While I was at the airport waiting to fly home from Cleveland and my first ever Content Marketing World I was continuing to follow the #CMWorld Twitter stream. Amidst the farewells and comments on sessions, I spotted a link to a wrap up post.
Its headline was something along the lines of, “10 Signs You Were Just at Content Marketing World.” It was a short and sweet recap full of winks and nods to content marketers who were at the show.
It was fine, even a little funny, but it seemed to me to run counter to much of what we heard from content marketing luminaries all week.
The repeated calls to plan more and produce less, to insist on quality AND quantity simultaneously, and to march with a deliberate content cadence were highly energizing.
So much so that I came back and didn’t write anything for a week.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t get some kind of horrible content marketing block.
Instead, I was starting on some of the hard work that we were tasked with out in Cleveland. Here’s what I did my first week back instead of producing new content:
1. Document the Goals of All of our Content
For this I used Kristina Halvorson’s fantastic example of core strategy statements in Content Strategy for the Web, which looks like this:
She describes this tool as, “a quick, memorable summary of all the core strategy details that we provide to our clients…The key is to make it short, memorable, and meaningful.”
I wrote one for all three of the properties that I manage content for, and I’m seriously considering making poster-sized versions to hang up by my desk.
These are the sorts of statements that we all have in our heads; we want to be writing with a purpose in mind, and we’ll make them up if they aren’t explicit.
The problem arises when you have multiple content creators who have all made up different core strategy statements in their minds. You’ve got to get one, agreed-upon version out in the open so everybody is on the same webpage.
2. Conduct a Thorough Content Audit
For MarketerGizmo, which is less than a year old, this was a relatively quick and painless process. But for the other blog I manage over on SurveyGizmo.com, I was staring at almost ten years worth of blog posts.
I won’t lie. It was tempting to walk away. I’ve been at the foot of that mountain of content before and found an excuse to come back later. But later was finally here, and I took the plunge.
Fortunately for me, others have climbed a similar Everest before and left helpful maps.
The beneficent content creators over at Buffer and Moz have written stellar guides to their own journeys, and they introduced me to two tools that I hope never to be without again: URL Profiler and Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
After doing almost nothing but living and breathing spreadsheets for a week I’ve got a detailed listing of over 250 valuable blog pages to work with, along with hundreds more that need to be eliminated.
I’ll be covering the audit in more detail in a coming post all about our emerging content strategy, so I’ll just say here that if you’re on the fence about doing one of these, do it. Put on your spreadsheet grimace and get it done. It will be totally worth it.
Just read Kristina Halvorson’s book first, because she makes it sound super fun.
3. Create New Personas
These first three were part of a larger content strategy project that I was insistent about getting done as quickly as possible, and each one was a vital part of that process. But creating personas were probably my favorite piece of the puzzle.
We’ve covered the topic of personas before here on MarketerGizmo, because they are something that we genuinely think every marketer needs to be using. We use them ourselves, but some of them were getting a little dusty.
What I was able to do on the strength of my recent return from Content Marketing World was to call a large scale meeting and request input from throughout our company. Our collective understanding of our customers (and potential customers) painted a powerful picture of what content we needed to produce.
A one-hour brainstorm session, followed by another half hour of clarification with stakeholders, brought us to four brand new personas for one property and two for another.
They’re smiling at me from my desktop right now. I can’t wait to start writing for them, because they really represent our audience.
Having these “real” people to measure content against is immensely powerful. Again, put on your big kid pants and get these done.
4. Follow Up With Contacts
I am admittedly not a great networker. Once a conversation starts, I can chat with the best of them, but when it comes to approaching new people I’d prefer to communicate from behind the safety of my monitor.
Nonetheless I met a whole lot of cool people at Content Marketing World. (It helps that almost everyone there was a content nerd like myself.)
Once home, it was time to follow up with those people and make sure scintillating conversation could blossom into valuable connections.
For some folks, this was as simple as following them on Twitter or connecting on LinkedIn. For others I sent them a card, a few others got a t-shirt. In a couple of cases I’ve got meetings scheduled to discuss partnerships.
The thing is, if I had jumped back into my insane writing schedule right away I probably wouldn’t have been able to follow up as effectively (if you met me and I didn’t follow up – I’m sorry! Email me!).
5. Read Books and Blogs By Inspiring People
You don’t get to be a presenter at Content Marketing World without being a strong speaker, and there were some amazing insights flying around the Cleveland Convention Center. When I got back, I took the time to read/skim books and blogs by the speakers who were most relevant to my current challenges.
Note I didn’t say ALL the speakers. Just the relevant ones.
It’s easy to try and follow everyone, subscribe to all their email updates, read every single book you got right away, and on and on until you’re not sleeping anymore.
It’s harder, but much more worthwhile, to curate your list and find the ones that you really need RIGHT NOW. The others will be there when you need their insight later on.
My favorites, which informed a lot of what I’ll be working on for the rest of the year, include:
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson
- Sorry for Marketing by Jay Acunzo
- Social media/content marketing integration case study from the Content Marketing Institute’s Monina Wagner and Cathy McPhillips (a presentation from Content Marketing World)
- Advanced SEO Practices That Will Blow Your Mind by Rand Fishkin (a presentation from Content Marketing World)
I heard from and chatted with lots more smart folks, and I’m confident I’ll be returning to the notes, videos, and presentation decks for months to come. But for now, this is the information I need to be more effective.
How Did Content Marketing World Change Your Week?
Did your world get rocked by what you learned in Cleveland? Did you come back with the tricks and data that you needed to get things done?
I’d love to hear your war stories in the comments.
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