To quote Bob Dylan: “The times, they are a-changin’.” And in the digital age, this is most certainly true for marketers. To become a top brand these days, you don’t just need to make money—you need to have integrity.

Content marketing has boomed alongside the rise of the Internet, so organizations and their consumers are closer than ever. As a result, marketers need to produce content that is relevant, engaging and provides real value for the consumer to gain their trust. To put it simply; brands need personality.

It doesn’t require much of a mental leap to realize that the skills of a modern-day content marketer are becoming increasingly intertwined with those of a modern-day journalist. Typically, journalists need to tap into the minds of their audience and adapt their content accordingly. So, keeping on top of current trends and trying to connect with their readers through high-quality storytelling is essential for success.

With content marketing predicted to have a net worth of $313 billion by 2019, the everyday marketer would do well to consider some ‘journalistic’ strategies in order to stay ahead of the curve.

 

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Don’t be boring; be bold

In this age of information, communication is easy, and all too often cheap. As paradoxical as it sounds, content marketing shouldn’t be too ‘markety.’ Humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish these days according to recent studies, so consumers demand high-quality content that incites conversation, reflects the brand’s personality, and builds trust through authenticity. Journalists know this all too well—they are trained to inform, entertain and engage.

Ben & Jerry’s are the archetypal example of a brand that is unafraid to be bold when expressing a personality with strong company values. They have long advocated social justice issues such as climate change (Save Our Swirled campaign) and marriage equality:


Not exactly issues you’d expect an ice-cream company to associate themselves with. Yet, by not shying away from controversial topics, the ‘human’ personality of their brand seems to strengthen—rather than alienate—the relationship it has with its customers. Not everyone enjoys vanilla after all.

Be an investigator

One side effect of the content marketing boom that has taken place over the past few years is that there is a lot of competition out there. One of the central goals as a content marketer is to create original, compelling content of a high-quality—consistently.

When you’re relying on Google alone as a source of inspiration for your next big piece, it can be difficult to produce something that hasn’t already been done ten times before. Journalists understand they can’t just regurgitate content—they have to work for it. They have no qualms about making phone calls, arranging interviews, and chasing experts—thorough investigation for the benefit of their content is part and parcel of the job.

Perhaps marketers can sometimes be accused of lacking a creative, ‘outside-the-box’ mindset when planning content that promotes originality. Today’s top content marketers have realized the importance of quality over quantity when facing the challenge of keeping your consumers engaged. Rishi Dave, CMO at data and analytics company Dun & Bradstreet, summarizes it well in an interview:

A handful of marketers are creating too much content that is simply repetitive and uninteresting, repackaging the same messaging in new and faux-clever ways as click bait. There may not be a need for more content, but there is a need for higher quality content that delivers new insights.

How is that reflected in the tech industry? They’re typically seen as a forward-thinking bunch. All biases aside, the forward-thinking attitude seems to extend to how they approach content marketing: 69% of technology marketers say their organization is “extremely committed” or “very committed” to content marketing, compared to 63% of marketers overall reporting that same level of engagement, according to the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends.

One of the tech industry’s hottest players right now, Slack, are a shining example of content marketing done right. They have adopted a customer-centric model for their B2B business, with ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing playing a huge part of their strategy. Their ultimate goal is not sales, but peer-to-peer recommendations:

Often companies want to just tell people why they’re amazing. But we wanted to provide helpful information so people can learn about trends in the industry while developing a good connection with them

—Bill Macaitis, (now former) CMO/CRO at Slack

With 5x more customer support representatives than sales people, their approach seems to have paid off:

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Be an opportunist

The beauty of social media for marketers is that no matter the size of their organization, there is always the potential to go viral. It’s an opportunist’s game. Those who are savvy enough to have an eye for what’s trending now and spin it in a way that engages their consumers are usually the ones with the strongest online presence. And, with 67% of Americans now stating they get at least some of their news from social media, journalists recognize all too well how effective social platforms can be as an engagement tool.

Vice News are a notable example of a news outlet using social media effectively to spin stories in a way that is unique to them. They don’t just record news. They don’t just inform readers. They embrace an ‘alternative’ outlook to current trends by honing in on provocative issues and a style of journalism that is daring and original:

Understand your audience, and understand your mission. There’s a lot of noise out there, and if you understand who you’re talking to, and what you’re saying, you can cut through that clutter, and make a meaningful impact in people’s lives.” — Director of Audience Intelligence at Vice, Jack Hansley.

The interview excerpt may be directed at news publishers and journalists, but it is rather telling that the advice could just as easily be targeting content marketers. Whether you’re a brand or a news source, the key to social media success is knowing your audience and creating impact. Just ask Ben & Jerry’s.