The Key (and Sometimes Forgotten) Principles of Content Marketing
There are plenty of articles outlining and explaining the mechanics, tactics and strategies of content marketing, it’s also important to focus on the more abstract aspects of content marketing as well. It’s 2017 and most companies know what a blog post is and how to create one with general ease. They may not do it perfectly, but they know how to do it.
Except that’s not all there is to content marketing. Successful content marketing rises above the creation and distribution of content. It is built on core principles, and hopefully, principles that align with the core values of the brand by which it was created. The best content marketing programs I’ve had the honor of leading and executing adhere to these core principles, and it showed. It showed in the final products and it showed in the response aroused in the consumer.
I keep these principles in the forefront of my mind when creating strategic content marketing campaigns and programs, and I think they’re applicable in other ways, too.
Forbes recently wrote an article about the use of empathy in effective content marketing. As the article pointed out, empathy is the ability to feel in the same way others feel, to put yourself in their shoes. It’s selflessness bred with compassion and it sows the seed from which great relationships bloom and grow.
Why it works
Your target audience generally has a problem or need. They are your target audience because you believe you can solve that problem or fulfill that need. No one relates to someone or something that is perceived as self-serving. It’s a turnoff in professional relationships and it’s a turnoff in marketing.
Honesty and transparency to hand-in-hand. Honesty is openness, straightforward communication and accountability. Honesty humanizes your brand. Honesty goes beyond admitting when your company was in the wrong or coming clean about an instance of dishonesty. Honesty is tightly coupled with the ideas of honor, morality and ethics….things marketing – and the world – could use a little more of.
Why it works
My guess is that your product, service or brand is imperfect in one or many ways. Great. You’re just like everybody else. Honesty about your product or brand’s shortcomings make you appear relatable and trustworthy. The bottom line is that people know you aren’t perfect, so why try to hide it? Perhaps your service is lacking in one aspect but excels in others. It’s OK to talk about that without reservation. Be upfront about what people can expect, and they’ll view you as a trusted partner.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines commitment as “a promise to do or give something.” This is the crux of content marketing. Effective content marketing doesn’t state the promise, it just executes on it. It provides valuable information and education at no cost or trouble to the consumer.
Why it works
Demonstrating commitment – not just stating that you’ve made a commitment – goes a long way in the consumer’s mind. When a brand offers something for free or shares a beautiful story or eloquently pens a helpful guide, people pay attention. This open sharing – whether of information or personal stories or important data – draws people in and piques their attention. Not only is it a way to give, it typically elicits a response from the recipient.
This one is tightly coupled with honesty. The best way I’ve ever heard this concept explained is this: “A humble man can never be humiliated.” In other words, don’t overstate your abilities and you won’t end up embarrassed about it when the truth surfaces. Rightsize your product, service or brand and don’t tell tales out of school about your competitors. That doesn’t mean you can’t promote the great features or benefits you offer. Just don’t be a self-serving jerk about it.
Why it works
These days, tooting your own horn is generally ineffective at impressing people. Consumer preferences have caused a shift in marketing from an era of self-promotion to one of cause- and mission-promotion. Millennials especially have voiced that they’re more interested in a business’ core values than purely aesthetic features. Consumers increasingly desire to interact with and purchase from brands that are genuine and authentic rather than aggressive and grandiose. They don’t brag. They don’t aggressively pander to people’s baser instincts. They are simple, thoughtful, honest and genuine. Your brand and your content should strive to be all of those things.
Keep it simple. You know your brand, products and services better than anyone. If you aim for accuracy, authenticity and clear communication, chances are the items above will fall into place. Where many companies get into hot water is when they focus too aggressively on sounding “interesting” or “exciting” and end up stretching beyond their means into claims they simply cannot back up. They key is to actually be interesting and exciting and to communicate that in a humanized way that is relatable to your target audience.