Tips for Transforming Your Content Marketing Into An Always-On-Brand Publisher

Let’s address the age-old content marketing conundrum once and for all: should you prioritize quality or quantity of content?

The answer is both. And it’s totally possible with the right mindset and approach.

The value of content marketing can’t be denied. From storytelling to selling, original content created and shared by brand and product marketing teams helps customers at every stage of decision making and repeat purchases.

As of 2018, The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) reported that 91% of B2B marketers use content to educate customers, and 86% of B2C marketers believe content is a key strategy to winning over the hearts of consumers. This is especially true in 2020, where the lines between b2b and b2c marketing begin to blur even more. It also means that the day to day operations of marketing departments should begin to follow the lead of modern media publishers and editorial teams – those who understand how to captivate their audiences daily. We do live in a 24/7 social media news cycle, after all.

According to Deloitte, we check our phone on average 52 times a day. Our craving for the latest updates, and posts from the people, personalities and brands we admire and trust most, means that our competition isn’t just who sells similar products. It’s everyone else competing for our audience’s attention. This includes every brand vying for a top spot in the search results and social feeds of our target audiences – those who at any given time are reading CNN breaking news updates on Facebook and aweing at mesmerizing photography shared by National Geographic’s Instagram.

Getting eyeballs and keeping them glued to your brand through scroll-stopping words and visuals, leads to some of the biggest challenges marketing departments face today. In the age of always-on digital media and smartphone addiction (not that we’re screen-time shaming anyone), marketers must master how to scale content production and maintain ambitious publishing schedules.

Clearly, we want great content, and we want it now.

So how do marketing teams ensure the consistent delivery of content, all while tying brand publishing initiatives to concrete marketing goals and results? 

In order to get good at content marketing, you need to find out what works and what doesn’t. Sounds simple enough, but reaching these critical insights only materialize by publishing frequently, testing different formats, and learning the best distribution channels for amplifying your best nuggets of wisdom and creativity.

This by no means implies that you need to tweet and post original content 25 times a day like your favourite media publisher. But it does mean that a daily or near-daily blogging and weekly video strategy should be made a priority.

The great news is that whether you’re a team of two or twenty, this level of content marketing prowess can be achieved without breaking the bank. It also means you shouldn’t, nor do you need to sacrifice quality. Given that there is 9 billion content impression on LinkedIn daily, and over 500,000 comments shared on Facebook every minute (seemingly around topics people care about), the world doesn’t need any more low quality, self-gratifying content.

The frequency and quantity of content need to be matched by quality and consistency in order to get results.

Here are a few tips for evolving an infrequent-at-best blogging and lethargic content program into a well-oiled, agile newsroom that any Editor-in-Chief would be proud of.

Writer’s note: In this context, “newsroom” doesn’t mean the place on your website that houses press releases. It refers to repositioning the role of marketing and communications into a trusted source of interesting, timely and relevant content that educates, entertains and/or convinces your target audience to buy from you and vouch for you – rinse, repeat.

1.Have a well-defined playbook 

It would be hard to run a marathon with a blindfold on. While your content marketing programs should follow the well-known ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach to publishing, in order to be set up for success, you need to know where you’re headed at all times and why. When getting started with your initial strategy planning, ensure you begin by developing detailed buyer personas of your ideal customer segments. This can’t be overstated enough.

In order to get out of the starting gate in the right direction, you must understand your target audience like the back of your hand. Not just their needs as it relates to your products, but a wider lens into their interests, media habits, favourite publications, which influencers they look up to, and preferred mode of content consumption and communication. Talk to real customers, and take real notes.

At the same time, ensure you’ve clearly defined your brand values and market differentiators. Come up with high-level content tracks (themes) that support your values and what makes you special and unique. Then see where overlap exists between your brand story, key messages and that of your audience’s interests, habits and expectations.

These should become your content pillars, channels and formats to begin with. Use them to develop KPIs and measurable goals, tied back to your main purpose for content marketing.

2. Get busy with freelancers 

You’ll likely need external resources to get the ball rolling, and sustain momentum. In order to get really good at publishing, you’ll need to stack your bench with a variety of creatives and specialists, each with their own forte in different types of content and mediums.

From shorter form blog articles to longer thought leadership, and from writing scrips to video editing and post-production, each creative role is needed to produce a buzz-worthy asset each and every week.

It’s likely rare that your marketing team has all this talent in-house, especially for what is needed to be successful with more visual platforms today like social media. Nor will you want to hire half a dozen or more creatives all at the same time.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of online services for sourcing, selecting and managing freelancers across disciplines, from writers to Instagram Story creators. Get started on Upwork or Fiverr to find the talent you need. Look at these freelancers’ online ratings from past client projects, and comb through their online portfolios to find a match with your brand’s style.

Daily communication is made easy with chat and file sharing functionality built directly into these talent marketplace platforms. It may take some trial and error to find the best candidates, but by sharing your documented content strategy, brand guidelines and tone of voice, you can maximize your chance for success. These freelancers, which can also include a managing editor, should feel like a natural extension of your core internal team.

3. License affordable software and tools 

While your company is likely already using a marketing automation platform, CRM, social publishing, and design software, a new breed of SaaS has emerged, specifically for content marketing strategists.

One of the biggest challenges with brand publishing is choosing what topics to write about, and predicting which will have the highest probability of success for shares and engagement. Tools like BuzzSumo, help marketers discover top-performing content in their niché, track what’s trending, collect ideas for future content projects and make it easy to identify and collaborate with industry influencers.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of simple, free tools like Google Alerts. These notifications help in never missing a beat on what’s being published and said about your company, competitors, industry leaders and partners. Surfacing these fresh articles to your inbox daily can provide more ideas for your own content and/or 3rd party news stories to repurpose.

4. Have internal SME’s on tap 

Your best sources for original stories, which go deeper into what makes your brand and products unique, are your own leaders and experts. Have your leadership team, product managers and SME’s invested and involved in your content marketing strategy. Keep them aligned with your brand publishing vision and goals. Go to them as needed for advice, insights and unique perspectives that only they can have – and in turn, will help shape the personality of your brand into its most authentic self.

While freelance writers and videographers are great for executing on the production of content, the details and main takeaways are usually best provided by the folks who live, breathe, and literally create your products every day. Create a Google Sheet compiling all different content ideas and formats across your various themes, and make it easy for your teammates across divisions to contribute. Ensure you maintain a content repository tab so others can see what has been published previously, and where you can make updates or expand upon already published topics.

Many SME’s are happy to help support content marketing by writing blogs, participating in video shoots and editing different pieces that fall in their wheelhouse. Keep these resources engaged and made to feel part of the action.

5. Don’t muddle the content waters

Content marketing can be a vast place. Some content initiatives may be purposefully built to achieve SEO and better organic Google rankings. Other types of content may revolve around topical news stories, a strong editorial voice, and be better suited for social media engagement.

A search-optimized online learning center with articles and videos answering questions to commonly searched phrases is much different than an online magazine where your team interviews interesting industry influencers, and focused more on storytelling. And that’s OK.

Both approaches should roll under a larger, cohesive content strategy. But you may structure your content teams (including freelancers) and their deliverables so their day to day publishing calendar and responsibilities are kept distinct. This will help ensure you’re not wasting time sharing an article on your brand’s social channels, which was originally created for SEO purposes. Likewise, a great piece of brand journalism that evokes strong opinions and social conversations might not be the piece to publish on your website’s SEO-optimized resource center – content typically to the point, providing a more straightforward explanation.

One tip to keep in mind is that SEO-driven articles on a particular topic can be produced and published in bulk all at one time, or as one project. This should result in cost-savings. Whereas real-time responses on topical industry news, and with a stronger editorial voice better suited for social media, will need to have these writers and designers available quickly for production on a weekly basis.

6. Set your goals (and reporting) right 

Remember those KPIs and goals you created in your initial content strategy? You’ll need them to measure the success of your content program and to figure out what to double down on.

Ensure you have conversion goals set up in your favourite reporting tool, such as Google Analytics, which can show which content pages and media sources drove desired actions. These may include sign-ups to your newsletter, downloads of gated content, and/or demo requests of your product after reading or watching a particular piece of content

Don’t forget to track and provide regular reporting on softer metrics as well, including time spent reading (or watching), social shares, and traffic from organic search results.

After you publish your first dozen or so pieces, you’ll quickly be able to see your top performers and bottom performers. What can you learn from each, and what can you do with the middle of the pack content to turn them into higher performing pieces next time?

While successful content marketing will always take hard work and consistency, the steps above will help ensure you’re heading in with the right plan, resources and technology to maximize quality and quantity. As your content begins to take off and delivers tangible business results across the customer journey (as it should), you’ll have the data needed to ask for bigger production and media budgets to help grow your digital presence and brand relevancy even more.

As we strive to succeed in a new decade where customer expectations keep rising, while their attention spans wane, marketing departments will need to transform into modern newsrooms and real-time publishers of stories, tips, tutorials and updates your audience never knew they needed until they met you. Scaling it all will prove to be the modern marketer’s advantage.

After all, as Seth Godin famously said over ten years ago, “Content marketing is the only form of marketing left.”

About the Author:

David Gardner

David is a technology marketer leader working with innovative companies across North America as well as a global ad agency. Specializing in content marketing, communications and brand community engagement, David believes in the power of storytelling, immersive technology and thinking like a media publisher to reach and engage new and loyal brand fans alike. Having lived in cities like San Francisco and Montreal, David is happy to be back in Calgary, working in the local startup scene and serving as a board member for the Calgary Marketing Association. He is the Marketing Director for PureWeb, an interactive cloud streaming platform for enterprise 3D applications used in automotive, architecture, training simulations and more.