The internet may be international, but is your content? Pam Didner shares the secrets of global content marketing for businesses of all sizes, and reveals the story behind her bestselling book (spoiler alert: she wanted to write a novel but it didn’t work out).
She also explains how writing fits with her speaking and consulting activities:
‘Working, writing and speaking, from my perspective they are interconnected and they are all related. The way I see it, if I can put an idea in writing, it means I understand that idea well enough to write it. If I can speak about it, it means that I can put the ideas in the right context to explain to my clients or attendees who come to the conference, and if I can actually apply that idea into some sort of framework or the process that I created, it means the idea is valid and can apply to real life.’
If you’re tempted to procrastinate and if you’ve tried getting up at 5am to write and failed miserably, you’ll find lots to encourage you here.
Pam’s site: https://www.pamdidner.com/
Pam on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PamDidner
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge (starts 18 September): https://alisonjones.leadpages.co/proposal-challenge/
Alison Jones: Hello and welcome to the extraordinary business book club. Today I’m here with Pam Didner who is an expert in global content marketing, the author, in fact, of Global Content Marketing. She’s a speaker and an educator and her consulting firm Relentless Pursuit works with big companies and startups to help them scale content internationally. It’s wonderful to have you here Pam.
Pam Didner: Oh, the respect is mutual, Allison. Hi, everyone. It’s wonderful to be part of the podcast.
Alison Jones: Let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself Pam. How did you get into content marketing and what’s your take on it?
Pam Didner: Great question. It all started when I was managing Enterprise and B2 B marketing at Intel. Granted, Intel sells microprocessors, but we also have a wide array of platforms and the software tools that we develop to enable our customers’ sales team, I mean sorry, our customers’ partners and ecosystem. Some of our products are fairly complicated and technical and we need to actually create content to educate our sales team on the sales side. We also need to create content to educate our customers about these products and that’s how I got started on the content marketing side of business, is actually try to share, educate and explain very complicated products to a target audience.
Alison Jones: It’s more about information and telling people who are already quite engaged, giving them more information about the product.
Pam Didner: They can be engaged with us and we also have a new target account or the potential customers that we want to reach out. It’s a combination of both. Right. Existing accounts or existing customers and also the new customers that we want to reach out to that have no ideas that Intel sells these type of products.
Alison Jones: That is important, isn’t it, because there’s content that you create for people at all these different stages.
Pam Didner: True.
Alison Jones: Did you think of it as content marketing at that point or were you just telling people stuff?
Pam Didner: I think at that time I was actually telling people stuff. Eventually what we did is, we felt like, oh, that content we created, it’s relevant and compelling and why don’t we actually share that with our marketing channels. That’s how we got started. To make things a little more complicated, obviously Intel sells products worldwide. As a marketer in headquarters, which is me, I needed to work with our regional and country marketing managers to make sure that content’s also available to them. That experience, if you will, of working with our local teams, led me to write the book about global content marketing.
Alison Jones: Let’s get to that, because it was Melissa Romo that recommended, you, very very warmly, to the podcast. She said, I think her phrase was that you were one of the few people to make sense of global content marketing. That struck me as being really interesting and significant. Why is it so hard to create content that is truly global?
Pam Didner: That’s very kind. Thank you Melissa for the kind word, if she is listening to your podcast. Well, before I talk about global or content marketing, let’s define what content is and also what content marketing is. There is a definition about content I think is actually fairly nice, it was created by Erin Kissane: “Anything that conveys meaningful information to humans is called content.” I actually like that definition a lot. What about content marketing? There is a definition, there’s a lot of definitions out there on the net, but this one by Amanda Maksymiw, actually created by her, resonates with me greatly: “The process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers.”
Obviously we are not creating content for the sake of creating content. We are creating content trying to be helpful, at the same time, we are mindful that we want to grow our business as well. If you think about it, the essence of content marketing is to help our customers or challenge our customers, on the B2C side, there’s a lot of gamification, that’s to entertain our customers. When the products are complicated you need to educate your customers. Then another thing is, when the process of the buying cycle is very long, the content can also facilitate the buying or the purchase cycles. The essence of content marketing is to help, to challenge, to educate, to entertain, and to buy.
Things get a little bit more complicated on the global side. You need to take another layer or other elements to it and how to do that. To scale to a different country. Does that make sense, Alison? The content marketing part of it is actually not very hard if you think about it. It’s really, you create a plan, you create your editorial, you produce your content and then you promote your content. The things that get much harder is when you add another layer, which is how to scale the content to different regions. That tends to be where the complexity comes in. If you think about it, the global content marketing, it’s the four elements. You plan, which is your sort of strategy before execution, you produce, which is you create a content that matters, you promote it, that means you distribute and syndicate the content to different digital channels, perfect it to optimise and measure to drive the maximum impact. Now it’s a matter of communicating and sharing my thoughts for each element in the context of global, which is the collaboration between the headquarters and the local team.
Alison Jones: I love the four Ps model. We’re all used to the four Ps of marketing, but you’ve got the four Ps of content marketing, I like the way you’ve given that twist there. What do people normally get wrong when they do that? I’m very much imagining you get perhaps a US-based content marketing team and they produce content and they just ship it out because ‘the internet is global’. What are they not bearing in mind?
Pam Didner: It’s a matter of having conversation with the local team. Understand what are some of the nuggets and of complexity in the local markets. I understand everybody is under the timeline, especially in the marketing organisation. There’s always like, go go go go go, we have to get this done yesterday, and for the content creation, it’s important to actually sit down, have a conversation with the local teams. Understand their needs. Not just what we want to create, but also what makes sense for them, and then create the content that they can also use.
Granted, not everything that’s created at the headquarter levels can be used or leveraged by the local team. There are times the local team needs to create content themselves. Now it’s just a balance of finding the local vs the headquarters and also have a discussion, have a collaboration and communications to discuss who is doing what. Who is leading, who is drafting. Who is making the effort, and if somebody’s actually working on that to minimise any duplications then you probably should take the backseat. There is quite a bit of communication that needs to happen between the headquarters and those other local teams.
Alison Jones: That means that the local team is better placed to source local stories, to be aware of local sensitivities, to use the right terminology, all that kind of stuff.
Pam Didner: Exactly. The localization part of it, yes.
Alison Jones: Obviously what we’re talking about here is somebody like Intel, one of those big multinational corporations, but you work with startups too. If somebody has ambitions to be a global brand but they’re a one-man band, what kind of things do they need to think about? They haven’t got local teams in place, but how can they create content that will scale internationally?
Pam Didner: Yeah. That’s actually hard, to be honest with you. There’s a couple of recommendations or suggestions. Obviously if you are one-person show, the budget is always very tight and you don’t have a lot of resources. There are two recommendations I will go with, actually three if you think about it. First one is, you are on your own, and you do the content and then you just work with translation houses to translate that and there is no modifications, no localization, and that’s probably the easiest way and probably cost effective way to do it. May not be most compelling to your customers at the local level but again, that’s probably most effective.
The other one is, the second one is, let’s assume you actually have a sales team or sales representatives actually on the ground. You can actually work with a sales team directly, and they can provide the feedback, to understand what the locals needs are and then work with the sales team to actually create content. That’s the second option.
The third option is actually hire the local marketing agency. It doesn’t have to be somebody very very expensive, right, but work with somebody at the local level and kind of like outsource your content and work with them to localise the content. That can be a cost effective option as well. These are the three things I would recommend.
Alison Jones: Yes, I think that’s really interesting, particularly working with the people that you do know out there on the ground, because they’re going to be in a good position to find stories of how your product’s going in there and that sort of stuff.
Pam Didner: Right. Another thing is, sometimes you don’t have your direct sales team on the ground but you are working with channel partners or distributors. That’s totally okay too. Reach out to them. I am sure they are willing to help you because whatever you do is going to help them to sell. Another option is actually work directly with channel partners and distributors.
Alison Jones: What comes across as well is that focus, right back at the beginning when you were talking about that definition of content marketing, it’s that purpose. It’s knowing who it’s for and knowing what the action is. If you’re thinking about global content, then it’s not a scattergun approach, is it? It’s not content that will land anywhere.
Pam Didner: No.
Alison Jones: You’re very much targeting the countries, the languages, that are going to be significant for you, for your business.
Pam Didner: Yes, that is true.
Alison Jones: Fascinating. Now, going back to you for a second. You do the consulting, obviously you do the writing, you’re a very sought-after speaker. How do those three elements, the working, you know, the actual consulting, the day to day practice, the writing of the book and the blog and all the stuff, the content that you create, and the speaking, how do they complement each other for you?
Pam Didner: You know, working, writing, and speaking, they are from my perspective they are interconnected and they are all related. The way I see it, if I can put an idea in writing, it means I understand that idea well enough to write it. If I can speak about it, it means that I can put the ideas in the right context to explain to my clients or attendees who come to the conference, and if I can actually apply that idea into some sort of framework or the process that I created, it means the idea is valid and can apply to real life. The way I think about it in terms of writing, speaking, and working, is writing and speaking, they are the form of communication of my ideas and my thought. Working with a client is really about putting them into practice. Does that make sense? From my perspective they are all related, and if I created a certain framework, trust me, sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t, because when you put ideas into process, and a lot of times humans are the ones that implement that process, and every company, they employ different talents. Everybody works differently. What I’ve found is the ideas can be very good but when you put into practice, I need to modify that ideas or modify my framework to make it work. So they are all interrelated and I try to make them work. Sometimes it doesn’t work that way, but I’m trying.
Alison Jones: I’m guessing that sometimes actually there is a disconnect and that’s helpful too because it forces you to go back and rethink what it was, as you say, that framework or that idea.
Pam Didner: Oh yeah, totally. There was a time, yeah, yeah, definitely. I will be speaking about the framework before I test it sometimes because the topic I talk to. I like to put things in framework and putting into perspective. If I put it in a structured manner, the attendee can easily comprehend and internalise the topic. There are times I actually put it into a framework and I explained it and then when I put it in a practice I was like, no, the steps is not really working, what am I talking about? So you are totally right. It goes both ways.
Alison Jones: That’s so interesting isn’t it, because I think sometimes, I know I do this, I fall in love with my beautiful elegant model, and you kind of filter reality to fit it. It’s good to be engaged every day in the reality so that you’re forced back to go, do you know what, it might be lovely, but it doesn’t work.
Pam Didner: I know. Happens all the time.
Alison Jones: Do you have, once that virtuous circle is going and you describe very well how they work together, where do you start? You know when you get a glimmer of an idea, of a bit of intellectual property, a framework in your head, do you have a kind of private writing, or do you draw things out? What’s your incubator for your ideas?
Pam Didner: You know, that’s actually a very good question. I actually do these two in parallel. I usually start with writing, because writing is an interesting, at least for me it’s a thinking process. I write and I edit, and I write and I edit at the same time. When I started writing and I put things into some sort of a sequential thought, and of course when you are writing you go back and forth and you move things around, and through writing I will crystallise my ideas and then I will try to put that into some sort of drawing and some sort of framework. That’s how my mind works, but i have worked with a lot of colleagues and what they do is, they like to talk about it. It’s two or three people shooting breeze, over a coffee shop or in the pub. We talk things through. While we are talking about it we will draw at the same time on the napkins. Then out of that something will come up. That also works for some people, but for me especially if I’m working by myself, it’s usually I’m in my own study, I’m staring at my computer, and what I do is just punching on my keyboard. Try to crystallise my ideas. But I can work both ways, if you will.
Alison Jones: Maybe you’re an ambivert. I’m an extrovert, and I find the napkin scenario is much more me.
Pam Didner: Works well.
Alison Jones: Fuelled by coffee. Yeah.
Pam Didner: Yeah. Or a couple glasses of wine. That works well.
Alison Jones: Yeah. I quite often find the ideas that seem really great when I’ve had a couple glasses of wine, then the next morning, not so much.
Pam Didner: Hear you. That has something to do with ageing, okay? There was time, I can take a whole bottle of wine. Now I don’t think so.
Alison Jones: Yeah, no, no. I don’t think I ever could, to be fair.
Now, your book, Global Content Marketing, it was like 2014 that was published, wasn’t it?
Pam Didner: Yes, it is. It’s about three years ago. Oh my god.
Alison Jones: Gosh, is that three? It almost seems like yesterday, doesn’t he it? Were you a different person the day after that published? What change did that make to you, kind of professionally and personally?
Pam Didner: Actually, I wanted to write a novel. There’s always a little desire in everybody to actually write a novel, I don’t know about you, but when I talked to my friends they were like yeah, I would love to write a novel. I was like, yeah, me too. I actually started, I started, that was something I want to do, to write a novel. Then I come to realise I absolutely have no calibre to write a novel. I suck. I suck so bad, it’s not even funny.
Alison Jones: I’m so glad you had the guts to recognise that. So few people do.
Pam Didner: Oh my god, I just suck. I suck. I thought about it, I said, what can I write? I was like, okay, I cannot write a novel. The things I can write is a trade book. I can certainly share my expertise, right, or the mistakes I have made over the years. I start thinking about, I can write a trade book, right? That’s how everything got started. Started with the novel first, then decided like, oh my god, I’m just not good at this, which is true, and I acknowledged that. It was a painful process, and then I made the transition to actually write a book about the things that I learned, if you will. That’s how that book came about.
On the personal level, writing a book has always been on my bucket list as one of the items I want to do. Publishing a book is kind of like giving birth. Actually, no, not giving birth, it’s like having a C section. I was totally amazed I actually got it done. I learned so much, so much about myself during that whole process. That was on the personal level. I suck, no, I’m kidding.
I learned that the whole creative process is a self-abusing journey. You literally like, if anybody wants to be a writer, you are kind of like, you like to abuse yourself to some extent. I’m not kidding. You know, a lot of people that, they will do these extreme sports, yeah, to seek the high, and from my perspective that’s also a form of self-abusing. They are people like me, and I don’t do that, but the way that I feel like, you know, it’s not like a sense of achieving greatness. It’s a sense of having a creative outlet to validate who you are. I found that writing, or writing that book actually satisfied that desire. Does that make sense to you? Does that sound a little awkward?
Alison Jones: No, it’s really fascinating. I don’t do extreme sports, but I do run marathons, not often, and not fast, but I do, and it’s the same sort of thing. While you’re doing it you’re thinking, why, I’m never going to do this again this is absolute madness. I’d forgotten.
Pam Didner: Never going to do this. Why am I doing this? Why am I abusing myself to this level? Am I-
Alison Jones: That’s right, and at the end, you feel like you’ve really achieved something and it has that sense of self-actualization, you know, Maslow would be proud of us, and validation.
Pam Didner: I totally agree. I totally agree. On a professional level, that was a huge surprise to me. Through the book I was able to meet many many people around the world. The book was translated into Chinese, and so I got a chance to meet other people in China. The book will be translated to Hindu next year, and a PhD business student translated my book in Farsi, which is one of the ancient languages that’s still spoken in Iran. People reached out to me, connected with me, in a way I had never expected. That was such a pleasant surprise, if you will, and I made friends around the world.
Alison Jones: That’s wonderful and I love the way that bridges the personal and the professional as well, actually. But let’s focus on the professional for the minute. What impact did it have on you professionally?
Pam Didner: That somehow also led to the departure from Intel. I worked at Intel for almost 20 years, and Intel has been an awesome company. When I joined Intel the company actually valued people and encouraged people to move around. Long time ago, 20-some years ago I was a CPA, that means I was a accountant, and a bean counter, however you want to call it. From there I moved to operations and then I moved to manufacturing. I was on the manufacturing floor and I did supply chain management. I did product development. Eventually, somehow, twist of fate, I moved into the marketing world. I was able to do so many different roles in the same company, and I got the chance to see how a company runs, how a global company runs, and being able to stay in one company. I’m forever grateful for that.
But, you know, after almost 20 years, Alison, I don’t know if you have ever reached a midlife crisis yet. I did. I reached that stage and I started questioning, you know, why am I doing this, and I’m staring having second thoughts. Who am I ? That somehow led to the book writing and led to the departure of the corporate world. I was a corporate junkie for a long period of time, and then now I’m actually working for myself.
Alison Jones: That’s interesting because the book obviously triggered that but also sustained it, because without that platform it would have been much harder, wouldn’t it, to have the credibility to launch your own consultancy?
Pam Didner: I 100% agree with you. A lot of people say that a book is a one-pound resume. That is so true. That is so true.
Alison Jones: That’s really interesting. When you actually write, how do you do it? What’s the mechanics? What does it look like when you sit down to write? When do you do it? How do you do it?
Pam Didner: Oh my God. I will do everything, everything possible to delay writing. I am not kidding, because it’s this self-abusing process and you don’t want to get into it right away. Before I write, I say oh, you know what, I probably should do laundry first. Oh, you know what, I probably should vacuum first. Oh, you know what, I probably should make dinner first. There’s a lot of that making excuses in my mind. The way that forces me to write is deadlines. I will take on bunch of deadlines and I will say, yes, I will get that done tomorrow. Or next week. Deadline is a forcing function for me and force me to sit down and write. I know a lot of people prefer to write in the morning. I actually write at night. The saddest part for me is I’m actually most productive between 7 to 10 PM. I usually have client meetings during the days and my days are fragmented. It’s very very hard to focus, so I tend to write from seven to ten.
There were period of time I actually tried, I tried, to get up early, like 5 AM. There’s a lot of famous writers, they get up early and they try to get their writing done before 9 AM. I tried to do that. I cannot sustain it. I just realised that I’m a total owl. I have to sleep until 8 AM. There’s not much to it. Yeah. I usually don’t wake up until about 7 AM and then I try to get a lot of stuff done and then I start writing from 7 to 10 PM.
Alison Jones: That’s hilarious, and we are complete opposites. I’m up at half 5 and I get my most productive work done in that kind of first couple of hours of the day, and I am good for nothing after about 9, 10 at night. It’s quite funny.
Pam Didner: Very good. Very good.
Alison Jones: Well, it is, but anyway, it’s just how you are, isn’t it? Knowing how it works for you, but I’m also laughing because I remember interviewing Natalie Reynolds, one of the earliest podcast episodes, actually, and she had a heck of a deadline. She ripped up her entire manuscript, had to write the entire book again in I think it was about sort of six weeks? Maybe less than that, maybe it was two weeks.
Pam Didner: Are you serious? I could not do that. I would be drinking a lot during that time if I actually had such a compressed deadline.
Alison Jones: I know, it was hilarious, honestly. You should listen to the episode, it’s so funny and you could actually hear me gasping when she says how she deleted the manuscript because she didn’t like it, but she said even with that deadline, she’d sit there, she’d sit down, she’d sort of open up the laptop and then go, “Do you know what? I should empty the dishwasher.”
Pam Didner: Yeah. I’m not kidding. That happen to me all the time. All the time. Even today, it was like, you know, I actually have a blog post due like in two days. I was like, oh, I still have 48 hours. Why don’t I do something else instead?
Alison Jones: That’s your tip, is it? Get the deadlines? You’re obviously an upholder. I don’t know if you know Gretchen Rubins’s framework, but upholders will only do something if they promise somebody else they will do it.
Pam Didner: That’s right. Totally true.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Find out what kind of person you are, find out what works for you, and then use it shamelessly. Brilliant. I was going to say what’s your best tip for a first time business book author, and maybe that’s it, but do you have any other tips for people who are listening?
Pam Didner: Well, you know the Nike slogan, Just Do It? My take on this is just freaking do it, you know? Just do it. There’s not much to it. Don’t make the excuse, just do it. Open your computer, and pick up your pen, whatever you want to do, just do it. The things that I’ve found is, another tip is have a good framework, how you want to share your expertise or tell your stories, right? One example that I use for me is four Ps. You know, there are three Cs, customers, process, or whatnot, or create some sort of abbreviation, like SMART, or something like seven steps. If you actually have some sort of framework, that will facilitate your writing process.
Another way is actually break down your knowledge in specific topic and address them accordingly. They don’t need to be interrelated, right? I was reading a book about the success of Mcdonald’s, and I think the name of the book is talking about Behind Arches. Obviously there’s a lot of success elements associated with the growth of McDonald’s, but the way they talk about it is topics. They have one topic talking about suppliers, and they have another topic talking about business model. Then they have another topic which is another chapter talking about their process. You can also create a framework. It doesn’t he have to be like four P’s, three C’s, or seven steps or whatnot, but break down that by a specific topic. Determine your framework first, in addition to just do it, that will help in terms of finishing your book or the first draught of the manuscript. Is that helpful?
Alison Jones: Absolutely. I love that. When I’m working with clients we always have what we call a working table of contents. We do that kind of macro view of the thing. I think it’s so important to try and, if you can, it doesn’t he always work, your right, sometimes you just have a mass of chapters or it’s chronological, there are different ways of organising content-
Pam Didner: Totally agree.
Alison Jones: -yeah, but if you can create that sort of distinctive model, that bit of intellectual property that’s just yours and is the framework for your book, it’s also such a great, you can visualise it, you can draw it out for people and it can serve as the sort of basis for talks and so on. It’s really powerful if you can manage it. No, I like that a lot. Brilliant, thank you.
Now, I always ask my guests on the show to recommend another guest. I’ve found this is really helpful. This is how you are here, of course, from Melissa. Somebody with something interesting to say about the business of business books. Who do you think I should have on next?
Pam Didner: I will like to share the name Donya Dickerson. She is one of the senior editors at McGraw-Hill Education in New York City. I personally think she will be a great person to talk about the publishing side of business books. She is fantastic.
Alison Jones: That’s great. I love talking to publishers as well because I think it’s a partnership. We’ve had Helen Kogan on and Adrian Zackheim, and a few other publishers, and it’s great to get that perspective as well. I think useful for people listening.
Thank you. I don’t know her so that would be wonderful to talk to her. I don’t know many people at McGraw-Hill, actually, it’s just one of those companies I haven’t really come across in my career, so that would be really interesting.
Pam Didner: Yeah, check her out.
Alison Jones: Yeah. Pam, if people want to find out more about you, more about global content marketing, where should they go?
Pam Didner: Oh, just google Pam Didner or go to my website, pamdidner.com, or just reach out to me via different social media channels. I’m fairly active, I wouldn’t say all the time, but if you reach out to me through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, I’m more than happy to actually engage and also connect with you.
Alison Jones: Wonderful. I put those links in the show notes, so people can find you as well.
Pam Didner: Awesome.
Alison Jones: I’m obviously, I thought you were going to say I’m more active when I’m supposed to be writing, because that’s another favourite procrastination technique.
Pam Didner: Let me check on my social media channels first before I start writing, yeah. Then one hour passed, and I didn’t write a single word, yes, yes, been there. Done it.
Alison Jones: The internet rabbit hole. Wonderful. Well, that was absolutely fascinating. Thank you for being so frank about the way that you write as well. I think it’s hugely encouraging to people like me, I’m still desperately trying to finish that first draught, so hearing that the procrastination thing is common to others is very helpful.
Pam Didner: You’re welcome.