Over the last 12 months, CCO magazine doubled down on content marketing strategy for executives. While we still publish some how-to, tactical information, we are more focused on publishing content that helps marketers refine their existing systems, and prepare for future disruptions. Picking my favorite articles from 2014 is a little like asking me to choose my favorite child, but I did it. (Note: The titles are from the print version.) If you have a print issue, look these up, as we often feature sidebar content that doesn’t make it online. (If you don’t subscribe to the print version of CCO, make sure you sign up today – it’s free.)
How Content Strategy and Content Marketing are Separate, but Connected – In response to a lot of confusion among marketers about the difference between content marketing and content strategy, Robert Rose wrote this article to set the record straight. The conversations that followed show the definitions – and the alleged difference between the two disciplines – are not even close to finalized. But this article proved prescient as 2014 was the year the Content Marketing Institute invested heavily in content strategy (buying the Intelligent Content Conference and launching the ICC blog). (Note: This article also is an example of how to repackage content for different platforms, as Rose originally wrote it as a CMI blog post.)
Also in February: The Artist’s Perspective: Collaborating on Content Creation – We interviewed my favorite photographer, Thomas Hawk, who has nearly 7 million followers on Google Plus and Flickr, about his breathtaking work with brands like Ford and the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Hawk’s thoughts on how brands should (and should not) approach artists for collaboration projects is a must-read for marketers.
Prove Your Commitment to Achieving Content Marketing ROI – Longtime CCO contributor Arnie Kuenn wrote about metrics in a decidedly non-wonky way … a perfect discussion for executive marketers who need to lead the troops on this critical issue without wandering into the deep weeds.
How Powerful Brand Storytelling Can Supplant Commercials – Plenty has been written about Chipotle’s famous scarecrow video. In fact, I’d say Chipotle is nearing Red Bull as one of the most-often-cited examples of great content marketing. We didn’t want to rehash the topic. But when Michael Weiss called me and said he had sat next to one of the partners at famed talent agency CAA, and that CAA had been responsible for the Chipotle campaign, my antenna went up. A top L.A. talent agency was behind the Chipotle scarecrow videos? We’ve been telling marketers to become storytellers for years, but this was an example of a brand hiring the big guns for truly entertaining content. I won’t give anything away, but this article is an absolute must-read.
Also in April: Why Native Advertising Won’t Survive, Regardless of FTC Involvement – I count Kirk Cheyfitz among the smartest thinkers about the future of content marketing. He is the co-CEO at Story Worldwide (a content agency he founded that was recently acquired by Next15) and he’s unafraid to speak his mind about thorny issues like native advertising. In this article he takes issue with the FTC’s message that it will more closely watch brands’ handling of native advertising. If you have time, all of Cheyfitz’s articles for CCO are great reading.
How Content Creators Can Provide the Actionable Relevance the C-Suite Needs – When people approach me to say they enjoyed an article in CCO, they most often cite Roanne Neuwirth’s writing. Her columns focus on how to reach the coveted C-level executive, and in this issue she writes persuasively about how to arm sales executives with the right tools to sell.
Make Your Demand Generation More Effective With These 3 Processes – Need to know how to set up your demand generation strategy? This simple article is packed with useful information. I’ve shared it with clients a half-dozen times because I find it to be such a smart, well-explained system for demand generation.
4 Ways Wearable Tech Could Change Your Marketing Strategy – When we decided to focus on wearable technology for the June issue, we didn’t realize the topic was about to print in WIRED as a massive feature. In response, we knew our wearable feature needed to dive deep and uncover what issues marketers should watch for as they experiment and plan for wearable tech. Erin Rodat-Savla, a longtime CCO contributor, interviewed both marketers and technologists to tease out the complex issues with which marketers will need to wrestle.
Also in June: How Automating Your Social Media Content Can Hurt Your Brand – Jonathan Crossfield is our social media savant from Australia who entertains and informs in equal measure. In the June issue, Jonathan took issue with marketing automation applied to social media. The article is worthwhile not only to hear his mild rant on the issue, but to hear from other marketers who don’t always agree.
Why Your Content Marketing Team Needs a Marketing Technologist – Scott Brinker is founder of the popular Chief Marketing Technologist blog, and I have relied on him for years to learn about new issues in technology-powered marketing. In June he explained the role of the marketing technologist, and explained why this person may be your most important hire of the year.
Brand Storytelling: Turning Casual Fans into Passionate Followers – Our CMW show issue was packed with content marketing predictions, but my favorite was a story about Black Milk, the women’s fashion startup from Australia. Our Australia editor, Sarah Mitchell, explained the phenomenon of Black Milk to us outsiders and how a couple of guys built a massively successful company focused solely on women’s tights. Their secret: online communities that put the customer way ahead of the brand. Just as we were ready to go to print, Black Milk was involved in a social media dust-up that took us all by surprise – particularly given the brand’s commitment to its community. We wavered … should we still run with this story? Our verdict: Heck yes! As with many social media snafus, it blew over quickly and Black Milk learned a lot from the controversy. You’ll have to read the article to find out.
Also in August: How Measurement Can Kill Your Content Marketing Strategy – Eric Wittlake always offers sage advice about demand generation and content marketing strategy. In this submission, he warns marketers that focusing too intently on measurement can diminish customer experience. And he points out signs that your measurement-driven tactics have gone too far.
Why Content Strategists Shouldn’t Lose Sight of Actual People – How could we talk about the future of content strategy without interviewing Jonathon Colman, a content strategist at Facebook and blogger at jonathoncolman.org? We called on a handful of smart content strategists to ask incisive questions, and Colman delivered the goods.
7 Ancient Archetypes Your Brand Storytelling Should Use – When I asked Bryan Rhoads to write for CCO about his work at Intel, I didn’t know he was going to win Content Marketer of the Year. If you read no other article from CCO in 2014, read this one (and make sure to watch the accompanying video from Intel). Rhoads talks about the role of story archetypes and how Intel uses them to craft truly memorable, cinematic stories. It’s a great reminder that for all we chase that is bright and shiny, we also would do well to study ancient storytelling techniques.
Also in October: No More Boring Brands: Creative Content from a Conservative Company – Renee Richardson was one of our finalists for the Content Marketer of the Year award for her role in creating Caterpillar’s Built for It™ video series. I love the interview because I often hear, “our brand just isn’t exciting.” Tell that to Richardson, who sells earth-moving equipment. Caterpillar proves there are no boring brands.
Why Your Brand Should Speak Human – In the push to be more personable, brands still struggle to get it right. Kevin Lund and Eileen Sutton offer beautiful advice about how brands can be more human. I particularly like their description of your handshake moment.
Star Shares What Content Marketers Can Learn From The Entertainment Industry – I love my job. And I loved it long before I had a chance to interview Kevin Spacey. In anticipation of the meeting, I binge-watched House of Cards. (Who can say watching House of Cards is a job requirement? Yeah, I thought so.) What I loved most about this interview (and about Spacey’s talk at Content Marketing World) is that he highlights the influence marketers can have in realms once off limits to them. I got my start years ago as a marketer in financial services, and in those years I was little more than someone who adorned brochures and wrote vanilla descriptions about investment products. Spacey spoke so eloquently about how he welcomes the collaboration of brands to make great content – a message that should inspire marketers. Read the article, then watch the clip from Content Marketing World.
Also in December: Build it? Buying Niche Media May be Better – Who says you need to toil for years to grow your audience and build a following? Is it possible you can acquire an existing community? This article by James Dillon is an eye-opener for marketers who want to super-fuel their content marketing program.
What’s next for content marketing? You. – In a nice pairing with the Spacey article, Robert Rose writes a soul-searching article about how marketers must become change agents inside their organizations if they truly aspire to delight their customers with content. I advise you to sit down with a notebook in hand when you read this article and reflect on what structures and processes in your organization must change if you’re going to be nimble in the face of disruption.
Want more articles like this? Sign up to receive your free subscription to Chief Content Officer, CMI’s bi-monthly print magazine. Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute