I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with content marketing expert CC Chapman. We discussed the future of content marketing, why it’s important for small businesses to get involved, and why wearing a donkey head during a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream prepared CC for his inevitable fame and glory. To listen to our conversation, click here. To read a transcript, continue below.
Q: Hello and welcome to The Outbrain Blog Podcast. My name is Juan Martinez, Content Strategy Manager at Outbrain, and I’m here with CC Chapman, content marketing expert and author of the book Content Rules. CC, you’re a blogger, podcaster, marketing consultant. You’ve been a college professor. I read somewhere that you used to act. So I have to ask you two questions: When do you find time to sleep and what is your main focus these days?
A: All that’s true. I grew up in the theater. Whenever people ask me, “How are you so comfortable on stage?” I’m like listen: Once you’ve been on stage performing Shakespeare with a donkey head on, you can do anything.
Q: A donkey head, eh?
A: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I got turned into a donkey. After that, every keynote address is nothing compared to that. So what am I focusing on these days? It’s interesting because I’ve never been one of those guys who can focus on just one thing. I’ve always got a lot of different irons in the fire. Lately I’ve been saying I’m an author and an explorer who’s trying to make the world better through creativity. That’s the best I’ve gotten so far. I write books. I do a lot of freelance blogging, whether it’s on my blog or I write for Workshifting.com. I get hired to write anything from magazine articles to blog posts, I do a ton of speaking on a variety of topics. I just got back from giving the opening keynote at TBEX, which is the world’s largest travel writer’s conference. I’m going to Syracuse tomorrow to talk to their communication’s team. So I do a lot of different speaking engagements. I just want to make sure people are smart about what they’re doing online or off- with their content. I want people to think about doing it creatively and strategically. My background’s in marketing. I ran a marketing agency for a couple years and then sold it. It’s always bothered me that people get lost in social media and online media. They get lost in the new shiny toy rather than focusing on business fundamentals. You can make the coolest content in the world but if you’re not making money, you’re going out of business, and that’s no fun. That’s me in a nutshell and there’s probably eight different ways I could have gone with that answer.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your blogging experience. You have a huge blogging background. You have a huge history with it and that’s sort of how you made your bones in this industry.
A: I just celebrated my ten year anniversary of blogging. I’ve always kept a paper journal. I still do it. It’s something I’ve always liked to do, to write down my thoughts of the day. When I heard about blogging I thought it was just a natural extension. My rule for blogging to this day is: I write when I have something to say. It’s funny because in writing the book Content Rules I’m advocating having an editorial calendar and posting on a regular basis and yet I write kind of sporadically sometimes. But I’d rather write when I have something to say rather than just writing for the sake of writing. I see people do that all the time and you can tell that it’s forced. Yes, you’ve got to keep feeding the content beast, you’ve got to keep it up or people lose interest in you. But at the same time [writing sporadically has] done me well. I prefer to write long-form narrative posts. I’m not big on bullets. I’m not big on lists. That’s great content. It’s huge. People love that stuff. But it’s just not for me. If I’m writing something that’s forced, something that I don’t feel passionate about, it shines through and you can see that in the writing. If I’m jazzed about something, if something excites me then I’ll write about it. It’s served me well.
Q: We deal with a lot of independent bloggers. They have their blog and they continue to write and they’re passionate about the words they’re creating. But going beyond that and dealing with additional types of media seems to be a little bit over their head — a bit daunting. Can you talk about why it’s not only important to blog but to use different types of media as well?
A: Podcasts are a hugely underutilized tool. I was one of the first paid podcasters way back in the day. It’s very intimate. You’re in somebody’s ears. Also, you look at the Web today, it’s more visual than it’s ever been. It’s always been a visual media, but it’s even more visual than ever. The importance of pictures and videos is bigger than ever, even if they’re only being used to supplement your writing. There’s a very small number of people who can rely on only words for their content. You’ve got to be a really good writer to only use words and not think beyond that. Pinterest opened people’s eyes finally. Sometimes the picture is the most important thing because people see it and they click through. You guys use pictures in your widgets. That’s smart. If you’re serious about blogging you have to think beyond the words. What’s going to cause an emotional response with somebody in your post? What’s going to cause them to read, to subscribe, to share it with others? That’s the power of the social Web. People are so turned on by what you’ve created that they’re going to share it with others. Everybody has got to think that way, from the smallest bloggers with your first post to the ten-year vet like me. If you’re not thinking that way you’re never going to get anywhere.
Q: So many small business say they have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They say they don’t need to be blogging. What do you say to these guys? Why is blogging so powerful that they need someone to own their company blog?
A: How is a customer going to find you first? What if a customer has never heard of you? They’re going to find you through Google and Bing and other search engines first and foremost. Let’s face it. I don’t care if you’re trying to find a plumber, buy a slice of pizza or go on vacation. Search engines rely on new content being fed to them. SEO is super important. Optimizing your site and tagging is all important. But great content, Google has said this, Bing has said this, they like to see a website being updated on a regular basis. A blog is a great way to constantly feed new content and get more search results (because every title of a blog post will get search results). If you don’t make the time, your competitors are going to make the time and you’re doomed. It will cost a lot of time. You already don’t have enough of it. But stop, sit down on Sunday morning or Monday morning and write two blog posts or one blog post. Start small. You’ve got to figure it out. It takes time. But it’s different for every single business. You have no excuse. Your competitors are going to step up. They’re going to do it. It’s a long-term process. You’re not going to magically get results tomorrow. It’s a long conversation. I have this conversation with small businesses all the time.
Q: So what’s next? Everyone is talking about mobile and video. Are there other trends out there that we should know are coming?
A: Those things are super important. Mobile is not just phones, it’s tablets. Everybody is getting into the tablet game. The next big thing — I hate that phrase— specific to your audience is content. Contextual, location, those sorts of things. The tools are out there but no one’s really nailed it yet. Tomorrow I’m going to Syracuse, New York. I’ve never been there before. I’d like to stand in the street and go Show me where’s a good place to eat and consume blog posts from around me that people have written. Yes, a site like Yelp works for restaurants. But it doesn’t have to be specifically about restaurants. Maybe I’m looking for something to do with my daughter tomorrow in Syracuse. If I could somehow contextually pull content of videos people have shared, blog posts companies have written, the museum down the road. Context, it knows where I am and location-based it knows what I’m looking for. Marketers really have to start thinking about this and tagging it, because it’s going to become very, very commonplace.
Photo by Kris Krug
Music by Dan Zweben