From How Much Content to How to Stand Out – Q&A with Robert Rose
I had the good fortune to be able to ask Robert Rose, Chief Strategist for the Content Marketing Institute a few questions about life as a content marketing guru, challenges for content marketers and ways we can all become a little better at producing content and marketing it. Thanks to Robert for making this fun, as you would expect, the content from him is engaging, as always.
Q: What does the Chief Strategist for THE content marketing resource do on a daily basis?
A: Mostly make trouble — therefore my unofficial title is Chief Troublemaker. But, primarily, my role is to lead and manage CMI’s Consulting/Advisory, Education and Technology divisions. So, I work with companies (mostly larger enterprises) to both conduct workshops on Content Marketing, as well as lead consulting and advisory services for helping enterprises operationalize the practice of content marketing.
Q: How has the role of content marketing changed in the past five years? What’s the biggest surprise in the content world these days?
A: I think the biggest change is that the main objective has switched from “how much can we produce” to “how do we stand out in a crowded space”. And, I think what has surprised me the most is how quickly the impact this transformation has been realized on some businesses. I know that might sound weird coming from CMI – but it’s true. I’ve always believed that a story well told could really have impact. But watching companies, literally, transform their marketing into storytelling organizations and really reaping the benefits has been both surprising and gratifying.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? Are there writers outside of the industry you admire?
A: Oh boy – you’re going to need a bigger boat! I could go on and on about writers that inspire me. I’m an English Literature grad for goodness sakes. So, outside the industry (and from a storytelling perspective) I’m continually inspired by Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee. Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of writing is a must just for anyone who is putting finger to keyboard. And the Diary of Anais Nin is just a wonderful inspiration for a creative life more generally. On the Fiction side – it starts with Shakespeare – but Steinbeck and Salinger and Dorothy Parker.. and well I’ll just stop there…. Oh here’s one more just for contemporary fun. If you haven’t watched John Cleese’s lecture on the creative process, that’s a must do.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for B2B content marketers today?
A: There are two that we see most commonly and I’ll speak to one in a bit of detail. The first is the measurement challenge. How to show progress with Content Marketing. The second is related to the first – but it is actually executing the fundamental change in the marketing organization to become the value. What I mean by that is that marketers (and especially B2B marketers) are taught — some might even say wired — is to describe things. We make a living from being able to describe value. Describe the product, describe the service, and do so in the most creative, clever way possible. We’re like Cyrano – giving our sales teams the ability to mouth clever things that ultimately help them persuade the lead to become a customer. But as marketing transforms, marketing becomes the thing of value. We have to actually create the thing of value to customers. We have to write the stories, create the platforms, the helpful content etc.. that itself is the thing of value. This is a really really hard transformation in the B2B space, especially where marketing has often been relegated to a back-office cube to become the “internal agency” for sales. But it’s a critical transformation. It not acting like a media company. It’s becoming a media organization.
Q: What’s your favorite piece you have created and why?
A: Oh goodness – I have no idea what to even say here. Let me say this – CMI recently created the Essentials of a Documented Content Marketing Strategy. The team at CMI is unbelievable in the way that they can organize and visually organize things in a way that are completely approachable. So any goodness that’s derived out of that piece is primarily to their credit. But I had a small hand in the content that went in there.
Q: Why is most content “less than stellar” to put it a nice way?
A: It’s the same frustration we all have when we go to a movie that’s completely unsatisfying. It’s either completely self-indulgent and we hate that story (think any movie that’s just so clearly an ego project for some bad actor or musician who wants to go hollywood), or you just think that they “threw it” together. Content that is commoditized. That’s the real trick today. You’ve got to think about the content you create bringing at least something original to the table. It might be facts that everyone knows but packaged in a unique way. Or, it can be just a cool, original thing.
Q: What advice do you have for up and coming marketers to make an impact in their organizations?
A: Learn how to deliver an original story based on the brand “promise”. Most sales, marketing or other people are too eager for templates, proof points and just regurgitating the same old stuff using different words. True, differentiated value in any organization is being able to take all that stuff, and synthesizing it into something truly different and unique that helps move the business forward. If you can combine that with learning on how to create a new paradigm for using all the data that any organization has the ability to collect to derive meaning for improving over time — well you’ll be an unstoppable force.