3 Content Takeaways from Inbound 2017

And, that’s a wrap on Inbound 2017. This year was the first time I had gone to Inbound, and as someone who went in not knowing a whole lot about it other than “marketing software conference” and “high-profile speakers” I was really impressed by the breadth of sessions available that actually had nothing to do with software and instead took deep dives into some of the biggest issues and trends pertaining to content production today.

So, after spending the week immersed in a handful of engaging, entertaining and insightful sessions and marquee keynote speakers, here are some of my biggest takeaways from this year’s Inbound:

Authenticity trumps brand

If there was a single recurring theme across the Inbound keynotes speakers – from Michelle Obama to Billie Jean King to Issa Rae – it was: be yourself. Find your voice, own it and channel your work through that voice. A cliché? Of course – I’m sure everyone, in any walk of life, has likely heard this advice more times than they count. But, that’s because it rings true and it works. Especially so for content creators.

There’s always that temptation that whatever you’re writing, designing or producing needs to promote the brand first. “Here is my brand, here’s what we’re selling and here’s what I have to say about that.” Instant turn-off for audiences. The focus needs to be on creating a unique experience, telling a unique story, providing a unique vantage point into a greater conversation – something that only the content creator can bring. That’s what creates compelling, relevant content. That’s what attracts audiences. That’s authenticity. The second you start shoehorning your brand into it – especially if that’s your starting point – it stops feeling authentic.

Don’t be afraid to riff off of Reddit for ideas

When we think of Reddit or other online forums in the workplace, “productivity” probably isn’t the first word to come to mind. But, one of my favorite sessions of Inbound this year was a talk on how content creators should be embracing Reddit and similar online communities as treasure troves of potential content ideas.

What’s your professional passion: cybersecurity? IoT? Telco? There’s already a forum or subreddit out there devoted to it. Rather than steer clear of these places, look to them for inspiration. By becoming an active user on these sites to get a handle on the makeup of the community and using unique search parameters to pull recent and relevant content that that community is already talking about, you have a wealth of topics that you can use as a springboard for your own content with a built-in audience. Don’t just rip off their top-performing discussion threads completely, of course; that’s plainly transparent and defeats the whole purpose of authenticity.

Podcasts have a high ceiling, but act as if that ceiling is lowering

With over 400,000 shows on Apple Podcasts, over 1,000 new shows submitted each week and 67 million Americans listening to podcasts in just the last 30 days, suffice it to say, today’s listening options are virtually limitless. That’s a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, with so many podcasts available, there truly is a show out there for anyone; any podcast, regardless of its topic, can be relevant and compelling to somebody. The ubiquity of podcasting – anyone can do it, about anything – helps to level the playing field, making it accessible to everyone.

On the other hand… it’s accessible to everyone. And, while that can sound like a plus, the more podcasts are out there, the harder it becomes to find the shows that are not only high quality but also trustworthy and credible. Think: Fake News, in podcast form.

So, when it comes to podcasting, the sky might be the horizon for now, but don’t act like it. Produce your show as if there’s room for only a handful of podcasts out there; produce it as if the ceiling is lowering, and audiences are increasingly cutthroat about what they will subscribe to and what they won’t – because sooner, rather than later, that’s what’ll happen. And when that time comes, you want to make sure you’ve carved out your corner of the podcasting world with as much authentic buy-in as possible from audiences.

We chatted with March EVP Jodie Petrie on a recent Hacks and Flacks about the importance of brand authenticity – check out the discussion below.