The first signs of spring are in the air. At least they are in my mind’s eye in a still-windy west of Scotland. So a spring clean using a look at content marketing trends is now in order. If anything, it’s a challenge to myself to make sure I practice what I preach.
1 The lines they are a blurring
With so much engagement now taking place online, the lines between PR and marketing communications are blurring. PR and marketing professionals alike need to be conversant with paid, owned and earned media channels and understand how to blend these depending on the niche markets and publics of their organisations.
2 Chewin’ the fat
So called ‘fat content’ is becoming more of a requirement for becoming recognised as an influencer and credible brand. For many this will mean authoring or delivering fresh and compelling content, from blog posts, webinars and ebooks to infographics and web video. Having mastered the ‘canaries’ of social engagement such as tweets, facebook updates and pins, it’s important to wheel out the ‘elephants’ – the larger executions that will have a longer shelf life and draw stakeholders to engage with you and your content.
3 Sustainable goals
One of the key challenges for brands is producing good quality, compelling content. Rather than setting unrealistic goals for frequency of publishing and posting, it is better to create valuable content pieces and at a sustainable frequency that takes account of the resources available to your business. With content planning, less can indeed be more.
4 Meaty posts
Blogging has already become the content marketing home base for many businesses, and works especially well for companies and their individual specialists that need to position themselves as expert advisers. In this medium – in keeping with the trend towards ‘fat content’ – meatier posts are especially important. Long-form blog content, albeit structured in easy-to-read, bite-size chunks, has the added plus-point of being search friendly.
5 Relevant timing and context
Another factor that is affecting engagement with your content as the competition for online attention intensifies is relevance. Good old-fashioned ‘news hooks’ that every PR professional grew up with are coming more to the fore. What are the time-based hooks (like my slightly premature spring clean!) or current topics in your industry that you can hang your content on?
6 The online/offline balance
A business friend said to me today he’s telling his clients to write new business letters to prospects, as it’s the only way to get new work. I don’t fully agree, but believe he touches on an important point: online and offline need to work hand-in-hand. That can mean writing new business letters. And, yes, even sending them by snail mail.
From experience, many businesses struggle to come up with material for maintaining a content programme, but the answer is usually staring them in the face. Do a trawl of existing information resources held internally – reports, research, presentations, cases studies, customer feedback, white papers, videos, animations – and decide how these can be repurposed as online content. Some of the longer existing material could be sliced and diced into several content pieces.
8 Visual content
The old adage that a picture tells a thousand words has a ring of truth. But, as with balancing online and offline, it’s not an either/or proposition. Do both. For example, use long-form posts (still interspersed with shorter ones!) backed up with strong supporting images, whether still or moving.
9 Balancing content creation/content promotion
There can be a tendency (raising my right hand here!) to breathe a sigh of relief after completing a content piece and think ‘job done.’ Content creation needs at least the same effort again on content promotion to make sure that relevant stakeholders engage with your efforts – and with you. As well as trailing your latest post in your eNews and in social media updates, this could mean selectively using a paid-for channel such as an e-campaign via a reputable industry magazine’s opted-in list to boost click-through.
In an influential survey¹, 60% of B2B marketers with documented content marketing strategy said they were effective versus 32% of those with a verbal strategy. Again, measurement, like realistic frequency of content output needs to be in keeping with your capacity for managing it. But having a document strategy, which sets measurable goals and tracks them meaningfully and sustainably, definitely works better than just having one in your head.
Above all, sow some planned, proactive and focused content marketing this spring, so you’ll have something to measure come the harvest that will have helped grow you business.
¹B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, CMI and Marketing Profs.