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Think like a publisher

Categories: Articles, Brand Journalism, Cafe Blog, Content Creation, Content Marketing, Content Strategy
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To understand Content Strategy, think like a publisher.

This helps both clients and project teams understand what content is being produced, how it’s being produced, by whom, when, and why.

Thinking this way also helps you consider how the message is best explained—words, image, video, screencast, juggling dog (forget that last suggestion. It’s early morning and I’m just being silly).

“Content strategy helps you strike up a conversation with the  hearts and minds of your audience.” John Richardson, Content strategist and Copywriter


Plan, develop, and manage informational content—written and rich media. When you think like a publisher you start with content. It’s not some afterthought. And you avoid the common pitfall of building the site and hoping the content will come.

Has that dog been at my content again? Usable, existing content is hard to find. It’s buried everywhere from a leaflet in the back of a Creative Director’s drawer—happened to me—to hidden in the minds of subject matter experts that you’re not allowed to talk with— also happened to me.

Content is political. Content can also be intensely political and needs countless sign offs and, therefore, revisions (we can’t say this). All of which takes time.


Let’s start at the beginning. If you want your content on time, start the ball rolling in the beginning of the process. And this is just the tip of a very long pencil.

Content strategy helps you plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful and useable content (see Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson).

“It plots an achievable roadmap for individuals and organizations to create and maintain content that audiences will actually care about. It provides specific, well-informed recommendations about how we’re going to get from where we are today (no content, or bad content, or too much content) to where we want to be (useful, usable content people will actually care about).”

Critical to content strategy is deciding what you want to achieve with your audience (which might not be content; it could just be an idea). Then decide if your content/idea will help you meet this goal.


RELATED: Here is a useful and usable guide on content strategy, created with the collaborative effort of all the global content strategists at Blast Radius —including myself.


John the Copywriter’s belly-achingly funny social video recipe for the dangerously uncool Ford Focus

Categories: Cafe Blog, Content Marketing
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Ford were about to announce a massive recall of its 2102 compact car the Ford Focus for being dangerously uncool.  The social media was on fire with its view that the Ford Focus was a “Piece of S**t”.  “Today I had a dream somebody stole my Ford Focus. It was a good dream”

The result: The 2012 Focus Launch Campaign featuring Doug, Ford’s Spokespuppet.

More on Doug’s story at Mashable

John the copywriter’s recipe for an art thriller

Categories: Articles, Cafe Blog, Content Marketing
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My latest journalistic adventure about the reopening of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum (inspired by a brilliant BBC documentary) has all the ingredients of a mad, crazy, insane art thriller.

The restoration of this national monument to Dutch history was supposed to take three years. But it took them 10 years, which gives you some idea of the obstacles they had to overcome. It was scheduled for completion in 2008.

So what took it so long? Some historic aquatic problem, some logistical issue?

No! The uniquely Dutch issue: The humble bike.

Read the full story in the ZINE, my monthly expat magazine: 

Penguin and Panda Update

Categories: Content Marketing
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Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm. The G in Genius? Or the O in Obfuscate?

I’ve been a writer for many years and I can tell without blinking that great content does not come from a formula. Instinct, gut feeling, being in the flow and in the zone play the important roles here.

In all honestly, nobody knows where ‘great’ comes from. All I know is that it comes in at a high left trajectory. Hence the expression left of field. Apart from that I don’t have a clue.

This is not how ideas arrive all the time, but when they do they are inevitably surrounded by an aura, a life force of their own. It takes great effort not to clip their wings in an attempt to fit them in the media for which you are being paid to fill.

You know you have a great piece of  content when it has that certain something, that je ne sais quoi. A quality or attribute that is difficult to describe. So it’s hard to judge rationally. You just ‘know’ it’s great.

So how, I ask myself, how has Google managed to come out with an algorithm that can measure this beauty? It’s almost as mysterious and the writing process itself.

In the process of updating this algorithm with the introduction of Penguin and Panda algorithms, Google has declared war on the sneaky tactics of some of its SEO practitioners. Less a game and more a skill, Penguin and Panda are designed to help better writing and PR rise to the surface.

The new kid on the block is Content Marketing. Which is a good thing. I’ve always hated the gaming nature of the web.

Some say that Google’s love affair with content marketing is not only going to leave SEO behind, but it will also impact ‘traditional’ online media.  While I believe there will be a new renaissance between SEO and Content Marketing, especially with strong internal navigation, I have to wonder how these magic algorithms will pull this off.

My question will always be: “How can the objectivity of algorithms account for the subjectivity of quality?”

If Google have cracked this conundrum, without conning us or themselves, I think they truly must to credited with the title of “Genius”.

Just like the financial markets, what if they have created algorithms so complex that nobody understands them anymore? What if these algorithms are creating their own algorithms? Then we content writers are at the mercy not of our own gut instincts, but of an artificial intelligence. One that nobody readily understands. Which work at speeds that nobody can comprehend.

Can we really trust this reality? And if not, what is the alternative? Play the game, which they say is not a game anymore, or find alternative ways to engage customers? And how do you know if you are paying the game correctly if the rules are subjective?

Google describes “quality content” as “content that you can send to your child to learn something.” Which I think means that your content should be easy to understand, informative, useful, useable, engaging and shareable.

Which takes writers years to master.

Develop High-Quality Content. Or have it created for you.

So what is the answer? To stand any chance of getting your content to rank well in the new world that Panda and Penguin have created, you should only publish highest quality content on your site. Even if this means slowing down to publish better, longer, meatier content. If you don’t have the expertise in-house to deliver great content, you should consider outsourcing your content creation to published pros.

Authoritative authors can raise the perceived value of your content. If there is anything we can learn from the financial market is “Don’t underestimate the value of perception”.

Great content is 90 percent perception.  The perception being that it’s not about you anymore, sorry, it’s how well you articulate the value you can bring to your prospects and customers. That’s it. It’s about professionally created content that builds the audience that builds your brand. And the best, most qualified to that are subject matter experts and writing pros. If you don’t have either, seek outside help. It’s an investment that will pay off for the future of your brand.


John the copywriter’s recipe for a sound logo

Categories: Cafe Blog, Content Marketing
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Food for the ears.

Take one Hamburg skyline and its reflection and turn it into a sound wave. Then record idea with the Philharmoniker Hamburg orchestra. Eye-wateringly delicious.





You can listen to the logo in the video below.


Agency: kempertrautmann GmbH
Client: Philharmoniker Hamburg
Creative director: Marcell Francke, Patrick Matthiesen
Art director: Bruno Luglio


John the copywriter’s recipe for a post digital era

Categories: Cafe Blog, Content Marketing
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We need to put the ‘dig’ back into digital. Right now it’s more ‘genital’ — generation digital spends too much time playing with its code in darkened rooms while pouring over HTML magazines, and needs to get out more. Walk the streets. Meet people. Dance with the great unwashed. Smell life’s armpit. Mix pixel with pulp and create some ‘pixel fiction’.  The Volkswagen ‘Fun Theory‘ campaign is a great example.

John the Copywriter’s recipe for how great leaders inspire action

Categories: Cafe Blog, Content Marketing
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I have a very dear friend whose website only talks about how great he is and how he has discovered the secret to storytelling.  I keep telling him to get rid of his screaming ego and make himself useful.  “Show don’t yell,” I whisper. Write me a story I care about.

What is your world view? What are your beliefs?  We all know who said “I have a dream.” But do you know who said, “I have a master plan that only me and my expensive ego know how to use.” I didn’t think so.

Content marketing is about talking with people. Not at them. It’s about sharing invaluable advice and insights they care about. It’s about listening, listening, listening. And earning the right to heard and shared.

Do you have any advice for me? Any insights? You do? Then you’re well on the way to becoming a content marketer. Sometimes known as a thought leader. Which is odd. It’s all about opinions, right? So how can one opinion be more important that the other?

One way is to wrap it with a unique world view: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” ― Mahatma Gandhi.

Or a challenging insight: “People buy cars for emotional reasons, but justify their decisions with rational arguments.”

I love this TED talk video from Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action.

He talks about the why, how and what. Not what, how and why. The best take out is this thought: “People Don’t Buy What You Do. They Buy Why You Do It.”

Watch this inspiring TED talk and you too can start to become a better content marketer.



John the copywriter’s recipe for Kaiseki—Poetry on a plate

Categories: Articles, Cafe Blog, Content Creation, Content Marketing
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Breathtakingly, eye-wateringly, bank-manager-frowningly expensive.

How long is it since you were utterly blown away by a dinner?

Introducing Kaiseki…the ancient Zen art of “eating the seasons”.

A culinary art form that observes the harmony between food and nature and has been adopted among the Japanese elite as the high point of ritualised, no-expense-spared banqueting.

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