Creating Content that Connects

Recently, Social Media expert Paul Gillin gave a free webinar on content marketing, and how to create content that connects to target audiences. Below are questions asked at the end of the presentation.

Question One: I’m getting the marketing department off the ground at my small company.There is limited time, but there is  desire to create numerous material for each of our solution areas . Is it better to create some content for all areas or focus on one area until there is a good amount of content in place and then move on?

Paul Gillin: It depends on the size of the audience you need to reach and your short term business objective. If you have identified one type for buyer that is critical to the decision process and you can profile the content that matters most to that buyer, than I would focus on creating as much content that is useful to that person as possible. If you are not sure who the buyer is, or if you have a great many potential buyers, then you have to spread yourself thinner. In both context, you have to understand the buying process and who those influencers are. You have to profile them and create content specifically for those people. That does not have to be deep content; it may be a short-form newsletter. But if 80% of your sales are decided by the HR person, then I would have white papers, decisions templates, and FAQs and other stuff that is oriented to the needs of those people.

Question Two: Where are the techniques that you have shared throughout todays session, best applied: A blog, a website, letters to prospects, or other examples?

Paul Gillin: All of the above. There is nothing I’ve been talking about today that is exclusive to any content form. They can be used in written form and videos with equal facility.. When you talk about storytelling, about using powerful visual imagery, reaching people at a gut or visceral level, it can be applied to any medium you can use. I wouldn’t distinguish any of this on the basis of the [type] of media.

Question Three: What about outsourcing content creation? Is that something you recommend or do you suggest keeping it in house?

Paul Gillin: I think its fine to outsource content creation, but be selective about who you use. There are many cheap body shops out there that will produce content for you for a nickel a word, but it’s not going to be very good. And don’t make the mistake of equating quantity to quality. Turning out lots and lot of content it’s not going to distinguish you. In fact it may work against you these days because people have too much content to deal with.

What I recommend is to outsource to a small group of trusted people who can really get to know your business. They may be individual freelancers, an agency, a content marketing firm or a video company, but don’t spread the wealth around too much. Work with a small number of people who can get to know your business and understand your company, your customer, and your message and how you want to get them across.

You want to get to a point where the outsourcers you are using instinctively know what you want and what your style is. That will save you a ton of work.

Question Three: With regards to getting your teams involved in content creation. is that something you have seen done successfully and how do you recommend getting teammates such as engineers and sellers to participate?

Paul Gillin: First of all, subject matter experts are not going to help you unless they are inclined to do it in the first place. You don’t want to make it part of their job. You will find some people in your technical ranks who like to communicate and they’ll be your allies. For those people you want to stress for them what you can do to make them famous, to help spread the word for what they have to say, to help build their professional profile and their profile within the company. Give them access to services and information that others don’t have. When you find people like that, they’re gold. Not only will they produce good and credible content, but they will also help to evangelize the value of content marketing. They will help get others on board.

Be aware that technical people often are not good communicators. They have good things to say, but they don’t know how to say it. In that case, it’s important to have people in your organization who are good translators.

One of the best examples is Jim Cahill, the blogger at Emerson Process Control. He has been blogging for over 10 years. He produces a tremendous amount of technical content. What he does is walk around and talk with the engineers and the manufacturing planners on the floor. He asks them, “What’s hot? What’s new? What problems have you solved lately?” He has the technical smarts to translate their technical verbiage into something that is easy for a general audience to understand. He is essentially their translator.

Follow that example. If people are struggling with the words then make it easy for them. Interview them and give back to them what they said and massage it into something easier to understand. They will be delighted to help out with that and put their name on it. Technical people go to conferences and speak all the time. They are interested in promoting their career success, so give them an avenue to do that.

Question Four: We are working with a partner to help us create blog content. They have recommended that we post articles on our blog twice a week in order to get results. Do you agree with this level of frequency? What do you recommend? Do you have any advice for getting people to subscribe to the blog in order for our content to get read?

Paul Gillin: I do agree with the frequency. There is research that has demonstrated that blogs that are updated twice a week have significantly more readership, inbound links and page views than blogs that are updated once a week. Hubspot has done that research. There is something about that twice-a-week pace that makes a difference. When you got to daily updates, or even more frequent than daily, there is surprisingly little difference in results compared to twice-a-week frequency.

Subscribing is difficult because a lot of people don’t know how to use RSS or how to subscribe. We are all our own promotional operations these days. The best way I can think of getting people to subscribe is to give them a newsletter incentive. With all the social stuff thats been happening in the last decade, research has shown that email is still the most powerful form of B2B marketing. Giving people a chance to subscribe to a newsletter that will deliver updates on the blog as well as other information is probably the best thing to keep your content in front of them. It’s hard to get people to subscribe otherwise.

Another thing you can do is give them incentives to subscribe. Break things down into sub-parts so it gets them coming back for the next part of the series. It works in TV and it works in blogs as well. Promising them that the posts in a series that will make them smarter about a topic is another way to keep them coming back. Be active in the channels you have for promotion. Make sure you are tweeting your post several times, make sure you are posting on your Facebook and LinkedIn. Make sure your employees are sharing the wealth. This is why employee advocacy and training your employees is so important. Your people and partners are a huge resource for spreading your message.

Those are a few ideas, but there is no magic bullet for “stickiness.”

Question Five: My company is large with multiple branches and lines of business. With regards to creating content, how do you corral that expert input from such a large organization?

Paul Gillin: One good model I have seen for that is Hitachi Data Systems. Create some sort of center of excellence that serves as a resource for people across the company. A lot of companies have done this, where there is a small group of professional communicators taking your content and finding an audience for it. When people come forward and want to work with you, demonstrate how you can increase their reach and visibility, then celebrate their accomplishments.

The best resource in this area is your own management. If your top executives are willing to step forward and recognize the positive impact that technical professionals have when they contribute to your company’s communication efforts. I think that creates a role model that other people want to follow. Give people something special when they contribute, such as a quarterly meeting with a top executive, or exposure in a company video, or a trip, or a leader board with a point system for those who have the most page views or shares. Small rewards are fine, but don’t make prizes too big or you’ll lose the camaraderie. Sometimes companies will do regular lunch-and-learns once a month where anyone can come and learn something new about how to communicate. You can also do this virtually as well, using webcasting platforms.

About Paul Gillin

Paul Gillin is a writer, speaker, online marketing consultant and social media coach with Profitecture. Since 2005, he has helped business-to-business marketers at companies of all sizes and in many industries use social media and quality content to reach and engage with customers. He is also a prolific writer who has published more than 200 articles on the subject of new media. His books include: "The New Influencers" (2007), "Secrets of Social Media Marketing" (2008), "The Joy of Geocaching" (2010) and "Social Marketing to the Business Customer" (2011) and "Attack of the Customers" (2013). He has written the monthly New Channels column for BtoB magazine since 2006. Paul is a veteran technology journalist with more than 25 years of editorial leadership experience. His website is gillin.com and he blogs at paulgillin.com and Newspaper Death Watch.