What can content do for brands and, more importantly, for their customers? We delved deeply into this at our recent John Brown Media content summit. Let’s break it down further here.
When content is strategised, planned, executed and reviewed by people who don’t quite understand what it is or how it works but have been told it’s important, it is unlikely to work. Meaning, the story itself – the core truths of an organisation, their opportunity to connect – is treated (i.e. bought, planned, budgeted for) as if it’s a synonym for ‘stuff’. So that’s what content becomes. Got some data, got a channel, just put whatever in there, pump it out.
Remember, content should lead to a two-way flow of conversation because you – the brand – has something interesting to say to the customer.
Content is a chance to produce a moment of connection with what’s best in you, the brand. These moments, to customers, are big. They might be the best, most inspiring thing they see on a terrible day. The content might allow them to dream, to feel more confident, to take a new view on life. And you might not get another chance. That’s worth taking seriously.
Think like a journalist and ask yourself: What’s my story and why does it matter? Who is the audience? What connects, not with what you want to say, but with their curiosities and passions and inner lives?
Analytics and audience data has sunk more great marketing than it’s enabled – not because it’s wrong, but because the people using the data are afraid of it. Don’t let the data push you around. If content were a journalistic story, then the data is your leads and your clues. Your overarching human intelligence will then use this data to turn that into something that will make people notice, light fires, capture hearts and minds, and forge change in attitudes or behaviours.
Step outside the self-affirming brand presentations and see yourself as others see you. Working inside a brand and being passionate about it does not mean that everyone else feels the same. Stepping outside also means avoiding what a content-marketing programme should look like, because that’s what it tends to look like. This risks making it invisible and meaningless. Part of a good agency’s role – and certainly a good part of its value – is helping to unchain the thinking inside the organisation.
Use your emotional intelligence and put yourself into the mind of the consumer. Do you have anything really interesting about you that I might find stimulating and fun and compelling? If you’re a car company, your view on future cities, or technology, or whatever, might be really cool. If you’re a food store, I want to hear provenance stories and trends, not just promos dressed as recipes.
Get people into your owned channels, and keep them there by being compelling, fascinating and consistently brilliant.
Don’t rely on partnerships, sponsorships and celebs to ‘borrow’ attention or interest. These days, kids on Instagram are adding #spon to their posts to pretend they are being paid to promote things. People are aware of this and are looking for more authentic experiences with a brand. You have a better chance to impress, share more info, give more insight and get more shared time.
As a parting note, remember this: a famous American reporter once said that journalism is the art of taking something people don’t know about or care about and making them care. That’s also a pretty good summary of content marketing.