Just as Content Strategy is making it into the mainstream as a web development discipline, a newcomer comes to town -- Content Marketing. This upstart has provoked discussion within the Content Strategy community about the roles and responsibilities of each, and if and when they overlap. But first, look at how and why content marketing came into being, and what it looks like.
Content marketing, also known as “custom content” or “inbound marketing”, was a natural development in an online landscape undergoing change from two massive forces: intense focus on organic search engine ranking, and the emergence of social media channels with high traffic volumes and low barriers to entry.
In response, digital marketers began to push existing website content, rather than traditional sales messaging, out to targeted audiences. The idea, to communicate with customers without selling, delivering information that makes buyers more knowledgeable and engaged. This allows companies to simultaneously:
- Amplify their brand awareness;
- Showcase expertise and thought leadership;
- Nurture trust and develop relationships with clients and customers;
- Create keyword rich digital assets and text content for organic SEO.
This tactic and its associated benefits aren’t new. In a way, it follows the path the American Automobile Association pioneered over a century ago when it began publishing Westways magazine. But today’s digital environment and new expanded “universal” organic search engine results afford multiple channels of communication, including articles, blogs, digital magazines, eBooks, email newsletters, micro sites, podcasts, social media channels, videos, webinars, white papers, and wikis. Specific examples you might be familiar with are Barnes & Noble’s dedicated YouTube channel Nook Study Channel, or the Whole Foods’ Blog.
Home Made Simple, a micro site created by P&G, is often cited in articles about content marketing. Full of recipes, decorating ideas and organizing tips with a homespun, retro feel, it embodies one of the first and foremost industry best practices -- “Share, don’t shill.” Share a resource with customers or solve a problem for them, don’t just sell a product. It sounds obvious, but the temptation for marketers is often too great to ignore!
Secondly, “Reimagine instead of recycle.” View each piece of content as part of a larger whole to be chopped up and reconfigured in different ways. For example, interviewing the author of a white paper for a podcast, producing a webinar based on key findings, then taking three key points and writing a series of three blog posts. Reimagining content allows the creation of a content circle of life that feeds itself more efficiently.
Both best practices deal with issues Content Strategists struggle with daily. The need to understand audiences, craft language and target messaging, efficiently leverage assets, and carefully plan for ongoing updates are the primary roles of Content Strategy.
Content Marketing isn’t a replacement for Content Strategy, but rather the natural growth and evolution of it, taking Content Strategy’s framework, processes and concepts off the website and into all areas of the digital world. A Content Marketer might be described as a cross between an SEO Specialist and a Social Media Guru. In that case, their wise and web-savvy grandparent must have been a Content Strategist. But seriously, we’re all partners, coming together to tell create one seriously compelling experience, regardless of how you slice and dice that content.