The last five years or so have seen an exponential growth in content, as the world has gotten more mobile and digital. As a result, content marketing has become a core part of the strategic communication’s world lexicon. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 90 percent of marketers are doing some form of content marketing, whether they are aware of it or not. It is one of the top growing fields, with an increasing number of marketers relying on it for success. And a recent study estimates that by 2019, content marketing will be a $300 billion industry. So what then exactly is content marketing?
The industry accepted definition appropriately comes from Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, who states that content marketing is “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Thus, in layman’s terms, content marketing involves the creation of any type of content (video, social media posts, blog posts, e-books, infographics, white paper, podcasts, print publications, etc.), which is used to reach, engage and keep your target audience or public. The ultimate goal is, of course, to make a profit through the use of said content.
The truth is content has always existed – from the first print advertisements in the 1700’s to radio and later television commercials, etc. companies and brands have always been using content to engage and retain their target audience. It just wasn’t called content marketing until recently. However, whether it’s called content marketing or something else, the nature of what it is, is imperative for organizations their success.
The benefits of content marketing for organizations are numerous. A good, solid and consistent content marketing strategy can help an organization gain more referral traffic, more social traffic, increase potential conversion, improve their brand reputation, generate more leads, increase customer/consumer engagement, increase awareness of their brand and by that token recognition of their brand and of course increase sales. Most content marketing tools are also fairly cheap to produce which is very beneficial for an organization in terms of keeping production costs down. Finally, producing interesting and high-quality content can also help increase the credibility of an organization and help them be seen as a thought leader in their industry.
That said, the key, as stated above, is to produce “good, solid and consistent” content. Let’s face it, anyone can create a post on social media and anyone can write a blog or make a video and post it on YouTube or another video sharing site. However, creating content that not only captures a target audience’s attention but keeps them engaged and makes them want to know more and stay involved requires time and commitment and most importantly, a clear and detailed strategy.
No matter the size or budget of an organization, whether it is a B2C or B2B, for their content marketing efforts to be truly successful, there must be a clearly defined strategy in place. This typically requires a few significant steps.
- Conduct an Audit – As stated above, whether it is called content marketing or not, more than likely an organization is already engaging in some manner of it. Therefore, the first step is to conduct a thorough audit of said efforts and make an analysis of what is and isn’t working, what received the greatest responses, reactions and simultaneously what didn’t and decide how to improve on these things or change them appropriately
- Establish a Goal – Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” That is very true. An organization simply cannot succeed with any strategy without having a clearly defined and stated goal. Otherwise, the organization is likely to just make decisions blindly with no direction and that is never a good thing.
- Define Audience and Personas – Understanding and knowing your target audience is simply a given. However, it is more than just simply identifying a broad target audience, such as women ages 18-35. For an organization to completely reach and connect with its audience, they must truly understand who that audience is. This is when and how personas are created. Who is your audience really – what are their needs, where do they communicate, what is their engagement like, what are their key responsibilities, what truly drives them to purchase, etc.
- Establish Objectives, Strategies & Tactics – Goals are useless without relevant objectives and simultaneously suitable strategies and tactics to go along with it. As always, objectives should follow the SMART model or something akin to it (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely).
- Create Editorial Calendar – Once the organization has established a specific goal (or goals) for its content marketing strategy and created suitable and relevant objectives, strategies, and tactics, the next step is to create a well-detailed editorial calendar. The editorial calendar is essentially the road map for the continuous content marketing process. At a minimum, a good editorial calendar should include what topics will be written about, what medium will be used, deadline, the status of the content, who is responsible for which piece of content, goal of the content (e.g. to increase awareness, generate leads), etc.
- Define Measurement Tools – And naturally, as with all strategic efforts, the organization must identify the methods and tools that will be used to measure the success and/or failure of its efforts.
Content Marketing & P.R.
Because this is a public relations blog and it is after all the world in which I come from, I always like to tie everything back to it. So what is the relationship between content marketing and public relations and more importantly, how does it fit into the P.R. world? Well basically, the two are very intertwined. A lot of what it takes to create good content are the same skills and expertise good public relations practitioners possess.
For example, good content aims to be engaging, interesting and relevant, which is exactly what public relations practitioners, who are storytellers at their core, seek to do with the work they create. The goals of content marketing and public relations are essentially the same, i.e. increase brand awareness, increase customer loyalty, increase consumer and customer engagement and of course increase sales. Basically, content is exactly what public relations practitioners create every day. The two are not mutually exclusive.
So should your organization be thinking about engaging in a content marketing strategy? Well, I think the answer to that is obvious. If it helps, though, you likely already are. You’re just not calling it content marketing.