There were some fascinating perspectives on content marketing and strategy at the inaugural Content Marketing Show held at the Conway Hall in London last week. Run by SiteVisibility’s Kelvin Newman, the conference looked at how brands are harnessing the confluence of social media, online PR, and SEO, and included some great presentations from a variety of excellent speakers.

For me, the concepts that resonated most from a PR perspective were those of using data to understand, craft, improve and target your content; the ‘business’ of influence, and thinking about digital content in terms of being a ‘stream’ rather than a static ‘page’ or collection of disparate stories.

Artistry and influence

Defined as a ‘technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action’, you could be forgiven for thinking content marketing is yet another marketing buzzword.

But it’s worth remembering that content today has a seemingly insurmountable fight for attention. And as Euler Partners’ Philip Sheldrake reminded us when evoking the image of rows of monkeys sitting at typewriters [has he been to Aspectus Towers?], creating content is relatively easy in the digital age, but getting humans to see it, and crucially, to act on it (i.e. to influence or be influenced) is where the artistry comes in.

Taking this point further was uSwitch’s Lauren Pope, who explained how an agile approach to content strategy enabled uSwitch to develop its website around its content and refresh and build-out successful content as part of a continuous cycle (or ‘iterate’ to use the software developer vernacular). Harnessing data is central to this concept, said Lauren. By analysing conversions, page views, bounce rate, time on page, and social actions, the team at uSwitch identifies what content works well. It then continues to develop successful content and effectively ‘kills’ that which is not.

Stock and flow

Lauren also touched on using ‘personas’, an approach that came up a number of times during the conference. She said it is important because it puts the user and what they’re trying to achieve at the heart of what you do, and because this approach starts with a problem or a need, leaving you free to explore different solutions.

Another concept referenced numerous times and which formed the centrepiece of the interestingly-titled ‘How to win at Pooh Sticks’ by BrainJuicer’s Tom Ewing, was that of viewing content (or ‘things on the internet’) as a stream. The stream, said Tom, comprises the opinions coming at social media users like the notes that float towards you in the Rock Band video game. It is into this stream that brands and marketers are hurling their content – like pooh sticks!

Aside from talking pooh sticks [sorry Tom, couldn’t resist], he also looked at how ‘stock and flow’ as a metaphor drawn from economics applies in the online world. Here, he said ‘stock’ is the content published by brands, and ‘flow’ is the stream of posts and Tweets. You cannot divert the stream, he argued, but you can shape it (much like a horoscope). And while we [the brands and media publishing on the web] have become obsessed with flow, Tom believes we should be focusing more on crafting stock.

Massive data, big thanks

Returning to the theme of data – and Big data specifically – was Antony May at Brilliant Noise, who spoke about the personal nature of storytelling and how it doesn’t really scale that well on the web in conventional form.

Citing examples of how recent campaigns have successfully employed Big data to tell the right stories at the right time – e.g. the lessons learned from the Obama campaign during the 2012 US elections – Antony stressed the importance of being able to both tell and listen to stories, and using joined-up data to both refine your strategy and scale your story streams one-to-many.

There were other great concepts covered off by Zazzle Media’s Simon Penson (The great content robbery); Caliberi’s Ian Humphreys (Content marketing and narrative); and Linkdex’ Matt Roberts (Writing content that resonates with influencers). And for esteemed compatriots in the content creation business, it’s well worth checking out BlueGlass’s Chelsea Blacker’s presentation on Evergreen content: The art of recycling resources.

A massive ‘thank you’ goes out to Kelvin and the team at BrightonSEO, as well as all the speakers at this year’s Content Marketing Show. I’m looking forward to next year’s show – provided I can get a ticket! (this year’s show was free and was fully-booked within four minutes)

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