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8 Ways to Save Your Content From Utter Failure

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We’ve come a long way. Attitudes concerning traditional ‘push’ marketing have changed rapidly and brands everywhere are embracing more subtle, customer-engagement strategies. One of these strategies is content creation.

Almost overnight we’ve all become content publishers. But are we all on the same page?

There’s a lot of appalling content on the web. Even those who have a clue aren’t always confident that their content strategy is working to achieve their organizational goals.

Content catastrophes occur when stories fail to attract and retain customers. Such stories lack value, relevance, conviction and consistency.

Here are 8 ways to avert a content catastrophe.

  • Join a relevant online group or forum in your industry

Listen to the challenges that others are facing. That way, you remain attentive and responsive to their pain-points and are better equipped to generate relevant content that solves their problems.

  • Determine the goal of your content

Do you want to teach, entertain, share industry ideas or generate conversation? If your goal is to teach, then the bulk of your content will consist of ‘How-To’ material. Likewise if your goal is to generate conversation, your content will consist of provocative or hot topics. Whatever the ‘raison d’être’ of your content, it is important to stick to it so that your audience understands exactly what you’re about and can rely on you for that type of information.

  • Make sure your message is consistent with your brand

It happens to the best of us. Once in a while we’re tempted to wander off in a different direction (topic). As a general rule of thumb, only provide content that supports your brand image. Are you a health and fitness expert? Then make sure that your content demonstrates your expertise in that area. This way you’re able to establish your brand as a niche expert. Sending different messages distracts and confuses the audience and causes them to go to a more dependable source of information.

  • Assign a manager to oversee your content

Every important unit in an organization has a manager to supervise its activities and ensure that they are in line with their organizational goals. In the last couple of years, content has become critically important in enhancing positive brand perception. That’s why it is important to appoint an experienced person to oversee content creation and distribution and to ensure that content goals support the goals of the organization as a whole.

  • Create an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar will help bring clarity and purpose to your content. A monthly editorial calendar will typically outline the topic of the week, type(s) of content to be employed (take a look at The Content Marketing Playbook for content ideas), how often to distribute content etc. An editorial calendar may be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be depending on the needs of the organization. The idea is simply to plan ahead of time so as to make the content creation process easier and more successful.

  • Survey your audience

Send surveys regularly to find out what kind of content your audience would like to receive. Even with an established content purpose and a clear message, it is a good idea to touch base with your audience once in a while. A survey helps to get their feedback and give them an opportunity to tell you what other content they would like to receive. It also helps your audience to feel like they’re part of the content creation process. In that case, they’re more likely to have a personal connection with your content.

  • Measure, measure and then measure again

Measuring the performance of your content helps you to figure out if you’re moving in the right direction. “How do you measure content,” you might ask. Well, it really depends on the goals that you set out in the first place. If your goal is to generate conversation, then you will measure performance by tracking comments, shares, re-tweets and brand mentions. If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, then you will measure performance by tracking the number of new visitors that come to your website through your content.

  • Test, experiment, adjust and improve

Content responsiveness can be dynamic today and volatile tomorrow. Your audience’s needs may also change over time. For that reason, it’s a good idea to diversify your content mix in order to keep your audience enthused and attached to your message. Every six months, try to experiment with something new, such as video, podcast, webinar etc. If it works, then you may successfully incorporate it into your content mix. If it doesn’t work, throw it out and try something else. The important thing is to be curious and to try new things that demonstrate a ‘fresh’ and interesting side to your brand.

As you can see from these suggestions, five out of eight have to do with planning and preparing for content. The key take-away message is that planning is the most important part of the content process. Carefully planned content not only achieves the objectives for which it was created, but also helps to prevent problems that could potentially ruin the perception of your brand.

Your turn.

What other methods have you used successfully to avert a content catastrophe?

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16 Tools to Turbo Boost Your Blogging Process

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Do you blog regularly?

Are you looking for tools to make the process easier?

Blogging is hard work and it takes a lot of time to do it well. Wouldn’t it be great if you could streamline parts of that process?

In this article, you’ll find a list of tools, apps and advice you can use to find your groove and take care of blogging business.

#1: Brainstorm Blogging Ideas

When you need inspiration for your next blog post, where do you go? You can avoid blogger’s block by trying out these idea-generators to quickly get your creative juices flowing.

How to Use Quora to Cook Up Great Content: Adrienne Erin writes a pretty inspiring post about scanning Quora to find popular conversations and using those topics to create blog content.

Don’t Know What to Write About? Get Ideas From the Blog Topic Generator [Free Tool]: Ginny Soskey introduces HubSpot’s handy new topic generator. You simply put in three terms (nouns) you’d like to blog about and the tool spits out several topics. Of course, the topics aren’t always 100% perfect, but you can tweak them to make them work for you.

Let HubSpot help you find a topic to write about.

Need a Google Alerts Replacement? Meet TalkWalker: Since the future of Google Alerts is unknown, this alternative tool, suggested by Gary Price, might do the trick.

SearchEngineLand.com shares Google Alert alternatives.

#2: Get Organized to Be Productive

You have ideas, but now what? Keep track of them and organize your thoughts with cool online tools you can access from anywhere. Check out these resources that help you manage your ideas so you can make the most of your time.

How to Use Evernote as a Blogger: Michael Hyatt kills it in this timeless post where he shares his personal workflow using Evernote. His suggestion for setting up a blog template in Evernote is definitely worth the click.

MichaelHyatt.com walks you through using Evernote.

15 Tips & Tricks to Get More Out of Google Drive: If you’re not using Google Drive, you’ll be surprised how much you can get out of it! Brian Voo’s article introduces some cool ways to use Google Drive to do everything from mind-mapping to editing images.

How to Use Google Calendar to Create an Editorial Calendar: The best way to keep track of your ideas is an editorial calendar. Some people use spreadsheets, others use pen and paper. Rebecca Livermore explains why you should switch to Google Calendar and even gives you a step-by-step guide for getting started.

Learn to use Google Calendar as an editorial tool on AmyPorterfield.com.

#3: Optimize Your Content

Keywords not only help readers find you, they can also help you flesh out your post ideas. If you don’t know much about SEO (and really, even if you do), check out these posts that give you tips and advice about tools that can get you started.

Google Keyword Planner: The Ultimate Guide: Ask Ian Cleary any question about social media tools and he’ll write you an “Ultimate Guide.” So if you’re wondering about the ultimate tool for keyword research, look no further than his outstanding post about Google’s Keyword Planner.

Find out how to use Google’s Keyword Planner from RazorSocial.com.

Get SEO Tips When You Need Them: For novice bloggers who aren’t sure how SEO works, Matthew Tschoegl does a great job introducing InboundWriter’s WordPress plugin. It’s basically a “consultant on your dashboard.” It’s a paid plugin, but definitely check it out to see if it’s a fit for you.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Moz is the SEO site. Their guide has been downloaded over a million times! That’s a good sign that it’s info you need. Even seasoned bloggers will learn a thing or two.

There’s a great SEO walkthrough on Moz.com.

#4: Find or Make Your Own Images (Fast!)

You know how important compelling images are for your blog, but it’s not always easy or cheap to find them. These articles show you how to find copyright-free images or make stunning graphics of your own!

How and Why I Use Photo Pin to Find Free Images for My Blog: John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing explains why he stopped using iStockphoto, Shutterstock and other image sites and started using Photo Pin. Be careful—you might be persuaded to change your mind too!

DuctTapeMarketing.com shares an image finding option.

Tool for Screenshots: Awesome Screenshot: If you’re still trying to capture screenshots using Command-Shift-3 or -4, stop! There’s a better way. Check out this simple demonstration by Amy Lynn Andrews.

How to Make a Banner for Your Blog Using Gimp (for free!): If you’ve ever wondered how to make cool banners and incorporate them into your blog post, this article by Karen Lewis of Simply Amusing Designs illustrates (complete with screenshots) how it’s done. Give it a try—it’s not difficult at all. [NOTE: This site is in construction until 2/28/14. Check the link next week.]

Creating a Header Image for Your BlogPicMonkey is an awesome free site (with a premium subscription option) to create and edit photos for your blog. Julie DeNeen, from Fabulous Blogging, also offers more advanced tips in her post, 10 Design Tips Using PicMonkey That You Might Not Know About!

Learn how to use PicMonkey over on FabulousBlogging.com.

#5: Tell the World

After all of the hard work of writing and optimizing your blog post, you’d better make sure everyone in your network sees it and shares it with their friends too. Here are some nifty tools and guides to help your blog post go that extra mile.

5 Social Sharing Plugins Reviewed: Dan Norris lays it all out with “what we like” and “what we don’t like” about five popular sharing plugins. Now you’ll know what to expect before jumping in.

Explore some great plugins on WPCurve.com.

Need a New Tool? 3 Social Sharing Tools That Do Something Specific: I like how Amanda DiSilvestro emphasizes the “do something specific” aspect of these tools. Indeed, these three tools are so specific you’ve probably never heard of them, but you should definitely give them a whirl.

Moz.com shares sharing tools.

The Essential Guide to Content Sharing: Yes, another Ian Cleary article (because he’s the tool guru, remember?). This time Ian’s “Ultimate Guide” includes 13 tools you can use to get the word out about new posts. Some of the tools you’ve seen, some you haven’t and some you should probably use more. Definitely check this one out.

What do you think? Which of these tools have you tried? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

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Borrowed Relevance: How to Engage Your Audience When You Have a Boring Brand

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“There are two kinds of brands – brands that people talk about and brands that people don’t talk about.” ~ Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research Analyst and co-author of Groundswell.

Sexy brands (Apple, Facebook, and Harley Davidson) are ‘talked about’ brands – they sell themselves. Boring brands are tough because people don’t care about them. Marketers of such brands have to figure out how to get people talking about something they really don’t care about.

Is there a way around this?

The answer is “Yes!’ Borrowed relevance is a fairly new concept proposed by Josh Bernoff, in which he suggests that boring brands must encourage people to talk about something – even though the conversation is not about the brand itself.

There are several ways to do this:

  • One way is to identify your organization’s core values and then start a conversation about them. Those values might be community, work-life balance, diversity or empowerment. Liberty Mutual (from the boring category of insurance) launched the Responsibility Project as “the place to discuss doing the right thing.” By creating a platform where moral decision-making was the trending topic , Liberty Mutual shrouded themselves in relevance and (more importantly) social conversation.
  • Another way is to invite your community to talk about their own set of circumstances. Johnson & Johnson for example created a Facebook page for mothers with ADHD kids. They figured that they couldn’t spark an engaging conversation about their ADHD drug. But they correctly concluded that sufferers of the ailment (and their families) have their own set of interesting problems and why not talk about that? Their Facebook audience is a whopping 19,000 fans strong!
  • The other way that ‘borrowed relevance’ could be applied is to start a conversation about an entirely different brand with the intention of ‘borrowing’ some of their appeal for yourself. In 2007 Doritos invited customers to create their own Superbowl ads –  Turns out, that Superbowl (or any ad contest for that matter) are more exciting concepts than corn chips.

So if you’re a business that’s selling a product that doesn’t generate much interest, then the key is to borrow something that is relevant to people (topic, issue or concept), create a platform to discuss it while treading lightly on your own branding. This way, you will be able to identify your own (few) brand enthusiasts who will become very influential in spreading the word about your organization.

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9 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Content Marketing Consultant

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Hiring the right content marketing consultant is a significant business decision. Ideally you want someone with whom you will enjoy a great working relationship, but you also want to make sure that the person has experience, vision and business knowledge.

Here are 9 questions to ask yourself when vetting your potential hire.

#1. How much content marketing experience do they have?

To be a consultant of anything, you need a set amount of experience. But with content marketing, the concept, the talent, and the technology are all new (even though the practice of telling stories to promote a business is not).

If you consider that veteran content marketers have been at it for about 10 to 12 years now, that means the majority of consultants have much, much less than that. It’s important to keep this in mind as you decide whether you will hire based on experience.

#2. Do they understand the basics of content marketing?

Even more important than experience (I think) is the understanding of what content marketing is. Most organizations are still confused by the term, so it is even more important that the consultant is able to educate authoritatively on this subject. For instance they should know the difference between content marketing and social media, or similar subjects such as inbound marketing, and digital marketing.

#3. Do they understand the business value of content marketing?

Your potential consultant should also understand that content marketing is business marketing. She should be able to connect the dots between the creation and distribution of relevant content with the achievement of tangible business goals such as customer acquisition and retention, increased sales, reduced marketing costs and even operational efficiencies.

#4. What type of content marketing campaigns have they initiated in the past?

You want to see what kind of content marketing projects your potential consultant has done in the past so that you can evaluate her effectiveness as a professional. Her portfolio is a good indicator of where her core strengths lie and whether her past experience is a good match for your organization’s needs.

#5. How much do they value measurement of content marketing strategy?

The old adage ‘what can’t be measured, can’t be managed’ rings true for content marketing as well. A consultant who neglects measurement tactics cannot be trusted to steer you in the right direction. Find out what methods she has employed in the past for measuring content marketing and watch out for ambiguous answers as these spell major weaknesses in her strategy.

#6. Does their personality match your needs?

People do business with those they know, like and trust. Spend some time getting to know your potential consultant and dig deeper by asking questions that reveal her personality. Ask her how she would handle specific situations. Remember that a consultant is responsible for guiding your business. Be sure that you choose someone you can trust, respect and generally feel comfortable with.

#7. Do you have a common connection or referral?

How did you connect with your potential hire? It’s a wise idea to choose someone who has been recommended by a friend or peer. This way you can find out more information from the one who referred her, and cross-check the information that she has given you about herself.

#8. Do they use content marketing themselves?

The seller has to believe in the product they are selling. So when choosing a content marketing consultant, be sure to check that she is practicing content marketing herself. Does she have a consistent blog, does she send out a regular newsletter, does she use social media, what kind of online communities does she belong to? Remember, consultants are business owners too and they should practice what they preach.

#9. What’s your gut feeling?

After all is said and done, what is your gut feeling about this person? Does she make you feel uncomfortable? Do you trust her? If something doesn’t feel right, your best bet is to ditch her and start over. Trust your intuition to guide your decision and try not to second-guess yourself.

Over to you: I feel like I’ve missed something. What other questions would you add to this list?

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