RALEIGH – At this year’s Internet Summit, attendees were greeted with live music, a deejay, an abundance of photo opportunities, and, if you were lucky, a glass of wine or beer at 2 in the afternoon. The latter a benefit that seemed only to be had in the VIP room.

The message on day one of two at the Raleigh Convention Center, however, was a little less edgy: by creating engaging content you will develop an ongoing conversation with your customers and develop the coveted fans all brands are looking for. Sessions also focused on best practices for using everything from video and email marketing to social media to get the conversation started.

The words of the day were messaging, content marketing, email marketing, data analytics, digital communications, and, oh yes, messaging and content, content, content. While automation, analytics and artificial intelligence were part of the discussion many speakers on the first day of this popular summit focused on message-driven content development.

Creating a Unique Brand Through Content

For the 12th year in a row, the Internet Summit features big names tackling the challenges facing marketers, content developers and public relations professionals, among others. However, the message was quite simple: know your audience and create content that reinforces and builds your brand.

WRAL TechWire photo

Music kept the mood light at the Internet Summit.

Scott Dikkers, founder of the satirical newspaper The Onion, attributed the paper’s early success to finding a group of “misfits” who created and captured the paper’s brand. The writers the paper attracted, and the writers who were most successful, said Dikkers, were those who “were bitter and hateful and had no prospects.”

“These were my people,” he said. “Creative people turn to comedy to cope. I wanted to create a cocoon for these people, so they did not worry so much about their problems or the problems of the world.”

But how did The Onion keep the momentum going? By focusing on “building fans, not profits” and letting the writers do what they did best, said Dikkers.

“The more freedom I gave my writers,” he said, “the more work they did. And they became better writers than me.”

According to Dikkers, finding the right writers and giving them a voice and freedom helped created a powerhouse brand that began as a “band of misfits” but was transformed into what he calls “one of the most celebrated creatives teams in the world.”

Five keys to content

At the session, Differentiating Messages to Break Through the Noise, digital news leader Dan Gilgoff, who has worked for giants National Geographic and CNN.com, offered brands five must-haves for creating engaging, unique content:

1.       Be you. Know who you are, what your fans and users want and create content accordingly.

2.       Be different – and distinctly you. Look for ways to tell the story that is unique from your competitors.

3.       Express a point of view.

4.       Break up big moments into small ones. In other words, don’t tell your story all at once.
stretch out a moment into multiple engagement moments.

5.       Tailor message to the platform. Use multiple platforms from video to social media to engage your customers and build your brand.

While day one focused on content, messaging and data, presenters also focused on the future. Amazon’s Chief Evangelist Isbitski gave a peek into the growing “voice first world.” On day 2, millennials become the focus for marketers targeting this growing demographic.

However, day 2 had to wait. Even before the last presentation ended, attendees flooded the Raleigh Convention Center’s Mezzanine for more exhibitor giveaways, loud music – and an open bar.