These days everybody is talking about content marketing, or “brand journalism.” Organizations of any size, in any industry, are finding that content—and lots of it—is a must to attract, engage and remain top-of-mind with their audiences. These audiences can range from internal (employees) to external (prospects, customers, etc.).
Most organizations have content, and lots of it; many organizations have in-house staff to help create content. Communicators today, though, often find themselves dealing with the yin-yang of content management—they are both blessed and cursed by the proliferation of communication tools and outlets that they can use to reach their key audiences. Their workload is increasing, as are the expectations of senior leaders who want to see results, not vanity metrics (e.g., “likes,” followers and fans).
As you build your content marketing strategy for 2015 and beyond, here are some key missteps and best practices to keep in mind.
- Not tying your activities to your organization’s strategic plan. That plan—and its goals and objectives—should be your starting point for developing your content marketing plan. You need to consider how you will use content marketing to achieve the goals and objectives that are important to you and/or your organization and that are in alignment with your mission, vision, values and desired brand identity.
- Failing to use, or repurpose, existing content. There’s likely a lot of great content available to you that can be leveraged across online channels with minimal effort. Take advantage of that content!
- Focusing on quantity over quality. Having hundreds of thousands of followers or fans is only good if they represent your target audience and are truly engaged with your content. If they’re not, there’s really no value at all. Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to online communication.
- Considering online communication separate from other communications. Online communication channels represent additions to, not replacements of, your other communication channels in most cases. Both online and offline communications should be coordinated so that they complement each other.
- Not paying attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation. Remember, all of your content reflects your brand. Don’t rely on yourself to proofread your own copy. Find an editor or proofreader you can rely on.
- Failing to leverage opportunities for referrals and backlinks. Media coverage can be a great way to draw traffic to your site. In fact, for my company, Strategic Communications, it’s our highest source of referral traffic.
- Not monitoring and learning from your analytics. One of the biggest benefits of the online communication environment is that it’s so measurable. Don’t overlook the opportunity to monitor how your communications are being received and, importantly, whether they’re driving traffic to your website and, ultimately, to some key outcome—e.g., an inquiry, lead or sale.
- Create a content calendar, but don’t be completely tied to it. It can be a good idea to have a calendar to help you tie your content to your own events, activities and external dates that may be relevant—e.g., major holidays, national events, etc. But, don’t be afraid to stray from the calendar as other events, news items or issues crop up that are related to your business—and of interest to your audience.
- If you have more than one audience you’re attempting to connect with, create multiple profiles. The key to engagement through social media is delivering content that is narrowly focused on a specific audience’s needs and interests. If your audience is too broad, by default, your content will be too general. Find the right balance to maximize impact while minimizing effort.
- Don’t be afraid to curate the (relevant) content of others—even those you may consider your competitors. Sharing the knowledge of other thought leaders and experts ties your brand to theirs, which can be a great win-win if they also begin to share your content—and many will. If you do this, though, make sure the content you curate supports, rather than detracts, from your own brand.
- Listen to, and learn from, your audiences. Pay attention to the type of content that most interests them, that generates the most comments and, of course, that leads to your desired outcomes. Monitor their comments in online forums to identify new areas of interest and new ways you might be able to provide value. And, of course, join the conversation yourself.
Content management and content marketing/brand journalism are becoming increasingly integral to organizations’ marketing efforts. As you move further into the New Year, take steps now to ensure that your content marketing activities are aligned and productive.