Building Relationships Through Storytelling: Q&A With Contently

Building relationships through storytelling with Contently

When audiences find information helpful or inspiring, they share those messages through social media, emails, instant messages and more. There are many ways to be heard, yet it’s just as easy to be forgotten due to the volume information out there. But, above all, the common denominator among the content that gets heard is connecting with the audience on an emotional level – a key principle of effective storytelling.

So, how can writers utilize the power of storytelling to create emotional relationships with their readers?

We recently hosted a Twitter Q&A on the topic, featuring expert tips from Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief at Contently.

Here are some highlights from the discussion:

From your experience, what do you wish more people understood about being an editor-in-chief?

Being an editor-in-chief at a tech company is new. But we’re editorially independent. We aim to cover our industry. In many ways, it’s the same as working at a digital media company for me. Except I have more resources!

What is the number one way you personally build relationships through storytelling? (via @szumowskim)

I try to use my personal #contentmarketing successes/failures in my articles. (A lot).

Good advice! Contently owns three blogs: one for brands/publishers, one for freelancers, and one for the greater good; how do you manage producing enough original content for three blogs that focus on three very different audiences?

The Contently platform helps a lot with efficiency! Plus great freelancers/editors. We’re blessed. #blessed? We’re also just constantly brainstorming. Our Slack is ridiculous. It’s often hard to not publish more.

What systems or workflows do you have in place to keep your content strategy running smoothly?

We use @Contently analytics to optimize across channel/format/topic/persona/etc. Humans + robots #ftw!

You’re also a contributor to Fast Company. What’s different about writing/editing for a brand versus writing for a publication?

Not much. My work here is pure edit. In general, brands have more restrictions, more conservative. It really varies though. Some brands want press releases. Others want real stories!

What analytics are the most important to measure performance of a piece of content? (via @ThePowerGrp)

Annoying answer: it all depends on goals. But average finish, attention time, return rate = pretty universal

What is the most challenging part of being editor-in-chief? (via @B_Schuerger)

Probably being conscious of our conflicts of interests and disclosing them. Also when the beer runs out…

What are your go to resources for storytelling? Inspiration, tools, techniques?

Love @buzzsumo and @coschedule‘s analyzer. @Awl, @Digiday, also industry partners with sick data. The best resource is other smart people. That newsroom mindset is key.

Contently sometimes covers controversial topics. How do you know when this is a good idea or not?

My job is to push that limit, if it’s worth reporting. It’s other folk’s job to push back. In my opinion, all companies need this balance. Give your editor room to run, but have rules in place.

How do you feel about infographics?  (via @ThePowerGrp)

Great for engagement. They rock for us. They just need to be high-quality/tell a real story.

Is there a certain medium you like writing more for?

I love writing for print. We put out a giant quarterly mag and it’s my favorite thing.

What has been the most successful piece of content from @Contently and why was it successful?

Depends on the measurement of success, but probably my five content marketing playbooks. They just filled an audience need.

How do you target your ideal audience? Do you use buyer personas?

Yes, buyer personas. But reader surveys tell us a lot too. A big fan can be insanely helpful. Even if they’re not your “buyer persona,” a big-time reader can be a huge help.

Do you think it’s safe to eat snackable content on a daily basis? (via @JordanTeicher)

I mean, what is snackable really? If your meal is 3 steaks, is a burger a snack?

A lot of your content seems more like#journalism than #contentmarketing. Contently even won an award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors (@ASJAhq). How do you balance creativity with content that ties into business goals?

We believe reporting on our industry = great marketing. But also, we optimize for biz results. But when you think audience-first, great things happen. If it’s interesting, tell that damn story. Also: @ContentlyOrg is a separate foundation run by Brad Hamilton. Can’t take credit for the ASJA Award.

What are some essential skills to have on a content (strategy) team? (via @zanerazane)

Real editorial experience—someone who’s built an audience before.

As editor, how do you like to be pitched for new content ideas? (via @ThePowerGrp)

A thorough 2-paragraph pitch that clearly lays out the story/unique angle. Also clips to show your chops!

Do you have any advice about how to make content go from good to great? (via @szumowskim)

Focus on big projects that make a difference. So-so content barely makes a dent. No search/social love.

How does content from third-party contributors benefit the Contently blog?

I mean, from a source perspective, we love using @ProfNet to boost our reporting 🙂 Our freelancers are huge for us. I can’t say that enough. They let us to really scale our game, go big.

What are some emerging blogging, content, or marketing trends that you’re excited about?

The omni-platform world. It’s so easy to reach people: LinkedIn, email, Facebook, etc. Especially with paid content distribution.

Whether you’re a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here.

Shannon Ramlochan is an Audience Content Specialist for ProfNet, a free service for writers seeking experts for their stories. Follow her on Twitter @sramloch.

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