Last year I spoke to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, about what we could expect from content marketing in 2016. You can listen back to that podcast again if you need reminding but if you would rather look forward, you’ll be pleased to know I caught up with him again. This time we talked about what the future of content marketing holds for 2017 and beyond.
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What’s been happening in the world of content marketing over the last year?
This time last year, it seemed like people were not spending as much as we anticipated because content marketing is still one of the faster-growing areas of marketing itself. It seems like that’s changed and it seems like we’re getting people that are positive, feeling good about this year, and starting to look at their content marketing plans and investing in them.
Here are some of the big trends that I think we are seeing:
- A lot more attention is being paid to distribution than creation. I think what happened in 2013-’14 into ’15 and beyond, we were looking at, “Oh, we’re going to create all this great content and people would find it,” but they didn’t find it. International businesses created a lot of content that just went unseen and unheard. And now they realize, “Look, if you don’t have an established audience, you’re going to have to spend some money on promoting that content.” So we’re seeing a lot more integration with advertising programs, and content marketing, which is really interesting to see.
- We’re starting to see the merger and acquisition market really heat up around content marketing, not just in the publishing space but in brands actually buying media companies, buying blogger sites, and buying influencer sites. The case study that I love to talk about is Arrow Electronics. They’re one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world and they purchased a number of media sites from our London-based parent company UBM. And I think that’s interesting, that you’re seeing brands start to purchase media companies, as they become media companies.
- There is a little bit of a move away from organic social, to paid distribution. This is unfortunate and I hate to say this because I’m the biggest cheerleader out there when it comes to content marketing. I think you’re going to have a lot of big companies that basically say, “We’re not doing this. It’s not working for us.” They treat it like advertising, they treat it like a campaign, they’re still talking about themselves, and they’re not focusing on the needs of their customers or prospects like they should. And they say, “Well, I don’t have the patience for this. We’ve got quarterly numbers to hit and we’re going to focus on direct marketing and public relations and advertising and interruption.” So you’re going to have a lot of haves and have-nots going into 2017, the end of that year, and 2018.
- I think another thing that we’re seeing is this focus on purpose or a higher purpose. Starbucks is a really great example. They have their Upstanders program that came out about six months ago, and they basically focus on human beings that are doing amazing work out there. A lot of that work is with the veterans and they wanted to shine a light on that and they created an ongoing program. They hired a journalist and a storyteller from The Washington Post to do that and they’re committing to make that happen. And I think you will see more and more of it, whether it’s Chipotle and looking at sustainable foods or whether it’s Patagonia and looking at, “we want to make sure we work with companies that have fair trade and good employee practices,”. So those are the types of things I think we’re going to start seeing, where you have big enterprises. They’re going to say, “Look, instead of just our content marketing program, can we answer our customer’s questions and do it really well, let’s focus on something bigger that actually can create a movement and do something special instead of just always focusing on business.” Content with a conscience if you like.
Who’s doing content marketing right in the HR space?
I think that if we look in the HR area, if you look at what Monster.com is doing, they have absolutely gone out and said, “What type of marketer do we want to hire for our organization?” And the type of marketer that they’re trying to hire for their organization, are journalists, writers, editors and storytellers. Obviously there’s traditional marketing that still happens and you have those traditional functions but what they were missing years ago as part of their overall strategy was how do we attract the right talent? How do we make sure that we have those relationships that are working? How do we work for the entire organization? They said, “We need to tell better stories. And we need to create an ongoing process that everyone’s involved in that makes sense.” So it’s interesting to see that more and more of their hires are storytellers, are journalists, and they’re hiring from media companies. And we’re seeing that happen not just in the UK not just at HR companies, but that’s happening through enterprises in every marketplace. Who are the new marketers out there? The new marketers are actually publishers and journalists, which is interesting and it’s actually easier to train a journalist on marketing than a marketer on how to be a good storyteller. So, at least that’s what we’ve seen.