Amongst one of the most prominent differences between Content Marketing and Writing is that the former involves going beyond simply churning out content to actually putting the content out there in front of the right audience. Any content marketing strategy or plan that focuses solely on content writing and production aspects is bound to struggle in demonstrating a positive ROI from marketing investments. In this post, we argue that a well-planned Content Marketing Strategy should take into account the Content Promotion and Distribution plan when laying out the Content Production Plan in order to maximize the returns from Content Marketing Investments.
The Big Picture view of Content Marketing Strategy
The arguments in this post are likely to be best understood if we first lay down the big picture of what makes up a Content Marketing Strategy. An ultra-trivial breakdown of this Strategy would be answering simple questions around What, Why, Who, How, Where, When of Content Marketing. More specifically-
- What are you looking to promote (list of your services and product offerings)? (What)
- What is the object (lead generation, branding etc.)? (Why)
- Who is your target audience? (Who)
- How are you looking to communicate your value proposition? (How)
- What channels are you looking to do your content promotions on? (Where)
- What would be schedule and frequency of your content distribution efforts? (When)
The Where aspect of this approach requires Marketers to take into account the Content Promotion Outline in order to put together the rest of the Strategy elements. Let us dig deeper into what this means practically.
How and on which channels you plan to distribute Content will determine the types of formats and themes you should be using in your Editorial plan. Without the connection, you will likely struggle to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness of Content Marketing in the long run.
Three types of Promotional activities
By and large, all promotional activities can be bucketed into one of the following three categories-
Paid Media-This would involve such channels as paid search, paid content syndication, paid social ads, native ads, display ads and retargeting, and sponsorships. The costs involved here are largely for advertising spend. Paid promotions are typically used for bottom-of-the-funnel prospects who have already demonstrated in-market intent through a variety of behavioral signals.
Owned Media-This includes any promotions that you might undertake on your owned media properties. These would include promotions on your Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn Accounts, Pinterest/Instagram pages, interlinking on your own website pages and so on. In short, any destination that you own and have full publishing control of. These tactics typically involve using simple tools (e.g. Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial etc.) and the costs involved are largely for software subscription rather than advertising.
Earned Media-Of the three types of promotions, earned media promotions rank the highest in terms of generating branding through trust, and confidence. This stems from positive reviews by one or more members of a community of known industry specialists. Earned media promotions are also the hardest to build a clear strategy around, but with a solid content backbone, getting influencers on board should be much less of an issue. Apart from influencers, the typical Public Relations postings also come under earned media promotions category.
Technology has a key role to play in aligning Content Production and Promotion functions. For example, Campaigns that are likely to be heavily paid media biased can restrict content production to format types such as landing pages and lead magnets. Your Content Marketing Platform can then automatically prevent non-compatible formats to be used for Editorial Calendars for these Campaigns.
How Content Promotion plan impacts Content Planning and Production
If you had $100 to spend on Content Writing and Production, how would you allocate the amount if your promotion plan was heavily Earned Media centric? Would this allocation be the same as the one where your promotion strategy was heavily Paid Media oriented? What sort of content themes and formats would you deploy in either scenarios? Could you do with the same production plan for each? Clearly not. Consider why.
The channel and promotion tactics you wish to deploy have profound impact on the type of content you might want to push into production
- For Paid promotions such as search and social ads, you would want to focus much more on content formats such as landing pages, lead magnets, and social ads. Multiple pages with different creative copies and calls to action can be deployed as destinations to micro-promotions that target long tail keywords for highly targeted traffic. For this scenario, it is unlikely that the production mix would have any significant volumes for other formats such as Blog posts, SEO articles, Webinars etc., though of course, some of these would still need to be produced as destination collateral.
- If you elect to focus on Earned media, you would likely move away from landing pages to other formats including Blog posts, Case studies, Whitepapers, eBooks, Explainer videos and so on. These formats would be deployed specifically to articulate your value proposition to community influencers who would then, hopefully, amplify your case through interactions with their own community.
- Lastly, if your approach was heavily biased towards Owned Media, then your production plan would still resemble the one you would use for Earned Media, except that it would be a lot more long-form. Secondly, community influencers are a Specialty bunch already at the top of their game when it comes to an industry niche. Content written for them is likely to be far terser but technically much more advanced as compared to what you might write for your prospects. Content for the latter audience segment is best consumed when written for users who are still in the awareness or at most an interest stage. The themes for these content types would include the likes of use cases, points of view, best practice guides and so on, and which are all designed to create awareness about your propositions.
So how do you turn this into action?
The considerations outlined above can only be realistically actioned if your Content Production is organized around formats, themes and campaign types.
- Format specifies the physical form in which the final content is produced. Examples would be blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, explainer videos etc.
- Theme specifies the purpose of content and the method of delivery. Examples would be use cases, points of view, industry trends, best practices guides, hands-on product demos etc.
- Campaign types specify the goal of your Content Campaign. Examples here would be lead generation, branding, customer service, customer retention and so on.
Assuming that upstream planning has already been done to identify these, you could simply restrict certain formats and themes to specific campaign types. For example, you would know that a Paid Media biased approach would rely heavily on Lead Generation Campaigns and target bottom-of-the funnel prospect. You could then create a rule that for such Campaigns, x% or more of your Content Calendar items (e.g. x=70) must focus on creating high quality landing pages with well thought of calls to action and tracking setup. Similarly, you could setup another rule that says that for Earned Media Campaigns where the Campaign objective would be largely branding, that you would only deploy themes such as points of view, industry trends, best practices guides etc. that all reflect your domain expertise, and which is what Influencers look for when giving endorsements.
Regardless of the actual marketing mix that you elect to implement, it is important to bring the Content Production and Promotion Teams on the same page early in the process before resources are deployed for creating content ideas and calendar entries. Doing so results in aligning the Production and Promotion functions along a shared objective and in ultimately ensuring increased efficiency and effectiveness of your Content Production efforts.