• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    An Introduction to Employee Advocacy

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Feeling guilty? Did you fail to publish a post last week? Are you beating yourself up because that ebook, podcast, or product didn’t get launched? I understand how you feel. However, my friend, you need to suck it up.

    Feeling guilty?

    Did you fail to publish a post last week?

    Are you beating yourself up because that ebook, podcast, or product didn’t get launched?

    I understand how you feel. As a content marketer, I understand the need to constantly publish useful stuff that readers adore but it isn’t easy. Plus, publishing content probably isn’t your only job. I get it. This isn’t simple or convenient.

    However, my friend, you need to suck it up.

    Marketing isn’t an option and it has to get done. It’s your business and vision on the line and we have to make it happen. You need new content to attract new readers, cultivate new prospects, and convince customers to trust you. Creating content is the 2nd most important thing to do in your business after creating an amazing product.

    So, let’s go ahead and hit the “PANIC” button and see what we need to kickstart your content creation.

    Here’s a radical, crazy, and effective suggestion.

    Create a Public Deadline.

    This is a deadline strapped to the back of a rocket engine. Public Deadlines are so effective that I regularly use them to produce high quality content . Public Deadlines work because it uses three important behavioral hacks to keep us on track.

    Humiliation

    A public deadline puts you on the hook to deliver or be exposed as a “flake”.
    I’ve discovered that most people would rather lose a finger than be humiliated (or feel stupid).

    A public deadline uses this motivation hack to spur you to take action. The more public the deadline the more effective it is.
    Think about it. I’m sure you have a bunch of “private” or “internal” deadlines. I’m willing to bet that most of these deadlines are toothless tigers that you regularly push back when it suits you. Yep…I thought so.

    Procrastination Assassin

    Also, a time-based deadline is a guaranteed procrastination buster. Think back to the last time you had to produce on a deadline. Didn’t it get easier to prioritize your day as the deadline approached?
    I find that my coaching clients become ruthless time management ninjas when facing a deadline. They kill and bury low priority, non-urgent, non-important tasks that previously dominated their day as they focus on the task at hand.

    Nothing forces this type of focus like a real and pressing deadline.

    Done Trumps Perfect

    I hear this often:

    “Stan, I’m willing to take the time to get this done right. I don’t want to publish crap.”

    Hogwash. This is an excuse with lethal intent. Perfection is a moving target that the perfectionist never catches.

    Perfectionists confuse activity with achievement and are rewarded with bankrupt businesses, empty bank accounts, and disappointed readers.

    Sure there are famous perfectionists that achieved incredible success. Steve Jobs comes to mind. But what Jobs disciples overlook is that Jobs was a ruthless deadline enforcer. Perfection had a deadline.

    When faced with a deadline done is better than perfect. Michael Hyatt says that shifting his mindset from product as final to product as software squashed his anxiety about perfectionism. Software is a work in progress. It gets updated and refined over time. Your content works the same way. Finish, publish, and revisit your content to make it better.

    Let’s Get It Done

    Ready to get serious?

    Do this.

    Publish your Editorial Schedule

    • Login to your blog’s admin dashboard.
    • Create a new sidebar text widget.
    • Title the Widget: “Upcoming Posts”
    • List the titles of the next 5 blog posts on your editorial calendar.
    • Under each title include the date when the post will be published.

    Now write an email to your email list: Here’s an email script:

    Hello,
    I’m committed to giving you the best information I can. I know you rely on me and I want to honor that.
    Our blog posts are a big part of our commitment to giving you our very best. We thought it would be helpful for you to see our editorial calendar for the next 30 days:

    Here it is:

    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data
    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data
    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data
    • Blog Post Title | Publishing Data

    You’ll receive these articles in your inbox at 9AM on the day they are published.
    Let us know if you don’t receive them.

    Thank you for trusting us with your time.
    You

    • Click Send.

    Now you are on the hook. Make creating content a priority or keep making excuses. It’s up to you but at least you have a little accountability.

    Can You Do This?

    procrastination / shutterstock

    Content marketing isn't anything new but it has proven to be an effective marketing strategy for companies of all sizes. For 2014, the Content Marketing Institute reports that overall amounts spent on content marketing is segmented by B2B companies allocating 30% of their marketing budgets, while B2C companies earmark 24% of their marketing budgets.

    Content marketing isn't anything new but it has proven to be an effective marketing strategy for companies of all sizes. For 2014 the Content Marketing Institute reports that overall amounts spent on content marketing is segmented by B2B companies allocating 30% of their marketing budgets, while B2C companies earmark 24% of their marketing budgets. In 2012, midsized organizations spent 22% of their marketing budgets on content marketing.

    Midsized organizations are using content marketing to support multiple objectives:

    • Brand awareness – thought leadership and trusted source of quality information
    • Customer retention and loyalty – nurturing ongoing relationships
    • Lead management activities (lead gen, nurturing, presales buyer journey touchpoints)
    • New customer acquisition
    • Improving website traffic and eCommerce activity

    We see a lot of articles about how organizations go wrong when it comes to content marketing.And most of what's called out is not surprising: failure to write properly on topics that customers prefer or to even find out what customers want to read; poor writing quality and non-engaging material; promoting marketing brochure-ware instead of useful, thought-provoking material. Organizations can fail to understand how to match the right content to the right channel, or lack the knowledge as to which channels different customer segments prefer for various kinds of content. These organizations may not even have clear customer segmentation for their products.

    The existence of these missteps usually indicates the lack of a cohesive long-term strategy for content marketing. And it's just as likely that there is no overarching marketing strategy that ties into corporate goals and objectives. This may mean that not only does content marketing lack executive backing, but the overall marketing function is suffering the same fate.

    Well-Crafted Strategies

    So before an organization can create a well-crafted content marketing strategy, upper management must make the commitment to be customer-focused and marketing savvy. The value of content marketing to reach the customer-as-buyer must be given credence, support and enablement. Content marketing is not a short term campaign or project; it's a strategic commitment that impacts the entire enterprise.

    Content marketing (if done well) keeps the company focused on understanding and meeting the needs of customers – something companies should be doing anyway. Align the business with the customer, align content with the customer. Content marketing is a natural progression from recognizing that the customer-as-buyer drives more of how, when or even if sales happen. The work to be done to understand how to deliver the right content to customers and prospects is the same work that organizations should be doing to deliver the products and services that customers and prospects want and need.

    Strategic decisions need to be made regarding the technology tools to assist content marketing initiatives. For well-targeted content, marketing teams need sophisticated analytics for customer segmentation and behavioral insight to create the right content for the right customer segment, delivered where the customer wants to find it. Digital marketing technologies interoperate with content marketing initiatives, including marketing automation and omnichannel experience management platforms.

    A comprehensive content marketing strategy provides a wellspring for all company content so that organizations connect with customers consistently and clearly. The content marketing strategy pulls together individual marketing programs and initiatives resulting in a more seamless transition for the customer from channel to channel. Connecting the tactics of marketing to a content strategy makes it more possible to construct metrics that track the effectiveness of quality content, that then can be mapped to functions such as lead gen, sales funnel and overall marketing ROI.

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM's Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

    Image source: Post+Beam

    Enjoy a replay of our Hangout on Air with the author of People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences. This book and author discussion is the first for the Social Business Book Club, brought to you by Wiley and Social Media Today. This video features Jeb Blount.

    Enjoy a replay of our Hangout on Air with the author of People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences. This book and author discussion is the first for the Social Business Book Club, brought to you by Wiley and Social Media Today. This video features Jeb Blount.

    Delivering a legendary customer experience is the single most important competitive advantage across all industries. In People Love You, human relationship guru Jeb Blount offers a playbook for interacting with customers in a way that creates deep, enduring connections that withstand pressures in the marketplace.

    Most successful content marketing programs involve contributions from internal staff – as writers, as editors, as subject matter experts, or as sharers. For many of these people, content marketing represents less than one percent of what they are supposed to be doing. To make matters worse, most of these people do not report directly to you, Ms. Director of Content Marketing.

    On maybe a half dozen occasions this year, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a conference room full of people whose enthusiasm for content marketing is at an all-time high. Having just been exposed to their company’s first content marketing plan, the Kool-Aid flows, and everyone drinks it copiously.

    While this is always a time for positive, hopeful thinking, I often wonder if we make it clear enough that a content marketing transformation is not easy. As the company moves from planning to execution, and again as it moves from initial execution to ongoing execution, the bumps in the road are plentiful.

    For those who want to put down the Kool-Aid for a moment, here are a few of the bumps you should be prepared for.

    It’s going to cost more than you think.

    The planning fallacy tells us that not only will organizations underestimate the time required to complete a task or project, but that this will result in cost or budget overruns.

    This holds true for content marketing just about every time.

    Content marketing is centered around owned media, versus earned media (PR) or paid media (advertising). While many consider control and cost efficiency two of the many benefits of owned media, during a typical planning process it’s extremely difficult to nail down the exact cost of the combination of full-time internal resources, part-time internal resources, and outsourced resources.

    That doesn’t mean that you can’t identify a starting budget, but do so with the understanding that you may not really get a handle on your investment level until you are 6-12 months into the effort.

    The initial plan is necessary, but ongoing planning is critical.

    I would not recommend even dabbling in content marketing without a real plan.

    I would also not recommend making the assumption that your initial plan is the end of your content marketing planning. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

    For instance, while your initial plan should include a healthy set of ideas, messages, and themes, it takes quite a bit of time to plan all the details of an editorial calendar for an entire year. Take the time during planning to build out your framework (deciding how often you will publish and what types of content) and at least a few months of your editorial calendar. But realize that you will need to readjust, add, and reconsider themes during the year. New products, shifts in business goals, or changes in the market may require you to adjust or add ideas and themes to accommodate those changes.

    The idea well WILL run dry.

    Speaking of ideas, you will run out of them. Don’t feel bad about that – it happens to the best of us.

    Idea generation, in some form or fashion, should occur on a consistent basis, sometimes scheduled, sometimes not. When you build your plan, be sure to determine your method for capturing and building out ideas. For some people, that’s pen and pad. For others, it’s a software tool. Still others may prefer some form of white boarding.

    Do know what to do when the well runs dry, though. Sometimes a content brainstorm is required. Sometimes, you need something that looks more than editorial meeting. If you need a quick head start, check out our checklist: 10 Ways to Generate New Content Ideas.

    People will fail you.

    Most successful content marketing programs involve contributions from internal staff – as writers, as editors, as subject matter experts, or as sharers. For many of these people, content marketing represents less than one percent of what they are supposed to be doing. To make matters worse, most of these people do not report directly to you, Ms. Director of Content Marketing.

    You’re going to get disappointed by these people more than a few times. Deadlines will be missed. Quality will be poor in certain cases.  Some will ignore your requests completely, claiming no time.

    This is simply one of the most common struggles with insourcing your content marketing.

    The only way around it? Acquire the highest level of executive buy-in available, and assemble the best content marketing team possible.

    You will start questioning the value of individual pieces of content.

    Step 1: Create remarkable content.

    Step 2: People will share it.

    Step 3: Some portion of the people that consume said content will sign up for whatever you’re selling.

    This is the greatest misconception of content marketing, according to Rand Fishkin.

    The idea that simply creating content and sharing will immediately generate new revenue leads some companies to give up on pieces of the content marketing program way too early, and it usually starts with the questioning of individual pieces of content and the associated investment.

    “It took ten hours to create and distribute that blog post, and we saw nothing from it.”

    “This email newsletter only generated a 15-percent open rate. We should consider killing it.”

    Do continue to evaluate your content for its quality, purpose, and contribution to overarching messaging. Do not abandon certain pieces of content, or even the program entirely, based on short-term conversion data.

    Stay the course, content marketer.

    If you are the leader of this effort, staying the course, and encouraging others to stay the course, will be your greatest challenge during the first 6-12 months. People will consider abandoning ship. You may consider abandoning ship. Don’t do it. Instead, build a great initial plan, prepare yourself for these five content marketing truths, and then exhibit some good ol’ fashioned patience.

    If your organization is putting together a content marketing plan, and you’re feeling a little bit lost, please track us down. Right Source can help. Or if you’d like some more tips to guide your plan, download our eBook, “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.”

    Improvement is something that each and every designer seeks. After all, improvement is growth. The moment we stop improving, is the moment we stop growing. Improving on your designing skills will not only satisfy you, but also the people you are working for, thus, ultimately boosting your confidence. Never forget that all the famous graphic designers who are making news today, were once at a stage that you are in now. You know what got them where they are today?

    Here are a few tips that can help you improve your craft as a graphic designer:

    ·         Make your own projects

    It is not that you will always have client projects. When you do not have one in your hands, do not sit idle. Instead, work on something of your own. This will enhance your creativity and sharpen your designing skills. These self-made projects can also be used as work samples that you can present to your clients. You can create fake companies and fake brands, and then use the same for creating posters, logos, websites, brochures, stationeries, etc. Do this every time you do not have a project in hand. After all, practice makes a man perfect.

    ·         Work on your previous designs

    Besides working on self-made projects, you can work on improving your previous designs. You can have it archived in your hard drive, DVD or CD. You can check them now and then and add some touches here and there to make them unique. You can also improve other people’s design. Doing so will only make you practice more, thus, taking you to the path of perfection.

    ·         Collect designs for getting inspired

    As a designer, you surely collect designs from the internet and magazines. Try to keep them in an organized manner, so that you can refer to the collection during the bad days when you reach your creative dead end. Besides, good designs also inspire you to improve your work, taking it to a higher class.

    ·         Read blogs

    Reading expert designers’ blogs can give you great ideas, help you know more about newer designing tricks and techniques, thus, helping your polish your own style. Reading experts’ blogs will provide you with whole lot of information and inspiration for enhancing your own work.

    ·         Connect with fellow designers

    Connect with veteran designers as well as amateurs like you. While the former can advice and suggest you on designs, the latter is whom you can share your ideas with and get their friendly helpful feedback.

    ·         Be an active part of online design communities

    There are several online design communities out there for you to join. In fact, doing so is almost necessary, because it keeps you updated with all the recent trends in the world of graphic designing. Besides, you can also request for feedbacks from other designers in the communities. Their inputs can be used for enhancing your skills, which you can use for your projects.

    ·         Take pictures

    A good designer should have a knack for photography. It is not that the two are directly connected. But it is just that photography inspires designs. You can take pictures of anything that interests you like, art, buildings, places, etc. If you have the true designing streak in you, you can frame ideas from the photographs that you have taken.