That nagging feeling: 3 ways to challenge your content marketing in 2018

January 24, 2018
Colin Deval Senior Communications Strategist

Get the most out of your content marketing and public relations efforts with these recommendations

If you’re a director of marketing or communications strategist still planning your marketing initiatives for 2018, you better get to work. If you’re already done, get your pen out. I have some ways you may want to redress your plans and, in particular, make sure you’re pouring some gas on your content marketing.

Before I hit three ways I want you to challenge your organization’s approach to content marketing in 2018, let’s set a premise and consider the problem; that nagging feeling it’s all just the “same ol’, same ol’.”

Setting a premise

You’ve defined your brand, position and have a clear marketing strategy. You’re settled on content marketing to get your message to your audience. Let’s even assume you’ve documented a content strategy – to one degree or another.

You have a marketing team with a designer and you even have some video capabilities. Your team has a calendar and the keys to your social media platforms. They’re engaging with your audience, answering questions and, when you need it, are supporting your business objectives by integrating some sponsored post campaigns. You get reports, monthly, and are informed of activity every two weeks. There are impressions. There’s a smattering of engagement. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. But …

You still don’t feel the value

At the end of a quarter, you look at what you’ve done. You see a high percentage increase in followers and impressions. There’s a KPI, a metric or two that relates to your ultimate business goal. It’s fine. It feels like what your supposed to be doing.

But you still have that nagging feeling. So accept these challenges. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your content marketing and public relations efforts with these three recommendations for changing your perspective on content marketing; three ways to challenge yourself and your team, three things to expect from your agency.


Challenge One:
Start with the audience, then develop story

Start with understanding the audience, as best you can. Then, turn what you know about your story and flip it so you see it through their eyes, from their perspective.

Do it as a writing exercise. If you’ve identified personas (if you haven’t created personas, start now), try matching up the key messages that best resonate with them. Then, remove your company, product or service from those key messages. Focus on what remains as a way to meet their need.

Try writing some starters with this in mind. If you can get a foundation from the intersection of your personas and your messaging, you have a good start on planning your year. It’s the hardest part of developing content for marketing purposes.

You have to develop an empathetic understanding of that audience – their needs, goals and aspirations. What makes them laugh, think, cry or feel like someone gets them?

Too often, content marketing is looked at simply as a way to tell your story. But, if you start with the begrudging acceptance that no one cares and no one will even bother taking two seconds to look at your content because they’re already inundated with 1,500 pieces of content a day in their Facebook feed, it humbles you enough to flip your perspective. Audience first, then how your story serves them. Nail that, and you’re a big step closer to creating a vital bond with your target audience.


Challenge Two:
Integrate your media

Get your paid, owned and earned media working together to back your content. Traditionally, agency deliverables come from departments. There’s a media schedule from the media department; content development and a social calendar coming from a creative social media team; and an editorial calendar and media relations outreach coming from your PR team. Those plans are rooted in your brand and certainly integrate your objectives around messaging and calls-to-action, but what if you changed your perspective to integrate those plans around placement and distribution of your content?

Your content calendar can be more complex than listing topics, dates, authors and delivery (i.e. email, social platforms) options. Build extra layers for where your content should go. A content calendar should have a list of editorial opportunities for pitching, paid opportunities to place your story, targeted with your budget, and creative ideas to produce your story – with design, video, copy or more.

Your content calendar should list your story opportunities and it should list the ways your can optimize the distribution and placement of those stories. Next, it’s imperative you get your team working together and enable them to take action based on your plans.


Challenge Three:
Expect contributing actions from your whole team

This is simple.

If you’ve built a more complex, integrated calendar, you must use it. Understanding it takes an editorial mindset to write or create your stories for your target audience, you’ve now put yourself in position to expect three things from your team, three ways to use your story.

1. Produce
Think outside of writing. Design. Create video. Use animation or gifs. Use audio. Be a rabid consumer of information online and see how people are making content to tell their stories and build their brand with their audiences. The tactical deliverables are many. Come together as a creative team to produce content to convey your story. Publish it on your website. Distribute it through social media in ways that are relevant for how audiences consume information on specific platforms. Think behind link posting.

2. Place
That content, whether it’s a written article, a chart or infographic, a designed animation, explainer or full brand story video, or a series of podcasts, can use your paid media plan to ensure it’s placed in front of the right audience with the most relevant platform, tactic or publication. Will this piece of content or story work for that special section in a key publication? Is it right for the email blast they have planned in July? Could it be a sponsored series with a key partner that helps you pay to target it to your audience on social media?

In short, using your media buy to back your content ensures you’re not just posting and hoping. Especially as organic reach continues to disappear into myth, when it comes to your content, it’s not the risk of pay to play, it’s the benefit of pay to target.

3. Pitch
Focus your content on your audience. Make it a good and relevant story. Pay to get it in the right places and in front of the right audiences. But don’t stop there. Give it to your public relations professionals so they can pitch and execute media relations to secure key placements with your key media targets. They are pitching the story and content you’ve developed, aligning outreach around your foundational content development to help build your audience and relevance among your key audiences.

Media relations is as old as time – get your story in front of more people by pitching a valuable story for a trusted third-party resource. The opportunity here is to align all of your outputs around your basic content development. Feel the need to blog? Great. Do it for the audience’s need. Instead of simple impression-based ads that may deliver a low conversion rate, double down on it by paying to put that content in the right places. Then, triple down by pitching the same content to key media targets.

In 2018, take this on as your content marketing challenge. And if you need help getting started, send me an email and we can talk. Do this and you are building and compounding on your content marketing program so you cut out that nagging “same ol’, same ol’” feeling.

“Content first”, a tried and true marketing-ism, can mean many, many things. For content marketing, it means you’re starting with your story, shifted for your audience, and then – only then, deciding what you’re going to do with it. What will you produce? Will you place it, pitch it or … show up somewhere? With that in mind, here’s a bonus fourth step as a post-script.


Show up: Experiences matter just as much as content that is seen in an email, on social media or in a favorite magazine. Your story can be a media pitch. Your story could be a key email from a trusted publication. Your story could be a news feature in the daily newspaper. Your story could be a demo video from an influencer. Your story could be an Instagram carrousel of designed explainer graphics. Your story could be a pop-up experience at a prominent location for key customers.

If you put yourself in a position to do this for your content development, you’re putting yourself on the path to making a greater impact for your brand.


Colin Deval is a Senior Communications Strategist at Core Creative, a branding agency that specializes in telling the life-changing stories for mid-market healthcare systems and the emerging med-tech world. 



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