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A Beginner's Guide to Content Marketing


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A Beginner's Guide to Content Marketing

  1. 1. A beginner’s guide to content marketing1 | P a g e“The goal is not to be good atcontent. The goal is to use contentto be good at business.”Jay BaerUS marketing author
  2. 2. A beginner’s guide to content marketing2 | P a g eContent marketing is not newThe term ‘content marketing’ may be recent but the practice of content marketing has beenaround a long time.Down the centuries people have shared knowledge with others, transferred skills, warned ofdanger and passed along useful facts, figures and opinions.Today this intimate way of information sharing is changing, and fast. We are all time-poor. Too many people want our attention and if we surrendered totheir demands we would be simply overwhelmed. Since 2003, social media has increasingly pushed traditional media models aside. Itspeeds up the direct and very personal delivery of information to each of us, and atthe same time gifts us a publishing platform and a filtering system. We now havenumerous options to receive and share information anytime, anywhere, any place. Recent research shows that we now mistrust brands, business, government andother traditional sources of information. (See the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer forAustralia.) We all have the ability to speak beyond our own circle but noorganisation has the right to be heard. Traditional media is fragmenting and as it searches for new business models, itsreliability as the dominant communications channel to our audiences is slippingaway.It is time for a different approachto connect with customers, citizens or clients.Enter content marketing, an evolution of old-style marketing,gaining traction in the US and now emerging in Australia.Content uncoveredContent is the information your audiences find useful or entertaining or both. It is notnecessarily what you want to say. It is what the audience wants or needs to hear. Thecurrency of content marketing is information that adds value to your audiences. If it fails theall-important test of adding value it just becomes part of the background noise, whichsurrounds us every day but never connects with our hearts or minds.You can create and share content across owned, earned and paid media. Owned media arethe channels you control, such as social media accounts, websites, print materials andevents. Earned media is coverage through independent online newspaper, radio and TVreporting. Paid media includes advertorials and advertising.If there is a wide choice of platforms, the range of formats is just as extensive. You canshare your information through text, video, images, animation, games, audio, statistics, data,events, face to face encounters and a whole lot more.
  3. 3. A beginner’s guide to content marketing3 | P a g eWeve always done thatContent marketing works on the principle that giving people worthwhile or entertaininginformation is the best way to achieve a mutually productive relationship with them. It isabout conversations that are continuous, engaging and so useful that audiences recognisetheir value and want to be take part.But isnt content marketing what weve always done?Yes, maybe, perhaps. Most marketers understand the basic concept of content marketing.A 2013 Content Marketing Institute Survey shows 98% of Australian B2B marketers usecontent marketing while 89% of B2C marketers use it. They may not use the term contentmarketing but they do use information to build brand awareness, increase engagement andkeep customer loyalty.Communicators have long practiced elements of content marketing, but until now theirapproach has not been systematic. The campaign approach of old-style marketing and PRhas dominated. Campaigns have been researched, planned, carried out and evaluated overa specific time frame, which is stop, go, pause, stop, go, pause. Audience needs often donot influence the timing of campaigns and organisations run on their own communicationstimetables.Content marketing is about continuing conversations based on relationships forged by thepower of valuable information. Frankly, it is messier than what we have done in the pastbecause it is fluid, interactive, two-way and relies heavily on social media. It is far moredynamic than previous approaches.Step by stepContent marketing is an end-to-end system built on the following steps: Understanding the big picture Knowing your audience’s interests Sourcing valuable information Preparing, packaging and sharing content so it compels conversation Measuring results and adapting where necessaryTraditional marketing and PR mostly runscampaign by campaign. Stop, go, pause, stop, go pause.Content marketing is about continuing conversations based onrelationships forged by the power of valuable information.Understand the big pictureBefore undertaking content marketing you need to have mastered the essentials. What ismy brand, what does it stand for, and where is it heading?
  4. 4. A beginner’s guide to content marketing4 | P a g eAfter this critical information is honed, come questions that will shape how you approachyour audiences. What do you want your communications to achieve in terms of businessand other results? When do you want to achieve results by? What is your timeframe forplanning and execution? What resources can you devote?In this regard content marketing is no different from any other type of marketing or PRcampaign.Know your audienceDiscover what your audience wants or values. This need is no different from traditional PRand marketing - at least in theory. However, in practice how often have we focused on whatwe want to say not what they want to hear?What problems does your audience want to solve? What issues interest them? Whatinformation do they need, do they understand? How do they want to engage with you oryour issue?Answering these questions and then sharing the solutions will lead to useful communicationsnot communications that interrupt. Content marketing dictates that you test yourassumptions about what audiences need. Never be afraid to sit down with them and askwhat do you need from us? How can we be more useful? Seek out this information by: Formal and traditional market research and customer surveys Asking frontline staff about concerns people raise Analysing issues raised with the CEO, Minister or complaints department Searching online for terms associated with your organisation or issue Listening to the chatter on social media Keeping watch on your website’s analyticsSource contentMap out the content you can provide to your audience’s needs. US author Jay Baerproposes Youtility as the new requirement for information. Youtility is information so helpfulthat people would be willing to pay for it, which Baer claims will set you apart in today’scompetitive landscape.After 22 years of PR experience, I recognise that finding information for the right audience atthe right time is rarely straightforward or easy. Someone in your organisation will have it butwho are they? And if they have it, how is it arranged and presented? Is it in accessiblelanguage and is it supported by aids to our understanding? Or more importantly are therebarriers to sharing material and if so how do we overcome them?Often we find answers buried deep within our organisation where we least expect them.Therefore, an early content marketing task is surfacing valuable material much like adetective sleuths a case. This morphs into a constant need to refresh material so theaudience sees it as relevant and timely.
  5. 5. A beginner’s guide to content marketing5 | P a g eSometimes your organisation simply does not have the information audiences want. Todaythis is no excuse for not providing it, given our access to so much online search power. Ifyou don’t have it, find it and then curate and package it into audience-friendly formats.Curating was once the exclusive province of librarians, scholars and scientists. Now searchengines can locate and refresh information at lightning speed. You can arrange informationfrom others alongside your own manually, or use free tools like, Flipboard andSpunge to effortlessly collate, review and share it.StorytellingContent marketing moves us beyond simple declarations of features and benefits of aproduct or service. It shifts the marketing mindset from hyping to helping.One way it does this is through storytelling. Stories are the language of the human camp.They are how we learned about the world when we were children. Content marketingdemands we tell the stories of our organisations, what they do and why they are worthlistening to.Effective storytelling islike cement binding us to our audiencesjust as storytelling in the past bound us to traditions,cultures and communities.The strongest story you can ever offer is from someone your organisation has helped toachieve a better result in their lives. This can come from clients, customers or loyal fans.These testimonials are like mini-history lessons weaving together struggles, action andoutcomes achieved, into persuasive personal stories.The next most powerful stories are about your own people helping others by sharing theirknowledge and experience or through their actions. Or it could be a backing fromindependent figures or an organisation, that tells others about the value your organisationoffers.Unfortunately the least effective story is the one most commonly used. It involves adeclaration from a Minister, CEO or other hierarchical figure about the virtues of theircompany or agency. Although we may turn to authority in a time of crisis, they lack thecloseness, empathy and credibility to connect an organisation to an audience in more routinecircumstances.The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer for Australia shows public trust is significantly higher forpeople other than the boss. Independent academics, technical experts and regularemployees rate higher than those in the C suite. Their trust ratings are somewhere near thebottom of the barometer.Present content
  6. 6. A beginner’s guide to content marketing6 | P a g ePresenting your content is an important step that involves arranging information into formatsyour audience is likely use. Do my audiences like long or short text? Is my information bestshown in infographics, charts, spreadsheets or tables? Would video and imagery work wellfor my how to instructions?And how you express that content is critical.Large organisations need rules about who can say what, when and how. If you speak in aqualified, corporate voice you either end up talking to yourself or to those remarkably similarto you. In both cases you have probably missed the mark – and by a wide margin.Content marketing is about communicating with personality sopeople just get it, respond and engage with your information.It sounds simple but it requires the right tone,skill, balance and lots of practice to achieve that outcome.Content through picturesA standout feature of content marketing is the far-reaching use of images. This is becausethere is so much information available and we are all so busy. We are instinctively drawn toimagery to quickly process information and shortcut our understanding of issues.A recent Hubspot article highlighted why imagery is important in communications. 90% of information sent to the brain is visual. The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. Infographics add an average of 12% more traffic to online efforts. Viewers spend 100% more time on webpages with videos. Viewers are 85% more likely to buy after watching a product video.In Australia we are seeing the explosive growth of video.In the April – June 2013 edition of Professional Marketing Magazine, Matt Bruce of NielsenMedia Group Australia highlighted how Australians have taken to online video. In January2013, 11.2 million Australians watched more than 1.8 billion hours of video. The averageAustralian spent nearly seven hours watching online video content revolving aroundentertainment, news and information. They watched on YouTube, Facebook, ABC Online,News.Com.Au and other sites. Not surprisingly, brands are looking at increasingly usingvideo to engage with customers.What images and video content could tell the story of your organisation and why it matters?Share content
  7. 7. A beginner’s guide to content marketing7 | P a g eA major consideration in sharing your content is what communications channels youraudiences use and when they use them.Your audience may want your information available through the mainstream mediaimmediately before they make a purchase decision. Your corporate website or face-to-facemeetings with staff may be how they want to build a relationship. Or social media platforms,because of their freedom to choose and immediacy, could be how they access information.A key task is to identify the best mix of tactics that match your audience’s inclinations,timetable and needs.It is unwise to restrict yourself to one channel only. Rather, you should seek to shareinformation through as many relevant platforms as possible. The 2013 Content MarketingInstitute survey showsAustralian marketers usemore than 25 tactics to engage audiences.Right now the most effective approach isin-person events and the least effective is gaming.Not surprisingly Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are the popular social mediaplatforms.Nothing is ever static. Audiences and organisations change. Be alert to the need tocontinually experiment to achieve the best possible blend of channels to talk to youraudiences. Pity today’s communicators. There are so many communications options opento them, they are haunted by the thought they could always try just one more thing!The media’s roleIn the past there was a firewall between the newsroom and the marketing department inmost media outlets. Advertorial has always been around but often it was marginal businessand lacked credibility. If you wanted significant coverage you had to earn it or pay for it. Nowsocial media and search are serious threats to this model and this division is weakening.The media are more inclined to publish content that others produce.Newsrooms are shrinking, rising costs must be contained and advertising revenues aredrying up. There is a need replace advertising revenue with some other income source.A recent For Immediate Release podcast highlighted how content from differentorganisations (called branded content or native advertising) is finding its way into moremedia spaces. The show reported an increasing mix of original reporting and sponsoredcontent. Which is a worrying situation because consumers are unclear about what news isgenuine and what is paid for.Chief Content Strategist at Edelman, Steve Rubel sees three media-centric contentmarketing models starting to emerge: A paid syndication model which is similar to advertorial arrangements of the past.The difference is content supplied by others now seamlessly mixes with that ofjournalists. A product placement model which is common to many TV formats.
  8. 8. A beginner’s guide to content marketing8 | P a g e A co-creation model where an organisation such as a powerful brand, and themedia, fund a new event, activity, online app or sponsorship for specific reporting.This is similar to big companies paying for naming rights to sporting events orsettings.Free or pay?Eventually someone in your organisation will query the wisdom of freely sharing information.They will raise the issue of protecting intellectual property and proclaim, “We should not begiving our stuff away”. They will come forward with reasons to lock your content behind apaywall, forcing people to subscribe to get access or by erecting some other barrier.You need to prepare for this eventuality and decide how you will resolve this dilemma. Youcan have completely open information borders or only service people willing to pay,subscribe to your newsletter or commit some other way to your organisation. Or you canmake some content free then charge for additional information.The trend among experienced marketers is toward making information readily available andeliminating as many barriers as possible. Encourage as many people as possible to access,use and share your content so it achieves its maximum potential. And besides, humannature being what it is, there are some people who will get your content no matter how manywalls you build around it.Market contentContent can start conversations but needs a little help to spring to life.You need to marketyour information across multiple platforms,taking care to promote useful informationfirst and your organisation second.This involves being part of genuine conversations, something which most organisations findhard to do. Listen to what others in your space are saying, join in only when it is apt and actlike someone helping people by answering their questions, not like a salesperson or anOfficial communicating in beaucratese.Marketing content might involve: Targeting online and real world key influencers to help spread the word about yourinformation. Contributing to other people’s blogs, events and industry forums, as well as yourown. Using social media conversations to draw people to your website, blog or video. Proposing search terms and harsh tags so your information is easily found. Encouraging users to create and then share their own content about your issue.
  9. 9. A beginner’s guide to content marketing9 | P a g e Ever, ever encouraging and responding to feedback.Content marketing never ends – just like real life conversations. Traditional PR andmarketing campaigns are carefully planned and take place over a certain time. Many do noteasily change once they start. On the other hand, content marketing is just as carefullyplanned but then changes as interaction develops.Your conversation is like a flowing river. Someone expresses interest, you respond withrelated information, your prospect engages again and it goes until a trusted relationshipbuilds. Unlike traditional marketing where the conversation often begins near the end of thecustomer’s buying cycle, content marketing starts even before the customer has identified aneed.And even after your conversations result in a purchase, subscription or some otherparticipation, you need to stay in the communications space ready to answer questions andbe there in the future.ProcessContent marketing involves as much organisation, dedication and clarity as traditionalmarketing and PR.A good place to start your content marketing journey is to create an editorial calendar. Thisis a simple document setting out the type of content to be produced, who will produce it,when it is to be done, the approvals needed and which platforms you will share it on. TheHubspot blog has a good free beginner’s tool that can add consistency to your efforts.Who does the work depends on the size of your organisation. In smaller companies oneperson is often responsible for everything. In larger organisations responsibilities are oftensplit between different staff and management levels. Typically creating and sharing contentinvolves people such as:Content creators - These are often frontline or other staffempowered to pass along client issues, helpful informationand good stories. Once they are know what to look for,people get enthusiastic about this role especially whentheir commitment to the company or cause is strong.Content producers - They can be communications professionals such as designers,copywriters, video and audio producers and those who manage media relations. Theytransform the raw information they receive from others into compelling content. They canalso be responsible for sharing the content.Your organisation can create and package visual and other content or outsource it to agrowing number of domestic content marketing providers. Larger Australian companies tendto outsource content creation while smaller ones produce it in-house.Listening teams - Organisations also need some type of listening team, one or more peoplewho monitor and respond to social media and online conversations. Because digitaldialogue is so fast, they need well thought through corporate guidelines that let them actfast.
  10. 10. A beginner’s guide to content marketing10 | P a g eThe strategist - The communications boss is the overall content manager. She overseesthe strategic and day-to-day storytelling of the organisation and ensures the marketing effortcontributes to the where the organisation is heading.MeasureMeasurement can challenge even the most experienced marketer it should not be left to theend. It needs to be factored in at every stage of the content marketing journey. Therefore,develop KPIs specific to your organisation that tell you if you are reaching the right people,how they engage with our content and if your content marketing is achieving the businessresults your organisation wants.Content marketing metrics can be:Reach How many unique visitors view your content online in a given period?How many visits to your website are from search engines?How many people come across your content in traditional media?How many people attend an event or have a face-to-face encounter?What is the geographical spread of people engaging with you?How are people accessing information through tablets, smart phones, laptops ordesktops?Engagement How much time does your audience spend with your content measured by bouncerates, page views and click throughs?What is the quality and quantity of commentary on blogs and websites?What is the number of retweets, likes and shares on social media?How many emails are opened? Forwarded?How many downloads of white papers, document, forms, information kits or othermaterial?How many video views and podcast downloads?Are people creating and sharing their own content around your issue?How many key influencers are interacting with you and how?How many questions are being answered online or over the counter?Do your conversations lead to more requests for more information?Outcomes How many discounts or coupons are redeemed?Do surveys show changes in attitude or buying preferences?Are inquiries, leads and conversion rates rising?Is there an increase in online and off-line sales?Are more people subscribing to e-newsletters and blogs?Are more people taking advantage of our programs?Are existing customers coming back or increasing the size of their orders?ChallengesThe content marketing journey can be scary at the beginning. But you are not alone. TheContent Marketing Institute reports the major challenges Australian marketers face, are:
  11. 11. A beginner’s guide to content marketing11 | P a g e Producing engaging content Producing enough content Lack of resources to produce content Producing the variety of content different people value Measuring effectiveness Lack of integration across communications staff Management or senior communicators just don’t get it Finding skilled staff that understand and can make content marketing workThese are legitimate concerns but not that different from other forms of communications.They need addressing as an organisation commits to a content model of marketing.The best way is to start small with an achievable project,measure the impact, learn from the experienceand stretch and grow from there.The futureThe term content marketing may be new but it is an evolutionary shift from traditionalmarketing. Marketers are in transition, and change brings uncertainty, new challenges andmore questions than answers. The first step can be nerve-wracking and starting can takecourage and commitment.Fortunately the fundamental underpinnings of content marketing are not that difficult tograsp. It is about sharing useful information with people with whom we want a relationship.Most of us would see that as common sense.The real challenge is identifying, producing and sharing valuable information across multipleplatforms and doing that consistently.Good luck and may your content shine through