I Love Content, Season II

Content-Strategy Web Events

About a year ago, so that we could  share our learning with the world (and  dodge inclement weather), the West Michigan Content Strategy Meetup began hosting online events featuring content pros from around the world.

They were so much fun, we’re planning “Season II” with a recording session scheduled for November 9th (release details to come). “I Love Content” is our series title.

Our Season I episodes are listed below for your binge-watching pleasure.

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“Brand Video: Evolving Beyond a Selling Platform” (December 2017)

A few days before discussing  the winter webinar season with one of the group’s cofounders, I’d shared a video about video (so, very  meta) created by a colleague from my ad industry days, Dennis Ryan.

Laura agreed that Dennis would be a great candidate for our inaugural meetup/webinar. He agreed, too and we made arrangements for “beam in” from The Twin Cities.

We scheduled the event for December 2017, and it was wicked cold in these parts, and colder in Minnesota (I know…shocking). The webinar format seemed like a genius move.

“Why is Podcasting so F*cking Popular?” (February 2018)

For our second online event, Laura contacted Gretchen DeVault and Tera Wozniak Qualls , women entrepreneurs (fempreneurs) who host a weekly podcast about kickass women fempreneurs.

Once again, the weather outside was frightful, but our guests were so delightful.

If you aren’t familiar with Gretchen and Tera, or their Lean The F*ck Out podcast, you can acquaint yourself rather quickly with these episodes:

“Narrative Warfare: A Discussion with Deb Lavoy” (April 2018)

I’d interacted with Deb Lavoy on social media a few times over the years and thought that she’d be a great guest presenter and made plans to contact her at some point about a lunch-and-learn event.

Then a few months ago, Deb wrote a blog post based on her recent experience as a panelist at a National Academy of Science workshop.

“Narrative Warfare” is a hot topic and Deb’s post was excellent. My plan to contact Deb mutated from “contact her soon” to contact her now”.

Deb has been kind enough to agree to do a followup event (still to be scheduled) with us on this topic. Stay tuned.

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Bo Knows Content Marketing

Content:  I Know It When I See It

The term “content marketing” bothered me a bit when I first heard it.

I knew what marketing was. I’d taken courses in college and later worked for some large advertising agencies.

However,  I was hard-pressed to think of any examples of marketing that occurred in the absence of content. I’ve never identified any cases, have you?

Now, a few years later, I’ve come to accept the term “content marketing”, for a few different reasons. I won’t go into all of them, but becoming acquainted with  Content Marketing Institute was certainly a factor.

According to CMI:

Content marketing is 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.

To be clear:  I still think that “content marketing” is a subjective,  imprecise term (I prefer “editorial marketing” ). Though I can accept the above definition.  Because I recognize that we live in a subjective, imprecise ,world.

And there are few terms more subjective or imprecise than  “content”.

I think that nowadays when most people a say ‘content’, they are referring to the types of content (text, video, illustrations…) that we compose on a computer.

However, there is so many other expressions  of content out there: pottery, wood carving, improv…

A couple of years ago, I learned of this group in West Michigan, who are undeniably content creators (though I don’t think of them as content marketers):

The

Learning of the Crazy Ladies Quilting Circle caused me to  begin re-thinking the definition of the word content. Clearly the members of this group create content. The feature is especially interesting to hear of their strategies in incorporating  ‘yo-yos’ and “monkey wrenches” (I love the domain-specific vocabulary)  into their content products

I won’t chronicle the entire journey, but let’s just say I’ve come to like this definition: from Dictionary.com:

“something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts:a poetic form adequate to a poetic content.”

While the definition doesn’t explicitly list pottery, or improv, or photography…their inclusion is implied.

In short, everything we produce is content. We’re all content creators.

Like many terms in our lives, the definition of content (therefore content marketing) is a slippery, squishy, evasive one.

The proper definition is in the eye of the beholder, or as Justice Potter Stewart once wrote in a US Supreme Court opinion (about a specific category of content).

“….and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so (provide a shorthand description).  But I know it when I see it….”

Likewise, “content marketing” may be hard to define, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Let’s look at an an unconventional example of content marketing in the following section. 

What Did Bo Know And When Did He Know It?

I especially like the above definition of content, because it includes non-traditional forms of content. Thus, according to the definition, artful expressions such as this as  would be considered content:

The content-creator  making the catch, and the ascent up the wall,  is Bo Jackson, considered by many to be  one of the premier sportsman, of the 20th Century. ESPN named Jackson the Greatest Content Creator in history (OK, they didn’t say content creator…I think it was “athlete” or something like that).

Jackson won acclaim as a Heisman Trophy-winning three-sport star in college, and his brief–though brilliant– stints in both Major League Baseball and the NFL.

If we accept that athletic performances are content (as I do), then Bo Jackson is an A-list content creator.

At the height of his fame in the late 1980’s, he played baseball full-time for the Kansas City Royals and football part-time for the Los Angeles Raiders (following baseball season’s end).

At the time Jackson was under contract with athletic-apparel manufacturer, Nike, which produced one the  of most memorable ad efforts  of the era  the  “Bo Knows” campaign.

The first “Bo Knows” ad featured a smart script, with an ensemble cast of some of the era’s notable athletes, and a  famous blues-rock guitarist who delivered the mother of all dad jokes.

Nike  made a solid media buy, too.  The  ad launch to  coincided  with  Jackson’s in the  starting lineup in his first baseball All Star Game.

Nike and its ad agency, Weiden and Kenndy did good work, but there were some things that were beyond their control.

Moments before it aired, Bo Jackson hit  a long home run in his  first swing in All Star game….the call was made by legedary  Dodgers announcer Vin Scully and a recently  term-limited president making the call.

Yes, Vin Scully and the Gipper behind the mic  as a Heisman Trophy winning NFL sensation hits a home run in The All Star Game.

Nike (and W&K) got a bit lucky there.

To extend the Lefty Gomez adage, of “I’d rather be lucky than good”:   on this night, Nike was good AND lucky.

To truly appreciate the full context of the ad’s premiere, it’s helpful to watch Jackson’s at-bat that preceded the airing of the spot.

This was his first All Star game, he was the first batter for his team and he hit a home run on his first swing:

And merely three outs later, the first of  the “Bo Knows” ads premiered:

Oh, Bo Diddley… if there were only  Nobel Prize for Dad jokes….

In light of this ad (and Jackson’s timely All Star home run), let’s consider a customized CMI definition of content marketing:

Nike provided a strategic marketing approach in which Bo Jackson focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content (touchdowns, home runs, acrobatic catches) to attract and retain a clearly defined audience (sports fans, and those who buy athletic apparel)  — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action (buying ‘Swoosh’ logo clothing).

An injury cut short Jackson’s  football career, but he  was able to return to baseball for a few seasons.

With an artificial hip, no less.

His determination to play baseball again led to another series of Nike spots featuring  his bionic hip, his rehab routine, and rant-prone comedian Dennis Leary.

 In 1993, he returned to Major League Baseball with a new team (the Chicago White Sox), and a new hip. In his first at bat of the season he hit a towering home run:

Of course he did that (he’s a master content-creator). Thus, Nike subsequently sold more apparel.

Because Bo knows content marketing.

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Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Yesterday, I received a note (via my site’s contact form) from somebody/something professing to offer freelance services (logo design, video production):

Hi guys, I am a great seller on  [redacted]. I can create videos and logos for you. I work with  [redacted]. and they will recommend my services to you for sure. Please take a look at my gigs and place an order right now. I am the best seller and (site name redacted)  has give me level 2 seller now. Just ask  [redacted]. and they will recommend me to you 100. My profile is  [redacted]. You will find all services there. Order now! Discount 🙂

I ignored it because of its spambot odor. And I don’t have any need for such services.

A couple of hours later I received this (from same user name):

“I send spam backlinks to your website and now I request that you order my gigs to remove them. If you do not order, I send more spam backlinks to destroy your site. You understand me?

“Please order now from  [redacted] and let’s be friends.”

Uh…Let’s be friends?

WTF?

Pro tip: If you’re looking for freelance work (or friendship)  from me, I’d recommend taking a different approach than threatening my property. And don’t get me started on why we CAN’T be friends.

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The Stay-Put Meetup

“One afternoon, I went to a content strategy event in my pajamas. How it got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”

–Groucho Marx *

In late 2017, one of the cofounders (a self-described ‘snow chicken’) of the West Michigan Content Strategy Meetup (WMCS) suggested we convert our events to a lunch and learn, webinar format so we could avoid Michigan’s chill-weather for a few months.

Winter Sports

Winter Sports

I am not a snow chicken. I like cold weather. I like snow. Hell, I even like shoveling snow. However, I acknowledge there are three core beliefs that unite all humans:

  • Nobody likes driving in snow (or sleet, or freezing rain, or any reduced-friction conditions).
  • Finding host venues, on a monthly basis, for a networking group is freaking exhausting.
  • Everybody loves lunch.

So, I cast a “hell yeah!” vote for that idea.

It was clear that cost was the biggest barrier to webinar events. Thus, in order to go forward with these online meetups, we (or at least I) needed to revise our expectations for the webinar platform. The biggest revelation was that we didn’t really need a self-registration feature.

Long story, made shorter: we elected to have our conversations on Google Hangouts, that could be live streamed, or replayed on YouTube. Since we aren’t building a sales funnel, we don’t need your contact info. With YouTube as our delivery vehicle, you can show up at the time of the live event, or you can watch it later.

At this writing, we have done three of these events (see them here). We are planning to do more, and we are not limiting them to frightful-weather months.

Why would we? These events provide a great opportunity to share our learning with the world. Depending on the season, and your preferences, you can watch a webinar-meetup at your convenience, over a cup of mulled cider by your fireplace, or with a mug of craft beer on your patio.

In your pajamas.

The WMCS Meetup still does in-person events, too. We are planning one for later this month (details forthcoming). In April we did a lunch-and-learn webinar one day, and the very next day we did an in-person event here in Grand Rapids.

If you have an idea for a content-strategy topic about which you’d like to present–or your just want to learn about it–you can send me a direct message on Linkedin. Or you can contact me here. I would love to talk further about your topic.

Also, please join us at our one of our future in -person events, or our next webinar (info about both will be posted here).

*OK, I paraphrased Groucho…the actual quote:

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