This year’s Content Marketing World conference was full of back-to-back breakout sessions, keynote addresses (the last and not least of which was by Mr. Kevin Spacey), and networking with some of the most brilliant minds in Content Marketing. So, how does one choose just five key takeaways from an event filled with such a wealth of information? These are the ones that came up top for me. Drum roll, please…

1) Content Marketing is Storytelling with Back Up

In several of the keynotes, storytelling was brought up consistently, particularly as part of larger business concepts. Marketing has moved beyond storytelling simply for storytelling’s sake: we are using storytelling to bring out the brand and tell the company’s vision in the form of story. We are also supercharging it with new aspects and nuances like buyer personas, building brand relevance, and content strategy. Telling the brand’s story, therefore, becomes part of a larger context and an overall strategy to promote your brand on a multitude of platforms in many new ways.

2) Think Personas First

When doing a content audit or re-brand, one of the first things to consider is the personas we want to address for our brand or company’s messaging. In her talk “Avoiding Content Chaos: A Phased, Repeatable Approach,” Leigh Blaylock from Red Hat talked about creating buyer persona decks to address each persona who will be consuming our content. The priority is making sure that we have set up dialogue in these for the different personas to interact with each other – this is key to making all personas communicate and interact.

Also, in the session, “Implementing a B2B Content Marketing Strategy from Scratch,” Emmanuel Laroche of Symrise spoke of how personas must be created, and how to develop for each of their strategies: He used these examples:

  1. Product Management (“bench” manager)
  2. Marketing Innovation Director
  3. Sales Manager at Clients
  4. The CEO or Executive Management (Influencer)

For these personas, we focus on each of them to understand their preferences and their pain points to move forward from there.

3) Brand Attachment 

In her talk: “Can You Measure Storytelling,” JoAnn Sciarrino of University of North Carolina introduced us to Brand Attachment. When we measure brand attachment, we’re looking at the emotional connection between humans and brands. And, since emotions sit in the same part of the brain as decision-making – the limbic system – it makes sense that this is what we, as content marketers, should strive for.

We need to influence customers in the buying cycle when and where they are making their decision. Part of this is finding out our customers’ passions and the niches they are attracted to. Once we make that connection, we’re on our way to having them experience what Ms. Sciarrino described as loving better than a “like,” share or tweet: brand attachment.

4) Propinquity: Lesson Learned from Networking  & Doing it “Right First”

On Tuesday night, the team at Content Marketing World threw us a big party – ContentFest. At a concert event, with food trucks and cover bands galore, I had the opportunity to network with some great people (while enjoying some great food!). Two of these people introduced me to a new term in relation to content marketing: propinquity. It made sense that this was brought up (in a session I didn’t happen to attend) in regards to content marketing because it’s a principle we can all use.

Propinquity: by having proximity to someone or something, you are more likely to have a propensity towards them.

For example, because you run into your neighbor on a very frequent basis since you live right around the corner from them, you are much more likely to end up dating or becoming friends (read: attached) to them in some way.

You can see what this means for us as marketers: you need to be where your prospects and potential target markets are. By that proximity, you will attract them and hopefully they will become customers for life. This was also a key takeaway for me because it was an example of how knowledge was gained, simply through networking at Content Marketing World.

5) We’re Not Done Yet!

In his keynote, “Experience: The 7th Era of Marketing & the Rise of Content Management,” Robert Rose pointed out that Marketing as a discipline is always evolving: “The evolving nature of what we’re in right now is what WE are a part of.” He called on us all to be these “alchemists” making the change.

He noted that we should go about doing this with these 3 ideals in mind:

  1. Content Marketing is working well…in pockets
  2. Marketing is being challenged to do more for customer experiences; and
  3. The actual identity & future of marketing is (or must be) changed.

Thus, he invited us all to be the engines driving this change: “that the customer is heard and we have empathy for how they feel.”

This is a part of how Content Marketing will evolve in this “7th Era of Marketing.”

For my part, one of the best single quotes came from Scott Stratten, in one of the final keynotes of the conference, when he gave us a great piece of advice in the context of how our marketing world is ever-evolving:

“We’re so focused on being first:  But, we should focus on being right first.”  Touché, & I agree.  Let’s do this.