#17 Digital content marketing is the emperor!

#17 Digital content marketing is the emperor!

#17 Digital content marketing is the emperor!


For years, we've been creating more and more content, treating content as if it is king. And it could be considered as such, given that by conservative estimates, the big four - Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook -  store at least 1,200 petabytes between them. That is 1.2 million terabytes (one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). But quantity doesn't matter if it is bad content, nor does lots of content mean good digital content marketing practices with proven results. This month I explore policies and practices that support digital content marketing. Join me for an exploration of the topic, starting with the type of policies needed to support your content marketing efforts, and then turning to three amazing upcoming quests which will deep dive into sound practices to round out those policies.

Episode number:
Date Published:
June 11, 2020

Hi everyone, and welcome back to The Power of Digital Policy!

For years we've been hearing the words "Content is King". That must be true since, even by conservative estimates, the big four - Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook - store at least 1,200 petabytes between them. That is 1.2 million terabytes (one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). And that figure excludes other big providers like Dropbox, Barracuda, or massive servers in industry and academia. So content isn't just king. It's the emperor. And our reality might be that the emperor has no clothes on. That's because we keep creating more and more content, oftentimes without a clear digital strategy or without clear content objectives.

The online stakes are particularly high when it comes to digital content marketing. In an ideal scenario, one which most organizations aim for, electronic channels would be used to identify, forecast, and satisfy a user's need for information, thus resulting in conversion around products or services. Instead, what I often see is one business unit creating information that doesn't tie in with any marketing or sales strategy, but rather is created to meet a real or perceived business unit objective. Often, various business units compete for who can create more content, get more information into digital channels in the hopes that more is better, and better means prospects turning into customers.

Organization that wants to streamline their digital marketing content efforts first need to decide on their policy scope, deciding what to directly address. Considerations that I like to address:

  • Appropriate and inappropriate content. That means creating policies around what can be talked about and what can't. Some things are obvious like you don't want product design information, financial performance data, or product information in regulated industries like pharma or the financial sector to go out to the public at the wrong time or go out at all.
  • Making a distinction between marketing and employee policies. Believe it or not, the biggest issue I see in organizations is the lack of differentiation between when an employee posts content directly representing a brand and those that work for a company that might also have a personal blog or social media account. Policies for each group will likely be different. And policies will likely be much more specific when it comes to marketers representing the company online.
  • Specific channel use. Think about what information is provided via which channel, and how you want to engage users based on where they are in their engagement process with your organization, services, or products. And then, of course, there are considerations like who can open up a new channel or a new social media account.
  • The tone of voice policy. Organizations should have a single, unique, unified voice. Often times if you look at universities or large corporations, that is sorely missing. Laying out what qualities that voice should have is something you can't afford to leave out of your guidance set, and it is not something that should be optional. Thus, it ought to be defined as a digital policy for the organization.

And the list goes on with user-generated content policy, social media crisis management, handling customer complaints, and online reviews, and other critical areas. And there is a slew of supporting digital policies necessary to make digital content marketing success and for any organization to tell a successful story. That includes:

  • Key performance indicators, or KPIs: Pete Drucker is credited with the saying, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." How true is that? And yet many organizations don't think about KPIs when they are putting together content. You should have a way to tell if the tactics of your content marketing are working or not. You can use indicators like the number of social shares, page visitors, time spent on a page, or more complex measures like the number of leaders generated or repeated customers. Longer-term measures such as brand sentiment and more strategic objectives such as awareness of the brand in new markets are also good considerations.
  • Tools and software: You can tell a story, but can you tell it well. And can you tell it with a person alone? A content management system, video platforms, and analytics are all worthwhile investments if they give you a good return on investment. That might include enablers for telling your story faster or telling your story to more people through the repurposing of content. Tools and software make that possible, but oftentimes need to be formally deployed for the organization to use them effectively. Things like what tools you use, who controls the software to ensure no redundancy, and how content is parsed so that it can be repurposed matters. You need to have policies to support you in those efforts.
  • And then there are personas, brand elements, and other supporting elements that you may want to formalize to create that framework within which your digital team can be free to innovate and create, tell good stories, and do a good thing.

Your organization may have a lot, some or no policies that support content marketing. For example, if we consider Coca-Cola, the organization has:

  • Few policies, mostly around the brand and processes to creating new content. Internally, the organization has a slew of processes for when exceptions to policies arise, such as COVID-19.
  • The company announced at the beginning of the pandemic that it is using its marketing resources to support COVID-19 prevention and relief efforts during the initial phase of the global public health crisis. It publicly communicated the shift in content marketing and focused instead on news that related to what the company is doing around the world to help out with the pandemic.

In contrast to this organization with few digital content marketing is the U.S. Army, which has an extensive set of policies around content strategy and content creation that are further underpinned by content marketing boot camps. The U.S. government entity is very serious about its content marketing, ensuring there is consistency in messaging, tone and engagement regardless of the channel – from websites to social media, as well as online magazines and recruitment centers. In addition to policies, the U.S. Army has created a set of job aids and checklists that allow distributed content authoring, but with the same predictable results.

I also enjoy watching what Nike is doing in the content marketing arena because the company is not just communicating about its products and services, but it is continually pivoting with social, ecological, and ethical priorities that matter to their users, thus increasing loyalty, but also boosting sales. The company has a set of policies (which they call guidelines), which they frame as "Inside the Lines".

Perhaps the reason I am most impressed with Nike's framework is that it takes a basic legal approach and then addresses essential behaviors that help the organization make the right decisions. The greatest think about Nike is the company's realization that it exists in a world of constant transformation, where it is impossible to spell out every scenario they could potentially face. The code offers everyone at Nike a shared vision, one that outlines who Nike is and how its employees work.

Whenever I use my methodology to help businesses define digital content marketing policies, I get excited at the thought of working with content marketing experts. I've always been in awe of people who understand how to write, tell a strong story, and bring their brand to life.

So I am really delighted to have three different guests this month who each have a unique perspective to bring to the digital content marketing discussion.

First off, you will hear from Christoph Trappe. A lot of companies are producing content and campaigns that happen but don't perform. Christoph helps organizations move marketing and communications from happening to performing by sharing unique stories more efficiently to reach prospects and retain existing customers. He has run content marketing campaigns across many industries, including healthcare, SaaS, and publishing. In his career, he has led teams of journalists, content creators, strategists, and designers to successfully drive results. And perhaps it is exactly that diverse background that made for an interesting interview where we discussed everything from what makes a good campaign to why thinking like a journalist helps in content marketing.

This month I also get the chance to speak with Patti Podnar. While we share the same last name, that is where our commonalities end. Patti is one of those rare individuals who has known since second grade that she wanted to be a writer. So it isn't a surprise that she went on to get a degree in journalism. But what is surprising is how Patti took that journalism and writing background and applied it initially in a corporate role at Auto Zone, where she was the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications, and subsequently as a content strategist and digital content marketer and writer. I was fortunate to have Patti's advice when writing my book, and I will never forget how insistent she was on having me continually explain to her:

  • What I want the reader of my book to think
  • What I want the reader of my book to feel
  • And what I want the reader of my book to do

Patti is the sole person responsible for yanking me out of my academic writing style and into the approach that works for the majority of people. I am excited for you to hear from Patti and what she thinks works and doesn't work in content marketing today.

I was also lucky enough that Fred Faulkner, a Partner at ICF Next focused on Strategic Alliances and Marketing, found some time to speak with me about his content marketing and storytelling experiences and approach. Fred is the type of person who can easily tell a story, whether it is about the cereal you are having for breakfast or the next multi-billion-dollar brand. He is very focused on user experience and how to tell stories that will not just delight the user, but get the user to share the experience with others. Whether you are working in B2B or B2C, you don't want to miss my conversation with Fred. He informs and engages, and I am pleased that he will be with us to dig deep into the content marketing discussion.

The three individuals I am speaking with this month each have a different perspective on content marketing and comes at it from a unique vantage point. That includes a CMO eye for the B2C market, content consultant who pushes back on nonsense content, as well as a strategic leader for B2B stories.

If you are new to content marketing, a veteran in this space, or are the digital policy steward for your organization trying to determine what types of policies you should consider developing with your subject matter experts, you will want to stay tuned this month. I challenge you and your entire organization to move beyond just creating another gigabyte or terabyte of content for content's sake and focus instead on the right activities and questions for digital content marketing that resonates and makes a difference. Go for quality over quantity. And start making a strong impact by joining me for these great guests and more insights on upcoming episodes of The Power of Digital Policy.

Until next time, stay well and do good policy work.

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