The Content Marketing show is run by the same team behind SEO Brighton and featured a range of speakers presenting on topics as diverse as Google’s ZMOT to How to get your brand on TV for free. The speakers seemed to fit into three different categories:
- Those with something very interesting to say but not necessarily the most accomplished speaker
- Those who love to get on stage at conferences but don’t really have anything groundbreaking to say
- Those who have something very interesting to say and are brilliant at getting on stage and doing so
Unsurprisingly it is those in the third category that make a conference great, those in the first that you can put up with and those in the second that have people edging for the door. I am going to run through my favourite speakers and share some of the key points that I took away from the show.
“Throwing shit against the wall & analysing what sticks…” Hannah Smith, Content Strategist at Distilled
In all honesty I was a little sceptical that some of the talks at the conference wouldn’t be relevant to the kind of content I’m involved in, I thought that talks tailored towards pure content marketing wouldn’t really grab my attention. I hadn’t reckoned for the human whirlwind that is Hannah Smith – she burst onto the stage and kept the audience well and truly entertained. The crux of Hannah’s argument is that in order for content to be shared it needs to be loved, she went on to explain that it is content that either educates or entertains that has the best chance of being loved. Content to persuade or convince someone to buy your product is unlikely to be loved and thus shared.
But why do we want our content to be shared? Although it seems kind of obvious Hannah added some interesting points to the list of benefits. With email filters becoming more and more intelligent (think Gmail’s filtered inbox) and social news feed algorithms getting better at showing you content relevant to you, it is becoming harder for brands to communicate directly with customers. Instead of relying on sending content directly and people never even seeing it, brands need to leverage sharing as it helps branded content to appear in people’s main inbox and news feeds.
Sometimes creating this entertaining or educative content might mean you have to stray from the comfort zone of traditional brand content. Hannah reminded us that your content should reflect how you sell your products and not what you sell; Redbull is perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this. She also mentioned the importance of mobile and not being afraid to start over during the content creation process.
Key takeaway: Content that entertains or educates is more likely to be loved, shared and read.
“Why Content Needs Strategy” Lauren Pope, Digital Consultant at Brilliant Noise
I’ve seen Laurent Pope speak before so already know that she is big on Content Strategy. She started her talk discussing the differences between Content Strategy and Content Marketing, a great topic considering the mixture of disciplines in the audience. As someone who focusses on Content Strategy I agree with her definitions to a point but have personally always seen them as:
Content Strategy: Planning and managing the substance, structure, governance and workflow of content
Content Marketing: Specifically using content to increase site traffic or brand profile
Lauren also shared the top line content strategy from the agency where she works; principles, platforms, processes and people in the middle of a purpose and performance sandwich – tasty! The purpose should be the overall goal of all content, for example Nike’s is “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”. The performance part refers to a whole range of metrics, interestingly she urged us not to overlook the less obvious ones, my favourite was driving calls to the call centre down because customers found all the content they needed online. In the middle of the sandwich we have principles which are the foundations of your content and include tone of voice, templates and style guides. CocaCola are a great example of principles as they have to maintain a common brand over 100s of different markets. Platforms are outlines in one of the attached slides and cover the whole content production process. Process refers to workflows while people refers to business structure and ownership.
Key takeaway: Content strategy means something different to different people
“A 1950s Approach to Content Strategy” Jon Norris, Web Editor of Crunch Accounting
Had there been a prize for Anecdote of the day it would definitely have gone to Jon Norris with tale from his childhood spent in the USA. Jon saved up his pocket money for months to buy Desert Strike, due to the nearest mall being 2 hours drive he had to wait a long time to finally buy the game, imagine his disappointment when he got home, loaded the floppy disk and found to his horror that he’d accidentally purchased the Mac version! His PC refused to load it and he had to wait months before returning to the mall and attempting to exchange the game. The shop refused to exchange or refund young Jon and he was left without a game to play or money to buy the sequel, which had since been released. Looking on the bright side, Jon has a great story to tell everyone about the dangers of silos! He went on to explain that there are often riches in silos, citing services that work brilliantly on their own but fail when you try to get them to interact. Services without APIs lead to slow processes and data duplication. All of this has led Jon to abandon snazzy web services to manage the creation of content and instead use Post-It notes on a whiteboard. He happily informed us that things now run more smoothly than ever.
Key takeaway: Simple solutions often beat fancy online services
“Twitter Tips from OptaJoe” Simon Banoub, Director of Marketing at Opta
Simon gave an interesting talk which began with a brief summary of what Opta do and went on to discuss the key things they’ve learnt since starting their Opta Joe Twitter account. For those who don’t know, Opta turn live sports into XML data. When you read a stat about someone’s goal scoring feats in the Premier League or batting statistics from the Ashes, the chances are that the data came from Opta. They have over 2000 data points for every football match and go into so much detail that football clubs also pay for the data; what goalkeeper wouldn’t want to know where the opposing striker normally puts his penalties? Even though Opta are a B2B company they have a B2C Twitter account, this is purely to build their public image.
Without writing out each of Simons nuggets of advice here is a quick summary: they find a standard format for tweets successful, they segment their audience, their voice is human, timing of content is key, if a platform doesn’t work don’t bother and, perhaps most importantly, be interesting, helpful or offer an insider perspective.
Key takeaway: Just because you don’t sell something to the public doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them
“An Idiot’s guide to Getting Content on the Telly” Sam Orams, Founding Partner of Bespoke Banter LLP
Sam gave us a talk about getting your brand onto the news for free! Basically it involves filming your own footage and presenting it to the broadcaster in a format that means they control the final style without having to do too much work – great for both parties!
Key takeaway: You don’t always need to pay for good exposure.
“The ZMOT is going to get you. Hide or use content marketing to face-down your demons and fight?” Matt Roberts, VP of Product/Marketing at Linkdex
Matt’s talk about Google’s ZMOT left me confused but interested. I suggest you watch this as it helped me understand this fascinating idea.
Simon Kaplan, Content Lead at Gov.uk
The brief of Gov.uk was simple; take the content from 100s of government websites and distil it down to the stuff people actually need to know. To do this Simon and his team started by examining the user needs for every page that used to exist. The key was to make it all simpler cleaner and faster to use. They also removed pages where topics were already better covered in the private sector; bee keeping being a great example. They also reduced duplication, for example 5 pages about power of attorney became one.
Following the 80/20 rule they make sure that the majority of people find what they need on the page and the minority have links to what they need. The example about the price of a new passport was telling; in the old world it would have taken lots of navigation to eventually find a PDF, on the new site the price is right at the top of the page. Simon also mentioned the commitment to using plain English and keeping the visual design clean; both to help the user find the content and not get distracted along the way.
Key takeaway: Simplicity is beautiful
UPDATE: Slides from the show