Top 5 Takeaways from Digital Summit DC

by Peter Morscheck

Several hundred digital marketing experts descended on the Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va., last week to share best practices and cutting-edge digital marketing strategies at Digital Summit DC. What follows are my top 5 takeaways from the conference, and a quick snapshot of the state of digital marketing in October 2015.


1) Content Marketing Needs Strategy

Content Marketing has been the hot “new” buzzword combo in PR for the last three years, along with the concept that brands should act as their own media companies – gaining awareness, credibility and (eventually) sales through the consistent production of content.

More than half a dozen sessions at this year’s Digital Summit dealt with content marketing and how it’s evolving.

The greatest theme is the need for a more systemized and integrated approach to content marketing across an organization. Specifically:

  • Use a content calendar – While brands are now producing content across a range of media and distribution channels, very few companies are using a systematic approach, including a content calendar. Content calendars ensure a consistent publishing cadence and that the individual pieces reinforce and amplify each other to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Metrics Tracking – Even with ubiquitous access to Google Analytics, few companies are taking the time to review and analyze the effectiveness of their content, including which topics and distribution channels are most effective, and where their best (not necessarily most) traffic comes from. If you don’t know how your blog posts, videos or podcasts perform, you can’t focus on creating the most valuable pieces that best drive customer awareness and sales.
  • Internal Communications – It’s not enough for the PR or marketing department to be on point with their content marketing game. Without consistent internal communications, the sales department and other key employees may not know, let alone use, these great resources.

Companies can fix this by centralizing their content in one place, granting universal access to employees and informing them of the best new pieces, and periodically training employees on how best to optimize the content for use across different social media channels.

A key takeaway here was the reminder that a company’s employees remain among its best brand ambassadors, and are an untapped resource for spreading great content across personal and professional social media channels.

2) Measure the Cost of Content Strategy

Now that many companies have adopted some form of content marketing, a key but oft-forgotten next step is measuring its cost. As with all aspects of marketing, measurement is key to proving ROI.

If you don’t know how much that individual video, blog post or infographic cost to create, there’s no way to prove whether the effectiveness of your overall content strategy is driving sales.

3) Influencer Marketing is Changing

DMCcloudSeveral speakers at Digital Summit DC touched on the resurgence of influencer marketing and use of paid celebrity spokespeople, particularly in launching new products or companies.

But more telling was a shift in the definition of “influencer” away from traditional media celebrities to social media stars.

A chart of the top 12 current media influencers among millennials counted only three traditional stars (such as Kim Kardashian), compared to 9 stars (including PewDiePie and Jenna Marbles) whose fame comes entirely from platforms such as YouTube or Vine. (See Forbes’ list of highest-paid YouTube stars of 2015.)

4) Blogs Still Matter

Consistent blogging is key to organic SEO rankings in Google, as it indicates fresh content and a larger web footprint.

When Google released its Panda update in February 2011, it began punishing websites that had employed early SEO tactics like keyword stuffing and backlinks to low-quality sites that artificially boosted Google search rankings.

Since then, Google has rewarded websites that seem to grow naturally, through things like quality backlinks from respected sites, as well as a cadence of fresh content.

For most companies, the easiest way to show Google that you are continually updating your site is through a steady cadence of fresh content via blog posts.

Further, companies that regularly blog receive 126% as much lead generations as those that don’t. (source)

5) The Rise of Video

By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic. (source)

While we’ve long observed a shift of communications towards visual media, video marketing remains a largely untapped resource and will soon become as essential to marketing as building a website was 10 years ago.


Peter Morscheck is a communications consultant for Dale Curtis Communications, a Foggy Bottom-based PR firm with specialties in the telecommunications, federal technology, non-profit, and education sectors. You can follow him on Twitter via @PeterMorscheck.

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