The CMO’s Guide to Content Marketing

Much like social media before it, for the last couple of years content marketing has been following the trajectory of shiny new marketing object. But, according to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is currently moving through what the Gartner Hype Cycle describes as the “Trough of Disillusionment.”

Following this model, content marketing is expected to climb back up the “Slope of Enlightenment” to the “Plateau of Productivity.” If this actually maps as described, that’s fine for practitioners, but I’m certain that the words “disillusionment” and “trough” are an alert for senior marketing professionals looking for results and who are accountable to the CEO.

So, here’s a quick, plain English guide for the Chief Marketing Officer who is considering using content as part of their marketing strategy with answers to some frequently asked questions:

CMO Question: Is content marketing a discipline or a tactic?

Answer: It’s both. Think of it as the oil that keeps your whole marketing engine running. You need great content in your marketing and communications. Content creates engagement (friction) with the multiple audiences engaging with your omni-channel approach.

CMO Question: Hmm, oil? Is that snake oil – or do I get measurability here?

Answer: You can measure the success of your content marketing through hard and soft ROI. Think of your content needs in two broad types: Brand content and performance content. Brand content lends itself to the softer measures of ROI — such as engagement — and is focused on brand impact and tone of voice. Good content works amazingly well here. Performance content, although still brand aligned, is geared toward more measurable business results — hard ROI. Great performance content delivers enhanced results. Without getting all snake oily on you, please read our ROI of Content Marketing Whitepaper.

CMO Question: How much content do I need?

Answer: As the consummate marketing professional, you’ll ask your team to make sure the agency gives you an assessment of what you already have (that is usable), and what you’ll need going forward based on the brand and business objectives that you will share with them. We label that first part as a content audit and the second as a content strategy. (Sometimes we’ll recommend doing a content audit as an ongoing project rather than at the front end, especially if you have a lot of existing multi-channel content living across your marketing communication ecosystem). The content strategy is the key up-front work that assesses the needs and lays out the proposed programs and deliverables against your objectives.

CMO Question: OK, I’m up and running with a content agency with defined objectives and measures in place. Is that it?

Answer: It can be, but you’ll be missing a trick or two if you leave it there. A content agency can be a great partner in other ways. The right content agency will be creating omni-channel assets for each program or campaign assignment. You should be getting brand-aligned, cost-efficient social posts, long-form content, short-form content, infographics, video and other content types that will have wide application and cross-channel appeal. And because content agencies like ours are staffed with editors and journalists as well as copywriters, designers and filmmakers, the content range and quality enables it play well in all channels — internal as well as external — with little additional cost in repurposing. In fact there is a strong case for the CMO getting with her/his counterpart in Corporate Communications to divvy up some objectives (and budget) when it comes to providing a holistic tone-of-voice, view and approach to an organization’s owned-media channels.

CMO Question: It feels like there could be a case for insourcing, rather than outsourcing our content needs?

Answer: That’s always a choice. If you have control of all your organization’s communication channels, hiring your own team might be an option. You could retain a content agency to handle big projects and assignments, to help with setting up a governance/operational model, or simply to keep your own team fresh and exposed to best practices. You can also look at an embedded model where agency personnel are on-site and part of your day-to-day operations and culture. There are different ways to go and an increasing numbers of options are out there. Assess your content agency the same way as you would any other agency — the work, the experience, the results, the resources and the leadership are always a good start!

Do you have more questions? Reach out to us!

Written by Craig Waller