I just finished attending my first Content Marketing World (#CMWorld), and it was a great experience. My only regret is that I didn’t attend last year. The agenda was full (almost too full, as I had to constantly pit two concurrent sessions against one another and pick – luckily, the conference is available on-demand for $199 (look for CMI to announce this soon), the speakers were fantastic (Marcus Sheridan gets you to pay attention, Jungle Jack Hanna is so unintentionally funny and full of stories, he should speak at conferences more often), and the networking was fantastic (despite know a lot of the social media people, I still met two handfuls of new content people).
There was a lot here. Some of it was repeat, which acted as reinforcement to ideas I already knew. Some of it was a new approach to something I had already considered, and that was refreshing. And still some content was evergreen to me – I found myself filling digital page after page in Evernote. So, across the board I’m leaving Columbus with a filled brain and some fresh ideas and approaches.
It’d be too lengthy to cover everything I learned. Would you really read that anyway? Instead, here are some recurring themes I gathered. I figured if the theme was recurring and found its way into more than one presentation, then the theme was worth reporting on. Again, some is a review, and some is new.
- measure – We all need to do it. And holy smokes do we need to… I think many of us might track stats, but then to take that to the next level is where it really pays off. Many of the presentations spoke to the notion of measuring your efforts to see if they are paying off. Which, inherently sounds obvious, but it was one of those recurring themes. And of course, you need to set up your objectives first (irrespective of any tool or technology), then find the metric that’s worth measuring here, and then track and measure the appropriate items. Jay Baer’s presentation summarized this particularly well.
- use other stuff/ re-use and re-imagine – C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley drive this point home well in their book, Content Rules, and that was re-iterated throughout the conference. Take the email you wrote and turn it to a blog post. Take five blog posts on one topic and turn it to an ebook. Make an audio recording of that ebook and make it an audio file (one-time download or a serial podcast). Many of your readers to your blog are first-time visitors, so it’s not necessarily re-hash for everyone. And if someone sees it twice? Good for them.
- orange – Joe Pulizzi has an unhealthy obsession with orange. But in a good way. If you don’t know why, ask him – it’s a nice, short story about accidental personal branding.
- what’s old is new again – The old way: explain to people what the problem is, and then show them how to fix it (and, ideally, with your tool, service, product, or solution). The current way: HEYEVERYBODYLOOKATMYSTUFFI’MAWESOMEBUYMYSTUFFIMTHEBESTCONTENTINFOGRAPHICTWEETPOSTMYSTUFFISSAWESOMEDIDIMENTIONTHATI’MAWESOME. The new way: use digital and social tools to create content that is valuable, to all prospects, at different parts of the consideration process, and be helpful.
- everyone is a publisher/creator – You don’t blog for your company because you’re not in marketing? Bull. We all have a chance to be part of the process. Forcing people to blog is probably a bad idea, since storytelling and connecting needs to be in someone’s DNA. But just because “you’re in the engineering department” doesn’t mean that you don’t have content, a story, an idea, or a point of view that others won’t find compelling. As Marcus pointed out in the Block Imaging example, once the culture was transformed (no small feat, I’m sure), everyone wanted to create content, because they learned that everyone could have an impact on sales.
- quit being scared – It’s digital. It can be edited, and even removed (though Google might keep a snapshot of it). Yes, you might want to give it some extra thought if you’re trying to come up with the right name for a corporate blog. Aside from that, start producing some content, and (smartly) organize and share it. Let people know. Read other stuff. Don’t let the fear of not knowing 100% of something stop you. If you need proof that it’s OK to jump in, take solace in the fact that this was the second annual (of many more, I’m sure) complete conferences on celebrating the power of content marketing.
- Rick Springfield knows his lot in life – Fun fact: Rick Springfield is 63 years old. And, he’s got an album (do the kids still call them albums these days?) coming out in October 2012. Rick and his crew were Wednesday night’s entertainment, and they did not disappoint. Rick knew that the crowd really wanted to hear Jessie’s Girl. But that’s his closer. So, throughout the set, he’d occasionally insert a riff of Jessie’s Girl, or start a new song with it, only to quickly transition to something else. He held our interest to the end, then delivered.
- tools to help – There is no shortage of tools to assist folks in the content marketing space. From creating editorial calendars to sourcing writers to syndicating content, there’s a solution for every step of the way. This was made clear in the various speaker’s presentations, as well as the appearance of the vendor sponsors at the event. If you’re wading in to content marketing, I’m sure that any of these fine folks, showcased in the expo hall, will lend a helping hand: Brightcove, Inc., Compendium, Demandbase, EarthIntegrate, Kapost, KnowledgeVision, Marketo, ON24, OneSpot, OnTopic, Outbrain, Percussion Software, PostRelease, PR Newswire, Publish This, Skyword, Small Business Network, The Karcher Group, Wright’s Media, XYDO, and Zerys Content Marketplace.
- content is for everyone – One of the interesting things I noted about Content Marketing World is that there were five tracks of content. I find this interesting because this is a relatively new conference. What’s great is that the topics and ideas can be segmented enough to fit the B2B, B2C, Social Media, Small Business, and Content Integration tracks. Of course, some ideas are applicable to more than one track, but I think this does a good job of dispelling a myth that content is “just for social media”.
- relationships – Mitch Joel nailed this point saliently in his Tuesday morning keynote. Brands can no longer market ‘at’ someone to ‘though’ another channel. People may buy from a brand, but the human connection, even if it’s a human at the other end of a keyboard, is what keeps them along for the ride.
- utility – A useless app or an infographic that tells me nothing not only wastes my time, but it also irritates me and might even have a long-term effect on my view of that company or brand. So why produce and share crappy content? Instead aim for utility. If it’s truly useful, it will get shared.
- authenticity – Be real and be you. Heather Meza of Cisco noted this on Thursday afternoon, in particular. Don’t hide behind a Facebook wall, or use a voice on Twitter you wouldn’t otherwise use. Just as in the relationships item above, people want to connect with people. If someone connects with you online, and then meet you in real life – and there’s a discrepancy, you’ve potentially lost that trust that you earned. So, be true to yourself, like our man…
- Jungle Jack Hanna – Jungle Jack Hanna is hilarious. Jungle Jack took the stage to entertain. I don’t think he had a speech planned about content marketing, or even any speech at all. He just shared story after story after story of what his life was and is like with animals and being in the zoo community. Jack also shared with us some rare glimpses of animals many of us will never get to see, and shared fact after interesting fact about the animals. Throughout his time on the stage, Jack re-iterated the fact that he never tried to be someone he wasn’t. He spoke about how he signs autographs and answers questions, and what you see on the stage and in front of the camera is what you get off the stage and when the public isn’t looking. Jack is a model of authenticity.
This review clearly isn’t comprehensive. If you attended #CMWorld 2012, what did I miss? Share in the comments.
image sources: via a Topsy search, and credited to @tgillmann, @danmoyle, @xtiangravity, and my own