Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, highlighted a comment by marketing entrepreneur Will Davis in his 2013 content predictions which stated that "brands will get serious about planning content marketing". Now in his review of the year, Pulizzi asserts that according to the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs research "the majority of brands still have no documented content marketing strategy". In our experience, he's right.
The level of industry noise around content, the hailing and worshipping of King Content, is too often disproportionate to the level of thinking that goes into it. Often content feels like an off-the-cuff bolt-on that's treated with a suck it and see approach, completely at odds with the deep rumination afforded to other marketing disciplines.
Commitment to content
It constantly surprises us how so many brands with a commitment to content have no real strategy to guide them and ensure some sort of return on investment. No marketer would consider a major advertising or DM campaign without a set of clearly defined objectives and a stated means of measuring success. So why approach content any differently?
Think about what the content is for, who it is for and how it will work with other activity, content-led or otherwise.
To be honest, part of content's appeal to marketers is the relatively easy (and, comparative to ATL, relatively low-cost) risk. But we think marketers are still at the stage where they are doing content because they feel they ought to be doing content. They've heard it's the future, seen some good examples and feel that they should get involved, quickly, before they miss the boat. We think they should take a moment to pause and think before jumping aboard. Think about what the content is for, who it is for and how it will work with other activity, content-led or otherwise.
In general, what's needed for a successful long term content presence is a far more considered approach. We've been doing some thinking about what that approach should be, and the full detail is here in our white paper, but basically it boils down to placing more emphasis on clear and simple thinking up front to make sure that content is watched and enjoyed by the right audience, for the right reason.
And in that previous sentence lies the key word for planning effective content – audience. The process has to start there, even when you're considering the business objectives you want content to address.
We think the most compelling content is created when the role of the content is viewed not from the perspective of the brand, with standard objectives like awareness, engagement and conversion, but when the role of the content is viewed from the perspective of the audience, with the directly related objectives of discovery, preference and action.
Taking that audience-led perspective, you're more able to plot what's going to make your audience search and watch, what they would prefer and like, and how they would want to act or be involved. Considering those elements, and attaching relevant metrics to each, immediately sets you off on the right path to creating effective content.
For 2014 we hope to be able to say that more brands have created content strategies designed to work against their audience's needs. Without that planning, their content will exist only in the web's equivalent of a black hole. Because without an audience watching or participating, it's not content, it's nothing – other than a total waste of everyone's time and money.