You've heard the overused phrase "content is king." But what does that mean, really?
Search, social, and strategy
It started when relevant, fresh content became a key factor for search engine optimization, which plays a huge role in positioning your company as an industry resource and expert. Then social media emerged as a viable channel, increasing the need to push consistent communication to your (hopefully) engaged community.
Search and social initiatives are a necessity. You have to be seen and heard by your potential and current customers. If you aren't driving your brand or company to compete with the thought leaders or become one yourself, you will be obsolete in the marketplace. After all, if you aren't talking to your customers, you can be sure someone else is.
What are the thought leaders practicing? Content marketing.
Content marketing and PB&J
So what exactly is content marketing? Entrepreneur Magazine's concise definition is "the creation and publication of original content -- including blog posts, case studies, white papers, videos, and photos -- for the purpose of generating leads, enhancing a brand's visibility, and putting the company's subject matter expertise on display."
It is the way brands gain trust, credibility, and ultimate loyalty from customers by communicating messages that represent something they care and want to know more about.
One online expert recently described content marketing by using the symbolism of my favorite childhood sandwich: PB&J. (Stick with this, it's good.) Imagine that search and social are peanut butter and jelly and content is the bread that holds it all together. So the content, the foundation of the strategy, must be something customers deem valuable, want to consume, and then want to pass on to family, friends, and anyone in their social or offline network.
There is no "I" in content
Now, with the internet becoming increasingly personalized in our multi-polarized world, content marketing is more important than ever. Budgets are increasing to develop deeper, thought-provoking messaging and strategy (evolving from "look at us" and "wow, our products and services are fantastic," to a storytelling technique that taps into the customer experience).
So how do you go from, "What's in it for us?" to "What's in it for our audience?" Simply tell a story and stop talking about yourself. (Sales reps, gasp here. Remember, there is no "I" in content marketing -- well there is, but it's a little guy.)
Stop informing, start storytelling
How do you do content marketing and storytelling well? Tell a story that is personable, approachable, tangible, and memorable.
For example, every year The Hartford sponsors the Paralympics, and just last year the company decided to tell a story. It launched a media and video campaign on Facebook, highlighting the athletes themselves. The result was a successful and emotional story connecting with people on an individual and personal level.
Check out the introduction video.
Say what you know, not what you sell
Customers are not looking to read your blog or microsite to see what you sell; they can view that in a catalog or on the products and services tab on your site. They are interested in what you know and what you stand for. It's time to start communicating as a trusted and relevant source and not as a sales script. Storytelling is the new content marketing.
See where your expertise and your customers' interests overlap to tap into your niche. Tell a unique story, and communicate in a way that the competition can't touch.
Amy Kauffman is the director of client relations for HMG Creative and eConnect Email.
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"Businesswoman holding business collection" image via Shutterstock.