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Hiring a journalist does not constitute content marketing

CONTENT MARKETING, Auckland, New Zealand – January 2016: The philosophies and objectives of advertising are not redundant or dead or declining, but our silo approach to the way we think, package and deliver marketing messages certainly is.

Trying to force advertising on consumers — particularly on those who have no interest in the product or service – has to change. But that doesn’t mean we have to swing the other way to a pure editorial approach either.

At the moment the message is mostly one sided. This is changing with remarketing and programmatic, but even then the ‘irritation factor’ and dis-engagement risks are high. The problem is not that companies don’t know things have changed, it just seems they can’t get out of the old mindsets.

That's because we live and think in silos. This is “advertising, and that’s editorial and here’s entertainment, and they are all separate and should be clearly distinguishable because it's in the public interest".

I beg to differ. 

A recent study commissioned by Skyword bears this out. Conducted by Researchscape, the survey covered 190 U.S. marketers at large enterprises (500+ employees), excluding advertising agencies. The online survey was fielded from May 19 to July 23, 2015.

This is what they said: “Adapting to this change dictates a shift in mindset from pure product marketing and interrupt advertising to an editorial focus on building audience.

“This shift requires new organisational structures for marketing teams. They need to gain greater insight into what motivates their audience members, adopt technology and processes to support scalable publishing and distribution models, and recruit talent more aligned to publishing than traditional marketing roles.”

However, companies are struggling to make the shift. The survey found that 62% of the companies surveyed had not reorganised their marketing teams. The most common roles remained advertising manager (59%) and brand manager (58%) and only 23% of teams are creating content in five or more languages.

Why are companies struggling? Because editorial alone will not deliver on their commercial imperatives. We need to generate commercial returns too. Advertising does that, albeit with diminishing effectiveness, but pure editorial or entertainment on their own don't, not really. 

The survey (which is valuable and insightful) said that a shift in mindset from pure product marketing and interrupt advertising to an editorial focus is important, but I’m going to suggest that we need to break down the silos between advertising (commercial imperatives) and editorial (even entertainment).

Hiring a journalist to churn out editorial does not constitute content marketing. There needs to be an intersect between the philosophies and objectives of marketing and advertising, and the editorial principles of journalism.

A journalist, for example, does not understand consumer behaviour or the steps in decision making process – or how to position a call to action. Yet, these disciplines are critical to any good content marketing message and strategy. The writer needs to understand this with the instinctive grasp of a marketer.

Someplace, in the middle somewhere, there is a place where the important commercial imperatives of an organisation and the needs and interests of the audience intersect – that’s content marketing.

For example, a lot of social media has entertainment value. Yes, we can deliver editorial using social media channels, but it’s the entertaining stuff that gets the eyeballs (particularly user generated, spontaneous content), except thos eyeballs have no value in terms of commercial outcomes.

Again, it comes down to figuring out the happy intersect between commercial objectives and entertaining content – and the answer is not intrusive, noisy Ads or boxes that pop up and hover over the content I’m trying to view.

The answer is very personal to your brand or company. It is about understanding your customers and acting in their interests, but just as important it is about understanding your relevance and what your story is – your positioning, your uniqueness – way beyond what makes you different from your competitors.

Again the answer is unique and personal to you. It requires that you deliberately engage your thinking. Throw out old mindsets and explore ways to find that happy confluence between commercial imperatives, editorial principles and even entertainment.

Ads can be entertaining but they lack editorial value. Bring the three together and you're making progress. Some tools that might help you come up with answers include include ‘The Golden Circle’, the Customer Value Canvas and empathy maps.