This Transcript is From Episode 12 Of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/12
Transcript Of Guest Interview Only
Tom: Ladies and gentlemen, I am on the line with Christina R. Green. Christina, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today
Christina: Thank you, Tom. It's a pleasure to be here
Tom: Well, I brought you here because I found you through an article on the Event Manager Blog. How long have you been associated with them
Christina: For about six months
Tom: Okay. And the article that I think really caught my attention was “Gamification.” And when I got a hold of you and we started talking, you started telling me more about the things that you do, and one of those is content marketing, and that's why we have you here today. So let's talk about what content marketing is.
Christina: Well, first of all, content marketing is not just content. Some people think because Google has been pushing content so much recently, that they just need to slap a blog post up on their website, or something like that. It's a lot more advanced than that. There is a lot more thought that goes into it.
And one of the things that differentiates content marketing is that 20 years or less ago, if you wanted to create content for your company, you thought about what you wanted to talk about. It was all about you, all about the company, all about what you wanted to vocalize to the rest of the world.
Now, it's all about what your audience wants to consume. And you'll hear me probably frequently say “read”, but content is much more than, obviously, just posts and things like that. There's video, and there's audio, and a whole bunch of different areas that you can get into. But I tend to fall back on that “read” because I'm a little bit of an older fogey, so that's where I head. Certainly when I say content, think of it as a broad spectrum.
Tom: Okay. While we're at that old fogey stage here, excuse me, I went to your website, and I was looking, and I read your story. And I usually open up with this, but let's talk a little bit about your background. And I found it interesting that you were a risk-averse introvert.
Christina: Yes, I was. I actually started…I wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old, and everyone that I would talk to about it, from elementary school teachers, all the way up, always said something along the lines of, “Well, you have your head in the clouds. That's an impossibility. A writer? How are you going to make a living doing that?”
And so I did what all normal writers would do in that situation, I decided to be an economics major in college. So I went to the exact opposite. I went from this, where you're thinking of all these crazy ideas and plot lines and things like that, to a very regimented study of economics…and there really is a tie-in into content here when I go into it here for a second, but if you'll indulge me.
Tom: Please do.
Christina: But the one thing that stopped me from graduating with a major in economics was the things that my professors kept saying over and over again, “Let's assume the customer is rational.” And that's always what got me. I couldn't get there because I knew from my own buying patterns, you don't always make the best decision. I don't mean that from a monetary value, I just mean sometimes something grabs you. You make an impulsive decision or an emotional decision.
And that's what really has made content marketing so popular now is that we are appealing to people's emotions. We, as marketers, are appealing to people's emotions for the first time ever. There's no trickery involved, we're listening to what they want to hear, or, I'm sorry, we're listening to what they want to consume, and we're giving it to them. But getting back to the bio that you read, you're right, I was a risk-averse introvert. I hit 40…
Tom: Oh, wait a minute. Whoa, whoa, whoa. The milestone age had to be 29, I know.
Christina: Okay, 29. Let's say 29. Let's go with that. I hit 40, and I realized that I was in a job that I only felt so so about. There were components that I liked, and there were components that I didn't, like every corporate job. I'm sure people can identify with that to a certain extent. And so I decided to go off on my own. And I left a very successful job as a marketer, content marketer, for a software company, and have had my own business for nearly two years now, and have really enjoyed it, teaching people about how to use content.
Tom: And that's why we have you here. So, we're talking about content for event planners. What can the content do for them?
Christina: Well, there are several things that it can do. You can use it to attract attendees, to begin with, when people are trying to decide whether they want to come to your event, or whether they want to be a part of your organization, or anything like that. Frequently what they do is they look at materials, and they're looking for that emotional pull, that idea of, “These people are like me. I want to be with them because they get me.” And so that's one way content marketing can help.
It can also, especially for event planners that have long stretches between major conferences, maybe throw a big event every year, and you don't want to lose your audience in between that year, things pop up on people's calendars and whatnot, it's a way to stay in touch with your audience in between conferences. So you stay on their mind, they stay intrigued, they remember the great times that they had at your previous conference.
And it also can, for the people who haven't attended your conference, it can create a velvet rope scenario. And that's the old, I'm not even sure who coined it, there are a lot of marketers who use that term, but it's the idea of you allow people to see in enough of what's going on at your conference or your event that they're like, “Oh, wow, that looks great!” But you don't let them see so much that they feel like they've been there. It's the movie trailer idea. You can use content as a trailer for your event to entice people to learn more about your organization, your company, or your event.
And then you can also use it to establish yourself, your organization, as a thought leader in the industry that you work in. And then the best thing around conferences, you can get people really excited about your speakers and your sessions ahead of time by sharing content that ties into what those people are going to cover during the conference, either something they've produced themselves that they allow you to use, or little baits and leads that you produce that get people thinking about the topics that they're going to be covering in sessions.
Tom: Now, we're in a world where there is so much content available. How do we stand out when we're creating content for our event?
Christina: The best thing to know is your audience, because if you know who your audience is, and I'm not talking about narrowing it down to one type, you may serve several types of groups, but the more you know about what they like, what they enjoy, whether they have a sense of humor, or how old they are, or what technology they use, those kind of things, what keeps them up at night, that's a really big one.
Anything they have an emotional draw to, if you can discover those kind of things by creating an attendee persona, almost, then you can target content to them and they'll feel like, “This is exactly what I needed. I was looking for this.” And that's really where you can form connections with content.
Tom: As an event planner, we're using all these different types of content to attract your attendees to keep them involved between events, create that velvet rope. Could you give me an example of something that you've participated in where you've used it to attract attendees? Can you just give us a general example that might inspire somebody?
Christina: Well, if you've had the event before, if you've held it before in the past, some of your richest sources of content are going to be the content that was produced from your past event. So a very easy, you don't even have to have any kind of technology background, something that you can put together, is taking photos from your past event, the really good ones, the ones where everyone looks like they're having fun and all of that, and set it to music and do almost like a slideshow.
Keep it short, keep it simple, don't do a lot of special effects, unless you're really skilled in that area, and it gets people really excited about, “Take a look at what 2014's conference attendees did.” And it's just a collection of everything that went on in your conference, and those kinds of things people love to watch. And if you keep it short, they can do it while they're waiting on a phone call, or something like that, or while they're on hold.
And there are a lot of shares that go on too, because when people recognize themselves in those pieces, they tend to share them too. “Hey, look at what I did last year. It was a lot of fun. I can't wait for this year.” That's the kind of word-of-mouth referral that really does great things for your conference, or for your event.
Tom: Now, when you start thinking about content for an event, what is the first step you should do? You've identified your audience, but what is the first step we should do as we're trying to plan out content?
Christina: Well, if you've identified your audience, then the next thing you need to do is figure out what you want your content to do. Are you trying to increase attendees? Are you trying to hold on to the ones that you already have? Are you trying to give exposure to someone as a thought leader? And you may have more than one goal, but I would tie it down to no more than two or three because then it just gets very diluted and complicated. And I think most event planners, probably content is not your number one priority when you're going through all the organizational planning and whatnot.
So the first thing after you've identified the audience is to set that goal because that's the way that you'll know whether your content is working for you or not, is if you have a goal in mind and you assign a metric to that goal. Obviously if your goal is to increase attendees, at the end of the conference, you'll know whether that occurred or not. It's a very easy to measure analytic. But some of the others are a little bit more complicated, that's something that you need to identify as to how you want to be using the content.
After you do that, which is probably more of what you're getting around to, then by deciding who your audience is, then you can tell what kind of content they enjoy most and where they are. That's the other thing that you want to, besides putting content on your own corporate website, or your event website if you have a separate website for the event, you'll want to get your content out onto social media.
But don't waste your time with 50,000 different profiles, go to the places where your audience already is. Whether that's LinkedIn groups, whether that's on Twitter, whether it's Facebook, wherever it is that you can find them, that's where you want to concentrate your dissemination efforts.
Tom: Okay. So, I guess we can find that out by polling our attendees or guests to the event?
Christina: You can poll them. I know some conference planners will ask for social media profiles when you sign up so you can get an idea, maybe not everyone will give them to you, but you can get an idea as to what you're seeing, what the general trends are.
The other thing, if you have a specific age group or gender that most of your attendees fall into, then you can look at the statistics around the different social media profiles. If you go to LinkedIn, they will tell you there the average salary for a LinkedIn person is X, and the average age is this age to this age. So you can get an idea of whether your demographic fits into that social media profile.
Tom: As a content creator myself, I know that there's a lot of content that I have that people haven't seen. Can you talk about different ways we can repurpose that content and share it in a different light so that people aren't growing bored with it?
Christina: Um-hum, absolutely. That's going to be your biggest success as a content creator, and it's going to be your biggest source of efficiency, I guess, is the best way to put it, is for everything you create, it needs to live in a bunch of different spots, and a bunch of different ways.
For instance, let's say you write a blog post about your event, and it's speaking about the keynote speaker session that you're going to have, and there's a topic that that keynote is addressing. You can write the blog post, you can use a quote from the keynote speaker that you have ahead of time, maybe it's a quote from his or her book, or a quote from a video that you've seen, something that that person has said. You can use that quote and marry it with an image.
For instance, an image that hopefully you own the copyright to, you don't want to be using somebody else's image without their permission. It can be an image even that you've taken. It can be a picture of your offices even, really. As long as it somehow marries up to that quote, then you put the quote over top, you attribute it to your speaker, and you have an image that you can share. So now, you have a blog post and you have an image.
If you can get your speaker to give you some sort of press reel, maybe it's a 30-second preview of a speech or something that he or she has given in the past, if you can get a little bit of video, then you can do an intro where you could introduce the video, on video, and then play the video and then have a recap afterwards. Or you could interview the keynote, if that person's willing, over Skype, the way we are.
Everything that you create, you need to think about ways that it can live elsewhere. And some of them, they do take a little work. Like you write a blog post and then creating a video out of it, that takes a little work. But then there are other things like paraphrasing the blog post, sharing it in other spots, rephrasing it. You never want to have the same content posted multiple places exactly as is because Google is onto that and will deduct points from you for just slapping content all over the web in the exact same format, but when you repurpose it, it's enjoyed by different audiences.
Some people are readers, some people aren't. Some people like to watch videos, some people like to listen to podcasts. If you are able to, and you have a good voice or access to somebody who does, you can even do an auditory version of your blog posts so that people who want to listen to them in podcast version can do that instead of reading them.
Tom: Excellent. Excellent information there. So, Christina, as our event planners are putting together their event, and they're planning things, what would be the biggest tip that you could share that they should consider putting together their content?
Christina: A lot of people, especially…well, I shouldn't even say especially people who are new to content. Because you hear writers talking about it all the time, you hear “writers block,” “I don't know what to write, I don't know what…”
Content is everywhere. You can get inspired from everything, you can take content from different places if you give attribution. I wouldn't do that necessarily with things like images and video, but certainly with words, you can give attribution to people. So don't get so hung up on finding it. Like, “Where am I going to find it? How am I going to create it?” Because it really is, when you start thinking of it from a creative standpoint, it's all around you.
And lean on…probably as event planners, like I said earlier, content is probably not your top priority. You have a lot of things going on. You are juggling a lot of balls, and you wear a lot of hats. So lean on the rest of your company, where possible. Talk to your sales people and find out, “What's the most common question that people ask you?”
And incorporate that into blog posts, or into things that you share at the conference. Talk to your marketing people. Your marketing people are probably already doing content marketing, so you may be able to steal some pieces from them that will help with the conference.
And then don't think that everything has to be so formal either. Sometimes just walking around your organization and taking pictures of people enjoying themselves, or walking around the event, the actual event, and taking pictures, candids and things like that, all of that is content. It doesn't have to be written. So just be open to seeing content in all places is probably the easiest way to begin doing content marketing after you have identified your audience.
Tom: You help people with their content marketing, and you help them create stories. Talk to us a little bit about the storytelling aspect of it.
Christina: Well, a lot of people get hung up on the word storytelling because they think that's an About Us page. “Well, my company was founded in 1964 in Denver, and…” those kind of details. And really that's not…you need to think of it more along the lines of a traditional story arc in storytelling. And that's there's a hero, and there's an obstacle that hero has to overcome, and then at the end, that hero overcomes it. Usually somewhere in between there, there's the help of a mentor or a sage.
Now, companies tend to lean towards making themselves as the hero. But generally storytelling for businesses is a lot more effective if you can cast your attendee in the role of hero, and tell the story of how your attendee found out something, or overcame an obstacle because of the help that he or she received at a conference, or session, or something like that.
And when you tell these kind of stories, you don't have to do it, “Our story…” and then throw the story up on your website. It's more a casual testimonial when it comes to the kind of stories that event planners would tell. You know, someone came to your conference or event with a problem, or maybe they had a problem ahead of time, and that problem was solved by either information they received at the event, or connections they made at the event, or some way you facilitated helping them, and they came out as the shining star at the end.
And the reason you do that instead of casting your own company, or your own event, as the hero, is because people will identify with the story that you're telling that way. They will cast themselves in the role of hero when you tell it that way. If you cast your own company, or your own event, in the hero role, that takes away their ability to see themselves in that role, so you're taking a little something away from them. That's why I always suggest, when it comes to corporate storytelling, that you do your best to put your audience in that role, because the kind of emotions that evokes create loyalty and engagement that last for a long time.
Tom: I absolutely love that. That was solid gold for anybody who's listening to this interview. If our listeners are interested in learning more about how to create and craft their stories, is there some place you would recommend that we could send them?
Christina: Certainly. They can go out to my website, out to my blog, which is ChristinaRGreen.com, and then there's a tab for blog, or you can do “/blog,” whichever you prefer. And there are several articles out there written about how to work with someone if you don't have the internal resources to handle content. There are storytelling tips out there, what to avoid, those kind of things.
So if anyone wants to know a little bit more about storytelling and content marketing for business, that's a place to check out. And another great resource is the Content Marketing Institute. They will give you more information than you know what to do with, but that's another really, really great source of information.
Tom: Fantastic. And they can reach you through the blog, correct?
Christina: Yes, they can. I do have a Contact Me form out there.
Tom: Fantastic. So if you're interested in finding out more about Christina, or possibly using her services, reach out to her. Now, Christina, before we get out of here, just wanted to ask you one more question. I started this podcast by talking about your “Gamification” article. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Christina: Sure. Gamification is something that I've been interested in now for, I'd say, about four years. It's a fascinating idea. It really has nothing to do with video games. I know a lot of people turn off when they hear “gamification.” They might say, “Oh, no, my audience is baby boomers. They have no interest in that whatsoever.” But it's more about motivation. You see gamification in things like loyalty cards, and airline miles, the loyalty programs that airlines do. You also see it in things like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.
And chances are, if you were educated in this country, your classroom teacher probably used some form of it, if she used any kind of leaderboard. Or I know that from mine, there was a reading tracker, and they kept track in front of the classroom of how many kids had read how many books. And if they have everyone's name listed publicly, and they have the status, and there's an opportunity to level up or to achieve some goal, some published goal, that's a very early form of gamification.
So the event arena is starting to embrace gamification. The very wealthy conferences, the conferences that have big budgets, have implemented gamification platforms. A lot of them, you might see in the form of leaderboards, the most Tweets from X attendee, those kind of things. But it's really fascinating because it taps into what motivates us. And there's a lot of motivational theory behind gamification, it doesn't even have to be technology-based.
Tom: That's some cool stuff. And, Christina, I, again, want to thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk with me today. I think you've inspired me, and I'm sure you've inspired our listeners, and I just appreciate you being here.
Christina: Thank you, Tom. It's been a pleasure.