Six realistic ways to beef up your content marketing

A former journalist and marketer, she had some interesting views around how to make your content marketing work for you - and in her unique talk How to ruin content marketing in six easy steps, highlighted some ways not to work. Grammar, spelling and fact checking should be elements of your content marketing you are hot on if you want to make a good impression with your target audience, she argued. “Fact checking is sometimes overlooked in a brand when you have smaller budget. In addition, you should personalise customers experiences whenever and wherever you can. Of course you need a content and social plan but do question it if you ever feel under pressure about getting a blog out there. It’s also a good idea to write a content brief before you start on a piece, and work out where in the funnel you want to reach your audience. Apply a brand newsroom model This is an interesting concept suggested by Flaherty that works very well within publishing companies and some PR agencies. Flaherty suggests marketers should consider their audience’s online usage preferences, their age and gender as well as whether your content is authentic enough and serves an interesting purpose. But as Flaherty reminded the audience, content marketing is a “massive commitment that needs long-term stakeholder buy-in”, so don’t give up too soon - stick with it, experiment, and get it right. So keep an eye on the basics, develop a ‘newsroom’, know your audience inside out, don’t just hit spots on the calendar experiment and keep trying - your content marketing will certainly thank you in the end.

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Love it, hate it or loathe it, content marketing is pretty essential these days, especially when it comes to differentiating yourself from the herd.

Of course, you could push your budget at advertising, hold events and buy shinier product packaging; but if your words and messaging aren’t right and connect with your customers, then what is it worth?

Sharon Flaherty, founder of agency Brand Content, spoke at the Online Influence conference in Bristol last week. A former journalist and marketer, she had some interesting views around how to make your content marketing work for you – and in her unique talk How to ruin content marketing in six easy steps, highlighted some ways not to work.

1. Don’t ignore the essentials

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good impression – and with the fickleness of customers today, that’s as true as ever.

59% of people say they wouldn’t use a business that has obvious spelling or grammar mistakes in its content, and 74% notice the company’s quality of writing, according to research quoted by Flaherty.

The basics are indeed basic, but very important nonetheless. Grammar, spelling and fact checking should be elements of your content marketing you are hot on if you want to make a good impression with your target audience, she argued.

“Fact checking is sometimes overlooked in a brand when you have smaller budget. It’s not always the case that people have their facts checked when they have written content, though. If someone reads something on your site that isn’t true you could lose credibility.”

In addition, you should put content through three pairs of eyes, at least, and even consider employing or outsourcing work to a subeditor or fact-checker, if necessary.

2. Experiment with your content

Here, Flaherty quoted the example of New York Times and its recently created virtual reality department. The traditional print publisher is certainly being creative and experimental with its content, and while smaller businesses may not have the budget that the NYT does, there are certainly still ways of getting into the spirit of it.

As Flaherty explained, even if 10% of your budget set on experimenting, you can’t fail.

“If you don’t test you’re not going to progress. You can create something unique, even putting a new spin on something old,” she said.

In addition, you should personalise customers experiences whenever and wherever you can. Adapt your content to new and different platforms, as well as continually searching for ways to reach different audiences, Flaherty added.

3. Don’t overdo it

Ah, the old content calendar. A tick in the box exercise; get that blog post up and out to fulfill the quota – right? Wrong, according to Flaherty.

“One thing I feel strongly about is doing too much content marketing is a sure way to ruin it. Of course you need a content and social plan but do question it if you ever feel under pressure about getting a blog out there. Question why something is a good piece of content rather than having a stakeholder telling you you have to do it,” she said.

And if you need to push back, calculate how long it takes to write a blog post, versus how many views it is expected to receive and show your workings to whoever is arguing with you.

It’s also a good idea to write a content brief before you start on a piece, and work out where in the funnel you want to reach your audience. Make sure your content also hits on one of the elements most likely to get it read and shared too: that it’s funny, sparks discussion, is interesting or touches on someone’s emotion.

4. Apply a brand newsroom model

This is an interesting concept suggested by Flaherty that works very well within publishing companies and some PR agencies.

Content stakeholders (editors, product managers, marketers, SEO team, etc) should get together at least once a fortnight or monthly to have a ‘news meeting’ and discuss current and upcoming stories.

This is something that always works, according to Flaherty, as does having a journalist on the team – so if the budget is there to hire one, then do.

“Journalists publish fast, have a high metabolism for content and there’s something to be said for having them in house. They can bring something to that newsroom approach that may not be natural to some of the marketers in the organisation,” she suggested.

5. Research your target audience

To paraphrase one of the day’s other speakers, Social Chain’s Steven Bartlett, most people don’t know you exist or care about your messaging. Your job is to convince them otherwise, in sea of brands who are trying to do the same.

Flaherty uses the example of the centennial generation, the newest one to enter the workforce. The way they read and consume content is vastly different, with an eight-second attention span and apparently research-driven way of shopping, bolstered by frugality they have picked up by growing up in the recession.

Flaherty suggests marketers should consider their audience’s online usage preferences, their age and gender as well as whether your content is authentic enough and serves an interesting purpose.

6. Don’t give up

It can be so easy to push some content out there and after a few weeks become disheartened as it doesn’t automatically push your traffic and engagement numbers through the roof.

But as Flaherty reminded the audience, content marketing is a “massive commitment that needs long-term stakeholder buy-in”, so don’t give up too soon – stick with it, experiment, and get it right.

So keep an eye on the basics, develop a ‘newsroom’, know your audience inside out, don’t just hit spots on the calendar experiment and keep trying – your content marketing will certainly thank you in the end.

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