If You Build Remarkable Content, the Readers Will Come

This is the first installment of a two-part interview with content strategy extraordinaire, Rebecca Lieb.

Content is not necessarily a build it and they will come proposition. Content has to be very good for them to come.

It may seem like a basic principle, but according to Rebecca Lieb, many companies still just don’t get it. Rebecca is an author, columnist, journalist and digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter Group. In this interview she answers some important questions regarding content marketing strategies, going beyond how your organization should create content and into how it should be published and on what channels.

hrh media: Before we dive in, would you mind sharing with us a little bit about your content marketing journey and how you became interested in the industry?

I think you encapsulated it very well when you enumerated some of the positions that I’ve held prior to my current role as an analyst. I’ve effectively only done two things in my life. On the one hand I’ve worked as a marketer, always for media companies; and on the other hand I’ve worked as a journalist, as a content creator. So when you combine content creation, editorial acumen, running a newsroom (which I’ve also done) with marketing, I think content marketing and strategy is a very logical outcome of those two skill sets.

hrh media: Could you define what content marketing is, and furthermore what differentiates content marketing from public relations and even advertising?

I’m so glad you asked that. I’ll even take it a step further and differentiate content marketing from content strategy; first and foremost, because I think those terms get conflated very often. Content marketing is the art and science of marketing with media that a Brand owns; as opposed to advertising that you buy. That’s almost the definition of advertising, there’s a media buy associated with an ad. Content can be created in all sorts of ways, shapes or forms – on a blog, on websites, and certainly in offline channels if you publish newspapers, magazines, etc. What the digital revolution has really enabled is for any brand or any marketer to become a publisher and to become a content provider. You no longer need to buy media when it’s so easy and so accessible to create media yourself.

I really divide content marketing into three different categories: there’s content that is entertainment—this is your typical viral video. It makes people laugh, cry, or pass along. There’s content that’s entirely informative—this is used a lot in high consideration purchases such as a mainframe computers, another piece of technology, or a car that you have to do a lot of studying up on before you’re comfortable buying. The third form of content I’d like to call utility content. It’s things like mobile apps that help you deposit a check into the bank without visiting the bank—you take a picture and you zap it. It’s a vertical search engine that helps you find nearby restaurants or choose the right wine to order. So those are the forms of content marketing and effectively what it is.

The underpinning of content marketing is content strategy. Content strategy is planning for content marketing. Not just how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to create it and who’s going to create it; but how you’re going to publish it, in what channels, and what’s all the rules, processes, technologies and procedures are around the governance of that content. Just like the New York Times has a staff and that staff is specialized at doing different things, and the staff has an editorial calendar that says we publish this sort of stuff on Monday, this sort of stuff on Tuesday, this at the end of the year, this around the holidays, so too is content marketing very calendared, very seasonal. Without a plan you’re just looking at the proverbial white sheet of paper and you’re not going to know what to do next, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing new thinking around content strategies at the conference this spring.

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