A while back, we started to explore the interesting role of the content marketer. I solicited public relations experts to throw some tips and advice our way. Some of the smartest and savviest folks we could have hoped for weighed in. Now we’re returning the favor, not just to the PR pros, but to all the other marketers out there.
These content marketing experts have been hand-picked (and wow! I am so thankful they added to this conversation) for their expertise, creativity and general badassery with all things content marketing.
Take notes, you’re going to want to keep these tips handy.
For The PR Crew
“As a content marketer, you absolutely have to have a background in communications. My background in public relations has allowed me to excel at social media because I am able to quickly think on my feet, and can easily recognize toxic situations that require either a public statement, or just should not be touched at all. I think content marketers lacking public relations experience risk creating content that does not resonate with the public, and might easily offend or cause negative conversation about the brand that they never even thought was a possibility.” – Marji Sherman, Sherman Social.
“PR pros are adept at storytelling, brand messaging and relationship building. They know how to think on their feet and establish trust with their target audience. Those who are willing to take a few cues from the world of inbound marketers and SEOs (those most likely to be designated as ‘content marketers’ these days) have a huge opportunity to up their game.
If you’re in public relations, here’s where I would start:
“Redefine your metrics to measure the effectiveness of your PR strategy, based on your organization’s goals and objectives. Don’t rely on vanity metrics like pageviews and followers. Think about engagement, reach, influence and conversions. What metrics will help you evaluate what’s working and make improvements?
“Repurpose and repackage your best content to maximize its lifetime value. For example, consider transcribing a popular video interview into a blog post. Transform the best quotes from the interview into beautiful images. Distribute the images all at once on SlideShare, or one at a time on social media platforms.
“Optimize for search and social. In other words, make it easy for people to find, consume and share your content on the Internet. Think ‘mobile-first’ when creating content. Media should load fast, and be compatible with most social platforms.
“Meta tagging is more important than ever. Titles and descriptions are must-haves. Use Google Authorship, Open Graph tags and Twitter cards, too, to get more attention in search and social. If you aren’t able to keep up with best practices in SEO, partner with someone who is.
“Most importantly, focus on creating quality content. Create content that is so good, people will naturally want to share it with others.” Christy Correll, Honey Tree Media and a Moz Associate.
For All Those Other Marketers
“Content marketers struggle tremendously with the misperceptions of other marketers that their work is A) merely meant to directly convert customers and B) exclusively focused on content creation itself. With regards to A), content marketing is not, in fact, designed to directly or quickly convert visitors to customers, but rather, like branding and public relations, a marketing process that is often multi-touch and multi-faceted. With regards to B), the creation of the content is but a small part of the strategy. Promotion of that content across social media, optimization of it to reach searchers and direct outreach are all huge parts of content marketing, as are the ongoing efforts around engagement and hopefully, subscription building (through email, RSS, social following or other channels).
“When other marketers can embrace these concepts and put aside the narrow view of content marketing, each team and individual contributing to a marketing effort’s success can yield better, more integrated results.” – Rand Fishkin, The Wizard of Moz, Moz.com.
“It’s about great content. The better the content, the more people read, engage, comment and share it, the broader the audience it reaches. Marketers often treat content marketing as advertising and look to make their brand the center and focal point. The problem is, the more the content is created like an ad, the more the audience will treat it as such and ignore it. When was the last time you clicked on an ad? Great content engages the audience. Lead with content and find a way to associate the brand.” – Evan Asano, MediaKix.
“Marketing executives strongly guide their strategies by revenue impact. Measuring ROI is critical to understanding the impact of marketing efforts in order to further capitalize on ‘what is working.’ In the world of content marketing, like other aspects of traditional marketing, there is a wider impact that these efforts can have on ROI.
“One of the core purposes of content marketing is to appeal to target customers at each stage of their awareness level (aka ‘buying cycle’). When target customers use search engines, sometimes they know what they want and will search for products or services by their exact name in order to find what they are looking for. These are target customers are in a later stage of product awareness, and more likely convert. Much of content marketing doesn’t fall in this bucket, however. Many consumers, if not all, do some form of research online in order to help educate their buying decision (whether in search engines, forums, social media, etc.). These target customers are earlier in their awareness stages and need advice. This is where content marketing can be very effective, however not always from a short term ROI perspective.
“For example, when users are searching in Google using keywords such as ‘how to choose hiking boots,’ they are not ready to buy just yet. They need education. Publishing an article about this topic or offering detailed advice can sometimes lead to an immediate purchase, but the primary goal is to educate the consumer and build brand trust/affinity. The more that companies educate their target customers, the more they will remember the brand and thus increase likelihood that they will make a purchase from the brand in the future. Thus, the ROI from content marketing is often long-term, and isn’t quite as easy to measure conversions.
“Using the ‘Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions’ section of Google Analytics can help measure this impact (somewhat), but the industry as a whole is still trying to crack the code on accurately measuring conversions in these situations. For example, a common scenario is when someone uses a search engine to find advice on ‘how to choose hiking boots.’ They are likely to find some good articles on the topic, such as this one from REI. The user may not be ready to take out their wallet just yet, but as they think over the advice in the coming days, and come closer to their purchase decision, they are more likely to directly visit REI’s website or even come into a store in order to make the purchase. This action was influenced by the original article they found in search engines. In this case, content marketing (driven by an SEO strategy) began the purchase decision process, but either direct traffic or in-store visits get the conversion. As we know, we can’t easily measure the impact of organic search visibility on in-store purchases. Thus, it’s important to always keep in mind the entire buying cycle that is typical of modern consumer behavior.
“I offer a very detailed guide to content marketing strategies like this in my article, Expanding the Horizons of eCommerce Strategy, which helps to align different tactics with the various levels of the customer buying cycle. You can also follow me on Twitter and Google+ where I regularly share advice about content marketing.” Dan Kern, Inflow.
“What Isn’t Content Marketing
Content marketing is not writing guest posts for unrelated blogs so you can get a link in your author bio. Content marketing is not writing, or ‘spinning,’ articles for mass syndication on article directories. Content marketing is not writing ‘press releases’ about something uninteresting and unrelated to current events so you can distribute them on PR websites that no journalist ever reads simply so you can drop a text link back to your website from within the article. Content marketing is not publishing an article or blog post and expecting it to go viral on its own without any sort of promotion – no matter how good it is – unless you have a massive built-in audience. Content marketing is not writing hundreds of blog posts to target certain keywords without any thought given to the quality and usefulness of the posts – or, indeed, whether anyone cares in the first place. Content marketing is not submitting everything you publish to social sharing networks like Digg, Stumbleupon and Reddit. Content marketing is not Tweeting and Facebook posting everything you publish and asking your friends, family and co-workers to share it. Content marketing shouldn’t be outsourced to India. Content marketing is not easy, but it’s not that difficult either.
“What Is Content Marketing
Content marketing involves understanding your audience, first and foremost. What type of content would they want to consume, and in what format? What are the questions to which they are seeking answers? What are their obstacles and goals? Who do they listen to and respect? What websites do they visit? How educated are they about your product or service? Once you have a clear picture of the audience, content marketing becomes a little easier.
“Second, choose a goal for this content. Do you want to attract more qualified visitors to the site to introduce them to your brand, or do you want to convert the visitors? Sometimes you can do both, but rarely is someone going to read a post they see on Facebook or Twitter and then buy something they weren’t planning to buy when they clicked the link. Your goal will determine the layout of the page, promotion strategy and even the topic.
“Once you have a goal (e.g. email newsletter signups, leads, sales, branding, social interactions, links, etc.) choose the topic, format and promotion strategy best suited for it. A lead generation piece looks much different than a branding piece, or one designed to attract organic backlinks. A piece targeting an audience of potential customers far into the buying cycle, who are already aware of your brand, is not going to be the same topic or format as one targeting thought-leaders who can help you increase brand recognition.
“Once you have the audience, topic, format and promotion strategy worked out, produce stellar, compelling content (quality is more important than quantity) related to your business that educates or entertains them. Engage one or more of the thought leaders (the people your audience listens to) in some way, if possible, during the production or publication of the content (e.g. interview them, hire them to write it, or give it to them to publish on their site) so they will have a vested interest in helping you promote it. This is called ‘influencer buy-in’ and is an optional step. You can sometimes make up in budget what you lack in influence, though it is far more effective to have both.
“Once published, promote the content as per the strategy you worked out earlier. This requires some budget, even if it’s just $20. For example, image-rich content could be promoted on Pinterest (promoted pins coming soon https://ads.pinterest.com/). You could post a link to the content on Facebook and boost it by targeting people who follow competitors, or thought-leaders (remember you will have already identified these people or entities when researching the audience and getting influencer buy-in). Sometimes a pay-per-click campaign on Google works well for lead-gen content (if that was your goal). Stumbleupon is great for generating non-converting traffic for brand awareness (if the content is appropriate). The best way to get direct sales is probably through organic search (because the people are actively looking for the content), which relies heavily on quality backlinks as a ranking factor.
“Generally, I sum all of this up as The Five Ps:
1. Plan & Research
2. Prospect & Outreach
What do you think? Have they pretty much summed up the best tips and advice around these days? If you’ve got something to add, throw it in the comments. If you’d like to be included in an upcoming article for the Inflow blog, drop me a line ([email protected]).