Content marketing has become a huge area of focus for organizations looking to engage with their audiences without overtly selling to them. This is not new to PR professionals, who have likely helped their clients and companies with blog posts, email newsletters, infographics and case studies. Content fads can can quickly fade, so it’s important to experiment with different forms of content to tell your stories.
The most important thing to remember throughout the process is that you are providing something for your audience. You are giving them something. You are not asking them for something. Of course, different people want different things. Some prefer light, short articles. Some prefer visually appealing images and video. Use the data you’ve collected about your audience to help prioritize the content you create.
Here are 10 ideas for content to build your brand and engage your audience:
1. Video. Video is the next best thing to being with someone in person, and the play button is emerging as the strongest call to action on the Web. PR pros recognize video’s potential to engage audiences, close deals or hook reporters. A 2014 survey from video marketing platform Vidyard and research firm Demand Metric reported that 70 percent of marketers found video better at converting than any other content type. Cisco Systems is a leader in video and often uses humor to sell its otherwise very technical products. Check out its “The Perfect Gift for Valentine’s Day” video promoting the $80,000 ASR 9000 router with an 18-24 month sales cycle. As Cisco Social Media Producer Tim Washer explains, the goal was not to drive immediate sales. Instead, it was meant to get the attention of key influencers, analysts, bloggers and reporters to spark word of mouth.
2. Podcasts. Podcasts are great because their popularity continues to rise, and they excel at reaching niche audiences. As I mentioned, you’ll want to create to content for every segment of your audience, and one of those groups is composed of people who want to know everything there is to know about what you do. Podcasts work really well for going deep on a subject or debating controversial topics.
3. Original programming. Original video programs are expensive and time consuming, but the results can be worth the time and cost. Remember what I said about giving to the audience without selling to them? This is the ultimate gift. Just make sure you determine a detailed budget and stick to it.
4. Games. Games provide significant marketing value by providing a gateway for customers to learn about a brand’s offering. They often provide a social opportunity within the game that gets people talking about the brand. Blippar, an augmented reality advertising company, recently created a game for Lucky Charms and found that kids used their parents’ phones to interact with games on the back of the cereal box most often on Saturdays and Sundays. That showed them that many parents let the children eat the cereal as a treat on the weekends.
5. Comics. Comics are often overlooked, particularly in the business-to-business world, despite their power to engage audiences. It’s a relatively simple concept, as Tom Fishburne, creator of “Marketoonist,” explains: “Marketers tell their stories using the power of cartoons to create content worth sharing.” Seems simple enough, right? Your biggest challenge here may be finding someone with the right skill set, but if you can overcome that hurdle, it’s a matter of developing a unique style and making the comics easy to read and share.
6. Mobile apps. Developing an app as a PR tool is relatively uncharted territory. Apps are all about convenience or fun. They’re either utilitarian, or help stave off boredom. Sometimes they’re both. This is a good time to remember good content doesn’t ask for anything. It doesn’t sell. Consider Columbia Sportswear’s “What Knot to Do in the Great Outdoors” app about tying knots. Columbia doesn’t even sell rope, but they know the climbers, fishermen and other outdoor lovers who make up their customer base do.
7. Events. Events for marketing aren’t new either, but making them immersive experiences is an emerging strategy. Think about how to merge an upcoming event with a mobile app or other technology to increase engagement. Mobile and social offer big opportunities to boost engagement and reach people who aren’t even in attendance, as well as building interest before the event starts and keeping it going after the end.
8. Native ads. Native advertising has exploded, and it’s expected to get even bigger over the next few years as more media outlets look to expand their sources of revenue. The key with native ads is not sacrificing credibility or authenticity. As press outlets continue to get comfortable with sponsored content that resembles editorial content, expect them to have high standards for material that isn’t overly promotional. I love H&R Block’s example from The Onion during the 2014 tax season. The article, “Woman Going To Take Quick Break After Filling Out Name, Address On Tax Forms,” was perfect. It got across H&R Block’s point that doing your taxes is a giant pain while still remaining true to The Onion’s editorial direction.
9. Syndication. Syndication isn’t terribly sexy, but it is effective. It takes all the great content you create and spreads it across third-party sites. Tracking and measurement take on added importance with syndication so you know exactly where your content is going, what audiences do with it and how it grows referral traffic, page views and other metrics.
10. Facilitation. Facilitation refers to a specific subset of collaboration, which itself isn’t particularly new. Find a partner in a complementary field and organize a free event or webinar with brands and experts in your industry. Use the power of your combined networks to attract an audience and tell a story about how, together, you can deliver great results.
I don’t expect everyone who reads this to run out and hire a cartoonist, app developer and videographer. Like any good marketing or PR professional, you have to start by knowing your audience and what they want. However, if you’re planning to stick with the same age-old tactics, prepare to eat your competitors’ dust. It’s the perfect time to experiment. Why wait? Mark Thabit is CMO of Cision.