Content marketing to be key in 2014

By Michelle Rash
There is growing buzz in the PR and advertising world about “content marketing,” or the use of company-created materials to educate, inform and potentially grow your customer base. At a time when many people simply fast forward through commercials on their favorite TV shows or have a growing distrust in the traditional news media, content marketing is viewed as an increasingly vital way to get your core message out to potential customers.
Content marketing is not advertising, in the traditional sense. Its emphasis is not, and should not be, simply on selling a product. Content marketing focuses on adding value to a product, on telling the story of the company and its customers or educating consumers on a topic that your company is an expert on.
RLF has used content marketing as part of our overall PR strategy with clients for many years and in a variety of ways – from writing blog posts and producing YouTube videos to developing microsites and creating downloadable guides. We see the value that such content has for building trust and awareness among potential customers and for establishing loyalty among existing customers.

Earlier this week, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tar Heel chapter hosted Dan Dooley (pictured right), senior vice president of digital solutions for Pace Communications, which has been recognized nationally for its content creation work for a variety of national brands. Dooley spoke about content marketing and why it matters for companies and brands. As I listened to him speak, I found that many of his key points were good reminders of some of the best practices of content marketing.
Among Dooley’s key points:

  • Quality is key: With the surge of content being created, quality matters more than ever. Google uses the quality of a piece of content as one component of its search-ranking algorithm, as does Facebook. If you want your content to rank high on these sites – a necessity to help reach your target audience – you need to create content that is well written, liked and trusted and shared by others.
  • Expect failure: One of the most interesting things Dooley said was they expect about 20 percent of the content they create to fail – to generate little to no interest. But, he stressed, failure can be a good thing. It means they are being innovative and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t, which will help them to create better, more effective content over time.
  • Make changes as you go: A side effect of expecting failure is that you need to be willing to make changes. While most people think of content as being static – once it’s done, it’s done – Dooley said it should be much more dynamic. Pace monitors the response to their client content in real time (for example, how many page views something is getting online). If something is underperforming, they are not afraid to change it, whether that means putting a new headline on it or repackaging the content in a different way.

The role of content marketing will continue to grow in an overall public relations strategy as companies continue to look for new ways to engage with customers. When it comes to educating and engaging customers, content really is king. As a PR tactic, it is starting to supplant advertising in terms of importance and investment. If done well, content marketing builds trust, conversation, engagement, advocacy and emotional connection with customers; those are important for any product or service wanting to avoid becoming a commodity.