Content Marketing lessons from publicationsWill digital marketing teams soon resemble newsrooms? If you think I’m guilty of repeating myself here, that’s because I am. When I put that question out to the LinkedInsphere (too much?) a few months back the general response was that morphing into a newsroom was probably a step too far. For now, anyway.

Perhaps there’s a middle ground to be sought, however? Whilst it might be a bit much to spend all your marketing budget transforming into what would essentially be a fully-formed publication, there is plenty we can still learn and adopt from that industry.

In doing so, not only will it (hopefully) result in better content, with articles remaining on track and not straying off down a sales-y route – much to your customer’s benefit – but also allow you to better realise your content marketing goals.

That, too, is the view of Content Marketing Institute contributor John Hall, who in a blog for the firm explains the four traits on which respected publications base everything they create.

The four characteristics of success

• Quality – How do you define quality? Hall makes quite a nice attempt: “The quality lives in the value each provides to its audience.” What he is saying is that quality is not necessarily dependent on everything appearing where it should be (that should be a given), but instead the value your content is offering your customers. The more in-tune with your audience you are, then, the greater value you should be able to deliver to them.

• Uniqueness – Quality of material is not enough on its own, of course, if they’ve read what you’ve presented to them 100 times before. The key ingredient lies in uniqueness – introducing your audience to fresh ideas or new information that they haven’t been exposed to before.

• Consistency – Doing so can’t be a one-off, however – I know it’s a relentless endeavour, content marketing, but that’s how you can get readers to make return trips to your website. For us, the Content Marketing Institute is a bit of an oracle. It just has a knack for producing high-quality, interesting content that gets us thinking.

• Competitive advantage – What is it your company boasts that other firms cannot? Whatever that be, you must use it to your advantage. For some, it might be a wealth of customer data allowing you to pinpoint gaps in your audience’s knowledge and write content accordingly. For others, it might be a superior product which does the talking for you. If so, why not produce a blog on a review round-up of said product, for example?

Four serious content moves

Hall fleshes those traits out a bit into practices that can be implemented by your content team, arguing that in doing so you will increase your chances of developing the endurance factor – just as well, as content marketing is not going anywhere for some time.

1. Manage intellectual capital.

Writing that point felt quite grandiose – maybe it’s because ‘knowledge is power’… Sorry about that, but what I’m saying is no lie. You’ve got a wealth of knowledge in your business, so use it. Too often firms place all their content efforts on the shoulders of one individual, but they can’t be expected to communicate every facet of a company or industry. Make it more of a collaborative effort, whereby content ideas and angles are created by those in the most suitable department of the company. Encourage employees to find the time to impart their knowledge – it’s in their interest after all, while more often than not they’ll be happy to do so.

2. Outline clear publication guidelines.

Here at M2 Bespoke, our writers abide by a company style guide, ensuring that when the articles go in for an edit, all the editors are reading off the same page. Obviously, other writing characteristics such as voice, tone and format of the content are led by our clients, which are then inked in black and white in a brief. In doing so, our writers can quickly tune in to what sort of style they need to adopt for each individual client, meaning that consistency we spoke of earlier becomes evident.

This initial process also allows you as a brand to establish your “promotional line”, i.e. how sales-leaning you want each piece to be. Remember, however, content should engage readers and spark intrigue about your firm, but it should also provide value without asking for something in return.

3. Implement a content marketing strategy.

What’s your purpose for running the article you’re working on? If you’re not sure, or you return an answer suggesting you’re just looking to drive sales, it’s time for a rethink. Publications run articles because they either want to inform, educate or entertain, as those are the values which will get people returning to their website, or buying their magazine.

Developing a content marketing strategy will allow you to get it clear in your head why you’re publishing every article. Not only that, it will ensure clarity over your audience, your message, your calls to action, and your publications. It’s here that you can start to think about an editorial calendar, too.

4. Bring in the professionals.

Many companies have all the right ideas about what sort of content they should create, but they fall flat because they are not hiring the right people to bring those ideas to life.

Our current team comprises trained journalists, English graduates and copywriting specialists, to name but a few. This allows us to be able to align clients with the most suitable writer.

If you’re really going to get serious about content marketing, you too should bring in the professionals – not only will it lead to more creative output, but it will also see an increase in the amount of content you’re producing, which is especially important if you’ve just embarked on the content marketing train.

It’s evident, then, that content marketing is not a million miles away from the world of traditional publishing – in fact, the two spheres often collide, i.e. in the form of sponsored content on news websites and news-led copy on brand sites.

For many brands, however, that will required a radical shift in both mindset and practice. Are you ready to take your content marketing efforts to the next level? How do you see content teams evolving over the next few years?

Ben Hollom

June 15, 2015