Interview #15 Transcript – August 23, 2013
Participants: Lee Traupel and Martin van der Roest

Martin van der Roest: Welcome! I’m Martin van der Roest, your host of the Content Marketing Examiner interview series. Today we welcome Lee Traupel of Linked Media Group. Lee is a repeat interviewee and has participated in earlier conversations. Welcome to the interview, Lee.

Lee Traupel: Thank you so much, Martin, it’s a pleasure to contribute to the Content Marketing Examiner once again.

Martin van der Roest: Lee, since we talked last, three months or so ago, are there any updates on your business? Or can you give a quick recap for our readers/listeners of what your business does, the services you offer and the kind of things you’re focused on.

Lee Traupel: Our core business is helping clients in three strategic and tactical areas: Content marketing initiatives, social media marketing and website design.

Martin van der Roest: Okay. Today we’re going to focus on a paper you recently wrote and one that we really like internally. We thought that the content of this particular paper would really be of interest to our readers and listeners. You entitled the document, “Creating High Value Content,” and it really is an impressive document. It will be available at our website for those who want to take a closer look at it. That will be the subject of today’s interview. So Lee, what was the idea behind the title that you chose when there are so many other aspects of content marketing? What was the motivation for that and what were you trying to communicate in this document?

Lee Traupel: That’s a great question, Martin. We struggled with that title; we wanted something that would resonate with people, with brands, with businesses. In our minds the most important imperative of quality content is just that: good, high quality content that resonates with target market segments. So that’s the background for using that sort of mundane, basic title. It’s not sexy or memorable, it’s kind of bland, but it does underscore something that we thought was a primary initiative that brands and businesses should be well aware of.

Martin van der Roest: I think it’s clear that people are coming to the realization that quality content is really vital. In your paper you’ve identified 11 specific areas, not that we want to go through each of these, readers can get them by going to the site. Give us a high level view of what these 11 areas spoke to and how they impact the quality of content.

Lee Traupel: That’s a difficult question to address: What’s quality content? What are the components that go into that? What makes it legacy information that people want to read and share? What makes it evergreen information that has good factual information or data or case studies or white papers or references to other websites that resonate with people? Those 11 big picture components were put into the beginning of the document because we wanted to set the landscape for brands and for businesses. If they took away nothing from that long white paper but those 11 primary metrics at the outset, it would be meaningful and it would educate them. That was the background for starting out with those 11 initiatives.

Martin van der Roest: Out of those 11 initiatives you pointed out some critical take aways. What would you say are some pillars of those 11 points that influence the kind of quality that readers are looking for?

Lee Traupel: I’m just summarizing, but “perceived value” in terms of the individual that’s engaging with that type of content whether it’s, again, a blog post, a white paper, a case study, an article, even a text or status update in a social environment, or even if you broaden it out to Pinterest, what type of image or video it is. Perceived value from the person that’s engaging with the content is really critical and that’s always a moving target. That perceived value is determined by a number of variables such as market segment, type of customer, time, methodology for delivery, and platform. That’s a really difficult issue for a lot of brands and businesses to chase down, but it’s critical to making meaningful content. How do we write something or create something that resonates with our market segment that helps to engage our brand with that individual or with other businesses?

Martin van der Roest: I’m going to segue a little bit from some of the planned topics for this interview, Lee. I had a very interesting conversation with David Erickson who’s a consultant in content marketing out of the Minneapolis area. David and I were talking about this very topic and what he brought up was the idea of understanding your audience. I know you addressed that in your white paper; it’s such a critical component. How important is the so-called “buyer’s journey” in the kind of content you put together? I say “buyer’s journey,” but it could be for a non-profit, it could be the donor’s or the volunteer‘s journey. People go through stages as they engage with a brand, a product or a service. How important do you see that being as you develop the kind of content strategy that’s reflected in your white paper?

Lee Traupel: I think it’s very important that you are to a certain extent telling a story with great content. You are creating a journey for the person who’s engaging with the content. “Journey” in the context of the old marketing maxim, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; then retell them again.” There is sort of an inherent structure in content that does tell a story that should resonate with the person or a brand that is receiving the content. It’s got to have some emotional components in it so it’s not bland or boring. The buzzword that we’re all hearing today is, “Storytelling is moving to the forefront.” If you look to mainstream media and what’s happening with television, for example, it’s moved away from the sort of the typical network TV bland, boring content, to content that’s complex, multi-layered that has that real strong storytelling element to it. If you look at people like Vince Gilligan, the writer who created Breaking Bad, which has been a blow up show the last three to five years, he talks a lot about storytelling and character development and plot development and how you have to bring the individual into the story. So I think that comes back to content strategy today for brands.

Martin van der Roest: So the idea of understanding where people are in the process is important. Let me add another dimension; is a generational consideration of the audience something else that writers/authors would want to consider? In other words, you have the Boomers on one end of the spectrum and you have those in the 18-25 year age group, the Millennials, and then the strata in between. Of course there are cultural influences, world event influences, etc. I want to toss that into this equation. To what degree, as I’m writing, as I’m creating my content strategy, I’m looking at my audience, I’m looking at the journey that they’re in, to what degree is the generational consideration going to be important in that mix?

Lee Traupel: I think it’s very important if you look at that number one bullet point on our white paper—identify the issues and needs that will resonate with your customers. We start talking about customer focus, and that’s a great point again, if you’re producing content that should resonate with Millennials, then that content is probably going to have a different look and feel than content that may be focused for Boomers. Or if you’re a B2C brand and you’re developing content for consumers, that content structure will probably be much different from content that is focused more for B2B. Then as you drill more into those demographics and look at what the use cases are within those market segments, if it’s a CIO or CTO your B2B brand is trying to speak to, they’re going to look for a lot of data and information implicit in that content strategy. If it’s a consumer, they’re probably going to be looking for more of an engaging story that resonates with them. And again, going back to your touch point earlier, if they’re a Boomer, they’re probably going to look for content that doesn’t have as much of a story, content with more structure to it. If they’re a younger demographic, Millennial or other, they’re probably going to look for something that’s cooler, hipper, that’s got more of a mode of content to it, maybe breezier and lighter. We could talk forever on this one component but that’s a summary of it.

Martin van der Roest: I like it. I think you’re basically reaffirming that the journey as well as the target audience, the generational components would be some additional considerations to throw into the mix. I’m hearing more and more of that.

Lee Traupel: Linked Media Group is working primarily with startups or early stage companies so our “sweet spot” for our marketing services in in that narrow market segment. Going back to what you said earlier, if you’re an agency and you’re working with a much bigger brand, where you’ve got a marketing department and a much larger budget to work with, they’re probably already on multiple social platforms. They’re probably doing some tactical content syndication; their KPIs and measurement components are going to be very different from an early stage startup company. Talking with startup companies, their challenge today is what type of content should they generate, and they’re struggling with how do we write blog posts that are meaningful as a content strategy and bolt those onto a website? And then what content channels do we use to broadcast or syndicate that content–Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn? And then how do we measure that? Most of them are just using baseline marketing methodology so it’s the blog post that’s being shared on Facebook and Twitter and they’re using Google Analytics for measurement. When you look at a much bigger corporate entity, using a platform such as Cadence9, you’re dealing with much different tactical elements in the process.

Martin van der Roest: Good input on that whole topic and I think it’s something that we haven’t been hearing much of and it’s not that we want to over-engineer this thing, but at the end of the day it is a little bit about how to optimize what we do. I think these are good considerations.

Let me jump onto an extension of this quality content. Nate Dame has been a Content Marketing Examiner contributor. Nate runs a consultancy agency out of the Chicago area. Nate called content marketing the “new SEO.” He grew up in his business doing SEO work and a number of things that were related to that that were important several years ago. But today, how important is it for a content marketer to think about SEO as they’re producing content? How relevant, how important is it today?

Lee Traupel: I think Nate’s observation is cogent and right on the money. As you know, we have deep SEO experience going back 15 years. So when we work with clients, we are very much thinking about SEO metrics or components in the content. Frankly, we are doing very little SEO services for clients of the old-school SEO keyword analysis, backlink development, meta tags, on-page title descriptions, etc. We integrate some of those SEO disciplines in content marketing, but we are telling clients today that the new SEO is certainly content marketing. Meaning, you have to generate quality content that’s going to be shared across the social web that Google of course will note, and that is sort of the new SEO. I haven’t listened to Nate’s civics in terms of his last interview, but it probably dovetails with his perspective.

Martin van der Roest: Absolutely. It dovetails with what you’re talking about in your white paper, that quality content, at the end of the day, is really what’s important and SEO kind of falls out of that. So if you’re doing a good job putting the content together, addressing the topics that your users want to hear about, then it almost seems inherently conducive to supporting SEO.

Lee Traupel: The old-school SEO was very focused on Google’s algorithm and trying to make sure that your website was ranked on a page one with Google. That hasn’t changed in today’s environment in the sense that companies still want to have page one rankings, but what has changed is that Google has done a dramatic shift with their algorithm and they’ve moved from looking solely at a website and backlinks into the website, on-page SEO done well, and other variables. Now they’re really looking at social signals so their algorithm can understand if you’ve written a blog post, is that shared on Twitter? Is that amplified by others on Twitter? And also has that blog post been used on Facebook? If it’s been used on Facebook, even in their wall garden, Bing is going to pick up that blog post and pull it into their index, and then Google will see that, so that blog post will be ranked within Google as well. Social signals are sort of trumping a lot of old-school SEO methodology today, and I think it’s really critical for brands to think about how do you create content, how do you share it in a social environment, and then how do you “rinse and repeat” that content again and again, but not in a manner that clubs your recipient over the head in an artificial sense. You “rinse and repeat” it frequently so you extract all your value out of that content, because as you well know, content today is extremely challenging to create and can be expensive.

Martin van der Roest: Yep. I’m going to hinge on that because this is something that recently came up in another conversation I had, and that is using the expression, “Content is the fire, social media is the lighter fluid.” So what you’re saying is if you have good content, then social media, that component of content marketing (and there is still some separation there today), but how do you take this good content, this quality content that you’ve taken time to put together, a lot of thought goes into it, even per your 11 point outline in your white paper, but then the importance of also dousing the content with a social media activity. I think your point is very important in what you’re trying to illustrate.

There are folks that read or listen to these interviews that have a full stratum of experience, those that are fully engaged and immersed–even practitioners, consultants. But then there are also those who are just getting started, they recognize that content marketing is important, they’ve got to play. What advice would you offer in the crawl/walk/run of activities to these folks that are just getting started and want to produce quality content? What would you advise them?

Lee Traupel: I’d sort of back into the process, what is their marketing budget? What type of content do they want to produce, in-house or are they going to outsource with a content marketing agency or individuals or contractors? Is there some collaborative process where they want to do some content in-house and maybe use a content marketing agency to help them? Then, looking at their tactical execution, if they have the marketing resources—an editorial calendar is a great way to start. An editorial calendar can be very basic or very sophisticated. Basic in the context of who are our customers, what type of topics will resonate with them? Let’s jot those down into a Word document or a spreadsheet and then let’s look at some type of scheduled format to drop into those topics. Then, what sort of keywords should be used within that content. That should be a blend of primary and secondary keywords that will resonate with their target market segment. We tell clients all the time who want to jump into social media, “Do you have a blog post? The first thing you should have is a good content marketing strategy and that almost always starts with a blog post, a great, great blog post, and then you can share those across the social web and those will really anchor your brand in a social media marketing context.”

Martin van der Roest: I think you’re hitting on something that I feel very strongly about. I ask this question in every interview, what advice would you give to someone just getting started and your point of seeking support, seeking a trail guide, someone or an organization that’s done it before. Not that you can’t do it eventually on your own as you get underway, but someone who’s already been around the block, so to speak, so leverage that, take advantage of that, get the shortcuts on the map. I think that’s excellent advice coupled with the other things you pointed out.

We’re about to wrap this up, Lee, any last comments or thoughts you’d like to leave with our audience?

Lee Traupel: Just to go back to those 11 key metrics we have in our white paper. As you think about content marketing you also want to think about what is your measurement for content marketing. Is that lead generation, is that revenue, is that engagement on your social media channels? I think you also have to look at a marketing budget and then look at what your internal resources are or are not, and then look at using someone in an outsourcing manner. When we work with small businesses, we share with them all the time; there is a collaborative component if you’re using an outsourcer or agency in the process. Referencing the analogy of crawl/walk/run, the crawl process is probably very collaborative with a partner, then the walking process may be moving out and doing some of your content on your own, and the running process would be doing all of your content on your own or using an agency to do it all. Those metrics, moving back to them also you’ve got to understand what your marketing resources are in terms of your social media platforms and what your content updating activities will be on those platforms and do you want to use wonderful technology like Cadence9 if you’ve got staff and multiple people are collaborating that need some platform that integrates the processes. I didn’t want to get too much into the details of the 11 points because they all have multiple goals.

Martin van der Roest: Good sweep of the topics that you’ve put together, and I know it represents many years of experience and so I urge our listeners/readers to take a look at that document.

Lee Traupel: Thank you so much Martin, it’s a pleasure to contribute to the ongoing activities of the Content Marketing Examiner.

Martin van der Roest: Thank you Lee, I really appreciate it. That concludes our interview today, so this is Martin van der Roest with the Content Marketing Examiner, where we’re continuing to pursue the idea of optimizing our content marketing initiatives.