Brands Can’t Tell Stories If They’ve Lost the Plot

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In 2020, a marketer’s goal should not be to create more content. It shouldn’t even be to create better content. Most brands, after all, are already doing a good job of generating content that provides value, service, comfort, and utility to people’s lives. What’s missing is a fundamental alignment between content and other marketing disciplines. Content, from a metrics standpoint, needs to speak the same language as paid media so that marketers can demonstrate the impact it has to their CMOs.   

According to PQ Media, content marketing was a $313 billion industry in 2019, marking a nearly 30-fold increase over the past decade alone. Where is that massive investment going? You name it: SEO, social, sponsored content, PR, corporate communications. Each of these channels requires the development and distribution of content. These are all content marketing channels. Together, they could represent a comprehensive multi-channel approach, but the fragmentation that currently exists among the channels creates lost opportunities and inefficiency in the content marketing practice — and a significant need for alignment.

To be clear, alignment doesn’t mean a silver bullet metric (wouldn’t that be nice?), but it does mean having consistent definitions for consistent metrics whenever possible. It means speaking a common language across teams. A page view or article completion on a sponsored content article needs to be defined exactly the same way as a page view or article completion on owned and operated properties, even if one is executed through media and the other through SEO. 

It also means understanding correlation and being able to identify the specific, measurable commonalities that your highest-performing and lowest-performing content have, regardless of the channel in which they’re being leveraged. 

Think of your own organization. How closely do your SEO, media, and corporate comms teams work together and collaborate? How are insights surfaced and executed among those groups? In short: Are they aligned?

Here’s the opportunity: Marketers should be able to identify the root cause(s) of a spike in performance on content pushed out on social so they can test similar tactics across sponsored content or SEO. Or, if a company sees that during the holidays there’s an increase in time spent with specific social responsibility content on its corporate comms site, the company could then leverage social and paid media to amplify that content, driving further engagement and maximizing that opportunity.

The one missing piece that can bring down the whole enterprise if not achieved, though, is understanding the impact your content has (again, regardless of the channel in which the content is leveraged) on the customer journey. What high-value actions are people taking in the days, weeks, and months after reading this content? You cannot define, develop, or distribute content that’s going to drive the right business outcomes without first understanding what content is already driving those outcomes. To do that, you need the right language, the right alignment, and the right technology.

We need to start talking about content like we talk about the rest of our media—in terms of purchases, leads and other outcomes. We need to be able to look at our content efforts across all channels and standardize their tracking and measurement. That standardization should enable us to take a holistic view of the marketing funnel, and plot exposure to content along the consumer journey that results in those measurable, high-value actions and conversions.

Ultimately, it’s time for us to balance the art of content marketing with a healthy dose of science, recognizing the inefficiencies in our own organizations that make it impossible to properly operationalize, implement, and execute a holistic, measurable, impactful marketing strategy.

In creating a common language for how we understand the impact of content within the media mix, we’ll not only open up opportunities for marketers to create more resonant content, but we’ll also give CMOs and business leaders what they need to make wiser, richer investments in marketing and communications.

Andrew Rosen is SVP of Enterprise Sales at Nativo, a content technology company.