Have you ever written a blog post, made a fancy PDF, or shared an image — only to hear the sound of crickets?
Content Marketing is the beautiful art of making work that matters — and then, finding ways to share it with people who want to see it. Imagine posting recipes and photos to your Instagram account and gaining a following for your work. Or, if you’re a business owner, meeting the right clients by giving them what they want — cultivating a relationship instead of feeling like a sleazy salesperson. What if you could create something that people actually want to download, creating fans and followers for your audience in an authentic, community-oriented way?
If you’re tired of creating content that doesn’t go anywhere, in our content marketing course you’ll learn our proven strategies for building an audience, growing your leads, and creating valuable content that actually gets shared. Along the way, I’ll share with you specific strategies for growing an audience, building a body of work, and positioning you (or your company’s executives) as a thought leader within your industry.
This class has 8 sections with 8 projects for you to complete: This class is broken down into 8 projects, plus an introduction and a final wrap-up section. To finish this class in one month, you'll do two projects each week. Each project section contains 20-40 minutes of video content, plus a project worksheet for you to do. The project will take you 15 minutes for the shorter ones, and up to 30-45 minutes for the longer ones.
To finish in one month, plan to do 2 projects each week.
Each project has an accompanying worksheet for you to take notes, take action, and implement your work. Here's the master list of worksheets:
In addition, I've recorded bonus BREAKOUT SESSIONS, where we'll dig into tactical skills for building your email list, understanding design basics, and digging in deeper into creating your own landing pages.
These breakout sessions are designed for two types of people: the super-beginner, who might feel overwhelmed and not know how to get started (so, for example, in Breakout Session: Building Your Email List, we'll break down how to set up an email list), and for the advanced user, who might want to go a little deeper (in which case check out Breakout Session: Growth & SEO with Doug Logue, where we detail some of our more advanced strategies that we use right here at One Month!).
In addition to the curriculum, we've reached out to several Content Marketing experts who have created brands, businesses, and online homes that have done really well. We've recorded bonus talks to capture their perspectives — such at Tara Gentile's "Quiet Power Strategy," and how to market yourself if you're an introvert, or don't want to shout all the time; or Alex Miles Younger's insights on Book Publishing, if that's something you're looking to do.
Enjoy the conversations, and let us know if you have any questions!
Content Marketing is making valuable things (content) to attract, grow, and engage an audience that you want to play with.
People often try to do everything and jump into every arena. Make all the things! Do everything! — And then wonder why it's not working.
In this section, we'll cover a bit of why and when Content Marketing goes wrong.
Let's talk a little bit about who you are and why you're taking this class.
What can you give away that other people will want? Think about incentives — ways that you can add value to other people's lives by giving them something useful and valuable.
Today, brainstorm ideas for creating content. What do you have that is uniquely yours to create that other people will want? In this video, we'll look at some great examples of Content Marketing and show you how Wistia, Simple Green Smoothies, James Clear, and more create optin-incentives.
In exchange for an email address, you need to give something away for free.
Brainstorm at least 5 ideas, right now, of things that you can make and give away for free — as an incentive.
Each project will have a corresponding assignment or worksheet. Download the Project 1 Worksheet here and work through the questions as you watch the videos — or take notes in your notebook.
If you're stuck or you need more inspiration, let's look at some companies that are doing content marketing really well.
Today, you're going to brainstorm a list of people to reach out to and ask for feedback. Instead of spending all your time making the thing, first you're going to get feedback.
To make it easier, I wrote some email copy for you to use as a template.
I’m putting together a new resource that I think will be really useful. It’s a [INSERT PROJECT IDEA]
What do you think? Would something like this be useful?
I’d love to know if this is something you would use — or if there’s something else you could use that might be helpful in your world. After all, I want to make something that’s highly valuable and helpful.
Let me know what you think,
Go email at least ten people right now. Go do it!
Each project will have a corresponding assignment or worksheet. Download the Project 1 Worksheet here and work through the questions as you watch the videos — or take notes in your notebook.
If you're brand-new to email list building, email marketing, and content marketing, we'll get you all set up. In this section, we'll look at easy ways to begin building your list — using Tiny Letter or Mailchimp, and how to set that up. If you're a pro email user already and know InfusionSoft, Constant Contact, AWeber, or another email marketing tool, then head on to Project 2!
Who is your audience, your reader, your user? It's time to get to know everything about them. Do you know who your right people are? Let's give them a face and a name, and start to tell their stories.
User profiles can be hard to understand, so let's look at a couple of case studies to get a better grasp on what this means. In these examples, we'll look at creating a blog on minimalism, and how we created profile avatars for one of our One Month classes, Programming for Non-Programmers.
For Project 2, you'll create your own user template. Print out as many copies as you need for each avatar. Download the Project 2 Worksheet here and work through the questions as you watch the videos.
Pop quiz: would you rather be loved, hated, or have people feel indifferently towards you and your brand?
Here are some specific tools and methods you can use to get to know your target audience better. Each of these strategies also lends itself towards content creation as well.
With all the content types out there — from videos to images to graphics to blog posts — how do you know where to begin? What content type should you focus on, and where should you start? This graph will help you map it out quickly and easily.
Seth Godin is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.
Today's lesson takes you through ten questions to outline your company, business, or personal content strategy plan. What's important is understanding how you'll frame your experiments, how you'll manage your time (and allocate enough time for making), and actually putting these onto a calendar.
When in doubt, learn from the best. Here are 10 examples of companies that nail it in their content strategy plans — and executions.
How will you know whether or not what you're doing is working? Some things are really easy to measure, while other things aren't — what will you use to evaluate your success?
What are some of the best strategies for generating traffic? Building up link juice coming from other sites.
Marketing and promotion starts with telling other people what you're doing.
If you want to build attention for your website, it's best to start in other people's playgrounds.
When you create content, you can publish it on your site, or on someone else's site. Like we've talked about, you want to focus your attention on publishing on other sites if your goal is to increase attention for your business.
There are several ways you can publish your content — you can reach out to blogs and medium-sized websites and offer to guest blog. You can pitch someone with a story idea, and you can publish more traditionally with bigger websites.
Over the next few videos, I'm going to walk through everything I know about publishing, getting press, PR, and writing great pitches. (All words that start with P, apparently).
Your assignment throughout this is going to be to write four pitches for your brand, company, or project. How would you share your project with the world? Moreover, how would you tell the story of who you are and what you're doing in a compelling, insightful way to a journalist, reporter, or friend?
If you're shaking your head or thinking "I could never do this," — guess what: you can. I'll take you through everything I've learned from my time in PR and in working with journalists, and show you how writing pitches can be relatively painless.
Download the Project 4 Worksheet to take notes as you go, and get ready to write your pitches!
Pitch perfect: A startup’s guide to getting coverage (The Next Web)
Check out Ryan Holiday's book Trust Me, I'm Lying, for an inside look at how press can be manipulated, controlled, and downright scary. Informative (and a little insane)!
Want to get on the good side of a journalist? Want people to want to talk about you? Here are my best strategies for emailing press and getting them interested in your stories.
Try out any of these strategies (or several of them) and see how they boost your connection, promotion, and business marketing.
The value of your content depends on its shelf life. Why you should be focusing on evergreen content, and how to use syndication to distribute your work more broadly.
In this section, we'll look at the creative process: what's hardest for you? What can you make with ease? What skill sets do you want to work on? For each of us, we have different levels of ability, and it can help us hone in one what will make the project get done faster:
What does snot-blowing have to do with writing? Everything. Lets talk about morning pages, writing habits, and other tricks I've learned from years as a writer.
A Response Piece or An Excerpt: A Response Piece or An Excerpt: A Screencast:A Screencast:Here are the URL's referenced in this video:
Book Review or Book List:
A Response Piece or an Excerpt
A Time You Made A Mistake
A Five Paragraph Essay: (See video)
Set two (or four) sessions to work on your project. What did you get done? What did you learn about making your project? When will you complete it? Put it on your calendar!
What does it mean to "position" your brand or your company? Why does it matter? In the busy mind of the consumer, your impression means a lot.
The secret to writing great headlines that attract customers, build audiences, and grow your business.
When you want to learn how to describe yourself or your business, people look to storytelling as a way to improve their core message. But what is storytelling? And how do you actually get better at it? The word is vague and yet so appealing — but it can be difficult to know where to start, and how to use what you learn in your everyday practice.
This section will look at some of the core truths about stories and storytelling — and I'll share a few tools that are practical and quickly implementable for many communication needs, ranging from a personal biography to the description of your company.
Storytelling is a fundamental human tool that we all do innately — but over time, we've been bombarded with terrible examples of storytelling that aren't good models to look to. Our brains are wired for storytelling — because it helps us learn, explore, and retain information through second- and third-hand experiences.
When you recount events that you’ve done — even the simple sentence as you walk through the door, "You won’t believe what just happened — first I went to the grocery store, then…" — your ears prick up. You’ve set up the most basic form of a story: do you know what it is?
Here’s another example — "The beach was dark and quiet. It was eerie — the moon was dark and someone had turned off all the lights on the boardwalk. Alison felt uneasy as she stepped nervously out into the dark. Who had turned out all the lights?"
Both of these examples use a very specific form of storytelling that we’re all hardwired to understand. Do you know what it is?
I’ll explain it today as we deconstruct storytelling. But first, I want to debunk a few myths about storytelling. Somehow we think that only an elite few can be storytellers, and it’s a skill that we don’t have.
It’s sometimes thought that storytelling is limited to an elite few, or a professional clique. In reality, that’s not true—all humans are born storytellers, and we’re born to look for, hear, and describe our world in stories. Children are born telling stories — in fact, we play for exactly this reason. Play is our built-in mode of imagining the future and the past. In telling stories, and playing make-believe, we’re able to learn at a much faster pace than if we had to rely only on our own experience.
We are learning creatures. We learn by experience — and through our imagination. When something good happens to us, that’s a reward. When something bad happens, there’s a punishment. These incentives teach us over time. In stories, we get to pick up and enter into the landscape of someone else’s learning — and learn for ourselves, even though we may be sitting in one place, not moving. When someone comes back to us and says, "Avoid Atlantic avenue, it’s crazy full of traffic," we select a different route because we got information — and a story – about someone else’s experience.
We use storytelling to connect inwardly to ourselves, outwardly towards others, and to imagine futures. Humans spend up to four hours per day inside of imaginary landscapes — in daydreams, thoughts, visualizations, and places beyond the present. We live in a world of stories.
Prior to written language, we had to keep important information about the world around us, somehow. We’ve constructed melodies, songs, and other modes of storing information. Is it any coincidence that "storing" and "storytelling" are related? We are hardwired to remember cause and effect relationships — I saw a spider, that spider killed my friend, spiders are bad. "REMEMBER THIS!" Shouts your brain.
In research in The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottfried, he talks about how we actually make up stories all the time, whenever we see two events happening. If we see a group of women and they’re all wearing tiny shorts, we might tell as story to ourselves about how they are all going to the beach. In research on people with their two brain hemispheres segmented or separated, they discover that our brains actually wire stories into our minds when presented two pieces of information. This brings us to idea #4.
In any situation or setting, a story is what you take with you. When giving a presentation or sharing your brand or idea, what someone walks away with is the story. They’ve taken all the information they’ve been given and distilled it into the easiest parts to remember.
Bonus tip #1 — at conferences and in introductions. At a conference, if you babble and ramble when introducing yourself to people, they’ll forget most of what you said. If you string it into a story, and you keep it simple, people will be able to take that with you. You don't need to get all the perfect information into one sentence; in fact, being imperfect can prompt likability and curiosity!
A quick and easy test for how good your story is is to listen in to what’s being said. Introduce yourself to someone, and then listen to when they introduce you. I’ll often keep it simple — I focus on writing and swimming, and I’ll say, "I work as a writer; I teach writing, and I’m also an open-water swimmer."
When I’m being introduced, Clay leans over and grabs his friend and says, "You gotta meet Sarah, she’s a swimmer!" — I listen to what people hang on to.
A story is what you take with you. Listen to what people catch from your descriptions, and guide your story towards what people naturally keep bringing up!
Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by terrible examples of storytelling. In Story Wars, by Jonah Sachs, he talks about all the sins of modern storytelling — from Vanity to Authority and more. Basically, the last century of mass broadcasting let the leaders in charge of storytelling get lazy. There’s too much talking about yourself, not listening to the audience, and shouting lists. Technology (like powerpoint) even encourages bad storytelling by putting bullets and lists as the mode of operation.
When you sell things, you tell a story. It’s not about the thing at hand — lists are bad. Think about a toothbrush. You’re not selling a plastic stick with a bunch of flexible bristles on it. You’re selling the idea of a cleaner mouth. Why is that clean mouth important?
Think about Listerine: you’re not selling a bottle of alcohol, you’re selling … a date. The ability to be well-liked. Advertisements are stories about who you are and who you should be, and they want to capitalize on something deeper than the physical thing that they are selling. What do they believe about human nature? What story are they telling you, implied or otherwise?
Too often we jump straight to the point. "It was the hardest day of my life." "The thing is, simplicity matters." "Never underestimate the power of a good friend."
Whatever your core philosophical statement, usually it’s often unsaid. Just like the toothbrush examples before, the point of your story isn’t to beat someone over the head with the idea, but rather to SHOW it through lots of vivid detail and an example that highlights your core philosophy. For example —
[It was the hardest day of my life.] vs: I’d just finished a fourteen hour shift in the cement factory. I had no idea what my dad did, so that summer I signed up to join him at work. Three days in, and I could barely lift my hands. My forearms burned, and my calves were shot from jumping in and out of the trucks. I’d probably lifted more than a hundred sacks of cement mix in and out of the truck.
[Never underestimate the power of a good friend.] vs: I’d just found out that my grandmother had passed, and I couldn’t make it home in time. My job had closed the week before, our office putting up the ‘for sale’ sign after more than 8 months in the red. On the bus ride home through the foggy drizzle of Portland’s grey fall days, I wondered how I could pay for groceries for the rest of the week. As I got off the bus, I saw someone sitting on my stoop. Probably another homeless person, I muttered, thinking I’d be one soon myself. As I got closer, I saw that it was Alex, holding two bags of Indian food takeout. He wrapped me in a big hug. "I thought that you could use this today," he explained, pointing to the food. "Let’s eat."
Great storytelling is about detail — but a specific kind of detail. How do you set the stage and the context for what’s happening? What does it feel like to be you? Stories immerse us in an event far away from where we are, catapulting us into a new time and space. Key descriptions anchor us into this new space through the use of all of the senses — smell, sight, touch, taste, sound, texture, even kinesthetics. Begin by describing the world around you, in vivid sensory detail. The English language has thousands of words to describe the subtle differences in texture and weight and material. Tell the story of what the world looks like. Great fiction books often begin with these details — take a look at 1984 or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for great opening scenes that write about detail.
With written narrative, all we have are words — versus in film, where we can show rich detail through visual imagery. In writing, all we have are words — and choosing words and describing the environment and scene, in detail, is what brings someone into your story.
Here’s a secret about the human brain: we all like to be smart. We like to figure things out, and know the answers to things. Whenever we are presented with a puzzle, we like seeing if we can figure it out before someone else does.
In storytelling, a great way to engage your audience is to add a teaser at the beginning. By using a little bit of bait, you stoke the curiosity in your listener’s mind. Ira Glass talks about this often, and if you introduce a story with an underlying question (like "the house was eerily dark," or "it was a different night than any other,") the listener begins to wonder why it was so dark, or why the night was different.
This "curiosity gap" between a piece of information that asks a question, and the story that resolves the question, helps the reader stay engaged and curious about the story. A little bit of conflict introduces a puzzle to be fixed!
At the end of the day, a story is what you take with you — and we don’t remember every detail of every story, but rather, the highlights real. When you’re presenting your idea, biography, or product, start with something short and sweet.
What did you take away from this introduction to storytelling? How can you change your story to make it sweeter, simpler, and easier to understand?
Here are a few ways to take your work forward in your journal and practice:
What is SEO and why does it matter? SEO is the process of getting traffic from all over the web and sorting it into the world's library, the search machines.
Are you testing your titles, images, headlines, and copy? If not, you're missing out.
Download your worksheet for Project 6 right here, and dive into a little creative brainstorming. Underneath each title template, write out a few options for headlines. Even if it feels silly to use these formulas, push yourself to try each one so that you get a feel for how they operate.
Maybe you'll find a winning headline in one of these recipes!
Communication is about conversation and connection — not shouting at people. Here's how to translate that into your email communications.
There are dozens of different ways to use email — newsletters, snippets, digests, images, text-only — so how do you pick one? Lets look at the options.
Email automation lets you talk to people when you're sleeping, and drip campaigns help you educate, inform, and sell to your audience over a given period of time. A look at what we do at One Month.
One Month is an online teaching company started by two Columbia University professors. The platform provides tutorials for entrepreneurs and programmers, including One Month Rails, Project & Product Management, Ruby, Python, HTML, React, Programming for Non-Programmers, and more. The company's name comes from courses that are designed to teach a programming language in 30 days. The company has had over 50,000 users, including employees of Google, Bloomberg L.P., Singularity University and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.