Here’s something we all know: That content is great. And every marketer worth his salt knows this pretty loud and clear. It is the age of brand publishing, for crying out loud.
And here’s something nobody will tell you: That there are times when content fails you [read: your brand]. And miserably, too, let me add. No matter how good and well-drafted the piece might be, there is always a very real chance that it will not ‘work’, thus failing to yield all the outcomes you were hoping for.
Having spent a whole lot of time working the content marketing domain, I have come to realize that content (speaking in meta terms here) has its pitfalls. It’s not perfect. Not on its own, at least. Nor is it something that can work on leaps of faith, like something you just put ‘out there’ in hopes for windfall gains. It will never be able to stand up on its own and if you take your eyes away from it, just for a little while, it will fall apart quite quickly, much to your brand’s harm.
Content needs assisted care at all times.
The amount of content a person consumes today is exasperating. I personally spend half my day chugging down endless brand emails, social media posts and offer pop ups on my smart phones, and it’s exhausting. After a point, I end up unsubscribing from half the mailing lists and going on a social media fast just to clear my head off the content overload.
Now imagine having to create content for 10 million such consumers every day. Because this is what the modern day consumer is turning into — someone who can (and who will) actively tune out a large chunk of brand content every day for one reason or the other.
So, if all you do is create pretty pieces of branded content day in and day out, sent out into the digital universe in much the same way as you would a hopeful wish, chances are it will never see the light of day for the good part of its life.
Most brand managers who are only just starting out with content marketing (possibly because some trend report says they need to and because the guys in marketing keep bringing it up in the weekly meetings) tend to see this is as a no-brainer. The “how hard could it be” attitude towards content is the first big red flag telling you that you are going at it all wrong.
As someone who has been working on the brand publishing side of things, I have seen this attitude breed a whole lot of bad for the brand. For one, you end up treating any proactive content creation activity as an effort that could have been expended elsewhere, when the truth is that the dividends of any piece of content can only be reaped if you invest in it thoughtfully and (preferably) with some sort of a robust strategic framework in mind.
I cannot stress enough on the importance of having a dedicated content distribution strategy. Much like a product placement strategy — where you take into consideration things like where all you will showcase a product, during which season and at what shelf-height just so it catches the eyes of a target customer when passing through the shopping aisle — content distribution strategy needs much the same attention to details.
You need to clearly chalk out (possibly with the assistance of a project management tool or a workflow) the where, the when, the how and the how often. You need to know when to strike with the content you have worked hard to create because without this any content — even just a social media post — is just another thing on the internet that went away faster than it came.
At any content strategy meeting, you will come across someone who, quite vociferously, tells you that there is a need to tap trends as and when they unfold. In trying to be timely and clever, it is easy to discount the relevance factor.
What marketers forget is that they can never out-run the Tumblrs and 9Gags of the world. That’s their niche. And there are too many like them creating these “snackable” pieces of content at every hour of the day. Unless you can contribute to a trend in a “relevant” and an “engaging’ way, there is no need to vest extra time and effort in tracking the latest meme topic.
With content you need to follow an arc of romance, so to speak. It needs nurturing and attention for a good amount of time before you will see any (consumer) affection come your way. Content does not get popular overnight. Even with everything that goes viral, notice how this is just a pseudo-surge that subsides at the same speed with which it gains traction.
With any content marketing effort, the goal should be to build (and add to) an enriching, value-adding channel that fosters healthy communication between the consumer and the brand, in a way that it increases the likelihood of people returning to it later. Content works only after it has had the time to establish its voice among a big enough audience.
This is every brand editor’s nightmare. If it wasn’t bad enough that content marketing gets treated like the step-child of marketing, marketers end up over stating the need to push out content with “brand mentions”. The down-side to this is that yours gets dubbed as the selfish content with clear ulterior motives.
Instead, devote efforts towards creating content that adds value to anybody reading it. Brands ought to aim for building trust and not traction because, at the end of the day, consumers keep coming back to someone they know will help them in a meaningful and non-selfish way.
All press releases, newsletters, and even emails that your company releases and sends out represent your company and brand. If this content isn’t polished, you risk confusing your customers and damaging the reputation of your company.
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