The best content marketing is so good, so useful, so entertaining that it holds an audience’s attention like a good newspaper, magazine, or TV show.
The process, however, can require a substantial commitment.
“All great publications have missions. Helen Gurley Brown sought to make every girl feel that she can be beautiful and confident. That’s Cosmopolitan’s mission. Henry Luce sought to create a better-informed public, and Time magazine embodies his vision even today. Vogue is a fashion bible because Anna Wintour believes a stylish world is a better place,” wrote Greg Satell in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article. “Marketers need to take the same approach.”
Think for a moment why you watch CNN or visit its website. Think about why you would pay to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal or your favorite magazines. These publishers have a clear editorial purpose — an editorial mission — that resonates with its audience.
Content marketers should mimic such publishers, whose purpose is not to sell something, but rather to genuinely inform. Their articles and videos are not bait-and-switch schemes to lure shoppers.
Assemble a Team
If it is going to be a publisher, your marketing department will need a team that would otherwise belong in a newspaper, magazine, or broadcaster.
As obvious as this might seem, it is tempting for marketing departments to use their copy editors or hire agencies to help create content marketing pieces, but the discipline of writing ad copy is significantly different from articles. Those businesses that want to be the best at content marketing will hire like publishers.
For example, consider Sleep.com. It is a content marketing vehicle, if you will, for Mattress Firm, an omnichannel retailer.
One of the recent posts on Sleep.com was “How to Pick the Perfect Camper Van Mattress for Great Sleep,” written by Samantha Lefave. While it is not a perfect example of editorial-first writing, the post is composed in the journalistic style, which makes sense given that Lafave has written for traditional publishers such as Runner’s World, Bicycling, Outside, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour.
Work Like a Publisher
“Almost every business right now needs to think of themselves as a content business, so what we’re doing is enabling that creation process — from an idea to an assignment to actually publishing that content to the site. And the content lifecycle doesn’t actually end with publish; in a lot of ways it starts,” said Meredith Rodkey, vice president of product at Brightspot, which makes the content management system behind several enterprise publishing and content marketing operations.
Publishers use advanced tools that codify their work processes and make their content better. They edit better. They plan better. They avoid a makeshift editorial process.
The content marketers that want to be indistinguishable from publishers need to start using tools and workflows that publishers use. This means employing best-of-breed products such as Brightspot.
Measure Like a Publisher
The key performance indicators that publishers and broadcasters track are different from retailers. But those businesses that want to succeed with content marketing must measure success and performance as a publisher does.
Take Bodybuilding.com, for example. This retailer has made headlines recently because of layoffs. It is in a highly-competitive industry. But the company does an extraordinary job with its content marketing.
Its CEO, Jas Krdzalic, understands that folks will pay for Bodybuilding.com’s exercise videos, which Krdzalic organized into BodyFit, a subscription app. What’s more, the company recently hired a “head of subscriptions” to drive signups.
The lesson is that if a content marketing organization wants to be indistinguishable from a publisher, it should focus on the KPIs that a publisher would deem important.
Content marketing is a long game. It attracts, engages, and retains customers long-term. It does not produce a fast response like pay-per-click ads. So don’t measure it the way a retailer would. Measure content marketing like a publisher.