Book Review: Content is Currency by Jon Wuebben

Content is Currency by Jon Wuebben - CoverMost book reviews start by telling you about the author and content, and end with telling you whether you should read it. This time I’m going to start by telling you why should you read this book; it’s important.

The reason why you should read this book?

Content Marketing is the hot topic of the moment, and Jon Wuebben’s book is about as comprehensive a guide as you’re going to get currently. Whether you’re a content marketing novice or a have already dabbled, Content is Currency has something for you.

Having said that, we can now get back into the usual swing of things.

Jon Wuebben is CEO of Content Launch and a content strategist. Content is Currency is the follow-up to his 2008 book, Content Rich: Writing Your Way to Wealth on the Web, and in it he takes an in-depth look at the hows and whys of creating content for the web – both desktop and mobile (and about time – things have changed massively since 2008!)

The ability to create engaging content is becoming increasingly important in today’s digital landscape. The prevalence and power of search and the virality of social, means that content is a powerful medium for organisations to spread their messages. Being able to make the most of these channels is good for both your brand and your bottom line.

Content is Currency is set out into three parts:

  1. What is Content Marketing? – in this part Wuebben looks at the basics of content marketing, including analysing your current presence, performing keyword analysis and competitive research, and optimising your content.
  2. Content for the Web – here Wuebben delves into the different sorts of content (from articles to press releases and beyond) and how you can create content that has impact.
  3. Content for Community and Mobile – in this part, which will be the one that I suspect most people will be drawn to initially, Wuebben details best practice around the use of blogging, email, video and audio, including how to make this content work on mobile devices.

Within each part, the subject is broken into a number of chapters, each dealing with a different element of content marketing. The progression through the chapters is logical and they are filled with good examples to help highlight the tips and techniques within, making it easy to absorb. There are also Case Studies at the end of each chapter that reinforce the approach. Although unavoidable, some of these examples and Case Studies will date, especially where screenshots are included, but this is a minor point, and doesn’t significantly detract from the longevity of the book’s use – as I said, it’s impossible not to have this issue where you are using real-life examples

Content is Currency is a book that you could read from cover to cover, if you so wished, but it is equally as useful as a coffee-table style dip-in guide. And although some of the content may date, it is still a comprehensive guide that provides real value to marketers and agencies alike. In a fast moving ever-changing environment like the web, making our content work across multiple channels and devices is so important – the lessons in Content is Currency will help you to make this a reality.

Have you read Content is Currency? What did you think? Have you changed your thinking on content marketing, or implemented changes since reading the book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review based on a proof copy of the book supplied to me. I have no business relationship with Jon Wuebben or Content Launch. I have not received any monetary incentives or payments. I don’t need to write this bit, but I think it’s always good to be completely transparent.

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Book Review: Building a Blog for Readers: How to Blog In A Way That Matters by Nick Thacker

Building a Blog For Readers - Front CoverStarting as blog isn’t easy. You fret about whether you’ll be able to write, whether people will want to read it; after a few posts and only a few hits you start to wonder if it was all worth it. But get through the doubts and before long it all changes. For me, it’s been a really positive experience that has opened up doors to speaking opportunities, made me a little extra cash through freelance work, and even helped me get a new job.

Luckily for those of you who are just starting on this road, you can get a jump start thanks to Nick Thacker’s ‘Building a Blog for Readers: How to Blog In A Way That Matters’. Thacker is the prolific blogger and writer behind LiveHacked, a website aimed at aspiring authors who want to make a living out of writing. I was already familiar with LiveHacked, having used the site’s The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Writing Fiction content to help me with my writing, so when Nick asked me to review the book, I was happy to do so.

Building a Blog for Readers is set out less as book and more as a guide for the new or nascent blogger (Thacker himself terms it a manifesto). Formatted into 101 questions across seven topics, you can read through or dip in as required. It’s clear and accessible, and if you don’t think a section is valid for you, it’s easy to move on. However, Thacker’s goal for the book is that you work your way through each one, answering them as you go, so that you have the confidence to begin writing (or maybe not) when you get to the end. It’s not about giving you advice; it’s about helping you to understand what you want.

The seven topics are:

  1. Vision – these questions are focussed on getting out what you want to achieve through writing, your personal goals for the project.
  2. Purpose – this is about understanding your goals for the blog itself: will it help people, make you famous, what is it that makes you suitable to write about a subject, what makes you hungry?
  3. Strategy – creating a strategy for your blog. Define your readers and their requirements.
  4. Tactical – this are the smaller blocks of activity that put your strategy into action.
  5. Structure – the topics on which you’ll write and the USP of your blog. Also, the platform your blog will run on.
  6. Personal / Lifestyle – creating a writing schedule, outlining your commitment to write and discovering how best to approach writing.
  7. Inspiration – finally, other writers provide inspiration through sharing their experiences

Read in order, the book makes sense and holds your hand through most of the big questions you need to ask when setting up a blog (and looking to make money from it). One thing to note though: this won’t tell you how to write and it won’t make you a better writer. It will focus your mind and help you to structure your approach to writing – but if you’re hungry, passionate and knowledgeable on a subject, hopefully the writing quality will come with time and practice.

Personally I didn’t take as much from the Inspiration section as others have done, but the other questions that Thacker poses are well defined and thought-provoking. If you’re looking to start a blog this is worth reading; you’ll find you start off running – or at least jogging – rather than walking. And for the small price of £2.62, it’s not a massive investment either.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review based on a proof copy of the book supplied to me. I have no business relationship with Nick Thacker or LiveHacked. I have not received any monetary incentives or payments. I don’t need to write this bit, but I think it’s always good to be completely transparent.

Have you read Building a Blog for Readers: How to Blog In A Way That Matters? What did you think? Has it given you the confidence to start writing? I’d be interested in your comments.

Unbounce – 15 Landing Pages That Couldn’t Sell Honey to a Honey Badger

Honey Badger Gets What Honey Badger Wants!Just a quick post to say that my latest article for Unbounce – 15 Landing Pages That Couldn’t Sell Honey to a Honey Badger – is now online at the Unbounce blog.

It seems I have a reputation for telling it as it is, hence the eponymous Honey Badger of the title and the Tweets that went out today to promote the article:

And the editor’s intro:

With that, I’ll hand you over to James Gardner (no relation), who’ll walk you through 15 pages, an overview of their customers and what’s good and bad about them, some might get a little bloody, but there’s gold in there too, he makes a lot of sense and has some great advice, so pay attention.

I’m really quite pleasant in person, but I guess you can be who you want to be on the internet! I guess #iamthehoneybadger isn’t a bad reputation to have. Thanks Oli!

Here’s an extract, you can read the rest at Unbounce.

If there’s one thing a business wants from its landing pages, it’s conversions.

In this article we’ll look at 15 landing pages and critique them for conversion; looking at the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The key to driving a high conversion rate lies in understanding your audience, which is why I’ll dig into the types of customers they’re serving. If you do that, then at least you’ve given yourself the best possible chance. So who’s up first? Oh look! Adobe…

Central Desktop: Are ad agencies ready for the cloud?

Logo for Central DesktopA new guest post has gone live at Central Desktop this evening. Are Ad Agencies Ready for the Cloud examines the ways in which agencies can harness cloud services to increase their business agility. Here’s a short extract:

Businesses love their agencies. Why? Because they have three perceived qualities that bigger organizations want to reclaim: creativity, innovation and agility. But do agencies really have these qualities or are they, for all the slick presentations and trendy ideas, just as wedded to old working methods as everyone else?

You can read the full article at Central Desktop.

Book Review: The Hidden Agenda

Book cover - The Hidden Agenda by Kevin AllenIt’s not often that I read ‘business’ books, being a fan of fiction, but in this case I’m going to put pen to paper for Kevin Allen’sThe Hidden Agenda’. A book that aims to impart the secrets of a perfect pitch and turn you into a ‘winner’1, based on Allen’s long career at some of the world’s biggest agencies.

Having been in ‘agency world’ for the majority of my career, I was keen to see how his approach matched both my own thoughts and my experiences.

Allen is best known for being behind the Mastercard ‘Priceless’  campaign – a wildly successful and much parodied campaign that is still running worldwide today, despite being fifteen years old – and although he tries to play down his part in the campaign throughout the book, it forms a central theme throughout.  It’s a strong theme though, and it pays dividends as you make your way through the book.

Allen’s approach is broken down into four clear stages that you can absorb into your pitch skills. As methodologies go, Allen’s is a simple one. It’s based on a large helping of common sense, but for the inexperienced his advice is sage. For those of us who have been in pitches – win or lose, and I’ve done plenty of both – there will be plenty to identify with.

From brief to pitch, Allen moves through three main stages, each illustrated with stories and personal insights:

#1 “Who”

In the first section of the book, Allen focuses on understanding who you are pitching to and trying to uncover the hidden agenda that lies behind the black and white requirements of the brief. By showing you how to listen and question effectively, it’s possible to understand the emotional make-up of your audience and align your pitch to their underlying needs.

#2 “What”

In the “What” section, he explores how you can bring your internal strengths to bear on a pitch. Identifying your complementary strengths helps you to align your team and pitch to the hidden agenda.

#3 “How”

Finally, the book looks at the art of the pitch, which is, to all intents and purposes, the art of storytelling. Allen shows how you can identify heroes and villains within the brief, and take the client on an emotional journey with you.

Allen’s methodology does not focus on solutions, this isn’t a book that will make you more creative or give you an in on the latest trends, but it will help you to deliver your creativity in a meaningful and effective way. This is neatly shown in the last pages of the book, where he gathers together a number of examples of real-life pitches and breaks them down, showing the inputs and outputs of each stage. It’s here that the book really comes together.

The methodology is backed with some simple tools and techniques to help you apply it in your own work. These aren’t mandatory, but are a welcome addition to the book, as are the accompanying videos and support materials on the book’s website. These additional materials are clearly marked with an icon as you read through.

“the Hidden Agenda is a book worth reading”

If you’re new to pitching, or even new to agency life, the Hidden Agenda is a book worth reading. It’s simple enough and broad enough to take onboard at first read, and it’s not onerous.  It’s also worth reading if you’re part of a non-agency Sales team; as Allen rightly points out, we all pitch everyday even if we don’t know it – it’s there every time we try to ‘sell’ ourselves. Even if you decide not to take everything on board, you’ll still come away with some valuable learning. It certainly helped me to take a healthily self-critical look at my pitching style and identify the things I did naturally well and those I needed to work on. Since I finished the book, I’ve found myself replaying some of the lessons as I’ve been working, which I think reflects well on it.

You can find out more about the book at its website (http://thehiddenagendabook.com), or purchase it from all major book or e-book sellers. Or if you want to hear about the book from the horses mouth, watch this video.

1 This is one of Allen’s favourite words – you’ll hear it a lot.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review based on a review copy of the book supplied to me. I have no business relationship with Kevin Allen, KevinAllenPartners or Bibliomotion (the publishers). I have not received any monetary incentives or payments. I don’t need to write this bit, but I think it’s always good to be completely transparent. 🙂

Have you read the Hidden Agenda? What did you think? What did you take from it? I’d be interested in your comments.

Medmeme: Does an Effective Corporate Website Really Matter?

MedMeme Logo

I now have a new post available at Medmeme.

Does an Effective Corporate Website Really Matter?‘ questions whether an effective corporate digital presence really translates into digital success, or whether pharma companies still need to do more to use digital communications effectively for patients and healthcare professionals.

Guest posts now online at Medmeme

MedMeme Logo

Just a quick post to say that two pharma-focused articles are now up at Medmeme.

Pharma and Facebook: Gone for good?’ investigates the relationship between big pharma and the world’s largest social network, whilst ‘Two Rarely Mentioned Reasons to go Digital’ looks at the less obvious reasons for moving towards digital marketing: money and compliance.

4 reasons why mobile marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought

In the past, many companies tried to graft digital strategies onto existing offline campaigns. The results were uncoordinated campaigns that failed to make the most out of the opportunities that an integrated approach could bring. They were, in effect, two separate campaigns.

The same thing is happening today, but this time it’s regarding mobile strategies. Here are four reasons why mobile marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Reason #1: It will cost you more

While it’s possible to create a separate mobile marketing strategy around your existing marketing, it will cost you more in the long run.

Why?

Because the content and assets required for effective mobile marketing are not the same as for offline, or even digital marketing. Mobile content should be lightweight, adaptable and concise – creating a 200-page PDF whitepaper won’t cut it on a three and a half inch screen.

While content marketing is the new king of the marketing hill, content is expensive and time consuming to create. By creating effective content that can be used across many communication channels and finding multiple applications for it, you’ll use your budget more effectively.

Reason #2: Your campaigns won’t be truly ‘integrated’

Planning campaigns to be multichannel from the start allows the savvy marketer to make the best use of mobile as a communication channel. Marketing synergies can be created by linking offline and online channels through QR codes to drive consumer activity at the point of interaction – be it on packaging, posters, or any other touch point – rather than later on.

The immediacy of mobile marketing increases our ability to influence the customer. In fact, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour! Whether that search is driven from offline or digital marketing activity, the opportunity that mobile marketing provides are too great to ignore. An integrated multi-channel approach to marketing will ensure that you capture the broadest possible audience into the sales funnel.

Reason #3: You won’t be taking advantage of the opportunities that mobile makes available

Mobile marketing provides a new set of opportunities to marketers. The hardware capabilities of the mobile devices allow for new approaches to customer interaction.

Not only does the camera on a mobile device enable QR codes, it also allows foraugmented reality experiences, where our message can be overlaid over the real world.

Geo-location is even more exciting. Marketers are now in a position to communicate with consumers at, or close to, the point of sale. Traditional approaches, such as discounts and coupons, can be delivered directly to the consumer as they approach a store, or during the purchasing process.

Reason #4: Purchasing behaviour is changing and mobile is becoming more important

The beauty of a mobile device is that it is with your consumer almost all the time and gives them access to information on the move. As a result, people are changing their browsing habits by accessing information away from the traditional desktop browser.

This change in browsing habits is having an impact on the way people behave offline; consumers are now much more likely to use a smartphone or similar mobile device to inform the purchasing decision. By allowing mobile marketing to be an afterthought, you’re throwing away the opportunity to influence customer behavior at a time that matters most – in-store at the point of purchase.

Not convinced?

If you’re still not sure about the benefits that mobile marketing can bring, consider this: mobile internet usage will outstrip desktop usage by 2015, and in the last year smartphone and tablet sales outstripped desktop PC sales for the first time.

By embracing mobile marketing now, you’re not just getting ready for the future, you’re making the most of now. The mobile era is here already; don’t get left behind.

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DoNanza: The easy way to establish your expertise using Quora

DoNanza - QuoraThe 15th April saw my first article published for DoNanza. DoNanza is an online service that helps freelancers find work, providing a range of tools to help them get noticed by potential employers.

“The easy way to establish your expertise using Quora” covers the basics of using Quora to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge across multiple subject areas, and highlights how you can use this effectively in creating your own personal brand – opening up job opportunities.

As well as the website, you can find them on Twitter or on Facebook.

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From product to platform (why Hipster sucks and Contently doesn’t)

Contently versus Hipster

What makes a successful product? It’s the question that people all over the world try to answer, day after day, month after month, year after year. And not just in the technology sector. But at the moment, it’s the technology sector that should be looking hard at itself. The last two years have seen a few so called ‘products’ garner heavy investment from venture capitalists, when, in reality, there has been very little to invest in. Color raised $13 million in Series A funding in 2010, only to fail with its ‘revolutionary’ take on social photo sharing. Hipster had more technology press coverage than if the Pope got caught in a girl’s school gym locker, only to underwhelm massively on launch (yes, they were bought by AOL last week, but since when did AOL make something work?) Jason Freedman’s post from the 8th April highlights some of these issues, and this from the perspective of the start-up.

That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with failing. The ability to companies to ‘pivot‘ their products shows an agility and a will to succeed that is admirable; it is a lesson we should all learn. Both Color and Hipster have done this, but I think we should ask some serious questions when we see the amount of money invested in these products.

What does make a successful product?

Facebook logoThe true measure of success is to make the transition from product to platform, that’s where the real money is. On a day that saw Facebook ready itself for a May 2012 $5 billion IPO, we can see the real effect of this transition. Facebook has made the jump from a standalone social network – if that’s not a oxymoron – to a platform upon which many other brands and products depend. From social reading apps to gaming, Facebook facilitates sharing and communication; it provides the infrastructure behind the social in the same way as switches and routers are the infrastructure behind the internet.

They’re not alone in making this transition. Here are some other examples:

Amazon

Amazon started off selling books, plain and simple. But it has evolved into the shopping platform. The introduction of Amazon Marketplace, giving other sellers the ability to sell directly through Amazon to its userbase, was the turning point. Amazon no longer has to source all its goods – although it still does – as it can generate revenue from the transactions that flow through its shopping platform.

iTunes

Steve Jobs took a different approach when building iTunes – he started with the device, the iPod, and used it as the basis for building a closed infrastructure for purchasing music, TV and films. It’s not an open infrastructure in the way Amazon or Steam is, but due to the ubiquity of Apple devices (phones, music players, tablets, laptops or desktop), it doesn’t need to be. Now, being on iTunes is essential for content producers.

Steam

Steam started with Half-Life, the smash-hit game from Valve. Following the hug success of the first game and its expansions, the sequel was launched with the Steam platform baked in: installing Half-Life installed Steam. The reaction wasn’t great at the time, but it was a shrewd move. It’s large initial userbase meant that Valve could now use its platform to deliver games from other publishers, taking that all important percentage cut. This in turn has allowed Valve to innovate: the platform funds game development, including hits such as Portal 2, and allows new business model, such as the one found in Team Fortress 2. Team Fortress went free to play last year, but has its own in-game (in-Steam) marketplace where players can buy additional content (yet another revenue stream). In 2009, Steam was estimated to have 70% of the digital games distribution market.

Google

And of course there is Google. Google’s control of the search marketplace has enabled it to create the most powerful ad platform in the world.

Hipster and Contently

So why does Hipster suck? Simply because they went to market with something that can never make this transition. The ability to create postcards doesn’t make for a platform, just an interesting application of existing technologies. Hipster was built only to be a talent or IP sell – short-term.

And why doesn’t Contently? I believe that Contently has found a niche will allow it to transition – albeit in a limited fashion. In an environment where content is becoming more and more important, Contently is positioning itself as the glue between the content makers and content consumers. By putting writers in direct contact with publishers, they creating a commercial relationship that has legs. If they develop it in the right way – thinking of themselves as representing all groups of content producers, not just writers – they have the opportunity to be come a pivotal service in the new content economy. For me, that’s admirable.

Whether Hipster or Contently are successful in the long-run, only time will tell, but I know who I’m supporting.

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