Content marketing: Why no one agrees on what it is

Aug 30, 2017
Content Marketing

Is there a more hated term in business than ‘content marketing’? Even the people who dedicate their livelihood to it aren’t crazy about it. With content marketing agencies failing around the world, a hopeful faction from traditional marketing, advertising, and PR is waiting for content marketing to die so we can all get on with business as usual. It’s going to be a long wait.

It’s not just old-school marketing and advertising being disrupted; modern marketing companies focused on SEO, social media and website development are feeling the pinch, too.

Traditional media is also floundering and facing stiff competition from brand journalism. In the process of trying to stay afloat, they’re cannibalizing their talent pool who, once over the shock of being made redundant, find out they can work as brand journalists for better pay, good benefits and more respect.  

Lately, all these disjointed, disenfranchised and in many cases disorganised organisations are rebranding themselves as content marketing agencies without any clue what it is they’re claiming and without making a significant change in how they go to market.

What is content marketing?

In other words, just because you say it’s content marketing doesn’t mean it is. Here’s how the Content Marketing Institute defines it:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

 To have a strategic marketing approach, you’re required to write strategies. A strategy should be specific to your customer and not a template you give to everyone. It should be based on audience research done no later than the last year or two. It should not be based on creative opinion.

Why audience is important to content marketing

Content marketing provides your target audience – not a mass audience – with high-quality, original content to help them along the path to purchase from your business. You have to publish or produce content consistently and with regular frequency over time. You have to understand editorial workflows and processes and have all the quality controls in place to ensure you’re representing your company in a professional manner.

It usually takes between four and eight pieces of content to influence a consumer. Purchasing decisions can happen weeks, months or even years before a transaction occurs. It’s a slow-burn method of marketing.

The content marketing formula

Creating a lot of content isn’t enough. You need to distribute it to your audience and amplify it so the people you don’t know – and who don’t know you – discover you.

So, content marketing = strategy + content creation + distribution + amplification.

It requires strategic thinking, editorial oversight, creative direction, search capabilities, and digital advertising skill. You need writers, editors, producers, videographers, voice artists, sound engineers, graphic designers, animators and web developers to name just a few roles in a content marketing team.  A good agency will have all of these people at their disposal. A great agency will be able to provide consulting, training, their own studio and all the equipment needed to produce award-winning content.

Guess what?

Content marketing is hard. It takes a long time to master the discipline. You can’t add a widget or bolt on a new member of staff and say you’re providing content marketing services. You might be providing a facet of content marketing but that’s about it.

 Hoping for or predicting the death of content marketing is about as fruitful as Donald Trump promising to make America great again on the back of 1950s-style manufacturing jobs.  It’s not going to happen. There are plenty of consultants and agencies already looking for their next trick because delivering consistently high-quality content – over time and with expected results – isn’t for the faint-hearted.

At Lush, we know how to help you attract the audience you want by creating and distributing award-winning content developed to a strategic business plan. We have been a full-service content marketing agency since 2014 with the awards to prove it in video, written and audio content production. Give us a call if you want to work with people who truly get it and have a proven record of delivery.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up to the Lush newsletter for advice to help you market your business better, tips from our video production gurus, and a podcast or two from our favourite podcasting team, Brand Newsroom. In the meantime, you might enjoy these:

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