Hanging with Margot, Georgy, and Niketa

For our last class, we had a great Google Hangout with three content strategists: Margot Bloomstein, author of Content Strategy at Work and founder/CEO of Appropriate, Inc.; Georgy Cohen, Associate Creative Director, Content Strategy at OHO Interactive, and co-founder of Meet Content LLC; and Niketa Patel, Managing Director of Rebel Media Labs at RebelMouse.

Margot Takeaways

In terms of being a content strategist, Margot solves the same type problems she faced as a designer not through color, typography, and density of information on the page, but now verbally through style, tone, and different content types. When talking about the importance of writing as a content strategist, it is naturally a large part of her job and she considers it a form of problem solving. However, she also uses her artistic background to visually solve problems. Also coming from an artistic academic background this definitely resonated with me.

Niketa Takeaways

It was great hearing how Nikita reached out to others (in particular AJC and RebelMouse) to talk about what they were doing and how she was able to talk to them about what was happening at the organization’s content strategy-wise. Niketa also stressed the importance of setting aside time to as we say in the creative world, “work your craft.” She sets aside time to write and to learn more about what is happening in the industry. It is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of a project, but a content strategist must also keep up with what is happening within the content strategy community.

Georgy Takeaways

Despite the overabundance of buzzwords nowadays, Georgy reminded us that storytelling is not “a dumb buzzword.” As she so eloquently stated, “Writing isn’t words on a page, writing is in how you think, how you construct, how you have that sense of inquiry, and that sense of narrative.” As a writer it is important to be able to communicate to the audience to create a meaningful impact.

Content Strategy in a Mobile Environment

Based on the Mashable article “Why having a mobile site is now even more important,” my question concerned how does mobile affect how a content strategist performs their job. Niketa pointed out that it was very important to deconstuct a story and tell it in a more concise way. With the growing emphasis on visual content, it must also be created with mobile in mind.

Margot also brought up the fact that the current editorial/publishing culture will play a large part of creating a mobile content strategy. Traditional long-form content creators may need to learn how to adjust their writing to fit a modular platform. So although Margot thought that content did not necessarily need to be short, she agreed with Niketa the importance of creating chunks of content that is more suitable for mobile devices.

Georgy brought up a great point that mobile platforms force content strategists to revisit core questions like what content is being created, what is important, who are we talking to, and most importantly, what does the content need to reach the audience. These are issues that were not a problem a few years ago. Georgy doesn’t think that this is a problem and as Margot brings up the mobile web forces brands a chance to go back to the fundamental questions that should be asked at the beginning of any initiative.

Final Thoughts

As emphasized by all three women and even what I’ve seen reading the occasional Twitter chats, the content strategy community is friendly and willing to share their insights with others. Sometimes, it may lead to future employment, but it will always make you a better content strategist.

Post Script

I also enjoyed this chat on a more personal level–Margot was a fellow creative, artistic person; Georgy was a fellow nerd who geeks out about the Internet and technology; and Niketa was my fellow South Carolina and Atlanta connection (yes, I have heard about Francis Marion and was actually accepted there). Thank you Kelly and Jenn for getting such a great panel.

3 Reasons Why Your Blog Posts Blow

(Image courtesy of George Redgrave)

If the only comments on your blog are from spammers advertising the latest scams, there may be an opportunity to improve the quality of your blog posts. Only the blog and its postings should be doing the advertising. Fortunately, the very nature of a blog makes it an inexpensive, 24/7 online marketing campaign for a company or organization. Unfortunately, just as there are brilliant marketing campaigns, there are others that make you ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” Don’t let your blog become the latter.

5 Ws

Remember when we learned the Five Ws in school — who, what, where, when, and why? Just as these 5 questions are used to tell a story, they can also be used to create a better blog post:

  1. Who is your target audience for the blog post? Author Yvonne Lyons noted in “Blogging: 34 Things that You’re Doing Wrong” that you cannot create content, if you don’t know your audience,
  2. What is the story you are trying to share? In the “The Ultimate Guide to Blogging,” author Joe Pulizzi recommends creating useful and interesting content that moves the reader to respond. Such Calls to Action include commenting, sharing, or connecting through social media.
  3. Where does the blog post fit in terms of the content categories? A regular column may result out of frequent topics and/or posts.
  4. When do you share your content? The latest trending topic will not always apply to your brand so developing an editorial calendar will help you schedule relevant content continuously.
  5. Why are you sharing the blog post? If the post, doesn’t relate to your brand, then focus on one that does.

TL;DR ( Too Long; Didn’t Read)

(Image courtesy of Clint Hamada)

I’m sure that this phrase has appeared in the comments section of a few blogs that you visited. The fact that someone would rather respond to his/her fellow commenters than read your blog post is a bad sign—especially when the commenter clearly states that one issue is the post is too long. As Dotmarketing points out in their best practices piece “Writing for the Web,” a person tends not to read every word that appears in a blog post and instead scans it. Yes, the hours spent agonizing over writing the perfect post will most likely result in only a quick read through by the intended reader. So keep your post short (between 400 – 1000 words) to allow the reader to enjoy your post during a break. If a visitor is willing to take time out to scan your blog for a few minutes during their busy day, then honor his/her time.

Like, +1, RT

(Image courtesy of Melbourne Streets Avant-garde)

After following my earlier recommendations, you have created your best blog post yet. You post your masterpiece on your blog, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day.

Not so fast.

Remember your only previous commenter was some mother from Springfield who makes $77 an hour on the Internet.  I’m sure that she’s a lovely lady, but she’s not your target audience. You need to find your true audience.

  1. Help Google find your blog post.

Find out the most frequently used search terms that relates to your blog post and then incorporate these popular terms within your blog post title, content, and tags.

2.   Use social sites to spread the word.

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging,” author Joe Pulizzi suggests doing things like asking people on Twitter to help promote your blog. Another suggestion was to use social bookmarking sites like Digg to post your content, which will hopefully be shared by others.

3.  Post helpful comments on similar blogs.

A quality comment can help you develop relationships within the same community (fellow bloggers and commenters alike), generate traffic to your blog, and will hopefully create a new audience following.

My hope is that these tips will help get the word about your great organization or company. With so many blogs currently out there with new ones continuing to be added, it is getting harder to be seen on the Internet.  However, if you follow the 5 Ws, keep it short, and then spread the word, you can develop a faithful legend of followers and not just spammers.

Final…

 

Thinking

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Thoughts

Like any project that involves several deliverables, I initially found the idea a bit scary. This was especially true because this involved an actual company that I would be working with instead of a number of imaginary ones that I’ve used in other classes. Though the deliverable is just a proposal, I know personally I was less cavalier about my choices and recommendations since there could be real-life implications about the decisions I made. All of the imaginary companies and organizations I’ve worked with in the past had few issues and tended to be on their A-game at all times. That’s generally not true with actual businesses. 

Experiences

Although I was not able to connect with the company as well as I would have liked, I really enjoyed the experience of learning more about the company and the area. I imagine that actual content strategists are also challenged with trying to connect with clients who may be out of town or even out of the state. I really enjoyed the chance to use my research skills and techniques that were developed in my library classes along with the chance to be creative when developing the core strategy, thinking of topics, or creating content ideas for the editorial calendar.

Triumphs

My favorite and yet most challenging portion of this exercise was creating the editorial calendar. I loved trying to come up with content ideas. Though the demands of the semester eventually won out, for a while, I enjoyed creating my own editorial calendar for my own Twitter account. For me, coming up with possible topics is fun. I recognize that I was in a unique position because I was the only person coming up with ideas and therefore did not get negative feedback on my ideas from other people.

Although I enjoyed this exercise the most, it was also challenging because I also had to keep in mind that the client and their needs. As much as I would have wanted to add even more content ideas, I had to keep in mind that executing the calendar (assuming that it is accepted as is) is not the top priority of the store. I have worked in retail and even as a store manager, I was afforded little time on the computer and so I had to keep this in mind when creating the calendar for my client. Hopefully, the calendar would also be used as a template for future months so I wanted to create content ideas that could be easily repeated over time.

Tribulations

The only tribulation again was related to not being able to talk in more detail with the client. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but there are just some questions that must be answered by the client. Although there a couple areas where more information was needed for an accurate analysis, I think the proposal should still be of use to the client.

Lessons Learned and Tips from the Slightly More Experienced

  • Be more aggressive when trying to get the information you need from the client. They asked you to do a job for them. Help them get them onboard if they missed the train leaving the station.
  • There is no one right way to do content strategy. Otherwise, there would not be all these books on Amazon.
  • Use all your knowledge, not just content strategy-related, to develop a content strategy. That summer scooping ice cream may be of help when developing your strategy.
  • Have fun! In the end, you’ve created something that can help your client. You might have had a rough go, but if it were so easy, you wouldn’t have had to do the job in the first place.