From my perspective, content marketing and owned media are going through a bit of a renaissance these days, and not just because they can be done relatively effectively without a working media budget.
As a result of the pandemic, many people increased their media consumption, according to report by Nielsen. Intent-based, lower-funnel marketing is very competitive and pricey, with limited options. Social media is an efficient way to amplify good content. Search engine optimization might be the most efficient form of marketing for many brands. People are increasingly beginning and even entirely conducting their purchase process online, Nielsen also reported.
With a backdrop like that, it's easy to see why companies might embrace content marketing.
However, there is a lot of nuance to developing a highly optimized content marketing or owned media program, so here are a few tips and tricks to consider:
1. Write about what people want to know about.
The temptation with content marketing is to write about what you want people to know about you or your company, but it's important to stifle that desire. Instead, share what you know in the context of what your audience wants to learn, and add your unique perspective for flavor and credibility.
There are a variety of ways to identify what people want to know. Search engines, for example, can tell you the search volume related to different subjects. Your website analytics can give you hints by showing you where people go and what they already consume on your site. Media monitoring tools can quickly show you trending topics in an industry, what key influencers are writing about, and what your competitors think is important. Last, your client service organization or help center searches can be a very fertile source of topics.
2. Build a contributor network.
You can produce more and better content by enlisting a broad array of content contributors from within your company and outside of it.
Look beyond the obvious sources: Maybe your vice president of logistics has a compelling story about how innovative sourcing has improved product quality, availability or cost. Or perhaps your human resources department has an inspiring story about diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, never forget to tap your client success team on a regular basis. In my experience, they are generally a consistent source of good material.
Each time you receive a contribution, make sure to thank the contributor and give them credit publicly to encourage them and to elicit contributions from others.
Guest writers, subject matter experts, luminaries and celebrities can also be valuable in building your content network and keeping your narrative voice fresh. You might be surprised at how many people will be willing to contribute content if you just ask, especially if you will promote their content as well. Current or former customers, industry consultants and even former employees or vendors are all potential contributors.
3. Remember, you don't have to produce all original content.
I've found that one way to produce more content faster is to curate relevant content. Some content producers are happy to have their content republished. You can also create original content by summarizing existing content that might be too weighty for your average reader. Writing an introduction or an opinion piece about another piece of content can be a way to short cut the content production cycle.
You might even get creative with it. I observed one company in a highly technical space create a content advisory board of luminaries in the space. The board members submit relevant content that they come across, with or without a bit of additional commentary. The company then turns this submitted content into a resource library.
4. Create an editorial calendar.
Content marketing can seem like a hit-or-miss reactionary activity. One solution to this is to create an editorial calendar that lays out the topics your organization intends to cover and when those topics will be covered. Doing this gives you the opportunity to think strategically about what content is most important and how and when that content can be tied to other corporate initiatives.
The calendar also creates a set of internal deadlines and commitments that can be used to motivate people to produce content on time. Importantly, an editorial calendar enables the content marketing leader to engage strategically with the rest of the organization and to set realistic expectations about what the content marketing effort will produce.
That said, as much as an editorial calendar is an important tool, don’t let it get in the way of great, opportunistic content.
5. Amplify your content.
Once you’ve gone through the work of producing content, you ought to expend at least as much energy helping people find it. The easy place to go is social media, but don’t forget that you can post about your content multiple times, even on the same social media channel, as long as you are not bombarding your followers with the same thing over and over again. Your company newsletter and possibly even your sales team might be additional sources of amplification. Often your salespeople or customer service team can use new content to engage with customers and prospects.
6. Extend to other venues.
No one ever said that your content needs to live in only one place (e.g., your company blog). Look for as many other places to publish it as appropriate. Some of those places might include a personal blog, industry association blogs, opinion sections in trade publications or even paid publications. Keep in mind that various channels will require that they are the first to publish a piece of content, so the order of publication matters. You might also wish to tweak your content a bit for each outlet.
With these six steps in mind, you'll be well on your way to finding success in content marketing. Keep at it, and your content will become a durable asset over time.