Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher
Content marketing requires a total re-imagining of what “marketing” really means. With content marketing, brands are becoming publishers. But too many brands are still thinking like “brands”—with the old mindset of crafting sales pitches and assuming the audience will pay attention to whatever is put out there. Instead, content marketing requires marketers to change their mindsets: They need to start thinking like publishers.
What does this mean? Instead of thinking like a marketer and asking, “How can I tell the world about my company and get them to buy what I’m selling,” start thinking like a publisher: “Who is my audience, what do they want to know about, and how can I help them achieve their goals?”
Here are some specific ideas on how to “think like a publisher” for better content marketing:
1. What Does Your Audience Need?
Think about your favorite magazine: It has a unique mission, editorial “voice” and perspective, and it focuses on certain types of stories. Each magazine has its own unique personality and style.
With content marketing, you’re effectively going into the “magazine” business: You are trying to serve the needs of your audience, and you need to decide which audience you want to serve and how to best create content that meets their needs.
Ask yourself: What problems can you help your audience solve?
For example, if you sell software that can improve a company’s productivity, don’t write blog posts about your software—instead, write posts on “productivity tips,” conduct interviews with productivity experts, or talk about broader challenges facing your clients’ industries. What issues are holding your clients back? What challenges are your clients seeking to overcome? All of these story ideas can generate great content ideas for your company, but not all of them might be directly related to “talking about what you sell.”
Action Item: Create an “editorial calendar” to create structure for your content marketing efforts. Decide how often you want to publish new content—for example, one new blog post per week—and then develop a few months’ worth of content ideas and keep a list of topics for articles, podcasts, interviews and videos.
2. Constantly Build Trust
Content marketing is not about “generating awareness,” it’s about building trust.
People might read dozens of your blog posts before they feel comfortable enough to reach out to you via email inquiry. Your content marketing efforts should create a “long tail” of 24-hour-a-day availability to engage with customers on your website. Over time, customers will find their way back to your site through Google searches, by finding one of your posts linked from a forum discussion, or via social media recommendation.
Your brand’s content marketing needs to create a unique sense of voice, personality and style that makes a connection with your audience and leaves them wanting to hear more from you.
Action Item: Look at two or three publications that create content you find valuable and interesting—not advertising, not “sponsored content,” but actual editorial content. Ask yourself, “What do I like about these publications? Why do I trust them? How can I emulate their style?” Ideally, content marketing should be just as useful, engaging and even entertaining as “real” editorial content. Look to keep your audience engaged and write in a trustworthy voice, just as if they were reading one of their favorite magazines.
3. Cultivate Publisher Skills
Content marketing cannot consist of thinly veiled sales pitches. Ideally, your content needs to be just as fun to read or watch as a magazine article or TV talk show.
This new reality can be intimidating to marketing staff who are accustomed to making brochures or writing sales pitches, but it also opens up a greater degree of creative freedom. Whatever is interesting to your audience is fair game to be used for content marketing.
Look for ways to entertain your audience, and bring them a bit of joy with just a slight bit of marketing messaging. Some of the best content marketing is barely recognizable as marketing—some food and beverage brands are making viral videos that are funny and entertaining, and only have a brief, subtle “brand message” included with the video.
For example, a Vitamin Water viral video reinforces the company’s message of “Make Boring Brilliant” by presenting a New York subway panhandler who tricks the passengers on the subway into thinking he’s asking for money—but then he actually turns out to be bragging about how great his life is going. It’s a viral video that is primarily intended to be funny, with only a subtle connection to the brand’s marketing message.
Action Item: Find a few viral videos, infographics or online cartoons you find entertaining—what are people sharing on Facebook today, for example?—and look for inspiration in how you can adapt these types of content to serve as content marketing for your brand. Even if a piece of content isn’t directly related to your company or your industry, you can find ways to capitalize by presenting fun, entertaining content that engages your audience.
Content marketing is going to continue to grow and mature as a discipline of online marketing—but more companies need to emphasize the “content” aspect, instead of the “marketing.” Pay attention to what your audience needs. Create great content that is specifically targeted at your audience’s interests. Don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun, as long as the entertainment value helps to build relationships with your audience. Don’t think of your job as delivering sales pitches. Instead, think of your job as creating and curating great content with the goal of growing your audience and deepening your relationships with the audience. We are all publishers now. Let’s start acting like it!
Gregg Schwartz is the VP of sales at Farmington, Conn.-based lead generation firm Strategic Sales & Marketing, Reach him on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/greggschwartz.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, an industry-founding lead generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the B2B sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.