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Why Content Matters (No Matter What Kind of Marketer You Are)

No matter what kind of marketer you are, content matters.

The reasons for this are manifold. Yes, there’s content marketing, which has long been called the “new black” in the marketing arsenal. Content marketing has risen to prominence for a slew of very, very good reasons. It’s customer-centric, rather than sell-centric. It’s about you rather than me, and it’s the marketing of attraction rather than interruption.

Content has also become popular due to the democratization of media. Everyone can do it (though doing it well is another story entirely). Blog? Podcast? Video? All you have to do is own a phone.

But there are other, more strategic reasons why content is paramount in marketing. Let’s examine why.

The eclipse of advertising

Digital advertising: banners, takeovers, video and other formats are plummeting in efficacy. Ad fraud is rampant, as are ad blockers. Marketers are challenged to reach consumers in new ways, and in ways that delight rather than anger them.

Enter content marketing, which informs, educates, entertains, provides utility and is there when you want it rather than when you don’t.

Traditional advertising has evolved into a commodity, swimming in an abundance of media buy options, thanks to the rise of digital, mobile and social technologies. Advertising was once the “boss” of marketing channels and tactics because it cost the most. Now, brands respond to new customer expectations with relevant content at every stage of their purchase decision journey.

Sophisticated marketers are exploring other marketing avenues that offer greater control, while advertising remains costly even as returns diminish.

Converged media

Content is what populates all media channels. It doesn’t just fill the need of “owned” media, such as your website or blog, but also is critical to earned media.

What would Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn be without content? Vacant platforms visitors would have no need to ever visit.

Paid media (advertising) is also content-dependent. It’s called “creative” in that context, but make no mistake about it — ads are a form of content, too. And as paid, owned and earned media combine together and dance new dances to create new forms of marketing, such as native advertising (paid + owned media), a viable content strategy only becomes that much more important.

The culture of content

Content isn’t just for marketers. Content originates across the organization, primarily in public-facing functions such as sales, HR, customer service, product development and in the executive suite.

The culture of content is arising not just because brands are publishers, but because employees are publishers, too. Some will shrug this off this as noise rather than signal, but the proliferation of channels, platforms and devices is further enabling employees to speak on behalf of the brand.

Add to that requests from teams in social media, sales, thought leadership, real-time marketing, recruitment and customer service, and the demand has never been higher for continual content creation, refinement, repurposing and reformatting.

Content can help elevate numerous functions, from social selling to diverting calls from a call center to most cost-efficient digital channels. Smart organizations evangelize this message for cost savings, employee empowerment, thought leadership and other benefits.

Global content

International organizations are challenged to globalize their content initiatives. If content informs all aspects of marketing, then sharing, collaboration and efficiency are critical to scaling these efforts for efficiency, consistency and cost savings.

Attention must be paid to what types of content can be repurposed across channels and cultures, what content must be created and published locally, and what local successes can be amplified, repurposed and shared in other territories and by other lines of business.

Real-time marketing

All marketing initiatives are no longer locked and loaded in advance. Real-time marketing has become a critical challenge for many organizations to achieve relevance, provide customer service and offer relevance and direction in the face of breaking news and events. All of this brings with it new content challenges, but also great rewards: relevance, newsworthiness and other top-of-mind associations.

Yet preparing for and executing real-time marketing requires a finely honed content strategy, training, triage and close collaboration with legal and other departments outside of marketing.

Contextual campaigns

Beacons, sensors, the Internet of Things — content is not only everywhere, it will soon be everything: our appliances, clothing, location and vehicles. Marketers are already collaborating with IT and product groups to create content around how we live, what we’re doing and where we are when we do it.

Content is moving beyond marketing to be part of the way that we interface with the world around us.

For the last decade I’ve been researching these (as well as other) trends in content marketing and content strategy. I’m proud to announce my latest book on the topic, Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing. It dives deeply into the trends I’ve been following in this column. If you read it, I’d love to hear your reactionsFor the last decade I’ve been researching these (as well as other) trends in content marketing and content strategy. I’m proud to announce my latest book on the topic, <a href=” amzn.to/2henUbH” Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing</a>. It dives deeply into the trends I’ve been following in this column. If you read it, I’d love to hear your reactions

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New Book Available for Pre-Order

Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing by Rebecca Lieb

My advance copies arrived yesterday, so I know my most recent book, Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing, finally exists in the physical world.

Release dates are June 3 in Europe, June 28 in the USA. I'm as surprised as I am pleased that the title already climbing the rankings in several Amzon business categories.

Thanks for your support if you purchase a copy, and thanks even more for sharing your thoughts and reactions to these last few years of research.

 

 

 

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No Content Strategy Is an Island

As we’re (hopefully) all aware by now, content strategy is the foundation of content marketing. But content strategy requires its own foundational elements, too. Without them, that strategy is very, very difficult to architect.

Creating a content strategy obviously must precede content marketing, but your brand must have some marketing fundamentals in place to enable that process to occur. Time and time again I’ve run up against this obstacle with my clients. They’re often smart enough to know not to go ahead and just “do” content without that all-essential strategy, but they’re nevertheless lacking some of the foundational strategic elements a content strategy must hook into.

I’ve identified four essential marketing elements that must precede a content strategy. Am I leaving anything out?

1. Brand

What is a brand? There are various elements in the concept of “brand.” One is what a prospect thinks of when they consider your products or services. Another is the promise your organization makes.

Brand has to do with perception, and companies work long and hard to decide what they want that perception to be, and how to achieve it. Without brand strategy, content strategy becomes unmoored.

I’m currently working on a content strategy engagement for a divisional group of one of the world’s leading financial conglomerates. The overarching business has an established brand and brand strategy, but the brand of the division in question is still in development. Without knowing what the organization wants to be, or how it will represent itself in the marketplace, it’s difficult to come up with strategies that support this utterly central marketing pillar.

2. Messaging

Like brand, messaging is another core element of an organization that underpins content strategy (and most of the rest of marketing). What does the business want to say and convey? What does it not want to address? How will it approach its delivery of messages? Obviously this applies to content, as well as many other forms of communication.

3. Positioning

Has the organization defined where it stands in its competitive landscape? What sets it apart from other banks (or stores, or insurance companies or pharmaceutical manufacturers)? What are its unique strengths? What are its shortcomings? If you asked its staff or clients what was great about the organization, as well as what it could be doing better, how would they reply?

No company stands alone. Everything is relative. So knowing the pros, cons, ins and outs of an organization’s position is an essential content strategy framework.

4. Values

What are the company’s core values? What does it want to promote? Some organizations highlight their innovative side, others corporate responsibility and giving back to the community. Some highlight their people. Values can, of course, be a combination of a number of assets and attributes, but without firmly rooting values to practices, content strategy becomes difficult.

“Innovation” is a value one company I’ve worked with wants to promote. That’s great. But in order to do that, the company can’t just aspire to be innovative; it must be able to point to products, people, processes — something that will provide ongoing fodder for content around the topic of innovation.

It’s hard to push back and ask clients to show you how they walk the walk (rather than just talk the talk). But that’s exactly what a good content strategist will do.

Good content isn’t created out of hopes and dreams. It must be grounded in reality and in fundamental marketing principles.

Just as content strategy is the starting point for content marketing, the basics of branding, messaging, positioning and values must first be in place so content can flourish. The same applies to advertising, communications, social media and every other marketing practice.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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