I was recently on a panel entitled “It’s 12 o’clock. Do you know where your buyers are?”at the In2 Summit and the question of the panel immediately struck me as already answered long ago. The topic: does content marketing work and can you reach the right people? One of my fellow panelists, Mark Stouse, VP of global communications and customer connect at BMC Software said something that really hit home. According to him one of our biggest issues as communicators right now is trust. At first I didn’t understand what he meant but then realized he is absolutely right. With social media there is a lot of noise, so our goal is to stand out and gain our audience trust. We can do this with the content we create and by engaging with them on the social channels they are on.
The reason I feel the answer to the panel’s question has been answered long ago is as clear as “Days of Our Lives” or “General Hospital” or, even, “American Idol.” The content created in the so-called soap operas are “stories” about fictitious towns (or hospitals) and the inter-workings of the people and their relationships. They are called soap operas because the initial advertisers (sellers of soap powder) needed a way to directly reach their audience of women. The solution: content targeted at the stay-at-home homemaker in the form of stories. American Idol creates intrigue by telling stories about unknown artists trying to make it and “Coke” and/or “Ford Motor Company” have decided this is the audience they are trying to reach so they support the show to reach that audience. Content marketing from companies is no different… it is just micro-targeted to audiences the company’s like Cisco or Intel cares about, which are decidedly a bit different than Tide, Coke or Ford.
So how do we get these targeted audiences to pay attention to us? Bill Calder, Corporate PR and Editor of Intel Free Press, brought up the fact that there was a time when Intel wasn’t seeing the right stories about their company in the news so they switched gears and started producing the content themselves. Soon after certain media outlets starting reaching out to Free Press and asking if they could take the story and produce it themselves. Mission accomplished.
Our team on The Network operates a lot like the Intel Free Press room. We produce some content about Cisco innovation and executive leadership, but we also have a brand journalism model where stories are produced from journalists but never mention Cisco at all. Why you ask? This brings me back to the beginning. When you focus on your audience and engage with them you start to earn their trust, they start to appreciate your creative strategy and great storytelling and, hopefully, find value in the content that you are producing. In the end everyone loves a good story they can connect with and will most likely share with their own contacts. We want the validation of someone sharing our content with his or her own social footprint as there is no higher form of praise than someone else saying, “This is good.”
The Five Take-Aways of Content Marketing:
- Focus on your audience
- Engage with your audience
- Gain trust
- Creative sharing
- Great storytelling (or other form of “value”)