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That Time I Went to Cleveland and Learned How to Be a Content Jedi

Last week I want to Cleveland with my awesome Demand Gen Manager, Ashley, to attend Content Marketing World for the first time! This year’s theme, Content Strikes Back, paid homage to Star Wars.  Being a Michigan native and attending the University of Michigan, I wasn’t thrilled to be headed to the Buckeye state and I was definitely skeptical that Cleveland was the ‘content marketing capital of the world.’ However, after spending 2 days sitting in on sessions put on by amazing speakers and networking in some of the coolest spots in the city, I have to say that I really underestimated Cleveland.

From the moment I landed in the city, I was greeted by orange Content Marketing World signage.  From the airport pillars to the taxis to the street lights, I was seeing orange everywhere.  To some people, it may be annoying, but to a Content Marketer, I was impressed.  Joe Pulizzi, Content Jedi and Founder of Content Marketing Institute, was the opening keynote and what he said really stood out to me.  He said “Be all in or get all out. There is no halfway” (a nod to Yoda). Let me just tell you, CMI went all in with promotion for the event and I’d say it paid off.  Joe also said only 20% of people are FULLY committed to their content marketing approach.  That means 80% are only somewhat committed and are probably more focused on quantity over quality.  Joe warned that mediocre content will hurt your brand more than doing nothing at all and that was my first lesson on how to become a Content Jedi: be fully committed and strive to be that 20%.


My second lesson came from Lars Silberbauer, Global Senior Director of Social Media and Video at LEGO.  He said that the patent on producing LEGO bricks ran out years ago, so technically anyone could find a mold and print their own colorful, plastic bricks, but the reason why people keep going back to LEGO is that LEGO connects with the people and inspires fans to create content around their creations.  What blew me away was that he said users generate 20x more content than LEGO themselves!! This is all because customers have the desire to build together and they take pride in their creations.  Take a child for example.  My little cousins have built various things out of LEGOs and I would have no idea what it is, but when I ask them about it, they have this elaborate story about what it is and I would find myself immersed in their story.  Lars closed his keynote with discussion of the Kronkiwongi campaign.  When asking adults what a kronkiwongi was, they replied “A what?”, but when asking children, every child knew what it was and had a story about it (even though they all weren’t the same story).  Lars said the reason why kids knew is because 98% of us are creative geniuses at 3 years old, but by the time we’re grownups, only 2% of us have retained that level of creativity.  So the second lesson on how to become a Content Jedi is that we should engage with our customers, tell stories with our content and be more like the 2% who retained their creative genius.


Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director at OrbitMedia, brought the third lesson (and mind you, this is all within the first 2 hours of the first day). His one sentence content strategy is as follows: “Create high-quality original content in collaboration with relevant influencers that organically attracts enough links and authority that our search optimized product and service pages rank for the transactional phrases attracting targeted visitors to our informative, trustworthy websites so we get new leads everyday.” Basically if you want to be included in other people’s content, then include others in yours because they’re likely going to share it since they’re mentioned in it! Then when you share things, it generates authority, which brings prospects to your site, which then turns into new leads! So Content Jedi Lesson #3: collaborate with others because “you get what you give.”

There were so many other amazing sessions/keynotes that happened throughout the event including Allen Gannett, CEO of TrackMaven, Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs, Michael Jr., Comedian, and Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert, but my last Content Jedi lesson came on day 2 in my last session (unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the closing keynote by the original Jedi, Mark Hamill).

Jay Acunzo is the VP at NextView and he encouraged us to do the UNTHINKABLE.  He talked about the phrase “best practices” and how “Good marketers follow best practices. Great marketers craft their own.”  This was probably one of my favorite sessions because everything he said rang so true.  For instance, the best time to post on Twitter probably isn’t the best anymore because now everyone is posting at that time.  That being said, post at a different time and maybe your tweet will be seen more. Jay gave the example of David Cancel, CEO of Drift, who got rid of all lead forms on his website.  As a result, they had an 150% increase in subscribers and 35% increase in users.  All because they did the unthinkable and stopped gating content.

Jay says 3 things happen when you do the unthinkable:

  • Others tell stories about YOU
  • You start SHAPING the market
  • You sell more

So how can we start doing the unthinkable? Well, Jay gives us the 3 C’s:

  • Celebrate the stuff inside
    • Be intrinsically motivated to make
  • Commit to shipping consistently
    • Put in work and hone your craft
  • Control your priorities to create more
    • Start with constraints and side projects

Thus, Content Jedi lesson #4 is to do the unthinkable.

So there you have it, those were the 4 big lessons I learned on how to become a Content Jedi! I was beyond impressed with all of the speakers and sessions that I was able to attend and I definitely think we’ll be coming back again next year, maybe even as sponsors! Hopefully you can take away these 4 lessons and become Content Jedis, as well!

Let us know what your favorite session/keynote was from #CMWorld! And in the mean time, check out our other event highlights: