Content marketing is a great method for building brand awareness, promoting your business and even building an appealing employer brand that will attract talent to your organisation. So what makes outstanding content? What is the state of content marketing in the UK? And what should we be working on in 2016 and the future?
We spoke to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of “Content Inc.” to get some of his best advice.
You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a transcript of our conversation. Questions by me, answers by Joe.
Who is Joe and what does he do?
I’m the founder of the Content Marketing Institute. We’ve been around since 2007. We focus on training and education for enterprise marketers. We do things like the big event, Content Marketing World every September, in Cleveland, Ohio in the States. It’s the largest content marketing event in world. Myself, I’ve written four books, most recently, Content Inc. which is focused mostly small businesses and my job is basically to travel around world, evangelise the practice of content marketing, and help people that are struggling with the concept to get a better handle on it. I just love talking anything content marketing. I think it’s purpose driven marketing. I think not enough marketers use it.
Has effectiveness has gone down because there’s too much content going out?
- How can we break through competition? Look, there’s always been too much content, there’s been too much content since the printing press was created. There’s more and more content every day. I think that we got into the habit years ago of thinking that more content was better and we’re not really thinking like media companies think when they’re focusing on a very specific audience. They see that a lot and even in the UK as well where they’re trying to target multiple audiences at the same time which if you target more than one audience, I can tell you right off the bat you’re not going to be successful.
- Lots of short-term campaigns – Here’s what’s the interesting thing and I’ve spent some time in London and I spent some time in Europe, I hear the word ‘campaign’ in Europe more than anywhere else in the world when they’re talking about content and that’s a red flag for me because if you say content campaign, you are automatically setting an end date. You’re automatically saying this is a short-term program and what content marketing is, a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build a loyal relationship with audiences and if we’re just thinking, “We’re going to do this really flashy program, targeting these people, we’re going to tell this amazing story”, you’re really talking more about a glorified advertising program than a content marketing program than a focus on building relationships.
- You must have consistency – It’s not these short programs but it’s also, if you’ve got a blog program, if you have a video program, if you have a podcast program, you’ve got to do it consistently. If you say you’re going to blog twice a week, you’ve got to blog. It’s Tuesday at 9:30 and Thursday at 9:30, it’s not two blog posts a week. It’s just not whenever we get to it. The email newsletter has to be something exceptional that goes on a regular basis. I think for some reason, we forgot that along the way that setting an appointment with your audience is really, really important in and I don’t think for the most part we do a good job of it.
The best strategy and organisation set-up for content marketing:
37% of marketers say they have some kind of a documented content marketing strategy, which means it’s written down. So that means 63% of marketers are doing content creation and distribution, and don’t have a formalised plan around it.
So, if you want to point to why aren’t we seeing more effectiveness, I’ll put it right there, what are we doing?
- We’re going to do some blogs or do some content.
- We’re going fill some content holes out there.
- We’re going to send it on social media and get some engagement and see what happens.
There’s no real strategy around this thing which tells me that where is the content marketing industry as an approach right now? We’re very, very immature.
It really depends on how the organisation is set up. A lot of organisations are setting up a content creation specialist team within their product group. That’s not working very well because it’s all focused on short-term campaigns, so other organisations are creating what we would call more of a ‘rebel framework’, where it sort of sits outside the organisation and you’re trying to do something experimental almost like a pilot program just to get initial buy in and then once you get that initial buy in and then you can sort of integrate that into the overall organisation.
The challenges and priorities for UK content marketers in 2016:
- I think we’re definitely going into the ‘less is more’ for 2016. The challenge is always how do I produce enough content, how do I produce more engaging content. I think most organisations when we go into an organisation, most are producing way too much content sporadically in silos, not strategic at all, and most of it is actually not even used which is, why are we doing that? I just saw stats the other day, this is something like 60% of B2B content isn’t even used and I’m like that’s scary. They were creating all this content but we’re not doing anything with it.
- Instead of us feeling overwhelmed about being in every channel and communicating everywhere our customer is at, I would focus on a couple channels that we can actually be an expert, we can actually master, we can actually build audiences and create amazingly relevant and consistent content in those channels, and maybe use the other social media channels as listening posts. Where you have a presence, you’re responding but you’re not necessarily pushing out content specifically as part of that channel strategy. I would love to see that happen in talking to the marketers that we’re talking to, already seeing that that less is more.
- I would like to see is absolute consistency beyond the campaign. Content campaigns within an overall content marketing approach like you have a people campaign, white paper campaign, video campaign, all that within a content marketing approach is fine but I would like the content marketing approach to be consistently driven instead of us putting all our resources behind an idea and then stopping. Let’s create a promise. Let’s keep that promise to our customer that we’re going to deliver amazing content on an ongoing basis like a media company would instead of getting their hopes up delivering something of value and then moving on to something else.
As a thought leader yourself, what content marketing strategies work best for you?
- Focus on one channel and one content-type first and then diversifying. I think what you see a lot in all countries where somebody would have a story to tell and then they go and they put that story on every conceivable channel and platform, and repurpose it. There’s nothing wrong with that, but where I think it really helped us is all we did was focus on creating one really amazing piece of content per day and we did that for two years.
- Deliver at the same time. We sent it out the 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time and we did that for 24 months. And we built a pretty significant audience. Then once we were able to do that, then we diversified. Then we launched the Content Marketing World event, then we launched new content office or print magazine. Then we launched this whole marketing podcast
- You don’t have to be everywhere at one time – do one thing really well to start with, build your content brand whether it’s maybe an iTunes podcast, a YouTube series, a blog on your website, whatever the case is, focus on that first. I think that’s worked really well for us and of course, for me personally because it was just me.
At first, it was just me starting the blog and then, of course, now we’ve got a wonderful team of people doing all that. When people think they don’t have enough resources, I think it’s because we just feel like we have to do everything and you don’t. I think you have strategies about making decisions about what not to do. I think as content marketers you have to make some decisions to not do a number of things so you can do a few things really well.
You are a LinkedIn Influencer, do you use your content there to drive traffic to your website?
Absolutely. And by the way, I love LinkedIn. I’m a big proponent. I have been able to, I have been blessed enough to get a lot of followers on that platform in and because of LinkedIn has promoted my profile more than most which has been great, so I produce content specifically for LinkedIn and then the calls to action on the end of every post goes to something that we own. It goes to either our books, my book site, our website, because what we want to do is, ultimately, I’ll just, I won’t beat around the bush. I want to steal audience. I want to take that audience from LinkedIn and I want them to be our audience. I want to nurture that person in that way.
So, LinkedIn is great, especially, for B2B and the research shows this. LinkedIn is a great, great vehicle for that and especially, I don’t know if you’ve downloaded their new app but their new app. I love, i think their new app, is thousand times better than their old app but what you see they’re doing exactly what Facebook is doing where in the past if you used to connect with somebody, if somebody connected to you, they would see all your content. Now, LinkedIn have their own algorithm. They’re going to show you what they want you to see. So it’s tougher to cut through from that standpoint because LinkedIn is making decisions based on whatever they think is going to help them with their business model so when we do get the attention on those platforms, we want to make sure that we grab it and we engage with them but then if we have opportunities to move them to some other subscription offer, we definitely want to do that.
Where is content marketing heading in the UK and globally?
This going to sound crazy coming from me because I’m the content marketing evangelist but I think we’re heading for a rough patch. I think that a lot of people that have experimented with content marketing over the past couple years and haven’t done it right have become disenchanted with it, and they think it doesn’t work and they’re going back to paid advertising and paid media, and doing whatever they were doing before. That’s honestly because they had no strategy. They weren’t consistent. They were focused on campaigns, and their idea of content marketing didn’t work not what content marketing really is. I think there’s a lot of people out there saying, I’m sure you seen it is well, content marketing is dead, it doesn’t work, it’s not real.
It’s kind of funny to hear those things since I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, but if there’s a lot of people that say that. So, I think you’re going to have right now, in the UK and around the world in the next, let’s say, 18 months, we are going to see some of the greatest success stories of all time that we’ll ever see come out right now and we will also see some of the greatest, most disappointing failures of our time because people are still not getting the idea that building an audience is the key. It’s sort of the ultimate in content marketing and most people just don’t get that yet so I’d love to be positive about it.
Connect with Joe on Twitter @JoePulizzi and read the full UK content marketing report here.
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