Agile Themes from Content Marketing World


On Friday morning (at a truly ungodly hour) I left Cleveland and Content Marketing World 2016. Over the course of the four-day event I was honored to present a breakout session on agile marketing, but I was pleasantly surprised how often the idea came up in other talks I attended.

It appears that agility in marketing is becoming an increasingly common mindset (woo!).

This is a great step toward more complete adoption, but I think it's also a huge call to action for those of us who are passionate about educating and empowering other marketers.

If we no longer have to focus on convincing people that agile is the right approach (or explaining what it is in the first place), we can move on to helping them understand how to take the next step.

Here are some of the agile references that cropped up during my time at Content Marketing World. Are you hearing others at the events you're attending? Share them with the class in the comments!

Ann Handley's Keynote: Be an Agile Turtle

If you've never heard Ann speak live, she's one of those rare people who brings enormous amounts of energy and empathy to the stage, despite presenting at events week after week.

At CMWorld, she was one of the closing keynotes for day one, and she did not disappoint.

As she herself pointed out, this is the "money slide" from that talk (which she premiered for the first time in Cleveland):

Structured as a look back at the best marketing of 2017, Ann argued during her keynote that the marketers who will win next year are those who can slow down at the right time.

In her words, we have to prepare so we can sprint.

Of course, teams that are powered by an agile methodology should have designated slow times (aka retrospectives and kickoffs) built into their processes, which will allow them to prepare on a regular basis.

My other favorite agile echo was her call for marketers to "opt for sustainability over speed." As both a content creator and agile marketing enthusiast, this strikes me as hugely important.

Teams that are burning their content teams out every few months will be hamstrung by the hiring/training/onboarding cycle. They won't be able to maintain a consistent publication cadence, their content quality will suffer, and they'll generally have poorer results than those who can sustain a loyal team over the long term.

Jay Acunzo's Keynote: Unthinkable Content Creators

Leading the movement for creator-centered content marketing is Jay Acunzo, whose new podcast Unthinkable is one of the most groundbreaking shows around.

Jay's main argument is three-fold:

  1. There's a huge amount of content being produced right now.
  2. In such a noisy marketplace, only those organizations who can create something freakin' amazing will get heard.
  3. Best practices -- i.e. the same things that everyone else is doing -- will not result in freakin' amazing content. You need someone who can create their own framework by doing what others would call, "Unthinkable."

This leap from, "that thing that is comfortable and safe"  to, "that thing that could be utterly unique" can be scary:

While Jay didn't ever say the word, "agile" in his talk, it was very clear that an agile marketing team would have a much better chance of producing the conditions that make unthinkable content creation possible.

By breaking free of interrupt-driven marketing and protecting their content creators inside an iteration, agile teams are more likely to create content that breaks through the clutter and impacts their audience in a meaningful way.

Joe Pulizzi's Intro: Mediocre is Worse Than Nothing

Last, but certainly not least, (because come on, it's Joe Pulizzi), we have the declaration that putting out mediocre content is now worse than doing nothing at all.

Every year Joe kicks off Content Marketing World with a review of the results of their annual research into the state of the content marketing industry.

This year, rather than do a comprehensive march through all the pertinent takeaways, he gave us just one thing to mull over: only 20% of organizations are fully committed to content marketing. The remaining 80% are still hedging their bets.

According to Joe, this is dangerous in the extreme.

Brands that are just throwing content out there and hoping something good will happen are endangering their reputation with their audience.

Once again, Joe doesn't throw the word "agile" around in his talks, but it's clear that an agile marketing approach can solve so many of the problems content marketing teams encounter.

Regardless of the methodology, agile teams have a better shot at connecting strategy to execution, they are more connected to their audiences, they can produce high quality work at a regular pace, and they're fixated on a sustainable pace.

Education and Empowerment Needed ASAP

I won't lie -- it was a little hard to sit quietly in the audience during these talks. I wanted to stand up and yell, "You have the power to solve these problems right now! Go agile!"

But that would be rude. So I sat quietly.

Still, it's the lack of education that's holding teams back from completing an agile transformation:

If you're already on an agile marketing team, tell your friends! Share your struggles and solutions anytime you can (including by joining our Agile Marketing Roundtables).

For those who haven't yet made the agile leap, become the internal advocate in your organization.

There are dozens of people who want to help you -- including me! -- so please ask if you have questions or need help. Just like content marketing powered forward on the back of a committed community, so too can agile marketing make big strides when we all work together!