Archive for September, 2013

Content Marketing In 2013 and Beyond

September 30, 2013

cm_infographicRecently I was reading up on the topic of content marketing and how it is affecting the marketing efforts of organizations around the world.  I have been a fan of content marketing for quite some time believing that it is better to provide value with a message rather than just a fancy looking ad slick.  Personally I have always responded better to companies who try to educate me on how a product or solution will fill my need and then show me how their product or solution is the best at solving that need.  Content marketing, or getting a message out by providing a piece of content valued by a marketplace consumer to attract that consumer to your offering, works great as a low risk option for consumers and marketers.

Content marketing by definition, is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action (, n.d.).  Why is content marketing so important?  Think about how many times you fast forward through commercials on your television DVR.  Consider how many piece of junk mail you get each day, not to mention the junk email that is delivered to your inbox.  Content marketing is all about providing valuable content that people look forward to receiving.  Its goal is to attract new and retain existing customers.   Messages can be anything from tips and product information to steps on changing consumer behavior.  A content marketing strategy helps an organization build thought leadership through a consistent effort in developing its own library of wholly owned media elements.

In the article “What is Content Marketing” found here on the authors reference some great statistics from Roper Public Affairs on the importance of content marketing:

  • 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement.
  • 70 percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
  • 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions

Those are some very powerful numbers when thinking about how consumers feel about good, reliable, content.  Marketers who are using content marketing successfully are trying to get individuals to move their organizations communications out of the junk category and into the trusted source category.  Content marketing helps take consumers from a visitor standpoint to becoming a brand evangelist.  The infographic (seen above or here) developed by the Content Marketing Institute does a very nice job illustrating this progression.  For some examples on content marketing and how it can be used, you can download a free ebook here.

Of course, a big concern with many marketers is how this wonderful content will be created.  They are going to be wondering how they will get one more to do on an already over taxed team.  Fast Company released an article recently listing five ways to have a great content marketing program without creating a single word.  Not surprisingly it centered around finding third party sources of content whether that be partnerships or content curation.  While this is sometimes costly, it is a good option for organizations that do not have the resources to develop content internally.  So where do you fall?  Does your organization use content marketing already?  What kind of success are you having?  Reply to this blog and share some results (if your organization says it’s OK of course).

Some quick links for your reference:

Content Marketing Examples

Content Marketing vs. Social Media

Content Marketing Research

Content Marketing Institute Framework

Fast Company, 5 Ways to Craft a Killer Content Marketing Strategy Without Creating and Content

The Sociopath’s Guide to Strategic Planning

September 23, 2013
Catherine Ames

Catherine Ames/Cathy Trask. Illustration by arelia-dawn @ deviantart

There’s nothing like sifting through a 600-page book to reference a 60-year-old definition of a sociopath, but I’m always looking for a good reason to talk about my favorite book – John Steinbeck’s (1952) classic, East of Eden. Plot aside, Steinbeck’s sociopath is a natural-born strategic planner whose method of achieving goals deserves a brief mention if not some bit of admiration. He likens her to a monster.

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? (p. 72)

When reading about Catherine Ames (aka Cathy, aka Kate), you root for her downfall, but at one point Steinbeck uses the character as a contrast to human tendency to falter on the course of our goals out of anxiety, hurry, or fear. He almost seems to pause to give readers a life lesson before returning to the flow of action.

If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. (p. 240)

The author notes that while “very few people learn this,” Kate’s one good quality was that she was able to form a plan and patiently work it to completion.

She thought to the end very quickly and then put it out of her mind. She set herself to work on the method. She built a structure and attacked it, and if it showed the slightest shakiness she tore it down and started fresh. (p. 240)

I’m currently building a strategic communications plan for PR Concepts & Strategy, and it occurred to me that the process is similar to the one used by Steinbeck’s villain. Textbook authors Laurie Wilson and Joseph Ogden guide students through a planning matrix that breaks down the classic public relations RACE model – research, action planning, communications, and evaluation. In the action planning phase, would-be strategic planners are instructed to begin with a goal, or “the end to be achieved.” Only after we have clearly identified what we want to accomplish do we begin constructing the method and identifying the means that will lead to success. It is not an easy task.

The goal setting part of the process is fairly simple. I compare it to that old Seinfeld episode where car the rental company tells Jerry that they’ve run out of cars despite him having made a reservation. To paraphrase, he complains to the agent that anyone can take a reservation, but it was the holding of the reservation that the company didn’t seem to understand. Similarly, I often think that anyone can set a goal, but it’s in the process of achieving the goal where so many people fall off. A well-constructed strategic plan is the bridge between starting out and reaching the finish line, but if you’ve spent at least 10 minutes in the marketing realm, that’s not big news.

Strategic Planning is Missing

Courtesy of Fran Orford

The challenging part about strategic planning – and the lesson from our sociopath – is to emotionally remove ourselves from the end goal so that we can focus on the specific tasks and daily minutiae that are required to reach the goal. What’s great about corporate strategy is that the process is often spread out between upper-level planning and lower-level execution. In our own business and personal ambitions, however, we’re solely responsible to form the plan and work the plan. This means that we have to stop daydreaming about and brooding over our goals just long enough to be productive and objectively manage the necessary actions along the way.

Lifehack discusses this productivity practice in “How to Practice the Art of Detached Focus to Achieve Your Goals.” Author and Productivity Coach Ciara Conlon states, “And so the secret is to focus intently, but to focus on the path and not on the destination.”

In using Catherine/Cathy/Kate as an example, let’s remember to set aside such sociopathic tendencies as selfishness, manipulation, lack of empathy and evil plotting. Nevertheless, some of our goals could stand to benefit from a thorough strategic plan and an ice-cold determination not subject to emotional derailments, hurried mistakes or irrational fears.

Further Reading

Steinbeck, J. (1952). East of Eden. New York, NY: Penguin Books (reprinted in 1992).

IMC Professionals Need to be Teachers

September 19, 2013

One of the things that I’ve come to realize working in IMC is that in order to be successful you need to be a teacher.   Co-workers need to feel as though they’re part of th6779845035_2811391941_oe team, even if they have no marketing experience.  Last year our organization decided to create IMC plans for each department, which resulted in nine different plans in our building that all worked up to overarching IMC goals. It was a tremendous amount of work, but now our marketing efforts are more aligned and more measurable.

Just as we did when we started developing our branding project, the first step was to teach staff the importance and value of creating these campaigns.  This included multiple presentations and workshops in order to teach the staff about IMC.  Those workshops were followed by a group discussion that helped our staff, as a team, come up with our SWOT analysis and overall IMC goals for the organization.  At the workshops, departmental IMC workbooks were given out in order to help the staff organize their thoughts and ideas.  Staff members were challenged with setting marketing objectives for their department that helped the overall organization achieve overarching IMC objectives.  During the next year, multiple meetings were conducted to create comprehensive IMC plans for use in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.  Here are some valuable lessons learned during this process that I hope will help other marketing professionals in their quest to integrate marketing efforts.

  • Teach the importance and value: When you think about it, it’s a good thing that not everyone in your organization is completely focused on marketing.  Everyone at the table is there because they have a skill set that helps make the company productive.  Utilize this to your advantage! Use presentation time to teach the important of IMC and how it will better individual departments and the organization as a whole.  You don’t have to prepare lessons plans, but it is important to teach the significance of what you’re doing.  If co-workers do not understand the value, they won’t be invested and your job will be much more difficult.
  • Make things as simple as possible: As previously mentioned, not everyone lives and breathes marketing.  Listen to ideas – you many not use them – but listening helps people feel valued and invested.  Relate marketing topics to things that make sense in their daily work.  What will be meaningful to them? What will make them care about marketing?
  • Work together: Our organization is made of individual departments, so it was very important to work with each one and listen to their needs and ideas.  What will work for one department will not work for another.  It is critical to incorporate departmental needs into that of the overall organization.  Facilitating discussion and providing ideas is great however, if individuals feel they help create the ideas and goals, they will be more invested.
  • Start with tactics and work your way up: We found that the easiest way to make this happen was to have everyone write down the tactics they’re doing now in the categories they believe they were in (direct, paid ads, public relations, etc.).  Then we worked up to objectives – thinking about what we wanted all of these tactics to achieve.  This was much easier for everyone because they were able to see how much they were doing.  This helped calm nerves and make the project a little less overwhelming.  Then we were able to show how achieving those goals would support the goals of the overall organization.
  • Check in consistently: Marketing goals are not the primary responsibilities of everyone in your organization.  Continually checking with departments and sharing information is a great way to keep top of mind awareness and show the value of taking an IMC approach.  There is always emerging media, ideas, and processes that are suppose to simplify life, but consistency is the key to maintaining and getting staff buy in with marketing efforts.

Every organization is different and these ideas may not work for everyone.  I believe that no matter who the client is or who you’re “selling” IMC to, you need to be a teacher.  You cannot tell people to be invested, you have to convince them they want to be part of the solution.

What have you learned from working in IMC?  Any other teaching tips you’d like to share?

Part 2: Free Podcasts on Entrepreneurship

September 3, 2013


Up until two weeks ago, I had never heard of the website Entrepreneur on Fire. If you have not, I encourage you to take a look because the site offers a wealth of knowledge, and it will not even cost you a penny!

John Lee Dumas is the founder and host behind the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast series. Seven days a week since 2012, John has been interviewing the brightest innovators in the entrepreneurial field. Past interviews have included guest speakers such as Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Mark Schaefer, and Jonah Berger.

As of this week, 324 episodes have been recorded and archived in iTunes. All podcasts follow a thirty minute format that encourages listeners to “prepare to ignite.”

If you have an entrepreneur in mind not included in the library, John’s team is open to suggestions. Earlier this week, I mentioned that Jon Acuff would be a great guest and the team responded that he is already on the schedule!

In addition to the podcast series, The Fire Nation Team provides their subscribers a free e-Book highlighting the wisdom of past entrepreneurs.

Featured podcasts and links