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Go All-In With Content Marketing or Do Nothing: #CMWorld


I always ask the speakers at Content Marketing World to cut the extraneous and jump right into the substance of their presentations. I’m going to take my advice with this post.

If you’re not “all-in” with your content marketing program, you should stop.

If you’re not “all-in” with your #contentmarketing program, you should stop says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

Yes, you read that right. I would rather you do nothing at all with content than not be fully committed to your content approach.

Or as Yoda told Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

That’s the mandate I shared with over 3,500 attendees in the opening of Content Marketing World 2016 and in closing the event when I talked on stage with Mark Hamill who went all-in with his acting career long before he ever became Luke, and who remains committed to his creative calling over 45 years later.


Image source: Content Marketing Institute and Wetzler Studios

Be all in or get all out. There is no halfway.

It requires you to be fully committed to your content marketing program — something that only 20% of marketers say they are, according to CMI research to be released later this month.

Throughout Content Marketing World, the speakers shared strategic approaches and tactical ideas, along with inspirational examples, to help attendees go all-in with their content marketing programs and in their development as marketing professionals.

Now, let me be clear: “Go all-in” is not synonymous with “do everything.” As Ann Handley bluntly put it, “Slow the *&%^$ down and do your content marketing right — or don’t do it at all.”

Slow the *&%^$ down and do your #contentmarketing right — or don’t do it at all says @annhandley. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What we mean is that you must commit fully to what you’re doing to do it well, to deliver what your audience needs and the results that your executive team wants.

Stand up

Comedian Michael Jr. brought the laughs, but he also brought a revelation that should be the basis for any all-in content marketing program (and for that matter, any person’s success):

The key isn’t to know your what. The key to success is to know your why.

The key isn’t to know your what. The key to success is to know your why @Michaeljrcomedy. #CMWorld Click To Tweet


Image source: Content Marketing Institute and Wetzler Studios

“If you understand your why you have lots of options for your what,” he told the crowd. “Your what may change and grow but your why never does.”

Michael Jr.’s “why” is to inspire people to walk in purpose, he explained. His “what” is stand-up comedy, books, a web series, or even going out to eat with friends.


In past years, a term that was frequently mentioned at Content Marketing World was “relevance.” Six years later, that sentiment has evolved into a more specific term: “resonance.” I’ll leave it to Michael Jr. to explain (and show) what we mean (if you only have 2 minutes, start at the 1:45 mark).

He played this video at CMWorld and shared the story. During a show in North Carolina, Michael Jr. asked an audience member who is a school musical director to sing Amazing Grace. The man sang it well and the audience applauded.

Then Michael Jr. asked the man to sing it again, but this time the man was to sing like an adult who had been shot in the back as a kid and whose uncle just got out of jail. The powerful rendition elicited applause and a few slaps on the back before he even finished. When he was done, one audience member even ran over to hug him.

The man put everything he had into the second rendition because he knew why he was singing, not just what he was singing.

Is your audience simply viewing your content? Or does your content make them want to get up and do something? That’s the difference between relevance and resonance.

.@Joepulizzi asks, “Does your #content make your audience want to get up & do something? #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Resonance requires you to be all in.

Drown the noise

A component of resonance is context, which is the antidote to endless noisy media proliferation, Rebecca Lieb says. Context is how you make your content not only get noticed by your audience but be used by your audience.

Context is the antidote to endless noisy media proliferation says @lieblink. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

She told of how MGM Resorts delivers the ultimate contextual content experience through its guests’ smartphones. The hotel serves up hyper-local and hyper-personalized recommendations on restaurants, shopping, show deals, coupons, etc., based on the guest’s location, previously expressed preferences, and loyalty member status. The phone even acts as the room key.

By knowing the context of their guests (location, interests, etc.), MGM is able to deliver content that resonates with the audience and makes them want to do something (i.e., eat at an MGM restaurant, save money with an MGM coupon, see an MGM show).

But context alone isn’t enough. Rebecca says companies must tie it all together in a seamless omnichannel experience — good content in the right context delivered in a consistent brand style and tone.

Context gets your audience all in.

Do what’s manageable

Jenifer Walsh of Current, powered by GE, smartly advised the crowd to think of content marketing as a marathon, not a sprint. “People think they have to create this big thing to make a change,” she said. But start by making small changes to help your customers.

Think of #contentmarketing as a marathon, not a sprint says @jlansky. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

COPE — Create Once, Publish Everywhere — is an approach that can help with what Jenifer was saying. As Stephanie Reid-Simons explained in her presentation on the subject, “Create once, publish everywhere to maximize everything you make.”

Create once, publish everywhere to maximize everything you make says @betterlater. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

The key to making this work is having a great foundational content asset. “By expressing it in different ways on different channels … it can increase its impact,” Stephanie said.

Though Visa’s Stephanie Losee wasn’t talking directly about the COPE approach, she offered a different perspective on its value. “Everybody talks about how hard change management is, but no one talks about how easy it is,” she said.

Her advice? Get a one-on-one meeting on the calendar from which you can create a piece of content that can be measured. “That’s how this begins — internal evangelizing is much more important than external evangelizing,” Stephanie Losee said.

Get a 1-on-1 meeting from which you can create a piece of measurable #content says @slosee. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

(Related side note: Carla Johnson also is a big promoter of paying attention to your internal audience, often the most-ignored audience. They are your most vital audience, she said.)

Pay attention to your internal audience. They are the most vital says @CarlaJohnson. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

One strong piece of content can make your program all in.

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Start but don’t stop with great work

And yet most content doesn’t do what we want or need it to do, said Andy Crestodina, who as the highest-rated speaker from CMWorld 2015 took to the big stage for a keynote this year.


Image source: Content Marketing Institute and Wetzler Studios

Good content is amazing. Bad content gets nothing at all,” he shared, citing research from Moz and BuzzSumo that shows 75% of content gets no external links and 50% of content doesn’t get shares.

Good #content is amazing. Bad content gets nothing at all says @crestodina. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What will get you to the level of amazing that gets links and shares? Create content with strong opinions and/or original research.

But, Andy said, don’t think you’re done once you’ve created good content. Its success ultimately depends on promotion and distribution, something Andy smartly simplified: “The New York Times’ best-sellers’ list isn’t a list of the best books but rather the best-promoted books.

Ken Wincko of Cision and PR Newswire echoed Andy’s sentiment. “Distribution is an afterthought, but it should be at the forefront,” he said.

Distribution is an afterthought, but it should be at the forefront says @kenwincko. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Moz’s Rand Fishkin offered this practical counsel: “Before you create content, ask who will amplify this and why. Be specific.”

Before you create #content, ask who will amplify this and why. Be specific says @randfish. Click To Tweet


Image source: Content Marketing Institute and Wetzler Studios

Successful content requires excellent promotion to be all in.

Make the change

American Cancer Society’s Kelley Graham made a somewhat surprising revelation: “We’ve got silos. It’s OK.”

Those silos came about honestly, she said. In particular, the content teams had different purposes — one focused on health education, the other focused on the organization and development. The silos weren’t the problem, Kelley said, it was that each team had a “that’s my-content” attitude, which left inconsistent brand styles and standards on the 14,000-page website.

The society provided training to bridge the silos to create a cohesive cultural mindset as it shifted to a new web platform, which required rethinking its strategy, content, etc. They started sharing the data on what content was working, what wasn’t, etc., with the content team and other stakeholders. “That transparency has done wonders because, ultimately, we all care about people coming to our site,” Kelley said.

Your teams have to know what’s happening and why to be all-in.

Your teams have to know what’s happening & why to be all-in says @joepulizzi. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What’s next

I loved the question that Robert Rose posed to the keynote panelists: What’s the one thing you’re going to do Monday when you get back to the office?


Image source: Content Marketing Institute and Wetzler Studios

His question is intended to provoke a practical, realistic response, though the work ahead of us often seems overwhelming. It requires, as Ann Handley advocates, to slow down and think about what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it.

So I ask, when you start working tomorrow, what are you going to do?

After all, writing down your plan step by step is the most critical step to going all-in.

Thanks to everyone who joined us at Content Marketing World this year. As always, we can’t do this without you! I’d love to know what action you are taking as a result of the event; please let us know in the comments.

Regardless, stay tuned to our blog in the coming weeks and months as we delve into the research and sessions from the event. (Better yet, subscribe to our email so you don’t miss a thing.)

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute