If content marketing is so talked about – so proven – then why is it so rarely employed?
Nearly any corporation has content experts ready to share their expertise. Content marketing is cost effective, and it remains relevant long after time consumes any clever press release or Tweet.
Yet few companies or institutions employ content marketing. I’m thinking in particular of higher education, from the community college to the major university. A typical college campus has literally hundreds of experts from dozens of fields to tap into. Furthermore, faculty – and in fact graduate students – not only hold highly specialized expertise so valuable in content marketing and SEO, but love talking about their work. It’s hard to get them to stop. Driven by the desire to be published, they’ll do it for free.
So why do so few companies and secondary education institutions utilize this veritable gold mine of SEO marketing talent? I don’t have all the answers, but ten years in the industry provides me a few guesses.
The term “content marketing” has been used so often and for so long, it’s become cliché. People forget the actual meaning. Every post, every meme, every graphic design or press release is “content.” And it’s all marketing, so that cat meme must be content marketing too, right? Like SEO, SEM, ROI, call to action and other marketing terminology, we say it so much that we’ve lost sight of the meaning.
Everyone wants results. Marketing and communications teams are under particular pressure to produce numbers. Real-time data whether through counting Twitter shares to analyzing Google data exacerbates this issue. Deep content such as a white paper or “how to” video on Pinterest or YouTube are unlikely to trend the way that funny meme has on Facebook. There’s a tendency to follow daily and monthly likes and page views that don’t create brand awareness or authority. So slap a logo on it is often the answer. That’s “branding” right? No. It’s not.
A typical marketing team is composed of some combination of writers, photographers, graphic designers, social media specialists, and video experts. They create great – often beautiful – work. What’s missing? Well, an MBA of marketing for one thing. Likely, apart from the web development team, anyone who really cares about numbers let alone ROI is not on team. While the artfulness may be top notch, engaging, and even award-winning, that’s different from an outcome-based marketing strategy.
It’s surprising that to this day, many marketing and communications divisions are still catching up to even having social media as part of the mix. Those that do – and in 2018 that is admittedly most – simply hire a social media person because they heard that they should. And yet, social media (including YouTube and blogging) is rarely incorporated into the overall, strategic plan with an eye toward long-term outcomes. So is it any surprise that the deeper understanding of content marketing is all but lost? The old way of doing things means throwing money – often huge money – into ad buys in radio, television, and yes, still even newspapers who are struggling to meet their own budgets under any model. Each of these outlets might catch some eyes, but none develop long-term authority, brand identity, and SEO the way content marketing will.
Taken into account, each of the above combines to create a lack of institutional will among those with the authority to implement a content marketing strategy. Let’s be honest – content marketing is not easy. It requires the cooperation of many elements including your writers, graphic designers, video experts and photographers, social medias guru, and your web development team. Most importantly, it demands the cooperation of your engineers, faculty, or other knowledge experts. While content marketing is highly effective, your graphic designer, photographer, or even marketing-communications expert unlikely has the organizational authority to organize the resources required to implement it. That requires a CEO, COO, vice president, or president: people who are the oldest, most successful, and entrenched in the daily organization and output as it already exists.
For the handful that can break through and implement content marketing, here are Ten Stellar Examples of Content Marketing from Higher Education.
Each are from large institutions, but don’t let that make you think that only big institutions can do this. Content marketing is incredibly cost effective when you have the pieces – the required experts – already in place. The lesson should be, that even enormous bureaucracies can be turned around and guided to the light.