Don’t be shy about what content marketing is for

May 14th, 2018

There can be an odd reluctance to be open about what content is there to do

If you’re anything like me, you will have found yourself at a gathering of family or friends valiantly explaining content marketing.

The one that particularly seems to prickle is the remark, “So it’s a bit like advertising?”

“No,” I say. “It’s providing useful and engaging materials, such as articles, videos or infographics, that reinforce your brand and encourage loyalty in your product.”

You’ve rarely seen eyes glaze over so quickly.

Which led me to wonder, why are we often so coy about the intentions behind our content?

What are we doing here?

To start with, what are we actually doing? And how are we doing it?

The OST methodology (objective, strategy, tactics) is something that every marketing department, and every business in general, should have in mind.

Let’s tackle it.

Objective – When it comes to objective, there is one overriding answer.

The objective for any enterprise with aspirations for stability, growth and success has to be to expand its own brand. In crude terms: to sell stuff.

And that’s fine. There really is no need to feel guilty saying that.

Because where content does differ from, for example, traditional advertising is in the S and the T.

Strategy – Traditional advertising methods might look to convince – whether through stats (e.g. price), influencers (e.g. celebrity advocates) or visuals (e.g. flashy TV spots).

But for content marketers, the idea is to engage. It’s a catch-all phrase, but one that has never been so relevant in a noisy, busy, online world.

Engaging means grabbing the attention of an audience and encouraging them to interact with your content in a meaningful way – whether that’s downloading your whitepaper, sharing your video or clicking through to your website.

Tactics – And so finally to the heart of the matter: how to get it done. And that’s where content comes in. Content is the means i.e. the tactics for engaging and achieving the objective.

An old-fashioned problem

The channels may have changed but the problem remains the same: how do you reach your audience?

As marketers we’re in a privileged position to be tackling a familiar old problem, but now with an arsenal of new technology at our fingertips.

Directness will always be the most effective way of communicating with an audience. Work out exactly who your audience is and talk directly to them – “as consultants, we xxx” or “you should always try to xxx”. And that spirit of directness should infuse your whole content strategy.

For example, show the tangible, practical value of your products or services for the audience. There’s no time to waste in hoping your audience will join the dots or read between the lines – state the genuine (and financial, if possible) use of your product/service and how it will help that user. Let your content live by the mantra ‘show, don’t say’.

Equally, be up front about the motives behind the content. Producing high-quality content is a great way to build brands, whether you’re an agency or a client. It’s a mutually beneficial process.

So next time you find yourself explaining the point of difference for content marketing, perhaps you can be clearer about what it is. How about: “We make cool stuff that helps build brands”?

Regardless of new channels and technologies that appear, traditional values of directness and honesty remain true. Don’t be shy about it.

James Sullivan, Deputy Editor, Progressive Content

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