Stretch Yourself in Content Marketing Challenge
Am I walking my talk on content marketing or do I need to stretch it further?
(is “walk my talk” even a legit phrase?! Well, it’s MINE now!)
UPDATE: Time to Stretch Again! Another Stretch Yourself Content Marketing Challenge
I found the Stretch Yourself Content Challenge so useful in 2016 that I’ve done several other ‘stretches’ and I am officially participating in Kelly’s April 2017 SYC. There’s always room to learn, grow, and improve – and none of us can do that from our comfort zones. That’s why it’s called a ‘stretch’! Want to join me? You have until midnight on April 7th to get in the group – get the HUGE workbook of content marketing goodness, join the twice-weekly calls, AND get access to a community of support from other challenge participants. You never know what you might learn from someone who is approaching things completely differently than you are.
Projects I completed during past Stretch Yourself Content Marketing Challenges:
- My Illustrated A to Z Glossary of Marketing Terms for Librarians
- Rewrote my About page so it didn’t just read like a CV or resume – I wanted you to really get to know me and my story.
- Refreshed my site, fixed links, added images to older material, cleaned up formatting and readability, and removed outdated posts and materials – YES, this does count as marketing. Becuase if the info you present isn’t accurate, or updated, it’s telling the wrong story about you, your organization, your brand.
- Wrote about the Content Challenges you could take on – how libraries can adapt these for their marketing.
- Created a video and series on how to get your library’s marketing unstuck – and used the sticky note method to plan and execute my own content for the 2nd half of 2016.
What am I tackling during this content challenge?
- Testimonials – all the feedback from the workshops, presentations, training sessions, speeches, and library or info pro client projects will be gathered in one place for easy access. Then I’ll create some graphics and share the notes, feedback, and support I’ve received from happy clients, attendees or program participants over the last few years.
- Live Video – I am going to test out a few live videos to give marketing tools tips or recommendations – to promote the column I write for InfoToday’s MLS newsletter and for my monthly, FREE, webinar series, Tool Talks for Library Marketing.
I’ll keep you posted on how the challenge progresses! Now that I updated this post and told you what I’m planning, I have to follow through! Meanwhile, read on for more info about how you can prepare for this content challenge or any content project you take on individually, at any time. Go stretch yourself and your marketing!
This is a different kind of post, because I’m trying some different things.
It’s a bit more vulnerable and personable, it’s a bit longer too, but with the valuable educational bits I hope you’ve come to know from me here and at The InfoHound.com. At the halfway mark of this year it was time for reflection and evaluation. I need to break bad habits, work on better ones, and commit myself to being visible doing the work I believe matters.
Why a challenge or stretch now?
Because I hit some rough patches and the wheels came off.
Because June is 6 months into the year and a good time to review, recap and reconfigure.
And … because I recently received an email promotion from a coach/marketing expert I follow that announced a 30 Day Stretch Yourself Challenge for June. I often ignore emails like this, thinking I’m not “the challenge type”, or ‘how much will this cost?’, or ‘this is probably a gimmick’, or that I don’t have time for a challenge. I feel I’m too busy doing the work, and I’m already out there networking, speaking, presenting, writing – you know, marketing.
The challenge is centered around stretching ourselves in Content Marketing and storytelling. I’m pretty gung-ho about this. I believe strongly that libraries and info pros need to be training on and investing in content marketing as a way to promote their awesome services and terrific community outreach efforts. I’ve presented and taught on Content Marketing for libraries and will keep doing so. I try to practice good Content Marketing principles and tactics in my own work.
Truth be told … I can – and should – do more. And do it more purposefully, on the strategy I laid out for myself, with the checklists I have, the timelines I created, the goals I set.
I KNOW what I NEED to do, what I SHOULD do … and yet …
I’m not sure I’m always doing it. Part of those bad habits I’m trying to fix. We all have them, right? Times we don’t do what we should even though we KNOW it’s what’s necessary, needed or right.
Am I living the very advice I give clients and put in my presentations and training for my library and info pro communities? Am I holding myself fully accountable and doing the best I can to give really helpful, useful, valuable advice, content and training to my audience? Am I doing justice by my business and my audience?
I’m questioning a lot lately. So maybe now is the time to ‘challenge’ myself. Maybe now is the time to challenge, you, my library and info pro colleagues?!
The nagging WHAT IF gremlins showed up. You know the ones:
- WHAT IF I don’t finish the challenge(s) because June becomes too busy?
- WHAT IF I can’t shake this nagging illness leftover from May (I’m back to barking like a seal again)? And I give up before I start b/c I feel sick and tired?
- WHAT IF I’m distracted because I have a conference in the middle of the month!
- WHAT IF perfectionism gets in the way of just doing, just creating and putting the good-enough-stuff out there and seeing what you think?
- Alternately, WHAT IF I do the challenge and nothing happens? No one sees anything I create, no one shares it, it doesn’t help my peeps … ok, insecurity on full display here.
Whew. That’s some serious moments of introspection, vulnerability, and transparency there.
That’s the point of a Stretch Challenge, right?
THIS post is Content Marketing Challenge #1 to Stretch Myself
Writing about my reflection and decision to take up Kelly McCausey’s Stretch Yourself Challenge for June is, in fact, the first challenge in the program. Participants of the challenge promise to publicly tell friends, colleagues, and/or their community that they are ‘stretching’ this month. We are stretching by studying (well, I do that every month), learning, sharing, and pushing ourselves out there further than we have – all in name of growing our reach and influence in our communities via Content Marketing.
Challenge #1 Accepted and Conquered!
I’m going to be posting more frequently as I go through this challenge, and also how you can implement these same content marketing projects in your library or info organization. Sharing what I’m doing is part of me issuing a challenge to you, my library and info pro peeps – this may be the busy conference season, start of Summer Reading, and the end of academic year time … but let’s not let that stand in the way of practicing good, solid marketing. STRETCH your marketing and outreach along with me!
The rest of this post will cover some steps to take to make sure we are all ready to take on this content marketing challenge – we don’t want to pull something while pushing and stretching! The next post will have the actual challenges we can pick from to focus on for a month. Later posts will cover progress in the challenge and new content marketing efforts and examples.
Before Stretching Your Content Marketing, Prep Yourself, Your Website and Your Marketing Plans
You don’t go right to 25 reps of those big heavy dumbbells, or sprint at 5 miles an hour on the treadmill at the gym, right? (ok I don’t ever get to 5MPH, but stretch anyway!) No! You warm up and prep first. Same with tackling a big set of challenges. Set your foundation, warm up, and prep so that you’re more likely to succeed.
Here’s some of the advice we’ve gotten for prepping to Stretch our Content Marketing.
The Pre-Challenge Prep can be done by any of us with a web presence, looking to check for a good foundation for Content Marketing efforts. Here’s your prep checklist:
- Check your About page:
- Is your info up to date? Did you change jobs, add a certification, leave an organization, have a new story to tell?
- Do you have a good quality, recent, professional looking photo of you or your team? Is the lighting good, is it flattering, does it show you or your team well?
- Do you have contact forms set up and have you tested them?
- Does the page tell your story in a compelling, engaging way? Yes, an About page should be more than a bare bones bio and it should NOT read like your resume or your organization’s entire history. UPDATE: I changed my About page, and was challenged to write a list of quirky, fun facts that most folks don’t know about me. I shared some of them – and some OLD photos – on this page. No laughing, ok?!
- Check your Sidebars:
- Are they too cluttered? Or are they too bare?
- Are you making the best use of the side, lower, head and all navigation space on your site? (check your Footer area too)
- Do these ‘extra’ areas of your website help direct your site visitors where you want them to go next in a clear, logical manner?
- Check your Social Media Profiles:
- Are those photos up to date?
- Do you have a good header image that shows/tells about you or your org? [please don’t even tell me you don’t have a header image at all … and don’t make me name names ….please … ok, if this is you contact me ASAP and I will make you one for heaven’s sake! or send you a link to great, free photos you can stick there]
- It’s recommended now that your ‘avatar’ be you – particularly that it be recognizable as you. This is an especially good idea if you go to events, interact publicly and want or need to be literally recognized. It’s ok to change your profile picture up semi-frequently, so now’s a good time. (I’m doing this as part of the challenge – changing my InfoHound avatar on Twitter. To a real photo. Eeek) UPDATE: I changed, and I got more followers, more interactions, great feedback. And people recognize me at conferences more often.
- Does your bio need tweaking? Do you have the right keywords listed? But don’t stuff it full of hashtags please. [HINT: cramming tons of #hashtags in your Tweets or Facebook posts is NOT pro, can be annoying, and doesn’t look authentic. Also #hashtags do NOTHING in your Instagram bio – the app literally can’t recognize them there – only in photo captions].
- Is your location in all your social media bios and info? If your org, library or business is similar in name or location to another, do you have URL, city or state to clarify? Think about how many Jefferson County Libraries there are (wow– I found 7 different states represented on first page of Google results), or Springfield Public Library, etc.
- Are you active on the social platforms where your audience hangs out most?
- For example, I favor Twitter for my work (@theinfohound) and Facebook for personal connections (I have a FB Business Page but I’m conflicted on what to do with it – that’s a whole other post on Facebook pains).
- Is your audience one of the few using groups or communities regularly on Google+ (yes, there are some loyal folks there)? I’m not really active on G+ and it’s not part of my strategy – I keep the page because it’s necessary for YouTube.
- There’s a lot of growth and love among businesses and nonprofits for Pinterest as a power traffic source. I only occasionally pin recipes or house decor to Pinterest and have no plans right now to create a business account – so if I ‘pin’ your library, it’s coming from my personal account!
- LinkedIn – If your work is heavily into recruiting or B2B, then you need to spend more time there (even though it feels more ‘polluted’ than early days – too many promotions, ads, non-business posts). I don’t update LinkedIn as often as I should. But experience has shown that librarians don’t much hangout on LinkedIn, so why would I go there when my library peeps are elsewhere? I do think I need to keep a presence there, and pop in from time to time.
- Check your blog posts:
- Are they still on topic and showing what you want to be known and found for?
- Are there broken links or outdated resources or bits of info? Maybe some older posts just don’t show off you or your org very well, or you’re in a different direction.
- If your old posts aren’t on target for your org focus now, if seriously outdated, and if they’re not getting a lot of traffic, delete them. Yes, I really said <DELETE> … BUT set up redirects and your 404s so if someone does land on that old post URL somewhere online they get sent somewhere more current. Google dislikes outdated, old content more than you.
- Fresh Eyes:
- Have someone (or a few people) who don’t already know you inside + out check out your site with fresh eyes.
- Check your site and social profiles and have them tell you what they see and learned about you – is it on target with the message you want to be sending? If not, tweak it.
Now we’re ready to get to some serious work and stretching in our marketing!
This post is long. So come back soon to read about the specific content marketing challenges I may be working on this month along with other ‘stretchers’ and see how you, your library or info org can tackle these same challenges.