Commitment, Purpose and Creativity Shine
While it’s still early, there was no sign that acquisition has diminished the CMI team’s passion or attention to detail. And, unlike last year, when Cleveland was in the midst of a major construction boom in preparation for the 2016 Republican National Convention — creating the perception, at least for me, that I had arrived for a party while the host was still vacuuming — the city on the lake looked beautiful with its new gleaming hotels towering over the classic architecture of City Hall and a renovated Public Square.
One of the best things about CMW is the variety it offers. During the four time slots reserved for breakout sessions each day, attendees can choose between 13 concurrent sessions across tracks that include Content Creation, Demand Generation, Social Media, Email, Advanced Measurement, Tools & Technology, Conversion and Visual Storytelling.
That variety enables attendees to align their conference experience with their interests, but it also makes it difficult to craft a comprehensive review of the event. Nevertheless, here are the three themes that stood out to me this year:
- Commitment: Commitment was a theme clearly established by conference organizers and articulated by CMI founder Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) in his kickoff keynote. He played off the success of the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers and their mantra —“All In”— to deliver the message that if you’re not all-in on content marketing, don’t bother doing it. Half-measures rarely yield meaningful results. This message was backed up by brands like Monster, the Cleveland Clinic and Verve Global that have experienced impressive results by committing to content. Also, while not a formal part of the CMW agenda, the nominees in the Best Content Marketing Multi-Year Program category of the Content Marketing Awards, including IBM Security, Optum and category winner Trelleborg Marine Systems, demonstrate the power of a sustained commitment to content.
- Purpose: One of the highlights of the conference for many attendees was comedian Michael Jr.’s Thursday morning keynote. A personal, compelling and laugh-out-loud talk that somehow blended standup comedy and Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle philosophy, Michael shared how he found his “why” and how it transformed his comedy and his life. There were other sessions that focused on purpose-driven content, but it was hard to top this one. If you aren’t familiar with Michael Jr., check out this clip.
- Creativity: The challenge for content marketers is clear: standing out amidst the glut of content being published every day. As content marketing has evolved, more brands have gotten in the game and the increase in quantity has driven down engagement for everybody. Engagement rates that were typical five years ago are rare today. The solution, to a large degree, is better content, or what multiple presenters called “wow” content. Sure, there was solid practical advice shared on increasing conversion rates, using technology and managing organizational change, but the need to create wow content was a common theme across multiple presentations. One of my favorites was from Tom Webster (@webby2001), VP of Strategy at Edison Research. In his breakout session, “The Forgotten Discipline of Content Marketing,” he brought home this message with a more than 100-year-old quote from Daniel Burnham, an architect and urban designer, who, among many other projects, developed the plan for Cleveland’s Public Square:
Make no little plans for they lack the magic to stir men’s souls.
So, all you have to do to be successful is make a commitment, find your why and stir the soul. Simple, right?