CMWorld 2014: The Year Content Marketing Becomes a True Platform


In early September, more than 2,600 marketers from 50 countries and 60 sponsors gathered in Cleveland, OH for the third yearly appointment at Content Marketing World, affectionately referred to as #CMWorld on Twitter.

The brainchild of Joe Pulizzi, this global summit turns the whole of Cleveland orange on an annual basis. I was honored to emcee the Content Strategy track and introduce knowledgeable and generous speakers like Rachel Lovinger, Ruth Stevens, Mike Brown, and Jonathon Colman, and to facilitate a packed Financial Services Industry Lab alongside Shannon Paul from Fifth Third Bank and Marilyn Cox from Oracle the day following the main sessions.

Given my active participation in the program, I ended up live tweeting only a couple of sessions – here are my notes on the energizing keynote by Kevin Spacey. Live tweeting events is a content generation idea that keeps on giving; besides potentially making a top ten list from the event# (measurement companies are watching, and creating their own content by presenting data in real time), it helps you create a rolling account that you can then edit and organize into a post. You’re welcome!

Most of the attendees were from organizations in industries as diverse as retail commerce, pharma, consumer packaged goods, education, healthcare, software, the non-profit sector, entertainment, travel and tourism, manufacturing, professional services, and financial services — each of which includes companies with diverse business models and audiences.

I was fielding Q&As and saw firsthand how attendees were leaning forward and engaged with the program. The buzz that spilled out into the hallways from one session to the next centered around two key themes:

  1.  Surprise and delight at the sheer number of organizations that brought their whole team to the event – from writers to editors, to social community managers to communicators in charge of public relations
  2. A general shift in focus from just “push out as much content as possible” to a conversation around quality content

Content marketing is gaining momentum – and like any nascent discipline it still encounters skepticism. This is just a shiny new object or another term for SEO or social and a less measurable and effective one at that, say some. However, these statements could not be further from the true potential of content marketing.

These objections often obscure the real challenges organizations are facing and need to overcome in connecting with marketing-savvy customers and all the more reason to peel back to uncover and solve the real business issues they mask.

For content marketing to become a real platform, three things need to happen:

1.      Audiences need to take true center stage – we heard it from everyone, including Kevin Spacey, loud and clear. Demographic data and buyer persona information should be augmented with interests, as well as contextual data and real life scenarios. What do people want to do? How can you make their tasks – even their lives – easier? While we are more similar to each other than we would like to think, we are also very different when it comes to motivation and behavioral style.

The mandate: Build for the audience. Start with wanting to make their lives better.

2.    Content strategy needs to become more than lip service – this goes beyond aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, though that is a good start. When we talk about    creating useful content, then “bringing” it to where the readers are, even the recent focus on native advertising is a great way for brands to elevate and promote content; these are all good chapters in an integrated content strategy through which to orient and orchestrate upstream and downstream tactical responsive and adaptive applications (yes, including apps) designed to educate, inspire, and conduct business online, offline, anywhere.

The mandate: resist the temptation to minimize or eliminate analyses and research up front; they are an investment in short and long-er term viability and differentiation. Start with why, then what, and how.

3.    Measurement and data should take their appropriate place in driving feedback and iteration – there were many discussions about how real measurement and data need to drive content; this is just the beginning. Because data should also drive the design of experience. Is your firm missing opportunities to inform better service with data? What are those critical touch points? Then how can you use data to right size media presence and (for the more ambitious, and those with the greatest perception challenges) even affect cultural change to support providing the information people need from you?

The mandate: orient marketing to making the best solutions the most discoverable. Start with the solution.

Everything else stems from getting these steps right – from content distribution to media buys, even native advertising.



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