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Beyond Storytelling: 7 Highlights from Content Marketing World 2014

rock hall-clevelandOne of the many things we love about Content Marketing World is that we can see the needle moving each year. We are no longer focused on simply determining what content marketing is and how to create it; we’ve progressed to working on how to make it more successful and how to integrate it into our organizations (which is why it’s critical for content marketing to be an enterprise team effort instead of an individual or siloed one).

And while the theme of this year’s conference was Beyond Storytelling — and there was an emphasis on how to truly become great – we learned so much more. We are still processing all of the conversations and sessions (in truth, we can relate to the team members from Akhia, who described their experience as, “heads spinning, dots connecting“). But in the meantime, here are just a few insights from this year’s event:

On a personal note, I continue to be amazed by the giving nature of the content marketing community — the attendees, the speakers, the partners — it all feels like we are all in this together and are looking out for each other as we find our way to new processes and solutions. Standing in front of 2,600 delegates from 50 countries really blew me away. You are the community. Thank you for helping us work to make a positive impact on so many lives.


While the importance of having a strategy for content marketing is likely obvious by now, did you know that it is equally as critical to document that strategy? In my opening presentation, I shared highlights from our upcoming Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research, and two particular trends were readily apparent: Effective marketers are far more likely to 1) document their strategy and 2) follow it closely.


Of course, making an emotional connection is key to storytelling. Just watching the highly energetic keynote presentation delivered by Andrew Davis was a lesson, in and of itself, on how to tell a great story. But Andrew also shared the four elements he feels are vital for brilliant storytelling:

  • Building suspense
  • Fostering aspiration
  • Driving empathy
  • Harnessing emotion

Read more: Andrew Davis shares 4 secrets of brilliant storytelling at Content Marketing World 2014


There was a lot more emphasis on the ways marketers should promote their content, including the use of paid media. For instance, in her keynote presentation, Julie Fleischer questioned the purpose of content that you don’t feel is worthy of budget support: “If you wouldn’t spend money behind it, they why do it?” she asked.

Read more: Kraft Says It Gets Four Times Better ROI from Content Than Ads


While the creation of quality content seems to be on an upward trend, several people we spoke with were adamant that content marketers need to focus more on producing truly creative content. Creativity may not always be a part of the job a marketer is accustomed to working with, but it’s an essential muscle we need to learn to exercise. And, it doesn’t need to be time-consuming to do so.

Here’s just one example: Since our 2014 Content Marketer of the Year, Bryan Rhoads, could not attend CMW in person, we asked him to share a video with our audience, instead. This short video he created is a great example of how to make something that can often be dry or boring (an acceptance speech for an award) truly entertaining.


In his afternoon keynote presentation, CMI’s Chief Strategy Officer Robert Rose discussed how important the role of marketing is in creating value. Content is key to making that happen. If we create truly remarkable content, we enable amazing experiences for our customers.  The more positive experiences we help to create with our customers, the more likely they are to become subscribers to our brand.

For more on this, please check out Robert’s excerpt from his upcoming book, co-written by content strategist Carla Johnson.

book cover-experiences

Authenticity and generosity

For a marketer who is admittedly “a big deal on Twitter,” Scott Stratten, President of Un-Marketing, is certainly not afraid to bite the hand that feeds his influence.

In his presentation — which pointed out many of the shortcomings associated with taking the story that data presents as law — Scott revealed a trend that he feels is slowly turning the vital landscape of social media into a noisy wasteland that’s increasingly difficult to navigate: “selfish social.” This is content that doesn’t contribute to the social ecosystem. It doesn’t offer value; it only reacts in response to messages received.

To combat this, Stratten encourages content marketers to be more genuine in how and when they communicate on Twitter and other social networks: “There’s a difference between being real-time and just being real,” he said.


Another theme was the importance of letting consumers decide how they are consuming content. Kevin Spacey hit on this in his keynote address when he talked about how Netflix gives people the choice to watch shows on a schedule that’s spread out, or binge watch episodes all at once. As he said, “Appointment viewing is likely more behind us than in front of us.”

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be digging into all the great sessions and takeaways a lot more. If you want to get these updates, sign up for our weekly or daily newsletter.

If you were at Content Marketing World, we would love to get your take: What’s something you learned? What is your biggest takeaway?

You can also read — and add — your coverage of CMW to our