The ancient Roman lawyer, writer, scholar and great orator, Cicero, once said this about the power of...
Today I want to share some lessons with you about how to come up with content marketing topics. It’s a lesson...
Today, I am going to attempt to do something very difficult. I am going to try to help two groups of people at...
In the past, I posted about The Little-Known Content Marketing Deal That Sears Made With Extreme Makeover:...
The other day, I was watching the PBS series “American Experience” and learned something I never...
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Joe Pulizzi, the founder of ContentMarketingInstitute.com - one of the leading thought leaders behind the content marketing and social media movement
Want To Learn How To Create Better Content?
Welcome. I have 21 years of experience in creating content on a regular basis, so I know it’s much easier for me to create content than it is for you. I realize that I know methods that you don’t. I know techniques for how to present my content that you don’t know.
Because of that fact, I want to teach you what I know. That way you can have a head start on creating compelling, engaging content.
If you are interested in this, I’d like to send you some free lessons, which are excerpts from my upcoming e-course.
These free lessons will teach you:
Read my most recent posts below...Read More
The ancient Roman lawyer, writer, scholar and great orator, Cicero, once said this about the power of words…
“Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory cannot make it acceptable.”
Remember that quote, because when you read the stories below you’ll learn just how true that statement is.
Have you ever thought about how powerful words are?
They have the power to literally change the world.
Let me give you three quick, real-life examples to show you just how powerful they can be.
He always wanted to be an artist, but his efforts to succeed in that arena always seemed to fall short.
He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts twice and was rejected both times.
In World War I, he applied to serve in the German army and was accepted, even though he was still an Austrian citizen.
His main job during the war was that of a messenger.
His service in WWI ended in a gas attack that he somehow managed to survive.
No one who looked at this failed artist at this point in his life would ever imagine what kind of an impact he could have on the world.
He was disillusioned that Germany had surrendered and later would join a group called the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP).
It was then that his artistic talent finally came in handy.
He designed their party banner, which had a swastika in a white circle on a red banner.
His name was Adolph Hitler.
Hitler soon gained notoriety for his powerful speeches among his fellow party members.
It was this same talent for giving powerful speeches, in person and via radio, which would catapult him to become the leader of Germany.
And the rest of his corrupt, evil story is – as they say – history.
He was an Italian journalist and novelist who was disillusioned with his government.
He would’ve remained in obscurity except for one reason: he was a powerful communicator.
He would later become the editor of the Socialist party newspaper, Avanti (meaning “Forward”), which gave him a platform to spread his ideas.
The power of his words and his messages over the radio gave him an ever-growing influence over the people.
His name was Benito Mussolini and he also eventually became a powerful dictator.
And his horrible acts are now well-known as well.
These two psychotic dictators, who had tapped into this power of words, would eventually unite in their desire to dominate the world.
What would be the key to stopping them?
The power of words.
He didn’t begin his life with any hint of military greatness.
He took the exam for the British Royal Military College three times before he finally passed and was allowed entrance.
While he was in the military, he wrote military reports for some British newspapers.
Later he wrote two books on his experiences in the military.
He went on to become a Member of Parliament in the Conservative Party for Oldham, a town in Manchester.
Not only that, but he was the first to achieve the title of First Lord of the Admiralty. Everything in his life seemed to be going great.
Then something tragic happened.
He wasn’t directly involved in the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli, but he still resigned his post. Why? Because he felt responsible for proposing the expedition that had taken so many British lives.
His career seemed to be over.
That is, until a twist of fate brought him back onto the scene.
By the late 1930′s, Hitler and Mussolini had joined forces and Hitler was slowly taking over more and more of Europe.
The British Prime Minister Chamberlain didn’t know what to do. WWI was still fresh on his countrys’ mind and he didn’t want to enter war again, so he tried to appease the Nazis.
By 1938, Winston Churchill – the man who had taken 3 attempts to enter British Royal Military College, the man who had resigned in shame after the Battle of Gallipoli – couldn’t take it anymore.
He began to use the power of words to publicly express his criticism of how Prime Minister Chamberlain was handling things. He repeatedly gave speeches warning his countrymen of the danger that the Nazis posed.
On May 10, King George VI appointed Churchill as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. And this was just in the nick of time.
Within hours, the German Army began to invade the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Then, just days later, German forces entered France.
At this point, Britain stood alone against the Nazi onslaught.
On June 18, 1940, Churchill gave a powerful speech to the House of Commons, warning that “the Battle of Britain” was about to begin.
It was Churchill’s powerful words and speeches that kept the resistance to Nazi dominance alive.
His willingness to speak up created the foundation for the eventual alliance with the United States and the Soviet Union.
And again the power of words changed history.
The power of this one man’s ideas had helped influence other countries to join in the war and stop Hitler.
The power that words have really is amazing.
As Cicero said, they really can make anything seem acceptable.
If you ever doubt this fact, then remember this failed artist, this unknown journalist, and this failed government official.
I just want to encourage you, that as you learn to harness their power, to make sure to use them for something that is worthy and right.
Photo by floeschie
Today I want to share some lessons with you about how to come up with content marketing topics.
It’s a lesson from Edward Bok. Who is he?
Edward Bok lived from October 9, 1863 – January 9, 1930 and he was an American editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
He was also editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal for thirty years. You read that right… for THIRTY YEARS.
During those thirty years, he learned some important lessons about the type of content that people really want to read.
He reveals these lessons in his autobiography called “The Americanization of Edward Bok The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After” (1921).
Here are 3 of his lessons:
Bok said, “…the average popular magazine of 1889 failed of large success because it wrote down to the public—a grievous mistake that so many editors have made and still make. No one wants to be told, either directly or indirectly, that he knows less than he does, or even that he knows as little as he does: every one is benefited by the opposite implication, and the public will always follow the leader who comprehends this bit of psychology. There is always a happy medium between shooting over the public’s head and shooting too far under it. And it is because of the latter aim that we find the modern popular magazine the worthless thing that, in so many instances, it is to-day.”
Think about the type of content you enjoy most.
The kind of content I enjoy most is the kind that speaks to me as an equal, shares intriguing insights, or helpful information.
It is information that make me feel better about myself or my situation.
It is not the kind that makes me feel stupid or hopeless.
You need to make sure that the topics you choose and the ways that you address these topics do the same.
Now let’s look at Bok’s next counter-intuitive suggestion.
That might sound like strange advice, but listen to why he advises this.
Bok said, “It is the rare editor who rightly gauges his public psychology. Perhaps that is why, in the enormous growth of the modern magazine, there have been produced so few successful editors. The average editor is obsessed with the idea of ‘giving the public what it wants,’ whereas, in fact, the public, while it knows what it wants when it sees it, cannot clearly express its wants, and never wants the thing that it does ask for, although it thinks it does at the time. But woe to the editor and his periodical if he heeds that siren voice!”
This reminds me a lot of what Steve Jobs said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
When I write blog posts, I never just write about topics people are wanting.
I try to write about things people don’t even know they want or I at least want to approach common topics in uncommon ways.
Here are some examples:
Do you see how these posts are topics that are beyond what people would even realize they want?
You need to do the same thing when you choose the content you create: move beyond just the topics that people say they want.
If you’re wondering how to do this, then listen to what Bok says about this in his last lesson.
Bok said, “The editor has, therefore, no means of finding it out aforehand by putting his ear to the ground. Only by the simplest rules of psychology can he edit rightly so that he may lead, and to the average editor of to-day, it is to be feared, psychology is a closed book. His mind is all too often focused on the circulation and advertising, and all too little on the intangibles that will bring to his periodical the results essential in these respects.“
In my last post, on ContentMarketingInstitute.com I shared some content marketing lessons from Ben Franklin and I said, “Never forget that technology changes constantly, but in general, people do not change. Their collective desires, needs, and even their idiosyncrasies have all remained much the same throughout the centuries.”
Bok is expressing the same kind of idea here.
The topics that he found to be the most popular were the ones where he focused on these types of collective desires, needs, and idiosyncrasies that are in all of us.
If you want to come up with magnetic content marketing topics, you must do the same.
When you are searching for topics to create content about, make sure to base them on these basic things.
And when you create content make sure to be as creative and intriguing as you can in how you approach and present these topics.
The next time you sit down to come up with ideas for your content marketing topics, then keep Bok’s unique lessons in mind.
What do you think about Bok’s lessons? Do you agree or disagree with them?
Post your comments below!
If you would like to learn some of the methods I personally use to make common content uncommon, then click the link below…
“21 Types of Content We Crave”
“Scott’s concepts in 21 Types of Content We Crave are absolutely brilliant! He simply breaks down an actionable approach that any content marketer can and should start using immediately. I highly recommend Scott Aughtmon as a valuable resource for both entrepreneurs and marketing professionals.” – Bryan Kelly/ WhatTheSpeak.com
I happened to come across an interesting article on NYTimes.com yesterday.
It explained that applications to universities have skyrocketed while acceptance into universities is dwindling.
Stanford received 42,167 applications for the class of 2018 and sent 2,138 acceptance notices, for a first-year class that, ultimately, will number about 1,700. That means they only accepted 5% of their applicants!
But it was as I was reading the article that I came across something that surprised me.
It’s a “positioning” lesson that we can learn from Stanford and the other most prestigious schools in the U.S.
This is what I read in the article that got my attention…
“One of the ways that colleges are measured is by the number of applicants and their admit rate, and some colleges do things simply to increase their applicant pool and manipulate those numbers,” said Christoph Guttentag, the dean of undergraduate admission at Duke.”
Then it goes on to say…
“A generation ago, it was rare for even highly competitive colleges to offer places to fewer than 20 percent of their applicants. In 2003, Harvard and Princeton drew exclamations of dismay (from prospective applicants), envy (from other colleges) and satisfaction (from those they accepted) when they became the first top universities to have their admission rates dip below 10 percent. Since then, at least a dozen have gone below that threshold.”
In other words, the LOWER the admission rate, the HIGHER the prestige.
The answer to all of these questions is that it’s the universities with the high application rates and low admission rates.
It’s not the schools who have plenty of space and will take any student, that attract the top students and teachers!
Those schools are not the ones with the most prestige.
Think about what this can teach you as a business owner:
That means you if you want to raise the quality of clients, improve how you are perceived in the market, and be able to increase prices you can charge, then you must learn to position your business like Stanford and the other prestigious schools.
Side Note: I think this is a wise strategy in the business arena, but I am not saying that I think this is a good or ethical practice for schools.
I am not sure what the best, balanced and ethical approach should be for schools – so they can attract the best students and teachers, and charge decent prices, but this method in the educational arena seems a little “off.”
Photo from giuliana_mirandaRead More
Today, I am going to attempt to do something very difficult.
I am going to try to help two groups of people at the same time, in one post.
The two groups I am trying to help are:
1. Business owners whose websites aren’t attracting any visitors
2. Bloggers whose websites attracts readers, but don’t make any money
You’ve created a website for your business.
You’ve put up everything on there that you can think of to explain what your business does and how it can help your prospects.
But, for some reason, your website doesn’t seem to be doing much good.
According to your website stats, there are not many people visiting your website.
And those that do visit, seem to click right away only seconds after getting there.
You’ve created a great blog.
You regularly post great content.
You have a good amount of regular visitors.
But, for some reason, your blog isn’t making you any money.
You have tried some ads and things like that, but it hasn’t brought you much money.
Would you like to know a secret to making your website more effective or your blog more profitable?
Great. I have the answer for you.
It’s in the last place you’d probably look to discover the secret to an effective website or profitable blog.
The secret for an effective website or profitable blog has a lot to do with the secret behind an effective magazine.
Let me explain…
I came across a quote about magazines that exposes the “secret” behind their real purpose.
And it reveals how you can make your website or blog more effective.
The quote I am about to share with you is from a book called The 1910s by David Blanke.
He says, “Ad executive James Collins told a congressional committee in 1907…
“‘There is still an illusion to the effect that a magazine is a periodical in which advertising is incidental. But we don’t look at it that way. A magazine is simply a device to induce people to read advertising. It is a large booklet with two departments – entertainment and business. The entertainment department finds stories, pictures, verse, etc. to interest the public. The business department makes the money.’”
Did you catch what he just said?
The purpose of a magazine is to be “a device to induce people to read advertising.“
It has two departments:
1. Entertainment which provides stories, pictures, etc. – to interest the public
2. Business whose purpose is to make money
These two purposes are the same basic ones that a successful business website or blog has:
1. Provide content that interests the public
2. Make a profit
Cyrus H.K. Curtis founded the Curtis Publishing Company in 1891.
His company published the Ladies’ Home Journal, the Saturday Evening Post, and several other magazines. He was VERY successful as a publisher (someone who uses content to make money).
In the book The 1910s, David Blanke also shares a quote from Cyrus H.K. Curtis.
It’s something that he once confided to audience of manufacturers about the dual purpose of magazines.
Listen to what he told them…
“Do you know why we publish the Ladies’ Home Journal? The editor thinks it is for the benefit of American women. That is an illusion, but a very proper one for him to have. But I will tell you, the real reason, the publisher’s reason, is to give you people who manufacture things that American women want and buy a chance to tell them about your products.“
Now notice carefully what he confesses to these manufactures.
The publisher’s purpose for a magazine is to give its advertisers a chance to share with its readers about their products (which are things those readers want).
It’s not an evil purpose.
It’s the same purpose every business website has.
But notice that the publisher has someone else who is focused on something different: providing information that will benefit their readers.
This is the same purpose every blog has.
Now don’t miss this important fact because BOTH of those purposes are needed if you want to succeed.
If your website or blog isn’t effective, it is probably because you are only thinking like one of these people.
You’re either too focused on trying to sell with your website or you’re too focused on providing content on your blog.
You must focus on both.
To know what you need to do to fix this, then please read the section below that applies to you.
If you’re like most business owners, your problem is that you’re thinking too much like a publisher. The only purpose you see for having a website is to make money.
That’s why any visitors to your website quickly click away after only visiting for a few seconds.
They aren’t finding anything on your website that is helpful to them.
You need to begin thinking like an editor and begin to provide helpful (and even entertaining) information for your prospects.
It’s the only way you can gather an audience that you can help by selling your products and services to.
If you’re like most bloggers, your problem is that you’re thinking too much like a editor. The only purpose you see for having a blog is to provide awesome content.
That’s why your blog isn’t making you any money and you’re having a hard time financing the time and effort it’s taking you to grow your platform.
Your visitors don’t realize you have any products or services that they might want. (It might be because you actually don’t have any products or services to offer them! Or it’s because you never mention your products or services, so you might as well not have any!)
You need to begin thinking like an publisher and begin to promote and/or provide products and services that your readers want.
It’s the only way, in the long run, that you can sustain your efforts to provide helpful information to your growing audience.
Note: I’ll make a confession. I tend to be think too much like an editor, I focus most of my effort on providing awesome, helpful content. (*But I am going to be working on balancing this tendency out!)
What’s your tendency? Who do you tend to think more like? A publisher? Or an editor?
Post in in the comments below!
“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” – Helen Keller
I don’t know if many of you know this or not, but Walt Disney never lived to see EPCOT completed.
A reporter once asked him when his health was beginning to fail him, “Does it make you sad to think you might never see EPCOT?”
Disney laughed, “If I didn’t see it you never would!”
Walt Disney had a clear idea of what he wanted.
That’s the only way it could be built.
He saw what wasn’t there yet!
I came across a recording. It’s not just any, old recording.
It’s Michael Jackson’s demo for his song “Beat It.”
When you listen to it, you’ll get a glimpse at what Michael Jackson heard in his mind before we ever heard it on the radio.
(*It’s pretty amazing, because he does all of the sounds of the instruments with just his voice.)
Every true entrepreneur, every person who has done great things, has had to see the invisible and hear the inaudible and then make those things a reality.
It doesn’t start with doing.
It starts with seeing and hearing.
That is what you first must do.
The second thing you must do is to gather a team of people to make the unknown, known.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Photo by paul bica
In the past, I posted about The Little-Known Content Marketing Deal That Sears Made With Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Well, it looks like Lowes is now taking a page out of Sear’s book.
NBC premiered its brand new show last Sunday called “American Dream Builders.”
It seems to be “Extreme Makeover” meets “Reality Show Competition.”
Anyway, it was while watching the show that I realized the whole show is some great content marketing for Lowes.
1. When the designers needed building supplies they went to Lowes
2. Some of the commercials during the show were for Lowes
3. Lowes was mentioned at other points during the show
4. Lowes is an official sponsor of the show
But that’s not all.
I quickly researched their connection after noticing it and I discovered this press release from Comcast (Owner of NBCUniversal), which stated four other interesting things…
1) Lowes provided their expertise and played an integral role behind AND in front of the camera
“In collaboration with NBC programming and production, Lowe’s provided product and design expertise during every episode of ‘American Dream Builders’ to help the design contestants create 20 amazing home makeovers across the 10-episode series. As a partner, Lowe’s played an integral role both in front and behind the camera to inspire and assist the designers through store shopping visits and consultations with expert store employees to select the right paint colors, nursery plants, lighting, appliances, flooring and more to create homes where people will love to live.”
2) Additional online content has been created that Lowes has sponsored
“The Lowe’s-sponsored ‘Never Stop Improving’ segments will give a more in-depth look at the eliminated designers and their post-show projects on-air and on the show’s digital hub. The segments visit the designers’ hometowns and showcase how they’ve continued to embody the spirit of ‘Never Stop Improving’ through their work following the show.”
3) Viewers are being encouraged to submit photos or videos of their own home projects for a chance to win money and services from Lowes
“Additionally, as the exclusive sponsor of the ‘Dream It Yourself’ sweepstakes, at-home viewers will be encouraged to submit a photo or video of a home project and enter for the chance to win a $100,000 in products and services from Lowe’s, and a consultation from the winner of ‘American Dream Builders.’”
4) This the largest brand integration Lowes has ever done
“‘Lowe’s partnered with NBC to create a best-in-class content partnership where Lowe’s was involved from the earliest stages of concepting to production and all the way through to the promotion of the show,’ said Tom Lamb, Lowe’s chief marketing officer. ‘Our stores and employees played an integral role in bringing American Dream Builders to life as the contestants looked to Lowe’s every week for design inspiration and advice. This partnership is Lowe’s largest brand integration to date, extending beyond the advertising in the show to reach our stores, Lowes.com and other marketing platforms.’
“Lowe’s partnership will extend beyond the show, including in-store promotions of designer-selected products, highlights of “American Dream Builders” products in tab and a dedicated microsite on Lowes.com (http://www.lowes.com), featuring robust content including how-to videos and helpful tips, product catalogs where consumers can purchase designer-selected products, and exclusive ‘American Dream Builders’ content.”
I think that many business owners shy away from content marketing for two reasons:
Lowes gives you a great example of how to overcome both of these problems.
Instead of creating the content yourself on your own site, you can partner with some else who ALREADY wants to make the content and present it to their own audience on their own platform (in this case a TV channel).
Now, hold on.
Don’t already discount the possibility of your business doing something like this!
You don’t have to partner with a major TV network.
Keep your eyes open for a smaller, local opportunities.
Everyone is looking for content these days and many people are already creating it.
Search for local sites, blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels, newspapers, radio shows, etc. that already produce and create content that directly or indirectly supports products or services you offer or that focus on area you have an expertise in.
When you find them, simply approach them and see if they’d be interested in partnering.
It’s a win-win.
They get free expertise, products, or services and you get exposure.
The other day, I was watching the PBS series “American Experience” and learned something I never knew before.
And this discovery reminded me of an important lesson about being “top of mind” in your business category.
The show was about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
But what I learned has nothing to do with them directly.
It was an interesting piece of trivia about the term “Private Eye.“
Let me explain…
Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were very smart.
The more crimes they committed the better they became at robbing people.
And they always took what they learned and used it in the next town.
This made it very difficult for the local sheriffs in each town to catch them.
That’s when the The Pinkerton National Detective Agency got involved.
If was because of their nation-wide intelligence network and their new methodology that they were able to disband Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch.
What I thought was interesting was that Allan Pinkerton formed the The Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850.
It was the first detective agency to exist.
The agency’s logo was an eye embellished with the words “We Never Sleep.“
After their work disbanding Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, the agency became so well-known that the term “private eye” began to be used to describe any detective agency.
Think about that for a moment.
Their business became so well-known that ALL detective agencies today are known by a name that comes from their original agency.
The term “positioning” was coined by Jack Trout and Al Ries back in 1972.
At the time, they were running the advertising agency Ries Cappiello Colwell.
In January of that year, they made a speech at club called the “Sales Executives Club.”
The topic of their talk? “The Positioning Era.”
No one else would have probably heard of the term except for one fact.
At the head table that day was a man named Rance Crain.
He was then a reporter for Advertising Age (he’s now editor in chief).
Rance loved their concept of “positioning.”
He loved it so much that he suggested that it might make a good series of articles in Advertising Age magazine.
Ries and Trout agreed and so the concept and the articles appeared in the April 24, May 1 and May 8, 1972 issues.
If you’re not aware, the term “positioning” describes the “position” or “place” you or your business has in your prospect’s mind or your customer’s mind.
Later in 1981, they expanded on the idea in their famous book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.“
In the book, they said something very important.
They said, “Today’s marketplace is no longer responsive to the strategies that worked in the past. There are just too many products, too many companies, and too much marketing noise.“
They said that because the market is so crowded, if you want to stand out in your market, then you must be first in your category.
If you’re second, you’re forgotten.
And they said something interesting about the leader in a product category that explains why the “private eye” from The Pinkerton National Detective Agency became the term for all detective agencies after them.
They said that the leader in a product category has such an overwhelming position in people’s’ minds that they become synonymous with the category itself.
Do you see how this happened to The Pinkerton National Detective Agency because they were first?
If there were too many products, too many companies, and too much marketing noise in 1981, then think of how true it is TODAY!
The amount of competition and “noise” is now off the charts!
If you want to stand out in most categories, then it’s probably way too late for you to grab the first spot.
What can you do to gain the “top of mind” position?
I think the two best things you could do would be this:
Chipotle was definitely way too late to the game to be the first to sell burritos and tacos.
That’s why they didn’t just create another Mexican restaurant.
They created a new category to be first in by the way they let us move down the counter to create our burritos and tacos and by emphasizing their use of local, “food with integrity.”
You have to propose something to your prospects that your competition can’t or doesn’t offer.
It has to be at least unique in how you frame it.
Jetblue was too late to be the first in the low-price airline category, but they still gained “position” in people’s’ minds.
They did this by offering direct TV (the first to do this), first-class seats to everyone, and better snacks.
The next time you hear the phrase “private eye” let it remind you that now more than ever you must find a way to gain “top of mind” position.
It won’t just help your business to stand out today, but if you do it right, it might just help it to stand out for years to come.
If you’d like other ideas on how to do this, then I’d encourage you to grab a copy of the 2000 version of “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.”