Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Message to CMO's: Why Your Content Isn't Working and What To Do About It

Content marketing is the hot new trend in the marketing world right now, but finding the balance between SEO, branding and engaging content is still a challenge for organizations both large and small.  As a graduate student at Northwestern’s Medill program of Integrated Marketing, as well as an experienced video content producer, I have found that primarily SEO expectations and branding standards have limited the efficacy of content marketing by disenfranchising consumers with low-quality content that fails to meet the simple standard of providing an audience with something they would enjoy.

In his post, “Your Content is Kidding No One,” Mitch Joel argues that content which needs advertising dollars to be viewed is not content, but rather advertising.  He raises an interesting point of distinction: what are the different goals of advertising and content?  What is the goal of content marketing?  How does content differ from advertising?  Has the transformed landscape of media production and distribution blurred the line between the two or is there still a clear distinction?  I would argue this point: Storytelling must be an act of generosity, something that is engaging to an audience and somehow makes our lives better; and therefore, we want to watch it.  It must somehow convey the spirit and intention of a brand, but it cannot simply be pushing a product.  Our modern audience is sophisticated and intelligent enough to see through in-authentic content; and that is the difference between advertising and content.  Content must be authentic and give something to your audience.  In that gift you can share your message (your brand message), and then you earn trust, and that is the power of content marketing.   

                                      -Courtesy of Orange County SEO

In his article“3Fatal Content-Marketing Mistakes You Need to Avoid,” Pratik raises three points: Not creating Unusual Content, Thinking content marketing is the new link building, and Gaming search by producing low-quality content.    His second two points refer to SEO manipulation and his first refers to content creation.  But he concludes that, “Low-quality content that doesn’t add any value to the reader’s life tells your audience you don't care about their needs.”  That really hits at the heart of the matter.  Content marketing can be powerful, but only when it adds value to our consumer’s lives and earns their trust.

From my studies in the Northwestern Medill IMC Master's program, as well as my working experience and the insights provided by these two authors, I have developed three action items for you to consider.  First, Earn Trust.  Know your target market, what will your audience actually consider valuable content.  Give them something meaningful and you will increase your credibility.  Second, Demand Quality.  No amount of SEO or social promotion will compensate for a lack of valuable content.  Third, Don’t Over-Brand.  Consumers are media savvy, they will know who is giving them valuable content.  Over-branding comes across as inauthentic.   Content is not the place to make a sales pitch.  Content should be a gift.

David Langford Schroeder:  I am currently a graduate student at Northwestern’s Medill Integrated Marketing program, as well as a working professional as a Video Content Producer at Samaritan’s Purse, an International Disaster Relief Organization.  My work has taken me through Central America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.  I also holds an MFA at NYU and currently reside in North Carolina with my beautiful wife.



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