A Noodle-Centric Next Chapter

Some personal news.

Throughout the last nearly four years, my job situation has been..fluid. There’s been freelance work, contract work, retail work and just about everything else you can imagine. I’ve managed social media programs, written white papers, edited email newsletters and slung more than a few lattes over that time.

Now it’s time for the next thing.

Back in February I started doing part-time contract work for GoNoodle, a children’s entertainment company. Now I’m happy to say I’ve accepted an offer to become that company’s full-time Manager, Content Programming.

My short time already at GoNoodle has been wonderful. I’ve met some smart people who have accepted me with open arms, even as I ask “OK, but why?” several dozen times a day. They’ve welcomed my input and experience and put up my Slack GIFs.

Champs-Squatchy

So what will I be doing in this role?

  • Deciding which content is published to the GoNoodle homepages
  • Testing various theories and hypotheses regarding what makes content popular
  • Organizing existing content and participating in planning new material
  • Managing the priorities of other departments and putting them all in the content funnel

And, of course, showing off my Jordan-strong Slack GIF game.

One of the things that attracted me to GoNoodle was a desire to do something a little more meaningful with my career. Thankfully I’ve rarely been asked or required by any employer or client to do anything directly contrary to my values, but a company whose goals are childhood fitness, compassion and empathy for your friends and neighbors as well as educational success was just what I had been looking for.

Another element that led me to say “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes” was actually the same thing that brought me into the company in the first place: The chance to work with Jason James again.

Jason was my primary day-to-day contact when I was at Voce and he was at DC Entertainment from late 2011 to about the end of 2015, before he moved on to other opportunities. He and I, along with the rest of the Voce team, quickly found we shared sensibilities and perspectives, challenging while also completely supporting each other. Working with him was a blast.

So when I returned his out-of-the-blue call and he explained how he had recently joined GoNoodle and was looking for someone he trusted to come in and run the department he was overseeing, I couldn’t jump on board fast enough, especially after learning more about his mission.

You can read more about GoNoodle and its mission in this post from KC Estenson when he joined as the company’s new CEO in 2018. And here’s the story from earlier this year when Jason was brought on to head content strategy and programming.

This is obviously an unusual time, and being offered a full-time position in the midst of an economy-shattering pandemic was the furthest thing from my mind. I’m thankful for the opportunity and hope this will be the beginning of a long relationship with the company.

Vertigo, MAD and the Power of Weird Brands

There needs to be a place for material outside the mainstream.

[Note: I wrote the below back in August but obviously never published it. In the wake of the news that Dan DiDio has seemingly been pushed out of DC Comics and that DC Collectibles is reclaiming the DC Direct name it was founded under I made a few updates and am sharing it now.]

vertigo comics logoIt’s been several months since news broke that DC Entertainment was effectively shutting down MAD Magazine, the humor and comedy magazine that has been published for decades, influencing generations of writers, artists and others. That came just a short while after the announcement another DC Entertainment imprint, Vertigo, was being jettisoned and its books and characters brought under the DC brand in various ways.

In an interview from that time, DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio spoke about the state of their company as well as the comics industry as a whole, addressing some of the challenges being faced and how DC is trying to meet and surmount them.

Unstated in that interview, but looming in the background of all of this, is that as part of TimeWarner DC is now owned by AT&T. That reality was on display at the recent San Diego Comic-Con, where DC no longer had a standalone booth but was folded into the WarnerMedia booth. Instead of being in the middle of the convention, DC was off in the corner. There were still plenty of promotions for the comics that form the crux of DC’s business, but the list of artists and writers doing signing was drastically reduced from years past, limited to just a few of the highest profile talent. Previously you could find all kinds of creators there who worked on all kinds of books. Much of the focus was on the off-site multimedia Batman Experience, celebrating the 80th anniversary of that character’s debut.

mad magazine logoDC’s parent company, as pointed out here, may view it more as a lifestyle brand than a comics publisher, hoping that monetizing nostalgia for the iconic characters and symbols it’s developed over the years is more lucrative than actually putting out new stories. That includes the so-far-successful line of YA books based on DC characters that have been released recently as well as other multimedia extensions.

The secondary brands that were Vertigo and MAD just didn’t have that kind of potential. Well…they do, but you have to work harder to get there.

Many projects based on Vertigo books and characters have been developed or announced over the years. But for every “iZombie,” The Kitchen or “Preacher” that makes it to the masses, there are things like Y: The Last Man that lingers and lingers in limbo.

In some cases, the inability to create bigger cultural moments out of Vertigo’s output is chalked up to the deals being complicated tangles of ownership that split control between creators and company in a way that makes development difficult. In others, it’s a testament to the lack of vision that comes from multinational corporations that are risk averse to the point of inaction.

An ambitious company could find decades of material in the list of books published by Vertigo over the years. Any title could be turned into a movie or TV show that may not turn out to be a blockbuster grossing $700 million worldwide but, with the right marketing, could be a decent hit. And if the future is indeed one where theatrical releases are only given to the biggest of the big, the DC Universe streaming outlet could house the rest, not to mention Netflix or the coming HBO Max OTT service.

Of course I have my own personal experiences with both Vertigo and MAD, having managed DC Entertainment’s social media marketing for the better part of five years, from July 2011 to December 2015.

dc directIn that time, I handled Vertigo just as I did DC’s main brand profiles. New books were promoted, announcements shared and so on. The five years I and my team went to Comic-Con, Vertigo was part of our portfolio for on-the-ground coverage. So too, DC Collectibles, the company’s product brand for high-end statues, action figures and other goods.

MAD, on the other hand, was almost completely off-limits. We were told early on that the website and social media profiles for MAD would continue to be managed by the team that was, at the time, still in New York City as opposed to Burbank, where the rest of DC Entertainment was headquartered. They had their own thing going and while we were asked from time to time to offer our thoughts and guidance, day to day we were uninvolved.

The reason was that the MAD team had a sense of their brand that couldn’t be communicated to or replicated by those outside. That’s understandable.

Shutting down the two imprints and brands makes the culture as a whole a little less weird and exciting. These were houses of experimentation, where someone with an odd idea could do their thing and try to find an audience. Many will fall short of that, standing as lone testaments to whatever it is their creators were trying to do.

Even those that did catch on would likely never achieve the kind of scale demanded by the massive companies that now control much of the cultural landscape. That’s why, as the merger was still in the works, niche streaming services like FilmStruck and others were shut down. Meanwhile DC has cut the number of titles it publishes while finding more success with its Facsimile Editions – reprints of classic books that include vintage ads and other details – than it has with many current, ongoing books.

DiDio’s frustration with that reality should prompt the question of who it is that has put him in the position of engaging in a program he disapproves of and would seemingly like to see smothered. It makes me wonder who was calling the shots on Vertigo and MAD being shuttered.

About DiDio: In the years I was working with DC I’m not sure Dan ever actually remembered who I was without someone reminding him. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel the social media work I and the team did was important, it’s just that he was a busy guy with a lot going on at all times. Once his memory was jogged he was always imminently helpful and accommodating, willing to go along with most any of our hair brained ideas. There are few people I encountered who are as passionate about comics, the characters in them, the stories being told and the fans reading them than Dan.

DC was a great company to work with all those years ago and many of the people I dealt with are still there and doing their best. Others have either left of their own volition or been shown the door during one merger-related restructuring or another. Similar situations have happened at other media companies as the tolerance for risk and experimentation among accountants concerned about private equity debt financing falls lower and lower. We need these weirdo fringe brands to keep doing their thing for countless reasons, including that they employ more people than big, streamlined operations that just want to churn out endless variations on the same 12 super hero stories we’ve already seen.

Selling Doctor Sleep

My latest post at The Hollywood Reporter is a recap of the marketing campaign for Doctor Sleep.

Warner Bros.’ marketing and promotions campaign has used connections to the original to make sure audiences understand this is a sequel, but that’s come at the expense of explaining this movie’s characters and story. Below is a closer look at the rollout:

You can read the whole thing here.

The Egg on North Face

North Face is not, by any means, the first company to try and alter their own Wikipedia entry for marketing-related purposes. They might, though, be the first to so publicly tout doing so and have their success presented as a successful effort to overcome the “obstacle” presented by the site’s own dictum that such efforts were strictly verboten.

There’s quite enough blame to go around here. Parties to be held accountable include:

  1. Those that pitched the campaign, regardless of whether they were junior or senior staffers at the agency involved.
  2. Those at a more senior level who approved the idea as one suitable to be presented to the client.
  3. Those at the company who approved the campaign and gave the go-ahead for implementation.
  4. Those at Ad Age who presented the campaign as a cheeky “subversion” of the rules, like we should reward those involved for willfully defiling a public space and see them as innovative instead of the vandals they are.

The situation we find ourselves in is one where professional ethics in the marketing industry seem to be all but completely abandoned. It’s not just that times have changed and norms have been adjusted in the last 20 years. Influencers don’t bother disclosing affiliate posts, celebrities don’t bother disclosing their paid posts and a shocking number of marketers aren’t even aware there are guidelines around influencer marketing.

15 years ago the people running online marketing programs were the same ones who had come up with the rise of the industry, many of whom were intimately involved in the creation of professional guidelines and best practices. As that generation was phased out they tried to pass on what they’d learned – sometimes the hard way – to those behind them. At some point it became a game of telephone, though, to the point that some current marketing professionals don’t even try. And the industry press, afraid of losing access, isn’t pressing on these points.

All of that is in service to the belief that the best way to run a successful campaign or program is to be “edgy.” Throw norms out the window, because all they do is get in the way of making money. If one agency says they won’t execute a program because it violates some standard or guideline, all a company has to do is find one that suffers from no such moral burden, at which point the original agency has lost the business and will have to report the reason why to their holding company. Failure is not an option because there’s always someone willing to cross the line and leave before having to face any consequences.

You see this all the time, particularly with agencies and consultancies built around a single personal brand. They will come up with the most outrageous idea and convince someone to execute it because they’re not in the business of having consistent, repeat clients. Instead they parachute in to a project, rack up scores of billable hours developing a half-baked idea that’s then dropped on another party’s lap and have moved on before the grenade explodes in someone’s hands.

The reputations of everyone involved remain intact because hey, at least there was some press coverage of the campaign, right? It may not be a Cannes Lion but it certainly broke through the media clutter and got some attention. So long as no one’s stock price was harmed, the only parties held responsible might be the junior staffer tasked with copy-editing the campaign.

I’m painting with broad brushes here and there are certainly ethical people operating at all levels of the marketing and advertising industry. Each time a story like this emerges, though, it’s hard to think those people aren’t becoming fewer and farther between while those free from any consideration beyond what will make the biggest impact proliferate.

Less Of Your Marketing Matters Than You Thought

There’s a standard in the marketing/advertising field that someone has to be exposed to X number of messages about your product or brand before they choose to make a purchase. In some cases that’s up to a dozen instances of what’s called “effective frequency” in others it’s as little as three. A good chunk of the content marketing industry is based on that premise, since putting more material out there to either pushed to the public or available to them via search.

There may be some truth to that, but a new study shows less of that marketing may be influential than previously thought.

At least that’s the conclusion that can be reached after reading a new study showing people don’t use as much information in their decision making processes as they claim to. What the research found is that people tend to overestimate how deeply they ponder or evaluate factors and new inputs to appear smarter and more prone to deep contemplation and evaluation. Instead, the actual decision is made early on and is predicated largely on an emotional reaction to the first instance they’re exposed to.

To coin a phrase, first impressions matter.

Think about that the next time you’re considering a campaign that has as a central tenet reaching the same audience a dozen or more times. Everything beyond those first couple of ads or messages hasn’t done much at all to change someone’s feelings or opinions of your product or service if they’ve already elicited a negative emotional reaction in the audience.

Advertisers and marketers are used to that old adage “Half my ad budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half,” an expression of the frustration felt over not having insights into which parts of a campaign actually changed people’s minds. This study would suggest that it’s whichever half is devoted to repeatedly putting the same message in front of the same segments. Such repetition isn’t reinforcing anything, as the decision was likely made well before the campaign got to that point.

The researchers ran several tests in a variety of environments to come to their conclusions, and it may be worthwhile for marketers to devote time and resources to conducting their own testing about how much frequency actually moves the needle on interest or intent.

Here are some question to ask:

  • Is the audience’s intent substantively different after the second or third repetition compared to after the 10th or 12th?
  • How are you altering the media mix to reach different segments instead of the same one or two over and over again?
  • Can you increase interest or intent by reaching the same segment with markedly different messages each time instead of the same one repeatedly?

There are more, of course, that can go into your message testing, but having some idea of how repetition truly changes people’s minds has the potential to help you make more informed media placement decisions. That means you’re getting more return on spending, something that should be a priority for every marketing professional around.

Content Marketing Insights: Developing a Program Framework – Creating a Mission Statement

A content marketing program is more complex than some would have you believe. This is one in a series of posts laying out some best practices and essential steps to take when developing or evaluating a program for you or your organization.

Corporate mission statements really came into vogue in the last 40 years or so as companies sought to set themselves apart and define what the image they wanted to present to the public really was. You read a lot of these and you see repeated use of phrases like “be the best in class” or “become the market leader” in a way that’s related to their industry.

The actual business value of such mission statements has always seemed a tad questionable to me. They always appeared to be more about a board of directors feeling like they’ve contributed or a consultant preying on fears of being left behind than anything that will matter to the public.

That their primary purpose is as in-house positioning is actually a big reason they play a large role in the development of a content marketing program.

When writing your program’s mission statement, the question that needs to be asked is this:

What is it we want our message to be?

It’s a bit more nuanced than that, of course, But if you can’t answer that question right off the bat, the program is in trouble from the outset.

As you begin putting together the structure and purpose of the program, the mission statement begins to focus the defining principles laid out previously. As with any other mission statement, one for a content marketing program should hit the following points:

  • What are you doing?
  • How are you doing it?
  • Why are you doing it?

Here’s a quick, generic example.

Be a valuable source of company and industry news through regular publishing of relevant, engaging updates on important topics to raise the company’s standing among buyers, customers and media.

Your own will be specific to what you want to accomplish and may include mentions of direct sales or other metrics, but be careful to not set goals that are too specific in this mission statement. Those goals will be outlined later on, after tactics and strategies have also been provided.

Right now you’re setting the vision for the program more than anything.

The purpose of the mission statement at this stage is mostly about gaining internal approval. This is you selling the purpose of the program to higher-ups, as well as giving everyone involved something to rally around. So it should be aspirational yet achievable, with a bit of hyperbole built in so everyone feels they’re signing off on something visionary or groundbreaking.

There are some who feel you should include mentions of target audiences, sales funnels and other details in the mission statement, but those will only get you into trouble later on. Target audiences change, sales funnels are altered based on user experiences and testing. The mission statement should, with some caveats, be evergreen and as applicable two years from now as it is today. Like other elements of the program it should be revisited from time to time to make sure it’s still relevant, but it shouldn’t be so fungible that any change in tactics is going to necessitate revisions.

Again, this is a big part of receiving buy-in on the program being developed, so any change to what’s here will impact how those you report to view what you’re doing and how much they support it. If you are constantly changing the mission statement because you made it too specific, those who have signed off on it may be confused or irritated when what they see now doesn’t match what they had previously agreed to.

Create your mission statement with tomorrow in mind and you’ll be on solid footing as you continue developing the content marketing program.

Content Marketing Insights: Developing a Program Framework – General Principles

A content marketing program is more complex than some would have you believe. This is one in a series of posts laying out some best practices and essential steps to take when developing or evaluating a program for you or your organization.

When you, your team and whatever other stakeholders are laying the groundwork for a content marketing program the first step is to create some sort of structure for that program. These aren’t hard and fast rules on what content is or isn’t included or instructional how-tos on publishing and engaging.

Instead the Program Framework is a set of ideas and objectives the program will use as its guiding document. If content marketing programs are a journey – and they very much are – the program framework isn’t a map with specific directions. Instead it’s more of a repository for where you want to go, what you want to see along the way and at your destination, who’s going to decide where to eat and how you’ll decide whether or not the trip was a success.

A good program framework, in my experience, consists of five overall sections, the first of which is.

General Principles

When drafting the general principles for a program, remember to think big picture and not get caught up in granular tactics or even goals. These are the kinds of statements that make for effective principles:

We will share information that is relevant to our business and interesting to our audience and customers.

To be a resource for those seeking information on the kinds of products and services we offer as well as address the needs of customers and others.

To be fresh and funny while still conveying a clear message about all aspects of our business or organization.

Each of those can be fleshed out a bit and tweaked to your particular industry, business or audience, but the overall tone should be clear: That you want to lay out “this is what we’re all about and the kind of tone we will seek to take in our communications.”

These principles are, as you may notice, platform agnostic. At no point do they mention any one outlet because they should be applicable to as many platforms as the program encompasses while allowing for new ones to be added. You can adhere to those principles whether you’re talking about Instagram, email, a blog or whatever new platforms will come on your radar two years from now.

There will, of course, be shifts that occur in those principles since, while they are flexible enough to be relevant most anywhere, business goals and needs will change over time. So if responding to customer questions becomes less of a priority, or direct sales become a bigger element of the program, it’s alright to revisit this statement of principles and make revisions.

That being said, doing so lightly can lead to confusion and cause more problems than it solves. This is the basic foundation of the program and should be treated as such.

Going back to the analogy of taking a trip, this is the part of the planning process where you say “We are going to Disney World for four days.” You haven’t laid out what route will be taken, what form of transportation you’ll be taking, where you’re eating meals or how much money you’ve budgeted. It’s just the high-level statement that should be easily understood by all involved parties.

Changing the statement of general principles is akin to saying “We’re now going to New York City for five days.” The entire premise on which what’s coming next has changed, leading to the need to secure buy-in and agreement from those involved all over again.

In that way, the general principles of a content marketing program are both vague and specific. They can be applied to many aspects both present and future of the program and don’t tie you to specific tactics or goals, but they also explain to everyone who touches the program what there is to be gained.

No, Ethics Have Been Around For A While Now

Of all the various issues raised by the dueling documentaries – one on Hulu, one on Netflix – recounting the events of Fyre Festival, one of the most pervasive has been the actions of Jerry Media, a creative agency hired by the founders of Fyre to promote the event online. The agency, which produced the film available on Netflix, has come under significant criticism since it debuted, primarily because it has a history of stealing other people’s photos and comments and republishing them under their own @fuckjerry Instagram account.

The comments have become so widespread that Elliot Tebele, Jerry Media founder, has felt it necessary to respond with a post on Medium that seems intended to defend (or at least deflect) some of the charges leveled against himself and those who work for him.

Here’s the key graf from his post:

I know I’ve made enemies over the years for using content and not giving proper credit and attribution to its creators. In the early days of FuckJerry, there were not well-established norms for reposting and crediting other users’ content, especially in meme culture. Instagram was still a new medium at the time, and I simply didn’t give any thought to the idea that reposting content could be damaging in any way.

Alright, let’s take that apart a bit.

The “early days” of FuckJerry are 2011, which Tebele positions as the Wild West of the internet, free from rules and structure, where anything went and people were ruled only by their hedonistic impulses.

Right from the outset he has shown himself to be either A) a liar, or B) ignorant. For the sake of argument let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and go with “ignorant.”

The Federal Communications Commission enacted guidelines for disclosure of paid social media and online postings in 2009. What Tebele is talking about isn’t exactly that, but it’s important to note that the Federal government deciding to weigh in on what should or shouldn’t happen online is at least 10 years in the past, occurring prior to the free for all described by Tebele.

Conversations around what did or didn’t constitute “fair use” of consumer-generated media predates even that. Those conversations were happening as far back as 2004 (if not earlier), as soon as the first brands began using photos people were posting online in their ads and other marketing. It quickly became evident that the same sort of permissions collected from professional photographers were necessary when dealing with the owner of flickr.com/FloridaPhotoGuy.

So Tebele’s statement there was a lack of “well-established norms for reposting and crediting other users’ content” betrays a startling lack of awareness of basic principles that had been around for at least a half-dozen years. If he was unaware of them it’s because he had a vested interest in not knowing what they were. It’s true he may not have been around while those foundational discussions were being hashed out in blog posts and comments, but if he wanted to build a business around online marketing he had a responsibility to educate himself, something he obviously didn’t do. That makes him at best negligent.

If he’s running a stupid little Instagram account with a “shocking” handle that’s one thing. It’s another if he’s using that philosophy as the foundation for a creative agency that purports to do actual client work, because ultimately those clients are going to be responsible for the actions taken on their behalf.

In many ways the Jerry Media situation offers a perfect example of the modern state of online marketing, one where getting people’s attention is the end that justifies any and all means. So it’s fine that, as of 2017, only 11 percent of marketers were aware of FTC guidelines around sponsored content disclosure. Why should they, when it will only get in the way of posting the kind of material that resulted from that epic microbrew-fueled brainstorming sesh.

It’s a generation that has come up *after* the ones that had the kind of original conversations mentioned earlier. Unfortunately as they gained influence they discarded much of what had come before, perhaps because they didn’t make their bones in the age of links and attribution, instead being raised on social media sharing where nothing came from an individual, it was all just there on the platform. And brands were all too happy to sign up with these buzz-driven agencies founded by one or two dudes who were “good at Instagram” and who would help them seem cool with the kids.

While they were doing that – often on the cheap – those who took a more ethical and sustainable approach to the business kept doing their thing. Flashy agencies came and went but more ethical shops stuck around, often picking up the pieces left behind when some other agency exploded the brand’s reputation or caused other problems that now need to be fixed.

Outside of all that, Tebele’s comment that he didn’t give thought to the idea reposting content without attribution could cause problems simply doesn’t hold water from a rhetorical point of view. He obviously did, otherwise he wouldn’t have removed the name of the person who originally posted it. It’s like filing off the serial number on a gun and then claiming you had no idea doing so would make it harder for police to trace.

In the documentary, Tebele rationalizes his involvement with Fyre Festival by saying something like “Well you can’t expect vendors to vet the people and companies they do business with.” But that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do. Is this a legitimate company or venture? Do the people I’m working with have a history of ethical behavior? Can I trust them?

The Jerry Media team didn’t worry about that – and apparently have never worried about it – because it simply doesn’t matter to them. If it seems fun and like an opportunity to party, they’re in. Rules can be ignored, if they’re aware they exist at all.

Take the Pressure Off Social Responses

More terrible data pushing the terrible notion that brands engaging in marketing efforts via social media should feel the need to respond to each and every comment directed at them. This time it comes via a survey of U.S. adults, gauging what they feel is an appropriate response rate. Unsurprisingly, most people feel such responses should come in less than a day, if not within a couple hours.

That’s fine, but it’s also nonsense.

As with most such surveys and reports, it appears to start out from a faulty premise. Namely, that every person mentioning a brand online *wants* to hear back with a response. That’s simply not the case.

Simply consider this: Most of the advice you might have read about how a 100% response rate within 24 hours of an individual’s comment comes from one of two sources. Either it’s from a company selling a social media monitoring and customer engagement software solution or someone selling their consulting service. Both have a vested interest in guilting a company into feeling they’re not doing enough.

In reality, the best guidance is the same that’s applied when you come across one of those “here are the best times/days to publish on social media” pieces. Namely, do what works best for your own company/industry and for your own audience.

Here’s a quick, admittedly abbreviated, checklist to work down as you’re deciding how (or if) to scale up your social content team to more fully respond to consumer comments and posts:

1: What’s the tone? Are people saying anything constructive? In 98 percent of cases, people who are just dragging a brand for the lulz don’t want – or deserve – a response. Nothing you say will change their thinking or attitude. They just want to burn you. On the other hand, someone who seems to be coming at you, even if they’re saying something negative, from a place of good faith is worth your time.

2: Who are they? There’s so much intentional terribleness on social media it’s often hard to find the signal in the noise. The rise of bots and disinformation farms has only made problems worse and it’s not clear companies are adequately staffed or informed to deal with them, outsourcing much of that work and worry to the same CMS vendors mentioned above. It’s only worth engaging with those who are verifiably real people.

3: What are the next three parts of the conversation? Strategic thinking is an essential, if often undervalued, aspect of corporate communications. It’s necessary when developing engagement/response strategies and tactics, though. Before diving into a conversation, and assuming it’s even a conversation the person on the other end wants to have, consider for a moment what the next three steps of that conversation are going to be. What does it seem the person wants out of the back-and-forth and are you ready to deliver it? More importantly, are you ready to be the one who hangs up the figurative phone if things take a turn.

That last one is essential. As ready as brand managers need to be to engage in a conversation, they also need to be ready to end it. Someone always has to be the one to walk away, and in many cases that will be the person who’s operating on behalf of the brand account. So is everyone on the team empowered to make that call?

If, as the lead on a brand social content program, you’re comfortable holding yourself and your team to a 100 percent comment response standard, go for it. For most, though, it’s going to be an unreasonable goal that, even if it were achievable, isn’t going to do much more than incremental good for the brand image in the eye of the public. And when you inevitably fall short of it you will have set a poor precedent for the program, not to mention set yourself up to answer uncomfortable questions from stakeholders.

Don’t buy the hype and don’t give in to the pressure established by those looking to sell their wares and services.

Content Marketing Programs Require More Than Three Steps to Develop

Over the course of the last several years there have been countless blog posts, videos and other material shared by various experts (both real and otherwise) on how to effectively create and and manage an online content marketing program. Just recently there was a post that crossed my RSS feed that boiled developing such a program down to three simple steps:

  1. Define goals
  2. Obtain shareholder approval
  3. Define success and measure results

Those steps are, of course, overly simplistic and vague. There’s almost nothing actionable in there.

What that kind of thinking shows is how the concept of content marketing has become reduced to the lowest, most basic ideas without an idea of how to dive deeper. It shows the kind of “everyone/anyone can do it” mindset that has been common for a few years now as the standards for how and when to manage such programs were lowered.

These programs aren’t easy. They aren’t something everyone can do. At the risk of sounding haughty, it takes a particular kind of skill set to not only launch them but also continue managing them and achieve significant business results through them.

Allow me to add a bit to that initial list:

  1. Develop a program framework
  2. Create a program styleguide
  3. Obtain stakeholder approval
  4. Determine content types
  5. Build a program team
  6. Develop a content workflow
  7. Create community engagement guidelines
  8. Report on program metrics
  9. Offer analysis and recommendations
  10. Repeat at regular intervals

Over the course of the next several weeks I’ll go in-depth on each one of those points, offering insights and opinions based on the experience I’ve gained in the nearly 20 years I’ve been running and participating in programs like this.