Five Ways Agencies Can Figure Out Their Role in Content Marketing

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If there's one thing our industry can't get enough of, it's buzzwords. We love our jargon and because we use it so often, words often are applied in varying ways, with equally varying meaning.

Case in point: content marketing. I'm sure there are some rolling eyeballs out there even at the mention of it. The phrase is wearing thin, but the impact of content marketed right can truly move the sales/reputation needle for brands. It has grown in popularity because companies have a growing need to populate empty pages on blogs, websites, social platforms, and audio channels. So let's define what content marketing is (from my experience at my agency): an on-going thematic narrative that helps define a company's reputation and convey its story in concert with other forms of marketing. It includes blogs, newsletters, media coverage, podcasts, social media, SEO, white papers and video. It lives or dies by the company's ability to publish and distribute this content swiftly and consistently.

With me so far?

Content marketing cuts across disciplines within a small/mid-size agency -- it is part public relations, part digital, part creative, and part strategic planning. That can make its role confusing, so here are five guidelines for how to effectively structure, staff, create and execute a dynamic content machine in your agency.

Who's on board? -- Take a look at your existing team; do you have the talent to create smart content? Look for people who are adept at long-form writing, who can juggle messages on a variety of delivery vehicles; who are in touch with the marketplace and have a desire to evolve; and who can execute efficiently.

Where does it sit? -- Figuring out where a discipline integrates within an agency can be a tricky. It all depends on how your agency is currently structured. For example, if you have integrated teams who sit together on a dedicated client team, placing a content expert(s) on the team merely expands it. At Brownstein Group, we have found success with disciplines sitting together and coming together in common work spaces. We believe content marketing is a PR skill set primarily, so that is where it is based. You have to do what works for your agency, and the scope/talent you have may dictate your structure.

Do you have revenue? -- Your company is likely already creating content in some form. Regardless, packaging it and promoting it are key to driving revenue. Start by treating yourself as a client and market your discipline. You should be writing about it, speaking about it in front of qualified audiences, and posting stories about why brands can benefit from your content. The majority of companies are investing an increasing amount of budget to this area of our business. Be out in front of it.

Are you scrappy? -- Key to creating a powerful content machine that clients can't get enough of is making sure it is structured efficiently so you can price it affordably. For example, we have a video studio built for social and other online viewing. Once a client posts a video we create for them, they can't repeat the same video—they need the next story told. That's why we spent time to figure out how to build our machine to move at the speed of business, while being affordable so clients can order multiple videos each week.

Is it any good? -- You can crank out volumes of content, but if it doesn't work for your clients, it's worthless. Be sure the writing, infographics, videos and postings are on brief and created in the same intrusive way you would craft a TV campaign or a PR blitz. It needs proper supervision, a willingness to take smart risks, and hiring the best talent. Just like agencies have done for decades. Content marketing shouldn't be boring!

You're going to hear a growing chatter about this topic in coming months and years. If you buy into change, and embrace how content can be an important solve for your clients, you will set your agency up for many more years of success.