Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Stop the Content Marketing Naysayers

If you’re doing content marketing right in your organization, you’re going to ruffle a few feathers. I’ll say it again—if you’re doing content marketing right in your organization, people are going to feel uncomfortable. That’s good news for you, because it means that you are truly affecting change.  It may be challenging, though, because the naysayers and the Debbie downers may influence others to doubt your efforts.

I’ve found three ways to inspire a content marketing culture in any organization—no matter the industry, size or people involved. I use the word inspire deliberately because you should be excited about using this methodology to spark and sustain conversations with your target audiences. Inspiration is a word that suggests momentum and dynamism, and I want you to feel inspired.

I also know that it can be difficult to be the one in the organization constantly beating the drum; always reminding people of the Big Hairy Audacious Idea (BHAG) to attract and engage audiences with valuable, secret-revealing digital content. 

3 Ways to Inspire an Effective Content Marketing Culture

Here are three effective solutions for inspiring a content marketing culture AND keeping the naysayers at bay:

  1. Set expectations: Any strategic, sound content marketing pilot project is going to take six to nine months to show measurable results. If it takes shorter, celebrate the wins! However, most companies will see that it takes time to move the needle. Let people know you’re in it for the long haul, so they won’t stop proselytizing apocalyptic digital doom too soon.
  2. Define roles: In absolutely every publishing organization (and if you’re doing content marketing, you’re a publisher), everyone who touches content needs to understand the role they play in the process.  So, follow the chart below to define everyone’s roles. The people in supportive roles should feel direct influence over the success of the content marketing campaign, as well as a general sense of satisfaction that comes from taking part in a larger undertaking.             
Creates Assignments
Sources Content
Writing & Sourcing
Final Approval
Prepare content for distribution
Distribute content
Analyze content performance & behavior

  1. Define emotional roles: This one is most important, I think, but I leave it for last because it’s hard to understand until you try tactics 1 and 2.  There are people who don’t want to be visionary and embrace a new, strategic approach to digital communications and content. For the people who are excited, and who do want to beat the drum, you need to provide a place in their head to file the professionals slower to change.
  2. Everyone needs to know where he or she falls in the details vs. vision, content creator vs. keeper of the brand roles.

Understanding the Emotional Content Marketing Matrix

Look at the “emotional content marketing matrix” below:

·       Enterpriser: The person who isn’t involved in the daily weeds of decisions but keeps everything moving at the 10,000-foot level. He or she can see the entire branding/marketing puzzle.
·       Producer: This professional keeps the project going and moving—the master juggler. He or she understands coordinating with the artist.
·       Artist: The creative personality, this person is always coming up with new ideas. But he or she may get tired of the people in the organization who are constantly questioning content marketing efforts. That’s why the artist turns to the keeper of the flame for inspiration and encouragement. 
·       Keeper of the Flame: He or she answers the question, “Why are we doing this again?” This is the drum beater—the owner of the BHAG—who cheerleads and keeps everyone focused on the vision of what you’re trying to do with content marketing.
(Hat tip to Neeraj Bhagat for showing me this matrix in a different context).

Where are you on the chart? For some content marketing professionals, you may be serving all four roles. That’s too many—so you need to bring in the people from your organization who are going to help you sustain the vision AND get the work done.
Again, if you’re content marketing the way it should be done, there are going to be people within your corporate culture who may not be 100 percent supportive. That’s ok. Set their expectations, define their roles and identify who they are on the emotional content marketing matrix. You will set up an inspirational culture destined for content marketing success.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why your Brochure-First Approach is Killing your Marketing

So many of us start by saying something like:

“We need a brochure.”
“We need an ad.”
“We need a social media strategy.”
That is the WRONG place to start. Don’t start with the content.

Don’t fall over in shock. That’s right—I just told you not to start with the content. Instead, start with something much simpler: “What are we trying to say?"

Start in the Right Place: Four Potential Fixes

I have been so lucky to consult with some of the largest brands in the world, and I see all of them making the same mistakes you probably make. They think about how they want to say their messages, before they think about what they are trying to say.

Starting with a brochure, or a microsite, or a Facebook page just means you are perpetuating this mistake. For many of you, changing this approach is challenging. You are positioned in siloed departments that don’t allow you the freedom of integrated marketing. Communications sits outside of PR, which sits outside of marketing, which leads to workflow that doesn't work, data that doesn't make sense and a lot of head banging everyday (and not the fun kind, either.)

Here are some suggestions to combat your organization’s issues:

1.    Focus on the RIGHT START: Start with what you are trying to say. Work with your colleagues, no matter their department, to begin defining your message.

2.    Pilot an integrated project: Convince your execs that better work comes when all heads are together in a room. Try an integrated project that shows what magic can happen when you wave your wand at an idea, instead of a piece of content.

3.    Back to your customers: Focus on your customer’s needs. They may need all different types of collateral—not just a brochure, not just a website, not just a postcard. By thinking through their needs, learning styles and communication patterns, you will produce better end collateral.

4.    Hire a consultant: Content strategists and process engineers can help you learn where you are leaking efficiency in your workflow. Perhaps you think you already know. When we consult on workflow issues, we always find there's a combination of the obvious and the hidden that are causing workflow problems. A consultant can look at your issues with a different point of view and bring fresh solutions.

This first appeared in our newsletter, Content Ahas, which you can sign up for in the upper-right hand corner of this blog.

Confessions of a Content Strategist: Melanie Phung


Raise your hand if you're frustrated by the way content gets treated in your organization.  Ok, now that we all have our hands raised, what are we going to do about it?
Read Melanie's story and find some real solutions and thought-provoking ideas around making content better, and more importantly; making it safe for organizations to make it a priority. 

1. Tell me about your background and how you got started in content strategy.

I started my career in publications management before moving on to SEO and then eventually discovering the world of "content strategy." In a way, I think I've always been a ("wanna be") content strategist at heart; I just didn't realize until a few years ago that this discipline had a name and a whole community of practitioners behind it that was dedicated to the same issues and best practices I've been thinking about for years.
It wasn't until Kristina Halvorson invited me to CONFAB that I saw all the pieces come together and I started to understand all the work the community had already done to address the common questions and issues related to content. I really love how content strategy spans so many sub-disciplines, which all come together to bridge the needs of organizations and their users.  I certainly still have a lot to learn from content strategists who've been at this longer than I have!

2. What is a major challenge you've experienced with content and how do you solve it?

A few issues that come to mind all relate to a theme of content not getting the respect it deserves. In many organizations, the planning, creation and governance of content very often take a back seat to technology or design considerations. I'm sure we've all heard "just write something" or "we'll fill that in later" when working on a project, as if anyone with passable language skills can create content out of nothing after all the other pieces have already been completed.  A strong content champion can help people understand where in the process content strategy can work its magic. 
I don't think there is a single tool or deliverable that suffices to address those types of issues. However, they are not insurmountable. Communication and teamwork are key.  You'll accomplish much more by:
  • Clearing roadblocks
  • Providing requirements before decisions are already set
  • Coming up with solutions (even before anyone notices they are needed)
... than by just pointing out problems or forcing people into processes that feel unnatural to them.
You can't just hand people documents, or even data, and expect that to change behaviors, but you can move mountains if you help people solve their pain points.

3. What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge for content professionals currently in the marketplace?

In a marketplace where organizations can swing from chasing the latest trends to trying to prove bottom-line "ROI" for every activity, content strategists are under pressure to show a lot of value for things that may not be directly measurable. Figuring out how to prove value, again and again, to those who control the budgets, even if it's not directly obvious in a P&L (Profit & Loss) analysis, will continue to be a key challenge for content professionals.  

4. What do you think the next “big” thing in content will be?

Would it be a cop-out to say, "I have no idea"? I'm not one to chase "the next big thing". The latest tactics come and go, but high-level strategy tends not to be very trend focused. Some trends obviously have a huge impact on solving our audiences' needs (e.g., mobile usage) while others arguably do not (e.g., "we need to change all our content to be in X format to be relevant on Y social platform in order to go VIRAL!"). 
We need to keep the focus on bridging the needs of the business and the needs of its audience. So many organizations aren't doing the basics right that I think there is plenty of work for content strategists who can keep clients focused on doing the right things for the right reasons.

Melanie Phung is an online marketing and content strategist from Washington, DC. She believes great digital strategy helps bridge the divide between content, technology, and user experience. You can find her at www.melaniephung.com or @melaniephung on Twitter.

Are you a content strategist in need of a confession? Let us know in the comments below, and don't be surprised if we reach out to you.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Digital Marketing Podcast

Ahava Leibtag is interviewed by Ciaran Rogers of The Digital Marketing Podcast in the UK. Ahava gives great tips for creating a successful digital marketing strategy and content marketing team.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grow your Hospital's Web Traffic by 216% using Organic SEO: Case Study

The most important thing about your healthcare content is whether people can find it.
With all the talk about search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and pay-per-click (PPC), we know that you must feel like you're swimming in a sea of alphabet soup. Search engines seem like mysterious entities.

How do they decide how to rank your content?

At Aha Media, we use a proven methodology for creating content that is findable, and we’re very transparent about it. We use best practices for organic SEO, and in this case study, you will see that we increased traffic to three healthcare microsites by a combined 216 percent.


Our Methodology for Improving your Traffic

  1. Organize for Search: First we looked at the current content and reorganized the structure, otherwise known as the information architecture, or IA, so it was more intuitive to the way patients and healthcare customers search for information.
  2. Write for Findability: We then rewrote the content, with the help of marketing managers familiar with the service lines. Where we had gaps in facts, we interviewed stakeholders (doctors and administrators) who could round out missing pieces of information.
  3. Tag for Search Engines: Title tags, metadescriptions, H1, H2 and H3 tags  we know what all of that means. Better yet, we know how to use them to increase traffic to your pages. Just look at the graphic below to see the results:

Improvement in Website Traffic (Measured by Page Views)

If you want to increase traffic to your website by 216 percent, using our transparent, proven methodology, let us know.
P.S. Does social affect search? No one is quite sure, but if you want to improve your community engagement, Facebook is a great place to start. Check out our 5 Best practices for Managing Hospital Facebook pages.

Interested in getting more content information like this? Sign up for our free Content Ahas newsletter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Doctors Blogging? A Wildly Successful Case Study

There are many reasons to start a blog. For most companies, it’s about content marketing and generating leads. In healthcare marketing, it’s about educational content marketing and creating brand awareness, loyalty and trust. But for a clinician, starting a blog was about solving a problem: “I didn’t think that patients were connected with great, timely information that helps them be better parents.”

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, author of the blog, Seattle Mama Doc, as well as her new book, Mama Doc Medicine, started a parenting blog at Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2010. Now, with more than 20,000 followers on Twitter and thousands of readers every month, Dr. Swanson shares of her story of being a physician who shapes our conversations around healthcare content and social media.

OIAM: Tell us about your training.  How you came to be interested in writing a blog?

Dr. Swanson: “I knew quite a long time ago I was interested in the communication space before I became a pediatrician. I finished a master’s degree in bioethics and have always had a fascination about how people make decisions and what shared decision-making looks like in the physician/patient relationship. I was also intrigued by what influences the media. I trained at Seattle Children’s and went into private practice afterward, while still maintaining my strong relationship with the hospital.

I remember the day I decided I couldn’t wait anymore—it was the day after Jenny McCarthy appeared on Oprah and said that vaccines cause autism. I was in clinic and parents told me they were afraid to give their child the MMR vaccine.  I thought, “I can’t sit on my hands any longer.”

OIAM: Typically, hospitals want a lot of control over social media and blogs. How did you convince your executives that this was a good idea?

Dr. Swanson: “I approached the VP of Communications at the time, David Perry, and said, ‘I think we need a blog.’ But, I also told him that it wasn’t about marketing or strategy. Instead, I wanted the blog to be about a pediatrician sharing her journey. So, from the very beginning, I told them that marketing and communications couldn’t touch this. Soon after I started the blog, (about three months) other people began to take notice and more trust was built after it [the blog] became more valuable. But I really got the initial buy-in because I truly believed that we could provide medical care outside the exam room and others believed it as well.”

OIAM: How do you decide what to write about? Do you use an editorial calendar?

Dr. Swanson: “I actually don’t use an editorial calendar and I’m very intentional about that.  I do think about the topics I want to write. I also know a week ahead of time the studies that are going to be published in the press, so I can plan for those posts.  Typically, studies spark interest for the public, so knowing when those are coming out allows me to publish on the same day, adding my perspective to the conversation. 

As social media matured and I learned more, I started to really listen to my audiences on Twitter—I created lists and followed bloggers, medical correspondents and other doctors. I learned what others were talking about and what was really considered important. I also blog on seasonal issues like flu, sunscreen and allergies, and I’m always trying to pepper my content with evergreen topics. And because I still practice as a pediatrician, I try and answer questions that I get during clinic, because I know other parents are probably asking the exact same questions.”

OIAM: How do you approach search engine optimization (SEO)?

Dr. Swanson: I used to have a SEO person who would help me analyze which posts did well and why.  I use Word Press for the blog and look at my Google analytics every day. I also use the SEO pack in Word Press and manipulate browser titles for social media vs. SEO. I’m very aware of my audiences and my traffic—for example, I will write posts differently for Twitter and Facebook because I’m aware of how different those audiences are.”

OIAM: How do you balance your time as a clinician and the author of this blog?

Dr. Swanson: I’m very lucky that Seattle Children’s was so supportive of this endeavor. When I first started, I was 75% clinical and then I moved to 50% clinical. Now I am 20% clinical and spent 80% (or the rest of my time) as executive director of Digital Health for the hospital, as well as the blog. The hospital created an environment where there was protected time for me to do this so I could dedicate the time it needed to build and promote the blog. Honestly, I spend more time personally promoting the content and ideas, than creating it.  We, as a group, need to market science and ideas better.”

As a healthcare marketer, I learned three things from my conversation with Dr. Swanson:

  1. You have to pick the right doctors to speak for your organization. Her passion about these issues sparked right through the phone. Only a clinician who believes in the power of social media could devote the time and attention you would need to make this a successful endeavor.
  2. She’s right: We all do need to do a better job of marketing science and ideas better. People want clear, reviewed information. Why not give it to them in an easily digestible conversation, like a blog post?
  3. Editorial calendars are critical when you build a larger blogging team. While Dr. Swanson doesn’t use an actual document, truth is, she has an editorial calendar in her head. But once you add in another blogger, or even a team of physicians who would alternate blogging, you would need an editorial calendar to keep track of posts, due dates and editors.
Want to learn more about Dr. Swanson? Check out her blog, Seattle Mama Doc, and be sure to pick up a copy of her book, Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work Life Balance.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Best Practices for Hospitals on Facebook

Hospitals use Facebook to share content and enhance their reputation. Using the Best Hospitals Honor Roll ranking from U.S. News & World Report, we uncovered the best practices for hospitals on Facebook. This Slideshare will provide tactics that you can start implementing today!