Category Archives: Planning

Three Ugly Truths about Content Marketing

In a recent content marketing report, 93 percent of B2B marketers say they are using content marketing this year in their efforts. The plethora of online content is astounding on the topic; more than 1 billion search results appear.

That’s right 1 billion results.

But, among the 1 billion search results, I haven’t found much in marketers sharing the growing pains.  While content marketing might be the shiny new penny, there are seven ugly truths about content marketing.

Ugly Truth #1: Everyone wants to create content, but no one wants to discuss promotion and distribution

Perhaps you have been in meetings where content creators focus most of their time on creating, and no time on distribution and promotion.  In today’s crowded digital world, assigning no distribution or promotion plan is a fool proof way to make sure your content will not be viewed. The old model of “one and done” is over.

I had an amazing, but stunning conversation recently with one of my internal clients that illustrate the lack of understanding promotion. I shared that I was looking to budget some marketing dollars to paid and native advertising, among other things. His response, “why would we do that? We could use that money for a conference.”

Disheartening, yes.  However, I had a clever response. “While the conference might be worth wild, you may only reach maybe 50-75 people at one time for an hour. Online, I can reach 5X to 10X more people, twenty-four hours a day. While you are sleeping, your content can be seen in other parts of the world that far exceed the face-to-face conference.”

Paid search and native advertising (sponsored content) gets the shaft because simply your executives and experts don’t realize they have used it in their off time. More importantly they don’t understand the language or what it means.

Ugly Truth #2: Many folks in your organization already create content without a strategy

content marketing strategy

What is driving your content marketing strategy?

Fun fact: 70 percent of marketers say they lack a consistent or integrated content strategy, despite the fact that 82 percent of content marketers see positive ROI for their inbound marketing.

One of the most interesting parts of my role is wrangling all content creators together so we can “pull on the same string.” There are multiple people in your organization creating content: HR for internal campaigns, product management to communicate with clients, marketing to connect with prospects. Unifying your strategy is important not only for content marketing sake, but also for all the areas your content will be distributed: website, campaigns, annual conferences, social media, and public relations effort.

A unified strategy helps define what your creators will produce, what your team will market and distribute, and what success will look like. While much has been written on content strategy, only 44 percent have a documented strategy according to Content Marketing Institute.

Solution: Write down your content approach and then socialize that among your internal stakeholders. This does not have to be a fancy document. Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web, describes content strategy as “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”  I like this definition and used it as a template for my company. My documented strategy: what we plan to create that is signed off by the businesses and more importantly subject matter experts, when it is to be delivered, how we plan to use it and repurpose, and what channels will it be distributed. Success metrics are defined by the team and reported on a monthly basis.

Ugly Truth #3: Many folks create content they want to publish not what the customer needs

In my opinion this is the ugliest truth of all. In my former PR role, I had the luxury of driving what content was created because my stakeholders (editors and reporters) drove what content they want. Why? They knew what the reader wanted or what is most interesting to them.

As a content marketer working with highly specialized experts, I run into what a call “academic professor syndrome.”  Remember when you were in college and the professor would pontificate on subjects outside what you were interested in? This syndrome of sharing information only the professor is interested in rather than you reappears in marketing, especially marketing consultants’ expertise.

Solution: Unlike college, where I had to listen, I don’t have to take everything the subject expert as truth. I can validate it by research. I research the following  to guide this conversation:

  •  I review the number of Google searches it appears in. Also, I check out Google Trends to see if this is trending.
  • I do some research in trades  and national news to see how many others are discussing
  •  I perform a small number of searches on social media: Linkedin and Twitter ( these platforms, for my company, are the most used in my areas of focus)
  • I see what others are writing about on the contra of that idea

With this information in hand, I am much more equipped to discuss with the expert effectively. Otherwise this conversation will escalate. Trust me. If the topic is not discussed, I pose the question whether it is an emerging trend or just something the expert thinks is “cool.” What your expert think is “cool” maybe better position for something else (blog post on personal site?), but not much else that takes more resources and time to write. Your job to mitigate project creep and stick to the plan.

Ultimately, this is about creating and executing a plan. Without it, your content marketing efforts will be sunk.

 

What else would you add?

Rachel DiCaro Metscher  has worked with many organizations to build their communications and marketing programs, including Fannie Mae, American Psychological Association, and The Princeton Review. She is currently working in the DC metro area building content marketing programs from the ground up.

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Ten Questions You Should Ask Before Making the Social Media Leap

This week, Enrollment Management Report editor published her interview with me and Concordia University’s social media manager, Veronica Steele, on how to create successful social media strategies. Great read for folks looking for best practice on implementing social media across an organization.

I think it is important to note social media strategy can’t happen unless the organization is ready to be truly social.  This readiness or rather willingness for social media got me thinking about what questions you should ask before making the social leap.

If you want more people in your organization to start taking social media more seriously, start thinking about if your organization is truly ready for change. A couple of things to consider:

  • Are your stakeholders both internal and external using social media to connect and share information about you, your organization, or market trends in your industry?
  • Are you ready to listen?
  • Do you have resources both in terms of human capital and tools?
  • Who are you going to share with? Identify your audience.
  • Similar to audience, who is your ideal persona using social media that you want to engage with?
  • Are senior leaders accepting of social media?
  • Do your senior leaders use social media regularly?
  • Is human resources ready to deal with some of the unpleasant aspects of social media?
  • Besides your team or department, who else will participate?
  • Are you ready to prepare training and constant encouragement?

The above list could be lengthier, but the point is to think about social media more than a marketing or public relations function.  Social business has to be the whole company and everyone needs to be involved in the change. Ron Ashkenas wrote in the Harvard Business Review that one of the challenges of change management is strengthening managers’ ability to manage change. I like Ron’s article because similarly with change management, we have a tendencies to pass the social buck to someone else in our organization in hope that it will work. While you need someone to drive the proverbial social media bus, you do need other to contribute.

If we don’t make folks accountable the change will never occur no matter the amount of training or passion. This is why social businesses like Zappos are winning at the social media game. Zappos and others alike understood the organizational necessity for this type of change. It is either everyone is all-in in performing and creating social media programs or not. This type of buy-in has to occur from senior leaders to entry level employees. Social media change does  not happen by chance, but rather on purpose.

If you are thinking about where you are in the continuum, consider this excerpt from an HBR in 2007 about why organization change fails. I like the chart because it serves as a check list for social media strategist. As you move throw the stages of getting social to be acceptable think about where you are and where you like to be. I always think it is crazy when organization’s don’t have a plan in place. Would you create a website without a plan? Probably not.

Rachel Metscher Ten Questions Your Should Ask Before Making the Social Leap

Artwork from HBR article by John P. Kotter on Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail

16 Ways to Successfully Fuel Your Content Curation Machine

Content marketing or curation of content is everywhere. CMI this past year reported that 99 percent of software marketers use content marketing.  This stat alone suggests almost everyone is using content marketing to engage with current and prospective clients. What fuels the obsession with content? Depending on your organization’s goals it could be thought leadership, lead generation, or customer acquisition.
So is content strictly marketing’s problem?
I believe that content curation and creation is not isolated to marketing, everyone contributes: product, public relations, sales, executives, and the list goes on.  While the content is important, I think the process of curating is even more important.
Content Machine

I started to think about curation process after reading March’s release of Gartner’s 2013 Social Marketing Survey Finding: Content Creation Fuels Social Marketing.  The report discussed how digital marketers achieving effective social marketing create and curate content that speaks with an authentic voice. Social marketing depends on having something to say — something relevant and compelling.

But, how can your company curate relevant, and compelling content?

Rohit Bhargava described curation as the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. He goes on further to describe five models of curation and how each type contributes to different activities.
What is happening in today’s content teams isn’t an issue of not creating enough content, but rather too much content. Whether your social media strategist or communications super team is managing your content creation, it all doesn’t matter unless you have a strategy.

So, here are my thoughts on content curation and creation and the right ingredients for success:

  1. You need someone to lead it. Like cooking, too many chefs in the kitchen ruin the meal. Caution though, just because you led it doesn’t mean you can’t find co-contributors to collect ideas from everyone in your company. It just means you need someone to think about the content on the macro level. Great article from Marketing Profs on this. 
  2. You need executive buy-in.  Without someone buying into the purpose, not everyone in your group or division will support collectively creating content with a similar goal in mind.
  3. Get Organized. Create a company-wide editorial calendar that shows what you will produce, who is producing, what it is about, when to expect it. This is key to actually creating and curating the content rather than talking about it. Especially for curating, what themes or topics do you plan to share?
  4.  Assign responsibility. Not everyone has the same roles in curating or creating content. I think of this in terms of a RACI chart. Assign roles in terms of responsibility: Responsibility, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
  5.  Pull on the Same Rope. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Make sure you create a company-wide strategy. Otherwise everyone creates “content” and spams not only your clients, but also your prospective clients. Disorganization is a content killer.icon_light_bulb
  6.  Before You Create, You Participate. Before you start creating, really understand how your audience interacts and shares content in specific channels.
  7.  Think about your Buying Cycle. Develop content for each stage of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, repurchase (loyalty).
  8.  Curating doesn’t have use just One Platform. Your audience could want to consume in different ways short (Twitter) or long (blog).
  9.  Think Buyer Personas when you are creating. When you are writing your articles or posts whom are you writing for?
  10.  Solve for the Customer (S.F. T. C.). You should create content that satisfies the clients’ needs not your ego.
  11. Get Creative. Think beyond the traditional white papers or infographics. How does your audience like to consume content? Twitter, Blog, Facebook? Test different types and see what works best.
  12. Measure your Impact. Don’t go through the process of creating content and not measure its impact. Where was it shared? How often? Did folks go back to your website?
  13. Don’t forget to Share. Sharing is caring. Most companies create content and never consider how to promote it. Plan for promotion early in the process.
  14.  It’s okay to say No. Not all content needs to see the light of day. If it doesn’t support your strategy don’t produce it. Ever.
  15.  Have Something to Say. In order to create authenticate, relevant content you should be sharing something different that folks want to read. In the words of a former executive I worked with, “you need actual thoughts to successful create thought leadership.”
  16. Get Tough Skin. Managing your content process will be tough and folks love to say why something won’t work. Get tough skin and stick to your guns. I am a big proponent of using the data to help those detractors be your biggest advocates.
At the end of the day, the lack of planning is why most folks fail. Failing to plan is planning for failure. Start small. Whether you implement one idea or all sixteen, create small goals (S.M.A.R.T goals) and build a case so you can get better at not only the creating, but also curating.

Fun Fact Fridays: 8 Tips to Humanize Your Brand through Social Media

I had the chance to catch up with a former client about the success of his business. While he has double his business over the last few years, he is always looking for marketing advice. And I am always happy to give my two cents on how to use social media to drive awareness and traffic to your website. Over lunch, the conversation went from marketing to the benefits of social media and how it could humanize his brand.

We started chatting about how to get people to his site.  The usual tactics were employed: we have a blog; we work with our affinity partners, etc.

Then I started peppering him with questions like:

“Great, you have blog. How often are you updating it, are you consistently publishing relevant and informative content, have you optimized the blog for keywords, do your employees share the information with others, are your employees contributing to the blog?”

Then I ask my favorite question, “ Are you using social coupled with your blog to personalized the people in your company?”

His answer: Well…We should do more.

Our conversation got me thinking about how to humanize brands. While I am not a proponent of tactics driving strategy for social media, I think you first need to consider why your company should be social.  You need to have

People. Objective. Strategy. Technology

People. Objective. Strategy. Technology

purpose in your company’s social media efforts, it is all about P.O.S.T.

If you need a reason, here is one: social media is creating a two-way dialogue with people. Social media also produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC according to a recent study by Hubspot this year.

And let’s be clear, people are searching for your product or company way before they pick up the phone or send an email of interest. While the sales process is not necessarily longer, however, prospects have more resources to research your product online. Why not give them information to support each stage of the buying cycle.

So here are some tactics to consider;

1)   If you don’t have folks outside marketing contributing to your blog. Start today. You need employees to share industry news and trends. 

2)   Anyone working for your company should be positively promoting your organization through sharing industry news or company articles not always about you, but topics your current and potential customers care about.

3)   Worried that folks don’t get social media? Give them a playbook to help them understand how to use it professionally.

4)   People need guidelines, consider creating a social media policy.

5)   Don’t expect people to jump in and understand what you want them to do socially, train them.

6)   Have employees contribute to your blog on their interest.

7)   Encourage your folks to follow your social media channels and reshare to their followers.

8)   Be the influence and guide by your example.

Bonus. You need content to share right? Start using your employees to generate content for your blog

1)   The number on rule for your blog should be S.F.T.C (Solve for the Customer).

2)   Interview both employees and clients for the blog using a Q and A format.

3)   Have clients share best practices.

4)   Blogs are not exclusively for executives. Everyone should contribute.

5)   If you don’t make the blog a priority, no one else will.

How to Run an Internal Social Media Training Workshop

So, you want to make your organization more social? Congratulations. It’s a smart move given that social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC according to a recent study by Hubspot this year.

If you cannot budget funding for a social media strategist to come in, how can you run an internal social media workshop? Couple of things you need to realize and do in order to be successful.

Step 1: Not Everyone Will Participate

Accept this now. Not everyone in your organization with jump on the social media bandwagon. I learned this the hard way. Even after running multiple workshops on how you can sell, engage, and network more there are still people who will throw their hands up and say, “I don’t have time for this.” Leverage the folks who already using social media to influence others. If you can get even 10 percent more people involved in your companies social media efforts it is a win. Not everyone will be an adopter to this new medium, so plan for it.

Step 2: Create a Playbook

Single best advice I every received was from Wendy, director of digital strategy from the Red Cross. I attended her session at DC’s Social Media Week in 2012 in which she shared with the audience this nugget, “you need to provide people with guidelines.” So simply, but this step is often overlooked.

Embracing this concept, my social media specialist and I developed a social media playbook. Best thing I did because it outlined the foundation of what I was expecting from employees, social media tips, best practices when engaging online. Don’t assume people will understand how social media works. The playbook is key in training.  I outlined what should be included in a social media playbook in a post last year titled Social Media Needs to Involve Others, but There’s a Catch. Here is my personal example to use as a reference on how you can build a playbook.

 

 

Step 3: Practice What Your Preach

Most likely if you are running this workshop, you are already using social media. If you are not active using social media, then get active. You can’t expect people in your company to take you seriously if you are not actually using social media.  You don’t have to be a social media ninja, guru, or change agent to convey the best practices. You just need to be enthusiastic and passionate. I got involved in social media back in 2008 when I figured out how that word of mouth marketing was going digital.  This doesn’t mean you can’t get there; just don’t think you need some fancy title to deliver a quality program. Answer these questions and you will be well on your way, “Why Should I Care?” and “What’s In It For Me?”

Step 4: Build Your Workshop for Beginners

For the most part, if you are kicking off a workshop, you need to design it with the beginner in mind.  Why? Most folks are using social media for personal connections (hello, most people have a Facebook account and think just having an account is what social media is about). Think of this presentation as a selling your team on the concept. Don’t assume they know anything. When I developed my social media workshop I tried to create a presentation that was interactive and informative. It was filled with plenty of best practices and examples for folks to us. Here is an excerpt.

Step 5: Repetition is Learning

Perhaps my experience teaching was a great primer for teaching adults to use social media. Don’t think you will do this workshop and that is the end. “One and Done” it is not. Plan on folks to ask questions and follow up with you. For people who were generally confused or didn’t know how to do something on Twitter or LinkedIn, I organized meetings to review.  We also created an internal social media group on our intranet to upload articles and tips to help folks along. Essentially, I never stopped teaching. Whether it was by example or direct meetings with folks, I had an open door policy for folks to ask questions. Best thing you can do to create internal advocates for social media is to be a teacher. Be accessible and open.

Your Number One Asset in Branding

Communication folks  often evaluate who is their best audience/channel for  projects. Who’s the target? Primary? Secondary? But more times than not, we forget to add the biggest audience we have in our corner: our employees.

I recently chatted with AMA’s Marketing News reporter, Christine Birkner about the importance of using employees in rebranding.

AMA Marketing News

AMA Marketing News

Leverage employees is key to winning the messaging battle.It is your ace in your hand because employees are vested in telling their story. Financially anyhow.

If your frontline folks don’t know what the key messages are, you are losing the game. Period.

Before Return on Investment, Get on the same #SocialMedia Page

If you were in DC for #SMWWDC, some folks might have checked out @SocialOgilvy presentation on It’s More than the Like, Measuring Effectiveness in Social Media. If you missed it, Social Media Week did a recording that I highly recommend you check out (there is a lot of dead time in the beginning, I recommend forwarding to the 10 min mark.)

I really dig this presentation. While I watched this presentation, I kept think, “But, how many folks REALLY set objectives and metrics for their program(s)?”

Before getting to ROI, we need to get all our stakeholders on board with the concept of measurement, what that means, and what we plan to do with the data (if anything). I know the presenters assumed this was a given, but I kept wonder if all folks think about it before getting to the ROI?

Before you set up your next social media project and campaign think about these three steps:

Step 1: Does your stakeholders care to understand what the end game is?

Forget about KPIs for a minute.  I know this seems completely ludicrous to say, but I don’t think most folks using social media are evaluating whether it works. Seriously, I think the reason we even discuss social ROI is because many are trying to figure out what this means. I think when you met with your internal folks the lines should be clear: these are the inputs (we plan to do XX for XX length of time), these are the outputs ( at the end of the campaign we expect to see XX change/ more XX), this is how we measure if we were successful (if we effect change then we should see a movement in XX). You can only have a ROI if you invest money and resources. So you cannot calculate ROI with TRUE investment.

But I wonder if folks even get to this stage? I suspect most people skip this because it is too hard and the channels are too easy to set up so why bother measuring.

Step 2: Define ROI in terms people terms.

Beyond likes. This piece is what I LOVED about the presentation. Beyond the vanity of how many people are liking your page. What does success look like? What actions are you trying to persuade your audience to take. Harvard Business Review posted an excellent article on why social media metrics fail. I don’t completely agree with all the points, but i do agree some of the metrics we use are to make folks feel good about their efforts. Especially, the reference to vanity metrics such as “followers, likes, etc.” What should be the focus is did it affect engagement. Are more folks engaging with you online versus another channel. Is social media impacting customer support for example. Define terms that people can get on board with. Easier said then done.

Step 3: Prepare for Haters

Even if you get through to Step 2, there is always going to be someone who negates or challenges the metrics. Accept now. Haters hate because you/your team had the hutzpah to put things to paper and make a plan. Don’t hide from them. Embrace them.

While I don’t agree you cannot measure social media completely, I think we as practitioners do not do a good job of define what success looks like, therefore, are caught in a cycle taking metrics and trying to squeeze social into them. Too many folks get caught in the place of “I need to show ROI” versus “Did we outline our campaign well to show change or action?” Semantics maybe, but I think it is more important to get on board how you plan to use social media than what the ROI is.