by Robert Wynne – Forbes Magazine, July 8th, 2013
In the old days, children carried canteens with water to quench their thirst. Today kids sip from BPA-free plastic bottles filled with electrolytes and vitamin water for “hydration.” New term, same concept.
I was wondering the same thing about “content marketing.” Is this novel, or just another buzzworthy phrase describing the same old thing?
The website WhatIs has a great definition: “Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment. Content marketing can take a lot of different forms, including YouTube videos, blog posts and articles. It shouldn’t really seem like marketing — in some cases, in fact, it should only be identifiable as marketing because the advertiser is identified as the content provider.”
Advertisers and public relations pros have been peddling the soft sell for years. The Honus Wagner baseball card, famous for being the most valuable sports card in history with values approaching $3 million today, was a giveaway from the American Tobacco Company back in 1910.
Social marketing expert Andreas Ramos, author of the new tome, “The Big Book of Content Marketing,” votes for a fresh concept.
“It’s new,” Ramos says. “Two years ago, content marketing didn’t exist. Some claim that it has been around since the 1920s. Yes, companies did indeed hand out comic books and magazines, etc., but the intention was to entertain, be a public service, etc. The fact that produced the move to content marketing is the collapse of advertising. Traditional media relied on a near-monopoly control of a market by controlling the expensive reproduction process and chain of distribution. But digitization and the web have undermined that. Anyone can create a document or video now and share it with (in theory) over a billion people at zero cost. Advertisement placement in traditional media is expensive. By using digital media, you cut your reproduction and distribution costs to zero. I’ve sold over 2,000 copies of my book at zero distribution cost. Literally zero. Not even a single postage stamp.”
Ramos included a short chapter about public relations in his book written by me (for which I was not paid). A quick example of content marketing using public relations would be mailing, posting or emailing a story about yourself or your brand that appeared in Forbes or the New York Times to broaden the reach of the article. Ramos claims the inter-connectedness of the web turbocharges the “new” content marketing.
“People also discovered with search engines and social networks that they can ask each other. They trust each other more than they trust vendors. People shifted their attention away from radio, TV, and magazines and the authorities (journalists, editors, etc.) They now prefer the anarchy of home-made video on Youtube and the anything-goes situation at blogs, Facebook FB +0.03% and Twitter. This conjunction of forces — digitization, social, search engines — never existed before.”
Eric Schwartzman, CEO of social media training provider Comply Socially, says content marketing changes the fundamental nature of public relations. “Conventional PR is an interruption tactic,” Schwartzman says. ”PR people are experts at breaking and making news. Content marketers, on the other hand, fulfill existing demand for information by staking out specific keyword queries, and creating content that’s most likely to get found when people search those terms. If you compare the skills it takes to write and pitch a press release versus a search engine optimized product demo, they’re completely different skill sets. Just because you can write up and present impartial information to journalists to try and get them to write a story, doesn’t mean you have the ability to actually write the story yourself. PR and content marketing are totally different. PR is an outbound, interruption tactic. Content marketing is an inbound tactic designed to get you found by people with a much higher purchase intent than those perusing a Twitter feed.”
The goals of Content Marketing are to: Build relationships with existing clients, attract new customers, demonstrate benefits, tell interesting stories about your brand and to appear in search engines and increase web traffic.
Of course, content marketing, like a good Hollywood comedy, doesn’t work without good writing. The secret? Tell a good story. Fellow Forbes Contributor Brandon Gutman referenced five companies that create unique content from “how to” guides to music videos to apps. They publish this unique content on their websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to engage the consumer. Some brands, likeAmerican Express AXP +0.8%, live stream concerts to their clientele.
David Spark of the SocialMediaBiz website says he hates the term “content marketing” for many reasons:
- “It’s insidious. The relationship says, “Here’s some content for you that you’ll find valuable. But when you’re not looking, we’re going to sell you something.”
- There is no “marketing.” When you create content to inform and educate, you’re providing answers that may fulfill a step in the sales process, and you may be strengthening trust of your brand, but that’s true of all content. You read a book by a certain author and if you like it you’ll be compelled to purchase and read their next book. Each article in a newspaper must be of a certain quality. If it’s not, you will stop reading and purchasing the newspaper.”
Of course, consumers should be aware of content marketing in all its formats. Whether it’s building relationships, engaging the customer or telling a story, the goal is the same – BUY MY PRODUCT OR SERVICE.