Content Marketing: Stories and Relationships

“Content marketing” is a common term in marketing and business. It may seem redundant as P for Promotion in the marketing mix has always involved some form of content, with an emphasis on creativity to capture attention. The challenge in the latter prompts the current concept of content marketing as Lieb and Szymanski assert, “Today’s consumer lives in a virtual Times Square of messaging.”

The definition of content marketing in this Forbes article emphasizes the word “valuable,” comprising the key difference between contemporary ideals in marketing communications and the mass bombardment approach of decades past. A consumer will seek, retain and act upon content that is beneficial. She will tune out, avoid and/or block content that lacks benefit.

“Consumer empowerment” is another common term in marketing and business, with technology the driver. A consumer is no longer bound to three major TV networks providing the majority of their in-home media consumption. He can surf, stream and/or binge a galaxy of entertainment and information and pay for the convenience of advertising-free media.

This same technological shift has also empowered marketers to create and deliver a new era of marketing communications, enlightening and engaging customers with content they seek not shun. The PESO model categorizes marketing communications as:

  • Paid: Paying to have your marketing put in front of another publisher’s audience (ads, sponsored posts, contractual influencer partnership)
  • Earned: A publisher notifying its audience about your organization/offering (media coverage resulting from public relations efforts)
  • Shared: Customers and unpaid influencers distributing information about your organization/offering through their networks (social media posts)
  • Owned: Creating and distributing independent communication that customers can access directly (websites, blogs, videos, print collateral)
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“Owned” is the primary space for content marketing as marketers control the message and its delivery. Graphics depicting the PESO model (such as the one above) are Venn diagrams showing the overlap and interrelation of the four communication categories. Convergence occurs at the model’s center as effective and concurrent use of all categories elevates the marketer’s reputation.

While content marketing is a newer construct, it is built on two classic marketing processes:

Content must be designed and provided to the right market segments in the same manner as products. This requires applying segmentation variables to determine customers’ backgrounds, lifestyles and needs. At the same time, content must be introduced into the buyer decision process at the optimal stage to educate, reassure and guide the customer, leading to a purchase.

Content marketing emphasizes storytelling. Not all marketing communications within a content campaign are short like a TV commercial or a billboard. Some may be lengthy or multi-part if they provide value to the consumer through their depth. This ultimate aspect of content marketing invokes the Master Storyteller, Jesus Christ:

Matthew 13:13 ESV

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

As I’ve written in a content marketing course I developed for a Christian university:

Communication overload is why our stakeholders do not see or hear, per Jesus’ teaching about the need for parables. This is why we must become storytellers like Jesus and shift from traditional marketing approaches to content marketing. We must relate to our stakeholders and present stories in which they see themselves, just as people first saw themselves as the prodigal son or the faithful servant 2,000 years ago.

Content management can be complex as it involves numerous communication channels, audiences, and media formats. But it is built on simple principles and the use of core messages to be repeated and repurposed for all stakeholders.

Let’s follow Jesus by telling impactful stories leading to positive outcomes for the people we steward as marketers.

Biblical image: FreeBibleImages.com, Sweet Publishing

PESO diagram: Gini Dietrich

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