Want to nail content marketing? Stop thinking like an advertiser and start thinking like a media company

Justin Pearse is MD of The Drum's content marketing agency The Drum Works and is a member ofBIMA's executive committee. He is a former editor of New Media Age.

I read some good advertorials this weekend. That sentence jars a bit doesn’t it? It’s not something you’ll often hear after all.

Think like a media company, writes Justin Pearse

However they were good. Interesting content that sat contextually well within the section of the weekend paper I was consuming. There was just one thing missing though – bravery. It was all a bit too safe.

This struck me for two reasons. Firstly, I’d been trying to explain to someone, once again, what I was doing at The Drum Works, the content marketing business recently launched by The Drum, after their first reaction to content marketing in general was ‘isn’t this just advertorials?’.

Secondly, I’d spent last week at The Drum Live event, hosting the content marketing strand, where I’d been struck by several speakers’ comments on the need for bravery when it comes to content marketing, for brands to abandon the rule book and try something different.

Critically, for me, this difference is to stop thinking about marketing and start thinking about content. In other words, stop thinking like an advertiser and start thinking like a media company. And a media company doesn't have a target, it has an audience. When you have an audience the rules of engagement are different.

Content is not a bolt on, something you add in at the last minute to an existing marketing plan or ad campaign. It’s not something you throw in at the last minute. It’s far too important for that.

The problem is, like any ‘new’ marketing discipline – although let’s be honest, there’s really nothing new about content – brands can fall into the trap of viewing it as just another shiny bauble to decorate an existing marketing strategy.

You can’t just decide to ‘do a bit of that content marketing thing’. Adopting a content strategy is a fundamental change in how you interact with your customers. You’re no longer viewing them as a market to ‘target’ to sell your products and services to.

Instead they become your audience. An audience you’ve committed to entertain, educate, inform and interact with. This commitment comes with strings of course. The cost for providing this experience is their attention.

The challenge for any brand entering this quid pro quo agreement is that today that attention is one of their scarcest and most valuable resources.

So you’re going to have to work hard to earn it. This starts with understanding what they’re interested in, what the experiences that satisfy them are. Then create content aimed purely at answering that need, not something that’s purely a transparent shiny add-on to your existing campaign.

Think content not marketing. Get the content right and the marketing bit will follow.

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