How to Survive the Zombie Content Marketing Apocalypse

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I’m not sure if it is the upcoming Halloween season or just the fact that finally The Walking Dead is back, but whatever it is, I’ve got zombies on the brain.

Zombies are fun in theory. If they show up in a movie or a show, then a lot of people will tune into watch. But who would ever want to have to deal with them in real life?

When it comes to content marketing strategy, zombies are real and they are terrifying. They are out there churning out content all the time, but all that content is basically just dead. No results. No purpose. No life.

You don’t have to be a zombie in the content marketing world, though. If the zombie movement has taught us nothing, it is how to survive an apocalypse. So all you need to do …

… is take those tips and apply them to your content plan.

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How to Survive the Content Marketing Apocalypse

So you know that content marketing is important, right?

If I can’t convince you any other way, let me just explain why in one word:

Google.

Google wants to give its readers quality content. It also wants to get rid of bad content. Therefore, if you want Google, and other search engines, to find and showcase you, you need to create great content.

But Google isn’t the only reason that content is so important. According to an infographic on AdWeek, 29.6% of survey voters consider content marketing to be the most commercially important digital marketing trend of 2015.

Content Marketing Trends

So how do you survive the content zombie wars and keep yourself from becoming one of the undead content pieces (in other words, one of those articles that is there but doesn’t show up until page 20 on Google and has no one reading it)?

Here are four steps (each broken into another three steps) to survival that the living dead survivors have taught me:

Step 1: Create an Action Plan

The smartest thing to do when you are trying to survive anything is to come up with a plan.

Content planning

So before you do anything else, sit down with your team and create one. Yes. This plan will change over time. In fact, later on, you will see that change is actually one of the tips listed here.

However, you want some basic form of action in order to work with. Just make sure you are flexible with it.

Without a plan, you’re just doing things to do them, and that is the surest way to get caught by the zombie bug – content zombie infection not excluded.

Don’t draw the wrong types of attention.

In the face of a zombie apocalypse, you do not want to be outside waving your arms and legs screaming, “Here I am zombies, come get me!” Instead, you’d likely try to be a lot more subtle than that.

If you are trying to attract some zombies, you probably have a reason for it. Maybe it’s a diversion tactic so someone in your group can escape. Perhaps you want to catch a zombie pet (but more on that in a while.) You do not, though, just scream for screaming’s sake. That’s just asking to be bitten.

This is the same as your content plan. Don’t go out there and just start yelling. Nobody wants to hear it. Who isn’t turned off by the constant noise and advertising conducted by companies?

If you want to avoid turning your content plan into the write(ing) of the undead, then create content that draws the right type of attention.

Write things people want to use.

Upload content at the times the right people are likely to see.

Have reasons for your content (e.g., your customers want to read it; it will teach them what they want to know; etc.)

When you create your plan, make sure that the content you are preparing to create has a purpose and that the purpose fits into what you want your content marketing strategy to accomplish.

Learn how to repurpose.

When a zombie is about to attack, you don’t always have a gun in your hand. Does that mean that you must be eaten?

Of course not. Just take a stick or the leg of a chair or whatever other pointy object is near you that can ram through a rotting skull. You make the most of what you already have instead of worrying about getting things you don’t have time to get. That’s how you survive.

In the content world, one of the best things you can do is repurpose. While it would be nice, you don’t always have time to get all new content for all your different media sources. Instead of just letting that media source be abandoned, just repurpose.

Repurposing content can be incredibly beneficial while also more time-efficient than trying to always have brand new content.

There are lots of ways you can repurpose your content:

Turn a popular blog into a video. Did you know that YouTube is the second most used search engine? That probably tells you that it is important for you to use it. Consider taking one of your popular blogs and making a video on it. The content is already there. All you have to do is use it to ward off content-death.

Turn your FAQs into a blog post. So people keep asking you how to do XYZ? Then write a blog post on it. Don’t struggle to come up with new things to write about when you already have tons of great ideas, which you know your users are interested in, right at your fingertips.

Turn your presentation into a slide deck. You don’t need to create a new post for your blog every day. But if you are short of ideas one week, take that presentation you made for the conference you attended and turn it into a slide deck that you can post in lieu of an article.

  1. Always keep reevaluating.

So that underground bunker that warded off attackers for so long has finally been sniffed out by some malnourished undead?

That’s cool. If you really have what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse, you know that you can’t stay stagnant forever. Anybody who watches The Walking Dead can tell you they have had to move to a new source of shelter a lot.

Similarly, that great plan you have been using, which has been getting you traffic forever, has started to hit a content plateau.

If you really have what it takes to make it in the undead-dog eats dog world of content marketing, you know that you have to keep improving and moving upwards.

When you stay the same, you stop growing. So reevaluate your plan and then keep moving to higher ground. Don’t let an inability to grow be what puts you under.

Step 2: Ward off Zombie Attacks

The surest way to turn yourself into a zombie is to let a zombie get to you. That’s why you have to know how to fight them off.

In the world of content marketing strategy, the zombies are more than just un-successful content plans. They are also all those factors that could end up keeping you from making your efforts worth your time.

Lack of traffic.

No conversions.

Poor Google rankings.

Etc., etc., etc. So in order to survive, you have to ward off all those concerns in order to keep from turning into a zombie yourself.

  1. Stop problems at the source.
Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.

If you stab a zombie through the heart, it will just keep on coming for you. The only way to really get rid of a zombie is to get it right through the brain.

Similarly, if you only try to slow down your content problems, they are just going to keep coming for you. To really beat them, you have to drive a stake through their brain. This means you can’t cheat with fast results, but non-steady tactics.

Think about things like click baiting. If you try it, you might see some results in the short-run. Perhaps your traffic starts to pick up, which was where you were struggling.

Well, guess what? If you shoot a zombie in its heart, it will be thrown backwards. It will be slowed down. However, that will only last a second. Same with these types of tactics. Perhaps it will ward off your concerns – or your C-suite’s concerns – for a short time, but eventually readers will start to see that you don’t have anything to offer them. Then, that poor traffic is going to start occurring again.

What you need to do is stop your problems at the source. Don’t try for a quick fix. Instead, ask yourself why you have been struggling with [fill in your content problem here.]

Perhaps you are not worrying enough about quality content.

Maybe you are not choosing topics that interest your readers.

It could be that you are not taking enough advantage of other content tools, such as social media or video content.

Once you figure out your real problem, you have to fix it. That is the only real way to keep those zombie’s at bay.

  1. Avoid “undead zones.”

One of the best ways to be bitten by a zombie is to go to a zombie hang out zone. There are just some places where there are more zombies than others. If you find yourself surrounded by a billion other zombies, you have a much worse chance of escaping as you do if there are only a few.

Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.

With your content, don’t put yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by dead weight. If something isn’t working for you, change it or cut it loose. If you keep trying to make something work that is not working, it’s still not going to work, and all of a sudden, 10 other problems pop up as well.

Deal with a problem as soon as it arises before you end up in a zone of problems all out to get you at once.

  1. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Maybe you have spent the last several years developing the skills to be the world’s best zombie survivor. You have more zombie kills than anybody. You get cocky. No zombie can stop you. You let your guard down. And then boom. A zombie gets you.

The key to a good content plan is …

… constant vigilance.

You may have a killer plan now, but things change and what people want changes too. Never get cocky, and never stop watching your analytics. The second you think you know what you are doing is the best, is the second that you start having problems.

In order to keep your status as the best, use the following advice:

Keep analyzing your results to make sure that no problem is quietly sneaking up on you.

Always keep your competition on your radar. You might be doing great, but maybe they are doing even better. You know how you don’t have to outrun a bear, you just have to outrun the person you are with? Make sure you keep outrunning your competition.

Start making changes before you have problems. Always be cutting edge.

Step 3: The Apocalypse Is No Place to Be Alone

Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.

Everybody has different skills. In order to really have a chance of surviving the undead is to form a posse of complementary zombie fighters.

With your content, your greatest chance of being great and getting the results you want is to create a killer team.

  1. Learn to invest in quality help.

As the un-undead march through a post-apocalyptic world searching for means to survive, they meet other groups of people. One of the things they have to be able to do is tell who is a real ally and who will sell them out to the nearest pack of living dead.

It’s easy to decide, people are people. I just need a whole lot of them writing words for me in order to throw something up on my site.

Let me emphasize this next point:

Do not, under any circumstances, be this person.

I hate to break it to you, but Google does not only like good content:

It hates bad content. You have to actively get rid of poor quality writing on your site and start putting up only good content.

This means that you can’t just use anybody you meet who is willing to take a couple of bucks. You have to find the real people who can, and will, actually help you.

So when you are investing in help from a freelancer, content firm, or contractor or if you are looking for a content partnership, don’t go with your cheapest option.

Make sure you are picky with who you choose to work with.

Less is more if your choices are a lot of bad content or a little bit of great content.

Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.
  1. Assemble a top-notch team.

The last point was about the people you meet along your journey before moving on. In the zombie world, it’s that person you meet for one episode and form a temporary alliance. In the world of content, it is the outside help you get in the form of freelancers, etc.

However, what about your team?

Obviously, you still need good quality team members here, but this point examines something else as well. You want your day-to-day team to be well-rounded.

There are many skills needed to fight off zombies, and everyone won’t have all of them. It’s hard to be a sharp shooter, a strategist, a leader, a close combat fighter, a peacemaker, and everything else all rolled up into one. That’s what a team does, though. With the skill of all the team members combined, you should have the ultimate zombie survival pack.

Guess what?

The same is true of your day-to-day content team.

You probably can’t be the analytics guru, content writer, strategist, multimedia extraordinaire, social media savant that you need to be to run a content program on your own. But that’s okay. Just make sure your team meets all of those different aspects together.

Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.
  1. Make sure your team is run by a leader.

Without Rick and Daryl, where would the cast of The Walking Dead be? My guess is that they’d all be wandering around with the rest of the zombie-fied, searching out brains. (Except for maybe Carol … )

You can have all the components of a great team, but if it has no leader, it is going to be aimless. Make sure you have a true leader in charge of your content team in order to really make sure it will survive.

There are many signs of a good content manager. Here are just a few of those skills that you should be looking for in a leader:

They should know the content marketing world inside and out.

They should know how to keep up with the changes.

They might not be the best at every content area, but they are still good at most of them.

They can handle the creative side, the analytical side, and the people side.

They know how to inspire the people around them.

Step 4: Don’t Just Survive – Thrive

If you can just find some place so obscure that even after time zombies won’t find you (perhaps a house boat as I’m pretty sure zombies can’t swim), then you may actually be able to survive indefinitely without doing much else. However, you certainly won’t have a TV show, movie, or book, highlighting your incredible zombie skills.

Similarly, you can find some weird method that will allow your content to survive in some semi-manner or the other for a long time. However, if you really want to see great things in your content marketing program, you need to do more than survive. You need to thrive!

But how?

Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.
  1. Find your inner strengths.

Sometimes it takes a zombie apocalypse to let you see your real colors. Perhaps you lived your life a weak, scared victim of domestic violence and all of a sudden you realize that without your tormenter you are capable of being a tough, zombie killer. Maybe you realized that you were playing the part of a good guy but are really a wife-stealing, back stabber. Who knows?

When it comes right down to survival, though, zombie apocalypse or content marketing, your best chance is to find out who you are and play on it. Take some time to examine your company.

What is it?

Why is it around?

Why should people care?

What is your purpose?

What sets you apart from the competition?

Who is your target audience?

Really take the time to figure out who you are. When you create your content marketing plan, it is your best chance to show your customers and potential customers just who you really are.

  1. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

Have you been skimming this article the whole time waiting impatiently for me to finish that point about zombie pets? If so, then your wait is finally over!

If you do watch The Walking Dead, you are probably familiar with katana-wielding Michonne. If so, then you might remember that when we were first introduced to her, she had two zombie pets, which she kept on leashes.

Getting close enough to a zombie to de-jaw them and remove their arms, without killing them, seems pretty risky to me. Yet, she did it.

She should be your role model.

Why?

Because while what she did was dangerous, it had an incredible risk-reward. Zombies left her alone after that because her zombie pets masked her smell and probably other reasons the more zombie-knowledgeable could tell you.

If you want to really stand out as a top-notch content marketer …

… then you also need to take risks.

Trust me, the risk-reward often makes it more than worth it. Think of it this way, if you just stick with the crowd, how will possible customers and clients ever find you?

Stand out by doing something your competitors aren’t. Sometimes it won’t work. Others it will become the best thing you ever did.

There are lots of ways you can take risks with your content marketing.

Use that new, untested medium that nobody is using quite yet.

Talk about something controversial.

State an opinion on a trending topic.

Be true to yourself. Even if it means that some people won’t like it.

  1. Stay Human!

What sets a human apart from a zombie?

Their humanity.

What sets a good content marketing plan apart from a bad one?

Often, it’s the ability of marketers to prove they are human.

When your content marketing efforts start sounding like corporate rhetoric spewed out by a computer, then your program is dead.

Sure. It’s still out there roaming around searching for some easy prey. However, it isn’t really helping you out any. All it’s catching is the brains of the weak. All the clients you really want to catch aren’t going to fall for zombie marketing tactics.

Courtesy of Flickr.
Courtesy of Flickr.

Good content marketing is human. It tells a story. It plays on emotions. It makes people want to be a part of it.

So if you really want to keep your content marketing efforts alive, the answer is simple: show your readers that you are not just some company – you’re people just like they are.

The Good News

If you are afraid that your program has become a zombie already, don’t worry! The best thing about this analogy is that it is imperfect. In zombie lore, once you turn, there is no turning back. However, in the world of content zombies, the same cannot be said.

No matter how rotten and crumbly your program has become in its zombie cycle, it can be fixed.

Just start over and use these tips. Soon, you’ll find yourself right back on the side of the living. And perhaps you’ll also find your content a lot higher up on Google.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Daniel is the Chief Marketing Officer at TruConversion.com. He’s an experienced executive with a passion for strategy, problem solving, and achieving results. Daniel’s broad experience with both startups and enterprise clients gives him a unique perspective and ability to connect the dots for brands of all sizes. He loves writing on content strategy, marketing, and optimization initiatives.

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