On Thursday, September 8th, three Marketing/IMC students from the University of Akron’s College of Business Administration attended Content Marketing World. Content Marketing World is THE conference dedicated to content marketing professionals – marketing/PR professionals in an organization or agency that develop the specific strategy and handle the execution of content marketing tactics. The Taylor Institute was fortunate to receive funding to attend this year and we made sure that students also benefited from the experience. Two of those students shared their experience and have posted both of them on Where Theory Meets Practice. Here is the post from Matt Headland, a junior IMC and Marketing Management double major.

I awoke confused and perturbed. It was 6:00am on a Thursday, and I was already awake, despite the fact that my first class was at 10:45am. After clumsily slipping out of bed to chase down my pesky alarm, I groggily realized why I was awake. Once I had wiped the sleep out of my eyes, I hopped in the shower to prep for the big day ahead. I would be driving up to Cleveland for the Content Marketing World conference. While I stood in the steamy deluge I realized I had no idea what I was in for. No expectations and no preconceptions. I was ready to go and see what this whole content marketing thing was.

I hustled out of my room in Orr Residence Hall where I am an RA and chugged it on over to the North Campus Parking Deck. I hopped in the car, tossed on a podcast, and jumped onto the highway only to realize I was definitely going to be late. Yep. I was. I had intentions of arriving at the conference center around 8:00am, but that dream was crushed by the oppressive reality that is rush hour traffic from Akron to Cleveland. Once this drama was over, I arrived at a dreary gray morning in downtown Cleveland, where I stepped onto the street in what I deemed “Startup Attire”: dark washed jeans, brown wingtips, and a dress shirt. I strolled into the conference center feeling nervous, but excited. I quickly realized my choice of outfit would fit in well at this place. Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers were the norm, and no judgments were passed. After frantically texting my fellow student conference goers, I hesitantly walked into the large session area and took my seat in the back. Whoa. It was HUGE. I was astounded by how many people were in there, and how diverse the group was. There were people there who looked younger than me, and people there who could easily have been my grandparents. They were all gathered there to learn more about this new, exciting thing called content marketing.

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After this first session, I was intrigued. I met up with my fellow Zips and we talked about what the day would look like. Sessions, exhibition hall, sessions, lunch, and sessions. I was into it. I immediately started checking out the handy dandy schedule on the back of my name tag. I identified a couple sessions I wanted to go to, and we were off. The first session was really, really interesting. It was a panel discussion about what kind of people content marketing agencies should hire. Do they hire writers (which I’m not, technically), or do they hire marketers (which I almost am)? The debate raged on for 45 minutes, with the questions about specialization the most intriguing to me. All I could think about was my 10th-grade history class, in which the most Youngstown man I’ve ever met (Mr. O’Neill) talked about how during the industrial revolution, people began to specialize in certain fields, instead of being “Jacks and Jills” of all trades. The content marketing specialization discussion landed with everyone agreeing that it’s important for people working in content to be able to do a little bit of everything, which contradicted what was going on in my head. I imagined a bespectacled 20-something startup cliché, of a man slaving away at a desk in Brooklyn writing a blog post about cat sweaters for a pet company, while considering the baskets he needed to weave and the corn he needed to husk and the social media campaign he needed to generate for an office supply company. I giggled to myself. With an industry so new, it may be a couple years before people start to get down to the nitty-gritty of each discipline within content, and really flesh out what roles should be filled by what people.

The rest of the day, I sat in a session about REI’s success with long form content (my personal favorite session), one about engaging millennials in banking via content, and one about social media. There were a few others, but none as thought-provoking as that panel I sat in on. My main takeaway from the conference (other than an intimate knowledge of Mark Hamill’s special coming up on network TV) was that this industry is so new that everyone is still figuring out what is going on. It’s like when we figured out steam could make stuff move which could lead to specialization which leads to more free time and so much other good stuff. Does this industry have the capability to revolutionize marketing in the same way? Who’s to say? I know one person who is not to say, and that is Mark Hamill, God bless him.

By: Matt Headland