Content MarketingBy Gini Dietrich

Content marketing exhaustion.

Content marketing overload.

Content marketing is king. No, it’s prince. No, it’s queen.

In the information age, we all have so much content coming at us at every second of the day that we are becoming immune to it.

Because of that, we often make judgments on companies, products, services, charities we’ll support, and events we want to attend solely by the headline of their content.

That whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” is precisely what we do hundreds of times every day.

Because there is so much out there, a backlash around content marketing is building.

In the future, it will only get louder because companies continue to create really bad content. And, when they realize it’s really bad, they’ll decide content marketing doesn’t work—instead of realizing they’re terrible at executing the tactic.

Despite the backlash, competent communicators who create interesting, valuable, and engaging content continue to thrive and are in high demand.

Executives will look to fill their teams with those who have a proven history of not only flawless content marketing creation, but its distribution and monetization as well.

Google will continue to place more emphasis on not just new content, but on how much it’s shared, and how many people engage with it either on your site or on the social networks.

Because of that, getting it right is imperative.

Content Marketing Still Not Done Well

This year’s study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs shows 92 percent of marketers use content marketing, but nearly half (48%) still don’t have a documented content strategy.

You can’t run an organization without a strategy and a clear vision, and the same is true for content marketing…or any marketing or communications, for that matter.

If this study is indicative of the larger business world, it’s clear why it’s not working for so many.

There are four content marketing techniques that, if executed flawlessly, will help any organization—no matter what size, industry, or profit vs. non-profit—generate qualified leads and convert them into customers, donors, or stakeholders.

Clear Vision Content Marketing

In Chicago, there is a cab driver who calls himself Chicago Cabbie

Rashid Temuri started using Twitter to provide Chicagoans an easy way to reserve a cab (waaaaay before Uber existed).  

You can tweet or direct-message him for an immediate pickup or to schedule a ride. His tweets show his current location so you know if he’s two blocks or two miles away.

Sure, you can call the cab companies and have the same kind of service, but what set him apart immediately is that he accepted credit cards (and he’s super nice). 

If you’ve ever tried to pay for a cab ride in Chicago with anything but cash, you know how hit-or-miss it is. Sometimes cab drivers will take your credit card; more often, though, they will get very upset with you for not having cash.

He was very forward-thinking.

As he gained popularity—he’s something of a legend in Chicago—he began to add other services.

When you reserve a ride, he sends you an invite so it’s on your calendar. You can follow him on Foursquare so you know if he’s close enough to pick you up. And, when he’s not driving, he provides traffic, movie, restaurants, weather, lane closures, and events updates. 

His content marketing is in bite-sized chunks because it’s on Twitter, but he’s become the source for anything there is to know about Chicago.

If you’re a native, it’s almost easier to check his Twitter stream for traffic and lane closure news than the actual news sites.

If you’re visiting, you can tweet him and ask for restaurant recommendations in a particular neighborhood and he’ll respond immediately.

He has a clear vision: Be a trusted resource about all things Chicago.

In return, his business grew 20 percent the first year, and now he trains cab drivers, new and experienced alike, on how to use social media to grow their clientele.

Brand Journalism

In 2007, American Express launched OPENForum as a way to support small businesses across the United States.

When they launched, they invited experts to provide commentary on small business growth, opportunities, and challenges.

Business owners know how challenging it is to not only set up an organizational structure from a legal perspective, but to grow it by becoming an expert in finances, human resources, marketing, sales, product development, leadership, and more.

The site was launched with the sole purpose of helping entrepreneurs who don’t have the expertise—or easy access to the experts—learn how to do the things they need to do to stay in business.

Brand journalism puts the storytelling in the hands of corporations.While you still want third-party influencers to tell your story for you, you no longer have to depend on it.

American Express took this notion and built their story with the help of small business experts. Even if you’re not an American Express cardholder, you can visit OPEN Forum and gain invaluable information on how to run your business.

The benefit to the credit card company?

Increased brand awareness and credibility, which brings people back to something they own, giving AmEx the opportunity to track where visitors spend their time, and also work on converting those visitors to card holders.

Sponsored Stories

On BuzzFeed, sponsored stories are part of the reader’s experience.

Visit their home page and you will see things such as “Lady Gaga Gave Taylor Swift the Best Relationship Advice,” 12 Vodka Cocktails Everyone Should Try,” “20 Faces Every Mom Recognizes,” and “What Could Frank Underwood Be Holding in This Photo?

Which story is sponsored?

It’s hard to tell from reading the headlines because BuzzFeed does a phenomenal job of making sure their sponsors and advertisers don’t sound sales-y, and don’t violate the integrity of the site’s design.

The story has the same-sized image as the others on the site, its headline is snappy like the others, and the content reads exactly like one of the non-sponsored posts.

The only difference?

The “sponsored by” sentence underneath the headline.

Remember the advertorials of old? You would open a magazine and read an interesting story, only to learn it was paid for by a corporation.

Sponsored stories are the advertorials of today, and they’re effective because they look and feel just like the rest of the content on the site.

(For the record, the sponsored post is the faces moms recognize which KFC paid for.)

Employee or Customer Stories

An organization in Omaha, Nebraska hires only visually impaired people.

The business makes a product so intricate, it’s impossible for people with sight to build it because we’re too easily distracted.

A conversation with their CEO revealed one of his employees climbed Mt. Hood unassisted, and another is one of the top gospel music vocalists in the world.

It’s interesting enough that they employ blind people; it’s even more interesting when you learn such fascinating stories about their employees.

REI, the outdoor recreation gear retail chain, is an organization that tells their employee stories extremely well. Go into any store and you’ll see photos of their employees rock-climbing, running, biking, swimming, camping, and skiing on the walls near the cash registers.

They hire people who have a passion for the outdoors, and therefore use their products with or without the job.

That passion comes through in their personal lives, so the stories REI tells from the employee perspective make them look compelling and interesting.

But it’s not just employees who can make your business interesting.

Customers can help draw you into a company’s corporate story also.

This is akin to the testimonial of old, but instead of placing a quote and the customer’s name on your website, the storytelling is directly about the people who buy from you.

Salesforce is an organization that does this well. If you visit their website, you’ll find pages and pages of customer stories.

What’s interesting though is the testimonials are less about Salesforce and more about the customers’ companies, and how they’re growing by using the Salesforce software.

The stories are linked directly to the customer’s websites, social networks, and the Salesforce products they use.

Today’s Exercise

This is the last exercise of this series. We have a little surprise for you when it’s all said and done, but for today, get your timer out and set it for 30 minutes.

  1. Vision. What is the vision of your content? Why do you do content marketing? For instance, our vision here is to change the perception the world has of the PR industry. To do that, we have to provide the tools and tips that every communicator needs to do their jobs better and more efficiently. Write down, right now (it can always change), what you want to accomplish.
  2. Brand journalism. You don’t have to be American Express to launch brand journalism. You can be Alabama Gulf Seafood, Grantland, or any niche’d business. Write down five areas where you excel beyond your competitors and this will become the foundation for a more robust content marketing program.
  3. Sponsored stories. Your content marketing may not be to the point that organizations will want to sponsor your content. That’s OK! Write down five ways you can make money from your content marketing program. For instance, we have a sponsor (thank you, CustomScoop!) that gets a one minute video at the start of our webinars. I record them and they’re not sales-y. They’re informative and always offer our viewers something for free.
  4. Employee or customer stories. This one is easy! Write down five employees and five customers who will be willing to give you a video testimonial. What two or three things do you want them to cover? For instance, client service is a huge differentiator for us on the Arment Dietrich side of the business. All of our testimonials mention the attention our clients receive. Figure out what you want them to say and start asking.

You can easily do this exercise in 30 minutes, so get to work!

The Scavenger Hunt

If you are participating in the Spin Sucks scavenger hunt, today you will visit Howie Goldfarb’s blog.

You can find the secret word in his blog post, “C is for More than Cookie.”

Just write down the secret word in Howie’s box on your scavenger hunt card (if you don’t have a card, download it here).

Today is the last day of the scavenger hunt, but you have until Sunday night to submit your completed card. So keep playing along (and you can work backwards, if you’re just starting out).

And don’t forget…if you buy a copy of Spin Sucks between now and March 8, we’ll send you a fun package full of goodies to use in your office, including a Spin Sucks computer sticker, a Spin Sucks Sharpie, and more. I’ll even personalize and sign a nameplate for you to put in the front of your book.

Just email the receipt to [email protected]. Please include your mailing address so we know where to send the package.

Now get to work!

photo credit: Shutterstock

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich