Every client wants to know three things when they hire freelance or contract creatives:
- Will he or she accomplish what I need him to do?
- Will he or she deliver it in the form that I need it delivered?
- Will he or she meet my deadline?
I live on both sides of the table. I sometimes set deadlines. Other times, I am given deadlines. Either way, there is purpose and function behind every production schedule.
I have to admit I'm a litte crazy about dates.
I talk with lots of different leaders and organizations who are trying to make sense of the digital marketing landscape. I get it. It's tough, confusing, and ever-evolving. If you've grown weary trying to keep up, don't sweat it. You're not alone.
It's less important that you master everything as you keep yourself open to the native content consumption habits of your core audience. The biggest temptation is simply to project your personal preferences onto your target audience. By default, you will communicate in ways that are convenient for you instead of effective at engaging others.
Where this gets tricky is in the delivery systems required to deliver timely, relevant, and specific information.
An effective Chief Content Officer (CCO) is a professional brand evangelist. He or she lives at the intersection of communications, marketing, and technology. He or she is not merely a manager of all the moving parts. Instead, a CCO looks for the common story thread that brings all the different pieces into focus so that each individual function can work together to advance larger organizational outcomes.
Here's what this looks like on a day-to-day basis.
Success, like alcholol, can intoxicate our minds and habits and leave us limited in our capaity to react to the circumstances happening around us. Marketing has changed but few organizations have reconsidered their approach and are forced to get comfortable "managing decline" instead of seeing explosive growth.
Instead, marketing should be about helping people do things they've never done before. It should be more about connecting the dots and filling in the gaps rather than manipulation and fear. While old school marketing still has its merits, it's not the only path brands, businesses, and causes have available to take.
Marketing has three fundamental dimensions ...
Analytics, when spoken, is a word that can divide a room of people. It will intrigue some and send others mentally and emotionally somewhere else believing that it is "someone else's" responsibility or simply unethical and irresponsible.
Yet every person interested in engaging others in meaningful conversations should pay attention to analytics. Every communicator wants to make the most of the opportunities he or she is presented with. But too often our game plan is based on a whim, grounded in the success of others, and left to intuition. As is often said, "Hope is not a strategy."
You can't fix stupid. Sorry. This is my fundamental skepticism of depending on corporate policies to control [sic] behavior on social media.
I'm not a huge fan of rules of any kind but especially when it comes to social media. That being said, I'm beginning to develop an appreciation for social media policies as a way to help businesses, brands, and causes focus their work in the age of influence through digital communications.
I find myself saying this over and over again. The temptation for organizations is to just keep creating more and more messages while sending them across the most efficient and established models for the organization. The fatal flaw is in that logic is that the consumer controls the conversation now, not the organization. That means I can "mute" you, and you can't do anything about it.
The lies that organizations buy into is that ...
- They constantly need to have something new to say.
- They intuitively know the communication preferences of others.
- They believe everyone likes to be reached in the same way.
None of these are true.
Not every reader is the same. Some want to digest every word slowly. Others approach books as a utility to deliver mature ideas to solve practical problems. Neither reader type is better than the other.
Most people scan nonfiction content. I don't think this is a new development, nor do I think it represents the dumbing down of society due to digital publishing. As book publishing becomes an increasingly competitive space, publishers are now building books based on the reader's native consumption habits rather than traditional literary guidelines.
Personally, I welcome this shift.
There are a growing number of people who have been writing blogs posts for a decade or more. If you've been doing it five days a week for 10 years, you've created 2,600 blog posts. If each of those blog posts were 500 words, you've written 1.3 million words. Wow! That's a lot of content.
The nerd in me wonders just how many nuggets of wisdom are buried in the ominous archived section of your blog. It seems an incredible waste of time and creativity if the content you share is only used once. Surely there is a way to breathe new life into latent blog post content. Don't you agree?
Content is an asset. But your ability to cash out its value depends on your willingness to reimagine new ways you might use it.
Asking questions is easy. Asking the right questions is hard.
When you get the opportunity to interview other people, you get to step into their world for a moment in time. The goal is to see the world through their eyes, so you can share their perspective with other people.
If this is something you're interested in doing but don't feel like you're very good at, here are some tips I've picked up after more than a decade of interviewing people in chase of the story.
A professional writer is someone who gets paid professional fees to write copy. A hobbyist does not. Be careful not to confuse the two.
People who get paid to talk about writing aren't necessarily professional writers. A professional writer is someone who gets paid to open up a blank document and start typing copy that is eventually published or utilized in some form of commerce, whether it is a direct mail campaign or a book.
Hobbyists sometimes pose as professional writers.
There is nothing more exciting than working with people who help you accomplish your strategic goals. If you manage areas of your business or organization that are responsible for copy development, then you’re likely familiar with hiring freelance writers.
Most people either love working with contractors or don’t. I find many times those who don’t have had a series of bad experiences that have colored their perspective on hiring outside talent. That’s really unfortunate because there are a lot of great writers available to brands, businesses, and causes. And that talent is easier to find, validate, and contract today that ever in history.
But communicating with freelance writers (especially for non-writers) can be frustrating.
Nike is only half right. “Just do it” works until we need to “Just quit it.” Only the quitting part seems harder that the doing part. I had the privilege of hearing Bob Goff speak speak a few years ago.
If you’re not familiar with Bob (and I wasn’t before this conference), he is an attorney with a sense of humor. Impressive! (Those are rare by the way. And, of course, my apologies to my attorney. I do appreciate you.)
One of the things Bob said that stuck with me was he quits something every Thursday.
There are a lot of people who call themselves content writers. It seems to be the catch phrase in the freelance world. They reason, “If content marketing is in, then I need to call myself a content writer.”
This, understandably, creates confusion for those who hire content writers. After all, you can’t call yourself a doctor if you aren’t one, right? But this scenario often leads to frustration and disappointment and can throttle the openness a person has to working with content writers in the future.
For those of you who don't know my complete story (and why would you), there was a time in my career when I was responsible for the marketing, revenue, and operational efforts of a multi-million dollar business unit that sold offering envelopes to churches.
Offering envelopes are about as sexy as ... um .... NOTHING.
Nevertheless, we managed to sell more than 130 million of them a year to more than 12,000 customers.
There is a reason traditional nonprofits raise more money through this channel than most churches. They recognize it is more than a utilitarian effort or legal obligation. They know that connecting every dollar with impact is essential to building trust and confidence in the mind of the giver. And you don’t do this once but again and again and again. If you are willing to put a little thought into it, it will pay dividends for you.
Here are some common observations I share with churches related to contribution statements that might help you reframe the role they play in your ministry funding model ...
I’m not anti-sales. I’ve been on both sides of the table—marketing and sales.
I understand the pressures both positions come with, and I believe both must work together if a company is going to consistently grow revenue—the lifeblood of any business. That being said, there are some unique characteristics that case studies can bring to the sales process.
These characteristics can help salespeople overcome an often jaded and defensive target.
Fire a client? I know. It sounds backwards, doesn't it?
But the great thing about life is you get to decide who you want to work with and what you want to do.
One of the quotes I'll never forget from Tom Peter's book is this ...
I was stunned when my publisher called a few months ago and said I would be interviewed on CBN's The 700 Club about my latest book. I know I may be a big deal to my boys, and my wife loves me a lot. But I'm just "little Ben Stroup."
This was my first TV experience. And it was live.
I was worried I would stumble and stutter. While the guest coordinator and associate producers did their best to calm my nerves, there is nothing that prepares you for that moment.
Case studies are powerful tools that help others say things about you that you may not necessarily be able to say about your self.
An unexpected benefit of a case study is you get a great excuse to connect with some of your biggest champions and give them a chance to share their enthusiasm for you and your product or service with others in a powerful way.