It’s safe to say that this year, ‘content marketing’ has become the new buzz phrase in communication land. So many brands have been busy pumping out content in the form of tweets, newsletters, videos, Facebook posts, photos on Pinterest and Instagram, blogs and guest posts, updates on LinkedIn and Google+, infographics, GIFs…need I go on?
In this slightly suffocating environment, I took time to think about what brands are actually trying to achieve in all their efforts, and how content marketing can be done better.
With PRs playing such a key role in content marketing, I attended an event hosted by outbrain, who brought together an impressive panel of public relations and journalism experts. It’s no secret that content marketing has caused a flood of content online – some irrelevant and seemingly pointless – so I wanted to know what our industry plans to do about it and how we can help brands do it better.
CURRENT ‘CONTENT DOWNPOUR’
Currently, one of the key issues with content marketing is that people are producing content for algorithms, not real people. The fact that the writing has been put together for a Google spider is the reason why a lot of content reads like a mash-up of ‘keywords’ to real human beings.
Google recognised this a long time ago and are fighting back. The latest algorithm updates from the search engine – Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird – aim to promote genuine content and punish content specifically written to cheat SEO (search engine optimising).
All Google and humans want is for content to have authenticity. Brands should avoid the temptation to rush; and take time to understand their audience – a skill well known to good PRs who always think about the audience of a certain publication before speaking to a journalist. That way, the content that gets produced has a genuine purpose, instead of just being another piece churned out for the sake of it.
TACTICS ARE SHORT TERM, STRATEGY IS LONG TERM
So, what should we be doing to combat superfluous content? Anything created needs to include clear opinion and tell a consistent story. Those producing content to keep up with the Joneses may achieve something in the short-term, but it’s all about the long game.
It’s for this reason that PRs have the upper hand and should be at the heart of content marketing. To be successful in PR, you need to have the inherent skill of getting to know businesses and teasing out stories that both support their business objectives but are also interesting to the outside world. This is the foundation of both good PR and good content.
DEFINITION OF SUCCESSFUL CONTENT
Too much content is created which skims the surface. Those producing content need to understand and believe the story they’re telling. And that’s not all they need to understand.
A great point made by one of the panellists, Kate Magee, Associate Editor, PR Week, was that “PRs need to up-skill and learn to understand analytics to be able to demonstrate the value of the content they’re producing.”
But demonstrating the value isn’t just adding up the number of clicks to a page.
Firefly once posted a blog post about the Queen’s Jubilee and hundreds of clicks came from people searching for Diamond Jubilee gnomes. The piece was addressed to businesses, showcasing brands who had successfully hijacked the event, mentioning the gnomes as an example. To gain a true understanding of the success of the piece, Firefly had to filter the visitors. The maxim amongst Google Analytics aficionados is, if there aren’t “Goals” attached, it isn’t measurable.
Measurement of good content isn’t always straight-forward. It’s not always necessarily about gaining a high amount of likes/clicks/shares etc. Proving return on investment (ROI), and showing how it meets business goals is how you’ll be able to determine whether a piece of content was successful. There are so many tools used to measure so you need to start by defining success, and then work out what you’re measuring. So if it’s increasing sign-ups to your site, you’ll need to use something like Google analytics to track the user’s journey from your content to the sign-up page.
Another point to bear in mind is that it’s not just content that converts, it’s about the full user experience. Before pushing out a piece of content, the journey you’re looking to take people on needs to be tested by several people, preferably people not close to the project.
HAVE A STRATEGY AND BE EXPERIMENTAL
When it comes to content creation, make sure you know what you’re aiming for and that you know how to measure it, but don’t let any of that stifle creativity.
…and that’s just the creation element. Once you’ve got that nailed, next thing to think about is sweating those assets and having a slick distribution strategy.
Firefly, along with some industry friends and partners, is hosting an event on effective content distribution in the second week of January, and welcomes you to join to learn more.
Please register your interest by emailing my colleague Tom.