The content marketer has got no clothes
Content Marketing – the two words on every digital marketer’s lips this year. If the hype is to be believed, it is the sole shining beacon of light in the otherwise drab, decaying world of marketing.
But what is it?
“On the web, according to a report by Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, content marketing is simply using content — news, feature, or otherwise — to commercial advantage. ‘Providing content that people are actively interested in reading,’” sums up Stefan Deeran from NewsCred.“
Content Marketing has become the new buzzword across the digital marketing industry (particularly SEO) to describe link acquisition. In an attempt to both appease search engines and carve out a niche for themselves in the marketplace, agencies across the globe are now bandying this term around like a pair of shiny, shiny new shoes.
Winding back the clocks a few years we can see an interesting history of trends du jour that have swept up the hep cats of the digital marketing community.
A few years back it was “sticky content”, then it was “social search”, then it was “inbound marketing”and “earned media”… A quick scroll back through the posts of any marketing blog will show you the changing names of what is effectively the same approach to marketing with a shiny new name (or in some cases a shiny old name re-invented for the world of digital).
Case in point: a few years back the PR industry in the UK was rocked by the previously unforeseen revelation that all PR professionals should learn SEO, lest their very world be ripped from under their feet by the unstoppable onslaught of online marketing. This was largely driven by a trend among SEO professionals to present themselves as ‘Online PR Consultants’ and PR professionals as blind fools because they didn’t immediately throw away their hard-won relationships for links in every news article they published.
Needless to say, the world of PR weathered this storm admirably, and the world of SEO calmed down enough to understand that it can in fact peacefully co-exist with these ‘traditional’ people without assimilating them like a marketing version of The Thing.
Now it’s all about content marketing with a recent ADMA study bemoaning the tragedy that marketers are struggling to fit content marketing into the traditional marketing business model.
The reason traditional marketers might struggle to fit this newfangled craziness into their typical marketing mix is because they are probably already doing it, but the right way around. That is, having an amazing idea first, then thinking about the medium and promotion (or ‘content’ if you prefer) afterward.
A lot of people come into digital marketing from backgrounds far removed from most traditional marketers; computer science, maths, development, philosophy… As the online marketing industry matures, these people are realising that to be taken seriously by people in the offline world, they must learn the habits of the offline world and speak in its language.
Unfortunately, like an overzealous schoolboy on his first date, the online marketing industry at large tends to rush in and fumble around with things before it fully understands them, with very mixed results. Like those first dates, an odd few turn out to be a defining moment, the majority are forgettable, and some are horrific.
The SEO industry in particular has garnered a bad reputation for taking something it loves and slowly strangling all the life out of it before moving on to the next fun thing. (See web directories, article websites, infographics and, most recently, guest blogging.)
If your digital marketing agency has a bit more experience, it will probably be talking to you about how to leverage your current content online as well as offline, get more for your money from all your agencies and educate your marketing team to ensure digital is an integral part of your current marketing mix.
Do we speak to our clients about content marketing? Yes we do, but we discuss it in a tangible context. To understand how to make ‘content marketing’ work, you need to understand your client. It is not a bolt-on standalone thing, but a product of proper engagement with wider marketing strategy to make digital an integral part of any campaign.
Take a store-based health campaign for example, intended to drive increased footfall to franchise locations across Australia. The content marketing element of this campaign may be as simple as some well-placed calls to journalists to get some online coverage on health magazine websites (as well as in print), or as complex as creating a companion health plan application to build longer-term engagement with those customers.
Content is a natural product of these ideas – people write articles, they publish results, they share on social networks.
You don’t need to add the words ‘Content Marketing’ into a smug filled new line item in your marketing plan; you just need to ensure you make the most of the content you are already producing online, as well as offline.
Ultimately, taking a measured approach to new techniques, rather than immediately jumping on every passing bandwagon, will yield much greater rewards. As The King once crooned, “only fools rush in”.
- Stuart Turner is SEO manager at digital agency M