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CMWorld 2020 - content marketing is evolving, are you ready?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher November 3, 2020
Even in an era of declining media trust, there is a place for content marketing. But if you want your content to create loyal advocates and win customers, how you approach content has to change. That was the message from CMWorld 2020 - here's my review.


We've been doing some kind of content marketing for years, long before Joe Pulizzi gave it its official name. The strategy has been through many changes, as marketers learned what worked, what didn't, and how content best supports the complete customer lifecycle. It's still evolving, and Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi shared their views on where content marketing is headed over the next decade. Changes happen for a reason. Will your company make the transition?

Architecting desire

In this year's CMWorld keynote, Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer for the Content Marketing Institute, shared his vision for the future of content marketing in the next ten years. He talked about the fact that we are continually changing the way we go to market with products and services and that content marketing is changing as well. 

What isn't changing is our role/ purpose of reaching audiences and moving them. More than ever before, we need more connected experiences for creating desire. 

But how do we do that when we are faced with disrupted forces like the following?

  • Consumers have no patience for interruptive or low-quality content. Rose said we have to understand where we hold attention once we get it ("hold and engage").
  • Getting in front of customers in a physical space is happening less often, and as it becomes less available, Rose said we need a digital experience proxy.
  • There is a continued decline of trust and truth. Data privacy and media trust are lower than ever before, and we need to lean into data acquisition, getting people to trust us enough with their information to allow us to build better experiences. 

Rose said content marketing addresses these disruptions. Or it can. 

To explain, he talked about putting the service-profit chain to work and how we need to turn satisfied customers into fans. To create satisfied customers, we need to give our employees the tools and capabilities to make great experiences possible. 

CMI - creating fans
(via CMWorld 2020)

CMWorld Keynote, Robert Rose, Architecting Desire: A New Strategy for Content Marketing for the Next Ten Years

It's not enough, Rose said, to be the FAQ of your industry. "This puts you in the zone of passivity." You need to get in the zone of action where you create advocates early and often who will help you reach and move audiences. But it's not something that your content marketing team alone can do. It's a company muscle, he said.

One thing that Rose said that resonates is that you have to teach audiences how to be customers. In the slide below, he explains the two paths for audience development (behavioral and contribution value) and how each path doesn't exist on its own for each person. The opportunities to cross back and forth exist, and what we need to understand is where it happens and measure those crosses. 

CMI - audiences
(via CMWorld 2020)

CMWorld Keynote, Robert Rose, Architecting Desire: A New Strategy for Content Marketing for the Next Ten Years

So you have to decide how to move forward - are you moving an audience or building an audience to create desire? Once you select your purpose, you need to develop your approach to Subscribe, Win, and Grow that audience. Finally, you have to figure out how to connect everything to know when the crosses happen.

According to Rose, architecting desire not only assumes you can measure the crosses but that you can also serve up the next best-desired experience. And again, this is an organizational capability. 

Pulizzi on diversification and the new marketing business model

When I saw Joe Pulizzi sitting at a desk for his presentation, I thought maybe he was doing some kind of SNL news skit. But he wasn't (although he did make a few funnies). Instead, he talked about the need to have the "proper portfolio of risk to reward in your content marketing program."

Content itself has no innate value, Pulizzi said. The true value is in the audience you attract and keep with that content. And we need, he said, to start developing content assets for real, strategic diversification. 

By diversify, Pulizzi said he doesn't mean to have a presence over multiple social channels (that would be like diversifying your stock portfolio by investing only in tech companies). 

Think like Disney. It started with movies, then moved into television, books, toys, theme parks, and, most recently, Disney Plus. Disney was smart; it built a diversified set of media assets. That, Pulizzi said, is what companies need to do. 

Start with one channel and build your audience. Then you can start to diversify in one of two ways:

  • Channel diversification: develop media assets by channel type such as blog, podcast, webinar series, events, etc..
  • Goal diversification: develop media assets by revenue goal (win, grow, keep, direct)

"This is the marketing of the future is developing media assets by channel type and by goal."

Here's where Pulizzi and Rose align: you need the entire organization to work together to make this happen. Content marketing needs to break out of its silo and bring the company story altogether. 

There are two opportunities right now that content marketers can advantage of:

  • Create the world's leading educational center for your industry. Pulizzi said higher education is going the way of news media. Parents and students question the price they have to pay when they are no longer studying or living on campus. We see big tech start their own education programs to replace expensive higher education institutional programs. And he's not talking about some simple training programs you may have in place today. 
  • Learn the art of media acquisition. The pandemic has sped up the process of media bankruptcy. Purchase a media asset, don't start from scratch, Pulizzi said. Become the CFO's friend and understand your company's m&a process. Then do like Disney and add media assets in a deliberate fashion. 

The new marketing business model is all about diversification, true diversification by channel, and goal. This is a big opportunity for content marketing to prove it's about more than creating content and sharing it on social media or in email. But it requires a company-wide view and buy-in that you will have to define, share, and promote to get everyone on board.

My take

Both Rose and Pulizzi want us to think bigger about the opportunities content marketing brings to the table. It's not a marketing function that should be locked away in a room where all that happens is content development for the blog or whatever needs another team wants.

Content marketing has the potential to help our companies create connected experiences that attract and win customers and create loyal advocates for our brand. If we can think about the bigger picture and build our strategies around that picture, the opportunities are endless. 

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