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As content marketers ourselves, the team at WeRockYourWeb.com was extremely excited to attend this year’s Content Marketing World held in Cleveland, Ohio, September 9-12, 2013. And we were lucky enough to be joined by none other than Captain Kirk himself, Mr. William Shatner, who had much to share about the frontier of content marketing.
In case you were wondering, Content Marketing World (aka CMW) is an annual conference put on by the Content Marketing Institute and is a chance to come together with other content curators and creators to share tips, resources and best practices with one another. As a semi-regular conference goer, I thought that CMW did an amazing job of putting on a well-organized, well-attended and entertaining conference. The two days were packed with the perfect mix of speakers both in seminars and in the more intimate lunch and learn sessions. Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose and their team get mad props and a pat on the back for pulling off quite the show, complete with a rockin’ 80’s dance party at the House of Blues.
About Content Marketing Institute
The Content Marketing Institute (formerly Junta42) was founded in 2007 by Joe Pulizzi, known by his peers as one of the leading evangelists and fathers for content marketing. Pulizzi believes passionately about content marketing and believes in a better way for brands to market than how they’ve done it in the past. CMI holds a number of webinars and events throughout the year and puts out a regular e-newsletter. In addition, CMI publishes Chief Content Officer quarterly magazine and published a book written by Pulizzi, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less. They also help other authors publish their content marketing-themed books.
CMW Speaker Highlights
My personal speaker highlights included Ann Handley (pictured with on left, in the middle) CCO of MarketingProfs, Sara Skerik VP of Content Marketing for PR Newswire, Tim Washer comedian and writer (and fellow Longhorn grad, hook ’em). And what was nice is that almost all the speakers shared their slides with the conference organizers to share on their website for attendees, so you didn’t feel the need to jot down everything, memorize every quote or worry about seeing every chart, which can be difficult to see from the back of the room. The speakers all had extra motivation to impress their audience, as the person with the highest reviews would be featured as next year’s opening keynote. Not a bad incentive if you ask me! I’d be more than thrilled to see Ann, Sara or Tim have that honor in 2014.
The best of: Keynote Highlights
Jay Baer, the opening keynote speaker, was bar far the highlight of the event and his presentation really set the tone for the rest of the conference. Many other speakers referenced and quoted his speech throughout the two days. His book, Youtility, is all based around the fact that as brands and marketers we need to be more useful than selly. He mentioned how there is only a two letter difference between the words helping and selling and that we should think less about what we can sell to our potential and current customers, and more about how we can be of service and help them. People are more likely to purchase from a brand who is going out of their way to added value over and above its product or service. My other favorite keynote session (besides William Shatner of course) was Jonathan Mildenhall who spoke about how Coca-Cola is growing through liquid storytelling. Everyone was blown away by the feel-good, happiness campaigns Coke is doing (a Coke-sized budget certainly helps). His examples of successes and failures were inspiring and helpful. Most of the speakers were all very informative, friendly and approachable, most of whom were around for Q&A’s and chatting in between sessions. Even the Editor of Forbes magazine was mingling during the Tuesday evening cocktail reception.
Themes, Trends and Overall Takeaways
The best thing about attending conferences is to get out of your normal day to day bubble and get a pulse for what is happening in your field. Not only learning from industry experts but also by networking with your peers. Especially as more and more companies are working with virtual teams, conferences make for a great excuse to get together, have fun and be around other people while building team comradery as well. Jay Baer and Ann Handley both took advantage of the opportunity to spend time with their teams in addition to speaking at the conference. The major themes and takeaways from the conference were:
- Quality over Quantity – it’s not the amount of content you pump out, or the length of a post, but the quality of it and value it adds to the end user/consumer. Sometimes less is in fact more, and I couldn’t agree more!
- Distribution – what good is it if you have good content, but no one sees/hears/reads it? Amplify your message to ensure you maximize exposure and bang for your buck.
- Do Less with More – as budgets become tighter and tighter, the importance of making the most of what you have to work with and repurposing good content in multiple ways/channels.
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – while content is king, images are key in the world of content marketing right now. From Pinterest, to infographics and Instagram, it’s all about the power of a powerful photo.
- Mobile – more and more people are consuming content while on the go on their smart phones and tablets. As marketers it’s important that we adapt our content to these devices and optimize the mobile content experience.
- Helpful versus Selly – a philosophy we live by at WeRockYourWeb is at the end of the day, ask yourself am I truly helping my audience out or do I have a hidden agenda of trying to sell/market something? While ultimately that is the end goal for most of us, remember to provide something useful for your audience and overtime you will build trust with them and they’ll ultimately come back to you when it’s time to make a purchase.
The conference took place in the brand spanking new Cleveland Convention Center. The center is centrally located to all the downtown amenities, hotels and even the train to the airport. It was a gorgeous facility and just the right size for this type of convention, with plenty of the essentials like bathrooms, charging stations and wifi.
Layout & Facilities
I couldn’t get over how brilliant it was to have the food/drink stations mixed in with the sponsors booths, making for a convenient way to informally mingle with the vendors in a non-selly, forced way. We got the chance to interact and speak with a handful of sponsors we wouldn’t have otherwise chatted with like UberFlip and FierceMarketing. It was almost impossible not to chat it up with them and provided optimal exposure for the companies who participated. They had cocktail rounds to set your food and drinks down on at, plenty of sitting areas and charging stations throughout the common area,which made for a very comfortable, accommodating environment. And there were not shortage of bathrooms either, all within close proximity to the rest of the meeting and ballrooms.
I must say, while the speakers were impressive in their own right, I was also blown away by the refreshments and food. While that’s not the real reason you attend a conference, it does make a big difference to have a nice variety and spread of snacks to get you through the day – fuel for the brain and of course unlimited supplies of caffeine. Not to mention the orange-themed snacks during every break to go along with the brand’s logo and the event’s color scheme. Every type of orange food imaginable, including carrots dipped in hummus, orange donuts and orange flavored mints and water. Pretty impressive if you ask me! They even had a wide range of vegan and gluten free options and were very accommodating to those with dietary needs.
And no conference would be complete without swag and there was definitely no shortage of it from vendors at Content Marketing World. There was even a few raffles and giveaways to entice conference goers to stop by and hear their pitch. I happened to be one of the lucky winners and scored an iPad mini from FierceCMO. Not a bad parting gift and way to wrap up the last day. The conference itself provided a nice, heavy duty bag to store all your freebies in. And a bright, neon colored shirt to wear to the 80’s party which got you a free drink (although we all did look like walking highlighters in them and it made networking a little tough in a dark room where everyone looks more or less the same).
Opportunities for Improvement
While there was lots of pros for this awesome conference, many of which I mentioned above, there are some areas they might want to look for improvement. Perhaps they will appreciate a little constructive criticism to make a great conference even greater!
CMI partnered with FLIRT Communications to create a free app for all conference goers. The app was a great way to track your agenda, check in to sessions and see a feed of what was happening. Too bad we experienced frequent crashes and slow load times using the app from time to time. And while it did offer the ability to sync with Twitter, sadly the tweet didn’t say any specifics about which session you were in. #Fail. But there were some good aspects of the app, including a survey feature that the organizers regularly encouraged we use to give feedback after each session. The quick, six question survey was easy to fill out and much easier to do while waiting in between sessions while it was fresh in your mind. A great feature to collect instant feedback on how to make the speakers/sessions better for the future (in addition to writing articles like this with feedback).
The only other downside was the temperature of the convention center. Now, I’m pretty cold-natured, so am used to being prepared at these things, but you know it’s cold when the speakers are tweeting about the frigid temperature. It was so cold we started sitting right behind the projectors just to get a little heat, despite bundling up in a scarf and leggings on day two! And, Ann Handley even tweeted out that the conference might want to consider Snuggies blankets as a sponsor next year, ha!
It was my first time in Cleveland and I couldn’t have been more impressed with the city itself. Home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the House of Blues, Cleveland does indeed rock. It is also home to three professional sports teams: the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians, all with stadiums downtown, great for pre or post game entertainment or dining and easy for us out of towners. Of course you can’t go wrong with food either. We didn’t have one bad experience with restaurants and it’s no surprise since Cleveland is home to a number of well-known, celebrity chefs and a mixing pot of cuisines. Next time you’re in Cleveland for a conference, plan to stay an extra day or two and check out all the fun things to do besides get your learn on!
Want to Attend Content Marketing World?
You don’t have to wait until next year to go to another event from the Content Marketing Institute. Content Marketing World Master Class is taking place November 6, 2013 in San Francisco and November 13, 2013 in New York City. Can’t make it to either of those? Don’t worry, you can also participate in #CMWorld Twitter chats and discuss the latest trends in content marketing. You can even use this hashtag to get advice from some of their experts like Joe Pulizzi (@joepulizzi) himself! Content Marketing Institute webinars and series of books are another way to soak up the knowledge and brush up on content marketing in your own time.
Did you attend Content Marketing World?
We’d love to hear from others who attended this year’s conference. Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought of the event. Or have more tips on future conferences, recommendations on Cleveland or thoughts on content marketing? We’d love to hear them!