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Talking Content Marketing – With Jay Acunzo

jay acunzoTalking Content Marketing travels to Boston to meet-up with Jay Acunzo.

Jay works at NextView Ventures by day, runs Boston Content by night, and write and create things at all hours on Sorry for Marketing. Above all else, Jay stands for the “content” part of content marketing: its quality, its creativity, and its continued ability to provide careers for many of us.

We discuss the current inbound versus content marketing definition (click here for the HubSpot article) and creating the right content, with the right medium throughout the buyer journey.

You mention in your ‘Message To Inbound & Content Marketing‘ article that we need to focus on becoming better teaches that are ‘consistently helpful’. Is this the glue that binds better marketing and better businesses?

I just think we need to focus on what actually matters, which is to serve our buyers with our content and, in doing so, hit our goals as marketers or business owners. If you can convince me that the label of what we do for work does that, then I’m up for listening. But other than that, I just don’t care what we call this style marketing.

Those who sell marketing services or products need to care because it’s how they sell, but most of us aren’t in those roles. As Marcus Sheridan said about all this, “Semantics are stupid.” He said that in 2011, or 1.5 million internet years ago. Can we all move on yet?

Unfortunately, as an industry, we get caught up in the tech, the tactic, and the terminology, which causes us to lose sight of the two parties we should care most about at all times: our customers and our companies.

Being a good teacher and being helpful are hallmarks of great content marketing, so I mentioned that to refocus attention and hopefully help some people realize that we already know what this stuff is all about. The two-word label on it doesn’t matter — we understand what we need to do and what we need to improve.

But instead, we just keep debating the terminology. We keep navel-gazing, but unless you find a bunch of subscribers down there, why bother?

Should businesses not become obsessed with the ‘Publish’ button rather focus on the creativity/quality of the final output?

Short answer: Yes, avoid obsessing over hitting publish. Have a strategy.

Longish answer: Quality and quantity simply aren’t exact opposites. For example, some tech journalists I know will write six very high quality blog posts every single day.

With that skill set, if they ever wanted to become content marketers, they’d absolutely eat our lunch! And that’s the problem. That’s why we often consider them opposites — many of us fear the need to do both, quality and quantity, whether because we don’t understand what to do or because we lack the creative chops of a journalist or other, “purer” creative type. As an industry, we aren’t talking enough about how to actually improve our production skills, minus the usual generalizations and templates (which don’t really teach so much as serve as a crutch).

So my hope is that more vendors emerge that teach those skills, because it’s not enough for me to sit here and say, Oh, just go create high quality stuff. It’s just not that easy. But it should be well within our skill set, if not now, then in the near future.

So, since the quality-plus-quantity stuff is hard, the temptation is to err on the side of what’s easier, which is to publish quickly and a lot. But you need a strategy. Determine your audience, scope a light buyer persona or think of one ideal customer you’ll create content for as a proxy. Then list your company or marketing goals to figure out your needs. Do you have an email list or other marketing asset already, or are you flat-footed and launching soon? That changes what you create, how you distribute it, and how call readers to act.

Lastly, good content marketers can see all the moving pieces and how they fit. Bad content marketers keep hitting publish and expect each individual piece to somehow hit results. So one way to avoid that is to always ask, “What’s next?” from the point of view of your audience. If they read your blog, that’s great — but what’s next?

Pageviews aren’t enough after all. Maybe they subscribe to your list. Great! What’s next? And on and on all through the buyer’s journey until they’re loyal, lasting customers.

I’d argue it’s impossible to achieve that without both an upfront strategy and a care for quality.

The volume game, if it works at all, really only achieves reach. But to prompt someone to agree with or appreciate your content emotionally and intellectually enough to THEN take another action? That’s not about reach — that’s about resonance. Writing awesome headlines but terrible paragraphs is like making a party sound awesome, but when guests arrive, the chips are stale, the music sucks, and there’s a faint, rancid smell on the carpet. Sure, you got them to be present there, but will they ever actually do anything with you after that?

Is a business first approach to content marketing a fruitless path? ie. product based information rather than creating a content brand?

Not at all! I’m guessing one reason you ask is because, when content marketing was gaining steam, some people expected product content to generate an audience, which failed, so we then course-corrected to never mention our product, which also hurts our cause.

So the key is really to match the right goal and metric to the right type of content. If you need more readership, don’t create an ebook behind a lead-gen form. If you need to convert people into leads, an infographic is a really lousy option. But switch the two, and it could work quite well.

In the end, it’s not about product content versus everything else. It’s about providing your audience the right content in both its medium and its topic all along the buyer’s journey. Different things help at different stages. Measure accordingly.

How are you finding the role of podcasting? A platform that you’d recommend for those who have something different to say or a huge commitment of time?

I love it so far. I’m absolutely fascinated by the process of piecing it together.

For some context, my show #TechItFwd features startup founders and entrepreneurs telling unique stories you don’t generally hear. It’s not advice so much as interesting things that happened to them, so I don’t use the typical intro-interview-outro format. Instead, I’ll weave in music from local bands, sound effects, my own narration as the host, and other effects to tell the story.

So for instance, I interviewed the former creative director at HubSpot, where I also used to work, about an uncomfortable run-in he had with a really famous American businesswoman. In part of the story, he feels awkward and nervous, so during post-production, I’ll think about how to use silence for just long enough where you also feel awkward as the listener. And when he feels a sudden sense of relief in the story, now I need to find a track that expresses some kind of elation with a quick burst of uplifting music or sounds. It’s really nuanced but really, really engrossing and interesting to me.

But man, it’s a LOT of work. So my advice is to podcast only if:

(a) you’re certain your audience listens to podcasts

(b) you’re able to present the show uniquely in order to be memorable enough to gain subscribers (very hard to take shortcuts, so your show has to be genuinely good)

(c) you can commit to a ton of episodes. This takes awhile to gain traction unless you’re a big-name host. Just take it from me, a very much not-big-name host who’s still learning on the fly.

What inspires you to write/create?

Never underestimate how much this question makes me feel unnecessarily self-important. But I’ll play along and say fear and praise. I suppose lots of other things inspire me to create — any kind of stimulus can prompt creativity. But mostly, if I’m not creating something, I’m constantly afraid that my skills will atrophy. Making is a muscle.

I’m also always afraid I’m not moving fast enough in my career or on a project, or else I’ll think about all the others out there who could be out-working me or out-experimenting me. As a former athlete and sportswriter, the competitive motivation thing just works for me I guess.

And as for praise, I’ve taken enough of those corporate personality tests to know that I’m motivated by positive reinforcement. Tell me I’m doing well at something or that you enjoyed something I’ve done, and I’ll try 10x as hard and produce 10x the output. (By the way Mark, I think you’re doing an EXCELLENT job with this interview.)

What was your idea behind building a community with Boston Content?

A few years ago, I met my cofounder Arestia Rosenberg for coffee, and we bonded over having this phrase “content” in our titles for the first time. But our backgrounds were very different to get to that point. She’d been in Hollywood producing movies and had done some tech media locally. I was in sports journalism, then worked in sales for Google. What we did have in common though was that we knew we loved to create content in all forms and that we loved doing so for businesses. So since the career path was so blurry to break in and to advance, we started Boston Content, which is a free community group.

Fastforward two years and we have 750 members across New England and host workshops and larger meetups each quarter. We also recently threw a big party around the idea of creativity. (About 200 of us got together with some local artists and musicians, and they put on a concert while we collaborated on whiteboard drawings and even created a crazy video together with Wistia.) Honestly, I thought getting to 100 would be as big as this got. There is way more passion and interest in this field than I thought, and it’s awesome.

BIG thanks to Jay for being part of the Talking Content Marketing initiative and sharing the views from his world. To find out more from Jay:

Jay on Twitter: click here

Sorry For Marketing: click here

TechItFwd Podcast: click here

NextView’s Blog: click here

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