A content marketer's truth

On 8 November 2013, from the hallowed depths of London’s Institute of Education, insightful musings on the facets of content marketing came to life in a hall full of people quite keen on the topic. Rocksalt’s, Kate Reid, headed to the free one-day event, Content Marketing Show, to find out what else, besides ‘the truth’ is out there.

The things Kate remembers most vividly and therefore they must be most important

Launch something and learn from it

You could spend years trying to perfect something worth marketing, by which time technology has changed, you’ve had no influence on the topic in search, and the busiest part of your business is the thoroughfare of tumbleweeds. Launch something and learn from it.

Be creative. Stand out

Don’t forget about real life, and how things were done before we relied on technology and the internet. You have an array of unique offline experiences at your disposal -- use them to your advantage in building your brand. 

Make your point faster, simpler and clearer

It's proven that content written in plain language that focuses on the user's goal is going to lead to better conversion and retention. Don't stop doing that. 

Throwing shit against the wall and analysing what sticks

10am: Hannah Smith, Distilled, @hannah_bo_banna
See the slides

At some point, you just have to launch. If you don’t launch anything, you won’t learn anything.

Content marketing isn’t new, but the way that we consume it has changed. Facebook, and our technology, protects us from unwanted content. For example, Gmail’s recent introduction of a ‘promotions’ tab decreased open rates by 20%. It shows, in this context that permission may no longer be enough. Emails that you have requested to subscribe to are being demoted in priority by technology, and therefore it is going to take more than just a company sharing to its dedicated following.

In looking for the research into the decrease in open rates, we found an interesting article from eConsultancy with data from Return Path and LitmusThe key callouts of the article were that while there are downsides of being relegated to the ‘promotions’ inbox -- reduced effectiveness associated with relevance and timing, and competing against Google’s native ads -- data shows that rates did not significantly decrease to this level for highly engaged or medium engaged users of a brand. In addition, “47% of all email opens occur on a mobile device”, not all of which support Gmail’s tabbed inbox functionality.

Key tips for developing great content

  • Present an idea; test the reaction
  • Keep the Smart Insights' content marketing matrix in mind: Awareness through to Purchase; Emotional through to Rational.
    Content to persuade and convert also must entertain in order to be shared.
  • Create content that blows people’s minds, is useful, makes everything better, and that people love because you need them to share it.

Consider the pitfalls of creating, marketing and testing content

You may have limited creative scope in creating things that are considered off brand. Remember that a brand isn’t what you sell, it’s how you sell it. For example, Red Bull marketing content focuses on extreme sports, not soft drink.

  1. Research your audience
  2. Research what sticks and deconstruct it (but know that what works for one company doesn’t necessarily apply to another).
  3. Frame content appropriately (example: “Is social media bad for your iPhone”. Who cares? No-one will see the great statistics about the emotional effects of social media consumed on your phone because there is no connection to it via the sales line).
  4. Know that there are no guarantees.

Learnings from creating, testing and analysing content marketing

  1. Pick your battles
  2. Recognise pitfalls and stumbling blocks (acknowledge and address)
  3. Make content go further (across all browsers and devices)
    1. social share buttons
    2. make headline and social share copy clicky (read Upworthy)
    3. images for sharing
    4. re-targetting pixels on all content
    5. test paid promotion
  4. Plan to fail
    1. what is success--manage expectations
    2. deconstruct what didn’t work
    3. keep going

Why content needs strategy

10.30am: Lauren Pope, Brilliant Noise, @la_pope
See the slides

Content strategy gives you a formula for great content time and time again.

Although some would argue this point, Lauren identifies that there is a difference between content marketing and content strategy.

  • Marketing (the what) is to create and distribute (provides nothing beyond distribution)
  • Strategy (the how) is to plan, govern and focus on the user

Content marketing needs strategy to ensure that it is strong and consistent. At Brilliant Noise, they focus on six core elements:

  1. Purpose: the reason content exists (for every piece of content, not just campaigns)

  2. Principles: fundamental propositions (commandments) that form foundations (consistency)

  3. Platforms: the tools for every stage of content development

  4. Processes: the series of actions you repeat to create content

  5. People: everyone involved in the content process and their relationship to it

  6. Performance: benchmarks for success and how you measure impact

Content strategy gives you a formula for great content time and time again. While it can be hard to implement, take it one step at a time and you’ll get there. Think about your pain points and associate them to one of the six ‘P’s and go away and work on that.

A 1950s approach to content strategy

11am: Jon Norris, Crunch, @JN_Norris
See the slides

In an age obsessed with software, consider how an old-school approach can help.

Finding efficiency by stripping back the technology

Writers now have so many platforms to use for the creation, publishing and distribution of content; however, it is almost to the point of being over-serviced and creating silos. Apart from the money, there’s never been a better time to be a writer.

Most services work well in isolation but ultimately lead to duplicated data and lack of interconnectivity.

Interconnected examples

  • Eventbrite → Facebook
  • Gmail → Twitter

Non-interconnected examples

  • Google Drive → Wordpress
  • Google Calendar → Medium

Crunch has a multi-channel editorial set up and all of the tiny elements involved in working with this began to create inefficiencies. There is no one editorial software that incorporates all of the elements involved in planning, writing, publishing and reporting.

Mixing up the editorial process

Crunch moved from its old editorial process involving Basecamp (planning), Drive documents (writing), Wordpress (publishing) and Drive spreadsheets (reporting) to a new editorial process in a more old-fashioned set up: a whiteboard matrix of post-it notes for columns including pitches, in progress, editing, awaiting publication, and published.

By removing the tools, they were able to focus on the tasks, and, in doing so, saved £160/month, reduced planning, and created instant visibility (albeit for an office without remote working).

Editorial processes have been around for 600 years; software has been around for about 20 years. If software solutions aren’t working, scrap them.

Twitter tips from OptaJoe

11.30am: Simon Banoub, Opta Sports, @banouby


Simon tells us that Opta Sports is the world’s leading sports data provider with a database of data turned into facts and stats sold to over 400 outlets. Its exclusively a B2B provider, but uses social media with B2C to increase awareness and revenue.

  1. Consistency
  2. Segmented accounts specific to audience preference
  3. Be human, be approachable, let staff join in on the conversation
  4. Metrics: know who your audience is and when they want the information
  5. Timing is important (during a game, Twitter is the second screen)
  6. Target people who amplify the message
  7. Don’t platform hop (know which platforms work for you and build that).
  8. Monitor what you’re doing over time
  9. Play the long game. Patience
  10. You are on people’s timelines for a reason. Be interesting, be helpful, or offer an inside perspective.

Other tips

  • Retweet only appropriate stuff from appropriate people
  • Avoid loads of hashtags
  • No-one cares about “how many followers” milestones
  • Not everyone will be a fan

Success, failure and making content work in the long term

12pm: Tom Elgar, CEO Passle @TomElgar1
See the slides


Tom had the experience of trying to get a CEO to write a blog, but it was always a second priority, and priority #2 was nowhere.

The solution was to outsource to a great PR guy, but eventually, because of the lack of insider knowledge, the blog became generic and eventually died. It was a mystery to everyone why the blog could not succeed.

Passle research indicated that there was a massive gap between businesses who understand the value of having a blog (70% of businesses got it), and keeping an up-to-date blog (13% of business actually did it).

Hence, Passle was born: an online platform that resolved two issues:

  1. For companies who have the lack of time and skill
  2. For agencies who lack insider knowledge

Passle has the scope to create a much more interactive editorial blogging experience.

  • Invite people to a private group
  • Install a bookmarklet to give relevant URLs directly to passle software
  • Allow easy distribution of press releases and blog posts
  • Present it back to the client

GOV.uk approach to content

12.10: Simon Kaplan, Product Content Lead, Government Digital Service

Produce content that is simpler, clearer, faster

What's the Government Digital Service (GDS)

GDS comprises two parts

  1. Mainstream and external
  2. Policy & Internal

“Revolution not Evolution”

  1. Create GDS (work on the basis of user needs and journeys)
  2. Fix publishing
  3. Fix transactions


User needs not government needs:

  • what’s the point of this content
  • do people want it?
  • do people expect government to meet the need?
  • is government responsible for meeting needs?


The new GOV.uk style guide is more than just about formatting dates and times, it details the approach to all content.


Understand what information people need, and provide it up front. In one example, we learned that people looking for information on passports, primarily wanted to know how much it cost to renew a passport. The original directgov.uk website didn’t provide this information upfront, or even on the main landing page. By reworking the content and considering all aspects, this information was provided not only on the landing page, but in the meta description for the page (so it showed in search engine results not requiring any further click if not needed).

The GDS reduced information on Power of Attorney from 500 web pages to one web page, and followed an 80/20 rule of providing the information needed by 80% of people up front, but making additional information available and easily findable on the page for the 20% who want to investigate further. In all, the GDS reduced 75,000 web pages to 3,000, and saved £542m by shutting down the directgov and businesslink websites.

Content marketing trend watch 2014 and beyond

12.30: Fergus Parker, Axonn Media, @axonnmedia #royalcontent

A way of creating and sharing content to promote an idea, engage and audience, and spur them to action.
— Fergus Parker on Content Marketing

Successful components of content marketing

  • quality content
  • connecting with the audience

IBM statistic90% of the world’s information has been created in the last two years

Research paper Content Marketing Trends in 2013 indicates a wide-scale awareness of content marketing but a lack of strategy. 93% of companies are doing content marketing, with two-thirds not doing it well.

Content isn’t king; content is the kingdom

  • connection is the king (produce, consume, share)
  • context is the queen (the environment -- social media platform, search engine; where and when are you sharing the information)
  • technology (powering content marketing activities

The future of content marketing

  1. Converged media: owned media, paid media, and earned media are the cyclical common narrative and are the backbone of the customer content journey.
  2. Visual
  3. Big data (beyond Google Analytics, what’s happening in social media, email campaigns): You need to be in a place where you can see if you someone has visited your website three times in the last three months and interacted with an email campaign. How do you make big data smaller? Make it meaningful.
  4. Mobile:
    1. 1.08bn of 4bn phones are smart phones
    2. mobile is about to overtake PC for internet access
    3. 91% of mobile use is social

Inbound marketing: The art of not sucking

2.15pm: Kieran Flanaghan, Hubspot, @searchbrat
See the slides 

Marketers aren’t loveable. Marketers rank behind stockbrokers and lawyers in the trustworthy stakes and ahead of politicians and used car salesman. If we slip behind them, we’re in big trouble.

So why are the connotations so negative? Some of the experiences we create suck:

  • We don’t make emails personal
  • We interrupt people with pop-up ads, which, Urban Dictionary defines as ‘the reason the internet sucks’. 
  • We need to find a way to create things that people want to consume.

1 . Understand your audience

Primary persona (to determine what content is needed all the way through the funnel)

  • Who are they
  • What are their goals
  • What are their challenges
  • Why they love you

A successful inbound marketing strategy is anchored around your different buyer personas. In addition to your primary persona, create multiple buyer personas.

2. Be remarkable

Create content that adds value and even over delivers (e.g. Hubspot created 50 customisable CTAs and 250 holiday stock photos).

“If you spend 10 hours creating content, you should spend at least that on promoting it.”

Understand your distribution channels and metrics to get a baseline for what you can expect from your marketing your content (what's your available audience, historic engagement average, and potential for engaged audience).

An idiot's guide to getting content on the telly

2.35pm: Sam Orams, Bespoke Banter @SamOrams

It’s not as tough as you might think to get into broadcast. On a quiet news day, anything can happen.

Why broadcast? It still maintains its prestige and halo effect: “if it’s on the telly, it must be alright.”

Increased requirement + Affordable technology + Relaxed guidance = Open season

Myths about getting your story into broadcast media

  1. It’s expensive. No: it’s free to abide by the journalism code
  2. Too technical. No. It’s digital and therefore predominantly the same technical spec as uploading to YouTube
  3. News editors are too busy to talk to me. No: They want stories

Essential ingredients

  • Incredible common-interest story with a wow factor
  • Big celeb involvement
  • Anticipated launch

Essential ingredients killing your story

  • Excessive branding
  • Editorial not advertorial
  • Lazy delivery (give them exactly what they want, when and how they want it)

VNR - Video News Release

  • Unmade jigsaw of video parts
  • No more than 10 minutes long
  • One video file
  • Attach a shot list and script
  • General views (GVs)
  • Relevant interviews

GVs - General Views

  • Aim to tell the story entirely with pictures
  • Footage should be well shot and produced
  • Chosen shots should be loose and long tail
  • Use best bits first
  • Keep branding to a minimum


  • Truthful and natural
  • Relevant and editorial
  • Minimal branding

Never send an edited film, and be sure to encode, upload, and consider the timing of your submission. Use the age-old recipe of targeting your audience.

Amplify or die!

2.50pm: Kester Ford, Cision, @KesterF
See the slides

Content is fire; social media is gasoline.
— Jay Baer

The different silos of the different types of media -- paid for, earned, and owned -- are dissolving. It means more competition, but you’re competing against everyone.

Things are changing in the media:

  • 500 million tweets per day
  • 4.7 billion Facebook shares
  • 1 trillion pieces of content on the the internet two years ago.

To put those numbers into context, Kester suggests that we think about one trillion in the context of your life. One trillion seconds is 32,000 years. That’s a hefty load for people to wade through, so it’s important to amplify and get your story out there using SEO and social media.

Foster relationships with a group of influencers. For example, a blog post and tweet about the fact that it is cheaper to live in Barcelona and commute daily to London than to live in West Hampstead with a travel card was retweeted by an influencer to Huffington Post and it spread from there.

Kester also highlights that we should consider native advertising. It looks like it’s part of a website (in terms of the ‘experience’, not necessarily the design), and moves away from banner blindness by being formatted as links.

In researching thoughts on native advertising, I found an interesting article from Pando Daily “Native advertising will save us all. Maybe” which is worth a read.

The ZMOT is going to get you

3.15pm: Matt Roberts, Linkdex @linkdex
See the slides


It was kind of obvious straight up that not many people in the room had a clue of what the 'ZMOT' is. Matt clarified that it’s Google’s term for ‘Zero Moment of Truth’: the online decision-making moment.

I won’t lie to you, it was 3.15pm and I think may have been distracted by a sugar-craving or something, so my notes on this section are (literally) quite sketchy.

Fortunately for everyone, the internet steps in, once again, to fill the gaps. Inside Adwords post The Zero Moment of Truth: A New Marketing Strategy steps in to give a clearer picture.

“...the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT ("zee-mot"), which occurs after the consumer sees an ad for a product, but before a purchase is made in store.”

The key takeaway from Matt’s talk for me is that persuasive digital copywriting (you know, the kind that Rocksalt is very good at) is core to ZMOT: being ‘visible’, ‘resonating’, being ‘trusted’, and ‘influencing’.

Simplifying personas

4pm: Gemma MacNaught, Conversion Factory, @GemmaMacNaught
See the slides


Personas are the imaginary people used to target content and influence decisions; however, the different and vying needs of a persona can cause job confusion. Gemma talked us through the process of simplifying personas and how to use Google Analytics to easily inform us of our audience.

You can develop personas by finding out how, when and where from users are visiting:

  • New versus returning visitors
  • Location
  • Periods of increased visits or conversion
  • Mobile, tablet, desktop

Business goals versus user goals

The business wants money, leads, brand awareness and customer retention. The user wants to fulfill a need and get information, assistance, peace of mind or peer approval. It’s important to consider the users goals primarily in order to achieve the business goals.

Persuade the brain

Both right and left brain are key to the decision-making process, and each require different stimulus to be persuaded. Gemma highlighted what each side needed to achieve a goal, how to provide it, and how to test that you are providing it. You should aim to provide the right brain with the benefits, and the left brain with the information to back it up.

Testing the experience

  • Left brain: usertesting.com, Survey Monkey, Crazy Egg, Qualaroo
  • Right brain: Fold tester, Five-Second Test, Eyequant, First Impressions.

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AuthorKate Watson