Content marketing lessons to live by, beyond 2016

Content world Cleveland 2016

Earlier this month, I attended the sixth annual Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland Ohio, US of A. Looking at the numbers, the conference was a global hit with its own Snapchat filter, and over 150 sessions presented by over 225 speakers to over 4,000 attendees from 55 countries and possibly more than one galaxy (hello, Mark Hamill) all sharing the same message: Content marketing is more than just a nice-to-have, it’s the future…

Having finally filtered through all the insights I absorbed, here are the highlights packages from two of my top talks of the week – the opening keynote address by Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi on the content marketing revolution and the must-have checklist to creating valuable content, as shared by Ahava Leibtag.

Go ‘all in’ with content marketing or get out

Known as the ‘godfather of content marketing’, Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. He had the audience enthralled for his allotted half-hour with his views on strategy. Some of that came from the fact that he stuck to his own advice to the other speakers to cut the extra and jump right into the substance of their presentations. To sum it up in a sentence, his point was to go big or go home: If you’re not “all in” and fully committed to your content marketing programme, you should rather hit the kill switch than continue with it half-heartedly.

Sadly, most of the content marketers out there have some long strategy socks to pull up in this regard, as only 20% of respondents to CMI research reported their full commitment to the content marketing strategies they’ve devised.

Make the change now before you do the brands you work on damage. To do so, you need to do two things. First, get your message to resonate externally by improving audience engagement, then make sure there’s internal buy-in, with your full team believing and sharing the story you’re telling the world. Without both of these, you may as well pack up shop and try another game.

Delving deeper into just how to create this type of content, AHA Media Group’s leader and author of the Group’s no-nonsense official blog, Online it ALL Matters, Ahava Leibtag reshared her Must-Have ChecklistTM (yes, that’s trademarked) to creating valuable content, which has done the rounds since its first execution in 2011.

The checklist to create content that sparkles

With the 2016 update, Leibtag stated that while content is definitely all about creativity and innovation, we can’t deny the importance of checklists in making sure our ideas flourish by making them as well-rounded and effective as possible, without the guesswork. This is especially true as the world keeps changing and consumer behaviour changes with it. So before you use the checklist, get all your content decision-makers ready to work through the process together to ensure all your future content “sparkles with resonance”.

Version 2.0 of the checklist again segments important points into five top benchmarks, all based on ensuring maximum resonance with your content user…

Check that the content is:

  1. Findable, by doing keyword research and incorporating SEO best practice basics such as h1 tags, customised metadata, internal links and image alt-tags;
  2. Readable, using the old-hand journalists’ tactic of the inverted pyramid news structure, consistency with your style guide and chunking copy with headlines and bulleted or numbered lists for today’s lovers of easily scannable, snackable content;
  3. Understandable, by using user-centric language as opposed to maker-centric jargon – so provide a brief introduction no matter the content type to provide context, and take your audience’s reading- and understanding-level into account – you can test your content isn’t above their reading level in Microsoft Word when you run the spell check;
  4. Actionable – this may sound obvious but if you want your readers to do something after reading the content, ensure you’ve included a call-to-action such as an invitation to share, space to comment and interact with you both publicly and privately and provide links to related content that other readers have liked; and
  5. Sharable – we trust people more than brands, so need to provoke an emotional reason to share that’s easy and personalised, such as with personalised widgets and specific hashtags.

And that’s just the tip of the content marketing iceberg. There’s so much to learn and so much to create. Click here for more on Pulizzi’s talk, here for more from Leibtag, and scroll through the #CMWorld hashtag for further insights.