Maybe Content Marketing Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

By Gary Johnson  |  December 15, 2014

Cracked Egg

Recent studies from the Content Marketing Institute and Contently give us some insight into whether content marketing is an effective tool for engaging with consumers.

If you, like me, are a content marketer, at first glance, you’d read the stats and weep. The survey responses are downright depressing—eye-opening, eyebrow-raising, forehead scrunchers. And more importantly, they indicate that many companies out there are doing it wrong.

The survey was intended to compare B2C and B2B companies to see if a dramatic difference exists between the two in terms of content marketing practices. Just to get that issue out of the way, the differences are inconsequential. What was stunning was the number of companies who couldn’t seem to find a way to see any measurable results from their efforts. Let’s examine the stats.

As a benchmark, a surprising eight in 10 companies are using content marketing to reach and engage with customers. Impressive. Seven in 10 are doing more content marketing this year than last. Encouraging. Six in 10 plan on increasing their content marketing budgets next year. Hopeful.

But from there, everything seems to fall off a cliff. For example, a pitiful 23 percent are having any success tracking ROI, and only a third believe they are effective at content marketing. And, only three in 10 have a documented content strategy. Therein lies the rub. Although they didn’t measure it, my guess is that the companies that have a documented strategy are likely the group best able to measure success. 

For those companies without a documented strategy, it’s hard to imagine they have an experienced, journalism-based content marketer doing their work. It’s more likely that these companies are doing the work in-house or with the help of an ad agency, PR firm or freelancers.

Let’s give these companies credit for believing that they can engage and retain customers and increase brand awareness with effective content marketing—because if they do it correctly, they can.

It’s important to remember that content can be the shortest distance between two points, in this case a brand and its customers. Nothing engages better with customers nor sustains lasting relationships with them than effective content marketing. Content is a powerful tool, but it needs to be executed and managed by people who know what they’re doing.

Experts insist that the best people to hire for branded content creation are journalists, particularly magazine journalists working for a content marketing company.

Larry Light, former advertising Hall of Famer and CEO of McDonalds, described his approach to branded content over a decade ago: “McDonalds approached communications the same way an editor approaches the creation of a magazine, with its array of different content aimed at a variety of interests, but with a coherent editorial framework.”

More recently, Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media/Consumer engagement at Mondelēz International, got to the heart of why magazine people did it better: “[Magazine publishers have] taken the best content creatives in the world and they’re rethinking the whole process. Whether it’s social, mobile or print channels, they’re able to tell a seamless story … the Holy Grail brand marketers are looking for.”

If like 75 percent of the companies surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute, you’re having trouble tracking ROI, then you may want to consider finding an experienced content creation company whose legacy is centered in creating strategies, driving editorial frameworks and creating engaging, attention-getting content across all channels and platforms.

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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