Content marketing is at something of a crossroads in 2017. You could say that we’ve won the battle, now we just need to win the war. At Zazzle Media, we’ve just conducted the State of Content Marketing Survey – summing up the state of the industry as things stand in 2017, based on replies from those in the know.
There’s good and bad news..
The good news is that content marketing works. Of those we asked, 79% said that content marketing is either very or quite effective. It’s always heartening to know that you’re barking up the right tree, right? Brands seem to have accepted this too. Our survey also shows that 70% of those asked expect their investment in content marketing to rise in 2017. So it works, and people are prepared to spend more on it; so far so good.
Yet sadly, there’s also a problem. Two problems in fact. Firstly, there aren’t enough people in the industry to cater for the demand. When asked, three in five respondents reckoned ‘not enough staff’ is their greatest challenge. Almost two thirds of respondents told us that they found it a challenge to produce ‘engaging content’ and 60% struggle to produce content consistently. Hardly surprising if they’re lacking in manpower really, is it?
The industry needs people with the right skill set to come in and grab the bull by the horns. It needs people with an eye for producing engaging content on a consistent basis. If only there were a talent pool of people to fill this gap? Well, there is. Content marketing, meet journalism.
The story of the regional press in particular in the last decade hasn’t been a happy one. One former daily editor reckons that up to 80% of local newspaper jobs have gone since 2006. More than 300 titles have been axed and, whatever the percentage, it’s true to say that thousands of people have left journalism. It’s not a move that many people make lightly. I certainly didn’t. Many people dream of becoming a reporter and spend time and money training to make that dream come true. Being a journalist is – despite the tarnished image caused by some national papers – something to be proud of in my book. Yet there comes a time to move on, as many people have found in recent years.
Most journalists are nervous about moving into marketing. They probably fear they’ll be churning out fluff and nonsense, or in a gloomy communications department defending the indefensible. Most of them talk about ‘selling out’ or ‘moving to the Dark Side’.
Content marketing offers them a more natural transition, however. Google increasingly wants well-written content and brands need to provide something that is engaging to the reader – rather than just pure sales talk. Journalists should be able to understand how to make that leap and should find that their skills are increasingly needed on this side of the fence. Brands need to behave like publishers and, as such, it helps to have people who know that environment.
Marketing agencies and departments need therefore, to dip into this pool. These are the very recruits that can help them expand further in 2017. People in marketing need to work harder to explain what they will and won’t be asked to. It’s perhaps ironic that marketers spend so long promoting others that they lose sight of promoting themselves. This industry could – and should – be a life raft to a whole group of people who worry about wasting their career.
While a staff shortage is one issue, so too is the ‘knowledge gap’. Our survey showed that three fifths of people in content marketing don’t know how to measure the ‘ROI’ of their content campaigns. Indeed, only 6% would say that their team is ‘definitely clear’ on how to run its content marketing output. We’re at a strange juncture, therefore, where people accept that content marketing works but don’t really quite know why. They’re prepared to spend more money on it, but are shooting in the dark.
That’s perhaps to be expected in a ‘young’ industry and it’s a challenge that you’d expect to continue as people reach out to boost their ranks and grow further. It’s also probably a symptom of the moving goal posts put up by the likes of Google, with SEO best practice evolving beyond where it was even a couple of years ago.The solution to that lies in training and collaboration. SEO can’t sit in a silo, it needs to go hand in hand with content and the two need to inform one another.
Data, too, is key when it comes to measuring performance and proving ‘worth’. Content marketing has shown it can work, it now needs to substantiate why it works, especially to a wider audience that has grown up on a very different media strategy. Just as with recruitment, this is about being better in explaining what content marketing is and what it does.
Our survey shows that 2017 needs to be a big year for the industry. There’s no point patting ourselves on the back, there’s a war to be won.