Friday 14 November 2014

Take control of your digital future (part 2)

In the final of a two part guest post (read part 1 here), Jan Zuchowski, a Digital Performance Specialist who has worked with commercial and not-for-profit organizations to improve and develop their strategy, provides practical steps for taking control of your digital future.

"Digital innovation is simply the process of pulling together the ideas and tools to create something new. For many publishers this can be a challenging prospect because their organisational culture (that has often been built up over many years) inhibits thinking that challenges conventional beliefs.

Image: Roman Okopny
Yet innovation cannot happen without stepping out of the well-worn grooves that have served the industry well in the past. It takes courage; it takes vision; and it takes a passion for what might be, for the unexplored, for what yet isn't but could be.

The biggest barrier is, of course, the fear of getting it wrong and making expensive mistakes. Happily, the real threat is not nearly as big as is often imagined because other sectors are facing the same challenges as publishers, and are tackling them in different ways, and so there are opportunities to learn. We can see what works in other contexts and then can explore how to push the boundaries and develop new technical insights in our own field.

Senior executives at Google, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg define technical insight as “a new way of applying technology or design that either drives down the cost or increases the functions and usability of the product by a significant factor. The result is something that is better than the competition in a fundamental way. The improvement is obvious; it doesn't take a lot of marketing for customers to figure out that this product is different from everything else.” (How Google Works, John Murray, 2014).

Here, then, are four questions you may like to discuss within your organisation to set the ball rolling.

  1. What more do we need to understand about how the market place is evolving in order to take our concepts of product to the next level?
  2. What are the ‘adjacent’ needs of our market - related needs that are not met by our current activities?
  3. How could we start making connections between our consumers’ adjacent needs, the new ways of thinking in other sectors, and our current resources?
  4. Who could we pull in to help us with our innovative thinking?

Image: Ags Andrew
And after you have taken time to explore these ideas, take action! Ask yourselves - What is the single highest impact next step we could take to accelerate our progress in digital innovation?

We live in incredibly exciting times. Engaging ideas are appearing, sometimes from the most unexpected quarters. New companies are springing up with disruptive ideas and making rapid and significant inroads into the market place.  Unexpected models for partnerships and collaborations are evolving to develop innovative product experiences for the customer. As singer, Bono says, “This is our moment. This is our time.” It’s time to capitalise on the new possibilities open to us!"

Jan is the facilitator for the Digital Strategy Think Tank, an ALPSP workshop produced in collaboration with Librios to be held in London on Tuesday 2 December 2014. Book your place now.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Sticky Content's Amy Nicholson on 5 irritating clichés to help you plan your content marketing

Amy Nicholson: the clichés do work
When you work across different sectors, you see how common the issues are and the mistakes made. Amy Nicholson provided 5 irritating clichés that can actually help you plan your content marketing.

1. Rome wasn't built in a day

Content is a long game. You can have Harry Potter content in your pocket, but if you don't have the people, resources and time to back it up, you might as well not bother.

Know your limits, be realistic about what you can achieve, and get going where you can. As publishers you already appreciate content, editorial, publishing systems and workflow. You are in a stronger position. You really need a managing editor for content marketing, someone who is a master of your entire universe. Practical steps you can take include:
  1. Maintain an editorial calendar
  2. Create content departments and give them owners
  3. Cultivate subject matter experts and other content sources
  4. Brainstorm ideas regularly
  5. Develop guidelines: style guide, tone of voice, format guidelines
  6. Put in place an editorial board to review content effectiveness

2. Don't reinvent the wheel

Old habits die hard. Follow the inverted pyramid format that news rooms have used for years. Get to the point clearly for a 'stop the press' story. You should be able to edit paragraphs from bottom to the top of the story without losing understanding. Front load your content, use plain language, use style guides, consistent use of what you say and how you say it.

3. Waste not, want not

Look at your calendar and re-purpose or redistribute again and again. Think about whether or not you can write once and publish everywhere. Find a way to write for all those different channels in one go so you only have to get sign-off once: can a headline can be used for an email subject line as well?

4. All that glitters isn't gold

Ever been asked if you're on Pinterest? Ever been told you need an app (but without a good reason why)? It has to be about content first and foremost. (And content comes from what your community need or want).

5. The longest journey starts with a single step

Don't become paralysed by trying to perfect something before you get started. Try doing something and see how it goes. Your customers are an ever changing group. Digital is not a degradation of good copy. It enables you to edit live so you can feed back and optimise over and over again.

Your content toolbox should include...

  • Briefing forms
  • Writers' guidelines
  • Content inventory
  • Editorial calendar
  • Copy formats
  • A persuasive manner

Amy Nicholson is Managing Editor for Sticky Content. She spoke at the ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?

Connie Churcher asks 'how content can help build your social community?'

Connie Churcher: emotions and triggers that build community
What makes content shareable? The qualities or triggers are funny, sexy, shocking, moving, unbelievable/awesome, controversial, cool, illuminating or interesting, random, zeitgeist, cute, uplifting, disgusting, nostalgia.

It's about what emotions people share the most: cool, funny, up-lifting. But it's also about what these triggers can lead to. Top topics that go viral are about food, home and lifestyle.

Bear in mind that there is good viral and bad viral. Advertising doesn't often go viral. Often, it is our own lives that do. Some recent exceptions were the Old Spice campaign and Oreo. Bad viral include Habitat including #war alongside campaigns. Dapper Laughs is another example where it has come back to haunt them.

But what is this all about? Ego. Social media, as well as being a great professional sphere is also a very emotional place. When someone is sharing something they are not thinking about your brand, but more about what it says about them. People gain social validation through likes and retweets.

We speak 16,000 words a day, but much is left unsaid as we edit as we speak. A lot of inner thoughts are let out on this new medium which can lead to people being vulnerable. While 16% of adults reported better self esteem after social sharing, Thailand has issued a national health warning about adults addicted to likes.

How can sharable content help you build an engaged community? It's a simple equation:

sharing triggers + stoking the ego = user generated content (the Holy Grail)

It does the work for you with an authentic and trusted voice. Seek out and find those who are well known and trusted in a community already.

One example is the Caitlin Moran How to be a Woman campaign allowing her followers to blog on her site is a great example of amplification. 140 did and all shared to their own networks as they were validated by being on her site. But, it has to be the right area for your content.

What do you need to do these things?

  • You need time. There is a really good argument for digital marketers to be partnership managers as they build partnership and relationships online
  • Integrity, think of it as human to human. Twitter, LinkedIn and Google + all have professional associations where trust is a key factor. Something like a post with a photo and byline is more powerful. But this is less so on Facebook.
  • You need cash. Building communities on social media does take money. The time involved has a cost.
  • To build stories you need authenticity. 
  • A great title and lovely imagery also help. 
Think what you want people to do with it? The more layers you add in, the simpler it has to be for the user. Make it easy for people to share. A lot of sites are monolithic. They are developed, then left. Ideally, you need continual redevelopment. A front page that changes frequently will give a fresher, more interesting look. You also need to bear in mind that social platforms may change, evolve or fall away.

Be concise... or don't! Brevity is great and works well on certain platforms. However, long form content is pretty good too. It is shared more than short term content because there is less good long form content around.

How do you stay on top of community management? Use aggregators such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. They help save time so you don't lose your day to social media channels. Some now offer services that search on key words for you so you can push out and share relevant content from other sources. Also think about sharing evergreen content over a period at different times to see how it gets picked up.

Listening tools are very useful. If you want to news-jack stories for your content, monitor keywords rather than Google Alerts (where the story has already broken). You can also use them to identify influencers who can help with user generated content.

Don't rush to create new spaces. If you do, think about the niche you can bring. Don't do it alone. Bounce ideas off people who aren't social or digital. Make sure social planning is at the start of a campaign and planning process. Get integrated into the process sooner.

Connie Churcher is Social Media Editor at Claremont Social Communications. She spoke at the ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Duncan Enright on what sort of content do you need and how do you make it engaging?

Duncan Enright: in all the right places
Content marketing ultimately is about selling your goods and services, but doing so using fantastic, relevant and interesting content customers are interested in. The challenge is trying to get it to them in the right places.

Making your content accessible and discoverable is the key challenge. Traditional marketing channels include newsletters, alerts, RSS feeds, direct mail, advertising, conferences, white papers and thought leadership. It is not that these are defunct, but new channels may adopt some of the characteristics.

For academic and educational publishing markets white papers are a well understand idea of an introductory and defining piece that attaches your company to the area. It's a big and valuable piece of work. What can you do to make it more digestible? Use bite size pieces through social channels, blogs and so on.

Twitter quickly distributes sound bytes of information. It can allow a group of staff to tweet. You need to think about who you can reach or communicate with. It's a personal medium - you have to engage, listen and interact. It's about growing an audience through community engagement. It's important to use the key influencers to help get the message out there.

LinkedIn enables you to identify and join groups with shared interests. You can post series of discussions across timeframe to maximise exposure. Content marketing is key as there are restrictions around marketing built into the platform. If you encourage staff to like posts it will increase discoverability. Most of all, inform, but don't sell.

SEO is better with back linking (back and forth to other good sites) and citations to raise search ranking. Online advertising and SEM generally work in Enright's experience. You can buy your way to the top of search results, particularly with 'speciality terms'. Do a simple Google Adwords and LinkedIn campaign to groups. Test with specific terms, subjects. Don't spend a lot until you analyse your results. Remember there are a range of content marketing metrics (e.g. clicks and opens for email campaigns).

YouTube is now the second most used search engine. Video brings content to life. Record interviews with authors discussing a piece of research, show examples of how researchers have used your work or do interviews around a theme to promote content collections. Visualise the author's experience and capture customer testimonials.

Community sites and webpages enable posting of free content. You can include links to related sites and content, group by subject or theme for specific audiences, then promote using the channels above.

Duncan Enright is a Senior Associate at Maverick Publishing Specialists. He spoke at the ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?

The power of storytelling: Kate Smith tells a tale...

Kate Smith: we grow up with stories
We learn about stories from a very early age. We have learnt that they are fun and engaging and they can teach us about the world. They are a fundamental part of our life.  Stories are now the lifeblood of how we relate and connect as human beings. The best stories are consistent, we can relate to them.

In 1895 John Deere produced The Furrow magazine for farmers in the US. Designed as an educational resource to enable farmers to be better. It was engaging, it resonated with the audience. The content wasn't about their products. It was about great content that was useful and relevant. They are still going today, but probably more in digital formats now!

Stories need to evolve, unfold, iterate to take us from A to B. It is harder for people to make decisions as we are bombarded by media. Creating content should help as it makes making those decisions easier through that process.

Prostate Cancer UK developed a content marketing strategy to engage with their target audience of men, who are notoriously hard to get to acknowledge the illness. They worked with footballers and pundits to reach fans. They made the campaign personal to help people engage with it.

American Express set up a small business forum that provides advice and support for small businesses. 99% of content has nothing to do with that content. They employ experts in the areas they are writing in. they have found that applications through that medium are the same as any other advertising campaign. It works and maintains their credibility.

Successful stories are credible, engage, meaningful, personal. No one says it better than Andrew Stanton (creator of Toy Story) when he spoke about storytelling in this TED talk.

Kate Smith is Associate Marketing Director at Wiley. She spoke at the ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?

Jon King on content marketing - why it matters and how can we learn from Hollywood and the Hero's journey...

Jon King on the rise of personal influence
The definition of content is information that has a story arc in it and a narrative flow. Storytelling is not new. It goes back into history and defines what we do. To be effective we need to tell a story well. The story arc is something that has been absent in classical advertising.

When you look at the rise of contemporary advertising in the 50s (the Don Draper era) campaigns were built on one thing: a unique selling point (USP) using paid media. The most successful advertising campaign of all time is Anacin. The ubiquity of media at the time meant it was successful because it was like being hit over the head again and again as the adverts were everywhere you went. Vance Packard's book The Hidden Persuaders suggested that advertising could subtly get messages across. The rise of personal influence is fundamentally breaking that model.

A Nielsen study from 2012 asked what influences your purchase decisions? 91% of people said it was recommendations from those they know. 70% peoples opinions published online, 58% editorial content, 58% banded website, 50% emails that are signed up to. Stories are now the #1 influence on consumer choice. Conversations have become media. Dove is an example of a disruptive consumer campaign that put content at the heart of their product by using real people.

The McKinsey Loop stated that paid media drives awareness and consideration that is reinforced by perfectly balanced experience through purchase and use. Today the loop has audiences exiting traditional path to seek content from key influencers. Before, you bought a BMW and then would probably never buy another type of car again. Now, people evaluate ideas, brands and services by finding rewarding content and sharing their experiences with others. Content has become the most important influencer on choice.

Getting your audience to recommend your products is effectively the holy grail, getting them to do something for nothing. Great return on investment. Unilever understand this and have gone from 90% paid advertising to 60% in 15 years an increase in owned and shared content.

King counselled to think about story versus product placement. It's not about facts and figures or the history of your company. Tell a story. Michelin were the first real content marketers. Cars at that stage were unreliable, so people got stranded in places they didn't expected. Their response? Tyres that are reliable and a range of travel guides to help you when you are stranded. They make tyres, but we don't think of them as making tyres.

Christopher Booker's Seven Basic Plots outlines the key stories that exist (although many argue there are 12 basic plots). You can map pretty much everything to one of these. The stages of the Hero's journey are: an ordinary person, called to adventure, refuses the call, meets the mentor, crosses the threshold, tests, allies and enemies, approach, central ordeal, the reward, the road back, resurrection, return with the elixir.

The Guardian signed a big deal earlier in the year for paid for editorial content. A seven figure deal with content that is indistinguishable from journalism. But it is restricted to print. Is it missing the point?

But how do you inject your company into a story? Have a point of view about the world that your key audiences will care about. Tell the truth. Influence the influencers. Produce satisfying stories. Use networks to share emotionally satisfying stories and win a disproportionate share of an audience's attention. An individual has an idea, shares with their personal network (average 192 people) and their communities (average 5 communities). Each person who is networked can influence up to 1000 people.

This is behavioural economics. It is powerful, efficient, low cost and a good long term strategic advantage for low touch points. Publish across multiple touch points to deepen brand engagement. Storytelling positions your brand ecosystem for organic growth.

Jon King is owner and principal consultant at Content Corporation. He spoke at the ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Take Control of Your Digital Future (Part 1)

Photo credit: Blastreach
In the first of a two part guest post, Jan Zuchowski, a Digital Performance Specialist who has worked with commercial and not-for-profit organizations to improve and develop their strategy, reflects on how you can take control of your digital future.

"The sport of yacht racing has been likened by the more cynical to standing under a cold shower, tearing up £50 notes. In many respects, digital publishing is not too dissimilar. Indeed, arguably there are only two major differences: firstly, you don’t need a cold shower to get the real feel and secondly, you don’t need to be too cynical to ‘get’ the concept. It can be nerve-wracking; but it can also be exhilarating and hugely compelling, too.

The question is how to do it safely to an exceptional level, a level where the world cannot help but sit up and take notice?

All around, publishers are trying out different approaches, hoping to nail their colours to the mast as digital innovators. Yet, all too often it can seem so difficult to break through into genuinely disruptive thinking and start making serious money from it.

So, how do we do it? How do we develop innovative ideas that will put a serious dent in the market? Churchill famously once said, “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging.” What might happen if you did just that?

Jan Zuchowski
Perhaps the first thing that you might notice is just how furiously other people are digging all around you, too. You were probably reasonably aware of that, anyway. Then you might start to look at other sectors. You may notice other types of organisation being more successful because they start their thinking about the digital challenges they face from a different angle. And it may even inspire you to start connecting ideas with fresh, ground-breaking initiatives.

Picasso is reputed to have remarked, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it to the highest level!

Publishing is by no means the only sector to feel challenged by the accelerating progress of digital technology. However, what is becoming increasingly noticeable is how other sectors are reaping the rewards of approaching the issue from a different standpoint, both creatively and financially. Check out what’s going on in the music industry; the museums sector; fashion; sporting retail… Take time to explore what it is that is driving their thinking and how they are planning to find their next breakthrough ideas. Here and there, publishers who are going to be the next game changers are already noticing and quietly assimilating the ideas...

Photo credit: iLexx
Could it be that, in some dark corners not too far from you, people are already brewing a mind-blowing innovation to unleash on an innocently unsuspecting market? Could it be that the next disruptive idea, the idea that will shake the industry to the core is only just over the horizon? Could it be that the person who will be at the heart of incubating that idea is already lurking inside your organisation? Could it be you?

It’s time to start connecting ideas about digital publishing in new ways. In my next piece I’ll share with you some practical steps you can take to accelerate disruptive thinking. Let’s talk some more."

Jan is the facilitator for the Digital Strategy Think Tank, an ALPSP workshop produced in collaboration with Librios to be held in London on Tuesday 2 December 2014. Book your place now.

Monday 3 November 2014

Royal Society of Chemistry's Laura Finn talks content with a true purpose, content with a story

Royal Society of Chemistry's Laura Finn
Laura Finn, Content Marketing Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry, will speak at next week's Content Marketing - using your publishing assets? seminar in London. We spoke to her to find out more about what makes her tick and what makes content marketing truly work.

So tell me about yourself, how did you end up in your current role?

My marketing career started at Cambridge University Press – I wanted to stay close to books having read English, so I applied for a junior role and thought I’d give marketing a go. Since then, I haven’t looked back! I completed my CIM Professional Diploma in Marketing a few years back and I’m still based in Cambridge, I now head up a new Content Marketing team at the Royal Society of Chemistry where we work to connect the world with the chemical sciences.

What does content marketing mean to you?

I love the way content marketing challenges us to think beyond our own organisational goals and wants, and to engage with what our audience finds relevant instead. Great content is useful, it’s interesting, it solves problems and informs decisions, it immerses our audiences in who we are and why we’re here. I believe that content marketing can help us foster more meaningful relationships with our audiences and help them achieve their goals.

How does your organisation use content marketing?

As an organisation we are moving away from just selling features and benefits of our products, and towards changing hearts and minds. This fits so well with the philosophy of content marketing! My team of specialists work to create and share content that will resonate with our audiences, integrated into larger marketing programmes.

What’s the most effective piece of content marketing you’ve ever done (and results if possible)?

We don’t yet have results but I'm very excited about a recent video project that supported a campaign to increase membership numbers in industry. We filmed four members at their places of work, talking about why they love doing what they do, and how membership with the Royal Society of Chemistry has opened doors for them. Rather than talking about us, and what we thought were the key features and benefits of membership for those working in industry we could let real members decide what was important and spread the word. We are telling their story, not ours – and the resulting videos are engaging and authentic.

Engage with what your audience finds relevant

What’s the biggest no-no for content marketing in your book?

I think mistakes can often come from not asking ‘why’ – it’s very easy to get excited about content marketing ideas, and this can lead to content without a true purpose, content without a story.

My advice would be to always dig deep into the ‘why’ – that way, you can be sure that you’re prioritising effectively and that your content will resonate with its target audience.

Laura Finn will talk about 'Getting your content out there (mapping content opportunities to your audience)' at the Content Marketing - using your publishing assets? seminar. Registration still open, book now.