Recently, my colleague and friend on Skyword’s community team, Molly Berry, shared some exciting midday news with me. One of the Content Standard’s recently published stories was generating some good engagement on Twitter a week after it had been published. (As the managing editor, I gladly accept pageviews in any which way, even those that are *late* to the party.) Molly pinged me on our company chat:
I popped into Skyword’s content marketing platform to check out the referral sources for the article, curious to learn how many people were actually coming to it from Molly’s Tweet. Although the piece was driving steady organic traffic even a week after it had been published, there were only three people who had come from Twitter. Yet at the time of me taking that screenshot, eight people had Retweeted Molly. There was a disconnect between people who had clicked on the link to the article and spent time with it, and the people who had shared it without checking it out.
Was this because they were LinkedIn aficionados who would share anything related to the social network? Or maybe Google, Coke, and Mashable fans had Retweeted it? Probably not. More likely, this was a case of sharing without reading past the headline—creating the impression of joining a conversation without conversing.
This is just one example of knee-jerk marketing, and to be honest, I’m guilty of it in its various forms, too. I skim articles, I impulsively share others’ work, I click “Like” on stories based on title alone. Not all the time, but it happens, and I bet you do it, too.
The simple answer is that no one has enough time to spend time. It’s one of those Yogi Berra oxymorons, and a 21st-century, digital marketing truth. This harmless Twitter incident made me think to a few weeks ago at Content Marketing World, where marketers were dashing around from session to session and booth to booth, taking notes, Tweeting, networking, and doing a million other things. In her keynote address, Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, encouraged everyone to slow down, correctly noting that “marketing is impatient.” She made the case for why thoughtful, deliberate marketing performs better in the long run.
Her plea to marketers made sense. Who wouldn’t want to create thoughtful content through deliberate execution? But I also know Handley’s message made others question its feasibility for their content strategies. I remember overhearing one woman in the conference hall say to the man sitting next to her, “It’s a nice idea, but try telling that to my boss.”
That feeling—wanting to be perfect, to have projects go exactly as planned, to just have a little more time—isn’t exclusive to practitioners of digital marketing, but we certainly know it well. After all, finishing things quickly is the nature of our work, and it conflicts with the commonly held feeling of wanting more time in order to avoid putting out imperfect content and telling incomplete stories.
Yet consider these statistics: according to Content Marketing Institute’s B2C Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, “approximately 80 percent of B2C marketers plan to produce more content in 2016 vs. 2015, regardless of their organization’s effectiveness, size, documentation of content strategy and editorial mission, clarity around success, or communication frequency.” For B2Bs, according to CMI, that figure is approximately 73 percent of marketers.
With the industry set on “more” as the answer, is “deliberate and thoughtful” out of the question?
Smart project management is certainly part of the solution for marketers and creatives alike, and opportunistic companies are starting to take the necessary steps to transform their teams’ ways of thinking. As agile marketing takes hold with its “sprint” and “scrum” terminology in tow, brands are transforming their departments to work together on high-value projects and improve processes incrementally. And yes, most meetings are a waste of time.
But marketers’ abilities to create deliberate and thoughtful marketing transcends efficient project management—it also has to do with identifying the right stories to tell that will have a big impact on the brand.
Here are two ways to start creating deliberate and thoughtful content without pulling a Thoreau and living in the woods for two years while you think up a masterpiece:
Interviewing does take some prep work, but not a lot, and the results often speak for themselves. On the Content Standard, for instance, interviews in our Innovator Series perform better than all other stories in a variety of ways. Of the 424 stories that we’ve published in 2016, interviews have accrued 120 percent more pageviews than the average story. They’ve also generated leads at a 1,952 percent higher rate (I know this stat thanks to Skyword’s Marketo integration, which allows us to look at leads generated from specific articles).
If capturing high-quality leads is one of your content strategy goals (it certainly is one of ours) wouldn’t it make sense to focus on the stories that have a higher chance of achieving that goal? Wouldn’t it behoove you to research your interviewee, finding original questions to ask that your audience would be interested in, and taking a little time to have a genuine conversation with him or her?
Bottom line: While our interview stories drive many more leads, they are not 1,952 times more time-consuming.
Office life can sometimes feel lonely, especially when your job consists of ideating, creating, and publishing stories. Though you work with other marketers and those outside of your department, much of your job consists of you sitting at your computer checking off to-do lists, writing, responding to emails, and other solo tasks.
Get others on the marketing team, and other departments, involved in your program by asking for their ideas. Not only will you receive some great ideas from your team, but you’ll be creating stakeholders for your program. Here at Skyword, my team and I regularly consult our strategy and sales teams to crowdsource ideas for future Content Standard stories. Here are a few questions we ask, which you can feel free to steal and adapt for your company:
When more than one person says the same thing in different words, then you know there’s a theme and an opportunity to help those at your company and the people they work with. Just make sure to vocalize to them that you’re going to tell a story based on their feedback, so they can extrapolate on their points. And when it’s all said and done and there’s a published story on your content destination, pass it back to them and ask them send it to the people who would benefit most. That’s thoughtful and deliberate marketing if you ask me.
In the weeks after Handley’s keynote, as my coworkers and I manage a million projects with tight deadlines, I’ve been reconciling these two ideas—the one where an agile, best-possible-content-in-the-time-given philosophy takes precedent, and the other where my brain has justified a conscious, calculated, slow-down approach to all things marketing and there’s no coming back. I believe that marketers are moving at light speed and won’t ever slow down their output and distribution. After all, technology and automation are making it easier than ever to publish content across a growing list of devices.
But creating thoughtful content and telling meaningful stories isn’t contradictory to that pursuit. We will always prefer spending time with emotionally captivating, well-told stories. It’s what the best brands have done for years, and why businesses across all industries are starting to rethink their approach to marketing.
If you want to learn how to be a better brand storyteller, register for one of the Storynomics seminars, in Los Angeles October 12, New York on October 26, and London on November 9. In these workshops, world-renowned story craft educator Robert McKee along with Skyword CEO Tom Gerace will teach business leaders exactly how to transform their marketing through the power of storytelling.