Key Takeaways & Brand Storytelling Insights From The Skyword #ContentRising Summit

Think for a moment about the last time you consumed a memorable piece of content.

What in particular stood out to you? What propelled you to share the article with colleagues or on social media? What has you still thinking about the piece weeks or even months later?


Last week’s inaugural Content Rising Summit sponsored by Skyword sought to answer these questions and more by bringing together 300 of marketing’s best and brightest at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston.

In the words of Skyword CEO & Founder Tom Gerace, the event “explored the art and science of storytelling.” He adds that, in today’s consumer-centric landscape, it’s crucial for marketers to “move beyond product narrative and transform content marketing to address customers’ wants and needs.”

The KoMarketing team was pleased to attend the brand storytelling conference to learn more about the Skyword platform, connect with industry peers, and sit in on a variety of sessions and workshops offering best practices on content creation and execution.

Here’s a look at our team’s key takeaways from the event:

Uncover the Power of Stories in Marketing

Tom Gerace began the 2015 Content Rising conference by addressing the need for a fundamental change in the marketing industry – a shift from focus on the brand to consumers. He backed up this statement with a series of statistics that illustrate the demise of the “interruption model” of advertising.

In order to reach audiences, Gerace believes brands need to tell exceptional stories by:

  • Building storytelling into an organizational mindset
  • Finding storytellers
  • Creating a storytelling engine
  • Thinking visually

Tom captivated the audience with Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, which he noted as an outstanding example of using a story to market to today’s audiences. He explained that Always didn’t even mention their products in the campaign; rather, they connected to consumers with “moments of inspiration.” Tom concluded by saying, “the market is changing, we must adapt alongside it.”

Remember the Primacy of Story

Robert McKee went back in time during his keynote on Day One of the conference, explaining that story is and has always been essential to human thought and communication.

This theory should not be forgotten by today’s marketers. McKee explained that classic brand marketing follows a “bragging, promising, seduction” model that will be ignored by millennials. However, there is an opportunity for brands to connect with millennials via story.

McKee suggests that brands should tap into the minds (or “story-making machines”) of their customers by leveraging human emotions/thoughts and by training themselves to think in story form. This means separating from data, as “How we think about the past and future is done through story, not data.”

McKee concluded by explaining the notion that humans want answers to how they should lead their life and brands that can show how they will improve the lives of customers will be the ones to succeed.

Consider How Content Makes People’s Lives Better

Content Rising SummitAs marketers, it can be easy to become consumed with the content we’re creating, especially considering the amount of effort required to bring a piece to fruition – from an idea to a polished blog post or article shared across social networks.

But, during a session covering the relationship between content and the user experience, Ian Fitzpatrick, Chief Strategy Officer, Almighty, noted that viewing content as the most important thing about content is a flawed assumption.

Instead, Fitzpatrick suggests that brands need to think about content in terms of what it can do to make readers’ lives better. In order to do so, marketers must:

  • Be enormously *something* (entertaining, helpful, interesting, etc.)
  • Think of consumers as real, actual people
  • Give conversation a purpose (i.e., Why should readers share a particular piece of content?)
  • Acknowledge that people aren’t always ready to “buy”

Above all else, Fitzpatrick emphasized that marketers need to understand whatever it is they’re interrupting by asking readers to consume their content (i.e., time spent with family/kids, a nice meal with a spouse, an evening on the couch with a good book, etc.).

By acknowledging that attention is displacement from the things that readers love doing, brands can begin viewing their content as a solution that helps readers get back to what they love and/or complements or improves the things they love.

Optimize the Content Marketing Process

On one end, the overview of the Skyword content marketing platform was incredibly beneficial for brands currently using and considering using their software for ongoing program initiatives.

On the other, understanding how the platform works should provide serious insights into what content marketers can do better when executing their strategies and tactics, such as:

  • Building templates: Much of the material developed by content marketers is based off of best practices and proven successes. For this reason, it’s important to use outlines and templates as a reference for improving the speed of execution and building on what’s proven to work in the past.
  • Viewing content as a continuous cycle: A content marketing program doesn’t end when any one asset has been completed and published. Brands need to think of content marketing as a continuous cycle of performance from idea generation to execution to analysis and back again.
  • Knowing what works best: Content marketers need to evaluate everything from traditional website metrics like page views, referral sources, and lead opportunities to individual reporting metrics such as performance by contributor, content marketing asset, and type of collateral. This helps determine overall performance and what elements of the content marketing program are having the greatest impact.

Create an Exceptional Content Marketing Experience

Ann Handley kicked off Day Two of the conference by explaining how brands must rethink the way they communicate to their target audiences in today’s online environment.

Here’s a closer look:

  • Better content, not more content: There are billions of web pages, articles, videos, and other content marketing assets available online. The question then becomes: How can content marketers differentiate themselves from the noise and sea of information being presented everywhere, all the time?
  • Differentiate the message: It’s critical to create a unique communication strategy, based a brand’s own values (Ann emphasized the importance of brands finding their three keywords) and audience personalities that drive the target audience.
  • #FIWTSBS: Ann’s philosophy is that marketers need to find interesting ways to say boring stuff (FIWTSBS). During her presentation, she showed examples of how organizations like Chubbies, Humane Society Silicon Valley, and even a can koozie maker Freaker are setting the bar across their communication tactics and efforts.

Make the News, Don’t Break the News

Later on in Day Two of the conference, members of the IBM Security team spoke to the importance of correctly leveraging industry news in a way that relates to the brand and planning ahead to uncover news stories that audiences are truly hungry for. They cited IBM’s strategy of serving as an educational resource while also putting a brand point of view on stories that can be shared with the world.

Successful news stories don’t place a priority on the “who/what” aspect of the story, rather the “why/how.” One of IBM Security’s most successful pieces of content followed this model and was based on research around the mobile security of dating apps. They released a post showcasing the findings around Valentine’s Day. As a result, they were able to capture audiences that were concerned about employees bringing vulnerable apps inside corporate walls at a time of the year when dating and “searching for love” is at its peak.

IBM’s team members closed by stressing the importance of marketers leveraging the resources that may be at their disposal. Some of these include:

  • Messaging and marketing
  • Creative and content
  • PR
  • SMEs
  • Social networks
  • Analysts
  • Demand marketing

Leverage Video Storytelling to Connect with People on an Emotional Level

For many brands, video content can be a daunting undertaking, due to a variety of factors (lack of time, budgeting constraints, not enough bandwidth or the right kind of creative talent, etc.).

But, during their session on video marketing, Epipheo’s Josh Gott and Kaltura’s Ofer Luft stressed that building video into an editorial strategy can help connect with people on an emotional level and share stories the way people want to consume them.

It goes much deeper than this, however. Josh explained that video storytelling needs to be “bigger and better” than the word engagement. Instead, content marketers need to determine how to root their video strategy in the following three tactics:

  • Use story to express empathy (i.e., speak to the audience about the audience)
  • Use story to educate/pass on knowledge
  • Use story to change behavior

Final Thoughts

There are many takeaways from the Skyword’s #ContentRising, jam-packed with exciting customer testimonials, marketing best practices, lessons to be learned from industry experts, and more. The above represents just a few of the insights that hit home with the KoMarketing team in attendance.

Many thanks to Skyword for the opportunity to attend such an exciting event – we’re looking forward to next year’s conference! Thanks also to Derek and Ryan for their post contributions and insights into event takeaways.

“The team @ KoMarketing Associates clearly understands how to effectively utilize all methodologies of search engine marketing and builds powerful programs to achieve outstanding results. The team they have constructed is not only professional but fantastic to work with.”

— Chad Beasley, Vice President at Delivery Agent

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