Content Marketing, Content Strategy

Multi-screen World
I had been blogging for two and a half years on May 5, 2008.

I was using content, in my case a combination of visuals (at first images, then video) and text, in the same way I had used topics and themes to invite a mix of like minded people to talk about business at the events of the social network I first started under the banner of Fast Company magazine.

In the same way Google remembered my contribution to one of the nascent forms of organized brand advocacy, gmail retrieved the message from Joe Pulizzi, who I met for the first time when I received his message announcing my debut on his Junta42 (the precursor to CMI) list at number 2. Brain Clark of Copyblogger took the top spot.

Becoming social is a content-based proposition

Just like being searchable.

From the early days to mainstream adoption of social networks as communication tools making the case for brands as publishers is the associated benefit of direct to customer interactions, including the more recent introduction of Google's own social network, G+, that is putting search with social more closely. 

Content is an opportunity, and with the introduction of apps, it is becoming a product in itself in addition to being an asset.

Marketing that makes business sense has always been about understanding customers and buyers motivations, intent, and the tasks they want to get done. Plenty of opportunity still exists to help make it easier for people to do what they want to do — even as in many cases, that involves helping them figure out what that is.

Enter content marketing or was that content strategy?

According to Kristina Halvorson, content strategy plans for the creation, distribution, and governance of content. Reposting from that part in our conversation, she says:

What regularly derails even the most well-intentioned content marketing initiatives—is actually figuring out the answers to far more complicated (and, oftentimes, less sexy!) questions that take into consideration workflow and governance: the parts that will make our content marketing plans achievable, effective, and sustainable:

  • Why are we creating this content? Is it just so we can have more content, or are our efforts tied to specific business objectives and user goals?

  • What content do we have to work with? Is it any good?

  • Who is the content for? What do they want and need? Do we know this for sure, or are we making assumptions? (Assumptions are the enemy of all marketing strategies!)

  • Who will create the content? What are the required skill sets?

  • How much time will it take to create and maintain the content? Do we have it?

  • By what standards and metrics will we measure the content’s success?

  • Who is empowered to say “no” to requests for new or different content?

  • What happens to the content once it’s published? (This speaks to the “launch it and leave it” mentality that results in bloated websites, dead microsites, and abandoned social media campaigns.)

It’s these questions that really get at the heart of content strategy: the questions that address not just the product (or content) components, but really dig into the people components that are required to make any sustainable content initiative a success.

We need to stop thinking about content as something that’s “launched” or even simply “published”, and think of it in terms of a content lifecycle. And that means thinking clearly through what it’s going to take to make our big content marketing visions come to life.

Content marketing also comes with a strategy — where you map topics and themes of your text and visual content to actual people and the purchasing stages they are in at any specific moment.

Are they researching and comparing options? Evaluating whether to recommend a purchase already made? Is there a need to help them even recognize how to figure out what they need? What about helping them persuade their team to pick your service?

Often organizations will state they want to produce thought leadership. However, without a clear definition of what that means to customers, a sharp point of view that showcases the business acumen and subject matter expertise available (why you?), as well as strong alignment with business objectives, it may be an expensive proposition to undertake. 

Content does not stop at the page level, or in still too many cases, the white paper PDF to download. In re-reading Hugh MacLeod's interview# with then Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson, it occurred to me that what Hugh says about the job of magazines:

At some level, the magazine’s job is to provide a context, a situation, an arena, that makes brands appear more “interesting”, than if they went somewhere else.

Also applies to brands as publishers.

Where social networks splinter attention and encourage consumption (often without digestion), a company Web site has the opportunity to reconstruct context on a particular topic — yes, even a product is a topic — by behaving in a way consistent with the story it wants to tell about it. Apple's product pages are a good example of this principle.

Have both — a content marketing and strategy — have them first, bake them into the experience. Include social interaction in your planning — every dot connects and integrates into one expression to make an impression. It's a multi-screen world.

Designing an experience worth having is how we still break through the avalanche of content and outlets with signal.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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