Get to Know the New Starring Roles of Content Marketing

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With the Oscars recently behind us, now may be a good time to look at which stars are going to play the most important roles in marketing this year. 

One Oscar is definitely going to content marketing itself. We already saw back in 2013 that 93% of B2B marketers and 90% of B2C marketers are actively using content marketing. Moreover, 58% of B2B marketers and 60% of B2C marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets this year.

Remember the beginnings of social media marketing? Remember the scattered approach marketers were taking to this brave new world? A tweet here, a Facebook posting there… And then, enthusiasm for social media died down as marketer after marketer decided it was ineffective. Eventually, businesses that put together a multichannel strategy including social media were the ones that made it work.

Content marketers—who are building on the success of social media as a tool for launching and carrying their content—also need to be very clear about the strategy, budget, and target for their campaigns, or they will end up creating as much a scattered approach as that of the early social media pioneers. And why not learn from the past?

According to HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing report, companies that clearly define marketing and sales roles in relation to content marketing will find they have significantly lower customer-acquisition costs than those without those content-related marketing/sales agreements.

So this marketing approach isn’t just another new and shiny thing… It’s a multichannel methodology that, when done correctly, cuts across all channels to deliver results in website marketing, email marketing, search marketing, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and more.

A new marketing methodology calls for a new approach. And new professionals will emerge in the following starring roles.

Content Director

The first starring role—content director—is based on the understanding that content marketing needs direction.

The director of content is emerging as an integral part of the marketing team. This person is responsible for the development and management of content related to a given marketing campaign for use in all online communications in media.

Typical responsibilities for this position include…

  • Writing, reviewing, editing, and updating substantive materials
  • Obtaining and publishing relevant external content
  • Recruiting and supervising substantive experts, staff members, and freelance writers who assist in developing and maintaining content (mostly online)
  • Identifying gaps in available resources and developing appropriate content to fill them
  • Developing documents, marketing and instructional videos, and other materials
  • Executing quality-assurance programs for content
  • Monitoring and contributing to blogs, discussion boards, and email lists

The reality is that having a copywriter or an editor on staff is not enough. (And some companies don’t even have them.)

Companies need to have a defined position for someone who understands content from the inside (that is, with a past that includes both strong writing and editing experience and skills) and who can direct others who will be creating and sharing the important ongoing content.

Brand Journalists

The second starring role is a brand journalist.

Instead of having marketers writing copy, copywriters can take the step toward even better communication by becoming brand journalists. The term was coined by Larry Light, McDonald’s CMO in 2004. He rejected traditional marketing and advertising approaches that focused on brand positioning and instead adopted content stream approach using multiple channels and writing in a journalistic style.

Brand journalism is the art and craft of using storytelling to make brands more accessible and interesting—allowing prospects and customers to relate better to them.

After all, who are the best storytellers?

Journalists. They have learned how to encapsulate the necessary information (who, what, when, how, where, and why) into interesting and effective language that captures readers’ attention and entices them to read more.

Though all copywriting will eventually follow brand journalism in tone, some companies are taking the newsroom approach literally. Coca-Cola has created Journey, a branded lifestyle and business publication, and companies like Raytheon and Cisco have hired known journalists. What stands out about those companies’ websites is their new role as media hubs rather than marketing devices.

If this starring role really takes hold, we’ll have some necessary changes in copywriting.

Copywriters will have to eschew the jargon they hold so dear. Terms like utilize, leverage, thinking outside of the box, verticals, and synergy have no place in clear communication.

Moreover, copywriters will need to think more broadly, as brand journalism’s overall strategy is storytelling through various forms of communications, such as press releases, blog posts, and posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Brand journalism requires showing what the company is about and what it can provide for the customer.

Finally, copywriters will have to change their tone. Customers have become cynical about marketing’s often heavy-handed messaging (and became even more so when overloaded SEO keywords came into play). The objective journalistic tone we’re seeing emerge is addressing that cynicism.

* * *

With Google’s new animal-themed algorithms leading the way toward meaningful, useful, and quality content, storytelling is more popular than ever. The stars of marketing’s red carpet are marketers who can write clearly, directly, and fluently.

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