Content design for marketers

This guest blog post is written by business and marketing coach, Ruth Gilbey.

How I learnt about “good” content marketing from a content designer, well actually the person who popularised content design.

I’ve been working with Content Design London's founder, Sarah Richards, since 2016.

When we were introduced through the Digital Mums network, I didn’t know who Sarah was or what Content Design was. I quickly immersed myself in content design and other content strategy blogs. And even did Sarah’s Foundation in Content Design course, twice. I was pretty blown away, to say the least. Sarah and the content world were pretty awesome.

White text on a black background. It reads: I'm really sorry I added another job title. It was necessary. Honest. - Sarah Richards

I started supporting Sarah’s Twitter account back when she had just over 2000 followers on Twitter and a nice fairly engaged following. Sarah briefed me and said, “a lot of them are my mates”.

Sarah mentioned early on to me she’d written a book on content design. And, she was going through the process of getting it edited and then she’d self publish. A sore point for Sarah and possibly another blog or book in itself about the publishing process.

Blog ideas for Content Design London

Sarah and I discussed blog topics. I’d inundated her with ideas! I think having a fresh pair of eyes, listening to what people wanted to know about on Twitter and other social channels, helped me make those content suggestions.

What about telling everyone about GOV.UK and the history of content design?

What about explaining the difference between copywriting and content design?

And many more conversations like that.

We have a massive list of blog topics still to be written, all based on the conversations and audience needs.

I could waffle on for hours about working with Sarah and how she’s honestly been the nicest and most inspiring person I’ve ever worked with, but I’d like there to be a point to this blog. I’d like to explain how we’ve approached our marketing for CDL and share the results we’ve had. Hopefully, it will be helpful to others and will be a great case study for me.

How do you measure successful marketing?

Sarah and the discipline of content design has heavily influenced the marketer I am today. In a world of “disruptive and interruptive marketing”, it’s been a breath of fresh air building a community, creating content that your audience needs, helping answer their questions, find jobs, connecting with people rather than feeling like we’re spamming our audience.

When I started out as a digital marketer, I dreamt of viral content, and “amazing stats”. I soon realised those stats don’t always get you sales or build your brand.

“Measure the intent, not the website traffic. Intent will more likely = sales” – Sarah Richards

A good friend of mine wrote a blog post saying you can’t measure the ROI of social media. Well, we did.

We’ve asked all attendees of the Foundation in Content Design course how they heard about it. Here are the results.

A pie chart showing how course attendees heard about the 2 day course. Colleagues have the highest score.

Social media and building your audience can be a long game: listen, test, engage, deliver useful content and you will see a payoff. To date, we have spent very little on paid advertising.

There are other things that CDL does apart from running open content design courses and we have yet to measure or ask “where people heard about us”.

What we learnt about our own marketing

A book is a great lead magnet. Sarah thought no one would do her courses after she published her book, the polar opposite happened.

Also, speaking at events is part of your marketing.

And be helpful, friendly and polite, always, on every channel.

A recent webinar by Jonny Williams and GatherContent about making your content meaningful really resonated with me as a content marketer and finally encouraged me to write this blog post. It’s really worth a watch for any content strategist or marketer. Jonny Williams is Head of CRM, Creative Services and Content at Keele University.

“Content relationships really can create something beautiful. If we can put relationships at the forefront of what we want to create, then we’re in this amazing position to build relationships with our audience” - Jonny Williams.

Don’t make your channels all about you, share content from others who are at different points in their journey. Different voices are good.

Say yes to interviews, podcasts, tweet chats, guest blogs, webinars, speaking events to raise your profile.

If you want to speak at an event, get noticed by an influencer, share their content first and engage, show them what you do, send them a book, or blog, then go in for the pitch (if they haven’t asked you by then already).

As you get more successful not everyone is going to love what you do. I think that’s what goes with success and I think it’s harder for women in business. 99% of people have been wonderful. For that 1% who aren’t, my advice would be write your own book, blog and talk at conferences and don’t waste your energy trolling people you don’t agree with.

And a final very important note. Everyone should be working towards an accessible web. If you are struggling to get client or stakeholder buy-in, it’s worth reminding them that in some countries (like Norway) it’s already illegal to have an inaccessible website

It’s (hopefully) only a matter of time before other countries follow suit. In the UK, public sector sites including education providers are already legally required to make their sites accessible. It’s not just ethical to have accessible content but also a massive oversight as you are missing a whole audience.

There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK (stat cited from Scope) – is your content accessible to everyone?

The content community is generous, supportive, helpful and making the web better. I learn from them every day.

Back in 2016 hardly anyone was talking, tweeting, using the hashtag #ContentDesign, or calling themselves content designers. It’s been brilliant seeing the rise in content designers and conversations about content.

The web is only going to become “better” with the rise of this discipline.

I like to think I help amplify how brilliant content design is and what great things Content Design London is doing.

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