There was an interesting piece in B&T this week by Lauren Quaintance, who explores the battle that’s emerging between hacks and content marketers for ownership of the designation “journalist”.

These days it seems you can set up shop and call yourself anything. You only have to glance at the conversations on LinkedIn groups to realise that most of the people who call themselves marketers don’t have a clue. But while, practices like this can give a profession a bad name, frankly, there’s no point in getting het up about it, you just have to accept that there are rubbish “marketers” and there are bad “journalists” just like everything else.

There’s no doubt about it, content marketing is here to stay and I would argue that its not the shiny new toy that the industry makes it out to be.  In fact, it’s little more than what many have called PR for years. The skills are the same they are just combined and applied in different ways. The main difference is that marketers, for better or worse, now have direct access to the media that matters and don’t have to go through PR people, who have always largely failed to understand their true role in the marketing process anyway and are now trying to defend their crumbing ivory tower.

This doesn’t mean that marketers are the best people to produce content, but then again neither necessarily are journalists. The thing is, as Lauren and others have said and I’ve written numerous times, the only trick to producing great content is that it is of interest to your target audience and is well written and produced. Now, you might say that most of the content out there fails on both levels and I would tend to agree, but that’s where the opportunity lies for brand owners and content marketers who “get it” to step up to the plate.

Right now the choice is between highly polished content that any business would be pleased to call their own, but which only the few can afford and stuff that frankly looks more like a high school project that isn’t going to do anything but harm to any business that puts its name to it. Neither delivers what’s needed, which is easily accessible and affordable content that represents any business that associates with it in the most favourable light. Content doesn’t have to deliver direct sales. That’s not its job and anyway I think we’ve pretty well proved that this is a route that will turn off more of the audience than it appeals to. As with marketing generally these days and for good reason, the emphasis with content has to be on building relationships. Sure, your content does have to be relevant and don’t let people tell you that there can’t even be a hint of salesmanship in some of it (but definitely not all) so it can feature your business and your product, but the most important thing is that it represents your values and beliefs and your brand promise. That’s why you can’t really even start to put together a content marketing programme without first having established a brand model such as those that I create with my Brand Discovery programme.

Right now, I am working with a group of journalists, fiction writers and film makers on a project that picks up on the foundations of my brand models to produce content that will make organisations look their very best, but that any business can afford. I’ll let you know how that goes. Meanwhile if you are thinking that content marketing can play a useful role in your marketing strategy you’ll need to have a brand model, a clear brief with clear objectives and create a project team that collectively has the skills you need to produce a polished result. Oh, and you’ll definitely have to have a methodology to ensure that your office doesn’t turn into the battlefield that Lauren Quaintance mentions!

Phil Darby
December 9, 2014

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