“They’ve got to feel like they’re getting something out of it so they keep coming back.”
“If you give them something on a regular basis, create something to give back to them, that’s when a community starts building.”
“You’ve got to make me feel welcome, give me a reason to come in and sit down, and then give me a reason to stick around.”
Do you sense a theme? My podcast guest C.C. Chapman is all about giving and building community. He firmly believes that when we give, we can build something great. C.C. is the co-author of the International bestseller “Content Rules” and is also the author of “Amazing Things Will Happen.” He travels the world teaching companies how to understand content marketing with the goal of creating tribes of people with a shared vision and goals. He has worked his magic with companies like Nike, HBO, American Eagle Outfitters, ONE, Verizon FiOS, and Coca-Cola.
It doesn’t matter what kind of community you’re looking to build, C.C. and I will show you how to do it through:
- Social Good: giving your employees an opportunity to make a difference
- How to pick the right cause for your agency to support
- Don’t be too humble: why you need to talk about the non-profit work that you do
- The International bestseller “Content Rules” C.C. co-authored
- Speak Human: the most violated rule from “Content Rules”
- Differentiation: what makes your agency different?
- Creating content that plays to your strengths
- Why you can’t afford not to create content for yourself (and how to get it produced if you honestly don’t have the time to do it personally)
- Building trust by giving away at least pieces of what you do
- How to make your content stand out from all the other content out there
- Connecting your offline life with your digital presence
- Doing a regular social media audit to make sure your content is presenting your agency the way you want to be presented
C.C. Chapman describes himself as a New England raised storyteller, explorer, and humanitarian. Others have described him as a thought leader in the online marketing space, a grounded futurist and one of the nicest guy on the Internet.
C.C. is an advocate who speaks about building passionate communities and the strategic values of content-based marketing. He is a Samsung Imagelogger, the original ONE Dad and a UN Foundation Social Good Fellow. As a storyteller for hire, his work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone and The Wall Street Journal.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/cc-chapman/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- Working with the Community as an Agency
- Best Practices for Working with Your Community
- Why “Content Rules” is Still Relevant to Creating Content Today
- The Rule of Speaking Human and Why it is Violated the Most
- How to Create Useful Content that Plays to Your Unique Strengths
- Why You Need to Create Content for Yourself, Not Just Your Clients
- How to Create Content that Stands Out
- How to Build a Community that Cares About Your Content
- Combining Your Online Content with Your Offline Presence
- Immediate Action Steps for Creating Content that Plays to Your Strengths
Drew: Hey there everybody. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Build A Better Agency, where we explore how to build a business that serves you, your employees, your clients, and your community. That’s why I know you’re going to enjoy hearing from today’s guest, my friend C.C. Chapman.
Most of you probably recognize him from being the coauthor of the book “Content Rules”, with Ann Handley. He also has written another really fabulous book that I highly recommend called “Amazing Things Will Happen”.
Really, C.C. is a very multifaceted guy. He is a speaker, he travels all over the globe speaking about content and marketing and creating an online community. He also is very hands-on with some of his clients. He’s worked with folks like American Eagle Outfitters, Coca Cola, HBO, Warner Brothers.
The other thing that C.C. does, that some of you may not know, is that C.C. and I share a great passion around being a great dad, and so he has built an amazing online community around being a father and an active dad. So you’re going to want to check that out as well.
What I love about C.C. is he speaks frankly, but in language that everybody can understand. “Content Rules” was written several years ago, but it’s still in my top five books of recommending to agency owners that they read and reread on a regular basis.
So I know that today’s podcast is going to be packed with things that will teach you how to create content that plays to your strengths. These are things that you can improve on, and that are really going to have a serious change agent focus on your agency.
So with that, C.C., welcome to the podcast.
C.C.: Thanks, I’m psyched to be here.
Drew: I am psyched to be here too. So anything in the intro that I missed? Anything else you want our listeners to know about you?
C.C.: I think you hit it all. The only thing different … the only thing that I would add is that a lot of my focus these days is in the social good space, whether it’s working with non-profits and NGOs to develop great content and strategy, or working with businesses to realize that social good is about more than just the holidays. It’s about giving back and improving the world around you. So I focus a lot there. But no, you nailed it, and thanks for the super kind words about “Content Rules”.
We just, as we’re recording this, just a few days ago was five years ago that it hit shelves. It was kind of crazy to realize it’s only been five years, and the fact that it has been five years, all at the same time. It’s crazy.
Drew: Yeah. Such a great book. You guys really knocked it out of the park. Yeah.
C.C.: Thank you.
Drew: I think the social good is also a topic, so let’s just go there first, and then we’ll come back around to creating content. Refresh my memory, you have owned and worked in agencies, but you’ve also been on the client side, so you’ve sort of seen that 360, right?
C.C.: Yeah, I’ve seen it all the way around, for sure.
Working with the Community as an Agency
Drew: Yeah. Many agencies are pretty active in their community, and they want to be a good community partner, and a lot of them do a lot of charitable work. I know that when you work in an agency you’re always asked to do pro bono work. I think there’s a good way to partner with a nonprofit, and there’s a way to really leverage it both for your agency and the community.
So let’s talk a little bit about this idea of social good, because I also think the other factor in that is, agencies are struggling to find great employees and to keep great employees. The shortage is going to continue to impact small to mid-sized agencies, and I think one of the truths of today’s employee is that they want to work someplace that’s making a difference in the world. So it’s not just about doing good, but it’s also about how it serves your agency.
C.C.: Oh, exactly. It’s funny because you see these articles all the time, talking about how millennials want to work for a company, and it’s not just millennials, it’s …
Drew: No, we all do.
C.C.: Yeah, exactly. All of us, if given the choice, if everything else was equal, pay and responsibility, if we could work for a company that was making a difference, there’s nobody on this earth who would say they don’t want that, I think. And that’s true, what social good is about is there’s this concept of the triple bottom line when it comes to social good, where you’re talking about people, planet, and profit.
Because let’s face it, as a business you have to make money at the end of the day. You can’t give all your work away for free. You can’t do everything pro bono. You have to make profit. But then people, the fact that you’re taking care of your employees, you’re invigorating them, you’re giving them something more than just satisfying their clients.
Then the planet, whether it’s helping your local school, or the environment, there’s all sorts of different things. I think far too often, agencies and companies in general forget that happy employees make better employees.
You’re right, keeping the best employees is super hard, because there’s always another hot new company, especially in the agency world. The best get poached all the time, because they’re getting approached.
Drew: Absolutely. Right.
C.C.: They want something new, they need new challenges, they need to feel excited going to work every day. One of the things, too, is that, you said it, I was very happy you said it, is people hear social good and they think, “Oh, we gotta be saving kids in Africa, or refugees” or whatever.
For sure, but at the same time it can be your community helping with the schools, or faith-based organizations, or your library. Social good just means helping your fellow man around you. It can mean anywhere, and I think there’s huge opportunities for that in the agency space.
Best Practices for Working with Your Community
Drew: So let’s talk about that a little bit. If an agency came to you and said, “We want to have more impact in our community,” what are some best practices around doing that, so that it does take care of that triple bottom line of people, profit, and the planet?
C.C.: Well I think one of the first things you have to do is, just like everything else, everybody wants that cookie cutter answer, and there isn’t one. I talk to brands both big and small, and agencies, and all sorts of different companies. One of the first things we sit down and talk about, “Okay, you want to do something more, but what is it about?”
I’ll talk to the executives, and one of the first questions I ask is, “Okay, what causes do you support personally, both financially and in your heart?” Because if you start going there, you’ll hopefully start seeing some themes, and you can start there and figure it out. All of a sudden if there’s a theme of education, all right, well then let’s start looking at the schools.
Or maybe if you work with a lot of high tech or healthcare, maybe partner with a vocational school. There’s a million different ways. But I like starting there, is figuring out what are you passionate about. To figure out, okay, well maybe that’s the angle of your social good.
Drew: Because that’s sustainable, right?
Drew: Now I’m not just doing it for show. I’m doing it because I actually care. So now I’m going to deliver at a much deeper level, but I’m also going to be able to sustain it over time, so that I can enjoy the perk of that consistency.
C.C.: Yeah, it has to be part of your culture and your DNA, because if it’s not, then it is going to be just for show. You’re all going to be, “Yes, let’s do this!” And then all of a sudden it’s just going to fizzle out, because it’s not part of who you are.
Like for me, if it has to do with kids, adopting pets, or military, I’m there. It doesn’t matter what it is, but those are my three things. Everybody’s got their different things, and as a company you’ve really got to figure out what your culture is. Because when you’re doing good and giving back is, it’s easy to do it, “Oh it’s the holidays, it’s giving Tuesday, let’s give money.” That’s easy. But to actually do it on an ongoing basis, and to do it more with than just dollars, it must be part of your culture. It just has to be.
Drew: Yeah. As you know, not only do I own Agency Management Institute, but I still own my own agency. As an agency owner, you get hit up, every board you’re on and all of that, you get hit up all the time for free stuff. I was getting frustrated because it felt like we were scratching the surface for all these non-profits, but not really changing the world.
So probably a decade ago, we created this program that we call Adopt a Charity. We adopt one charity for a year, we wrap our arms completely around it, we hit up all of our partners and vendors, and so they end up getting between 100 and 200 thousand dollars worth of time and stuff. That way, for a whole year, we can really impact that organization.
We have found that to really do a deep dive with one, and to really get to know their board and their staff, and to volunteer, not just do a T-shirt or a brochure. That changes the way we think about our engagement with that organization, and it changes the impact we’re able to have on them, not just for that year but forever.
C.C.: I love that you do that. And you’re right, because it takes time, right? Because you probably spend the first weeks or months in the beginning getting to know them, know what they’re about, what their goals are, what they’re trying to achieve. That’s true of any content, any marketing, anything. Far too many people just dive in and say, “Oh, you need this,” rather than actually taking the time to figure out what they actually need. And then you can start diving in.
Drew: Right. Yeah. Well, and I think it’s that good for the heart and good for the soul, but it is also good for the bottom line. I think a lot of agencies are smart enough to know that nonprofits are run by boards of directors of the most influential people in the community usually. So it’s a great way to get in front of people and demonstrate your expertise, while you’re also changing your little corner of the world.
C.C.: Right. It’s funny. One of the things I talk about all the time, trying to encourage, whether it’s brands or agencies, you’re doing this great work here, and I hope you tell people you’re doing that great work. Because far too often, especially on the brand side, when they’ve partnered with a non-profit or they give back in some way, they don’t tell the world about it. I know, yes, there’s a really fine line between tooting your own horn and saying look at me. But at the same time, if you don’t tell the world that you’re doing this good, it doesn’t help you from a business standpoint, it doesn’t help the non-profit.
If you partner with somebody, you should be talking about it. I see it all the time, where it’s like, “Yeah, but we don’t want to talk about that side of our work.” And I get it, being humble is an important thing, but at the same time, if you’re doing it, talk about it. Talk about it in a realistic, in a human way, that’s not tooting your own horn. But if nobody knows about it, yeah it feels good to you, but it’s probably not helping your business at all.
Drew: Right. Well, and I think there’s a way to invite people to participate with you, especially your clients. Hopefully, just like you’ve searched your heart to figure out what charities you want to serve, you’ve done the same thing with your client base. So I think it’s ideal when there’s an alignment between the agency, the client, and the non-profit. When you can all do it together, you have the added benefit of it strengthens your client relationships.
C.C.: Ah, yeah, exactly.
Drew: So we end up doing a lot of events for the charities that we partner with, and it’s fun to invite your clients to participate in some way in that. That really does create a community where you’re creating the community of people who have a like alignment in terms of something that they care about.
C.C.: Well said. I agree.
Why “Content Rules” is Still Relevant to Creating Content Today
Drew: Yeah. All right, let’s shift a little bit. Let’s talk about creating content. Okay, so “Content Rules” is five years old.
Drew: If you could add an addendum today, what would the addendum be?
C.C.: Oh, wow. Well it’s funny you mention that, because Ann and I, Ann Handley, my coauthor, we’ve talked about doing a whole new revision of it. And we’ve kind of had that conversation of do we add more? There’s 13 rules, do we add more to it? Do we need more? I think there’s been some technology that’s come along.
C.C.: I remember when we did the paperback edition that came out a year afterwards. The concept of social photography didn’t exist when we first wrote it. Things like Instagram, they just didn’t exist yet. So I think now, talking about the fact that virtual reality is right around the corner, truly right around the corner. Things like Snapchat, real time, not real time as like the Oreo, but real time sharing an experience, is definitely been taken to a new level with things like Snapchat and Periscope and those sort of things.
While I firmly believe that the rules that we laid out, the quote-unquote “rules”, I think apply to any technology, I would like to add some sections about that. Because it is such a different thing and so many brands haven’t really quite figured out how to use that for marketing. And there’s so much potential there, and it’s not going away anytime soon. So I think we’d add some about that.
One of the things we didn’t talk a lot about, I know you and I are going to talk about it here, is we didn’t talk a lot about the community aspect. And while it’s a whole other topic, I would like to add some about community to it, because it is such a big part of it when it’s done right.
Drew: Yeah, right. And so rarely done right.
C.C.: So rarely.
Drew: Yeah. One of the reasons why I continue to recommend and praise the book is because I do think the rules are pretty evergreen. I think they’re sort of tool agnostic. It’s really sort of a best practices book. The tools will come and go. You and I, we’ve watched all of these tools come and go. It’s funny, when you go, “Instagram didn’t even exist,” and now it’s such a common thing for all of us, it’s like, “Really, it didn’t exist?”
C.C.: I know, right?
Drew: And we’ll be saying the same thing about something else in a year or two years.
C.C.: That was our goal from day one with the book. Because social media books are out of date by the time they hit shelves, even just six months from the time you finish writing them. So we wanted a book that would stand the test of time, and tried to focus on those things.
It’s funny because we had people yell at us that were like, “Well, you didn’t talk about how to blog,” and we’re like, “Well yeah, we didn’t talk about specifics, because we didn’t want to.” I was really proud that when, a year after the hardcover came out and we went to do the paperback, we only had one technology we had to remove. And that was, there was a mention, in a sentence, the word Google Buzz appeared, and we had to pull that out. But I was glad that was the only one.
Drew: Right. But that’s why it’s still such a relevant book today, is because it really is about the philosophy of it, rather than the specific, “Grab a Phillips screwdriver and do this.” Right?
C.C.: Right. It’s why I enjoy people talk about it as a social media book. I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s not, but it is.” But yeah, I love it, I’m very happy what we did with it.
The Rule of Speaking Human and Why it is Violated the Most
Drew: Yeah, it’s a fabulous book. So of the rules, which one do you think is violated most?
C.C.: Speak human. I think “speak human” is violated every single solitary day. It’s funny because I remember our editor said that we were too harsh with that rule, that people would be offended by us saying it.
But every day I see brands and agencies out there talking in acronyms, or treating their audience like they’re idiots or something, and in today’s world, where everybody is tweeting and Snapchatting and texting back and forth, people are talking more than ever. And a brand of any size or sort who can’t talk human, who can’t speak human, who can’t sound like a friend, is dead in the water.
But every single day I see it. I guarantee if I went on to Twitter right now I could find an example in two seconds of somebody not doing it well. I think it’s just because they think the wrong way.
For too many years markets talked at people. It was a print ad, it was a radio ad, it was a television ad. Except in today’s world, everything’s a two-way street. It’s a two-way communication, and still too many agencies and too many brands are speaking at people, rather than speaking with them or talking with them.
I think that’s the rule, over and over again, that I keep coming back and I tell people all the time, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a specific industry or niche. I see non-profits doing it, I see everybody do it. And it’s just every single day somebody’s not doing it, and I wish they would fix it.
Drew: Yeah. I look at agency blogs or content, and oftentimes it’s the agencies, right? I know the owners, I know the people there, and I think, if I was sitting across the table from you, you would never communicate to me this way.
Drew: Just talk to me how you talk.
C.C.: Yeah, and it’s funny because you see it happen all the time. What kills me is then you see somebody new getting into the space, and you see them doing it wrong too because they look to big brand or big agency, and they start doing it. It’s like, “Oh, stop it.”
I teach a class. I teach a college class on online marketing, and I warn them. I’m like, “You guys are gonna go out in the work force,” because usually it’s juniors and seniors. I’m like, “You’re gonna go out, you’re gonna intern.”
I said, “Please take what I teach you and fight the good fight, because you’re gonna have people who are gonna be doing it completely wrong. If you ever feel that urge like, this doesn’t feel right, or this doesn’t feel human,” I said, “please speak up.” And I hope they do. I don’t know if they do, I’ve only taught one semester of it so far, but I’m like, “Please fight the good fight.”
Drew: So you’re spreading the seed, and you’re getting them to infiltrate the companies to do it better.
C.C.: I’m trying to.
How to Create Useful Content that Plays to Your Unique Strengths
Drew: I like it. So if you were sitting across the table from an agency, which you’re doing now, just a bunch of them while they’re walking on the treadmill and driving, and you were going to say to them, “Hey, forget what you’ve been doing content-wise now, let’s clean the slate. Here’s the one-two punch of the kind of content that I think agencies could create that would create differentiation and community around their shop.”
What would you tell them?
C.C.: Off the top of my head, I would tell them to really figure out what makes you different. Every agency out there rolls out the carpet of “Look at all these pretty logos of people we’ve worked with,” or “Look at our pretty awards.” No offense, but everybody’s got awards and clients, that doesn’t differentiate.
What makes you different? Are you a playful group? Maybe you’re an outdoorsy group. Maybe you like music. Find something that’s different about you and wear it like a badge of honor to show potential clients, “Look, we’re not just some big shop that you’re gonna come throw a bunch of money at and we’re gonna waste your money.” Because I think there’s not enough character.
Throw five marketing agencies beside each other, everybody can do some of the same things. I can show you great case studies, I can show you great work I’ve done, but what else are you going to do?
Show that human side. Show that authenticity. What makes people come work for you, you know? I don’t think there’s enough of that. I would start there as something to make yourself stand out. I don’t mean necessarily like a goofy viral, quote-unquote “viral” video.
How you implement it, that’s up to you, but show what makes you different as people and as an organization, because hopefully something makes you different. I hope so.
Drew: Well, I think one of the things we know is that, at the end of the day, if you’re in an agency pitch and you’re down to three or four agencies, or if they’re shopping you online before they’re ever going to talk to you, because we know about 80% of the clients buying decision is done before they reach out to any agencies.
Either way, part of what they’re looking for is chemistry, and it’s hard to figure out chemistry if it’s a sterilized web presence or Facebook page, and all it is is about the work.
C.C.: I guarantee it right now, there’s somebody out there listening to this podcast who went, “Oh yeah C.C., that’s all fine and dandy, but what if it scares off some clients?” Whatever it is you do. And I would argue that’s a good thing. You can’t have every client in the world. And if there’s something that makes you unique, whether you’re some young hip shop, or whatever it is that’s unique about you, if it scares away a client, you didn’t want that client.
It probably wasn’t going to work, because the best client-agency relationships are really a really trusting one. Like you said, chemistry, you have to click. So if they get turned off by whatever content it is you’re creating that shows your true self, it’s better them then not ever walk in the door, than to go down that road, we’ve all had those clients, where like, “God, we don’t see eye to eye.” That’s worse.
So to those people doubting, because I know there’s some out there, that would be my argument. You do not have to be friends with everybody. You can’t, so don’t try to be.
Drew: Well, and in fact, what kills me about agency owners is many of them are brand experts, and so that’s the exact speech they give their clients about why it’s important to develop a strong brand. Because a great brand both attracts and repels, and you want it to do both of those things.
And yet agency owners are petrified of doing the exact same thing for their own shop, because there’s money on the table and it’s hard to walk away from that money, even though it’s something I call tainted money. It’s money that you’re going to have to bastardize who you are and what you’re about to earn the money, and after a while that feels yucky.
C.C.: Yeah. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, but there’s a great book called “The Power of Unpopular”, by Erika Napoletano. Read it. Great, great, great book. She’s going to hate me if she hears this, because I couldn’t even get her name out. She’s French.
Drew: She won’t care, because you pimped her book.
C.C.: Yeah, exactly.
Drew: She writes a great blog as well.
C.C.: Yeah, she does.
Drew: She’s a very true to her own brand. An irreverent, brilliant professional. I greatly admire her work as well. So yeah, it’s a great book, I agree.
In terms of the content though, do you think it matters what the content is? Do you think it matters, ebook, white paper, podcast, fill in the blank?
C.C.: In that case? Not necessarily, because one of the other content rules is to play to your strengths. If you’ve got the video talent and the chops to make a great video, go in that case. If it’s an ebook, go that way. Maybe it’s a blog. Maybe it’s a series of Instagram posts. I don’t think it necessarily matters. On any given week it seems like one platform’s more popular than the other, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to create it. Not everybody’s great at creating everything, so stick with what feels right. What feels right for your audience, what feels right for the types of clients you’re going after, because it definitely depends, I think, a lot on that too.
Drew: Well, and I think it’s also about what can you sustain over time. A lot of agencies start and stop, fill in the blanks, blogs, podcasts, white papers, case studies, whatever it is. But they never get enough momentum to get up over the hill so it’s a habit, and I think that sends a terrible message to prospective clients.
C.C.: Oh I agree fully. Yup.
Why You Need to Create Content for Yourself, Not Just Your Clients
Drew: Yeah. One of the things that agency owners are always talking about is, they get it, they know they should do it, but at the end of the day it’s the stupid cobbler’s children have no shoes excuse, of they’re so busy taking care of clients they have a hard time creating content for themselves.
Any thoughts or recommendations about how they make sure that they get it done for themselves?
C.C.: Yeah, they stop complaining and get to work. I’m not a big fan of excuses. You’re right though. I get it. Even my website has that problem, where I’m like, “Ah, I’m doing all this work, I haven’t taken care of myself.”
I think at the end of the day you’ve got to just sit down and get it done, or on the flip side, if you honestly can’t do it, hire somebody to do it. Hire somebody to come in. Hire a pro. There are professionals out there. Bring them in and have them do it for you, whether it’s bringing in a branded storyteller, an ex-journalist, they make great jobs, or consultants.
There’s things out there. Hire somebody. Bring them in and have them help you, because at the end of the day, you can keep complaining and use that excuse over and over, and eventually it’s going to catch up to you, and then you’re in trouble.
Drew: Yeah. At a lot of the AMI meetings we bring in speakers, and several agency search consultants, and all of that, and they talk about how big and small clients are shopping for agencies. And the reality is today if you don’