About Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising/media analyst at Altimeter Group, is globally recognized as an expert on digital marketing, advertising, publishing and media. An author, and sought-after speaker, she's the former vice president of Econsultancy's US operations. She was VP and editor-in-chief of The ClickZ Network for over seven years. For a portion of that time, Rebecca also ran Search Engine Watch. She consults on content strategy for a variety of brands and professional trade organizations. Earlier, Rebecca held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services consultancies, including Siegel+Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann's RTL Television. As a journalist, she's written on media for numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She spent five years as Variety's Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Until recently, Rebecca taught at New York University's Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group. Her book, The Truth About Search Engine Optimization, published by FT Press, instantly became a best-seller on Amazon.com. It remains a top-10 title in several Internet marketing categories. Content Marketing publishes in Fall, 2011.

How to Foster a Culture of Content

Screenshot 9:16:14, 5:23 AMA couple of years ago, I researched content marketing maturity in the enterprise. We identified five phases of maturity, the highest one being the very aspirational level of actually monetizing content; organizations from Red Bull to Coke to Kraft have been able to actually sell their content marketing.

That’s clearly not going to happen for every brand practicing content marketing, nor should it. A far more attainable and worthy goal is phase four of our maturity model: fostering a culture of content. That is, evangelizing the importance and impact of content marketing not only across all sectors of the marketing division, but across the enterprise itself. It means getting senior management, sales, customer service, operations, product, HR, IT, and the rest of the company (as well as partners, such as agencies) educated and informed about content.

Many misunderstand this as a “find the bloggers” initiative. And sure, it’s always great to identify, inspire, and encourage the development of content creators who have real domain knowledge and expertise, not to mention channels of communication into relevant sectors and target markets.

But a genuine culture of content goes far beyond enabling and empowering content creators outside of marketing.

It’s about education: what content can achieve and how those achievements might benefit them. This means fewer calls to customer service, for example, if that department can help surface issues and problems that can be addressed with content (with the additional benefit of savings).

It’s about finding more content or topics for content, perhaps from an offsite, conference, or convention where marketing isn’t attending but customers or executives are.

It’s about employee advocacy. Employees can showcase an organization as a great place to work or provide behind-the-scenes expertise where it’s needed around products (or projects).

It’s about executive buy-in. When the C-suite understands content and the role that it plays, it is more willing and able to get behind programs that spread content culturally. (This is why Nestlé’s Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital, arranged a Silicon Valley “field trip” for that company’s senior leadership — to imbue them in the culture and potential of digital communications.)

This week, at Content Marketing World, Kraft Food’s Julie Fleisher discussed company-wide initiatives around content, such as building a software platform that integrates with enterprise functions around data and CRM, and also an educational program spanning hundreds of employees and a few dozen agency partners to boot, to get everyone on the same page around content.

We’re going to see many more enterprises rally around the culture of content, creating training and evangelism programs to spread the word and foster participation. This will result in better marketing and hopefully, more openness and transparency insofar as consumers are concerned.

What has your company done lately to foster a culture of content? I’d love to hear your stories.

This post originally published on iMedia Connection

Image creditCaitlin Yardley Cell Theory: Culture Dish III 2009 

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Content Marketing: What To Measure Beyond Sales & Leads

How should content be measured and analyzed? Let us count the ways (or at least begin to).

This column is intended to be an informal sounding board for ideas. Summer’s over and it’s time to get cracking on new research. Next up (in my capacity as a research analyst): content metrics.

My goal on this next project (which I’m undertaking with fellow analyst Susan Etlinger, a specialist in data and analytics) will not merely focus on how companies are measuring the most obvious content marketing goals, such as ROI, or increased sales, leads and conversions. We’re hoping to dig deeper and learn more about some of the less obvious content marketing benefits, as well as to uncover best practices for establishing content KPIs and putting processes into place to measure success.

We’re only just kicking this off, but here are some of the other, the more unexpected, areas that qualify as content marketing KPIs. Measurement practices are just beginning to emerge around these KPIs, and we’ll doubtless uncover more as we begin to research in earnest. Remember: this list deliberately does not include ROI, sales or lead-related metrics.

Customer Service

Brands have long used digital content to help customers to help themselves. Can that value be measured, e.g. the cost of solving an issue with content rather than a much more expensive call center?  Sony’s European Forum & Community Manager, Nico Henderijckx, recently shared great stats around how he calculates value. A recent how-to troubleshooting post, written by a super user on a Sony community site, was viewed by 42,000 visitors. The average call center call costs the brand €7. So the potential value of this one post was €294,000 (7 x 42,000).

Moreover, Henderijckx throws an annual offsite conference for the 45 super users of Sony’s European community to encourage their continued participation. They leverage this in-person opportunity to shoot over 300 videos of those users which are later shared with the broader community audience. More content!

Workflow/Efficiency

Companies that have no problem understanding the value of content marketing still struggle to streamline processes, collaboration and efficiency. Great content comes at a cost – and, like all processes, efficiency is a goal. That’s why I love this recent case study (via Percolate) on how Unilever managed to save $10M annually on content production costs.  As brands become even more sophisticated, they’ll begin to measure how content saves money in a converged media environment.

Reusing, repurposing and optimizing existing content can translate into savings across paid and earned media, as well as on creative and agency services.

Employee Engagement/Advocacy

Not unrelated to efficiency is the role content can play in employee engagement and advocacy – but it goes beyond that as well. Employees who are trained and comfortable with digital content can communicate (often, far better than senior leadership) on a variety of levels and with a range of constituencies, ranging from customer care to sales to recruiting and sales.

Engagement & Amplification

Shares, comments, pass-alongs. “Engagement” is a vague word indeed, but there are many, many instances of content marketing achieving as much reach as paid media, at a fraction of the cost of a campaign that a media buy would entail.

Take the tech company that engaged influencers to create content on topics related to their products (importantly, not about the actual products or brand) and, with disclosure, promote the pieces in their networks. This resulted in 1.1 million interactions – an average 128,000 shares per piece of content. In a B2B context, that amounts to paid media reach without the cost of a paid media buy.

There are a host more potential KPIs: purchase intent, brand sentiment, customer retention, recruitment, consumer insights, feedback and product development/improvement – all of which can be fostered, nurtured and measured with content marketing underpinned by a solid strategy.

That’s what I’m going to spend this Fall season researching. Let me know if you have other examples or great case studies of the less obvious side of measuring content.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Content Marketing Software RFP: A Framework to Determine Needs & Solicit Proposals

Seven Steps of Content Marketing Software Selection

Download the Full Report

New strategies demand new processes. And in a digital world, new processes demand new technology.

This couldn’t hold more true for the burgeoning content marketing sector. We’re fond of saying that content is the atomic particle of all marketing. Without it, there’s no owned media, but also no social, no PR and no advertising (where it’s called “creative”).

Brands and agencies alike are scrambling to create content, and also to distribute it, measure it, target and optimize it. To do so, they require tools.

Altimeter Group recently took a hard look at the burgeoning content marketing software landscape, and helped break down content marketing into use cases and scenarios to help marketers identify their needs as well as pinpoint the vendors in the space who might be able to address them. But that’s only the beginning of a solution to a large disconnect between need and solution.

As a content software vendor recently put it, “Most brands aren’t yet able to clearly articulate their content marketing needs or end KPIs. This makes creating an RFP and asking the right questions incredibly difficult.” Brands [and agencies] can’t frame “what’s needed” or how to get to the end goal.

This is where our new report: Content Marketing Software RFP: A Framework to Determine Needs & Solicit Proposals comes in. We recognize that existing RFP templates cannot be retrofitted to the task of soliciting content marketing solutions due to a number of specific challenges:

  • Establishing content governance, processes, strategy, and inter-departmental coordination.
  • Matching content software needs to planned investments.
  • Finding solutions that scale toward the future (e.g. new technologies, vendor partners, or channels).
  • Scoping software integration requirements, both with other marketing software, and often with enterprise software packages such as CRM or customer data.
  • Accommodate existing workflows and processes – it’s much more difficult to retrofit process to software than the inverse.
  • Winnow down to a shortlist which vendors may meet requirements.

Our report includes a two part, customizable template that guides marketers and agencies through our recommended process. First, by helping them to conduct an internal assessment and soliciting key stakeholders for input and priorities. And second, creating an RFP to be used with selected vendors. This second part contains both essential background information and a response sheet for the vendor.

All in all, there are seven steps to this process, including looking beyond marketing into cross-functional needs, as well as integration with other software systems.

We hope our report and template facilitates your own proposal process, and welcome feedback on where it’s working, and where it can use improvement.

Download the Full Report

Additional Resources

Cross-posted with the Altimeter Group blog

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How Much Does Content Cost?

How much does content marketing cost?

Tough question, right? So let’s break the question down a bit to try to simplify it.

How much does content creation cost?

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There are still no easy answers, are there? Yet it’s a question marketers persist in asking, in much the same way people were asking back in the day, “How much does a website cost?” (Once, when my interrogator wouldn’t take “It depends” for an answer, in exasperation I countered with, “Well, how much does it cost to buy a house?”)

But even a website (or a house, for that matter) is much more easily quantifiable than content marketing when it comes to breaking down budgets and expenditures. It’s difficult to impossible to conduct credible research in this area due to a list of variables and mitigating factors longer than your arm.

Attempts At Quantifying Costs Aren’t All That Helpful

There’s research out there. The Content Marketing Institute, in its latest study (PDF) of content marketing budgets for small businesses, states, “On average, 30% of B2B budgets are allocated to content marketing.”

Helpful, kind of, but there’s no breakdown of that self-reported spend. What one business may be spending on a clear content marketing line item (outsourced writing or design talent, for example), another might attribute to event marketing, which has plenty of content marketing potential and traction, but is highly debatable as a line item in and of itself.

The Custom Content Council publishes research around budgets as well. Its research looks at how much its members are spending on “branded” content. This primarily translates into advertorial, which is assuming other meanings as well, e.g. native advertising, a form of converged media (content + advertising). Such nuances of meaning are barely beginning to be accepted as industry standard, so it’s unlikely they’re crystal clear to every individual survey respondent.

This isn’t to cast aspersions on anyone’s research, but to frame the discussion. Let’s consider some of the mitigating factors in the “how much does content cost” question.

Why It’s More Difficult Than One Might Think

• Salaries: The overwhelming majority of organizations don’t yet have dedicated content roles or staff, but instead source content from a wide variety of internal sources: marketing, product leads, customer service, senior leadership, etc. When considering content costs, are content contributors’ salaries broken out in terms of time spent, or the percentage of their time dedicated to content?

• Freelance Creation Fees:  Unlike staff only partially dedicated to content, freelance fees are a much clearer line item. But if images are commissioned for advertising, then used in content (or vice versa), where’s the budget attribution? What about those press releases that were outsourced? Is it communications or PR, or is it content ? Even when outsourced, the lines blur around content budgets – or lack of same.

• Agency BillingsIf you accept the definition of content marketing that it’s owned media and therefore precludes a media buy, you can deduct media spend from content marketing budgets straightway (Or can you? We’ll get into that below.). That leaves agency creative, which is subject to the same blurred lines as are freelance creation fees.

• Software/Hardware Are marketers including their investments in the tools of the trade in their content marketing budget breakdowns? If so, which ones? The ones around creation? Measurement? Syndication and distribution? Recent research I just published breaks down eight use case scenarios for content tools, yet I don’t know that any of these are included (or not) in content marketing budgets or costs (amortized or not).

• Paid and Earned Media If you build it, they may come. Then again, they may not. With so many marketers jumping on the content marketing bandwagon, more and more of them are finding it necessary to invest in paid (advertising ) and earned (social and PR) media to draw attention to their content efforts, at least at the beginning to foster awareness. Where do these costs fall in the budget: content, PR, social, advertising, or all or none of the above?

• Converged Media While we’re on the topic of paid, owned and earned media, it’s clear the three are intermingling to form new types of marketing and advertising. We define native advertising, for example, as content + advertising (or owned + paid media). You can immediately see where the lines blur when content is created modularly for different types of media channels, or used in converged channels that create multiple attributions.

• Events (And Other “Generated” Sources Of Content): A corporate event, a conference, a trade show, a customer showcase – these are all marketing and sales line items, but they generate content, too. It’s not unusual for a single speech, for example to be blogged, tweeted, Slideshared, YouTubed – you name it. All are forms of content marketing, yet the core intent of the content wasn’t necessarily content marketing. Another content budget grey area – and yet one more reason why the cost of content will remain highly nebulous for a good, long time to come.

 

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Investing in Content Tools? Get Out the Vote!

Lately I’ve been doing a ton of work around the content marketing vendor landscape: conducting research, as well as helping clients ascertain what their technology needs are and pinpoint the vendors that can solve their problems.

Again and again, one step arises in this process that’s absolutely essential and mission-critical both for the short and long term success of any content marketing technology investment, yet it’s also one too often overlooked by stakeholders: soliciting shareholder input into the decision making process.

Gathering cross-functional input goes far beyond getting stakeholder requirements – though requirements are, of course, critical.

After identifying the broad outlines of your organization’s content needs, the next step is to identify stakeholders and end-users both within and outside of the marketing organization and solicit them for their requirements, input, and collaboration. It’s important to gather requirements across teams: cross-functionally as well as across workflows.

Some brands actually submit mini-internal RFPs or surveys to stakeholders to help gain very specific documented input on needs, pain points, and feature requests. Not only does this step help identify needs that may have been overlooked, but collaboration also creates a sense of ownership and goes far to facilitate end-user adoption.

The alternative? Tools are foisted upon the teams that will use them. The very human reaction is – almost universally – pushback. Not a very desirable scenario.

Another reason to solicit stakeholder feedback when selecting content tools is integration concerns, and integration almost always goes far beyond marketing. Content marketing tools can easily require integration with enterprise systems ranging from HR to data, storage platforms to customer service, even finance.

What’s the Big Idea?

When circulating the feedback request, including the purpose of the exercise and vision and is critical. Carlos Abler, 3M’s Online Content Strategy lead puts it this way,“Never lose and opportunity to ‘sell’ the idea to stakeholders in order to gain the deepest and must useful stakeholder input, and to rally their support for the long haul and how departments are benefited. Note that there are cross-functional benefits that can be highlighted, such as optimized asset sharing, customer/audience knowledge sharing, economy of effort, and long term reduced redundancy and effort.”

Compiling stakeholder feedback to glean insights, ideas, ideas you may have overlooked and pattern recognition is essential. Getting out the vote is obviously not a democratic process. A person or committee is charged with leading the selection process, and lead they will. But the input of the people who will be using the technology informs not only better decisions, but also better, smoother adoption once that final decision has been reached and investment is made.

We like to end of questionnaire to stakeholders with a single, vital question to distill the process to its essence:

If this new tool could accomplish just One Thing, what would that thing be?

Food for thought – and invaluable input for decision making.

This column originally published on iMedia.

 

 

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Quick! What’s a Digital Newsroom?

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What’s a digital newsroom?

Seems like such a simple question, until you start pondering the potential answers.

The question arose the other day in discussion with an agency client. We were discussing the competitive landscape; how a variety of digital agencies, PR agencies, and the brands they serve are all beginning to establish digital newsrooms.

But what does that even mean?

Do these entities create news? Media relations? Branded content? Social media? Advertising? Native advertising? Brand journalism? Native advertising? Some, or all, of the above?

“Real” newsrooms aside (à la New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other news outlets), the term “newsroom,” like so many digital marketing terms, means many things to many people.

Conduct a search on Google and some media relations sites rank high, such as the  Intel Newsroom. So does Red Bull’s Content Pool, constantly updated with a rich variety of extreme sports material, much of it premium and available for license to commercial media companies for a fee.

The Cisco Newsroom also ranks high for the term newsroom – it’s a hybrid technology news and company news site.

Other tech brands run what you’d consider more traditional newsrooms.  Dell’s Tech Page One is branded content – but also the only branded content site that has passed Google News’ rigorous hurdles for qualifying as “real” news and making it into that feed.

Marketers at one major brand I know of were touring digital news publications last year, studying how their operations worked, in advance of setting up their own newsroom operations, while a direct competitor was hiring seasoned journalists to do exactly that in-house.

Those same journalists are also decamping to PR firms, which are setting up their own newsroom operations. Weber Shandwick’s mediaco and Edelman’s Creative Newsroom, which both launched last year, are newsrooms staffed by former newspaper, television and magazine staffers, as well as digital and content strategists, planners, analysts and syndicators. They’re creating not just “news,” but also content for owned and social media, as well as multimedia production.

Agencies can get hyper-specific with the definition and focus of a newsroom. Deep Focus’ social media newsroom Moment Studio creates Facebook content for Pepsi and Purina.

Adidas recently announced it will establish video “digital newsrooms around the world” for its shoe brands to tap into trending topics and real-time marketing.

Clearly, there’s no one definition of a digital newsroom, there’s not even a single defined purpose or function. Unless you’re an actual news organization, the purpose – even the reason for being – of a newsroom is governed by one principal only: content strategy.

This post originally published on iMedia

Photo Credit: The Front Page

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No, Social Advertising Isn’t “Over”

Murky research collided with lazy journalism last week to create a torrent of #socialmedia + #advertising = #fail link bait. Headlines in publications generally deemed respectable, and journalistically responsible, heralded the end of social media marketing.

“Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype” trumpeted The Wall Street Journal. “This Is the New Stat Facebook Should Be Worrying About,” tsk-tsked Time. “Tweets, Likes, and Shares Don’t Make Us Buy Stuff, Americans Say,” echoed Bloomberg Businessweek. “Advertising On Facebook And Twitter Barely Even Works” came from Business Insider, and most pithily, Valleywag added, “Social Media Ads Don’t Do Shit.”

The root of this social-media-don’t-work brouhaha was a Gallup report entitled “The State of the American Consumer.” It professed that 62 percent of U.S. consumers do not believe the major social networking platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, affect their purchase decisions. Additionally, Gallup claims 48 percent of Millennial shoppers are uninfluenced by social media when it comes to buying stuff.

So much for the $5.1 billion advertisers spent on social advertising last year (not to mention billions more on social media marketing programs).

The lone voice of sanity in the media was a well-reported piece in Adweek, pointing out that not only is Gallup using data from late 2012 to make this dubious point, but worse, the data are self reported. No brand or agency would ever in a million years rely on self-reported data to assess or measure ad effectiveness. Self-reported data are near-worthless.

Google the term, in fact, and you’ll come up with results such as: “Self-reported studies have validity problems” and “notoriously unreliable.”

Moreover, as Adweek pointed out in a long voice-of-reason article on the topic (disclosure: I’m quoted), Gallup’s data were collected close to two years ago — a near eternity in internet time, and to top that, some respondents were polled by snail mail, a strange channel indeed to select for research on digital influence.

Looking beyond the dubious self-reported data, the digital equivalent of saying, “Sure, I saw a commercial on TV but didn’t buy the product so advertising doesn’t work,” some of the questions Gallup posed are strong indicators that social channels are indeed powerful platforms for persuasion and influence. The questions below indicate, aside from the obvious social connections, consumers spend time on social sites to share knowledge, research companies (and by extension, products), find and/or create reviews and product info, etc.

Even Gallup admits as much:

“However, companies can use social media to engage and boost their customer base. Consumers appreciate the highly personal and conversational nature of social media sites, and they prefer interacting in an open dialogue as opposed to receiving a hard sell. And companies’ use of social media to provide timely responses to questions and complaints accelerates brand loyalty and, eventually, sales. When it comes to social media efforts, businesses stand to benefit when they utilize a more service-focused approach rather than one dedicated to simply pushing their products.”

Yet this statement from Gallup seems not to be tied to any specific data from the survey.

Murky research conclusions and methodologies aside, Gallup’s deeply flawed research, and the editorial properties that piled on with link bait headlines, really did do a disservice.

We know that social platforms influence consumer buying decisions. The problem is, headlines in The Wall Street Journal, even erroneous ones, influence CEO decisions, too.

This post originally published on iMedia.

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