Don't Let Content Collect Dust. Distribute & Repurpose: Ross Simmonds

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Many marketers believe that when they hit "publish" on a piece of content, the job is done.

But the reality is it's just beginning.

Ross Simmonds says one of the keys to content marketing success is distribution. Without it, he says all you're doing is building a content library.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, Ross talks about:

- Why so many companies and marketers struggle with content distribution

- How to kick-start a content distribution plan

- How to repurpose content on multiple platforms

- Why it's important to focus on quality, not quantity

- How to create content that's valuable and SEO-friendly.

Hi, it's Mark Evans and you're listening to marketing spark. When I wrote my first marketing book, someone told me that writing the book was the easy part. Marketing and distribution for the biggest challenges. It was a lesson that I painfully discover in many respects the same rules apply to content marketing. Rating content is easy, relatively speaking. Distribution is hard. If no one consumes your content, it's a lot of hard work down the drain. Now, if you're looking for an advocate or evangelist for content distribution, it's Ross Simmons, CEO at Foundation Marketing, a content marketing agency and Halifax. On linkedin, youtube blogs and podcasts you'll hear Ross pounding the table about content distribution. Welcome to marketing spark. Ross. Thanks for having me, Mark. It's a pleasure to connect. I've been a big fan of the work that you've done for the community over the years, so it's a it's a complete pleasure and I'm looking forward to chatting about my favorite topic today. Well, it's nice talking to a follow Canadian marketer. I read today on Linkedin that you have been named a top one hundred content marketer by Buzz Sumo. That is a great recognition. Thank you. Yeah, it's it feels great. I was number three out of a list of a hundred, which feels good. I'm trying to represent for the Canadian marketers around the world. We got to number three. My next step is to try to get to the the number one spot. So lots more work so to be done, but I'm super thrilled and happy to be on that list. Well, I'm sure if there was voting a score of Canadian marketers would rally behind you. So that's a great accomplishment like that. I appreciate it all right, let's start with the obvious question, the sixty fourzero question. Why do so many companies struggle with content distribution? You would think that it would be an integral part of an overall content marketing strategy. Yeah, I think the biggest reason is a lot of organizations are fundamentally built internally and have a content culture that is built internally...

...around the wrong thing. And what I mean by that is a lot of the organizations, in a lot of the companies, the marketing engines, the content engines within these companies there are built around a production mindset and that production mindset is where they believe value is being created and delivered on behalf of marketing every time they press published. So they're viewing it as a production game when in reality it's a fundamental marketing game, which is you have to market the things that you produce. So, rather than US falling into the trap, as marketers in a lot of companies do this, of thinking our job is done when we press published on a blog post, on an Ebook, on a white paper, on a Webinar, on a podcast, on a tweet, on linkedin update, etc. Instead of thinking that that is when the job is done, we need to be thinking that is when the job begins. But for many new organizations, they are tracking and monitoring how many pieces of content did this marketer create, how many pieces did this agency create for us? And they're actually benefiting or aligning their incentives around output rather than the results of the output, which is more correlated with distribution. So that, I would say, is one of the fundamental issues. And then the second one would be that a lot of people just don't understand the importance of distribution at large across all different types of metrics. Distribution is important if you're talking about sales, enablement, distribution is important if you're talking about social media. Distribution is important if your time about company culture. Distribution is a key part of every element of marketing, but for some reason it's often looked at as just a top of funnel, high level social media funny thing, but in reality it can touch every element of the the marketing engine. In a way, it reminds me of those late night infommercials used to see featuring this guy named Ron Popeo, and he had this tagline that was set it and forget it, and it I count thought I got. A lot of marketers are taking that approach to content. It's right at and forget it, and that...

...strikes me as really interesting, because you know as a content marketer how much work goes into writing a good piece of content, the research, the interviews, the writing, the editing, the polishing, and you finally get it into a place where you've invested so much time and effort, you hit publisher. is very satisfying and it's almost like it the the whole thing is half baked. They forget that there's a whole other side of the equation and maybe it has come down to the mentality that you talk about but maybe it's that we're just not we're done, we're not thinking about it, we're not trained properly when it comes to distribution. Yeah, and it does. You do get a nice little dopamine rush when you press published, own a piece of content right like you feel good to press publish in that you want that again. So you continue to do it, you continue to press published and continue to do that constantly, with though, recognizing that if you get in the habit of dis pressing publish, eventually you're just going to have a collection of content, a collection of assets. But those pieces aren't serving you when you're not amplifying them, promoting them and distributing them appropriately. So if you were to develop a content marketing distribution plan, where do you start? Because I think a lot of marketers in theory like the idea of publishing content and then distributing it and multiple places so you can expand the size of the audience, but when it comes down to practical realities, they're busy, they've got other priorities, they're moving on to the next project of the next piece of content, so they don't think about Ustri pries and so help them frame the whole distribution plan so they can actually drive more Uri from the content that they're producing. Yeah, I love this question because it starts with the fundamentals and marketing and I think there's a lot of content firms, I think there's a lot of companies, a lot of leaders in the content space that overfocus on content without actually worrying about the marketing side. In the marketing side is where we have to root all of our efforts. So let's go back to fundamentals and marketing. And where does that start? It starts with the people you're trying to serve, in the people you're trying to connect with. So what I...

...would say you start with is trying to understand and understand and connect with the people you're trying to reach. You're looking to get alignment in like the actual product that you have and the customers. So you can go back to fundamentals. Who Do we serve? Who Do we want to use our product, use our service, etc. And then you have to start analyzing and studying them as people and them as professionals and their needs, their motivations. But I would advise is that you start to look at things like channel user fit and what channel user fit is is it's the idea that different people are going to spend time on different channels. So what you're going to start to do is you're going to navigate and study what channels are these users spending time on? And when you identify that, okay, this audience, this target that we're going after, let's see, it's ctos, the CTOS that we're trying to reach or spending time on Linkedin. They're spending time on Reddit, they're spending time on get up, get have GITHUB, they're spending time in angel lists, they're spending time on Hacker News, all these different sites. You now have channel user fit. Now, once you have that, you have to start looking for content user fit. So how do you do that? You start to look at these channels and start to study what are the best pieces of content that have been published in these channels that these communities and this audience of ctos actually wanted. And when you start to see trends between okay, when we look at this subreddit and we see a bunch of ctos always talking about this certain subject, that is an insight. It's an insight into the fact that we can come into this community with stories about this topic and they're going to resonate with it, and if you can do that consistently, you're going to have what we call content market fit. So the research process for a distribution engine start by understanding your audience better than your competitors, and when you understand your audience better than your competitors, you then need to look at what channels they're spending the vast majority of their time on. Once you have that, you're going to study the best content on that channels to inform the content you create in the future. But that's not what you're going to kind of call the end of that process. You also need to be looking at whether or not your competitors are using those channels, because if you find...

...out that your competitors are ignoring a channel that is highly popular with your target audience because they view it as being a risky channel, then that is something that I believe is a gold mine for any brand to take advantage of. If you see that your audience is spending a bunch of time in a subread it with hundreds of thousands of people, but everybody in your industry is like, Whoa, we're scared of read it, that is your opportunity to be the early adopter into that channel, to capture mind share, to distribute your stories in there, to distribute your content consistently and capture value that your competitors have over looked. So the way that you can ensure that, when you do go into this channel, something that you're form with is that approach of studying the content that people want on that channel and then when you get that, when you study that and you know it, it makes it easier for you to distribute your content in a format that those people are going to want and it's going to ultimately set you up for success as you distribute your content across multiple channels in the months to come. I really like that approach because it aligns with my walk before you run philosophy when it comes to marketing, and a lot of marketers are focused on tools and technology and tactics and often we don't take a step back and think about the strategic approach that we should take to anything marking related, including content. And I think what you're saying, and I see this a lot on Linkedin, is the fact that you need to know your customers inside out. You need to know their habits, how they buy what kind of content they consume. And if you get that in place then, as you say, it's a lot easier to figure out why I got to distribe my content here, here and here, and this is the kind of content that matters to them. Right. And you've done this well, like you know them, CMOS, like you know that, CEOS like that space is spending time on Linkedin. So by investing the time up front in understanding that audience and becoming one with your audience, in many ways, you've been able to successfully develop and deliver content just like this podcast...

...on a consistent basis that your audience loves. It's all about knowing your audience, loving your audience, and I know that sounds weird, but you really do have to love them to that point where you know everything about them. The other angle of content distribution that you talk a lot about, and I'm I'm it's so important, is the idea of content repurposing and the idea that you create it once and you turn it into multiple things and maybe you can provide some inside and how does that happen? Walk me through an example of how to turn a single piece of content into a multifaceted asset. This is a great insight for anyone who has ever press published on a piece of content and they were like, this is really good, but we don't know how to get the maximum amount of value out of it. So when you press publish on, let's say a blog post, because that's typically a pretty standard piece of content and a lot of organizations create, let's say you've created an in depth blog posts that is very valuable to your audience in your community, that blog post doesn't live and die on your blook. You're going to repurpose it. How do you do that? You're going to turn it into a twitter thread. So you're going to take that introduction that you've already created as captivating and you're going to reform at that to make it in very interesting and unique first tweet that you're going to send out and then you're going to have multiple tweets underneath it that are going to break up some of the key points below it. Then at the bottom of that twitter threads you're going to have a link driving back to the original post and people can get the full in depth article over there. In addition to that, you're going to take that entire blog post and you're going to turn it into a slide deck, you're going to turn it into a presentation, you're going to bring it as liner, to turn it into something beautiful and you're going to upload a PF directly into linkedin under their file section. You're going to take that, you're going to do screenshots of every slide and updated to instagram so you have a carousel that you can republish and share on your instagram account, and this is again all off of one blog post. You're then going to take some of those screenshots in those visuals and you're going to upload those individually as assets to twitter and you're going to say here's a concept, here's an idea, this is...

...a tidbit, and you're going to share those one offs on your various twitter account. You're also going to take that same twitter thread that you had and you're going to add a little bit more meat to it, which is going to get it in between the blog post in the twitter thread, and you're going to republish that as a long form asset on something like Reddit. You're going to take elements of that Reddit Post and you're going to share those little tidbits on Linkedin. As just status updates. So you're taking paragraphs after paragraphs at finding the key nugget, finding the key insight, and you're sharing them as one off updates on Linkedin, on twitter, as different twitter threats, on facebook, and while you're doing all of this, you're keeping an eye on facebook groups to see if anybody's asking a question so you can go in and start to share some of those visuals that you had in your slideshare presentation directly in the comments in a group that's targeting your car target audience. So when we talk about creating once and then repurposing and distributing forever, the opportunity is truly endless. Like today, at in this moment, I can go on twitter and I can do a twitter search for somebody who's talking about Seo, talking about Reddit, talking about excels, talking about the unbundling of Sass, all of these different things, and if I find someone tweeting about those things, I can get into that conversation, share a screenshot of a graphic, of a visual of a blog post that I have shared in the past, send it to them and that is content repurposing and those people are going to engage with it, they're going to interact with it. But a lot of people, as we talked about earlier, will create a bunch of content, let that content collect dust and then wonder why they're not able to generate traction and traffic on the back of it for years, if not decades, to come. But the key is to repurpose it, remix it and revise old content and keep it alive. So I know the reaction of a lot of people. It will be Ross. That sounds amazing and and if you can do that, I mean your content distribution will explode. But the reality is is that you're talking about people who may not have enough time, may not have the tools, may not have the aptitude or the energy. So how do you drive those kind of efficiencies? How do you do all the...

...things that you've prescribed in a way that fits into the amount of time they've got? And there are other marketing priorities. There's a few ways that you can go about it like I think they're the key is to realize, like this is a job, right, it's a job. It's not just something that you say, I'm going to get an intern to go come in and do content. Just Abu should know this is a job. It's ideally someone who has studied distribution, who has spend time doing distribution, has understood it, can think in a mindset that is distribution and then they can execute on it. So you can take the approach where you hire someone that is one hundred percent and opportunity. The other thing that you could do, if you are strapped for resources and you can't bring in someone full time, is you have to do a bit of a gut check and ask yourself, do we really need to create more content, like, how much content have we already created this year? I fundamentally believe that every year, by about q two in the year, most companies have have created enough content and they can calm down, they can press pause, they can slow down and they don't need to actually create anything else. They can just start distributing the content assets that they've already created. So for some organizations they need to just do a gut check internally to say do we really need another white paper, do we really need another blog post, and start taking that time and allocating it to distribution. And then the next option is that you bring in experts, you bring in third parties, you bring an organizations like foundation. Of course, shameless plug, but you bring in organizations who've specialize in content distribution to actually run your distribution engine on your behalf. In a recent Linkedin Post, I suggested that the next hot marketing job would be the director or VP of content distribution. Thoughts. I love it, and the reason why is this. We've been preaching for so long at the top of our lungs every marketer, every guru, every CMO, content is king. Content is king. And guess what? Congratulations, folks, everybody is listened now. We all get it. We all get this idea that content is important. We've got the VP...

...of content, we've got the director of content, all of these roles now exists. But here's the issue. We're investing so heavily in this content that is collecting Dus, as right talked about. So we need someone to partner with the person who's leading content to ensure that that content has legs. So the VP of content distribution, I believe, is going to be an crucial role, especially when you look at the narrative in the conversation happening right now around every organization needing to be a media company. Okay, it's great to be a media company. That whole mentality in that thought process is strong. But does everyone remember what the media companies used to have like? Let's go back to the traditional newsletters, like the newspaper companies. What did they have? They had distribution directly to your doorstep. People had subscriptions that they were willing to pay for where newspapers would get dropped off at your door and there would be a hundreds of kids running around the city throwing newspapers at your door. There is no better distribution than that. They no longer have that because of the Internet, HMM, and their businesses have crumbled. So we can act like media companies where we will create great newsletters and great newspapers, great blog post great white papers, but if we don't have a bunch of newspaper runners and carriers to take the assets that we are creating an investing it and getting them in front of our people, in front of our audiences, we are going to be just like the newspaper industry. So yes, I a hundred percent by into the idea that a VP of content distribution should be a role that everyone is thinking about. And if you are not there yet, if today you're listening to this and you're like, I'm not there yet. Start internally with a medium senior role, right, because that person will grow in your organ they will eventually get there. But give someone the responsibility of content distribution and it will pay SA massive dividends, I believe, long term. As someone who delivered newspapers as a young boy and actually became became a newspaper reporter for a long time, I love the analogy. I it's something I can totally relate to. It does one of the other angles that you...

...talked about was, I think, was quality over quantity and the idea that we don't have to be we need content engines, but we don't necessarily need to be content machines. And you hear a lot these days about the importance of high quality content, and that is completely subjective, based on the needs and interests of your target audience. The question is, how to companies ensure that they're creating, and I'd say in quotation marks, high quality or valuable content. Yeah, it starts by again going back to fundamentals of truly caring and understanding your audience and then knowing what their pain points are and only pressing publish on pieces of content that are going to solve for those pain problem MPs, those pain points and the issues that they are facing on a regular basis. And you have to recognize like we are human and humans are like onions. We have tons of different layers and that on its own should give you a lot of different angles. No matter if you're talking to a CTO, a CFO, a CEO, director marketing, whatever, you can come at it from a lot of different angles to solve multiple problems that these people have in your lane and in your option, in that you can essentially help them achieve their dreams, achieve their goals, achieve what they're looking to accomplish. So when you start with those fundamental deep understandings of who they are, what they are, what they're looking for, what they want to accomplish, the next step is to kind of set a bit of a bar and I always say like you should strive for content excellence, but the best way to achieve content excellence is to actually get data back from your audience around what content did we publish that has been meaningful for you? You can simply install a variety of different tools today to do a bit of an MPs on the content that you're creating, like do you like this content that we're creating, and you can use that as a measurement to better understand are we hitting the mark, like is the content that we're creating actually lining up with their problems? Have those conversations, have your content marketing team talk to the people who are reading it and offer them a simple gift card or offer them something to just pick their brain to get insight into whether or not the content that you're creating is...

...actually valuable to them. So qualitative and quantitative analysis of the value of your content is very important, and then you can also set some metrics around whether or not your content is better than the competitors. And how you do that is purely subjective, but you're going to look at what exists today, that is trying to answer a question or solve a problem that your audience has, and then you look at it and you say, can we be better than this? And if the answer is yes, you can be better than that, you can create something better than that, then go do it, like go create the best resource for that subject, but don't make the mistake of just producing it, because there's keyword volume opportunities. Don't go creating it just because you think you might get a few shares. Go create it because you think you can add more value than the other asset that already exists. And when you lean into that mindset and that approach, typically you're going to come on top. That lends itself into my next question, which is this strange dance that marketers play with Google and search engine optimization. You know, we look at keywords. We we've been a lot of us have been guilty of keywords stuffing and writing to the Algorithm as opposed to writing to the audience. Given that, I'm very interested in your advice and how content marketer should approach Google and the whole algorithm. Yeah, I think you have to be human first and then robot second. So you first start with the focus being I need to solve a certain problem for the human, the human that's going to Google and typing in a question, the human that's going to Google and asking how to do a certain thing. You start with that and when you can figure out whether or not you can solve that problem, you then create the most valuable thing in the world that you can develop with your resources, your time, etc. Then you view it from a robot Lens. After you've done the work to create something of amazing value, you then are going to put it through a lens of thinking, okay, how can I ensure that this is optimized for search? How can I ensure that my imagery, that...

...my images that I'm uploading are going to show up in Google images, that I have charts that are going to show up in Google images, that these things are going to serve me well in the years to come? How can I make sure my headline has a keyword, my url has a keyword? There are some standard checklist items that you should do just to make sure that you are search friendly without going over the top to be so search driven that you are no longer human friendly. So you want to lean heavily towards being human friendly first and human centric first and then robot centric after. But while doing it you're meeting in the middle and you're not going so far to the SEO driven content that you're losing the ability to really speak to a human in a human way that ultimately leads to value love. That allergy right for humans and then right for robots. Two final questions. One is that content marketing has enjoyed what I call a moment of the last nineteen months. As BDB SASS conferences disappeared, content stepped into the fray. Conferences are coming back. So I'm curious of about two things. One, what are the platforms, are vehicles, the content platforms and vehicles that you think are particularly interesting these days? Maybe platforms and marketers are haven't embraced completely. And second would be what's your overall take on the content marketing landscape moving forward great? So I think there's two channels that marketers are sleeping on a lot and one of them is a bit of a category at large and the other is a very specific channel. So the category in particular, I think, our communities, and I think communities are starting to grow significantly and over the last few months we've seen a surge in communities because more people have been behind the desk and not going to conferences and, as such, communities have become more and more important. So when I talk about communities, what is Ross talking about? I'm talking about the online spaces that people are gathering who share similar interests. So people today, no matter if we're talking about Bab marketing, we're talking to...

...be TOC marketing, or we're talking about MOM's we're talking about people who love Barbecue, we're talking about Philadelphia Eagles fans. These people are gathering in communities online to talk about things that they're interested in and that they're passionate about. So you can find groups on facebook, groups, on discord groups, on slack groups, on subreddit's of people who are chartered accountants talking about their craft every single day. And to the normals of the world, the people who are just typically not like thinking like marketers. That's just a way of life. It's just a way of life to communicate with other people who have shared interest. As a marketer, you should view this as an opportunity right you should be able to say, okay, we're trying to reach chartered accounts and there happens to be a facebook group, there's a slack community and there's a subread at that's tartening these groups. What does that mean? It means that you can go into these communities and you can see your content. It means you can reach out to the moderators of these communities and sponsor posts that are going to go up in them. You means that you can reach out to some of them and potentially, e even acquire them and acquire these groups where you now own the groups yourself. So that is a massive, massive opportunity that I think a lot of people are sleeping on. It's these various niche communities that exist on a wide range of different platforms. Now, the other one that I think a lot of marketers are sleeping on, but that is a massive opportunity, is tick Tock, and I think that's surprising to folks because they're going to say Ross you'R and be to be your INS ass. What are you talking about? I believe that where the youth spend time oftentimes results in the biggest insights and trends of where things are going to go, and one of the biggest insights that I'm seeing on channels like tick tock is the desire and need for video that is short, educational, entertaining, educational and valuable, but in a different type of format than a lot of us are used to. And I believe if you fast forward twenty five years, you're going to be seeing CMOS of companies who literally learned market on the back of instagram reels, on the back of Tick Tock and on the back of...

...vertical videos. So what does that mean? It means that all of the marketers of the world should be looking at it for inspiration. I'm not saying go tomorrow started tick Tock Strategy, but what I am saying is that you should be thinking about the content habits and behaviors that are shifting and changing, because there's a lot of insight to be gathered from that. The other question was what's my take on content Markan landscape? As ALART, I don't think it's slowing down anytime soon. There's never been a greater time to be a content creator. There's never been a better time to be a content optimizer, there's never been a better time to be a content distributor, but there's also never been an easier time to become one. And because it's so easy now to create content, because of these great devices that we all have in our hands, because of the decreasing cost to Internet, the decreasing cost of technology, the decreasing cost of access, all of these things are making it easier to be a content creator, to even position yourself as a content creator. It is creating a very competitive environment with a lot of noise and the noise is going to get bigger and bigger and bigger, but there's nothing that any of us can do about it. It's just a part of the game and my advice to anyone would be to stay focus, commit to adding value, strive every single day to improve, because the competition is not slowing down and we live in a global world now more than ever, where boarders no longer exist and you will be able to work with almost anyone, with almost anyone anywhere. So what's the landscape going to look like? It's going to continue to be noisy, it's going to continue to be bigger and the opportunity is going to continue to be massive for those who continue to embrace it. Before wrapping up, I want to circle back to your thoughts on content platforms. Earlier this year, late last year, there was a lot of buzz on a lot of hype about clubhouse, and what are your thoughts on audio as...

...a content marketing platform? I think the biggest takeaway from club hosts, the biggest takeaway from a lot of these networks and platforms to show up and sometimes dwindow and don't necessarily take off, is like you can still get a lot of insight into human behavior just by watching them. Clubhouse took off in an amazing meaningful way, and why it did that is because people recognize and people enjoy, just like people enjoy podcast audio engagement. I think audio is a very powerful, powerful communication tool, and the reason is this. When you think about our human habits, oftentimes the actual hierarchy of the ways in which we consume content start with video. Video content for years has been one of the number one ways in which we've received content. Number two has actually been an audio radio was a massive thing. It's still a massive thing. We listen to radio in the car, we listen to it all over Blah Blah. And then books. As much as I love books, the vast majority of the world actually doesn't like sitting down and reading a five hundred page book. It's actually not something a lot of people enjoy doing. But we do enjoy audio, we do enjoy video. So when you think about that and you think about what humans actually want, it becomes very crystal clear that video audio are very, very engaging and valuable assets and I think the platforms that exist in leverage them are going to be able to generate a lot of results. But more than anything. I also think those creators who invest in those platforms are going to be able to generate a lot of results too. And here's the other piece. I think we're only at sixty percent of the global population being online today. So if you have audio content, if you have video content, even if you have written content, and you fast forward when the next ten percent, the next twenty percent, of the world gets online and you've created that content, it starts to be translated because there's AI that allows it to happen. Your content is going to have a massive impact on...

...culture because people want video, people want audio, and if you can deliver it to them in a way that is scalable and valuable, you're going to win. Thanks for all the great insight. As a marketer who spends a lot of time focused on content, you certainly give me a lot to think about it. I thinks a lot of marketers who are trying to leverage content, there's new approaches, new ideas, new tools that they can certainly embrace going forward. Final question. Where can people learn more about you and foundation marketing? Yeah, so I'm on all your favorite social media platforms. I would love to connect with you if you're on Linkedin. Send me a connection. Let me know that you heard me on the podcast with mark. I would love to connect with you over there, but you can also learn more about foundation at Foundation Inc, DOC CO or myself. I'm at the coolest school on all of your favorite twitters and linkedin platforms. My pro tip is don't create your twitter hander when you're in university. It will stick with you for life. I've got it, I'm embracing it and, yeah, I'd love to connect with folks on every other networker platform that you're on. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe by Apple, podcast, spotify or your favorite podcast APP and, of course, share of by social media. To learn more about how I help bb SASS companies as a fractional smoshould you advisor and coach? Send an email to mark a marketing spark, doc cop or connect with me on Linkedin. I'll talk to you next time.

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