What separates good, and great, content marketing


If you are part of the digital marketing industry you will have probably heard of Joe Pulizzi and his organisation, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Joe has been a pioneer of content marketing for over a decade and has made it the CMI’s mission to help brands create quality content and distribute it through multiple online channels.

Coke and Google

Coke is emphasising that the future of marketing is digital content

The purpose of content marketing is to differentiate yourself from your peers and your competition through the use of creative, original digital content. Such content has a very beneficial SEO (search engine optimisation) effect and you will be found online, enjoyed and reap the resulting financial rewards.

Content marketing is not new. In the 1920s and 30s, manufacturers used printed newsletters to help their customers solve problems. They used storytelling, diagrams and photography to engage their audience, create brand loyalty and tell stories. The cost of such publications made it only available to larger brands.

The speed of publication and distribution has increased a hundred times since then. Prospects and customers can accept, read and ‘like’ a piece of content online within seconds.

The barriers to entry are now negligible. Photography, video and smartphones, as well as cloud computing, have brought tools within everyone’s reach that could only have been dreamed about just ten years ago.

A content strategy does not consume budget in terms of the cost of technology or distribution: it is either time-consuming for an internal team to create and curate content or it can be partly or wholly outsourced.

To avoid outsourcing, how can you accomplish the creation of original content? Through storytelling! A well-formed story is an essential part of an online marketing strategy. And here’s the rub: you are part of your story and you have direct access to the elements that can create compelling versions of it.

One of the reasons that you might not be creating much interaction online is because you don’t have compelling stories. Online tactics including search engine optimisation, lead generation and social media should be focused around telling a compelling story to engage your audience. After all, we know that facts tell…and stories sell!

Take Coca-Cola. The brand has recently released a series of videos that provide their take on the future of content marketing and more specifically the importance of storytelling.

Coca-Cola Content Marketing 2020: Part One
Coca-Cola Content Marketing 2020: Part Two

So what separates great content marketing, according to Joe Pulizzi, from the merely good?

  1. Add value: People resent being constantly bombarded with sales material. If you are in a competitive industry (which, let’s face it, most of us are), try to add value and solve their problems. Create content that is not sales-focused but customer-focused.
  2. Avoid jargon: Create content that focuses on what the audience wants to know, in their language. Avoid your jargon and learn theirs.
  3. Think ‘stories’: Motivate your team to look for the elements of great storytelling in everyday organisational life. I regularly go into enterprises and pick up several stories immediately, things that are in front of people each and every day but, because of familiarity, they become invisible.
  4. Team participation: By encouraging participation of your team in content creation, you can accomplish a few things. Looking for content on a regular basis will make them more aware of the elements of your enterprise and provide them with increased exposure online as an advocate for your brand.
  5. Coke content marketing video

    Coke hopes to transform one-way communication into dynamic storytelling to add value and significance to peoples lives

    Brand-less: Joe advocates that “your story travels further the less you mention your brand.” The more you provide quality content that is relevant to your readers, without necessarily referencing your brand, the more likely they are to read and share that information.

  6. Search out influencers: Search engines are still very relevant but there is an increasing trend towards increased referral-based business. If you can influence key influencers and they share your content with their network, that will produce a huge return on your efforts.
  7. Content ratio:The 4-1-1 Content Marketing Ratio — for every six posts shared on Twitter or Facebook, CMI advocates the following formula:
    • 4 shares of other influencers’/company’s content
    • 1 original piece of content
    • 1 sales pitch
  8. Give them the means: Have you ever wanted to share an article and spent more time looking for the social share buttons than you did actually reading the content? Place your social sharing buttons in a very visible area.
  9. Concentrate on quality: If you have to choose between quantity or quality of content, sheer quantity will hurt your brand. Posting great content once a week is far better off than posting mediocre content five times a week.

All businesses are now storytellers


No doubt as an assiduous marketing professional, you are well aware of Seth Godin’s book ‘All Marketers Are Liars’. The book is actually about telling and using authentic marketing narratives but, ironically, Seth got his own storytelling wrong.

Fortunately, his publisher has given him a second chance and the new title now represents the gist of his story much more accurately. Few of us get a such a second chance in a world with instant, 24/7 media.

As a creative content creator, Godin’s new title will become one of those stories that will illuminate my own narratives and illustrate the importance of authenticity and accuracy.

As Godin says, lying doesn’t pay off any more. That’s because when you fabricate a story that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, you get caught. Fast.

So, it’s tempting to be economic with the truth but it doesn’t take long for the reality to catch up with the story. We can spin a tale about a piece of technology or a customer service policy but once it is exposed to social media, we’re lost.

Godin’s book talks about two sides of a universal truth, one that has built every successful brand, organisation and candidate and one that we rarely have the words to describe.

Every day, we see brands fail because they failed to ask and answer these questions. We see worthy candidates fail to demonstrate authenticity in a most public way and flawed ones bite the dust. Ask US Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry.

There are small businesses that are so focused on what they do that they forget to take the time to craft the story of why they do it. And so on and so forth.

If what you’re doing matters, really matters — and it should do to you — then I hope you’ll take the time to tell a story: a story that resonates and a story that is authentic and true.