Gini Dietrich

Call Content Marketing What You Want, But Don’t Say it Doesn’t Exist

By: Gini Dietrich | March 21, 2017 | 

Content Marketing is Not MarCommWe’ve spent the past few weeks talking about buzzwords, which both get the attention of marketers around the globe…and drive us crazy.

I’ve also noticed a proliferation of progressive tense and the need to use 15 words when one will suffice, just to achieve the long-form content Google loves.

More words does not necessarily equate more value.

And buzzwords do not necessarily make you sound smarter.

Au contraire.

We had a client for nearly 10 years who produces a dictionary every year so their customers know what the heck they’re talking about.

And, for nearly 10 years, I would say, “I really think you’re doing it wrong.”


I am a bit of a grammar nerd, I love the English language, and I treat words with much respect.

(Not to say I don’t make mistakes. Now I’m terrified to hit publish on this article because I know someone will find a glaring imperfection.)

Apples Are Not Oranges

But there is a difference between respecting words and completely misconstruing their meaning.

For instance…

In The Drum last week, Samuel Scott published a piece called, “Apples Are Not Oranges—and Content Marketing Means Nothing.”


Here is what Scott has to say:

Both “marketing communications” and “content marketing” are merely the creation and transmission of marketing collateral over channels to an audience. “Marketing communications” came before the “content marketing,” so by definition the latter is merely a buzzword for the former.

His point is that, true to his headline, content marketing is just a buzzword and we really should be calling it marketing communications.

What is Content Marketing?

To fully make the point I’m about to make, we should start at the beginning.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is one approach that is focused on the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant, consistent, and interesting content.

Its job is to educate, to keep an organization top-of-mind, to build trust, to enhance relationships, and to provide proof of expertise.

It is one of the most compelling ways to build your influence, your thought leadership, your brand, your referrals, your word-of-mouth, and your inbound marketing.

And, to quote Susan Stoga:

Content marketing is the red-headed stepchild. Why doesn’t it get as much respect? People don’t realize how powerful it can be.

Powerful indeed.

What is Content Marketing Not?

Content marketing definitely is not marketing communications.

It’s one tactic in an integrated marketing communications program, but it can’t be defined as such.

In Scott’s article, he quotes Philip Kotler from Principles of Marketing to define marketing communications:

A company’s total promotion mix—also called its marketing communications mix—consists of the specific blend of advertising, public relations, personal selling, sales promotion, and direct-marketing tools that the company uses to persuasively communicate customer value and build customer relationships.

Yes. That is marketing communications.

It’s a blend of all of the marketing disciplines that result in sales and relationships.

Content marketing is not advertising. It is not personal selling. It is not sales promotion.

As well, content marketing alone cannot drive sales.

It can’t, in fact, drive sales without the use of the specific blend of how Kotler describes marketing communications, or what we call the PESO model.

Where Content Marketing Fits in the PESO Model

We call content marketing “owned media” around these parts. But it’s the same thing.

It’s blog posts, articles, white papers, videos, podcasts…anything that lives on your website or blog, or something that you own.

You can see in our pretty little graphic that owned media, when combined with shared media, creates influence engagement and partnerships.

When combined with earned media, it creates authority.

When combined with paid media, it creates incentive.

And, when integrated all together, it becomes marketing communications.

So is it a Buzzword?

To my mind, it’s not a buzzword because, before the advent of blogging, owned media (or content marketing) did not exist.

There were advertorials and company-owned publications and newsletters, but where we are today with are own media is light years ahead of those things.

Content marketing goes beyond those promotional tools, and when coordinated with the other media types, becomes integrated marketing communications—or a PESO model.

As Robert Rose said on last week’s This Old Marketing:

Using owned media to produce a result in an audience is different than advertising. There is a different approach here. It’s creating an experience that adds value to a customer. Call it whatever you like, just don’t say it doesn’t exist.

Just don’t say it doesn’t exist.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Lukas T

    Glad you tackled this one… I like to think that content marketing has been a “thing” long enough that we wouldn’t still be seeing misconceptions like this being perpetuated, but clearly that’s not the case. The biggest thing I still see people missing is this part: “It’s job is to educate, to keep an organization top-of-mind, to build
    trust, to enhance relationships, and to provide proof of expertise.” I remember reading a post where someone was saying that “content marketing just means marketing your content” and continuing on to talk about inbound marketing and creating sales, but not focusing at all on the creation of brand attachment or being helpful without hard-selling. The waters are still constantly being muddied as marketing departments are held to lead generation goals as proof of “success”, rather than building trust.

    • I do think marketing departments should be held to lead generation metrics AND to awareness, trust, and expertise goals. One of the things we track for clients is “churn,” which tells us if that trust is being eroded. There is a way to do both, and content marketing can help achieve success for marketing.

      • Lukas T

        Right; there is definitely a need for both! The trick is having people realize that the goal of every piece need not be the same.

  • Great counter argument Gini, you’ve summed it up perfectly!

    • Thanks! (And thanks for always commenting here. I love seeing your logo <3)

  • Bill Clifford

    The key word in this entire (professional arena) discussion is that X type of communications is part of an entire ‘strategy’. Most professionals, both PR and Marketing (along with other communication disciplines), are all fighting the same battle. These specialists just use different buzzwords to describe their tactics, when in realty it is the strategy that is often overlooked.

    I agree Gini, if you are not setting goals based on projected metrics and analyzing that data from your tactics, I don’t care what you call yourself or your tactics, the battle will be lost.

    • You’re right, Bill. We have to start with benchmarks that will allow us to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Wait for tomorrow’s blog post on the topic!

  • @ginidietrich:disqus, thanks for the post mentioning my column.

    You write:

    “We call content marketing “owned media” around these parts. But it’s the same thing. It’s blog posts, articles, white papers, videos, podcasts…anything that lives on your website or blog, or something that you own.”

    The problem here is that you are defining the collateral based on the channel over which it appears. Channels and collateral are two different things.

    An advertisement can appear on TV or it can appear on a company’s blog. It’s still an advertisement. A publicity stunt can be done at a live event or it can be transmitted over a company’s Facebook page. It’s still a publicity stunt.

    Just because the collateral is transmitted over new types of channels owned by a company does make it some new thing.

    • I agree with you about the ad appearing on TV or on a company’s blog and about the publicity stunt. Those are the same pieces of collateral transmitted over different channels.

      Where I don’t agree is that content marketing doesn’t exist. It didn’t exist before 2005-ish. The example you use in your article is an advertorial. It’s an ad made to look like an article, but you’ve paid for the space.

      That is completely different than say, this blog post. This article is meant to educate our readers and advance the communications industry. Sure, I might get some indirect benefit from it, which eventually leads to sales. But the argument you make about every piece of content having calls-to-actions that lead to sales is incorrect.

      That’s why content marketing is not the same as direct response. In fact, the only direct response I get from this particular piece of content is a great debate. And I thank you for that.

      • @ginidietrich:disqus @samueljscott:disqus
        I think I explain this very well in my comment above which is rare for me. Normally I am less cohesive and sometimes even less coherent but I do feel the CMI pigeon holes content marketing only online because it benefits them (vs brands/agencies etc) that way (shocking) and Gini is more a fan of them than I am for sure (I think I give them nightmares).

  • I am going to add to this post an expanded view you have seen before from me. Content Marketing is anything and everything that you create to market a product or service. It is channel agnostic. It doesn’t have to be 2 way. It doesn’t have to be 2D it could be 3D. It can be physical or virtual.

    Catalogs. TV/Radio Ads. Blog Posts. Billboards. Store Signs. Store Fronts/Displays. Store Contents (Think supermarket Aisles). Digital Ads. Webinars. White Papers. Social Media. Videos. Live Streaming. Direct Mail. Google Adwords. Print Ads. Giving away Samples. ALl of this is content marketing.

    But yes it is NOT what that Philip said it is. Marketing Communications to me is more about channels and distribution vs the actual content being distributed.

  • Where did the share buttons go? I unlocked the whole site and they aren’t on the pages. I use No Scripts and only allow relevant networks and plugins and disable all the analytics, facebook, and anything that isn’t specific to the content working and appearing. Normally I can see the plugin for social sharing in the drop down.

  • When I was hired at Schwab for the first time, in 2000, they already were taking a content marketing approach—it just didn’t have a name yet. It is an entirely different beast than their marketing communications and advertising efforts. And I say that as someone who has been involved with all of these things.