Media headhunters’ view: how to avoid generic content marketing and build a brand publishing strategy

In a short space of time almost all discussions on business communication have become discussions about content marketing – but unlike previous hot topics, this isn’t just a passing fad.

Search engines, mobile technology, and the proliferation of social media have brought about a fundamental shift in the brand/customer relationship. Once, customers were passive. Now, customers are in control. At all hours of the day, they’re actively seeking out information on products and services.

Businesses have reacted by producing and distributing content like never before – often haphazardly and in multiple formats. In fact, it has become a Content Avalanche.

“Can you hear the rumble?” asks B2B Marketing. “That’s the sound of a million pieces of content tumbling towards your business audience, threatening to overwhelm them.”

The reason media headhunters are increasingly asked by corporations to find savvy digital, communications and content marketing chiefs, is to satisfy this new, engaged consumer with compelling content that’s distinguishable from the field.

Filling a vacant post is one thing, but finding someone who has great ideas about the type of content a firm should be looking at – and the ways it should be delivered – is a more subtle art.

How does this savvy operator avoid generic content and build something that appeals to customers when there is already so much content out there?

The key, says Sam Slaughter, VP of content at Contently, is for brands to effectively tell a story about themselves. Content is the vehicle by which this is achieved.

A good brand publishing strategy makes sure each piece of content is right for the platform on which it’s published – be that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. It has to fit the form. But beyond distribution and initial appeal, how do you ensure content has intrinsic value for the customer?

The trick, says Sam, is to engage potential customers with a narrative that informs, helps decision-making, or simply brings them joy.

It sounds easy, but this can’t be achieved if content is just a box that needs to be ticked. Brands that assume content is just any half-relevant, keyworded information aren’t likely to reap much benefit.

Content has to sing with brand values, it has to be alive. As Sam says, aim for a brand publishing identity, where all individual pieces of content speak back that overall story a firm is telling about itself.

But what should that overall brand story be? Looking at a brand’s USP can be a good place to start. It can help focus on the critical factors that keep customers coming back time and again.

If a brand understands that having quality products, excellent customer service, or a great value offering are the things that keep customers interested, then it’s halfway to understanding the identity it should use to underpin its publishing efforts.

Image of social media buzz words
Social media jobs buzz words – image courtesy of Brain M Anderson (Flickr)

Already, that’s starting to sound like a strategic aim. So all that must be left is the small matter of finding a format that works and using it to create simple, informative, and engaging content.

And that’s when it becomes important to hire the right people to make it happen.