By Joe Pulizzi published March 11, 2011

Not Talent, but Perseverance in Content Creation

This article from Sports Illustrated intrigued me.  It’s a feature on Texas Ranger’s pitcher C.J. Wilson.

In it, Wilson says “Talent is irrelevant…I’ve got much less natural talent than lots of other pitchers…I wasn’t even the best player on my Little League team.”

Wilson says what counts the most is “…perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire”.

This is just one lone example.  Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and others come to mind as well.

I would dare say that the single most important characteristic of successful content marketers (individuals and brands) is perseverance.

Do you know of any great bloggers that haven’t, time after time, consistently delivered? Seth Godin, Copyblogger, Lee Odden, Mack Collier…they all deliver. Not all of the posts are diamonds, but the collection of singles and doubles throughout the years have led to world series titles for each of them.

The same holds for brands…American Express Open Forum, Pinsent Masons, Openview Venture Partners.

So, if, by whatever measure you use to judge success, if you are not seeing success, I would first look at your consistency. How well are you at creation, listening, iteration and then creation again? Content marketing is a promise to your customers. If you stop or are too irregular with your content, are you breaking your promise?

Winners want it more.  They never stop. They persevere…and it pays off.

By Scott Frangos published March 10, 2011

Three Tests to Optimize Your Website: VBO, LPO and CRO


This is the second post in a CMI series on Connection Cycle Marketing (CCM).  Our first article in this series offered an overview of CCM. Next up, we’ll look at one of the strategies and tactics to help with one of the first key components: Optimization.

Connection Cycle MarketingThe first rule of optimization is to  remember you are not optimizing a “website,” but actually optimizing the way your visitors/prospects THINK about your company and its offers.

With that in mind, it’s TLA time, folks (Three Letter Acronyms)! I’ll walk you through three types of optimization and their associated tests: what they are, why you would use them and when they make sense.Continue Reading

By Joe Pulizzi published March 10, 2011

Content Marketing: 5 Tips to Go Big or Go Home!

I read this announcement with pleasure about Hubspot’s recent investment from Google Ventures, Sequoia and Salesforce. Congratulations to them.

The last point from Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan is critical for not just business owners, but content marketers.

It Is A Go Big Or Go Home World We Live In – I learned in b-school that the natural state of most industries is an oligopoly where there a number of players with smaller than 50% of the market. Since the internet, we believe we have moved into a winner-take-all world where the market leader in a new industry gets 80%+ of the market cap in their industry, like Google (search), Salesforce (CRM), Groupon (group buying), VMWare (virtualization), etc. We believe we have a head start in an important new industry, so we are hitting the gas to try be that winner who takes all.

This is EXACTLY the way you have to think about your content marketing creation or distribution.Continue Reading

By Sarah Mitchell published March 9, 2011

Lost in Translation? An 11-Step Checklist for Localizing Content

We’ve all had a giggle over a bad translation. Examples of unintentionally funny gaffes on assembly instructions and product descriptions abound on the Internet. But it’s not funny when it happens to you.

What can you do?

As the old saying goes, the devil is in the detail. With that in mind, here is the checklist I use when localizing content. Make sure each of these points is checked off your list before you launch content in a different country or geography.

Paper

American standard paper is 8 ½ x 11 inches. The rest of the world operates on an A4 paper size, 21 x 29.7 cm or, roughly, 8 ¼ x 11 ¾ inches. It’s a small difference with a huge impact. American-sized documents do not easily fit into envelopes or binders in other countries. Your documents must be resized – and possibly redesigned – to ensure they print properly in your foreign market.

Hole punches

America uses a standard 3-hole punch. Most other countries use a 2-hole punch and are not aligned with the American standard. If you’re providing content to be inserted into a binder, make sure you’re punching the holes in the right place.

Spelling

Many words are spelled differently in the United States than in other English speaking countries. While American audiences tend to find these differences charming, foreign audiences bristle at the “arrogance” of not taking spelling into consideration. You must go through your content with an editorial eagle-eye to find these differences. Set your spell checker to the language and country where you plan on publishing and make the changes required.

Spelling traps include:

  • Words ending in ‘or’, e.g.  color versus colour
  • words ending in ‘ize’, e.g. optimize versus optimise
  • Medical terms, e.g. pediatrician versus paediatrician
  • Botany/gardening terms, e.g.  cilantro versus coriander
  • Food terms, e.g. zucchini versus courgette

Slang/colloquialism

Running afoul of local slang and colloquialisms can be embarrassing. I discovered this firsthand when I announced to a group of my British male colleagues that I was feeling particularly ‘spunky.’ I meant full of energy; they interpreted it as having a heightened libido.  I was horrified when a mature gentleman asked to borrow a rubber; he wanted an eraser. In South Africa, I couldn’t find a ‘robot’ and got lost on my first day of work. I had no idea I was looking for a traffic light. You get the picture.

Abbreviations and titles

If you’ve ever read a foreign newspaper, you know how frustrating it can be to encounter abbreviations or titles you don’t understand. Government,  law enforcement, medicine and the legal profession use different titles for the same job in different countries. For example, attorney, lawyer, barrister, judge and solicitor all refer to professionals employed in a court of law. Do your readers in every country know what people hold jobs with MP, DC, GP or DO abbreviations in their title?

Units of measure

While most of the world comfortably operates on the metric system, the USA is still using the old Imperial system for weight, measurement and temperature. Your documents will be meaningless to people who don’t how long a yard is, what 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels like, or how much 45 pounds weigh.  Use an online metric conversion program to make life easier for your readers.

Cooking

If you’re publishing recipes, cookbooks or anything to do with food preparation, you’re going to want to spend some time localizing your content. America – and to a lesser extent Britain – still uses Imperial measurements while nearly everyone else is on the metric system. A good online cooking converter will help you convert ingredients, temperatures, weights and volumes. Keep in mind the way food products are packaged can trip you up, too. Asking for a ‘stick of butter’ is sure to confuse anyone outside the USA. A fluid pint varies in volume from country to country. A punnet is common in Australia but unknown in the USA (it’s a small basket often used when selling fruits).

Number formats

A dead give-away your content hasn’t been localized is if your telephone numbers reflect the American standard of (123) 456-7890. In Australia, we have 2-digit area codes and 8-digit phone numbers and note them like this (01) 2345 6789. Our postal codes are 4-digits long. Make sure your documents are changed to reflect these differences. It’s  important to make sure your online forms can handle different formats for critical numbers. I’ve given up ordering online more than once because an American website insists on a 5-digit zip code and won’t let me complete an order.

Currency

While business is pretty good at getting their pricing translated into foreign currency, they often fall down when expressing the value of things. Dollars and cents have no meaning in many parts of the world. Even more confusing, many people have no point of reference for a quarter, dime or nickel. I wish I had a quarter for every time someone asked me how much a dime or a nickel was worth!

Fiscal Years

The financial calendar varies widely from country to country as do tax years. If your content deals with finances, make sure you’re not confusing things by referring to the wrong business calendar. This is especially important if you’re running year-end sales or promotions.  Don’t expect your local market to share your fiscal year or tax year.

Accents

Americans love accents but the world does not reciprocate the feeling. If you’re producing videos or podcasts for foreign markets, hire a voice-over specialist with a native accent even if it’s the same language you speak. Your audience will appreciate the consideration. More importantly, they’ll be able to easily understand the point you’re trying to get across. You want them focused on your content, not the way the narrator is speaking.

A couple of notes on translation

If you’re distributing your content into a foreign-language market, get a native-speaking translator. Don’t rely on free Internet translation services: they give literal translations but don’t consider the way people actually speak. I once heard the late founder of the Body Shop, Anita Roddick, speak about a debacle with a major rollout of a ‘mother and baby’ line of products. The South American translation, performed in the U.K., offended everyone when the product names took on a profane slur against motherhood.

If your plan is to publish only in countries using the same speaking language, you still need to employ local services to ‘translate’ your content. Spanish speaking countries vary greatly in their usage of the language. China has several different dialects. People from Brazil have a tough time understanding people from Portugal even though they all speak Portuguese. The worst language offences occur in English-speaking countries where spelling differences, slang and colloquialisms can render your content useless. At the very least, it shows a lack of consideration for your potential clients.

For an example of my latest localization project, read the Australian edition of Chief Content Officer.

Do you have a good story about localization or any points to add to this checklist?

By Manya Chylinski published March 8, 2011

How to Mine the Press for Content

When it comes to finding ideas for your marketing content, you can easily run into a wall. To fill the pipeline, you need a constant source of relevant and usable ideas. You created an editorial calendar tied to company milestones, you found a way to repurpose existing content, you have a thought leader in your midst who likes to expound on big ideas, and you have identified relevant outside content to curate and publish.

If you’re still asking yourself these questions:

  • How can I find topical ideas for my content?
  • What can I do to keep the content fresh and exciting?
  • How can I engage the audience more?

 

it might be a good time to look outside your organization and industry for inspiration.

To find ideas in the press and in the blogosphere, you need to think like a journalist.

Here are five ways to start mining the media:

News

 

Find a way to change the scope of a news item and make it relevant to your audience. Perhaps you narrow a national story or expand a local one. Or you take a piece of the story and relate it to your company. Even if a story isn’t directly related to your industry or your market, you may find useful nuggets in the business press or local news.

Internet

  • Search the Internet, especially industry and governmental organizations, blogs, magazines, and other media
  • Set up alerts or RSS feeds for relevant organizations and topics
  • Set up alerts for news releases and newswire reports, working closely with your PR department so you don’t duplicate effort
  • Keep track of upcoming conferences in your industry and related industries and learn about the hot topics
  • Read newsletters from industry organizations.

Data

Find surveys, research reports, lists of the top companies, year-end reviews or the like. See what connections you find and if this inspires thoughts about content for your marketing program.

Competition

  • Check out your competitors’ websites to find out what is new
  • Read their press releases and press kits
  • Sign up for their newsletters or RSS feeds
  • Read their publications, white papers and case studies.

Conversation

Talk to the industry insiders you know and find out what’s on their minds. Chances are they will have good ideas to share or interesting stories that haven’t been told yet.

Now that you know where to look to find ideas and inspiration, it’s time to get creative. Here are the six questions to ask to get at the heart of the information and find the best story to tell your audience.

Who?

Think about how to make this story or idea relevant for your audience. Who is the target audience for this content? How can you change the approach to make it work for your readers?

For example, the marketing director at a software company reads about analyzing business data in a trade magazine and wants to create a white paper about their own software that addresses this issue. The original story was targeted to technology executives, but the company’s target market is front line managers and non-technical executives. The original piece sparked the idea and the final white paper reworked the story to focus on how their software solved the problems of their target market.

What?

Think about finding a different angle on the story, one that specifically meets the needs of your audience. Consider simplifying or narrowing the topic, expanding the idea, or changing the context so it is applicable to your readers.

  • What triggered this story?
  • Would changing the context of the piece help you create useful content?
  • Can the news item be more relevant to your readers with insights from your experts?

If the story is timely and deserves discussion with a media outlet, you may need to get your PR team involved.

When?

News stories are usually timely and very important right now.  Think about whether the story has relevance for a longer time, and how you can you rework it to take advantage of that. If the story is a continuing or evergreen story, think about the perspective you or your experts bring to the topic or consider recurring posts to keep your customers updated.

Why?

Think about why this particular piece of information is important. Why did this event or incident happen?  If the story includes or excludes certain information, consider how you might use what is missing to come up with a new story angle for your content.

Consider a government agency that finds a story about one of their partners and programs in the local paper, a local human interest story tied to the start of the school year. The agency took inspiration from the piece to create a case study focusing on the part of the story important to their constituency—the successful creation of a school supported program—to share the specifics with their partners, to help them create similar programs in their own communities.

Where?

Consider reworking a blog piece or news story about something that happened in a different state or country and connecting it to your audience. Or if you find a relevant local story, think about how to make it useful to a national or international audience.

How?

Think about the manner in which the news story came to be. How did this happen? What if you imagined different circumstances? Or took an opposing viewpoint? Or what if you shared the information in a different way? Consider how the idea could be told differently in another format, such as a video or podcast.

The goal of this exercise is to find content for your marketing program. Since you are not creating timely news pieces, you generally have a longer time horizon than your PR team. Consider these sources and different ways of thinking about them as another tool in your kit for creating relevant content for your customers and prospects.

If you have any insights about how you develop content, please share them with us.

By Constance Semler published March 7, 2011

How to Boost Audio Quality to Make Your Content More Effective

Video gets a lot of play in content marketing and social media, so much so that audio is like a neglected stepsister. The time is ripe for her to break out and claim her rightful place in your content marketing world, and here’s why:

1) Get big rewards for a little extra effort

Pay just a little more attention to the audio portion of content creation, and you’ll see a big difference in your content’s overall production value. Recently, I participated in a roundtable discussion at Podcamp Toronto 2011 , and one speaker said that higher production value is becoming more important in social media, to the point that it can make or break a bid for sponsors.

2) Be nice to your audience

Our brains work hard to process sound, much harder than they do to process images. Enhancing audio quality makes it easier for your audience to tune into your content and remember information. The longer the run-time of the piece, the more important its quality. After all, you want people to feel invigorated, not fatigued, by your content.

3) Stand out in a sea of content

On the Web, multimedia content is virtually everywhere and it varies enormously in quality, which partly explains the rise of content curation or “selection of worthwhile content.” Good audio makes your content stand out in a sea of unremarkable content.

What affects audio quality and what can you do about it?

Let’s examine one recording scenario – an audio-only podcast series.

You can record an audio podcast series at your office, but I recommend that you do not use the microphone (mic) built into your computer.

  • Background noise, like the whirr of computer fans, hallway chatter and clatter, and sounds from the street outside, makes some words difficult for your listeners to hear.
  • Weak and distant sound is the typical result of using an on-board computer mic, like the sound of your voice when you speak into a telephone receiver held away from your mouth. Listeners shouldn’t have to get used to hearing people speak off mic.
  • Reverberation as sound bounces from hard surfaces such as walls, windows, ceilings and floors, cancels out some frequencies. Audio quality deteriorates further when problems like reverberation occur together with background noise.

The alternative to a built-in microphone is an external microphone, with three main options.

  • Option one – use a microphone held on a stand and speak into it from a distance of about six inches. This solution is good if you’re recording in a room with little reverberation or background noise, and one person is being recorded.
  • Option two – use a headband microphone, which is a good idea if your room has reverberation or background noise, and one person is being recorded. Keep the microphone slightly to the side rather than directly in front of your mouth. This way, you won’t pick up so much of your breathing or produce ‘pops’ when you pronounce words with the letter ‘p’.
  • Option three – use a wired microphone held by hand, which is useful when you’re interviewing someone face to face. Hold the microphone no more than six inches from your mouth, then hold it the same distance from the other party’s mouth when they speak. As you move the microphone around, a lot of noise can travel from the cable up into the microphone, but you can avoid this by coiling the cable once and holding it like so:

You could use additional mics for recording two or more people but this requires mixing audio signals.

Right now, hold your hand six inches from your mouth and say “pop” or “pub”, and you can feel the breath on your skin. Whether you’re using a hand-held mic or a mic on a stand, consider placing a windscreen (a foam cover) on the mic to minimize this effect. If pops still occur, move the mic slightly off center.

How quiet is quiet?

  1. The secret sauce of good audio recording is a quiet room. If you’re unsure of whether the noise in your recording environment will be intrusive, do this simple test:Record yourself speaking for fifteen seconds and continue recording for another fifteen seconds without speaking.
  2. Play the test audio for yourself through headphones or ear buds, adjusting the playback volume so your voice is at a comfortable listening level. This is your reference level: it doesn’t tell you if your voice was recorded at the correct level, but it does tell you how noisy the room is.

Why is this test important? Your brain naturally filters out noisy distractions, but a microphone doesn’t. It records everything. By recording and playing back what the microphone “hears” you can judge background noise accurately.

Advice from the masters

I sometimes work on projects with my husband, an award-winning British film and TV sound editor. He has recorded hundreds of famous voices like those of Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and John Cleese. I’ve learned that producing good audio content is a matter of using the equipment you have as effectively as possible. Regardless of your budget, with know-how and ingenuity, you can produce content that’s a pleasure for your audience to tune into again and again.

By Jenny Lemmons Magic published March 4, 2011

How To Talk So Your Target Audience Will Listen

Struggling with what to say on your blog or social media sites? Have you made all the “new product” announcements but you’re still lacking followers and fans? Here are a few tips.Continue Reading

By Joe Pulizzi published March 3, 2011

7 Content Marketing Happenings You Need to Know About

Well, the world of content marketing is getting a whole lot busier these days, including some things you may or may not know about. For this post, I wanted to make sure everyone was updated on the latest content marketing treats.  Thanks to our amazing content marketing team and contributors for making much of this possible.

  1. Google Move Great for Content Marketers.  I’m working on a story for BtoB magazine on this, but the early prognosis is that Google’s algorithm changes are a boon for content marketers.  More to come.
  2. Content Marketing Awards deadline in two weeks. The Magnum Opus awards (which I like to call the content marketing awards) are approaching their deadline on March 18th.  Be sure to get your content projects in ASAP.
  3. Content Marketing comes to South by Southwest.  NPR host Tom Ashbrook will moderate this panel on how brands are becoming publishers.
  4. Updated Speaker Lineup for Content Marketing World 2011. Check out the additions here – we’ve added Brian Clark from Copyblogger, Michael Stelzner from SocialMediaExaminer.com, Todd Wheatland from Kelly Services, Alison Bolen from SAS, Ellen Moreau from Sherwin Williams and dozens more. Early bird ends April 30th. Register here (HEY FOLKS, we will sell out this event, so don’t delay).
  5. Content Marketing Institute launches International versions of Chief Content Officer magazine.  Check out the European and Australian versions of CCO.
  6. Junta42 launches Content Marketing Vendor Directory.  We’re just finishing up our beta on this, but the vendors are starting to fill in.
  7. CMI PRO Membership made free.  If you haven’t seen, we’ve decided to make all our PRO resources free for the time being.  Sign up to get free access to all our PRO content for F-R-E-E while we are working out the bugs.

If there are any other content marketing activities you think we should take on, please let me know.

By Brody Dorland published March 3, 2011

12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post

You’ve just finished writing a great new blog post. You’re excited that you’ve shared your ideas and expertise with the world. But what should you do next?

As we work with companies to develop a regular content marketing and social engagement routine, blogging is always key. A strong corporate blog can pay big dividends in the form of increased customer engagement and search engine rankings. But what many companies forget is the “marketing” part of content marketing.

UPDATE: Looking for more ideas? Check out 7 NEW Things to Do After You’ve Published a Blog Post.Continue Reading

By Joe Pulizzi published March 2, 2011

10 Reasons Your Content Marketing is Killing You

Here’s 10…how many do you have?
Here we go…
  1. Selfish content marketing.  People don’t care about you, they care about themselves.  Create content that solves customers’ pain points. Stop talking about yourself, your products, your services.  If you do, make it about your customers.
  2. The back burner. There is no back burner.  If there is content marketing creation or adaptation that is on the back burner, it wasn’t important enough to do in the first place. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not…there is no try“.
  3. Content Marketing is Killing MeNo point of view. In order to position yourself as an expert in your industry, you need a point of view. Take a stance. Walking the fence is boring and, more importantly, usually doesn’t work.
  4. Lack of push. Is your content taking your customers to new places? Solve your customers’ pain points, and then take them to places they haven’t been to or seen before. That’s thought leadership.
  5. No process. I see it every day. Scenario: Marketing campaign…ads to be placed…then someone asks about the content plan…people scurry about…someone runs out to get the content. Plan upfront to create, repurpose and distribute content. From each content idea, plan for at least five repackaging concepts.
  6. Where’s the call? Each piece of content should have a call to action or behavior you’d like to see.  What would happen if you asked, “Why?” to each piece of content you create?  I’ll tell you what…you’ll either know the call to action or you’ll kill the content (for lack of purpose).
  7. Channel silo. Are you paying attention to one channel at the expense of all the others? It’s okay to have one main channel, like a blog, but you’ll miss the true power of content marketing by not leveraging all available channels – print, mobile, event. Think like a media company…think like a publisher.
  8. Forgetting employees. Employee expertise is the most underutilized content marketing asset.  Your employees give your brand life. Leverage them in the creation and distribution process. Start with the 10% that get it. Show success stories and move on to the rest of your employee base.
  9. One word: Editing. Editing may be the most underrated piece of the content marketing process. Sometimes we as brands don’t understand that the first draft of a piece of content is called a good start.  Enter the editor. Get one or hire one.
  10. Taking yourself too seriously. Please, have some fun with your content. You have two choices with your content…to inform or entertain (hopefully you are doing both). That, if done right, will create engagement and hopefully action.

Is your content marketing killing you? If so, what is your biggest challenge?

Image Credit: Shutterstock