“Content marketing” is all the rage. It’s the new SEO. It’s an old tactic made shiny again by the internet. It’s why you must blog, it’s how to create a community, and like all hot new buzzwords, it’s widely discussed in some of the most excruciatingly shallow detail imaginable.
You may have begun to suspect that there’s more to content marketing than just having a blog. And that there’s a way to approach it, plan it, even measure it.
But search as you might, you rarely get past advice like “create great content” and “find out what your audience wants”.
This is often a big frustration for me because I like to skip quickly past all the high-minded rationales right to the heart of, “Sounds great… now HOW do I do this thing?”
I’m a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of person. My two favorite words on the planet (other than “want cake?”) are “action item”.
Does that sound a little like you?
Are you tired of the same recycled advice about how to do a thing, and stymied when it comes to the actual doing of the thing?
If so, join the club… and read this book.
The Real Thing
I picked this book up the day after I heard Joe Pulizzi’s keynote speech at Social Media Examiner’s “Content Marketing Success Summit”. It was that rare combination of inspiring and practical, and I already had warm fuzzies for Joe since he let us interview him for this blog.
So I grabbed the book, got out my highlighter and curled up for the night.
I hope neither Robert nor Joe will mind that I quote the very first line from the very first chapter:
“One of the most frustrating things about being at a marketing conference is that you’ll see session after session of pundits talking about the new, next thing – and imploring you to “build the business case for it.” Of course, they’ll never tell you HOW to build the business case for it – but nevertheless you should do as they say.”
One sentence in and my inner action-item-obsessed brain was jumping up and down doing a happy dance.
YES! Someone is finally going to tell me how to do something!
And over the next hundred plus pages, that’s exactly what they did.
I thought my brain was going to explode.
Warning: this book is the real deal.
You’re going to thank your lucky stars that this book isn’t a lot more than a hundred pages (173 to the end of the conclusion, in fact) because you’re going to get so much “how to” that you’re almost going to long for the days of vague, useless advice. It was a lot easier to shrug and do nothing before this.
By the time Robert and Joe got through discussing persona mapping and funnel mapping and channel mapping among other things… I knew that I was going to have to get to work on this content marketing thing and that days of “but I have a blog” were long over.
The reality is that there’s a lot more to content marketing than you might think by just reading a few blogs or listening to some webinars on the subject. And it’s going to be work.
Before you run screaming and bury your head in the sand of blogging comfort, let me also say that Robert and Joe do a fantastic job of writing in a simple, straightforward, accessible and interesting way – major kudos for the “interesting” part because as I’m sure you know, a lot of how-tos and business books can be dry and mind-numbingly dull.
This book is anything but dull. And as an added bonus, the authors give you examples and case studies to support each of their points so you can see how their instructions and tips work in practical application.
Some Things You’ll Learn
Before I outline some of the juicy stuff you’ll get in this book, let me say that I have a purple highlighter. I quickly had to start making big arrows and brackets rather than highlighting otherwise the majority of the book would have been purple and probably soggy.
Here are a few things you’ll walk away with solid ideas, strategies and templates for implementing:
How to build a business case for content marketing. If you work in an organization that’s more than you and the cat, you probably have to contend with managers of various levels, coworkers and other stakeholders. Before you tackle content marketing you need buy-in – the authors tell you how to build your case so you get it.
How to define your audience. There’s a great section on defining personas that starts by advising you not to focus on defining your audience by demographics (age, gender, etc) but by behaviors. The authors go on to actually give you ideas for how you’re supposed to find these things out and how to turn them into the elusive “marketing persona” once you do.
How to tell your story. If you’re launching or marketing a product or service, this is an in-depth look at the components of a great story and how to put storytelling to use in an effective and practical way.
How to define your channels. Blog? Twitter? YouTube? However many or few channels you’ll be using to share your story, it’s important to remember that it’s not the channel that matters – it’s the content.
How to map it all together. Robert and Joe use the word “map” a lot and at first it’s a little intimidating (ie: sounds hard. like a lot of work.) But they’re quick to note that the size of your organization and team, and the depth of your content strategy will determine how complex the process needs to be. In other words, if you’ve got a full team of writers, producers, editors, creators and curators, you’ll put your marketing plan together very differently than if you’re a solopreneur with a business blog.
What This Book Is… And Isn’t
This book is a serious how-to for anyone who’s ever felt that the important details of content marketing have been strategically omitted from most advice.
It’s a work book. You’ll need a highlighter or your favorite note-taking tool because not only will you want to remember certain key points, but your gears will start spinning immediately about how you can take the authors’ advice and apply it to your unique situation.
This is a reference book, because you’ll never absorb it all in one sitting even though it’s an easy enough read that you can probably knock the whole thing out in one evening with a cup of coffee (if you’ve got a beer next to you, don’t even try… you’ll need every brain cell!)
This book is not for the faint of heart. If you’re happy chugging away at your corporate blog for some vague reason with a vague audience in mind, watching your Google analytics traffic trends go up incrementally and feeling pretty good about that, you may want to change your mindset before you tackle this book.
There’s no feel-good, “Wow, content marketing is awesome! You’re going to make a ton of money! Tomorrow!” talk. It’s not high-minded or conceptual. It’s real, it’s practical and it requires that you be serious about your content marketing efforts. If you need a little rah-rah, go listen to some energizing yet vague webinar first, get convinced that content marketing is the way to go, then pick up this book.
Otherwise you may just get overwhelmed and forget it.
I’ll admit, I got a little overwhelmed. I had more than one moment of, “Whatever. My blog is fine. And I have an email newsletter.”
But the more I thought about it and digested it, the more sense it made, and the more I started to see past the gigantic project of “content marketing” to the real ways I could use it.
In fact, if you’re like me, you’ll probably find that you’re already doing content marketing, perhaps without even knowing it. This book will be the glue that helps you put it all together.
So if you’re sold on content marketing and all that’s left is “what now?” this book is for you.
The 10-Second Wrapup
One of the things that made this book really effective in my estimation is that the advice is meant to scale.
As a small business owner, I find that the vast majority of business books, webinars and strategy guides are geared toward larger teams. In my business, I manage perhaps 4-6 people at any given time. I don’t need buy-in from anyone except my husband (as co-owner with me), so my “business case” is us sitting down for a burger and saying, “Content marketing? Totally.”
But we do need a plan, a map, an audience and goals.
Robert and Joe make it a point to keep reinforcing the fact that their advice is only advice. Their templates are only templates. Everything is meant for each of us to use (or not use) and adapt to our own needs.
Trying to digest the idea of putting together some detailed and documented business case was overwhelming for me – until I realized I didn’t really need to do that.
Likewise for the rest of the book. Take what you read and apply it to your business. Your content marketing plan needs to be no more detailed, complex or documented than you need and want it to be.
So whether you work for a large organization or for yourself in your living room, you can use this book to help you get real about content marketing.
Sound intriguing? Buy it now. < — Affiliate link. If enough of you are serious about your content marketing, I’ll be able to treat myself to another burger and marketing talk with my husband.
Curious… have you read this book yet? What did you think?
Buy Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi, in paperback or Kindle format