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My colleague, Chris Leach, recently weighed in with a “New Year”-themed column about the need for self-assessment, and how PR professionals should always remember that a winning client campaign doesn’t require a complete deconstruction of prior practices in light of change. Instead, he wrote, agency teams should strive to effectively balance proven, traditional PR strategies with newer, non-traditional ones.
Content marketing, of course, plays a major role in both the “old” and “new” here. When it came to PR and writing, say, 25 years ago, the press release and media pitch commanded most of our attention. Today, blogs, Tweets, case studies, white papers, podcasts and trade-press executive byliners dominate the mix. This is why we have a Content Creation Services division here at W2 Communications. Without such outside, professional support, the time investment on the part of companies to produce content marketing is considerable. In fact, it takes six weeks to develop relevant industry content, according to research from TechValidate. Obviously, it’s important to get good ROI on that kind of effort. So, in staying with the New Year theme here, I’d like to offer up these time-tested “must have” ingredients of any good content-focused campaign.
As with Chris’ blog, these are more foundational – but it’s important to remind ourselves throughout the year about them, to make sure we include these qualities within the content marketing we deliver for clients:
The right audience. Here’s one of the very first questions I ask before writing a word – regardless of whether the project is a 200-word blog blurb or a 3,500-word white paper: “Who is the audience?” And, no, “tech professionals” isn’t a sufficient answer. Are they CIOs/CTOs, or middle level managers or rank-and-file IT workers? What’s the general size of their companies? What is/are their industry segment/s? Who are their customers/stakeholders? Once you nail down as many details about the target audience as you can, framing the actual structure and key topic points becomes much easier.
Inform first, promote second. We can’t preach this enough here at our high-tech PR firm. Few intended target audience members will give a piece of content the time of day if it’s too overtly promotional. Nearly everyone is seeking information first. Yes, it’s important to convey the value of the client’s brand, products and services within the piece. But doing so involves a high degree of subtle craftsmanship, to avoid any language that sounds advertorial.
The classic structure. Most audience members are searching for a remedy to their challenges. Thus, your effort must clearly establish a relatable problem, and a solution. Hopefully, this will be cast in the context of a good customer success story. If not, you still have to depict a common issue that impacts the relevant industry here, and then address how to resolve it.
Figure it out. Meaning, insert telling metrics in everything you produce. Strong numbers – sales projections, measurable efficiencies implemented, cost savings, etc. – speak more than any glowing but somehow vaguely worded praise for a client. When using broad, industry stats to convey a trend, always look to incorporate context. In other words, current figures and future projections are great, but only when the historic data is presented as well.
Inspire action. Whether explicit or implicit, all good content includes a “call to action” of sorts. It may take the form of encouraging reader/users to weigh in with their thoughts in an accompanying forum. Or it could amount to a simple re-direct to the client’s products/services page. Either way, you need to guide the reader/user to some kind of desired response.
Revolutionary thoughts? Hardly. But – like a great baseball team – executing winning PR/communications campaigns is often about always keeping the fundamentals in mind and applying them to new wrinkles in “the game.” If our approach sounds like something you’d like to know more about, then contact us.
Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for W2 Communications.