Polishing the Content Marketing Turd.

As the Media Age gives way to the Content Marketing Age, B2B marketing priorities are changing. Or at least they should be.

We have prefixed the widely accepted terminology of, ‘marketing’, with the word, ‘content’. Everything is now, ‘Content Marketing’, which is ironically appropriate because Content Marketing is indeed ‘everything’ that a company might produce or communicate with its audiences. Unfortunately, in the rush to contentificate, someone forgot to send the memo to… well, just about everyone actually. It’s left a bit of a gap.

So is ‘Content’ a service that can be provided? Or is it a discipline that should be adopted internally? Is social media the accepted channel for content, or does content create its own channels? Does everyone in your organisation know how to support your Content Strategy (yes, that’s how easily these things can become a ‘Strategy’)? Oh, and does your audience actually give a shit?

Let’s look into the future, but only a short distance into the future. Long distance future gazing usually ends up with conclusions of complete bollocks because if digital market is anything, it’s unpredictable.

Let’s assume that you know the digital and social landscape has changed. You know that there is a ‘social wall’ businesses have to climb to reach the very audiences that built the wall to defend themselves against traditional one-way corporate propaganda.

But even if you recognise the content deficiency within your organisation, you probably don’t realise the importance of fixing the problem. Using the word ‘content’ as a catchall term for pushing the same traditional propaganda through multiple communication channels doesn’t count. That’s not Content Marketing, that’s spam.

Content Marketing recognises the importance of diversity and variation to engage specific customers in unique ways across their chosen channels. It’s an important distinction. And it’s a problem for you because, in the near future, content creators will rule the world.

Unfortunately just about the only person currently producing content for your business is you, and you’re probably not that good at it.

And that’s the problem. If it’s any consolation, you are not alone.

99% of people are content consumers. Just 1% are content creators. The 80/20 rule has become the 99/1 rule. There may be a margin for error where a few organisations produce a little more than 1%, but not much. So, even after the round of high fives and fist-bumps in the office because you managed to set up your corporate Twitter account all by yourself, you’re still in the shit. The entire premise of your Content Marketing Strategy is founded on a plan that is almost impossible to execute.

The transition from business broadcaster to business publisher requires a new strategy in which you create ‘valuable’ content, instead of just using any available content.

Some businesses are recruiting journalists to provide a more accessible, ‘independent’ style and tone to their content creation. Others are hiring external agencies like Birddog to conceive of and deliver more compelling ‘storytelling’ instead of issuing the traditional corporate missives. Others still are crowdsourcing new content creators from within the existing organisation by training staff how, why, when and where to contribute to the overall social effort of the business.

The answer to the Content Marketing problem is likely to be found across all three components. While a staff of journalists is outside the reach of most businesses, the sentiment is valid and the combination of external content creation supporting a more active internal social network is a compelling proposition.

In the near future then, the businesses that are quickest to shift the content creation balance from 1% to, well, to anything better than 1% (because it can’t get much worse) will have the advantage. They will win the audience engagement race. And we all know you can’t sell unless and until people are prepared to listen.

One thing is certainly true – if businesses continue to ignore the will of the people and pursue a singularly corporate content strategy, they will fail. Not because the communication isn’t polished corporate communication, but because no one wants to read or engage with it. The days of polished corporate communications are over. You can’t polish a turd.

Scot McKee