Is Corporate America finally ready for content marketing?
When I interviewed for my first job, I had this line I always used when I really wanted to leave a lasting impression. Probably sounded way better to me than anyone else, but here it goes:
It used to be that communicators just had to know how to write. Now we have to be storytellers. The industry is changing and the ones who survive will be able to adapt and tell their stories through a variety of mediums — photo, video, whatever’s next.
Pretty good, huh? I can see you’re impressed. Despite the Doritos nacho cheesiness inherent in that statement, there was also some truth. Camera phones and Flip cams were just starting to become big. And people were talking about creating viral videos. You know how it goes.
The bigger headline was that corporate America was starting to respect and embrace new ways to tell a brand’s story. Creating content with more than the written word wasn’t new to anyone with an Internet connection. But it was a newly adopted concept at many companies. Remember, corporate America is always 3-5 years behind. And sometimes more.
Fast forward to last Friday at the Kansas City IABC Business Communicator’s Summit. Brent Gleeson, former Navy Seal and CEO of Internet Marketing Inc., led off the conference with a keynote on content marketing. And around the room, a lot of heads were nodding.
Now, content marketing is not a new concept. Thought leaders in our industry have been talking about it for years — also known as inbound marketing. But the corporate adoption lag seems to be over. Nothing new right…we’ve seen it before. But what was new and what could change how we counsel clients and build our teams moving forward was Gleeson’s answer to one question:
When it comes to content marketing, how important is the production value of the content?
My question. And I got the answer I was expecting. Very. Very important. Content marketing is not creating an ad. It’s creating content that doesn’t sell overtly, but does provide relevant information to consumers. And according to Brent, that content takes time to concept and produce effectively. He told a story of a Pinterest infographic his agency created and shared online that led to speaking engagements and a new business opportunity. An infographic his team spent several hours of several days building.
ALERT: This is where PR and marketing departments should take note.
1. Most of our teams aren’t staffed to produce the type of content about which Brent was talking. I know very few communicators who would attempt to produce a video or design a professional-looking infographic.
2. Where we do have creative departments and teammates in place, this isn’t the way we have been utilizing them for the most part up until now and being nimble, flexible and competitive from a cost perspective is key.
Our clients’ expectations are about to start changing…and we need to facilitate that change. The client that wanted creative concepts for a six- or seven-figure brand initiative or an ad campaign is now also going to want a couple of infographics and a video each month. At least. And a lot of corporate communications and marketing teams as well as their partner agencies are not ready to manage that shift.
There are resources that can help. Freshwire content is one. And companies shifting the skill set they look for in new staff will help as well. But I feel like many brands are going to be in the same place as a respected former colleague I spoke to recently.
This person is looking to hire a video specialist for their team. Because a lot of the content they create is video. So, step in the right direction. However, this former colleague is also hoping the person they hire for video can do photography as well. That’s the Flip cam, camera phone mentality I spoke of at the start. A jack of all trades who can pick up content creation. A few of those people do exist. A very few.
So what does this mean for the majority of companies and agencies? Well, it means the shift from understanding to adoption of content marketing is likely to take longer than it should or than we’d like while organizations find a way to make the content marketing square peg fit in the round hole that is their business models.
But what’s that they say? Recognizing the issue is the first step?