Don’t Worry, You Too Can Content Market Like the Fortune 500

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Building and sustaining a robust content marketing program for your brand is a withering prospect.

Who will write compelling, entertaining and useful blog posts, source or create original graphics and video, maintain and grow an HTML-based email list and cross-post on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat?

(Not to mention seeking out and sharing/backlinking content with other complementary blogs or platforms to raise your organic SEO, putting your content in front of a wider audience?)

Good news. You really can meet and beat those Fortune 500 brands and their behemoth budgets on their own turf. 

For two reasons: 

1. Many big brands are mired in their own bureaucracy and can’t move as quickly or adeptly as you –a hungrier, less risk-averse competitor–can.

2. Big brands are still confused about what social media and content marketing is or isn’t, and often proceed clumsily at best.

Even when the big guys have dedicated staff in place,they still aren’t sure how to really connect on a visceral level, in an authentic way, with their customers, clients and prospects.

So: Maybe (probably) you KNOW that you need to be active across the digital landscape. You KNOW you can’t rely on trade ads in print pubs, or a few random videos that you hope will go viral, or one blog post a week that is rarely if EVER cross-posted, promoted or re-purposed in well written direct email blasts.

And, you probably also know, or are about to find out, that besides paying for someone to produce and promote your content you are also going to have to pay for space on Facebook, and probably Twitter, or on Adwords that lock search terms to your products or service.

More good news: Instead of spending promotional and advertising dollars on advertising and promotions that can’t be tracked or measured, you can spend that money on a freelance or contract resource to produce and broadcast your content more effectively and for less than an on-board, salaried employee.

Someone who can and will work with your current staff–or directly with YOU–to show you how to create and sustain a strong content marketing program.

Someone, more likely than not,  who brings the knowledge and techniques of the young and the Web savvy along with the dry-aged seasoning of a journalist…someone who knows how to write headlines, and body copy that is sticky, that gets read, and shared. In other words, a happy huckster.

“Where do I find such a resource?” you ask.

Call me. Let’s talk. For half the in-house cost of a social/content guru, you can get a gun for hire.

Stop worrying about whether or not you turned the stone off.

We’ve got this.

 

Why You Will Live or Die by Your Ability to Write “Content”

 

EH 8410P Ernest Hemingway, Cuba, 1954.  Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.

EH 8410P
Ernest Hemingway, Cuba, 1954.
Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.

In academic circles, publishing in peer reviewed journals is considered the indispensable route to becoming tenured.

In producing a paycheck, writing–and becoming “published” in the form of your correspondence, your business letters and emails, your marketing and advertising campaigns and your social footprint (articles, white papers, blogs, videos) is even more critical.

Once you’re tenured, you’re more or less locked in to your job for life. In business, every subsequent check you receive is dependent on your ability to communicate and persuade effectively. Or, you’re only as good as your last campaign.

As an art director or a video editor or janitor, you express yourself graphically, visually and in the results you achieve. (That’s a nice shiny floor, Joe, good work).

But if you’re a creative (and I’d argue that since we are all selling ourselves all the time, we had all better consider ourselves creatives) working for yourself or “the man,” and even if you’re account side…you’d better know how to write compelling, actionable content or be able to pay someone who can.

In this, the era of pull vs. push, engagement-oriented sales and marketing, there are tons of garbage diatribes with plenty of confusing jargon to contend with. Much of it is written by bloggers or hustlers trying to sell you their system of “tripling your conversion rate with these 9 subject lines” or “keeping your sales funnel full of premium customers who will beg you to buy” without you needing to do much in the way of selling.

A good pitch, a great blog, a complete and on-going content-built campaign are all built on three simple, immutable principles:

1. Keep the attention of your prospect or audience. If your letter, blog, email or even brilliant marketing book (especially a whole book!) doesn’t GRAB and HOLD the attention of the reader, you’re dead meat right out of the gate.

2. Engage, inspire, inform and entertain your prospect or audience. You’ve got ’em for now, but you’d better rub their feet, cook for them a gourmet meal in 5 minutes (or show them how to do so themselves) and make them want to read every last word of what you propose while leaving them wanting more.

3. Be the resource, fulfill the promise. Everything we do every day arguably consists of “selling” something…from the merits of beef vs. quinoa to your skeptical spouse or family, to yourself or your firm for the account, the contract or the job. Hyperbole is no better than bragging these days, even if, as they say, it’s true or you can back it up. Or, in the event you’re hawking Shamwows, maybe.

Everything, from your résumé to your strategic or creative brief, to your account analysis and recommendation and justification for budget MUST be as compelling, as reasonable and logical and as moving as an excruciatingly well-turned sentence from a Hemingway novel.

Go easy on the jargon and the hype. You don’t care to be spoon fed that tripe any more than your audience or prospect does.

So–how, or through the assistance of what how-to book or writing seminar–can you achieve this level of writing great content? From a classified ad to a complete campaign, Website or direct email program?

By reading great writing that grabs your attention, engages and inspires you to action and leaves you with a clear or implied call-to-action and emulating said writing. That means copying, to use plain English, in your own words. 

As Picasso famously said, it’s impossible to simply copy someone else’s work or technique–in doing so you inevitably flavor it with your own peculiarities.

That’s what makes YOU unique, of course. And practice. Lots and lots of practice. And testing. And refinement.

And consistency when you find a style that works for you.

Why You WILL Need Web Video (But Who’s Gonna Write It?)

ReCellular_video1
ABOVE: A video written and produced on the proverbial shoestring by Vonstipatz for ReCellular, which as recently as 2012-13 was up-cycling as many as 400,000 feature phones every month. View it by clicking here.
Everywhere you look in content marketing, or social media if you prefer, there’s video along with copy. Short videos of :30 seconds to longer yet digestible lengths of :60 seconds to 2-3 minutes. If it’s longer it had better be damned gripping or you risk losing your viewer and your reader both.
We are told that not only does content with video grab more eyeballs and create more actionable impressions, but that video can provide a big boost to SEO. The cost and difficulty of producing good video for your brand, product or service (despite the millions of videos online) means search keywords in your video taking prospects back to your brand or message are that much more valuable.
The good news is twofold: 
1) Producing good, short video is more affordable than ever (big downward price pressure on video creators).
2) If you’re a writer–these videos have to be written before they can be produced!
Contently has a great blog piece that goes into depth about the growing need for writers for the ever increasing demand for Web video, read it here.
For you–whether you’re a brand or a writer in the content/social category–video is a powerful tool you should be using to augment your brand marketing, and a growing way to keep from being a starving writer.
Video now can be, at its most basic, words as graphics arranged in an attractive way with simple motion effects and a voice over. It can also be simple graphic animation or cartoon animation, or an arrangement of still images that have subtle moves on them–like the famous Ken Burns documentaries Civil War or Prohibition…wholly derived from still shots.
So, if you’re not yet in the game of creating (or contracting) video for your needs, what’s the fastest way in? Like anything in life, you’ve got to get your feet wet. There are 1000s of video clips and graphic effects you can buy and download on sites like Pond5.com. Same for royalty-free music clips.
Or, similar to videos you’ll see on Kickstarter (an excellent reference for low-cost production ideas) you can do a simple interview or talking head format where a spokes person for your brand delivers on a script. A one-camera shoot with a simple backdrop, you can edit this yourself with iMovie, for a song. A DSLR with a pro, after-market microphone (doable for $1000 ballpark) and you’re in business for years to come. One short video can pay for the equipment and software investment.
For those of you who need more help, especially with the writing, find a writer who has written and/or produced videos, or for that matter, radio scripts–old school talent who have this experience have to know how to write a robust script that fits EXACTLY into :30 or :60 second formats, and comfortably so. If they can manage that, any other length will be a piece of cake.
Even if you’re a big, fat Fortune 500 brand, or work for one, Web video is just as important–and more demanding–than mass market “television” spots. Why? You know why. Your viewer can click PAUSE or QUIT anytime.
 
And if you’re a smaller brand, product or service, you can find parity with the big brands that was very difficult or expensive just a few years back.
 
One of the last “big budget” TV :30s I produced, a simple 2D cartoon animation, was budgeted at $25K–that’s $833 a second. If I could get those rates M-F in 2015, I’d be driving a Lamborghini right now. For comparison, the video at the top of this post was produced for less than $2K.
Then again, you could realistically shoot and edit video on a iPad now, and save up for the obscene ride.
What are you waiting for?
Tom Stevens has written and produced radio, video and animation for budgets ranging from $500 to $30,000 and up. If you have any questions about how you can get in the video game, give him a yell.