Heidi Cohen Interviews Robert Rose and Carla Johnson
What’s your best piece of advice for readers looking to improve their marketing and why is it so important?
The practice of marketing is in a fundamental transition. Independent of how big your company is – or even if you’re a marketing department of 1 – the key is to get out of “campaign-minded” tactics and the thinking of “classic marketing”.
Tomorrow’s marketing will be about creating valuable experiences at each step of their journey. If you can organize your marketing strategies (and teams) around that concept – you’ll be a step ahead of your competition.
I’d take what Robert shared and take it one step further and tell marketers to get out of marketing mode. Marketers need to get out of their own heads and into understanding how the rest of the organization works, and then get to know their customers really, really well. And this doesn’t mean just looking at data.
It means sitting down and talking to customers face-to-face. Customers will tell you things that data never could. Marketers need to be the voice of the customer before they can create delightful experiences for them – but before they can be that voice, they have to actually know the customers.
What was the inspiration for Experiences?
Truly this book is 5 years in the making and a year in the writing. The inspiration was, truly, a recognition (that Carla and I both had) that there is both an evolution of marketing as a practice, as well as a pattern in the challenges that many companies are facing.
Due to the disruption of digital and the multiple channels through which consumers expect to be able to interact with businesses, marketing is simultaneously becoming much more strategic and powered by valuable content-driven experiences.
However, content – as a function of the business – isn’t well understood in most businesses. If companies are truly going to evolve into this new era, they are going to have to become much more skilled at creating and managing these experiences.
We’ve watched marketers struggle on so many levels. They want to have respect and credibility, but they don’t know what they look like in this new era of marketing.
They want to stand out and be different in a noisy world, but they don’t know how to create a valuable, consistent presence. They want to have unified experience across the organization, but they don’t know how to structure themselves to make that happen.
We wanted to help marketers aspire to take on leadership roles in driving growth for their organizations and put content at the heart of how they do it.
What is the key concept behind your book?
The heart of the book is why marketing needs to become more strategic and lead business into this new era as well as the how marketing can accomplish this. We call the latter concept “Content Creation Management.” It’s a methodology designed to help marketing evolve into an organization that can describe value as well as create it.
What he said.
What do you want readers to take away from your book or be different as a result of reading it?
Funny you should ask. We start the book with exactly that question.
We don’t want to spoil it too much, but ideally the book is a helpful guidebook for helping marketers explore and craft their future successes. This isn’t a template, or a linear process.
As we say in the book – this is a journey for us, as much as it is for the reader. Our hope is that these frameworks help marketers now and in the future develop their own strategy.
There’s a lot of power that marketers give away because they’re stuck in the muscle memory of how things have always been done.
We want marketers to know that it doesn’t matter what their role or level of seniority is within an organization. If they’re passionate about their craft they can make a tremendous impact not only on their companies and their customers, but also they can see the impact that they’re having in terms of their personal career.
How do you describe yourself professionally?
My goal is to help marketers become stellar storytellers. I believe that marketing is as much art as it is science.
My role is to help evolve marketing into a practice that not only describes the value of a product or service, but also creates value through differentiated customer experiences.
I believe, at our core, that everyone is creative, but we lose that belief once we get into the “real” world.
I help marketers unlock, nurture and strengthen their storytelling muscle so they can create delightful experiences for audiences. I believe collaborative conversations instill creative confidence. It’s this confidence that inspires teams to find new ways to bring their brand stories alive in fun and captivating ways.
What are 1-3 books that inspired your work/career?
Also, I’m a huge fan of Clayton Christensen.
These authors have truly helped me understand how important and strategic marketing can, and should, be in the business.
- It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For by Roy Spence,
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. [Editor’s note: I also recommend this book!!!]
I’m a big reader of anything that brings out purpose, mindfulness and creativity in the work that I do.
What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your life or career?
The biggest challenge for me in my career was the complete pivot I did in my early 30’s. I spent my entire young adult life preparing to be a screenwriter and performer.
When I reached my early 30’s and switched my career to be a marketer – focused on the opportunities the Internet would bring – I started at the very bottom. I quite literally started over as an executive assistant.
It’s one of the most invaluable lessons I’ve learned in life, because as I’m in the middle of this new journey, I realize that what I do for a living now is “write” and “perform” – just in a very different way. I put form in front of function when I was a kid. This was a huge lesson for me.
Focus. I’ve always had more interests and passions then there are hours in the day.
I started out as an engineering major in college and ended up with a masters in history, yet I’ve always worked in marketing.
The common thread throughout everything that I’ve done is that I’ve been curious about something. The more I’m able to focus that curiosity, the more productive and happy I am.
What’s something unusual or fun that most people don’t know about you?
Well most people don’t know that I started out as a musician and a writer in Hollywood, and that I created a television series for Showtime Networks (don’t ask – but if you search IMDB hard enough you’ll find it). I also had a one-act play debut in New York at an Off-Broadway theater.
I’m a classical pianist. I had 11 years of lessons growing up and played until I finished college and no longer had a piano handy.
Years ago, one of my clients gave me the piano that used to be her mother’s – her mother played for the San Francisco symphony – because my client wanted me to play again. It was a beautiful gift and I’m happy to put it to regular use.
Is there a piece of content, a social media campaign or a marketing campaign that you worked on that you’re particularly proud of?
Most recently, I’m most proud of what we’ve done with Content Marketing Institute (CMI)’s online training portal – where we’ve assembled some of the best instructors out there with a complete curriculum of content marketing training. We’ve got more than 35 hours of material there from dozens of great instructors.
I typically work with big brands, but recently I’ve been working with a non-profit that has an incredible story to tell in the cultural arts world. I’ve worked with them to develop their brand story and we’re now starting to execute on the content strategy.
They’re open minded, willing to try (almost) anything. Because they don’t have a very big budget, we’re forced to be very creative with the dollars that we do have. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s fun to see how quickly a structured content program can make a difference when it’s thoughtfully put together and consistently executed.
It’s a great reminder that you don’t need to be a big company with big budgets to make great things happen.
- Name: Robert Rose
- Company: Content Marketing Institute
- Book(s): Experiences: The 7th Era Of Marketing
- Twitter: @Robert_Rose
- LinkedIn: /in/RobRose
- Name: Carla Johnson
- Company: Type A Communications.com
- Twitter: @CarlaJohnson
- LinkedIn: /in/CarlaJohnson
- Google+: Carla Johnson
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Great content isn't just about producing a well written piece. It's about addressing your audience's relevant pain points and showing that you understand their needs. Don't be shy to freely give away advice and information—great content always comes from the heart.
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