Content Marketing continues to change and evolve, according to Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, in his keynote address to Content Marketing World, as he declared:
There is no perfect content marketing strategy, and your strategy is only as strong as its ability to evolve and change.
The opening keynote of CMWorld was reflective of all we have gone through as people and businesses in the last year and a half. But it was also a shout-out to content marketing because a lot of things stopped throughout the pandemic - content marketing didn’t. It changed.
Some examples Rose offered:
- Salesforce stopped all its marketing and launched work.com in eight weeks to help businesses and employees transition to a new way of working.
- SAP developed a new editorial strategy that switched to a pandemic response.
Many businesses took a step back and thought about what people needed during a tumultuous time and delivered supportive content marketing.
And then, Rose said, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel at the end of 2020, while 2021 began with a bang. Content Marketing accelerated. Resiliency plans, content studios, streaming services - 2021 has been a boom of new and innovative ways to create and deliver content-driven experiences to audiences and customers alike. Roku, Old Spice, McKinsey, HubSpot, L’Oreal, Salesforce, and many others are stepping up.
Content marketing has been around for ten years, but you wouldn’t know based on what the media is saying about some of the things the brands above are doing, Rose said.
Then he made an interesting observation that all these new content marketing programs aren’t new or innovative - they are late.
Content operations are growing
Rose shared some stats from the Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 research. Content operations and the function of content strategy are growing. He said 83% of the most successful Content Marketers have collaboration tools, work on an operational plan, and have a team in place as a formal function.
He also said the 58% said their content marketing strategy had changed a little or a lot based on the pandemic. And this is where the need to be continually changing and evolving comes into play.
A documented Content Marketing strategy is critical to success. Defined roles and responsibilities are critical to success. And executive support is crucial to success.
But the realization that everything is not set in stone and we need to pay attention to our audiences and our customers, what’s happening in the world around us, and evolve as necessary is also critical to success.
Using content to build authentic engagement
Jill Grozalsky Roberson is the Director of DX Product Marketing and Evangelism at Sitecore, and she took the stage to talk about authentic engagement.
Fifty-nine percent of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element, she said. As a result, consumers feel disconnected, suffering from digital fatigue (virtual events, digital engagement, digital content).
That doesn’t mean we stop doing what we are doing as Content Marketers, but we need to find the right balance between delivering consistent, relevant content and overwhelming consumers.
How do we do that? Robertson offered four pieces of advice to help brands create and deliver content that connects and makes a positive emotional brand association.
- Don’t do all the talking. You have to listen to your customers and understand them.
- Watch your tone. Emotion drives specific engagement types (e.g., surprise drives loyalty, happy drives shares, anger drives viral content), so you need to know what kind of engagement you want and align your content with that emotion.
- Dress for success. Have the content operations in place to help you create that emotional content and support it through its entire lifecycle.
- Treat customers like they are your one and only. Robertson said that 70% of the customer journey is based on how a customer feels they are treated across touchpoints, and that personalization makes the connection.
What corporate content creators can learn from content entrepreneurs
Joe Pulizzi talked about content entrepreneurs and what corporate content marketers can learn from what they are doing. He offered ten things, but three stood out as things content marketers should be doing right now.
- Focus on owned channels - blogs and email newsletters are the top channels content entrepreneurs build to make a profit. This is because these are channels they own and fully control. Corporate Content Marketers need to think the same way - focus their effort on the channels they control and have the most potential to profit from.
- Prepare for the marathon - Content Marketing isn’t a quick fix. It takes time to build an audience, build relationships. Pulizzi said he talked to content marketers that run campaigns for 4-6 months, but with content creators, it takes at least nine months to earn their first dollar. Educate your organization and make them understand content marketing is an asset, not an expense. This point is probably the biggest challenge for businesses implementing content marketing from my experience, and it’s why many struggle to make it work and have leadership and other employees take it seriously.
- Selectively publish on social: I liked this one a lot - “don’t create content on social networks unless you can be truly remarkable.” There is so much noise on social networks, and content marketers feel like they have to be everywhere, every day saying something. And there is a push from management to do that. But if all you are putting out is the same old thing - promote a blog, a webinar, a podcast a dozen times, or simply retweeting or resharing other people’s content with no context, then it’s more noise than anything, and your stats will show that.
Ann Handley’s keynote focused on storytelling and how we need to bring our customers into our story. She demonstrated that with two great examples and a brand storytelling framework that proved that stories add context and context adds value. If you want to learn how to be a great storyteller, find a way to see one of her presentations or read her newsletter.
I’m just starting to dig in on all the great insights that come out of CMWorld. But listening to Rose and Pulizzi alone is enough to know content marketing works if we think about it and implement it the right way. And yes, there is no “one” right way. But there sure are a lot of wrong ways, so it’s critical to watch and learn and try as much as we can.