The Ideaction Blog

Content Marketing—It’s Personal

Posted by Traci Failla on November 3, 2013

Last week I had the pleasure of getting together with hundreds of other content marketers at a conference called Content Jam.* The day was filled with interesting sessions that covered the four primary foundations of effective content marketing -- promotion, measurement, strategy and writing.

Each of these is important, but they are all quite different, and one wouldn’t expect a common element among sessions on SEO, mining for story ideas and strategic positioning. But there was. When it comes to content marketing, I couldn’t help but see this thread emerge -- it’s personal.

This is great news for purpose-driven companies and organizations. People care about what you do, which gives you an advantage. Although this angle popped up in numerous ways, here are five take-aways that show how important keeping it personal is in content marketing.

People buy from people. Gini Dietrich, CEO/founder of Arment Dietrich and founder of top PR blog Spin Sucks, talked about this in her opening keynote address. You might imagine individuals clicking on an “Add to Cart” or “Donate Here” button on your website, but those fingertips belong to a person whose mind makes the decision where the cursor goes. Connect with them on a human level, and you’ll engage them in a much stronger way.

The online world rewards people, not robots. In his session on link building, Sean McGinnis, digital marketing director at Sears Parts Direct, talked about the dos and don’ts of acquiring links to your site. Not a single tip relied upon spurious tactics such as buying links or spamming for guest posts. In fact, as so many good SEO experts say, search engines are constantly updating to hammer this kind of behavior. His first piece of advice was “create epic shit.” He spent a lot of time talking about building relationships and creating opportunities to guest post, share and curate. Personal connections are important even in a world where we aren’t communicating face-to-face or even voice-to-voice.

When mining for content, personal stories are your diamonds. In her session, 5 Steps to Building Big and Scaling Fast Through Content Marketing, Jodi Navta of vice president of marketing and communications at Coyote, talked about how she built her content supply by talking to employees at all levels and all departments about their personal stories. Many of these were related to the company, but frequently she found opportunities in topics that were unrelated to their business. While not everything you share will be an employee story, this kind of content can help build connections with your audiences. It all goes back to “people buy from people.”

The best connections are personal. Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors and gave a presentation in the promotion track that had a very interesting premise -- content marketers can learn a lot from panhandlers. It was actually very serious and done in good taste -- who better to teach lessons on appealing to an audience than people who are forced to be highly tuned into what’s working? Farris covered 16 insights from panhandlers, who have nothing to rely on but their personal resources to make connections on crowded sidewalks and in packed subway stations. It is only through their personal appeal that coins land in their cups or dollars in their hats. Those personal connections are the only thing that drives results.

Feeling is believing. Perhaps the most telling -- and certainly the most entertaining -- of the “it’s personal” lessons came from the keynote at the end of day. Two participants performed LiveLit pieces, each taking a side of the argument Modern vs. Retro. Crowd applause determined the winner.

The Retro woman played off a theme of “Summer of ’69,” describing how she’d incorporate the elements of the pre-digital past into her present day. The Modern man talked about the digital bounty, all the things you could do with technology, including making yourself accessible to the world (and the world accessible to you) 24-7.

They were both terrific, well-delivered performances, but guess who won? Retro. I’m convinced it was because of the more sensory elements that peppered her story -- drinking Coke from a bottle, listening to music, turning a bus ride into a groovy, communal experience.

As a writer, I know that the “human” experience resonates with people. After all, it’s our common denominator. So when you are thinking about content marketing for your company or organization, consider the personal stories, connections and relationships you can nurture and expand upon.

*Content Jam is the brainchild of four of my fellow Ideaction Corps members: Orbit, Lightspan Digital, StoryStudio and Mightybytes.


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