The Art of Content Strategy

Content Strategy 2

For years we have known that Content is King. More recently (our current Social (R)evolution), we have engaged Content in a different place. Namely, at the intersection of Search and Social.

Sometimes we shy away from content because we don’t understand its hierarchy in our attempts to captivate and intrigue the customer. Traditionally, content is for publishers. However, by having a website automatically makes us a publisher. We need to think as a publisher and act as a publisher. Our audience thrives on content. Relevant content, refreshed on a regular basis is a necessity. No news is actually bad news.

Content has re-emerged as the marketing go-to superstar in the social world we live in. Yet so many companies do not have a Content Strategy. First we have to agree on what a Content Strategy is all about. To me, it is simply stated as “getting the right stuff, to the right folks, at the right time, in the right channel, on the right device”. Easier said than done. The customer is at the epicenter of the universe attacked by a non-stop barrage of whirling junk debris and we as customers have become smarter and do a decent job of avoiding this clutter.

How do we avoid being part of the clutter? Embracing the “getting the right stuff, to the right folks, at the right time, in the right channel, on the right device”  definition, where do we start ?

We start with customer insights. Understanding needs and wants and delivering a ‘sensing and serving’ approach to the customer. As seamless as possible. Data driven. Relevant, timely and personal. A good Content Strategy will extend the Life Time Value of your customers.

Successful Content Marketing is developed by organizing your customers into clusters or persona’s. This allows us to message appropriately. It keeps our eye on the ball and we can build Objective Profiles that relate to your defined customer group(s).

As we gain insight from this defined group we determine the triggers that will drive them to (as an example) your website. The goal here is to get your product or service, your destination or hotel, on to the radar screen and in to the consideration zone. But first we need to intrigue them with relevant content to fuel their planning and ideation process.

We should learn the timing of this from insights gained from the characteristics and behavior patterns of the defined group. Maybe even overlaid with transactional data.

Next develop your Communication Calendar. The Communication Calendar should again be driven by data insights. Preferably triggered by the customer as opposed to “Spray and Pray”. If you have specific events, make sure that you have created the persona group that will improve response rates and conversion. Remember the mantra “getting the right stuff, to the right folks, at the right time, in the right channel, on the right device”.

You are now ready to share your content. Make sure your content is the right content for the defined group. Is there anything missing? Do you need to grab additional content. Does the content fit the group. As an example, mountain biking content at a resort might not fit a customer group composed of Boomers. (Although a number of Boomers do enjoy mountain biking).

Today’s Über-Connected consumer can reach you from a multitude of channels and devices. Your content strategy should identify the various customer touch points. This requires some creativity in repackaging your content in to something that looks new and fresh. As an example; a series of top notch consumer generated themed photos collected over the last few months repackaged to tell a themed story. All content shared should be classy, polished and compelling. And remember that the first point of contact is likely to be mobile. Make sure you content renders well in this environment.

As you define your Content Strategy ensure your framework has good metrics. If you can’t measure it seriously consider it being part of your plan. What can’t be measured normally doesn’t get funded.

Another major reason for a Content Strategy (as if we needed another reason) is the continually changing algorithmic playing field from Google as they continue to tinker with their search bots. We have witnessed Google give content a higher priority over keywords. Cramming keywords in to posts and messaging doesn’t cut it anymore. We should be more concerned about the topic searched and make sure it is found in an authoritative and naturally flowing content. This landscape will be in continual flux as Google’s encrypted organic search keyword algorithms change in future updates.

Bottom line is that consumers love content, fresh compelling content…and so do Google bots.

So, let’s head in the right direction at the intersection of Search, Social and Content or you could be headed down Lonely Street and checking in to Heartbreak Hotel.


The Art of Trust


The story goes something like this….Need to plan a weekend trip….I have selected my destination and now I quickly look at TripAdvisor to read reviews on the hotels I am considering. Reviews from strangers that lead us to make a purchase decision. The power of social media, content and search…all wrapped up with a nice little bow. We trust strangers’ reviews, but ultimately it’s TripAdvisor we trust. It is TripAdvisor that, over time, built and earned this trust.

How did TripAdvisor gain this incredible trust factor? Trust builds better and faster results. Everyday new businesses emerge all focused on speed to market. But without the trust factor many are doomed. What should we be doing to build trust? Consider these ideas to get you started.

1. Keep it Personal
Treat your customers as individuals, which they are. Mass marketing died in the last century. Mass personalization took over. The more you can personalize and individualize the customer experience the faster you will win their trust and their business. Take a look at yourself. What do you think others would say about you? Are you sincere, reliable, respectful and dependable.

2. Transparency
Being open and honest will stand you in good stead. You don’t have to remember lies or half truths. Keeping honest is much easier than the alternative. If something goes wrong admit it and resist the temptation to spin. You will get found out and it is difficult to climb out of that slippery hole you dug for yourself.

3. Clarity
Has somebody ever said to you…”Well, technically…….” and whatever follows you know is a spin. You have be straight forward and squeaky clean to quickly gain trust. Use language that is unambiguous. Language that cannot be misunderstood. It is not as easy it sounds.

4. Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk
The cliché has been around a while but its message is extremely relevant in building trust. Always deliver on your promise no matter how small or how big. A wedding vow is a huge life altering commitment. Honoring your commitments in business is a significant factor that builds an incredibly strong reputation. Good reputations travel fast these days due to the viral dynamics of our social networks (i.e. TripAdvisor) further cementing and building trust driven by an independent social army.

5. Integrity
Being responsible and accountable will go a long way in building integrity. Integrity is one of the key pillars of trust. Having integrity in business means that you have values and guiding principles. Nordstrom’s taught the world about integrity and values. They built fiercely loyal customers because Nordstrom’s listened to them and served them, no matter what. Integrity is a passion. It is part of the Brand personality.

We recall Robert De Niro and the Byrnes family Circle of Trust from the 2000 movie Meet the Parents. As De Niro explained to Ben Stiller, and I paraphrase…… “If I can’t trust you, then I will have no choice than to put you outside the Circle of Trust and once you are out Greg, you are out, and there’s no coming back. You will never get back in.” In business, as in our personal lives, trust takes time to build but can be shattered in a New York minute.

Trust recovery is painful and never easy but if you find that you have over committed or cannot meet a promise or deadline, be the first person to immediately communicate the problem personally, apologize face to face or at least over the phone. Never with an email. Make a new promise and be 100% confident that you can keep that promise “as advertized”.

It’s no wonder there are many companies that have built a business around Reputation Management! Much needed by businesses like AIG, BP, Goldman Sachs, and a longer list of celebrities such as Charlie Sheen, Pee Wee Herman, George Michael, Hugh Grant, Paula Deen, Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan, Lance Armstrong…OK enough, I hear you say (as you add more to this list.)

You can trust me when I say that it is better to actually demonstrate trust than talking about trust. Trust, after all, is earned and needs to be part of your DNA.

The Art of Creativity

I have been fortunate to work with talented people. They have fueled my thought process and helped me look at business differently and figure out creative ways to achieve success with small budgets. I have always enjoyed that challenge. How does one become innovative. Is it a natural talent or is it learnt. We tend to look at “creative people” and say they were “born” creative. Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Sir Richard Branson……an endless list. How do we harness that cognitive energy. How do we tap into our imagination and release it from our own consciousness ? First of all I believe we are all born with a creative gene. The trick is to tap in to it, feed it and grow it.

Here are some techniques that may help you become more creative and ingenious.

  1. Have a clearly stated goal.
    1. You need to have a laser focused goal. What are you trying to achieve. How do you define success. Can you explain it in 30 seconds.
  2. Gather diverse minds in a “think tank” environment. This is mission critical.
    1. Make sure you have gathered a manageable number of people.
    2. Ensure you have invited people with different skill sets and who are comfortable expressing opinions. Invite people from “the outside” who you trust but who are less knowledgeable about your business world. Maybe you see them as creative in their world.
    3. Compensate them for their time in kind or goods (or cash!)
    4. Cross pollinate ideas.
    5. Set a slower pace and take fun breaks. 
    6. During breaks pass copies of The Klutz Book of Inventions. A fun book to stimulate the senses.
  3. Start the session with Charades or Pictionary (Max 30 minutes).
    1. Open your minds. Have fun. Get in the zone.
  4. Set a positive mood
    1. Overcome negative thoughts that block open minds
    2. Have your goal posted on a chalkboard or pinned on a wall. Make sure everybody understands the goal in its simplest form.
    3. Explain your definition of success.
    4. Eliminate personal criticism (critique the idea not the person).
  5. Be adventurous, bold and curious
    1. Explore how things can be done and not why they cannot be done.
    2. Do not try and be a perfectionist. 
    3. Let the inner child escape.
  6. Try to connect pieces of the puzzle
    1. Don’t try for the giant leap. Connect a series of dots.
    2. Remember that Apple didn’t invent tablets, they just made them better. Imitation is OK, provided you improve on the original. 
    3. Let go of preconceptions and embrace failure.
    4. The Wright brothers found out what happens when you connect a kite with a bike.
  7. Use flip charts. Take notes and send out the results.
    1. Follow up and ask for more input. Someone may have a sudden inspiration in the shower.
    2. Stay on point. It’s too easy to jump to the next shiny object.
    3. Don’t give up.

So let’s forget about thinking outside the box. There should be no box. If you have a box then you are clearly inside it struggling to get out. Let go of precepts and be prepared to be surprised at the results.  


Looking for Two New Clients – Act Fast

New Client Opening – Captivation Marketing
Captivation Marketing is finishing two projects that open up the opportunity to take on two new projects/clients. We focus on attracting, winning, engaging and retaining customers. We use all appropriate tools from relationship marketing to content marketing to social media in an innovative style that aligns with your business and high valued customers.

We limit the number of clients in the portfolio to truly focus on the business.

Ask about the Incremental Customer Guarantee Program. Captivation Marketing Contact: 

Lessons from the World Cup (1 through 4)

Lessons we can learn from the World Cup


Lessons from the World Cup #1

“It ain’t over till its over”

Your job isn’t done until the final whistle blows. Keep focused until you cross the finish line. It’s not the effort…….it’s the result that counts.

Lessons from the World Cup #2.

Don’t let the past predict the future.

We all know the definition of insanity. Learn from failure. So try something different, daring, bold. That’s what Costa Rica did to lead their group. Their new strategy was bold, daring and refreshingly different. They move on and others are packing their bags.(Update..Costa Rica continue their historic journey to the Quarter Finals!)

Lessons from the World Cup #3

The Ronaldo Effect

We are all know there is no “I” in team. As we have been watching the exciting soccer played at the World Cup, certain talented individuals create moments of magic. Their off-the-ball antics sometimes are less than magical. (Suarez, a point in case). An inflated sense of self takes over. The leadership key is to remember how to manage the ego with the end result being a total collaboration of the entire team. A super star is created as a conscious outcome of the entire team effort. A leader’s objective should be to raise the level of the team effort rather than focus on one-off mavericks. There are always two or three players involved in the collective passing of the ball assisting the team member who scores. The team picks up the win…not just the individual. Ronadlo, as an example, is a talented super star and should be an inspiration to the team but if the Portuguese team is not up to par and the team effort lacks cohesive strategy they go home……Portugal lost and went home….with Ronaldo.

Lessons from the World Cup #4

Competition is the Catalyst

 At each World Cup we see age old rivalries that create levels of intensity fueling extraordinary performance. First minute goals, last minute goals…we have seen them all. There is a winner and a loser. The loser goes home and the winner gets to play again. We see tears of joy and tears of sorrow. It makes for great viewing.

In business we need a fierce competitor. Disney needs Universal. Burger King needs McDonald’s. Nike needs Reebok. Apple needs Microsoft. Coke needs Pepsi. Adidas needs Puma. England needs Germany. Years ago, when I was a VP at Choice Hotels, we had our competitors, Holiday Inn and HFS. We certainly used the competitive environment to sharpen our skills in all departments across the company. We wanted to win, especially against the competitive set. Playing against a fierce competitor galvanizes a team, a company. It helps us focus. It drives us to be better, faster and more creative. Competition drives passion. If you don’t have an identified competitor I would suggest you find one and start to rally your “troops”. Winning is good for business. However, the ultimate winner is the customer and that’s just fine!

President Obama Visits Cooperstown to Highlight Travel and Tourism that is Growing our Economy and Creating Jobs  


The progress report on the President’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy can be found HERE.

As a part of his Year of Action, the President is using the power of his pen and phone wherever he can on behalf of the American people to create jobs and help hardworking Americans get ahead. The President will travel to Cooperstown, New York to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame – an economic engine in upstate New York. The Hall of Fame draws nearly 300,000 visitors annually, helping to drive more than $160 million into the economy of Otsego County each year. In fact, it is projected that each Hall of Fame visitor generates an estimated $500 in spending into the regional economy.

The President will discuss the Administration’s efforts to support increased travel and tourism in the United States – helping local businesses and growing the economy for everyone. Before heading to Cooperstown, the President will use the power of his pen to sign a Presidential Memorandum to help welcome more international visitors to our country, making it easier for foreign tourists to see more and spend more in the United States. The President will also utilize his phone – his power to convene – and meet with travel and tourism industry CEOs and senior executives at the White House to discuss their vital industry, which supports nearly 8 million jobs across the country and is a major driver of our economy.

President Obama Visits Cooperstown to Highlight Travel and Tourism that is Growing our Economy and Creating Jobs

President Announces New Steps to Welcome More International Visitors to the United States

From our cities to national parks, every year millions of people travel across America. Those visits support nearly 8 million American jobs— jobs that can’t be outsourced at thousands of local and small businesses. As a part of his Year of Action, the President is using the power of his pen and phone wherever he can on behalf of the American people to create jobs and help hardworking Americans get ahead. This week, the President has highlighted the importance of investing in America and today he is taking action to welcome more international visitors to our country – because making it easier for more foreign visitors to travel to and spend money at America’s attractions and national parks helps local businesses and grows the economy for everyone.

That is why the President launched a National Travel and Tourism Strategy in 2012 and set an ambitious goal of attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. Two years later, we are on track to meet this goal, in part due to the actions taken by the President’s Administration to expand our ability to attract and welcome visitors, while maintaining the highest security standards. Today, the Administration released a new report Increasing Tourism to Spur Economic Growth: Progress on the President’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy that highlights the many economic benefits to the United States from increased travel and tourism, and the progress that the Administration has made in implementing the President’s strategy.

  • Tourism is America’s most important, and largest, services export: growth in international visitors has created roughly 175,000 American jobs over the past five years, and meeting President Obama’s goal of 100 million visitors in 2021 will support hundreds of thousands of additional jobs.
  • The number of international visitors to the United States has grown from 55 million in 2009 to 70 million in 2013, and each overseas visitor spends on average $4,500 per visit, at American hotels, shops, restaurants, and other domestic businesses.
  • Steps taken by the Administration have supported this impressive growth: The State Department issued 9.2 million visas in 2013, up 42% since 2010. Waiting periods for visas in important markets like Brazil and China have dropped from as high as several months to less than five days on average. The Department of Homeland Security has significantly expanded Trusted Traveler and expedited clearance programs that improve the experience of travelers entering the United States.
  • Through close partnership with airports and industry, we have seen dramatic improvements to the entry process and reduction in wait times for passport control and customs processing at airports. At Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare, a combination of measures such as Automated Passport Control kiosks and Global Entry services reduced average entry process wait times by nearly 40% over 12 months, and cut in half the number of visitors waiting longer than 30 minutes.

Building on this significant progress, as part of his Year of Action, the President is announcing new executive actions to continue to encourage and make it easier for international travelers to come to the United States:


New Steps to Improve the Entry Process and Welcome More
International Travelers to the United States

Signing a Presidential Memorandum to Expedite the Entry Process for Travelers, Starting With the 15 Largest Airports: Over the next 120 days, Secretary Pritzker and Secretary Johnson will lead an interagency team, in close partnership with industry, to develop a national goal to improve the entry process and reduce wait times for international travelers to the United States, and action plans at the 15 largest airports for international arrivals, consistent with progress achieved at Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports where, through a combination of streamlining processes and upgrading technologies, wait times were reduced significantly.

Taking Additional Steps to Improve and Streamline the Entry Process: The Department of Homeland Security is expanding the use of technology to streamline the entry process, such as Automated Passport Control kiosks.

Launching New Efforts to Encourage Travelers to Visit the United States: The Departments of Commerce, State, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Transportation and the Interior will take additional steps to encourage travelers to visit the United States, including launching coordinated strategies with BrandUSA in ten international markets, creating a “one-stop” that supports international bids for major global events and launching a new “virtual visitor services” platform to increase tourism on public lands and waters.

Background on Today’s New Steps to Increase International Visitors to the United States

  • Directing the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security to partner with industry to improve the entry process for international travelers: The President is announcing today a new partnership with industry to dramatically improve service levels for international arrivals to airports, including the wait time for passport control and customs processing. This new effort will be consistent with the progress achieved in partnership with industry at Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports. The measures the Administration is taking to expedite the arrivals process will enhance our security by focusing officer time on the highest-risk passengers and facilitating the process for the vast majority of legitimate travelers.
    • Partnering with industry to develop national goal and airport specific action plans. The Secretaries of Homeland Security and Commerce will partner with industry to develop a national goal to improve service levels for international arrivals, as well as airport specific action plans that include steps that both private and public actors must take in order for the United States to meet this important national goal. Agencies, working closely with the Tourism Policy Council as well as airlines and local governments, will develop and share metrics to demonstrate service level improvement, taking into account the federal government’s responsibility to protect the safety, public health, and national security of the United States and its visitors.
  • Making progress on additional steps to improve and streamline the traveler experience at ports of entry: DHS continues to streamline and enhance the entry process. Actions include:
    • Expanding the use of Automated Passport Control kiosks to 25 airports by end of 2014. Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks provide modern touch screen technology which allows passengers to scan their passports and enter their customs declaration information. Provided through public-private partnership with airport authorities, these kiosks expedite air passenger inspection for U.S. and Canadian citizens at participating airports. They reduce officer interaction to approximately 30 seconds from 55 seconds while increasing security by allowing officers to focus on the passenger instead of paperwork. In the past year, 15 airports deployed the technology, with plans for another 10 to join by the end of the year. A number of these airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, and Orlando International Airport have experienced reductions in average wait times of 30% or more after APC kiosks have been installed.
    • Boosting processing capacity at ports of entry with 2,000 additional CBP officers. Congress recently granted CBP authority to hire 2,000 new CBP officers over the next two years. These new CBP officers are a welcome complement to the Global Entry program and APC kiosks, all of which are important for a faster and more secure entry and arrivals process.
    • Developing a new Loaned Executive Program to borrow private sector expertise to improve line and crowd management. DHS’ Loaned Executive Program will embed senior private sector experts within TSA and CBP, for six months to a year, to improve government customer service and operations at our ports of entry and ensure a positive first impression of the United States for visitors—while simultaneously upholding the DHS public safety mission.
    • Opening 300+ new enrollment centers nationwide in 2014 for Trusted Traveler Programs (including TSA Pre™, CBP’s Global Entry and NEXUS). In 2013, there were almost 1 million additional uses ofGlobal Entry and NEXUS Air kiosks representing a 34% increase over usage in 2012.
    • Creating additional public-private partnerships to defray costs of meeting increased staffing and overtime needs. In the last two budget cycles, the Administration has requested and Congress has granted new legal authorities for DHS to enter into voluntary partnerships with state, local, tribal, and private sector entities. These partnerships allow DHS to provide increased customs and immigration inspections services on a reimbursable basis at U.S. ports of entry upon request. Five agreements were signed in December 2013. In 2014, DHS will seek to enter into five additional partnerships with international gateway airports and seek additional opportunities to expand services and facilities at land and sea ports consistent with the authority granted by Congress.
    • Liberalizing Aviation Markets and Modernizing International Partnerships. The United States has 113 Open Skies agreements with partners across the world which have increased international traffic and resulted in significant benefits to the U.S. economy, aviation industry and workforce, and traveling public. Since the President took office the Administration has established 19 Open Skies agreements and is continuing to pursue new agreements, and improve existing agreements, to provide U.S. air carriers with opportunities to offer new and innovative service to travelers and shippers, as well as to strengthen the Federal government’s ability to help resolve operational issues.
  • Launching new efforts to attract more international travelers to the United States: In 2013, a record 70 million international visitors traveled to the United States, spending an all-time high of $180.7 billion, an increase of more than 9% from 2012. The Administration is undertaking new initiatives to build on the progress to date by:
    • Creating a “one-stop-shop” for federal resources to support U.S. bids for major international events such as large conferences and sporting events: A planned interagency advocacy task force would provide coordinated support that could include high-level advocacy with decision makers, expedited visa appointments for participants, special handling for customs, streamlined process for obtaining necessary federal representations, and other value-added services to support the success of U.S. bids and events.
    • Launching a coordinated federal approach to leverage multiple U.S. government resources in foreign countries to increase tourism demand. An interagency group led by the Departments of Commerce and State are organizing an initiative to target the top 10 international markets, with a pilot launched this year in the United Kingdom.
      • This effort would create an integrated strategic plan at the country level (across agencies and with Brand USA) to increase demand for legitimate travel and tourism to the United States, and to ensure that federal agencies plan for downstream effects to meet demand for services and provide a quality experience.
      • Marketing and promotional activities, communicating U.S. entry policies, increasing participation in Trusted Traveler Programs, anticipating entry volumes, and taking advantage of liberalized air service agreements could be included in the integrated approach.
    • Developing a “virtual visitor services” open data platform to enable state, local, and tribal organizations and private sector partners to build innovative trip planning resources, mobile apps, and customer–friendly digital services to increase tourism on public lands and waters. The platform, under development by the Interior Department and other land-management agencies, will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal agency operations, enrich the visitor experience for a diverse set of audiences, and open up opportunities for private sector innovation.
      • The data and web services platform will make key visitor and travel information for public lands available to external travel and tourism providers via open application programming interfaces (APIs). The platform will support local and regional economic development by providing key data on travel and tourism opportunities.
      • Long term plans include integration with multiple data sources to enable partners to build services that provide visitors integrated access to multiple travel options.
    • Partnering with Brand USA, the country’s nonprofit travel promotion corporation, to develop thematic tourism diplomacy campaigns. An expanded year-long global culinary tourism campaign will culminate at the World Expo in Milan, Italy, in May 2015. In preparation, agencies are coordinating a pilot public diplomacy culinary tourism campaign in five target posts in East Asia (China, Taiwan, Australia, Japan and South Korea) to promote U.S. tourism and agricultural exports around embassies’ July 4 festivities, through an integrated recipe book with articles and photos highlighting U.S. tourism destinations, a social media toolkit, promotional collateral and American chef visits.