It used to be that choosing a college major in any “content-related” discipline was the equivalent of an employment death sentence. English, philosophy, history, you name it -- merely mentioning the possibility of focusing on any of these areas would make even the most well-intentioned parent of the ‘80s and ‘90s cringe, sigh, and cross their fingers in the hopes that their children would, above all else, not move back home at the end of it all.
Fast-forward to today. As I write this, a quick search for “content marketing jobs” yields 160 pages (not positions, but pages) of results on CareerBuilder.com and 27,532 actual positions on Indeed.com.
There has been an enormous shift in how we value content today versus 20 years ago. (Admittedly, even the arrival of this column and the opportunity to write for it has the former English major in me rejoicing.) To what do we owe this increased focus and appreciation for content, and how can we continue to sustain its value within organizations? Here are a few thoughts:
Ensure that your content marketing is about great storytelling -- with a purpose. Businesses today have realized that consumers, whether in the B2C or B2B world, still love a great story. The act of storytelling is an ancient tradition, and there’s a reason why it is still around -- it’s at the heart of the way we as humans communicate, so it seems natural that it be at the heart of the way we communicate with our prospects and customers.
If you think back to your favorite stories, the great ones are those that inform, educate and drive people to act. As content marketers, we should use these qualities as guidelines to evaluate how we tell our next story, whether we’re creating our next eBook, video, blog post or webinar. Ask yourself, is what I’m creating going to tell prospective customers something they don’t already know or can’t figure out on their own? And because of this, will they be compelled to learn more about my brand, visit my website or follow me in the social sphere? These are all questions we should be exploring before we create and distribute any new content.
Use the “democratization” of storytelling wisely. The evolution of technologies to support the way we tell our stories has in many ways “democratized” the process. The ubiquity of laptops, smartphones, WiFi hotspots and Twitter accounts makes it easier for people to share their stories, and in many cases, even provide live updates while the story is happening. So what does this mean for companies seeking a competitive advantage through content marketing? On the one hand, businesses now have the incredible opportunity to boost their brand with millions of consumers within minutes. (Remember the timeliness and humor of Oreo’s tweets during the Super Bowl blackout?)
On the other hand, these massive opportunities for content creation also create the potential for distractions at every turn. For some businesses, Pinterest and Instagram make incredible sense; for others, they risk taking time away from other channels that would add more value. Content marketing, like other marketing disciplines, requires prioritization, as well as the ability and confidence to say “no” when it makes the most business sense.
Tap into the storytelling capabilities of all of your stakeholders to inject diverse perspectives into your content marketing. Generally speaking, those who create great content marketing are those who love doing it. They are obsessed with the finely crafted sentence, the perfectly positioned image on a page, the unique photograph that no one else would have captured. While this may not describe everyone in your company, it doesn’t mean your management team, employees or investors don’t have a story to tell about your brand, product or service. They do -- it’s just a matter of listening to the stories they do tell and identifying the best vehicle for sharing it. Your corporate blog is one of the easiest ways to give your employees, customers and other stakeholders a soapbox for a day. And if they don’t feel comfortable writing blog posts, interview them and create a “Q&A”-type post, or even record them on video and share it on your company’s YouTube channel. The opportunities for company-wide content creation are endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to listen to individual stories and elevating them to a new level.
I can say for certain that the age of content marketing has “arrived.” It is proving to impact the ways consumers interact, respect and value brands, and has even become a competitive differentiator for many organizations. While new ways of creating and sharing content will continue to grow, the companies who will reap the most business value from content marketing are those who recognize that the best content -- the stuff that makes you laugh, cry, share and ask for more -- will always stem from the most genuinely told stories.