Centerline Sessions: Navigating the New Content Marketing Channels
Jun 26, 2012
An Interview with Joe Pulizzi of CMI and John Lane of Centerline
New content marketing channels are sprouting like weeds… or wildflowers. But it’s often hard to know which one they will be when the first start emerging. In this installment of the Centerline Sessions, I had a chance to talk with Joe Pulizzi (Founder of Content Marketing Institute) and our own John Lane (Vice President, Strategy and Creative) about new digital content channels, how you might be able to divine the best channels for your audience, and the inventive ways marketers are already using the new mediums. (You can learn more about Joe and John at the end of the post.)
Content Marketing Institute compiles a respected list of the Top 100 content marketing examples. We were absolutely thrilled to see one of our games, IBM CityOne, show up in the #3 spot. And we wanted to know: What kind of factors do you consider when you’re assessing pieces to be featured in these decks? What makes one a winner over another?
Joe Pulizzi: The recommendations for the Top 100 Content Marketing Examples come directly from our community – our content marketing consultants and contributors. These are the people that work directly in the field trying to figure out how the industry is changing so much.
Specifically, we like to look at content gaps that are being filled with corporate content…by that I mean, these are content projects, initiatives and processes that are filling a specific need in an industry or market. Content for content sake just adds noise…content that fills a specific need — that improves the lives or careers of the brand’s customers — now that is great content marketing.
John Lane: We definitely feel IBM CityOne was a unique piece of content marketing. More important, it was a piece of content that achieved it’s ultimate goal of lead generation. There were more than 13,000 registrants within the first two months of it going live; and those registrations equated to millions in potential sales for the company. It was the number one lead generating asset for the year in IBM AIM division.
But there was more than the game in the CityOne content marketing effort. A “trailer” for the game was released at the IBM IMPACT event in May (6 months prior to the game’s launch) that garnered more than 80,000 views, was featured in many of the 60+ published articles about the coming game — including Fast Company, Forbes, Engadget, CNN and TechCrunch — and generated 7,000 pre-registarions. The announce, video, articles and game itself sparked significant social media buzz as well.
That’s really what all good content marketing efforts should do – traverse myriad media, spreading enough value before the sale that your audience is compelled to become part of a movement.
There’s tons of emerging digital channels. But is there one, in particular, that you think is going to overtake the others over the course of the next five years? If not a brand name (i.e. Facebook), is there a platform or approach (i.e. content curation) to recommend?
JP: Honestly, I think it’s foolish to predict channels. The channels are changing on a daily basis, and must first be determined through a content marketing strategic plan. Of course, things like Facebook and Mobile and Slideshare need to be addressed…but more important is WHY we are telling the story and WHAT BEHAVIOR we are trying to change or maintain with our customers. Then we can start looking at which channels or platform.
The great news is that there is no silver bullet. Successful content marketing plans and platforms come in all shapes and sizes.
All that said, we are hearing most about challenges with scalable video production and mobile…although many are still struggling to tell effective stories that make measurable impact through text.
JL: Joe is making a great point: It’s as impossible to predict the demise of Facebook as it is to spot the rise of Pinterest…that doesn’t stop people from trying. But the hype of either “failing” or “rising” channels can distract you from the key to effective content strategy: It starts by knowing the information your audience craves rather than the channel or media they might prefer. The right media will be the one that best delivers the information.
When suggesting to a client that one of the emerging digital channels would be ideal for them, there’s inevitable hesitancy…and there’s often not evidence that the channel can work. How do you build the case?
JL: You build the case by using the approach we just talked about: You start with identifying what information your client’s audience is craving…what value will enhance the relationship. Then you map the propensities of that audience back to the channel. If there is a match between message, media and audience preference, then the case should be apparent.
Taking it a step further, if it looks like a fit you should be able to easily set goals, and the metrics to ensure you achieve those goals. And that’s when you’ll have built the best case – when you know that the emerging channel not only works, but works specifically for you. Or not. But then, you’ve learned something then, too.
JP: Exactly. You build the case step by step. Answer the why. Complete the personas. Identify the informational needs. Do a proper content audit and THEN identify the best examples.
Building the case is all about building a business case that we should be doing this in the first place. Usually, if all the steps are completed as part of the strategy, choosing the right channels for the content become self evident.
What’s the most impressive, ultimate, epic-sauce piece of digital content you’ve seen? What made it stand out?
JP: It’s almost never the one…it’s always about who does it consistently. Most brands have the campaign mindset where they try to do the big viral project. It usually doesn’t work. Content marketing is not a campaign…it’s consistently creating the best, most relevant content that answers the customers’ problems and solves a business challenge.
So, I love what P&G does with sites like Home Made Simple, Being Girl and Man of the House. Great, consistent, specific content generation. A real platform for each persona. Love AMEX Open Forum. Just about everything coming out of Red Bull is first rate. Their digital magazine is one of the best I’ve seen. Lexus and their print/digital magazine is first rate. Openview Venture Partner’s Openview Labs projects is one of the best platforms out their for startups.
In all these cases, the consistency wins me over. These programs have been running for years, evolving over time, but never breaking their content promise.
JL: Talk about consistency…The Furrow from John Deere is really impressive. Whether in it’s “traditional” media form or the digital magazine that’s available now, it’s a perfect example of content marketing. Since 1932, it’s been a vehicle by which John Deere provides value to their customers — and the agriculture community at large — in a lightly branded way. That’s 80 years of a brand providing educational information to their base.
I think the “30 Second MBA” videos from Fast Company is a brilliant piece of digital content marketing. Since it’s inception, Fast Company has been about modern business leaders sharing their unique point of view, and these short video clips — which means their easy to consume and embeddable anywhere — do just that. Again, in a non-pushy way.
Just curious, but what do you think of interactive infographics? Are they a trend, or are they going to be a regular weapon in the content marketer’s arsenal?
JL: The trend that interactive infographics really speak to is the rise of data. People are craving proof…but raw data is often unwieldy or unapproachable. Interactive infographics is one way to bring data to life. They are a way of exposing the story behind the data. And the best of those infographics also allow for input, allowing individuals to see exactly how they fit into the story…that’s powerful context. So whether what we think of as infographics now continues to be hot, data-driven interactive experiences will continue to be a powerful form of communication.
What advice you would give content crafters that can be applied across all digital channels?
JP: Think story first. Focus 10x more time on what goes into the channel first. We all have great power because we can all communicate directly with our customers today. We need to take more care in what we share with our customers. Truly epic content will win out every time.
JL: Couldn’t agree more…story is the key. But I would add that you have to be selective — strategic — about those stories. A trap many marketers fall in to is they try to find a singular story that they can cram every “fact” into. And that’s simply not the way people “buy” – it’s not the way they want to be talked to.
Think about it this way…when you are at The Smithsonian, there are multiple artifacts that make up an exhibit. All of the different pieces — whether Fonzie’s leather jacket or Oscar the Grouch’s trashcan — aren’t just labeled, they have a story with it. Those micro-stories come together to tell a macro-story (in this case, the rise of America’s TV culture). It’s layered story-telling that allows each individual to select the pieces of most interest to them, but any combination will support the larger story. That’s the way people buy – collecting pieces of information along a journey rather than consuming one, all-encompassing piece.
Great content crafters understand this and start to weave micro-stories through many different channels, all in support of a big idea.
Joe, CM World is coming up in a few weeks. And a few Centerliners are planning on attending. This event gets a lot of recognition — what makes it so successful?
JP: Content Marketing World is the one event where you can learn and network with the best and the brightest in the content marketing industry. We focus all the content on solving real, how-to challenges around complex content marketing issues…how to structure, scale, measure and integrate. Other conferences focus on the surface items of these things…we try to answer the hard questions.
Plus, our entire focus with the event is education and entertainment. We believe that if attendees are having fun, they’ll be more likely to learn. This year, Rick Springfield is performing, and Jack Hanna, the most popular zookeeper on the planet, will be talking about content marketing has helped take him and the Columbus Zoo to the top.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
Joe Pulizzi — an author, speaker and evangelist — is a content marketing expert dedicated to helping companies grow profits by creating better content. One of the founders of the content marketing movement, Joe launched what is now the Content Marketing Institute back in 2007 as a true online resource for those interested in content marketing and brand storytelling. Follow Joe on Twitter.
About John Lane in his own words: When I would watch TV as a kid, I would run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials… they were more interesting to me. That interest in the connection between brand and consumer is still the driving force of my involvement in marketing strategy and content creation. Follow John on Twitter.