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Promoting Your Content Marketing: Time to Orchestrate the Concert of Paid Media

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Promoting Your Content Marketing: Time to Orchestrate THE Concert of Paid Media

Content Marketing Institute research shows that new, creative approaches to paid content promotion are paying dividends to content marketers.

By Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute

Published in: Marketing

Promoting Your Content Marketing: Time to Orchestrate the Concert of Paid Media

  1. 1. Content Marketing Institute research shows that new, creative approaches to paid content promotion are paying dividends to content marketers By Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute Promoting Your Content Marketing: Time to Orchestrate THE Concert of Paid Media
  2. 2. 2 Digital marketing tactics and communication channels are appearing, evolving—and fading —on an ever-shortening time horizon. As a long-time leader in content distribution, PR Newswire regularly “takes the temperature” of public relations, corporate, shareholder, and marketing communications professionals, to understand how they are developing new communication strategies and reshaping traditional practices to succeed in this environment. For our latest assessment, we partnered with Content Marketing Institute to survey a range of marketers on their content promotion efforts, and we are pleased to share the resulting insights with you and the industry. From the types of content best suited for promotion to the continuing challenges in demonstrating ROI, this research depicts how strategic content promotion is key to achieving objectives with successful content marketing.
  3. 3. 3 One of the overriding themes to emerge in marketing during the last 15 years is the end of “interruptive” advertising. The central idea is a world where audiences are fragmenting across channels, and the whole notion of the 30-second spot, the banner, the full-page spread and even the outbound cold call as a way to sell products is becoming antiquated. Of course this is mostly overblown, and paying for attention is still an active and productive practice. However, content marketing initiatives—as opposed to programs promoting the product or service itself—are beginning to emerge much more prominently as the call-to-action for paid media promotion. Media companies are experimenting (sometimes desperately so) with new ways of displaying paid media, such as native advertising—where content is displayed in context with other material. Other content and advertising networks, such as Yahoo, Outbrain, and Taboola, are joining websites in large ad networks and enabling the semantic analysis of content to display “related” content in paid placement slots. Newswire services and content syndication networks are creating methods for marketers to pay for distribution of content, not just to newsrooms, but to website content networks, blogs, and social media channels that are eager for newsworthy content. This trend is, arguably, one of the primary reasons that content, and the emerging practice of content marketing, has gotten so much traction with marketers. The entire premise of content marketing is that a brand doesn’t have to “rent” an audience any longer. With the democratization of publishing and tools that can create content-driven experiences, any brand with a mind to, can create, publish, and develop a compelling content platform, circumventing the “rental” of audience and building its own. INTRODUCTION Paid, Owned & Earned Media – Working In Concert
  4. 4. 4 So, how can brands utilize a smart paid strategy for promoting their own content efforts? What are some of the “best-in-class” content marketers doing to use paid promotion to pull consumers in, and circumvent the “rental” of audiences? To answer these questions, we started with a hypothesis: We believe that promotion of content marketing can be a successful strategy—but that a new approach to actually using paid media to support that strategy will be necessary. This research study sought to test that hypothesis.
  5. 5. 5 In our conversations with marketers, we at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) have observed a growing trend of using paid methods such as newswire services, search engine marketing (SEM), banner and native advertising, and content discovery tools to promote content. The most effective content marketers are definitely finding pockets of success and many are increasing their budgets for paid promotion. However, there are still many challenges, including finding budget, measuring ROI, getting executive buy-in, and finding ways to collaborate successfully with other teams. For this report we spent most of our time looking at the differences between the most and least effective content marketers to understand the gaps and identify best practices for paid content promotion. Highlights of our research findings include:  Effective content marketers are most likely to use paid methods to promote white papers. Marketers use paid methods to promote numerous forms of content, including blog posts, webinars, and infographics. However, the most effective marketers favor white papers by a large margin (60% vs. 29% of the total sample).  One of the largest gaps in channel usage between the most and least effective content marketers is for newswire services. Marketers are experimenting with just about every type of media channel, but the most effective content marketers report using newswire services much more (78%) than those who are least effective (55%). RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS Paid Content Promotion Is Working – But It’s a Work in Progress
  6. 6. 6  Building audiences is a primary measurement of paid content promotional efforts among effective content marketers. 42% of the most effective marketers were measuring “subscriber growth” vs. only 23% of the least effective.  Budgets for paid content promotion are going up. 87% of content marketers said they were going to either increase or maintain their budget for paid content promotion. Only 2% said they were going to decrease it.  Collaboration with PR teams is core to effective content marketers. While collaboration with all teams carrying budget seems to be one of the biggest challenges for all paid content promotion efforts, the most effective marketers are far more likely to collaborate with the PR team than are the least effective marketers. More than half of the most effective content marketers collaborate with the PR team vs. 18% of the least effective.  Ongoing education about this new practice is critical for non-users. The content marketers who are NOT using paid methods to promote content said that education about best practices and case studies, as well as a dedicated budget, were the biggest factors that would make them reconsider. Overall, the findings confirmed our hypothesis: Those who are using paid methods and finding them effective, do so with wide experimentation, have a significant budget—and focus more on building audiences. So, we came away with a definitive conclusion, which is summed up in this paper’s title: Paid media can be quite effective for promoting content – but it must work in concert across a wide mix of media and content types. Additionally, the experimentation with newer approaches to familiar tactics, such as newswire services and content syndication—along with the clear need for education in this space—caught our attention. Paid media can be quite effective for promoting content – but it must work in concert across a wide mix of media and content types.
  7. 7. 7 Ultimately we identified 3 clear takeaways for the content marketer who wants to use paid content promotion: 1. Take a New Approach to Classic Tactics by Using a Wide Media Mix The most effective content marketers are using traditional vehicles in new ways. For example, press releases (sent through wire services) have long been considered part of the kingdom of “earned media.” The strategy for the marketer is to focus on a news announcement and hope that it gets coverage in the press. With Google algorithm updates, as well as the increasing noise in general, wire services should be viewed as a “natively paid” way to syndicate a story. According to an August 2013 Forbes article, press releases are a vital form of authentic content. The article concluded that: “They are an increasingly viable option for getting company news to be carried and discoverable within the regional and national press.”1 In other words, successful content marketers are presenting content as “authentic news stories” within a press release format, highlighting a call-to-action to engage with more content (research, white paper, etc.), and then using paid newswire services to syndicate and distribute the stories. Additionally, our anecdotal experiences point to content marketers looking at social in a similar fashion—as a way to natively distribute content (in a paid fashion) to call attention to other content—and pull audiences into their owned media platforms. 2. Use Paid Content Promotion to Build Audiences CMI Founder Joe Pulizzi often stresses that one of the biggest goals of content marketing is building an audience. In his book, Epic Content Marketing, he says: “Once the audience is built, that is when the magic happens. That is when marketers see long-term return. Content marketing without a loyal audience is not content marketing at all. Your content can’t accomplish much without an engaged audience.” It’s a challenge these days for sure. Content marketing typically resides within the social, demand generation, or even brand teams—and (as we found in the research) it’s not uncommon for these organizations to lack media-buying budgets. But, as we also found, collaboration with those who have budget can provide the fire—and the metrics around building audience can provide the fuel for the fire. Put simply: If the PR team is looking for harder metrics to support marketing—or if the social team is struggling with ROI but has budget to spend on social advertising—
  8. 8. 8 it can make great sense to use some of that money to promote the building of a marketing database (a.k.a., an audience), which can be monetized through a content marketing process. 3. Align Strategic Processes to Make Paid Content Promotion Work Recent research on North American business-to-business (B2B) marketers, conducted by CMI and MarketingProfs,2 showed a correlation between effectiveness and a documented content marketing strategy. The study found that 95% of the most effective content marketers have a strategy vs. 55% of the least effective. Further, 54% of the most effective have documented the strategy. There’s also no doubt that the “quantity vs. quality” issue is becoming less of a question for content marketers. Forrester analyst Ryan Skinner recently summed this up well in a blog post outlining his report, Put Distribution at the Heart of Content Marketing. He said: “Brands can actually step down content production and step up distribution to get better results. An ecosystem of vendors has cropped up to help marketers drive distribution of branded content. The most effective promotions often come from doubling-down on past successes.” And, perhaps most importantly: “Better distribution improves content’s quality, as the feedback cycle accelerates.” 3 These are conclusions that we at CMI agree with as well. Reducing the quantity of content, and focusing on creating (and then promoting) high-quality content can help make a content marketing program both more effective and more efficient. So, with these three major takeaways in mind, let’s review the results from our study on content marketing and paid content promotion, and see how they align with each. One result is that, in some cases, this can put the brand in a “frenemy”-based competition with the publishers that are fighting for that same attention. It also follows that the exponentially increasing noise created by brand-owned content competing for attention contributes to the continuing fragmentation of audiences, and the increasing complexity of owning attention, earning attention, and even paying for it.
  9. 9. 9 To better understand how content marketers are using paid methods to promote their content efforts, we electronically surveyed a random sample of marketers from CMI’s broader audience. Of the 212 respondents, 65% said they use at least one paid method to promote content. We split those respondents into two groups: the “most” and “least” effective content marketers.* We also looked at the 35% who said they don’t use paid methods to promote content in order to better understand their reasons for not doing so, as well as how likely they are to reconsider. The survey was conducted in August 2014. The 212 respondents were primarily North American content marketers from B2B and B2C companies. METHODOLOGY Industry ClassificationNature of Organization 28% 31% 17% 9%8% 7% ■ Advertising/Communications/ Marketing/PR ■ Technology ■ Publishing/Media ■ Manufacturing ■ Consulting ■ Other ■ B2B ■ B2C ■ Both B2B+B2C ■ Nonprofit 67% 8% 19% 7%
  10. 10. 10 ■ Marketing/Advertising/ Communications/PR Management ■ Corporate Management/Owner ■ Content Creation/Management ■ General Management ■ Marketing Administration/Support ■ Consultant ■ Other 38% 19% 13% 10% 8% 5% 7% Title/Job FunctionSize of Organization 30% 25% 20% 23% ■ Micro (Fewer than 10 Employees) ■ Small (10-99 Employees) ■ Midsize (100-999 Employees) ■ Large (1,000+ Employees) ■ Technology ■ Publishing/Media ■ Manufacturing ■ Consulting ■ Other ■ Both B2B+B2C ■ Nonprofit *The most effective are those who rated their organization a 4 or 5 in terms of overall content marketing effectiveness on a 5-point scale, where 5 was “very effective” and 1 was “not at all effective.” The least effective marketers are those who rated their organization a 1 or 2. Effectiveness was defined on the survey as accomplishing your content marketing objectives.
  11. 11. 11 One of the most surprising results from our study was how much experimentation was going on within paid content promotion. When we examined the types of content that organizations were most frequently using paid methods to promote, news releases came in first at 34%. This was rounded out by white papers, earned media (i.e., coverage of products, services, or content by a media outlet or blog), and blog posts. However, a more interesting result came when we looked at the differences between the most and least effective marketers: The most effective are promoting all content types to a much higher degree than the least effective (see Table 1). On average, they’re paying to promote 4 content types vs. 2 for the least effective. RESEARCH INSIGHT 1 Effective Content Marketers Experimenting With Promotion
  12. 12. 12 Table 1 Types of Content that Marketers Use Paid Methods to Promote Most Effective Total Sample Least Effective  White Papers...................................60%......................... 29%........................... 5%  Blog Posts.......................................48%......................... 26%..........................23%  Earned Media..................................46%......................... 27%..........................23%  Webinars.........................................46%......................... 25%.......................... 32%  Infographics....................................44%......................... 22%.......................... 18%  News Releases................................44%......................... 34%.......................... 64%  Videos..............................................44%......................... 24%.......................... 27%  Case Studies...................................34%......................... 18%.......................... 14%  Research Reports...........................32%......................... 15%........................... 0%  Other...............................................30%......................... 21%.......................... 36% Obviously, there is investment going into creating these owned content pieces; therefore, there should be real effort in terms of promoting them. Budgeting for paid promotion of these efforts should be a key consideration. Where Is the Money Going? When we look at the paid methods marketers are using (see Table 2) to promote content, we see that they’re relying on tried-and-true forms of paid advertising, as well as experimenting with newer forms of content promotion.
  13. 13. 13 Table 2 Paid Methods that Marketers Use to Distribute/Promote Content  Native Ads (Social)............................................................................80%  Search Engine Marketing (SEM)........................................................78%  Paid Online Advertising.................................................................... 74%  Press Release Services.....................................................................70%  Paid Offline Advertising....................................................................62%  Native Ads (Long Form)....................................................................55%  Content Syndication Services..........................................................28%  Content Discovery Tools...................................................................26% When we look only at the most and least effective marketers, we see the most marked differences in usage with press release services, native advertising (long form), and content syndication services, as follows:  78% of the most effective marketers use press release services vs. 55% of the least effective.  70% of the most effective marketers use native advertising (in long form) vs. 41% of the least effective.  32% of the most effective marketers use content syndication services vs. 5% of the least effective. The research suggests fairly strongly that the most effective marketers are acting as early adopters to newer methods, and also experimenting with new approaches to traditional methods such as press release services and content syndication.
  14. 14. 14 Looking through the content microscope and always trying to find some direct line to a lead or a sale is something that simply must change. At CMI, the organizations we have seen become most successful with content marketing are those that are enabling their PR, corporate communications, advertising, and demand-generation teams to work with their content marketing counterparts to develop holistic media purchasing plans for building audiences, rather than driving leads. PR and corporate communications teams bring their ability to purchase paid press release services and content syndication services to the table; advertising and demand-generation teams have the ability to purchase paid advertising services. This approach was further bolstered by our research, where we asked how the organization measures the ROI on paid content promotion. 40% of the most effective marketers measure “subscriber growth” as opposed to only 23% of the least effective marketers. And this is a critical takeaway. Successful content marketers are redefining the calls-to-action on their “paid” efforts. Today’s smart strategy is about using paid promotion to build a marketing database (or audience) and not necessarily trying to focus on a direct lead or sale. In many ways, paying for promotion of content is about creating a more engaged subscriber to the brand’s approach—so that at some point these subscribers can be considered potential leads or sales. In a post written last year on agency iAcquire’s blog, Joel Klettke summed this up very well when he said: “If you want to build links, your content needs to reach the kind of people who can link to you (web masters, bloggers, media outlets). If you want to boost sales, your content needs to get in front of people close to making a purchase decision.” 4 RESEARCH INSIGHT 2 Effective Content Marketers Develop Audiences
  15. 15. 15 In this study, when we looked at future plans, the results indicate that successful content marketers are following Klettke’s advice. In fact, 87% of marketers said they are going to either increase or maintain their budget for paid content promotion over the next 12 months. Only 2% said they were going to decrease their budget. This was consistent among those who considered themselves most and least effective. To put it simply: Most everyone now agrees that paid promotion of content will be a considerable part of a content marketing strategy moving forward. The question is, then, “How much budget should we devote?” Here we saw a (perhaps predictable) difference between the most and least effective. When we looked at all marketers, the general consensus was for devoting somewhere between 10% and 24% of content marketing to paid content promotion (see Table 3). RESEARCH INSIGHT 3 Effective Content Marketers Have Aligned Strategic Processes
  16. 16. 16 However, when we compared the most and least effective, we found that the most effective are definitively spending a higher percentage of their budget on paid promotion (one-third of them spend more than 25% vs. only 1 in 10 of the least effective). In fact, more than one-third of the least effective are spending less than 4% of their budget on content promotion. This is a telling story—and strongly suggests that those who are spending such a small amount should really look to their content promotion strategy and budget. When we then looked at who is collaborating on a paid content promotion strategy, another gap emerged—but this one was more surprising. Here, the top 4 teams that were collaborating on content promotion were the marketing, social, PR, and Web teams—with all being mentioned by more than 40% of the survey respondents. Table 3 Percentage of Content Marketing Budget Spent on Paid Promotion  100%....................................................................1%  75-99%................................................................1%  50-74%.................................................................6%  25-49%............................................................. 13%  10-24%.............................................................. 22%  5-9%................................................................. 13%  1-4%..................................................................17%  0%........................................................................3%  Unsure.............................................................. 22%  Average.............................................................21%
  17. 17. 17 However, the biggest gap between the most and least effective marketers was in collaboration with the PR team. 56% of the most effective content marketers are collaborating with the PR team, as opposed to only 18% of the least effective content marketers. We also looked at the challenges that content marketers have with paid content promotion (see Table 4). Lack of a dedicated budget was the biggest challenge, with 38% of survey respondents citing it as their greatest obstacle. These results suggest that successful content marketers are looking to their PR teams more frequently to find ways to pay for content promotion and integrate that into their strategy. And, for those who are feeling ineffective, more collaboration with departments that can exert budget control over paid content will be productive. Table 4 Paid Promotion Challenges that Content Marketers Face  Lack of a Dedicated Budget...................................................................... 38%  Measuring ROI............................................................................................ 29%  Testing of Tactics for Best Ways to Reach Audience............................... 28%  Collaborating with Internal Teams........................................................... 19%  Getting Executive Buy-in........................................................................... 14%
  18. 18. 18 As a final note to our study, we looked at those who are not using paid methods to promote their content. In most cases (seven out of 10), they have simply never tried it. Prioritization and lack of budget are other big reasons, with almost 40% saying they simply had higher priorities with their content marketing tactics, or didn’t have the budget to use paid promotion. Finally, when asked what would be most helpful in encouraging the use of paid content promotion, most reported that proven case study examples, best practices, and a dedicated budget would be the biggest factors at 50%, 39%, and 39%, respectively. When we take all of these results together, it would seem that education about the efficacy and methods for smart paid content promotion strategies may, indeed, convince these content marketers and their executive leadership to reprioritize their efforts. RESEARCH INSIGHT 4 For Those Who Don’t Promote – Try It You’ll Like It
  19. 19. 19 As we’ve always said at CMI, the practice of content marketing is one that is infused into all the other strategies being employed by a brand. It is a steady, consistent, and innovative mix of an owned media strategy, fueled by paid and earned promotions. So, as new paid and earned models have emerged, so too has the need to adapt some of the techniques that marketers use within those models. Content marketers have begun to realize that promoting their owned media platform (such as a blog, a white paper program, or a webinar) is a must. And they’ve also discovered that they need a mix of promotion techniques in order to have any success. Marketers are exploring everything from social promotion, to buying ads, to issuing press releases—even briefing journalists on content they’ve created can provide excellent results. This evolution of the mix was borne out of a June 2014 research study conducted by OneSpot and The 614 Group. The study found that while social media was the most common external promotional technique, paid search, and display media still ranked as tactics with almost 50% of respondents.5 As we found in this study—and really with content marketing more broadly—measurement and ROI remain key challenges. Advertising and paid media, given their traditional role as the primary method of marketing promotion, have struggled to earn respect as high “ROI” metrics. A quick look around at other research shows that every new marketing practice gets compared to paid advertising as the “baseline” of what ineffective means. In other words, for every new social, mobile, or content-oriented tactic, the conclusion seems to be that it’s “2x or 5x more effective than advertising.” CONCLUSION Time to Orchestrate New Twists on Classic Tactics
  20. 20. 20 This is flawed thinking. Content doesn’t replace paid tactics—it is fed by them. And, in turn it feeds them back. With the new approaches to classic solutions such as search, press release services, advertising, advertorials (now native advertising), and outbound calling, content marketers can infuse paid promotions into content programs to make them better. This, in turn, makes the paid promotions better—and marketing and advertising work in concert across all channels. The idea of “if you build it, they will come” is (and always has been) only true if you insert the words “and you promote it” in the middle. REFERENCES 1. Conner, C. “Press Releases Still Matter for the Reasons You Think. Forbes, August 28, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/08/28/do-press-releases-still-matter-yes-but-not-like- you-think/ 2. B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2014/10/2015-b2b-content-marketing-research/ 3. Skinner, R. “Put Distribution at the Heart of Content Marketing.” Forrester, October 3, 2013. https://www.forrester.com/Put+Distribution+At+The+Heart+Of+Content+Marketing/fulltext/-/E-RES101981 4. Kletkke, J. “Amplification: Content Marketing’s Missing Piece.” iAcquire, October 14, 2013. http://www.iacquire.com/blog/content-amplification 5. “The 614 Group Unveils Groundbreaking Study of Native Advertising Vendor Technologies and Capabilities.” August 7, 2014. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-614-group-unveils-groundbreaking-study-of-native- advertising-vendor-technologies-and-capabilities-270320601.html
  21. 21. 21 About Content Marketing Institute Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is the leading global content marketing education and training organization. CMI teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. CMI’s Content Marketing World event, the largest content marketing- focused event, is held every September, and Content Marketing World Sydney, every March. CMI also produces the quarterly magazine Chief Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known brands in the world. CMI is a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Inc. 500 company. View all CMI research at www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/research. Learn how to create a documented content marketing strategy, a key component for improving overall content marketing effectiveness. About PRNewswire PR Newswire has been the industry’s most authoritative source of news and information for more than 60 years. With our unrivaled global distribution network, media targeting tools, and our range of multimedia content options, we have a proven ability to build awareness, deliver targeted media attention, and drive discoverability. From product launches to campaign microsites, media outreach campaigns to investor webcasts, our solutions, services, and communities help communicators of all stripes—marketing, corporate, PR, shareholder—share their messages, create and nurture relationships, and achieve their campaign goals. To learn more, go to PRNewswire.com and follow @PRNewswire.

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