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Revamp your content strategy by following these 9 content cornerstones

Last week, I gave a presentation to 300-plus folks on a Cision/Vocus webinar around content strategy. It was a similar presentation to the one I gave at the Fort Worth PRSA meeting in October (I shortened and updated the deck with a bunch of new examples and case studies).

As part of that presentation, I had a section dubbed “Content Cornerstones”, where I suggested 9 tips to consider when creating online content on behalf of your brand or client. I set these up with a  “Don’t do this–do this instead” context, which allowed me to actually show you what I believe some brands are doing wrong. And, consequently, what others are doing right.

Take a peek at these 9 content cornerstones and let me know if you might have any to add:

Don’t mimic what other brands are doing:

Doesn’t this post from Reese’s look familiar?

Reeses FB

#1: Instead: Stay true to your mission, values and brand voice.

Sleep Number (client) stays on brand with most of its posts. Its mission: To provide personalized sleep experiences. Most content the brand creates syncs up with that mission quite well.

Sleep Number 2


Don’t play off popular social memes:

Sure these kinds of posts get a lot of RTs and favorites, but toward what end?

Pizza Hut meme

#2: Instead: Create content your customers will fine useful–and entertaining

Love this series of resources from Intelligentsia (one of my favorite coffees). Extremely helpful for the DIY coffee geek.

Intelligentsia content


Don’t: Promote meaningless holidays

How many times have we seen brands “celebrate” ridiculous holidays like “National Better Breakfast Month?”

Mattress Firm ex

#3: Instead: Amplify your customers’ best content

Side benefit: Building community by highlighting your customers’ best stuff.



Don’t: Try to become the next Oreo

Please, God. I’m begging you.

Oreo Tweet


#4: Instead: Focus on content that builds pride

Think about most of the people that follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social network. Chances are, they’re already a fan. Why not just play to that pride factor a bit?



Don’t: Promote your products/services TOO much

Go ahead, promote. Just don’t do it too much. Even Facebook is coming down on brands for over-promoting now…

Mercedez FB


#5: Instead: Inspire your customers through video and audio

Not every brand can produce a video like this (one of my faves from this year), but think about what kind of video you CAN produce that will inspire and solicit emotions in your customers.


Don’t: Talk about events only you care about

Really. Very few people cares.

Fairview FB

#6: Instead: Tell rich, meaningful stories about the people who make up your company

I’ve blogged about Microsoft Stories before, but I’m a big fan. Love the way they tell employee stories here (see Kevin White at left here).

Microsoft Stories 1


Don’t: Be too cute–resist that urge.

Denny’s is hardly the only “offender” here…

Dennys Twitter


#7: Instead: Be a resource and build trust and affinity with customers

Sure, Hilton suggests its own hotels from time to time in this feed. But I’d say 90 percent of the time they’re merely suggesting the best restaurants, routes and activities in locales around the world.

Hilton Suggests Twitter


Don’t: Focus on creating “compelling content.”

Really? REALLY?

Academy Awards Tweets 3


#8: Instead: Focus on creating compelling headlines!

It’s all about the headline. Without a great headline, no one will read your content. My thought: Create 5 headlines for every post you develop–better way to get to the BEST headline.


Don’t: Focus on short-form content exclusively

When you focus on short-form content exclusively, this is what happens…

Academy Awards Tweets 1

#9: Instead: Create long-form content that can be broken apart into smaller pieces

One piece of long-form content can last for months when broken apart into smaller chunks. With Bike Walk Move, my partners (Mod & Co.) and I broke this large infographic into many Facebook posts, ads and posters we used for months afterward.

BWM ex 1


BWM ex 2

Twin Cities PR This Week – Nov. 21

I’m writing to you today from lovely New Ulm, Minn., where I spoke to a group of 40-or-so marketers and PR folks about Facebook ads. I’ll have the prezo up later today, if you’re interested (right after I make a pit stop at the Schell’s Brewery!).

However, you’re not here to here about my life–you’re here to learn about what’s happening in the Twin Cities PR scene! Here’s the latest job changes, promotions, events, new account wins and award wins in Twin Cities PR in the last week:

Fenced In, Part 3


It’s official: Aaron Miller, who’s been playing a lead role in social/digital over at General Mills since 2011, is heading back to Target. Congats, Aaron!

Lauren Fischer, who worked in social/digital at the American Academy of Neurology, recently took a job as social media community specialist at Medtronic.

Chris Bevolo, principal at Interval–a marketing health care agency–for the last 19 years, recently merged his firm with Nashville-based ReviveHealth.



Craig Key was recently promoted to director of media at space150. Also: Love the “insert buzzwords” line in his LinkedIn profile…



Anytime Fitness is seeking a blog content manager–nice opportunity to work with Andy Giefer and a growing brand.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota is seeking a communications and advocacy consultant.



Congrats to my former boss, Nicki Gibbs, as she celebrates 9 years at Beehive PR in November.

PRSA is holding its annual holiday party on Monday, December 8 at Pinstripes in Edina (I’ll be there!).

Huge congrats to the gang at Fast Horse (including friends Mike Keliher, Cydney Strommen and Scott Broberg) on winning a coveted WOMMA award for the agency’s work on Newcastle.

The Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association will be holding its annual holiday party on Wednesday, December 17. More info on the site very soon.

Talking Points Podcast: An interview with David Jungers and Erin Vande Steeg from the Mall of America

The holiday shopping season is officially upon us–so Kevin and I thought we’d go right to the source this week: Mall of America!

In this episode of the Talking Points Podcast, we interview David Jungers and Erin Vande Steeg, the social media brains behind MOA’s social efforts. We talk about career paths, working with retailer at America’s largest shopping mall, and what big plans MOA has in store for Black Friday and Dec. (big tease!).

MOA TP Podcast

Take a listen…

SHOW NOTES – November 20, 2014

Mall of America


Mall of America reveals blizzard, boyband, Nickelodeon plans for Thanksgiving sales


David Jungers


Erin Vande Steegw


Is the phone call completely dead in PR?

Recently, I made a decision with a client of mine: I was going to pick up the phone and call her once a week (at least).

As with most clients, I conduct most of my business with clients via email. I provide updates via email. I share files. I provide advice.

But, I typically don’t spend a lot of time on the phone with clients (at least one-on-one; we have lots of status and planning calls).

So, I decided to change that and give my client a call once a week. Just to check in, or chat, if we didn’t have specific business to tackle.


And you know what? I think my client likes it.

You know what else? I do, too.

Now, my situation might be a bit different since I’m an independent consultant and don’t see/hear from too many people during the day.

But, this is part of a bigger trend in our industry (and others): The trend AWAY from voice-to-voice communications.

Blame smart phones.

Blame Millennials.

Blame email.

Whatever the case, we’ve been inching further and further away from phone calls as a preferred method of communication for years.

In fact, we’re now in a spot where reporters PREFER email, and in some cases, Twitter, to the old-fashioned phone.

If I would have told you email would have been the preferred pitch method back in 1996 (when I graduated) you would have called me crazy.

Yet, here we are. The phone is dead as a communications device, according to many in our field.

But, I’m here to say the death of the phone call has been greatly exaggerated. Here’s why:

No one else is calling people–you’ll stand out if you do

With everyone else emailing, Twittering, Snapchatting and Facebooking, you’ll most likely stick out like a sore thumb with your weekly phone calls. I’ve also taken to this strategy with my networking and other professional relationships. I look for opportunities (read: time in the car) to give colleagues, former clients, and professional friends a quick call. Again, since very few people are doing this, it always kinda sticks out and is remembered.

Eliminate 20% of your email traffic with a few simple phone calls each week

One of the downsides of email and texting is the shorter messages–the inability to explain EVERYTHING in an email. We’ve all been a part of the 45-email-long chains of back-and-forth messages about a particular project. In cases like that, wouldn’t a simple 10-minute phone call work much better? My new rule of thumb: If the chain gets longer than 5 emails, I pick up the phone. But, overall, you can eliminate a LOT of email traffic with a few simple phone calls during the week.

Phone calls: The second-best way to cement all-important relationships

It’s hard to build a meaningful relationship over email. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat. Some of those tools are great for STARTING a relationship, but it’s very tough to really build a deep relationship unless you can see that colleague or partner face-to-face. Or, talk to them on the phone. So, sure, face-to-face is always the best way to build a relationship with a business partner, colleague or manager. But, those phone calls are a close second. Because, you can have more than a 140 character conversation about what you did last weekend. You can actually talk about what’s happening on that project and not be limited by constraints like character count and length of a note.

Phone calls will help you manage up a bit better

Since many managers at this time probably fall in that Generation X or Baby Boomer bucket (not all, but a lot), remember that those people didn’t grow up with email. Or Twitter. Or texting. We grew up with fax machines. And word processors. So, the phone is still a great (and in some cases, preferred) way to communicate with us. So, want to really make an impression on your boss? Lay off the email for a while, and call them once in a while. They may not have a lot of extra time, so you may have to get creative (can I call you when you’re in the car?). But, I do believe it will make an impression.

photo credit: a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand via photopin cc

Twin Cities PR This Week – Nov. 14, 2014

As I said last week, I’m going to try something a bit new here on the blog. A regularly post that captures what’s going on in PR/social in Minneapolis/St. Paul on a weekly basis. Job opportunities, promotions, interesting case studies. Stuff like that.

Here’s what’s happening this week:

Fenced In, Part 3


Friend and MIMA board member, Holly Speath, was recently promoted to manager-interactive media and content at Polaris. Congrats, Holly!



My long-time client, Sleep Number, is hiring TWO social positions: Social content specialist and social designer. Visit the Sleep Number Jobs site for more (or send me a note).

A national digital agency (with a local office) is seeking earned media/PR pros at the manager, director and group levels. If you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll connect you with the hiring folks.

Hanley Wood Marketing is seeking a content strategist & director to work in its downtown office.



Craig Pladson, strategy lead-GoKart Labs, recently launched “Inspire.MN”–one part speaker series, one part collaboration sessions, and one part modern marketer profiles. As he says, “Less like MIMA and AdFed; more like Ignite or the idea formerly known as CATFOA. But exactly like none of them.” Should be interesting to see what Craig does here…

In case you missed it, MobCon held its annual event yesterday and today at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis.

Shameless self-promotion: Yep, that was me presenting “Your content strategy is broken. Here’s how to fix it.” to 1,300-plus attendees on a Cision/Vocus webinar yesterday.

Next Wednesday, MIMA will hold its monthly event featuring Clockwork’s Chuck Hermes as he talks about user experience (Plug: Free for MIMA members).