The concept of content marketing is enjoying a renaissance, heralded as a new way to influence potential customers in an environment where traditional forms of promotion are losing influence.
So what is content marketing? The Institute of Content Marketing (yes, there is one) defines it as “the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”.
Not desperately punchy, but you get the idea. Position yourself as an expert, give genuinely useful information to the people who need it and they will buy into your brand and ultimately buy your product.
It’s what we used to call public relations.
What’s changed is the number of options for disseminating content.
PR used to be all about gaining column inches in the publications that reach our target audience. That’s still important, of course – people do still read magazines.
But they find information in lots of other ways, too – blogs, ezines, website copy, social media, videos and online communities.
“Digital communication offers something that traditional media relations never could: evaluation”
And the difference with these new distribution channels is that we are talking to our audiences directly.
We can’t hide behind the respected brand of a publication or rely on editorial teams to get the terminology or tone of voice right.
Your readers might forgive one dodgy opinion piece in an otherwise informed and interesting trade publication, but send out one issue of your own e-newsletter that is banal or full of puff and you risk being unsubscribed. Gone. Blacklisted. Never able to contact that person again.
People have lots of choices. However clever you are, there is probably someone else out there who could supply similar information, so your form of communication has to be right.
Your content should be well written, correctly targeted and have an understanding of the motivations of your audience. They won’t bother to tell you if you’re getting it wrong, they’ll just stop reading.
But while the risks are high, so are the rewards. Digital communication offers something that traditional media relations never could: evaluation.
If we send out an ezine we can tell exactly who opened it and what they read.
Run a blog and we can measure how much traffic it drives to your website.
Get onto Twitter and start a conversation where we can talk to your customers directly.
With the right data management we can even attribute sales to the contacts we nurtured through our PR efforts. Heaven!
But the core skill is what it always has been: creating high-quality content. Or PR to you and me.
Anna Hern is managing director of Ridgemount PR