Month: June 2018

Organized Chaos and Your Content Marketing Program

The dictionary defines chaos as “complete disorder and confusion.” And, the word organized is defined as “arranged in a systematic way, especially on a large scale.”

Two seemingly opposing words, but oddly perfect partners in the messy word of content marketing in today’s web-based publishing world. Let me explain why the concept of Organized Chaos makes sense in a content marketing program today.

In the same disruption-centric way the web has re-calibrated the commercial and retail landscape (think of e-commerce before Amazon) I would argue that “organized chaos” recalibrates the realities of the messy, disintermediated nature of web publishing while bringing a sense of purpose and direction to the frantic pace at which business environments and trends move today.

But first, let’s be clear on one point from the start: In suggesting adopting a sense of chaos as an integral part of the content marketing process, I am not proposing an ad hoc, reactive approach to content marketing as the norm. To do so would just contribute to the problem of content clutter and overload. As a matter of fact, what I’ll present as a solution in this blog post is diametrically opposed to the concept of ad hoc content marketing – which I consider to be the primary problem inherent with most content marketing programs today. In this way, ad hoc and chaos are one in the same.

In order for a content marketing program to be effective, it must be grounded in real-world relevance. Meaning that, contextually, this approach must center around topics and themes that matter to the people who the content is targeting. And this is where the chaotic nature of the process is a necessary evil.

By definition, dynamic markets and competitive landscapes shift at will, and with no warning. Content that doesn’t have relevance to these shifts has no audience. Which hasn’t stopped many companies from continuing to push out streams and streams of disconnected and irrelevant content, no matter how relevant or irrelevant the content is.

So, back to organized chaos, what it means, and how to make it work as part of a content marketing strategy.

Clutter and Content Marketing

The first hurdle you have to overcome in creating an effective content marketing program is reducing the temptation to add to the content clutter. It might seem counter-intuitive to have chaos as an acceptable part of a strategic approach to content marketing, while clutter being something you want to stay away from. Clutter can be part of a chaotic environment but it doesn’t have to be. Think of a battlefield scene in the midst of an active war. The tanks and troops can be set in a very tight formation – not cluttered about, in other words – but the environment will still have a very chaotic feel because that’s the nature of war.

Perhaps a battle is the best way to envision the concept of organized chaos. Battles are won by maintaining a sense of order (anti-clutter) in the midst of chaos. It’s the same with content marketing.

Clutter happens when content and content marketing programs are administrated ad hoc, with little or no sense of purpose. And many content marketing programs are run this way. Content is released sporadically, or all at once, without a sense of purpose and relevance.

Disintegration and Content Marketing

By definition, disintegration is the opposite of integration, and when it comes to a content marketing program, integration is essential to success. In this way, the word organized can be used interchangeably with the word integrated.  Integration ties back to the principle of organization, but it’s more than that. Integration, especially when it comes to content marketing, builds on the principle of synergy, which can be best illustrated by the idea of 1+1 = 3, where the sum of two parts is greater than those two parts individually.

Speed, Velocity and the Content Marketing Model

Put another way, integration in content marketing is exemplified by the differences in the meaning of speed and velocity. Speed is a simple calculation expressing the rate at which an object covers distance. And many content marketing programs are launched on the principle of speed alone – “let’s push out as much material as fast as possible, and as often as possible.” Just like speed to market is good in theory when it comes to launching a new product, speed alone can be deadly for a product that is rushed to market before being fully tested or vetted for flaws or design issues.

It’s the same with speed to market as it relates to an effective content marketing program.

Velocity, on the other hand, adds the dynamic of direction-orientation. Velocity is the measurement of how fast an object is moving … in a particular direction. This is where most content marketing programs miss the mark – it’s not speed to market that counts, it’s velocity. Moving quickly and efficiently in the right direction.

The Content Distribution Ecosystem

The Content Distribution Ecosystem (or CDE) is a term I use to describe the perfect mix of organization and chaos, addressing the problem of content clutter in the process. It focuses on speed-to-market (relevance and timeliness) in the right direction, which is built around a consistent communication message or theme and distributed across multiple media platforms.

 

A CDE is built around the idea that one singular message, integrated across multiple digital media platforms is a much more effective way to move the needle using content marketing. That “needle” could be anything from a current perception (or misperception) – which is what a positioning strategy is all about – to a measurable increase in sales prospects coming in the form of opt-in signups to a weekly newsletter that promotes specials and discounts to a select group of opt-in individuals.

The CDE also addresses two of the biggest problems inherent in ad hoc content marketing programs – inefficiencies and higher costs, both interconnected to one another.

Inefficiencies and Higher Costs

Ad hoc content marketing programs are, by design, built around one-off content pieces. These programs are more or less built on a reactionary and underdeveloped, or no, strategic plan. In this case, a trigger action happens (ie a new product is released) and product marketing says “let’s get a press release out.” A press release is hurridly drafted and put on the newswire (a totally ineffective step today as I share in this blog post), and everyone waits for the sales results to start rolling in. See how social media can quickly spread your message.

When that doesn’t happen, another hasty meeting is called and it’s decided that a product development team member should ghost-write a blog post on the theory behind the new product. The product manager writes the post, marketing re-writes it, and sales adds its two cents worth of sales-speak in and the post goes live – live being an operative word because the post gets few views, and far fewer comments.

Next up, a slick video to try and resurrect the early enthusiasm. And so on, down the line of marketing “tricks.”

Creating multiple materials in a one-off, ad hoc fashion becomes expensive – especially if these materials are outsourced to a freelance resource or agency. But even if out-of-pocket costs are not incurred, the wasted hours of internal resources on materials that a) materials that don’t have any impact and b) consume resources inefficiently end up costing more time and effort than it should.

The CDE is built around a core messaging strategy at the optimal time during the product development cycle. This messaging strategy can be three to five key points you want the market to know (don’t forget the principle of relevance when creating the points) and plans made to weave those points consistently into a series of tactical marketing materials that will be released simultaneously and linked together. So the message is impactful because it’s reinforced in multiple media.

And since the CDE delivers a singular, consistent message in a variety of ways and media, the message has both impact and a greater chance of moving the needle.

An Example of the CDE

So, how would a CDE campaign actually be created? First, you decide on three to five core communication points. Next, plan to get a customer advocate – someone who uses your brand or product – on the phone for a short interview and weave questions around the core communication points into the interview.

Record that phone or Skype call and transcribe the interview. Edit the audio interview into a shorter version and create a podcast file which can be uploaded to a service such as SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes or other.

Use the written transcription as source material for a press release, a Q&A PDF that can be downloaded online and a blog post. Create a short promotional video that highlights the key points and share that on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. And find supporting data to back the key points and create an infographic that can be sent with the press release.

And, from that one phone interview, you have five coordinated campaign assets – podcast, press release, blog post, PDF, video, and Infographic. All built around the same messaging strategy.

There are many other forms of media you could create from this single source material (Slideshare, advertisement, webinar, etc), and the more materials you create from this one source, the stronger the messaging impact can be.

Getting to a point where you can efficiently produce singularly focused content marketing campaigns can be easier than you think. All it takes is some pre-planning and efficient use of digital tools and resources, and your content marketing program can begin to take on new levels of effectiveness in helping you reach your marketing communication goals.

 

 

Bill Threlkeld President Threlkeld Communications

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content digital marketing and public relations advisory based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in content ecosystem campaigns, also known as the Content Distribution Ecosystem, a unique content approach that synchronizes and integrates PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video, Email Marketing and other content marketing components for systematic distribution and measurable results.

 

Content Marketing and the Birthday Paradox

You’re standing in a line waiting for a content marketing seminar with 22 other people, and to kill time, the person behind you suggests making a bet: $100 on the fact that no two people in the line share the same birthday. Would you take that bet?

Most people probably wouldn’t, considering the probability that the chances of someone else in the line having the same birthday as them would be highly unlikely, and if they did take the bet, they’d lose $100. But what if you were to learn that the probability was as high as 50% of there being a birthday match, and you stand a good chance of winning $100 if you took the bet?

Click here to listen to a podcast version of this blog post.

The reason most people miss the answer is that, when we think of social groups, we tend to compare ourselves only to the group and base our reasoning on that perspective. But the bet was not about how many people you share your birthday with, but how many people share the same birthday. When all 23 individual’s birthdays are compared against each other, that factor makes for many more than 22 possible comparisons.

Content Marketing – Adding it Up

Consider this: The first person has 22 comparisons to make, but the second person was already compared to the first person, so there are only 21 comparisons to make. The third person has 20 comparisons, the fourth 19, and so on.

Adding up all of the possible comparisons (22+21+20+16+ … +1) comes to a sum of 253 comparisons, or combinations. This means that in the group of 23 people, there are 253 possible birthday matches.

The formula for calculating this number in a group of any size is (n * (n-1))/2, where n represents the master number of people in the group. So, in the case of 23 people, the total number of possible birthday matches is calculated by this equation:
(23 * (23-22))/2, which equals 253 possible matches.

So what does this formula have to do with marketing communications and content marketing strategies? The answer is related to one of the most powerful components of the social landscape: sharability.

This comes most into focus when you consider a brand social feed such as Twitter, and particularly one where individuals tend to express opinions or points of view about your brand, product or service. This has particular relevance for brands who have a customer service presence on social media. But even if you don’t have a formal customer service component in your social media setup, don’t assume that individuals won’t go to social channels to express their opinions about your brand or product, because they will. And if you aren’t monitoring your social channels and responding where appropriate, you should take steps to do this right away. Read this blog post with tips on how to effectively monitor your social channels.

Let’s circle back to the math and why this important for social marketing. Let’s say you notice that someone posts a Tweet on your brand channel expressing something negative about one of your products. For example, they had a poor experience with the product and hashtagged your brand and product in the negative Tweet.

Now let’s say you pick up on this Tweet and notice that the person who posted it has 45 followers. Your first inclination (and it’s not unusual) is to ignore it, with the justification that “it’s only 45 people … not a big deal.” But wait, when you think about the birthday paradox and do the math on this Follower count – considering the inter-connectivity of all the Followers, you find that there are almost 1,000 (990 to be exact) potential contacts (or points of influence) in this person’s network who may be impacted by this Tweet. Suddenly, that’s a much bigger deal!

And let’s say for illustration purposes that this person had 10 times the followers at 450 Followers. Still not huge in the context of Follower count in the Twittersphere. But run the math: That’s over 103,000 possible connections who could have seen, and been impacted, by the Tweet!

A Final Point About Content Marketing and Social Sharing

The goal with this post is not to strike fear in the minds of those of us who want to use social media to influence brand perception and positioning. Remember that what works with negative Tweets also works for positive Tweets – a positive Tweet about your brand by someone with 450 Followers can potentially reach over 103,000 people.

The goal is to learn to think of your marketing communications outreach and efforts from an IMPACT perspective, based on the sharability component of the social web. (See this blog post on putting a brand to work for more information). And if you can get good at monitoring and managing social engagement, you might find that it becomes your most valuable marketing resource, way beyond what Paid or even Earned (PR) coverage can do.

 

Bill Threlkeld President Threlkeld Communications

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content digital marketing and public relations advisory based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in content ecosystem campaigns, also known as the Content Distribution Ecosystem, a unique content approach that synchronizes and integrates PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video, Email Marketing and other content marketing components for systematic distribution and measurable results.