Annual Content Marketing Retreat 2012

Do you want to learn what it takes to succeed with content marketing, with a drill down into the latest approaches, tools and services that make measurement, content creation, curation, publication and distribution more effective. Are you ready for the 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat in 2012?

What: 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat
When: January 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM
Where: Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Langley, WA
Link: Register Now!

Russell Sparkman

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Content is essential, no matter what the marketing approach is.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Russell, it is a great pleasure to discuss Content Marketing Retreat with you. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers. Tell us about 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat.
Russell Sparkman: Increasingly – in print, in the blogosphere, etc. – discussions about Content Marketing are shifting beyond “what is content marketing,” and tips about how to write blog posts, to dialogs about how to actually manage content marketing. Part of the answer to how to manage content marketing is the emergence of not only strategy and tactics, but also platforms, tools and software services. Some of these are as familiar as email platforms (for example Constant Contact, Emma, Mail Chimp, etc.), but there are others that people are less familiar with, such as Marketing Automation (i.e. Manticore Technology, Marketo, Eloqua, to name a few). I got a taste for how really difficult it is to understand what these platforms actually do, how they work, what are the cost structures, earlier this year when I was researching them in order to make recommendations to clients. This was happening at the same time that I was contemplating putting together the 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat. So, I made some calls and sent some emails to colleagues floating the idea of a “how to” focused Retreat in which attendees would gain insight into what’s driving the emergence of platforms (efficiency, productivity), but also be offered a peak into the platforms themselves. As a result, the Day 1 Speaker Narrative is like a book on the subject of managing content marketing, with each speaker representing a chapter of that book. There are 10 presenters, each providing a very focused 15 minute presentation. The speakers include a CMO (Rod Brooks, president of Word of Mouth Marketing Association and CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Agency), CEOs and Presidents of 5 different types of platforms or applications, and representatives of 4 different content marketing agencies. On Day 2(which is free to Day 1 attendees), representatives of platforms will be giving in-depth, 50 minute presentations of their applications. It’s an unprecedented peek under the hood of 5 different state of the art content marketing and social media management tools.

The tools and platforms that will be demonstrated include marketing automation platform Manticore Technology, editorial calendaring tool Divvy HQ, blogging platform Compendium, video platform and content curation platform Curata.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What prompted you to embark on putting together Annual Content Marketing Retreat?
Russell Sparkman:
Of all the “flavors” of marketing that are out there today – from inbound to integrated, from agile to social – I favor the concept of “content marketing” because it’s a bigger tent. It can involve everything from online and mobile, to offline print and events. Additionally, content is what I call “platform independent.” Knowing your brand story, knowing how to tell that story, all is core, no matter what platform or platforms a brand’s audience may be found on. So, content is essential, no matter what the marketing approach is. So, I’ve become an evangelist of the approach, and started producing Content Marketing related events related to our Langley Center for New Media. The premier content marketing event was in January 2011, and was more closely focused on presenting the “what” and the “why” of content marketing, versus the “how to” of the upcoming Retreat.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What were the highlights of 1st Annual Content Marketing Retreat?
Russell Sparkman:
Truly, the highlight of the 1st Annual Content Marketing Retreat, and all our programs, is the level of intimacy that’s created by virtue of the fact we keep attendance to the 100 to 150 person level. So, a highlight certainly is the fact that almost everybody gets a chance to meet and interact with almost everyone else, including the speakers. Our post-event surveys consistently point out that the highlight of all our programs for our audiences has been the combination of quality programming and presentations, in a relaxing environment, compared to the more common 500 to 1000 attendee events in major cities.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat addressed towards?
Russell Sparkman:
If you are an independent business owner, or you hold a marketing or PR director title for a business or a non-profit, then this is the program for you. Additionally, people who are on the content creation side of the content marketing equation will benefit from the insights to be gained.

Ambal Balakrishnan: How is the marketing landscape different than what it was a decade back?
Russell Sparkman:
I’m going to answer this question by shortening the time frame from 10 years ago to 3 years ago, because I think the answer is more important and interesting. Social media has been a bright shiny object that’s certainly caught everyone’s attention. As such, during the past 3 years, marketers have rushed into “doing social media,” without giving much thought to the reality that social media is simply a channels (or a bunch of channels) and that what goes down these channels is what matters. However, that’s beginning to change, which is why I think we’re seeing so much more interest in, and dialog about, content marketing during the past 18 months. People are awakening to the reality that social media is a channels in which quality creativity matters. In particular, creativity that proactively drives conversation, sharing and engagement, versus just using social media as a listening and response channel. As a result, companies are hiring Content Directors and adding content creation line items in their budgets, most for the first time ever. This means that we’re on the cusp of a publishing boom by marketers (i.e. brands, non-profits, even government agencies) that’s going to make the past decade look more like a warm act, than the main event.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What is one change you recommend for businesses to do better in their Content Marketing initiatives in 2012?
Russell Sparkman:
It all starts with money, and how it’s allocated. However, there is still a stunningly small appreciation for what investing in one’s own original content as a marketing communications tactic can mean, in both short and long term gains. So, businesses and companies still do not have budgets for content development. They have marketing budgets in which portions of the budgets go toward brochures, advertising buys and even that somewhat nebulas thing called “social media.” But, they don’t have content budgets. That’s what’s got to change.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please recommend 5 resources (books, blogs) on Content Marketing?
Russell Sparkman:
Blogs: Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs
Books: Return on Engagement, Content Rules, Managing Content Marketing

Ambal Balakrishnan: Russell, thanks for taking the time to discuss content marketing. Good luck with the 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat
Russell Sparkman: Thanks Ambal.

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