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Following up the post about why so many mid-career marketers have missed out on becoming outstanding content strategists, Emma Alvarez Gibson, from our West Coast (or Best Coast) Brainzooming HQ, is here discussing the steps to become a content strategist and avoid marketing career extinction.

How to Become a Content Strategist and Avoid Becoming Extinct by Emma Alvarez Gibson

Once I was a creative writer.

Then I was marcomm. Then I was a copywriter. These days, I’m a content strategist.

Titles change; it’s a fact of Western business life. But in this space, that’s not all that’s changed. Take a good look at the job description for any number of content strategist positions. More often than not, we aren’t just creating content. We’re managing SEO and Google Analytics, editing images and graphics in PhotoShop and InDesign, sending and tracking emails via a CMS or two. Or seven.  

I’ll admit it was a transition I came to reluctantly, and with a fair degree of resentment. Look, I remember saying, If I’d wanted to be a marketing analyst, I’d have become a marketing analyst. Are they also looking for chemical engineers who can rollerskate and sing opera? It seemed ridiculous and not a little unreasonable. But it’s been a few years now: I think that model’s going to be calling the shots for awhile.

Earlier this week, one of my fellow writers who’s looking for full-time employment expressed dismay over these broadly-drawn requirements, ending with: When did this happen? If you’ve not had to look for a job in a number of years, it’s a fair question. There were no announcements made. These expectations crept in slowly, like fog. When the market crashed in 2008, I saw many organizations let people go and distribute the resulting wealth of tasks among the employees who were left standing. No one’s going to complain about having a heavier load when their neighbor doesn’t have a job. You make it work. We all made it work as best we could.

Nine years later, here we are with a stronger economy and the continued legacy of these career mash-ups. We made it work, and we have to continue to make it work. That means getting on board with the expectations of our chosen field. It means stretching. Learn that CMS. Take the InDesign class. Familiarize yourself with basic photo editing. Pick up a copy of Web Analytics For Dummies. Read a few blog posts on how easy SEO really is. Things have changed, and that means we have to change. To deny it, to refuse, to stay stuck in the outrage, is professional suicide.

At the start of my career I worked at a PR firm. One of the publicists there was roughly 107 years old, to my twenty-something eyes. He was pure 1960s camp, only he didn’t know it. He seemed intrigued by the fact that women were in his workplace and held positions of authority. He referred to us, the assistants, as “the girls” (despite the fact that some of the assistants were, in fact male).  Best of all? He refused to have a computer in his office. He’d never needed one before, and he wasn’t going to start now. And if he did need to look something up that wasn’t in a book, “one of the girls” could do that for him. He repeated this speech often, and everyone would smile and nod, and wait for him to leave the room so they could roll their eyes and get back to work. He was a ridiculous old dinosaur.

But I’m not.

What about you? – Emma Alvarez Gibson

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I spoke about Social-First Content at the April 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in Chicago. As always, I left this Social Media Strategies Summit with valuable insights on social content strategy plus great ideas for further developing our brand.

Social Media Strategists at the #SMSSummit

From this Social Media Strategies Summit, I took away a specific insight on the challenge for social media strategists.

With traditional marketing communication, there were numerous clear divisions among important roles:

  • Creative vs. analytical
  • Writing vs. visual communication
  • Strategy vs. design
  • Developing content vs. publishing content
  • Spokesperson vs. reporter
  • In front of the camera talent vs. behind the camera support
  • Media creation vs. media buying
  • Offline execution vs. online / technology execution
  • Mining customer and business insights vs. audience targeting

Looking back on the combined internal and external team we assembled to market our Fortune 500 B2B brand, we rarely had one person doing both sides of any of the pairs of talents and responsibilities above. Depending on a project’s size, in fact, there may be ten or more people involved across these roles.

Social Media Strategists Face Complex Roles

Now, consider today’s social communications landscape. The divisions between the complementary roles have largely disappeared. Today’s social media strategists must be functional, if not fully adept, at nearly all these roles to succeed.

This idea started developing for me as we started using Hubspot for inbound marketing. I’m continually moving between intense analytical and creative roles in developing and executing content-based workflows.

The realization really hit me while attending a Facebook list building, advertising, and re-marketing workshop at the Social Media Strategies Summit. The presenters covered audience targeting and Facebook advertising in detail. We don’t use Facebook advertising very aggressively, so the topic isn’t one that has occupied much of my attention. As workshop presenters continued, I recalled that in the corporate world, I told media buyers that I’d ask questions, but I understood they had a knowledge base that was difficult to have without living in their world. I depended on their expertise to guide and lead us toward accomplishing our marketing objectives.

Today, however, you can’t afford to make that distinction. Outstanding social media strategists must understand Facebook targeting, advertising, and remarketing. It’s just as important as understanding the fundamentals of writing a compelling story. They also must understand everything else on the list of communication roles.

Sure, in a smaller organization, I’m now taking on many more communication roles than as a VP in a Fortune 500 organization. A team of ten no longer exists for me. Talking with other attendees at the Social Media Strategies Summit, though, it’s clear a team of ten doesn’t exist for many of them either – even within large organizations.

Why Many Mid-Career Marketers Are Dinosaurs

Put all this together, and I think it explains why I see so many mid-career marketers are dinosaurs, either limiting themselves in comfortable, but career-threatening ways (“I just do PR” or “I write but don’t do SEO”), or floundering while they rework the calculations on how much longer until they have enough money to retire.

The much smaller group is leveraging career experience and diving into social content strategy with a passion. These folks are learning to become perhaps the best-positioned marketers: they heave experience AND social sensibilities.

Seeing this landscape for mid-career marketers is why I encourage them to attend as many social content marketing events and conferences as possible. It’s the foreseeable future. If they want to be a part of that future AND get paid, they must be aggressive and prepare to work with multiple generations that grew up in a marketing world where role divisions that made sense ten years ago no longer apply. – Mike Brown

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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – Mike Brown

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If you’ve been pursuing a content marketing strategy for a few years, you have some content that worked and some that didn’t work when you first published it. You also likely have content that’s continuing to work for you in that it’s still attracting new visitors. We hope you also have a good deal of content that, even though you may have created it years ago, is still largely accurate and relevant.

Reviewing the most successful pieces emerging from your content marketing strategy up to now provides the opportunity to create new growth from your evergreen content.

We have been doing that with our own content marketing strategy along with helping clients take advantage of the same opportunity: updating, reformatting, and enhancing evergreen content so it’s primed to generate new visitors, subscribers, and audience members eager to download it.

8 Ways to Create New Growth from Evergreen Content

Here are 8 ideas to explore based on your top blog posts for ongoing traffic:

  • Use your most popular evergreen blog posts along with related ones to create a new eBook. Freshen the content by re-editing the multiple pieces and adding new content. You can also enhance the content with new graphics and design.
  • Freshen these blog posts with new infographics or graphic depictions and republish the blogs for newer readers.
  • Aggregate multiple, related blog posts and republish those as a comprehensive article on a topic.
  • Create videos to bring a more personal dimension to the evergreen content.
  • Write the opposite angle of evergreen blog posts. For example, if it’s about doing a certain number of things to accomplish a goal, write the list of things you should not do if you want to accomplish the same goal.
  • Expand a list post by writing the details behind each of the items, providing greater depth.
  • If you have a post that helps people learn how to do something or analyze a situation, turn it into a one-page download. This can make it an easy-to-use life or job aid.
  • Using a popular list post as the basis, create an infographic as a new download.

Those are all great ways to get new growth from your evergreen content.

Exploiting your most popular content in this way will make the hardest working elements of your content marketing strategy produce even more results! – Mike Brown
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On Tuesday, we were at the Kansas City Public Library to shoot videos featuring content from Brainzooming articles, downloads, and workshops. It was a whirlwind day. We shot twenty-five videos during the day to support our own brand’s content marketing strategy.

Yeah, twenty-five videos.

Videozooming, you might say.

I planned forty videos, but knew that wouldn’t likely happen.

15 Keys to Shooting 25 Social Media Videos in One Day

You might wonder how we made it through twenty-five videos in one day. Here are the factors (from my side of the camera as the person in all the videos) to enable our high volume of work. We:

  1. Partnered with a video team (Alex Bentzinger of Bentz Creative) who was flexible, and willing to work with strong direction.
  2. Picked a single location (The Kansas City Public Library) offering a wide variety of settings within one building (and we didn’t even use all the settings we planned).
  3. Made a site visit ahead of time to identify and discuss logistics.
  4. Completed a strategic creative brief ahead of time.
  5. Prepared an easy numbering system to identify and select which video to do next.
  6. Did not prepare specific scripts for any of the videos. This meant they didn’t have to be delivered perfectly; they just had to be delivered on topic and close to the time limits we set (less than 2 minutes each).
  7. Mapped where each video would likely happen so we could be time efficient within a specific location.
  8. Tried to plan for every potential delay by over-accounting for anything we might need.
  9. Organized all the props using the video numbering system, allowing for efficient placement.
  10. Selected multiple outfits and multiple shooting locations to efficiently create visual variety.
  11. Had someone directly representing the creative vision (Jan Harness, my erstwhile Creative Instigation partner) to check camera angles and how I was doing. That allowed me to concentrate on delivering messages.
  12. Had a contact at the location to help us navigate any issues we might create by shooting in places we weren’t exactly supposed to be shooting.
  13. Concentrated on the main content in the video, leaving the intros and calls-to-action for later when we have a stronger sense of how they need to work.
  14. Captured most of the videos in one take. Granted, this may be difficult to do, but it helped that we were talking about content that is familiar and core to what The Brainzooming Group does.
  15. Stuck to shooting the videos we identified upfront with only a few deviations to pursue ideas that developed during the day.

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 Expanding Our Content Marketing Strategy with Video

We’re looking forward to completing the production and expanding our content marketing strategy in a new way. We’ll be sharing the videos with clients and subscribers to expand how we deliver strategy, branding, and innovation tools for you! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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I’m excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.


Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – Mike Brown

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I’m scheduled for a background interview today on creating a thought leadership strategy. The interview is an outgrowth of an eBook on thought leadership. The eBook came from a workshop someone did at a conference I’ve spoken at many times. I suspect when someone asked a question at the workshop about who the audience considered as thought leaders, a long-time friend was audacious enough to suggest my name.

While I’m sure it was a completely sincere gesture, I think pursuing a thought leadership strategy isn’t something a brand or an individual should do.

You ARE NOT a Thought Leader

thought-leadership-strategy

My personal antipathy toward a thought leadership strategy stems from a situation during my corporate life. A peer was developing a “think piece” on the transportation industry and our company’s place in its future. When it finally reached our department, the cover email mentioned my co-worker had already shared the document with all the company’s thought leaders.

That struck a teammates (who is incredibly smart and savvy) and me as a telling statement about how far we were from being thought leaders. We took a vow to never pursue or try to claim thought leadership status from that day forward since the overwhelming evidence (at least in that email) was that we weren’t.

That incident and a strategic desire to live behind (and not in front of) the Brainzooming brand means we’ve not addressed pursuing a thought leadership strategy as a topic here – other than Woody Bendle’s hilarious and completely on-target perspective about “So You May Be a Thought Leader.” We have also never pitched a client on developing a thought leadership strategy or influencer marketing program.

Trying to craft a strategy around promoting your brand or yourself as a leader based on thinking certain things is a poor and mistakenly inward-focused strategy.

That’s why I tried to get out of the interview after seeing the questions and realizing all my answers would be negative. The interviewer persisted and suggested the article may be focused on providing a contrarian view of pursuing a thought leadership strategy.

What to Say about a Thought Leadership Strategy?

Trying to form positive recommendations about a thought leadership strategy that still recognize a brand’s intent to share its message, here are alternative strategies brands should  consider:

A Servant Leadership Strategy

Identify the incredible ways you can serve customers. Serve and benefit customers in ways no other brand has done, then write about the impact of putting customers first.

A Value Leadership Strategy

Provide more benefits to customers than you would ever be able to charge for on a routine basis. Push your brand to incredible leadership in delivering value. Then write about how a value advantage makes a huge difference for customers.

An Employee Leader Strategy

Pursue leadership through inviting your employees to participate in shaping your organization’s direction. Help employees develop as leaders. After that, write about the impact awaiting other organizations when they embrace broad employee involvement.

A Humility Leadership Strategy

Serve your community, individuals, the unfortunate, and underdogs in extraordinary ways. Create impact through helping others that can’t help themselves in tangible ways. But then DON’T write about those stories. Allow the people you’ve helped to decide whether and how THEY will communicate what you’ve done.

What to do?

Those are all ways we’ve tried to create stories that first and foremost benefit the audience, then incorporate positive brand messages.

Companies and individuals that try to lead in these areas are ones to emulate because they are DOING great things, not simply THINKING about things and trying to create a cult of thought leadership. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy that turns into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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