Rebecca Bridge // Mar 19 2013
Content strategists of the world unite!
Have you heard? Content marketing is the future. I hear you saying to yourself, “But you’re an inbound marketer, Rebecca, isn’t that statement just a tad self-serving?” It’s not just me. Look at the spike in interest over the past two years:
This is a conversation that’s being had over and over again, both in and out of the inbound marketing industry. If we’re right about content as the future of the Internet (hint: we are), then marketers need to make some promises to ourselves and the larger world. And then we need to keep them, so listen up. This is our manifesto.
You know how you’d never, ever go over to your grandmother’s house and put your dirty boots on her coffee table? You know, because you respect her? Well how about we all stop putting our dirty boots all over the internet!
From now on, we promise, collectively, to only produce content that adds to a larger conversation. We understand that people come to the Internet for two reasons: to be entertained and to be informed. We will endeavor to always create content for our clients which achieves those means. We will NOT:
I know, I know, our clients want guest posts, they want link building, they’re not going to let it go easily. There’s not a lot we can do about these requests other than set out to prove that the new strategies are actually more effective in the long-term for our clients.
We know that our clients will come into our engagements with their own strategies. That’s okay. But we will do our best to educate our clients on why the old techniques don’t work anymore while simultaneously arming them with a full understanding of why we are making the choices that we are.
We will look into the future and not dwell on the past.
Look, we’ve come a long way, baby, but in a short amount of time. I mean, remember when this lovely blog post title was indicative of what people expected of inbound marketing?
Let’s promise ourselves that we will not go back there. Yes, keywords are important, but perhaps even more important to the world of inbound marketing is authority. It’s content that is lasting and meaningful that will end up doing the most for our clients in the long run – and will help keep the Internet a place that we all want to hang around in. We will anticipate and be the future of the internet before it happens.
We are not black hat SEOs, after all. We are writers and marketers and designers and creative folks who have more to offer than just a few gimmicks. So, to paraphrase my boss, Ian Lurie, content marketing is NOT a tactic or something that exists at all, really.
What does exist, however, is marketable content. Or at least it could exist if we made it. This is content that allows us to help our clients build a strong and dynamic message, then communicate that message effectively with others in order to grow an audience. Let’s be like Kevin Costner and realize that if we build great content, our audience will come.
You know what would be fun? If every client was a “Red Bull” client who put their content first and their product second. But they’re not. And that’s a good thing. After all, there’d be no balance if all we ever produced were extreme sports videos and viral content. Plus, for most clients, that kind of content would stand in opposition to the needs of their brand. What are the needs of the brand?
We will take the time to find out and then we will build a body of content that enhances their brand. We will find out what types of content could be the equivalent of a viral sports video in their field and we will help them produce it. We will be the doctors of the Internet and we will first do no (brand) harm.
Oftentimes, our clients want to see a return, but they don’t want to take a risk. That’s not okay. Yet, it’s also not okay for us to step all over the brand messages that they’ve spent years developing. Instead, we will develop content that builds on their existing work but that also pushes their brand forward. Here at Portent, we call this the 70-20-10 strategy.
Clients tend to want to stay solely (and safely) within the 70% content. Or they tend to want that infinitely-more-difficult-to-produce 10% content. It is our job to convince them that it is not an either-or and explain to them why balanced content is the best content. Then we’ll act on those strategies and create content that improves our clients’ sites.
It’s simple. We know that we are doing important and valuable work for our clients, yet we’re not always the best at communicating that value. That’s partly because it’s more difficult to assign a specific analytical value to content that’s intended to build authority. Not domain authority, but honest-to-goodness brand authority.
We can look at bounce rates and repeat visitors and such, but the real work that we’re doing isn’t a quick fix, so those results don’t really reflect the long-term aim. It’s not our clients’ faults that they don’t “get” content, it’s ours. So let’s fix it.
So what do we do? We work to find new ways to convey value in content. We do case studies. We learn the metrics that we can use to measure value. We figure out algorithms that go beyond the scope of Google Analytics (but we still learn how to prove value with Google Analytics). We work together as an industry to prove the value of the very difficult work that we do.
In order to do the best work that we can – every day, we must remember this motto and repeat it to ourselves:
If I’m bored while writing the content, then it’s boring content.
If we’re not consistently learning and having fun at our jobs, we will remember that it shows in the caliber of our work. We will remember that this isn’t a job that can be done by rote if we expect to succeed. When we’re on our five hundredth product description, feel as if our eyes are bleeding, and that every adjective we’ve ever known has escaped our brains and floated off into the ether, we will stand up! We will walk away! We will do something else or talk to someone in another department.
We will rotate and balance the work that we do for our clients so that we stay fresh.
Furthermore, we will spend time every day learning, growing, and developing new techniques. We won’t be content to let someone else tell us what works on the Internet; we’ll actively try new things and make these discoveries for ourselves. We will read up on the latest thinking, we will go to conferences and meetups and engage with our peers, and then we will form our own strategies. And we’ll share them.
The nature of inbound marketing demands that we work fast to obtain the best results. While in traditional channels of marketing and advertising decisions are made over many months and by committee, this is not the case with inbound marketing – which has made us all strategists in ways that other types of marketers could only dream of.
We recognize this and we will endeavor to be thought leaders. As inbound marketing’s star rises, we will rise with it. We will recognize that for many years, our field had a bad reputation, yet we knew the work we were doing was important. Now that the value of a solid content strategy is being recognized, we will not rest on our laurels. We can still be the “cool kids” that we’ve always known we were, but we will continue to engage intellectually. We will create content that is the best and that is the smartest.
We will. Or at least we can. Now let’s do it.
Rebecca holds an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop and writes, well, everything. Literally. Fiction, poetry, screenplays, memoir, and essays. She's won a slew of awards and fellowships. Here, she pours that creativity into top-notch content for our clients. She's also the co-author of Clear Out the Static in Your Attic: A Writer's Guide for Turning Artifacts into Art Read More