Article | March 13, 2021
A human approach to content marketing begins and ends with being vulnerable. No, it is not the same thing as being weak. As Brene Brown says:
"Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences…. What most of us fail to understand...is that vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity."
This is why being vulnerable is important to your content marketing: it helps create a connection. (If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be connected to other people. And we need to wash our hands more.)
If the thought of being vulnerable totally freaks you out, remember that no one is perfect. No one.
Here’s how to weave that human approach into your content marketing.
Share your struggles
People who don’t know me well probably think I float through life on rainbows and sprinkles. If only.
When I graduated from college, I had zero resilience and was struggling with severe anxiety. Unfortunately, I had very little self-awareness, so I had no idea. My first “real” job was with a truly wonderful company, and of course I had the dragon-lady-boss-from-hell. I lasted five miserable months, during which time my anxiety went through the roof and I developed bulimia.
I recovered from bulimia after four years, but I didn’t get my anxiety under control until I fell down a hole into depression when I was 37 years old. Here’s how bad it was: If I was out running errands and noticed my car needed gas, I could not stop at a gas station unless I had already planned to. Spontaneously changing the “plan” was mission impossible. Didn’t matter if I drove past six gas stations. I couldn’t do it.
Eight years later, I am still on anti-depressants. I doubt I’ll ever go off, because it makes life manageable. (If I hadn’t been medicated during the early days of the pandemic, I probably would have ended up in the looney bin.)
Anyway, my point is that we grow the most as humans when we survive and overcome challenging times. My struggles have certainly helped me become the person I was meant to be.
Sharing our personal stories – especially the thorny, dark ones – make us human and relatable. If you are on anti-depressants, you and I are now connected by that shared experience.
Own your failures
I have failed as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and business owner. I am sure I have failed complete strangers as well.
Here’s a short list of my failures as a business owner:
Doing work for free
Not charging enough
Failing to fire bad clients quickly
Ignoring the financials (profit and loss, balance sheet, expenses, etc.)
Hiring the wrong people
Working without a contract
Not getting a security deposit
I own every single failure, which is easy to do when you use the experience to learn and grow.
A few years ago, we created a social media marketing strategy for a small clothing brand, even though we didn’t have a contract in place. When we sent the invoice, they refused to pay it. Without a contract, we were SOL. I was furious at myself, but I am comforted knowing that karma is a total bitch.
When money is on the line, I tend to learn the lesson very quickly. Recently, I had a discovery call scheduled with someone who had not yet signed the contract. When I called her, I simply said, “We can’t proceed until you sign the contract.” She apologized profusely. We jumped off the phone, she read through it, signed it and called me when she was done.
No muss, no fuss.
An authentic, human approach to content marketing is being you.
A client once fired us because I sent an email that was “too direct.” He said he found it offensive.
Was I upset? Not at all. I laughed.
Then I read the email again. I scratched my head. I had someone on my team read the email. They scratched their head.
In near unison, we said, “Dodged a bullet!”
You can’t be everything to everyone, and frankly, I don’t want to be. I am known for saying it like it is and making you laugh at the same time. Not everyone appreciates my style, and that’s cool. We are all different.
And that is the beauty of using a human approach. You have no choice but to be you. As a result, you’ll only work with the people who get you. Would you have it any other way?
The next time you’re writing a blog, social post or email, I want you to do something for me. Read it and ask yourself, “Would my best friend recognize that I wrote this?” If the answer is yes, congrats: you are using a human approach to content marketing.
Article | March 11, 2020
The digital age has allowed everyone to become an entrepreneur, some to great success, but it has also created a whole new world of challenges which must be faced if you’re going to succeed. One skill above others is increasingly being seen as make or break for businesses in the internet age, and that’s digital marketing. Digital marketing is any kind of advertising or marketing you do online – on a PC, laptop, ipad or smartphone. Making it work for your business is the tricky part – you need every minute and pound you spend to count, and that means leveraging the potential of every facebook post and tweet, every review and every SEO ranking point you can. Step one is making sure your website - the online shop window - both looks professional and, most importantly, works for customers. It should also be mobile responsive, as 52 per cent of all website traffic comes from smartphones. A good example is this online casino site - everything is right there for customers to find from any platform without any effort.
Article | February 10, 2021
It’s common for brands to become stagnant, rooted in their ways and too set on a specific course which restricts their ability to adapt to change. It is the classic example of the “That’s the way we do things around here” mentality.
But over time, competition increases, markets develop and consumer needs shift. Consequently, very few industries have remained static over the past year let alone the last decade, which has created an urgent need for businesses to evolve.
This notion is backed by Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Champions (UK) plc, a strategy-led growth agency in the brand, digital and communications space. In this piece, he explains how digging up a business’ roots can actually help sow the seeds for a successful future.
Letting go of your roots
Resistance to change is one of the greatest barriers to a business’s long-term success. This resistance is often the result of a business becoming too attached to its roots, which can sometimes be so deep that they begin to act as an anchor, weighing the business down rather than enabling its growth.
These roots can be categorised as values, goals and characteristics of a business that define how it operates, the messages it communicates, the way in which it conveys them, as well as how consumers perceive the brand.
But as times change, it is common for business roots to become outdated and unsuitable for the current commercial climate. And as a result, businesses begin to face difficulties in keeping customers engaged and in turn, achieving a profitable financial return. To see this in practice, we only need to look at the demise of some the biggest named brands in recent times.
For example, the Arcadia Group is one of the latest victims of digital transformation, a trend that has been gradually impacting the retail space in recent years, and that has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The digital shift has been led due to the need to meet changing consumer expectations and behaviours, with online sales are increasing year on year, and even more customers are expected to be shopping with a digital-first perspective following the pandemic and its related disruption.
Instead of responding to the change in the market and embracing online opportunities, businesses operating as part of Arcadia Group continued to do things as they had always done. And it was this lack of focus on their digital offering, particularly when compared to competitors such as PrettyLittleThing, boohoo and Asos, that ultimately resulted in their commercial downturn.
Although not so great for the individuals effected in the process, the case offers other businesses a vital lesson in the importance of letting go of outdated roots and adapting to change.
Taking a risk
But due to the deep-rooted nature of such characteristics, there is a perceived risk involved with letting them go. It’s understandable as it will no doubt involve a significant change to business as usual. But, any risks can be mitigated if businesses take a strategic approach in their decision to make change.
For instance, by undertaking branding exercises, such as a brand audit and the formalisation of a value proposition, stakeholders can gain an in-depth understanding of the business’s current position, its offering and their consumers’ expectations, through the creation of audience personas and its market via detailed industry insights and competitor analysis. From here, there will be a clear view of which aspects are not appropriate for the current commercial landscape, and where there will be opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour once change has been implemented.
Once a new proposition has been established in theory, it then needs a detailed project plan to role it out in a practice, combined with an effective communications strategy. Taking a look at an example from our own experience. We rebranded Delta Global, a packaging provider for luxury retailers that, at the time, was doing great things with regard to innovation, technology and sustainability but was failing from a branding perspective to communicate its capabilities in those areas.
Our branding exercises helped to redefine the business’s values, creating a four pillar model that communicates them much more clearly. Formed of innovation, sustainability, luxury and ecommerce, clients and stakeholders can now, at a glance, understand exactly what the business does and how it does it.
And to ensure the business and its position only benefited from the activity, it was complemented with a robust communications strategy. This gained the brand exposure in industry-leading titles, including Forbes, WWD and The Sunday Times, as well as a greater presence across social media channels.
This helped mitigate the risk of unsuccessful change through use of effective communication targeted at new audiences, existing customers and internal stakeholders, who now understand the new direction but also be on board with it.
Is change always necessary?
In short, no. Change for the sake of change can actually be just as damaging to a brand as staying consistent. This is because sometimes, the deep-rooted characteristics of the business form a vital part of the audience’s understanding of the brand and its offering.
This might include family-run business values or branding elements that are connected to the location a business was founded in, for example. Often, it’s unlikely that these elements will be hindering the business’s growth potential, but are instead, adding value to it by acting as a USP and differentiating it from the competition.
However, in these cases, while the message does not need to change, the way in which it is communicated might, as often, it is the methods of message delivery that become outdated. For example, this might mean making better use of online marketing channels such as social media, content creation, SEO and email promotions to support both online and offline activities.
It’s all about making well thought out changes in order to remain relevant, rather than constantly altering your messages and offerings, which could actually cause confusion and disconnect between the brand and its consumers.
Ultimately, businesses need a solid footing upon which they can build on. But while these foundations are important for business growth, like a tree’s roots, some often go off at a tangent and become stuck in the past, anchoring the brand to where it used to be rather than allowing it to move forward into the future.
Put simply, if you don’t evolve, you die.
Article | July 10, 2020
There’s a lot of large companies in the United States alone. Over 20,000 employ 500+ employees, per the US Census Bureau’s latest available data.After reading more into Google’s Core Web Vitals, seeing chatter from the SEO industry on LinkedIn, and having read and referenced FreshChalk’s small business website teardown in the past, I began to get ideas.So, I wondered: How’s some of the largest company’s digital presences?I decided to start with a manageable project and see where it took me. And so: I honed in on the Fortune 100 and on their homepages.