There are literally hundreds of definitions of Content Marketing floating around on the web – if not thousands.
Of course mine won’t be drastically different (otherwise we wouldn’t really be defining the same thing!), but it introduces a dichotomy which is important to recognise if you want to be successful in the field:
“Content Marketing is combining art and science to ensure that the right information, experiences and messages are delivered to the right audience in the right format at the right point in their purchase journey in order to result in desired action.”
Dissecting the Definition
By science, I mean using data to provide insight into characteristics, behaviour and needs in order to define the ‘right’ people, the ‘right’ time, the ‘right’ messages, the ‘right’ format. Science is defining ‘right’.
By art, I mean broadcasting your values and purpose in a way that is compelling and resonates. Art is creating ‘right’.
The combination of properly defining and executing ‘right’ massively increases the chances of the desired action happening.
How Does It Compare to Other Definitions?
Content Marketing Institute
The following is the definition from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) website:
It’s reasonably similar to mine:
o Creating with “valuable, relevant” content is essentially caused by creating the right information, experiences and messages;
o “Distributing” is equivalent to “delivering”;
o A “clearly-defined audience” is the right audience.
The main differences are the mentions of consistency and audience retention.
Consistency is implicit within any facet of a marketing strategy, by the adherence to the values and purpose of the organisation. Therefore, though useful, I don’t think it is strictly necessary to make it explicit within the definition.
Audience retention will be a consequence of getting everything ‘right’ and will be reflective of the desired action(s) for current customers – again useful to have, but not necessary.
The following is the definition taken from Heidicohen.com:
The definition does actually then delve into more specifics such as applicable formats and devices, but the above gives a neat over-arching summary of the concept.
Again, it’s similar to mine, but explicitly states that content should not be “overtly promotional” and should even be entertaining. I think this depends if it’s the right tone for the audience at whatever stage they are at in the purchase journey. Being promotional and boring could be just what they want (unlikely, but I think it’s wrong to assume otherwise, without the science to back it up).
Finding out what is right for the audience needs to be at the heart of successful Content Marketing, so I think that any assumptions about tone or commerciality shouldn’t be included in its definition.
What Makes a Good Content Marketer?
To take Edwin Lands’ quote about Polaroid (via Steve Jobs saying the same thing about Apple) and apply it to the context of a good content marketer – they must “stand at the intersection between arts and science.”
As we have already established, marrying both is very important and I’m a big advocate of one person being the master of the ceremony. This doesn’t mean they can’t use specialists on either side, but in order to construct a seamless narrative it works so much better when there’s one person with skills in both to put all the pieces together.
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