Fergus Stoddart
This is a post by Fergus Stoddart
Opinions

I’ve just spent an interesting two days at Content Marketing World. For someone who’s been in the industry for 12 years and lives and breathes it, you can only imagine what it’s like to immerse yourself in the key themes that keep you up at night. I was like a kid in a candy shop.

Where’s this industry going? What are the new trends? Where are the pressure points for those practising day-to-day? What are the emerging tools? What’s working and what’s not?

For me, it was fascinating to see how the agency world is waking up to opportunities – whether publishers and media, custom publishers of old, or traditional creative and media agencies that realise where marketing has been heading.

We had a great time surveying many of the key delegates and content-marketing practitioners of brands to understand where they saw opportunities and challenges. There were some interesting insights – clearly the ground is shifting as we mature in this space. We captured the feedback on video and you can see the results below.

Having also attended the event last year, I was left with a sense that the industry is growing up. It’s no longer ‘Why content marketing?’ or even ‘What is content marketing?’ which seemed to underpin most presentations in 2013. And it’s no longer about the basic principles and disciplines. It’s now about the how:

  • How to be more efficient
  • How to be more effective
  • How to harness emerging technologies
  • How to cut through the clutter
  • How to reach more people, especially more relevant people.

The four key themes that stood out for me were:

Amplification and context

The approach is no longer ‘Build it and they will come.’ It’s about how to get content out, in front of the right people, at the right time, in the right context, to drive reach and relevance. I got a lot out of discussions about native advertising, content discovery tools and the combining of paid and organic content to harness the shifting algorithms and business models of the large social media platforms. There’s no doubt we content marketers are playing an increasingly important role in this area by managing the interplay between paid, owned and earned media to improve the performance of our work. It’s an exciting space and one that will shake up traditional agency relationships.

Technology 

There’s been a stampede from technology providers to help us manage the many facets of content marketing. Each has their own unique focus and advantages, covering the key core areas:

  • Content collaboration (workflow and content management)
  • Content curation and generation
  • Content amplification and measurement.

The power of these tools is not in debate; no platform has emerged as the answer to all our prayers. The choice of the appropriate tool/s is still dependent on the strategy, technology and budget of each client.

Refining the strategy 

The importance of content strategy was hammered home and it’s clear the message is finally getting through. However, talking to the brands, there are still plenty of companies that have yet to formalise their content strategy – brands are getting exposed with mediocre thinking behind their content. Agencies like Edge will continue to play a strong role in remedying this situation. There are no short cuts and it’s a highly dynamic space, so the foundation strategy that guides content creation and distribution is critical.

Creativity 

The biggest challenge we face as content marketers is density of content. Getting cut-through and creating genuine value is clearly an area where brands need to shift their focus. We’ve moved on from ‘We get it, we know we need to create content’ to ‘How do I raise the bar regarding creativity to connect and resonate?’ It’s not aboutmore content, it’s about better content and investing time and budget into the creative process. Ultimately, content is a form of creative, and as an industry we need to give it the same focus, energy and priority as our friends in creative agencies.

One thing hasn’t changed, though. Commonly, the feedback we received from marketers at the event was that C-suite/senior marketers are still slow to move budget and resources across to content marketing, despite the mounting challenges. The reality is: as we, as consumers, get more and more bombarded by content, we have to invest more in strategy and more in creativity to maintain our share of voice in this crowded world.

Welcome to the grown-up world of content marketing. Hope I’m still allowed more candy.

Take a look at how you think content marketing is changing and what challenges you envisage for the year ahead.