Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Confessions of a Content Strategist: Heather Tweedy

Welcome to our first Confessions of a Content Strategist in 2015.

These interviews are so interesting to me because content strategists come from such different backgrounds. Yet, we all have so much in common. From our first epiphanies about what it is we actually do, to our passion for tools and documentation, to our concern for the web as it continues to evolve at light speed, we all are cut from the same cloth.

Heather Tweedy (@heathertweedy) is no different. Starting at Mutual of Omaha in 2014, as the Fortune 500’s only content strategist, Heather is knee deep in creating structures and standards. As she said, “I am putting some concrete frameworks around things so I can start having fun in late 2015.”

Mutual of Omaha is a Fortune 500 mutual insurance and financial services company based in—you guessed it—Omaha, Nebraska. To be the only content strategist in an organization so large and complex is challenging, and Heather was generous enough to share her experiences, challenges and wins.

Ahava Leibtag: Tell me about your background.

HT:  “After college, I did an internship with an agency and was the only person who could read a Radian6 report. I started to get interested in how people’s sentiment changed based on content. I became obsessed with conversion rates; things like, how you lead people through the funnel? After that, I went to a mid-size company that had no social, and no content outside of the static website, so I built everything for them from the ground up. I was building governance before I even knew what that was! I was elbows deep in spreadsheets with language around what we say; these are the buttons we use, etc.

Then I co-owned an agency that did content development and web work. I saw all the documentation that goes around building a website.  Our company was virtual, so documentation became super important because we were not face-to-face. Then I saw the job announcement at Mutual of Omaha and realized this: ‘This is what I do—I am a content strategist!’ so I threw herself into the profession.”

AL: Why make the jump to something so large and corporate?

HT: “I wanted to be in a big company and was at a point where I just wanted to get back to doing the work. When you own an agency, you are so busy doing so many things that don’t have to do with your core skill set, and I was ready to go back to doing content strategy. I am the company’s very first content strategist and everyone is trying to figure out how I fit in.”

AL: How do you find being in such a large company?

HT: “It’s interesting. Like all big companies, there are not enough resources devoted to the web governance. Trying to wrap your head around all the vendors, all the documentation—which domains do we own and auditing 200+ websites—which ones are duplicates, which ones to retire—getting people to be engaged to use shared drives and add their URLs to those spreadsheets. How do you get people to follow governance standards and inspire them to follow them?

AL: So how do you keep people focused on governance and inspired to follow all those rules and regulations?

HT: “You need to create a top-down culture. Kristina Halvorson consulted with Mutual a couple of years ago and created the structure for a governance board. Every month (ideally), we bring directors into the room from different parts of the company—a lot of high-ranking people sit in that room. We talk to them once a month and they go back to their teams and tell them this is a priority to me; therefore it had better be a priority to you.”

AL: Even so, with the governance boards you describe (and it’s amazing that you’ve been able to create and sustain that cultural change), how do you socialize governance?

HT: “All of Brand gets together once a month. Our team presents there and says here are the things that are happening. We are also building an internal shared site that will have all of our initiatives—voice and tone, taxonomy and intelligent content guide. It’s a socialization and training exercise at the same time.”

AL: Which tools do you spend the most time using?

HT: “I spend a lot of time in Excel for documentation. And, I love Google analytics: The goal setting and funnels and can see how a particular button performs.”

AL: What do you use to report? I’m always interested in which ideas are communicated best through visualization and other forms of reporting.

HT: “I use a variety of things—Powerpoints and programs like that. I also create custom dashboards so my internal client can see what they’re interested in. For example, product owners have customized dashboards.”

AL: What’s next for content strategy?

HT: “I really see the next big thing as independent content—things that we can move around—exist in absence of a platform—if it’s being seen on different size screens—it looks the exact same—not like responsive, which reorients screen sizes. This is exciting for our industry because it means you have to make sure that when you create a piece of content that it’s marked up for extra use—whenever we talk about this, it performs well on email—the next time we use it, the person will look and see what to put in the email. It’s an exciting time.”

What do you think is next for content strategy in 2015? Tell us and let us know if you’d like to be interviewed for Confessions.

Want to catch up on the previous Confessions of a Content Strategist? Check out:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Which SEO Factors Will Matter in 2015

As we begin a new year, you should be concerned with the rapidly changing factors that  influence search engine optimization.

SEO has changed significantly—even in the last two years. We recently did a forensic SEO audit for a client and even we were amazed by how much has changed. The old tactics are not going to give you the same results as before.

In this three-part blog post, we will explore what influences on-page factors (what you can do to your website's pages) and off-page factors (what you can do off-site).

Superstar SEO

In order to master SEO in 2015, you need to understand some advanced concepts. Whether some are familiar or completely new, they are all important. Nobody knows the exact algorithm (except the search engine engineers), so no one of these concepts is more important than any other. Together, however, they will jumpstart your organic SEO efforts.

1. Concept: TF-IDF, also known as term frequency-inverse document frequency

Simply put, TF-IDF is how important a keyword or phrase is within a universe of documents. TF measures how often the word appears in the document; IDF determines how important it is to the document. So in this newsletter, you can pretty much throw out words like “it’s”, “so” and the word “and” (also known as stop words).

But the word SEO? Clearly important to this document and others that we write and publish on our blog. To be clear, TF-IDF is not about keyword density. It’s how important those keywords are within the larger universe of pages. Most SEO experts agree that this concept by itself doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to your SEO but is a factor that will continue to matter as semantic search and natural language patterns drive search innovation.

Application: Create your content in topics that have natural relevancy to each other.

2. Concept: Use natural language and variations (synonyms)

Semantic search is about improving search by understanding user intent and the contextual meaning of language. This means you cannot spam the search engines with non-natural language.

Instead of using the same keywords over and over, use variations. This means you need to do great keyword research BEFORE you start writing, so you can plan your topics and pages within the greater universe of documents you are creating. Think about complementary phrases people use. For example, the digital watch may also be called the iWatch or the Apple watch.

Application: Great keyword research matters more than ever. Some great keyword research tools? Google’s Adword Keyword Tool (free), Google Trends (free) and Moz (paid).

3. Concept: Co-occurrence and phrase based indexing

Search engines need to understand the significance of your keywords as well as their context in order to serve relevant search results to users. They use a formula that ranks complete phrases and words that typically come together to understand intent on your pages. For example, the word digital can have the words marketing, watch or health come after it. Search engines will analyze the different keywords and phrases you use, as well as the distance between them to understand the relevance of your content to the user.

Application: Write your content like you would talk, so that it’s obvious what the topics are about. Try a tool like ntopic to determine your content’s relevance.

4. Concept: Page segmentation

Placement of keywords and phrases matters. Place words in the main body text; it is far more important than the sidebars. This is critical when writing for mobile, as that channel may hide certain elements of the page.

Application: Placement of keyword and phrases is important. Put them inside the body copy and not on sidebars. HTML5 solves this concern by providing the following tags: article, aside and nav, which define sections of the page.

5. Concept: Entity Salience

Keywords are still critical but eventually, as search improves, something will replace them. It looks like that may be entities, or concepts that belong to a certain topic. By mapping the relationships between certain words, search engines will create stronger search results by eliminating bad matches and pages that don’t match users’ intent.

Application: Write like you talk and use terms that belong to a universe of ideas. For example, when writing about Apple, you may want to use terms like the digital watch and the ipod, NOT words like farmers, orchards and Honeycrisp.

  1. Start with great keyword research. Research for individual keywords, complete phrases and synonyms. Understand how all these terms will fit together within a larger universe of content.
  2. Create sets of content that answer questions around a particular area.
  3. Understand that all of these concepts and tools are pointing to one conclusion: Write using natural human language patterns and don’t try to game the system.

In Part 2 we will cover more on-page factors, and in part 3 we will explore off-page factors for SEO success.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Reach and Market to Caregivers and Families

With an estimated 66 million family caregivers in the US, now more than ever, as a healthcare marketer, you should include family caregivers in your target audience and identify specific strategies to reach them. Family caregivers can have just as much influence as the family members they care for, especially when it comes to choosing hospitals, doctors, and treatments.

In fact, four in ten adults are caring for an adult or child with significant health issues: These numbers will only grow as our population ages.

What You Need to Know About Reaching Family Caregivers

From grocery shopping to performing complex nursing tasks, family caregivers are responsible for many things for their loved ones. Family caregivers have many things in common. They:

  • Embrace technology: Caregivers are more likely than the general population to search for health information online, including information about medical problems, treatments and drugs
  • Feel stretched thin: In addition to caring for their loved one, more than half of family caregivers are employed full-time and more than 75% also have children under the age of 18 living with them
  • Don’t consider themselves caregivers: Family caregivers tend not to identify themselves as such, meaning marketing aimed at “family caregivers” often misses its mark.
  • Are not just wives and daughters: It’s common for wives and daughters to participate in their loved one’s medical care, but they’re also being joined in growing numbers by men, daughter-in-laws, siblings, friends, and neighbors.

How to Engage Family Caregivers

Successfully reaching and engaging family caregivers is not only good for the healthcare business, it’s becoming an integral part of delivering patient-centered care.

Now that you know about the behaviors, needs and interests of family caregivers, here’s how to engage them:

  • Social media: Feeling isolated and overwhelmed, many family caregivers turn to social media for support. Connect with them by offering tips to solve common challenges or moderating online discussions in a condition-specific forum.
  • Family caregiver blog: Family caregivers lack basic training in this new role. Help them gain important knowledge and skills through expert blog posts on topics such as home safety, avoiding infection, and medication management.
  • Apps: Help family caregivers stay organized with a free app offering features such as shareable task lists, a calendar to track appointments, daily treatment schedule and medication reminders. Learn more about the The Do’s and Don’ts of Building a Branded Hospital App.
  • Personal health records: Offer tools to help family caregivers set up, access and maintain their loved ones personal health record. If your PHR platform supports secure patient-physician communication, this is an excellent feature to promote.

Do you have any creative campaigns you’d like to share about involving caregivers?

Note: Right after we published this, we discovered a petition on change.org to track caregiver stress. See the petition, Track Family Caregiver Stress and Its Cause.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Top 10 Content Strategy Articles of 2014

I’m a practical girl. So typically when I write these lists (check out 2012 and 2013), I tend to like articles that give me practical guidance for how to do my job as a content strategist.

There were a lot of great articles this year. But there were fewer than last year, and even fewer than the year before that. Which means two things, possibly:
  1. We’re not writing about content strategy passionately anymore
  2. We’re calling it something else

 I think a few factors are influencing this trend:
  1. The terms content strategy and content marketing are used interchangeably (they are not the same thing) and are still confusing many “content-which-camp-do-I-belong-in?” practitioners
  2. The chasm between editorial/brand content people and technical/adaptive content/content engineers is widening
  3. Content strategy as an umbrella term works to describe how we plan, create and manage content. But when people write specific articles about SEO, governance, structured and adaptive content, as well as mobile usage patterns, they don’t necessarily call it content strategy.

You will see that I divided the list into two parts: 1-5 are really classic more technical takes on content strategy, and the 5-10 are where content strategy and content marketing intersect.

All in all, it was a good bunch of articles, but it was hard to find “the classics”; the articles that I believe starting out content strategists stumble upon and say, “Oh my—there’s a name for what I do, and this is it.” (Think Rachel Lovinger’s Nimble Content: Content should be free, like a bird, not like beer, or Jonathan Kahn’s on web governance.) When I read those I actually shook with joy because I recognized that someone out there was also trying to figure this stuff out.

So I challenge you, oh beloved community, to pick up your pen and start to think big once again. We need the inspiration.



Content Strategy Articles of 2014


#10 Has Content Marketing Hijacked Content Strategy?: This is the perfect post to set up the content strategy vs. content marketing debate. Is content marketing winning the war? Colleen Jones (@leenjones) answers in this smart, tight post that reveals that the two have a lot to learn from each other and can even be used—shock and horror-together.

#9 How To Repurpose Content Without Looking Like A Total Jerk: This is the classic article that’s about content strategy (and also about content marketing) without making reference to either. Erin Everhart (@erinever) walks us through a solid challenge for content professionals: How to keep creating content that keeps people engaged? She walks through very concrete examples of how to repurpose content, while also explaining some basic concepts. Great post for all levels and insanely practical.

#8 4 Ways Content Sharing Can Fit Into Your Content Strategy: Herbert Lui (@HerbetLui) emphasizes a common challenge shared by giant publishers and small businesses: How do you keep content creation manageable, high quality and resonant for your audiences? He gives four practical tips that explore some of the basic and more intermediate concepts in content strategy.

#7 Is Your Content Strategy Guided by Audience Intent (or Just Keywords)? I know some of us want to admit that SEO is not important in the life of a content strategist, but it is. This article describes search innovation and how context and user intent are shaping the search algorithms of the future. Going in depth, Laura Lippay (@lauralippay) demonstrates how thinking through your content strategy will result in far better optimization. Pay attention, dear content strategists. Before long, we’ll be talking about entity modeling.

#6 A Definition of Content Strategy: Jonathon Colman (@jcolman) does it again by explaining that content strategy at its core is about providing a better user experience. It’s short but makes quick work of defining content strategy against content marketing and information architecture. To quote Jonathon, “Content strategists use language, data, and systems to build better experiences for people than either IAs or designers can working by themselves.” And that really should be the last word on this subject: The digital world needs content strategy because without us, no one is paying attention to these weeds.

#5 A Content Strategy Template You Can Build On: While I’m not a huge believer in a one size fits all package, this approach to content strategy means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. At 17 pages, the content strategy template is a great starting point for companies starting out with content strategy, or even the lone content strategist who is trying to inspire change in her organization. Hats off, Isla McKetta (@islaisreading)!

#4 Training the CMS: We’ve all been there—we’ve done all the work on the content model and then we ask the CMS authors to input. Yikes! All that hard work down the drain? In this incredibly important piece, Eileen Webb (@webmeadow) poses the following solution: Put detailed instructions for how to input content into the CMS itself! Great examples help to bring this might-have-been-boring topic to life.

#3 The Battle for the Body Field: Jeff Eaton (@eaton) explains the challenges in multi-channel publishing, some of the current solutions we have and what we have to know as content strategists to implement them. Rich in examples, this is a potential classic for those of us struggling to understand the technical back end of content and markup.  

#2 How to Adjust Your Content Strategy for Adaptive Content Personalization: I heard Noz Urbina (@nozurbina) speak at LavaCon in Portland and was truly captivated by these ideas. Then this article came out I  remember reading it and thinking—wow, this really is the future. Why aren’t more of us talking about this? My interest led me to talking to fellow content strategists like Jenny Magic and Emmelyn Wang, who are thinking about these concepts every day.

#1 Content in a Zombie Apocalypse: It’s about zombies (ok, not really). It’s content strategy (the part of content strategy that talks about separating content from form). It’s Karen McGrane (@karenmcgrane) (It really is). It’s classic (already). Read it now.

And there they are. You may disagree and even think there are ones that I missed. Please post in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Top 10 Hospital Commercials of 2014

It’s that wonderful time of year again, when we look at the top hospital commercials. We gather these commercials by asking for people’s recommendations over Twitter and Facebook, as well as doing our own research using Google and YouTube.

Every year (you can see 2012 and 2013), we look for the same things:
  • Does the brand make a memorable point that’s a lasting takeaway?
  • Do they do so without using some of the same imagery we see in almost every hospital commercial?
  • Do they try and provoke an emotional response that’s appropriate?

Take a look at our choices for 2014 and let us know what you think.

#10 Sick Kids Foundation: Day 16- Danielle

If this doesn’t bring you to tears, we’re not sure what will. This is one of the best campaigns in healthcare marketing right now. Sick Kids Foundation, is in the midst of running a 45 day long video campaign. Each day it posts a 30 second video, giving you a glimpse of one of their patient’s lives. And each video ends with “Help make their tomorrow as good as your today. Together we will.”


#9 University of Virginia Children's Hospital: A Dream of Healthier Ever After 

Often hospital commercials are dramatic and intense. This commercial is upbeat with kids of all ages loving life. It ends with a positive tag line of “Our dream is for every child to be happy and healthy, always.”

#8 Virginia Hospital Center: Tower of Power

We loved that this commercial had an upbeat message using animation.  This animated campaign gets their message across that “You don’t have to be the biggest to be the best.”

#7 Tampa General Hospital: Treasure Your Family. Value Their Care

Watch a woman’s life from being born to giving birth. The ad captures milestones that remind us of how we have to cherish those precious moments and ensure we place our loved ones in good hands.

#6 Shriners Hospital for Children: Love to the Rescue: Caitlin

A dramatic patient story told by rewinding events. You witness how far Caitlin has come and how much she has accomplished. Her progress compels you to open your heart and your wallet: “Caitlin’s life is one of nearly a million changed by donations from people like you—Send your love to the rescue.”
#5 Nemours Children’s Hospital: Kids and Doctors


In split screens a child and adult each wake up “excited about the promise” of a new day. As the day progresses, they meet up as a pediatric patient and doctor stating that “great things happen” when they find each other. “Your Child. Our Promise,” is the hospital’s way of saying that they promise to care for every child as if it is their own child.

#4 Stony Brook Children’s: ER

Well done.  The boy in this commercial behaves like a typical kid bombarding an adult with a million questions. After challenging the doctor’s ability and qualifications, the doctor finally wins the argument with “I am a Stony Brook doctor, that’s my job.”

#3 BC Children’s Hospital: Phone Call

The suspense in this commercial and the feeling of watching a moment you really shouldn’t be a part of, set this commercial apart for us.

#2 Florida Hospital: 100

This commercial starts off with a dramatic beginning and has a fun upbeat ending. The TV ad ends by asking you “What do you want to do when you are 100?” and directs you to Florida Hospital’s Healthy 100 campaign, which motivates people to adopt healthy lifestyle changes.

#1 Baylor Health Care System Serving others: It’s our calling.

While showing all the typical hospital scenes, this script gives us an unforeseen twist.  It introduces one of the six employee values, “Servanthood--serving with an attitude of unselfish concern.” Its goal is to inspire you to serve others as well because “servants change everything.” In this case, the servants are the staff of a hospital. After watching this commercial, we felt truly inspired.

Honorable mention…Rex Express Care: Urgent Care or ER?

While we’re not sure this ever aired on the air, we think it’s a great entry.  A bunch of urgent care staff members rap an educational message about when to come to the urgent express care center.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

9 Tips for Online Reputation Management

There’s no doubt about it, online reputation management is essential for businesses of all sizes. Enhancements to universal search such as embedded videos and indented news results are drawing user’s eyes (and clicks) further down the page. If there’s negative information online about your brand, users are more likely than ever to find it.

In Part I of this two-part series, we talked about how to establish your online reputation and how to grow your presence. Now learn how to keep a good thing going by protecting and managing your reputation.

Protect Your Online Reputation

You’ve worked hard to build your brand and establish and grow your online reputation, but don’t stop there. These additional steps will reinforce your position as a valued and trusted member of the online community:

  • Keep content fresh: Offer a continuous stream of original content supporting your brand. Update your blog with helpful information about your products and keep your social media profiles up to date. For more tips, read our blog about 12 ways to keep your web content fresh.
  • Contact is key: Make it easy for customers to reach you by prominently displaying your contact information and letting them know their feedback is welcome.
  • Personal vs. professional profiles: Social media profiles are indexed by search engines, which can make any photo, comment or social connection highly visible. Maximize privacy settings on your personal accounts and keep your professional profiles public. Be careful not to overshare.
  • Be in the know: Actively monitor what’s being said about your brand online. Use Google Alerts for general web tracking, Technoarati to find mentions of your blog, SocialMention to monitor social media, and Disqus to track your comment threads.
  • Use logos: Displaying the logos of industry associations or trade groups you belong to. If you participate in services that speak to the quality and security of your services such as the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Verisign, and be sure to display those logos as well.

Manage Brand Reputation Issues

Even the most successful brands receive negative feedback and criticism online. While there is no magic potion to remove it from the Internet, there’s still plenty you can do to keep negativity from marring your brand.

  • Good customer service: It goes a long way. Offer timely and helpful responses when a customer expresses frustration or dissatisfaction with your brand. 
  • Keep reviews coming: Search engines rank your most recent reviews highest, so if you get a negative review be sure to ramp up your efforts to get more reviews. Hopefully this will yield positive reviews that can help push the negative ones further down the page.
  • Respond to criticism: Know that some review sites such as Yelp allow business owners to respond to negative reviews, so take advantage of this when you feel it’s appropriate.
  • Own up to it: If you get negative press for a mistake, offer an apology if appropriate and tell people what you are doing about it. Spread the word across all your digital channels.
  • Get a professional: If things really go south, hire an experienced online reputation manager. They’re experts in helping push negative content down and restoring your brand’s good name.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why your Web Traffic Doesn’t Convert

As a marketer, it would seem that syndicated content makes your life easier. It’s content already written, presumably for your audience, and probably drives search traffic to your website.

But, if the main thrust of your content strategy is using syndicated content on your website, you’re in trouble. And that’s not just my opinion: 69 percent of marketers back original content over licensed content. (Source: Contently, Dec. 2014)

Why you Need Custom Content        

You need to develop custom content for your website, because syndicated content rarely converts your web traffic to customers. While it may drive search, it doesn’t help you drive revenue, which is one of the two golden rules of content strategy. (The second rule? Create content that supports your customers in accomplishing their tasks.) 

We had one client who was getting 800,000 page views to one page in a month with little to almost no conversions. That’s a nice amount of traffic—but for what?  And why would someone convert? You haven’t told them anything special or different about your brand.


Is it budget?

I know budget is a concern for many marketers, which is why they rely on syndicated content. And it might be a stop gap or a good way to build out certain parts of your website or your content strategy. But your goal for 2015 should be to customize that content, or create your own, relevant content for your audiences that will drive traffic AND revenue.

Custom content may seem expensive, but let’s do the math. Let’s say you license syndicated content at $15K a year, which seems relatively inexpensive.  That drives huge numbers to your website, but very little conversions. Now let’s say you hire a content firm to write custom content for you for the exact same amount. And you drive far less traffic, but far more conversions. Which metric really matters for you when you walk into your boss’s office for your annual review? 

The choice seems pretty clear to me—it’s risky and different than the content strategy you planned in the past, but isn’t it time to try something new? It’s clear that syndicated content just isn’t doing the job you need it to do. 

Need help convincing your executives to stop wasting money on syndicated content? Email Ahava today for a brief step-by-step guide.