Art, Science and Comedy Collide at the Content Marketing Conference
If there is one universal theme from last week’s Content Marketing Conference (CMC), it’s that the world doesn’t need more bad content. Today, marketers are churning out more content than ever before: white papers, e-blasts, webinars, podcast episodes – the sheer volume of content swirling in our universe is mind-numbing. But in their ongoing pursuit of (insert KPI of choice), many marketers are missing the mark, creating tone-deaf content that falls flat.
With so much noise out there, how can anyone break through? Here’s what three of my favorite speakers at CMC had to say:
Be a Writer First, and a Marketer Second
Best-selling author Ann Handley took to the stage for Friday morning’s keynote. Her message: marketers must switch their mindset from “We need a piece of content for X campaign” to “our audience needs X.” By putting the needs of their audience first, marketers can create content that’s of actual value, material that resonates, and ultimately succeeds. Handley suggests thinking about it like this: find the problem you can solve for your audience and solve it.
Sometimes these problems and solutions live in unexpected or overlooked places. Handley mentioned the case of Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media Studios, who turned three years’ worth of sent email into almost 100 pages of content, including a series of high-ranking articles. He saw the “hidden gems” of thought leadership living in his outbox – things like answers to questions from clients and prospects – and created useful, successful content. If you’re interested in more on that, Crestodina wrote up a great how-to article.
Have Fun With It: “The End of Laughter is Followed by the Height of Listening”
People don’t pay attention to boring things. Think about how we consume news today – Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers give us the news we need, and we remember it because it makes us laugh. David Nihill’s advice to marketers? Use comedy to get heard and differentiate.
- Hit on a pain point: We all have them – the frustration of getting cut off in traffic, the agony of waiting on hold with Comcast. Pain points are how we commiserate and relate to each other. Marketers have a huge opportunity to strike a chord with their audiences this way.
- Link stuff: When “deflategate” was all over the news, Avocados from Mexico won with a simple tweet: “You know what you can’t deflate? An avocado.” It didn’t make any sense, at all. Yet they won over thousands of people because they linked it to something that everyone was talking about and did it with comedy.
- Use an analogy: As an Irishman, Nihill said it makes his blood boil when people say, “Happy St. Patty’s Day!” He explained it would comparable to him saying, “Happy Martina Luther King Day,” just altogether disregarding the sex of one of the most treasured historical figures in American history. Suddenly the outrage made a lot more sense.
Write Without Bullshit
One of my favorite sessions was Josh Bernoff’s, a former Forrester analyst of 20+ years and author of “Groundswell” and “Writing Without Bullshit.” In a world where the lines between “influencer” and “thought leader” may seem blurred, Bernoff brought some much-needed clarity around what sets analytical thinkers apart. Specifically, he called out three areas: research (sources) + think (worldview) + influence (audience). Powerful ideas come at the intersection of these elements and are the difference between being “seen” and actually driving change. What should aspiring thought leaders do?
- Seek measurable truth
- Follow the data
- Verify before spreading
- Explain assumptions
- Question generalizations
- Doubt narratives
- Recognize that truth has uncertainty, context and a life-span
As you can probably gather from this recap, there was a huge range of programming at this year’s Content Marketing Conference. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to improve their content, connect with their audiences, and break through the (ever-increasing) noise with powerful ideas. While the conference has wrapped, I’m looking forward to digging into the books below:
- “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content,” Ann Handley
- “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business,” Ann Handley
- “Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career By Saying What You Mean,” Josh Bernoff
- “Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker,” David Nihill