One of the most talked about marketing and communications strategies at the moment is content marketing: the creation and sharing of content to attract and retain customers, generate leads and increase revenue.
I wanted to find out more about content marketing, so I went to the source and had a chat to Trevor Young. Trevor is a leading thinker, consultant and speaker in the fields of public relations, marketing and communications.
Trevor’s blog PR Warrior has been named one of Australia’s Top 25 Business blogs by Smart Company, where he writes about leadership in communications, with an emphasis towards social media and content marketing.
JH: What do you see as the main benefits of content marketing?
TY: Content marketing, when done well, can increase awareness of your brand, reinforce a thought leadership position, help generate warm leads and build relationships with customers. The key thing is identifying what are you trying to achieve, and then skewing your efforts towards that goal.
The big benefit is that content marketing can be highly effective in attracting people to your brand by providing valuable and compelling content. This is contrary to traditional marketing wisdom where you push the message out. Content marketing is as much a mindset as anything – a willingness to connect with people and share ideas and information.
JH: How does content marketing complement other marketing tactics?
TY: It dovetails perfectly into traditional public relations. Social media and content marketing are core components of modern-day PR. Obviously, content is crucial to social media marketing. When it comes to creating content today, PR people can now widen their vision and produce it across multiple platforms, on the cheap and on the fly. And marketers, especially those in the B2B space whose role it is to generate new business leads, should be all over content marketing.
JH: If an organisation is thinking of going down the content marketing path what do they need to consider?
TY: You need to consider whether you have the right attitude and mindset. Are you comfortable with sharing stories, ideas and intellectual property? Are you happy for your employees to be publicly involved?
If you answer yes to these questions, you need to work out who will be the driving force internally. If it’s a large organisation, there might people involved from different parts of the business. Think about forming a small working group. If it’s a smaller company, chances are it will be the owner or CEO driving things, which is fine if they have the time to devote to the process.
You’re going to need to know your ‘spheres of conversation’. What direction is your content going to take? What tone is going to be used?
There’s nothing wrong with starting small and building momentum. You don’t need to do everything immediately. Build your content base over time and use social media channels and events to participate in your community and engage customers, friends and influencers.
JH: There’s a smorgasbord of choices for types and formats of content that can be used in content marketing. How do brands choose the right mix?
TY: A lot comes down to budget and resources. Ask yourself the important question: How does our audience (clients/influencers/potential customers) consume media or like to receive information? It’s wise to have a range of options. You can repurpose content across multiple mediums. For example, blog posts can have accompanying video, and regular video interviews can be turned into podcasts and syndicated via iTunes.
I’m a huge believer in solid cornerstone content such as downloadable PDF e-books. If you’ve got a lot of complex information to convey infographics are a great communication vehicle. More and more I’m loving video as a powerful way to communicate. Opt-in e-newsletters are also incredibly effective for many types of businesses, even if they’re not as sexy as other mediums.
You should produce content for your core channels and then occasionally mix it up a bit. It’s smart to be flexible too. Measure what’s working and if something is not all that effective, be prepared to ditch it. Having an online hub where you house all your content is critical, for example, a well-maintained blog or online multimedia news room.
JH: What’s the secret sauce to compelling and shareable content?
TY: If content goes ‘viral’ that’s the cream on top of your content marketing strategy. There are types of content that seem to get shared more often. Really well put-together infographics tend to get shared a lot and list-type blog posts (i.e. 5 top tips for xyz) also do well. Meaty research reports and e-books written around a powerful theme are effective. High quality content will generally resonate with the intended audience if it’s been produced with the right intent, regardless of format.
Occasionally something will come along that really surprises you. Recently I produced a simple Flipcam video of a CEO of a medium-sized company adding a bit of colour and commentary to some research presented in a media release. News Ltd. picked up the video from the website and ran it across all their online mastheads giving us mass coverage. It was a great but certainly nothing we’d planned for.
If your brand is strong and you have a solid community of advocates, enthusiasts and supporters of what it is you do, then if you create killer content, it’s more likely to be shared around, liked and retweeted because you have a fan base to do that.
JH: How does content marketing sit alongside SEO?
TY: Very closely. Lee Odden from TopRankBlog talks a lot about the ‘holy trinity’ of search, social and content. The key is to bring the three elements together for optimum effect. In an interview I read with Lee he pointed out that SEO focuses on rankings and traffic, content people think about distribution of press releases and blog posts, while the social media guys care about engagement. That presents an inherent challenge for uniting the three but the goal is to start bringing them together.
My focus is on producing the best content I can that I hope will resonate with the audience. Knowing what keywords and phrases need to be employed is fine. I’ll incorporate them but only if their inclusion adds value to the finished product. In other words, avoid over-using keywords and blanding out your content for the sake of SEO.
JH: What does the next 12 months look like for content marketing?
TY: If you talked about content marketing to people 12-18 months ago you would have probably got a blank stare. There are less blank stares today and there will be even less by the end of 2013 as content marketing gains traction in Australia. It is more or less mainstream in a business and marketing sense in the US. It’s not at that level in Australia yet, but the signs are there.
Content curation will become really important – careful and strategic curation of content and adding insights.
Video is going to get even bigger. A strong emerging theme is the humanisation of brands, that is, getting people out from closed doors and interacting with customers, and putting internal experts at the front and centre of a company’s content efforts. Video humanises a business.
Smart marketers will up the ante by producing high quality content that can be repurposed, remixed, or as Ann Handley from Marketing Profs says: “re-imagined”. They will have content as a cornerstone of their marketing and PR efforts. Whether that means employing journalists or using an external agency, I don’t know, but it’s bound to happen.
You can follow Trevor on Twitter @trevoryoung
This post was originally featured on the SMK blog