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Breaking down barriers (ICC2014)

As part of the general events at Intelligent Content Conference, Ann Rockley (AR) moderated a panel discussion on the wider aspects of content, breaking down the barriers between content strategy, content marketing and the technology that supports them. The panellists were: Kristina Halvorson (KH), Joe Pulizzi (JP), Buddy Scalera (BS), and Cleve Gibbon (CG).

Starting from the strategy perspective, Kristina reminded us that the deluge of useless stuff we are experiencing on the internet is largely a result of the “get content, get customers” mind set. Which we all know does not work. Instead, she suggests, we need to focus on strategy, and the mechanism whereby it focuses us by removing inappropriate options.

Buddy raised the interesting, and germane, point that analytics is a skewed approach to understanding what our customer base wants, and how we can best serve them. If we focus solely on those who come to us, and predominantly on those who interact, we are missing the voices of the majority who do not. The experiences and opinions gathered are distorted by the interactions we have made available; the messages we have used to communicate.

Also, he pointed out that the general metaphor of a “marketing funnel” used so freely by those in marketing is inherently flawed. If you tried to fill up the car using a “funnel” that only got 10% of your fuel into the tank…

Joe and Cleve both riled against the standard process of selecting the tool or platform before having a real understanding of what it needs to do with its content. They seem to believe the integrator will be able to figure out the strategy for them. It obviously doesn’t help that the purchased solutions are designed to deal with silos; nor that the decision to purchase is made on the golf course by those with no understanding of what or why they are buying.

Another rant focused on the lack of a holistic understanding of content amongst supposed content specialists: too many focus on the content within their tiny silo, not speaking to those dealing with the content in other channels; many, even, are not aware of the reality of what they are publishing, seeing it only in the context of singular outputs, rather than cohesive messages. (It can be enlightening to sit them down with print-outs, and a bit of dedicated time to understand what they are actually creating.)

To this point, Kristina suggested that as a consultant, one’s true role is to teach people to ask smarter questions. On a similar theme was the comment that a content strategy should be informed by brand and marketing strategies, rather than invented in a vacuum (though when said source strategies do not exist…)

On the subject of strategy frameworks, Cleve suggested that there cannot be a framework for what a content strategy is, as the needs of each client are so different. The only meaningful framework is the process for uncovering the correct strategy.

And, to wrap things up, Buddy explained why he hired physicists and taught them marketing, instead of trying to teach technology to marketers. (It’s easier. And, as a side benefit, he finds that bringing such analytically smart people to client meetings is like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

Raw notes

  • Does every person on a team have to have the same knowledge and skillset? (only if it’s a one-person team) (AR)
  • The idea of get content, get customers is just feeding the beast of useless “stuff” overload… (KH)
  • Strategy forces us to cut off options; to decide what we are not going to do. (KH)
  • If you only ask those who buy why they chose you, you have a skewed view. You don’t know the story of those who didn’t… (BS)
  • A “marketing funnel” is not a funnel. If you only had 10% success filling up your car… (BS)
  • What is content? (tumbleweed, silence) (CG)
  • It’s not about marketing. Figure out how content flows across the entire business. Friggin’ nightmare. (CG)
  • Most people thing about content as TL Jones responded to H Ford: I’m not guilty / “I don’t care.” (BS)
  • Until you know what you are going to do with your content, it is going to fail. (AR)
  • 90% of marketing automation implementations pick the tool first (for wizz-bang). Guaranteed failure.(JP)
  • You have the platforms because the CEO bought something on a handshake on the golf course. (KH)
  • Content strategy is a consultancy role to teach people to ask smarter questions. (KH)
  • Clients choose the tool, because they don’t understand how to plan the strategy. They get the integrator to do that. (CG)
  • “All my new employee’s get @halvorson and @JoePulizzi’s books.” (BS)
  • Before you can build, you need to understand the why of the content, not just the what. (AR/CG)
  • Divvy up the tasks that are needed to deliver the overall solution. Roles are artificial constructs. (CG)
  • Shift the mindset from “put it out, put it out” to thoughtful decisions. (i.e. slow down and fix your shit) (KH)
  • If I go into another meeting where the e-mail content person hasn’t talked to the social content person… crazy++ (JP)
  • Brand and marketing strategies should be informing content strategy. Should be. (KH)
  • Put marketers in a room with printouts of the stuff they are actually sending out. Ah-ha moments to follow. (JP)
  • We never will have a framework for what is a content strategy. (CG)
  • The framework for content strategy is on how we approach it, not the resultant output. (CG)
  • Getting internal stakeholders to agree on “this is our content, and what we expect it to do” is a mythical goal. (KH)
  • I found it was easier to teach marketing to physicists that to teach technology to salesmen. (BS)
  • Bringing analytically smart people to clients is like bringing a gun to a knife fight. (BS)
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