Content marketing is one of the most talked about terms in marketing. It’s popping up in articles, news feeds and company planning meetings. People are often asking me what I do as a content strategist and what exactly content marketing is. Do I write? Do I edit? Do I proofread? My four-year old recently asked me and I responded with one of the simplest answers so far: I help companies tell stories.
Really though, content marketing does much more than just tell stories. It works much harder than that. Done well, content helps brands connect and resonate with consumers. It helps put your brand, your stories, your words in front of consumers where they already are, and pulls consumers into places you want them to be – whether that’s your website, e-newsletter, blog or downloading informative, interesting materials.
The right content, too, helps a company stand out in a noisy market. Brands are constantly competing for consumers’ limited and ever-divided attention across new and existing channels. Developing a strong content marketing plan and creating interesting, noteworthy branded content is a critical component of reaching consumers.
But, how to do that effectively is quickly becoming the big question for companies. Some big brands, like American Express, Red Bull, Coke and Marriott are dedicating major resources and budgets to it. Small businesses are also having noteworthy successes without the big budgets, when they approach content the right way: with planning.
A strong content marketing plan is key to finding the thread that connects a brand and the consumers with compelling content. Spending time on the planning, and approaching content marketing strategically and with discipline, helps ensure your story comes together in all the pieces your company shares with clients and prospective clients – from emails to websites, brochures, billboards – anything that you write and create for a company.
At Intrinzic, we approach content marketing very thoughtfully and strategically to ensure the blogs, websites, e-newsletters – any content and copy we create for clients – meets the mark. Here’s a quick rundown of our method for creating connections between brands and their consumers:
The foundation for all content marketing efforts begins with research. Taking time to understand your goals, what your consumers are interested in, trends, competitors and more is key to developing the right content plan for your company. Too often, this stage is skipped or skimmed over, when it presents the best opportunity to discover the thread that will ultimately connect you with consumers and position you for success.
Now is the time to sift through all the nuggets of information, the notes you’ve taken, the ideas you’ve had during research and pull them all together. You’ll begin to identify key themes that emerge and build critical components of your content plan like content pillars, brand voice, key messaging and more that set the strategy and guide all content that is created.
Content that stands out requires more than strong writing. A brand should come to life through the words on the page or screen. Brand voice, tone and personality should always be clear and consistent regardless of topic and channel. Visuals, photo filters and other branded, graphic elements can elevate content, making it work harder and create a more meaningful connection with consumers.
Best practices for headlines, length, format and channel should always be considered, and are easily researched online. Some of my favorite content resources include Content Marketing Institute, Contently and Ann Handley – just to name a few. I check these regularly to make sure I stay up-to-date on the ever-changing world of content marketing.
Publishing can be the simplest step of content marketing, if you’ve done your research properly. Once content is created, it should just be a matter of posting content exactly where you want it to go, and where you already know your audience is. Post content to the wrong channel, however, and you won’t get the reaction you anticipated. Taking time to identify the right channels and distribution strategies during the research phase, and not just slapping a blog post up on Facebook and calling it a day, will make sure your target audience is reading your content in the right place, at the right time.
When content is created and posted, you still have to be sure it reaches your target audience. This goes beyond SEO. It includes promotional tactics, including posting on social media, boosting select posts, including key articles in e-newsletters or printed publications, content syndication, blogger relations and even media relations. Spending time on this phase in the planning process makes optimization much easier and more effective.
The content cycle is still going strong, even after you’ve planned, written, posted and optimized. Content marketing isn’t a set it and forget it strategy. It requires constant evaluation and tweaking as you move forward. Metrics like page visits, comments, downloads and social shares are key to letting you know what’s working and what’s not. Often, a topic surprises us with the interest and activity it generated. Pay attention to those clues to help you put together a continuously improving content plan that connects with consumers and helps reach business goals.
Content marketing can seem like a huge obstacle to tackle. But with the right planning and focus, brands can build meaningful relationships with audiences. What are some of your biggest questions or best tips when it comes to content? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter via @IntrinzicSays.