As an agency CEO, Lee is actively developing new marketing offerings, strategies and advancing thought leadership on content marketing, influencer marketing, social media marketing, SEO, and a holistic view of customer-centric digital marketing. Lee is a long time digital marketer that started working in web development and online marketing in the late 1990s. Lee’s interest in online marketing drew him to a start-up PR agency, Misukanis & Rodgers. A few years after introducing a SEO service called TopRank to the PR agency, that service became the company: TopRank Marketing and Lee became the CEO.
Besides working with an amazingly talented group of digital marketing pros, Lee is also the author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing and has been a blogging for over 13 years at toprankblog.com.
Lee is also an active public speaker and has given over 200 presentations, keynotes and workshops all over the world (San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis, London, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Moscow, Sydney, Antwerp, Auckland, Mexico City, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Bucharest, Oslo and Toronto) to name a few, on content marketing, influencer marketing, social media marketing, SEO and the convergence of marketing and PR.
How did you get to become an expert in content marketing?
I believe expertise is a journey of learning and I’ve been studying content marketing for many years. I didn’t do much writing growing up in a small Minnesota town or in the Army right after, but the twists and turns of my post University jobs eventually placed me in a role where content was definitively King.
My digital marketing origin story started with selling websites followed by teaching myself basic web development, design and SEO working with clients like Toro, Supervalu and the US Veteran’s Administration. Content was a natural progression and in 2001 I joined with Susan Misukanis and what became our current agency, TopRank Marketing. I was tired of pitching for business and started blogging to show expertise. 10 years and over a million words later, planning, creating, promoting and optimizing content are still a core part of our services along with influencer marketing, advertising and marketing performance optimization.
Part of my journey as a student of content marketing has been to recognize and engage with other industry experts. I learn from those experts and enjoy the mutual journey of what it means to be recognized as someone to look to for answers and how to deliver on those expectations. Most of all, I enjoy learning from my team of content marketing professionals at TopRank Marketing and our amazing portfolio of clients that includes companies like LinkedIn, Dell, SAP and McKesson – a Fortune 5 company that we’ve worked with for 10 years.
What areas of content marketing are you most passionate about?
Information overload combined with higher expectations from executives and fewer resources to meet them has many marketing departments in a bind. To solve that problem, I’m excited about the democratization of content creation to include collaborations with internal and external influencers, customers, brand communities, the media and prospective customers. Unlike UGC, the participation marketing approach creates opportunities to crowdsource solutions in the form of content. Collaborative content is often more authentic, includes expertise and credibility outside of the company and can inspires participants to promote amongst hard to reach communities of customers.
A few other areas of content marketing I’m paying a lot of attention to include the role of data and real-time personalization, modular content, artificial intelligence and how content will manifest in IoT devices. Changes in how people interact with devices for information are having an impact on how content is planned, created, promoted and optimized. I’m very interested in staying on top of those trends for our agency and clients.
In the future I think cognitive systems will use AI to handle all of the data intensive and structured aspects of content marketing. While that will make some content marketing roles redundant, it will also open up many new opportunities that can leverage AI systems to scale the “art and science” of content for marketing. I also think content will be even more collaborative in the future, especially with influencer integration amongst all business content and marketing communications.
Which content marketing influencers influence you?
There are so many content marketing professionals that are influential to me. Here are just a few:
- Ann Handley
- Joe Pulizzi
- Michael Brenner
- Jason Miller
- Rebecca Lieb
- Carla Johnson
- Stephanie Losee
- Carlos Abler
- Ardath Albee
- Robert Rose
Outside of content marketing who else influences you?
Again, there are so many. But here are 5 that are top of mind:
- Beverly Jackson – Social Media
- Adam Singer – Analytics
- Amisha Gandhi – Influencer Marketing
- Chris Brogan – Marketing. And being a good human being 🙂
- Michael King – SEO
Which brands or products stand out for you in content marketing?
Obviously Content Marketing Institute and the Content Marketing World conference are at the top of the list right along with MarketingProfs and their B2B Forum conference.
There are so many tools in the content marketing space, but I am a big fan of BuzzSumo for daily content analysis, trending topics, social data, light influencer research and question analysis. DivvyHQ is a client of ours that provides content marketing planning and editorial calendar management that won content marketing software of the year at CMWorld. WordPress as a publishing platform of course! High end content platforms like NewsCred, Kapost, ScribbleLive and Contently also come to mind. Ceros is an excellent interactive content platform.
If a brand wanted to work with you, what offline / online activities would you be most interested in?
I have the most experience working on events whether it’s creating content before, during and after the event as well as speaking, moderating and workshops. I am open to doing interviews or conducting interviews in just about any form from podcasts to webinars to twitter chats or in written form.