Our MD Bobbi Mahlab and Chief Content Officer Martin Wanless headed to Cleveland, Ohio last week to join 3500 other content marketing professionals and 40 of the US’s Fortune 100 companies to discover new thinking and technological developments at Content Marketing World. Here, Martin reveals his five key takeaways from the event.

1. If you want to do content marketing, strategy is a must.

An overriding theme of the event is the importance of strategy – it’s now a non-negotiable if you want to do content marketing. It’s something we feel very passionately about here at Mahlab Media, and indeed have our prized Mahlab Media Methodology which we take clients through to establish what the best strategy is.

In our experiences, some clients love this from the outset and others need convincing to invest the time in setting strategy. The latter isn’t uncommon, however the message was loud and clear: effective content marketing comes from developing and implementing a plan with defined goals and a clear sense of what success looks like. You can be a publisher by producing content, but to be an effective content marketer you need a strategy that produces content that understands your audiences and delivers on your goals.

2. It takes a whole lot of patience and time – and a documented content marketing strategy –  to do it right

Content marketing’s a slow burn. We know that; you know that. But that message must be conveyed up, down, left and right. Everyone in your organisation needs to be on the same page for content marketing to work. A culture of content must pervade, and everyone in your organisation needs to be on board.

Some good ideas were floated about how to help achieve this – from running internal roadshows to holding one-on-one sessions with individuals to explain.

The key though is that the documented content marketing strategy document that details the who, why and what is distributed to everyone involved in the project, is discussed thoroughly, and is used as the basis for quarterly review meetings. Having a documented strategy is empowering. Try it!

3. We’ve got to slow down to speed up

A personal highlight of the trip was the keynote from John Cleese, who closed Day 1.

I was slightly too young to fully appreciate Monty Python, but was – and still am – a huge Fawlty Towers (Watery Fowls / Flay Otters / Warty Towels) fan, and to see Cleese in full flow was a delight. His keynote was an evolution of his speech on creativity, which he’s been delivering for a good number of years, but the points are actually more relevant now than ever before.

The amount of content being produced each day is increasing at such a rate that there’s little or no point in churning out ‘average’. In five years’ time, there’s going to be 500% more content online than there is today. 500% more than all the content that lives online after 20 years of creating it. Think about that.

Therefore you’ve got to stand out. Less is definitely more.

One piece of brilliantly thought out and executed content will deliver much more than 20 generic pieces, and finding the time and, more importantly, the situation to let your brain come up with something unique and wonderful is key.

In another session, the question was posed ‘since when has volume of content been a measure of success?’. In publishing, it has been. In content marketing, it’s not, and this is where we need to establish greater understanding. Content marketing has to be measured on the results delivered to your organisation – nothing else.

4. Plan, and plan properly

A content-first strategy is another of our core beliefs, and it was good to see this being emphasised and repeated. It’s not a case of ‘create once, publish everywhere’ though, it’s a case of ‘create the core once, and publish iterations based on your audience personas’ preferred methods of communication’.

By creating multiple incarnations of essentially the same article – a long form version for print, a shorter version for online, tweets, a first-person LinkedIn article – at the creation stage (as opposed to writing the long one first, then hiving bits off)  you can create content a lot more economically.

5. Australia’s a content marketing shining light

There were delegates from 35 countries at CMWorld, but, without a hint of bias, Australia is a leading light. Our own Insurance & Risk Professional magazine took the award for Best Financial Services publication, while CPA’s In the Black also won Gold and King Content, fresh from its multimillion-dollar deal with iSentia, scooped agency of the year.

But the biggest Australian news at CMWorld was that David Pembroke of the Content Group in Canberra has succeeded in getting content marketing onto the syllabus of the University of Canberra’s Bachelor of Journalism degree. It’s a huge step for content marketing and a fantastic achievement by David. Kudos, too, to the University of Canberra, which has realised that it is important to arm graduates with content marketing skills in today’s world.

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