Why your next marketing hire could be a journalist…

Originally written for Marketing Magazine

Hands up if you’ve incessantly heard the phrase ‘big data’ in the past year and not remotely understood what it means for your business? It almost certainly has relevance, but generally, nobody in the room can fully comprehend why. How about the current term du jour ‘real time marketing’? Oreo and that Super Bowl tweet have a lot to answer for.

We’re living in the age of marketing buzzword bingo. See also: ‘disruption’, ‘native advertising’, ‘growth hacker’ and the fabled ‘cloud’. I’ve been guilty of some of those myself.

I’d also wager that many of you have witnessed a presentation in the past year with some variation of the phrase ‘content is king’. It’s another relevant theme that’s seemingly lost all meaning because of overuse.

And yet, despite the watering down of its meaning in the minds of marketers, ‘content marketing’ isn’t just a buzz term or the next big trend. It’s a necessary shift in the way we think about advertising, particular digital.

Let’s face it, on digital channels the method of constantly pushing irrelevant, interruptive or boring messages to consumers doesn’t work. For most businesses, the vast majority of your customers and prospects don’t care about you, or worse, don’t even know you exist.

Cynicism is rising within most target markets, focus is fragmented across a variety of devices and an ever increasing amount of digitally savvy brands are competing with you for a window of attention span.

Often, the only means by which you can earn consideration from your consumers is to provide them with something of value.

While traditional ads rely on good placement and creativity to capture customers attention for a brief period of time, content marketing, at its broadest sense, revolves around creating something that consumers will actually seek out. It asks how can we create utility, an entertainment factor or increased resonance through blogs, video, podcasts, industry reports, digital magazines etc. 

Of course, creating great content doesn’t come cheap. Writing for the web isn’t a skill that everyone possesses. The necessity for supporting content with targeted paid media support is only increasing too. Similar to social, while it’s cheaper and more targeted, it’s not free and easy. Nor is it immediate.

But it’s effective. Stats proving the importance of content that engages and holds the attention are plentiful. Companies that blog 15+ times per month get 5x more traffic than companies that don’t blog. Content creation is ranked as by far the most effective SEO tactic and is said to cost less than traditional advertising while generating more relevant leads. Still thinking ‘buzzword’?

Of course, as with most trends, we’re slight laggards in Ireland. But that’s not always a bad thing. It provides an opportunity for early adopter brands to gain an advantage, while worldwide examples of ‘publisher’ brands like Red Bull, Coca Cola, Sephora and others make excellent case studies for selling in the content concept.

It’s not all about ‘passion point’ companies either, though they will find it easier. B2B brands like AmEx, Marketo and Dell have embraced this new normal and reaped the benefits.

Already in Ireland, smart companies like Sage, Wolfgang Digital and in particular Paddy Power are making hay before the rest of adland is even aware of the concept. Expect the make-up of marketing departments and agency recruitment needs to change in the next 12 months. Let’s just say that if I were a skilled journalist currently worried about my job in traditional media, I’d be adding ’content specialist’ to my Linkedin title.

Most interestingly, a recent study of the Irish marketing community found that a third sees content marketing as the key growth area for the next 5 years.

Like the buzzwords I mentioned at the top of this piece, most of us obviously realise the opportunity, now it’s time to become agile, to learn and ultimately to evolve the way we advertise. Is your brand set up to take advantage of the content revolution?