10 content marketing lessons for brands as publishers

For nearly 20 years, we've been helping brands to market themselves with content. Here are a few things we've noticed along the way...

  1. You can't cover up an absence of business strategy with a new editorial calendar. Or a new tone of voice. Or a new social media platform. Without first principles in place – business goals, target audiences, marketing strategy – plans and guidelines will not get you very far.
  2. Nothing much happens if deadlines aren't taken seriously. If the content creation process isn't ruled with a rod of iron, there soon won't be much content creation going on.
  3. Your content marketing is only as good as your set-up. You can have the best content creators in the world, but they won't perform without a culture and an organisational structure that supports their work. Too many stakeholders and siloes can quickly spoil the content broth.    
  4. Content has to be a business-wide priority. For your content to excel, you need to be able to lean on the resources of your whole organisation for ideas, input and resource. You also need to be confident that everyone gets why content matters.
  5. Stakeholders are not the enemy. Too often stakeholders are seen as the adversaries of good content. But they do an important job and are probably sick of having to reject copy for the same old reasons. Stakeholders need to be included in the content creation journey from the outset. Make sure they only feel obliged to comment on aspects that relate to their domain, and ask them to educate the content team about things they're always on the lookout for.  
  6. Arguments about who's the better writer rarely get you far. When it comes to choosing ideas or finalising copy, a better question to ask is: What would work better for our readers?
  7. Clarity trumps cleverness. Online content can't afford to be too cryptic or ambiguous or bafflingly playful or self-consciously creative. Thanks to decades of research, we have a very good idea of what strong digital content looks like.  
  8. The perfect really is the enemy of the good. If you spend too much time agonising about the perfect piece of content – or waiting for that elusive input – you can end up missing the conversation altogether.
  9. Nothing sells like data. The best way to get buy-in for greater investment in content is to start with a modest, self-contained project that delivers a measurable difference.
  10. Pick your battles with care. You (and everyone) else may agree that the name of that newsletter or product set is clunky and unintuitive - but if getting it tweaked is a board-level decision, you're probably better off addressing the things you can change.

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