Boston Content Hacks Away At Top Brands’ Content Challenges: Hackathon 2018 Recap

On June 20, over 50 members of Boston Content’s community convened for an evening of creative, content collective innovation. After kicking off the evening with pizza and networking, the event began with a keynote delivered by Boston Content co-founder Jay Acunzo.



Attendees then split into teams to help solve pressing content challenges for some of Boston’s top brands, including Mendix, Wish Route, Cuseum, Resilient Coders, RainTaps, Charitable Confections, and Horizons for Homeless Children. The sky was the limit as attendees flexed their creative muscles to solve tough problems with fresh insight.  

After a one-hour “hack,” attendees reconvened to present their ideas to brand representatives and the rest of the group. Below, check out some participating brands' biggest pain points going into the hackathon, as well as what strategies they plan to use as a result of being content hacked.  

Special thanks to our host, Joanna Cohen and Fidelity Labs and drink sponsors, Drift!

Charitable Confections: paying it forward

The challenge:

“We applied as a two-pronged entity that includes the Haiti Scholarship Association, which is our partner organization ("charity du jour") in Haiti and currently has a nonfunctional website. The success of every program that we implement in Cite Soleil relies directly on the functionality of HSA, and how well potential volunteers understand what we are trying to accomplish. We would like to get to a point where the content on both of our sites have a cohesiveness that reflect our joint programs and projects.”

The outcome:

“During the hackathon, my group discussed tactics that would help my nonprofit and our Haitian partner organization implement a new tutoring idea, called "Pay it forward," that would rely on having guests at a Port-au-Prince-based upscale hotel -- where one of our Haitian volunteers works -- come to our center in the slum village of Cite Soleil to do a one-time volunteer teaching stint. That guest would then find another guest to visit our center to pick up on where the previous tutor had left off in the lesson plan, thus continuing the cycle of benevolence.

What I really appreciated about the input was that it addressed the issue from multiple angles that included both website and flyer content as well as how to conduct follow-up exit interviews to gain a better understanding of how we could continue to improve our methodology. The suggestions were also broad in scope as far as dealing with potential outcomes, ranging from the most aspirational (having the hotel feature our nonprofit's work on their site) to the bleakest (having none of the guests care enough about the plight of the children to feel any motivation to help)."  


The challenge:

“We need help developing a content plan to grow readership in different regions: the U.S., Netherlands, the U.K. and Germany. We have year over year growth in the U.S. but in our other regions we don't have consistent growth. We also need to figure out how to gain blog subscribers without having people unsubscribe from our blog.”

The outcome:

“Our team focused on the theme of career growth and career transformation for how Mendix can help close the talent gap -- making it possible for non-developers to seek new career paths, for professional developers to accelerate their careers, and for CIOs to develop their teams. As a result of the brainstorm, the content team at Mendix is going to develop content that highlights the trajectory of a person's career when they use Mendix. We hope to empower others about what's possible with low-code application development.

Another challenge we face at Mendix is delivering content that is engaging for people in different regions. As a result of our brainstorm, we are going to develop blog posts for our international partners to post on their websites to raise awareness of Mendix in local markets across Europe.

Many thanks to everyone at Boston Content for all the great ideas!”  

RainTaps: international beer day? heck yes.

The challenge:

“My top challenges with content are:

  • Generating consistent content

  • Finding content partners

  • Creating a clear message for the blog. Because of the breadth of the possible content (fashion, beer, tap handles) and limited number of posts, the blog doesn't have a clear message.

The current goals for the business is to develop a small base of loyal customers and have consistent sales. I'm looking to form a group of customers that will bring repeat business and will also be advocates for the product(s). Along with that I'd like to have some steady sales through the year.”

The outcome:

“My team came up with the brilliant idea of doubling down on Instagram engagement with followers and brewery partners by doing a series of giveaways leading up to International Beer Day on August 3rd. For each day of the campaign, I'll give a follower a cool piece of merch to promote one of the breweries. I've already selected a couple of the breweries and I'm about to start ordering some of the merch.

Another idea was to create visually informative pages around popular beer regions. This is to make my site more engaging when visitors are browsing around. For this, I'm going to take some of my existing content around individual breweries and use it to build out the regional pages.

Really excited to see what the results of the new strategies are!”

Wish Route: leveraging partnerships

The challenge:

“Wish Route promotes and curates content for our users, rather than creating original content. One challenge is understanding opportunities and strategies for cross promotion: If we promote an exercise video, article or recipe to our users, is there an opportunity to ask that content creator to consider promoting Wish Route? How would they go about that? What is the shareable moment? Another set of challenges is the time it takes to find and vet content -- this includes tracking content we have vetted and capturing the right information (tags) about each piece of content so we can match it to a specific user. Currently we use excel spreadsheets but assume there are better ways and technologies we could use.

We are also manually testing the exercise- and nutrition-related wishes with a sample of test users as we refine/develop the service. Feedback thus far is awesome! We are looking for the right tech savvy team member who can help us build a web application to support the Wish Route process. This will allow us to add automation/AI and scale to a larger beta test and ultimately to a product we can go to market with. We aim to have a product to market early 2019.”

The outcome:

“The incredible group of content hackers came up with really fun ideas for a partnership program. To list a few: Interview the experts and create panel events -- we can post to our YouTube channel and the interviewees  may share the interview with their followers too. Create a “seen on Wish Route” badge that bloggers can add to their site. Share feedback we get from our users with the content creator and create awards for content that is most impactful to our users. Everyone likes to win awards and knowing your content had a big impact is even more powerful. Thank you to Boston Content and all our hackers. Can’t wait to roll out many of the ideas that come from our session!”

How to Hire a Content Marketing Intern

Brittney Joyce is the content marketing lead at Shoobx, where she works on all things marketing- and writing-related. Prior to joining Shoobx, Brittney ran her own content marketing business and also worked as a legal analyst at a financial litigation firm. You can follow her on Twitter @bpjoyce91.

You’re a busy content marketer with what feels like an endless amount of work to do, and projects are piling up fast. Summer is upon us. Are you thinking about hiring an intern to help take your content strategy to the next level? Interns bring a lot of energy to the table and can be a huge value-add for your marketing team, while gaining valuable professional experience in the process. However, as appealing as the prospect of hiring an intern might be, deciding to bring one onto your marketing team should be a thoughtful decision.

If your company doesn’t already have an internship program in place, you’ll want to carefully consider the structure and goals up front to make sure that the internship experience is positive and productive for both the company and the intern. This post breaks down some of the major steps that should go into defining the internship role, finding an intern, and setting them up for success.

Define What the Intern Will Be Doing (And Write It Down)

You’ve decided you want a content marketing intern. Great! Before you go any further, take some time to define what they’ll be working on with your team. Think about daily tasks, short term projects, and (ideally) one bigger project the intern can own over the course of their internship. Some helpful questions to consider when choosing this type of project are:

  • Is this something that the intern can make meaningful progress on in the timeframe of their internship?

  • Can you provide adequate structure and guidance over the course of the project?

  • Does the project provide opportunity for creative and strategic thinking (i.e., will they have true agency and ownership and not just execute on someone else’s vision the whole time?)

The needs of your organization will ultimately define what projects your content marketing intern works on, but finding something that meets the criteria above usually strikes a happy balance between intern professional development and progress toward marketing goals.

In addition to projects, it’s important to be realistic about your preferred experience level. Do you have the time and resources to mentor and train someone with no experience, but great potential? Would a more experienced intern or upperclassman be a better fit for your organization? Defining this early will help clarify your candidate search.

Once you know what the role that you want to fill looks like, drafting a job description gets a lot easier. This is a great opportunity to show some of your company’s personality while clearly defining what you’re looking for. Don’t just phone it in — use it to give candidates a taste of what working with your team will be like! Job descriptions are just another form of content, after all.

Know Where to Look

When hiring an undergraduate content marketing intern, there are a few places you can launch your search (and you may choose to try several in parallel):

  • Recruiting Platforms. Handshake, a recruiting platform, is widely used at many U.S. colleges and universities for both full-time and internship opportunities. It’s free for employers.

  • Career Services Websites. Sometimes you want to go straight to the source for access to internship-seeking students, particularly when their schools don’t participate in a platform like Handshake. Some schools have their own platforms for job postings, and others will circulate opportunities they receive to their students.

  • Academic Departments. Do you want someone who’s a Marketing or Communications major? Maybe English or Journalism? Check the relevant department websites for your target schools — sometimes reaching out to the right leader in the department to share your internship opportunity is a highly effective way to target candidates with the specific background you’re looking for.

While you’re looking, you probably also want to consider location. Do you want someone local? Or are you location-agnostic? If you’re hiring a summer intern and there’s a possibility of extending intern work into the school year on a part-time basis, you may want to target local schools in your search.

What to Look For

The qualities in a content marketing intern that you’re looking for will vary depending on the work that you’re hoping to have them focus on, but as a baseline, you’ll want someone with excellent writing abilities. This means that your job post should ask for writing samples. Not all the applicants you encounter will have non-academic writing samples, and that’s okay — learning to write in a new form (for instance, blog posts or marketing emails) typically doesn’t take too long for a motivated content marketing intern who has strong writing abilities to begin with.

As you bring in candidates to interview, you’ll want to ask questions to better understand their interest in the role, both in terms of content marketing work and the company itself. Are they genuinely enthusiastic about the work and potential projects involved? Have they looked at your company’s blog or social media profiles? Do they actually like to write? How will this experience fit into their post-graduation plans and goals, and (potential) future career as a content marketer?

Set Your Intern Up for Success

Once you’ve found your dream content marketing intern, plan for their arrival. This should include an organized approach to getting them up to speed on their internship projects and day to day tasks, an overlay of the marketing landscape at your company, and clear guidance on the resources available to them. Information related to writing conventions on your marketing team (style guides or editorial best practices) and brand voice are particularly helpful in orienting a new hire in a content role, as well as examples of content produced for different channels. Start with smaller projects, provide feedback, and ramp them up to bigger responsibilities.

You should also make sure to check in with your content marketing intern about their goals for the internship early on. Your intern is there to help your team progress important projects, but they’re also striving to develop their professional skills and experience, so understanding their goals and interests will help you better identify opportunities to do that. And keep the conversation going throughout the internship — goals usually aren’t static, so communication is key to staying aligned on projects and progress.

Not ready to hire an intern for the summer? Many students look for internships during the school year as well, so start gearing up for the fall semester and get yourself an amazing content marketing intern to kick off the school year.

Why The Hospitality Industry Needs to Be Marketing to Millennials

Ana Cvetkovic is the founder of BLOOM Digital Marketing, a creative marketing agency that helps the hospitality and tourism industries reach millennials online. Ana has worked with the Smithsonian, AAA, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, TouchBistro, as well as restaurants and boutique hotels throughout the United States. As a proud member of the millennial generation, Ana enjoys getting travel and dining inspiration from Instagram.

Whether you love to hate them, hate to love them, or are one yourself, millennials have become an unignorable economic force. Millennials’ spending power and habits make them ideal consumers for the hospitality industry.

Pay attention, hospitality content marketers! Whether you represent a restaurant, bar, hotel, cruise ship or event space, here’s why the hospitality industry needs to be marketing to millennials.

1. Millennials have the most spending power of any generation.

Despite growing up and entering the workforce during the Great Recession, millennials, born roughly between 1980 and 1995, have made an economic comeback. Despite all odds, millennials have the most spending power of any generation before theirs, with an estimated $200 billion per year spend, and $10 trillion lifetime spend as a generation.

With billions at the ready, how are millennials choosing to spend their income?

2. Millennials would rather spend money on experiences than on things.

If you’re a millennial, it may not come as a surprise to you that 78% of your fellow generation mates prefer spending money on experiences rather than on material goods. Social status is no longer achieved by owning luxury watches and purses, driving a nice car (Uber, please!) or owning a house with a white picket fence.

For millennials, status is achieved by being the first of your friends to visit an off-the-beaten path travel destination (goodbye Paris, hello Porto), by knowing the password to the trendiest speakeasy, and by having access to exclusive experiences.

Fortunately for hospitality and restaurant marketers, millennials are primed to spend their $10 trillion on exactly what you advertise! Here’s proof:

Now that you know millennials’ spending habits, let’s examine how they decide what to spend their money on.

3. Most millennials review online content before making purchasing decisions.

We are lucky to live in a time with so many options when it comes to dining out and making travel plans, but with myriad possibilities comes great pressure to make the best decision possible. Millennials vet online content to maximize their purchasing decisions.

Something as simple as deciding where to eat comes with many interactions with online content. According to TouchBistro, most millennials visit a restaurant’s website, menu or social media before deciding where to eat. A millennial might also do the following before choosing a restaurant:

  • Scroll through Instagram to see where friends have eaten recently

  • Search Google Maps for “restaurants near me”

  • Use Yelp to see what the restaurants’ most popular dishes are

Unlike members of older generations who rely on travel agents to plan vacations, millennials take a hands-on approach. Boston Consulting Group confirms that millennials rely on online content when making travel decisions. This interaction with online content might include:

  • Browsing Pinterest or Instagram for destination inspiration.

  • Reading travel blogs and following the social media accounts of local influencers or tourism boards to research attractions and restaurants.

  • Reading reviews on TripAdvisor to find the perfect accommodation.

Why The Hospitality Industry Needs to Be Marketing to Millennials

As millennials’ spending power continues to grow, businesses in the hospitality industry will only remain competitive if they maintain a compelling and dynamic online presence. While creating a memorable in-person experience is the cornerstone of hospitality, leaving online content as an afterthought will alienate millennials, who are ready to spend on the experiences the hospitality industry is providing. For the hospitality industry to thrive, digital marketing needs to be a priority.

Now that you understand why restaurants, bars, hotels and the rest of the hospitality industry can’t ignore millennials in their marketing, learn the top marketing strategies for attracting millennials to your hospitality business.

Spring Cleaning: It's Time to Audit Your Blog Content

Brittney Joyce is the content marketing lead at Shoobx, where she works on all things marketing- and writing-related. Prior to joining Shoobx, Brittney ran her own content marketing business and also worked as a legal analyst at a financial litigation firm. You can follow her on Twitter @bpjoyce91.

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where my content is? You’ve got a blog where you regularly publish thoughtful, quality content, and as a content marketer this is probably a core component of your work. Blogging really harkens to the roots of content marketing (and for fond memories of the birth of the movement, you should revisit the River Pools story), but a “set it and forget” approach to blogging isn’t going to get you far. To leverage your blog to its full potential for your content marketing strategy, doing a content audit can yield valuable insights and give you the opportunity to ensure your blog content remains a fresh and powerful part of your content marketing strategy. This is a high-level overview to get you started if you’re thinking about taking the plunge and doing your own content audit. In the great tradition of spring cleaning, I encourage you to read this post, roll up your sleeves, and dive in.

Identify the “why.”

A content audit for the sake of doing a content audit is not a good use of your time. Your audit will yield insights into the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy, but what specifically are you interested in? Determining what kind of content is most effective? Identifying gaps in your current content collection? Reevaluating whether your content still serves your company’s business objectives and speaks to your core audiences? Nailing down the “why” before you get started will serve as a guiding light throughout your process.

Get organized and index your blog content.

Create a spreadsheet to log of all your company’s blog posts and the accompanying notes as you review each one. If you have a lot of blog posts, pulling together all of their information can be a time-consuming process, and you may want to look into using an SEO crawling tool to catalogue the URLs (although note that many of the more robust options aren’t free). In addition to post URLs, your content index should include:

  • Post title

  • Author

  • Metadata (keywords)

  • Tags

  • Traffic stats (page visits, bounce rate, average time on page, and any other stats of interest)

  • Number of social shares

  • Number of comments

  • Word count

  • Last update (or date of publication)

Evaluate content.

Your content audit goals will ultimately inform the criteria with which you’re going to evaluate your blog content, but as a baseline, the following fields are helpful to include for any strategic review, and are separated out from the fields in the previous section because they require more qualitative assessment. For most of these, you can rate them with a 1-5 grading scale:

  • Adherence to brand voice: Your blog evolves over time and may have multiple authors and styles. Does your content adhere to the current iteration of your company’s brand voice, as determined by style guidelines, brand architecture, or company values?

  • Readability: Is your blog post a massive wall of text, or do you have regular subheadings? Are your sentences long and complex, or direct and reader-friendly? Does the title clearly indicate what the content is about? Is the writing level suitable for your target audience?

  • Accuracy: Is your blog post content still accurate, or is it out-of-date? Does it provide helpful information to your reader or is it misleading?

  • Knowledge level: Is subject matter expertise required to understand your blog content, or could a lay person understand it? Does the knowledge level align with your target audience?

  • CTA: Does your blog post have a clear, actionable CTA? Is it missing a CTA entirely? Is the next step championed by your CTA the strongest option for your readers?

  • Business objective: What business objective for your company does this blog post serve? Is it educational content, information about your product, or something else? Pre-determine different categories of business objectives and assign one to each blog post as you evaluate.

Analyze your results.

Take a look at your blog content evaluation. Tabulating your ratings and sorting by the others stats that you gathered can tell you a lot about what content is really working for you, and what has room for improvement. You’ll notice that there are probably some quick wins (like adding or updating CTAs) and some that will require more work, like filling any obvious gaps in your content or updating previous posts to better serve your current business objectives and reflect your brand voice.

Make a plan and update your blog!

If you identified a lot of changes to be made, implementing them may feel overwhelming. Create a schedule to update the backlog of blog posts, and try to create a balance between the fast changes and the strategically important ones to stay motivated. And congratulations — it’s not even summer, and you’re well on your way to a powerfully updated blog. Happy auditing!