Done right, content marketing is about combining:
the art of advertising
the craft of storytelling, and
the science of digital marketing.
Content Marketing is utilized by companies to establish brand identity, sell products, and command an audience. But here’s the thing: it’s unlikely content will lead to business results if creative ideas aren’t built on a foundation of marketing objectives and audience insights. So I was surprised to learn that Accenture Interactive’s recent State of Content Survey, found … “only 40 percent [of marketers surveyed] strongly agree that they clearly understand the goals of their content.” In other words, 60 percent of marketers surveyed by Accenture are making content without a clear idea of WHY they’re making it in the first place. Cam Brown, CEO of King Fish – a leading content marketing firm – says, “If you are not following an overarching engagement strategy, how are you going to direct your content to compliment your overall business strategy and goals? If you’re making it up as you go, your messaging, video, and visuals will not align with a consistent voice for your company. You’ll run the risk of looking inconsistent and disjointed to your prospects, and that’s an unforced error. Without a solid content strategy, your brand and product positioning differentiation will assuredly underperform against expectations.”
Establishing your “content strategy” is like creating a roadmap for where you want your brand storytelling journey to take you. It encompasses some upfront work, in four main areas:
WHO ARE YOU AS A BRAND? Content can communicate the voice, personality, and identity of your organization. Innovation and product value are certainly important qualities for brands to communicate, but several recent studies have shown that consumers also want to know that the companies they’re doing business with, care about topics that are important to them. Your audience doesn’t necessarily want to hear about how great your company is. But they will watch (and hopefully share!) entertaining stories or useful information that resonate with them. Who are you as a brand? And what kind of content should you align yourself with, in order to communicate your brand promise?
WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO REACH? Cam Brown from King Fish says, “Developing a content strategy includes thinking through the information needs of each of your key targets: net new, current and recently lapsed customers. Messaging and language will be different for each, as will conversion goals.” It’s important to understand the audiences you’re going after: Who are they? What kind of content are they seeking? What online platforms are best for reaching them? Branded content is most effective when it engages consumers from an emotional and personal level. So if you can establish strategic insights into your audience, then you can form a creative narrative around it, and effectively reach them with programming across paid, rented, owned, shared, and earned channels.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO DO? An experienced brand storyteller understands the balance the between art and business; form and function; winning Cannes Lions AND selling light bulbs; engaging audiences AND meeting marketing objectives; not sacrificing one over the other. You know you’ve found an extraordinary video partner for brand storytelling when the first question he asks you when you hire him to make a video is: “What do you want your audience to do?” Ian Karr, founder of NYC-based video content agency IKA Collective says, “We’re living in a really interesting time, where storytelling, commerce and entertainment are intersecting in new and amazing ways.” Ian started IKA in 1986 and over the years they’ve made TV shows, commercials and network promos. Projects need to be engineered to entertain, build an audience, and deliver a call to action. He says, “Now, with branded content, we’re able to build on all that experience with the call-to-action to create programs which motivate viewers to do something, feel something, learn something or buy something. Often, all four of those things.”
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE? A content strategy is not only critical to achieving success, it’s also essential in order to measure the impact of your work. Because how can you know you’ve reached your journey destination, if at the start you didn’t establish where you were aiming to go. Without putting an address into your GPS, it’s impossible for it to tell you that “YOU HAVE ARRIVED.”
About Danielle Dardashti: Danielle Dardashti – founder of branded content advisory firm dash. – is an Emmy award-winner, author, media executive, and former TV reporter. Danielle has been collaborating with marketers on branded content strategy for over a decade, and has held senior leadership roles at Meredith Corporation, Tribune Publishing, IKA Collective, and Magnet Media. She is on the board of directors of New York Women in Communications (www.nywici.org) and was honored in March 2018 by the Native Advertising Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, as one of “100 Significant Women in Native Advertising.”