Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

By marcia-johnston published January 3, 2018

The New Marketing: How to Manage a Media Arm Within Your Company


2017 was the year brands buy media companies, according to Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose who made the declaration in a This Old Marketing podcast last May. Did it happen? Has your organization bought any media companies or even maybe built its own media arm?

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By marcia-johnston published December 28, 2017

The Zen of Content Marketing: Higher Consciousness, Better Performance

zen-content-marketingWeek after week since January 2015, CMI has sent a Content Strategy for Marketers e-newsletter written by CMI Chief Strategy Advisor Robert Rose. In this newsletter, Robert delivers marketing insights through a zen sensibility, leaving many of us inspired as businesspeople and as people. (Since December, the Content Strategy Newsletter merged with the weekly newsletter, bringing Robert’s thoughts to even more subscribers.)

Every year I highlight some of my favorite messages from this newsletter to give subscribers a second chance to savor some of Robert’s insights while giving everyone else a taste of what they’ve missed.

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By marcia-johnston published December 20, 2017

Is Your Marketing Ready for 2018?

marketing-ready-2018After you put away the champagne flutes and flip the calendar to 2018, what will you set your sights on to take your marketing to the next level in the new year? What has 2017 taught you?

One place to look for lessons is CMI’s two conferences – Content Marketing World and Intelligent Content Conference. As I review the blog posts I’ve written this year about the talks at those conferences, I’m struck by one big takeaway: Marketers need to expand their view of their role and their sense of how they can contribute to the business.

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By marcia-johnston published December 7, 2017

Less Brand, More Identity: The Zombie Business Cure


No company wants to be a zombie – an uncaring, brainless, ruthless, inhuman thing that does whatever it takes to keep going. Yet examples abound of companies that behave in zombie-like ways, often paying the price in lost sales and damaged reputations.

How does a business cure itself of a case of the zombies? That’s the question that content strategist and UX specialist Melissa Eggleston answers in her Content Marketing World talk, Zombies All Look the Same: Using Identity-based Content Strategy to Stand Out.

The author of the book The Zombie Business Cure: How to Refocus Your Company’s Identity for More Authentic Communication, Melissa urges businesses to concern themselves less with their brands (how they want to be seen) and more with their identities (who they are).
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By marcia-johnston published November 30, 2017

How to Adopt a Customer-Centric Strategy for Your Content


Does your company look at content through customers’ eyes? Here’s one way to tell: Look at your marketing content. For starters, riffle through some titles. Do the words typically convey customers’ concerns? Or do they mostly call attention to the things you sell?

If products hog the spotlight, you’re missing opportunities to build customer relationships and, ultimately, revenue. You’re also missing opportunities to streamline your content efforts throughout the organization, including distribution, management, and reuse.
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By marcia-johnston published November 20, 2017

Scale Your B2B Content With Artificial Intelligence: Ideas and Tools Marketers Can Try


“Same house, right?” The question came via Facebook Messenger from a friend who was coming over for dinner. Under his message appeared two options: yes and no. With one touch of a fingertip, my answer appeared in a blue bubble as if I had typed y-e-s myself.

That experience, a first for me, was so logical, natural, convenient, and simple that I hardly noticed it. An app had recognized my friend’s message as a yes-no question and had presented me with ready-to-use replies. Nothing about the exchange shouted, “Hey! Check it out! Artificial intelligence at work!”

Only after I heard Paul Roetzer’s Content Marketing World talk did I realize that my experience represented exactly that: artificial intelligence at work.

In fact, artificial intelligence is at work all around us. And this “science of making machines smart” (Paul’s favorite definition, which comes from Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of Google DeepMind) is beginning to open possibilities for B2B marketers who want to increase efficiency, boost performance, and create a competitive advantage.

If you take away only one thing from this post, let it be Paul’s mantra: “Try it!”

If you take away two things, let the second be “Don’t wait!”

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By marcia-johnston published November 16, 2017

Why Marketers Need to Think Like Data Scientists (And How to Do It)

marketers-think-data-scientistsYour company may not employ data scientists today. And you might be fine with that. Consider, though, that if you’re not working with a data scientist or at least thinking like one, you’re missing something: the ability to say “I know” instead of merely “I think.”

That distinction matters when you’re talking with executives, says content marketer and consultant Katrina Neal. “If you walk into a meeting in a next-generation data-driven organization and announce, ‘I think this campaign is going to work,’ you could risk being humiliated in front of your colleagues and asked to leave the room.”

A marketer who says “I think” in front of data-driven execs may be asked to leave, says @Katrina_Neal. Click To Tweet

On the other hand, if you walk in with what you know, people listen. They might even approve your budget.

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By marcia-johnston published November 8, 2017

What to Do After You Press Record: A Formula for Videos People Love

formula-videos-people-lovePeople are flocking to Amy Schmittauer’s YouTube series, Savvy Sexy Social. As of this writing, she has 75,947 subscribers. Wait, 75,948 … 949.  Wouldn’t you love to know why?

Hint: It’s not because her brand name includes the word “sexy,” a word she chose because she advises marketers on how to bring out the sexy in whatever they sell.

Her popularity comes, at least in part, from her discovery of a formula for making videos that people love.

Amy Schmittauer Landino, a consultant in video content marketing and author of the book Vlog Like a Boss, spilled her secrets at Content Marketing World in her talk How to Create and Repurpose Video Content for More Attention. While I won’t reveal everything (how sexy would that be?), I will share her nine-part formula for what to do after you hit record.

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By marcia-johnston published November 2, 2017

How to Use How-To Content to Create and Retain Loyal Customers


Does your team focus on the top of the marketing funnel, developing most of your content to create brand awareness and nurture leads? If so, you may miss the rewards that come from focusing on the bottom or (depending on how you define your funnel) below.

I’m talking about focusing on the content needs of people who are on the verge of buying what you sell, people who have just bought, and people who are between purchases.

One company that’s doing just that – with gusto – is outdoor-gear retailer REI. Its library of how-to content, which contains over 500 in-depth articles and videos, is proving that how-to content (aka utility content) can create and retain loyal customers. So says Eric Hess, senior program manager for content marketing at REI, who presented REI’s How-To Guide to How-To Content at Content Marketing World.

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By marcia-johnston published October 26, 2017

8 Rules for the Startup Marketer (or Anyone Who Wants to Think Like One)


If you work in a big, established company, a presentation on being a marketer on a small team, especially a small team in a startup, may not seem to apply to you. But the wisdom 2015 Content Marketer of the Year Vishal Khanna has to share extends to anyone who wants the flexibility and performance possible when you act like a startup marketer.

For most of his 15-plus years in marketing, Vishal has been his organization’s only resource for marketing, communications, and media relations. “Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve had a low budget, no staff, no resources, and limited access. In that situation, you’ve got to be creative,” he says.

Whether or not you think of your company as a startup, put on your startup-marketer hat, and consider which pieces of Vishal’s advice might make all the difference for you.

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