Top 6 Takeaways From Arianna Huffington’s Marketing Nation Summit Keynote

Photo credit: @ariannahuff

Photo credit: @ariannahuff

This morning Arianna Huffington gave the opening keynote at Marketo’s 2015 Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco. Best known for founding and building global media empire The Huffington Post, Arianna has also become a mainstay as a headlining keynote speaker at software conferences.

Her keynote this morning in particular was filled with a number of inspiring nuggets of wisdom for marketers as Arianna applied her key learnings from 10 years of disrupting the media industry with The Huffington Post – and eight years of recovering from a collapse due to burnout.

Here are six key takeaways from Arianna Huffington’s keynote:

1. More participation. Less top-down consumption.

Until recently, “entertainment” came in the form of messages delivered to an audience directly from a media organization. It was a one-way conversation in which audience members were just consumers of information.

As a media company, one of the major ways that The Huffington Post has been disruptive is that it has given everyone – whether they’re a trained journalist or a celebrity or a business leader or a homeless teen – the ability and opportunity to become front-page newsmakers and prolific content creators. As Arianna said, “People don’t want to just consume news; they want to create it.”

Your buyers, prospects, potential customers, future advocates – whatever you want to call them – are people too. As a result, that desire to experience marketing rather than just absorb it transcends into their professional lives as well. As marketers, we have to stop blasting and start providing engaging experiences for people at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

2. Trust is the new black. Nothing else matters.

Journalists and marketers have a lot in common, including the fact that they are two of the least trusted professions in the world. (Ouch.) Forward-thinking media companies have attempted to rebuild trust by publishing content by regular people who look just like their readers.

We can’t do it alone, either. Marketers can take a page out of that book by incorporating people who look just like their buyers – knowledgeable peers – into the various marketing campaigns and content that they produce.

3. Become indispensable to create customer loyalty.

If you’ve visited The Huffington Post lately, you’ll notice that while “hard news” can still be found across the website, the publisher has expanded significantly to focus on content that adds value to reader’s lives. One example? The “divorce” section that helps people navigate the murky waters of splitting up with your spouse. As a formerly taboo topic, information about divorce from both experts and people who have actually gone through the process can be sparse. The Huffington Post saw the opportunity and filled the gap. It’s one of their most popular sections to date. This kind of content – often referred to as “service” content in the media industry – used to be the domain of women’s magazines.

Press releases and product announcements aren’t enough. Marketers must listen to buyers to find out which topics they’re struggling to find information on and fill the gap with content from in-house experts as well as external customers, partners and other folks who want to share their experiences and expertise.

4. The social web is the new front page.

While senior editors have always chosen the placement of news based on their expert opinions, the front page of the future is in the hands of the people. The most-shared and most-linked-to pieces of content will rise to the top while the content that doesn’t resonate enough with readers to get them to share it falls “below the fold”. Hopefully you’re getting the point by now: The same goes for our marketing content. Whether it’s social shares, retweets, likes, upvotes or comments, our advocates “endorse” the best content and share it with everyone they know.

5. You can’t stand out if you’re burned out.

Arianna changed focus in the second half of her keynote, moving from sharing how The Huffington Post has disrupted the media industry to inspiring the hard-working marketing professionals at the Marketing Nation Summit to change their relationships with work and stress. She shared the story of how she collapsed at work one day. She woke up in a pool of her own blood and needed multiple stitches after smashing her face on the way down. Her doctors told her there was no cure for her condition; she was simply burned out and had to start taking better care of herself.

This incident was the start of a very personal mission for Arianna that she applies in her own work and also brings to her employees at The Huffington Post. She evangelizes downtime, disconnection, naps, yoga, meditation and other activities that typically induce eye-rolling in the average high-performing marketing professional. She believes that the ultimate creativity and productivity killer is the stress created by the multi-tasking, mobile-addicted, always-on work culture so prevalent at many companies.

She covers this topic in-depth in her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. While her story is extreme, it’s illustrative of the “go-getter” ideal many marketing professionals are trying to achieve. It’s also a reminder that we owe it to ourselves as well as our employers, colleagues and customers to invest time in recharging our own batteries to ensure we’re at the top of our game.

6. Giving back is a shortcut to happiness.

To survive, many of us are downright selfish at times. We take credit, budget, time, energy, resources and more from our colleagues and customers all the time. But how often do we make the effort to give back?

Arianna asked every marketer in the room to become “go-givers” not just “go-getters”, a challenge that is especially relevant at a time when marketers are increasingly responsible for the customer experience. It’s time to ask ourselves what we can do to help our customers not just get what they paid for, but help them become better at their jobs and happier with their lives. We can still ask them to engage with us in ways that are beneficial to us, but it’s essential to find ways to reciprocate as well.

Which point from Arianna’s keynote resonates with you most? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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