The truth about content marketing

In the latest in our series of blog posts by CommsDirect speakers, Martin Wandless, the chief content officer of Mahlab Media founded by Bobbi Mahlab, writes about the truth of content marketing and how the core principles have been around for years and a strategic plan is just one of the old truths.

The truth about content marketing is this: it has been around for hundreds of years. Hundreds. The branding may be of the 21st century, but the core principles are not. It’s not new, it’s not a fad, it’s not this generation’s ‘pager’.

It’s here to stay, because it’s always been here. And it works.

That’s why the industry predictions that abound at this time of year have taken me by surprise. The number of experts predicting 2014 will be the year that ‘strategy has to meet content marketing’ is rather eye opening.

Yes, that’s right. Content marketing success in 2014 will come to those who align their content with their strategy.

But, if strategy hasn’t been underpinning your content marketing plan so far, what have you been doing?

If you don’t have a strategic plan for your content marketing, you may as well not do it. It won’t work. And even if, by some miracle it did, how would you know? You wouldn’t have set anything to measure it against.

As someone who has been using content to drive sales of products and people to events for almost (gulp) 14 years, I have taken it for granted that strategy is behind each and every content marketing campaign.

However, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense that it hasn’t.

To a lot of people, ‘content marketing’ is the new kid on the block; the thing that’s ‘in’ this season. A lot of people don’t know that Michelin began publishing the Michelin Guide in the early 1900s to encourage people with cars to drive to nice restaurants, and hence use their tyres, or that John Deere began publishing a magazine, The Furrow, to generate sales in the late 1800s (a magazine that still publishes today, and is translated into 12 languages).

And that’s just the tip of the content iceberg.

The people who aren’t aware that ‘content marketing’ (or custom publishing as it was known previously) isn’t a new thing are often seeing it as some new form of black magic that they should be doing (and, more often than not, do so by changing the JD and title of someone in the marketing department).

That’s not to say as an industry, it’s not evolving, maturing and growing. There’s a lot of work that has been done, and will continue to be done, especially in digital where metrics enable you to measure everything.

Content marketing is quality content that’s aligned with strategic goals and distributed to a defined audience in the most effective way. It’s measurable and reviewable. It’s backed by analytics and informed by data. It’s not ‘marketing’ as traditional marketers know it.

All of these factors are critical, which is why reading some content marketing forums this week was particularly eye opening. The number of people (in positions of power, not just your average Joes) stating volume was everything brought an uncomfortable feeling to the pit of my stomach.

It simply isn’t so. Quality over quantity. Every. Single. Time.

The people creating the content need to be specialists; commercially-minded journalists and writers. Not marketers or advertising copywriters. You wouldn’t get an interior decorator to build your new house, or an F1 driver to give your Subaru a service.

The ability to ‘sniff out a story’ on a regular basis, go deep into a sector and turn that into compelling prose is the first key attribute of a content marketer.

Being commercially minded to ensure the content is aligned to the long-term strategic plan, and measuring, reviewing and evolving what you do, is the second.

Of course, deep market research into the best platforms to engage your target audience is imperative. If you’re on every social media platform, you either have money and resources to burn, or you haven’t researched your target market enough.

It’s a simple enough proposition, if you want it to be: Cracking content aligned with business strategy and channeled through the most effective platforms will equal content marketing success.

Anything less will leave you utterly dissatisfied.

By Martin Wanless, Chief Content Officer, Mahlab Media

Originally published in Mahlab Media


NEW-BOBBI-MAHLAB-headshotBobbi Mahlab is the managing director of Mahlab Media, a content marketing agency she founded in 1997 that produces and implements content strategies for brands and associations. With offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Mahlab Media employs 40 staff and draws on an extensive network of freelancers in Australia and abroad.

Bobbi will be speaking at CommsDirect on August 7 on the “How To Double Your Incomepanel.

Tickets are just $395 for those working in media or the not-for-profit sector and $495 for corporate: $100 off the regular price!