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A few months ago I went to collect a friend from hospital. Arriving early, I entered the waiting room and noticed in-house magazines stacked by the door. I picked one up, grabbed a coffee and took a seat.

The magazine read like a very long press release, blabbering on about patient-centric care and employee awards. I was quickly bored, so I read from my phone instead. The magazine failed in its purpose.

Effective content marketing holds people’s attention. It gives you a distinctive brand, loyal fans and increased sales. You don’t need a big budget to succeed, which is why good content marketing is the single best way to beat bigger competitors online.

Content marketing used to be about customer magazines and mailed newsletters. Now it covers blogs, email newsletters, eBooks, white papers, articles, videos and more. In this article, you will learn about content marketing techniques that you can apply to your business.

Prepare

Before creating content, you need to prepare. Think about your tone and style, where to find the best writers and how to organize your workflow.

Tone and Style

Too many companies start writing content before their brand has a defined voice. This leads to inconsistency. It’s like using one logo in your brochure, another on your website and another on your blog.

When speaking with people, you see their expressions and you adjust your tone accordingly. In a meeting, when you see that someone is confused, you clarify meaning, simplify sentences and speak reassuringly. The Web offers no feedback until your content is published, and then it’s too late.

To get the right tone, think of the person who best represents your brand. The person could be fictional or real, and they may or may not work for you. Now think of adjectives that describe them. Once you know what you want, provide clear details and practical examples.

Let’s say you run a travel agency that markets to young independent travelers. You want your representative to sound experienced, helpful and friendly. Try using a table like the one below to delineate what your adjectives do and don’t mean:

Experienced
Helpful
Friendly

Does mean…
Knowledgeable
Write with authority, as though the knowledge was gained first hand.
Efficient
Explain things clearly and positively. Make sure all relevant information is obvious and accessible.
Personal
Use informal language, and write as though you are talking to one person, rather than a broad customer base.

Does not mean…
Condescending
You know a lot but don’t talk down to your customers. They probably know a lot too.
Pushy
Promote your company, but not at the expense of good service. Always have your reader’s wants in mind.
Unprofessional
Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes. Proofread carefully.

You’ll also need a style guide, so that your authors write consistently. Should you use title case in headings? Are contractions appropriate? Check out The Yahoo! Style Guide for ideas.

Picking Content Creators

Don’t pick the wrong people to create your content. It’s hard for a non-technical person to pick the best Web developer, and it’s the same with content marketing. You need to know about content creation in order to judge other people’s abilities. Some people suggest making everyone in your company a content creator, but this is a bad idea. Not everyone can be a good accountant, secretary or rocket scientist, and the same applies here. To succeed, you should pick the best.

Ask everyone who wants to be a content creator to write a sample blog post. Then you can find the best few people. Some might not be able to write but have interesting ideas. In this case, you’ll need someone to edit their copy. Perhaps you want to raise the profile of a particular staff member. If they can’t write, have someone ghostwrite for them.

Workflow

Some companies have a simple workflow: one person does everything. The person researches, writes and publishes without any input from others. This model can work, but you’ll see more success with a workflow that enables other people to take part. Have different people write, edit and proofread. It’s a good way to catch mistakes and to bring more ideas into the process. Think about the best process for each type of content. One person might be enough for a tweet, whereas four to six people might be ideal for an eBook.

Imagine you’ve got a well-staffed company that is putting together a B2B white paper. You could organize your workflow like this:


An example of how to organize your workflow in a well-staffed company.

Persuade

Your content should be persuasive. Pay close attention to how you speak and what you say.

Use Simple Language

Take the question below on Yahoo! Answers. To “sound intelligent,” this person would like to know “big words that replace everyday small words.”

Big words that replace everyday small words?

Many people make this mistake. They use language that is unnecessarily complicated, usually to show off or to sound corporate and professional.

“Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all,” said Winston Churchill. So, don’t talk about “taking a holistic view of a company’s marketing strategy to deliver strategic insights, precise analysis and out-of-the-box thinking.”

Prefer “make” to “manufacture,” and “use” to “utilize.” While “quantitative easing” offers precision to economists, your personal finance audience would prefer “print money.”

Lauren Keating has studied the effect of scientific language on the persuasiveness of copy. She found that most people respond best to advertisements that contain no scientific language. People found them more readable and persuasive, and they felt more willing to buy the product. Lauren’s conclusion was clear: copy needs to be plain and simple.

Have Opinions

Interesting people have opinions, and interesting brands are the same. Look at the amazing work of new search engine DuckDuckGo. It has positioned itself as the antithesis of Google, launching websites that criticize how the search giant tracks you and puts you in a bubble. The strategy is paying off: DuckDuckGo is seeing explosive growth.

Duck Duck Go
DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that breaks you out of your Filter Bubble.

While this strategy is perfect for defeating a big incumbent, you don’t have to be openly hostile to your competitors. You can say what you think without mentioning their names.

Bear in mind that people are ideologically motivated. Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler’s study, “When Corrections Fail”, describes the “backfire effect” of trying to correct people’s deeply held beliefs. The authors found that contradicting people’s misconceptions actually strengthened those opinions. If people see you as an ideological ally (like a political party), they are more likely to agree with you on other issues — even ideologically inconsistent or non-ideological ones. You can use your opinions to attract people to your company: converting the agnostic or validating the views of allies.

As a small-scale brewer, for example, you might have a strong opinion on ale, believing in craft over mass production. You might think the market is dominated by big businesses that sacrifice quality for quantity. In this situation, you could use content marketing to talk about the best way to make beer. By stressing how seriously you take the development of your product, you communicate your opinion to those who share it without directly criticizing your competitors.

Think politically: consider the popularity of your views and whether they will attract media coverage. Ideally, your opinions should be bold and popular.

Sell the Benefits

In the same way that you sell your products and services, tell your audience the benefits of your content. This technique is essential if your audience doesn’t know what it wants.

PaperlessPipeline is a transaction management and document storage app for real estate brokers. Its founder, Dane Maxwell, had a creative idea to sell his product. The biggest problem for real estate brokers is recruiting. So, Dane invited them to a webinar titled “Recruiting Secrets of the 200-Plus Agent Office in Tennessee.” Brokers didn’t even know they needed to manage transactions, so he didn’t mention it in the invitation.


Paperless Pipeline takes your real estate transactions and related documents online—without changing how you work.

In the webinar, he introduced PaperlessPipeline and explained how it enables brokers to recruit more agents. The webinar attracted 120 guests, and “16 ended up buying at the end,” said Dane in an interview with Mixergy.

Imagine you run a company that develops technology for mobile phones, and you want to promote a new femtocell that boosts mobile reception in public spaces and rural areas. This technology could be valuable to people who want to improve mobile reception, but those people might not have heard of it.

So, instead of promoting the technology directly, offer content that focuses on the benefits. By using benefit-focused copy, you immediately tell the reader what’s in it for them.

Teach

Think about what your audience wants. People want to hear answers and to learn something new, so give them what they want.

Give Answers

Content marketing needs to offer practical advice that people can use. Readers have been trained to expect answers on the Web, and yet so much content fails to deliver.

Consider FeeFighters, a comparison website for credit card processing. One of its blog posts, Do You Know What Makes Up Your Credit Score?, talks about the factors that affect your credit score. Instead of offering abstract advice and concepts, the post provides practical tips for improving your credit score:

Area #2: Your Credit Utilization Ratio

The second largest determining factor in what makes up your score is the amount of credit that you have available to you in relationship to how much of that credit you’ve used. This accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. The optimal rate is 30 percent, which means that if you have $10,000 in credit available to you, you should only be using about $3,000 of it. One trap that some people fall into is believing that if they max out their credit cards every month and then pay them off at the end of the month, they’ll build their credit. But since that gives them a 100 percent credit utilization ratio, and that ratio accounts for 30 percent of their overall credit score, they’re really doing more harm than good.

Say or Do Something New

Most content is boring and unoriginal, which is good for you. It makes it easier to beat your competitors.

You can make your content interesting by doing something new, without necessarily saying something new. For instance, you could write a comprehensive article on a topic that has only piecemeal information scattered across the Web. Or you could use a different format for a topic that gets the same treatment; rather than writing the fiftieth blog post on a topic, shoot the first video.

You can also make your content interesting by saying something new. An infographic by Rate Rush compares the popularity of Digg to Reddit, creatively combining a bar graph and clock to present the data. Although Rate Rush is a personal finance website, with little connection to social news, its staff researched a topic they were interested in and drew attention by putting it to imaginative use.

Our agency also researches things that we find interesting, and this has been a great source of content. In 2010, we polled around 1000 iPad owners to find out how consumers use the device. It led to a slew of media attention.

You can do the same. Come up with an original idea to research, and then undertake a study. Also look into studies that your business has done in the past, because interesting stuff might be lying around. One of our clients looked through her company’s research archive and found amazing material. She didn’t spend any money on research but got a lot of great content, links and media coverage.

Captivate

Give your content more personality. Captivate your audience with stories and characters that will draw them in and keep them coming back.

Tell a Story

Telling a story is a great way to connect with readers. According to a number of studies summed up by Rob Gill of Swinburne University of Technology, telling stories can be useful in corporate communication. Storytelling is fundamental to human interaction, and it can make your content more compelling and your brand more engaging.

Citing Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor, Rob says this: “It is believed people receiving the narration often come to the same conclusion as the narrator, but through using their own decision-making processes.” Told through a story, a message becomes more personal and relevant. The reader is also more likely to remember what was said.

Rand Fishkin is the co-founder and CEO of SEOmoz. Instead of sharing only positive accounts of his business, he also writes about difficulties such as his failed attempt to raise capital:

Michelle was the first to note that something was “odd.” In a phone call with Neil, she heard him comment that they “needed to do more digging into the market.” In her opinion, this was very peculiar.… Tuesday morning we got the call; no deal.


An email shared by Rand Fishkin in his post about SEOmoz’s attempt to raise funding.

Brands need stories, and stories need people, suspense, conflicts and crises. By reading SEOmoz’s content, and seeing both the positive and negative, you become immersed in its story.

Ikea is another example of a brand that tells stories that generate opinions about its company. For instance, it plays up its Swedish roots and paints a romantic image of a wholesome and natural society. Its website is full of stories that contribute to this effect.

A survey conducted by the B2B Technology Marketing Community showed that around 82% of LinkedIn users found that telling a story through case studies was the most effective form of content marketing.

Sometimes you’ll want to use anecdotes to make a point, and sometimes you’ll write a post or tweet to build a narrative. When you’re cultivating a story, keep the information simple, and don’t be afraid to repeat points here and there; some readers might have missed what you said before.

Always mix interesting stories with useful information; fail to do this and your audience will feel you’re wasting their time.

Use Real People

Think of your favorite writers. You’ve probably seen their photos and heard them speak. Likewise, people need to see and hear your employees, so use pictures, audio and video. This will bring your audience closer to your brand.

Jakob Nielsen has studied people’s reactions to images online. He used eye-tracking software to discover that people ignore images that seem decorative, random or generic. They even ignore generic images of people. But when they come across a photo of a “real” person, they engage with it for a longer time.

People prefer to get involved with a company with which they feel a personal connection. But introduce your employees gradually; as with any story, introduce too many characters too early and you’ll confuse your audience.

Summary

Develop a compelling tone of voice. Don’t assume that anyone can write amazing copy, because they can’t. If you want the best content, then you need the best writers and thinkers.

Produce something informative that people will want to read. Give your brand a personality and your business will benefit across the board, from recruitment to sales. Warren Buffett looks for businesses protected by “unbreachable moats,” and no moat is more unbreachable than a brand with a story, ideas and opinions.

(al) (il)

© Craig Anderson for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Based on LAME and the Festival TTS Engine, this flexible jQuery plugin can take text (the input) and generate audio from it. It can be implemented in various ways (the methods) and allows you to preview MP3 audio (the output) in real-time. jTalk can also create high quality WAV files for download. The plugin itself weighs in at around 6kB.

With jTalk, you can:

  • Say anything that's on your web page in a spoken voice
  • Use many different methods to choose what is spoken
  • Read out the headlines from any RSS feed on the internet - huge possibilities!
  • Speak any submitted string or text
  • Scan whole pages and tell you statistics about it - handy for troubleshooting source code!
  • Speak the dimensions of images and DOM elements
  • Choose predefined speech objects - date, time, URL, IP address etc.
  • Stream and play MP3 audio from any URL
  • Provide extremely flexible, real-time spoken feedback for visually impaired visitors
  • and so much more!
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imagecache_quality.png

Set the image quality per ImageCache preset!

Through ImageAPI, you can set the quality of images ImageCache produces. But since ImageAPI allows you to set only one global value, any image produced by ImageCache ends up in the same quality. If you want to have the highest-quality images in a photo gallery while having lower-quality images elsewhere, you are stuck.

This module allows you to override ImageAPI's quality setting and set image quality per ImageCache preset. Unfortunately, since ImageAPI does not let other modules hook into / alter the process, you need to apply the supplied (unobtrusive) patches to the following modules for this module to work:

  • imageapi.module
  • imageapi_gd.module
  • imageapi_imagemagick.module
  • imagecache.module

The patches basically only add optional arguments to existing functions so the modules would function as normal (as far as I am aware).
The patches, as well as an instruction on how to apply them / which version of ImageAPI / ImageCache to use, are found in README.txt.

Please remember to always flush the ImageCache cache every time you change the setting, if you want to see the effect immediately.

Development of this module was sponsored by Comic Relief UK

DISCLAIMER: As always, use it at your own risk. If you encounter any issue, please report through the issue queue. The developer or the sponsor cannot be held accountable for any of the damages which the module / patch may cause.

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Dashboard example

This module makes the lifes of editors and webmasters a bit easier. We want to make it as easy as possible for Drupal end-users to have all the tools at a central spot. In trainings with customers it was sometimes very hard to explain how to get at the right spots to alter content. As a webmaster they can create a dashboard with all the widgets you think are needed the most.

Sponsors

Module sponsored by Nascom and Villa Viscom

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The User Intro module allows the administrator to present a piece of 'welcome' or 'introduction' content (via a template). This template is displayed upon the user's first login, and is hidden on subsequent logins, but can be manually displayed when the user clicks a trigger. Visibility is also controlled from the user profiles (/user/###/edit), allowing users to disable the intro altogether.

Please read the bundled README.txt for setup instructions - you'll need to add two variables to your page template.

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Overview

Add references in text areas via an input filter to citations stored in CCK multigroup fields. Citations are displayed as a hover/tool-tip when the mouse is placed over the reference.

Usage

The multigroup should contain at least one (optionally two) text field(s) for the citation ID plus a text field for the citation text itself. Two IDs for a citation are allowed to allow for different reference formats within the text (eg a long and short version). The input filter must be enabled for this module to work.

References are added to text areas via a tag of the format [ref ], where is (one of) the ID(s) associated with a citation in the CCK multigroup. Multiple references can be separated with a | character, eg: [ref 1|2|3]. The tag(s) is(are) replaced with the ID text in the selected format. Multiple references are displayed separated by commas, eg [1,2,3]. The IDs may be any text string, so you can use any ID/numbering/labelling system you like. The IDs should be unique for a node (if they're not then the first one found will be used when searching for an associated citation).

To enable for a node type: go to the node types settings page and select the fields for the ID(s) and citation text. Only text fields in CCK multigroups are shown, and only if the multigroup contains at least two text fields).

In the node type settings page you can also specify several formatting options for references in nodes of that type, such as whether to display the references in superscript, a prefix and suffix character or string (eg to create references like [a]), and the text to display in the hover tip if the citation corresponding to an ID cannot be found.

Requirements

This module makes use of the (still, looks like indefinitely) experimental content multigroup module. This module is only available in the 6.x-3.x releases of CCK. This module was developed on, and has only been tested on, a dev release of CCK 6.x-3.x from January 2010 (and has been running in a production environment using that release of CCK for the last year). It doesn't do anything fancy with the CCK fields in multigroups so it probably (hopefully) works with the latest releases of CCK 6.x-3.x. I don't have time to test it on the latest 6.x-3.x CCK releases (otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, would you?), but if it doesn't work feel free to post a patch. :)

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Example of a node form/page with a tree-enabled text field.

Allows multi-value fields to be stored and displayed as hierarchical trees. Basically any Field API field can be transformed into a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

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content_display_order.png

This module allows administrators to rearrange the order of (cck) fields for node displays.

Normally the order of CCK fields is similar in both the node edit form as in the node's view. If you'd like to have an other order in, let's say the teaser display of a content type, this module provides you an user interface for this specific task.

Each context (Basic, RSS, Search, etc.) and each build mode (Teaser, Full, etc.) can have it's own field order.

 

 

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Bookmarklet in action

Drupal bookmarklet module presents an abbreviated node form inside a jQuery UI Dialog on any site.

It is still in development and will be posted here soon.

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Extend the core comment features with ones that are more common in other forum engines. It incorporates comment enhancing features from comment_edited (while leaving the task of the edit message there).

Discussion: http://etherpad.com/zqviGuhhbv

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