Content marketing will be more than just a trend to watch in 2016. Creating and distributing consistent and relevant content is considered a proven strategic marketing approach that attracts and retains an audience and drives customers to action. In November 2015, Marketwired, a news distribution and social communications company, created a survey, “Are You A #ContentMachine?” to find out exactly how PR and marketing professionals felt about their content efforts in 2015, and to also see how they plan to approach content marketing in 2016.
Here is my Q&A with Lisa Davis, Director, Marketing, at Marketwired. In the spirit of transparency, Marketwired is a client of my company, Pure Performance Communications. In the interview, Lisa shares her insights on content marketing and discusses some of the interesting findings from the Marketwired survey results.
Why did you choose the topic, “Are You a #ContentMachine”?
Content is playing an increasingly important part in PR, marketing and corporate communications, and a lot of our customers ask us what kind of content they should create, and how they can do more with what they already have (multimedia, news releases, blog posts, etc.) to boost awareness for their company, attract new customers, drive engagement in campaigns, etc. The #ContentMachine survey was our chance to better understand what practitioners are doing with content today, and what their plans are for 2016. We hosted a terrific session with Michael Brito, Rebekah Iliff and Lee Odden on the same topic during this year’s PRSA International Conference (“You Can Be a #ContentMachine”) and it was clear from the discussion that PR pros want to empower themselves using content, and not be overwhelmed by it. They want to find opportunities to build better campaigns, foster stronger relationships with influencers, improve customer satisfaction and generate leads, and we want to help them uncover those opportunities.
Were you surprised by any of the survey findings?
Yes – that 79% of survey respondents currently have a content program in place! While we didn’t ask specifics about the programs themselves (e.g., budget and resource allocation; KPIs; etc.), it’s pretty clear that content marketing is an important part of a broader communications program. And with 64% looking to increase their efforts next year, it seems to be growing in importance.
Based on the survey, what do you think are the most important steps for companies to move their content programs to the next level in 2016?
I think for any company the most important step is to ask why they’re using the content they’re using, and what objectives they’re trying to achieve with their content program. Is it brand awareness, thought-leadership, lead generation, etc.? If your content marketing objectives aren’t serving your greater business objectives, you should rethink your strategy.
Intimately tied to ‘why’ is ‘what’ – what will you do, specifically, to achieve your objectives? Will you blog more frequently? Write an ebook? Host a webinar series for customers? When you’re thinking about all that you can do, it’s really important to think about what you’ve already done. Take inventory of the content you have to see what you can use in new and different ways, like turning a blog series into a webinar, or customer feedback into testimonials and case studies.
Last but certainly not least…measure! Downloads, registrations, followers, RTs, shares, comments, leads, page visits…there is so much to you can measure, quickly and simply, to show you what’s working, and what’s not. (And if you’re not measuring, how will you know…?) It was great to see that 77% of our survey respondents say they are currently measuring their efforts because it reinforces the need and importance of metrics-driven content marketing.
How important are influencers to your content marketing strategy?
Very important – they always have been. “Influencer marketing” might be a buzzy term, but it’s certainly not a new practice in PR. Making connections with relevant people who will amplify your brand messages and endorse your campaign or product is critical to PR (and marketing) success. Journalists, bloggers, analysts, customers, people who run Twitter chats and Facebook groups…influencers are everywhere and they can be powerful partners in your content marketing. And while influencer relations might seem more difficult because influencers are everyone and everywhere, it’s actually getting easier to find them, see what they’re talking about, and find ways to connect, whether you use a simple hashtag search on Twitter or a more sophisticated solution for influencer identification and management.
News releases have changed significantly over the years, with more interactive and social features. What are the advantages of using news releases today, as part of a content marketing program?
Releases can help a company build an online brand presence, drive traffic to specific campaigns or web pages, and generate sales leads. Releases that include multimedia can tell a fulsome, interactive brand story, and those that are enabled with social sharing features can reach new audiences and communities. And while releases still reach journalists, bloggers, and investors, they have become powerful direct-to-consumer marketing vehicles. It goes without saying that I’m an advocate for news releases, but I know how powerful they can be when used by companies within their content marketing and paid media programs. We recently profiled our customer TrueShip in our #NewsReleases411 blog series because they are a great example of a business that is successfully generating sales leads, gaining new customers, and increasing site traffic using releases as part of their content marketing program.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges for PR and marketing professionals with their content programs in 2016?
Staying focused: it can be difficult to stay the course with your content marketing plan because there are so many companies doing so many envy-inducing things with their content; it’s tough to not want to stop what you’re doing, and do what they’re doing. (But remember: you’re looking to achieve your business goals; not theirs.)
Being patient with results: knowing that that content marketing magic doesn’t happen overnight, and that it takes weeks or months to see results from a particular effort, it can sometimes be easy to give up and try something new; that’s why it’s important to let data guide your decision-making.
Managing resources: doing more with less… working smarter not harder…whatever catchphrase you prefer, finding enough money and people to support the kinds of content marketing programs we want to deliver is never easy, simply because there is never enough of either. 😉