Content Is King…?

I read with interest Mark Ritson’s comment (Marketing Week 11th October), on the validity of content marketing as a separate discipline; as his questioning of whether “there is (any) evidence that proves content marketing’s effectiveness” very much resonates with me.

In our B2B world, I can’t help but worry that we’ve started to tie ourselves up in knots, as we try to shoehorn content marketing and marketing automation into our industry model. Very much like Ritson, I believe that they can form part of a brand’s marketing mix – but shouldn’t replace it. Indeed, percentage wise, I think it should still consume a relatively small part of any marketing budget.

Self-publishing has its place and of course, is a valuable contributor to SEO, yet in an increasingly cluttered world of content, I feel strongly that advertising and public relations, in particular, still very much hold their own.

‘Brand’ is still crucial. Yet a report from the IPA has concluded that too many brands are now taking a short-term view, with a focus on short-term sales activation, rather than long-term brand building. Interestingly, the report finds that although return on marketing investment (ROMI) is the second most used measure of success, it is a poor indicator of long-term brand building – and this has certainly been an area of concern for me, for some time.

My particular bugbear is companies switching their marketing spend to digital because it is ‘easier to measure’ an ROI. Just because something is easy to measure, it doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. All marcomms can be measured. It’s just as an industry we’ve never really had to budget to do so.

I would argue that coverage in a proven trade publication or website is still the most credible piece of exposure a company can achieve. And for those wishing to create brand presence – I am a steadfast believer in impactful advertising campaigns. Thankfully our clients seem to agree. We’ve seen an interesting return to traditional print-based advertising campaigns over recent months and the trend is continuing. Whilst media relations still remains the mainstay of our business.

So, how can you achieve the best mix? Utilising a separate content marketing (or indeed social media?) agency seems inefficient to me. Whilst we are still trying to prove a significant ROI on either, it makes sense to look towards economies of scale. Full-service agencies such as ourselves can offer just that, together with a long established understanding of the market itself, which many new social media or content agencies just can’t.

Generating “rich content” in the form of a commissioned feature, which can be easily re-purposed as a blog post or technical e-bulletin makes financial sense to me. An agency focused solely on self-publishing, does not. And an agency that recognises social media’s role as an advertising channel – and devises a campaign that works across multiple platforms, will again ensure a client gets the most ‘bang for their buck’.

Whereas the IPA report does not say that all short-term brand building is bad, the message is that the pendulum has “swung too far the wrong way”. Speaking on the report, PepsiCo’s VP of insights and analytics Tim Warner believes that key to ensuring marketing is effective both long term and short term “is seeing effectiveness as a continuum. That means that every year marketers should be getting smarter and building on their learning, rather than lurching from one format to another in search of a silver bullet.” For me, it’s about not discarding the long-held, proven belief in the effectiveness of traditional routes such as PR and advertising – and instead staying true to the importance of the marketing mix.

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