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The Content Promotion Manifesto

Thursday, December 17, 2015

In this week's Writer Podcast, Byron chats with Chad Pollitt, VP of Audience and Co-founder of Relevance. Learn why Chad thinks that audience is king, and his thoughts on the content that we see today. He's been named one of the Top 20 Digital Strategists in Marketing from the Online Marketing Institute and is ranked 5th on the Top 100 Content Marketing Thought Leaders list by Onalytica. You can learn more about Chad and download his book at http://www.chadpollitt.com/.

Byron:           Welcome back everyone. I’m here with Chad. Chad, welcome.

Chad:            Hey, Byron. How’s it going?

Byron:           Good. Great to have you here. You’re the author of the Content Promotion Manifesto. Give us some of the licks of your manifesto. What’s the prompt for you to focus on this super-hot topic some time ago when you first dug in the trenches here?

Chad:            Yeah. Byron, I travel around the country and I talk to a lot of people that are doing content marketing or social media marketing, whatever flavor they want to call it, and I keep running into the same stuff, that’s build it and they will come… or excuse me. Great content, publish it, broadcast it via social and email, and they will come. Well, in today’s world of oversaturated content industries where by 2020 according to Mark Schaefer, we’re supposed to have five X more content than what we have today. Build it and they will come won’t work. We need to have a structure, a plan in place. A strategy for the promotion of our content that we publish every day as marketers and that’s why I created the Content Promotion Manifesto.

Byron:           Chad, when did the golden years end where you could actually publish something without paying for much and without worrying too much about distribution channels and have it actually work? Was it two years ago, three years ago, maybe five tops?

Chad:            It depends on your industry, Byron. If we were say beekeepers today, and we created the most robust beekeepers blog on the internet, I bet we could build it and they would come. Why? Because I don’t think there’s many beekeepers out there doing robust content marketing like we’re doing today, right? In that situation, there’s truly a content deficit that is begging to be filled. There’s more people out there looking to solve their problems around beekeeping than content available to fulfill that need. In my industry, in our industry in marketing and in content, I’d say 2011 is when we hit the ceiling as far as filling that deficit and pouring over to the oversaturation range.

Byron:           Chad, how hard is it to really figure out how much content you need and what channels you need to publish it in, and how much it’s going to cost to publish and pay for content being promoted, and what ROI you’re going to get from that investment? Has technology helped us with these tough questions and how do you see that coming about these days?

Chad:            The short answer is yes. Technology has had a tremendous impact. Specifically, I’ll say that the marketing stock attached to a CRM is really for me is the key in tracking everything we do from a marketing and sales perspective. I’m able to see exactly how many top of the funnel inquiries or conversions we’ve had, how many of those converted to MQLs, how many of those converted to SQLs, how many of those then went on to become opportunities, and how many closed that we won, and how many closed that we lost. I’m able to actually put a cost-per on each one of those line items. I know exactly how much it costs to create one opportunity or one closed one for the lifetime value of that particular client. Now, I also write that down via channels. I know what search delivers to me and how much I spend on that. I know what native advertising delivers for me and more specifically, the different channels and native advertising, right? I've got it all broken down in my own little cheat sheet where I know where I need to double down and where I need to drop channels. In fact, I’m going through that process right now. I was doing it a few minutes before you and I started talking.

Byron:           Let’s assume you have a marketing automation platform like a Pardot or a HubSpot, right, and let’s assume you even have some reasonable content that you’re popping out in your blog and also with some multichannel approach in Facebook, in Twitter at least linking back to the blog, what is missing from the elements of success that you need? What more do you need to do today to get your content out there; to, as we like saying, get the content out and the leads in? What’s missing these days?

Chad:            Got you. Well, first of all, you’re probably not going to like me saying this, but I came to this conclusion about a year ago, I don’t believe that content is king anymore. I believe the audience is king and he who has access to that audience and can persuade them, holds the keys to the kingdom. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is simple. If you, as a brand, as a content marketer, and your goals should be around this, is to grow your own organic audience, right? Then to do that, you have to tap into other audiences at scale, and bring and invite that other audience or those other audiences back to your website to create your own audience, okay? That’s not the end goal. The end goal is to drive revenue, of course, but the reason we want to build an audience is to harvest that audience over time for new business, okay? That’s why we want to build an audience. Now, how do we tap into other audiences? There’s only two ways to tap into other audiences. You can either tap into them via earned media or paid media. Now, in some ways, you can tap into it via own media if you're broadcasting through your social accounts; but what we all know is that the social media outlets have cranked down organic visibility in their newsfeeds to force us to pay them for their native advertising solution, right? In order to tap into other audiences, you need earned media or paid media. You can do both. But that’s really what’s missing in most content promotion plans, most content distribution plans, and especially on the earned media side. It’s really easy for brands to invest heavily in networks like Outbrain, Taboola, Adblade, RevContent, so on and so on. What’s not so easy is to get a journalist over at ink.com to do a write up on the e-books your company just published. But if you can get that to happen, Byron, you’ll get a windfall of leads like you wouldn’t believe. I can tell you I’ve had one of my e-books covered on ink.com and within two weeks, I had over 800 leads in my sales file from that one article.

Byron:           Help us with the distinct… congratulations by the way and that doesn’t surprise me. Tell us that the distinction between earned media and paid media, and try to dig a little bit deeper particularly with earned media, the elements of what probably inevitably is great content and getting it out in the right channels. Tell us about that content quality-focused channel.

Chad:            Right. Earned media is probably… well, not probably. It’s the most challenging channel to get your content covered on or promoted on. I call it content coverage because it’s really about other people promoting or talking about your content to their audience, okay? The tried and true earned media tactic that’s been around for a long, long, long time is media relations, okay? This is a PR thing. They’ve been doing it probably over a hundred years. Now, the difference between traditional PR with media relations and what we’re trying to do to promote content, is traditional PR folks are going to pitch brand stories, or product stories, or service stories, right? They don’t typically pitch content to a journalist. Well, guess what, journalists love good content to cover. As a brand, if you do some study or some survey that highlights unique information in your industry that has not been revealed before, there’s a good chance there’s a journalist out there for you in front of the audience you want to get in front of that will write an article and cover that content. Guess what they do when they cover it, they link to your landing page. That’s one tactic, but there’s others as well.

Byron:           Tell us about the paid channels. Is it worth it, and what should we be pushing out with paid channels? How are you discovering what’s worthy of paid?

Chad:            Got you. I've got to be really careful with paid and when I have this content distribution conversation because here’s the thing: When I talk about paid media in this regard, I’m not talking about pay-per-click and display advertising, okay? The traditional channels of paid media are not built for our top funnel content, okay? They’re built for our mid to bottom funnel content. What I mean by that is this: As marketers, we know that when we write a blog post and somebody consumes that blog post, that’s not the end game. We still need to convert them. Then once we convert them, we need to nurture them over time down our funnel until it makes sense to reach out to them and to sell them our widget or our service, right? Now, why would we use those channels of display advertising and pay-per-click to distribute top funnel content when we can distribute bottom or mid funnel content? That lead is more valuable, right? We’re paying the same per-click whether we promote top funnel or bottom funnel content. My question is: why would we waste our time on those channels for top funnel content? The answer is: we’re not. Marketers aren’t, because it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t work. That represents a major gap for us as top funnel content marketers, a major gap that’s begging to be filled, because in a world of oversaturation and content, we can’t just simply rely on the ten organic positions on the first page of Google to distribute our content, and we certainly can’t rely on social media organically serving it up. That’s where native advertising comes in. Now, there’s two major parts to native advertising. On one hand, you’ve got your recommendation engines; your Taboolas, Outbrains, Adblades, RevContents of the world. On the other hand, you have sponsored content. You can actually go to the New York Times and you can pay the New York Times to either create content for you, or if their editorial approves it, they’ll publish your own content that you create which I don’t think they do too often if they’ve ever done. But they will publish that content and they will put a sticker on it that says, “Sponsored content,” and you will get in front of a very large audience.

Byron:           Tell us a little bit about some of the creative channels that are popping up like Facebook, for example, where you can pop in, let’s say your hot list of prospects, let’s say they’re mid funnel prospects that you want to get some cool, interesting content out? Do you pop in the email addresses of those candidates and boom, they’re seeing sponsored content in Facebook that you’re paying for a listing on and paying per-click on? Do you think that those are good channels? Are those content promotion channels (A) getting more creative and interesting the way we’re tying things in and (B) are they worthy of investment?

Chad:            Yeah. They are pretty cool channels and especially what you described on mimicking a current list is definitely a very cool thing to do. Here’s the thing with say Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn: When you’re being really strategic and calculated in distribution of certain content, those are great channels and they’re well worth it. However, if you’re trying to scale your distribution across your blog, for example, and you publish a lot of content, those probably aren’t the channels you’re going to want to scale with because the cost per clicks are pretty pricey. Now, Facebook’s about the cheapest. I think the best I’ve ever been able to get is maybe 45-50 cents per on Facebook, but there’s other more cheaper solutions that will give you scale if that’s what you’re seeking. But when you want to be strategic, target very specific mid funnel prospects with just maybe a few articles, right? That’s a great channel to do that. But, like I said, when it comes to scale, I’d look elsewhere. I know of some third-party solutions that use multiple networks from social to the traditional native ad networks that we all know and love that can get cost per clicks down to seven cents. In fact, I’ve experienced that. Then I know of one solution called Kiwi that uses machine learning and algorithms using Facebook and a few other networks. They’re able to get cost per clicks down to around four cents which is just amazing to me.

Byron:           Are you finding those to be relevant? That’s a ridiculously low cost for user acquisition cost or even conversion cost, however you want to look at it.

Chad:            Yeah.

Byron:           Are you finding those leads to be fairly relevant [0:14:51 and conversive]?

Chad:            Yeah, here’s the thing. The Kiwi solution, I have not used yet. I can tell you that they just got a big injection of investment directly from the New York Times because the New York Times was one of their first customers. Using their solution, they were able to get more new subscribers to the New York Times in 30 days than with the New York Times was able to accomplish on their own in the previous 12 months.

Byron:           Wow, fascinating.

Chad:            If that’s an indicator, then yeah; that’s probably a solution worth looking into. But I know that their contracts tend to be in the five-figure range to six-figure range, I believe.

Byron:           Got it, yeah. Makes sense going to enterprise levels, the solutions. Too bad the small players like you and I need access to technology like that. Let me know if you have an in there and I’ll do the same. I’ll look at their board, or their advisors, or anybody we may know and try to wiggle in. Tell us a little about where you see the future of content promotion going. Do you think anything’s going to change radically in the next 6 months to 12 months?

Chad:            Actually, yes, I do. Most people don’t know this, but Google has their native advertising network in private beta and it has been since, I believe, October of '13, maybe… maybe it was October of last year. But anyways, I anticipate them launching that network this year. Now, the rumors have it that the leaks that have come out say that it’s going to do two things. The first thing it’s going to do is what we all expect it to do, and that’s compete directly with the Taboolas and Outbrains of the world, okay? They’ll go right up against them. But the other thing that it does is it’s going to connect brands and marketers like you and I to publications and premium blogs at scale. What I mean by that is if you want to do sponsored content today, you have to reach out and contact the publications you want to sponsor content on. Google has built a solution that you can go into their interface and those publications that are in the Google system in a turnkey way, you can create content for them and it will deliver that content to those publications and blogs that you choose. It will probably be a market system similar to their pay-per-click, right? If they approve it, then it will be published on their website, the transaction will happen to Google, and you’ll pay to get that content placed there.

Byron:           Isn’t this good news for content creators of the world that are short on time for promotion?

Chad:            Yes, absolutely. Because remember, I don’t believe content is king. I believe audience is. If audience is king, using tools like this to tap into other audiences at scale, and drive those people back to your website and have them become your audience is going to be critical moving forward.

Byron:           Have we seen finally the death of crappy content having value on a website?

Chad:            That’s a loaded question because if you ask me, BuzzFeed is a bunch of crappy website content. In the old days, crappy content was done strictly for search purposes and I think those days are over; but one man’s crappy content is another man’s awesome sauce, so to speak. I think there’s a place for maybe short-form content that there’s not a lot of storytelling around that’s quick into the point and very problem-solving, similar to… Google has its instant answers when you do a search and it gives you that little paragraph at the top. You don’t even have to click on anything, right? Now, is that quality content? No, not really; but it solves a problem quickly. Generally, that’s why people are on the web - to solve their problems quickly. If that’s what you deem as crappy content, that short-form quick problem solving content, I think that’s here to stay.

Byron:           Yeah, I wouldn’t disagree. What’s your take on authorship? Google+ was tracking authorship for some time and dropped it all. They just sort of got rid of it all. I thought that was a very interesting move. That was some time ago. What’s your take on authorship and the power of who wrote the content versus how much you’re creating or even how good it is with a ghost writer versus an actual author that’s got fans and followers?

Chad:            Right, right. Here’s what I think and I’m not the only one, other people have shared this and I forget the reasons that people are saying this, but I think they just hid authorship from everyone, so I don’t know the analytics behind my authorship in Google Webmaster tools like I used to know, right? I think that’s all gone and of course, the picture next to the SERP (search engine results page), that’s gone as well. But I think they’re still probably tracking it. I don’t know how many new authors are doing their own authorship to allow Google to track it, but mine is still set up and I think that it still may have an impact at some point in the future. I really don’t know. I have no way of knowing it for sure, but my gut tells me it’s still in their roadmap.

Byron:           Tell us about content writing itself, content creation, if you will? Has that changed radically and how do you need to write differently now than say two to five years ago?

Chad:            Five years ago, I wrote much more for the search engines than I do today I’ll tell you that. Not everyone did.

Byron:           Fair point. Splashing in keywords, peppering in keywords, if you will.

Chad:            Yeah, I did that stuff like you wouldn’t believe. It was crazy. It was stupid. That wasn’t for my prospective audience. That was for Google. I can’t believe some of the crap I used to do. I used to take an H1 tag and indent it like 5,000 pixels off to the left so nobody could ever see it but Google. In that regard… yeah --

Byron:           [0:21:57 inaudible] yeah.

Chad:            -- I think it’s changed dramatically. But I think long-form content is gaining in popularity.

Byron:           You’ve written a lot of content. You’ve been published in the Huffington Post, Guardian social media today. What’s the secret to getting your content out in the pubs?

Chad:            I’ve written over 800 articles and I’ve been writing pretty much since I got back from Iraq in ’06 where I did a tour of duty there and --

Byron:           Congratulations, by the way, and thanks for your fine work. You’re also a decorated veteran, I might add as well.

Chad:            Yes, I am. It was quite the experience and it helped turn me into the business professional I am today. But I’ll tell you, I started blogging and it just kind of snowballed on its own. I can identify about four different tipping points I had in my “blogging career” and how it had an impact on my career. At certain stages, opportunities arose like to write for the Huffington Post, and to write for the Guardian, and to write for Moms, and to write for HubSpot, and to write for Mark Schaefer’s grow blog, and so on and so forth. I’ve written for dozens of different websites. Yeah, it didn’t happen overnight; but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Each one of those blog posts represented one more brick in the Great Wall of China, and I’m still building it.

Byron:           What keeps you going and what do you read to… how do you keep up with the Joneses’, if you will, with the whole of this content being created? Do you have 10, 20, 50, 100 people that you read, that you’ve used mentors, Seth Godin, is there somebody that you go to for inspiration? How do you crank out so much great content?

Chad:            I’ve always followed this rule when it comes to writing marketing content. I write what I’m either thinking about doing, write about what I’m doing, or write about what I did. Now, over the last probably three years, I’ve been creating much more thought leadership content. I’ve been writing about what others should do and why I think they should do it, okay? That’s my basic formula. Believe it or not, I don’t get swayed much by what I call the Marketing Echo Chamber. What I mean by that is you can probably find 500 blog posts on the top ten ways to optimize your Facebook page, right? You’re not going to catch me writing that type of content. Now, there’s a place for it. But me as a thought leader in the industry, that’s not the type of content that I’m going to write. Now, say a junior content marketer here at our agency, now that might be perfect content for them to write because if a client asks them a question about how to optimize their Facebook page, they’ve created content that they can then deliver to them. By the way, if somebody types into Google and it comes up, that’s great too.

Byron:           Just a couple questions before we end and we’re going to let you dash off. You’ve been so kind to spend some time with us today. Who would you like to get a hold of you and how can they get a hold of you?

Chad:            Yeah. There’s three types of people that can get a hold of me. One is just people that are passionate about the industry and are looking to grow their network. I’m always interested in connecting with my like-minded folks. I’m easy to get a hold of. You can hit me up, just type in chadpollitt and Google. I’ve got my own website, chadpollitt.com. You can hit me up on relevance.com. You can hit me up on Twitter at any time - I’m always on Twitter. That’s one type of person. The other type of person that I’m interested in talking to is any SASS company and/or network in the content marketing space interested in having a voice on Relevance, the online digital publication. We have a very robust sponsorship package where we partner with awesome brands out there in the space and we help get them the visibility to our audience that they need and want, right? People looking for [0:26:35 inaudible] solutions and brand awareness, definitely get a hold of me. Then the last group of people is the enterprise marketers out there that are struggling with their content strategy, struggling with their content promotion, so on and so forth. We have a full service enterprise agency that specializes in very thorough research, and content creation, and promotion. The whole strategy behind that, we deliver to enterprise teams all across the planet, really.

Byron:           Chad, I’m certain you’re going to hear from some people, myself included, with some interest in helping you grow your content pool with a great article that I’d love to send your way. Let me take a look and I’ll send something along. But thank you so much for joining us.

Chad:            Awesome. It was my pleasure, Byron.

Byron:           Right, indeed. I know we’ll be chatting soon, so thanks again for listening in everyone and hope you’ll be listening next week. Thank you for tuning in.