When I was 10, I saw the Backstreet Boys perform from the first row. Seeing five guys whose pictures I had posted around my room in real-life was pretty much a dream come true – obviously.

Fast forward to 15 years later and I had that exact same feeling sitting in the first row of Content Marketing World, held in Cleveland, Ohio and hosted by the Content Marketing Institute. Getting a chance to see and hear some of my favorite marketers do their thing up on stage made the inner content nerd in me giddy to say the least.

There was Ann Handley! And Rand Fishkin! And Joe Pulizzi! I’ve looked up to these people professionally for some time now for their various accomplishments, but mostly because of the passion each and every one of them have for what they do. And this was the underlying theme felt throughout our three days spent in Ohio – you must be passionate about your storytelling. It’s the only way both it and you will realize success.

It would be impossible to dive into everything we came away with in one blog post –from the keynotes to the breakout sessions and even just through chatting with the various attendees, we were on information-overload. And so, I’ve managed to dwindle it down to a few of our top #CMWorld takeaways. Read them. Understand them. Live them!

Ask yourself “why?”

“The reason we are struggling with content marketing is because we don’t start with why.” – Kristina Halvorson

This was the tone Kristina Halvorson set with her Wednesday morning keynote speech. Her underlying message was that as content marketers we should not be doing something simply because it’s the status quo. You must have a logistical reason behind every effort you undertake. Try to become a master of one social channel or platform – then diversify once you’ve established an audience. One thing that’s true now, more than ever, is that the quality of your content is much more important than the quantity.

Your passion is your differentiator.

“The one thing they cannot take from you is if you fundamentally care more about your content than they do.” – Jay Baer

Jay Baer, a New York Times best selling author and digital media entrepreneur, made each content marketer in that expo hall stop and reflect on why we do what we do. We tell stories and create content that helps brings brands to life, solve people’s problems, and “bridge the gap between commerce and customer.” If we don’t realize this and realize the passion behind what we do, our efforts will fall short. Be proud of what you do – and others will stand behind it.

Be bold.

“Content marketing is the opportunity to create marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing.” – Ann Handley

The braver you are with your content, the better. This, among other key messages, was what Ann Handley wanted us to walk away from her session with. I have to say, Ann is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to the content marketing world, and hearing her take on the power of tone of voice within this type of bold marketing stuck with me. Tone of voice is key when it comes to the written word – it needs to encompass “culture, empathy, and story” and if it doesn’t, you’re missing the mark. So always remember to be bold and find your voice!

Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone.

“If something scares you, run toward it.” – Jeffrey Rohrs

Beyond how to develop stronger content marketing strategies, the conference focused on ways to make you, as an individual, stronger professionally. Jeffrey Rohrs gave us insight into his own career and how he became a CMO – and how we could too. For most, our careers take unexpected twists and turns. Along the way, there are certain things you can do to achieve the pinnacle of success. According to Jeff, these include:

  • Collaborating with your coworkers – not competing.
  • Solving problems, without being asked.
  • Seizing opportunities.
  • Helping your CMO wow their audience.
  • Being flexible.

I could write a separate blog post for each of these points and all of the other tidbits of information we came away with from the conference. We were able to meet and see some of our content marketing heroes do what they do best and learn from our peers who feel as passionately about it as we do.

Here’s to taking what we learned and figuring out how to apply it to our clients, our agency, and ourselves. Until next year.