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The Big Problem With Content Marketing and Tragedy

The MH17 airline tragedy highlighted a major problem with many content marketing programs, one I see every time a catastrophe unfolds. As Twitter inches closer to a mainstream news outlet, and brand journalism becomes more commonplace, it’s essential for content marketers to understand how to react in a crisis to avoid brand damage.

As the story unfolds . . .

I woke up on Friday, 18 July to the awful news. As is so often the case with breaking news, the first place I read about the plane crash was on Twitter. Suffering from jet lag, it was essentially the middle of the night in Australia and just a few hours after the event happened. By early morning, my Twitter feed was full of details and speculation as the world tried to make sense of what happened. I immediately started firing notes off to my clients. (More about that later.)

Unfortunately, my feed was also full of brand content such as:

    • Attend my FREE webinar on Tuesday
    • Find out how to save $$$ off your mortgage
    • Time is running out on our winter sale
    • New research suggests people with cats live longer
    • 15 ways Instagram can transform your business

Okay, I invented those titles to protect the guilty but you get my point. As I was trying to grasp what had happened, those posts on Twitter – and to a certain extent Facebook – made me angry. They appeared vacuous and insensitive. It demonstrated marketing programs that were on auto-pilot. I took note of a few of the bigger brands, brands that should know better, and decided to boycott them on the spot.

What journalists know

Here’s something publishers and editors understand that brands are slow to figure out. Sometimes there’s only one story. Sometimes you have to put things on hold. Sometimes the world needs to absorb a single event without interruption. Sometimes the noise just has to stop. Take a look at the front page of any newspaper during a tragedy and you’ll see every single story is on one topic.

JFK IS DEAD headline

What content marketers should do in a tragedy

Earlier I mentioned one of the first things I did after finding out about MH17 was to email my clients. Actually, the very first thing I did was to suspend all automated social media updates, not just for me but for my clients, too. I didn’t even bother to ask.

Once I knew the posts I had scheduled to run that day were suspended, I started to email my clients.  (I have the backbone of my social updates scheduled about a day in advance so I’m not sitting on Twitter and Facebook all day.) I explained the situation, told them what I’d done, and advised they go “radio silent” for the day. Here’s one of the notes I sent to a marketing director:

I’m going to advise we go silent on Twitter and Facebook, at least for a day. If you haven’t heard, they’ve just confirmed 27 of the 298 dead on MH17 are from Australia. That’s actually immaterial for you since you’re a global brand.

 My concern is if you’re tweeting about business as usual, you appear to be seriously disconnected from reality. Brands get bashed every single time something like this happens. I’ve moved the posts I had scheduled for today to tomorrow. Let me know if you feel otherwise.

One thing brands should NEVER do

Humour and comedy have no place in a tragedy. Regardless of the event, when people are dealing with death or struggling to comprehend a massive calamity, it’s better to shut up than try to make light of the situation.

How brands can make a positive impression

Inappropriate Tweet from Kenneth Cole during Cairo uprisingIn some situations, it could make a lot of sense for your brand to get involved in the news cycle of a tragedy. If you have information or expertise that might help or console victims or survivors, by all means share it. But you need to be very careful. If your company benefits in any way, it may put you in a bad light. Kenneth Cole learned this the hard way in February 2011 when he tried to pitch a shoe sale on the back of the Egyptian uprising.

Welcome topics include:

Safety – Where people can go for aid, how to identify hidden dangers like downed power cables, or how to ensure your drinking water is safe are all examples of useful information.

Support – Mental health hotlines, where to find support from faith-based communities, and availability of food stations or shelter is the kind of information people need.

Donations – Where to donate blood, food, water, money and clothing is useful information that helps your audience take appropriate action.

Volunteering – In tragedies large or small, people want to know how they can help.

A crisis can bring people together but that doesn’t mean there’s a place for your content in a disaster or calamity.  Traditional journalists know that at times there’s only one story. Brands and content marketers need to learn the same lesson. Your business won’t collapse if you scale back for one day.

What do you think? Should content marketers observe journalistic customs during a tragedy or disaster?

The Difference Between Journalism and Brand Journalism (and Why It Matters)

graphical image showing brand journalism is different than traditional journalism

Do you know the key difference between brand journalism and traditional journalism? A lot is being written about the need for business to employ journalists, but it’s not as simple as you might think. As brands begin to adopt a publishing model as they move towards content marketing, an essential understanding is required about how editorial standards differ between business and news.

Friction between journalists and marketers is on the rise.   Traditional journalists are railing against native advertising but don’t necessarily distinguish between advertising and marketing. Others insist journalists are better suited for content marketing than copywriters. As someone who possesses both marketing and journalism credentials, I can see the sense in arguments on both sides. But I also see the debate isn’t very helpful for brands trying to establish a content marketing strategy. So let me give you some clear guidelines on what’s required for brand journalism.

Tell the truth

First and foremost, brand journalists must tell the truth. Credible reporting is a hallmark of journalism and there’s no reason why brands shouldn’t be held to the same standard. The credibility lost when a brand abuses the trust of their consumers can be catastrophic to business.

Be transparent

Businesses can produce content and maintain journalistic integrity; there’s no reason why they can’t. Citing references, conducting research and providing a balanced view of your topic sends a strong signal to prospective customers that you’re delivering a valuable service. Again, transparency goes a long way to building the trust necessary to cultivate loyalty within your target audience.

Tell stories

There’s nothing more snooze-inducing than marketing copy. Yes, consumers want to be educated and informed but they also want to be entertained. They’re not interested in you; they’re interested in how you can help them. Tell a story and you’ll have a lot better chance of keeping people moving through your content.

Be persuasive

Telling the truth and being transparent are classic traits of journalism. Being persuasive, however, runs counter to most journalists’ dedication to objectivity. Good reporting lets the reader form their own opinion based on the information provided. The best reporters never let their own opinion leak into a story. This is where brands must depart from traditional journalism. The job of a brand journalist is to persuade the reader to make a decision that benefits the company. News reporters don’t include a call to action in their stories. Brand journalists must always include a specific request to the reader that, when actioned, will benefit their business.

Tell the right story

Journalists are after the “big” story. Brand journalists need to resist the temptation for a big story and look for the right story – the story about your company, products or services. It requires discipline to resist a topic when it seems everyone else is commenting on it.  Unless the hot topic is directly related to your business, there’s no point in jumping into the fray. Brand journalists must remain focused on conversions.

Support brands

My personal opinion is brand journalists should never slam another brand. If consumers feel like you’re doing a smear job on your competitors, they’ll become suspicious of you. Think about the low opinion of tabloids and you get an idea what I’m talking about.

Brand journalism done well gives you the opportunity to position your products and services against a competitor without ever mentioning them. A good example is to imagine competing against Henry Ford and the Model T. Ford famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

A good brand journalist can exploit that limitation without every mentioning Ford. Instead, they can speak about the different colours of paint offered for their cars and make sure that information is featured in the appropriate content. Consumers are smart enough to connect the dots.

What does brand journalism look like?

To give you an idea of how brands incorporate journalism into their content marketing, here are some good examples of different types of content developed with a journalistic eye.

Do you know how much your commute is really costing you? is an example of a blog post using journalistic practices. The blog is for a property development company in Perth but the post makes no mention of a specific project. Instead, it focuses on a topic that would be interesting to people considering buying a new home and uses current research to provide independent opinion on the cost of commuting.

Announcing ezytire: A Complete Online Marketing Tool for Tire Retailers is a classic case of brand journalism crossing over into mainstream media. The press release for ezytire from Tireweb Marketing was written like a newspaper or magazine article. As a result, the “story” got picked up in hundreds of publications, many of whom provided valuable backlinks to the ezytire website.

Lush Digital is producing a series of interviews with thought leaders in a variety of business and government roles. What makes them compelling is that James Lush interviews each person as if he were running a television program focused on business leadership. No one in the interviews is pitching digital marketing or endorsing videos even though that is where Lush Digital makes their money. Check out this interview with former iiNet CEO Michael Malone.


If you want to understand the power of storytelling in marketing, Jonathan Crossfield is doing a masterful job. Check out his blog on the topic, Why Stories + Examples > Facts + Statistics for an explanation that’s also a fantastic example.

I could go on forever providing examples but you get the idea. In a world where everyone is hungry for original content, the brands delivering honest, well-written news written in a journalistic style are going to be published more frequently. It’s this earned media that consumers prefer over traditional marketing.

Remember, it’s not the job of a brand journalist to be objective, but they should be honest, transparent and tell the right stories. Ultimately, brand journalists need to persuade their audience to make a decision that somehow benefits their company.

What other qualities does a brand journalist need?

 

6 Top Ways to Get an Editor to Print Your Story

I’m super excited to have Daniel Hatch guest post on the Global Copywriting blog today. If you’d like to get your content published in traditional media – and who doesn’t? – then keep reading. Dan has loaded this post with one meaty tip after another and you won’t want to miss a word of it. -Ed.

image of a keyboard

If you find getting the editor of a newspaper, magazine or an online publication interested in your idea for an article an almost impossible task, you’re not alone. In fact, a surprising number of people who actually specialise in “communications” don’t seem to be very good at it either.

I’ve been a reporter for 15 years and a section editor for two. I’ve had people pitching stories to me my entire working life. A lot of them I’ve turned down. Thousands.

A bad pitch is a waste of everyone’s time. So what I share here, I share in the spirit of helping you come up with a better pitch – something an editor might actually want to print.

Actually have a good story to tell

A lot of unsolicited story pitches fall at the very first hurdle. That is, the people on the end of the phone don’t actually have anything to say.

Reporters and editors aren’t interested in promoting your business (that’s what the advertising department is for). They want to tell their readers something new, something interesting, something that affects them.

Editors aren’t interested in the fact that you’ve been trading for four years and that you’ve grown in staff numbers, etc. That is not a story. That’s background information. But they might be interested in your revolutionary new product, your takeover of a well-known local brand, or the fact that you’ve headhunted an executive from Google.

Imagine what the first paragraph of the story might be. Then ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a story like that printed in that publication. If not, then you’re unlikely to get very far.

Get your angle right for the publication

Take the time to actually read the publication you’re pitching to. Get a feel for what they’re interested in, who the readers are, and what kind of stories they print.

Do they run news features? Are there product reviews? Do they do Q&As with business executives? Do they use humour? Do they target one industry, a particular demographic, specialists, or Joe Public? It makes a difference. Bear this in mind when you’re making your pitch.

Make sure the story is news (with a capital NEW)

All too often an unsolicited pitch involves statements like “our new product has been featured in publications X, Y and Z”.

Something isn’t news once it has been printed elsewhere.

Also, this is really dumb. Firstly, you’re basically telling them you went to other publications first, (which tends to indicate you don’t think as much of their publication as others).

Secondly, there’s not much editors hate more than being told that other editors thought something was worth printing and, therefore, so should they. You’re not just telling them their job, you’re telling them they’re bad at their job.

Reporters and editors love the word exclusive. We will always ask you if something you’re pitching has already appeared elsewhere and who else you’ve pitched to.

Let your story speak for itself

Editors are an eclectic mix. We all have different ways we like to engage with the people we write about. I’m the sort who isn’t interested in free lunches or invitations to openings. I’ve been doing this for too long to be impressed by Caesar salad at Nobu. And I cannot be bought with macaroons delivered to the office. In fact, quite the opposite: If you’re sending me macaroons I assume there’s something wrong with what you’re selling.

What I can confidently say about all editors is that they’re interested in genuinely good stories. A decent pitch for an exciting (and exclusive) story will do for you what 100 free lunches could never do.

Build a working relationship with the editor

Get to know your editor and their interests. I don’t mean whether they do Bikram yoga at the rec’ centre on Tuesday nights. I mean, find out what kinds of stories they are interested in.

I like to meet all new contacts for a “get to know you” coffee. (You never need longer than an hour, and 40 minutes is preferable). I take this opportunity to ask the person about their business so I understand it properly and then tell them what kinds of stories I’m interested in. Often the story they are pitching isn’t the one I go back to the office excited about. There’s almost always something they have in the pipeline that I ask them to keep me updated on, with a view to running a big story on it in the future.

Once you know what each other are interested in, you form a good working relationship. Once you have delivered a couple of good “scoops”, you’ll have built up a bit of trust, and pitching a story might be as easy as sending a text or DM on Twitter.

Be aware of deadlines

Honestly, you’d be horrified at the number of good stories that never got printed because the reporter or editor found out about them too late. It happens all the time: The sub-editors have placed the stories on the pages and sent them off to the production department (sometimes the presses themselves are already rolling) and an email or phone call comes through with a big story. At that point, it’s too late. It’s not like the movies. We don’t actually “stop the presses”. (It’s way too expensive!)

So prepare. Get your info to the editor earlier rather than later. Or let them know if something big is likely to be coming close to their deadline. Take them into your confidence about what it is. Editors aren’t going to hold space for you if you say “I’ll drop you something big at 2pm”. You need to say “we’re signing a $4 million deal with ICI – the press release will be with you just after 2pm and I’ll call you for a quick chat to see if you need anything more.”

Editors are on tight deadlines. We love efficiency above all things. Even above correct spelling and grammar.

headshot of Daniel HatchDaniel Hatch is a freelance journalist and commercial writer. He is also the marketing and media editor at The West Australian Newspaper. His website is www.danielhatch.co.uk or you can follow him on Twitter at @daniel_hatch.

What tips do you have for working with editors in traditional media?

Why the Last Thing You Want is a Sales-Driven Organisation

Yikes - Salespeople writing marketing copy

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know what scares me? Nearly every client I speak with tells me they’re a sales-driven organisation. That’s a big problem if you ask me, especially when you consider my clients work in marketing. I spent five successful years working in direct sales. Trust me when I say the last thing you want is to have your sales department setting the agenda for content marketing.

I cut my marketing teeth when I was working as a salesperson. When I didn’t have the content I needed, I started writing my own. The very last thing a business wants is to have salespeople creating their own content. I could go into the myriad reasons why but that’s another post, if not a whole series. Suffice it to say that even if your salespeople can write, they won’t tell the story that’s going to ensure long-term success and future sales for your company. They’re going to tell the story that gets them to the next sale. It’s quite likely the content they create on their own will be ineffective. In the worst-case scenario, marketing will end up in some sort of damage control when the customer begins to realise they’ve been sold a bill of goods.

Here are 9 reasons why you don’t want a sales-driven organisation:

  1. Marketing becomes reactive. When the sales department is setting the agenda for content, marketing spends all their time reacting – putting out fires, cranking out copy under pressure of deadline and trying to cobble together a story based on a hodgepodge of emergencies.
  2. Salespeople have different goals. Salespeople have very definite goals that almost always revolve around making their own quota. Even if they’re set up to sell a solution or work within a larger team, any good salesperson is going to pull out all the stops to ensure their quota is met as a first priority. If they’re setting the agenda for content, you’re likely only to produce content for the bottom of the funnel even though that’s a disaster for a long-term strategy.
  3. Salespeople don’t like to change when something works. Once a salesperson has had a success, i.e. earned commission from a sale, it’s nearly impossible to get them to change the way they work. They will want you to keep producing the same infographic, video, white paper or case study they think helped them close business. Again, you’ll be chopping and changing tactics with no real strategy behind the effort.
  4. Good salespeople have a narrow focus. Honestly, all they care about is their product. Sure, they’ll give lip service to a broader story within the organisation. But unless they can earn money from it, they’ll push their portfolio at the expense of everything else. Marketing needs to tell the whole story.

    Yes, the sales funnel again, this time colour coded.

    Image courtesy of Jonathan Crossfield and Content Marketing World

  5. The tail shouldn’t wag the dog. Marketing’s job is to create content and messaging that populates a sales funnel and pushes prospects out the bottom as customers. Salespeople are only focused on the bottom of the funnel, and they will consistently insist on content and tactics to address the bottom of the funnel. When marketing is driving things, a lot more activity is coming into the top of the funnel. Content marketing can keep people moving through the funnel and even capture people who want to enter at different stages.
  6. The most successful salesperson gets to set the agenda. When you get to the 3rd quarter of a financial year and the numbers aren’t shaping up, good intentions go out the window and everyone goes into hard sell mode. The most influential people in a sales organisation instantly become the ones who have the best ability to bring in business. Salespeople chasing quota adopt a tunnel-vision approach to getting the sale, and everyone in the organisation is instructed to do whatever it takes to support them. These people will not consider the next quarter, the next year or the next five years when making content demands. Your content marketing takes on a very narrow focus with a short shelf life.
  7. Salespeople are transient. You’re only as good as you next sale and the award-winning hero of the sales department can easily be looking for a job six months later. Good salespeople are huge targets for poaching. Often motivated by money, it doesn’t take a lot to woo them to another company. If the architect of your content marketing is a salesperson, chances are you’ll be constantly changing direction with each new person coming into the department.
  8. When panic sets in, things get ugly – for marketing. When they’re not making their quota, salespeople start trying to place blame and marketing is always first on the list. If you’ve done exactly what they asked and it doesn’t work, you’ll be blamed for not doing your job. And, to be honest, marketers who let sales set the marketing strategy should wear that blame.
  9. Creativity is stifled. The battle cry at Content Marketing World Sydney was “Be creative.” When your sales staff is writing content on the fly to suit a particular sale, I guarantee you they aren’t being creative. They’re churning things out as quickly as possible, probably working late into the night to get it done. At best you can hope for competence in the finished result but I wouldn’t count on it. No matter how earnest their effort, it’s not going to be the kind of content that becomes an asset to your business.

Some of my best friends are salespeople

Does it sound like I’m being hard on salespeople? Not at all. I know these things are true because I’ve done that job. I know what it takes to make quota and nothing, especially the marketing department, could stand in the way of a goal-oriented salesperson. (If they’re not goal oriented, you probably need to start looking for a replacement. #justsaying) In most sales organisations, if you underperform you’re not going to have a job for very long so these people are often working under immense pressure.

Strategy is the only key to success

The only way to get out of the reactive cycle created by a sales-driven culture is to change to a marketing-driven organisation. Content marketing implemented with a sound strategy is the perfect foil. Mark Schaefer spoke about how to do this recently in Sydney in his Content Marketing World keynote address. He believes content can be the centre of power for an organisation. Likewise, Robert Rose has introduced the idea of a Content Creation Management (CCM). He envisions CCM operating as a corporate group responsible for the company story and guiding all other content including sales collateral, PR and training. When content is at the centre of an organisation, the sales department have a lot more time to focus on selling and less time trying to concoct a story they think will get them to quota.

The mandate has to come from the top

I’m not in any way claiming this is an easy shift. In fact, it’s quite likely a hard slog requiring many skirmishes if not downright power struggles. It’s vital the C-Suite supports and endorses a content strategy or you might as well sharpen your pencils in anticipation of the next content demand from the sales department. Jonathan Crossfield frequently writes and speaks on how to win the C-Suite over to content marketing. I recommend you get in touch with him for advice on what to do and what to avoid doing.

What marketers have in common with the tortoise

If you haven’t already figured it out, this is a story about the tortoise and the hare. Sales is a sprint and good sale people want all obstacles removed from their path. Marketing, on the other hand, is a marathon. Careful preparation and a strong content strategy is the best way to guarantee success and pave the way for sales. You can’t have sales drive marketing any more than you can take a sprinter’s approach to a marathon. Marketing needs to drive the organisation. When that happens, there’s not a salesperson that complains about it.

What do you think? Should sales drive an organisation?

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Content Marketing World Sydney

Content Marketing World was held last week in Sydney. I presented at the three-day event (that’s the storyboard of my globalisation presentation) and attended as many sessions as possible. Acting on one of the key recommendations, I’ve resisted the “race to report”. Instead, I have intentionally deliberated the good, the bad and the ugly parts of the conference and share them here with you. One thing’s for sure, content marketing in Australia is entering a new phase and it brings both positive and negative aspects.

Graphical Recording of Globalising Content for an International Audience presentation

Graphical Recording of Globalising Content for an International Audience by Kelly Kingman

Don’t rent

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, opened the event with advice to quit building content and communities on platforms you don’t own. Speaking about social networking and sharing sites, he mentioned a few popular channels including Facebook. His view is that when you spend time and effort building pages of content on an address you don’t own, you’re only renting space. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter are encouraging you to become ensconced in their properties.

I think Joe is right about this. Over the past year, we’ve seen less return on our rental properties as they all pursue ways to earn more revenue. Facebook, in particular, is making it hard for brands to gain influence within their own communities unless they agree to promote posts.

Bobbi Mahlab from Mahlab Media presented an excellent case study on the benefits of owning your own property.  IPWEA – The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia – have painstakingly created online communities attached to their own website and are enjoying impressive traffic and community engagement. Their key to success lies in an integrated content strategy combining email, online and offline content.  This in, turn, has created revenue opportunities for IPWEA.

 

Tell stories

The battle cry of the conference was ‘tell stories’ with your content.  Bernadette Jiwa, brand story strategist and author of Difference, gave a passionate keynote address dedicated to storytelling. Her view is that marketing is not a department but should be the centre of storytelling excellence in your company. It’s also the way you create difference for your brand. Jiwa raised a few eyebrows when she said, “empathy is the most underrated business resource we’ve got.” She made the point that consumers make decisions based on emotion because humans are ‘feeling people who think’. If you’ve ever had a ‘gut feeling’, you know it’s true.

 

Personally, I was blown away by Jiwa’s presentation but I know there were eyes rolling in the room. That’s a big problem in the Australian content marketing industry. Many service providers – and brands to a certain extent – are still looking for an easy answer to content marketing. Telling and writing good stories is hard. If you’re not prepared to do either, I say you should get out of the content marketing space altogether.

If you’re one of the skeptics, consider Black Milk Clothing. They’re a Brisbane-based company with the most ebullient following you could imagine. They’ve never spent money on advertising but rely on storytelling to market their company. According to Cameron Parker, Head of Sales & Marketing at Black Milk, they tell stories at every opportunity. Their sales receipt comes with a 556-word note that does nothing but make you feel like you’re part of their gang.  That’s just a tiny example of how bringing your customers on a storytelling journey creates brand loyalty no amount of corporate-speak can manage. Which brings me to the next lesson . . .

Get ‘off message’

Tim Washer, social media lead at Cisco Systems urged content marketers not to insult the intelligence of our collective audiences. He spoke about the problem with ‘creativity by committee’ and why it almost never works. He also addressed the insistence by many companies to plaster logos and brand messages on every piece of content. Washer reminded us that our consumers are smart and deluging them with marketing messages is one of the least effective ways to communicate.

Washer is a funny guy with serious comedy credentials but he insists anyone can successfully add humor to their content.  He proved that by showing funny videos on staid topics from both IBM and Cisco.

Be remarkable

An indication that content marketing has matured was the repeated recommendation to do something amazing with your content. It’s becoming obvious many of the content marketing practitioners have figured out producing content can be a grind. I definitely include myself in this category. While two or three years ago the conventional wisdom was to create a lot of content, the advice this year centered on creating great content, amazing content, remarkable content. Both Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute and Tim Washer counselled attendees to spend time working on nurturing our creative brain.  The internet is awash with mediocre and rotten content right now. Creating more of that isn’t going to cut through anything.

Agencies are wrecking the joint

One thing that surprised me this year was how many agencies were in attendance. Content marketing has become a buzzword in Australia and there’s a bandwagon mentality in play. It seems like the SEO and social media gangs are viewing content as a bolt-on tactic and that should raise alarms for brands. Most of the marketing content from these groups is weak which is a worry. If you can’t create awesome content for your own business, how are you going to do it for a client? Marketing brochure from Editor Group titled These are a few of our favourite things

There are notable exceptions, of course, like Mahlab Media who was mentioned earlier in this post. I loved the brochure from Editor Group, self-professed literary geeks, word nerds and pedants for punctuation. It’s a little booklet giving excellent examples of content, why they love it and the lesson learned from each one. I read the whole thing, cover to cover. When was the last time you did that to a marketing brochure? I’m sure the alphabet runs through their blood stream.  I’m also encouraged to see Cirrus Media has journalist and content marketing expert Jonathan Crossfield contributing to their blog along with folks like Jeff Bullas and Edwina Lawry.  These are the kind of groups I want to help with a content marketing project and ones I’d recommend to my clients.

Another one to watch is King Content. Craig Hodges started ‘King’ in 2010 and was one of the first people in Australia to recognise the shift in marketing. King Content recently opened a second office in Melbourne. Interestingly, Hodges hired Todd Wheatland, the former CMO at KellyOCG, as Head of Strategy. That, to me, speaks volumes about King Content’s commitment and vision towards content marketing.

The ugly bit

There’s no doubt the industry is maturing but we still have a long way to go in Australia. We didn’t see a lot of Australian brand stories this year indicating we have a lot more work to do creating successful content marketing programs. I got pretty sick of hearing vendors bleat about their own products and was surprised how often this happened during presentations. I expect to hear from sponsors of the different streams by way of session introductions but really wish the hard sell is left to the exhibition stands.

There was also an undercurrent of superiority in some of the attendees that bothered me. In some cases it felt like people were going to sessions not to learn but to find fault. There were rumblings that there were too many international speakers, an assertion I find flabbergasting. We’re not on the bleeding edge of content marketing in Australia, far from it. If we, as an industry, can’t recognise the value experience brings, then I’m worried about the quality of service being delivered to Australian brands.

In one session I didn’t attend, the speaker was heckled from the floor. Knowing what it takes to put together an hour-long session (hours upon hours of preparation) and the guts it takes to stand in front of your industry peers and speak, I find it appalling. I would hope these issues are addressed directly with the conference organisers in the future. The content marketing culture in other countries, especially the USA, is open, inclusive and supportive. It will be a complete shame if we can’t foster that here. I hope these aren’t early warning signs that the backbiting and sniping rife in the PR and advertising sectors are coming across to content marketing.

Overall impressions

I came back from the event exhausted and inspired. What more can you really ask from a conference? I’m encouraged to think we’re moving away from strategies focused on volume and vanity metrics to one of quality storytelling. When I hear about examples like IPWEA and Black Milk, I get excited about the opportunities we have to do something very different with marketing.

But, like every other content marketing conference I’ve attended, the call to action is daunting. This year I commit to getting more sleep, spending more time thinking and less time doing. I’m giving myself permission to focus on the creative side of content creation. I’m convinced this shift will produce improved quality and go a long way to creating amazing content strategies.

 Did you go to Content Marketing World Sydney? What were your impressions?