Stop predicting the death of content marketing

PR is Dead

Makes for a sexy headline, right?

Communications pros can be quick to declare the death of fields and approaches.

With the rise of digital media, marketing and PR were declared ‘dead’ on more than one occasion. Over the last decade, new technologies and communication processes have forced us to let go of traditional strategies and tactics in favor of increasingly interactive, customer-focused communication. As such, our efforts have evolved substantially, but the fields of marketing and PR remain intact.

Content marketing has emerged as an effective way to connect with our stakeholders using relevant and valuable content to drive traffic and sales. PR and marketing training sites have been abuzz identifying the best content marketing strategies, and organizations have created new positions or hired external consultants to address the growing need for good content

And yet, people are already starting to predict the demise of content marketing. That didn’t take long.

Here are a few reasons why content marketing is here for the long haul:

Content marketing has actually been around for ages. It may not have had a label, but people have been using content to elicit a call to action for years. Recently, we’ve had to step up our game to make it more interesting, funny, surprising or solution-oriented. This is largely due to the fact that audiences are inundated with so many messages – there is a greater need for content to stand out.

Good storytelling will always be important. People are always looking for good stories, funny photographs, interesting videos, etc. Whether you are a fashion company, a tech firm or a local business, your stories can make you more relatable to your followers.

Content is at the heart of social media. Your social media engine won’t run without good content. It gives your audience something to talk about and share with their networks.

The end objectives remain the same. In the end, you want people to feel connected to your brand or organization in a way that will stimulate them to choose you and share their positive experience with other people.

It’s audience-focused. If done right, content marketing is centered around your audience. They will always need information to make decisions, whether it’s buying a car, deciding where to go for dinner or choosing a charity to volunteer for. Engaging content that is focused on the needs and preferences of your target audience will help your brand thrive.

Content marketing is not a medium. VHS may no longer be around, but people still want to watch movies. You may not get the newspaper delivered to your door, but you are still check out the daily news on your smartphone. Technologies may disappear, but audiences’ thirst for stimulating information about products and services will not.

Evolution is natural. I think we need to stop predicting the ‘death’ of fields and processes. They are not extinct, just continuously evolving and taking on taking on different forms which may require new strategies and skill sets. This may be a less dramatic way of looking at things that makes for less sexy headlines, but it’s more realistic.

Content marketing is here to stay. So let’s keep doing our research, learning about our audiences, and re-inventing ourselves with the new technologies, tools and tactics that become available to us.

Making the Case for Brand Journalism

The majority of PR and marketing pros are buzzing about brand journalism. Last week I attended a workshop hosted by

Making the case for-Brand-JournalismRagan Communications’ Mark Ragan (@MarkRaganCEO) and Jim Ylisela (@jpyjr) on The Company as Media – Your role in the age of Brand Journalism & Content Curation.

Here are just some of the insights from this workshop that can help us make the case for brand journalism in our organizations.

(1) A catalyst for integration. PR and marketing teams may have “beef” with brand journalism, because both functions think they should own it. Turning your site into a storytelling vehicle that provides content your customers actually want to read and share can have an impact on conversion. Why not use this as an opportunity for PR and marketing to collaborate more closely?

(2) Taking a balanced approach yields results. You are NOT talking about yourself; you are essentially becoming a trade publisher. Tell stories about your organization’s people and its area of expertise and pair this with content curation about the industry. Content marketing efforts should not be propaganda. Many companies hire journalists to act as internal reporters and take a more ‘unbiased’ stance and tone.

(3) Why write a news release when you could write a story? So many organizations are still tied to the news release. Some that have storytelling vehicles on their websites duplicate their efforts by using both. There is no need to do this with brand journalism. You can publish a story that resembles what a journalist would write on your site and then send a targeted pitch to your media contacts.

(4) Great content + engagement = success. Nowadays we have to make sure to get people to our site, but we also need to get our site “out there” (i.e. on social media platforms, via email, etc.) If you provide your customers with content that they find useful and interesting they will actually take the time to read it, and even comment on it or share it. By becoming a go-to source of trustworthy information you also drive them through the conversion funnel.

(5) Stories with impact. Your content should make your audience’s life better. It should be relevant, useful, entertaining, consistent, transparent, and targeted towards their needs.  It should practice what Mark Ragan refers to as ‘refrigerator journalism’ – so good that you want to post it on your fridge. Therefore, it should be free of jargon and corporate speak. Keep it crisp, brief and to the point – just like what you might see in your favourite magazine.

(6) The best way to showcase your expertise. Your organization’s brand journalism site is a vehicle to share the range of expertise you have that surrounds your brand. Mark and Jim use the example of Export Development Canada’s online magazine Export Wise that provides advice for Canadian exporters. The content looks like what you might see in The Economist. A brand journalism site can also be useful to your salesforce, as it allows them to easily share stories with clients or prospects.

(7) Creates brand ambassadors. Involve your employees in your brand journalism stories – they will be your best brand ambassadors. They have great stories to tell about your organization at the operational level. Content marketing begins from the inside: engage your employees and encourage them to share.

(8) Takes a strategic approach. Effective brand journalism begins with your strategy. Take a look at your objectives, resources, key messages. What are you trying to achieve? Start with a communications audit to take stock of what you are currently doing to connect with your stakeholders and how content marketing fits in. Build a content strategy, a news desk and an editorial process. Decide on which tools to use for your main site and social media. Determine how you will measure success on your brand journalism site and trace how it leads to conversion (leads, sales, relationships, etc.).

(9) Closes the gap between media sites and corporate websites. Your site doesn’t have to be dull, transactional and text-heavy. By turning it into media site, you can still provide the information and services that your audiences need, but keep them interested along the way. This means changing how we write stories and how we share on social to ensure that they are audience-centric, must-click pieces. Turn your press releases into features, convert expert evergreen interviews into blog posts and pull good stories from research and whitepapers.

Creating a good content marketing strategy and building a vehicle to carry it through is a lot of work. It requires rethinking the way organizations have done things for years and taking on a less me-centric approach to communicating your content. The workshop I attended really highlighted how brand journalism focuses less on corporate priorities and more on the audience. Often understanding that focus on the latter will benefit the former is half the battle.

First Blog Post – A New Project!

I have been meaning to start a blog for quite some time now. Between work, my MA research, home projects, family engagements and everything else, I always worried that I would not have the time to populate it with valuable content on a regular basis. On the other hand, if I keep putting it off, I will never begin!

So – here goes! I am taking the leap into the wonderful world of blogging, after being inspired by websites and blogs such as Spin SucksPR DailyAnthony De RosaGround Floor Media, and a host of bloggers who write about the topics I love: PR, social media, news, media, marketing, brands, communication and technology.

As I embark upon the research for my MA thesis on optimizing the PR practitioner/journalist relationship in the digital era, I plan to share some of my ideas, as well as interesting articles, comments and anecdotes.

This blog will be a “work-in-progress” alongside my research. I am hoping that it will allow me to develop my skills as a blogger while contributing some insights and quirky content…

Comments and ideas are welcome and much appreciated!

MS