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PR

Guest Blog, Catherine Spencer: The real problem with content marketing…

‘Content’ as a word has seemingly got itself a bad name and it’s starting to cause a real problem for our industry – or so a number of recent articles would have it. It is a vague term that’s entered our marketing lexicon but, love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Content marketing itself is not the problem, it’s the fact that most content has little to no impact on its target audience and really, it’s helping no one. We just get overwhelmed with clutter.

Take a look at any major UK company’s blog and you’ll see that most of the “content” they’re churning out doesn’t do the following:

  • Teach visitors something new or useful;
  • Give away handy resources for free (such as templates, cheat sheets and how-to-guides);
  • Inspire their visitors;
  • Clearly and concisely answer the question implied by the title.

The ‘Definition Problem’

One of the quirks of this industry is that we love coming up with complicated or vague words to describe what we do – and often they stick a little too strongly.

Remember when “selfie” became the Oxford Dictionary word of 2013 and we collectively went mad over how our country was going to the dogs? Well the unfortunate bystanders in the marketing industry mightn’t like it, but new words like “native advertising” and “content marketing” have quickly become the new normal.

Just by looking at Google search trends, it is clear that ‘content marketing’ has become widely accepted within the industry above ‘marketing communications’ since 2004.

 

equimedia-image-1

The ‘Practicality Problem’

While it is agreed that “content marketing” fits under the definition of “marketing communications”, referring to web content as “Marketing Communications” is tricky when working day-to-day in the ad industry. Actually, content marketing is just a small part of the overall marketing communications strategy.

When you’re working for global brands, you’ll find referring to a blog post as “marketing communications” will create more confusion than it’s worth. Confusion costs time and money in our industry and it goes back to the definitions problem – you might not like it, but the easiest way to be on the same page is to use the same language.

The ‘Content Problem’

Whilst most content indeed fails, it doesn’t mean content marketing itself is the problem. It means the people who’ve made the content maybe.

We’re not here to defend crappy content. But content marketing done right has tremendous value, there’s a reason it’s so big! It just needs to be matched with relevance.

To succeed with content, marketers need to develop content around a brilliant idea, focus on overwhelming the target audience with value, amplify the message by sharing the content with the right people, and finally ask for (and listen to) audience feedback.

Are we using the wrong word to describe content marketing? Maybe.

But let’s not forget the bigger picture: we should be focusing on value, not semantics. Whatever the buzzword might be that describes how we’re doing it, we really just need to get on and do it.

 

Catherine is a senior content, PR & social executive at equimedia. She joined equimedia in 2015, previously having worked in-house for a large charity. Today, Catherine manages marketing campaigns for a number of our large charity clients, as well as retail and insurance, from planning and production right through to delivery.

Industry Spotlight: Instagram Insights – too late to the party?

Last month, the platform launched Stories, last week (August 15), it launched Business Tools, and this week (August 31), it announced users can now zoom in on pictures. It seems like the platform is pushing out updates left, right and centre.

“So? These functions have been around for years on other platforms”, I hear you say. And you’d be right.

In fact, when the Business Tools and insights analysis function launched last week, I was slightly taken aback by the excitement it caused in the marketing industry. Of course, it’s great news and absolutely enables marketers to better target core audiences, but being truthful, as marketers, we should have been frustrated that it took this long – this function should have been around from the start.

With over 200,000 businesses already using Instagram for advertising, it makes me shudder wondering how these adverts managed to create relevant content for its customers, if at all.

So what exactly is Business Tools?

In amongst features such as business profiles, contact buttons and the ability to promote certain posts, Instagram’s new Business toolkit allows brands to gain insights into posts, such as which ones perform better than others and with which demographic.

This analysis is invaluable to brands. With insight, a brand’s reach, frequency rate, success of product discovery and customer loyalty can all be gathered. Knowing which posts work and using data to determine a change in direction (or not) is the critical key to a compelling, engaging and successful platform strategy. 

For Instagram, it couldn’t come soon enough

While insight analysis on Facebook and Twitter has been around for years, it’s difficult to comprehend how brands have managed to create consistent marketing strategies across social platforms until now.

Official figures released in June (2016) revealed the platform now has half a billion registered users, double the amount it had two years ago.

And with more than 300 million people using the service every day, it is vital brands get their strategies right, especially if you’re targeting the 90 per cent of users who are under 35. When stats show that 28% of users under 35 have purchased a product as a direct result of viewing it on the network in the last six months, it’s easy to understand why nailing Instagram is essential. 

In this era of purpose where visual content triumphs over written, and the need for brands to talk with consumers, rather than at them is integral, Instagram, although half a decade old, still offers a fresh approach to help brands tell visual, authentic and transportive stories.

So what’s next for the platform?

It’s taken six years for the platform to get up to speed with its competitors, namely Facebook and Twitter, with its recent introductions, and no doubt there’s stiff competition from the likes of Snapchat and, although in testing, Lifestage.

But on such a roll, and now on par on its biggest competitors, its fair game what comes next.

 

Words by Nina Sawetz, PR and communications consultant

 

As head of Editorial for Bottle, Nina leads PR strategy and comms activity for the agency’s consumer division, and has extensive experience working with brands including Goodyear, Poundland, Interflora, Golden Wonder and AXA PPP healthcare.

 

Nina also runs FuturePR.co looking at ongoing trends and the changing landscape of PR and communications.

 

Contact Nina at nina.sawetz@wearebottle.com, and via Twitter @BottleNina or @FuturePRco.

Guest Blog, Laura England: Email marketing – here to stay…

We have come a long way since Gary Thuerk sent the first mass e-mail in 1978. It might have only reached a few hundred people, but back then, that figure was impressive. Almost 40 years later, we continue to use the same technique to reach customers, staff and stakeholders. Laura England, account executive at technical PR agency, Stone Junction, details its substantial transformation

Advances in SEO, content marketing and sophisticated automation tactics have slowly pushed some traditional techniques into digital obsolescence. Despite this, e-mail marketing continues to remain relevant. Throughout its 40-year life span, the medium has seen some questionable techniques. Nevertheless, a few changes and improvements that come to mind are definitely here to stay.

Responsive design

According to Experian, a large percentage of e-mails are now read on mobile devices – two thirds, to be precise. In fact, the growth in use of mobile phones and tablets is part of the reason e-mail marketing has remained so popular. Without a doubt, most of us understand the importance of responsive design. Despite this, just eleven per cent of commercial e-mail templates are optimised for mobile viewing. If e-mail marketing is part of your marketing strategy, responsive design should be a top priority.

A personal touch

In today’s society, everything is personalised, from TV adverts to Starbucks cups, everything is tailored for you. While personalisation of e-mails certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, we’re finally beginning to see this tactic done well.

E-mail marketing has gained a relatively bad reputation when it comes to personalisation. Even luxury brands have fallen victim to the easy but detrimental mistakes of poor tailoring in their campaigns. While it is true that brands could easily scrap this technique and avoid embarrassing mistakes, according to various studies, e-mails containing personalised elements have transaction rates six times higher than those without. Despite this, less than 30 per cent of brands use this tactic in their campaigns.

Long live the light box

Most of us will have experienced a pop up box on our screens whilst browsing online. Often referred to as a light box, the tactic is a pet hate of some marketers because they consider it a nuisance to the customer. However, using a light box is no different to a call-to-action in your sidebar or including a subscribe option in your e-mails. Perhaps, just a little more direct.

Aside from providing a useful platform to notifying the user of a deal or promotion, the sign-up function through light boxes has been known to expand e-mail lists between five and ten times faster than traditional sign-up fields. For me, that is worth disrupting the browsing experience for a few seconds.

Now, more than ever, e-mail marketing is a tool to be embraced and used to its full potential by marketers. Outliving the likes of affiliate programmes, pop-up ads and classified advertising, there is no doubt that e-mail marketing is here to stay.

Laura England is an account executive at technical PR agency, Stone Junction. The award-winning agency, based in Staffordshire, focuses on public relations and marketing for businesses operating in the technology sector. Laura was appointed the company’s e-mail marketing specialist in 2015.