All posts by Vicky Tobianah

I'm a multimedia writer, editor, and strategist. Quality digital content is the future and I’m here to create and share it. It’s my passion and what I do best. I have more than five years of experience researching, writing, editing, and creating compelling content for a variety of mediums (print, web, social, and mobile) for many newspapers, magazines, and other corporate clients. I have a Bachelor of Arts, Honours, in Political Science and English Literature from McGill University.

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?

5 Things I’ve Learned About Content Marketing in My 1st Year as a Content Marketing Manager

To say I was nervous to start a new job was an understatement. Whether it’s due to my personality or gender, my first instinct sometimes is to question my ability, so starting a new job meant dealing with a bundle of nerves – was I going to let the company down? Was I really right for the job? Would it take me to the places I wanted to go? I shouldn’t have worried so much. My co-worker later told me she thought I projected a calm, confidence on my first day – good to know my emotions under the surface never boiled over.

But as I look back to that day, I realize there’s a lot I’ve learned about content marketing during my first year as a Content Marketing Manager. And I can safely say that I am making a meaningful difference, I am right for this industry and I can see the places I’d like to go.

While I’ve spent my whole life loving reading, writing, and sharing every piece of quality content I can get my hands on, it took awhile before I was given the opportunity to practice what I preached during my 9-5. As one of my wise friends always says, good things come to those who wait. I’ll continue to wait for more good things to come in my future, but in the meantime here are the five most important things I’ve learned during my first year as a Content Marketing Manager.

1. Doing Everything = Doing Nothing

A good content marketing manager is busy. Between posting on social media, writing blogs, drafting email campaigns and writing press releases, there’s rarely a free minute in the day…which is why you may think by doing “everything” you’re a superstar.

The truth is, if you try to do everything, you’ll end up doing nothing. I think that’s something I learned during week one. The key to success in content marketing is prioritizing because you will never have enough time to test out all the subject lines you want to test, write 10 versions of a social post and analyze the results later, all while managing writers and editors, and your other daily tasks.

My tip: choose five priorities you need to accomplish every week and start there. Once you’ve got those done (and sometimes the hardest part is just identifying them), then work on to your next wish-list bucket.

2. Everything’s Changing But Nothing’s Changing at all

I wanted to be a writer back when computers just played Icebreaker and you got disconnected from the Internet every time a friend called. Back then, I used a pen and paper to jot down ideas (I still do sometimes). I look back on my early years of writing and reading as a sign I’m right for my career path because what I was passionate about was the written word. I wasn’t passionate about Google+ or gaining more followers – I wanted people to read what I wrote because it was good writing. And I still do.

We delude ourselves into believing that content marketing is an evolving field but it’s not.

It has always been about creating quality content – what has changed is the way we share the content and the amount of content in the market today. I hope I’m not the only one who has a backlog of email newsletters they’d like to read when they can find the time – filled with excellent content marketing and social media advice from my favorite brands (I’m looking at you Buffer, Marketo and CoSchedule).

Lots of great people are producing great content and I hope to be one of them. Never let the hoopla of followers and likes distract you from the main purpose of creating good content.

3. Never Sacrifice Quality for Quantity (also known as “Fight the Urge to Keep Up”)

It can become very, very tempting early on to just get more and more out there – more blogs, more resources, more guides and checklists, tweets and grams, more and more without thinking about the why behind it all, and whether it’s any good to begin with. As a Content Marketing Manager, I’ve had to fight the urge to do more and keep up with what I saw others in the industry doing – creating an insatiable amount of content, on every channel I was looking.

Someone once said:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.

I think of content the same way. I’m not achieving my goals by simply producing more – to check off and say I hit a record-number of blog posts in 2014, or doubled the number of tweets. The quantity of what I produce means nothing if it doesn’t drive engagement.

I’d rather create content that is memorable, that is relevant to our audience, that doesn’t just drive people to share it but compels them to bookmark it too. I’d rather create content that takes our breath away.

4. Stop Testing If You’re Not Analyzing

I love tests. And not just because I was an A+ student (thanks Mom and Dad). Because in content marketing, when you test, you know and there’s nothing I want more than to know what readers want, what content resonates with them and what they’re willing to give me their information to send them (it’s got to be good if you’re willing to give up your email address in exchange for it). So if you’re not already testing in your content marketing campaigns (everything from email subject lines to calls-to-action on social media posts) then start now.

But if you are testing, and you’re not going back to analyze your results, then you might as well do nothing at all. This goes back to point #1 – there’s no sense in trying to do everything (such as test, test, test) if you’re not going to step back and look at the results. That’s like a hotel asking for reviews but never reading them, a company collecting product reviews and then throwing them out.

Use the gold mine of data people have given you and analyze.

5. I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again

Finally, the fifth thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to get knocked down. Trying to create quality content in a world of instant gratification and content saturation is hard. Trying to convince management that blogs matter is hard. Proving ROI from social media is hard. So it’s okay if some days you wonder why you’re so passionate about it or why you try so hard to make it work.

It’s okay to get knocked down as long as you get back up and never let anyone keep you down. If you’re in this industry, then it’s likely that you’re passionate about what you do – and true passion for your work is something that cannot be faked. It is something that you cannot teach or learn, you have it or you don’t.

Count yourself lucky if the reason you get knocked down is because your passion is overwhelming, confusing, scary – and true.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about content marketing?

My Content Marketing Wish List for 2015

Ah, content marketing. The helpful-not-harassment form of selling that marketers love to secretly hate (mostly because pop-ups and unwanted ads are much easier to create and execute than an entire content strategy).

Whether you love it or hate it, content marketing is poised to shake up industries in 2015. Many bloggers are already talking about their content marketing predictions for 2015 (such as the importance of video and the need for quality, not quantity content) but the predictions I’ve read seem obvious to me – and I want to get a little more ambitious.

If content marketing were up to me, here are my five wish list items I’d like to see in 2015:

1. Say Hello to Content Saturation – and its Ramifications

More than 50% of B2B marketers say they plan to increase their spending on content marketing in 2015 – in fact, 70% of B2B marketers and 69% of B2C marketers say they’re creating more content than they did a year ago.

With that, we’ll see content saturation in the digital sphere like we’ve never seen before. Say hello to brands competing for the same consumer attention, a bombardment of blogs that you “must” read or follow, social networks you can’t get away with checking every other day.

Content saturation will affect all four other of my content marketing wishes for 2015 and one thing you must know is that the companies that overcome the desire to create quantity content and create quality content instead will win the content saturation race.

There are already brands doing this – I’m talking about compelling writers like Kevan Lee at Buffer (the must-read blog for any social media marketer) and Garett Moon at CoSchedule who, if you read their blogs and e-newsletters, demonstrate their passion for quality content – something I hope to see more of in 2015.

Every single article they write is helpful advice for a budding marketer – and I predict content like theirs will quickly overtake the pack.

My wish: For content marketers and bloggers to overcome the desire to create a new blog every day and instead focus on quality, can’t-live-without-your-content content.

2. Let’s Get Personal Up in Here

Effective content marketers in 2015 should know what you care about, what cat photos you like (or don’t like) and what you ate for breakfast – seriously. Because of content saturation, content marketers will be forced to create better quality content or get out of the game – and one of the key indicators of quality is understanding your audience, down to every last member.

I’d like content to get so personal that when I’m reading a blog I often frequent, the articles that appear on the homepage are automatically selected based on my interests. So say I visit the Buffer blog a lot (guilty) but only really read information about Twitter and LinkedIn marketing. Algorithms could track what content I’m engaging with, and show me the relevant content next time I visit.

That’s just the first step but with the technology available today, businesses have the opportunity to know everything about you, so why not use it?

My wish: For smart content marketers to get better at personalizing and segmenting content based on their audience’s interests (no matter how small the audience is).

3. Twitter: Your New CRM?

Earlier this year, LinkedIn rolled out a feature that finally made it easier for you to keep track of all your connections. Now sometimes referred to as the LinkedIn CRM functionality, the tool allows you to write “notes” on your connection’s profile (only visible to you) to remind yourself of how you met. This handy feature means when you’re scrolling through your feed wondering why you’re getting updates from someone you don’t know, you can quickly click on their profile, check the notes, and refresh your memory.

I’d love to see Twitter rolling out something similar to this – if not in 2015, than in 2016 – because thanks to content saturation, and the increasing number of brands using social media, it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of why you’re following who you’re following.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I see a tweet from someone I don’t know or recognize, click on their profile, and can’t remember why I’m following them to begin with. By creating a tool like LinkedIn’s, now we could add handy notes to remember why we’re following someone – like “both attended the #InsertWebinarHashtagHere.”

This could also be done as an added functionality to Twitter’s lists feature – for example, imagine being able to see which list you’ve added a Twitter follower to next to their Twitter handle in your feed – no more clicking or checking, you’d know who they are and why just when scrolling through your feed.

My wish: For social media platforms like Twitter to make it easier to sort through our feed and add personal touches to the platform.

4. Goodbye to the Twitter We Know and Love?

Social networks are popping up left, right and center, and just when you think you’ve mastered one, another one comes down the pipeline to make you feel old and out of the game.

I think it’s time for Twitter to make some changes to the features we’ve come to know and love to deal with the influx of social media networks and the importance of content personalization – and they should start with algorithm changes. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, your Twitter feed shows you every single tweet sent by someone you’re following – you just may not see it since there are so many updated every second.

Why not take a leaf out of Facebook and LinkedIn’s books and make a change – and slowly start to restrict the tweets you see to the tweets Twitter thinks you care about? What this algorithm change would mean is that you have to tweet out content your followers actually want to see (a.k.a the whole point of content marketing) to get in front of them – another push to force content marketers to deliver better quality content.

My wish: I personally like the fact that you can see all of your follower’s tweets, so this “wish” is really more a prediction of something I think will happen in a year or two. The response will depend on how it’s rolled out, and if it is, then content marketers will have to better engage with followers to get content in their feeds.

5. Facebook: LinkedIn 2.0?

Just when it seemed like Facebook was the be-end or end-all, LinkedIn came into the game and snatched some of the attention away – and it’s showing. For professionals, LinkedIn is the clear winner.

With Facebook’s rumored Facebook at Work chat messaging system coming soon, I wonder if Facebook is going to go even further and create its own publishing platform, similar to LinkedIn’s Pulse. It makes sense – Facebook Notes were popular back in their heyday, but a more robust publishing system would allow Facebook users (over 60% of who visit the site every single day) to follow content from their favorite Facebook brands – let’s just hope Kim Kardashian doesn’t get her hands on this.

My wish: For social media networks like Facebook to broaden their horizons and try new things!

My content marketing wish list may not come true for 2015, but I’ve always believed in dreaming big, and content marketing is a great field to dream in – it’s growing, constantly changing, and demanding that we all become best at what we do to break through the noise and get our message to the right audience.

Whether these wishes become reality or not, I think at the heart of all of them is the demand for us to create content, not for the sake of content, but for the sake of telling our story, one that consumers want to hear and have been asking for.

To my fellow content marketers I say: bring on 2015.

Why Us Content Marketers Have to Better Market Ourselves

Over 30% of B2C and B2B marketers revealed they find it challenging to find trained content marketing professionals, an increase of 320% since last year, according to Content Marketing Institute research.

Just considering that number alone is a problem. Coupled with the fact that 55% of B2B marketers plan to increase spending on content marketing in 2015 and a greater problem emerges: if there are not enough trained content marketing professionals, what exactly are you spending money on?

Content marketing continues to grow as a formal business discipline. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute even changed their definition of content marketing this year to reflect this – now defining content marketing as:

“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”

Formerly, they defined content marketing as the “creation and distribution of educational and/or compelling content in multiple media formats to attract and/or retain customers.” This change shows what content marketers have known for years: quality content can build awareness, drive revenue and impact your company’s bottom line.

Yet successful companies are searching for these trained content marketers – to no avail. So where are they (or rather, us?)

Bring ‘em Out

There is no shortage in those passionate about and interested in content marketing – consider the Google Trends chart below that reveals the growth of content marketing as a search term in the past five years.

Content Marketing Trends

Rather, the shortage is in the lack of trained content writers, strategists and marketers. As content marketing continues to grow, content marketers apparently have not followed suit. Why not?

I believe that the issue lies, not in a lack of trained content marketing professionals, but a lack of trained content marketers who know how to market themselves.

Here’s why.

5 Key Skills You Need to be a Content Marketer

Like any other discipline, you need certain skills to be successful at content marketing. Google Trends charts and other research may make you believe that content marketing is a new field, but it really is just age-old wisdom marketed in a new way.

Content marketing = the importance of telling a story, to the right people, at the right time, on the right channels.

This is something we’ve been doing since the dawn of time. When it comes down to it, successful content marketers must have five key skills – the ability to:

  1. Write well and for different audiences, in different tones and voices
  2. Strategize – and document it
  3. Understand different mediums (social, websites, ad copy, blogs etc.)
  4. Learn to constantly evolve
  5. Manage it all

All together, these five skills make a successful content marketer. By now, you might be reading those skills and thinking “I’ve got that” and “I’ve got that one too,” yet you don’t call yourself a content marketer. Perhaps you refer to yourself as just a writer or just a social media marketer. Perhaps you’ve never written email copy before, or tested out subject lines. Perhaps you’ve done it all yet no feel qualified to join the ranks. Does a lack of confidence in your own skills mean you can’t call yourself a content marketer?

That’s what it all comes down to.

There isn’t a lack of content marketing professionals because content marketing isn’t a new field. Content marketing is a new term for a field that we’ve been mastering for years: the art of storytelling, and doing it well, to multiple audiences, on multiple channels.

What there is a lack of is people willing to step up to the plate and put on the content marketer’s hat. I know I was reluctant to call myself a content marketer. After all, what did I know about strategy, ROI and social media engagement? It turns out, a lot. I had been doing it for years and slowly learning and growing along the way. Once I wore the title, I was able to open up new opportunities for myself and position myself as a real content marketer.

Fellow content marketers, it’s time to better market yourselves. It might be easier to market a new product, software, or even a blog – but the most important marketing is showing the world – and those 32% of B2B and B2C companies – that trained content marketers do exist. We’re trained writing professionals. We’re trained in management and organization. We’re strategists and critical thinkers. We’re on the pulse of social media. We’re content marketers.