Last week, I had the pleasure of attending MarketingProfs’ Content Creation Boot Camp, a pre-conference workshop kicking off the 2014 B2B Marketing Forum. Led by brand strategist, speaker, and writer Nick Westergaard, the workshop brought together novice and veteran content marketers for a no-holds-barred training session designed to help attendees create bigger, stronger, and better content.
No, Nick did not resemble this scary drill sergeant man. But he did offer up an afternoon of discourse about some of the biggest challenges content marketers face today – and offered tips and suggestions of how to overcome them.
The following is a look at some of the key takeaways from Nick’s 4-hour content strategy session, supplemented by KoMarketing’s thoughts on points made during the presentation.
(Note: The boot camp covered a variety of content mediums (blogs, videos, podcasts, eBooks, infographics, etc.) but, for the purposes of this post, I’ll be covering blogging exclusively.)
What Makes Great Content?
This is an age-old question for content marketers. Joe Pulizzi thinks “great content” is designed to attract, acquire, and engage a target audience, with the goal of driving profitable customer action. Ann Handley says companies should make their brand the central focus of their organization: “Be a content brand, not a brand with content.”
During the content boot camp, Nick outlined what he believes should be the 4 main drivers of an organization’s content:
- Useful/adds value
- Builds relationships
So, for example, Marcus Sheridan decided to refocus his swimming pool website during the economic downturn to make it “the most educational swimming pool blog in the country” instead of solely focused on selling pools. Nick cited this example during the training session to show how Marcus had made a concerted effort to provide answers to customer questions, which has resulted in the site growing to be in the top 5% of total pool sales.
More Points to Consider
While I agree with Nick’s 4 criteria for effective content creation and execution, I’d add a few additional points to his list. So, in other words, content initiatives should be:
- Constantly evolving
- Authoritative/thought leadership
At KoMarketing, our content team doesn’t function as a single entity; instead, it’s part of an overall marketing ecosystem (SEO, content, social, etc.). This non-siloed approach, which includes client status meetings each Monday morning, in addition to ongoing collaboration throughout the week, allows us to understand each part of the marketing process and work to provide better solutions on behalf of our clients.
We also make sure we’re analyzing and evaluating content programs to see what’s working and what isn’t. By constantly evolving our content initiatives based on our results, we’re able to provide thought leadership in each of our clients’ industries while also taking a few risks with our content (e.g., trying out long- vs. short-term content, etc.).
How Do You Define Content Strategy?
As Nick pointed out during the boot camp, content strategy doesn’t have to be time consuming. To demonstrate his “19-Minute Blogging Blueprint,” Nick referred back to a quote from Rudyard Kipling (English majors/dorks unite!):
“I keep six honest serving men – (They taught me all I knew); Their names are WHAT and WHY and WHEN and HOW and WHERE and WHO.”
Here’s how Nick explains the “Six Serving Men” approach to blogging:
- WHY are we blogging? – Define business objective
- WHAT are we blogging? – Define audience need
- WHEN do we blog? – How often to post
- WHERE does this happen? – On-site vs. off-site
- WHO does this involve? – Individual vs. team effort
- HOW do we get it done? How do we measure success?
Typically, this inverted pyramid approach applies to journalism/news writing, but I liked using it as way to think about blogging as well. Mapping out content strategy and direction at a program’s onset is critical to success, especially with recent research indicating that documentation is what separates good and great content efforts.
More Points to Consider
In addition to Nick’s “Six Serving Men” approach, here are a few considerations to keep in mind when outlining blog strategy:
- WHAT can we do differently from what’s been done before?
- HOW can we best expose content to relevant audiences?
- WHO do we need to connect with to promote and share content?
Data from Avalaunch Media shows there are 156 million public blogs in existence. That’s a lot of competition! To figure out how to make our clients’ content stand apart from the rest (and actually get our target audience to read our content), the KoMarketing team revisits our content strategies on a monthly basis. Such an approach allows us to review monthly reports as well as trends and discussion happening on social platforms that we can then use to inform content strategy for the month.
Another key consideration involves thinking about how to best expose content to relevant audiences. Nick also brought this point up during his training session (which prompted a discussion of thinking like a publisher/being a brand journalist). At KoMarketing, we’re currently working on third-party guest posting opportunities across a number of different clients.
For one client, we’re developing long-form, curated content in an effort to generate social buzz and potential link partnerships by referencing key bloggers/industry pros in articles. For another, we’re exposing our client’s brand to relevant audiences by developing several guest blog posts a month on third-party sites (and, in many of these cases, we’re receiving guest blog posts for our client’s site as well).
As I mentioned, the MarketingProfs Content Creation Boot Camp was an intensive, 4-hour training session, so there’s no way I could possibly cover everything Nick did in one blog post. While there was a wealth of information shared and discussed, the main takeaway is probably this: No matter how much of a content “expert” you consider yourself (or your company) to be, there is always more to be learned, discovered, and put into action. I think that’s part of what makes content marketing so exciting!
I won’t share Nick’s ~400 page slide deck with you (you’ll have to hit him up for that!), but I would encourage you to connect with him for follow-up questions about his training session.
I’d also love to hear from you! What points would you include in your own content marketing boot camp? Do you agree with the points made above?