content jam 2013

Content Jam 2013: It’s all about the story

Content Jam 2013 In Review

Yesterday I had the privilege of hanging out at Columbia University in Chicago, with hundreds of other content marketers in what Orbit Media had coined “Content Jam”. Content Jam is an annual day-long seminar, lecture series, general hang-out scene for all things content marketing. The lectures were broken up into four areas of content marketing – strategy, creation, promotion and measurement, with a wide variety of industries and professionals representing each. It was a long day of jamming, and while I was unable to attended every session, I have some great takeaways, and tips on how to make yourself a better content marketer. Enjoy!

It’s All About the Story

A consistent them during Content Jam was putting emphasis on the story of the content. Whether it is a a new product, a new feature, a customer testimonial, or a blog post that was reviewing a content conference, it should be a story. A story is what drives engagement, trust and loyalty to your company. People want to read about characters – your brand, your employees, your product – see them overcome obstacles and become the Hero (A SpotHero?) in the end!

So, the next time you sit down at your computer, think about how you can make your writing feel more like a story. Make it engaging, understand who the protagonist and antagonist are (writing 101 throwback), and tell your readers how your main character overcame obstacles to become the hero!

content hero
Introducing: Content Hero

The Future of Content Marketing

The keynote speaker for Content Jam 2013 was Gina Diertrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, founder of PR and Marketing blog SpinSucks (really great blog, I would encourage any marketing/PR professional to bookmark), and author of Marketing in the Round. Gina spoke on the future of content marketing.

1. Brand Journalism will be huge!

First, lets define what brand journalism is. In short, imagine if your brands content was transformed into a newspaper, but the only topics were related to your brand. For example, you might have a product section, a get-to-know-our-employees section, a marketing section, and so on. Just because your company sells sand castle building materials online, does not mean you cannot write about the hiring process, or eCommerce, or anything that has to do with business. Wherever there is a story, there is content! 

Personally I am very excited about this, because it really takes your company to the next level. People are more likely to buy from other people, and this brand journalism approach to content marketing gives your company character, personality, and shows you are real people. 

2. Non-Sales / Build your reputation 

Don’t sell. The fact is, consumers are smart and they are getting smarter. The old ways of buying a full page ad in the newspaper for a spike in sales are long gone. Optimizing pages, increasing conversions, PPC, SEO are the new dogs in town, and even they are beginning to weigh down consumers. Consumers do not want to be sold, they want to be engaged. They want timely information when they need it most, and they want it from a credible source. 

How do you become that credible source and have a strong reputation? You build it through engaging stories and content. You are a consistent voice in the arena of your topic, and you produce as much content as you can – quality content, of course. Quality content that is not a sales pith that every consumer has been given hundreds of times in the past. Building reputation is a lot like building personal character, it’s what you do when no one is looking that pays dividends in the end. 

3. Employee Stories

What better way to show you are a company made up of real people than having your own employees write about themselves! Every employee has dozens of stories they can tell. How they got hired, how they first heard about the company, a day in the life, what they do outside of work, the list goes on and on. Developing content around your employees not only provides transparency for consumers and the company, it also provides more content (YAY!) more trust, it helps build your reputation, and it makes you human! 

It is no secrete that it is the people of a company that make it great, so why not bring that greatness to your readers and consumers? Writing about your employees is content gold, just waiting to be let loose. So what are you waiting for – just do it!

Quick Content Tips from the Jam

  • Understand your audience and what is important to them
  • Provide details to your stories – use sensory details 
  • Relate to real world situations
  • Start with a question – it encourages engagement
  • Get to know your employees, write about them
  • Stay away from cliches when writing – it triggers a “we’ve read this before” reaction
  • Follow up with your current customers – don’t forget them!

Final Thought

The last session I attended was called “Cultivating a Fanbase: How to turn customers into brand advocates”, and it brought a point to light that deserves some recognition. Your current customer base deserves just as much time and energy as acquiring new customers. Often times this is 90% cheaper (you don’t have to acquire a customer twice) and when you think about it, a no-brainer. Your customers are your best marketers, sales team, business development team, the best everything. They are the ones loving your product, telling their friends, family and co-workers all about how great it is. If you are not following up with your current customers with a thank you card, a newsletter, a rewards program, or an exclusive deal then you are severely missing out. 

For all the time you worry about cost-per-acquisition, make sure you are spending just as much time worrying about retaining and making your current customers happy!


Be sure to check back in the next few days for links to SlideShares of every speakers presentations from Content Jam 2013! After all, what would a content jam be without the promotion of the content? 


Until next year Content Jam!