Content: What are you waiting for?

September 22, 2014  

You may have noticed the term “content marketing” surfacing in your colleagues’ conversations or LinkedIn endorsements. We know, it sounds like another forgettable bit of biz jargon — but it can be a critical piece of your organization’s marketing strategy.

To put it simply, content marketing involves developing and distributing content to attract and engage a particular audience. And, as with most marketing, the ultimate goal is to get that audience to take some sort of action.

The most effective content tends to be entertaining or informative (or both). For instance, take Sherwin-Williams’ STIR magazine, an online publication that combines articles, videos, interactive tools, blogs, events, and “chatter” into a comprehensive resource for people seeking ideas, inspiration, tips, and more. It’s an excellent example of what we’re talking about.

Recently, we attended Content Marketing World 2014 in Cleveland, where 2,500 writers, marketers, PR professionals, and entrepreneurs gathered for two full days of education and inspiration. The big takeaway? Content is the face of marketing today. And that means it’s important to your brand. So, what should you know before diving in to deliver relevant content for your audiences? On the heels of the conference, here are a few thoughts.

  1. Look before you leap.
    There’s an overwhelming number of tools and platforms available to evaluate and measure content marketing efforts. Some technologies help you create content, some distribute your content, and others measure effectiveness. But don’t get seduced by the tools before you consider a strategy. Not all tools will align with your brand goals. Start with strategy; it will force you to prioritize.

    Tip: Write a content marketing mission statement that identifies your target audience, what you’re going to deliver, and the outcome you’re seeking from the reader/watcher/listener.

  2. Get to know your audience.
    Your audiences expect you to know them: what they want, when they want it, and how they want it delivered. So don’t guess. Find out firsthand. Whether you use online surveys, interviews, or social media, create an authentic relationship with your audience. It’s the best way to understand them. As in any relationship, if you want to make a true connection, you have to put forth the effort.

    Tip: Generate a simple online survey and ask your most trusted clients what kind of content they would value and how often they would want to receive it.

  3. Think like a movie executive.
    Tying storytelling to revenue can be a challenge. But according to author and marketing veteran Andrew Davis, content should come from moments of inspiration. No one gets that better than TV and movie execs, who work with master storytellers to engage millions of people. For example, Disney’s Finding Nemo inspired a run on clownfish in pet stores (and even changed the first reference of the fish to Nemo).

    Tip: Connect with aspiring actors or writers through local art and theater groups (or film school) and brainstorm story ideas for your next piece of content.

  4. Audit your internal content.
    Many organizations get distressed about the amount of original content needed to fill email, social, and other branded channels. Before you start to fret, do an audit. Begin with your marketing department. Talk to each staff member who has been asked to create original content, for any reason, for the organization. Then move on to the PR department, sales, even IT or human resources. You might be amazed at what’s already being created.

    Tip: Put together a collaborative effort to track all the content on an ongoing basis, so you can get a clear view of what you can use for marketing purposes.

  5. Find good partners.
    When it comes to generating good content consistently, it’s hard to do it alone. So find people who share interests related to your brand, and get them involved. When GE launched #GEInstaWalk, a real-time tour of facilities using some of GE’s most advanced technologies, they hired Instagram’s best photographers and most avid fans of GE technology to capture that experience.

    Tip: Connect with the local creative community to find freelance photographers or writers to support one of your content projects.

Ready to get started? Great. Know that, at this point, you don’t need a huge program that targets every group of buyers, influencers, and gatekeepers that make up your audience. Take the time instead to focus on getting buy-in and support from leadership and other contributors, so you can start developing a content strategy for your brand in 2015. And remember that any successful content marketing requires planning, strategy, and collaboration with your team. Good luck!

Dawn Marinacci is Ologie’s marketing director. She’s a passionate trend watcher, industry-article reader, and buzz creator.