The Digital Marketing Stack: Content

Ian Lurie

In part 3, I talked about Analytics. In this post, I’ll rant, rave and finally talk about content. This is content, by the way.

Part 1: The digital marketing stack
Part 2: Infrastructure
Part 3: Analytics
Part 4: Content ← You are here
Part 5: The channels – paid, earned and owned

Content. It's kind of important.

Content. It's kind of important.

First, a rant:

All content is not blog posts. Blog posts are a kind of content. If your content marketing strategy is to write blog posts, though, you are utterly, completely screwed.

Communications is the transmission of content. Marketing is a kind of communications. No content, no marketing. Infrastructure delivers it, analytics tells you what to say, and the channels are where you put it.

That puts content squarely in the middle of the stack.

What content is

See my rant above. Content includes any information consumed by your audience:

  • Product descriptions
  • Images
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Blog posts (yes, those too)
  • Customer support responses

And anything else you can dream up.

Where content lives

Here’s a hint: Everywhere. That post you just did on Twitter? That’s content. The e-mail you sent a customer? Content (that might end up posted somewhere for the entire world to see, so be careful). That blog post you wrote and published on Medium? Content.

You may deliberately publish it here and there. Or your audience may transmit and share it for you. When thinking about content, planning a strategy or running a campaign, think about every venue. Not just your site.

What content’s about

Not just you. Know what your audience likes. Talk about it.

Portent sells internet marketing services. Portent is in Seattle. The Polar Pioneer floated into Seattle. It’s an oil drilling platform that has exactly nothing to do with Portent’s work. But it was important news, we had an amazing view as the tugs pulled it across the bay and it was fun to shoot the photos. We posted those images to Twitter and Instagram. Not a single mention of our services.

We gained followers. Many of them stuck around because they’re interested in marketing, just like us, and the Polar Pioneer caught their attention.

Some will probably read this article.

Content can and should be about anything that interests you and your audience. If all you do is shriek BUY BUY BUY at your audience, they’ll go through three phases:

  1. Buying stuff
  2. Annoyance
  3. Buying stuff from someone else

Maybe they’re still responding to your 100% sales-focused campaigns, but they don’t want to. If they get an alternative, they’ll take it.

Planning a corporate editorial calendar

Don’t plan an overall corporate calendar.

That’ll get me in trouble with my own team, not to mention my clients, but there you have it.

A corporate editorial calendar becomes a straitjacket and a crutch. How the hell can you really know what your audience will want to see six months from now?! A month from now?! A week from now?!

You can’t.

The corporate editorial calendar gives you permission to stop observing and mechanically produce, cranking out the next list, post or tweet.

Instead, create a swipe list: A collection of ideas you can use, anytime. They can be tweets, posts, product copy, possible Instagram images or anything else.

Use editorial calendars to plan out individual campaigns: The list of tweets, Facebook posts, articles and home page updates you’ll be publishing for the big product launch, for example.

About strategy

Content strategy is critical. But it’s not a calendar. It’s a long-term guide to creation and production. It sets up what Misty Weaver likes to call a content engine.

In marketing, content only matters if it helps

Marketing is not a novel. The content you produce has to help the business by growing audience, selling stuff or otherwise accelerating the organization towards its goals.

That means:

  • You have to publish it
  • It has to have a reason for existence
  • It has to be good
  • You can’t just pound your audience with stupid sales pitches

Go forth. Create content. Make sure it doesn’t suck.

Note: Read a bit more about analytics and compare it to other parts of the stack in our Marketing Stack Explainer.

Part 1: The marketing stack
Part 2: Infrastructure
Part 3: Analytics
Part 4: Content ← You are here
Part 5: The channels – paid, earned and owned

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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