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Content Writing Examples, Tips, and Resources

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Content Writing Examples, Tips, and Resources


Consuming great writing is like listening to a singer. If the performer makes an emotional connection with me – even though they miss a few notes – I eagerly lock into the rest of the song and anticipate the next performance.

Your words must be powerful and effective as well if you want to captivate as many of your readers as possible.

Content writing isn’t an easy task. Whether you craft words for B2B or B2C audiences, the challenges can be many. I’ve created a diverse set of tips, tools, and resources to aid in shaping and modifying your work. It’s not an exhaustive collection. Some ideas may seem familiar. Others will be fresh.

My hope is that you’ll walk away with some insights or new tools to help address or minimize the content creation challenges you face.

Let’s get to it.

1. Convey much with few words

I find inspiration in ad copy that takes little space to reflect a strong message. Sure, you’ll need to write much more than a couple of sentences for your content marketing, but simplicity has merit. How well you write always sets the stage for what’s to come.

Creativity can emerge in many ways. Sometimes, it’s a simple starting point. It might be wise to reflect the times and a significant sentiment. These examples tap into beauty, memes, a health crisis, and a love of pets.

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I was impressed with this line from Dove, “You’re more beautiful than you think.” It’s part of Dove Real Beauty Sketches, a six-minute YouTube video with 11 million views since 2013. The content looks at the gap between how we perceive ourselves and how others see us.

In 2019, Spotify gained notice with its Spotify Everywhere meme-themed campaign. For example, on one billboard, the left side read: “Me: It’s Okay; the breakup was mutual.” On the right side, it read: “Also Me: Sad Indie” (complete with the app’s music search imagery). The simple, creatively delivered message went deep into a full range of emotions familiar to countless people.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to numerous ad campaigns that underscore the value of brevity. Nike handled it this way: “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.”

CARA Welfare Philippines (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) chose contrasting images – neglect and recovery – and four words to reinforce the message of caring: “Same dog, different owner.”

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2. Nail down your headlines

Headline writing involves many challenges – tone, length, etc. This headline from OptinMonster appears to be straightforward with its good use of a numeral, direct, etc. But the phrase “you need to use” caught my attention and elevated the article’s value in my mind.

One practical tool to help you nail down your headlines is the free Title Generator from The HOTH.

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One practical tool to help you nail down your headlines is the free #TitleGenerator from @the_hoth, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

3. Focus on clarity when you write

Zendesk elevates its customer service by writing briefly to illuminate the difference among customer support, customer self-service, and customer engagement. With a few words, Zendesk communicates that it cares to its customers and wants them to access the best resource to help them right away.

A word of caution: Don’t be so creative that a reader struggles to detect your main point. Be careful with humor, which can fall flat for the reader.

4. Know your audience

You need to speak your audience’s language, but that doesn’t mean settling for jargon. Typically, an informal, conversational approach works best when you’re creating content.

An informational, conversational approach works best when you’re creating #content via @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

Other informal writing ideas include writing in first or second person and avoiding sentences that begin with vague words like this or that.

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5. Win your readers over

How does your content inspire readers or get them to care?

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Some suggestions include:

  • Focus on actionable content that they could use right away.
  • Use profanity sparingly if at all. It can distract readers who wonder why those words were included.
  • Link to other websites, newsletters, and blogs to provide added value to readers and help your content establish credibility.

6. Get visitors to take action

Sometimes it’s a simple word or phrase that prompts someone to take the next step. Buffer offers a list of 189 words. Among the list are a dozen that imply exclusivity to motivate readers:

  • Members only
  • Login required
  • Class full
  • Membership now closed
  • Ask for an invitation
  • Apply to be one of our beta testers
  • Exclusive offers
  • Become an insider
  • Be one of the few
  • Get it before everybody else
  • Be the first to hear about it
  • Only available to subscribers

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7. Length depends on the context

It’s easy to stick to some content length rules and preferences.

For example, maximize the 35 characters available in a Google ad headline. On social media, though, you might improve engagement by stopping well short of the maximum character limits.

It gets tougher with website pages, articles, and blog posts. I understand that short pieces (let’s say anything under 500 words) are easier to consume for online readers. But longer content can draw in people as well. Visuals in the core content and within the site architecture can support your text.

Odds are you have guidelines that dictate length but allow exceptions. If you don’t write enough, you disappoint someone by not devoting sufficient attention to a topic. If you provide too many details, you might overwhelm a reader who might miss your primary ideas.

Editors and writers should agree on whether the article is a suitable length. You can discard information that doesn’t quite fit. But in the content writing and editing process, you might identify opportunities to use some portions for future content (with additions or modifications).

From a search engine optimization perspective, longer content is always best. A website, for example, can get by with shorter pieces if it becomes authoritative through its age, the number of pages, inbound links, and more. However, extended content often helps generate high rankings for targeted keyword phrases and similar words.

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From a #SEO perspective, longer #content is always best, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

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8. Ensure your content can be scanned

Readers skip a lot of words. Make it easy for them to discover your key points by including:

  • Short paragraphs
  • Subheads
  • Bulleted lists
  • Bolded text
  • Words in color
  • Links

You don’t need to write long sentences to get your point across. Short ones work in your favor. It’s the same thing with words. Here are some common examples of better choices, note that sometimes a few short words sound better than one long word:

  • Show, not indicate
  • Get rid of, not eliminate
  • Use, not utilize
  • To, not in order to
  • Help, not facilitate
  • Get, not obtain
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9. Understand fair use

As a writer, you may occasionally use other content. It’s not always enough to use quotation marks and cite the source.

Fair use depends on several factors, including whether your content is used for commercial purposes and its potential impact on the market value of the copyrighted work.

I mostly worry about the length of the original source. If I quote 100 words from a 250-word blog, that would be too much. A lawyer would have the best advice, but I would limit the quote to 25 words in that case. Books are a little easier. If you quote 300 words from a 150-page book, you would be fine. Poems and song lyrics are a danger zone because they’re often short. I’ve cited as little as possible from them. It’s always best to get legal counsel before publishing the final content.

It’s always best to get legal counsel before publishing the final content, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

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10. Evaluate sentence structure with the Hemingway App

Content writers have many reference tools to make their jobs a little easier and improve their work. Among the best is the Hemingway app, which provides immediate feedback on content structure, including sentence formatting. With the website version, you can replace the default text with your own.

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The Hemingway app identifies potentially unnecessary adverbs, warns about passive voice, and triggers alerts to dull, complicated words.

11. Create compelling content with better words

Jon Morrow of Smart Blogger offers a collection of words that can make a difference in what you write: 317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer. Here are 15 of them:

  • Agony
  • Apocalypse
  • Armageddon
  • Assault
  • Backlash
  • Beating
  • Blinded
  • Fooled
  • Frantic
  • Frightening
  • Gambling
  • Gullible
  • Hack
  • Hazardous
  • Hoax
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12. Use a topic tool for inspiration

HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator works well to get your creative content writing juices flowing. Just fill in the fields with three nouns to get some ideas.

For example, if you input the words: car, truck, and SUV, HubSpot delivers these ideas:

  • The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Cars
  • How To Solve the Biggest Problems With Trucks
  • 10 Quick Tips About SUVs
  • 10 Signs You Should Invest in Cars
  • Why We Love Trucks (And Why You Should, Too!)

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13. Evaluate the complexity of your sentences

The Readability Test Tool scores your content to reveal the grade level and the complexity of words.

Readability Test from WebFX also creates a reading score. Reach your audience by writing to their preferred level. This simple app uses several indexes to assess the readability of your text. Then, you can adjust.

Use the @webfx #ReadabilityTest tool to assess the readability of your #content, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

14. Analyze the potential impact of your headlines

Size up headlines with the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, which reveals an emotional marketing value score.

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A similar tool, the CoSchedule Blog Post Headline Analyzer, looks at the tone, grammar, structure, and more. Pull readers into your content with great headlines. Headline Studio applies writing and SEO principles to evaluate your headline; then it suggests ways to make it better by identifying areas for improvement, such as the use of uncommon, emotional, and power words.

15. Use headline words that resonate

BuzzSumo evaluated 10 million articles shared on LinkedIn. One insight revealed “how-to” headlines were among the most popular in B2B content – 2.8 times more than its nearest competitor based on LinkedIn shares.

Get more tips from CMI’s article How to Write Headlines That Get Your Brand What It Wants [Checklist].

16. Know SEO responsibilities

Sometimes writers create content with multiple purposes. They have the burden of blending SEO into the content. I frame it as a burden because it’s one more variable to deal with. If you have a knack for SEO and goals you can measure, it’s not a burden.

Unfortunately, you sometimes don’t know what realistic keywords to pursue. Aim too low and you use rarely searched keywords. Aspire for something too competitive and the content won’t rank.

How are you evaluating keywords? Learn how to find your sweet spot with keyword selection (and how to appear on the first page of Google). Identify potential keywords by using tools like:

17. Get writing right with good grammar

Proper grammar is a necessity; you want to get everything correct to satisfy readers (and bosses). Try Grammarly.

Improve your writing with this cloud-based, AI editor. Grammarly automates grammar, spelling and punctuations checks, often giving better, cleaner content options. The tool also alerts writers to passive voice, suggests opportunities to be concise, and assesses overall tone.

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18. Recognize common writing mistakes

Grammar Girl created by Mignon Fogarty, founder of Quick and Dirty Tips, outlines some common mistakes, such as this advice on “do’s and don’ts” and its inclusion of options:

Unless your editor wishes otherwise, if you write books, spell it dos and don’ts; and if you write for newspapers, magazines, or the web, spell it do’s and don’ts. If you’re writing for yourself, spell it any way you want.

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19. Go beyond grammar

Save time and energy with ProWritingAid. It eliminates the need to reread to polish your content. This AI editing software offers more than grammar checks. It checks for vague wording, sentence length variation, and overuse of adverbs and passive voice. The tool also identifies complicated or run-on sentences.

20. Use parallel construction in writing

Parallel construction organizes the text and relieves your readers of expending mental energy to piece together the thoughts.

For example, this mish-mash list is not parallel because the sentence structures vary:

  • It could be time to look over your business software contract.
  • Consider the best products.
  • If you want the product to benefit your company, include others’ point of view.

The list is parallel because every sentence starts the same way – with a verb.

  • Review your business software contract.
  • Shop for the best products based on features, costs, and support options.
  • Ask key members of your team for their perspectives, including productivity barriers.

21. Know when to break the infinitive rule

Avoid split infinitives. However, go for conversational over grammatically correct structures if the proper wording reads awkwardly.

22. Be reader-friendly

You’re not writing a doctoral thesis. Don’t use a $10 word when a $1 word will do. Vary sentence lengths. Don’t force readers to think too much.

Don’t use a $10 word when a $1 word will do, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

23. Flee the jargon

Turn to Unsuck It to rate your content and find alternative language. Think of it as a synonym finder for business jargon. It’s occasionally irreverent and always entertaining.

 24. Be conscious of antecedents

When you’re using pronouns, make sure it’s clear what the pronoun refers to.

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25. Read aloud

If your content doesn’t flow well as you speak it, it may not work for the reader. Pay attention to when you take too many pauses or pause in places where no comma exists. Adjust your text – add a comma or break the sentence into two.

26. Don’t overuse words

Redundancy bores readers. To figure out whether you’re committing this sin, paste your text into the Word It Out tool. The word cloud reveals those used most frequently in your text:

Similarly, WordCounter detects whether you’re using the same words too often. Use Thesaurus.com to find alternatives.

27. Use active voice

With active voice, your subject does the action. With passive voice, the action happens to someone or something. Let your subject do the acting to bring more power to your content.

28. Watch out for typos and misspellings

If you can’t do the easy things right, it hurts your credibility. Typos and misspellings may cause your readers to move on.

29. Respect your company’s style standards

For example, is it web site or website? What’s in your brand’s style guide?

30. Leverage plagiarism checkers

Here are two tools worth exploring to ensure the content isn’t a copycat:

  • Unicheck – Verify the originality of work with plagiarism detection. You can spot outright copying and minor text modifications in unscrupulous submissions.
  • Copyscape – Protect your content and your reputation. Copyscape uncovers plagiarism in purchased content and detects plagiarism by others of your original work.

31. Don’t forget text has a starring role in video

Words appear in blog posts or descriptions of product features and benefits. But writers also can shine in video scripts along with set designers, actors, and filmmakers. Writers can take any topic and help make it captivating.

Boat Trader’s Stomping Ground was a finalist in the Content Marketing Awards in 2021 for Distribution – Best Use of Video in Content Marketing:

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32. Keep track of words

Meet your word count goals and improve word choice with the WordCounter tool. It also helps identify keywords and their appropriate frequency of use.

33. Automate writing – to a degree

Autofill your most common phrases and shorten your keyboard time with TextExpander. This automated writing tool improves team collaboration by anticipating the most commonly used phrases.

34. Stay on track

Meet every deadline with Todoist. The tool organizes your tasks and schedule. Throw away your paper lists. Keep track of progress and get help as you delegate tasks.

35. Monitor relevant topics

With Feedly, you can stay informed about what matters most and avoid information overload. This AI assistant learns your preferences, then culls and curates content from the internet that you want and need.

36. Adjust title formats

Speed your formatting tasks with TitleCase. The tool converts your title into various cases – all CAPS, hyphen, etc., so you don’t have to rekey or reformat.

37. Improve the collaboration process

Ease commenting and collaborating with digital sticky notes from Ideaflip. They’re simple to virtually move, making it effortless to organize thoughts and ideas before weaving them into text.

Share your favorite writing tricks

What content creation and copywriting productivity tools do you favor? What do you do each day to make your writing tasks just a little easier? Please share in the comments.

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All tools in this article are identified by the author.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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MARKETING

What Will It Take To Drive Content Marketing Forward?

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What Will It Take To Drive Content Marketing Forward?

You’re doing everything in your power to craft amazing content.

You sweat over quality, optimize everything to the last keyword, and feed those greedy channel beasts more and more and more.

But the results you get don’t match the effort you put in. What are you doing wrong?

The game has changed. Simply doing the once-right things – and more of them – won’t guarantee wins.

Doing more of the once-right things no longer guarantees #ContentMarketing wins, says @Robert_Rose via @joderama @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Playing to win now means doubling down on strategy

“The content you create provides no sustainable competitive advantage for your business.”

Robert Rose kicked off Content Marketing World 2022 with that bold statement. Even the most exceptional work will be copied, remixed, reimagined, and reissued by other brands and consumers.

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But don’t take that statement as a eulogy for our beloved practice. Instead, celebrate new and different ways of looking at your work, Robert said, starting with your strategy and structure.

Having the right resources (including the strategic roles, teams, and repeatable procedures) lets you fluidly change and evolve all the time.

And that’s where you’ll find your new competitive advantage.

Invest in a remarkable (and human) voice

Take Netflix, for example. The streaming giant made the strategic choice to invest in real, live humans to write the closed caption subtitles for its smash-hit Stranger Things. That choice paid off with the kind of online buzz no brand can buy.

Woman with brown hair and glasses in a floral suit on stage.Marketing Profs Ann Handley brought the backstory to the keynote stage:

Most streamers use automated transcriptions to help people with hearing difficulties follow what’s happening on screen. But Netflix assigned marketing writers to craft vivid descriptions of the sounds accompanying the Stranger Things action.

The evocative and unsettling words they used (wetly squelching, tentacles roiling) caught the attention of younger viewers – a segment that watches shows with captions on regardless of their hearing ability. Earned media mentions skittered across the web, entangling viewers in a whole new viewing (and reading) experience.

The lesson, Ann said, is that voice can carry your brand’s unique personality, even when your brand isn’t mentioned. Investing in it is a strategic choice that sets your brand apart.

“A warm, relatable brand voice is increasingly crucial. It’s how we need to start developing relationships with our audiences, especially in this world of content abundance,” Ann said.

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A warm, relatable brand voice helps develop relationships with your audiences in a world of #content abundance, says @annhandley via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

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Do what others don’t dare

Black man with a mustache and beard wearing a black shirt, sport coat, and black pants on stage.Before Netflix broke the closed-caption mold, marketing visionary Bonin Bough broke publishing conventions.

While writing a book about how mobile phones transformed communication, he hit on a unique idea. Why not put his phone number on the cover, so readers could reach out and continue the dialog?

His publishers balked. So, Bonin purchased the rights from them and published the book his way. Since 2016, more than 50,000 readers of Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk About It have called to create a personal connection with him.

A co-founder of Group Black – a media collective and accelerator focused on advancing Black-owned media properties ­– Bonin built his groundbreaking marketing career by thinking differently about what others consider impossible.

Bonin offers advice on how to challenge convention into meaningful marketing actions:

  • Aspire, but have a plan to see ideas through: While aspiration is a significant first step, you must develop the muscle memory to see your ideas to completion. Allocate the time, resources, and effort to execute the ideas.
  • Operate in real-time: The set-it-and-forget-it mentality doesn’t work anymore. Think about how you can change your business to deliver products in real time.
  • Be resourceful: Experimenting with content is not about how much money is available. It’s about how well you use the assets, talent, and resources you have.
  • Operationalize innovation: Look for models you can reverse-engineer to guide the development of your ideas and create guardrails and structures that make innovation more manageable.
  • Be curious: If you build the skill of curiosity, you can foster environments that create change.
  • Don’t give up: A no from stakeholders doesn’t mean your idea is bad. It just means it’s not the right fit under the current situation. Keep workshopping it. If all else fails, consider developing it elsewhere or on your own.

How you use the assets, talent, and resources you have matters more than the size of your budget, says @boughb via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Advocate for a clear content career path

People remain the most valuable (and expensive) content marketing assets. So cultivating content marketing careers is one of the most strategic choices an organization can make.

Upcoming CMI research shared at the conference shows most content marketers are at least somewhat satisfied with their current roles. Yet few feel sure about how they’ll grow in those roles. And of those who do have a clear career path, 20% say they’ll have to leave their employer to get there.

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“We have to build a career path into what it is we do. There’s no way content becomes a strategic function in the business if we don’t look at this. It will always be just a content factory,” Robert said.

White woman with blonde hair wearing a navy blue shirt and green and navy pleated skirt on stage.Jessica Bergmann shared how Salesforce did this. Working with the employee success team, Jessica and colleagues documented a career path for content team members to follow to progress from individual contributors to executive management.

Each company should build a path that suits its structure and culture. But Jessica shared some ideas any brand can use to start seeding opportunities and laying a professional path for content team members:

  • Advocate for integrated content teams: “It’s important that you show up as one company with one voice. We can’t have all different teams creating content everywhere and showing up with different voices and perspectives,” she said.
  • Define content roles and responsibilities clearly: Understand how content-centric teams across the organization collaborate and align their efforts to help content strategy get a seat at the decision-makers’ table.
  • Create democratized performance dashboards: Empower company leadership to see each content asset’s performance without asking for it.
  • Automate the ordinary: Using your automation tools to reduce time spent performing mundane tasks will allow content teams to focus on creating extraordinary and impactful content experiences.

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Set your vision on meaningful change

Perhaps the most urgent strategic question today is this: How will you create content that leads to a meaningful change in the world?

With trust declining in government and other institutions, audiences now expect brands to work toward something beyond their balance sheet. Robert Rose pointed out in his talk that the subhead for Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer is this: “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.”

Light skinned black man wearing a black shirt and black pants on stage. Content Marketing World 2022 on screen in the background.

Mark Harrison brought home the role of content (and individual content practitioners) in this function. A volunteer and entrepreneur who founded sponsorship agency T1 to work exclusively with impactful brands, Mark is committed to making a difference.

“I have a simple personal vision, and that is to create a world of belonging,” he said. “No matter what you look like, what you sound like, or where you come from, you will feel that you belong.”

Mark executes his mission by building what he calls the above-ground railroad, giving the nod to the underground railroad that helped thousands of enslaved people escape to freedom in the United States. The above-ground railroad activates networks of people to bring greater equity and opportunity to those who have been marginalized by society.

Part of that work involves amplifying their struggles and their strengths to those who have the power to increase inclusivity.

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“Amplifying voices is not giving your social pages over to somebody that doesn’t look like you. It’s about showing real courage,” Mark said.

Amplifying voices is about showing real courage, says @MarkHarrison3 via @joderama @CMIContent #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Mark shared a brand example that shows how powerful courageous content can be. When Harry Met Santa, a video from Posten Norge, tells the story of a developing relationship between a man (Harry) and Santa Claus. The video ends with a romantic kiss between the two, followed by this closing line: “In 2022, Norway marks 50 years of being able to love whoever we want.”

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How will you make content better for everyone?

These and other Content Marketing World conversations make one thing clear: You have your work cut out for you.

But you also have an opportunity to rethink your content strategy to create something remarkable. That strategy might include investments in:

  • Talented creators who help develop your brand’s distinctive voice
  • A clear career path that helps you keep your talent
  • New and different approaches to content possibilities
  • Making a societal impact

What takeaways resonate with you? Where do you plan to focus your strategy for the rest of the year and into 2023? Let us know in the comments.

Want more insight from these and other Content Marketing World speakers? Register for an on-demand pass to get access to session recordings through Dec. 31, 2022. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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