How do you summarize the takeaways from a conference packed with great ideas and advice?

That’s a familiar challenge for every conference attendee who’s struggled to share their experience and learnings with managers and colleagues who couldn’t attend. It’s hard enough to boil down all the notes you took, tweets you shared, and pictures you snapped. But what about all the sessions you couldn’t watch because you can’t be everywhere at once?

This year, we challenged the speakers from ContentTECH Summit to zero in on the single most important takeaway from their presentations. And we’re sharing all these important ideas with you. (Of course, if you want more and did attend or want to sign up now, the full presentations are available on demand for three more weeks.)
Now is a great time to experiment because audience preferences are changing. Use your data as a guide. But talk with people, too. See more expert takeaways from #ContentTECH Summit via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
I’ve listed all their (lightly edited) answers – ideas from the keynote presentations come first, then takeaways from each of these five tracks:

  • Content strategy
  • Content measurement and management
  • Audience development
  • Core concepts
  • Future of content

Browse them all or search for the topic that interests you most. (I saved something special for the end.)

Table of Contents

Inspirational and aspirational advice from keynote speakers

Don’t drop the ball

We are quickly moving away from a world where different elements of the customer journey are handled by separate systems. We must start thinking about the journey in a much more organic way, where technologies are connected, joined, and look to a single source of data. Every handoff of audience or customer data is an opportunity to fumble. Robert Rose, AudienceTech – A New Way To Think About The Technology of Digital Content

Try new things now

Marketers need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We’ve been under a lot of pressure to create so many different types of content – we’ve jumped up the number of webinars we’re producing and the number of virtual events that we’re having. And customer expectations are changing while we’re doing this. It’s very hard to pinpoint exactly what customers need. Use this as an opportunity to try some things you haven’t done.

If you haven’t dabbled in video, maybe now is the time. It might not be comfortable, but it might really resonate with your audience. If you’re not leveraging personalization or testing but have talked about investing in a technology that not many people on the team are trained for, now is a great opportunity to try it. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and taking those risks … you never know how great the reward is going to be. – Jill Grozalsky, Removing the Content Bottleneck to Power Personalization

Involve the people you’re trying to reach

When you’re working on something, try to identify the people who will be impacted by it but who have little say in that thing you’re working on. Try to give them more say – they’re going to have to live with the thing you’re making. That’s the biggest shortcut to more inclusive content design. – David Thomas, Design for Cognitive Bias: Using Mental Shortcuts for Good Instead of Evil

 Give the people you’re trying to reach more say in what you create – that’s the biggest shortcut to inclusive #content design, says @movie_pundit via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

Don’t overcomplicate things

Video doesn’t have to be hard. Things have changed from that old world of super-high production values where only a few people could make videos, and it was crazy expensive. Lots of people still do it that way, and it makes sense for some videos. But not every video needs to be a Hollywood movie. You probably have some incredible storytellers in your company who just don’t have the technical know-how to make videos. If you can help them unlock their creativity in video, that storytelling can go a long way. – Garrett Goodman, Say It With Video – Amplify Your Content Marketing with In-House Video Creation to Drive Business Results

Get your DAM act together

Organize before you get into a DAM (digital asset management tool), don’t just transfer what you have and think you’ll organize it later. Develop your organization, your taxonomy, your key partners all before you start. – Christine Morrison, How DAM Organization Gains Speed and Accessibility

Don’t play favorites

Give equal investment and equal attention to data, experience, and technology. They all are necessary to be successful. When one of them falls down the project falls down. You aren’t able to execute for the audience or for internal purposes without the combination of the three. – Jessica Bergmann, The Tech Recipe: How Salesforce is Serving Up Audience-First, Data-Driven Content

Look far

Having a long view and the connective tissue to really understand how information and content flow across an entire customer lifecycle is crucial. – Sarah Stritter Murgel, The Tech Recipe: How Salesforce is Serving Up Audience-First, Data-Driven Content

Never assume

Really get close to your customers. I can’t overstate the value of being very close to your customers. Keep in touch with them, ask them what they need. How are you helping them do business? It’s really about the ease of doing business with you. Don’t assume you know what they want. Talk to them on a continuous basis and keep the lines of communication open. – Jill Sheffield, Obsessing Over the Content Experience

Aim for the unexpected

We need to understand that content comes from everywhere across the organization. We all need to work together to make sure we’re producing the best content and that we’re taking the content beyond the expected. Think outside the expected and work together across departments to get it done. – Megan Gilhooly, Consumerization and Customer Experience: How B2C Experiences Impact B2B Expectations

Content strategy tips

Get strategic about personalization

As we’ve been stuck at home, we’ve grown to expect a personalized experience every day. It’s our role as marketers to emulate that experience, to bring that experience into our marketing in the same way. And it’s possible. You’re not Netflix; I get it. You’re not Spotify. But you have the people, you have the content, you just need the strategy to help you personalize that at scale. – Randy Frisch, Speed to Market-ing

Collaborate for an audience-centric strategy

Make sure that content strategy is preceded by really thoughtful messaging and positioning. That can be tricky because sometimes those might be siloed within the organization. A lot of times messaging and positioning sit with the product marketing team, which might be separate from the team creating the content. It might involve some extra collaboration in getting all those stakeholders at the table, but that’s critical.

Audience-centric messaging and positioning begets audience-centric content strategy. If one is created without the other, you might have a really great content strategy, but it will be very difficult to tie it back to the company’s mission and goals and to make sure that it is really connecting to the audience’s needs. – Ali Orlando Wert, 6 Frameworks for Building a Winning Content Strategy

Ask, listen, and learn for better teams

In our field of work, we tend to focus on personal or soft skills. What really has struck me is how happy people are when we ask, “Where did you start your career?” “What did you bring to the table?” We try to create a safe space and listen. The gratitude we feel is striking – that tells me we don’t talk about these things enough. – Tjeerd Schopman, The Digital Content Skill Set: Why Skills-Based Working Leads to Bigger Success in Content Marketing

Encourage meek team members

During all of our projects, we encounter people who are so truthful about describing themselves and proud of what they’re good at. We notice that people are trying to almost hide their skills … We have to open them up and then they start being proud of their work and their skills. – Tim Hanse, The Digital Content Skill Set: Why Skills-Based Working Leads to Bigger Success in Content Marketing

Use keywords for more than SEO

Keyword research can sometimes get a bad rap as part of some ho-hum boring SEO thing. In reality, keyword research informs you how people are searching. How people are searching is extraordinarily valuable information for content creation and a lot of business decisions. You should be using keyword research to inform your navigation. You should be thinking about keyword research in product ideation, how you should talk about your product, what you should name your product. Don’t limit yourself to just using keyword research for SEO metas and heading tags. – Katie Tweedy, Not Your Momma’s Keyword Research
Keyword research isn’t just for #SEO. Use search insights for everything from the language you use on your website to product ideation and more says @Katie_Tweedy_ via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

Audience development ideas

Change as your audience does

Focus on the consumer and the change in behavior that has happened throughout the pandemic. Reevaluate your content marketing strategy to make sure it’s mostly aligned with the current behaviors of your target audience. Make sure you provide the context around where you distribute the content and the content topics so it can reflect the mindset of where your audience is now. – Juntae DeLane, Marketing In The New Normal: 5 Ways to Readjust Your Content Marketing Plans for 2022

Reduce and reuse

If you keep content direct and easy to understand, easy to read, and easy to digest, you will get more with any budget because you will create less content and reuse that content over and over again. Everything needs to mix and match, but you won’t need nearly as much content. – Val Swisher, The Personalization Paradox: How to Deliver Personalized Experiences at Scale

Build a foundation together

Collaborate with your teams and with your users. Always start from a place of empathy. Whether it’s getting together to work on a wireframe or creating a digital experience or even creating a content calendar, the more you can get other people’s inputs, the more foundation you have to create something wonderful. – Kelly Kautz, Connecting UX from Strategy to Content

Focus on the experience

When we’re talking about how we’re bridging the gap and making sure content and strategy are connected, it’s about looking at UX as a lens. That’s what ultimately connects content strategy and design. Think about UX not as a single deliverable, a set of deliverables, or even as a process, but as a way of looking at the work. We have to involve the user in the process. The power dynamic has shifted … The user is helping to define the space. Make sure we’re aligning every message, everything we create from strategy, through design, through development, and all the content steps in between around this lens of user experience. – Travis MacDonald, Connecting UX from Strategy to Content

Guide people to the next step

When it comes to the research that you’re collecting, we talked about keeping it simple, which is hard. But there are plain language guidelines you can search for that let you dive in deep. The whole goal is to focus on guiding the user to the next step, which is the whole idea of the user experience when it comes to the application. If you keep that in mind and you keep your content simple, that will drive forward how you present information to people. – Marc Majers, Make Your Customers Dance: The Key to User Experience is Knowing Your Audience

Speak their language

I want to emphasize the language component. When you’re designing a website or an app, think about having a conversational user interface – and having that conversation be something that fits the mental model of the end user. You might have to do some research to figure out what that language is. I think one of the keys to an enjoyable experience for people is when you’re communicating in a way they can relate to and that resonates with them. – Anthony Turner, Make Your Customers Dance: The Key to User Experience is Knowing Your Audience
One of the keys to an enjoyable experience is communicating in a way the end user can relate to and that resonates with them, say @Anthony_Turner and @marcmajers via @CMIContent. #UX #ContentTECH Click To Tweet

Content measurement and management advice

Start measuring one thing

Understand where you are in your content measurement journey and take it step by step. Don’t try to do everything right away. If your job right now is to focus on building an audience, do your best job to create content that is really helpful, that delights them, that teaches them something they didn’t know, that makes them want to buy something from you or work with you, and start there. – Joe Lazauskas, The 4 Stages of Content Measurement

Spare a quarter for analytics

For marketers, analytics is kind of an add-on. It only becomes important after their boss asks, “How did that work?” They say, “Uh, we didn’t measure anything, so we have no idea.” That lack of commitment is an organizational issue. It’s a process and company issue as opposed to a marketing issue. So the challenge people have to tackle is how to explain the value of measuring things before they happen so you can prove that the money you invested was a sensible investment. For every dollar you spend on marketing, if you invest 25 cents in measurement, you’ll be much wiser in your spending because you’ll know what worked and what didn’t. – Chris Penn, Fundamentals of Content Marketing Analytics

Go for the easy wins first

Find your top performers right away. If you don’t already know what your top five performers are (at least in terms of traffic), you have a big opportunity to get insights almost immediately. Those are the traffic magnets, the pieces attracting lots of visitors. Working harder on those (adding calls to action and promoting your latest stuff on those) is an almost immediate win. It costs no money and takes almost no time. Anyone can do it very quickly. – Andy Crestodina, How to Audit Your Content Marketing Using Google Analytics

Just track it

If you’re creating content, you should create trackable content. You shouldn’t create any content without thinking about how to make sure the blog article, podcast, or video can map to the bottom line. Typically that’s by thinking about how to get them to click on something. Identify what they clicked on and who they are. Every piece of content should have, as part of the strategy, a way to track this. Soft metrics sound good to marketers, but they don’t mean much to the sales team or the CFO. We have to make sure everything is trackable.A. Lee Judge, Marketing Click-to-Close – Tracking Content Engagement Into Won Opportunities

Conversations about core concepts

Document before investing in martech

When you are looking into martech as part of content planning, the No.1 thing you need to do is understand your own process. If you’re leading a content team … you have a process in place in terms of when the content is created, who needs to approve it, and when you need to upload it to a website or for video, who’s producing it, who’s writing the script and when to upload it to YouTube – and how to promote it. Write down that workflow. Then look into the whole process to see what can be combined and done by tools. – Pam Didner, How to Incorporate MarTech as Part of Your Content Marketing Plan

Get ready for omnichannel

Creating omnichannel experiences is something we’ve all been talking about for so long. We’re at a point where technology has caught up to our ambitions, and our ambitions have caught up to technology. We’re able to do omnichannel in a really meaningful way. We’re able to provide the people who are creating experiences with the tools to create omnichannel experiences. Everyone’s at a different stage in this journey, and that’s OK. Let’s create the best possible experiences at every single touchpoint for every one of our clients, constituents, and supporters, with the right content, the right data, and the right decisions. Jarrod Gingras, Your Journey From DAM to Omnichannel Content Platform

Build on SEO strategies and tools

SEO is something anyone can do. You can all do it. The key is having the right understanding of the strategies that work and the right tools to use. You don’t have to have a big bank account or a credit card with a very high limit to buy ads on Google and Facebook. You can do it through content and earn your way to the top of the SERPs. SEO isn’t that hard to master, you just have the right fundamentals. – Manick Bahn, SEO is Math Not Magic: Everything I’ve Learned Building Thousands of Pieces of Content

Thinking about the future of content

Analyze first, then try AI

Break down your process – all the way from research and ideation to post-publishing optimization and refinement. Break it down into pieces. Are you using data? Are you using AI at that phase in the cycle? Is there something being done that’s manual? If it’s manual, try to make it not manual. What’s left will be places where you can inject your expertise … Take away the manual labor and you’ll have a happy team. – Jeff Coyle, The Realities and Myths of AI-Generated Content

Figure out what you want people to do

Think about your intended user responses. No matter what kind of information you’re producing, whether it’s for marketing, your executive team, or your technical department. Always think about who is looking at it and what they’re going to do with it. – Joyce Lam, Preparing Content for Intelligent Systems

Consider the bottom line before joining the revolution

Beware of the shiny new thing syndrome. The audio revolution is upon us – there’s no doubt about that – but make sure you’ve mastered all the platforms you know will impact the bottom line before you venture out to a new one. Audio is a feature – not a fad. Figure out how you can integrate it into your current strategies, and you’ll find great success. – Meg Coffey, Clubhouse and the Audio Revolution

Engage in new ways

Web Stories is a new format. Go out and try it. See if there’s a right fit for your business or your brand. Use this format to reach a new audience and to create an engaging type of content that people can really sink their teeth into. – Ryan Warrender, A New Home for Tappable Stories: The Web

Dolce finale

The best piece of advice I got from my mentor, Julia Child, was to always pay it forward. This is the best time to use that phrase and that mindset. We’re in this together. I love that everybody came together during COVID. I hope we continue to do that even after the world opens up. I hope that we continue to share, to collaborate, to empower each other and to inspire each other, to stay connected, to help each other. Always pay it forward. – Cat Cora, Cooking with Cat Cora

Missed ContentTECH Summit? You can still register to get access to the content on demand, which will be available until July 10. Get the details at www.content.tech.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute






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