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Jason Miller: How To Own A Conversation With Big Rock Content

By Native Advertising Institute on February 21, 2017

What is 'big rock content' and how do you find it? What can native advertising do for your content marketing? How do you become interesting to users?

Jason Miller Global Content Marketing Leader at LinkedIn gave us the answers to these questions and more at Native Advertising DAYS 2016 where he was one of the talented speakers. Get notifications about Native Advertising DAYS 2017 by signing up here and be the first to know about our early bird offers. 

Below are highlights from the interview which have been slightly edited for clarity. 

"I tell the story of the marketer" 
"I was hired by LinkedIn to build up a global content engine to drive brand awareness and lead generation. When I started three-and-a-half years ago we had just launched sponsored content so it was a really interesting time to come on board. My job is to tell the story of the marketer on LinkedIn and how they can use the platform to meet their marketing goals, to expand the reach of their content, to connect with what we call the professional mindset."

You create a Big Rock and you map this empire [of content] back to that.

'Big Rock Content' and what it means for your content strategy
"'The Big Rock is a substantial piece of content that you're creating with the purpose to own a conversation. So for example at LinkedIn when I started years ago you would type into the search engine; how do I market effectively on LinkedIn? There was lots of competition there. So my job was to own that conversation, create content that map back to that, but also use our platform to amplify it. And the Big Rock is how we attack that.

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So how do you find that conversation? Well, you do a little keyword research and you look at the search queries that are driving traffic on the conversations and the topics that are important to your brand.

It's really quite simple. Think about what the number one question is that your product or service answers or can solve? Then you create content around that. You create a Big Rock and you map this empire [of content] back to that."

There's a lot of folks who think that the inbound marketing alone is enough and I think that's crazy.

Brands and publishers are missing out if they don't use native
"The role of native advertising is important to me because it helps amplify the content and reach new audiences. There's a lot of folks who think that the inbound marketing alone is enough and I think that's crazy because then you're only reaching the audience that's already following you.

If you want to break through and get beyond that you need native advertising to expand your reach. I think that's the real opportunity; just expand on that audience, get to the professional mindset and connect with a professional audience."

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If you want to succeed as a marketer you need to be an interesting person 
"I used to work in the music business and I love the music business, but instead of embracing digital it fought it and it just kind of crumbled in on itself. So I finally got fed up and quit back in 2009.

I had to reinvent myself but I didn't want to lose my connection to music. It turns out that I can take these very complex marketing stories and distill them down using rock'n'roll analogies. It just makes sense to me and it's kind of a fun and entertaining way to deliver it. There's always a heavy metal references in almost everything I do.

There's lots of smart marketers out there but how do you stand out?

It's important for marketers to differentiate themselves because it's a very crowded space. There are lots of smart marketers out there but how do you stand out? So I think if you find your passion and you can infuse that into your content, then you're going to be able to stand out. I love heavy metal, I love Seinfeld and I always kind of weave that into my content and it's just my personality coming through."

"Native advertising is forcing us to be better marketers"
"[Native advertising] is forcing us to be better marketers, it's forcing our content to be more relevant, it's forcing us to understand our audiences better, so I think marketers have the challenge to do better, to be better marketers. Native advertising is that kind of litmus test where we can test and measure our efforts, and I think if we do well then maybe this ad blocking thing won't make sense anymore.

Own don't rent
"Native Advertising is fuelled by content, powered by content. Without good, remarkable content you don't have a strategy. But having a source of good content that is consistent and relevant that's the owned media empire and it powers native advertising. You can't have one without the other.

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But in the era of brands thinking like publishers why would you not want to create this owned media empire where you're not renting space for your content anymore.. you're owning your own content. I think there's a big movement to go back to your own channels such as the blog, the website, your app."

Brands as publishers have a long way to go
"Brands as publishers is still a new idea and I think we have a lot of work to do. I think some folks have figured it out -- the usual suspects -- but the rest of us just need to try a little bit harder. But the opportunity is to be more relevant and be smart about your audience and your targeting.

Focus on quality over quantity
"Focus on quality over quantity. We don't force ourselves to post something every day or write an article every day. Say something when you have something to say.

For me, it goes back to just are you an interesting person? Do you have something interesting to say? How can you take your personalities, combine them and make it into something that someone wants to read?

I don't know if there are lessons that publishers could take from me. I take a lot of lessons from publishers just on a much smaller scale. But I am my own audience. I market to marketers so maybe I have it a little bit easier than other folks do."

Think like a search engine
"It's easy [to find the content users want]. You should think like a search engine, right? The search engine's job is to deliver the most relevant content based on the query. Your job as a content marketer is simply to be that best answer through all those tactics and disciplines coming together; SEO, PR, social, content. That's where the sweet spot is.

We overcomplicate this all the time

If you have these different disciplines working in silos, then it's a fragmented disaster. But if you do the keyword research, if you know the conversations, if you understand your audience and you basically answer their questions and supplement that with some editorial thoughts and some inspirational ideas and a little bit of entertainment... That's what remarkable content does.

We over complicate this all the time. Answer a question and then have just some good content to back up the conversation along the way."


Photo credit: Thos Ballantyne/Flickr