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Alone at Work? Use Quiet Days To Set Up for Personal Growth and Content Success



Alone at Work? Use Quiet Days To Set Up for Personal Growth and Content Success

It’s the quietest time of the year.

As people use up their vacation days, few remain at work during the days after Christmas and before New Year’s Day.

If you’re one of the few working during that week, you might feel stuck. Emails go unanswered. No feedback arrives, so you can’t move that article or video to the next stage. New projects lie fallow, waiting for the necessary stakeholders to return.

Web surfing and doomscrolling only fill so much time. What’s a content marketer to do with these meeting-free days? Instead, plan your expected downtime – whether it’s now or some other time in the year – to improve your skills and get the stuff done you never seem to find time to do.

I asked the #CMWorld Slack community and Twitter followers to share what they would plan to do at work when few others are around.

Spend time on professional development

“Slow periods are great for education,” says Danielle Love, content marketing strategist. “It’s a great time to watch those Content Marketing World sessions I missed. I also have an email folder of webinars I signed up for but didn’t get the chance to watch live.”

TIP: Content Marketing World participants have until Dec. 31, 2021, to catch any of this year’s presentations.

Use slow times at work to catch up on those webinars you never watched or #CMWorld sessions you missed, as @daniellewriter does via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Fellow content marketing strategist Ali Orlando Wert agrees. “I have a certification I’m hoping to wrap up during that ‘quiet’ time of year,” she says.

While that may keep Ali busy, she thinks slow times are helpful to think through an idea or strategy that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to work on. “I’ve got a backburner list,” she says.

Slow times are helpful for tackling the list of ideas you haven’t had time to get to, says @AliOrlandoWert via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Hannah Szabo, who has worked in content marketing, says she spends that time studying topics outside of marketing. (She says she’s all about Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.) For example, she recently finished a 30-hour course on financial statements from LinkedIn Learning.

Connect with old and new

Content strategist Brian Piper uses the time to research conferences he might want to attend or where he might want to present. But he doesn’t stop there. He looks for new communities and online events and touches base with people in his network he hasn’t contacted for a while.

Content community builder Vanessa Cariba does something similar. “I make a point of saying hello to my networks or finding new alliances to meet with on Zoom. As a freelancer, connection is a bridge of opportunity,” she says.

@vanessa_cariba uses quiet time at work to say hello to people in her network or find new people to meet with over Zoom to build bridges to freelance opportunities via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Analyze numbers and processes

Content marketers know the value of data and analytics, but time to work on them often disappears. Helpfully enough, technology never takes a vacation. You can access the data even when no one is working.

“Whether it’s writing code, experimenting with new tools, or working with data from clients or third parties, downtime is all about building the next generation of data and analytics for the next uptime,” says data scientist Christopher S. Penn.

Use downtime to work on data and analytics for the next uptime, as @cspenn does via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Cathy McPhillips, a chief growth officer, takes the time to not only organize her files but also to reflect on and adjust her systems. For example, she takes time to figure out why she downloaded the same report 12 times rather than remembering where she put it.

“I think about goals for the following year and how I can set myself up for success,” Cathy says, noting she also intends to dive into the three-foot stack of books waiting for her to read.

Use quiet workdays to think about goals for next year and how to set yourself up for success, says @cmcphillips via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

SEO copywriter Adam P. Newton can relate. He says he uses his time to read his backlog of articles from Content Marketing Institute, Jay Acunzo, Andy Crestodina, Ann Handley, and more.

Focus on content creation

Content marketing strategist Maureen Jann finds the quietness of downtime ideal for uninterrupted concentration. “I always gravitate toward disruption. This is the time of year that I can head down in production mode without the lure of interaction,” she says.

And executive Katie Robbert spends the time writing – mostly ugly drafts that she compiles in a folder. “When I need to put a polished post together, I go back and see what ideas are the most formed,” she explains.

Write rough drafts during slow days, suggests @katierobbert. When you need a post, pick the most formed idea to polish via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Get it done

As great as these suggestions are, some people struggle to get things done during those quiet days. Try these ideas to avoid starting the new year feeling that you wasted your precious downtime:

  • Set mini goals. Be realistic in identifying what you want to accomplish. You aren’t going to watch every webinar you missed in 2021. However, you can feasibly watch three 60-minute webinars. Pick one thing to complete each day.
  • Schedule time on your calendar. Block out no more than 90 minutes per task. Write the details of precisely what you will do in the appointment entry. Make sure to turn notifications on so you get a warning 10 minutes before the start time. (Schedule at least a 30-minute appointment in between these appointments so you can take a break.)
  • Plan for the next day. About 15 minutes before you finish each day, look at your remaining scheduled tasks. Do you still want to do the things you blocked time to work on? Is there something you would rather get done? Make sure you’ve set time blocks to work on things you want to accomplish. Otherwise, you’ll ignore those calendar notifications and end up doing nothing productive.

And while most people want to be productive during the downtime, make sure to take it easy, too. If you just go, go, go, you may not benefit from that “alone” time. Instead, ensure you come away feeling rested and ready when your coworkers return the hustle and bustle to your workdays.


Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling



The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling

Storytelling is an art.

Not a process, method, or technique. And — like art — it requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. Storytelling isn’t something you can grasp in one sitting, after one course. It’s a trial-and-error process of mastery.


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How to Blog When You Have No Time



How to Blog When You Have No Time

Finding the time to blog is a frequent challenge for many marketers. Marketers often wear many hats and it can be difficult to focus long enough to churn out quality articles when you’re pressed for time.

How to blog when you have no time? We spoke with author and marketing expert David Meerman Scotton how to avoid common time management mistakes by developing a routine.

No matter what you’ve got on your marketing plate, it won’t get done without proper time management. Learning how to make the most of your time will greatly affect your productivity and overall success as a blogger.

Why is blogging time management important?

When it comes to creating content, maintaining consistency is key. This is why blogging time management is so important. You may not always feel motivated to create on a regular basis, but establishing a schedule will help you to stay consistent with your blog output.

For example, you may find that you’re better at writing in the mornings. So you can set aside 2 to 3 hours each morning to work on writing based on how many articles you’d like to produce each week.

Create a content calendar to help you plan your content in advance and set reasonable deadlines. Make note of holidays or seasonal events that may impact your content schedule.

Getting organized will help you set and achieve goals for your blog. If you’re starting from scratch, check out our guide to starting a blog.

How to Blog When You Have No Time

1. Use blog templates.

An easy way to jump-startyour creative process is to start with a template. Why suffer through writer’s block staring at a blank document if you don’t have to? HubSpot’s free blog post templatescan help you format your article and get started writing faster than starting from scratch.

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Templates function as an easy to follow outline where you can organize your thoughts and start to flesh out your content. HubSpot’s offer includes six templates ranging from how-to posts to pillar pages and infographics.

2. Develop a blogging routine.

In many ways blogging reminds David of exercising. In order to be successful at it, you will need to develop a routine. “It is programmed in,” David says. “It is about building it into your life and making it a second nature, like running in the mornings or doing yoga after work.”

Dedicate time each day to writing or allocate one to two designated writing days per week. Block time off on your calendar and turn off messaging apps to avoid interruptions while you write.

Once you’ve gotten organized and created a routine, you may find you had more time to write than previously thought.

3. Keep a list of ideas.

One way to save time coming up with content is to make sure you always have a running list of fresh ideas to work with. That way you’re not scrambling at the last minute for worthy topics.

Creating topic clusterscan help you flesh out your blog content strategy. A topic clusteris multiplearticles grouped by a shared topic or related topic. For example, you may have one pillar page that gives a broad overview of a topic. From there, you can create more in-depth, specific articles on related subtopics.

This will not only help you plan content but organize your site architecture as well.

4. Perform research prior to writing.

It’s much easier to write when you have all the pertinent information you want to include in one place. Research your chosen topic before sitting down to write and organize the information in a quick outline.

Include any keyword researchin this process so you can ensure your content aligns with what readers are searching for online. This way when you sit down to write, your only job is to write — not look up new facts.

5. Don’t edit while writing.

When writing it’s very tempting to want to stop and make corrections. Don’t do this. It breaks your writing flow.

Instead, write a rough draft withjust pops into your mind first. Follow your train of thought without stopping to fix typos or edit. The goal is to just get your thoughts on the page. Once your initial draft is written, you can always go back and make changes.

6. Perform article updates.

Another strategy is to build upon existing content by performing an article update. Giving your older content a refresh is not only good for SEO and your readers, but it can be a quick win for adding new content in a time crunch.

With older content, you may need to include additional research and update it for accuracy, but it generally takes less time than writing a new article from scratch. Review your existing content. Are there articles you can do a deeper dive on? Have there been industry advancements you can include? Is there a new angle to explore?

7. Find content ideas wherever you go.

By making blogging a life routine, you will come across creative content ideas much more frequently. Keep an open mind, observe new things that interest you personally and find ways to turn them into fodder for a blog post. By noticing world dynamics that get you excited and relating them to your audience, the process of blogging becomes a lot more natural and fun.

Accumulate content ideas from different situations in life and find ways to apply them to your industry.

8. Hire a freelancer.

Sometimes your workload is just too heavy and your efforts can be better used elsewhere. If you have the resources and budget to do it, hiring outside help may also be a great option.

Sites like Upwork, Contenta, and MediaBistro make it easy to find writing professionals. If looking to generate content on a larger scale, consider working with a content agency.

Blog Like A Pro

Creating content with a consistent cadence is an obstacle busy marketers frequently struggle with. Creating a schedule and mastering blogging time management will allow you to create even when you’re short on time.

This article was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How clean, organized and actionable is your data?



90% of marketers say their CDP doesn't meet current business needs

A customer data platform (CDP) centralizes an organization’s customer data, providing a single 360-view of each consumer that engages with the company. Yet there are still data-related considerations that organizations have to make beyond what the CDP does.

“[CDPs] were designed to fill a need – to enable a marketer to easily get to the data they need to create their segmentation and then go on and mark it from that point,” said George Corugedo, CTO of data management company Redpoint Global, at The MarTech Conference. “But the issue is that CDPs really don’t take care of the quality aspects of the data.”

Maintaining data quality also impacts segmentation, campaigns and privacy compliance challenges for marketing teams that use this data.

Data quality

The data in a CDP depends on the quality of where it came from. Therefore, an organization using a CDP must also consider the quality of the data sources and reference files used to build out the CDP.

“The inevitable question is going to be, how good is this data?” said Corugedo. “How much can I trust it to make a bold decision?”

This is something that has to be on every organization’s radar. For instance, when identity resolution is used, the issue depends on the quality of the third-party reference files. If they are provided by a telecommunications company or credit bureau as the data partner, those files might only be updated quarterly.

“It’s just not an optimal solution, but every single CDP on the market uses some form of reference file,” Corugedo stated.

It’s up to the data scientists and other team members working within the organization to own the accuracy of these data sources.

Read next: What is a CDP?

Segmentation and other actions

The quality of the data using specific reference files and sources will vary and will impact the confidence that marketers have in creating segments and using them when deploying campaigns.

Marketers have to make this decision at a granular level, based on the trustworthiness of data from a particular lineage.

“If they have a campaign that is reliant on suspect data, they can actually delay that campaign and say maybe we wait until that data gets refreshed,” said Corugedo.

Otherwise, marketers are just “spraying and praying.”

Using rules instead of lists

The advantage of having a CDP is unification of all data. But the data is being updated all the time. Instead of deploying campaigns based on a fixed list of customers, the use of rules to define segments allows marketers to update who they engage in the campaign.

“A list, as soon as it’s detached from the database, starts to decay because it doesn’t get any updates anymore,” Corugedo, adding that using lists takes longer to execute a campaign.

Lower quality from data that isn’t updated can have serious implications for healthcare and other industries, where accuracy is essential. 

“Instead, rules are passed through the campaign just like they would be with a list, but those rules reevaluate every time there’s a decision point to make sure that only the qualified people get the particular content at that point,” Corugedo explained.

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Privacy and regulatory compliance

Maintaining data quality through a Redpoint Global dashboard, or a similar combination of tools and data personnel, will also help an organization manage privacy.

The crucial point is that people on the team know where the data came from and how it’s being used in campaigns. The stakes for sending out relevant messaging are high. Privacy and compliance issues raise the bar even higher.

If you’re using a CDP, you can save headaches and extra labor by using a tool that has compliance and privacy baked in, so to speak.

“What we’ve done is embrace some of this complexity and absorb it into the environment, so the marketer never even sees it,” said Corugedo. “What we do is with every implementation, we will implement a PII vault that keeps PII data super secure, and we can anonymize the marketing database.”

This way, personal information of individual customers (PII) is never violated.

“Marketers ultimately don’t necessarily need to have visibility to PII,” Corugedo explained “They like to see it for testing purposes and making sure that it looks right and everything, but the truth is we can do that in other ways without revealing PII.”

Having a handle on data quality adds to the confidence marketing teams have in creating segments and executing campaigns, and it can also help protect the customer’s privacy and guard against regulatory infringements.

Facts not fiction: Beyond the CDP from Third Door Media on Vimeo.

About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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