Archive | Marketing

Two Lessons From Sandy

First, my hopes and prayers for safety to all those on the East Coast right now. Twitter’s honestly pretty terrifying tonight as Hurricane Sandy has come ashore.

Two things I’ve seen today that bear sharing.

    1. First, if you think your industry is too boring to use social media, I refer you to the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Flickr feed. The account has nearly 3000 photos — they’re taking and sharing pictures of everyday events involving the transit service. Today, those photos included ones like these:
      033Assistant Station Master Cory Harris locked the main entrance to Grand Central Terminal, at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, after the last train departed at 7:10 p.m. on Sunday, October 28. Grand Central closed in advance of Hurricane Sandy.

      09. 2 Broadway in Storm Prep

      Sandbags outside Broadway station

      You never know when the everyday will become extraordinary. Start today so you’ll be ready when it happens.

    2. Second, STOP SCHEDULING YOUR TWEETS. I used to say that scheduling was OK as long as you monitored it, and you were managing your stream in times of national emergency. But clearly, may of you aren’t actually managing your auto-tweets. Those in the US, especially the Eastern US, who are auto-tweeting about anything but Hurricane Sandy tonight look like idiots.

Thanks, rant over.

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Dear Conference Organizers:

I know it’s hard to get the marketing thing right. Believe me, I’ve been in the business for years. All these details take a lot of work and a lot of smart people. And you don’t have the budget you used to. And etc.

But dear lord, when you send me the 5th “REGISTER NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE” email, and for the 3rd time I panic and go scramble through my emails only to find that indeed, I registered 4 months ago, I start to get a little ticked off.

Please, for the sake of my sanity and the love of all that is holy, please, please segment your list. Every time you send me one of these, I question my decision to attend — because clearly no one ELSE has signed up yet, so maybe you aren’t so awesome after all. And you don’t even know that I signed up, for heaven’s sake. Maybe I wasted my money by pre-early-registering when clearly, I could have waited 4 months and gotten the same deal.

And if you really are still trying to fill the seats, just think how much better I’d receive an email with this kind of message:

Hey, you — yeah, the smart cookie. You signed up for ABC Conference last spring, and you are going to be so glad you did. We’ve got some great stuff in store, like As, Bs and Cs. If you want to share those great ABCs with a colleague or client, please pass on this Friend of Laura registration code — they’ll thank you, and we will too!

Now, I’m sure your conference is going to be wonderful, and I know I’m going to love it. If you’ll just clean up this little email issue, we can go right back to being BFFs.

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Laura Creekmore speaking at Nashville Chamber 8/5/2011

Update, 8/6/2011: If you wanted to see the slides from my talk on content strategy and marketing yesterday, they’re now available on SlideShare.

I’m really excited about an upcoming event — I’m speaking to the Nashville Chamber’s interactive shared interest group on Friday, Aug. 5.

Here’s the description:

Content Strategy: A Framework for Marketing Success

Content strategy is a framework to help you make better decisions about managing content as a business asset.

Great writing is an art, but business realities demand that we standardize and structure our content for maximum effectiveness. Content strategy gives you the tools to spend your marketing time and money well, whether you’re working on your website, a software product or designing a social media campaign. This session will explain how content strategy can improve your marketing results, and it will walk you step by step through the content strategy framework, giving you ideas to improve your work today.

The event is open to all Nashville Chamber members. Hope you can join us.

 

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Content strategy, content marketing and the name game

I had to laugh this morning when I saw this tweet from UX champion Jared Spool:

Ah, the Content Strategy community has now caught the Define The Damn Thing virus. #DTDT #ContentStrategy

The situation has been circling for months, and it’s finally caught us. Guilty. We are engaged in a fight about what we are talking about. [“Fight” is really too inflammatory a word, as long as we’re trying to be specific. I think the fight is between us and our overly semantic selves, truly.]

Let me be clear up front that I find the discussion useful and unimportant: Useful to help our discipline better define itself and better educate prospective clients [customers, our boss, the CFO, whoever] about the need for content strategy, not altogether important in that much of this dialogue is about our internal terminology, and we’ll never fully convince the people who sign our checks to use the terms we like.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read a couple of thought-provoking posts from Lise Janody and Ian Alexander, and I’ve been following the great conversation on the content strategy Google Group. The Nashville Content Strategy Meetup also had a great discussion related to this topic at our event last Thursday. So all this has been swirling in my head recently. I’ll throw my thoughts out there, and I’d love your feedback.

Here’s how I approach content strategy:

  • I love Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web, and Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategy. I think both are helpful definitions and provide great examples, particularly of some deliverables that are useful in content strategy.
  • I think content strategy is NOT about deliverables. Though this may seem to be a contradiction, keep reading. I’ll elaborate.
  • Content strategy is a mindset. That’s the real value we bring to our clients at Creekmore Consulting. We help them think about content in a new way. We often use deliverables like audits, inventories, taxonomies, style guides and more as part of our work, but those aren’t the real value. They help us reveal and demonstrate the value that true strategy brings to the table.

Now, about content marketing.

Ian Alexander’s reference to content marketing kicked off some of the fuss in the Google Group, and I do think it’s a useful question he’s asked. How do we [internal to the discipline] differentiate content strategy and marketing? How does the marketplace [our clients and stakeholders] do so? I think he’s right in asking — I’ve seen lots of places where I felt the terms were used interchangeably, and incorrectly, I felt.

My background includes a whole lot of content marketing, so I’ve got some definite opinions here. I think the word “content” is part of what confuses us in both content strategy and content marketing, but I don’t have a great substitute for it at this time.

Content strategy: The mindset that puts content second*, whether you’re talking about enterprise content management, product development, web applications, mobile, print, marketing, whatever. This emerging discipline is particularly known for several of its web-content-based [but often more broadly useful] deliverables, like content audits, taxonomies, style guides, workflows and governance models. We put content second, because the business goal comes first. All else follows.

Content marketing: A particular marketing strategy, where marketers use content to build a trusting, reciprocal relationship with customers and prospects.

The fuzzy: The confusion happens in the middle. To me, effective content marketing must have content strategy as a component. You have to have planned for the [to use Halvorson’s well-known definition] creation, delivery and governance of any content if you want it to meet your business goal. In my previous, custom media life, this distinction was clear. The custom magazines and websites we created for customers were content marketing, and we used principles of content strategy to ensure we met business goals and effectively managed operations.

But I don’t think the distinction is always so clear. It’s sometimes hard to define whether a web property is a product, media or marketing….often, a single website can be all 3 at once. So it’s no wonder we’re confused about the terms.

What’s the takeaway? I’m not sure. I think the conversation is good. I think we can draw some distinctions. And I think we have more work still to do.

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Required reading: You’re using research wrong

Let me start by saying, My mama raised me right. It just didn’t fully take.

And so I have disrupted more than one meeting with some — shall we say — unpopular assertions about the role of research in marketing and product development. I’m almost always polite*, yet I can’t let pass the opportunity to share my view that research results do not constitute a message from Your Favorite Higher Being Here.

After New Coke, I’m not sure why anyone has to explain this again. There are emotional and group-think elements to human response, and these are difficult to measure with standard business research techniques.

I won’t go on: I’ll just direct you to Ben McAllister‘s great piece in The Atlantic on the dangers of using research to make creative decisions. He agrees there’s an appropriate role for research, but argues that it’s dangerous to assign scientific weight to information that should be viewed as an indicator only.

Thanks to Randall Snare and Jonathan Kahn for linking to this piece and thereby bringing it to my attention.

*About this topic, anyway. No comment about my embarrassing reactions to poor retail customer service.

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Confab | Ann Handley of Marketing Profs: Embrace That You Are a Publisher

I don’t often blog keynotes anymore; there are lots of reasons, but that’s not my point here. I wasn’t planning to blog Ann Handley‘s talk this morning at Confab, but she is talking about something that is so important to me:

Embrace that you are a publisher.

Every organization today is in publishing. If you’re talking to your customers on a website or social media, you’re publishing. Handley compares it to having a child: You are now a parent, and it’s expensive and time-consuming and sometimes heart-wrenching, but it’s all worth it. Content is one of the most valuable assets you can create.

She quotes Joe Pulizzi saying, “The one with the most engaging content wins.”

Handley is showing some data from the great content marketing study that Marketing Profs and CMI put out last year, showing that 56% of B2B marketers struggle with creating valuable content or creating enough content — but the vast majority of B2B marketers are using content in their marketing.

From me: There’s not one right way to meet this challenge. Sometimes, the right answer is, re-structure your internal marketing department. Sometimes, you need to hire someone to add editorial talent to your team full-time. And sometimes, you should outsource to pull in resources as you need them. Regardless of how you staff your content need, you need a strategy to get started and ensure your success.

Many marketers think in campaigns, and one of the challenges people have when they get to the web is that there is no inherent end date. By creating a campaign framework for your content strategy, you’ll make it easier to fill in the blanks. Think about this pattern for your content strategy:

  • Business goal
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Measure
  • Analyze and Repeat

Need help getting started? That’s the kind of thing we love to help with at Creekmore Consulting. Give us a shout.

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Deserving your audience

Great post this week from well known author Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image in Toronto. He starts from the question of whether it’s better to have a great book or a great existing audience when you publish. But he morphs quickly into asking the same question about marketers using social media or other content marketing channels.

The content needs to stand up on its own.

This is an important lesson for Marketers who are quickly realizing that their jobs in a Social Media world force them to act a lot more like publishers and content creators than the traditional advertising roles they are more accustomed to. In order to generate significant levels of success, their content can’t be thinly veiled marketing pieces, but must live and breathe with authenticity and value within the ecosystem.

–Get the rest from Mitch Joel at 6 Pixels of Separation

It’s a question that many marketers haven’t stopped to ask. If you’re not offering value to the market, you are wasting our time  at best. And it’s a very rare situation where your standard marketing materials are what people want from you.

What people do want [for starters]:

  • Instructions
  • Tech support
  • Information they can’t get elsewhere
  • Ideas about making their own jobs easier
  • Entertainment

Every company can’t fill all those needs, but you don’t have to. If your product is serious, you don’t have to be funny. But no matter your market, it almost always helps to be human. This is another area that doesn’t come naturally to companies. It comes naturally to most people, but you put a corporate face on and throw some technology between yourself and your customers, and many of us freeze up.

What’s your best tip for treating your audience well with content?

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QR Codes: Ready for Prime Time?

Great post from Paul Merrill on QR codes:

It’s as if each company said, “We need to get something out there with a QR code on it – and it doesn’t matter what it says or links to. Just get it out now, now. We only have two weeks till the event kicks off!”
Fail.

— From Paul Merrill. Get the rest at Shiny Bits of Life

QR codes [stands for Quick Response codes, but you’ll never hear them referred to by the full words] are getting hot with marketers. Merrill’s right; they were everywhere at South by Southwest last week, but I’ve also seen them in print magazines and on ads in the subway in New York.

The idea behind QR codes is solid: You see an ad [or an article, or a product package, whatever] with a QR code, and you whip out your ubiquitous smartphone, scan the code and get delivered to a website where additional, fabulous information awaits you.

It’s the fabulous part we’re struggling with right now.

This is fundamentally a user experience problem. Marketers haven’t yet sorted out what is best delivered via your phone, or your computer or a printed ad. So right now, they’re throwing it all at you, every which way they can. Given some time and excellent examples, this kind of thing will sort itself out. The only potential problem is, if we become inured to poor QR code usage in the meantime, it will take a lot of work to get people to start scanning them again.

So marketers of the world, please be careful with your QR codes. Stop using them when you can’t be fabulous.

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