Content Marketing: Creating vs. Engineering Content — Part 2

So You Wanna Market Some Content, Eh?
You’ve heard all this hubbub about content marketing firing across the Interweb. It’s in everyone’s Twitter feed. Your CMO is holding your head to the chopping block, demanding higher engagement in your social channels. You’ve read some blogs. You’ve checked Wikipedia. Now you’ve got your WordPress instance set up, and you are ready to create your content calendar and start a-publishing.


Remember: You Are In the Business of Business
What are you trying to achieve? What are your real-life, tangible business objectives that you hope to accomplish with your content marketing initiative? Are you trying to have a more honest conversation with your consumer (whatever that means)? Are you trying to attract people to your museum? Are you trying to simply monetize your audience? Figure it out first. Your job likely depends on it, and when someone asks why you embarked on this mission, they are not going to settle for a blank stare and a shrug.

Plan to Your Audience’s Needs
It is time to accept one fundamental truth: The audience’s needs come first. No one wants to hear about your brand proposition. No one, for the most part, cares about your benefit message. That is not what you are trying to get across through content marketing. This is not the right message, served at the right time, to the right person. Content marketing is fundamentally not getting found, it is being sought out. If you are not serving the needs of your audience, you are not going to have an audience. Period.


It is time for you to interpolate all of that marketing data that someone spent hours and lots of money distilling down to one single group of insights. You must do this first because your brand and your brand story do not live in one single set of consumer insights or personas. Your brand story is merely a part of a greater consumer story. If you sell toothpaste, your brand story doesn’t just live in your packaging and your 30-second spots, it lives in every oral care, or even health care, discussion every single one of your consumers will have throughout their entire lifetime. You must take that group of insights you have distilled and blow it out into a much broader knowledge base that informs and inspires broader discussions and enables your brand to speak from a position of authority.

Understanding Your Audience Through the Three S’s
You might be wondering where you start now and what is going to inform your editorial. Aside from any primary research you might have access to, start with three things: search, social and site.

Search: Search engines are a real-time reflection of human interest in things. We have trained ourselves to use search engines as our primary tool of getting either the things or information we want. Search terms and search volume are a barometer of  subject and category interest. Look at the things that people are searching for in your vertical or in your niche. Gather as many keywords as you can, as they are as vast as your potential audience. These long-tail collections of interests are the holy grail of audience planning — the size of the prize you seek.


Social: Now that you’ve assessed the breadth of your audience’s interests, plug them into a social listening tool and give them some better context. Find out how people are exercising these interests. Find out where people are talking the most. That’ll give you some excellent framework for guiding your social distribution later.

Site: This is two-fold. Look at your own site data to find out your own audience. Where are they located? What vehicle is bringing them into your website? What content do they react to best? But don’t just rely on your own data. Look at competitor websites for benchmarking. Where does their audience live? What is the quality of their content? Are they serving the entire audience, or is there an opportunity for you to capture some more attention?

Armed and Dangerous
You are now armed with the two most important things as you take yourself down the path from marketer to media property: goals and insights. These two simple, but often overlooked, key elements will guide absolutely every decision you make relating to editorial planning, distribution and optimization, including how to approach them in  your overall content marketing endeavors. These two basic assets will ensure that your audience is satisfied and sustained, and that your editorial remains differentiated in a crowded world of  content.

The next step is for you to start editorial planning and publishing, which I will cover in Part Three of this series on the difference between creating content and content engineering.

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Catherine Salzman
Catherine Salzman

Catherine is Empower’s first Data Journalist, converting data into stories and linking consumer insights through execution. She also has significant Latino research experience, having been published in several peer-reviewed journals. Catherine lives in Bellevue, Kentucky with her husband and daughter.