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The Fab 4 Digital Marketing Skills (Sez I)

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I got an invitation from an outfit called, “Tune” to express my opinion regarding necessary skills for today’s digital marketer.

Well, if you ask for my opinion, you’re going to get it. (And even if you don’t ask, you may get it anyway.)

So I wrote, “Beyond Number Crunching: 4 Necessary Skills for Today’s Digital Marketer.” I like the piece, but upon reflection, I’d like to add a fifth, which I will add right here as a special bonus.

Number 5: Embrace a Healthy Skepticism. You can’t swing your elbows without hitting a “solution” that claims to be an “end-to-end” platform for such-and-such, or a disruptive whatzitt that will change lordknowswhat forever.

Leave FOMO to the hasty. Take a deep breath. Ultimately, the quality of your marketing work will not be dictated by the virtues of your technology (per se), but by the intelligence you bring to it. So take the time you need to cultivate that intelligence and try not to be distract–SQUIRREL!

BTW: A call out of gratitude to the good people at Tune, especially Jessica Biber, who invited me to participate. Thank you.

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Up front with lessons from Down Under
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At the latest Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland, I had the privilege of leading the pre-conference workshop on “Web Writing 201.” Joe Pulizzi had pulled me in for the task, and my first hurdle was to think about what distinguished advanced web writing from basic web writing.

So I defined the basics as: storytelling, writing from/to the audience’s point of view, and developing a steady stream of relevant content.

The advanced, 201 stuff? To me, it’s about:

  • Learning how to tease, rather than please (that is, completely satisfy curiosity)
  • Applying strategies to communicate quickly to skimmers/scanners
  • Figuring out how to sustain those regular content streams

Fortunately, I don’t have to tell you more. Because one of the attendees, Peter Gearin of BrandTales in Australia, has done the heavy lifting for me–and for you. In his article summarizing the workshop, “3 Secrets to Writing Successful Content,” you’ll get an in-depth explanation of the 201 concepts, plus the cool kangaroo story (this is that “tease” thing I mentioned) that transformed the way I write copy, and became the justification for the image accompanying this post.

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One of Ann Handley’s top tips for creating a writing culture? Training!

Ann says training is a top ten priority.

As you might imagine, I’m tickled pink by Ann Handley’s recent article, 10 Ways to Create a Culture of Writing; there, at the climax of the list, at big number ten, is the concluding tip: Invest in Training.

You know I’m all about training in-house teams in marketing writing and content creation. And I’ve had the privilege of participating in MarketProfs writing bootcamps. But if you’re seriously considering writing training for your own organization, here are a few things you should consider:

  • Customized curriculum: The cliche is true–one size does not fit all. You should ask for, and get, a curriculum tailored to your objectives; your team should be trained in the skills urgently relevant to your company.
  • Hands-on exercises: Passively enduring a PowerPoint presentation is torture, not training. Real learning begins by doing real work. Live. In practice. In the moment. Demand writing exercises from your trainer, not a dog and pony show.
  • One-on-one attention and feedback: The true magic lies here, in the personalized feedback a skilled writing teacher can give to teams, small groups and, best of all, to each participating individual.

If you agree with me, you’ll understand that webinars and most other forms of digital “learning” have limited value; they can point to good ideas, but only direct engagement can actually inculcate effective writing skills. Live, hands-on training equals real learning.

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Content teams interview with Ted Karczewski

Ted Karczewski, Skyword

“I don’t need you to be a great writer,” Ted Karczewski tells his team at Skyword, “but I need you to be a great storyteller. I need to feel your passion.”

As the marketing content specialist for a company that offers an enterprise-class content marketing platform, Ted’s under a lot of pressure, not just to produce a lot of content, but to create content that demonstrates the very best that content marketing can offer. The company’s flagship content effort, the Content Standard, demands consistent editorial excellence.

For his contribution to the upcoming content teams ebook, Ted shares a wealth of valuable insight, including:

  • A blow-by-blow walk-through of the Content Standard’s editorial process
  • The secret to drawing quality work from in-house sources
  • Why it’s important to start small
  • How to amplify the power of a good story

Write me if you have your own content team story to tell.

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Content teams interview with Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda Maksymiw, Lattice Engines

One of the themes that has emerged in these content teams ebook interviews is that of “transition”: How to produce content that helps companies move from one product category to another, or from a previous market position to a new role in the marketplace.

At Lattice Engines, Amanda Maksymiw (a rising content star you may recognize from speaking appearances at Content Marketing World and other venues) works with one other dedicated content team professional and a host of freelancers to get the word out about the company’s enhanced predictive analytics for lead scoring. “When Lattice Engines started in 2006/2007, we were selling predictive analytics as a sales enablement tool,” Amanda explains. Now, the company has expanded its offer to marketers. “This is where education comes in,” she says.

Reaching such a sophisticated (and perhaps jaded) audience isn’t easy, but in the upcoming ebook, Amanda offers a number of great ideas for making content connections, including:

  • How to work with targeted influencers to distribute key content
  • How to manage freelancers to ensure consistent quality
  • Where to find new content ideas worth exploring and experimenting with
  • How to ensure that content marketing efforts align with overall company objectives

Bonus: Amanda gives us the backstory behind the popular Marketing Nerd program! Stay tuned…

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Content teams interview with Ryan Petersen of CDW

Ryan Petersen, CDW

When your company is undergoing a major transformation from a products-based business to one focused on services and solutions, your content marketing strategy better be prepared to deliver the education goods.

For Ryan Petersen, senior manager for content marketing at CDW, it means managing a seven-person team, plus a large network of freelancers and internal experts, all aligned to one mission: “How do we pass along value? You don’t have to hit the customer over the head with the brand. It’s really about being useful to customers.”

Being useful translates to publishing five magazines — each targeted to an important CDW customer segment — while producing a broad range of “solutions” oriented pieces such as white papers and technology guides.

For the upcoming content teams white paper, Ryan will contribute insights on:

  • Pivoting from producing traditional catalogs to content-rich magazines
  • Hiring for storytelling skills
  • Overcoming silos to create and distribute effective content
  • Encouraging a culture of experimentation

Contact me if you’d like to add your story to the content teams white paper.

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If you’re in the Greater Boston area and you’re engaged in digital marketing of any kind, you need to know about this: Sleek Marketing University, October 18 -19, at 51 Melcher Street in Boston.

Over two days, Sleek offers a crash course in all things digital including SEO, social media, content marketing, email marketing, mobile and more. I’m doing an intensive workshop, Content Marketing Strategy 101, that will give each participant a practical and powerful framework for an effective strategy they can fulfill with their colleagues.

Good news: I have 5 discount codes, worth 40% off, to give away.

Better news: I have 2 free tickets to give away!

If you’re interested in either of these perks, write me right away!

 

 

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Apple believes in in-house training — why don’t you?

No “bull”: Today’s New York Times features an article (featuring Picasso’s bulls) on the front page about Apple’s little-known in-house education program.

Like so many things Apple-related, the program is secretive, the details murky. Apple refused to respond the reporter’s inquiries; to get the story, the Times interviewed three employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. But here’s what we do know:

  • Apple believes its culture is important enough to invest in an education plan that inculcates it.
  • Courses cover pragmatic management issues as well as larger design and communications ideals.
  • To teach these courses, Apple attracts talent from many of the America’s most prestigious schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and M.I.T.
  • The toilet paper is “really nice.”

Maybe you cannot afford to design and sustain an entire in-house university. But you can get in-house marketing and content creation training from me. And, just like Apple, you’d get talent who has taught these skills at Harvard.

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Podcast: How to publish a book to promote your business

Remember Oz and the wizard behind the curtain? After losing face (the big fiery one, that is), he redeemed himself by reaching into a grab bag to pull out the missing pieces for Dorothy’s friends: a diploma for the Straw Man, a testimonial for the Tin Man, a medal for the Cowardly Lion.

If there had been an ambitious “thought leader” among the yellow-brick-roaders, the wizard would have pulled out one more thing: a book with the expert’s name on the cover.

Even in this digital age of social media yadda-yadda, the book remains the heavyweight champion of confirmed authority.

So what about you, heavyweight contender? Where’s your book? How do you go about publishing one?

Follow the yellow-brick-hyperlink to this podcast I made, with Dorie Clark, for OpenView Labs: How to Fuel Your Business by Publishing a Book. A big, wet aunty-kiss to Kevin Cain for pulling this together. (Aww, now he’s blushing!)

 

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What I want to get out of Content Marketing World

After months of anticipation, I’m off to Content Marketing World next week. I got work to do, you bet (Content Marketing 101: Getting Started), but I also want to revel in the opportunities offered by the event. Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

  1. International reach: What are marketers doing to attract prospects beyond North America? Do we need to tailor the content for non-anglophone audiences? How do we distribute our content effectively?
  2. The noise problem: I feared it would happen and it did happen — content by the bucketload, making it harder and harder to be heard amongst the crowd. Me, I aim for relevance as the essential way to win. What’s everyone else doing? Can we do better than simply run from one tactic to another?
  3. William Shatner: Why the hell not?
  4. You: Really, the number one thing for me is the chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. If you’re reading this blog and you’re going to be there, I hope we have a chance to meet.

 

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