Great copy isn't great content

Posted by: Robin Bonn, Seven

One of the first things we tend to hear from potential clients is that they're not getting the best advice around Content Marketing. Often this is because it's coming from non-specialist agencies, some of whom still believe that great copy is all that goes into great content. This is doing everyone a disservice.

Are you getting the best advice?
Fair play to those agencies who are trying to be proactive with their clients, but the question is one of expertise. And with Content Marketing relatively new to the mainstream, the risk is that clients may not have the knowledge (or time) to push back and say ‘hang-on, this isn't state-of-the-art'.

Fortunately for everyone, most clients tend to smell a rat. Most appreciate the difference between copy and content. And most understand the editorial judgement that goes into creating content that people will actively seek out and share.

The transition to Content Marketing
It's this vision for long-term engagement - with the demonstrable brand and bottom-line benefits it brings - that's behind clients looking to invest in Content Marketing. And they're asking us to help them make that transition as smooth as possible - in short, making content simple.

This transition is fuelled by three fundamentals of an editorial approach:

  • From a model of interruption to one of long-term engagement - cutting-through the clutter is hard. Far better to have people come to you to for stuff they care about.
  • From a campaign approach to one that's always-on - people want content when they want it, not necessarily when a burst of activity is happening.
  • From renting media to owning an asset - don't spend all your money on shouting from the rooftops, invest some of it in building something you can own, grow and monetise.

Now obviously an editorial approach can't be adopted overnight. But even our largest, oldest and most complex blue-chip clients began with a standing start, took baby steps and went on to create great Content Marketing in less time that they'd thought.

It's like that great quote from Margaret Mead (which I first heard in The West Wing):

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

We're ‘media neutral' here... honest!
Content Marketing is fundamentally all about the reader, viewer or listener. There's an agnosticism towards media in Content Marketing agencies that simply isn't credible when pronounced by agencies who are struggling to evolve from single channel specialisms.

Traditional agencies might say that they're channel neutral or that the idea comes first; process charts show customer insight driving strategy, having "got under the skin of your business". But the solution is often expressed in the discipline they're expert in - an ad agency will tend towards above-the-line, a direct agency will propose one-to-one, media agencies favour paid media, and so on.

The old cliché is true - if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.

So Content Marketing requires a mind-set shift as much as anything. In the same way that people under 25 have far less bias towards any given channel(s) than anyone who grew up in the ‘old' world, Content Marketing people - because of their editorial approach - have a passionate and credible belief that the people at the end of the chain are the people who come first. Channel selection comes resolutely second.

It's not what you call it, it's what it does
So regardless of your preferred terminology - be that ‘brand journalism', ‘brand storytelling', ‘branded content' or the worthy but wordy ‘trans-media storytelling' - Content Marketing is about creating stuff people want, where they want it, without clunky transitions between media channels (or ‘frustration', as the general public calls it).

Whether you're talking about an entire brand, a product or a single initiative, the old-fashioned ‘matching luggage' approach to integration across channels can only take you so far. A single narrative - created through an expert Content Marketing strategy - is the next logical step.

One thing's for sure, a nice bit of copy won't cut the mustard.

Robin Bonn - Business Development Director - Seven

Posted in CMA blog
5thDec 2012

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