Digital media, with its open publishing platforms and user-generated content, prompted predictions of the death of journalism. As with predictions of the death of print, those forecasts were hasty.
Instead, Web 2.0 gave birth to several entirely new types of journalism. Blogging, self-publishing, electronic books, infographics and rich-media platforms have emerged as popular sources of information, some by trained journalists, some not.
Content marketing is the most viable of these, so far the only one with a successful business model. It has been enthusiastically embraced by marketers drawing on multiple content sources. Everything from content farms to large in-house publishing departments have been created to feed the demand. Public relations firms, advertising agencies and custom publishing companies all vie for a piece of the $44 billion industry. These providers take a variety of approaches to creating, disseminating and measuring content, however, resulting in confusion and, often, less-than-acceptable results.
Content marketing is “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience–with the objective of driving profitable customer action,” according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).
With the word “marketing” in its name, content marketing is often seen as just another way to package the same messages. Much of it is self-serving, focusing heavily on product and, with the immediacy of online delivery, not far removed from advertising. Marketers often leap to the “driving profitable customer action” part of the definition without understanding the caveats of “valuable, relevant and consistent.”
Public relations aims for a longer relationship-building stream of content. But its heavy emphasis on brand messaging, undermines what can be well-written content. PR uses sophisticated audience research to gauge consumer acceptance of its messages and media choices. Finding that the audience will accept messaging, however, does not automatically translate to relevance and usability. PR focuses too much on what the brand has to say rather than what the consumer needs.
Content farms and agencies that repurpose existing content for multiple audiences or simply aggregate existing content are the low-price alternative but, not surprisingly, return the lowest results.
Organizations that have had the longest success with content marketing have one thing in common: an expansive view of their own brand values that allows them to forego product- or self-promotion in their content and instead craft a robust strategy that places the audience at the center the brand.
Journalism, with its paramount emphasis on the reader coupled with its rigorous processes, provides the best content and the best results. Journalism is the best way—the only way, really—to ensure the value, relevance and consistency of content that achieves marketing objectives. It is also the best to tell a good story that connects to the reader on a human level that traditional marketing only very rarely can reach.
This article is an excerpt from the Imagination white paper, “Why Journalism Still Matters…to Content Marketers.” The full white paper can be downloaded below.
Other topics addressed include:
- What is the journalistic approach to content marketing?
- How do great brands create great content?
- How do you measure its success?
- Case studies: Wells Fargo, US Foods, Project Management Institute