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Content Matters: AiMA Live Blog

Content Matters: Exploring Content Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Customers

Welcome to our live blog from the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association (AiMA) gathering all about content. After some delicious food, drink and networking, we all convened in a room at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center to learn all there is to know about content marketing and content strategy. This event is composed of a panel, so it’ll be more of an interaction rather than one long discussion. Let’s jump in:


AiMA content matters


The view from my seat of the moderator and the panel!


Opening Comments

Colleen Jones is the Panel Moderator, and as author of “Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content,” ( she opened with the following comments:

Content strategy/content marketing is so important because the way people are using the web and using content is changing. Americans are now spending equal to or less time watching tv as they are accessing web content through a variety of devices.

“People are more hanging out on the web…they’re getting a lot of content and information and turning to the web for all kinds of decisions.”

Content is a huge opportunity to influence your customers/potential customers and the kinds of decisions you’re making.

Content and Marketing: requires thinking about getting the right content together for the right people, having it at the right time and making sure it’s available in the right place.

Challenge: Actually doing that is very hard. Content is not easy. One reason it is challenging is that there are a lot of demands on it. Content has to work very hard, “meet the wishes of many masters.”

People side of content: have to make sure have right content for right people at right time; lots of people involved, from customer service to inbound marketing to sales, a lot of people who need to have some sort of input in content

Technology side of content– getting content in the right place, has to play nicely with search engines and content management systems; things are getting fragmented: social, mobile, local all factor in now too

Even though it is hard, opportunity is even greater. Goal tonight is to share some successes they have had along with making some progress and thinking through some of the challenges they and we face when it comes to content.


The Panelists

(After this, we will refer to them using their first names)

Lance Yoder – Program Manager, Cerner Corporation, heads content strategy and editorial management

Darin Wonn –Product Manager for Mobile Apps, InterContinental Hotels Group – defines mobile app strategy, thinking around content and what it means to mobilize content

Rob Leary –, heads content curation and creation; represents the niche retailer perspective

Liza Dunning – Editor-in-Chief of Scoutmob, voice of Scoutmob: startup perspective


Panel: Back and Forth

 Bear with me as I try to accurately put down everything that is said in this back and forth exchange! Generally, you can expect that each bolded line is something the moderator asked or said, and the information following is what each panelist said in answer to her.

The Two Sides of Content Strategy: People and Technology

And, on a more specific note, there is Editorial (getting it right for the people) and Architecture (getting content right for technology)

Editorial Voice + Tone

How does editorial convey the brand, and how does it relate to Scoutmob?

  • Liza: We were up against a lot of competition, spent a lot of time developing a brand to speak to a demographic; drilling down on local and local discovery
    • Honed brand voice – friendly, conversational, playful – something that people would enjoy reading every morning, not just another deal/coupon in their inbox
    • Went a long way – voice of discovery, voice became more editorial rather than advertorial – voice is authentic, and not just salesy – to speak to it being a friend writing email, not a salesman
    • To be informed on the local scene – what is each place in the context of local space; what does the place mean to the people of ATL

Having that real clear personality was a source of credibility?

  • Yes; Social media also did this for us; we are locals selling to locals

Credibility and voice: Lance, at Cerner: voice and tone important to establishing and maintaining your credibility. Tell us about role content/voice plays in credibility

  • Lance: With the subject matter (we produce software for hospitals, doctor offices): It’s very important to be believable
  • Have to be able to back everything you say up; more of a pragmatic audience
  • Giving people reliable, credible information
  • Training internal content owners to understand why that’s important
  • “Everything we do online is an extension of our brand”
  • Try to do a better job to maintain that level of credibility across everything we do

At FootSmart, Rob, you’re in health space similarly, but you’re a retailer too, so tell us a little bit about things you have to think about and what that plays into with credibility?

  • We are targeting average person, different audience from Cerner
  • We have to make sure when giving out credible health information, that it is stuff that they can read, understand enough without that much detail, and how it means/impacts them; have to make sure this is credible information
  • This is information that will help you, need to make sure it can be backed up; can’t make a claim otherwise

Ever run into challenge when trying to make content have some personality, some emotion, balancing it with having solid facts to back it up, how do you think through that balance?

  • Health related content has to have authoritative, consultative tone
  • Need to make sure this content DOESN’T feel light and fluffy
  • Our brand content has to reflect our brands accurately; different brands have different tones
  • Try to make sure we mix our tones and separate them appropriately based on content

Managing multiple tones: Darrin, building and maintaining one voice is challenging enough, at IHG you have multiple brands and therefore multiple editorial voices that come into play: how does this impact what you do with mobile and what you do with mobile content?

  • IHG – content runs the gamut when it comes to brands and voices
  • On Mobile Apps – lean toward least common denominator
    • Very utilitarian: what people need to book a hotel room
    • Focus on loyalty program to stay away from branded experience space
  • Last fall – saw branded apps
    • Added colors, photos to convey brand
    • As we move toward next year, have to think about mobile apps that are more engaging – how can we bring brand to life across apps
    • Our challenge is walking that balance – providing consistent functionality (software) that still allows for brands to add their voices

In general, you need to reflect your brand identity in how you speak, and this needs to be consistent across all mediums (website, social media, sales people – everything!)


Editorial Topics and Timing

Lance, could you tell us about the role the website and web content plays in attracting customers, its particular role in sales process?

  • Sales process is quite lengthy
  • Client may be interacting with us a number of times during sales process
  • Being consistent across all solutions very important – people should know what they’re going to get when reading each page on website
    • State clearly and conversationally as possible: benefits we think our solutions have; provide opportunities to get more information
    • May follow up something said by salesperson by going to website – have to make sure website is consistent with sales pitch: consistency
    • Each site (international) unique audience
      • Localization of content: important in each of company’s markets
      • Can’t just translate over a site, have to change it to appeal to local audiences
    • Make people understand what is important, what our business is doing
    • Making sure content matches up with overall business goals

Rob, at FootSmart, you deal with both health content and brand content, and you have a niche market; tell us what you do with brand content and how you adapt to challenge of having different brands

  • FootSmart’s target audience is baby boomers
  • So when our brands don’t match up with audience, have to adapt messaging to still get tone across
  • Have to adapt to changing brand messaging (like Merrell) – have to give brand’s information + additional information about the brand

Converting and Retaining Customers

Liza – Deal draws people in; content engages people and have people coming in beyond a price tag

  • Merchants  come back more because they see this advertising as being included in an editorial, like a local guide, rather than just a coupon
  • When she comes in to place to take pictures and write about it, merchants say that is why they do it: it’s personal, gets people to do it because it’s like they’re involved in an editorial

Darrin – talk about the IPAD and how that affects your content creation

  • IPAD apps – role they play in engaging and retaining customers
  • 2 very different experiences: Length of engagement
    • Mobile – utilitarian – 30-40 seconds
    • Website – 5-6 minutes
    • Tablet – more laid back 15-20 minutes
  • Picking and choosing what we have to engage customers for 20 minutes at a time
  • Content – has to be strong enough to represent our brands
    • Smaller brands easier
    • Larger hotel chains –how can you manage the content that supports that experience and keep it consistent across 4,000 hotels = challenge

Architecture – SEO + Social

How to make content work well with technology

Labeling and structure

  • Lance: content and SEO – When redid website, it was a mess, content was hard to find
    • Took the time to think about naming, structure, taxonomy, things that are very difficult
    • Put things in terms people understand
    • Tags and URL structures, meta data that is right, good content = spike in number of visitors we see from organic search (from less than 20% to over 40%) – we are more findable now
    • New site with proper elements = overall traffic is up; number of visitors going up every month (less content now, but what’s left is the good stuff)
    • Optimized content, coherent website structure, and labeling are the key to good SEO and success!
  • Liza – Keywords vs. Voice
  • We started with IT guys, writer and designer – didn’t consider implications of SEO
    • Relied a lot on social and viral messages of growth
    • Focused hard on the brand – when people found them, how to keep them
    • Upfront mistake – all content was wrapped in JavaScript, it wasn’t findable
  • We relied on viral social media strategy which worked really well for us

Social Findability

Rob, at FootSmart, been working on findability from social and SEO standpoint

  • What content work have you been doing to balance that
  • We approach content in number of ways: brand and health content on site, know enough about audience and try to break it out into blogs
    • 3 Blogs that target people interested in certain brands and styles
      • Brands
      • Health information
      • Lifestyle
    • Targeting brand loyalists
    • Make sure messages targeted around that, which drive back to site
  • Also use social media to drive people in and out
    • Use these throughout the week
    • These audiences are different
      • Facebook audience – want to be engaged and want to have us engaging with them answering questions, etc
      • Twitter audience – Younger, looking for snippets/morsels of information: give them a tease and lead them into something else
  • Ultimately all those roads lead back to power of products and to a sale
    • Seen some successes
    • Some has to do with brand being well known in catalogues, not online; when up against Zappos, need to have a good VALUE PROPOSITION (why someone should come to Footsmart versus other shoe retailers)

Then, there is talk of retrofitting content for mobile (important takeaway: think user context with content on mobile, and how this content can be valuable in the moment), a Q&A, and we break for the evening. What an interesting night!

Thanks for sticking with us and learning all about content from the perspective of marketers who deal with various types of it. We hope you’ve learned as much as we have!