‘You need to create stories that connect with your readers’, says Byron White, WriterAccess founder

jam session with byron white

Back in 1996, Bill Gates stated that content was king and a key element for the internet to thrive. And we all know that he sure was right. Since then, a whole lot has happened in the world of content creation, so much so that having a content strategy has become a cornerstone of any successful Digital Marketing strategy.

The scenario in the 1990s looks like another universe considering what content creation has become. SEO, social media, search engines, copywriting and many more concepts have come up to play, and have turned out to be a big deal for marketers and writers.

With rapid changes and new content popping up from everywhere, how does one build an effective, consistent and scalable content strategy? This is what Byron White, founder of WriterAccess and Content Marketing expert, talked about during our Jam Session, Rock Content’s mix of webinars, interviews and presentations with the world’s best in class marketers.

WriterAccess is a fast growing platform that aims to connect business and agencies with content creators, and it is now part of the Rock Content family.

Despite all the big transformations the content scene has gone through, Byron highlighted the importance of, above all, creating stories that connect with the readers.

“Your content, for it to be great, to scale, and to be successful, it needs to ‘snap, crackle and pop’. Your content snaps when your headlines leap off the page and lure people in, so they must see what you are talking about. Content crackles when it touches your heart, or makes you laugh or connects with you in an unusual way. So, that becomes important for the parameter, for your goals. Content pops when it actually converts, when it inspires someone to take action”, he states.

Even though there are other crucial factors for any content to get to the audience, such as SEO, Byron point-blankly defends that “story first, optimization second. Unless your story is compelling, no one’s going to read it. It doesn’t matter how well it’s optimized.”

Byron shared his 10 secrets for scalable content creation, approaching creativity, Digital Marketing practices and hacks for managing a team of creators.

Check out the full video interview (or read the transcription below):

Transcription:

Vitor Peçanha: There you go. Hello everyone. Welcome to another Jam Session. I’m Vitor Peçanha here. I’m co-founder and CMO at Rock Content and I am your host today.

Just to remind you: our Jam Sessions are a mix of presentations, interviews and webinars, with Marketing and SaaS leaders and thought leaders, all powered by Rock Content.

Today, we have a very special guest.

Someone who’s really aligned with our mission of creating great content, not only for customers, but for the market.

It’s Byron White, founder of WriterAccess and Content Marketing Conference (CMC), also now part of the Rock Content family.

Welcome Byron.

Byron White: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Peçanha: Awesome. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, like, where did your passion for Content Marketing come from?

Byron: Yeah, wow, you know I’ve been on the front lines of the Content Marketing revolution for quite some time now. Both as a founder and an author of a couple of books. As someone that’s been forging forward to try to end the world of all this bad, boring content and try to help our customers and help us all create great content.

Peçanha: Awesome.

So WriterAccess is all about providing great content in a scalable way for companies, right?

About this topic, that’s what we’re going to cover today. You asked us to cover the 10 hacks or secrets to scalable content creation.

Shall we dive in?

Let’s go.

Byron: Let’s do it.

Peçanha: Let’s do it. I like your first one. I’m gonna call it a secret. I like secrets better. Your first secret, I like its name. It’s called ideas, maps and plans.

Byron: Perfect.

Peçanha: Secret number one. Can you explain it to the audience?

Byron: Number one of ten. They’re all pretty good, but I’ll let the audience be the judge. This one sort of starts with a broad topographical 20,000 foot view. And let’s face it, you need a plan if you’re going to be successful when it comes to Content Marketing.

You know, creating those engaging topic ideas for content. They certainly don’t fall from the sky. How do we find those great topics that we want to write about? That’s really the hard part, so I believe that you need to research what’s happening in each topic area you’re thinking of writing about.

You need to come up with a content map that sort of outlines the strategy and the tactics that you’re going to use to research and develop these topic ideas.

Let’s take smaller budgets and larger budgets. With smaller budgets, you’re going to be required to be very selective on the number of topics you create. And the bets, if you will, that you’re placing that your topic will connect and convert browsers into buyers.

With larger budgets, you have more room to experiment and you can come up with not only more topics, but more subtopics and more keywords to optimize for, and a wider social reach with more resources to distribute that content. But at the end of the day no matter if you have a large or small budget, it all starts with the ideas you need to research the topics and the subtopics you’re trying to bring together. Roll it together in a map and a plan. And from that mapping plan, I think you can find some inspiration and a process that you can count on from that initial planning stage.

Peçanha: Got it and you’re talking about that. That’s important. I think it’s interesting you mentioned smaller companies with smaller bets, with smaller budgets. They have to be precise with their bets right?

Is there a secret to say, “hey, how do I choose the best topics or the best strategy?  Because I cannot waste any money.”

Byron: I think so, I mean, when you don’t have the budget you can’t select keywords that are impossible to go after.

You’ll never get a top listing for it. Yet, you need to select, you need to find questions that are longer-tail that you can answer freakishly well.

I think with smaller budgets you need to choose topics that are not quite as popular and you need to completely cover them comprehensively.

So, you’re bettering your chances for success with great quality content covering a super niche topic area covering all sub-topics related to that topic. So, you know, that’s really the way you need to look at it, I think.

Peçanha: Awesome. Thank you.

Byron: Sure.

Peçanha: Secret number two. Onboard content creators. What is that all about?

Byron: So, you know there are several ways to onboard a content creator and here, let’s refer to writers. Let’s rule out mind reading because that’s a lost art and science that we can’t count on. Right. And I know that can be important for some of you out there, that you just feel like you’re gonna, but you know it’s a lost art in science.

So instead we really need to articulate the goals and the specifications and the requirements for projects. And we need to make sure there are instructions that are crystal clear with examples of greatness, like that’s the key thing.

But, you also need just a process, like a clear methodical process that puts this all together. And you might even consider doing a video recording that would explain to your freelance writers or your team members what you’re looking for. How you want them to approach a topic that they’re taking on. The expectations you have. Examples of greatness, examples of ‘this is a bad example of content that was created and here’s why.’

So, you might even go further to sort of gamify the process, maybe even add some incentives in for performance to really get everyone thinking about that content creation creative process in the right way.

Peçanha: Awesome.

Once again documentation is essential, right?

Byron: Indeed. No, it’s just, I think the process is, you know, is equally as important as the ideas itself. You know these content creators, they need directions. They can’t read your mind, particularly in a marketplace like WriterAccess.

That’s the enemy. It’s just assuming that you can write these instructions and everything will be great. You know, feedback becomes an important part of the loop and we’re going to talk about that a little bit.

Peçanha: Got it. And is it similar when you’re talking about in-house versus outsourced content creation?

Byron: I think so.

Peçanha: Is it the same process?

Byron: I also think with some writers you actually need to repeat that process. In-house writers might get a little bit lazy. They might, you know, lose the thirst to produce greatness. The other thing that happens is your brand may change. You may rebrand. You may require new tone and new style

More importantly, once you start creating content, say, with an in-house team, you might learn what’s working with this, the more that you publish. You need to reverse engineer what’s working and retrain your writers. Your in-house writers need to step and repeat whatever worked, and look for signals of what’s working, what’s not working.

Which once again requires an onboarding process for your creative team and it’s not just writers, I might add. It’s with designers and illustrators and animators. How’s the tone and style coming together? How can we constantly be looking at it and onboarding everybody to the changes that we think need to be made.

Peçanha: So it’s onboarding and, should we say, like recycling sometimes.

Byron: I think so.

Peçanha: Whenever there’s a change you just go over and retrain everyone.

Byron: Exactly, it’s definitely training. Training everyone in the process, but spot on. Yep.

Peçanha: Awesome. Secret number three is that we should test writing styles before we hire a writer. How do we do that, and why?

Byron: This goes way back, to like 2002, a long time ago. Well, all right, how about 2012. Let’s go back just a decade. But it did go back as early as 2002 when we first started a company called Life Tips which was way way back 20 years ago. But we were bringing new freelancers, both at WriterAccess and at Life Tips and we needed to test them.

We needed to find out, you know, who has a similar tone, or who has the right tone and style. You know, gone are the days that you can go through an interview process for a freelancer or a full-time writer and use that as a guide to whether you hire them or not.

Instead there are unique opportunities particularly in a marketplace, to test writers, send the same order to like three different writers and maybe a small order of 500 words or less, a blog post. Something simple. And let each of them come back with their interpretation with their creative solution and content for you to review.

Now critical to the process of testing these writers in the format that I just described is giving them all feedback. That’s critical. What you’re testing here is their ability to style flex, to change their original content and transform it into something better based upon your feedback.

That’s the true test of a writer’s ability to create the content that you’re looking for. The ability for them to flex their tone, their style, even their approach to a project, and that’s the true judge. I call that style flexing. I’ve done a webinar on style flexing like eons ago and I still believe it’s a great phrase that helps people understand that there’s actually a style that is flexible out there. One writer doesn’t have one monotone style that is the way that they write. No, they actually flex their style to align with your brand’s tone and style.

Peçanha: Got it. So would you say that being flexible, is a very important characteristic of a good writer?

Byron: Not only important, probably the most important, particularly for freelancers that are working with a variety of customers. If you’re a single writer working for a single brand, you might have to flex your style for different audiences, for example Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. Three very different audiences there. Once again style flexing becomes the centerpiece of that art for a content creator.

That’s a whole other subject, by the way. Do we call writers content creators? You know some writers are actually offended by that. They actually like calling themselves writers. You know they’re not content.

Peçanha: Really?

Byron: I think that we’re actually all content creators whether you’re a particular illustrator, animator, writer, copywriter, or journalist.

I mean no we’re creating content, why not call ourselves the broad topic? I’ll have some enemies out there, for sure, with calling writers content creators. Anyway…

Peçanha: Why would they be offended? I like my title to be very specific.

Byron: Yes.

Peçanha: Not generic.

Byron: Yeah, like if you’re a copywriter, like that’s a very zoned in writing style. That’s writing copy to transform browsers into believers and believers into buyers. That’s your job. It’s called copywriting. If you call yourself a content creator that’s not so much that job description. So perhaps, that’s why they’re offended but, you know, I’m just trying to make everyone happy and we all know that’s impossible.

Peçanha: It’s a huge challenge. Yeah, okay so let’s go for number four. So, you have to explain to us. And I love that: the three guides content creators need for success.

Byron: I believe that you need very structured guides to achieve the goals that you have for a project, right. You know, it turns out that you need a customer journey map to help a content creator understand the needs of a different target audience at different stages of the journey. More specifically, you need to define what the target audience is thinking and feeling at different stages of the journey.

Right and trust me it’s going to be very different at the discovery stage which is where they’re learning about your products and services versus post sale, right? People don’t want to hear the same information. That style needs to be very different.

There are assumptions you need to take into consideration. So, a customer journey map is critical not only to map out, but to explain to a writer: “da da, here’s your target audience we’re going after in the discovery phase”. So, therefore you should be more informational and educational about the 20,000 foot view of our industry because they’re just learning about us for the first time. That helps a writer. So, that’s the first guide that I think you need.

The second guide is buyer personas. Buyer personas, as we all know, define what a buyer is thinking when they make the decision to buy. So here, they’re looking for what the triggers were. Why were we better than the competition? What was the motivator for you? We need that information if we’re a writer creating content, because we know what the trigger words might be. What points to bring up at various points. What the call to action and conversion might look like. So, that becomes important.

The third guide that I think you need is just simply a creative brief which defines the overall scope of a project and the key elements that need to be defined. Over in WriterAccess we build these things into our tools portal so people can actually create these customer journey maps, buyer personas, creative briefs and attach them to their orders.

They can even get more specific to say, “oh with a customer journey map, I will point the writer to this journey stage”, so they only have to read that journey stage to get a feel for the target audience. They don’t have to read the whole thing so that they can get very specific.

The other thing we’ve done to make sure writers are reading these things, because, remember, this is more content we’re throwing at the writer, right: read the project description, read a journey map, read a persona. You know, read the greater brick.

Like wait a second if it’s a 500 word blog post and you’re testing them out I probably wouldn’t include these three guides for a 500 word blog post on a test. Let’s not go too crazy, but as you get to know your talent more these things are really helpful and we’re able to bake in things like, we make it a rule set that the writer has to actually check it off saying, “yes I have read the buyer persona”. Check. And it confirms that they understand what the audience wants. Now, you might have to pay a writer more for that because it’s more work for them but you know, you get the general idea.

Peçanha: So in the end there’s a pattern in the secrets, in these hacks. It’s good communication, proper documentation, right.

I agree with you. I mean it’s not a… if you don’t communicate what you want properly, I mean how do you expect the writer to know what you’re thinking about.

Byron: Yeah, yeah.

Peçanha: I would say that.

Okay secret number five and I love the name of this one. It’s: snap, crackle, and pop.

Byron: Alright, so you know for those of us that are old, like me, that grew up in the United States, you might remember a Rice Krispies commercial. You can look it up and it’s a really cool commercial that said your cereal should have snap, crackle, and pop. It’s very famous. When I was thinking about writing a great copy, copy that converts… that transforms browsers into buyers, I sort of aligned myself with this concept.

So your content, for it to be great and for it to scale and for you to be successful, it needs to have what I call snap, crackle, and pop. Content snaps when your headlines leap off the page and lure people in, so they must see what you’re talking about, right? Content crackles when it touches your heart or makes you laugh, or connects with you in an unusual way. So, that becomes important for the barometer, for the goals, for your content. Well, content pops when it actually converts, when it inspires somebody to take action.

You want to be sure that there are elements of snap, crackle, and pop in an asset that you determine to be important. It doesn’t always have to… the pop doesn’t necessarily always have to be buying. It might instead be a return visitor coming back for more. They love the content. They love how it was written. It had an edge to it. It made them laugh or it touched their heart. It was a great story, well told. The headline lured them in. They wanted to read it because they’re familiar with reading other works from this particular author.

That’s what I would suggest. It’s what snap, crackle, and pop is all about. I did a webinar about that long ago. It was really really popular mostly among writers. You know, the customers were like, huh, you know snap, crackle, and pop okay, whatever Byron.

Peçanha: But it is easy to remember right.

Byron: Exactly.

Peçanha: It’s very easy to remember.

Byron: Yeah.

Peçanha: Okay. Let me ask you a question that I get a lot of times, about the crackle part, right.

Byron: Yeah.

Peçanha: And I agree. You say, like you touch the heart or tickle your friends with humor. I mean you gotta connect emotionally with the reader. But when you talk about SEO…

Byron: Yeah.

Peçanha: It’s very technical writing. It’s very much like… it’s a database. You do keyword research. You want to rank for specific keywords.

Byron: Yes.

Peçanha: Is there any conflict there or do you suggest combining the two? What’s your story?

Byron: You know in a nutshell, story first, optimization second.

I mean unless the story is compelling no one’s going to read it. It doesn’t matter how well it’s optimized and by the way, unless you have good time on page and people are actually reading your content, Google will not reward you with top listings.

And there are very secret ways, by the way, that Google doesn’t disclose to the world, where they learn your abandonment of a web page. One would think that Google would learn from Google Analytics whether customers are bouncing off your page right, because Google has that information. Turns out Google is not allowed to make algorithmic adjustments in the search engines based upon the knowledge they have from Google Analytics, but what they can secretly do is to look at your time.

They can look at you searching for something on Google. They can see you go to a page and they can see you come back, and they can see what page you went to. So, they can see the abandonment rates which is the trigger they can use just from their actual search functionality.

Does that make sense?

Peçanha: Yeah.

Byron: So, yeah story first. You know, optimization second. Bottom line.

Peçanha: Cool. Awesome. Great tip. Then, we go to secret number six: manage creatives creatively.

Byron: Yes, indeed.

Peçanha: What is that all about?

Byron: As some of you may have recognized, creative people like me are hard to control, hard to tie down. We need to be managed creatively, right. You need to get your team on the same page and really consider deploying some sort of a management methodology with each team member. And I believe the way to do that is really kind of a structured, yet loose way.

The way to do that is to set expectations, then inspect the work, then offer feedback wisely, not too negatively, by the way. ‘Wisely’ is the key word there, and then reward performance not necessarily with money, believe it or not, but with acknowledgement of their greatness. Recognition of their greatness.

So it’s kind of a four-step process, but to me that’s the best way that I’ve learned to manage creative people over the years.Is to really, you know, spend a lot of time up front setting the expectations, the goals. What’s going to come out of this? 

Then to inspect the work along the way and not let them think that they could just wander off into the wild world. Inspecting the work is key. So those are the four components that I think make Content Marketing scalable.

Peçanha: Yeah. Someone said it’s like: trust but verify.

Byron: Yeah

Peçanha: Something like that.

Byron: Yeah, yeah.

Peçanha: I forgot to say that.

Byron: The trust is throwing the lure out you know but you gotta reel it in every once in a while and see if you’ve caught anything. Then, if you think, you’ve got to recognize it. I love the quote from Leonardo daVinci which is, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Taking that sophisticated approach with creative people is really important because they need that sophistication with their work and what they’re doing. But you need to make it simple. That’s the key, to life in general, maybe.

Peçanha: Yeah and I think there’s a challenge in balancing the need, for example, documentation, some process and this freedom.

Byron: Yes.

Peçanha: And as a content manager or a Marketing leader, you have to find that balance. Say, ‘hey you have freedom, but within these boundaries.’

Byron: Yeah.

Peçanha: So, then it’s a challenge to do so but yeah, you cannot go all creativity, all fun and games. But you cannot go ‘all processes and zero creativity,’ right?

Byron: Exactly. Exactly.

Peçanha: Okay so another hack/secret, and another one with a fun name. You’re good with the names, man. It’s: feedback makes the merry-go-round.

Byron: Yes, you know, we tend to think of feedback as criticism, negativeness. We all tend to go through our lives and want to avoid confrontation, the negative part of the world. Well, it turns out that creative people actually like and want to be aligned with your goals, and can’t read your mind and, oh my gosh, they actually want feedback.

So, what I encourage customers to do at WriterAccess, is to take the time to offer feedback and don’t, if you can muster up the courage, don’t just approve content that’s not acceptable to you, and then bring it over to your desktop and rewrite it. That’s a waste of your time. As the expression goes, I can teach you to fish and give you the recipe, but that doesn’t really work. You know I’d rather, oh I’m sorry these questions, I can catch a fish and cook a meal for you or I can teach you to fish and give you the recipe right. That’s what we need to think about. It’s critical that we teach people what we want and to offer feedback to them, both positive and negative.

That’s what makes the whole creative process, you know, go around, in my opinion. Or the expression merry-go-round, so that’s my thought on that.

Peçanha: Yeah there’s like a whole science around giving feedback.

Byron: Yeah.

Peçanha: Actually, we do have internal training about giving feedback here at Rock.

Byron: Interesting.

Peçanha: Because, it’s just what you said right. You’ve got to do it. The person has got to do it in a way that the person doesn’t feel attacked, but at the same time the person must acknowledge that if you’re spending your time giving your feedback, it’s because you care, right? You’ve got to be specific etc it’s, feedback it’s an art and it’s a hard one.

Byron: It is. One of the components to that feedback is recognition and the New York Times did a really interesting study about this and it turns out as I mentioned earlier that people really want recognition fortheir accomplishments, which can be part of the feedback loop.

That’s quite interesting. They appreciate recognition more than monetary reward which is really interesting.

Peçanha: There’s this technique I don’t know if I agree with that but it’s a common one. It’s called “the sandwich.” When you say something positive then you do something negative and then you do something positive again. I know how much that’s based on, I’ve read that so many times. Last time I read that was in a book called the Culture Map, about different cultures around the world and it said Americans love that sandwich part.

Byron: Interesting.

Peçanha: Americans love sandwiches in general, right.

Byron: What are your favorite sandwiches? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Peçanha: Like, literal sandwich?

Byron: Any kind of sandwich. Let’s define a sandwich with bread and something in the middle.

Peçanha: Bread and something in the middle. Have you ever been to Katz delicatessen in New York?

Byron: No.

Peçanha: It’s really good. It’s basically roast beef, like this pile of roast beef and pickles. It’s really, really good.

Byron: That’s awesome.

Peçanha: Everything from delis are, right?

Byron: That’s cool.

Peçanha: What about yours? Since you’re asking the question.

Byron: You’re asking? Without a question, lobster roll.

Peçanha: Lobster roll, ok.

Byron: More specifically Maine lobster roll.

Peçanha: You have to go to Maine to get one?

Byron: Well, I think so I mean we can, you know, that’s a story for another day, but you can ship Maine lobster, I think, anywhere, maybe in the world. I don’t know about Brazil, but Maine lobster is a very special cold deep water lobster. Very hard, fleshy tails and claws.They’re just a beautiful species. They are fabulous. So, just a little light mayonnaise, a gently buttered and grilled roll. The larger, the better, I might add. Probably not as large as your roast beef sandwich but anyway a little bit off topic, but good humor, good fun.

Peçanha: Yeah but we can tell that you love it because you started describing it like, and probably salivating or whatever. Now, okay, for the next secret, Marketing is a team sport.

Byron: Mmmhmm. Another whole topic here that was a really fun webinar topic we’ve done several times and I really do believe that Content Marketing in general is a team sport. But if you think about it that way, it sort of starts to help a business really say, “okay what is my budget that I have for Content Marketing, therefore what team size do I really need?”

So, I equate that to, do I need, am I playing tennis? It’s maybe myself, maybe I’m playing doubles and I have one comrade. That would tend to define the type of team structure. Those are the only one or two people you can afford. If that’s it, then you probably need a content manager you know, as your lead that can work with freelancers to crank out this content and scale it up. But maybe you need more of a five person team where you might have a content manager. You might have an illustrator, an animator, a social media manager, maybe a copywriter to help boost the conversion that would be more of your five person team. Maybe you’re a slightly larger company and you’ve got more budget.

You’ve got a half a million dollar budget, maybe even a million dollar budget and five people may be right but if you’re really going all in with both Marketing and Content Marketing it’s more like a football team. I’ll use the word liberally meaning soccer in your technology, or US terms. But the bottom line is that you need more people and that might mean you might have multiple products that you’re trying to promote to multiple disciplines, multiple product pages on your website or a volume you need to produce, more social channels you need to cover.

If you just think about it and then look at the performance that your management team is asking you to deliver, like do you want to quadruple your traffic? Okay, we might need a larger team here. You know I think we need more of a budget of 500,000 dollars, you know, maybe a hundred thousand dollars per employee is a pretty good barometer in my experience to look at the expectations of performance that would align with actually getting the job done. It’s a pretty good barometer to say you know I’m gonna spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on content. You need at least two people to spend a hundred thousand, maybe just one person. But spend a million and expect much grander goals. Good to go.

Peçanha: And I would expand on that because I believe that Content Marketing, it’s not campaigns right? It’s your online presence. It’s what you do every day and represents the company, so, for me, it also goes beyond the Marketing team, right? So, if you have executive leadership they should be helping you with thought leadership content. And if you have a sales team, they should be giving you ideas for good content based on conversations they are having. The same goes for the support team. You should involve more departments around the company because I think that it makes the content richer and the online presence even better, right?

Byron: Well, I one million percent agree with you on that. And a quick story on that from our good friend Brian Halligan at Hubspot, now semi-retired, but certainly very active with Hubspot. Three or four years ago, pre-public as I recall, one of their reps, actually a former rep that used to work for us, was calling on us and Brian had gotten word.

You know that I’m connected with Brian on Linkedin, so sure enough Brian reaches out on Linkedin because he’s connected with a prospect customer and boom he was on it. So, I think that you’re absolutely right. The team extends well beyond the Marketing team. Really good point you’re raising. Hats off. Yeah I agree completely.

Peçanha: Awesome. So for secret number nine and that one has a poetic name. It’s “from me to you” Okay, “from me to you”. You can see that hanging on someone’s wall, right?

Byron: Yeah.

Peçanha: From me to you.

Byron: Almost corny. My apologies for that. Maybe a little too much.

Peçanha: It’s a little sticky.

Byron: I think here, even when you’re scaling content, you really need to have the people behind it, the individual person behind every post, behind every tweet. It’s very hard for a brand to have personality. Now, I think there are some brands that have personality, like Red Bull for example. A lot of personality in that brand. X-Games come to mind. Change the world, extreme sports. That’s where you can publish, potentially with a brand with a really strong brand name.

But if your brand isn’t Red Bull, like most of us, it’s more important that the people you know are really listed on the blog post.

Now, in WriterAccess we actually do that in a creative way. We’re kind of lucky that we can do it this way, but when we post on our blog we actually use the name of the freelance writer that we use. That is, guess what, attribution back to that individual person and guess what, we link to their profile page on WriterAccess.

So, if one of our readers is interested in, likes and appreciates the tone and style and the research they put in with that post, they could potentially hire them. So, we have a lot of customers that do that as well.

They’ll lock into one writer that they’re working with, and they’ll be like “hey you know I really want this writer’s name to be listed on our blog.” So we’ll agree to that. They’ll set up a profile on their actual WordPress blog. It’ll list the first name and the last initial of that writer and it’ll link over to their WriterAccess profile, and we have some indirect evidence that suggests that Google might actually reward that as an actual author creating this content rather than an unknown author.

So, food for thought. Something for everybody to think about, but the “from me to you” is like let’s publish content with the name of somebody in your organization. That puts a stamp on it now. By the way, ghostwriting is perfectly acceptable in this industry. Many thought writers you’d be shocked to learn, thought leaders that use WriterAccess as a resource to submit their outlines and their rough drafts for and you know our writers, our editors come in and polish it up and make it great.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but you know, make that person accountable for what they’re writing. Be sure they’re reading over something that’s published if their name is going to be on it. And that they’re dialed in, and tuned in and they’re of course practicing best practices of reaching out to people that comment and are actually engaging, supporting the engagement of that content with their audience, yeah.

Peçanha: That also helps with the relationship with the writer because it’s recognition right. Say ‘hey yeah that’s my work out there.’

Byron: That’s right

Peçanha: And it’s signed by me, right? And then I mean very important. That’s very important for creative people.

Byron: Exactly right. Now, don’t get me started on talking about NFTs and how that could fit in with

Peçanha: Oh, that’s huge.

Byron: But there is an opportunity in the future for, as Mark Cuban says, for books, to records, to music, to everything to be on the blockchain, right, and to have an author. Much like, all of the products that you use in your house can be on a blockchain digitally. So, if your tile breaks in ten years you can go to the blockchain and say ‘what tile company did we use?’ So digital assets are here. We all know that, and I do believe that in the future of raw content you know we’ll be having this discussion about putting quality content in the blockchain as an asset that will become a very interesting conversation. More on that later.

Peçanha: Yeah, I know but the blockchain’s interesting. I think that using blockchain as a ledger for like you said historical data, it says the NFT part’s more complicated but then that’s a topic for, like you said, an entire day conversation.

Okay we only have a few minutes left and before I go to the next, and last secret, I’m just gonna ask the 10th.

Number 10 is coming up but right before that if you have any question, you in the audience, please send it in the chat and I’ll relate it to Byron.

Okay. So last but not least. Secret number 10 is: tools for success.

Byron: Right on.

Peçanha: And how they play an important role in creating content.

Byron: So, the bad news is there are at least a couple hundred Content Marketing tools that are available out there and being used by Content Marketing professionals all over the world. The good news is you can see a directory listing of those tools over on contentmarketingconference.com and you’ll see a link to the contech gallery. Where you’ll not only see a description of each of them when you click on one, you’ll see a description that will slide over on what this tool does and what its value proposition is. How it helps in some way make your life smarter, better, faster, and wiser, but you’ll also see a video in many cases of an actual demo of the product so you can see what it does and how it will help you.

And we cover all the five pillars over there of content creation, planning, optimization, distribution, and performance measurement. And, for example, in the content creation area we cover all of the platforms: Skyword, Scripted, right around says, Text Broker, Contently, you know we’re not biased with what we’re presenting. This was pure research. We did the Content Marketing Conference and that’s just in one of like 25 different categories and five pillars where you’ll find a couple hundred tools. So the net of it is that tools will save you a lot of time.

Where would we be without Spyfu and Semrush and Buzzsumo, just to mention a few of the tools that are absolute critical tools. That you should be using at least one of those three, if not all three of them, but it’s endless. Tools are really fantastic.

There are other writing tools out there we’re getting into that are really fascinating, that will help writers get introduced and exposed to a thesaurus of words or metaphors or analogies that are really exciting and really cool. And these are tools that will help writers create better content faster. I’m a big believer in metaphors and could have a whole show.

I did a video on metaphors once. It’s pretty cool over on WriterAccess, and I really believe metaphors are one example of a way to, you know, touch the heart, connect with the soul, a visual representation of something, just says a thousand words. So, these metaphors, it’s amazing how many metaphors we say in the course of a day without even knowing it. But metaphors are a really cool way to shoot for the moon. You don’t actually shoot for the moon but it’s a wonderful way of expressing something that means ‘go for it.’ So, these are tools that you need to get familiar with. There are hundreds of them out there.

These 10 tips we talked about today will hopefully help a writer create better content, or a marketer scale Content Marketing faster, better, and wiser.

Peçanha: Okay. Awesome, awesome. Well, thank you very much for those 10 what are they, secrets/hack/tips, or advices.

Yeah we have time for a few questions.

So Maíra, and that’s very personal, but let’s go for it.

What was the most memorable moment in your career?

Byron: Oh man, career, wow. I mean each startup I had was trying to solve a particular problem. I was a curious kid from the get-go and was somebody that could find problems in a lot of things, but I’ll never forget one problem that I saw that this audience in particular would relate to. And that was the fact that the first company I started was called Freelance Access and it was a graphic arts placement firm. At the time, graphic artists were represented by resumés. Written words, right. That made absolutely no sense to me. A designer should be able to show their work. Not a stack of words on an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper. At that time back in 1992, there was a company called Tektronix that had created a dye sublimation printer that was able to print out a 11 by 17 print out of freelancer’s work.

I started this company called Freelance Access and we started a Mac lab and we had no idea whether we were going to be successful. But it was an opportunity to disrupt the energy of the industry if it worked and guess what? It really worked, so for me the most memorable moments of any businesses we’ve started have been, can we disrupt this industry? Can we really change something?

And I think we’ve done that with almost every business. I’ve started five, sold three. Not too bad of a batting average, but each one of them without question had a disruptive component to it and certainly WriterAccess, I believe does as well as all the others but anyway. So maybe that’s…

Peçanha: Multiple moments.

Byron: Okay, so cool, cool. Thanks for the question.

Peçanha: Yeah, so Jason asks, when we talk about scaling content, that outsourcing, it’s one of the ways to do it. You’ve spoken in depth about it, but is there any other pro tip that you have that we haven’t covered when talking about scaling your content creation.

Byron: Yeah and I love that you know what’s the difference between in-house versus outsourcing. Right so yeah that’s a really cool point, Jason. Then the other point as well, which is how do you make these work, what are the tips?

But so yeah, so with in-house content production. Which, by the way, is how most companies are approaching it I think, Content Marketing or at least thinking about it like, why would I? How are these freelancers? Like, let’s just do this in-house. We’ll save all this money or we can produce better content and scale it and make it align with our brand and our tone.

Look, no matter whether you’re producing in-house or outsourcing, you still have the same challenges, much like we were talking about earlier. That communication is critical. You know, you’ve got to do the research to set up your three key pillars, your customer journey map, your buyer personas, your creative briefs. You’ve got to onboard your talent, you’ve got to, whether it be in-house or not. You’ve got to manage style flexing and changing. You’ve got to figure out what your brand is. I think the critical thing… I think there’s actually one pivot person that’s the centerpiece of in-house or outsource and that’s a content manager, right? And that content manager is not a copywriter. It’s not a social media manager. It’s not a community manager. It’s one person that has a single focus job of making sure the content aligns with the goals. It’s created for specification. Delivers the performance. So, I think those are the differences?

They’re complex. Working with freelancers is different from working with in-house people. You don’t have to educate a new freelancer on a process. There’s different skills you need if you’re a content manager but I think the content manager is the pinnacle for both. And you need both for both.

Peçanha: Yeah, so you need a content manager as a key player to make it work regardless.

Byron: You cannot scale content without a content manager, period. The end.

Peçanha: Ok.

Byron: They need an editor, editing background. They need knowledge with optimization. They need really good research tools and techniques. I find that content managers, in general, are tool illiterate. Why? Because companies are not buying these tools, paying these subscriptions to give these tools to content creators and content managers. It’s a shame. So that’s what CMC was trying to do by opening up that content gallery, it was to educate people on those tools. So that’s my thought.

Peçanha: Awesome. So let’s get one last question from Sean. How do you see the Content Marketing world evolving in the next few years?

Byron: Oh man, Thank you, Sean. That’s awesome. Do we have a half an hour, by chance?

Peçanha: Summarized version.

Byron: Content Marketing is changing. Web 3.0 is coming at us. The content creators of the world are going to become the new sheriffs. Finally, this revolution of Content Marketing is going to put the creators at the forefront of the revolution. I see the creators being gold. I think that they are going to be really, you know, I think creativity is going to be pushing, pushing to new limits.

I think that technology is going to catch up with us. I think static websites without some interactivity to it are going to be dead. I think we’re going to see a real merger of coding skills with creative skills and those two forces are going to get together. I think our world is going to be more entertaining, more educational, more comical, more story driven. I think you could argue that web 2.0 to web 3.0 is not going to be crazy for the great people in web 2.0 doing web 2.0,  rather doing great things.

But web 3.0 is a little different. Because no longer are Facebook and Google and Linkedin and Twitter and TikTok gonna make all the money and own everything. That’s gonna hopefully get torn down as we see decentralization, as we see blockchain and the creative parties rise. It’s a really cool time, everyone, to be a creator, a content creator. So look out. Brace yourself. Tune your skills up. Push your creativity to the limit and you will be a winner in this next world.

Peçanha: Awesome, awesome. Thank you, Byron. Okay, folks, that’s it.

The next jam session is going to happen on the 23rd of May.

Byron: Nice.

Peçanha: Brianna Dunbar, marketer and podcaster.

So, Byron, thanks for sharing your knowledge, your expertise. Any last words.

Byron: It’s been great being with Rock content. You have a remarkable community that is larger than anything I could have imagined in my life. It’s great to be part of the family here and our team is excited. We want to bring content out to the world, which was our mission long ago. We’re working diligently in the background to bring more ideas, bring more concepts, bring more advice to all of you through our blog and through Rock Content’s efforts moving forward. So hats off to your team for producing great shows like this and I look forward to helping anyone and everyone out in the future. One of these days I’ll get a Rock Content email address to show you how crazy and busy we’ve been but it’s probably going to be [email protected] So maybe we’ll set it down.

Peçanha: Yes.

Byron: Great, thank you.

Please, if you’re listening to this, be one of the first people that reaches out on [email protected], which will be live tomorrow, right. Can we get that live? I hope so. So reach out to me. I’d love to answer any questions. I really love helping people. Thanks for having me, everyone.

Peçanha: Awesome. Bye, everyone.

Byron: Take care.

Peçanha: Thanks for joining us.

Extra content

Tools for a successful content strategy

With so many resources online, creators and brands can really elevate the quality of their efforts and strategies. A full-circle content strategy involves more than creativity and good stories, but it also needs to consider planning, optimization, distribution and, ultimately, performance analysis.

To help writers and companies, Byron shared that in the Content Marketing Conference website, there is a tab that contains a gallery dedicated to tools separated by categories such as planning and creation, for example.

Each category encompasses tons of tools that can help writers and marketers get inspired, come up with better titles, boost conversions, get insights, track results, get more productive and so much more. Check out the full list here.

The importance of feedback

Throughout the session, Byron talked a lot about improving ways to get more aligned and better manage writers, whether in-house or outsourced. Investing in communication and documentation strategies is crucial in order to help writers understand business goals and deliver the best and most relevant content for the audience. In this context, he highlighted feedback was key. 

Byron recognized the challenge of giving and receiving feedback, since it is mostly perceived as something negative, such as criticism. But, in fact, writers want and need feedback to adjust their workflow.

This fact is backed up by research. A study by Harvard Business School showed that most people avoid giving feedback, but most of them actually underestimate other people’s needs for some feedback. For instance, 72% of respondents said that getting feedback from their managers would be most helpful for their career and professional development.

Another study from the Harvard Business School suggests that giving feedback in a form of advice is a promising, developmental and helpful strategy. At the same time, an article from the Journal of Applied Psychology approached the role of empathy when giving necessary negative feedback.

Book The Culture Map

When talking about feedback, Vitor Peçanha mentioned the book “The Culture Map”, which provides an important perspective and debate on global business and communication.

As remote work becomes a thing and companies keep on breaking local barriers all over the world, the author Erin Meyer reflects on possibilities and practices to navigate through cultural differences, and to have people from such diverse backgrounds work in harmony together. 

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