A unified strategy for content in your marketing
In case you haven’t noticed – over the years here at CMI, we’ve spent quite a few brain cells and digital ink defining and defending the content marketing approach as a separate and distinct methodology for influencing customer behavior.
Over a decade ago, my good friend and CMI founder Joe Pulizzi wrote his primary post and put a ton of groundwork for our beloved practice. He said it very clearly. Marketers have the opportunity to provide “ really relevant and useful content to potential customers and customers to help them solve their problems. ”
This post is still reflected on the CMI definitions page – which still serves to this day as Google’s first result for the question “What is content marketing”. But, of course, our practice has evolved. As we looked a few years later, I wrote an article that attempted to break down content strategy and content marketing methodologies. And then, more recently, with approaches like branded content, brand journalism, local advertising, and brand experience becoming increasingly popular (yes it’s a thing), we wrote an article and created an accompanying video that attempted to separate signal from noise in different approaches to content in business.
In short – we’ve talked (both rightly and maybe sometimes aggressively) about what content marketing is and what it isn’t. Mostly (I hope) our goal was not to take the shots in other approaches, but rather to advocate for content marketing when people come to denounce or take advantage of the practice. One thing I know for sure is that for the past 10 years, we’ve always tried to get clear eyes and a full heart on why we think a breakup is so important.
Well – we’re in 2019 and we’re on the cusp of over a decade of experience. Let’s take a breath and see where we really are. Because, as always, we’ve watched you – the practitioners in business – achieve real innovation. We’ve been watching as you’ve been watching content leaders, strategists, managers, writers, SEO specialists, and technologists who have found the perfect ways to make content in marketing and communications a scalable, measurable, and exciting approach.
Quite frankly, we are humbled by the level of innovation we have seen. And it’s time for us to evolve, too.
Standardizing content as an approach to marketing and communications
Time to unite and examine #AllTheThings. Yes, to be clear, differences in methods are still important – perhaps more than ever (and we will continue to highlight them). But it’s time to admit that it’s the same people that make all kinds of content successful.
Yes, we still believe that companies should operate like media companies. But today, content teams don’t just deploy owned media platforms to build audiences – they are simultaneously tasked with being experts in original content, branded content, and technology-driven content strategies that enable these strategies to be managed, managed, and optimized effectively.
Set the stage – what we learned
If I could brag for a moment, I’d say we have a pretty good 50-yard view of where content is in the works these days. As I indicated in my last post, in 2018, my team – the Consulting and Education Group – worked directly with more than 30 of the Fortune 500. The amazing research team at CMI conducted our annual research on content marketing, which resulted in responses from 1,474 marketers from around the world. . Content Marketing World 2018 saw more than 3,700 marketers from over 50 countries come together to talk about a strategic approach to content.
When we gather insights from all of those inputs, we can see some crucial trends.
1. Focused and centralized content teams are grouped.
Successful companies take the enterprise content function very seriously. They are moving beyond the dedicated practitioners who support the entire business – into specialist teams focused on strategic content in marketing and communications.
Sixty-seven percent of B2B organizations are fully committed to their content marketing practice, and half of these organizations expect budgets to increase over the next year. In B2C, it’s a similar story. 57% are looking to increase budgets, and 64% say their organization is fully committed.
2. Scalable operational models for these teams are still a long way off.
This is where the differences between branding, localization, content marketing, and content strategy approaches come to the fore. Simply put, today’s content teams are simultaneously tasked with supporting marketing and sales goals, as well as creating content that supports audience building and more integrated business goals. But what is the model for that?
Often, emerging content teams are grouped together without separating the approach. Content teams are simply measured by the number of content assets they can create and serve as digital objectives for the marketing campaigns being promoted. A piece of amazing audience-focused content can suffer from a horrific marketing campaign. Or, on the contrary, an average piece of content may shine through based on a well-executed marketing campaign.
In our experience helping hundreds of companies with operating models, this approach is simply a misalignment of priorities against goals. As we wrote recently, when teams are put together, they should look to create a “content business model” that truly understands what that media model looks like – and how it can be appropriately scaled.
This leads us to…
3. Objectives and measurability remain a challenge.
If there’s one line in the content struggle to gain momentum — as well as confusion about the use of branded content, local advertising, or content marketing — it’s how to support goals and measure progress toward them.
It is common these days for the team that handles content creation for owned media and audience building purposes to create content for a local ad campaign or to be part of a branded content effort.
Now, setting appropriate, measurable goals for different types of efforts is extremely important — and we’re starting to see some real frameworks emerge.
However, the operating model may be more important – because companies that articulate and create a documented foundational document content creation strategy are succeeding in greater numbers. The content creation process for businesses should be one as the content you create has to work harder, it has to be reusable, and it has to be scalable across multiple approaches. Your thought leadership essay idea should work on your proprietary media system, as a shared white paper, webinar, original article in an industry magazine, and as a series of infographics fueled by social media. Thus, you not only need a centralized method to properly create all the right assets to scale. You need to have a common — and clear — way of measuring those efforts to see what is really working and where it is working.
Objectives and measurability are much more related to having an appropriate and scalable operating practice, governance, workflow and technology than if you have engaged the right agency or creative freelancer.
What does this mean for content teams
There may be no better example of this development than we see developing at Red Hat, the $3 billion software company. Over the past few years, Laura Hamlyn, Global Director of Content, has grown the content team from a handful of people who created content assets for sales, C-Suite, and articles focused on SEO for a website into an integrated center of excellence, pioneering content as a premium brand. , marketing, and sales efforts.
The Red Hat team used four team-focused goal inputs to balance where and how the group grows and measure effectiveness:
- Increase company awareness
- Increase the number of subscribers on their content platforms
- Increase demand to fill the sales pipeline
- Increased content quality/scalability requirements (relevancy and findability)
To this end, Red Hat has built/employed an integrated team of copywriters, journalists, content strategists, librarians/art curators, localization experts, academics, and editors. Within the next six months, the company should have approximately 45 team members. Simply put: Red Hat takes content seriously, and it is a strategic corporate function in the content field for marketing, communications and sales. As Laura told me when reaching out for this article, “We have been given a lot of responsibility at Red Hat. Brands have to deliver consistent value with a consistent voice. The way we do that is through a consistent team.”
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What does this mean for CMI?
Our goal remains the same since Joe wrote his primary blog post: Promote the practice of content marketing. But if this mission is our North Star, we must acknowledge and broaden our horizons to meet the changes in the evolving space race.
Content Marketing Practitioner of the Year 2020:
- Pioneer in the organization’s communication strategy. The team does not operate as an in-house on-demand content vending machine – but as part of the marketing and communications fabric of the business.
- Understands the differences and intricacies of all operational approaches to content in business , from content marketing and content strategy, to branded content, to local advertising, or anything else that inherently drives media creation as a business strategy.
- Aligns measurement and objectives appropriately for the strategy being implemented . Future content team members will build audiences with owned media experiences that can be monetized in multiple ways. They lead the content promotional implementation of short-term advertising campaigns. They drive posts and organic search traffic from smart earned media and word-of-mouth strategies.
- Supports every part of the customer journey . Tomorrow’s content teams aren’t just the best sales enablers on the conversion funnel. They’re not just SEO-focused teams that drive brand awareness. It’s not just customer support organizations running how-to videos or customer events. Tomorrow’s content teams are the experts at delivering audience value at every stage of the customer journey.
Thus, we expand our mission, our editorial coverage, our teaching and our learning as well. At the Content Marketing Institute, you’ll see more coverage of topics such as local advertising, branded content, and content strategy as well as our continued focus on the content marketing approach. It is a unified family of specific but relevant approaches to the strategic use of media in our business.