Before You Jump on the Content Marketing Bandwagon …

Before You Jump on the Content Marketing Bandwagon ... image bandwagon3bandwagonAs my colleague Francis wrote recently, content marketing is nothing new. It’s the way in which that content can be presented, distributed and promoted that has changed dramatically since the days when we had to use these dusty things called books to do research.

I define content marketing as a process to engage, inform, educate and otherwise woo a target audience with some kind of narrative. This narrative can be anything from a post on your corporate blog to a paid advertising spot that features a client case study (often referred to as an advertorial), or a thought leadership piece that has earned, rather than bought, its way into an influential industry publication.

Regardless of whether your content is to be self-published, placed as a result of an advertising buy or pitched to an editor on the merits of the value it will provide to his or her readers, you must be ready to commit a certain amount of time and money to its creation.

It all comes down to dollars, cents and who has the time to get the words right. Not only that, is there anyone in your organization capable of getting the words right?

Media outlets of all sorts have jumped on the content-marketing bandwagon. In many cases, they see it as a new revenue vehicle to drive new ad buys among a clientele grown stale with the classic banner and display formats for online and print advertising. In my biased opinion, a well-written narrative that focuses on how your product or service cures the pains of your target audience is a much more effective use of your advertising dollars.

But there are also pitfalls here to be concerned about. If you have placed content with a discerning editor, you can rest assured that the content will be edited prior to publication.

With paid-advertising spots, it’s much more of a crapshoot. In some instances, the publication may provide the services of a professional writer as part of the cost of the advertising buy, to help you get the words right. But in other instances, the content creation is your problem and yours alone — all the ad rep cares about is getting your stuff from you by deadline. Few ad reps will take the time, or have the skill, to give a client’s copy a good edit and their colleagues in the editorial department would rather give a tooth than be bothered. I’ve seen my share of advertorial content banged out by some senior executive or other harried individual, apparently published without so much as cursory proofread by a second pair of eyes.

So here is my checklist for ensuring you don’t find yourself in over your head:

Spelling and grammar matters. Don’t stab yourself in the foot by spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for a space, only to fill it with unedited content. All you’ve done is pay for the privilege of presenting your business as amateurish and unprofessional, which isn’t likely to make the phone ring.

Don’t commit to more than you can handle. We aim to publish new content on this blog every day of the week, which requires keeping the pipeline full with fresh material from our outside contributors. It’s sometimes a struggle. (It’s why this is my second post of the week — one of our guest writers did not come through for us.) I’ve seen advertisers run out of steam half way through a campaign and start repeating content they’ve already run two, three and even four times because nobody had the time to write anything fresh.

Don’t keep reinventing the wheel. On the other hand, if it’s good-quality content that you’ve paid to place, there can be merit in running it again a couple of months later. That can keep your advertising costs down. But there’s a difference between that having been part of a plan from the outset versus a last-minute decision because you realize you can’t deliver on your commitment.

Be consistent and regular. It’s not only a matter of deciding what frequency of publication is manageable for you. You’re also creating an expectation among your audience. This applies whether it is an earned or paid opportunity. I work with one fellow who writes a column every two weeks for a commercial real estate publication. It’s his expertise, not his advertising budget, that earned him this opportunity. But now the editor has put him in a rotation with other contributors and is even rebuilding her website to give his material more play. She has come to rely on getting that new column every two weeks without interruption.

Leave it to the experts. If you have someone on your team with great writing chops, you’re in a good position. Do not overlook or undervalue this skill. And always, always abide by the  First Commandment of Great Writing – everyone needs an editor. No piece of copy should be seen by the public without having been reviewed by at least one other person who, even if not a great writer, is a good reader with a sharp eye for detail to spot errors, poor constructs and weak narrative flow.

If you don’t have these people on your team, you will need to hire outside expertise, which is an exercise fraught with perils and pitfalls, but that’s next week’s post.

Image:  VentureBeat

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer. 

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