Content marketing as part of Digital PR has been the buzz phrase of choice for the past couple of years. Almost every company, BtoC and BtoB, has jumped on the content bandwagon. However, only 37% of BtoB firms regard their content strategy as effective. Gartner’s recent research that shows how marketing practices evolve, puts content marketing in what they call the Trough of Disappointment.What does this mean? Is the Content Marketing honeymoon over? Not at all. Gartner’s report predicts that content marketing will reach the Plateau of Productivity in 2 – 5 years, but it will first have to go through the Slope of Enlightenment. We need to learn how to make content that is effective and reaches the right audience with the right message and elicits a response. We need to increase the effectiveness and quality of the content, instead of randomly “throwing spaghetti against the wall.” Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says we’re starting to see more failures than successes and gives these reasons:
- They focus on campaigns, not conversations—where content marketing is executed with a beginning and an end explicitly to drive short-term results for the business.
- They’re more about the brand than the audience—where marketers focus on their value proposition more than their values; where the brand—not the audience—is the hero in the story.
- They’re impatient for impact—where executives expect content marketing efforts to ring the cash register on a short horizon—and, when it doesn’t, they deem it a failure.
- They tell undifferentiated stories—where your content is lost in a cacophony of competing content—or, worse, when a brand’s content sounds exactly like its competitors.
- They target too many audiences—where brands fail to focus on a niche, instead casting a wide net with content that’s one size fits all—but, more likely, all sizes fit none.
Digital PR practitioners are by trade storytellers and we have the best chance of making content work. However, in the rush to be a part of this new content marketing boom, it would be wise to take a step back and see how these points can help our efforts. Look at brands that get it right – Red Bull, Marriott and Lego. Marks and Spencer in the UK. Dell a superb job a few years ago with the Take Your Own Path series. We know how to craft stories. If we apply ourselves, perhaps we can reach that Plateau of Productivity for our clients and brands sooner.