The second full day of Pubcon 2017 had marketers relying more heavily on caffeine (a couple days in Las Vegas have that effect) and focusing intensely on marketing’s hub – great content.
Sessions continued across ten distinct tracks, but arranged with a heavier focus on the portion of marketing consumers consume. SEO, SEM and organic strategies were still front-and-center, but new tracks for the day included visual media optimization, social media advertising, storytelling and conversion.
A recurring content theme emerged during the day: Simple, clear and consumable stories stand out and drive audiences to the actions desired.
A few key highlights from day 2:
Using the Power of Story to Influence Action
Lisa Gerber of Big Leap Creative kicked off the first breakout sessions alongside Alan Knecht of K’nechtology Inc. During the session, Lisa conjured classic storytelling structure positioning the customer as protagonist (hero), the unmet need as conflict and the happily ever being how a product or service saves the day.
She cautioned writers to match the story to where the audience is on their buying journey. Likening storytelling miscues to the person who talks about marriage on the first date. Study the audience. Understand what they need on their terms. Cultivate the relationship with the right message at the right time.
Done successfully, brands can tell a great story, build a network of advocates and get others to tell the story for them.
Alan continued the theme of classic storytelling. A back-to-basics approach kept the message simple and effective. His top tips:
- Be engaging.
- Use pictures. Writers often discard the storytelling horsepower of a great image.
- Answer the five Ws: Who, what, where, when, why (and how)?
- A futurist view can help set a map for audiences to follow.
The final point from Alan was all about brevity. Will people read 10,000 words? Probably not. Watch a long video? Doubtful. Be effective and efficient with words, images and sound.
Storytelling: Brand Differentiation in a Competitive Market
Kate Paine of Standing Out Online and Brett Dunst of Dreamhost continued a theme of simplicity, but spoke to the importance of tapping really strong writers.
Noting a scarcity of effective copywriters, Brett explained the difficulty brands have hiring people who have the skills needed to tell the story. He challenged marketers to look for the hidden word masters outside of marketing. In many organizations, the person least expected to be a great writer may be hidden deep in unexpected places. Sometimes the woman who writes code or the guy who manages HR have a natural knack for spinning a great tale.
Kate channeled her former life in journalism to demonstrate how she helps smart professionals step up their game when telling their personal story. A personal brand, according to Kate, is their reputation or how they appear at work, in the grocery store or anywhere in the outside world.
She told attendees to shift focus from what they do to who they ARE. Explore the nuances of life to identify what makes a person memorable and tell that story. Stories captivate. Quite often, the story people will remember about someone is the unexpected, unique thing about their life. It’s still important to share what a person actually does, but the function is often not memorable.
Content Production: Getting Your Content on Large Publications
What’s the best way to find out how to get a story into the media? Ask the skeptical editor for a candid assessment of PR practices.
Not one to sugar coat a story or pull punches, Melissa Fach says it like it is. As a veteran journalist and current social community manager for Pubcon, Melissa has fielded thousands of media pitches. By shedding light on an editor’s mindset, Melissa recommends a no-nonsense approach to break into bigtime media.
She told attendees to avoid trying to tell the same story everyone knows. As an example, if you start a media pitch with, “As you know, mobile is huge….” you will garner nothing more than a huge eye roll and an exasperated sigh. A good story, Melissa said, should be a pleasure to read, imparts new knowledge or thinking, and has a great flow.
Melissa’s top thoughts: Typos kill. Needless words ruin a story. Quality beats quantity every day. She also strongly encouraged participants to invest time re-reading drafts critically. Pause at each paragraph and ask whether it plays off the previous paragraph or leads into the next with a natural flow.
Melissa recommended content producers try Grammarly and Hemingway App to bolster their writing skill. Repetitive use of such tools can help break bad habits and continually improve a marketer’s ability to tell a strong story.
Content Marketing Day wrapped up with what may have been the dark horse session of the entire day. Noted podcaster and Rainmaker Digital CFO, Sean Jackson, breathed new life into a marketing concept that continues to quietly grow among certain audiences. Podcasting is a mystery to many marketers because few podcasters have figured out how to create the content and then get people to actually listen to it.
Now hosting multiple podcasts that reach thousands of individuals, Sean helped make the idea seem more plausible for many organizations. Numbers show strong growth in podcast listenership with 67 million Americans listening to a podcast at least once per month and 42 million tuning in to podcasts weekly.
The recurring theme of simplicity continued through the final session of the day. Sean’s three main recommendations for podcasting success include:
- Create a goal. Don’t expect a podcast to generate massive sales. Consider goals around industry visibility, networking, brand building and similar soft goals.
- Create routine. Target creating at least one podcast per week. Err on the side of brevity (18-20 minutes in duration is often an ideal run time). Consider breaking each show into shorter segments of 3-5 minutes. Segments have a similar effect as chapters in a book. They break up the content into consumable chunks.
- Build topics around shareable ideas. Audiences grow naturally as people share content with others. Sean overtly encourages people to share podcast links. He’ll use text message signups to build audience. In fact, he asked attendees to text a specific code to a unique number during the session. Nearly every participant honored the request.
Finally, Sean encouraged people to get started. Record something. Anticipate the first ten (or more) podcasts will be dreadful, if not completely embarrassing. But as podcasters find their own voice and program style, their program will improve. Those who muscle through the tough startup can often find they’ve created powerful and enjoyable creative outlet.