The One Thing That Could Ruin Content Marketing

A lot of content programs develop like this:

Step 1: Realize that your competitors have content programs. Decide to start one too.

Step 2: Hastily develop a content strategy. Despite a 50-page pitch deck about ALWAYS-ON INNOVATION, said strategy basically boils down to copying competitors. Put mid-level marketing manager in charge. Add “content” to his title.

Step 3: Create 10 blog posts. Post on Twitter and Facebook, and wait for your 50,000 followers to become devoted readers.

Step 4: Check Google Analytics. Wonder why you’ve only gotten 78 visits. Desperately try to get out an email newsletter.

Step 5: ROI time! Think about your objectives and KPIs for the first time. Panic. B.S. something about “500,000 impressions in potential social reach.”

This may seem hyperbolic, but it’s a sad reality. Too many content marketing programs still begin without a clear plan. Roughly two-thirds of marketers create content without any documented strategy, and over half of both B2B and B2C marketers are not sure what a successful content program looks like for them.

In other words, most brands are just publishing for the sake of publishing. As I wrote a few weeks ago, that’s like throwing a birthday party at Arby’s. You could do it, but why?

Over the past year, this is a question that’s been really bothering us at Contently. I’m not talking about Arby’s birthday parties—although that’s definitely a thing—but rather the lack of purpose and planning for content marketing. We can give brands the best technology, analytics, journalists, editors, and multimedia creatives in the world, but if they’re not publishing with a purpose, it’s all for naught.

On a broader level, this lack of strategy poses an existential threat to the entire content marketing industry. It could take a great idea—creating informative, entertaining content that people actually crave instead of intrusive advertising—and ruin it.

This possibility has haunted me for a long time. It’s bothered a lot of other folks here at Contently too. That’s why, during the past year, we set out to learn from our own content experiments, our best client case studies, and experts around the industry to develop our content methodology—a process designed to continuously improve the effectiveness of a company’s content across the enterprise.

The methodology focuses on establishing the right goals and metrics, and then using easily accessible data to help people get better as they become more sophisticated as publishers. It’s a model that a content marketing operation of any size can use, and it’s a much smarter option than handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars to an agency upfront and praying that their year-long plan will actually work.

I’m extremely excited about our content methodology for a couple of reasons. First off, I co-wrote the white paper on it with digital analyst Rebecca Lieb, so there’s definitely some ego boosting at play. But more so, I want it to give readers a guide for getting out of an insane situation where they’re creating content without a clear plan. And I hope it helps them think like fast-moving publishers, because that’s when the real fun begins.

Our strategy team has already seen that transformation happen with our clients over the past six months as we’ve rolled this out. But this isn’t just about Contently clients; this is about you. So I hope you join Rebecca Lieb; our head of strategy, Ari Kepnes; and me on Wednesday, May 11, at 1 p.m. EST, for a webinar and Q&A on our content methodology. (Register here.) It’s going to be a ton of fun, and I’m eager to hear what you think.

Ultimately, there is one thing that can ruin content marketing: the industry’s lack of planning and purpose. The good news is that we can save it, and we won’t even need a DISRUPTIVE 50-page pitch deck.

Update: Download a recording of the webinar here.

Image by benoit faure

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