Ninety-nine percent of the phone calls I have with my mom come to a close with her saying, “Well, I can’t think of anything else earth-shattering.” After we’ve caught up about family news, her latest golf tournament wins (she’s seriously skilled on the greens), a bit about the weather, and a few other topics, she nearly always breaks out that favorite line. “Earth-shattering” is one of those terms that is so my mom.
Today, I’m borrowing my mom’s favorite phrase to recap NewsCred’s 2016 #ThinkContent Summit, which brought together more than 1,000 content marketing professionals for a day of brand-focused presentations and panel discussions.
In a nutshell, conferences like #ThinkContent are full of shareable sound bites and networking opportunities, and in the excitement of the day – propped up by smiling faces, an on-point DJ and something in the air you can’t quite put your finger on – you can feel like you’re hearing some earth-shattering insights. Then, when you’re back home, reflecting on what you saw and what everyone tweeted during the event, you realize that the conference was less earth-shattering and more reassuring, more eye-opening, more motivating. And that’s a good thing.
How was #ThinkContent reassuring?
If you went to a conference designed for someone with your exact job function and everything the presenters said sounded completely new to you, that would suck. You’d probably leave feeling behind the curve, disappointed in yourself or your team, and anxious about how the hell you’re going to catch up. In this case, you don’t want a full day of earth-shattering content and conversation. What felt good as an attendee at #ThinkContent was a sense that the insights shared by the speakers reinforced the way I (and we as a team here at VERDINO & CO) think about content and marketing.
One comment in particular that reinforced our own thinking came from Brian Becker of JP Morgan. He said that at large companies especially, “content marketing is change management.” We wholeheartedly agree, and this is why content marketing as an isolated practice isn’t enough – stories – from marketing to sales to HR to your leadership team – drive change, and everyone at your company is a potential communicator.
Another reassuring moment came when Quarter Life Poetry author Samantha Jayne reminded the brand representatives in the room to focus their content marketing efforts on “connecting, not impressing” their audiences, especially when addressing millennials. Earth-shattering? No. Good advice to remember when you’re designing content experiences? Absolutely.
How was #ThinkContent eye-opening?
Within the context of hearing from people whose views reinforced my own thinking, there were some ideas at #ThinkContent that felt new and eye-opening. Think: taking what you already know and going one step further.
One standout moment was hearing sustainable farm-to-table food service sweetgreen’s Lauren Drell talk about plans to incorporate virtual reality into the company’s content approach to allow students to learn about where food comes from in an immersive experience. Ten years ago, who could have even fathomed combining farming with VR? Not to mention, ever since, I’ve been thinking more about how much work must have gone into getting my groceries to my kitchen. And by work, I don’t mean me placing an order through Peapod.
Another wow moment came when Google’s Veronique LaFargue told a story about how changing the tone of a one-second frame in a video – based on audience feedback – made all the difference for the final asset. So often we think of voice and tone as bigger-picture guides, but this was an eye-opening reminder that the littlest of details matter. When even a company like Google needs to compete for audience attention, you can’t overlook that one second or one sentence that feels “off” in your content could change the whole result.
How was #ThinkContent motivating?
One of the best parts of events like #ThinkContent is the motivation you feel from the energy in the room. Simply coming together with like-minded professionals gives a sense of, look at all these people working to make content marketing better, more engaging, more useful, more inarguable as an area for business investment. These are my people!
One of the most motivating sessions of the day came courtesy of Rob Candelino of Unilever, who spoke about how Dove has listened to real women’s stories about beauty to create content experiences that have a real cultural impact. Rob put forth that when brands advocate for something larger than themselves, and when they create content with a purpose that’s bigger than simply selling more shampoo, they can connect with audiences more deeply.
By now, we’ve probably all seen the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty highlighted as a top content marketing and storytelling success story. Perhaps the most motivating moment of the day came when Rob said that even Dove still has a lot of work to do. If that doesn’t leave you feeling like you can do more as a content strategist or content creator, I don’t know what could.
At the end of the day, was #ThinkContent earth-shattering? No. But it didn’t need to be.
Thank you to the NewsCred team for putting on an event that brought together some of content marketing’s top thinkers and doers to connect and share ideas. Oh, and when you’re looking for speakers for 2017, I know a guy.