What happens when Content Marketing works?  We are not talking about just getting subscribers, but truly being known as one of the best resources in the world for your niche.

Everything you dreamed of will come true, right?  Your business will get so many leads you will see rapid growth, you get invited to speak at industry conferences all the time, and you have more flexibility to create content the way you want.  It really can be great, but there are issues.

Sometimes the thing you are known for becomes something not to be known for anymore.  Maybe it isn’t great to be known as the Direct Marketing gal anymore and you want to pivot.

In this episode, Melanie Deziel, the Native Advertising gal, and Jay Acunzo, the Podcast guy, join the show to talk about the evolution of their brands and the ways they have included frequent pivots to ensure they are not isolated into a single bucket during their growth as content creators.


This has been an excellent season and we are looking forward to launching more shows in this season soon.

Thanks to our sponsors

Transcripts

- I feel like you and I occupy a similar space. I'm not talking vertical here, I'm talking about the thing we're trying to attach ourselves to to build successful careers and I'm curious about this huge conflict that a lot of people who are doing what we're doing face, which is, we're out on our own, we're both doing our own thing, and we're hooking our wagons to topics, native advertising, and all the synonyms therein. For me, it's podcasting, but kind of not, I don't want to be the podcast guy.

- [ Melanie] Right.

- I wanna be known for kind of creating shows, original programming or whatever. How much do you think about the terminology that people associate you with, and then how does that conflict with your desire to have this long career where the topic might go away or you might

- Yeah.

- Wanna do other things, but people know you for one thing, talk about

- [Melanie] Yeah.

- Your association with that word.

- Absolutely, and the core of it is exactly what you said, the synonyms therein, right?

- [Jay] Yeah.

- Which is, right now, we're talking about native advertising, but at one point, it was branded content, custom publishing, advertorials, every other month it's got a new term that's in vogue, and so when I talk about native advertising, I try to stress that native is an adjective, and it means something that fits into the context whether it's a story or an ad or a product, it's about finding the natural alignment between something and the environment in which it's presented or consumed. And so I see,

- I hear ya.

- I see room for growth there,

- Yeah.

- Whether it's I'm doing some e-commerce work where I'm helping publishers come up with products, physical products, that they can, either through affiliates or partnerships, produce and what makes sense, what's a natural fit for a product for your audience given your area of authority, so I can see kinda the branches, the opportunities to branch off, but it's definitely something that I think about all the time.

- Yeah.

- I don't wanna be just the native ad girl, either, forever, so it's definitely, it's something that's on my mind a lot.

- Right, and it's like

- Yeah.

- Because we're not like, you're Jay from Google, those days are behind me.

- Yeah.

- I'm no longer at Google, I get, you're not, you're not Melanie for Time, Inc.

- Yeah.

- And so you can get associated with this thing that's working right now that you're super passionate about and then what's working, or an audience you build around that topic might either go away because the industry changes or your adience expects more of the same from you, but you have aspirations to do more or

- Right.

- Different, or even just slightly tangential things.

- Yeah.

- And it can be hard 'cause it's like, well this is working or this is what audiences expect of me and I kinda wanna go over there.

- [Melanie] Yeah.

- And that's a tough transition to make.

- And I deal with the same thing with regards to, I was Melanie from the New York Times.

- Right.

- For a long time And that Netflix women inmates piece that we did, T Brand Studio and Netflix was my calling card, but it was also 2014 and so it's still a weird thing for me to be here at Content Marketing World in 2017

- Yeah.

- And every question at the end of my session about mobile native advertising was about that piece, and so it's a little bit like my free bird and I have to make sure I'm not a one hit wonder in that way, and that's much harder to do when you're out on your own, and I'm wondering

- Right.

- If you are dealing with that too, where without the Jay from Google or whatever you have, you know, how do you kind of make your landmark thing, your calling card thing?

- Yeah, I mean it's tough, like right now, so 2017 into 2018 the bulk of my business is speaking. I host my own show, Unthinkable, and that's so much fun for me, and I'm sort of using the speaking to give me the freedom to make a show that I artistically love and it just takes a lot of time to create something like that, so they're complementary, but they're not both in sync, I'd say. I'm pulling a lot of stories out of my show for my speaking.

- Right.

- I'm pulling a lot of lessons, but I'm not actually integrating the two. In other words, it's not like both driving revenue or whatever.

- The goal of your speaking isn't to drive

- Tracking.

- Downloads.

- Yeah, exactly.

- Right.

- I'm not trying to just ratchet up a download so I can get a sponsor or whatever, so I'm doing it for me, I'm doing it for my audience, I'm not really doing it for a third party, which is great, it's creatively liberating and that's why I love the internet.

- Right.

- 'Cause you can invent and test and I'm unshackled from corporate norms right now, but it's tricky because people would come up to you, friends or colleagues, and it's sort of like, it's like the Office Space quote, it's like what is it that you do here exactly? Right?

- Yeah.

- And it's like the elevator pitch for what you do and therefore the value you bring to someone else can be really tricky.

- Yeah.

- Right? And so for me as a speaker, like an actual professional speaker, I love the craft, I love the business, I love all the things about it, but then there are people who speak for free, or people who don't understand that it's a career path.

- Business.

- Yeah. So what's your elevator pitch? You know what, give me this, the cocktail party with your friends, what do you say that you do?

- This is gonna sound like a cop-out.

- Yeah.

- But bear with me here, I always ask someone else what they do first, and then I try to relate native advertising to what they do to help them understand because I think even for a lot of content marketers, the concept of native advertising for a brand is partnering with a publisher and they're creating content that lives on the publisher's site, but ultimately drives brand goals. And it's a squishy space.

- Sure.

- And it's such a small sliver of what we're doing here, so I always will ask, well what is it that you do, and they say, oh, well, you know, I'm a contractor, and I'm like, well all right, well, if your company wanted to reach these kinds of folks, you might partner with a publisher like so-and-so, and we'd create content and I come up with some examples on the spot, and I'm like, so basically, my job is to help make matchmaking like that work well. And I work with friends, I work with publishers,

- Yeah.

- And I try to create better story telling because it helps publishers make revenue, it helps brands reach consumers, and it helps readers find better content instead of ads.

- Let's mix it up, so my wife is a psychologist, my best friend is a teacher, most of my circle is actually not in business.

- Right.

- And so when someone asks me what do you do, I kinda have to really like, it's either hand wavey, they don't get it.

- Yeah.

- Or I just kinda have to cut out a lot of pride that I feel, a lot of ego, and just say this, 'cause they understand it.

- Yeah.

- Or they'll just stop talking, I used to work for this guy who'd say, oh, I'm in software and like, full stop, 'cause he didn't want to say, I work for this tech company in marketing and they do all these things, and so people's eyes glaze over.

- Yeah.

- So what I've started to say is I'm a writer and a speaker.

- Yeah, mine would be, I'm a consultant.

- Okay, cool.

- Yeah.

- And then the next question's like, well what do you write and speak about?

- Right.

- And now I can talk to you about my methodology, intuition, I can talk about all these other thing, I just say, creativity in business. And if they wanna keep engaging, that's great.

- You can keep going.

- So you are a consultant, so we're at the cocktail party, I'm a teacher, I'm outside the space that you operate in, I'm not in

- Yes.

- A business where you can articulate, oh, well your business could do native advertising. What do you do, you're a consultant, what do you do as a consultant?

- I consult with publishers and help them figure out how they can monetize their skills as story tellers to help make more money.

- Interesting, so like writing books? I'm a writer, I'm gonna write more books? You see what I'm saying?

- Yes.

- there's so many things

- it's tough.

- We take for granted here that people just understand.

- Right.

- Which is why we like events like this, because it's like, oh, you get my world.

- Our people.

- Yeah, but I think as a solo entrepreneur, solo creator, podcaster, writer, there's just way more of us in this industry now.

- Yeah.

- Where we found success elsewhere, learned a lot, and then we wanted to do it on our own, whether you call that a freelancer or a solo creator or a social media influencer or whatever term you want to use, it's like now there's no term, right?

- Right.

- Now we're all

- And.

- And, and, and.

- Yeah.

- Or like Chase Jarvis, the founder of CreativeLive, he says we're all hyphens, I love that term.

- Yes.

- We're all hyphens.

- Exactly.

- And then you have other people where that doesn't exist in their world.

- Right.

- It's this for 10 years, it's that for two, they have a paint-by-numbers career, we have a blank canvas.

- Yeah, and I this that's really exciting.

- Yeah.

- And I'm guessing that that's probably why we both ended up out on our own.

- I think so.

- Right? The opportunity to be a hyphen

- Yeah.

- Is exciting

- Right.

- If you have varied interests.

- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

- Or if you're like us and you are really interested in other people's stories,

- Yes.

- It gives you a chance, I would say, that's what I loved about journalism is I got to become an expert in something else every day.

- Yeah.

- Every story was a chance to learn about something, and so while I'm still doing story telling for brands, it's in a different sphere,

- Yeah, yeah.

- I'm still getting to tap into that hunger, to hear a story and tell it, and I'm curious, I know that you were from journalism as well.

- Yeah.

- What was your pap, how do you still draw on that, because for me, it's in my core, and I'm assuming it's still in yours, too.

- I'm glad you said that, it's so simple for me, like the ethos or whatever you wanna call it, the north star.

- Yeah.

- I wanna make them feel something. Laugh, think, cry, whatever, I wanna make people feel emotions with the stuff I create, I've been addicted to that since I was a kid and first learned that I could make people laugh, or I wrote something in high school that made people think, or whatever, I love this idea that I'm building something I'm proud of and others also love it, and it kind of reflects like the similar emotion

- Yeah.

- We're both feeling, interacting with this piece or this show or whatever, so the way I like to phrase my entry into content marketing or marketing and business, because I wanted to be a sports journalist, is they told me I could create and I showed up for work. So it's like if some day this whole thing of creating content, media story, whatever for business goes away, I'm looking elsewhere for work.

- Right.

- I got into this for the content side of content marketing, I got into it to hold people's attention, not just jump out and acquire it.

- Right.

- I have this sign in my office that says, do the right thing even when nobody's watching, and I think it's so easy as a marketer to start, oh, it's a tip and a trip and a guru's hack, you know, whatever, it's a cheat

- Yeah.

- To get to the shortcut. It's like, the right things's always the right thing.

- Yeah.

- The content word in content marketing matters, so does the marketing word, and we obsess over the marketing word, and I feel like what's getting left out is the content word, and now, as the wave crashes and hype goes away, people that are left, I think really care about both.

- Yeah.

- They're doing it the right way, the right thing is the right thing.

- And it's funny, I actually referenced your keynote in my presentation.

- Oh, thanks.

- I was talking about, you made that point about, it's not about finding the answers,

- No.

- It's about the ability to find answers.

- Right.

- And I talked about that too, someone asked, well what about this platform and this platform, and I said, it doesn't matter what platform you're talking about. If you understand the core of figuring out what do people want

- Yeah.

- In this environment, what do they expect from an experience perspective, and what are your physical capabilities in that environment, you're gonna be able to adapt to whatever comes next.

- Yeah.

- But you have to have those skills at the core.

- I can give you an example of that. It hits me all the time and it makes me wanna flip tables, which is, now that I'm doing podcasting,

- Yep.

- And I'm speaking, and I've started to, my name is associated with my work really closely in a way it wasn't before, it's like people think I know stuff, right, and I'm like, I don't know if I do.

- Yeah.

- I'm flattered, and people would ask, I want a podcast, what's the right microphone to use, what's the right thing, and it's like, but you should be able to figure that out on your own. I don't want to give you the answer, you should know how to find answers.

- Yeah.

- How to vet technologies, and I always respond with the same thing, which is like, are you any good on a microphone? Right?

- Right. And people, oh, oh, I hadn't thought about that. And it's like, but that's what this is. That's what this is.

- Yeah.

- And it's this failure to understand this first principle of the matter, the first principle of the podcast is that you have to be good on a microphone, you have to be a good interviewer or storyteller. The first principle of solving problems is you have to know how to solve problems, how to ask the right questions, and investigate, not just get an answer from someone else.

- Yeah.

- 'Cause what happens when that answer doesn't work or stops working, you gotta go back to the well, and it's just this game of so-and-so said we should do this, it sounds sexy or easy, it's the press the easy button mentality.

- Yeah.

- And I think that leads to just commodity work.

- Yeah, I mean, and there's a couple things packed in there, the first thing, I think is, i think a lot of it is our journalism roots that leads us to be that resourceful, you have to figure it out, you don't get to say, sorry, I couldn't find someone to talk about that.

- Right.

- You find a source, you know. But another thing is it's so funny to me consumers and even marketers, especially, have this blind spot when it comes to content. We all think just because we have the technology, we have the skills and the insight. You would never walk up to a chef with no cooking experience and say, what's the best knife that I need for my kitchen? It's gonna make me a great chef. But there is that assumption that if I get the right microphone, my podcast will be great, if I have the right video equipment, then my vlog's gonna go viral.

- Yeah

- it's like this assumption that it's the technology, and people might forget about the skill,

- Right.

- The nurturing of those skills that get you to that point.

- Yeah, it's like incremental versus fundamental for me. The fundamentals of a podcast is articulation and storytelling and all these things that I love to do that helps me use cheap equipment, no real professional studio, and all that stuff, and create a show that I hope some people would misconstrue as all these expensive things. But I'm just so focused on, I didn't say that right, I didn't ask the right question, I didn't transition from the A block of my show to the B block of my show. I know that the blocks of my show are, like all those things.

- Yeah.

- So I'm curious in your world, like native advertising, you can, I think, see a dotted line to a banner ad buying mentality, I want this to be progommatic, and it's technology based, what are the fundamentals of your world where you're like, hold on a sec, that's incremental, learn this first and you'll be good at it?

- Yeah.

- What are those fundamentals?

- So the one thing that I find myself saying all the time is the story should determine the format and not the other way around, which again, is so intrinsic to us coming from the journalistic world, but so many brands come to me and they're like, I need to do six videos, and who can I do them with, and I need to get a hundred thousand views. And it's like, we need to start with what's in the video because that's gonna determine who you share it out to, what platforms you use, which publisher you should partner with, so a lot of it comes back to, what is your area of authority? What is it that you as a company or a brand or an individual have the authority to speak about? Like you were saying earlier, right, with native and podcast.

- Yeah.

- What's in our sphere?

- Right.

- It's your products and services, it's how they impact your customers' lives, and it's how you make them feel. Those are really the core areas that you have the authority to speak about, so once you narrow in on that, then you can figure out, well, if we're telling a story about what your product does, we probably want something visual to walk people through it.

- Right.

- That would be an infographic

- right.

- Or a slideshow or a video, so if you have that core of like, what is the story you are capable to tell, then that's a good place

- Yeah.

- To start.

- I think we talk a lot about strategy, we talk a lot about technique and technology and all that stuff, yeah, all this is in service of our careers, right, we're doing this to draw meaning in our lives.

- Sure.

- And have a fulfilling career, you know, it's like, let's get all starry-eyed for a moment, but that's why we do work, right?

- Yeah.

- And the profits and anything that we're going for that the business wants, it's so we can continue to have a meaningful career or life. So I wanna ask you an incredibly crucial question about your career as a speaker, what's your walk-up song?

- Oh my gosh, so there is a song called Wonder Woman, by this band Lion Babe, it's got really heavy base and I actually listen to it before I speak most times. I don't ever play it out, but it's just about being a woman, you're ready to go, you can do anything, it's like a very empowering song.

- I love that.

- Or Sia, Greatest.

- Oh, nice.

- Either one.

- Mine is Young Blood by the Naked and Famous. It's a great, it's a very

- it's great.

- Millennial song.

- Yeah.

- Yeah, but it's kind of like, you know, the possibility of it all gets you really excited and you're young and hungry.

- Yeah.

- Yeah.

- So those are crucial moments in your career as a speaker.

- It's very important.

- Is finding that walk up song.

- It's very important.

- Yeah.

- So, I'm wondering also, the way that you approach your storytelling, I feel like your journalism background is obvious, we've talked about that, but I know that you came from the startup world, and I always think it's so interesting, those random bits that you learn from an unexpected industry.

- Right.

- Unexpected experience. Does that startup experience play into the stuff that you're doing, either speaking from figuring out a business model from when you were in DC,

- Yeah.

- How does that thread tie in to where you are now?

- Oh my god, I mean so many ways, some I can articulate, some it's just like the messiness of being a human and you just suck up things in your life and somehow it affects your work that you can't articulate.

- Yeah.

- I think there's two concrete ways that being from the startup world actually affects my work in everything, one is, when you're a startup, you have no money, no team, no capital, no product in the market sometimes, all you have is your why, the problem we're gonna solve is that, and it's because you feel passionately about it, but you also are serving others, your customers, so it's the understanding of the north star in the mission. And then the second thing is there's the willingness to test, the willingness to assume you don't know, even if someone else says do it this way, test it. Everything about building something should be testing first to learn it at a rate quickly to then scale, and we live in this marketing world where it's always been built on the madmen idea or the mass media of like the idea and it's fully baked, and we're gonna build it for six months and then launch it, and people will love it. No, you have to involve the customer in your process. So final question for you.

- Sure.

- If you could speak to one company in the world and you think they're gonna really love what you have to say, and they wanna work with you, what would it be?

- So like my dream client?

- It's your dream partner, yeah.

- I would really love to work with Starbucks. I think they have some great social good initiatives that I'd love to be aligned with. I just love their brand and it's a brand I've had a long-term relationship with, but I was tempted to say a really difficult brand, like I think the most fun for me is when someone can walk into a conversation and I know without a doubt that they don't believe they can make content. Not only, they know they can't make content. They have no story to tell, it's insurance or finance or something very technical. They're like, we make wind turbines, and you see someone like GE, and it's just such an example that everyone has a story to tell, and so my favorite thing is when someone can walk into that meeting with that attitude and leave feeling inspired, so maybe if I was given the opportunity, I might pick something really difficult and see it as a challenge.

- That's awesome, I think mine

- Yep.

- Would just be like a soda or candy or beer company 'cause I work alone.

- Freebies?

- In my office, can you please stock my fridge, please? Please, help a brother out.

- That's always a nice perk, too.

- Yeah.

- Yeah.

- I think we're out of time, but this was super fun.

- This was definitely fun.

- I think we should high five?

- Rematch.

- Do a high five?

- Yeah.

- That how we end?

- Let's do it.

- All right, let's do it, freeze ray. Oh, you gotta freeze it, okay, good.




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