Look marketers, can we all just agree to stop writing boring definitions for a term that doesn’t need to be boring? That term is ‘content marketing’, which, according to the Content Marketing Institute is defined as this:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Content marketing sounds like another tedious business activity that I don’t have time for. Content plus marketing. Distributing value? Driving customer action? This all sounds hard. Gross.
I’m going to strip this back to basics and let you know what it really is.
Content marketing is a term used to describe what is essentially—drumroll please—a great story. It’s that simple. Content marketing is a story, a saga, a good yarn, something that will make you lean in and pay attention, information that stimulates your interest.
We’ve been doing content marketing since we were cavemen sitting by the fire to hear a good hunting story. It’s phoning your neighbour Gladys to hear why Alice’s husband is cheating. It’s waiting by the mailbox for a letter. It’s gathering around the water cooler at work. We haven’t reinvented the wheel here, we are just calling storytelling a brand new, fancy name.
“Content marketing is a story, a saga, a good yarn, something that will make you lean in and pay attention, information that stimulates your interest.”
Let’s roll this back a hundred years or so. The newspaper business was hot, and newsstands all over the world were selling papers like hotcakes. The best way to sell papers was to have good stories, juicy news, world affairs, political banter, help wanted ads and a Dear Abby column.
Newspapers delivered a plethora of information and news that we craved so badly we were willing to pay for a new paper every single day. (Whoa. People paid to read stories?) Newspapers are an example of content marketing at its finest hour.
We haven’t changed all that much from when we were cavemen or when we were buying papers at the corner newsstand. We still want to hear captivating stories, we still lean in to hear interesting news. The only difference is that today information is everywhere, and you can get stories from a ton of free places. SnapChat, Facebook, and YouTube. Blogs and websites and Instagram, oh my. But make no mistake about it: people still want stories.
Here’s where storytelling gets interesting for your company.
We’re subjected to so much incoming data that we are starting to get numb to information. If you can captivate an audience with an authentic, interesting story, that audience is more likely to want to do business with you, and just like newspapers, they are going to come back to you for more information. That’s it, in a nutshell. The secret is out. If you are able to tell a captivating story about your business, then people are going to stop gnawing on their Tyrannosaurus leg and pay attention.
“If you can captivate an audience with an authentic, interesting story, that audience is more likely to want to do business with you.”
My point being that content marketing is fun. It’s a great way to let your personality shine, and to relate and connect with people. There are, however, some tips that will help you on your content marketing journey.
Be authentically you.
Not to get all Sound of Music on you, but you have to be you. That word authenticity is one you should commit to memory because it’s true. The crazier the world becomes around us, the more we crave authenticity and connection. When you are genuine, people gravitate towards you.
One blog article does not make you a content marketing genius. You have to be consistent and keep delivering that great material. The more consistent you are, the more people are going to tune in to what you are saying.
Know your focus.
Stick to what you know, and focus on it. Just like in business, the more focused you can get, the more you will be able to speak to and attract the proper audience.
Choose your mediums.
I don’t want to freak you out and discourage you from doing content marketing, but there are a lot of avenues to get your story out. Choose one that suits you best and start there. Maybe blog writing isn’t your thing. You may prefer short statements on Twitter instead. Maybe you have some awesome video content for YouTube. Or, you might want to provide something more in-depth like white papers or workbooks. Having great content in one place is better than having poor content everywhere. Pinpoint where you want to start and expand from there.
If you have mastered one channel and you want to expand your newfound storytelling skills into other areas, you are going to want to keep track of your content with a content management system. Eventually you are going to have a blog, some social media, a website and maybe even a video channel. Having a monthly or even yearly calendar to track this flurry of activity will become very valuable.
Write like you talk.
Look, I’m an educated writer. Grammar and words are important to me. But when I write content for my company, those rules get thrown out the window. My writing style is casual, I use slang and I even swear. I want to be authentic and I don’t want this to be stuffy and boring, that’s not how I talk or who I am. Writing like you talk adds a level of personalization. It’s also way less boring to read (I hope).
I’m going to end on what I feel is the most important aspect of content marketing, and that is to provide value. Just writing a good story isn’t quite enough. Just like newspapers, you need to find what people want, and then write, photograph, or video stories that will provide them with the information they’re seeking. Ask yourself if it will grab their attention. Will they feel it was worth their time? If not, those cave people are heading over to the next fire. That guy over there has a way better hunting story.
Sherry Jacobi is the founder and Creative Director of Studiothink, a creative branding agency located in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC. She leads a team of experienced, wine drinking, off-the-wall-talented people who are making waves producing cutting edge, purposeful websites and brands.