Skip to content

The Content Marketing “Sweet Spot”

September 11, 2017

jrlisk

Sweet Spot

When working with clients to document a content marketing strategy, I always end up talking about the “sweet spot” – that magical moment when an audience’s needs and interests intersect with the company’s products, services or expertise.

Here are a few “sweet spot” examples:

  1. One of my clients is a managed IT services company. We write blog articles that provide readers with useful tips for staying safe online and protecting their small businesses from cybercrime. Our articles aren’t about how wonderful this company is. They do showcase its expertise and tie back logically to its services. The articles are also part of an SEO strategy that has helped the site rank on the first page for a series of strategic keywords.
  2. I write a lot of branded content for Inc. magazine. I just completed a project for The UPS Store. It wanted to demonstrate that it supports and understands small businesses, so we created a series of articles, infographics and videos around relevant topics, including marketing and logistics. The content featured input from business experts and small business clients of The UPS Store, rather than just quoting brand execs.
  3. I’m a content creator and strategist. My own blog covers content marketing news, trends and best practices. It’s not just about my merits and knack for memorable phrases like “sweet spot.”

This “sweet spot” identification is crucial, not just to ensure you engage your customers and prospects, but also to make sure your efforts are worth it. You are not publishing content out of the goodness of your heart. It has to have a purpose and relate to your business value.

Less than half of marketers have a documented strategy for managing content as a business asset, according to CMI’s 2017 Content Management & Strategy Survey [PDF]. That’s a shame, because marketers who document their strategy are more likely to report that their content marketing campaigns generate results. Need help creating a simple, yet effective content plan for your business? Contact me today.

By Jacqueline Lisk

The Surprisingly Tricky Task Of Writing Company Summaries

August 18, 2017

jrlisk

What Do We Do_

Helping a new company boil down what it does into a few sentences is a surprisingly challenging task. The last four years, I have been helping businesses, big and small, do just that.

Writing a company description is especially hard for a nascent organization that is still working out exactly how its products or services will be used, let alone described. But doing so is critical. This description serves as the backbone of external and internal communication.

Let’s take a closer look at why every business needs a documented company summary.

Laying the groundwork for consistent marketing communication

A company summary is a brief description of your business that can be used for your website, social media profiles, marketing material, investor decks, press releases, and in conversations with well-meaning family members who are trying to understand what it is you do, exactly.

Many businesses have a short, one to three sentence version, and a more in-depth iteration. The summary should make sense to your target customers, partners, investors  and ideally, the aforementioned well-meaning family members.

Some company summaries are easier to write than others. Do you run a women’s boutique? That’s easier to describe than an emerging advertising technology solution. Regardless of your vertical, try to keep it simple and use recognizable terms and phrases rather than coining new descriptors.

One of the most overlooked use cases of a summary like this is internal communication. You want to make sure every member of your team is describing your business in the same way.  I often work with business owners on company summaries as part of a larger company narrative project, in which we define their target audience, brand voice, mission statement and unique value proposition. The process can be quite enlightening for the entrepreneur. Often we involve their whole teams in a workshop. I love running these things. It is interesting to hear each person’s elevator pitch, and it almost always sparks some well-meaning debate about the company’s purpose. It is challenging to synthesize that input into verbiage that is both meaningful and persuasive, but it is also deeply satisfying to land on a new turn of phrase that excites the whole team.

While I strive to write summaries that will stay forever relevant, nothing is etched in stone. If you are a start-up, you should revisit your company description regularly and make tweaks as needed. It is good to be fluid, just don’t sacrifice organization. Document your sanctioned company description in a central location for your team, and keep them in the loop about changes.

For those of us in more complicated industries, like ad tech, writing simple summaries is weirdly hard, but it is worth the effort. You are taking control over how your company is described, internally and externally. When done right, this brief description is both deceptively simple and highly strategic.

By Jacqueline Lisk

Why I Love Ad Tech Ghostwriting

July 13, 2017

jrlisk

My OdeTo Ghostwriting

I spent the morning analyzing my content creation and strategy business. I noticed that a growing percentage of clients are coming to me for ghostwriting. The bulk of them are in ad tech. They tell me it is challenging to find writers with the domain knowledge needed to pen a piece that is going to be bylined to a company CEO. I get that.

While I like to think I can write about anything, I find I can write better when I have a deep understanding of the subject matter. I have been writing about ad tech for the past five years. I think I offer a unique perspective because before I was writing about it, I was living it.

In 2012, I helped Mediaplanet, a global content marketing company, launch its digital strategy. Mediaplanet created supplements for major newspapers all over the world about niche topics, like diabetes or cloud computing. I had worked my way up from writer to global head of production. My boss and I were pumped when we were selected to lead the digital charge. We founded a new company called Conversionplanet, and I got to experience both the panic and the promise that accompanies launching a start-up. It was a crash course in business that covered everything from developing the product and pricing, to recruiting talent, to owning a P&L. (Today, that experience helps inform my writing about small business and entrepreneurship.)

Conversionplanet created niche content hubs and branded microsites. It was my first taste of the “continuous content conundrum,” i.e. how hard it is to create consistent content on a budget. We also had to figure out the best way to drive traffic, create an SEO strategy, package our advertising options and measure content performance.

I sat through a dozen or so pitches from ad tech vendors, all promising to help solve one of our many digital challenges. I was stuck by how complicated people made things. I’d reflect on the meeting and summarize it for my peers. It all sounded a lot simpler when I said it. On more than one occasion, colleagues commented that I was good at making complicated things easy to understand.

Conversionplanet was eventually rolled under the Mediaplanet umbrella, and Mediaplanet Digital was, and is, a success. I enjoyed the entrepreneurial journey so much, I wanted to do it again — but this time entirely on my own. I knew I wanted to help companies with content creation and strategy, but I didn’t anticipate that ghostwriting for ad tech clients would be such a big part of my business.

Today, I help ad tech execs write thought leadership pieces for publications like Ad Age, AdWeek, TechCrunch, AdExchanger, The Drum, Forbes and Entrepreneur. I feel privledged to speak with such brilliant and successful entrepreneurs about industry issues, from transparency, to ad blocking, to header bidding, to ad fraud, to blockchain, to IoT, and so on. I am tasked with presenting their perspective on complicated technology in plain English. (The writer in me also can’t help but try to make it sound pretty.) While you won’t find my name on any of these pieces, I take great pride in seeing them publish, and in helping industry experts present their ideas in a way that sounds like them, but better.

I love ad tech ghostwriting because I get to continually learn. It is a nice application of my content marketing background because I can help business leaders identify topics that interest their target audiences and editors, while reflecting their “corporate agenda,” sometimes less subtly than others. (For the record, I usually don’t pitch to publications. I leave that to the experts, like the folks at Blast PR, a partner of mine.)

But enough about me. What about you? Need some help translating the thoughts in your head into readable prose? Or maybe you simply don’t have time to put pen to paper. Contact JR Lisk today.

By Jacqueline Lisk

Why aren’t you blogging?

June 14, 2017

jrlisk

Do as I say, not as I do

When I get busy, I tend to neglect my own blog so I can focus on creating content for my clients. I am not proud of this, but it is a deliberate decision. Blogging doesn’t fall through the cracks. It is not something I forget about. The truth is, there is only so much content I can produce in a given period of time, and if I take on too many projects at once, I worry quality will suffer. I’d rather take blogging off my plate so I can concentrate on my clients’ needs.

If I were blogging as a part of a lead generation or SEO strategy, this lapse would not be okay. Creating consistent quality content is a crucial component of an effective blogging strategy. I’d have to either find the time to blog myself, or outsource writing the way my (very smart) clients do. I am blogging to build credibility, demonstrate thought leadership and show my brand voice, which is really just my voice. I do a lot of ghostwriting and marketing communication work in which I have to adapt the tone of the business I am writing for. I love this challenge, but sometimes, I just want to have a little fun and sound like “me.” That is why I blog.

I get most of my project work and retainer clients from referrals. I have a close group of designers and developers that I tap as needed, primarily for eBooks and website design projects. I handle most of the writing and strategy work myself, although I do outsource to copy editors as needed. (Everyone needs an edituh. My favorite “edituh” will understand this reference.)  I do have a network of talented journalists and marketers that I outsource to on occasion.  In theory, that is how I will scale my business, as soon as I can work through my control issues. Just kidding. Mostly.

Right now, I am in a very fortunate position. I have more business than I can handle. That’s why I am okay with neglecting my blog. My clients are bigger than me. They are blogging to demonstrate thought leadership and build relationships, but also to drive traffic to their website, generate leads, improve SEO and create content for their social media sites. That is why it is not okay for them to neglect their blogs. I put my blog on hold so I can help them.

I feel very lucky that I make a living doing what I love. But in addition to being a grateful person, I am a nervous person. I assume I won’t always have a steady stream of clients and prospects. Business ebbs and flows. If and when things slow down, I will get better about blogging. Until then, I want to preserve my time and my brainpower so I can help companies like yours.

This concludes my confession. I feel better now.

By Jacqueline Lisk

Infographic: The 2017 State of Content Marketing in the UK

May 16, 2017

jrlisk

Zazzle, a UK-based digital content marketing agency, surveyed thousands of businesses about their content marketing.

While 79 percent of those surveyed felt the use of content marketing is effective, only 6 percent were “definitely sure how to implement content marketing” strategies on their own. I’d wager a poll of American marketers and business owners would turn up similar findings.  (They usually do!) While most marketers are sold on content marketing’s merits, many still stumble when it comes to defining a strategy, creating quality content at scale, and measuring the results of their efforts.

Check out the Zazzle Media infographic below for more details.

By Jacqueline Lisk

What Makes Content Engaging?

April 27, 2017

jrlisk

playbuzz promo post 1.png

Part of the reason why content marketing is so popular is because it is more engaging than traditional advertising tactics like, say, a stagnant banner ad. Your audience spends time reading or watching your content and may even be compelled to share it on their own social media networks. This helps you build trust and establish your position as a thought leader in the market.

But creating engaging content isn’t simple. It requires upfront strategy work to determine what will resonate with your target group, as well as creative talent to produce high-quality pieces. Many brands are taking this to the next level by creating interactive content, such as clickable infographics, games, and virtual tours.

For some examples of engaging interactive content marketing, check out this post from HubSpot, the inbound marketing masters. Its examples from The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and Orbitz will inspire you to think beyond a blog post, and you can also download a free eBook with more examples.

Photo: Interactive content example featured on HubSpot

Those Pesky Millennials Are At It Again

March 23, 2017

jrlisk

Capmjture

If you work in marketing, you can’t go a day without reading something about millennials. And with good reason! These guys are now the largest generation in the U.S. and have tremendous buying power. Their digital-first preferences have changed the way brands approach customer service, branding, and sales. (For more on the “Millennial Effect,” check you this article I wrote for Mediaplanet.)

Well folks, they have done it again. A recent survey from Deloitte revealed that 80 percent of young viewers skip online video and TV ads. But aren’t millennials supposed to like video?

As a millennial, and a human, I may be able to shed light on this manner: People don’t like interruptive advertising! It’s why they download ad blockers. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for well-done video ads, but most consumers prefer to learn more about products and services by reading and watching quality content, on their own time.

If you’d like to discuss what makes content marketing so special, drop me a line!

Your,
Jacqueline Lisk

Photo Cred: http://www.achieveagency.com/category/millennials/

 

Naming a Tech Business? Read This First.

February 8, 2017

jrlisk

The ad tech space is notoriously crowded, which makes finding a good name particularly challenging, as well as important. JR Lisk, Inc. partnered with the naming experts at River + Wolf, a NY-based brand naming and writing agency, to write this piece for Medium on ad tech naming trends and tips. The article discusses three of the biggest trends in start-up naming and provides tips for entrepreneurs looking to snag a name that “satisfies board members, entices investors, attracts customers and maybe, just maybe, sounds like something destined for an IPO.”

We are also pleased to announce we’ve partnered with River + Wolf on a series of naming projects, including a high-profile assignment for a massive retailer.

Photo cred: HBO

 

Measuring a Year in Words (infographic)

January 4, 2017

jrlisk

2016 was good to us. We partnered with more than 20 clients, from big names like Twitter and The Hartford, to innovative digital start-ups.

We wrote pieces for Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur, AdAge, AdExchanger, MediaPost, Today’s Parent, and many a company blog. Granted, we usually didn’t write under our real names, but hey, that’s just a day in the life of a ghostwriter.

We helped businesses re-brand and/or launch content strategies for the first time. We wrote press releases, web copy, video scripts, marketing collateral, proposals, white papers, eBooks, even a book chapter.

Our days were varied. We wrote most frequently about adtech, digital advertising trends, mobile, small business, cybersecurity, medical topics, and travel. And we truly loved every minute of it.

So thank you. Thank you for letting us do what we love and love what we do, and cheers to more effective and fun collaborations in the new year.

Should you need a talented writer or content strategist, please give us a shout.

2016-recap

JR Lisk 2016 Recap

What Small Businesses Need to Know about Influencer Marketing

December 20, 2016

jrlisk

influencer-marketing1

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Cred: 42 Works

Rather than convincing all of your prospects to do business with you, what if you just had to convince a few of them? Then, those new clients could tell the rest of your potential customers about how great you are. Of course, this only works if you focus on the right new clients, folks with influence–the kind of people the rest of your prospects respect, trust, and turn to for input. That is influencer marketing in a nutshell.

Sociologists proposed the hypothesis that the majority of people are influenced by a small number of opinion leaders during a study in 1944 about the process of decision-making during the presidential election. The translation for marketers is that if we can successfully find and engage opinion leaders, they can help us connect “with the masses.” This can be done organically, or by paying the influencers for their help.

Social media has given the whole things new legs since it makes it easier than ever to 1.) identify influencers and 2.) become an influencer in the first place.

Platforms like SnapChat, YouTube and Vine (RIP!) have enabled a generation of personalities to cultivate enormous followings by creating and sharing unique, and often silly, content. These channels, and their superstars, are most popular with millennials, and marketers have been salivating over the new opportunity to connect with this high-value audience.

But influencer marketing isn’t just about this wave of new content creators.  According to one study, 84 percent of global marketers planned to launch at least one influencer campaign. Small businesses need to focus on finding the influencers that matter to their audience, and remember the following:

  1. An influencer doesn’t have to be a celebrity. They just need to matter to your customer base.
  2. An influencer doesn’t have to have a huge following. Sometimes people with smaller fan bases actually have better engagement stats.
  3. An influencer doesn’t even have to be a person. An organization, such as a non-profit, can make an excellent partner.

When you find the right influencer, someone (or something) who is trusted by your clients and prospects, they can help you create content that resonates with your target audience. They can also help you distribute that content by sharing it on their own social media channels. Influencer marketing is not as new as it seems. For small businesses, it is another tactic for reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time.

Want to chat about what influencer marketing can do for your small business? Contact JR Lisk today.