When it comes to content, your impeccably crafted brand guidelines aren’t good enough anymore

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.

There is so much amazing content marketing in the world. Well that was a refreshing thing to say. But I do get tired of the continued carping and negativity surrounding the quality of this stuff called content marketing.

Brands can even learn a thing or two from Trout and Salmon magazine

While there may indeed be a ‘torrent’ or ‘flood’ or ‘wave’ of rubbish content swamping our digital lives, to be honest a lot of the stuff I come across is pretty good. By which I mean that it’s simply useful, informative or entertaining. From both B2B and B2C brands. Yes, advertorials can be a bit dull but there is an equally large wave of excellent content being produced by brands.

So why are so many brands still so nervous about it? One of the biggest problems is a lack of confidence. Not a lack of confidence about content marketing, that much is obvious, but a lack of confidence in who they are, what their brand stands for, what their place in the world is and their view on it.

As fast as reports come out highlighting the rocketing spend on content marketing, surveys also reveal marketers’ lack of confidence that they are producing enough or the right sort of content. The issue is that producing content means moving from being a broadcaster of sales messages to an entertainer of an audience. To becoming a publisher.

And it’s very difficult to be able to make that transition, to in effect become the ‘brand as publisher’ that everyone talks about, unless you have a high level of confidence in yourself. Confidence about who you are and what you stand for in the world.

The only way widely read and loved publications, from the Sun to Vogue to The Drum and even Trout and Salmon magazine, have built and maintained their reputation is by knowing exactly who they are, what they stand for and, crucially, who their audience is.

They can speak though the content they create or curate with one clear voice on the things their readers love, hate or are merely interested in.

This is why it’s so important for any brand, before leaping into content marketing, to ensure they know exactly who they are, what they stand for and their core beliefs around the issues their customers, or audience, care about. As with any publication, individual opinions are important but one consistent brand story must inform everything the brand talks to their audience about.

It goes without saying these are the fundamentals of branding itself. But when it comes to content, your impeccably crafted, immovably strict brand guidelines aren’t good enough anymore. When you’re entertaining your audience through content your story needs to be created based around their interests. You need a new story.

A story born of your DNA and one understood and bought into by the whole company. Only then can a company and all its employees act with the authenticity and transparency good content marketing demands.

Without it, how can any company expect their employees to understand the value of the content it produces, and become engaged in it? It’s surely one reason why a recent Forrester report found 72 per cent of marketers saying less than half of their marketing staff plays a primary role in content marketing.

There is no doubt the amount of content produced by brands will continue to grow exponentially. If you want to make sure your content contributes to an equivalent growth in quality, make sure you know exactly what your story is before you start producing it.

Justin Pearse is MD of The Drum Works

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