Business and work Podcasting

What “content marketing” really is

I started listening to the “This Old Marketing” podcast recently thanks to a recommendation on Facebook. The latest episode, episode 162, has a terrific segment about what content marketing really is and where brands and advertisers tend to go wrong.

The episode begins with a discussion about fake news (also worth listening to) and transitions into the content marketing segment at about 20 minutes in (this link will take you to this point in the discussion on an player page).

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I don’t usually post a lot of marketing related stuff on my site but given that this is my day job and how worthwhile this discussion is, it is well worth sharing with you.

If you are in the marketing business, do yourself a favour and listen to this segment, at the very least. It is entertaining and tackles some of the sillier approaches to content marketing.

Image credit: Pexels

Business and work

I’m leaving imonomy

Today is my last day. I am leaving imonomy after just over a year and a half in the marketing department.

I started at the company when there were just over a dozen people. Since then, the marketing department has expanded from 2 to 6 people (I was marketing department employee #2) and the company has grown to more than 40. We have moved offices twice and my role has incorporated content writing; project management; event management; social media management and even a little contract legal work.

New opportunities to learn

My job at imonomy was my first job in Israel after we arrived and it has been a crazy introduction to Israeli work culture (and reintroduction to being employed after being my own boss for so long).

Starting at imonomy also marked the start of a new career and a return to an almost lifelong writing passion. My goal for most of my time at imonomy has been to learn as much as I could about content marketing and becoming a better marketing writer. I think I have succeeded.

I have learned so much more than I thought I knew about how to write more effectively as a marketer, measure the impact of my work and collaborate with great people with different skills. I have also had an opportunity to add my perspectives on the social Web and digital marketing to the marketing mix here at imonomy.

Now that I am leaving imonomy, I am going to miss the wonderful people I had an opportunity to work with. I didn’t see myself working in adtech before I started here. Being immersed in the online advertising world from this perspective has given me a fantastic grounding in the challenges facing publishers, advertisers and adtech providers in a changing world.

What’s next

I have a short break next week to spend time with my children before they start their new school year. Then I will begin a new phase at a local marketing company that has offered me a challenging and exciting role. This move is an opportunity for me to continue learning and expand my knowledge and expertise in content marketing.

I think I am most excited about that: the opportunity to continue learning. Doing work that doesn’t give you an opportunity to learn can be crippling. If my short working life has taught me anything, it is the vital importance that you keep learning and growing.

Business and work Writing

School fees for writers

When I changed careers I knew I would have school fees to pay even though I have been writing (and doing a share of content writing) for a long time. The difference was that I was shifting from writing articles about themes that mostly just interested me professionally to a focused content marketing career. It has proven to be a challenging transition.

Writing for myself vs professional writing

When I write for myself, I write to share an idea, an argument or something I find interesting. The result I have in mind is to share something interesting with you and hope you find it interesting too.

Content writing is a little different. On the one hand, I believe strongly in writing as a blogger. What do I mean by that? To me, writing as a blogger means sharing something with your audience in your voice. It is not, as Nathan pointed out recently, “flogging”, it is something real.

When I think about great marketing writing, I think about articles that share something useful in a personal voice, not jargon filled PR language (I am being introduced to PR as a recent addition to my projects and it feels very different).

At the same time, marketing writing has a tangible objective: add to the business’ bottom line. Marketing writing that doesn’t help the business make money in a meaningful and measurable way isn’t particularly effective. With that in mind, my goal has been to learn to write material that converts more effectively and intentionally.

Although my previous body of professional writing continues to draw traffic, I wrote those articles to inform, educate and satisfy my curiosity about the stuff I wrote about. I wasn’t always writing specifically to convert readers into customers. That happened mostly organically because customers were often drawn to my content and reached out to me because they felt I would be able to help them.

Making those school fees count

In my current position, our emphasis is on measurable performance. We focus on producing content that generates leads that our sales team can convert. Writing that sort of content isn’t as easy as it may have seemed to me when I began. I like to think I write fairly well but writing well isn’t enough. The writing has to achieve a tangible result. That is the purpose of my professional role, ultimately.

This is where those school fees come in. “School fees” are those experiences you go through when you learn to write more effectively. Just being a good writer isn’t enough.

You have to learn to adapt your writing for your objectives and that can feel like starting from the beginning. It can feel a lot like those early, bewildering years in first grade, although with stubble and a family depending on you being a quick study.

Making the transition to this approach can be challenging. It isn’t uncommon to write something I feel is particularly insightful and informative only to receive feedback from my boss that it falls short because it doesn’t adequately address a particular set of needs. Sometimes the feedback can be tough because, after all, I write “fairly well”, right?

I think a big source of frustration is that I have an attachment to my writing. How can you not have an attachment to your work when it is an expression of your personality shaped for a specific purpose? That personal investment in your work is what differentiates it from a stereotypical PR publicity piece and gives it meaning in some way.

Writing something that people really resonate with is a great feeling, probably second only to writing something that feels meaningful in the first place. Sometimes those hits are surprises, too. I’ve written a number of articles that I wouldn’t have thought would have been particularly interesting and turned out to be pretty popular.

As with photography, you don’t usually see all the misses in between because they don’t make it to publication. In between all of those is a series of creative crises, intermingled with short growth spurts.

These school fees can really bite at times although they tend to be worth it in the medium term even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

Image credit: Pixabay

Mindsets Writing

Why Slack release notes are so much fun

Slack’s Anna Pickard published a great post on Medium with insights into entertaining Slack release notes, that I enjoyed reading.

If you love their quirky app release notes as much as I do, Pickard’s post is a treat. I love Slack’s response to the usual tendency to publish very boring and uninformative “Bug fixes and performance improvements” release notes:

Because why stick to that, when they could contain real value, useful information, and the opportunity to connect a little bit, human to human, with the people who use Slack the most.

Interestingly enough, Medium also makes an effort to write fun and engaging release notes so it’s appropriate that Pickard picked Medium to write about this. Thanks Anna!

Read “A little thing about release notes” in full on Medium. You can thank me later.

Mindsets Writing

What interruptions feel like as a writer

Dear Reader

Most of my work currently involves writing. I am responsible for writing articles for my employer’s blog and other pieces that help market the company and our products. The nature of my work requires time to immerse myself in a theme so I can write reasonably insightful pieces. I am also pretty ADHD and while my medication helps me focus, achieving that focus I need to write well isn’t always easy.

I work in a fairly active office and interruptions can be frequent. I usually have headphones on while I am working because music helps me focus but they don’t always deter people who need input from me for something they are working on. This is what interruptions feel like as a writer. This is partly a technique to refocus and partly an explanation for the ignorant:

The pieces stirred on the floor after a long period of inactivity. Slowly, they began to twitch, jump and then slide across the smooth surface towards each other. Where they touched, they glowed briefly as they aligned and formed larger particles. These larger particles, in turn, slid towards other composites until they all met at a single point and began combining, growing, merging. As they did, their pace accelerated noticeably as they took shape. They resembled modular, technological nightmares from popular sci-fi but what they became was not some malignant creation bent on assimilation and destruction but, rather, a creative flow from which wonders would flow.

The construct began to hum in unison and the light of creation began to emit from it. The air around it was energised, vital and you could almost sense a new wonder being born. At that moment when possibility was about to be transmuted into reality, a coarse sledgehammer swung out of the darkness and struck the construct, shattering it into its component pieces. The light blinked out of existence and the shards flew off, as if fleeing the block of steel that shattered their new form. They slid to a halt on the cold floor and lay still once more. The air lost its vitality and was replaced by stunned silence.

Image credit: Pexels

Business and work Events and Life

Returning to a 14 year old career

One of the transitions I feel most comfortable about is my switch to a job in marketing for imonomy, an online in-image advertising company. It’s easy to think that my transition from being a lawyer to being a content marketing person is the real career shift. In some ways, it is, but I realised that the major career change actually happened over 14 years ago. I wrote this article on Medium so here is an embed that will take you to the post:

My 14 year old, midlife career change

Blogs and blogging

Should professional websites have blogs?

My primary business is my digital risk consulting business and its website has a blog along with static pages about me, my services as related themes. I have maintained a blog on my professional sites for about 9 years, it just seemed like the right way to set up a professional site. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering whether I should separate my blog from the static site?

Sam Glover wrote a post titled “Get Your Law Blog Off Your Law Firm Website” on Lawyerist a while ago and I pulled it out of my Instapaper archives to read again. Glover makes an argument for why professionals, particularly lawyers, should maintain a separate blog because it’s function is different.

Blogging is long-game marketing. When you have a well-read blog, you earn your own media every time you post something. You don’t need to wait around for the local news to call you for your analysis of the latest celebrity divorce or corporate bankruptcy (although if you have a good blog, they probably will); you can just publish it yourself.

But in order to build that audience, your blog is better off on its own website, with its own look and feel. Your blog should appear to be (and actually be) a publication, not a law firm’s marketing website.

The basic idea is that people visit law firm websites when they are looking for a lawyer and only stay on the site long enough to assess whether the firm can help them out. On the other hand, people who find a professional blog they find informative keep returning for more content, not necessarily because they Google’d something they need help with.

That makes some sense to me although I have maintained a blog on my business sites because my thinking was that having a blog there keeps the site dynamic (assuming I publish regularly) and that keeps Google and other search engines interested. Perhaps my thinking is dated and/or no longer valid?

Is a blog on a professional website an attempt to mix oil and water, metaphorically speaking? Does that model hinder both from being more effective on their own?

If it is better to separate the two, I’m tempted to merge the WTL blog into this one. On the one hand, doing this enables me to write more fluidly and focus my writing on one blog and, on the other hand, keeping a focused blog maintains the niche I created and better serves readers who are only interested in that content.

I’m sure this stuff used to be simpler back in the day when blogging was still new. Any thoughts?

Blogs and blogging Business and work

Law blogs as content marketing

Kevin O’Keefe wrote a post recently titled “Are law blogs content marketing?“.

I view stories like this as the height of citizen journalism. Covering things that have gone uncovered until now for which the public, or at least a segment of the public, has a keen interest.

Also over the last couple days, I have run across countless articles, inside and outside the legal industry, on “content marketing.” Not an altogether bad idea, but I am at a loss as to why blogs, especially law blogs, would be labeled content marketing.

It’s an interesting question. I’ve always considered my business blogs (take a look at Web•Tech•Law’s blog) as important parts of my business marketing efforts. These blogs help facilitate an expanded awareness of the topics I write about and showcase the stuff I’m thinking about and working with along with the services I offer.

I hadn’t thought about my blogs as a form of “citizen journalism”, though. I suppose there is some of that there too.