Episode 91

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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 the nicest guy on the Internet. Over the years of his career, he has worked with a variety of clients including Nike, HBO, American Eagle Outfitters, ONE, Verizon FiOS, and The Coca-Cola Company.

He is the co-author of the International bestseller “Content Rules” and is also the author of “Amazing Things Will Happen.” He travels the world speaking in front of audiences to do more in the world and how to understand content marketing better. C.C. has taught classes for Lynda.com, CreativeLive and now as an adjunct professor at Bentley University (where he also graduated from).

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.

C.C. serves as the Chairman of the Board at Wediko and serves on the board of The Hockey Foundation. He happily lives in the woods outside of Boston with his loving family.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • 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 have 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

 

The Golden Nugget:

“If something unique about you scares off a potential client, you didn’t want that client.” – @cc_chapman Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency Podcast presented by Hubspot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line, bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody. Thanks for tuning into 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 C.C. And 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. And really C.C. is a volt very multi-faceted 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. And 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 you can go and do 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. Chapman:

Thanks. I’m psyched to be here.

Drew McLellan:

I am psyched to be here too. So anything in the intro that I missed or anything else you want our listeners to know about you?

C.C. Chapman:

I mean, 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. So whether it’s working with nonprofits 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, 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.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s such a great book. You guys really knocked it out of the park. Yeah. So I think the social good is also a topic. So let’s just go there first and then we’ll come back around to content. So agencies, as you know and I know that, refresh my memory. You have owned and worked in agencies, but you’ve also been on the client side. So you’ve seen that 360, right?

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. I’ve seen it all the way around. Sure.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So agencies, 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 at an agency, you’re always asked to do pro bono work and I think there’s a good way to do that 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 employees is that they want to work someplace that’s making a difference in the world. And so it’s not just about doing good, but it’s also about how it serves your agency.

C.C. Chapman:

Oh, exactly. And 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.

Drew McLellan:

No, we all do.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah, exactly. All of us, if given the choice, if everything else was equal, pay and responsible, if we can work for a company that was making a difference and there’s nobody on this earth who would say they don’t want that. And 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 about 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. So 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. And then the planet, whether it’s helping your local school or the environment. There’s all sorts of different things. And I think it’s one of those, I think far too often agencies and companies in general forget that happy employees make better employees.

And you’re right, keeping the best employees is super hard because there’s always another hot new company, there’s always, especially in the agency world, the best get poached all the time because they’re getting approached and they want something new, they need new challenges, they need to feel excited going to work every day. And by doing something social good. And 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 got to be saving kids in Africa or refugees. And that’s for sure, but at the same time, it can be your community, helping with the schools or faith-based organizations or your library. There’s so much. 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.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s do talk about that a little bit. What are some, 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 sort of triple bottom line of people, profit, and the planet?”

C.C. Chapman:

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 think I work, I talk to brands both big and small and agencies and all sorts of different companies. And one of the first things we sit down and talk about, okay, you want to do something more, but what is it about? And I’ll talk to the executives. If it’s a small company, you can talk to the whole company and figure out, 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 out, well, 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, well, what are you passionate about? To figure out, okay, maybe that’s the angle of your social good.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. That’s sustainable right now. 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. Chapman:

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 or it’s going to be very, you’re all going to be over it, 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 its 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 and it must be part of your culture. It just has to be.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. So as you know, I not only do I own Agency Management Institute, but I still own my own agency and 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. And I was getting frustrated because it felt like we were scratching the surface for all these nonprofits, but not really changing their world.

And so probably a decade ago, we created this program that we call Adopt a Charity and 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 ended up getting between a 100 and $200,000 worth of time and stuff. And that way for a whole year, we can really impact that organization. And 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 and to 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. Chapman:

I love that you do that. And you’re right, because it takes time, 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, because if you don’t, that’s true, 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 McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s sort of 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. And 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. Chapman:

Right. And there’s nothing… And one of the things it’s funny, like I hope when you do, 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’re, like they’ve partnered with a nonprofit 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 nonprofit.

If you partner with somebody, you should be talking about it. And 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 McLellan:

Right. And I think there’s a way to invite people to participate with you, especially your clients. And 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. And so I think it’s ideal when there’s an alignment between the agency, the client and the nonprofit. And when you can all do it together, you have the added benefit of its strengths and it strengthens your client relationships.

C.C. Chapman:

Ah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

So we end up doing a lot of events of the charities that we partner with and it’s fun to invite your clients to participate in some way in that. And so that really does create a community where you’re creating the community of people who have sort of a like alignment in terms of something that they care about.

C.C. Chapman:

Well said. And I agree. I agree.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. All right. Let’s shift a little bit. Let’s talk about content. Okay. So Content Rules is five years old. If you could add an addendum today, what would the addendum be?

C.C. Chapman:

Oh, wow. Well, it’s funny, it’s funny you mentioned it because Ann and I, Ann Handley, my coauthor, we’ve talked about doing a whole new revision of it and we’ve had that conversation of, do we add more? There’s 13 rules, do we add more to it? Do we more? I think there’s been some technology that’s come along to think of, like 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. So things like Instagram, they just didn’t exist yet. So we had to have that. I think now, but talking about the fact that virtual reality is right around the corner, truly right around the corner and things like Snapchat realtime, not realtime as like the Oreo, but like realtime sharing and experience is definitely been taken to a new level with things like Snapchat and Periscope and those sort of things.

And while I firmly believe, I firmly believe that the rules that we laid out, the “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. And I think we would actually, 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 McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Right. And so rarely done right.

C.C. Chapman:

So rarely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. So 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. And the tools will come and go. You and I, we’ve watched all of these tools come and go. And you said, 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. And I’ll be saying the same thing about something else in a year or two years.

C.C. Chapman:

Well, that was our goal from day one with the book was we wanted, because social media books are out of date by the time they hit shelves, even just six months from the time you finish writing. So we wanted a book that would stand the test of time and tried to focus on those. And 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.” And I was really proud that when a year after the hardcover came out, we went into the paperback, we only had one technology we had to remove. And that was where there was a mention, like in a sentence, the word Google Buzz appeared. And we had to pull that out. But that was the only one.

Drew McLellan:

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.

C.C. Chapman:

It’s why I cringe when 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.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s a fabulous book. So of the rules, which one do you think is violated most?

C.C. Chapman:

Speak human. I think speak human is violated every single solitary day just. And the whole point, and it’s funny because we are, 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 just 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, I guarantee if I went on Twitter right now, I could find an example in two seconds of somebody not doing it well. And I think it’s just because they think for too many years, marketers talked at people, it was a print ad, it was a radio ad, it was a television ad, except today’s world, everything is 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. And 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, even I see nonprofit, I see everybody do it. And it’s just every single day somebody is not doing it and I wish they would fix it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I look at agency blogs or content. And oftentimes, it’s, and I know the agencies, 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.

C.C. Chapman:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

It’s just, just talk to me how you talk.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. And it’s funny because you see it happen. And what kills me is then you see like somebody new getting into the space and you see them, because they look to like big brand or big agency and they start doing it and it’s like, oh, stop it. And I teach a class, I teach a college class on online marketing and I warn them, I’m like, “You guys are going to go out into the workforce because usually it’s juniors and seniors.” I’m like, “You’re going to go out or you’re going to intern.” I said, “Please take what I teach you and fight the good fight because you’re going to have people who are going to, 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 McLellan:

So you’re spreading the seed and you’re getting them to infiltrate the companies to do it better.

C.C. Chapman:

I’m trying to.

Drew McLellan:

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. Just 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. Chapman:

Off the top of my head, I would tell them to really figure out what makes you differently. 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. And no offense, but everybody’s got awards and clients, it 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 and wear it like a badge of honor to show potential clients, look, we’re not just some big shop that you’re going to come throw a bunch of money at and we’re going to waste your money, because I just think there’s not enough character, because throw five marketing agencies beside each other, everybody can, I can show you great case studies, I can show you great work I’ve done, but what else? What else are you going to do? Show that human side, show that authentic. What makes people come work for you? I don’t think there’s enough of that.

I would start there as something to make yourself stand out. And I don’t mean necessarily like a goofy, viral “viral video”. How you implement it, that’s up to you, but there’s, show what makes you different as people and as an organization, because hopefully something makes you different. I hope so.

Drew McLellan:

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 are ever going to talk to you, because we know about 80% of the client’s 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. Chapman:

And I think, and I can hear, I guarantee you 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. Not every client, not every, you don’t want, 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 maybe, 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. And that you have, like you said, chemistry, you have to click.

So if they get turned off by whatever content is you’re creating that shows your true self, it’s better to then than not ever walk in the door than to go down that road. And we’ve all had those clients where we’re like, “God, we don’t see eye to eye. That’s worse.” So 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 McLellan:

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, I call it 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. Chapman:

Yeah. And I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, but there’s a great book called The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napol, I always get her last name wrong, Napole, I can’t get her last name right. The Power of Unpopular. Read it. Great, great, great book. She’s going to hate me if she hears this because I couldn’t get her name out. She’s a French.

Drew McLellan:

She won’t care because you pimped her book. So she’s not getting angry. She writes a great blog as well. She’s a very true to her own brand irreverence, brilliant, professional. I greatly admire her work as well. So yeah, it’s a great book. I agree. I have so many more questions that I want to ask you, but before we get into those, let’s take a quick pause and we’ll come right back.

I get that sometimes you just can’t get on a plane and spend a couple of days in a live workshop. And so hopefully our online courses are a solution to that. Lots of video, hours and hours of video, a very dense, detailed participants guide and all kinds of help along the way to make sure that you get the learning that you need and apply it immediately to your agency. Right now we’ve got two courses that are available. We have the Agency New Business Blueprint and we have the AE Bootcamp. So feel free to check those out at agencymanagementinstitute.com/ondemandcourses. Okay. Let’s get back to the show. So 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. Chapman:

In that case, not necessarily, because I guess I would lean on, 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 is more popular than the other. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to create it and not everybody is 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 McLellan:

Well, I think it’s also about what can you sustain over time? I think the consistency factor. A lot of agencies start and stop filling the blanks, blogs, podcasts, white papers, case studies, whatever it is, but then 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. Chapman:

Oh, I agree fully. Yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So 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. Chapman:

Yeah. They stop complaining and get to work. I’m not a big fan of excuses. And you’re right though, I get it. Even my website has that problem where I’m like, “Ah, I’m all doing 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 and hire a pro. There are professionals out there, bring them in and have them do it for you, whether it’s bringing in like a branded storyteller, like 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 McLellan:

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 clients, big and small clients are shopping for agencies. And the reality is to