By Jodi Harris published August 24, 2022 Est Read Time: 9 min

5 Lessons From the Content Marketing Awards Project of the Year Finalists

What makes the most successful content marketers stand apart from their peers?

They don’t want to simply sustain their success. Rather, they evolve their capabilities, iterate on their creative achievements, and expand the value they deliver to their audience.

As proof, look at the work produced by content marketers at the five brands competing for Project of the Year at the 2022 Content Marketing Awards. Each already has been honored with best in category awards.

Lesson 1: Invest in becoming a go-to source of trusted information

Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials blog has long been recognized as a content marketing success story. Its executive director of content marketing, Amanda Todorovich, has the 2016 Content Marketer of the Year trophy to prove it. But, in the last few years, her team has expanded a different part of the brand’s website: its Health Library. (A screenshot of its home page below shows a user-friendly search bar and previews some of the questions and answers by category.)

The Health Library is an online encyclopedia of trustworthy, accurate health information – something today’s online consumers could certainly use more of. In fact, more than 80% of traffic to Cleveland Clinic’s main website in 2021 came from organic Google searches for health information.

To grow site traffic, the writing staff on the content marketing team tripled, and the SEO team expanded to 16. Using those resources, Cleveland Clinic evolved its Health Library into a more comprehensive and competitive resource, producing more than 2,000 new articles in 2021.

Health Library traffic grew 134% year over year (2020 to 2021). It accounts for more than three-fourths of the 10 million to 13 million monthly visitors to ClevelandClinic.org.

Amanda says staying true to the content team’s original, simple strategy was the key.

Staying true to your #content team’s original, simple strategy is key to success, says @amandatodo of @ClevelandClinic via @joderama @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

You can hear Amanda share more details on that strategy in this video included with the Cleveland Clinic’s Content Marketing Awards (starting at 1:25):

This Cleveland Clinic project earned first place in health care content marketing programs, multi-year content marketing programs, and content strategy categories in the Content Marketing Awards.

Lesson 2: Find a niche within a niche

If you think health care has a crowded content landscape, try standing out as a pet care brand.

Pet-related content practically makes the internet go round. To get answers to their questions, pet owners can wade through millions of content pieces offering advice, product information, and a never-ending supply of cuteness.

Foundry 360, the internal content agency of industry trade publisher Dotdash Meredith, identified an underserved audience niche in the crowded pet community – people who own cats AND dogs. In May 2021, with the high-profile national brand Mars Petcare as the sponsor, they launched a twice-yearly print magazine, Paw Print, to fill that content gap – and grow their share of the estimated $123 billion U.S. consumers spent on their pets in 2021.

#Foundry360 found an underserved niche in the crowded pet community – people who own cats AND dogs, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

This cover Paw Print illustrates its mission with a cute photo of a dog and kitten. Among the cover lines: Home Alone – Help your Furry Friends Cope When You Return To Work, How To Decode Your Pets’ Body Language, and Expert Advice on Caring for Senior Animals.

While Paw Print’s content appeals to cat AND dog lovers alike, it caters to households with furry family members of both species. An extension of Dotdash Meredith’s pet news portal DailyPaws.com, the editorial covers important pet topics, such as health, behavior, nutrition, and gear. All ads in the inaugural issue highlight relevant Mars Petcare products.

For distribution, Mars Petcare tapped Dotdash Meredith’s database to identify subscribers whose records noted they owned both cats and dogs – a critical component of Mars’ marketing strategy. Those individuals were sent copies of Paw Print for free.

The hyper-niche strategy helped both brands claw their way to the top of the content dogpile. Circulation for Paw Print’s inaugural issue reached 1 million copies – the biggest for any print magazine in the pet category.

Even better, 99% of readers said they were likely to act on something they read, 93% planned to share or discuss the magazine with friends or family, and 80% said they were likely to purchase a product featured in the issue.

Paw Print magazine earned first place in content marketing launch and new print publication categories in the Content Marketing Awards.

Lesson 3: Use your brand’s voice to spark vital conversations

In June 2021, AT&T committed $750,000 to further its support of The Trevor Project, an organization aimed at suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth. To highlight the ongoing commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, AT&T and agency Hearts & Science partnered with the socially conscious media company ATTN: to share real-life stories from members of the trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming community.

The Love Connection is a raw documentary-style series that brings much-needed awareness to the unjust hardships people in this community frequently endure. Each video tells a person’s story with a subtle emphasis on a key AT&T brand message – the importance of staying connected.

In the inaugural video, Alok – a gender nonconforming person – describes the harassment and antagonistic remarks their flamboyant appearance incites. Despite experiencing that negativity, they encourage others to “live life on their own terms.” The video highlights the community’s sense of unity reinforced by the ability to reach out to others for support via calling or texting.

While the topic garnered hateful comments, The Love Connection sparked meaningful conversations among the LGBTQ+ community, their allies, and even their detractors. It also generated overwhelmingly positive results for the brand, its media partner, and The Trevor Project.

@ATT, @Hearts_Science and @TrevorProject partnered for The Love Connection docu-style video series and saw big positive results, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

The Love Connection took first place in the topic-specific video as part of a content marketing program category in the Content Marketing Awards.

Lesson 4: Take a warm, personal approach to build audience trust

Like the people in The Love Connection video series, people who live with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) often feel isolated and misunderstood.

Symptoms of these chronic inflammatory bowel diseases are unpredictable, disrupting daily activities without warning. In Belgium, only an estimated 30,000 people suffer from Crohn’s or UC. Because relatively few people experience or understand the debilitating conditions, patients can struggle to explain their reluctance to make plans or why they often cancel at the last minute.

To support and inspire these patients to manage their symptoms more effectively, content marketing agency The Fat Lady created two blogs for its pharmaceutical company client, Takeda: Wijhebbencrohn and Wijhebbencolitis (both can be accessed through wijhebbencrohn.be).

This screenshot shows some of the blog’s articles – a first-person story of how their doctor confirmed their diagnosis, a recipe for a red fruit smoothie, the search for a personal diet – and a video about one person finally managing to control their disease.

Takeda filled both blogs with personal testimonies contributed by real-life patients. It creates an open, supportive space where patients can connect with others who understand what they’re going through, and their friends and loved ones can learn about what they experience.

Blog visitors also find helpful information about Crohn’s and UC, along with recipes and tips that can help them reduce the stress that leads to inflammation and lessen the number of flare-ups they experience.

@TakedaPharma’s blogs around Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis reaches over 200,000 visitors per year, with 70% finding it organically, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

In four years, Takeda has grown to more than 50 regular contributors. The site reaches more than 213,000 visitors per year, with 70% arriving organically. Taking such a warm, personal approach helped Takeda quickly earn the trust of this audience – and grow both visits to the site and participation in the program.

Takeda won first place in the topic-specific blog category in the Content Marketing Awards.

Lesson 5: Innovate by building on a strong foundation

How does a powerful and influential B2B brand achieve ambitious growth goals, despite a lingering global pandemic that hindered attendance at live events?

If you’re Salesforce, the answer is to reimagine your most valuable offerings and assets and build them into something that’s never existed.

In August 2021, the company launched Salesforce+, an innovative, business-focused streaming content service. It bundles 12 broadcast-quality live events and 14 original series into a centralized, owned media product that Salesforce built from scratch.

@Salesforce created an innovative, business-focused streaming #content service – Salesforce+. It includes 14 original series, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

This image promotes Trailblazer, a docu-series on the service. It features five Black leaders using Salesforce technology to change their lives and lift up those around them.

The inspiration for this platform came through an observation: Salesforce’s B2B audience increasingly prefers engaging with video over other formats. Yet, the company’s biggest audience acquisition tool – its flagship Dreamforce event – remains at the center of its strategy.

The brand shifted many of its live experiences to digital as it began video-centric programming. It tapped the internal Salesforce Studios team to write, direct, and produce a slate of original video shows that would resonate with the Dreamforce audience.

Salesforce says initial results greatly exceeded their traffic and user engagement expectations. The brand is also preparing to enhance the platform’s features and functionality before the second Dreamforce event hosted on Salesforce+ in September 2022.

Salesforce+ earned top honors in the content marketing program and use of video in content marketing categories in the Content Marketing Awards.

Which campaign reigns supreme?

Among these five wonderfully originated and executed projects, only one can be selected as Project of the Year. The winner will be announced Sept. 14 at Content Marketing World. In the meantime, which of these is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

Join us at Content Marketing World 2022 for new ideas to drive your business, fuel your inspiration, and speed up your career. Register today and use promo code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.

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