Had someone told me at the beginning of the month that I’d be flying to Minneapolis to co-present an all-day session at the Confab Conference, I would have laughed. But that’s exactly what happened when Ann Handley called to see if I could pinch-hit for her Content Rules co-author, C.C. Chapman, who wouldn’t be able to co-present with her due to emergency surgery.
And so, last Wednesday I found myself standing next to Ann before 60 content creators, who were all there to participate in: “Content Rules: How to Create Content People Really Care About.” I was very excited to speak to this group for one simple reason: They already know the value of content. Unlike traditional marketers who see content creation as a threat to their jobs or old school PR folks who see it as a threat to their cushy monthly retainers, the corporate storytellers in front of us represented the new guard of this digital communications era.
At the beginning of the session, Ann asked everyone to jot down three things that they each wanted to learn. We collected 117 questions from 48 participants.
The figure below represents the seven categories that we divided them into. Almost 60% of the questions fell into two categories: Finding and Telling Stories and Executive Education. The largest vote-getter wasn’t much of a surprise considering the name of the presentation and the audience. The second one, however, was. No matter how much we in the social media fishbowl pontificate about how far we’ve gotten with social media, we still have a long way to go. The fact that “managing up” is the second-largest concern for those tasked with creating corporate content proves that we haven’t yet made a dent in the problem.
For example, here are some of the Executive Education questions:
- How to get an organization to see content as an opportunity (exciting!) rather than a burden?
- How to get execs to respect content development as a skill (and non-execs too)?
- How to develop organizational discipline around writing (i.e., get everyone on board with starting with the story)?
- Focus execs so they/we can prioritize which story to tell
I love the last one. You know that things have changed when the creatives are trying to get the executives to focus!
And 30% of the questions revolved around Content Strategy and Best Practices—again, not surprising considering we were at a Content Strategy conference. However, the next two categories, which accounted for 25% of the questions, identified a need to connect stories to business and to find ways to balance voice and the corporate brand.
Some of those questions included:
- How do you use those stories to help make sales goals?
- How to tell a brand’s stories without being too salesy—but still achieve business objective.
- How do you balance the goal of making the voice of your content informal/accessible with the goal of making the “voice” professional quality?
- How do you keep your brand story consistent and powerful across multiple content creators? Over time?
- We want to do more video content but our brand manager wants it to look “perfect.” What’s your take on this? Does video need to look super-duper professional?
- Practical ways to convert brand messages into engaging, compelling content.
These are the questions that companies contemplating new media self-publishing must ask. They form the conversation-starters for serious discussions around water coolers, in break rooms, meeting rooms, cubicles, and on all rows mahogany.
Over the next couple of months, I’ll draw blog posts from some of these questions/categories. Are there any that you want me to prioritize?
A version of this post appeared first at RonAmok!