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InsiderInbox with Content Marketing Expert – Michele Linn

April 5, 2018  •  By: Renee Chemel

Happy Spring, everyone! We have a very special treat for you this month in our InsiderInbox series.

Michele Linn is a widely recognized content marketing expert whose insight and influence have earned her a spot on Folio’s Top Women in Media, as well as numerous speaking engagements and hundreds of byline articles over the last 10 years. One of the first employees and former head of editorial content at Content Marketing Institute, she was instrumental in building the platform from the ground up, attracting 200k subscribers over her tenure.

After spending 7 years leading all aspects of CMI’s editorial strategy, she stepped down to form her own marketing research firm, Mantis Research. Here, she focuses her efforts on helping marketers understand the “how” and “why” behind original research and leverage findings to propel their business forward.

Michele has been—and continues to be—at the forefront of cutting-edge content marketing strategy, and we’re thrilled to invite her to share her insight with you today.

Why did you choose marketing, or maybe it chose you?

I was one of those kids who didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. Initially, I went into tech writing, and after doing that for a couple of years, I discovered marketing. I moved into a product marketing position and stayed there for 8-10 years. Meanwhile, I got my MBA, had a daughter in 2007, went back to work after 3 months, and quickly decided the full-time corporate world wasn’t for me any longer. I started freelancing in 2008, primarily doing writing, marketing consulting — and I started blogging. I eventually connected with Joe Pulizzi, soon-to-be founder of CMI. I was actually the first person he hired!

What is your personal mission statement?

I want to help people create the lives that they want to live by doing work that is meaningful.

By the way, I love this question! I vividly remember a conversation I had with Christoph Trappe in 2016 at Content Marketing World. He remarked everyone needs her own personal mission statement because it is the lens they should use to figure out what career move they want to make. You have to ask yourself, “What do I feel passionate about?”

Tell me something about your job, other than money, that inspires you to keep working there.

We just launched Mantis a few months ago, so it’s very new (and I’m still in the honeymoon phase, if you will). But I am so invigorated because so many marketers I talk to are interested in doing research, but they don’t know how to do it. There is so much opportunity to make a positive impact and help marketers with something they struggle with!

Offices or open work space?

Neither. I’ve worked from home since 2008. I’m definitely not comfortable in an office per se, but I don’t like an open space either. I like being at home, being able to set my own boundaries between work and personal life and have the space I need to concentrate and be productive, as well as participate fully in family activities.

What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?

They should understand how their job fits within the department and within the company at large. They must also be able to articulate what value their work brings to the organization as a whole. Marketers are typically not very good at seeing their value, but they must learn to be able to quantify their impact. It’s definitely there, we sometimes just have a hard time communicating it effectively.

What is the best part about your job?

My business partner, Clare McDermott. I have known Clare since 2010 when we both started at CMI. We became fast friends because we think alike and share similar interests (and, as a bonus, our kids are great friends!). I could not ask for a better partner!

If you could only use five (digital) marketing tools, what would they be? And why?

  1. When I’m doing research, I love that I can easily clip from references with its web clipper tool and keep them organized in one spot. It’s my go-to tool for that. It’s also a great way to draft blog posts—you can just jot notes there and easily flesh it out until it comes together.
  2. I used to be a Trello junkie, but I recently switched to Airtable. It’s a spreadsheet on steroids – or it can be a Kanban board. You can link records to each other, so it’s a great tool for creating an editorial calendar, project plan or distribution strategy.
  3. Google Drive. I’m a big fan of Google docs, sheets and slides because I can collaboratively work on documents. I’d be lost without this capability!
  4. This is a great online tool that lets you how see how many shares you’re getting from all of your posts, see what’s being shared the most, including other types of content from other publications. It lets you see how other writers’ material is performing, sort articles by top shares, and see how many domains are linking to an article.
  5. I recently started using this CRM, and I love it. It’s a great place to record conversation, tag contacts, and set tasks. I feel like I have a much better handle on who I need to follow up with, when I should follow up and why.

Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter for work, but Facebook for personal. Well, I don’t usually post on Facebook, but I do like to see what’s going on there.

What is the biggest digital marketing trend that will drive success this year? What is the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge facing marketers this year is that it is increasingly difficult to get attention. I have experienced this first-hand, have talked to many others who are struggling with the same thing and have seen data that proves this. The strategies that worked five years ago – even two years ago – are often no longer effective.

As such, marketers need to find a new path forward. There is no silver bullet, but I do think there is a substantial opportunity for marketers to get attention by publishing original research (think: state of the industry reports, salary guides, etc.). Only 37% of B2B marketers are publishing research (source: CMI / MarketingProfs), yet research works.

In short, think about how you can capture and report on new data-driven insights. And, if you conduct a larger-scale study, you’ll have tons of editorial ideas that spring from that.

What is your go-to Karaoke song? And why?

I’ve only done karaoke once, and I chose “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel. I was that catholic school girl who was always on the straight and narrow, and that song reminds me of me growing up.

What’s the one or two things you can’t live without to get the job done?

I always take time, usually in the middle of day, to shut down, unplug and meditate, or at least sit with eyes closed to bring back my focus. When it doesn’t happen, I’m a pretty grumpy person and I have a hard time doing “thinking” work such as writing.

I also need to have a sense of purpose. I love to work and, of course, I like the money. But, once I had kids I realized there is an opportunity cost associated with it. Do I really want to trade time with my family for this? Understanding my purpose helps me stay motivated.

Thank you, Michele! Such great advice and insight from someone who’s been “in the trenches” of digital content marketing since the beginning. We love your mission to find your passion and work with purpose—something we can all aspire to!

Thanks for being a part of the PowerInbox family! Until next time….


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