In the world of digital media, there’s always a new buzzword along to help practitioners describe new ways of doing things. I’ve blogged before about content strategy, but how about ‘content marketing’?
It’s a fairly new term, coined in 2009, but already there’s a Content Marketing Institute. One of their definitions is: ‘creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action’.
In other words, it’s about creating useful information for your target customers that will position you as helpful experts and grow loyalty without the hard sell.
In practice this means a range of things, as I found out when I attended the Content Marketing Show in London last week. The show (which is free to attend) could, in fact, function as a piece of content marketing in itself: it raises the profile of the organisers, positions them as experts in their field, and opens the door for conference attendees to buy their other products (paid training workshops).
Other examples include blogs and social media on one end of the scale and, at the other, ‘offline’ events such as sponsoring someone to jump out of space (a huge success for Red Bull in terms of coverage).
Naturally, there is some cynicism about this. I heard one delegate grumble that content marketing is nothing new: ‘we used to call this branding’. And a few speakers acknowledged the debt to traditional PR. What’s different is the scale of what is being done now, made possible by digital media.
The conference offered a lot of different perspectives and some interesting case studies. I particularly liked the talk by Hannah Smith, provocatively titled Throwing Shit Against the Wall & Analysing What Sticks. She acknowledged that much of this is still experimental: sometimes you have to launch a product and be open to failure. Traditional marketing skills remain – there was much talk of customer journeys and conversion rates – but this field needs creativity too.
Hannah’s case studies made an interesting point: the importance of thinking ‘beyond your products’. This means creating content based around audience interests rather than directly promoting your business. So a train company would create a ‘Festival Finder’ – aimed at people travelling to music festivals – while an insurance firm might provide a ‘Small Business Guide to Google Plus’.
Other speakers covered the use of video as a PR tool, effective ways to use Twitter as a ‘business to consumer’ channel, and the importance of ‘long form’ content (what we used to call ‘articles’ in the old days).
This brings us onto the people who actually create the content. And the talk that created most buzz among the freelances present was from copywriter Jo Petty, called The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Freelancer. Her presentation ended with this important message: ‘Don’t Forget To Pay the Freelancer!’