Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

By marcia-johnston published August 28, 2017

Designing for Better Analytics: 5 Decisions Web Designers Fail to Make

designing-for-analyticsWhen I say, “website design,” what comes to mind? Graphic design? Interface design? User experience design?

How about analytics design? That’s what Andy Crestodina thinks of. Andy – who has provided web strategy and advice to more than a thousand businesses, and written the book Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing – encourages all companies to consider analytics when designing or redesigning a website.

The bad news: If you fail to make analytics-friendly design decisions, your website will work against your analytics, preventing you from getting insights that could benefit you.

If you fail to make analytics-friendly design decisions, your site will work against you, says @crestodina. Click To Tweet

The good news: It’s easy to make analytics-friendly design decisions.

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By marcia-johnston published August 27, 2017

Ex-SNL Writer Reveals How to Spend 5 Minutes a Day to Improve Storytelling


Want to get more creative in your marketing, especially your storytelling? Spend five minutes a day doing something that masters of improv do: Play with words.

That was stand-up comedian Tim Washer’s advice in his talk, How to Use Improv Techniques to Improve Your Storytelling, at Content Marketing World in 2016. He walked us through some examples, which I’ll share in this post.

First, in case you missed my recent article based on this same talk, let me fill you in on who this guy is. In addition to serving as social media manager for Cisco Systems’ Service Provider Marketing group, Tim has worked on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, studied improv under Amy Poehler and written for her on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, and worked as a “corporate humorist” for clients like Google, IBM, FedEx, and Pepsi.

Tim knows corporations and humor.

Read on to learn from an improv master how to become a more creative marketer. (All images come from Tim’s presentation slides.)

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By marcia-johnston published August 17, 2017

How to Tear Down Silos to Create a Culture of Content


You’ve probably heard Marcus Sheridan’s story. He is the guy whose blog, sometimes referred to as “the Wikipedia of fiberglass swimming pools,” saved his pool company during the economic crash of 2008.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published August 10, 2017

How and Why (or Why Not) to Build a Chatbot

how-why-build-chatbotLet’s say your organization has the best content in your industry. Prospective customers go to your site, enter their questions in your search box, navigate through a few clicks, and – voilà – they get instant answers to their questions.

Excellent. For today. But are you ready for tomorrow, when your competitors lure those customers away with a superior Q-and-A experience? They won’t do it by hiring thousands of people to take phone calls. In 2011, Gartner predicted “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.”Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published August 7, 2017

Convert Your Most Vital (and Most Ignored) Audience Into Brand Ambassadors

employees-brand-ambassadorsHey, marketers! Do you ignore your organization’s most important audience? Probably, says consultant and author Carla Johnson.

Chances are, you and your team put all your brand-building energy into external messages. But who are any company’s biggest brand builders? Who, in fact, turn (or don’t turn) your marketing promises into truth? The people on the inside.

If your co-workers aren’t part of your content marketing strategy, you’re missing an opportunity.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published August 6, 2017

Comedy Pro Reveals How to Bring Funny to Content [Video]

comedy-pro-funny-contentMake people laugh, and you’ve got their attention. Hit people in the funny bone, and you have a chance to hit them in the heart and gut as well. People learn from humor. They share it. They may even become fans and customers of companies that provide it.

Yet many content teams steer clear of amusing content. They consider humor inappropriate for their brand or they don’t see themselves as funny.

In his Content Marketing World talk, Tim Washer, social media manager for Cisco Systems’ service provider marketing group, invites marketers to rethink their objections to amusing content and start exercising their comedic content chops.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published August 3, 2017

Want Content That’s More Usable & Reusable? Chunk It

content-usable-reusable-chunk-itAs a marketer, you want to provide the most usable – and most reusable – content possible, saving your team time as you increase the value your audience gets from your assets. But how do you do that?

Here’s one way: Chunk it. In other words, create your content in chunks – think of them as components or modules – according to the types of information you want to convey.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published July 6, 2017

When Not to COPE With Your Web Images [Video]

when-not-cope-web-images-videoTo think strategically about your web-based visual content, you have to do more than choose which images to use; you must also make sure that those images work for screens big and small.

If an image works for all screen sizes, great. Upload one file (single-source the image) and you’re good to go.

Not all images make your life that easy. Sometimes it’s worth your while to provide multiple versions of an image to give people what they need from the image on any device.

So says Buddy Scalera, senior director of content strategy at The Medicines Company. In his Intelligent Content Conference talk, Creating and Executing a Visual Content Strategy That Scales, Buddy told us that he’s all for single-sourcing … except when he’s not. He advocates for what he and others call “COPE mostly” (COPE-M), especially when it comes to images.Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published June 29, 2017

Bingeable Content: How to Move Buyers Through Your Sales Cycle Faster

bingeable-content-move-buyers-sales-cycle-fasterNot that you or I ever do it – plop down on the couch, put up our feet, click on the TV, and gorge ourselves on a full season of, oh, say, The Americans. Netflix has mastered the art of prompting us – I mean, prompting people – to binge on its streaming content.

Nick Edouard, co-founder and president of LookBookHQ, suggests that we marketers make like Netflix and entice prospective customers with content they can binge on. He made this point at the Intelligent Content Conference in his talk Never Waste Another Click: How Intelligent Content Experiences Can Accelerate the Buyer’s Journey. Continue Reading

By marcia-johnston published June 15, 2017

Why a Good Content Audit Is Your Business’s Best Friend

CMI_ContentAudit-01What would you be willing to do to get reliable guidance on what kinds of content to create more of – and less of – to have greater impact on your business? Would you go so far as to *gulp* audit your content?

Don’t click away! Yes, a content audit can seem like an overwhelming task – “something we think is somebody else’s responsibility,” says Cathy McKnight, founding partner of Digital Clarity Group and speaker at the Intelligent Content Conference. “But it is essential to our jobs” as marketers.

This article sums up the main points from Cathy’s ICC talk, Executing a Usable Content Audit That Will Immediately Make an Impact on Your Marketing Content.Continue Reading