What is Content Marketing?

It’s telling the truth about what you do (and why) in ways that mean something to your audience, without over selling.

When I started working (you know, when people used fax machines and phones that were attached to the wall), ‘marketing’ was a dirty word – especially to journalists like myself. Marketers were the folks who sent you press releases full of unsubstantiated claims about their products, complete with more buzz words than a bee’s thesaurus.

It was a numbers game, based on the disparity of access to mass media. As a marketer you could say anything you liked about your product because you and your advertising would be heard more loudly than the real people who used your stuff and knew it was crap, or the small independent producer who couldn’t afford the big marketing push.

Some graphic design, a catchy slogan and enough exposure, and you’d be fine. It was often bullshit, but it worked.

Levelling the playing field

Then the web and social media arrived and evened things up. Now people aren’t just consumers, they’re publishers and reviewers. A big firm might have billboards, but Yelp, TripAdvisor or Rotten Tomatoes can give you the real story. And if you’re a small organization doing great things, you can now be found in a way that you couldn’t before.

In this climate, the usual bullshit doesn’t work any more – thank goodness. People have more options, they’re better-informed and they’re sick to death of overt selling.

Instead, they want authenticity – real food, real experiences and real stories. You can’t fake it, or throw a big ad spend at a failing product. It’s no surprise that movie takings have flatlined in recent years while there’s been a raft of high quality TV dramas – word of mouth, amplified by social media and myriad blogs, beats an old-school media blitz. Quality rises to the top.

As Hugh MacLeod‘s cartoon (and recent e-book, and whole career come to that) so succinctly puts it, ‘Authenticity is the new Bullshit!’.

Where I fit in

I’ve been a content creator my whole career – from print journalism for national newspapers to photography in glossy coffee-table books, from blogs back in 1995 (before there were ‘blogs’) to books of travel literature, from websites to video pieces. Through it all, my focus has been on telling authentic narratives as well as I can – good stories, well told. (You can learn a little more about me here).

I never thought I’d be in marketing, but now it’s come to mean (to me at least) something honest, important and a little bit beautiful.

And so I help non-profits and organizations I like get their real message across online by planning and creating content that’s honest, important and a little bit beautiful.

You can see some of my recent work in the Portfolio.

How I can help

The stories I like to tell get to the heart of what organizations do and communicate it in a way that people can relate to.

But first you need a plan – a content strategy, in which we pin down who you’re trying to reach, why and how? Included in the planning stage might be a content audit, to establish where you are currently – what works, and what doesn’t, including a benchmarking look at your rivals and those who are doing the best job of content in your sector.

Once we have answers to these questions we can start producing stories in a number of ways:

  • writing – blog posts, interviews, case studies and stories that communicate your passion for what you do, and show the effect your work has on real people.
  • photography – documentary-style projects
  • video – combining photography and video to create pieces that are ripe for sharing

> Get in touch if you’re not sure what sort of content you should be making, or you need help creating it.