I realized that planning was important from day one--but that's just how I manage my business in general--with editorial calendars, job boards, schedules, etc. All writing work, no matter if it is for a content marketing campaign or not has to be scheduled appropriately to meet client needs.
These days, Jonathon Colman and Kristina Halvorson are also people I turn to for advice and inspiration.
I have always appreciated Joe Pulizzi's advice (from the Content Marketing Institute).
In terms of mentors, there have been really great marketing vets within Dell who I turned to. But Scott Abel, who goes by the Content Wrangler, was also a wonderful resource early in my marketing career.
Can you tell us some of your big failures? What did you learn as a result?
The story I was describing earlier about that timely piece that went live way too late felt like a huge failure for months. Now I realize I learned more from that process than any other thing. That's the thing about failure, if you pay attention, it's all just lessons.
From that piece I learned that it wasn't enough to be excited about an idea, I had to sell and transfer that excitement.
I think my biggest failure was a project that didn't launch and was intended to be a corporate website feature. What we all learned was that there are conversations that, logically, you need to have off the corporate domain. You can't junk up the corporate homepage so that your customers can't find what they typically seek there.
I don't have any major failures to report (fortunately and knock on wood!) but as it relates to little "screw ups" there have been one or two. Usually this comes because communication did not happen effectively with a client--and the message got muddled.
I hear from many content marketers that different processes work for different teams/companies. What's your process for creating a plan that your will company buy into?
Amanda touched on trust earlier which is essential. Finding a way to show the people you're working with (whether you're in-house or consulting) that you are human and you want to help them (rather than pushing an arbitrary agenda) is key. A lot of that happens in the discovery phase, but you have to stay in touch with those people and keep listening throughout. Sometimes the most important information comes late in the game and you have to readjust your plays as a result.
Dell is a highly data-driven company. I know that I have to have data to back up proposals, as I approach my stakeholders. I also know that I have to make it clear what the value to the customer is and what a realistic return would be for the business. I also have to be explicit about the measurement framework.
We always look to position ourselves as a partner. We make sure that our client understands that the way that we work together can be as customizable as they want it to be. Content marketing is never cookie-cutter, so the process behind it shouldn't always follow a stringent checklist. You have to be flexible.
Nicole's pointed out something very important there. You absolutely have to know what motivates people and on what they base their decisions. Sometimes that's data. Sometimes it's a feeling of creating community. It could be anything, but until you understand what it is, you're going to continue to hit roadblocks.
Most campaigns involve writing, and you all are great writers. Let's talk about some of the processes that fit into the plan. Do you have a writing process that you follow that you care to share with us?
From a strictly tactical standpoint, I write first with a pen. A lot of people think that's old fashioned these days, but it forces me to always take the time to create a second draft. It also allows my ideas to flow more freely in the initial draft of anything be it a plan or a piece of content.
But before I write anything, I spend considerable time trying to understand the audience and their needs. Sometimes, if it's an audience I'm unfamiliar with, I'll create a lexicon to get inside their voice and better understand their world.
As I noted earlier, we devise content calendar that outline social media content, blog posts, guest posts, white papers, press releases...whatever a client's campaign entails. Either myself, or the individual client content strategist who is assigned to the client campaign will create material on a weekly basis for use on all of the channels that we support. We create original content based on the client's message, but also do a lot of content curation with thought leaders within that client's industry or niche. Moreover, we do talk to clients regularly, just to make sure that we always know what's happening with them. We also consider what material is currently doing well, what the audience is responding to and interacting with...that can usually provide great direction for new content.
Isla, is it difficult to build a lexicon?
Regarding what Amanda is saying about observing what's working, it can be really helpful from an ideation standpoint to get the social media team connected with the content team.
How do review how the planning went -- gather feedback from your group and ensure it's applied to the next project?
We do quarterly business reviews with our content producing teams and stakeholders to review how the project did and how we functioned, or didn't, as an overall team.
Building a lexicon is easy, although it can take some time. I use it as an internal document which takes some of the stress off of it. Basically I jot down words that stick out at me during my research--things or ideas that are foreign to me. Sometimes I break it down into parts of speech (if I'm going to be using it for writing). That can help me pick just the right adjective when I'm writing piece number twelve in a series :)
"What can we start, stop or keep doing" is always a part of the QBR.
My team does monthly reviews and reports to the client on what is happening with their campaign, what is working and what isn't.
For Nicole -- do you apply that analysis to the next project or future content?
I'm currently involved in a content evaluation project at Moz where Trevor Klein (the editor) and I are looking at what's succeeded and what's failed. We've gone for a really open, blue sky type discussion which is helping us see what's working and what isn't and also helping us understand what the other person values in content. It's been a wonderful learning experience.
And we have a metric that combines a lot of data points on each blog post that we look at on a daily basis for the quicker overview.
How do you figure in distributing and promoting into the content marketing planning process?
We look at the nature of the assets in a campaign and match them with distribution, syndication and amplification channels that make sense for them. Gated assets belong in certain parts of our content eco-system. Some amplification is better suited to our LinkedIn groups, instead of our Twitter accounts. We have to look at what is funded for paid promotion and what has to lean on organic. We lay it all out and map.
It's important to consider the channels you have available to you to distribute and promote content. Not every piece is right for every channel and sometimes you get more mileage if you can really tailor a piece for a channel.
Do you tailor/customize content for a specific digital platform?
I agree with Isla, you have to be strategic about each channel available to you as well as the audience found on each channel.
Sometimes we have pieces on the Moz Blog about Followerwonk, a tool for Twitter users, and we don't expect those to do well on Google+. I think our community team promotes them there a little, but it's natural to focus on Twitter.