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From the Trenches

Let’s Talk Content Shock: A Discussion with CMI’s Cathy McPhillips

Right Source | July 23, 2019

On our most recent episode of “Oh No! Not Another Marketing Podcast,” we spoke with Cathy McPhillips, vice president of marketing at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), about the changes she’s seen in content marketing through the lens of the company that has been the source foundation for content marketing education and research since 2011. One of the big things that Cathy focused on during our discussion was how people are using content these days — from repurposing to new formats to what’s actually worth doing. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Will Davis: You’ve been involved with CMI for a while and in content marketing overall. What have you seen as some of the biggest changes in content marketing over the years?

Cathy McPhillips: The biggest change that I’ve seen in content marketing over the years is probably less is more. When I first started with CMI, it was writing a blog post every day, pumping out that blog post on every single channel at the same time with the same message, doing more and more and more and more of the same. But I feel like now we’re seeing less blogs. We’re seeing more video, more audio, kind of replacing the daily blogs and even some of the white papers. So maybe the next big thing is, “What’s going to replace white papers?” How are we still going to get the leads and keep our customers engaged and happy?

The biggest change I’ve seen in #contentmarketing over the years is probably that less is more — daily blogs and even white papers being replaced by more video and more audio, says @CMIContent VP Marketing @cmcphillips. Share on X

Will Davis: You talked about [there being] so much content out there, kind of the content shock phenomenon. You identified different content types and maybe a shift towards more video, towards different formats from just the blog posts and the white papers. What else are you seeing as ways people are cutting through that clutter?

Cathy McPhillips: Now at CMI, we’re embedding a lot of video into our blog posts. Five, six years ago, it was just heavy text. And now we’re embedding video, we’re embedding slide shares, we’re laying over some audio where it makes sense. So that’s all making a big difference, just breaking up all that text and keeping people engaged. But from a CMI perspective, I write social media pieces and analytics pieces and someone else from our team writes about editorial and different things like that. We’re different folks but in it within the company, but we kind of all have the same point of view.

We bring in other industry leaders to write for our blogs who have different points of view. And then we spend a lot of time —a lot of time — digging into analytics, doing some social listening, and figuring out what our customers really want, what they’re craving.

Will Davis: You’ve been doing more auditing and updating, really looking at this great treasure trove of content that you’ve built up over the years, some of which is very popular but a few years old. Talk a little bit about that process. How do you go through that audit and update? What’s that approach?

Cathy McPhillips: We needed to practice what we preach. Publish your best work, publish epic content. So, we looked at analytics and saw some of our best referral traffic was actually some of our evergreen content. It was our page, “what is content marketing,” and blog posts from 2012, 2013 that are very educational in nature, some definitions, some terms, some templates, and things like that.

Because we date our posts, we wanted to make sure that if someone was going to share something from 2013, they might pause and say, “Maybe I shouldn’t because I don’t know if this is really accurate.” So, we went back and we either made sure it was accurate and changed the date or republished it, or we went back to the author and said, “Can you let us know if this is still valid? You know, can you remove things like Google Plus or things like that you may reference in your post so we can update it, and we’re republishing it.” And those are still some our best performers. It works well for us over the holidays, because a lot of our team takes a few weeks off over Christmas and New Year’s. But also, we’ve been scattering them in here and there when we have a hole or have a need. And people love them and they’re still relevant.

Will Davis: I think another huge opportunity companies don’t take advantage of is repurposing. They have a video that they might be able to turn into a blog post, they have an eBook they might be able to turn into multiple infographics and maybe some other format. What have you seen that’s effective, whether that’s for CMI or for other companies?

Cathy McPhillips: We’ll take a session from Content Marketing World and we’ll turn it into a five-minute teaser video for them to go read a blog post on a topic where we will break down the whole session. I mean, there’s all these different ways we’re using that 45-minute session. Or we’re taking a SlideShare presentation and we’re turning all of those pages in the SlideShare into JPEGs and publishing notes on social media. Just because we’re sick of seeing it doesn’t mean our customers have even seen it once. So that’s something we try to keep in mind.

Will Davis: On the repurposing side, are there companies that you’ve seen that you would say are really standouts at this that are people to look at and say, “Wow, these folks are really doing this well”?

Cathy McPhillips: Some of our speakers, I love seeing what they’re doing. Chris Penn, he does a podcast or does a video every week and then he actually does an auto-transcribe of his video. If you read it, it’s not exactly correct. It’s almost like an auto-corrected transcription. He just publishes that on his blog. And on top of it, it says, “This may or may or may not be accurate.” But he’s been doing that for SEO. He’s doing that just so he has some texts someone can read. I think that’s brilliant.

And people like Jay Baer, he’s so good. He had blog content that turned into book content that now turns into video content. And he’s telling the same stories over and over again. And I see them a lot only because I follow him everywhere.

And then Joe Pulizzi, a lot of the blog content over the years turned into presentations that he was giving all over the world, which turned into four books. If you go through Joe’s latest book, “Epic Content Marketing,” it really is all blog posts, but he’s just, you know, revised just so it makes sense for a book format, but a lot of the same stories.

Who are the masters of turning blog #content into book content into more? @cmcphillips says @jaybaer and @joepulizzi offer a stellar template for how to get it done right. Share on X

Will Davis: Not everything is as impactful as we think it is sometimes, so what in marketing do you think is just a waste of time that people keep doing?

Cathy McPhillips: I think any marketing they’re doing that they’re not excited about, if they’re just checking a box and going through the motions, stop doing it. I just think life’s too short to create crummy content and expect your readers to take time to read it.

.@cmphillips on just “checking a box” with #contentcreation: I just think life's too short to create crummy content and expect your readers to take time to read it. Share on X

Want the full story from Cathy McPhillips on content shock and what she thinks about creating and repurposing content in today’s crowded content landscape? Listen to the full podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe to Oh No! Not Another Marketing Podcast to never miss an episode.

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