‘Content’ as a word has seemingly got itself a bad name and it’s starting to cause a real problem for our industry – or so a number of recent articles would have it. It is a vague term that’s entered our marketing lexicon but, love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Content marketing itself is not the problem, it’s the fact that most content has little to no impact on its target audience and really, it’s helping no one. We just get overwhelmed with clutter.
Take a look at any major UK company’s blog and you’ll see that most of the “content” they’re churning out doesn’t do the following:
- Teach visitors something new or useful;
- Give away handy resources for free (such as templates, cheat sheets and how-to-guides);
- Inspire their visitors;
- Clearly and concisely answer the question implied by the title.
The ‘Definition Problem’
One of the quirks of this industry is that we love coming up with complicated or vague words to describe what we do – and often they stick a little too strongly.
Remember when “selfie” became the Oxford Dictionary word of 2013 and we collectively went mad over how our country was going to the dogs? Well the unfortunate bystanders in the marketing industry mightn’t like it, but new words like “native advertising” and “content marketing” have quickly become the new normal.
Just by looking at Google search trends, it is clear that ‘content marketing’ has become widely accepted within the industry above ‘marketing communications’ since 2004.
While it is agreed that “content marketing” fits under the definition of “marketing communications”, referring to web content as “Marketing Communications” is tricky when working day-to-day in the ad industry. Actually, content marketing is just a small part of the overall marketing communications strategy.
When you’re working for global brands, you’ll find referring to a blog post as “marketing communications” will create more confusion than it’s worth. Confusion costs time and money in our industry and it goes back to the definitions problem – you might not like it, but the easiest way to be on the same page is to use the same language.
The ‘Content Problem’
Whilst most content indeed fails, it doesn’t mean content marketing itself is the problem. It means the people who’ve made the content maybe.
We’re not here to defend crappy content. But content marketing done right has tremendous value, there’s a reason it’s so big! It just needs to be matched with relevance.
To succeed with content, marketers need to develop content around a brilliant idea, focus on overwhelming the target audience with value, amplify the message by sharing the content with the right people, and finally ask for (and listen to) audience feedback.
Are we using the wrong word to describe content marketing? Maybe.
But let’s not forget the bigger picture: we should be focusing on value, not semantics. Whatever the buzzword might be that describes how we’re doing it, we really just need to get on and do it.
Catherine is a senior content, PR & social executive at equimedia. She joined equimedia in 2015, previously having worked in-house for a large charity. Today, Catherine manages marketing campaigns for a number of our large charity clients, as well as retail and insurance, from planning and production right through to delivery.