By Tom Stein
This year, a new print magazine (imagine that!) titled Chief Content Officer was launched by Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). In May, my friend Bob Evans, one of the foremost technology journalists in the world, was hired by SAP to be its chief content officer. Across the business marketing landscape, the ascendance of content to its role as a primary component in the mix is manifest. And with this ascendance, the rush to rule the content marketing roost is on.
Everyone is piling onto the content marketing opportunity. General agencies. Digital agencies. SEO agencies. Social agencies. Content marketing agencies. Media companies. Editorial consultancies.
And with good reason.
There is nothing new about content as a mechanism to drive prospect/customer engagement and loyalty. Custom content providers and branded content have been on the scene as long as I can remember. But today, key drivers have dramatically changed the content game:
- CRM and lead nurturing platforms have become ubiquitous – from Salesforce.com to Marketo to Silverpop to Eloqua. They are voracious content consumers. Segmented and cadenced communications to prospects/customers require the continual exchange of value. Content is the fuel for that engine – and it’s a gas-guzzler!
- The social Web and the shift to inbound marketing have content at their root. Quality content placed to intersect with prospects and lead them inbound. Valuable content distributed across the social Web, so that it can be parsed and played forward to start and respond to relevant conversations.
- A need and hunger has emerged for information to assist in decision-making – and not necessarily from traditional sources such as media companies. Research from CMI shows that brand-authored content, individual-authored content and expert/media-authored content are all deemed viable, because what ultimately counts are quality and relevance, and Web users have decided they can judge those qualities for themselves.
- The interconnection and interplay of paid, earned and owned media are entirely reliant on content. Paid media performs better with high-value content “calls to action.” Earned media is now defined much more broadly than PR placement (one form of content); social is the “new” earned media, and the earning is most often achieved through quality content. Owned media requires the creation, aggregation and curation of content by brands to bring together and sustain audiences/communities.
Add in content distribution/engagement technologies and platforms – sophisticated measurement schemas and platforms – the opportunity to differentiate brand, product and solution via thought leadership, content and community approaches and the rush to content is more than understandable. It is inevitable.
What is perhaps less clear is how to make it all work in the real world. Content strategy. Content quality. Content quantity. The bandwidth, ability and organizational structure for brands to continually stream content to constituents and receive back a stream of insight and opportunity. The policies and compliance mechanisms to give voice to multiple content creators while maintaining brand coherence.
Mosh pit, indeed. Fun while you’re diving in – but there can be hell to pay in the morning. Yet, there is huge, growing and untapped opportunity for brands and service providers. So, my advice: dive in!
Tom Stein is president-CEO of Stein + Partners Brand Activation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.