By Scott Decker

The 10 Best Things at Content Marketing World 2014

The Content Marketing Institute, headed by the ‘Godfather of Content Marketing’ himself, Joe Pulizzi, really knows how to put on a show. Content Marketing World 2014 landed in Cleveland this week and our PublishThis team was there to learn from world-class thought leaders, meet up with many of our clients like SAP, Symrise, and MultiView, and also to network with the over 2,500 content marketers in attendance.

We had an amazing time and here follows our take on the Top 10 Best Things at Content Marketing World:

1) The One-Two Punch of Opening Keynotes

CMI had just the right mix of content to kick off the show. After Joe’s informative and droll introduction, they downshifted into two keynotes that couldn’t have been more different and yet both hit with maximum impact. In the style of a true data-driven marketer, Joe offered up the two top-rated speakers from last year and both got upgraded to keynotes due to their performance.

If you haven’t been ‘drewed’ before, the energy level of Andrew Davis might shock you. With his signature verve, he led the crowd through a dizzying message of content marketing acceptance and inspiration. His overall message: we can’t just push customers into our prescribed funnels and expect them to flow through as we plan. Instead, we need to get our content closer to the customer’s universe and deliver Moments of Inspiration. More on that later.

Inspired Content Marketing with Andrew Davis, courtesy of @kellykingman

From that opening blast, we downshifted into a substantive challenge from Kraft’s Julie Fleischer. She asked us to learn from the way she studied, gathered data, and found a way to rebuild the very way Kraft conducting their content marketing efforts all around ensuring maximum ROI. Again, more on this incisive presentation later.

2) Symrise Sharing Their Steps to B2B Content Marketing Success

One of our favorite sessions at the show was also one of the most useful. Symrise’s Emmanuel Laroche spent an hour presenting the content marketing framework for B2B thought leadership, noting that curation is a powerful way to supplement original content. Every business just needs to find the right content mix of content to meet their goals and resources.PublishThis customer Symrise - Emmanuel Laroche

If you aren’t familiar with Symrise, they are a globally recognized provider of fragrances, flavors, and ingredients as well as aroma chemicals for the perfume, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries. PublishThis is proud to be part of Symrise’s effective recipe for success and you can learn more here.

3) Proving It! A Key Theme Was Return on Content

What content marketer hasn’t heard their team ask (again) where is the ROI from their investment in content? This was a common theme throughout the show and LinkedIn’s Jason Miller kind of shrugged off the difficulty by making it very simple: Prove your ROI based on metrics you can track: increased referral traffic, social engagement, and higher quality leads.  His detailed presentation showed how a single ‘big rock’ piece of content generated an eye-popping 18,000% ROI. No wonder he dresses like a rock star. Check out his KISS-powered Slideshare: How to Achieve Face-Melting Content Marketing ROI from Jason Miller.

Keynote speaker Julie Fleischer from Kraft Foods broke it down even more and showed how she and her team reinvented their advertising and got 4X the ROI that traditional advertising did with a direct focus on data and a committed pursuit for worthiness. By combining her data-driven content that specialized on customized, relevant, and persuasive material with her advertising dollars, she delivered ROI that was easy to track and while also hitting the intangibles like brand health and awareness.

ROI of Content by Julie Fleischer, courtesy of @kellykingman Content Marketing

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4) Storytelling and Impact

Storytelling is more important for content marketers than ever. Speakers from Andrew Davis to Contently’s Shane Snow to Lee Odden and even Closing Keynoter Kevin Spacey emphasized the power of a story and how, as Snow said, “If you turn an ask into story and you’ll engage your audience.” He implored marketers to think bigger than just ROI because great stories make us care and help us develop relationships. When you inspire, you simply cannot fail.

Storytelling from Shane Snow of Contently, courtesy of @kellykingman

Similarly, Davis pushed marketers to build those aforementioned Moments of Inspiration to drive those Moments of Purchase but know they will only come from the right story: one with empathy, emotion, and that fosters aspiration. Only from this kind of true storytelling that is authentic will you surprise and inspire your audience to act.

Spacey, who wondered at the open “What the hell am I doing here?”, may have put it best: “The audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for stories. And if you give them what they want, they will talk about it, carry it around with them, share it, and enjoy it with a passion and an intensity.” You don’t need to hear that in his signature voice to see how content marketers can benefit from this advice.

Shane Snow’s intriguing new book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success was on my Kindle app before I left Cleveland. Andrew Davis’ Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships isn’t new but it is worth your time.

5) Orange is the New Orange

From Pulizzi’s dashing orange suits to the awesome orange-flavored Zots candy, Content Marketing has been firmly been branded with the bright hue. Everywhere, the color was in evidence – from the signage and easy-to-find orange-shirted staff to the subtle accents of a tie or pocket square to huge displays like Michael Brown’s eye-popping blazer. It’s an utterly friendly color and added to the fun.

ZOTS Meme from @publishthis

6) The Art of Real-Time Infographics

Did you see the beautiful infographics from each session that we shared socially during the show? CMI had these commissioned and created during the sessions as the speakers spoke. The talented folks from Kingman Ink and Johnine Byrne were drawing as fast as they could and yet they look terrific.

Real-time Infographicing from Johnine of

Watching them work was a joy to behold and gave attendees a unique way to get a literal picture of what happened, even for sessions they missed. Of course, CMI has helpfully provided attendees with the actual presentations slides but these visual representations of what the speakers actually said are a priceless supplement.

Kingman Ink has posted a complete page of their visualizations from the conference so give the collection a look (and a few are shown on See Your Honestly, I wish every conference would hire them to produce these helpful tools to recall the highlights of important sessions in such an engaging way.

7) Targeted Help From Workshop Tracks

One size definitely does not fit all so it’s helpful that CMI had the foresight to provide tracks focused on the specific needs of content marketers that work in different industries. In speaking with many attendees, this is one of the key things that drew participants to the show. While inspiring sessions talking about how to get better at their jobs on a macro level help, the hands-on support from experts who know both content and their specific niche turned into useful, implement-improvements-on-Monday kind of help. It was certainly worth the extra day to stay for those Thursday workshops.

8) The Great Breakouts You Might Have Missed

Real-Time Content Marketing

While this session led with the fact that Marketing Futurist Rob Garner would be talking about Google Glass and his experience as a Glass Explorer, the real substance of the session was how modern audiences crave always-on content and how new technologies will continue to expand how it is we even produce content. Garner helpfully explained a few terms that were new to the crowd like “Experience Generated Content” and “Thing Generated Content” which will influence content marketing in the days ahead. Does this mean marketers should invest in Glass and start endlessly broadcasting their lives while occasionally flashing brand logos and ideas? Certainly not! Garner was careful to point out that although an always-on approach gives marketers a distinct advantage, it is still about engaging content that is authentic and meaningful to your audience. Garner’s intriguing book, Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing, is available on Amazon.

Real-Time Content Marketing Slide from Rob Garner

Event Strategy

The other winning Content Marketing event that could have filled a much larger room: PublishThis user Pam Didner and Brainzoomer Michael Brown sharing their insight on content marketing and events. These two dynamic but decidedly different speakers tag-teamed the subject with an opening presentation where Pam outlined the quirky C2 event in Montreal and how they challenged every convention of, well, conventions.

Pam Didner tell us to run better Content Marketing conferences.

While Pam showed us how to think outside the box on how an event is organized, Mike provided nuts-and-bolts advice with great examples of how content marketers can make events even more of event with unique, engaging experiences that stir up attendee emotion. If we travel to a work conference, we want that experience to really matter to our business and be memorable for ourselves. Both Pam and Mike made it clear: no more boring events!

Pam’s new book, Global Content Marketing, is available now on Amazon and her companion website is full of free, useful tools for content marketers that you’re going to want to download ASAP.

9) The Food and the Parties

Content Marketing World knew we wanted a dense schedule of sessions so they kept us fed with excellent box lunches each day while we participated in Lunch and Learn sessions. But the real foodie fun was on Tuesday night with a potent mix of cool food trucks with crazy tacos, sushi, and cupcakes to die for – all while being serenaded by the talented 1964, a top Beatles tribute band, right there on the waterfront. The food was delicious but did anyone even use all eight of the tickets CMI was kind enough to offer up?

The 1964!

The after-party hosted by SAP just down the way was a lot of fun, too. We had an awesome time watching all the dancing and chatting with Celia Brown, a key thought leader with whom the PublishThis team partnered on their Future of Business microsite. Always full of ideas, we had an interesting chat amongst the noise and cocktails on the edge of the pier about what we’d learned over the course of the Content Marketing Institute’s excellent conference.

10) The One-Two Punch of Closing Keynotes

If we thought the opening keynotes were the best the CMI had to offer, we were obviously underestimating them. Check out this pair of speakers who, again, couldn’t be more different except in the fact that they were both utterly compelling.

CMI’s Chief Strategy Officer Robert Rose, who you may know from the must-listen podcast “This Old Marketing,” was up first. The sheer awe of the audience was palpable within two minutes of Robert Rose taking to the stage. With his trademark eloquence and dizzying wisdom, Rose left the CMW crowd to head home with an inspirational message that challenged us all to be the ‘alchemists’ we are – turning these stories we tell into gold. He spoke of the evolution of marketing and how the next step is truly experiential marketing and how “consumers will look to media to match the purpose with which they lead their lives.” Rose invoked the words of so many of history’s finest thinkers and shared so many of their quotes that I can only send you to Twitter to experience the sights and sounds of his magnificent, thoughtful presentation.

Robert Rose - CMI Chief Strategy Officer - Content MarketingMr. Rose’s new book, “Experiences” is due out this December and will certainly be THE holiday gift for content marketers this year. His Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand is available now.

How do you follow a virtuoso performance from one of content marketing’s brightest thinkers? Apparently, with one very funny Canadian named Scott Stratten. Mr. Stratten stomped onto the stage to cheers and kept us laughing about how brands can and cannot function in the social space with a side-splitting series of anecdotes and examples. His overall message was clear: Don’t assume you can use your tactics and gadgets in social content marketing the way you might other formats.

Scott Stratten's Content Marketing Thoughts, courtesy of @kellykingman

There were so many clever quotes that I’ll leave you to Twitter to soak it all in. His insane podcast “The Unpodcast” just got added to my rotation and I’ve already gone to Amazon for his excellent tirade against dopey marketing, QR Codes Kill Kittens.

11) Um, Spacey?

Did I really complete this list and only casually mention Closing Keynote Speaker and Academy Award Winner Kevin Spacey? I did. Mr. Spacey was witty, amusingly profane, and inspiring in his message for us marketers to be true storytellers and take risks. I guess I knew he’d be a highlight regardless of what the other top-notch speakers did or said so let’s just say this list goes to 11.

Kevin Spacey on stage at CMW 2014!


That’s about it for our roundup of the best things about Content Marketing World 2014. Thanks again to Joe Pulizzi (himself the author of Epic Content Marketing), Peter Loibi, Robert Rose, and the entire CMI team for mounting an incredibly well-run show that brought together an industry that is at once old and new, effective and yet constantly trying to prove its effectiveness, and full of a lot of incredibly talented folks that are looking for the best way to drive business with stories that will engage and delight their customers. I do believe that was the party of the season for our industry and we can’t wait for Content Marketing World 2015.

Main Room at CMW

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By Scott Decker
Scott Decker is the President and Founder of PublishThis. Before PublishThis, he led technology at, Blue Nile, and development solutions for the government. When he’s not running PublishThis, the industry’s most advanced content platform, he’s exploring new technologies, preparing for next Halloween, or watching something with superheroes, dinosaurs, or at least a lot of explosions.