workflows from Content Marketing Institute and Buffer. Much like content leads, you can find editorial staff by finding editors from magazines, online publications, or trade organizations.

5. Distribution Specialist

Remember: you can have the greatest content in the world, and it wouldn’t matter if no one read it. Godfather author Mario Puzo avoided interviews for 20 years. When he finally started doing interviews, as he explained it on Larry King Live on CNN, it was because he realized marketing became more important in building awareness. Similarly, if you want your content marketing initiative to make an impact, ensure that readers consume it. You’re going to need people like Basher (explosive specialist), Saul (experienced con man), and Yen (superb acrobat).

Essentially, distribution specialists are here to help you meet your reach metrics. There are a variety of ways to drive traffic to your content marketing initiative: for example, if you choose to write guest posts, connect with bloggers and divert some of the content creators’ resources into this tactic. (Should you choose this route, here’s a helpful resource from SearchEngineWatch.)

Alternatively, will you use public relations and stunts to get media coverage? Many authors and fast-growth companies have leveraged the press in order to get as much exposure as possible for their dollar. Whichever type of distribution you decide on, find a specialist who will help lead the effort. For example, if it’s PR, then look into senior journalists and editors who have a lot of relationships. If it’s guest posts, find a business development specialist who can secure sponsored posts or a columnist who can easily write for publications in your industry.

Closing Thoughts

Image: Copyright Ocean's 11

If you were counting carefully, that’s ten of Ocean’s 11. I didn’t forget Reuben: he’s the one funding the initiative. From a content marketing standpoint, he is the company. He’s behind the scenes, and he will keep you accountable and make sure you execute, but he isn’t necessarily the most hands-on member of the team.

Danny Ocean made it look easy in his 10-minute hiring montage. Truth be told, hiring for content marketing initiatives can be an extremely tough task. Keep these five roles in mind when you’re looking to build your content marketing Ocean’s 11, and use these guiding principles to find prospective team members.

Images: Copyright Ocean’s 11

How to Scale Content Production: Repurposing 101

It’s an hour after Thanksgiving dinner. Drowsiness is settling in, conversation is still flowing, and there remains half a turkey in all its glory on the serving plate. After putting hours into its preparation, would you make the decision to throw the turkey out?

Turkey Dinner

Heck, no! Half the Thanksgiving fun is the subsequent turkey spinoffs: sandwiches, soup, turkey pot pie, even turkey spring rolls (for those feeling adventurous). Inbound marketer Steven Shattuck advocates applying this mouthwatering metaphor to content marketing: since 64% of marketers are challenged with producing enough content, taking the substance from one content initiative and presenting it in a different way can fill this need. This is known as repurposing content, and it is useful strategy for scaling content creation. For example, you can repurpose the content from your recent webinar to craft a series of blog posts.

Let’s examine some strategies and tactics you can use to scale your content:

1. Webinars and eBooks

In essence, this is taking one whole turkey and splitting it into smaller servings. While a webinar takes resources and preparation to set up, it also presents a plethora of opportunities to repurpose the content into print collateral (e.g., blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks), video collateral (e.g., training material, video recording), and audio collateral (e.g., podcasts).

You can also split other larger content initiatives into smaller dosages: for example, you can write a blog post for each chapter of an eBook to improve search engine optimization and leverage social sharing. You can turn statistics or interesting figures from the eBook into an infographic.

This method provides an additional layer of feedback: you now have the opportunity to use the metrics from the large content initiative to determine whether it’s worth repurposing. For example, if you’re running two webinars per month, examine which has resonated more with each audience in order to determine which was more popular. This data makes it easier for you to prioritize content tasks and allocate your time and effort accordingly.

2. Slideshares, Pinterest, and Videos

Similar to how marketing expert and Vaynermedia founder Gary Vaynerchuk suggests growing your own platform by betting big on a specific social network, you can repurpose your content and maximize reach by sharing pieces of it online. For example, you can host individual chapters of your eBooks as teasers on platforms such as Scribd and Slideshare, and link back to your eBook’s landing page to promote it. Imagine the circulation your teaser would get if it ended up featured on one of these platforms’ homepages.

The challenge is to adapt to each social platform’s users. For example, in Slideshares’ case, it’s about extracting and visualizing: taking the key points of a piece of content and organizing it in an aesthetic way (e.g., creating an engaging infographic out of a whitepaper)

Depending on your target market, you can also bring your visual content to networks such as Pinterest and YouTube. Skeptical? General Electric is engaging consumers with Pinterest in order to tell its story.

Similarly, a simple example of storytelling with YouTube: here’s a Google Hangouts capturing a conversation between business leaders Elon Musk and Richard Branson on webcam. It’s a simple task for you to do the same whenever you want to experiment with YouTube. Whenever one of your team members is hosting a webinar, you can record and share it on YouTube with screen capture software such as Jing or Screenr.

3. Spin off Already-Existing Content into Blog Posts

Practically every piece of content can be repurposed into text because of the wide appeal of blog posts. It’s important to extend the concept of content beyond just digital creations. Whenever subject matter experts from your company speak at conferences, they’re actively creating content. You can take their transcripts and transform them into blog posts or series. Whenever a panel is hosted by your company, take the highlights and turn it into a blog post. Liveblog events your company is sponsoring.

Since you’re likely already reading quite a few articles to stay on top of your industry, you can also curate content with relevant subject matter and do weekly round-up type blog posts. Review new books from experts in your field. Twist Image President Mitch Joel became a thought leader by chatting with leaders from other companies every week and creating a podcast while simultaneously building relationships and figuring out best practises for him and his audiences.

Conversely, you can also find substance for other pieces of collateral from blog posts: as Symantec’s Travis Wright highlights a blog post-turned-Slideshare that received over 128,000 views. Use blog post feedback to gauge which content resonated with viewers, and use that as a compass for the larger content initiative.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, repurposing content is about sharing the same message through different formats that will appeal to different people. Rather than letting an overabundance of bananas spoil, why not work a bit harder and make banana bread? This is often the case with time-sensitive material, such as newsjacking or adapting to industry announcements (e.g., Apple’s iOS 7).

While repurposing, use this hierarchy by Dell’s Rishi Dave to ensure you’re still exposing your audience to a wide variety of content. Meet the challenge of content creation by scaling appropriately through repurposing content. Don’t waste your turkey: give your audience weeks worth of delicious content by repurposing it well.

Image Source

5 Style Guides to Help You Craft Better Content

Creating content for a brand, enterprise or publication isn’t easy. What should the voice be? What are the right rules to follow? How should the content be structured? A style guide is a set of standards that describes the style and formatting of content so that it is consistent across an organization.

Economist Style Guide

Style guides can be a valuable resource to train employees on writing for your company. However, if your company doesn’t yet have it’s own style guide, you can take example of other great content creators to learn how they document and organize the writing process.

Here are five style guides from established enterprises that will help you craft better content:

1. Groupon

Groupon’s meteoric rise means it’s not an example to be ignored. As Groupon has gone from being small startup to a public company in less than five years, it has consistently engaged millions of readers to sell its products.

Business Insider published an article containing screenshots from Groupon’s style guide. The Groupon style guide documents how critical copywriting is to a consumer’s purchase decision.

The most interesting sections in the style guide cover strategies to achieve the Groupon voice, how to avoid traditional marketing clichés and crutches, and examples of humor taboos.

2. MailChimp

As this Fast Co.Design article highlights, MailChimp’s style guide itself is evidence of its success. Despite style guides’ objectives to instruct staff on how to create interesting content, many agencies’ style guides are dreary, boring reads that new recruits force themselves to follow through. In contrast, MailChimp’s style guide is its own success story — it is full of content that is interesting and relevant for MailChimpers and non-MailChimpers alike.

One of MailChimps’ strengths is in identifying user emotions as they are faced with content. Their content lead, Kate Kiefer Lee, shares the secret in this slideshow: the MailChimp team uses Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel to identify users’ possible feelings in each situation. Content is then tailored to match the user’s feelings; for example, if the user is feeling apprehensive (e.g., legal), then MailChimp will avoid using humor and write as straightforward as possible.

3. Adobe

Adobe’s editorial guidelines have helped to create a community of digital marketers and sell more than $4 Billion in software annually. Adobe’s style manual serves as a great primer for anyone starting to write — teaching you to avoid syntax or jargon that could confuse your readers and how to write for the web (break things down into short paragraphs, because reading onscreen is more difficult than reading on paper). Adobe makes a great point that will surely resonate with those who receive feedback from editors on their content: “You will be edited. Everyone is eventually edited. Don’t be surprised or offended.”

4. Apple

Unlike Groupon’s more fun-centric style guide and tone, Apple’s style guide suggests making use of humor only in examples and restraining humor on the occasion it could distract from the substance. Overall, Apple’s principle is to err on the side of caution when it comes to its writing.

Similar to Adobe’s style guide, Apple’s also has some practical suggestions for writing in a style that’s suited to international readers:

“Writing in the international style means that you write simply and that you express yourselfusing standard international conventions. These are the basic rules:

  • Write in simple structures.
  • Don’t use idiomatic or colloquial expressions.
  • Avoid shortcuts, symbols, and abbreviations that could easily be spelled out.
  • Express data using the standard international conventions outlined in this chapter. You should vary from these standards only when there’s a truly compelling advantage in using a proprietary or customary style.”

5. The Economist

The Economist’s style guide is an all-encompassing mashup of syntax and higher-level advice. For one thing, asides from the introduction, it’s all sorted according to starting letter, which means advice on “swear words” can be found extremely close to “syntax”.

The style guide starts off with George Orwell’s six timeless rules:

  1. Never use a Metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do (see Short words).
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out (see Unnecessary words).
  4. Never use the Passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a Jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (see Iconoclasm).

While it can be a bit troublesome to navigate through, I would highly recommend The Economist style guide’s advice on grammar, journalese, and headlines.

Closing Thoughts

Many of the principles illustrated within these style guides are similar; be empathetic, consider the wide range of readers, and write as simply as possible. Use these tactics to your advantage, and test each piece of advice to see how your readers react to your content. When in doubt, you can turn to these style guides as resources for developing your own tone, voice and structure for your content…and maybe even the foundation for your own brand’s style guide!

How Behemoths like GE, Adobe, and SAP Tell Their Stories

SAP’s SVP of Marketing also serves as the company’s Chief Storyteller. This is just one of the many pieces of evidence indicating how crucial storytelling is to marketing and brand equity for large enterprises.

We all love stories. We are raised with stories from a young age, and many of these narratives become the pillars of our lives. Companies have recognized the power of storytelling for decades, and are now using storytelling to change how potential clients and stakeholders perceive them.

GE Adobe SAP

Here are how leading enterprises such as General Electric, Adobe, and SAP share their stories:

General Electric and the Image of Invention

Conglomerate giant General Electric faces a challenge that many larger, mature, companies inevitably have to deal with: How is it possible for the company to maintain a consistent image when they provide services for such a wide variety of customers in so many different industries? From appliances to jet engines to financial products, General Electric serves a series of drastically different niches and stakeholders.

As such, their story has to accommodate different types of audiences; conversely, their various content niches and microproperties also need a congruent overarching theme for effective branding. How can they do this while maintaining the interest of all parties with their content marketing initiatives?

Linda Boff, executive director of global digital marketing at General Electric, said in an interview with Digiday: “We are GE, a large primarily industrial company. We manufacture things in both traditional and advanced ways. We are fascinated by technology, innovation, discovery and invention. We have a clear compass as to what it is we find interesting and what our voice is in our space. We have a curious, passionate and optimistic voice.”

They embed these themes of technology, innovation, discovery, and invention not only their own content, but in their social media strategy as well. How can you make these vague themes interesting to the mainstream masses?

General Electric uses its own science-centric visuals, such as graphics from its laboratories, to entertain consumers. For example, their Pinterest board features various photos of interesting 3D printing, installations at GE-sponsored events, or progress on one of their latest projects. They created a mobile game for iOS, called Patient Shuffle, that tells the story of a hospital and helps the user understand the importance of logistics and what General Electric’s products are used for.

General Electric leverages visuals on YouTube: it features content such as visuals of their factory and quirky or unusual science-centric video shorts on blooming social network Vine. By sprinkling the themes of technology, innovation, discovery, and invention in the many types of content they share, General Electric maintains a cohesive theme while still tailoring their content to their many types of audiences.

Adobe and Cutting the Marketing BS

Reminiscent of how 7UP was positioned as the UNCOLA in order to stand out in a saturated market, computer software company Adobe created an unusual campaign to target CMOs and digital marketers for their digital marketing solution.

As Forbes columnist Steve Olenski shares in this article, Adobe’s story for this campaign started with their discovery that global advertising is not effective on marketers. Instead of simply explaining their product features in detail, which is exactly what their competitors were doing, Adobe told a different story in order to cut through the noise. They decided to take the brutally honest approach to appealing to marketers and created a campaign called, “Marketing is BS.” Adobe’s solution to platitude-filled meetings is their product, which helps marketers make sense of data. (For example, have a look at their video titled BS Detector.)

The campaign resonated extremely well with marketers, and the “brutally honest” approach to telling this story paid off. Adobe’s CMO Ann Lewnes said in this article with The New York Times: “‘I think Adobe is not known for being provocative or bold,’ Ms. Lewnes said. ‘We’re ‘a nice software company.’ But in this crowded space, with a lot of competition, the intent is to break through, jolt the market,’ she added.”

Essentially, their campaign was about eating their own dogfood when it came to the advice they were preaching: “The frankness of the campaign also signals that Adobe Systems (and their agency) realized that ‘if we were flowery, overly clever, jargony, the more it would feel like we were doing the same thing we were saying people don’t need to do anymore,’ Goodby, Silverstein’s Keith Anderson also added in The New York Times article. (Note: Goodby, Silverstein was Adobe’s agency for this campaign.)

SAP Powers Sentimentality

Operations and logistics software giant SAP faces an extremely difficult challenge in their marketing. While their solution is extremely essential, and effective, and crucial in their clients’ day-to-day activities, their product is also a background service doesn’t make for the most interesting or remarkable topic. How can SAP make Enterprise Resource Management and streamlining processes more understandable and interesting to potential key decision makers and stakeholders? First and foremost, SAP leverages sites like Forbes to host and distribute their content. On their sponsored column, SAPVoice, marketer Todd Wilms demonstrates the potential power behind the story of SAP. Wilms frames SAP as a service that helps their customers deliver:

  • 72% of the world’s chocolate,
  • 70% of the world’s beer,
  • 82% of the world’s athletic footwear. 

SAP follows the 22nd rule of Pixar’s rules of storytelling: “What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.” At its core, SAP is the service that enables companies in all industries to bring joy to its customers and stakeholders. As such, it’s able to tailor its story to different types of customers by simply explaining its different niches.

“For example, at the New York Fashion Week, we are going to capture people talking about fashion and how it impacts their lives,” said Julie Roehm, SAP’s SVP Marketing and Chief Storyteller in a Campaign India interview. “A world ‘run better’ for them might be their clothes fit them every day and they don’t have to worry about their appearance constantly. What does that has [sic.] to do with SAP? Well, we created technology for Levi’s that helps them to image a person and suggest which Levi’s jean is going to be best for them to put on. So, when people put the right one on without going through the hassle of going through multiple pairs of jeans, they feel good about themselves.”

In order to take their storytelling to the next level, SAP created a mobile app that would share the stories of their various customer journeys. While the primary purpose of this mobile app is likely to assist SAP sales teams during presentations, it doubles as a presentable collection of stories and case studies for any potential clients that are interested in SAP.

Closing Thoughts

With decades of experience in branding and marketing, these companies are industry-leaders in the art of storytelling and how storytelling techniques can be used to increase brand awareness and sales. As General Electric, Adobe, and SAP demonstrate, the greatest stories can be told through content marketing by using imaginative themes, speaking frankly with your customers, and connecting with the sentimentality of your product. 

5 Content Marketing KPI to Keep Your Eyes On

How do you know whether your content marketing is working or not?

Five Content Marketing Tips

According to a whitepaper by Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter, measuring content marketing success is often described by marketers as “all over the board.” From the perspectives of enterprises, coming up clear metrics is subjective because of the broad range of stakeholders, including marketing, sales, and communications. There are no standardized sets of metrics that all teams converge upon naturally: for example, one team could be expecting lead generation, whereas another team could be hoping to drive deeper engagement from the same content initiative.

As Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed.” The solution is to only measure several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), because there is NO one-size-fits-all set of metrics. However, you’re worse off not measuring at all than not measuring properly (at least your team will get into the habit of tracking), so here are some fundamental content marketing KPIs to keep your eyes on and the principles behind them:

1. Reach

One prerequisite to content marketing success is ensuring people are actually consuming (e.g., reading, watching, listening to) your content. You can measure this by calculating your reach.

The most valuable metrics are pageviews and unique visitors. These two metrics have been used by advertisers and publishers since the dawn of the internet because they are most simple and representative way to measure how many people saw your content.

The reach metric comes with one caveat: optimizing just for pageviews is a poor method for measuring content marketing initiatives if you create content that is popular, but lacks relevance with your audience. Especially in B2B marketing, you must still preserve the content integrity of your brand.

When experimenting with distribution to increase reach, such as paid advertising or social media, you may also want to consider some of these KPIs that social networks look at (e.g., here are Facebook’s): impressions and clickthroughs, number of social shares — and in B2B, if your prospects shared your content. What better reason to get in touch and start a conversation?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you have created the world’s best content but no one is around to read it, is it valuable? Philosophy aside, let’s just make sure you never have to debate this question with your content: keep an eye on your reach through pageviews and unique visitors.

2. Brand Lift

From a more qualitative KPI focused around branding, you can measure performance in one of these primary areas of brand objectives:

  • Awareness
  • Attitudes
  • Favorability
  • Purchase intent
  • Preference

Awareness can be measured through reach, but the other four points may require some deeper prodding. Companies use focus groups and surveys to measure attitudes, favorability, and preference, and you can also measure these by using social media sentiment analysis. This can be done by using free tools like Social Mention and by keeping a close eye on hashtags, Google Alerts, or through your social media agency. (For further reading on using social media to listen  and gauge consumer opinions, check out Converseon’s whitepaper, Listening 2.0.)

To measure purchase intent, you can use your analytics platform to examine how far down the sales funnels visitors from your websites are going, when they arrive at your site through a content initiative. You can also use a marketing automation platform to give credit to attribute leads to specific sources of content.

3. Business Growth

In order to measure business growth, look at how much revenue is being generated through each content initiative. Depending on your business, this could be measured through lead generation, or the number of new e-mails collected within a certain timespan.

If you want a more comprehensive look at business growth created through content marketing, break down the revenue generated based on each of your content marketing efforts — was the revenue mainly through new customers or was it from increased revenue from existing customers? This will help you better understand your content initiative’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether it’s aligning to your goals (e.g., new customer acquisition vs existing custom retention?).

4. Reader Engagement

In addition to business growth, reader engagement is another KPI that will gauge whether or not your content is relevant and of high quality. Reader engagement and business growth balance out the reach KPI.

To measure reader engagement, look at metrics such as bounce rate, time spent on page, blog stickiness (average pages per visit), comments per post, and even explicit client feedback (e.g., through e-mails or blog comments).

5. Special Metrics

Your organization is unique — while it may operate using certain best practises or principles, it’s certainly not completely cut out of a cookie-cutter mould. Similarly, your content marketing KPIs should reflect this uniqueness: what aspect of your organization is this content initiative designed to help grow or improve?

Dell used to be well-known for its terrible reputation amongst consumers (have a look at what journalist Jeff Jarvis had to say about it, and how many readers that critique resonated with, several years ago). Dell knew what they had to change, and proceeded to adjust accordingly.

As the Executive Director of Online Marketing for Dell’s Large Enterprise Business Unit, Rishi Dave, highlights in this interview, Dell would look at metrics such as loyalty, brand reputation, impact on costs (for example, through customer support). These metrics are extremely customer centric and focused on retention and improving the reputation.

Dell uses a metric called the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which according to Dave, “measures the loyalty of your customer base and lets you identify opportunities for increasing your overall brand health. It also enables you to recognize how you can enhance your customers’ perceptions of (and loyalty to) your company.”

You must ask yourself, “What is your organization’s priority? What is its greatest challenge or strength, and which are you trying to improve or refine? Pick a KPI to measure this.

Closing Thoughts

Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis: if your content initiative isn’t being tracked and measured using the proper KPIs, you’ll never have an idea of what needs to be improved and whether the initiative is working for your organization. Even if the metrics are not meeting performance expectations, at least you will know if your results are improving or getting worse. Having the proper metrics in place will allow you to determine the next course of action, whether it’s to cut your losses, continue on course, or tweak and optimize for more effective content marketing.

 (Image Source: Flickr)