Brands have never cared more about content marketing. It is the hot topic for 2013, as brands look to leverage great content to expand their reach, drive more engagement or improve their search engine rankings – to name a few. Don’t believe me? Search any content marketing related keyword in Google Trends and you’ll find a spike in conversation this year around the topic (the graph to the right is for “content marketing” news headlines).
The problem facing most organizations is how to create great content that will get noticed and shared as information volumes continue to increase. We all know that most people have too much information to process – so how can your organization hope to break through the clutter, filters and competition to get noticed? For starters, your communications team should start to think like a newsroom. Before we explore how to shift your mindset to that of a newsroom, let’s start by looking at the past and present state of content marketing from my perspective.
Before we called it content marketing, we called it marketing communications. Your team of marketing professionals – including corporate communications, marketing communications and public relations professionals – would develop content in line with the communications needs of the organization. You started with target audiences and determined what needed to be communicated to those audiences on an annual, quarterly or monthly basis.
The outputs were typically annual reports, brochures, newsletters, case studies, data sheets and white papers – to name a few. Over the past decade, more and more of these materials became digital – and in recent years, a heck of a lot more social. The underlying content was written for the masses and typically written in marketing speak. The content wasn’t particularly captivating or relevant to the audience and was one-sided in nature. That is, content was written to communicate what the company wanted to communicate to an audience – not necessarily what the audience wanted to read about (not to mention share). This was the world of content marketing in the mass communications age.
Today, your brand has more channels to communicate through – and more audiences to communicate with. Every single channel is interactive – it’s two-way, where your audience has a powerful voice (sometimes more powerful and influential than your own). As such, your content creation has evolved to the most sophisticated state it’s ever been. You’re finally talking with your audiences, and you’re responding to their information needs in new ways. You’re becoming a lot more personable in the process, and giving your audiences a chance to see who you really are as a brand. It’s great, isn’t it?
If you’re lucky, you have an army of internal and agency resources dedicated to helping you fuel the content machine – cranking out all sorts of content to keep the feeds full and to keep people clicking and sharing. Then there are those organizations who desperately need more resources to produce content – they simply don’t have the budget or staff needed to keep up with all the communications channels. These are the organizations that haven’t posted to the LinkedIn Company Page in months (or a year), only have a couple of videos on YouTube and only reply to Twitter Followers here and there (when they’re bored in a meeting or know they need to give an update on social to management sometime soon).
Sure, if you’re posting on a regular basis, you have more friends and followers than you did last quarter, and Google Analytics reports have never looked so good. Traffic equals leads and that’s got everyone singing your praises… but it’s not going to be enough next year. You’re not the only one posting to these channels now – and your audience is becoming even more picky about what they look for in good content, as more and more content becomes available in their streams. It’s time to evolve. The future of content marketing is here.
Whether your future is this week or next year, the future is focused on producing better content faster than ever before. You are now CNN for your brand. Now that your brand is its own news organization, you’re responsible for producing the best content you can to keep your audience tuning in week after week. To do this, you have to act like a newsroom. If you’ve never worked in a newsroom, you’ll need somebody on your team that has. Here is what the future of your content marketing operation looks like:
- More than a few people on your internal and external communications teams have a degree in journalism – some of them have actually worked for a newspaper or broadcast news organization (they’re like real journalists)
- Your team – which now consists of marketers, journalists, copywriters, designers, videographers, developers, social media specialists, analytics and SEO professionals and more – holds a daily standup meeting to determine what content you need to produce today
- The team monitors trending news stories, memes and other popular content to find opportunities to position your brand and its content around what people are talking about today – or to determine its own content that will become the news of the day
- The team creates content that is quickly consumed, ‘liked’ and shared by the community – enabling the team to generate its own trending content on a daily basis – using analytics and real-time data from the community, the team makes adjustments on the fly or repurposes content in different formats across other social channels to drive engagement
- The paid media specialists on the team take trending content and apply sponsored content or ‘native advertising’ tactics to amplify the content and reach a greater audience
- The content hub for your brand – whether a section on your website, a blog or some other central content resource – is visited daily (or several times per day) by your audiences, because they don’t want to miss your next post; your brand is media
- Your content is far more entertaining, relevant and engaging than it’s ever been, and your fans and followers love you for it – they love your brand because of the great content you’re sharing
- Everyone on your content team has some dashboard or analytics tool up in their browser, looking at performance in real-time and optimizing the approach on-the-fly to improve results
- Every piece of content you produce is based on insights – and every piece of content you produce generates results that can be tracked and quantified at some level (there’s real ROI tied to your content performance)
- You end the day with a review of what worked and what didn’t, and start to plan the next batch of content for tonight, tomorrow, different time zones or regions, or event over the weekend or holidays – and this is just for the unplanned content
Sound far-fetched? It’s not. There are hundreds of brands now using some modification of this approach to create content that is more relevant and engaging for their fans. Your audiences demand great content for their like or follow – if you don’t deliver, they’ll go find some other brand that will. They’re hungry for great content… will you give it to them?
What do you think? Does your team think and work like a newsroom today? Do you want to act more like a newsroom? How is your team evolving to improve the way it plans, produces and shares content?