March 20, 2017 / By Cynthia Ramsaran
I spent ten incredible years as a journalist. But after completing a degree in marketing, I made a shift in my career. So, when I first switched gears from producing and writing news to creating marketing content, the difference between the two was startling.
And while journalism and content marketing do have many similarities, there are distinct differences. Journalists typically write for a general audience to serve one purpose: information. We as marketers have to take into account the end goal: ROI.
As I entered the new frontier (at least for me) of content marketing, I made a few blunders along the way. Here are six things I wish I knew back then, that we should all abide by now.
1) Don’t make it about you
Content marketers, (myself included) sometimes have blinders on when it comes to the audience’s needs. The ultimate goal is to generate leads and revenue, but I made content about what my firm/agency did, offered, and valued, instead of what our potential clients wanted to know.
Content marketing should engage your audience. It’s not necessarily an outlet for personal views on your platform. (Unless your goal is to connect with your audience on a personal level, then why not?) Also, who are your readers? Take the time to map out personas, or avatars of your target audience, consumers, or even future employees. By raising the bar with valuable content written especially for these personas/avatars, you will be able to line up your content with your business development goals.
2) Content marketing is NOT advertising
Just like making it about you, if you sell your product hard, or sound too arrogant or pushy, your audience will bail –fast. Authenticity is essential when serving up your content, particularly to millennials. According to Millennialmarketing.com, content marketing to this generation should focus on creating new opportunities for consumers to discover your brand and not force feeding your brand message.
3) Promote your content
Okay you created your content, now what? It’s a given that your content should be tagged in your CMS, and behind the scenes on your site. You can work with a third party, or dig into your analytics to match the metadata with your search results.
But SEO is only the beginning of optimizing your content. Searchable headlines, sub heads, images, and videos aligned to keywords are great additions to boosting your content in search results, but there are other ways to promote your content:
Influencers: Reach out to influencers by contacting them on LinkedIn through your connections. If a certain influencer is hard to reach, tag them in your social posts that promote your content.
Up your social media game: You may have a content calendar (you do, right)? Rolling out a social media calendar that outlines themes and posts relevant to bigger pieces of content will keep readers engaged and possibly reading more. Once you have a strategy or some foundation in place, take advantage of all the different ways you can promote via social media. Live stream, Tweets, and even memes that poke fun at pain points are all effective (and free) ways to promote your content.
Change the format: Have a whitepaper you’re circulating? Create a companion video that supports key takeaways. Repurpose content into decks, PDFs, and short infographics. PR Newswire recommends using various formats for press releases depending on your messaging goals.
4) Focus on quality and not always quantity
When I was a newshound, I published tons of content. Daily. Weekly. As a producer at a financial news site, I published maybe 50-100 videos per day.
Upon venturing into content marketing, I thought I had to provide a high volume of content in a short amount of time to keep readers engaged. Then I thought about the times in the newsroom, when I’d ask my senior producer, “why are we publishing so much content?” I remembered the analytics I read on how content performed on the site. Then I cringed when I learned our audience only clicked on a few videos a day.
The Content Marketing Institute says marketers don’t have to choose between quality and quantity. We don’t have to hide behind quality and feel guilty about producing enough work, or create a high volume of work and make excuses for not coming up with substance.
This is an area where your content calendar will help guide you.
Lesson learned: don’t just put content out for content’s sake. Strategically plan your content, line up your calendar according to prospects, consumer interest, key milestones, and most importantly what you are passionate and knowledgeable about.
5) Stay true to your voice
Speaking of passion, authenticity is important if you want to maintain your readers’ trust. When you deviate from whom you are, your story, or even your expertise, people see it and quickly move away from your brand.
Just like we discussed about Millennials not trusting your content if they sense even the slightest sales pitch, if you become a little too obvious about lining up your content too closely with your new product launch, for instance, people will know you’re bluffing instead of providing actionable, engaging, and educational content.
6) Don’t focus solely on SEO
Yes, optimizing your content should be done by default. If you want your content to be found in search results, you must use the right keywords that rank your content high up on that search list. But, SEO has evolved. It is no longer just about engines, but also about users, consumer behavior, social listening, psychographics, and interests. Use these metrics and take into account what your readers crave.
Tagging is just the back end when it comes to finding your content. Create content that your target consumers generally have an interest for and they will find your content easily on a search result. .
Now, when I create new content, I think back to my past experience and the six lessons I learned and say to myself, “let’s make this content sing.” The emphasis is on the acronym, S.I.N.G. If you want to make your content SING too, ask yourself the following questions:
Sticky – Do you create content that tells a story, resonates with your readers? Is it memorable?
Intelligent – Does your content make sense to your target audience? And does it align to your business goals?
New – Is the story you’re telling an innovative idea? Has it been written about before? If so, what’s your angle?
Giving – Is your content bringing value to your consumer or prospects? What are you adding that is different from your competitors?
Need inspiration for your next piece of content? Read how our COO and Managing Partner, Bryan Harris, gets his creative process going here.