For over a decade now, I’ve had a Google News alert for the term “content marketing.” I set it up around the time I delivered my first keynote on the topic and started to write my first book on the subject.
For years, it was a lonely little feed, updated mostly when a small handful of early content marketing-obsessed colleagues (Ann Handley, Lee Odden, Ardath Albee, Kristina Halvorson, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose come to mind) blogged or posted on the topic. The feed was informative, illuminating, thought-provoking and just downright useful for my research and advisory work on the topic.
Now I’m seriously considering deleting the feed, which has become a sterling example of spoiling-the-commons junk advice on content marketing from self-anointed experts, gurus, divas, mavens, swamis and supreme potentates.
My feed is now filled with link-bait. Nearly every headline contains a number or promises a list, because common wisdom dictates that particular tactic encourages click-through (4 Reasons Why; 6 Reasons Why; 5 Ways to Make; 10 Make-or-Break Skills; and 7 Questions to Ask are all headlines on page one of this morning’s feed).
The writing is often appalling, editing and proofreading non-existent.
Ignoring the ‘why’ of content
But writing and click-bait aside, there’s a commonality in the bottomless pit of content marketing advice and “thought leadership” my feed has become. These articles, columns and blog posts are overwhelmingly prescriptive and highly tactical. They almost without exception start with “content marketing” and disregard the much more fundamental question of content strategy.
Their point of departure is often about how to reach a specific audience, or how to create content for a specific channel. What they almost universally disregard is the “why” of content: actual business goals.
One recent article I randomly clicked on assured readers that the first and foremost audience to target with content is to “existing customers.” That’s certainly a valid audience for many businesses, but it most definitely isn’t a recommendation that’s universally valid.
What if the company’s priority is attracting new clients or customers? More qualified leads? Shortening the time that those leads take to convert? Creating content for different stages in the customer journey?
What if goals aren’t…