You can’t try and undo poor choices, with one good choice. Sometimes it’s better doing nothing, rather than being grounded in constant mediocrity.
I am writing this article as the You Are The Media Strategy is on the horizon (27th April) and putting together the whole day agenda. A quandary I am looking to get to the bottom of is why people treat a content marketing/owned media approach as just an alternative form of marketing? To many businesses, it becomes a short-lived tactic (to draw attention to a product/service), rather than the strategic pulse for a business (to build an audience that has lifetime value).
Basically, if this is an approach I believe in, get enthused by and see it working from others, then why do companies see it as a siloed exercise that they think that still sits in the advertising pigeon hole or the branding in-tray?
The Mother Of All Examples
Probably the best example of this is an experience from January 2015 that I documented. During a meeting with a company on whether they should invest in social media, everything came down to one simple question I will never forget, “Can Twitter generate us a further £150k extra income?” Yes, this was an actual question and you can read the article here. The whole focus from this three year ago entry is the persistence of businesses with a myopic product centred vision that uses social media purely as a channel to just sell.
Even last month I highlighted those companies where a content marketing approach would not work based on moulding everything together into three pillars, ‘care,’ ‘rhythm’ and ‘knowledge.’ Click here to read that article.
However, I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why it won’t work for companies, until the past week.
I have been receiving emails from companies who would like to participate in the You Are The Media Lunch Club. The whole format is lunchtime sessions that highlight businesses that are taking advantage of the changes in distribution by bypassing traditional media to build an audience they own. The emails I have been receiving are either those who are using it as a PR move for their own gain, have no defined voice/viewpoint within their marketplace, or just creating content because they feel they have to.
This is where there becomes the dissection between what should be a business strategy but rather an additional marketing strategy. The ability to create and distribute, can just become an empty gesture, that doesn’t contribute to anything.
One Healthy Choice Amongst A Barrage Of Junk Doesn’t Count For Anything
When content marketing is looked upon as marketing collateral production, it is the equivalent of having a burger and chips. When asked ‘what drink?’ the reply is ‘Diet Coke.’ Just because you have made a string of unhealthy decisions, doesn’t mean that one vaguely ok choice is going to make everything ok.
Taking things further, many businesses still treat a content marketing/owned media approach as a listless exercise. It is the equivalent of going on a gluten free diet during the week and then when the weekend comes it is ‘wheat-ahoy.’ Saturday lunch is at Subway, the three pints during the evening are followed by Cornflakes for breakfast and a visit to Pizza Express in the afternoon.
If I had to explain this in a two minute video, it would be the Butterfield Diet Plan (you try your best and then revert to what you’ve always done).
It works like this:
1) You start disciplined.
2) You then roll back to the world of treats. In business terms, it becomes easier to bang the drum with something to sell, rather than something to say.
You Can’t Lapse Back Into Bad Habits
Businesses have to stop looking at content marketing as an approach that takes them back to exactly how they used to behave (product based messages). This was where marketing was seen as borrowing eyeballs from an array of spaces to drive interest in a product.
You cannot attempt a new approach that lapses back into hold habits. This all comes from looking at everything a different way, but where the content you create (from text to audio) becomes an immediate function of the business to build an audience and not as an afterthought, where the focus is a self sense of grandeur. It is the audience that provides ROI, not the chasing of eyeballs from a Google Analytics check-in.
Creating & Nurturing A Media Property
Businesses have to start thinking about the role they play within their marketplace and create a media property off the back of it, with the intention to build audience and ultimately a stronger customer base. A few blog articles won’t achieve anything. Blogging isn’t the income generator, business is. It is the ability to create a business goal that links back to your reason for being, where consistency is grounded.
The focus for businesses is still very much on product, not the audience.
The Content Marketing Institute have this month (April), released their B2B Enterprise Content Marketing report. This relates to companies with 1,000+ employees (and over 2,500 companies were surveyed).
Two of the areas of note, from the report, come back to this whole notion of starting something but slipping back into old habits. 45% of enterprise marketers do not have an idea what a successful marketing programme looks like. 38% have a documented marketing strategy to understand a new path to follow.
By not having any direction, has a knock on effect. The stagnant success is related to a lack of strategy (65%) and success is predominantly recognised as collecting page visits from strangers (83%) as opposed to building an audience (a mere 37%).
Whilst this report relates to larger enterprises, it highlights an overall picture for content marketing today. The lack of direction for businesses where there is the magnet that draws them to sharing the core brand message, whilst fighting against delivering a consistent message to an audience who want to consume and interact.
Are You In Or Out?
It comes back to the diet. You are either all in, or you are never going to see any noticeable results. It’s a bit like me at the moment, where I go to the gym and when back home look at a shelf of Easter Eggs and ‘I’ll just have the one stick from the Twirl.’ If I keep on like this, I am not going to see any health benefits.
To advance a practice, you can’t just dip your toe in whenever you feel like. Pressing the ‘publish’ button has the same effect as finishing a spinning class. You feel like you have achieved something, but it becomes forgotten about as soon as it’s over. The only way you start to see results is when you are consistent.
Being mediocre will hurt you more than doing nothing. If that is the bottom of the barrel, so where is the hope?
To become tuned in, takes in a whole disciplined effort, but to start seeing change is when you:
- recognise the role you play within your marketplace and what you stand for
- understand the audience you are targeting and lean into them
- cut back on the plethora of messages and find one key message to target
- find a story that is different from the competition that others can relate to
- become consistent over a prolonged period of time
- create value that goes outside of the products and services you promote and sell
Lets Round Up
Empty gestures stand out like a Pepsi can handed as a peace gesture to the establishment. For businesses to achieve longevity within their marketplace they need to recognise the value creation from content and not as a two month, ‘lets give it a go’ approach.
When you start to shift the focus from the product that you sell, to the audience that you can grow and associate with, this is where the owned media approach comes into fruition.
You cannot treat an owned media approach as separate entity from your business strategy. When it sits at the core of what you do and how you communicate, there is an all round sense of brand health that goes beyond two weeks on the treadmill after you have demolished the Easter Eggs and feel bloated.
For something to work, the biggest injustice you can do is think that one good choice (the focus on an audience) amongst a circus of poor decisions (repeated product messages), is going to result in a prize.