6 content marketing realities you can’t ignore

By Rebecca Lieb

Originally posted on iMedia Connection.

Content marketing: It’s certainly nothing new — it’s been with us since the dawn of marketing — but in digital channels, it’s rapidly changing and evolving. As content changes, so too do the policies, processes, priorities, and governance organizations require to effectively market with content. This applies not only to owned media channels — content has a strong gravitational pull that cannot be decoupled from earned and paid media.

Conversations these past few weeks about content with some preeminent brands and marketers have yielded insights worth sharing and pondering.

Content is the product

Susan Ridge, vice president of marketing and communications at Save the Children said in a recent meeting, “content is our product.” For most marketers, and for a significant number of brands, truer words were never spoken. As a non-profit charitable organization — and, for full disclosure, one of my clients — Save the Children doesn’t sell widgets or services. They craft stories and evoke emotions that ignite action, involvement, support and evangelism. What organization — even the ones that do have actual products — wouldn’t want the same of their customers, prospects, partners, and stakeholders?

Content achieves functionality

Twitter, Facebook, and Google now offer ‘Buy’ buttons on specific types of content, another indicator of the blurring of paid, owned, and earned media. This means content will increasingly be measured by its ability to convert, whether conversation (which is a desired action) is to bring customers in-store with inventory information, serve in an e-commerce capacity, or some other transaction of money and/or information.  Still, it’s important to bear in mind that selling widgets is not the only KPI for content. Far from it. As I’ve previously mentioned, marketers are far too uncreative when it comes to establishing business-oriented KPIs for content. Please combine transactional functionality with other business metrics that matter, and that have dollar value.

Vertical matters

As visual and audio-visual content continue to rise in prominence thanks to the pervasiveness of mobile, designers, content creators, and UX experts will rethink orientation. Most print and banner images are oriented — and intended to be “read” — horizontally. Phones and handheld devices flip, of course, but the most intuitive interface, particularly for content snacking, is vertical. Plan accordingly.

Concept above product

This is not a new notion, but as more brands pile on to content marketing, it is a strategy worth repeating. The brands most successful in content marketing don’t talk about themselves very much. Everything General Electric does, for example, ladders up to “Ecomagination.” IBM’s concept is “Smarter Planet.” What’s yours? It should inspire and command interest, as well as involvement. It’s what the intended audience cares about.

Plan everything, and prepare for the unforeseen

Competent content marketers don’t just maintain highly detailed editorial calendars, but those calendars incorporate workflow, governance, and process. They also know that even the most tightly-orchestrated plans require leeway. Save the Children has designated staff on-call evenings, weekends, and holidays. Ebola, the Nepal earthquakes — all are calls-to-action to the content teams. Julie Ryan, executive director of worldwide digital marketing at 20th Century Fox, has a great addition to this piece of advice: “Don’t delegate everything to your agency. Things will come up.”

Organize for content

Content is too big, too important, and too ongoing a need to leave to happenstance. Putting organizational structure around content initiatives across paid, owned, and earned media is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. And it needs to be connected with the entirety of the enterprise. This week, Chris Murphy, managing editor of adidas’ newsroom, shared that he has no fewer than eight counterparts worldwide, and that the company moved media buyers to Portland (where he is based) so there can be closer collaboration between the media and content teams — in real-time.

On a personal note, I’m putting my money where my mouth is on that last point. This week I joined Teradata Applications as vice president of content marketing. I look forward to continuing to share insights and experience on content marketing and content strategy as a practitioner instead of as an analyst.

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