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A Year Full of ‘No Way!?’ Moments for CCO Magazine


2017 will go down as the year contributors to the magazine repeatedly blew my mind.

Most editors like to think they have at least a modest (if not better) grasp of the industry they cover. After all, to be a good editor you must be able to tease out the ideas that will educate or delight your readers most – and identifying those requires a baseline of subject matter expertise.

This year was different. At least a half dozen CCO articles in 2017 inspired an exclamation I can only describe as “No sh*t?!,” but for the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to as “No way?!”

Read on to learn about all the amazing contributors and ideas of the past year that blew my mind or delighted me.

Virtual reality and a sit-down with author of The Martian (February 2017)

We started the year interviewing virtual-reality expert Sarah Hill, CEO and chief storyteller for StoryUP, the article titled Immersive Content. No longer the domain of ultra-early adopters and video gamers, virtual reality and augmented reality took off in 2017 … and Sarah was the perfect guide, helping us understand the possibilities and limitations of VR and AR. She also offered case studies from brands using VR, a welcome moment for those of us unable to visualize applications for VR outside of the gaming and consumer entertainment realm.

The world is no longer flat. The internet is fast becoming a place you step inside. @sarahmidmo #virtualreality Share on X

Also in February, I was delighted to interview Andy Weir, author of The Martian. We talked in Las Vegas just before his touching keynote talk at the ICC conference. Andy spoke poignantly about the deep challenges of being a full-time creative, and the lessons marketers may learn from his own journey. Among other nuggets of wisdom, he explained that marketers focus too much on the sale and, in doing so, lose sight of the power of a well-told story.

Marketers focus too much on sale. They lose sight of power of well-told story, says @andyweirauthor. Share on X

He explained, “Audiences are extremely aware of preachiness, especially in the modern era. Hollywood has decided that everything has to have some freaking political message, which drives me crazy. The Martian, by the way, had no political message. Dude didn’t want to die … that’s it. People quickly, even if they don’t do it consciously, identify the message, get mildly annoyed at it, and then start ignoring the parts of the movie that push that. That’s why I try to avoid it. Instead, find the interesting part of your story and then work towards the message, rather than desperately starting with the message and trying to work towards the interesting part.”

Making sense of AI, plus ideas about hiring (April 2017)

Paul Roetzer’s article about the rise of AI-powered content marketing (Cognitive Content Marketing) lit up my brain with possibilities.

.@PaulRoetzer’s plain-English tour of AI in marketing lit up my brain, says @soloportfolio. Share on X

Paul’s plain-English tour of the categories of AI in marketing, and possible on-ramps for timid marketers to consider, was one of my key “no way?!” moments of 2017. If it’s a topic that interests you, I also recommend watching his session from Content Marketing Word (Machine-Assisted Narrative: How to Transform and Scale Your B2B Content With Artificial Intelligence), which is available on demand. Paul did a fantastic job explaining AI in terms even non-technophiles can understand. He also gave us a tour of the most promising technologies in the field, and how marketers are using each.

Also in April, we heard from Sara Noble, a Boston-based search consultant who helps iconic brands hire elite content marketing executives (Are You Ready to Hire Quality?). She said among her first tasks when she speaks to a potential hiring company is to figure out if they are serious about content – and thus worth consideration by top-flight talent. If you’re ready to a hire a high-value content marketing leader, look through her list of questions to ensure that your team and company are truly in a position to benefit from a big investment in top talent.

Excellent #content creators do not come cheap, says Sara Noble via @soloportfolio. Share on X

How data influences story (June 2017)

Some people have been amazing resources to the magazine over the years – people who keep coming back with great ideas, stories, and people. (Cameron Conaway, Andy Vale, and Kirk Cheyfitz … I’m looking at you.)

In that spirit, Andy brought us a “no way?!” story (Data-Driven Creative). Andy interviewed Fred Graver, a four-time Emmy-winning television producer and former head of Twitter TV, who uses social data to influence his screenwriting. Yes, it sounds kind of dystopian, but using analytics to influence creative is an interesting premise and process. And it’s an idea that is here to stay, given our inevitable future of AI-enhanced human creativity.

TV audiences are vocal on @Twitter, allowing for substantial research & building creative, via @AndyVale. Share on X

Also fun to read in the June issue – the interview with Jennifer Watson from The Weather Channel (How The Weather Channel Does Social Media). Most social media managers are hyper-aware of publishing accurate, appropriate social content online, but in Jennifer’s work accuracy can be a life-or-death situation. For a weather nerd like myself, it was a dream come true to speak to Jennifer and peer into her daily life.

.@weatherchannel has meteorologists on #socialmedia team to ensure accuracy, says @JWatson_Wx. Share on X


Inspiration from the content maven at GE (August 2017)

GE’s social media personality has long been a favorite of mine. And my all-time favorite campaign from GE: its play on the Hey Girl meme for Valentine’s Day, but instead of Ryan Gosling, Thomas Edison is the flirt.

The company makes it look easy, but bringing that voice and personality to a brand as big and iconic as GE is a huge challenge (How GE Gives Recruiting Content a Personality Lift). Chief Marketing Officer Linda Boff said the key is in knowing what human values the brand stands for. She explained, “Our DNA is innovation, technology, research and manufacturing. It’s something we have all fallen in love with at GE. That’s our guiding light. We never try to pretend something we’re not.”

A lot of companies could name the same values as GE does, but what makes GE’s execution of those values special is the way it transforms them into a human personality. Boff said, “We often talk about showing up as a person would versus how a corporation would. How do you do that? With humor. A wink. A twist.”

Establish a brand voice that’s inherently human & relatable to your audience. @lindaboff #recruiting Share on X

Also in August, an article from one of my favorite CCO contributors, Kirk Cheyfitz (How Advertising is Killing the WWW). Kirk has long railed against the overreaches of advertising and how poor behavior by advertisers will ruin online marketing for the rest of us. Kirk is such an elegant writer that the article is worth reading if only to see how a masterful creative unpacks a complex topic. Also keep an eye out for his Guide to Digital Decency and Success in the same piece.

Digital advertising’s many deadly sins have generated a plague of problems for everybody, says @KirkCheyfitz. Share on X

A Voice Revolution Caps the Year (November 2017)

Finally, in November we published one of my all-time favorite articles of all time. (That sentence just triggered our blog editor.) (Note from editor: Yes, the sentence made me clutch my pearls, but I kept it just this once for writer authenticity.)

Britney Muller from Moz explained the “no way?!” effect of voice assistants on SEO. Of course, I heard rumblings of how voice search would transform SEO, but Britney patiently explained it in a way that all marketers could understand. It’s possibly my favorite article of the year simply because of how much I learned.

And, for giggles, read Andrew Davis’ column, in which he uttered the words, How to Manscape Your Butt  (though to be fair, he was quoting someone else). Andrew and his guest columnist, Becky Montchal, call out Dollar Shave Club for excluding half of the world’s population in its shave-related content marketing.

Make sure you don’t miss any of the no-way moments in 2018. Subscribe to the free print edition (yes, it will arrive in your mailbox) today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute