Author: Robert Rose

Robert is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for The Content Marketing Institute. Robert has worked with more than 500 companies, including 15 of the Fortune 100. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert’s third book – Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has been called the “book that rewrites the rules of marketing.” His second book – Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing is a top seller and has been called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” Robert’s first book, Managing Content Marketing, spent two weeks as a top 10 marketing book on and is generally considered to be the “owners manual” of the content marketing process. You can follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

By robert-rose published May 16, 2013

Be Remarkable or Fail: Changes Content Creators Must Make

remarkable content stands out in crowdOver the last few weeks, Joe Pulizzi and I have posted a few of our ideas on the importance of planning in a successful approach to content marketing. Joe touched on the importance of strategy in his 4 Truths About Content Marketing Agencies piece, and I followed this with my thoughts on content marketing’s current status in the “Valley of Disillusionment,” and how it is poised to make true progress, moving forward.

As I dig in, I’ve been working on a maturity model for an optimal content marketing approach. While I plan to share those ideas in a future post, one theme I keep coming back to is that, independent of the approach, a successful content marketing strategy requires placing a priority on remarkable content over everything else.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published April 28, 2013

Organizing Your Department for Content Marketing: Strategic Requirements

organizing for contentThis week, the Altimeter Group published Organizing for Content: Models to Incorporate Content Strategy and Content Marketing in the Enterprise. The research, which is based on interviews with 78 practitioners, content services providers, and domain experts, is well worth a read. (Disclosure: I was among the interview participants.) The author, Rebecca Lieb, discusses how brands are challenged with organizing themselves around content marketing, and offers some models and suggestions to help.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published April 17, 2013

How to Survive the Disillusionment of Content Marketing

train tracks-content marketingA few days ago, Joe Pulizzi wrote a post, 4 Truths About Content Marketing Agencies. There, he outlined some of the agency trends and best practices that we at CMI have observed as the ideas around content marketing become more widespread — and as more companies join the “gold rush” of helping brands produce this content.

As with most new approaches (think social media, or cloud services, or “big data”), we have seen clearly thought-out practices being evangelized right alongside the short-sighted strategies of trend-obsessed hangers-on. Continue Reading

By robert-rose published March 1, 2013

Brand Storytelling: 10 Steps to Start Your Content Marketing Hero’s Journey

brand storytelling journeyAs a content marketer, you have probably heard the call for us all to become brand storytellers. While this sounds great in theory, the tricky part for many companies is determining how to develop these stories in the first place. 

There are no hard-and-fast rules for developing your brand’s stories, but you can go back and look at classic storytelling and structure as a helpful map to guide you. For example, the classic “hero’s journey” from Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Facesoutlines what he calls the “monomyth” — which is a pattern that many believe can be found in almost every narrative around the world. Continue Reading

By robert-rose published December 24, 2012

To Create Engaging Content Marketing You Must Hug the Chaos

[Editor’s note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we’ve seen from our CMI Consultants. Today’s post originally appeared on Robert Rose’s The Mythic Marketer blog on June 19, 2012.]

create engaging content marketing

My grandfather used to say something that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Whenever I got frustrated about anything — school, a job, life, more generally — he would ask me “What have you created lately?” Then, he’d chide me: “Go create a new experience for someone.” He wrote this to me once in a card that explained this idea, which was: When you create a new experience for someone, you get to experience it — and in turn, it creates new opportunity for you. Continue Reading

By robert-rose published November 4, 2012

Brand Storytelling Lessons from the Content 2020 Project

If you haven’t already seen the overview of Coca Cola’s Content 2020 Project on YouTube, stop reading this right now, and go spend the 18 minutes. If you’re at all interested in how content is going to reshape the strategic marketing process, this is quite simply, a manifesto.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published April 16, 2012

How Asking “Why” Helps Us Get to Our Larger Story

asking why, Content Marketing InstituteIf you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt at some point had to master the never-ending onslaught of a “why?” session. Comedian Louis CK has a wonderful bit on this, where he talks about how his daughter’s asking “why” led him to mind-altering insanity as a question about going outside while it’s raining led deeper and deeper into the meaning of life.

But of course we were kids ourselves once. Remember? We had all the time in the world — and nothing was more important than understanding the wide world around us. Dr. Dawn Taylor, a psychologist at Penn State who specializes in child development said something that resonates with me: “Asking ‘why’ is one of the most important strategies children have for connecting with their caregivers and learning about the world around them.

It’s also one of the most important strategies for content marketing. Let me explain… why.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published January 3, 2012

Content Marketing Storytelling: Secrets from the Big Screen

This past September, I was honored to speak at Content Marketing World. My talk was called “Storytelling Secrets From Hollywood.” Since that time, I’ve had a few people ask me for the slides. Inspired by these requests, I’ve been having some fun learning about video-editing programs. So here, I thought I’d go one step further and develop a little video for CMI readers.

The video embedded below is the basis of my presentation at Content Marketing World 2011.  I’ve since added some more visual elements to the storytelling — including clips from some of the movies I reference. (Hopefully, I’ve made them a little more fun to watch). Of course, if you’re interested in viewing the on-demand version of my talk, it’s available here.

Continue Reading

By robert-rose published October 10, 2011

6 Ways To Move Beyond Best Practices

In Best Practices, Mediocre Results , Robert Rose claims marketers who focus on measuring up to others are less willing to take risks and less likely to stand out.  Here, he offers tips about how to move beyond best practices—and become more than just average.

6 Ways To Move Beyond Best Practices

1. Turn worst to best

As an exercise, take your worst performing tactic (maybe it’s print) and ask yourself, “If tomorrow this was the only way I could market, how would I do it differently?”

2. Turn best to different

Pretend you learn the conversion rate on your best content marketing tactic ranks dead last among your peers who use the same tactic. What would you do differently?

3. Burst your bubble

What would you do if demand for your product or service   fizzled out (e.g., demand for camera film)? How would your story change to meet the challenge?

4. Join a new clique

What if you applied best practices from another industry to your business? Learn what’s going on in an industry completely different than your own. What ideas can you borrow?

5. Ask the choir for a song suggestion

Have you mined company employees outside of marketing for wonderful, crazy and out-of-the-box ideas? Find the hidden innovators in your organization and find ways to get them involved.

6. Differentiation, not “incrementation”

Remember that differentiation means being “different” than your competition. Instead of asking how to tell a better story than your competition, think about how you can tell a different one.

By robert-rose published October 10, 2011

Best Practices…Mediocre Results

Why a hyper focus on measurement and incremental gains makes marketers average.

Let’s talk about how a myopic focus on measurement can suck all the innovation and success out of our strategy. Here is an experiment: Walk around your office and ask everybody three questions. The first question: “Should companies be innovative?”  I’ll take a wild-ass guess and predict a 90-percent-plus response in the affirmative.

Then, independent of that answer, immediately ask the next one. “Has our company ever been innovative?” Here, you may get that confused it’s-4 p.m,-and-I-haven’t-had-my-Snickers look. They may ask “Do you mean are we innovative right now?” And you’ll reply, “No, I’m asking whether we have ever been innovative? Ever?”

Here, your mileage will vary, but I’ll bet you one thing to be 100 percent true. Of those who said “yes” to the second question, when you ask them the third and final question, everyone will cite a success.

You see … everybody LOVES innovation. You know, just so long as it worked.

Nobody wants to be the dope who said “yes” to the new content marketing strategy that wound up causing a social media tsunami. As a friend said to me recently, “I’d rather get a zero out of 100 on a test rather than a 22. Because a 22 means I tried.”

Today it seems we are under constant pressure to obtain data, prove ROI and justify our choices—even those we haven’t even made yet. Content marketers in particular seem to be in the grips of ROI monomania. At almost every conference, webinar and client meeting I attend, one of the first things I’m universally asked is “We’re thinking of doing some content marketing, but my boss wants to know it will work. How do I show the ROI?”  

So, what are we really looking for when we ask that question? There is almost certainly no way to draw a straight line between the expense of a content marketing initiative and revenue. And, arguably, many successful content marketing initiatives aren’t designed to generate revenue anyway. No, what we’re really looking for are best practices. They’re safe. Whenever we’re trying something new like content marketing, we become so focused on following best practices that we forget our real job is to be innovative. We become incapacitated by this feeling that our measurement should always be moving up and to the right, and unable or unwilling to embark on any activity we can’t ensure will nudge our measurement stats in the right direction.

Best practices are maps for us to follow to get the same results as those who went before us. In short, they are the marketing equivalent of sitting down at the restaurant and saying, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

But, here’s the thing: When we are satisfied with a best practice—when we end at best practices—we are saying that we’re satisfied with being average.

You’ve all heard them. Here are a few “best practices” that we’ve grown up with:

  • 40/40/20 rule: Started by Ed Mayer, a pioneer in the direct marketing industry, the 40/40/20 rule says we should focus 40 percent to the right list (audience), 40 percent to the offer and 20 percent to everything else (format, paper, stock, graphics, etc.).
  • No navigation on landing page: This best practice says that you should remove everything extraneous from your landing pages or risk your conversion rate.
  • 1 to 2 percent conversion rate: This one is so ingrained that it’s even become a “rule” within Google Adwords. If you can’t maintain a higher than 1 percent click-thru rate on your text ad, your ad quality score is penalized.

And there are tons of others …

The point is not to disabuse you of these practices (although I have personal experience that the second example is definitely not always true). In fact, quite the opposite—these are best practices precisely because they have worked for many in the past. 

Do you want to be the chicken or the egg?

Who was the first marketer to discover that removing 75 percent of her email list and culling it down to just those who opted-in actually improved her marketing performance and saved money?

Almost certainly this wasn’t a best practice when she tried it. She either discovered it accidentally (happy accident) or there was a decision to test this as a theory and the marketer tried it out. Then, a case study gets written, the idea gets passed on and passed on … and ultimately becomes the rule of thumb for marketing best practices from that point forward. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Content marketing is no different. It’s a new practice we’re putting into our organizations. And, it’s a practice that doesn’t replace the channels we’re using. Rather, it’s one that ideally makes everything else we’re doing more effective. So we should build our business case and our measurement strategy with that in mind.

Say we produce high quality content and distribute it through a number of channels (blog, social web, etc.), and we notice an uptick in visitors to the site. That’s measurable but let’s be clear: higher traffic does not mean that content marketing is providing a return. It means our one, great piece of content is providing value to our existing advertising process. And, we can quantify that value based on how many more people we get into our sales process because of it. In short, this is what gives you the permission to think outside the box. Using a content marketing strategy more likely increases the ROI of other activities you’re supporting (search tactics, lead nurturing, advertising, CRM, etc.). That’s where you stretch your unique and creative strategies and test your assumptions—and create new best practices.  

Stop looking at content marketing as yet another channel. Instead, think of it as a new, comprehensive process and mindset that you integrate into your other marketing efforts.

Consider this example: At the beginning of this 2011, a B2B organization launched a new blog. It spent tons of time and effort developing a solid set of “big ideas” around which to have a discussion. It wasn’t going to be about the brand; the blog was going to offer leading-edge insights about its area of expertise, positioning the members of this company as thought leaders in the industry. The company acquired an amazing, one-word URL that summed up the exact theme of these ideas. It developed a content strategy. It put together the targeted personas. It created an entire editorial calendar. In short, this organization did everything just right.

Then, as the launch date approached, and the blog started filling with posts and content, the executive team began to second guess themselves. What started as quiet hallway conversations a few weeks before launch became a full-blown conference room debate about marketing’s best practices:

  • “We can’t talk about competitors here.”
  • “We should incorporate this into our corporate SEO strategy.”
  • “What’s our official position on that? We need to add that into every post.”
  • “We’ve never talked about that before. We have to delete that.”
  • “We don’t compete well on that issue.”
  • “Aren’t we helping our competition with that post?”
  • “We need a lot more persuasive calls to action on this blog.”

What’s the ROI?

So, the company changed the blog. (To be plain, it was gutted.)  It deleted the “offending posts,” added a call to action for a free trial on every page and changed every mention of a competitor to a generic term.

Guess what happened? When the blog launched, it was basically an extension of the corporate marketing site—and was about as well recognized a thought leadership platform as you might think. Crickets chirped.

Too often marketers’ fear of failure in the short term stands in the way of the learning—even the breakthrough new practice—we might achieve in the longer term. In short, we’re so afraid that we might lose sales or disenfranchise a prospect that our practices stay safe, incremental—and ultimately mediocre. We get so boxed in by measurement that we have no choice but to grasp tightly to best practices and strive to be “a little bit better than last time.”

Peter Drucker says that business “only has two functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation create value, all the rest are costs.”