A Gift of Ten Content Tips from Anon.

When I returned to my office after the holiday break I was surprised to discover one of those inter-office routing envelopes sitting waiting for me on my desk. You know, the type that used to be for delivering paper memos and documents (remember those) but whose primary use these days seems to be for the circulation of various greetings cards and office collections.

envelopes

I didn’t know of any impending birthdays births, or retirements so was a little confused as to why it would be there. There was no note clipped to the front, and not signature on the envelope to indicate where it had come from.

Intrigued I opened the seal and tipped the envelope up and a single piece of white card fluttered slowly down to rest on my desk. The card had a note attached which simply read “For Alan.” – No signature.

What had anonymous sent to me? I flipped it over and read the following:

Top 10 Tips For Creating Compelling Content

  1. Less about you
  2. Be authentic
  3. Focus on pain points
  4. Participate in conversations
  5. Bring best of your brand to the table with a differentiated POV
  6. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
  7. Think “human-to-human” (not B2B or B2C)
  8. Match content to the channel
  9. Go out on a limb
  10. Loosen the grip

I’ve read a lot of these sort of Top 10 lists over the years, even created a few similar ones myself, but there was something about this one that resonated with me. I’ve kept this card sitting on my desk at the side of my laptop in the intervening three weeks since its arrival, and found myself referencing it several times in conversations, and not always in relation to content creation. – I believe there as some very valid ideas that relate to the way we do business in the digital age in that list.

So over the next few weeks I’m planning on taking a deeper look at these Top Ten items and examine what they mean to me.

The true meaning of content?

An excellent post from  on why creating and managing content is both important and rewarding. Couldn’t have said it better myself…

… content is the genesis of action, education, and change. Content informs. People come away from good content with more understanding and perspective about issues that affect them. Content enables them to consider a situation, question, or decision based on clear information and then act with purpose and clarity.

So, content is core to teaching. And there is joy in helping someone understand. There is an amazing feeling when someone finds something they were looking for and finds a clarity they were missing. That’s a gift…

Content Delivery – Porsche Style

What’s the quickest way to deliver your content to a multinational audience? – This maybe one of the most efficient ways I’ve seen.

While monitoring the Twitter stream this morning from various motor-sports journalists covering the build up to this weekend’s Formula One Spanish Grand Prix there were several enthusiastic posts about a little piece of plastic.

This piece of plastic, distributed by Porsche.

Porsche QR Press KitJournalist Jon Noble immediately tweeted,

“I remember the era of 100-page media guides. Look at this slick modern version from Porsche.”

While NBC Sports’s Will Buxton added a few more details.

“Very cool media kit from Porsche Supercup. A simple plastic card featuring a BeeTag. Open the document in 5 languages on phone/tablet. Ace.”

Globalized, smart, slick, and in keeping with the brand. Delivering content to a well-defined community in the way that works best for them. – Brilliant piece of content marketing.

From a marketing perspective it’s also interesting to note that Porsche aren’t even competing in the main GP event. They don’t have an F1 team, nor do they supply engines anymore. They do however have supply all the cars for one of the, normally ignored, supporting events – yet they got a sizable share of the journalists’ attention and social media buzz this morning.

porschesupe1

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And I found out that the British refer to QR Codes as BeeTags – apparently named after a popular QR Code generation software.  – This plays to a conversation I had at the STC Conference in Atlanta last week discussing the fact that just because something is written in English, it doesn’t mean it is equally understood in all English speaking markets. – Maybe that’s a subject for another blog post.

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Know Your Muppets.

I may have been the only one in the room who noticed, or even cared, but it annoyed me.

During a recent presentation by a top industry analyst they referenced an on-line marketing campaign that had featured The Muppets. On one PowerPoint slide there was a picture of Kermit The Frog.

The analyst proudly said something along the lines of “As you can see this campaign was aimed at children because it uses the characters from Sesame Street.”

My geek-alert radar triggered at the mistake. Kermit is of course not a Sesame Street character, but  the leader of The Muppets. It was an innocent enough mistake, even an understandable one. But it was compounded by the fact that I knew a little about the campaign being referenced, which was in fact not aimed at children, but their parents.

The consultant immediately dropped a couple of notches on my internal credibility monitor.

In fact during the day the same consultant made a few pop-culture references, and I could tell that they didn’t really understand the context of what they were saying.

This got me thinking about my own presentations. I’m a self confessed geek, I even have a T-shirt declaring the fact, so I have a tendency to pepper my conversations with pop-culture references. The same applies to a lot of presentations I do, more so in public conferences than during internal meetings. But, I always make sure those references are related to things I know about; I’d never make an on-line gaming or baseball reference as I have no interest, or reference, for either.

If you do make some sort of external reference when presenting to an audience, then make sure it’s factually correct and applies in context, because if you don’t there is bound to be someone in the audience who will spot your error. And that error will undermine everything else you say.

The same applies to the content you produce and deliver to your audience online. The best content is that which engages the audience and provides value. To deliver that sort of value we often produce content that puts our products or services in the context of the customer’s story and experience. We talk about, and reference, their industry, their process, their culture. If we get any part of that wrong, the customer will notice and it will undermine everything else we claim about our products.

Before you put out any sort of content that makes external references make sure you know your Muppets!

Your Content Should Do An About Turn

Yesterday, while working on my notes for an upcoming webinar on content strategy, I kept using the phrase that the content we wanted to produce was “customer facing.”

That seems fair enough, right? We produce content that we want our customers to find, so it should be facing them.

Later in the evening the phrase “customer facing” kept running around my mind. There was something wrong with it.

Then I realized that referring to our content as “customer facing” is just another way of reinforcing the traditional inside-out broadcast model.

Here’s some content we think you need, but now we’re being clever and modern by putting it somewhere you can find it by using social media, SEO, and good stuff like that.

The “customer facing” channels may be new, but the thought behind the content is the same. This is us telling you something.

So what to do about it?

We need to turn things around.

Instead of being “customer facing,” our content should be CUSTOMER DRIVEN.

Content needs should come from the outside in.

For instance as a car buyer, I’d like to be delivered content that seamlessly, through my ownership, helps me configure, purchase, operate, maintain, and then sell the car. Perhaps along the way helping me socialize (on line, or face-to-face) with other owners of the same model.

Are you listening to what your customers need across every stage of their ownership of your product?

Which way is your content facing?

Beer is Content … and so is Bacon.

“Beer is Content”  – I saw that quote pop up on my Twitter stream a while back (apologies that I’ve forgotten who exactly posted it), and it made me smile. While it seemed like a cute saying, I couldn’t figure out any relevant context, except maybe as a t-shirt slogan.

Until yesterday morning at Dallas Fort-Worth airport. As I was walking from the nearest Starbucks back to my gate I passed the usual line up of airport eateries including representative samples from various chains. As it was mid-morning most were quiet and the various hosts and hostesses were leaning against the doors looking suitably bored.

All except the host from the branch of TGI Friday’s. He had stepped out into the flow of passengers walking by and was politely trying to engage a few in conversation. As I got closer I saw him zero in on a group of about five guys in their mid-twenties.

Hey are you guys hungry?” he asked, “Maybe in need of a cold beer?

They stopped. He had very quickly engaged his potential customers by offering them a solution to their immediate need. Once he had their attention he started to talk to them about various items on the menu.

menuHe was multichannel publishing the content he had to hand. Content that had been originally developed for print was now being used as audio. He was supplementing it by adding a few value statements and pointing out photos of particular items – adding a little graphical content to the mix.

Once he got to the Bacon Burger, he had his new customers hooked, and happily showed them into the restaurant and to a waiting table.

Watching all this it suddenly struck me that in this instance the food and drink, how they were presented, looked, and the promise of how they could solve an immediate need, were as much a part of the content marketing mix as the words on the menu.

Maybe in this case “Beer is content” … and the bacon too.

Do you consider the products you make, or the services you offer, as part of the content mix? How is product design integrated into your Content Strategy (if at all)?

If you’ll pardon the pun – it’s all food for thought.