summer / 2016

The magazine of branded content
10 experts share
tips on seriously
improving your
content marketing
Juliet Stott
Juliet Stott
Sep 8, 2016

During the last two years I’ve interviewed some of the best content marketing practitioners and thought leaders from around the globe. Each have shared their expertise and insights with me, and I’ve curated ten favourite snippets from my conversations about how to elevate your content to the next level:

1. “Hire the best creative team”

Andrew Hirsch, CEO of London’s John Brown Media

“The key ingredient to success is hiring the very best designers and the very best editors. This should almost be money- no- object. You should not be looking to save money on your editor. You should be going out and getting the very best editorial team for the brand. Who your editor is and the quality of the design are the two key elements for success.”

2. “Create meaningful content”

Will Travis, CEO of Sid Lee USA

“We’ve had loads of requests like, ‘We’ve got $200,000, how can you create a viral marketing piece that will shock, that everyone will want to watch and share?’. And we say, why would they want to share it? If there is no relevancy or engagement with your brand, or no recognition or memory that makes people think ‘that reinforced my belief in that brand’, why do it?”

3. “Put your audience first”

Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs & author of Everyone Writes

“The best content is really content your audience wants. It’s very customer centric. It answers questions for them. It makes them feel like “you understand me” or “you get me.” The most important thing is to write from a customer-centric or a recipient-centric point of view and that’s all that matters. It’s my number one rule. You need to get inside the head of your customers and make them the hero of whatever it is you’re writing about.”

4. “Find your sweet spot”

Joe Pulizzi, founder of The Content Marketing Institute & Content Marketing World

“This is the intersection between knowledge and/or authority, combined with passion. Passion will help you create content to push your mission forward. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be passion; it can also be around a key customer pain point. Industrial soldering equipment company Indium may not have a passion for what they do, but they understand that their audience has a lot of complex questions, so they focus their content efforts on solving these pain points as part of their ‘sweet spot’.”

5. “Be bold, brave and say something new”

Dave Burda, Editorial Director for MSP Communications, Healthcare Group

“If you want to be a thought leader you’ve got to stretch yourself, say something new. Regrettably, saying something interesting is not necessarily a safe course of action for a company or brand with a conservative culture or trigger-happy shareholders. When you look at those brands who believe in creative disruption at any level, they’re getting more media attention and higher engagement. It’s what separates you from the crush.”

6. “Experiment with new social channels”

Stacy Martinet, CMO at Mashable

“At Mashable we encourage experimentation, and collaboration is at the core of what we do. It is so important to give the team space to experiment with social because of the rapid rate of change in the industry. What we were doing on Facebook two years ago is no longer relevant today, and what we are doing today on Snapchat didn’t even exist two years ago. We are always on the cutting edge of trends, and some of that means throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

7. “Atomize your content”

Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert

“It’s about taking a big content theme and executing it in a number of strategically similar ways, but on different platforms. It’s a more efficient way to create content. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time, it’s about taking a wheel you already have and finding more ways to create smaller wheels. At Convince & Convert we live by the eight to one principle. For every big content idea we create eight smaller executions. That allows us to be more efficient in how we spend our time creating content. It also that helps us to ensure that whatever we’re creating is going to be more relevant to each audience, on each platform.”

8. “Collaborate with another brand”

Andrew Davis, author of ‘Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships’

“Converse, the shoe company, and Guitar Center, a company that sells music equipment in retail stores, have come together successfully. The reason they did this was Converse realized if they could build a relationship with musicians very early on, and embrace their passion for music, that it would pay off in spades. It’s been a tremendous example of two brands working together to create content for audiences that neither one of them would have without the other.”

9. “Listen to what the data is telling you”

Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media

“You really can’t make good decisions unless you are paying attention to the data. Decisions are only really based on two things: data and opinion. If you aren’t using data, then you are making decisions based on your gut or how you feel about something personally. I don’t listen to my own opinions at all anymore. Every decision I make is data-driven. The trick to marketing is data-driven empathy. You must know the hearts and minds, fears and hopes, and dreams of your audience. You know that through data.”

10. “Take a nimble approach to budgeting”

Andrew Hanelly, creative director of Rev

“Things change every single day. If you’ve created one piece of content and it’s converting like crazy, divert funds to accelerate its online success. If a piece of content is falling flat, slam on the brakes. It is critical to remain vigilant, checking the channels, reviewing metrics and responding to whatever you’re seeing. The idea that things are variable on a day to day basis is a bit counterintuitive to a traditional marketer’s comfort zone—but, that’s what it takes to be successful.”