Why we aren’t ready for content marketing, and what can be done about it

Caroline Catterall

In this guest post Caroline Catterall reveals why getting a grip on content marketing can be a more difficult concept than expected.

Search traffic for content marketing has skyrocketed in Australia since 2013 and it’s not hard to understand why.

On paper, the value proposition for brands sounds pretty irresistible – become your own publisher, drive traffic to your website, save money on advertising.

Sound good? It sure does.

A panel session I attended at SXSW in Austin, Texas, this week lured in the masses with the provocative title Content Now! Stop Advertising, Start Publishing.

Around 70% of the audience consisted of brand managers who were hoping it was as good and simple as it sounded.

The conversation built on my own thinking and experience that brands have to get their house in order before they can reach the starting line for true content marketing.

Sure, anyone can publish content these days, but if you want it to have impact, here are some things to consider:

  • Bring your siloed teams together: Which department should be responsible for content? Digital (they can publish to social), PR (natural storytellers) or marketing (control the brand and spend)?A siloed approach is likely to result in each department having a different brief, separate budgets and trouble coordinating team members who don’t really see themselves working together. Gatorade in the U.S. have fixed this by establishing a Customer Engagement Team where everyone works together.Similarly, Mazda is in the midst of a restructure to establish a Customer Interaction Department in its U.S. headquarters.  If storytelling and content is at the heart of your marketing strategy, bring everyone together.
  • Digital health check – If you’re serious about content marketing driving traffic to your website will likely be a top priority.Consider: Is your site mobile optimised? Do you have clear KPIs and conversion metrics in place?What are your SEO keywords and how are you performing here? And what terms are your customers searching for anyway?We are long overdue for a website refresh ourselves so know it can be hard to prioritise but without a cracking website and a health social media ecosystem supporting this, your content marketing strategy may fall flat.
  • Advertising is here to stay – The panel at SXSW quickly burst the bubble that publishing content equals no more advertising.While some content will have earned media appeal, the majority will need to be promoted through social media (PowerEditor etc) and we’re also increasingly using amplification tools such as Outbrain.The rule of thumb is 50% – 60% of your production budget needs to be allocated again to getting the content out there. So it’s not a case of stopping advertising but being prepared for digital and social to take a bigger chunk of the pie.
  • Understand what makes a good story: This can be very subjective and five people around the table could have five different idea. Guiding principles help.Gatorade at SXSW shared theirs based on the acronym CASE. Is it Creative? Is it Authentic? Is it Strategic? Is it Emotional?Develop some guiding principles that makes sense for your organisation before you get started.
  • Divide and conquer your agencies: As advertising agencies continue to push down, and PR agencies (like us) expand their capabilities and push up, it seems to me there’s still a clear line around who does what and how we can work together to deliver the best product for the client, at the right price.Big ticket brand advertising should continue to sit with advertising agencies, but all other campaign content can be pitched out to a panel of PR, creative and production agencies who may be more nimble and cost-effective. There’s plenty to go around.

As the saying goes: “Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever”.  Good luck crafting your story.

Caroline Catterall is the CEO of Keep Left


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