3 Hacks for Building a Successful Content Marketing Program

The old saying goes that you are entitled to your opinions, but not your own facts. Well, the facts are in and one thing is abundantly clear modern B2B marketing budgets are allocating more and more time and resources toward content marketing efforts. For these organizations, content marketing is an effective, economically viable path to achieving sales goals. Why? Because content marketing is marketing.

The most obvious element of developing a content marketing program is creating great content. Creating is actually the easy part. It also appeals to my inner “PR guy” because at its core, content marketing focuses on informed storytelling and developing a deep understanding of your buyer’s journey in an effort to effectively reach them. 

But often overshadowed by the importance of developing great content is successfully laying out the following three foundational elements of a content marketing program  1) developing an editorial calendar, 2) defining your editorial voice and 3) setting and tracking clearly defined/achievable goals.

“Tick-tock, tick-tock”

Developing A Content Marketing Editorial Calendar
A content marketing editorial calendar serves as a day-by-day roadmap that ensures your efforts are organized, optimized and ready to reach the right stakeholders. Beyond the topic of the content itself, here is what a good calendar should contain. (H/T to Andy Raskin for insight on this topic):

  • Persona – Which buyer persona are you targeting with your content?
  • Stage – In what stage is the development of the content?
  • Content Type – Is it a blog? A podcast? A video?
  • Distribution Channel – Via which channel will you be distributing it? (company blog, Youtube, Medium, etc.)
  • Publication Date – When is each piece of content scheduled to go live?
  • Desired Impact – What is the desired impact of the content?
  • Industry Target – What sector are you trying to reach with your content? (Key when marketing a B2B product/service.)
  • Impact Metric – How will the effectiveness of the content be measured? (More on this later in the post…)  

Defining Your Editorial Voice
An inconsistent editorial voice is a major faux pas for any organization. In my experience, this issue tends to impact SMEs and large enterprises as opposed to startups and SMBs, which often benefit from less fragmented communication across internal teams. Your number one goal in defining your editorial voice is to achieve stylistic cohesion across all of your content marketing efforts. Getting to this point requires lots of listening, internal research and consensus/approval from the brass. Below are several questions to consider as you embark upon this portion of your journey:

  • Can the style of your editorial voice be summed up in 3-5 words?
  • Who are your editorial voice “heroes?” What organizations would you like to model your efforts after?
  • What are you sure you do not want your editorial voice to sound like?
  • What is your goal/reasoning for adopting the voice you eventually settle upon?  
  • What about tone? Will your content exert casualness or seriousness? Will you employ conversational or formal language? Tone is literally how your decided upon voice will present itself within context.

Setting Your Metrics and Goals
Establishing goals for your program is an absolute necessity. Key to reaching these objectives, however, is matching the right metrics to be tracked for each established goal in an effort to ensure success. Below is a quick guide to get you thinking:

  • Your Goal: Brand Awareness & Engagement
    • Metrics to Measure:
      • Direct Views
      • Social Shares
      • Subscribers and Followers
      • Click-throughs
      • Comments
  • Your Goal: Lead Generation
    • Metrics to Measure:
      • Click-throughs (which lead directly to landing pages, sign-up pages, form downloads, etc.)
      • Conversion Rates
  • Your Goal: Sales Enablement
    • Metrics to Measure:
      • Conversion Rates
      • Length of Sales Cycle
      • Size of Contract
        • Note: Tracking each of these metrics requires a great relationship with your sales team as only they can help you measure your program’s success!

With an arsenal of relevant and compelling content and the aforementioned foundational elements in place, your content marketing program will be primed for success. Your company’s bottom line? If it were human, I’m sure it would thank you. You might just have to settle, though, for a show of appreciation from your CMO. 😊

The One Question You Should Ask Everyone You Meet

At the risk of dating myself, who else remembers “The Sunscreen Song?” The track was put to wax by Baz Lurhmann during the summer of 1999 and features lyrics taken from a hypothetical commencement speech penned by Chicago Tribune Columnist Mary Schmich. The tune features some great pieces of advice. Specifically, though, it features the following advice about advice:

“Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

I love that line. Dispensing advice is a way of fishing from the past, taking the best parts and reusing it. While this line and the majority of the song was written with the personal aspects of life in mind, I’ve found it applies to the professional aspects of life as well.

I mean, it makes sense, right? The best way to learn is to take on advice from those you respect and those in places you aspire to reach. Whenever possible, I ask the business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs I meet to share with me the best advice they have ever received. You’d be surprised how much insight such a simple question can yield.

As it relates to PR/marketing, here are a few of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received in no particular order. Hopefully, they will help you on your own journey.

  • If it’s going to take two minutes, do it now.
  • Be strategic in everything you do. Moving forward with an idea? Vetoing an idea? Shifting direction? Have a reason why.
  • Take complete ownership of both your victories and failures.
  • Think big – every time – and scale it back to meet your needs.
  • Learn how to write (yes, this needs to be said).

Oh, and one more piece of advice. Remember cool songs written during the years before you were of legal age to vote. They might help you write a blog post one day!

(This post has been updated since its original publication in February 2016.)  

9 New Media/PR Lessons from the Experts at Boston University

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a Boston University College of Communication course titled, “New Media and Public Relations.”

Taught by the PR veteran/thought leader/dragon slayer, Todd Van Hoosear, the 300-level course aims to explore the effects of new media on the fundamental theories, models and practices of public relations. It also covers and uses the interactive tools that are currently redefining the practice of public relations.

Below, I’ve shared nine key take-aways from my audit of the course. These — along with several others — were shared during my live-Tweeting of the lecture. I think even the most seasoned professional can pick up something new, here:

  1. Filter bubbles = dangerous. Our info is being filtered by our friends as well as Google and FB. | #BUNewMedia
  2. Key elements of a successful viral video: brevity, humor and appealing subject matter. | #BUNewMedia
  3. You can’t guarantee a viral video. But, you can maximize its likelihood. | #BUNewMedia
  4. Videos are filmed with 1st, 2nd and 3rd screens in mind — TV, computer and mobile screen. | #BUNewMedia
  5. Pinterest and copyrighting – major concerns emerging as businesses incorporate service into marketing strategy. | #BUNewMedia
  6. Blog comment activity has plummeted in last two years. Convo has moved to social media platforms — where it’s owned by FB, etc. #BUNewMedia
  7. Blogs — really referred to as websites and news sites these days. “Blog” now really refers to content management systems. | #BUNewMedia
  8. Facebook “Like-gating” proven to be a negative engagement tactic. | #BUNewMedia
  9. PR is about telling stories. New official definition [from PRSA] does not get an A+. | #BUNewMedia

NewMedia_NicholasGPorter.com_NoahWardrip-Fruin_2012

Note: Some Tweets listed above were slightly altered from their original form for the purpose of this blog post.

ATTN Gen-Y: This is NOT How You Get a Job (But Here is How You Do)

I recently agreed to sit down for a professional discussion with the daughter of an acquaintance. A recent graduate seeking a job in professional communications, like many these days, she was having a hard time in a difficult job market. I was more than happy to help. I took a look at my calendar for the next few weeks and passed along my email address explaining I’d be happy to answer any questions she might have. The next day, I received the following email:

“Hello Nicholas,

NAME WITHHELD informed me I should contact you if I had any questions, in which I do. Just one major important one, are you able to find me a job? Haha.”

Take note, Gen-Y. This is not how you network.

I walked off my Alma mater’s commencement stage during the peak of The Great Recession – so, I know a thing or two about patience and determination as it relates to the job hunt.  It took me years to build my network, but it eventually paid off. Finding your dream position – or even a position at all – requires hard work, hours of research, and most important, respect.

The exchange  described above brought back a flood of memories revolving around the dozens of informational interviews I went on during my job-hunting days.

What’s an informational interview you ask?

An informational interview is a meeting between a job-seeker and a professional employed in your field of interest. The normal rules of a job interview apply – etiquette, proper dress and preparation are absolutely required. However, the purpose of the meeting is not to request employment, but to gather critical information that will help you better market yourself. Consider the meeting a fact-finding mission.

At a certain point, I narrowed down the questions that were most important to ask and provided the most perspective. I’ve included them below:

  • What kind of education, skills and background are necessary for a career in this field?
  • How did you start in the industry? What advice would you offer someone who is seeking employment in today’s market?
  • How do you suggest I build upon my existing resume? What entry-level jobs should I be seeking?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
  • Are there any professional associations you recommend I join?
  • Would you be so kind as to recommend someone else who will sit down and answer some similar questions? If so, can I use your name when contacting them?

Along with a little professional courtesy (thank-you notes, etc.) the informational interview can help open doors you never knew existed.  Learn to master them and not only will your employment prospects improve, you can avoid embarrassing faux pas like the one described above.

How the iPhone has Changed My Life

I’m a bit late to the iPhone party.  Actually, scratch that.

I waited until I could purchase the device at a reasonable price – and that is not something I am ashamed to admit.  When an upgrade offer of $99 for the phone with a two-year contract came to my attention, how could I say no?

As an iPhone user for a little over a month now, I have difficulty remembering how I functioned without it. Today, I’m going to share with you a few apps that have changed my life.

Facebook for iPhone and Echofon

I’m going to lump these two applications together. Do they really need an introduction? Well, yes. Not everyone sits on TechCrunch all day. Elitist bloggers please take note!

Facebook for iPhone allows access to your Facebook account in ways you never imagined. The application has a grid-like menu that provides easy access to all of Facebook’s most important features and makes sharing photos incredibly easy. Push notifications  – which should have been a no-brainer from the start – only recently arrived, but who cares? It’s just an added bonus. I would have used it no matter what. Afterall, this is Facebook – we use it, we love it and we cannot live with out it!

Echofon is routinely touted as the best free Twitter app on the market.  It loads fast, offers multiple features and allows you to view profiles with ease.  Although push notification features are only available by purchasing Echofon Pro, I’m not terribly disappointed.

Pandora

Distractions – i.e. real life – have disrupted my intake of music over the years. I no longer attend local shows as often as I once did and I’ve become less willing to take risks with my discretionary income. The solution? Pandora Radio!

After entering a song or artist you enjoy, the service automatically selects music and artists that are similar. Although I was already familiar with Pandora, I was overjoyed to hear there was a Pandora app available for the iPhone. Pandora is the type of service that seems made for mobile devices. I would have to guess that users get way more mileage out of this app than they ever would just using the web-based version.

Are you familiar with the Music Genome Project? If not, take a look. It’s an incredible project and the reason why you can enjoy Pandora today!

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is a speech recognition program that translates your spoken word to text. Once translated, you can text or email instantaneously. Its accuracy is quite impressive and it also allows you to add punctuation.  The app has received some rave reviews with good reason; long texts and emails now take only seconds to create and edit before before they are ready to be sent.

However, usefulness alone has not been enough to shield Dragon Dictation and its creator Nuance from controversy.

As TechCrunch reports, some terms of the service’s End User License Agreement lit up the blogsphere late last year when word that the app collects the names in your address book became publicized.

Nuance soon issued a statement explaining that it only collects contact names so Dragon Dictation can better recognize them during the translation process. The company also issued an update to the app which gives users the opportunity to not share this information upon first use. 

Dragon Dictation is too good to be free. Hop aboard before they start charging!

Honorable Mentions:

TweetDeck

I have been toying with Tweetdeck for the past couple weeks and I find it to be incredibly useful. It has become especially handy when I participate in Twitter chats from my phone because it allows me to create streams divided by hashtags.

Can 19% of the market really be wrong?

I Am T-Pain

Okay, the I Am T-Pain app really didn’t change my life, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to play around with. Even CNN thinks so!

Use this app to sing along to your favorite auto-tuned cuts from T-Pain himself.  Once complete, simply upload them and share with friends!

Zombie Hunter (7DA)

I have not wasted this much time on a videogame since the halcyon days of Nintendo.

If you are as big a zombie fan as I am, you have to check out ZombieHunter 7DA. You will find hours of delight in cutting down hordes of the undead while completing various missions designed to help save the world from “mutation.” The graphics on this game are top notch and the replay value is through the roof! Best of all, it’s free!

What are the iPhone apps have you been using?

Oh, What A Campaign!

I recently attended a showing of Jersey Boys at the Shubert Theatre in Boston, MA. I’m not a huge fan of theatre, especially musicals, but Jersey Boys really impressed me. The songs performed in the show were written decades before I existed and I still recognized almost all of them!  My post today is not going to be about Frankie Valli and the boys though; it’s instead going to be about how well the online presence of the show has been managed.

The folks over at Brodeur Blog are just a few of the many who have recently noticed a change in the way major theatre productions do things these days, noting that, “Broadway marketing [has become a] sophisticated machine with many shows rapidly embracing new and social media to entertaining and creative ends.” 

Their assessment couldn’t be closer to the truth.

Take a look at the Jersey Boys Blog. It contains a plethora of information for anyone even remotely interested in the production. It contains interviews with regional cast members, reviews from the original members of The Four Seasons and Broadway box office reports. It comes fully equipped with sharing capabilities and links to social networking sites dedicated to the show. It updates almost daily.

It’s certainly not as technically impressive as the official website, but for a casual theatergoer who enjoyed the show and wants to learn more about The Four Seasons and the folks who brought them to life onstage, it is an excellent source of information.

Content will always be king, and JBB delivers.