In these somewhat manic digital days, everybody seems hellbent on churning out as much content as possible, in the hope that some of it gets noticed, and perhaps, even shared.
At the risk of sounding like I’m having a go at digital marketers, there can be a tendency in the industry to put too much emphasis on following the perceived correct processes for quality content, rather than actually thinking about what readers (and consumers) might actually want to read, view or share.
There was a time in journalism when the art of storytelling was central to everything the lowly reporter was trying to do. Journalists, for all their faults (and as one myself I can confess to many of them), were the storytellers to the masses but, in the great rush to dump digital content through social media, blogs, newsletters and more, quality got forgotten about.
Digital marketing is here to stay. Content marketing is definitely here to stay and, in the main, that is a good and exciting thing for those in the industry and for just about every business, large and small, that can actually benefit from using these techniques to engage customers.
Content marketing allows businesses to engage with customers. It allows them to have a conversation with the customer instead of talking at the customer, as one visionary creative once said.
Critically, it helps the customer to build confidence in a brand and this, as all the research proudly shows, more often than not leads to long-term buy-in.
But – and this is a massive ‘but’ – the emphasis has to be on the quality of that content and, importantly, the relevance of that content. How can any business expect to gain a potential customer’s trust if that customer doesn’t believe what they are being told?
This is where the journalist can have a massive part to play in how content marketing campaigns go in the future. Telling credible stories that pique that interests of a big audience are the bread and butter of the old-school journalist.
Of course, it would be foolish to claim that journalists – and particularly print journalists – are the saviour of content marketing and digital marketing, given that they won’t even be the saviour of their own industry when its death throes are complete and it’s finally laid to rest.
However, those journalists who are able to adapt – to pivot, as we like to say – and grab a rung on the scary world of content marketing, might just find that their particular skills are in demand as more companies awaken to the realisation that quality and relevance are the foundations that they have to build their content marketing and digital marketing campaigns on.
In an excellent blog piece I read on The Drum website recently, journalists were compared to vinyl records – they’re cool again. Who would have thought that?
As content marketing becomes more prominent in business, a curious thing is happening. There’s a backlash of sorts against it. Some digital ‘gurus’ who made a helluva lot of money from tricking Google into believing their SEO hocus pocus was actually a relevant search result are blaming content marketing for ruining the internet. The cheek!
I admit that the notion that every search query on Google is an opportunity for someone like me to push a brand on the user is a pretty hideous one and I hope we never have a digital world where that is true. I’m not a money-hungry marketer who strives to push brands down everyone’s throats whilst screaming: “Consume! Consume! Consume!” I actually believe that well-written, useful information and brand messages are not mutually exclusive.
If content marketing compels – here comes that word again – quality content to be at the heart of everything we try to do on the internet, then I would take that reality over the garish SEO keyword tactics that blighted our beloved web for so long.
Google picked up the ball and shouted to the SEO guys: “It’s my ball, and you’re not playing anymore!” The SEO guys who couldn’t pivot, had to go find another game. The ones that could, did, and they’re probably working in content marketing now.
I’m not going to say SEO is dead because that’s a shitstorm for another day. But certainly much of the techniques used are irrelevant as Google put the emphasis on content in 2013.
The reality is content marketing is SEO. It’s the new iteration of the practice of getting stuff noticed by search engines. For those who like buzzwords, some people are calling it OCDC – Optimising Content for Discovery and Conversion. I quite like that.
Think about this: Would you rather engage your potential customer by shouting, “buy, buy, buy!” at them or by crafting a piece of content – be it a blog, press release, video, infographic, whatever – that gets them thinking about you as a trustworthy brand? One that they learn from and enjoy hearing from. A brand that’s interesting and informative and talks to them on their level, rather than shouting at them from a podium.
If that’s the kind of engagement you’re looking for, then the art of storytelling, learned by the humble journalist, might just be what you’re looking for.