How I Learned the Hard Way About the Murky Definition of Content Marketing

Note: This post mentions an interaction with a former manager. This is not intended to put anyone in bad light, but even so, all the names in this post are fake so to protect the reputation of any of these people. The lessons I learned from this experience, I think, could be very valuable to anyone who is trying to succeed in content marketing: both in the execution of digital content strategies and in performing their jobs as content marketers, social media marketers, PR pros, directors of communication, or a similar role for an organization.

The words from my new boss stung:

“Nobody else would pay you as much as you’re making now. Even Bob (someone who did a similar job at my boss’ former company) doesn’t make as much as you do here.”

My craft, skill, profession and pride was being challenged. But the message was received. He thought I made too much money for what I did.

An internal debate rolled through my skull, “how much should I talk back here?” My job seemed to hang on brevity.

So, I said, “Well, there is the public relations thing I do that Bob doesn’t do.”

In about a month, we couldn’t overcome our differences and parted ways.

In hindsight, what my boss said was right. And it wasn’t. The reason he felt that way was because of a miscommunication — on both parts. I had failed to communicate my value and to educate my boss on what content marketing really is. He had failed to really understand what I was doing.

He didn’t see me as a content “marketer.” He saw me as just a content “creator,” because that was his whole experience working with someone similar at his old company.

The Murky Definition of Content Marketing

The miscommunication and conflict we had was centered on the definition of content marketing. My old boss was used to Bob, a blogger at his previous company. Bob was primarily a writer, a creator of content. His job didn’t involve:

  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Public relations
  • conversion optimization or
  • Lead generation

But he had the title of “Director of Content Marketing.”

So, it was evident that my boss thought “Director of Content Marketing” meant, Blogger/Writer, that’s it. And he placed me in Bob’s same category — even though my work touched on every one of those points above.

The Huge Mistake in Defining Content Marketing

If you don’t educate executives and managers on what content marketing is, and how it is providing value, you might be replaced by these guys.

The thinking that content marketing is only creation of content, which I’m sure is shared by many others, is a huge mistake. It can make or break a digital marketing strategy, and can get content marketers fired. And if you’re doing content marketing or social media for a corporation, be sure to communicate that distinction to management. Tell them what metrics you should be tracking and how those metrics grow the business.

Most people don’t understand what social media and content KPIs to track, and they for sure don’t know what those numbers mean. And you can forget about them having any idea on how those stats will relate to their company.

For many executives and managers, if they don’t see a direct ROI, they don’t want to do it. They can get that from PPC, but a social or content ROI is something much different. So if you don’t teach them and show them the value of a visitor to your site, a sign up for a newsletter, a Facebook like, a ReTweet, etc., you might be replaced by an outsourced telemarketing service (yes, I’ve seen that exact scenario).

In my experience, especially for traditional marketers, it still takes a lot of education and persuasion to help them understand that the “Marketing” part of Content Marketing is there for a reason.

Blogging is NOT Content Marketing

Saying Blogging is Content Marketing is Like Saying a Hammer is Carpentry

Blogging and writing is a big part of a digital strategy, but it’s really only one piece of the content marketing puzzle. By itself, there is no marketing being done. By itself, a blogger might write well or interesting, but it won’t grow a business.

My new boss didn’t want to spend money on tools, services or focus efforts on promoting content — because he had never done that before.

He just wanted me to create content and depend on organic traction. And I failed to convince him of the importance of the marketing part — the how’s, why’s and the value of the potential results. He was convinced content marketing was only blogging.

Saying blogging is content marketing is like saying a hammer is carpentry. Blogging is a tool to be used for content marketing. Probably the main tool, in my opinion, but a tool. If it’s not used right, it’s worthless. It won’t produce relevant content that builds a business.

A content marketer should understand the audience and what moves different personas down a path to becoming customers. Blogging and Social Media in business should help reach that goal. A blogger without the marketing part is lost to write whatever thought comes to mind.

That type of blogger may as well write about brushing their teeth after eating a breakfast of eggs over easy.

It’s fine for a personal blog, or one like ContentHook where we’re really not intending to capture customers. But not for a corporate content strategy, unless your company is Oral-B.

5 Ways to Turn Content into Content Marketing

My manager didn’t understand that it’s much more than just good writing and compelling videos and images. Depending solely on that to drive organic growth is a failure in the making. Content Marketing is content that’s:

  • Shareable on social media sites
  • Optimized for search engines
  • Encourages purchase intent
  • Nurtures current/potential customers and
  • Moves people down a path to become leads.

These fall under 5 points: content creation, content promotion, SEO content, purchase intent, and content conversion (which will soon be its own post). This is what will make a content marketing strategy work.

Everything else is just fumbling around.

But What Do You Think?

How do you define content marketing? And, better yet, how can you communication the value of content marketing to your executive or management team?

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