For some reason many of the people with whom I spoke yesterday had content creation on their minds.
All three were former clients who wanted to understand the latest buzzword, content marketing. As with the use of any term, I first wanted to understand what they thought the term meant. As it turned out, they had widely differing definitions. These ranged from what I’d call advertorial to what the industry does term “content marketing.”
My point of view is that brands have always been content creators. Ads are content – their channel of distribution is paid media. PR is content – it gets picked up in earned media. Today, websites, social presences, and who knows what else by the time I’m done writing this (things DO change kind of quickly) are also content and are put out through channels brands own themselves. I think, however, this is missing the point.
Customers want to be educated. Sure, it’s nice to give them a laugh or a tear as many brands did during the Super Bowl, but the nature of marketing today is that ongoing conversation I’ve written about before. Customers want smart brand representatives who can educated them and help to solve their problems when they arise. However brands touch and audience, I think it needs to be less about the sale and a lot more about engagement. That comes from an honest and open dialogue with the consumer, not by tricking them into reading a sales piece in the guise of a magazine article. Posting fake reviews to enhance your brand does nothing except risk massive embarrassment when they’re discovered and sound a discordant note when real reviewers point out how the fake reviews bear no resemblance to reality.
Creating ads is relatively easy. Everyone sees them as a brand message, a certain amount (and it’s tiny) of hyperbole is expected, and it’s clear something is being sold. Creating content that educates and informs is much harder. Maintaining a transparent and open social presence is as well. That, however, is what marketing has become, at least for those brands that are in touch with their consumers. Are you?