Content strategist Michael Brenner is the best-selling author of three books, including The Content Formula, and Digital Marketing Growth Hacks. Michael is CEO at Marketing Insider Group. He presents at conferences all over the world, and he often facilitates MarketingProfs' own "Content Rules" workshop.

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Michael will also present at this year's MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum; his session there is titled Content Marketing Is the Future of B2B: Case Studies for Success.

I invited Michael to Marketing Smarts to talk about content marketing and employee advocacy, as well as his forthcoming book, Mean People Suck: How Empathy Leads to Bigger Profits and a Better Life.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation (and sneak peeks from the upcoming B2B Marketing Forum):

Many organizations create content, but few really engage in "content marketing" (02:06): "We've been talking about content marketing for 10 years, and yet very few people still understand the difference between content and content marketing. Every organization has a lot of stuff. A lot of people's jobs or job titles is just to create stuff, but that's not content marketing: It's not strategic. It's not tied to a business goal. It's not measured in some relevant way.

"I want to talk about a reset. Let's remember what content marketing really is, and let's reframe it as the future of marketing. Because the alternative is a death spiral into oblivion for a lot of marketers."

Empathy is the answer to the crisis we face in marketing (and in life) (06:18): "Most really effective marketing organizations know: the best marketing is not a campaign. It's not like, 'Hey, we hired an agency and we spent a lot of money and they sat in a room and thought great thoughts and presented them to the CEO and the CEO signed the check and the cash just started rolling in.' That doesn't work. It doesn't happen....

"[Empathy] is the answer to business growth and it's the answer to this crisis.... Two thirds of employees in the United States are miserable. One in five are actively sabotaging their company's objectives. Suicide rates are up. We hate politicians and media. You can go on and on. Solving the marketing problem doesn't just solve the marketing problem, it solves a business problem. It solves the societal issue which is that we're all just miserable and we've become victims. We point the finger at the boss, but we need to take accountability."

We're not born with empathy, but we can learn it (and it's worth the effort) (12:53): "In the book Mean People Suck, I talk about how scientists have identified that we are not actually born with empathy—but the capacity for it. And we learn very early on that throwing a fit, crying, and stomping around isn't the best way to get what we want. But when we start to tap into our mommy and our daddy's love for us, we start to manipulate them into doing the things that we need. It's a learned capacity.

"I cite a study in the book where medical students—who are taught the value of empathy in the patient experience—they gave them a test with medical students and found that, by the third year, despite the fact that they're taught empathy, their empathy actually goes down. What I learned from that is that, while we learn the capacity and the power and the outcomes that can come with using empathy, life beats it out of us.

"The best way to start is with Jerry Maguire. How do you convince executives without empathy the value of empathy? Show them the money. Content marketing is about meeting the needs of prospects who don't already feel that they have a relationship with you. When you start to engage them and build that relationship, that leads to better financial outcomes."

Instead of explaining "who we're not for" to focus your audience, talk about what you believe as a brand (22:13): "I work with some companies on mission statements, and we've talked through—instead of saying 'who isn't right for us,' the way I've worked with a couple of companies is—on 'what we believe.' The value statements basically say the same thing. 'We believe in high quality, low volume.' Whatever things actually define you, you can express in belief statements that will weed out the folks that aren't right for you."

To learn more, visit, and be sure to register for the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum. (Use the code B2BSmarts to save $150!)

You can also follow Michael on Twitter, at @brennermichael, and be sure to grab a copy of his book, Mean People Suck: How Empathy Leads to Bigger Profits and a Better Life.

Michael and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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