The Recipe for Content Marketing Success, a la Jay Baer (and the Barenaked Ladies)

The odds are that we’re gonna be alright.

When you’re up all night writing a blog post (cough) or sitting through inspiring, motivational content marketing sessions that make you think “I’m doing it all wrong and where do I even start to fix it” or heading back on the plane to work, trying to grasp what you’ll try to implement first, the odds are, as the Barenaked Ladies sang to a group of 3,500+ content marketers: we’re gonna be alright.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve taken away from a day of jam-packed content marketing sessions, it’s that you only need one trait to succeed in content marketing. 

Yes, it’s great if you’re organized and strategic, a curious thinker, creative, humble and nimble and every other fun adjective you can think of. But it means nothing if you don’t have passion.

I’ve written before about the importance of being passionate in content marketing – in fact, I called it my biggest content marketing mistake and my biggest strength.

Passion, untamed, can be a weakness, but as Jay Baer told me today, it is also the only thing that will set your brand apart from your competitors, that will set you, as a content marketer, apart from other content marketers.

Because anyone can learn content marketing. It’s not rocket science.

I think some people are better suited at it than others – it kind of helps if you like writing and have a good eye for detail, a brain for strategy, a heart that doesn’t mind some stress every now and then. But those things can be taught; they are skills that can be learned.

As Jay said, competition commoditizes competency. And when that happens, what separates the good from the great is passion.

Content marketing is hot. And you’re not the only content marketer out there anymore (I met 3,500 of them today). But there is something that you can bring to the table that no one else can and that’s true, unrelenting, unwavering, passion.

Competition commoditizes competency.

A common phrase I’ve heard a lot at Content Marketing World over the past few days is that “customers can smell a marketing spin from a mile away.”

I’d like to take that even further and add that it’s not necessarily a marketing spin they can smell, but inauthenticity. They can smell your lack of passion – they won’t pinpoint it or be able to rationally explain it, but they can tell and it makes you stand out – not for the better.

It’s something I’ve noticed in employees, too, as I’ve had the pleasure of working with a variety of people over the past few years. Many of the people I’ve worked with are more than capable of doing great things, they’re organized and meet deadlines, they do the tasks they’re assigned, they’re pleasant to work with.

But one thing I can tell, usually within a few days, is if they have passion or not and that one key trait differentiates themselves in every single thing they do.

So what do you do if you’re not passionate about content marketing (and you’re working as a content marketer?)

Find out why. What’s holding you back? Senior management quenching your passion? Work for another company. Is your brand too obsessed with sounding corporate or copying the competition? Pave the way instead. If this isn’t your passion, find out what is: what’s the thing you rush home from work to do in your free time, or the thing you think about while riding the subway?

What separates the good from the great is passion. Your competition can copy every single thing you do, down to your email marketing campaign to your product itself.

The one thing they can’t steal is your passion – and it’s the one thing you should be guarding behind much more than just gated forms.

Stick to that passion inside that motivates you to be better at what you do – and the odds are that you’ll be alright.


If Content is So Valuable, Why are Newspapers Failing?

For the past five years, I’ve watched as content – the written word I love and cherish – has gotten hot.

Content’s the ice cream on top of the pie and everyone wants a piece. So it wasn’t long before brands began investing in content.

The New Content Creators

For the past few years, I watched as energy drink companies became content creators; as shampoo companies started producing content on women’s rights; and body lotion companies became advocates for self confidence and beauty.

I watched as jewellery companies invested in – not jewellery – but content about – not jewellery – but human relationships. (If you haven’t seen this Pandora video yet,watch it now and get out the tissues).

I watch as over 70% of B2B and B2C marketers say they’re creating more content than years before, according to Content Marketing Institute research, with almost 50% saying they publish new content daily or multiple times per week.

They’re investing in content more so than ever before – 60% say they will increase content marketing spending in the next year.

I watch and watch as companies compete to be the best content producers, to grab our attention with headlines and copy, not one-line ads and pop-ups, and the question keeps coming into my mind:

If content is so valuable why are newspapers – the original gatekeepers of content – failing?

It’s a Great Time to be a Content Marketer, a Bad Time to be a Journalist

It’s a bad time to be a journalist in Canada. In 2014, Postmedia Canada announced layoffs and voluntary buyouts and an over $10.0 million loss in its last quarter. The Toronto Star laid off 44 staff after announcing they were outsourcing page production and design jobs. Sun Media lost 360 staff and 11 newspapers. TC Media announced the closure of 20 community newspapers. Award-winning Toronto newspaper The Grid closed last summer. CBC announced a potential loss of 1,500 jobs by 2020.

During this time, the demand for content marketers – trained writers and strategists – has grown, to the point that 32% of B2B companies (an increase of 10% from the year prior) say it’s challenging to find skilled content marketers.

As  journalists lose jobs and content marketers have their pick of jobs, it begs the question: why?

If content is so valuable why are newspapers – the original gatekeepers of content – failing?

Why are companies so invested in content, why do they believe that content is the answer to win their consumers over, but newspapers filled with content can’t make it?

Where Newspapers are Failing

I’ve struggled with the answer and haven’t come to a conclusive one yet. But one thing I’ve realized is there’s something that differentiates between companies investing in content marketing and newspapers producing content and that’s what stands behind them.

For companies, content is not the product they’re selling but a means to an end – a means to build trust and authenticity with users and eventually sell their product. The product is not far behind and every company that invests in content does so for a reason: bottom line.

Every company that invests in content does so for a reason.

Newspapers, on the other hand, have nothing else to sell but content.

Newspapers are giving away their product by just producing their product and to be honest, they’re not doing a great job of it.

One of the key ways to achieve content marketing success is to differentiate yourself from the competition – and newspapers are way too scared or traditional to do so. So as newspapers rely more and more on wire stories and poorly edited 300-word articles, their content looks the same as every newspaper in that city and country – and you’ve just lost my interest and my dollar.

Companies invest in content to sell their product’s worth along with their unique brand story – but newspapers won’t. The budgets for long-form content that differentiates, substantiates (think of all the health stories that quote a 12-person study for example) and makes me beg for more are gone.

Companies invest in content to sell their product’s worth along with their unique brand story – but newspapers won’t.

There are days when I refresh my email wondering where my daily blog from Kevan Lee at Buffer, my favorite social media marketing company, is (answer: they only publish 4 days a week. Day 5 is sad).

I’ve never been drawn to a newspaper like that (and I’ve been reading them my whole life!).

So are newspapers destined to fail miserably, until all their words are erased in this strange dichotomy where content prevails for all but newspapers?

The Solution?

I don’t think so – but it requires taking a leaf out of the content marketing book (one of the best being Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi).

If newspapers can’t create content on par with content creating companies, then they won’t last another generation. But if they can:

  1. Create content that is unique
  2. Create content that answers their readers’ problems
  3. Create content that we actually want to read

Then they stand a chance. At the end of the day, content for content’s sake isn’t valuable – and that’s why companies invest in content for a specific business objective. 

And that’s why newspapers need to figure out how they can position themselves: what value they can bring to the table. If they can do so, then the best chance for newspapers to succeed is now. Are they ready to rewrite their future?

think. research. write.