Tuesday, October 6, 2015

High level Content Strategy


The purpose of this blog post is to give anyone a high-level view of what Content Strategy is and how it works. You should be able to walk away from this article nodding your heads with a decent understanding that you could then take to someone else and explain: This is what content strategy is.

This is a very, very simple way of explaining things in a fast-moving conversation but has proven to be extremely effective for me in it's ability to convey that I know what I'm talking about.

So if you want to sound like you know what you're talking about...keep reading.


I've been going through the interview process for about 6 weeks now after moving back to Seattle from Phoenix in mid-August. During that time I've been talking with a lot of people about what content strategy is and what content strategists do. At first I was finding it hard to communicate because I was more concerned with explaining my story and how I'd ended up at their door, but eventually I learned to distill things down to a very simple formula that I believe works for communicating the core principles content strategy.

Who is this for

Content Strategy can be a confusing topic for:

  • People who don't work in marketing. 
    • Is that you? Don't worry, this is still extremely important for you to understand because you now live in a digital world and are affected by good and bad content strategy, keep reading!
  • Marketing and advertising professionals that work on the Account and/or Media side of the business.  
    • Not that you aren't strategists, you just don't spend all day in the creative world ensuring you're finger is on the pulse of the latest content marketing tactics. This post should provide some added clarity when it comes to conversations with highly educated clients or horizontally, your industry counterparts. This post will make you smarter. 
  • Agencies with clients who don't understand the value. 
    • Good news! This blog post should help you convince them why content strategy is important and why they should give you MORE MONEY to do more of it. 
  • Literally anyone who doesn't know what SEO stands for. 
    • Hint: it stands for search engine optimization. 
Search Engine Optimization

Okay, so to really understand why this is important from a high level, you kind of need to understand how search engine optimization is and how it works. The good news, we can boil it down to one sentence, albeit a bit of a mouthful: 

"Who ever has the most links back to their website on a specific keyword or key phrase ranks the highest in google for that keyword or phrase."  

Now take that with a grain of salt. Google has over 200 different factors that contribute to how sites are ranked (another data point you can drop in a client convo) but that sentence above, that is 95% of the algorithm. After that, it's: 

  • How long has your site been around? 
  • And, are you following all of Google's other rules like: 
    • You can't get paid to post links back to other peoples sites
    • You site needs to be mobile friendly
    • You haz lots of social shares? Super. You're cool, we'll rank you a lil higher. 

The Rub 

So you might have noticed something from what I just explained above. The way to rank the highest is to have the most links back to your site...but I also said you aren't allowed to pay for them...

Google's mission is to organize the worlds information. 

It's every company's goal to manipulate Google's algorithm in order to rank higher, get more people to view their site, and convert those visitors into customers. (The first 5 search results get 75% of the clicks). 

So you want more links, but you can't pay...Boom! Enter Content Strategy. 

Someone has to figure out how to create content that's cool enough or useful enough to encourage people to share and link back to. That's pretty much it. 

How you do that? How do you create content that's cool enough or resourceful enough to get people to share it, link back to it, or even buy your product simply from viewing or engaging with your content?!?!  - Honestly, this is more of a question for the agency crowd so we're going to skip that and come back to it another time. For the sake of time, and making sure you walk away with something tangible, let's understand the core principles, and let's understand them in human speak, not crazy convoluted marketing speech. 

Content Strategy 

Okay. So you totally get why content strategy is a thing now...but again...what is it...well, in the most basic terms I can use to break things down, this is how I explain it to other people in conversation: 
  • What are we saying
  • How are we saying it 
  • What's our process for creating the content
  • And what's the process for measuring it? 
Now don't get me wrong, we can go deep on all 4 of these points, and I intend to in different blog posts, for example, if we wanted to talk about point number 2 "How are we saying it" we would have a conversation about: What channels of communication are we using? Social media? Facebook vs Instagram? Email? Even traditional creative like TV, Radio or Print should be driven by the content strategy which is the guiding light behind everything you do. The real way to answer this question quickly is: Will this help us get where we're going?

But again, let's not get wrapped up in the tactics right now, memorize those 4 things above and you'll be miles ahead of the rest. 

An even shorter definition of content strategy coming from Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach's book Content Strategy For The Web is: 

"Content strategy guides your plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of content." 

If you want to dive deeper you can come back to my blog or you can simply go buy the book I've linked to above. It's literally THE book on content strategy and I suggest every serious professional content strategist have a copy in the top drawer of their desk at work. I do. 


  • What are we saying
  • How are we saying it 
  • What's our process for creating the content
  • And, what is the process for measuring it? 
Got it? Of course you do! You're a smart cookie.

The next step is to start noticing how you're being marketed to and realize how stupid most of it is. How it lacks a comprehensive strategy that moves consumers down the purchase funnel and communicates consistently across the channels you spend the most time on.

Use what you've learned in this article to create your own insights into either your own work, your agencies work, or you're day-to-day life so you can learn to communicate more effectively.

Be Relentless. Be Curious. Be Human. 

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

There's no such thing as smart.

There's no such thing as smart.

You either have a fixed mindset or growth mindset.

You're either a novice or an expert.

You might have been born with a big brain. Congratulations. But that doesn't mean you're naturally more intelligent than the kid next to you in the library studying eight hours a day when you only study for one.

As a father, this concept of who is smart and who isn't has become very important to me. How do we go about praising our children without hindering them?

How does this apply to the workplace and in our personal relationships?

After listening to the latest episode of the Art of Charm with Dr. Carl Dweck, I've realized that I tend to give a lot of surface level praise: "You're really smart. You have the talent. He's a genius, She's a genius. Everyone on my team is a genius!"

I feel foolish. Because a teams success has nothing to do with how smart you are, how talented you are, in the end, it all comes down to handwork. There's simply no substitute for for a junk yard dog mentality. 

What's even more interesting is that it took me 26 years on earth to have this honest conversation with myself about how I communicate with other people. Especially young children. Then again, I've always been told that I'm "great" at communicating. So it wasn't something I really thought I needed to work on until I become a father. What's even funnier is: The things I'm learning about communicating with children are just as applicable to adults. 

So how should we praise?

According to dr. Carol Dweck we should focus on praising the process. Praising the hard work that went into the accomplishment. The good strategy they used, their perseverance, their improvement. She says that doing this will put people into a growth mindset and equip them with the values that they need to be successful.

Allow me to paraphrase: If you want someone to be independent, you need to praise them for the traits they display that allow them to stand on their own two feet. Praise the process, not the result.

Makes sense to me.

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artwork: https://dribbble.com/shots/1629146-How-Love-Works

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wake up early

My sister and I are only 17 months apart, but we only went to the same school for ~3 years. Kindergarten, 1st grade, and my 7th grade year, her 8th grade. I went to boarding school to play hockey in high school, she went to a different elementary school because she tested into a "highly capable" program. So our paths only crossed in middle school. That was one hell of a year.

But that doesn't mean we don't have a lot of the same friends from the Shoreline area. And if they were our friend, then they definitely know our Mother. Joyce has had a way of leaving a lasting impression on everyone she meets. She's a brilliant MD and an even better company.

And of course she's provided us with little gems like the The 25 Commandments of Safe Partying.

I was reminded recently of another saying that seemed to resonate with some of my sister and I's friends even years later:

"Most of life's problem can be avoided by staying sober and waking up early."

Stay sober, check. Wake up early....errrrrrr...fine.

Here's to a winter in the Pacific Northwest filled with morning workouts in the dark. I'm trying to get mentally prepared as quickly as possible. Who's on the 6am train with me?

I think another huge issue in our society is that we praise people for getting a lack of sleep. As though it somehow proves our dedication to our work.

How about showing some dedication to yourself? Some dedication to bringing your best self to the office everyday. Giving your team 100% of what you have to offer. You can't do that 3 hours.

That doesn't mean there won't be sleepless nights. There will be, and there should be. But they should be few and far between.

If you feel scattered, you aren't doing it right.

Slow down. Take your time.

Get some sleep.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Falling in love at work

I just finishing watching Mandy Len Carton's Ted Talk on Falling in love. She was a small-time blogger who participated in a educational study about love, wrote a piece about how her and her significant other fell in love in the laboratory, and the article ended up making it into the New York Times.

You can read it here: To fall in love with anyone, do this.

Talk about clickbait! It's no surprise she admits the title of the article was the only part of the post she didn't write.

The Ted Talk isn't on Youtube yet so I can't embed it, but if you have 13 min to spare, check it out here: Falling in love is the easy part.

The reason this is so interesting to me is because I'm curious to know if these 36 questions would be applicable and even beneficial for startup teams to ask one another.

I was in a Fraternity and even then, you basically just do a bunch of "secret" stuff that helps you get to know each other on a more intimate level. (Shared experiences creating a bond of significant meaning)

As I go through the current job hunting process I find myself having conflicting feelings about how long the process can take. On one side of the coin it's just my ego getting wrapped up in the process, "why is it taking so long for me to find the right fit?" When I've only been back and actively seeking new gigs for a month. The other truth that I understand and agree with is that it would be foolish to hire and invest in someone without attempting to get to know the person as much as possible.

When we first started OnlyTheBeat.com, I would literally let anyone join the team as long as I felt they were as excited about it as I was. That turned out to be a huge mistake. And one of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last 3 and a half years hiring writers.

There has to be some sort of interview process that breaks down walls and allows you to get to know a person...you know, like, more personally. (We now have a 3 step process that includes providing a "Your Story" writing example)

But where do you draw the line?

At one of my recent employers where I got to interview candidates we had an interview question, "what is the hardest decision you've ever had to make?" And I was thrilled that I got it ask this in an interview one time...Only to have the other people in the room interviewing with me laugh nervously and add "he means the hardest decision in the work place of course!"

No I didn't.

I meant the hardest decision you've ever had to make. How did you make it. That's literally more important to me than anything else we might have asked. It tells you so much about a person and what they value, what they've lost, and how they've bounced back.

And I get it, some people want to keep work and their personal lives separate, but if you don't want to open up about your personal life, then what are we really doing here? The meaning that we derive from our relationships dictates the meaning in our lives, and if you're going to spend 1/3 of your day with someone, don't you want to get to know them on a deeper personal level before you spend all that time with them?

This is a real interview: Agency Wants Its Next Art Director to Be Cool, So the Interview Will Be Over Two Days in Vegas

Now that's what I'm talking about. Except I think 3 or 4 days in Vegas would REALLY allow you to see who that person is. You can survive Vegas for 48 hours and still be at 70-80% if you know you're being watched, but come hour 73 or 84, you better believe you're going to have some insight into who the other person is and how they handle stress. Lol.

I don't necessarily like the title of the article, I don't think it has to do with being cool. I think it has more to do with putting someone out into the wild and seeing how they react to precarious situations, which is, like, all day everyday in real life.

And again, there it is.

Real life. Real people.

Real recognize real.

It's the same reason Donald Trump is getting so much love, because he is way too real.

But people are responding to it because even if it is preposterous and ridiculous, at least it isn't clearly, obviously, and insanely fake. It doesn't sound good, but it doesn't sound like he's lying either.

(Uneducated, insensitive, and making things up, well, that's another story, he definitely makes a bunch of BS up).

It's just more like insanely too real. Which makes for great entertainment. (key word, entertainment).

So here are the 36 questions from the love experiment.

It's also worth noting that at the end, if you are doing this with someone in the pursuit of love, you're supposed to finish by staring into each others eyes for four minutes without speaking:

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?


25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.


Those were intense. But if we're working together at a startup...shouldn't we know a lot of these things about our coworkers?...Aren't these questions two startup founders have unintentionally asked one another during their conversations before deciding to start a company together? I sure hope so...Because starting a company together IS like getting married!

If you want to look at it from the opposite side of the table, I think I'd have a hard time investing in a startup where the founders didn't know what their co-founder felt was "too serious to be joked about" (question #32).

No where in this list of questions is anyone asked to reveal anything about their sex life or answer questions of a sexual nature...but the question remains...do you think they're too personal for the work place? Or would you adopt something like this for your own startup, pairing co-workers together one evening to sit down and have a heart to heart? Would you ask these questions in an interview?

Even if the person ended up not being a good fit for the team, or taking a job elsewhere, I have a hard time believing you wouldn't walk away with a new friend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Great Suspender

Blogging about technology is something that I love to do.

But I don't necessarily like to blog technology in the same way I review music on OnlyTheBeat.com.

Listening to music is more of an emotional experience where as technology plays more of a utilitarian role in my life. When I do discover useful technology that solves real problems for me I share it here on my blog. Usually devoid of the pomp and fluff that I provide when describing my favorite genre: melodic, euphoric, uplifting, big room Trance.

The Great Suspender is one of my new favorite chrome extensions. It "automatically suspends unused tabs to free up system resources."

Aka, for those of us that might not have the latest macbook and run into issues when we have more than a few tabs open, this bad boy swoops in to save the day.

Pro tip: Make sure you turn on the screen shot option in the settings so that when you come back to a tab, you can see (remember) what was actually on the page :)

More info:

"The Great Suspender is a lightweight chrome extension to help reduce chrome's memory footprint for users that like to have too many tabs open at the same time. This extension will automagically unload each tab while retaining its favicon and title text. A tab can be restored by clicking anywhere on the page when it is needed. This reduces the number of dom elements on the page and ensures no memory leaks or excessive javascripts are running."

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