Last week was one of the best of the year for content professionals: Content Marketing World, where more than 3,000 content marketing practitioners, leaders and “gurus” – and I! – descend upon Cleveland.
Among the stellar keynote speakers this year was Joseph Gordon-Levitt; you may remember him coming of age before your eyes on 3rd Rock from the Sun; know him from his role alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception; or be aware of his current and arguably coolest project: HitRecord, an open-collaborative production company that is doing really interesting and innovative work to create myriad types of content through crowdsourcing.
As a reformed teenage girl who came of age in the late 90s/early 2000s, I remember him best from 10 Things I Hate About You, the high school rom-com modernization of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
As I sat in the standing-room-only exhibit hall for his presentation, I couldn’t help but be motivated by the scene in that movie where Julia Stiles spills her heart and shares the ten things she hates – but also kind of loves – about Heath Ledger. So here are things I hate about content marketing (in no particular order):
1. I hate that you’re growing up so fast – It feels like a lot more than six years ago that we were trying to figure out this “brave new world” of content marketing at SXSW—when many (including V2, who organized the panel) were still trying to understand how it fit in with brand journalism and other disciplines. Since then, best practices have emerged, budgets have grown and content marketing has not only upended the advertising industry, it is also becoming a revenue-generating part of business.
2. I hate the way you make me cry – Yes, some content is that good, like the GE spot about how an idea can blossom from scary to beautiful or this fan-created pregnancy announcement inspired by the #ShareACoke campaign. I may have had to sneakily wipe away tears as I viewed them.
3. I hate the way you inspire me to push myself – Or, in the words of keynote Jay Acunzo, to question conventional thinking to do better work – even when resources are limited and good ideas feel hard to come by.
4. I hate how popular you’ve become – From owned, earned and paid channels, to print, online and interactive, content marketing is everywhere. It’s no wonder that, according to CMI, 39 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next 12 months. It takes resources to keep up with you!
5. I hate that executives still doubt you – Despite ALL the buzz (and the proven effectiveness), one of the common, albeit underlying, themes of the conference centered around the same question: how do I convince executives that content marketing is worth it? And “worth it” meant everything from closing deals to securing more budget for both creation and distribution.
6. I hate that you’re both a science and an art – Your own split identity forces me to toggle between trusting the data and also relying on my gut.
7. I hate that you share all my best secrets – That is, turning the simplest (and, of course, the most compelling) stories into engaging blog posts, videos, tweets and other assets, in a way that audiences flock to download, view and share them. These stories – the cautionary tales, the heroic feats and sometimes even the comedies – prompt action far better than any product spec sheet on a website ever could.
8. I hate when you make me fail – It’s a lot of trial and error between practical concepts and crazy, big ideas – many of which seem to be a blip on the radar. But, man, do you make up for it when that rare “unicorn” is revealed.
9. I hate that you need a long-term commitment – Forget quick flings or summer romances. You demand not only a year (or more) of time to show just how real you are, but you also require consistent attention through it all.
10. I hate that you make me wear orange and dance to 80s music – OK, so this one is really the fault of the Content Marketing Institute. Check out Twitter for fun photos of the good times.
In conclusion, to steal the words of Kat Stratford (aka, Julia Stiles), here’s how I really feel, content marketing: “But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”
See you in Cleveland next September!