Over the past year, the editorial team here at IdealPath has been walking a fine line.
On the one hand, we’re avid believers in the principle that you should focus content marketing on a single channel first.
It’s better to do one thing really well than to do five things tolerable, after all.
On the other hand, there’s a growing understanding that while the written word is powerful, it’s not the only form of content out there. Like it or not, limiting our content production to written articles puts a ceiling on how many people we can reach.
From a creative standpoint, it also means we aren’t challenging ourselves to tell stories in new ways.
We’re sticking with what’s comfortable, and that rarely leads to anything amazing.
And so, we’re going to produce webinars.
However, you won’t be seeing our first foray into this new content format for several weeks, and that’s because we are making a commitment to do our utmost to develop a series that meets our own high standards for content.
Today I want to share some of the reasons why this particular content format is both highly exciting and genuinely terrifying for our team, along with how we’re hoping to navigate the perilous minefield that is running a webinar.
The Webinar Fears That Keep Me Up At Night
Full disclosure: I am not currently a webinar aficionado.
I’m a reader at heart, and given the choice between an ebook and a webinar I’ll take the ebook every time.
But it wasn’t until I started really researching the issues with webinars as a content marketing channel that I came to understand how truly terrifying actually making these things can be. If you do them badly, or even on a mediocre level, you risk:
- Alienating your audience
- Damaging your personal credibility
- Making marketers with a lot of Twitter followers really annoyed with you
- Causing a global apocalypse
Ok, that last one may be an exaggeration, but let me display for you some of the fully justified railings against shoddy webinars that are peppered around the internet:
“I spent an hour, and all I got was this frustrated blog post…I fault the conference organizer. When you’re pulling a group of speakers together, it’s your job to make sure they come off professionally, and your reputation is on the line if they don’t.”
“in the hands of people who aren’t production experts [webinars] can be the loaded gun with which you shoot your self in the foot.”
From the same post: “The trouble with the internet is it’s like the Sirens in Greek mythology. It lures you to your on-line death by encouraging you to think you can do stuff you can’t. The trick is to know your limits, and very, very few people are any good at creating webinars or content.”
“not all content deserves a webinar, but that never stood in the way of a determined marketer with targets to hit”
And these are some of the nicer ones.
Why on earth, you might ask, would anybody willingly start doing webinars?! I’ve been wondering the same thing.
The Webinar Hopes That Are Making Me Do It Anyway
There are, of course, lots of marketing reasons to try webinars. They generate leads, they spread brand awareness, they can establish you as a thought leader, etc. etc.
I like all those marketing reasons. I hope our webinars achieve all those great goals (and I’m not just saying that because my boss might read this).
But really, I’m excited about doing them for the reasons Darren Rowse talks about:
- Webinars connect you more intimately with your audience.
- By reaching many people at one time, webinars allow solo content creators and bloggers to scale themselves effectively.
- Speaking ideas in a live format generates new connections that you’d likely never get by simply writing them down.
- New content formats = new stories.
What I’ve come to understand is that, like great content in general, really impactful webinars have to come from a place of value to the audience.
My hope is that by approaching them with the goal of really connecting with readers/attendees on a personal level, telling our stories from different perspectives, and finding out more about how we can help average marketers be a little bit more awesome by talking about ideas, we will create some awesome new content.
But IdealPath’s mission is to go beyond hope and dig deep into how. So, this is how we’re hoping to do it.
Problem #1: Getting High Quality Speakers
Once we are getting hundreds upon thousands of people flocking to our webinars, I imagine this problem will sort itself it out. But in the meantime, we need to attract people who can:
- Draw a little bit of an audience on their own (because our webinars may not have much of one at first)
- Engage and entertain attendees for half an hour
- Meet deadlines for presentations, practice runs, etc.
- Not spend the entire webinar talking about themselves/their product/their company
- Be willing to collaborate with our team to get this done
The plan is to tackle this in several ways:
- Intersperse recorded interviews with influencers into our own content. Hopefully this will lower the barrier for them to work with us while still giving us the benefit of their expertise and audience.
- Experiment with multiple webinar formats, including panels and Q&A, to simplify the preparation process for busy hosts.
- Find presenters who may not be super famous, but have amazing “in the trenches” stories to tell that can make us all better at our jobs (more on this to come!).
Problem #2: Creating a Compelling Webinar Presentation
Once we have speakers lined up, we’ve got to actually put together the webinar itself. This is really a three-part challenge that encompasses the webinar topic, the visual presentation, and the spoken content.
Picking Webinar Topics With Care
The prime directive here cannot be about lead gen or ROI or any of those nice marketing goals we talked about earlier.
Webinar topics must be selected to help our audience. Period. Full stop. No negotiating.
Ok, now that’s out of the way, how do we pick each individual topic? We’re going to follow Neil Patel’s suggested two-phase approach:
Phase 1: Make the benefit better. Specifically, we’ll be delivering a huge benefit to attendees’ marketing careers in each webinar.
Phase 2: Educate viewers about a solution. We’ll be holding true to our primarily goal for all our content, which is to get very specific about how to achieve things.
As Neil says, “The most intriguing topics for a webinar are the ones that act mini-courses,” and that’s the model we’re after.
Helping Presenters Help You With Pre-Made Decks
For 90% of presenters, a strong webinar has to start with a prepared slide deck that they can customize.
If our goal is to unfailingly provide valuable content to our audience, we don’t have any options other than to involve ourselves in that content from start to finish. Phildarb, one of the ranters quoted above, makes a strong point about this very thing later in his article:
The speakers at these events, be they your local councillor or Tom Peters, need a framework at least to write their content around and it’s your job at the producer to ensure that they get that and adhere to it. The starting point for you is to decide what the overall message of the event should be and brief them accordingly. You can’t just turn up on the day for a jam session.
Getting More Out of Our Written Content
In addition to offering a presentation framework, we’re going to leverage our content powerhouse — writing — to create scripts for our webinars. Dan Shewan calls webinar scripts, “your compass, map and GPS rolled into one. It will help you stay on topic, and make keeping track of time much easier.”
We write well, and we are extremely prolific. We’re going to use that to our advantage wherever possible to make our webinars their best.
Problem #3: Getting People to Come to the Webinars
I think most of us have learned by now that simply creating great content isn’t going to bring hoards of audience members to our sites. We’ve got to promote our content aggressively and intelligently.
Although we’re going to be using the smart ideas of webinar pros to start with, a big part of this effort will be using our iterative, agile process to try different methods and see what actually works with our audience.
To start, we plan to use Jay Baer’s suggestion of making 1-minute promotional videos to describe what people will learn, advertising on social media channels, and putting our strong guest posting connections to work to bring in people who aren’t already IdealPath's readers.
You can definitely expect more coverage of what works for us (and what doesn’t) as we learn and adapt.
Problem #4: Proving the Webinars’ Value
Now comes the hard part. At least, it can be the hard part for us creative content types.
We’ve got to bring back data to prove how valuable our webinars are to the business that’s paying for them, not just to the attendees.
As with most marketing campaigns, the key to this is having your KPIs clearly identified before you launch your first webinar and making sure that you can actually track them all from start to finish.
For us, that’s going to be pure webinar signups, the percentage of repeat attendees, and the increased brand exposure we can get for IdealPath. Those first two are pretty easy to measure, but the last one’s going to be a challenge.
Again, more on all of the webinar KPIs will be coming. As always we’re excited to share our lessons and losses so we can all do things a little better next time.