Content Marketing 101: How to Think Like a Publisher

You helped your niece start and finish the Content Marketing Pyramid. Now she understands how content marketing can help her achieve business goals.

Then you explained why finding the right audience and the right channel is important. Now when she sends a message, she knows to whom and where to send it.

She’s ready for the final test. You ask your niece to define content marketing.

“You have a goal for your business, and you can find it on the Content Marketing Pyramid. Once you know your goal, you find the audience that matches it. But you also gotta use the right channel to talk to them. Then you can send your message to make that goal come true.”

“Hmm… What if I ask you to define storytelling?” you ask.

“That’s easy! You tell a really good story about something cool to someone you know will like the story.”

“See, that’s also content marketing.”

“Now I’m confused.”


Content Marketing: Where Storytelling Meets Selling

Hundreds of articles defining content marketing exist. They explain, defend, and debate it. But many of them don’t get it, because “content marketing” is a misleading term.

Take this definition from the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Content highlightedIf you strip away the jargon, you have this basic idea: Content marketing uses content (the message you send and the medium or format it’s in) to “sell” something desirable to an audience.

That “something” could be an idea, story, personality, movement, philosophy – and yes, a product. However, you present that something to an audience whom you know well in a format they want.

Note: By “sell,” we mean advocating the “something” your message is all about to your audience as useful, relevant, or valuable. We do not mean an exchange of money for a product or service.

Most importantly, you put your audience’s needs equal to the needs of your business. You think about your message from their point of view and how it can help them just as much as you think about your message from your point of view and what you hope people do after consuming it.

Content marketing is more than marketing. It’s persuasive and compelling storytelling that benefits your business and your audience.

“How do I do that right?” your niece asks.

“Forget (almost) everything you learned from marketers,” you tell her, “Embrace these tricks of the editorial trade.”


Strategy: Give your audience what they want

Couple talking

Many marketers measure content marketing successes by tracking what kinds of content they made that quarter. A successful quarter might mean writing three news releases, a white paper, and two feature articles.

In a recent article on adaptive content strategy, Jenny Magic, principal and vice president of content strategy at SiteGoals, said this: “Smart content creators are going to stop talking about deliverables like the ‘white paper’ and they’re going to start talking about deliverables as they relate to personas.”

Successful content marketing isn’t about how many blog posts you write. It’s about creating content that your audience wants to consume, and tracking the audience’s reaction to that content.

“You need to understand who your audience is, what their needs and worries are, and how you can reach them effectively. Then you can make a content marketing strategy to give them content that makes them want to act,” you tell your niece.

“But how will I keep track of all that content?” she asks.


Planning: Create a fluid calendar for the year

Mayan calendar comic

Make a list of the channels you use to reach your audiences. Break down the year into quarters and months. Write down specific or general content ideas for each channel for every month. Try to group ideas across channels into the same quarter.

Congratulations! You just started an editorial calendar for your content marketing program.

An editorial calendar offers day-to-day guidance on your creative efforts. It gives you greater freedom to be strategic in future endeavors because you know when things are due. It helps you record ideas you have now to save for later.

Take cues from the editorial world. Most magazines plan their content themes six months in advance, and they collect specific feature article ideas. However, they also allow new and fresh ideas replace older outdated ones.

“Editorial calendars can be simple and bare bones or incredibly detailed,” you tell your niece. “Tailor your calendar to your work style.”

“What if I read something and have a great idea but don’t have time to write something?” she asks.


Tactic: Use external research and ideas – correctly

Night creativityEvery industry has a group of experts – influencers, journalists, innovators, and more – who engage in a digital dialogue. Sometimes ideas from one industry can apply to a different industry. Don’t be afraid to share others’ ideas with your audience. Just make sure you do it correctly.

Citation is easy if the content source is digital. Paraphrase or quote the idea you want to share and link to it. That’s all it takes.

Rallyverse’s presentation on the Golden Ratio for Social Marketing promotes the idea that brands should curate 60 percent of their digital content. If brands share others’ ideas, they promote discussion among their audience and their industry. They also take some pressure off of their content creators, who may not always have an idea for that day.

By the way, there’s an example of a brand – IMN – curating another brand’s work – Rallyverse – by correctly citing the source and providing a link for our audience.


The Art of Content Marketing


Content marketers are marketers and storytellers.

They think about story (themes, messages, action) and ask, “What is going on?”
They think about audience (people, relationships, beliefs) and ask, “Who cares?”
They think about worth (value, utility, novelty) and ask, “What can I add?”
They think about medium (voice, style, length) and ask, “How do I say it?”
They think about business (sales, impact, service) and ask, “Why am I saying it?”


You and your niece understand what content marketing is and why it matters. Let us help you do it right.

Our next series, Content Marketing 201, will offer specific tactics and tools to take your content marketing program to the next level.

Have a content marketing question? Tweet us @loyaltydriver or find us on Facebook and let us know your content marketing struggles.

Comments are closed.