There is so much noise about content marketing at the moment, it’s enough to make your head spin!
The more content marketing evolves (and it’s doing that pretty quickly!), the more attention and debate it attracts within PR and marketing circles.
Throw into the mix the sudden emergence of self-proclaimed ‘gurus’, an online echo chamber that gets louder by the minute, plus the fact agencies of all sizes and persuasions – PR, advertising, digital, social, SEO – are feverishly trying to establish a foothold in the space, and it’s no wonder people working in marketing, public relations and communications are perpetually confused and disoriented when it comes to all things content marketing.
And that’s without even touching on the myriad technologies involved!
Thus it’s critical ‘in-house teams’ – whether they’re marketing or PR folk, or business owners – not only develop and adhere to a strategy around their content-driven communications but also try to cultivate a philosophical approach that works for their brand.
The last thing you want to be doing is jumping on every idea or shiny new thing that comes your way otherwise distraction will prevail.
By all means keep up to date with new technology and experiment as you go (e.g. video live-streaming is an emerging trend and potentially something you might like to test out), but you also need to be fully aware of your purpose when it comes to content and why you’re going about things in a certain way.
What’s right for Brand ‘A’ might not be right for Brand ‘B’
While there are certain truisms, guidelines and proven techniques in content marketing that need to be acknowledged and adhered to (e.g. understanding your audience), that doesn’t mean you can’t run your own race in order to do what’s right for your brand.
In other words, avoid simply clinging to a set of tactics that worked for someone else and therefore will work for you. It doesn’t necessarily work this way.
Your organisation is unique; it has its own voice, its own goals, its own challenges and opportunities in the marketplace. Your people set your brand apart from the competition, as do your ideas, your ideals, your insights and the collective knowledge, wisdom and skills contained within the metaphorical four walls of your business.
The content you create and publish should reflect this uniqueness.
Be aware of the external ‘idea factory’
If you work for a major organisation, no doubt you have agencies constantly pitching you unsolicited ideas for content. These could come anyone on your agency roster: PR, advertising, digital, social, SEO. Be careful here.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with agencies getting on the front foot and being proactive with ideas (this can be a good thing!), this practice does, however, have the potential to derail your content marketing efforts because, let’s face it, we love nothing more than a sexy new idea.
Such distractions can also make you second-guess yourself, which is not good (we’ve all been there!).
If you don’t have a solid strategy in place, you’re going to get tactical really fast.
With content marketing, it’s super-easy to do a lot of stuff. But unless that stuff aligns with your purpose and broader goals and objectives, you could be wasting valuable time (and money).
Back to philosophy for a moment…
If building trust and reputation is important for your brand, don’t fall for clickbait headlines or get sucker-punched into creating a ‘viral video’ that might get views but do little for your brand.
If you value the power of story, commit to telling other people’s stories through your content.
If you believe in transparency in business and communications, create content that takes people ‘behind the velvet rope’ of your organisation.
If reinforcing a thought leadership positioning in the marketplace is paramount for your business, try and avoid publishing turgid listicles or creating content that simply ‘pumps your (corporate) tyres’; instead, become part of a bigger picture – develop a point of view, put your ideas and insights out there and be ready to join in the debate on social channels.
If being useful and helpful for people is high on your agenda, then go deeper on relevant topics than anyone else, and don’t forget to make sure this ethos carries through everything you do on social media (and in person, at events for example).
If building and cultivating an engaged audience is important to you, avoid spamming your subscribers with too many ‘sales-y’ emails.
If you value authenticity in business, get your people out from the shadows of the cubicle farm; use social media and online publishing platforms to shine the light on them (particularly if they’re experts with a bank of knowledge that will help your customers with their challenges and needs, relevant to your business).
If contributing value to the world is something you hold dear, give yourself permission to tell bigger stories, to build deeper connection with your community versus always be chasing more clicks and views with your content.
If your people are passionate about your business and their role in it, let this shine through your content – let’s see the virtual sparkle in their eyes!
But most of all, don’t let yourself become derailed.
Understand your purpose: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Have a strategy, a content philosophy, and follow your course.