Crafting Your Brand’s Story: Content Jam 2013 Recap

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This year’s Content Jam featured 16 experts in break-out sessions addressing topics on four tracks: strategy, promotion, creation and measurement.

Content Jam is a marketing conference for marketers interested in creating authentic connections between brands and the people who love those brands. It’s a place where content creators — those people in charge of crafting the copy that goes in email newsletters, on blogs and websites, and distributed over social media channels — gather to learn how to do a better job not at tricking audiences into hearing messages they don’t want (the unfortunate theme of many marketing conferences), but at building communities around businesses with content that strengthens relationships between customers and brands.

This year’s Content Jam four tracks — strategy, promotion, creation, and measurement — that centered around three reoccurring themes:

  • Be authentic.
  • Build a story around your brand.
  • Measure what is effective.

Authenticity is the Key to Creating Audience Connections

Authenticity, as it relates to marketing and branding, can be a bit nebulous, but it starts with taking a creative approach to the design of your communication with customers. There’s no right or wrong way to “be authentic” — it means something different for each organization — but there are a few key tenants of an authentic communication strategy:

  • Be transparent about your business practices, who works for your company, and how you go about solving customer problems. (Southwest Airlines does a great job of this on their website.)
  • Own up to your mistakes and mis-steps. (For good examples, check out these 10 Famous Corporate Apologies.)
  • Be passionate about connecting customers to your product or service because you believe you solve their problems in a way no one else can. (This passion is reflected in MailChimp’s blog every time they release a new feature.)
  • Strike a balance between telling the story of who you are and what you stand for and telling people about what you sell. (A great local example: J.C. Lind Bike Co. Their website showcases bikes for sale, but also celebrates the cycling lifestyle.)

Jodi Navta, VP Marketing and Communications for Coyote Logistics, talked about authenticity in her Content Jam presentation, Five Steps to Building Big and Scaling Fast Through Content Marketing.


Mightybytes founder Tim Frick dons one-inch Button-o-Matic Content Jam buttons, courtesy of Busy Beaver Button Co.

The Story of Your Brand is Your Greatest Marketing Assest, so Learn to Use it Effectively

A brand’s “story” is a combination of everything a brand puts into the world, from its founding legend, to its products, to its customer service. Brands with strong stories have customers that can summarize, at dinner parties:

  • Who founded the company and why?
  • What problem does the company solve?
  • How does the company solve a problem in a way that’s unique from other solutions?
  • Who works at the company?
  • What does the company make, build, or sell?
  • Why do customers love the company?
  • Why do YOU love the company?

Great brand narratives don’t happen by chance, they’re created. Content — website copy, blog posts, email newsletters, videos, webinars, white papers — should reflect a cohesive answer to the questions above to affirm a brand narrative.

Some examples from Content Jam presentations on how to create brand narratives and foster advocates:

Measuring the Effectiveness of your Content is the New Black

Many content marketers came to marketing from other disciplines: fiction writing, journalism, theater, education, beekeeping, etc. Content creation is an inherently creative practice, so it comes as no surprise that, as creative types, lots of content creators shy away from data.

This year, Content Jam put a huge emphasis on measurement, with presentations dedicated to creating and tracking content goals with the use of data.

Goals? Data? Sounds like scary stuff. It used to be, “I came, I blogged, I went out for drinks.” But because online marketing can be tracked — through click rates, conversions, sales leads — marketers are increasingly responsible for tracking return on investment. In her keynote presentation, Gini Dietrich noted that while 93% of marketers are using content marketing, more than half don’t have a documented strategy or don’t know if they do. No strategy means no measurement! That’s not good.

The good news is that tracking and measuring content marketing results doesn’t have to be scary. The process can be broken down into a few steps:

  1. State your goals. And not too many of them — maybe five, tops.
  2. Figure out a way to track those goals.
  3. Set a timeline for measurement.
  4. Check in: did you meet the goals?
  5. If yes, repeat. If not, re-strategize.

For more from Content Jam on creating and tracking content goals, check out:

If you’re excited by this authentic approach to marketing and want to join a community of people who are excited about it, too, I’d highly recommend attending Content Jam next year.

Follow These Content Jam People on Twitter

Content Jam was organized by:

Some of the 2013 presenters:

Marti Konstant @martikonstant
Andy Crestodina @crestodina
Jill Pollack @jill_pollack
Jill Salzman @foundingmom
Gini Dietrich @ginidietrich
Jodi Navta @jodinavta
Luvvie Ajayi @iluvvit
Brad Farris @blfarris
Keith Ecker @keithecker
James Ellis @saltlab

Or leave a comment here and we can talk some more about creating awesome content!

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