Content Marketing’s Big Downside: The Content
Content creation is hard. Companies around the world are figuring that out as the gospel of content marketing/inbound marketing spreads. On its face content marketing is a great idea: disintermediate the content creators we marketers have been slaves to for so long — all those bozo TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines — and start publishing our own content. Put it on our website/blog/YouTube Channel/Pinterest page, let the search engines index it and pretty soon we won’t have to go looking for customers anymore, they’ll find us! It’ll be cheap, fast and completely under our control. And no more of that “succinct messaging” crap. From now on we’ll be able to tell our customers everything we want to tell them — at length, any time at all.
Except that creating content that people actually want to consume — that’s fresh, informative, useful, well-presented, moderately entertaining, not totally self-serving, consistent and delivered often enough that prospective customers want to keep coming back — is hard.
A few good blog posts certainly aren’t difficult to produce, neither is a good video. Either will feed the maw of the content beast for about a week. And then...? What about next week? Next month? Next year? Where will the ideas come from? Who'll produce everything? Who’ll distribute it over all our various channels? Who’ll field questions and manage social media? And above all: how will we pay for it all???
It’s the failure to come to terms with these sorts of questions that causes so many promising content marketing initiatives to crash and burn. However it is possible to have a quality, ongoing content marketing program that won’t break the bank, require you to build your own TV studio or staff an entire online magazine. Success in content marketing is all about picking tactics and being careful about where you apply your resources. Here are a few tips to get you going:
1. Start with a solid content strategy. Decide what the best use of your energy is and don’t worry about covering every channel (at least at first). Pick the ones your customers are most likely to use and focus on them. If your product is visual, make images and video the center of your effort. If the product is technical, blog about it, do live events or webinars. You can still have a presence on all those other channels, you’ll just use them to drive audiences to the tactics you do well.
2. Enlist the help of the organization. Trained, dedicated communicators produce the most polished and effective content. But let’s face it, an organization can only afford so many of them. Which means the lion’s share of your content is going to have to come from the rest of the organization. That’s going to mean two things. First, a shift in your company’s culture, because in today’s media environment we’re all communicators. Second, your job description has just changed. You are now no longer just a professional communicator but a communications coach.
3. Relax the rules. Getting the rank and file of your organization involved in content generation is a project all its own. They’ll need practice and encouragement. Discourage perfectionism and let people be themselves on the blog or in front of the camera. Initial efforts will likely be stilted and self-conscious, but the good news is your audiences are more interested in authenticity and utility than they are in perfect grammar. You can’t produce a steady stream of content without making at least a few mistakes, especially at the start.
4. Take the long view. Any content marketing initiative will take time to build an audience. The best way to get started is simply to start. Don’t wait for the perfect plan or perfect team to materialize. Everybody’s content is so-so at first, but even so-so content generates SEO. Six months or a year from now you’ll have a much better focus, a more developed methodology and a more distinctive voice. Good content marketing isn’t a single event but a habit, one that takes time to develop but that pays handsome dividends in the end.