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Inside Content Marketing

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What does jello has to do with content marketing? Byron chats with Theresa Cramer, editor of EContent magazine, on this topic and several others on this week's Writer Podcast. Find out how to create content that clients want to read, and what branded content stands out.

Bryon:                   Welcome back everyone, I’m here with Theresa Creamer. Theresa, welcome.

Theresa:              Hi, how are you today?

Bryon:                   Fine thanks. You are the editor of the EContent magazine which by the way could consume about three hours of our time in itself…But you also you have a new book which just came up called, ‘Inside Content Marketing’. Thanks for being with us today.

Theresa:              Thank you for having me.

Bryon:                   Okay, let’s dive into the book. A word like ‘inside’ is kind of an interesting choice of words here. There is a lot to open the door up. When you slide the barren door open to content marketing there is a lot inside, right?

Theresa:              Yeah.

Bryon:                   What was the approach of the book? Did you want to stay broad based in 20,000 feet or did you want to dive deeper in some of the tactics and strategies and tools that are going on? Tell us a little bit about the mission overall.

Theresa:              One of the things I wanted to do is break content marketing down into its parts in terms of the different people involved. There is a section in the book…We start out with marketers, because those are the people who are already in content marketing, are sold, are practicing right now, and we talk to them first and foremost. But then we also…By the end of that section of the book I’m talking about how important the people you have on your team are. I then pull in journalists and start talking a little bit more to them about how content marketing can become part of their career. Then finally we end with publishers who…In a lot of ways, content marketing is a competitor for them. Instead of buying ads their formal advertisers are now just putting up a blog post. The publishers have a role to play in that because they already have the content creation machine setup and know how to do it better than anybody else. The thing I really was trying to do was talk to everybody involved along the spectrum of content marketing, and not just the people who are already sold on content marketing and are in it to win it, and the people who are heavy on the content side and not so much on the marketing side.

Bryon:                   Tell us a little bit about some of the research that you did. I loved your chapter entitled, ‘The Best 100 Years of Content Marketing’, fascinating. Tell us about some of the research briefly if you could.

Theresa:              Anyone who’s being paying attention to content marketing for very long already knows those old standbys, like John Deere. We all know they’ve had ‘The Furrow’ out forever and they were probably maybe one of the first examples of content marketing, but there were a lot of other people doing it. One of my favorite examples was Jell-O because no one would eat Jell-O. When they searched they figured out…When they first got the path and then figured out we could eat, this no one wanted anything to do with it, so they started putting out cookbooks to tell people how to use this stuff, which is something we still see today. Every time I walk into Whole Foods I pick up the five meals for $5 or whatever the thing is at the front of the store and see what they are trying to convince me to buy that week.

But then I also use some examples I hadn’t heard too much about which…One of my favorites is…I drive a Subaru and for the first few years I had my car I would get this Drive magazine from Subaru. I would confuse it with my organic gardening magazine all the time because it would come to me and instead of having a car on the front it would be about growing vegetables or something or rock climbing, and I was like, “Wow this is…” I do not care about cars I bought…My cousin had just bought a Subaru and she was like, “I like it,” I was like, “Okay, I’ll buy one too.” I don’t care about cars at all but I read this magazine because it was actually talking to me about things I cared about.

Bryon:                   You’re a journalist yourself, obviously the editor, and can you can certainly tell us a little bit about your background. But where do you think journalists stand when all is said and done and the content marketing revolution is happening? Why are journalists in your mind and according to one of your chapters, hire a journalist as your chief storyteller? Are journalists finally finding a place in the corporate setting and are they happy?

Theresa:              Well, that’s a wonderful question. I think that if they want to find a place in the corporate setting then yes, they all are, but there are still a lot of hold-outs out there. I talked to three content marketers/ journalists who were all sort of along the spectrum. One seems to have completely gone on full force into content marketing and the other ones were still sort of dabbling in journalism but content marketing pays the bills, or they did whatever they could when that was convenient. But then I also spoke to people who were the heads of content studios at publishers, at Digit-a, at New York Magazine, at Basel. They all have journalism backgrounds. They all said to me that first and foremost we want someone who can create content, who can write, journalism…The journalism side is more important than the marketing side because you need to be a good story teller and that’s just not something you can teach. But journalists obviously they are already in the business and if you can convince them to come do it for you, that’s wonderful, but you can’t always. There plenty out there who are just never going to make that switch…They see it as a dark side and that’s fine. But I think we have a duty sort of to show them what content marketing can be and that it doesn’t have to be garbage basically.

Bryon:                   Yeah. Are you finding that in this early launch and in the people you interviewed on the journalism side of the table that journalists are seeing some excitement with the possibilities? When companies are opening themselves up and starting to want to tell stories, which was of course a big theme at content marketing conference this year, learn to tell stories, here is why stories work…Over the thousands of years of existence storytelling has being a critical part of our world. Stories stay with you, products and features and benefits do nothing for us…We have the recipe down. Do you think journalists and brand journalism, if you will, has an exciting future, and are you hearing that radiate with the research that you did with journalists in your book?

Theresa:              I absolutely think it has an exciting future and I think when it’s done right it can… e saw this with the New York Times and their ‘Orange is the New Black’ piece, where they did a thing about women inmates and they actually found that that kind of content and content like it at times outperforms some of their regular content, their straight editorial content. When it’s done well it’s absolutely very exciting. But I think there are just still a lot of journalists who don’t trust it. While the journalists who are there already seem to really be enjoying themselves and they like the challenge it provides and it allows them to do different things…They all told me about people they knew who just did not want anything to do with it. I think that’s almost silly because if you get to tell the same story you would tell otherwise just with a bigger budget, why not? We are seeing people do that sort of thing all the time.

Bryon:                   Where does the world stand with user generated content in your mind?

Theresa:              The world as in content marketing?

Bryon:                   The marketing world. Yeah, the content marketing world. Sorry. Everything I think and do is content marketing these days, so I left out that important point.

Theresa:              Where we stand with user generated content?

Bryon:                   Yes.

Theresa:              Well, I think it’s…I think for some companies it works extremely well. When you are GoPro and you have people going out there and making exciting videos or even not exciting videos…I can’t tell you how many GoPro videos I’ve seen, where someone loses with it and a squirrel picks it up and then you get this funny video where it’s up in the tree and the squirrel is trying to eat it or something.

Bryon:                   You’re right.

Theresa:              When you are a company like that who just has a built in user base who can create great content you just need to go for it. But then we also see other companies like GE doing the same thing with their six second science campaign and it turns out wonderfully. You just need to know how to do it right because we sort of see it backfire with politics all the time. They try to get some Twitter campaign going and then it turns ugly for them because it’s just too sort of controversial. But if you have the right products it really works well.

Bryon:                   We are starting to see brands align themselves with musicians and artists and entertainers. Is that something that you are seeing when you look at the inside scoop of brands beginning to get a lot more creative with content marketing?

Theresa:              Yeah, I guess so. When I think of that though, I just think as…Well, I don’t know that that is any different than hiring Michael Jordan to be in a Nike commercial. What’s the difference really, except that now we are talking about…Are you sort of talking about YouTube stars who then bring in their…talk about your makeup or whatever it is you are pitching to them?

Bryon:                   It’s difficult to generalize but an example of a very creative content marketing strategy…Red Bull has had many incredible campaigns where one of which was funding diving platforms in various places around the world and contracting divers to perform this incredible stunt in front of hundreds and thousands of people sometimes. I would argue that that’s content and I would argue that that’s entertainment and the two seem to be intersecting in strange and mysterious ways. That’s what I’m seeing at least and that was…I actually hosted a keynote with an artist, a musical performer named Will Dailey and I featured another woman from Life is Good who had hired Will to do an exhibit, and then another brand evangelist that had written a book on it, and three of us had an interesting panel discussion followed by a musical performance. It was really interesting…Talking about how these things are intersecting, what’s your take on that and what did you learn in the book or what do you experience in your own content world that helps those things come together?

Theresa:              That sort of reminds me towards the end of the book I sort of see this melding at this point of content marketing and marketing. The thing that…Say like the super bowl puppy ads…Budweiser has got a puppy, it’s got a horse, they’re doing two things. Now, is that content marketing? We all watch it on the web. We all see it before it even comes out. It’s a cute story. Is that content marketing or is that an ad? That won content marketing awards, but I would consider that an ad. The same thing sort of goes when you start talking about musicians and that sort of thing because companies have been sponsoring concerts and summer concerts and festivals and that sort of thing  for years, for as long as I can remember. There is nothing new about that. We are just now calling it content marketing. I think the two are really sort of intersecting in a way where we are not…Content marketing was always sort of hard for some people to figure out what it was exactly, and it’s becoming even harder because so much now...Even when you are creating a regular ad to put on T.V you want there to be a story because no one is going to pay attention to it. I think advertising in general is starting to make this move towards content marketing and picking up tricks from it, and we are just going to see more and more of that.

Bryon:                   Wouldn’t disagree, and we could go super deeper on that. It’s funny you had come to some conclusions on content marketing as maybe more about the marketing. There is a big frontier to things that we need less marketing with content and more focus on the content itself. Some of the discussion points that have come up are in the traditional advertising model we would spend X amount on the creative and then Y amount on the actual marketing of that creative. A lot of people have come to content marketing and assumed that you could spend a little bit on the content, part of content marketing, and basically nothing on the marketing part of it. Like let’s just…This is just going to be free, I just have to buy or create new stuff and it will just go viral. Not the case, you need about a 10 X amplification of any good content.

Guys like Larry Kim who is one of our great speakers talked fluently about using Facebook and other social channels at ridiculously inexpensive prices like $50 investments to help with the amplification. But the key is it’s got to be good content. You’ve got to amplify the right content, which is why I do think that content will continue to be king in all of this. But man you need a serious amplification of that king for that king to be king. What’s your take on that? Where do you see paid channels within the book? What are your recommendations, your strategies or advice or tactics on promoting great content? Did you get into that much?

Theresa:              I did a little bit but I took a slightly different take on it because for me I think this is really where traditional publishers can be a big help because they already have an audience. There is a reason people are going to content studios at the New York Times, at New York magazine, at Digit-a wherever else they are going, and that’s because they have a built in audience. You can post the blog post all you want or put it on your Facebook page and you can spend some money and hopefully people will look at it, but there is nothing like the engaged audience a publisher also already has. You combine that with their ability to create great content and I think you’ve got a win-win situation. I think publishers who are not already there, who are not taking advantage of this, really need to start thinking about opening a content studio of their own.

Bryon:                   Yeah. Interesting. What does that look like to you? When a publisher opens up a “content studio of their own” tell me what that looks like to you. Is this like a…By the way look at some of the destruction that’s happened in that space with Demand Media. They’ve been struggling for a long time to try to figure out; do they own their own domain name? Do they publish on their own domain names? What is their mission and their purpose? Is it a traditional publishing or…? Now they’ve branched out with Demand studios, I think it’s called, and they are trying to pitch large brands with their army of writers that can create walls of content, screens and screens of content for bounties and prices that would help those brands connect with prospect customers. What does that look like? Are we going to see these pop up publishers that are selling writing services or content services to brands? Is that what you think might happen?

Theresa:              Well, pop up content studios, no.

Bryon:                   They are good at it. They are good at…Pop up is…What I mean by that is will they go into business? Will they put a stake in the ground that says, “We have audience; we have content creation, hire us. We will get your brand’s message and your products and services essentially or at least your stories out to our audience and try to loosely connect them with your products and features and benefits and services.” But that’s a fine line don’t you think? Tell me about that tension.

Theresa:              Well, I do think there is some tension but everyone I spoke to…There is a strict divide down the middle. There is editorial and then there is content marketing. Sometimes the content studio has poached staff from editorial and moved them over to that side of the house but the two don’t meet. But at the same time I think they’re…One of the places I see the biggest chance for growth here is with B2B publishers. B2B publishers, one, they’re not already in this. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, all these guys they all have their content studios, but our tiny little B2B press is doing it, not necessarily. They have customers, advertisers who really do need that service because these smaller companies, they don’t have the resources necessarily to create their own content, or if they do they might be outsourcing it to an agency and why not try to get them to outsource it to you, to help [0:18:48 inaudible] your bottom line. I think…It’s funny because one of the pieces of advice I give in the book for marketers looking for journalists is to go to the B2B press who’s already covering their space and find journalists that they can poach, because they’re already covering your space, they don’t need to get up to date on the technology or whatever it is you’re selling. They already know all that and they can create content. I think there is…We’ve definitely seen some missed steps like with the Atlantic and their scientology post from a few years ago…People hated it, it was awful, but the heads of the content studios I spoke to, when I asked them about missed steps like that they said there is nothing inherently wrong with the brand. They needed to do a better job of reigning in those expectations from the church of scientology. What they should have done is done a post that was about the power of education or whatever in your life instead of just making an advertorial for scientology. If you do it well, and that’s the key here is to do it well, it can be done.

Bryon:                   Yeah. What’s next for content marketing in your opinion? You study the inside track here wonderfully and carefully and I hope people take a look at your book. They are tuning in. What’s next in your opinion?

Theresa:              Oh, that’s so hard to predict. I can’t even know.

Bryon:                   I know. Tell me about…

Theresa:              I have no idea.

Bryon:                   Yeah, yeah.

Theresa:              Video of course is always becoming bigger and bigger and mobile. They are figuring out how to use mobile whether that’s through text or Snap chat or whatever. Then of course there is virtual reality. Just this weekend actually my boyfriend discovered the New York Times virtual reality app and he’s walking around the house moving his phone so he can land on food hour or whatever this guy is doing.

Bryon:                   Wow.

Theresa:              I’ve never seen anyone so amazed. I was like, “Wow, if this was a marketing gimmick for NASA or something this would really be working for them right now.” I think there is a lot to be explored in emerging technology as always.

Bryon:                   Very cool. Two final questions for you. Who would you like to get a hold of you and how can they get a hold of you?

Theresa:              That’s always interesting. I’d love for anyone to get a hold of me. If you’re a journalist wondering is this for me, I’d love to talk to you. If you’re someone looking for advice on how to start your content marketing program at your business, I’d love to talk to you as well. You can find me at theresacreamer.com. That is Theresa with H and Creamer with C and/or just at Theresa Creamer on Twitter and I’ll respond to you there.

Bryon:                   Now you of course realize that you just opened yourself up to thousands of people on our community, so brace yourself.

Theresa:              That’s fine Bryon.

Bryon:                   Terrific. Hey, Theresa it’s being great chatting with you today. Appreciate your time.

Theresa:              You as well. Thank you very much.

Bryon:                   Good luck with the book and thanks for tuning in everyone. We’ll see you next week. Thanks for tuning in.