CONTENT MARKETING // MINNEAPOLIS INDUSTRY EXPERTS DISCLOSE THEIR SECRETS FOR SUCCESS // CLAIRE DEBERG’S INTERVIEW WITH SNAP AGENCY

I was honored to be the only woman interviewed (even though I fall last in the line-up…at least there was ONE woman, right?!) in the Snap Agency column on Content Marketing. Snap decided to get details of how other professional marketing experts handle, work with and manage content for their clients.

It is a wonderfully in-depth piece which I encourage you to read if you have time and an affinity for all things marketing. The author, Mike Frahm, also created a nice little SlideShare with the highlights from each expert which I’ll post below.

Here is the Snap Agency interviewing me:

As the owner of your own content business, what are your biggest challenges in producing outstanding content for clients?

I’ve been running a successful freelance business for nearly a decade. I’ve been the direct writer for agencies, I’ve worked as project manager for national CPG brands, I’ve worked with a suite of other writers, I’ve led teams and I lead teams of writers. The single largest challenge I have faced time and again in regards to producing content for clients is convincing them of its worth.

Far too many clients believe in the Field of Dreams motto when they enter into design and logo conversations: If you build it, they will come. No matter how slick and creative a logo is, if there is no content that bolsters that beauty high up into the din, which is future potential customers, you may as well peel money out of your wallet and drop it down the garbage disposal because people do not come for new logos.

I work hard to show clients the synergy that spins up from distinct branding coupled with powerful content. Once clients can see the energy that can be garnered for their products, ideas or services from the simple marriage of smart branding and rich content, they’re sold.

Then that delicious content has to be produced, which can seem daunting…because it is. There is a lot of online noise and by a lot I mean an overwhelmingly, sickening amount of noise on the Internet. How does a brand create an engaging voice among the cacophony? Dollar bills, yes, but I’d venture to say one of the more inspiring ways brands cut through the chatter is with authenticity. It sounds simple, but conveying to a team of writers that they now have to produce authentic content for a client that both stays true to the brand persona and is new, true and interesting…? It is a monumental task and one, which I don’t take lightly.

Good points. Authenticity seems to be a recurring theme from these interviews. How do you get writers to convey that within content?

The way I bring out the best in writers? Clarity and openness. Early in a writing relationship I make certain to anticipate questions a writer might ask and then I am crystal clear with my direction. Later, once I’ve pared a writer with a client and I see the sprouts of a well-watered seed I make space for a writer to do what they do best…without being a helicopter boss.

In your experience, what are the best ways a new business can develop its brand within content?

When a new business comes on the scene the branding work has got to be completed, in the bag, up-to-bat. Too often I see companies spin up fast and practically fall over their own excited feet trying to figure out who they are and who they serve all while getting their business ducks in a row, figuring out how to order inventory or how they are going to behave on social media.

A thoughtful business with real strategy is going to have quietly defined their brand so when they are “open for business” there is no denying who they are, what they stand for, what they’re selling and where they’re going. Essentially they’ve managed their brand presence so no one else can do it for them in one of those “weak new business” moments.

Knowing that, what are short term requirements in building a brand?

I would say one of the wiser short-term requirements for a lasting brand would be to remain consistent. Consistency both in terms of how a brand’s persona is broadcast and how active a brand promises to be (so that your Google+ page sounds like your Twitter feed…feels like your brick and mortar lobby…looks like your product…repeats messages on your website). I sometimes ask the hard questions of new businesses like, Is your brand really ready to take on the Facebook platform? Is there bandwidth for posting and engaging and managing ads? Are you prepared to manage expectations by sending out that monthly email newsletter you promised? I’m all about creating a plan and executing it, which distilled means: making promises and keeping them.

What about long term?

A long-term trait needed for a new brand? Tenacity. Branding and marketing is a game, let’s not fool ourselves. But it can be a fun game and it is one most of the population willing plays as participants, some engage as refs, a few as coaches and a handful as owners. This is the game that requires tenacity. Your commitment will be questioned, your stamina tested, your beliefs mocked. Choosing to enter into a new business with tenacity as a core strength can only benefit the establishment and the longevity of a brand.

Marketing-themed charades sounds tough, but hell, I’d give it a shot. So you’re saying clients often seem ill-prepared. Can you expand more on why businesses can’t seem to find their brand message on their own?

I think what you’re asking is why clients reach out for help instead of continuing projects with in-house teams. What I often experience from clients is that their in-house marketing team is either at capacity, focused on initiatives without room to absorb more tasks, or they specialize in a singular vein leaving other areas void of energy.

I like to assess new clients with my 3S Test: Social, Search and Substance. I do this because this is why clients come to me; their social media plan is non-existent, unmanageable or off brand. Their search engine optimization efforts are nil, hurting or not even on the radar. And the substance of their online presence is cluttered, limping or over-the-top.

Not that the 3S Test is the salve on every pain point. But (and this is a big but), discussing the pieces that are failing can direct attention both on what is working and why as well as strategies that make sense given the myriad factors facing a business (budget, capacity, desire, will, goals, etc.).

I love the simplicity yet utility of the 3S Test. Once that’s conducted however, how do you clearly present that information within a formidable content strategy?

This might be my favorite part of my job. I love the creativity and thoughtfulness it requires to create a powerful, beautiful, smart content strategy for clients. I love to roll out a huge yearlong calendar that pulls together the many awesome fires a brand has burning into a single visual. When I say roll out, I mean literally roll out a giant custom-printed calendar that could double as wallpaper. Those big calendars on the table do two things: one, they bring the ethereal guise of the Internet down to the tangible, and two, they give this empowering vision, a single snapshot, of all the ways a business is moving, what they’re saying, when it is happening and how it all works together. Did I mention I can nerd out on Excel sheets?

Don’t worry, every great content strategist loves to nerd out on Excel once in a while. The process you’ve come up with sounds outstanding. So how do you take advantage of this framework + roadmap?

One of things everyone loves to hear is how a framework created for a goal breeds efficiencies across the board. Yes…you might be hiring a director of content creation, which initially feels like a financial liability, but…all the money saved thanks to their efficiencies reveals them as the asset they are. The SEO’d blog post, which auto-tweets to Twitter, includes images posted on Instagram, directs Google+ followers to your location, posts to Facebook and is featured in your monthly e-news? That is a single piece of powerful content broadcast widely taking full advantage of necessary tools to stay in front of loyal and new customers. Watching how the waves of a digital media plan, print ads and social ads overlap with content in a given year or even just a month, cements in a client’s mind assuring them of how a roadmap is just plain good sense and moving forward without one might seem carefree but can be costly on many levels.

//

Need a 3S Test for your business? Contact me (yesterday).

Here’s the link to Snap Agency’s full article with other interviews plus the SlideShare below.

 

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