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I’m at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Dallas today, delivering a two-hour workshop on developing a branded content marketing strategy. The key is finding the right balance between employing outside-in topics and outside-in timing while still making sure your brand personality and messages come through clearly.

We recently conducted a dedicated content marketing strategy workshop for a client on this very topic. We worked with nearly thirty of its business and communication leaders to explore topics four different audience personas would find valuable and that the organization, a healthcare non-profit, could credibly address.

The client is a non-profit focused on healthcare. It entered the workshop with five profiles of target audience members that The Brainzooming Group helped them develop. These profiles, called personas, are three-to-five paragraph descriptions it developed describing specific individuals it serves, seeks to hire, or collaborates with in serving clients.  Small groups prepared the personas in advance by brainstorming answers to ten questions on each audience member.

The personas provided the basis for other workshop activities imagining topics audience members would be interested in and willing to read, watch, or listen to if the non-profit were to address them.

Here’s an overview of each of the strategic thinking exercises:

5 Content Marketing Strategy Exercises to Generate Audience-Oriented Topics

content-marketing-strategy-topics

What questions do audience members ask during the buying journey?

The initial exercise explored three phases of an audience member’s journey. The first phase (Awareness) encompassed their initial exploration as they became aware of an opportunity or issue an outside party might address. The second phase (Consideration) involved the audience member describing the relevant opportunity or issue and looking at organizations to help satisfy needs. The final phase (Decision) involved the audience member selecting, engaging, and evaluating the relationship with the outside party they chose.

Within each phase, the small groups identified questions audience members might ask. The comprehensive list of questions each group identified became the basis for the second content marketing exercise.

What topics address important audience questions?

The second exercise used questions from the first one to generate content topic ideas. For each audience question, participants suggested one or more topics or working titles. The topics they generated were not intended to communicate an overtly promotional brand message. Instead, the content would help audience members be smarter in their exploration, evaluation, decision-making, engagement, and post-purchase experiences. As the brand addresses topics of interest to audience members, it has the opportunity to subtly convey its helpfulness, expertise, and audience-focus through sharing beneficial content throughout has the audience journey.

Why do audience members select the brand?

Another exercise focused participants on the relationship stage where audience members either choose or do not choose the brand. Workshop participants identified five primary reasons audience members select the brand. They then identified five reasons audience members do not pick the brand. For each positive reason, they generated multiple topic ideas (of interest to audience members) that would back up the brand’s attractive characteristics. For reasons the brand was not selected, they brainstormed possible topics to help counter or refute misperceptions about the brand.

What do audience members say about the brand relationship?

One exercise focused on interactions audience members have with the brand further into the relationship using a 4-box grid. One axis listed “questions” and “statements.” The other listed “negative” or “positive” interactions.  Each of the four cells named a relevant situation and several questions to trigger potential topics. For instance, positive questions present “Education opportunities,” and negative questions signal “pain points.” Positive statements suggest highlighting ” brand value.” Negative comments indicate “objections to anticipate.” Questions associated with each of these four areas suggested jumping off points for additional topic ideas.

What do we think, know, and do that is relevant for audience members?

Audience members’ interests primarily extend beyond the brand’s traditional focus areas. That is why brands focusing only on content about themselves miss so many rich areas in which to share content. To counter this, one exercise explored areas in which audience members exhibit interests, seek information, and focus priorities. For each of the areas identified, participants generated audience-oriented topics. They made the brand connection to the audience based on what the brand thinks about audience interest areas, knows about the information they seek, and does relative to their priorities.

Coming Away with Plenty of Audience-Oriented Topic Ideas

During the Brainzooming content marketing strategy workshop, participants generated hundreds of potential content topics. Before adjourning, each person walked the room to review the topics and select those they thought had particular potential to interest audience members.

The next step is documenting all the topics on a content calendar. This enables the brand to address topics in an organized fashion across the year when, as they can best determine, audience members are most interested in the information.

If you want to learn more about specific details of this approach, contact us. Let’s collaborate to develop richer content that matters to your audiences. – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on social media and content marketing can boost your success!

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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On Friday, June 17th, I was in Curaçao, located just north of Venezuela, to present a ¾ day workshop on social media and content marketing strategy for the Curaçao Tourist Board. Angelo Harms, the CTB’s digital marketing manager, was a great host and arranged the content marketing strategy workshop for eighty social media professionals in the island’s travel and hospitality industry.

Curacao Workshop Pic 2

For everyone that attended the workshop (and for those of you that weren’t there), here are links to much of the content I presented, plus a number of bonus topics I would have included given another day of teaching time!

The workshop and the entire trip generated a lot of questions, learnings, and lessons. Look for a variety of blogged posts planned for the near future to share more about content marketing, branding, and customer service learned going to and from this wonderful island.

If you’re looking for a new, warm, colorful, photogenic place to vacation, you owe it to yourself to visit Curaçao!

43 Resources for Strategic Branding and Engagement with Social Media and Content Marketing

Linking Business Objectives to Social and Content Marketing

Curacao Cover

Creating Fantastic Branded Content

Boosting Productivity as a Small Solo Social Media Department

Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on social media and content marketing can boost your success!

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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Today at the Social Media Strategy Summit, along with Kaite Stover, Director of Readers’ Services at the Kansas City Public Library, I’m presenting a fun case study. The presentation is about how the Kansas City Public Library was able to “sponsor bomb” the 2015 Major League Baseball Playoffs and World Series with a book spine poetry campaign.

In short, the Library used images of multiple stacked books chosen so that the combined titles communicated messages to tweak the baseball teams (and the libraries in their communities) with pro-Kansas City Royals messages.

Sponsor-bomb-book-spine-poe

BTW, did I mention the Kansas City Royals are the 2015 World Champions? Just checking . . . wanted to make sure you knew that!

While The Brainzooming Group wasn’t involved in developing the social media strategy behind the World Series sponsor bomb, we’ve been working with the Library on branding and event strategy. Knowing how smart the social media strategy for the World Series sponsor bomb campaign was, we brought the story and the tremendous impact from the initiative to the attention of Breanna Jacobs, the Social Media Strategy Summit producer.

Kaite will cover the Kansas City Public Library social media strategy and implementation from start to finish. I’ll share lessons for other brands in how they might envision comparable sponsor bomb opportunities for their own brands.

Social Media Strategy – 5 Keys to Sponsor Bomb a High-Profile Event

If you aren’t with us in Chicago, here are the smart things the Kansas City Public Library did to make the strategy as effective as it was:

Here’s hoping the Royals go all the way again in 2016 so we can see what the Kansas City Public Library does with the next chapter of its book spine poetry sponsor bomb strategy!  – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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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This afternoon, I’m leading a three-hour Brainzooming workshop on creating branded content marketing at the Social Media Strategy Summit in Chicago. While it’s nice to be able to stretch with more time (typically these content marketing workshops are two hours at the Social Media Strategy Summit), I still feel as if there will be a lot of material that we won’t have time to fully cover.

Chicago-Image

In the branded content marketing workshop, we’ll look at generating appropriately branded content from multiple directions.

As a resource if this area is something you are struggling with in your organization, here are links to some of the topics on branded content marketing we’ll cover . . . and some that we won’t:

Taking an Audience-First Perspective

Staying True to Your Brand without Overdoing It

Experience and Interaction-Based Content for Your Brand

Expanding Brand-Related Content Options

Coming at your branded content marketing from these four different directions will open up all kinds of new possibilities.

Here’s the intriguing thing: having rearranged the content into these four groups (which don’t sync with the seven lessons in the workshop as it stands right now), I’m thinking (as I write this over the preceding weekend) that I’m going to rearrange the entire branded content marketing workshop. That’s how much I like this approach!  – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes
to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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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When should a brand create content itself versus outsourcing content creation to an outside agency?

That was one content marketing strategy question attendees asked in the solo social media workshop I presented at the Social Media Strategies Summit.

SMSS_Graphic

We have a significant bias toward handling content creation inside a company as part of its integrated content marketing strategy. Unlike typical marketing communications, press releases, brochures, direct mail, etc., content creation for social media platforms necessitates an authentic sense of the brand personality, IF it’s going to be successful. Being so intimate with the brand personality and what it represents in every dimension isn’t something an outside communicator can easily do. Additionally, an outside communicator often isn’t present to capture the video, images, and interviews in the moment as robust content sources.

Having said this, there are instances where outsourcing content creation can make sense. This can also extend to outsourcing curating and sharing content in some situations as part of a brand’s content marketing strategy.

7 Situations for Outsourcing Content Creation

Here are seven situations where we think outsourcing content creation and other related functions is viable:

  1. Adapting internally-generated content so it fits with targeted social media platforms.
  2. The brand is willing to invest resources in an outside communicator to become immersed in the brand both initially and on an on-going basis.
  3. Individuals inside the company are the face and/or voice of the content an outside communicator edits or rewrites, videos/photographs, or translates into social media-appropriate formats.
  4. Designing the strategy and platform for a brand to communicate content via social media networks.
  5. Curating content that fits the brand’s strategy.
  6. Scheduling the brand’s content across channels, in effect becoming the DJ for internally created content.
  7. Conducting social media listening for the brand.

One outsourced social media situation you don’t see listed is a brand farming out 100% of its content creation.

There may be other situations that make sense, but this is where we stand on this content marketing strategy question.  – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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 initially saw something about last Friday’s events via a TV turned to ESPN way across a restaurant. After making it back to a computer and starting to learn more about what happened, I followed our own advice and pulled our social sharing on Twitter and Facebook for the weekend.

Other than some private messages, silence seemed the appropriate response personally.

Photo by: madochab | Source: photocase.com

Photo by: madochab | Source: photocase.com

Facebook and CNN accounted for most of the news, opinions, and speculation I saw over the course of the weekend. Facebook was awash in representations of France’s flag, the Eiffel Tower, and pictures of people when they were in Paris at some point.

I’m always cautious about any brand, building, or organization news drafting on a tragic event. While I’m sure there’s sincerity in changing a building’s lights to represent another country’s flag, I’m skeptical of how a brand or organization decides to do this for one tragedy over another. Does the brand have any real ties to the tragedy? Does it show solidarity with other tragedies? Is at least some part of the motivation getting social media shares and exposure during a high attention news event?

In fact, there were stories over the weekend that everyone was largely ignoring a bombing in the Middle East the day before that was equally tragic.

Ultimately these brands and organizations have to decide when and where to participate.

On the individual side, I also wrestle with Facebook jumping into the tragic story with the “handy-dandy color your profile photo to show your support” app.

While there were blog posts explaining why individuals were deciding NOT to change their profile photos, my nephew, Derrick Sorensen, conveyed in just a few words in a Facebook post what I’d been struggling to articulate about the phenomenon:

 “Do the people who change their profile pictures to the French flag actually care about the situation or are you just doing it because its trending, 130 people passed away yes its tragic but we just had Veterans day not long ago and everybody had flags and hashtags for a day But those didn’t last very long either so my question is what do you really care about here, maybe we should care more about the bigger issues longer than a day….okay now you guys can go back to your red Starbucks cup arguments.”

That’s as close as I’ve been able to come to saying why I went with prayers (even though some didn’t want them, sadly) and didn’t put an overlay on my Facebook profile.

The most impactful post of the weekend was a Facebook message from one of the survivors. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror she and everyone else faced.

Amid all the tragedy, there were a couple of other links I saved:

I like to conclude blog posts with answers and helpful suggestions. Today, I have neither to offer. – Mike Brown

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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Our cat, Clementine, passed away this weekend, just shy of her seventeenth birthday.

While I haven’t shared much about her on the Brainzooming blog, I discovered over the weekend how many people she had touched as the only bona fide social media celebrity at The Brainzooming Group.

Clementine was a beautiful and unique looking cat. She resembled the original Gremlin in the movie of the same name. After our last “my cat” passed away in 2010, Clementine attached to me. She was the first one I’d typically see in the morning. She hung out with me when I got ready each day. She’d be in the home office as soon as I was, jumping up on the desk to see what was going on, and typically to take a nap. During my last milestone birthday, Clementine was the only one in the house who spent time with me. She frequently provided the only greeting I’d receive when coming home, especially when it was a late flight returning from a business trip.

Clementine Facebook Photo Montage

The Director of Enthusiasm

One day, I think it was on Twitter, I posted something about Clementine being in the middle of things on my desk. Someone (I SO wish I could remember the person), said it was obvious Clementine was our “Director of Enthusiasm.” Trust me, I am not the kind to think of giving a cat a title. But I started referring to Clementine as the Director of Enthusiasm (or “DOE”) on Facebook when posting funny pictures of her; she became a mini-celebrity. Clementine was not in Grumpy Cat’s league (although people thought she had a grumpy look despite being anything but grumpy). Her social media presence, however, added a lighter and more personable stream of content to our brand. People seemed to be interested in her; when I went to events, I can’t tell you how many questions I’d receive asking how the Director of Enthusiasm was doing.

99-PROBS-Clem

Heck, Karen Harrison of FullyFeline.com even requested that Clementine write a blog post about her life as an executive cat. Karen also ran a tribute to Clementine on the very popular Fully Feline Facebook page on Sunday.

Taking a Blog Break

Because of all the time she spent with me the last few years, her passing has hit me hard.

The weekend is usually my main blogging time. Quite honestly, I was NOT in a mood for writing this weekend. I wasn’t in a mood for doing much of anything other than reading the incredible comments on Facebook about how much Clementine meant to people. Those comments created both incredible joy and many tears. I guess it’s all part of working through the emotions.

Anyway, that break from writing this weekend means a blog hiatus this week. I’ll be at a conference through Friday, concentrating on learning, so not trying to get the blog written will provide focus. It will also offer an opportunity to reflect and get to a happier place since for the foreseeable future, I’ll have to generate my own enthusiasm.

Because while The Brainzooming Group might have a DOCAP (Director of Creativity and Purring) in the future, there will never be another Director of Enthusiasm. Mike Brown

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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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