In times gone by, the way in which firms conveyed the fact that they were a thought leader to potential clients was to pay a PR agency several thousand pounds every month. In turn, the agency would liaise with journalists (the good ones proactively, the bad ones reactively) to get the firm’s name in a broadsheet article. Little attention was paid to what the article actually was, and whether the firm’s association with it was of benefit.

Some firms still operate this way, with ever-decreasing results.

The reason is that people don’t buy newspapers any more. And why would they, they are either given away for free or can be accessed for free from a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Viewed digitally, the reader has far more control – there are more articles to choose from, more sections to access, and less time for each – and the BBC website is a significant competitor.

It’s because of these reasons that the Mail Online is sadly the world’s number 1 english speaking website, we kid you not. It’s also these reasons that mean traditional PR is a fast dying breed, and content marketing is the way forward.

Think of it this way, you get two emails from accounting firms, one offering you a £100 discount on a £1000 product and one containing an article detailing the government’s latest changes to tax law and what you need to do to stay compliant. Who would you recommend?

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the creation, publication and distribution of relevant information for a targeted audience. So it’s goodbye spray and pray, hello sniper writer.

Why should I create it?

There’s nothing worse than being boring, and saying nothing is being boring. It might be that your company’s Linkedin page is quiet, or that you don’t have a regular newsletter to your clients (let’s not kid ourselves that hoards of people visit your website of their own free will). At best they’ll have forgotten about you, at worst they’ll have noticed that you don’t seem to care about your  industry very much and taken their business to a firm that does.

How do I create it?

If you’re passionate about your job, the chances are you’re creating it already. If you feel strongly about something, you’ll already have formulated an argument that you’ll have repeated to colleagues and clients. All you need to do is to get this down ‘on paper’, and go from there. An easy way to spread the work is to make everyone in your company an unofficial member of the marketing department, and get them to write a monthly blog on their field of expertise. Even this small change could give you several new articles per week. Under 500 words seems a little flimsy, anything over 1000 could be too much.

Ah – but I still want to get in the papers!

Bad PR agencies use automated email software to get leads – they’re simply sent messages from journalists asking for comment and they then forward them to you to fill in the blanks. If you’re happy with this reactive approach, cut out the middleman and do it yourself. The cost of email system is a fraction of what you pay the agency.

The better approach is to be proactive; create the news agenda rather than just commenting on someone else’s. This means either running a survey in your community (via your website, social media or by email for example) or conducting research on a topic you know to be particularly relevant.

A great example of this is Green Park’s diversity analytics, which gets wide broadsheet coverage every year and makes it to the holy land of BBC news television.

If you don’t have the resource to undertake research, a good short cut is to comprehensively tag your updates on Twitter – it’s what most journalists use now for real-time news articles.

How do I distribute it?

The beauty is, you probably already have the channels you need. Once it’s written, publish it to your site and if it’s set up correctly this should populate all your social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (company page) and Google+. You should also ensure that it goes into your Linkedin group if you have one (you should – and there are ways of doing this automatically too). You can then get your employees, network and even friends to like / share the update so that more people can see what you’ve created.

Another good way to spread your message is to create a Linkedin post, which will automatically create an alert on each of your connection’s homepage.

As with anything, the proof is in the pudding; if what you write is relevant, people will warm to it. If it’s bland or half-hearted, they won’t. If you have a good idea but aren’t sure how to formulate it, MMA can help with one of our many writing services.

Can I get it to rank on Google and Bing?

Yes! Content marketing is a great way to skip the queue and get to the top of Google and Bing (click here to read why Bing is important) – although it won’t stay there forever unlike a static page. The trick is comments – get as many as you can from as many different people as possible, encouraging them to write as much as possible. Think of it like letting the ball do the work in football – let your 500 word blog do the work by eliciting 20 further comments, each with 500 words. Suddenly your content is 10,500 words long with 21 authors and lots of traffic; Google loves that. Just make sure the comments are on your site and not LinkedIn – there are various ways of doing this.

What about Whitepapers?

Whitepapers are the holy grail of content marketing and should generally be created on an annual basis. They cost a lot so shouldn’t be taken lightly or done half-heartedly – but if you get it right it will give your company something to be famous for, which is what marketing ultimately is.

Conclusion

Content marketing is an essential part of your marketing strategy, and best of all; it’s free! If you’re not doing it then you really should be. if you need a hand getting you on your way, call MMA for a no obligation conversation about the best methods. If you already do it, please do feel free to leave your thoughts via the comment box below.