In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris go on a bit of a rant. The folks over at Content Marketing World asked the intriguing question: “What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to content marketing?” If only they’d known what this would unlock. Tune in to find out what grinds our gears in content marketing.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:02
This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.
In this week’s In-Ear Insights as folks get ready for the fall and the perennial content marketing world, the folks over at CMI sent us some interesting questions or particularly tackle at least one of them.
Today’s question is, what is your biggest pet peeve about the content marketing industry or content marketing in general? I have some thoughts on this.
But Katie, let’s hear from you.
What is your biggest pet peeve about content marketing and the content marketing industry?
Katie Robbert 0:35
lack of planning? And I say that not because so before I get a bunch of, you know, angry people responding that that’s all that content marketers do? Yes, you’re right, you plan on a calendar, you have the systems, you preload things.
That’s all really good planning.
What I mean by lack of planning is I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in a meeting or, you know, on the phone with someone and said, Well, what should we write about next? It’s like, I’m sorry, do you you don’t have that part of your plan, outline, you haven’t done your research to figure out what people want to know about.
And so that, to me is sort of my pet peeve is the it’s, like 50%.
Plant, it’s planned, in the sense that they know they need to have a plan.
And so there is some sort of a content schedule, but there’s no data behind the schedule.
It’s more guessing than anything of like, I don’t know, I feel like maybe we should write about this.
And I feel like we haven’t written about this in a while.
And to be fair, Chris, you and I are guilty of this as well.
We actually, because we’ve been now recording this podcast for three minutes.
And three minutes prior to this podcast, what do you want to talk about today? So we are guilty of it as well.
So I’m not saying that you and I are above it.
We are also we also fall into this realm of lack of planning.
Christopher Penn 2:06
I would agree with that.
Although I will say in our defense, when we do look at our data and things like you know, what’s been trending for us in Search Console, etc.
We’ve actually covered a lot of the basics already.
So it’s less about, we have no idea what to talk about more like, Okay, what can we talk about that we have not already done possibly to death? It’s not a complete lack of planning on our
Katie Robbert 2:27
Well, so what are some of your pet peeves?
Christopher Penn 2:31
I really only have one.
And that is there’s so much terrible, valueless company centric content out there that doesn’t add value a benefit to the audience at all right? I was reading a post this weekend.
So I’m just saying like, here’s the here’s the way the public public relations is changing is you have to you have to be controversial or provocative.
Like, no, you don’t, you have to say something useful.
Nobody cares if your product is you know, version two, and you set out a bunch of press releases, nobody cares.
If you’re saying, you know, we’re the fastest best turnkey integrated solution, blah, blah, blah.
That doesn’t help me as the audience member, right? Give me something that helps me prove your value to me as a company as a content marketer.
And somebody that actually benefits me the audience, instead of you the company because yeah, we get it, you know, you have to promote, you have to get attention.
You have to do these things to maintain mindshare.
But the easiest and best way to maintain mindshare is to be useful to your customers, especially if they haven’t bought from you yet.
Because it’s it’s kind of like you’re in that in that dating phase, you have to figure out is this thing even working or not? Right? When I see the content that comes across, you know, my inbox things, it’s all the same drac.
And I’m like, there’s nothing here.
I mean, we’ve talked at length about, you know, what can we do with our own marketing, but we always default back to what would actually be useful to our audience to help them remember we exist.
Katie Robbert 3:59
So I think that, you know, that brings up an interesting perspective on the pet peeves of content marketing is there’s so much thought leadership, I am putting it in quotes, because I think a lot of the thought leadership is vs.
There’s so much thought leadership conference out there with the Well, here’s the future state of and here’s what’s coming.
But what we as marketers really need is the so what, like, great, but what do I do about it? And so I think, you know, if I’m thinking about my pet peeves of content, it’s just here’s my opinion, period.
And I’m like, but what do I do with that? What what action Do I need to take to give me one or two steps like now go do this for now, go read this thing which will help you understand, you know, the word jumble that I just spit on you.
Christopher Penn 4:54
I mean, one of the most successful clients that we’ve ever had, and it was, it was, you know, An ambitious undertaking was working with T Mobile for years.
And as, regardless of what we did for them, their overall core strategy was the most sensible strategy I’ve ever seen from a company, which is, hey, let’s make a list of all things our customers hate and stop doing it.
And they actually made announcements about the uncarrier movement.
uncarrier seven, was, Hey, you know what the whole thing we add a bunch of taxes and fees, and other random stuff you build, we’re gonna stop doing that.
Here’s your bill.
That’s one number.
That’s it, there’s no extra garbage.
I’m sure some of those things were still built in there.
But they stopped putting it on the monthly bill.
So you’re like, What is this, you know, random, bizarre fee.
And that provides value to the customer.
Right? It’s, it’s, it’s simply we’re gonna here’s all the things our customers hate, we’re gonna stop doing it, there’s a very obvious so what they’re so what we’re gonna annoy you less.
And I don’t feel like it’s particularly when you look at a lot of the content marketing, that anyone’s thinking along those lines.
And it’s, it’s telling to me that, you know, T Mobile won so many awards, and is still known, you know, to this day for, hey, let’s annoy our customers less like they would think that’d be common sense.
But it’s so rare that it’s it’s award winning.
Katie Robbert 6:16
Whoa, the lesson or customers less it becomes that, you know, insecurity that FOMO like, well, what if they forget about us for a day? What if they forget about us for two days? What if we’re not in their face every five minutes? Will we become irrelevant, and it’s it’s the wrong way to think about brand awareness.
And it’s the wrong way to think about customer loyalty.
I have definitely unsubscribe to a lot of emails and stop following a lot of brands for that very reason.
Because there’s nothing of value.
It’s too much like multiple emails a day, or even just a daily email, like, Hey, I emailed you yesterday, did you get it? Hey, I emailed you two days ago did you get it’s like, I’m busy, I got stuff going on, I’ll get back to you when I have a minute.
But like, settle down.
And you’re right, it is a lot like dating, like, I’ve definitely broken up with people for less.
And it’s, you know, if they’re going to annoy me every single day, because I haven’t gotten back to them yet.
And they don’t have faith that I will reach out when I have time.
I can’t, like I just I can’t
Christopher Penn 7:26
wish sort of brings back to the central theme of, you know, when we look at the things that give or take away value, we forget, as marketers, we forget the things that we do in our human lives that we don’t like, like nobody likes, you know that that person that just kind of constantly clinging to you.
Like, that’s just not a comfortable thing, unless you have codependency issues.
Nobody likes somebody who makes you something all the time that you don’t want you didn’t ask for you don’t like, it would be like going to a restaurant and then giving you you know, random dishes that you didn’t order? And you’re like, hey, do you like it? Like, no, this is just just give me that slice of pizza and stuff.
You know, give me all this other stuff that I didn’t ask for? And so I guess the you know, to make it the so what for us is? How do we fix this?
Katie Robbert 8:20
You know, it, it’s one thing for us to sort of complain about the content marketing landscape as a whole.
But where we need to start is with ourselves.
And that’s true for any brand, any company, any marketer is, start with yourself, start with your team start with your company, how are you contributing to the problem? Take a look at your content and all the things that you know, make you frustrated about other brands? Are you also doing the same? Because it’s quote unquote, what marketers are supposed to do? Or quote unquote, how content is supposed to be written? Are you doing clickbait? Are you, you know, spewing off your opinions without any sort of useful call to action? Like, are you doing the things that you don’t like that other brands do? So start there and then you need to make a decision either whether it’s with your company or just with yourself of what kind of content Do you want to put out there.
If you want to continue to put out the clickbait, that’s fine.
But you also need to know that there’s a downside to that, and that people are going to get really annoyed by it.
For us, one of our core values and mission is that we want to provide value to people we want to help people get unstuck, from where they are with their data with their marketing with themselves with their teams.
So if we’re just giving them opinions, and no actual calls to action, we’re part of the problem as well.
So our first the way that we start to fix it is to really take a hard look at our content and make sure that everything we’re putting out there not only introduces the problem but also gives people a couple different solutions to try go try this.
Maybe Have you thought about doing it this way? Because, again, the thing that annoys me is reading something and then going.
So now what do I do?
Christopher Penn 10:11
And the other thing that, again, it seems like it should be obvious.
And yet, it is not, for whatever reason, is just asking people and then doing what they’ve asked.
So this is somewhat uncomfortable for me.
I ran a survey, right to my news to my newsletter saying, Hey, what do you think about the length of the newsletter, the frequency, the variety, and I’ve got these little spark charts here.
And you know, with numbers, you know, five being the highest, one being the lowest.
And of the three things that like frequency variety, the one that’s the lowest is length and stuff.
You know, there’s this and if you look at the little spark chart, there’s a sizable amount on this left hand side that says, Yeah, your newsletters too long, and I like it.
And now that I’ve asked people, I now have to go and do something with the information.
Okay, well, what should I do to make it less lengthy? Because, clearly, I mean, yes, there’s a good chunk of people on this on the right hand side of this little spark chart that says, Yes, your newsletters is just the right length.
But there’s also a whole bunch of people who are like, yeah, it’s too long.
So there’s, I have to maybe not, like, be cut down drastically.
But I do have to shorten it because I asked, people answered.
And now I have to do is we’re saying, stop doing the things like customers?
Katie Robbert 11:41
Well, and that’s a, you know, that brings up another point is, you know, so Chris, you’re saying, the easiest thing to do is to ask people what they want.
A lot of cuss, a lot of companies do that.
But they don’t actually take action, it’s more lip service than anything.
And so it’s, again, sort of bring it back to the way that you act in your personal life should mirror what you do in your professional life.
And so, you know, if there’s, if you’re about to make a bad decision, on a Friday night, let’s just say, I won’t go into like details, but let’s just say, you’re, you know, in your mind, you’ve already made up your mind, you’re gonna make a bad decision.
Don’t ask your friends opinions, because you know, they’re gonna say, don’t do it, don’t do the thing, don’t make the bad decision.
Because you’re not going to take that advice, you have already made up your mind that you’re going to go ahead and do the stupid thing that you know, you’re probably going to regret on Saturday.
But you want to go ahead and do it anyway.
If you take that, and then apply it to your marketing.
Don’t ask your customers, if you already know the direction you want to go in because you’re wasting their time.
And then when they don’t see you actually taking their advice, they’re going to get super frustrated.
And instead of you know, getting into a Twitter fight with one of your friends, you might be getting into a public Twitter fight with like your customers and ruining your brand reputation.
Because you’re not listening to your customers.
You’re not giving them what they asked for.
I can recall.
Ah, it was it’s it’s a similar situation where Chris, you and I were actually in this situation where, for a couple of days, a group of employees were brought into a conference room and asked their opinion about what they wanted a new office space to look like, we all got super excited.
We’re like, we want this, we want this.
And it would be cool if we had this and it would be more productive if we had this.
And, you know, we want plants because everything is so white and sterile.
We just want some plants.
Well, little did we know that it was really just like a time waster.
Because none of the things that we asked for happened, the decisions had already been made of how a new office space was going to look.
And when we all got there, quite frankly, we were pissed.
Because we found out afterwards that our time was wasted.
Our opinions were not valued, and not a single thing we said was listened to.
Christopher Penn 14:10
I remember that I remember, in fact, being told, oh, yeah, we just recycled some of the furniture from one of our other offices to to this one like Okay, so what was the point of all that?
Katie Robbert 14:20
You know, and I think that it was it was definitely deceitful to the employees who were spending time, you know, getting really excited, being quote unquote, ambassadors to this new space to get other people excited.
And we all just felt let down and deceived because none of the things that we had asked for or wanted or wished were going to happen and had they just said upfront, Hey, you know what the decisions have already been made.
Unfortunately, this is how it’s going to be.
We wouldn’t have gotten our hopes up to have like a living plant wall.
Or, I don’t know cubicles with walls.
Christopher Penn 15:02
Yeah, it’s it’s things like that remind me of why we’re so happy we created our own company.
It reminds me too, of what Seth Godin often says about data and analytics too, right, which is, you know, if you’re not going to change what you eat, or how often you exercise, don’t get on scale, because you’re not going to make any changes, if you’ve decided you’re not going to make any changes.
don’t measure don’t collect data on it.
And I actually agree with that, because at that point, you are wasting your time you’re wasting our resources.
And if you make if you’ve decided your company centric content, is going to be your content marketing, you know, the CEO said, 100% of our Twitter posts must be about the company.
You know, at that point, great, you got to live with it, or you can change companies, right? Because it’s probably not going to change.
And if you recognize that your company is creating terrible content is not going to change.
Your choices are either go crank out the terrible content or do something else that is valuable, and stop content marketing.
And that will be okay.
If there’s other things that are more effective, or change companies, there’s, there’s really no, are there any other options for marketers trapped in a company where they’re just cranking out crap.
Katie Robbert 16:12
I mean, the option is always to try to fight the good fight.
And it really comes down to, you know, how invested you are in it, how much you believe and how much you think you can affect change.
You know, so if you are working with a team, a CEO, a CMO, whoever it is, who makes a decision that you think is just steadfast and not going to listen to any other information, then it might not be worth trying to find it.
But if you work with someone who’s open and adjust, maybe doesn’t realize that having only company centric content isn’t working.
And here’s why.
And here’s a potential solution to try let me do a little test, then that might be a good way to go to be like, Well, let me just test a small, you know, once a day, or one hour a day, or whatever, you know, the proof of concept is to see, I mean, maybe my assumptions are wrong, maybe if we are more successful doing only company set your content, but at least then we’ll know that that’s the course that we should be following versus I wonder what if?
Christopher Penn 17:18
Yep, I’ve actually had that question myself.
When I look at the content that gets most engaged in our Google Analytics, and in our link tracking analytics, especially 85 to 90% of it’s our stuff, I’m like, I wonder if we should just pivot this doing our stuff, right? It seems like it’s, it seems like it’s the antithesis of a common best practice.
But the data clearly says, our own stuff does better than 90% of what we share.
There’s occasionally breakthroughs here and there, but I look back at like two years with a dad is like 90% of our stuff that gets that gets clicked on as links in our like social feeds.
This is our stuff.
And I’m like, are we doing content marketing wrong?
Katie Robbert 18:01
Well, and I think that that sort of comes back to sort of the original question of what are your pet peeves of content marketing, it’s different for every company that yes, there are frameworks and formulas and recipes and best practices.
But ultimately, every single company is different, every set of customers and audience members is different.
So therefore, you have to start to personalize your strategy to who your customers are versus what your competition is doing.
Because your competition might not have the exact same set of customers.
So you need to make sure that you’re doing what works for your customers, not just what you think is the most competitive.
And so Chris, to your question, you know, are we doing it wrong? Maybe, maybe we are like we are basing what we’re doing off of something that you told me was shared with you, what, 10 years ago, maybe I’m making up numbers, but like it was not yesterday.
It’s something that we’ve been doing for a while because of the way that you were told to do it.
You know, a while back.
So now that we’ve collected enough information, maybe we as Trust Insights start to test.
Maybe we pull back on the third party content that we share and become more company centric.
Maybe we see if there’s a different balance, we should strike or maybe we test becoming completely company centric for a couple of weeks, and see if we lose a bunch of customers.
Christopher Penn 19:31
See if you if engagement drops off or if it doesn’t? Yeah, no, I it’s absolutely true.
And that’s that’s, you know, goes back to the the whole point about, you know, these these Peeves pet peeves about content marketing is if you’re doing stuff that isn’t working stop.
Katie Robbert 19:48
Yeah, I mean, and I think that that there’s a confidence in that.
And it’s a confidence that not every company or every marketing team has To stop doing something.
Christopher Penn 20:04
So, to wrap up our pet peeves, no plans, and doing things that don’t add value or benefit to the audience.
So to the extent that you can look at your data and see if if what you’re doing is working.
If you can, you know, network with other colleagues and see what their relative levels of performance are, ask them hey, like, what’s the average time on site for your company or things like that, just you know, not knowing it’s gonna be like super competitive, but to ask people how other sites and other content marketing programs working, listen to and read through, you know, winning awards, submissions, things like content marketing awards, so that you can see like, what is the best in class doing these days? and use that as benchmarks to say, yeah, either our content marketing is working for us, or it’s not and then please, if something’s not working, stop doing it.
But that’s, that’s the the most important lesson.
something’s not working.
Stop doing it because you’re just wasting your time and you’re taking your audience.
Katie Robbert 21:07
I mean, I shouldn’t eat ice cream every day, but I do.
Here we are.
I should stop.
I’m not gonna
Christopher Penn 21:18
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Thanks for tuning in.
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