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The Conversation Company: Teaching Content Marketers to Tap into the Unused Conversation Potential

The Conversation Company, CMIEditor’s Note: As a content marketer, there is a lot you want to learn, but you can’t possibly keep up with all of the blog posts — and books — about this emerging field. We have asked authors to share the key points from their books — explaining specifically how they can help with content marketing — so you can decide if this is a book for you.

First up is Steven Van Belleghem, author of the recently released book, The Conversation Company.”

Why should content marketers read this book?

In an age of readily available feedback on sites like Yelp and Facebook, companies need to take advantage of client happiness and empowered employees for consumer conversations, or word-of-mouth recommendations. However, many organizations make decisions that contradict these findings and lessen their prospects of expansion.

Because people now expect every brand to have a human “face,” companies need to define a clear set of values and incorporate them in all company communication to reflect the organization’s DNA to both employees and customers. “The Conversation Company” is aimed at helping organizations empower clients and employees to share engaging content, thereby building the company’s culture and business objectives.

Including interviews and case studies of companies such as Disney, Unilever, Zappos and Microsoft, “The Conversation Company” is based on solid research that will help organizations achieve sustainable success.

Why should content marketers invest their time in reading this book? What will they learn from it that they can’t learn anywhere else?

Every company has unused conversation potential. Twenty-eight percent of the clients of an average company are very happy with the services the company provides, but they don’t share their experience: that is unused potential. The same goes for employees: Forty percent of the employees of an average company are very proud but don’t share this with the world.

In my book I try to help managers to optimize this potential. This helps to break one of the big paradoxes in business: everybody agrees that conversations have a high impact, but only a few companies are actively managing these conversations.

One of the key elements to optimize the conversation potential is content marketing. Content marketing should give happy people (clients and employees) something to talk about. Content is the facilitator to start the conversation.

Why did you decide to write this book? What was missing from other books that you are addressing?

Through the research, we found that the impact of content marketing increases if the content is created in line with a strong company culture. The tone of voice, the style, the design, the story… everything should be in line with this content. A lot of content marketers are creating wonderful pieces but don’t see the bigger picture clearly enough. Well, that bigger picture should be the culture, the identity of a company.

What are the key takeaways for content marketers?

These three learnings helped me in my own content management:

  • A content calendar with three content layers (content campaigns, content projects and content updates) helps to install “military discipline.” Success in content marketing requires military discipline, and without such a pragmatic content calendar, it is very difficult to be disciplined.
  • The golden nugget: what makes content shareable? We looked into 1 million consumer conversations about global brands to better understand what people share. Two key elements here are design and involvement. Design increases the conversation worthiness of your content in a strong way. I discovered this myself. In 2010 and 2011 I published the same research report. The report was based on the same questions and the same analyses. The report of 2010 was shared by 70,000 people, that of 2011 by 780,000 people. The only difference was the design of the report. A second element is involving customers in your content creation to increase the conversation power. If consumers can contribute, they feel involved and the chances that they act as ambassadors increase.
  • Content plans need to address how you will increase the conversation power through employees. If you facilitate the sharing possibilities for employees, many of them will be happy to help you in that sharing.

Do you provide any templates, work sheets, checklists, step-by-step guides or case studies that will help content marketers? If so, please briefly explain what kind of tools you provide.

One of the chapters is a clear six-step content marketing model. It describes step by step how to build a content plan and how to create impact with it. My post on 3 content levels for content planning on CMI gave some first insights in this plan.

What was one of your favorite things you learned while writing this book?

During my interviews, I really enjoyed people’s stories about the internal company pride. It is surprising that so few companies actively manage the conversation potential of their own employees. It is wonderful to see that when companies have the trust and the vision to empower their employees in becoming ambassadors, the energy level in those companies rises. I really enjoy positive energy.

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