How Content Marketing Today is Transforming the PR & Communications Landscape: 5 Trends you Need to Know About
By Action Global Communication’s Head of Content, Zoe Christodoulides
The idea that content is now KING has been so deeply engrained within us all that we’ve been practically made to envision it wearing a massive sparkling gold crown! As emphasised by Ann Handley in Everybody Writes, content is the ‘building blocks’ of any communications campaign. And in our content driven world, everyone suddenly has to become a good writer in order to carry marketing messages forward.
But herein lies the problem. Churning out ‘good’ content is simply not good enough. At least, not anymore! As we fast approach 2018, it’s more apparent than ever that we not only have to change our approach to content, but we also have to fundamentally change the way we think about content.
As content marketing evolves at the speed of light, with the PR and Communications landscape fast transforming with it, here are 5 key changes worth considering.
- Shifting dynamics between paid, owned and earned media
According to the Holmes Global Communication Report 2017 , the revenue agencies generate from earned media will decline over the next five years, while revenue from paid, shared and owned media will increase.
Is this an opportunity or a challenge? It’s a bit of both. It looks as though the PR industry will witness an unfortunate decrease in the voluntary distribution of content as a result of traditional media relations (earned media). But it’s an opportunity to get more aggressive with web content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing and blogs (owned media), while it’s an even greater reason to tap into the paid content arena, with influencer marketing and branded content standing as an increasingly effective way of getting brand messages heard, loud and clear. And you’ve probably already heard that native advertising is set to be huge in 2018, becoming less intrusive than ever before. Check out this fantastic example of a native advertising campaign showcasing Airbnb hospitality in the New York Times.
- Blurred lines in an era where content strategy reigns supreme
The real game-changer is that content marketing can no longer be separated into distinct entities that live and breathe in different spaces. Forget the days when a content writer in a PR/Comms company just dealt with blog writing, while another team focused on paid and earned media. These days, everyone has to become far more strategic in their content marketing efforts; a team has to work together in unison to complement each other through every step of a campaign.
In this light, it’s hardly surprising that Content Strategists are becoming so popular in the industry: they analyse the tone of a brand’s current content and determine if it needs to change, they undertake content analysis to evaluate content effectiveness, and they come up with a full strategic plan. They also know just how to deal with content distribution and optimisation. And then they’ll bring the content team together – content writers, social media experts and so forth – to achieve the objectives that should increase ROI and sales for any given brand.
- Beyond the written word – the importance of video content
As highlighted in a recent blog by Action Digital, according to Cisco System’s recent Complete Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast, 82% of all IP traffic will be video by the year 2021. With 4x as many consumers preferring to watch a video about a product than to read about it, video is seemingly the easiest content for consumers to engage with in their fast paced lives. And did you know that Google (who also owns YouTube) loves ranking relevant videos higher than articles online?
This means that beyond content writers and strategists, a full modern communications team needs people with production skills; the masterminds behind finely tuned targeted videos with great share-ability, building visual stories for brands that audiences can form an emotional connection with. Not only do videos seriously increase brand visibility, they can also educate an audience via tutorials, and help build trust with behind the scenes glimpses of what’s happening in an office or workspace. And don’t forget to add video links into your press releases – according to Forbes press releases see an impressive 2.8x increase in views when they include video.
- Goodbye plain storytelling, hello interactive story-building
We can’t ignore the fact that we live in an era of content overload, so rather than just ‘telling a story’ for a given brand, PR and Comms companies these days have to focus on content that can be interpreted and built upon in a myriad of ways the moment it’s shared on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and beyond. Rousing emotion, forming personal connections, and digging into matters that are often taboo, is a great way of achieving this.
Check out the clever way in which Heineken roused emotions as part of their ‘Open Your World’ campaign, bringing together strangers with directly opposing beliefs, getting them to build a bar together in a ‘social experiment’ aimed at facilitating human understanding. Using Facebook as the campaign’s primary platform, it achieved 3 million views a mere eight days after its launch, gaining over 50,000 shares in its first month and a trending hashtag #OpenYourWorld. What’s more, people the world over have been using the #OpenYourWorld on Instagram and beyond, to share their own pictures and stories; a perfect example of how a campaign can grow and gain resonance via audience interaction.
- Into the future with an ‘AI-first’ approach
When you think about content, chances are, you immediately think about something you’re reading in print, or watching on the screen right? Think again. As emphasised by Rebecca Lieb, author of Content- The Atomic Particle of Marketing speaking in ‘The Marketing Cloudcast’ by Salesforce: “In a world of beacons, censors, and the Internet of Things, content isn’t just about Facebook or a blog. It’s in the very air that we breathe.”
It’s time for PR, marketing and Comms professionals to start thinking about content in a new context, as we move beyond mobile-first marketing, into an era of ‘AI first’ where chabots and voice based search will have a huge impact on how business get things done.
Just look at the way beauty giant, Sephora, gives users the chance to enjoy a one-to-one chat experience on mobile via Kik chatbot before making a purchase, providing tips, tutorials, info on top rated products and more. What’s more, machine learning can make the production of content more targeted, predictive and personalised with an ‘AI-first’ approach highlighting the intentions and interests of a target audience more than ever before, giving strategists the chance to gather relevant data to produce content that performs better, while increasing brand visibility and driving business success.
As we move full speed ahead into a new era for content marketing, evaluating your approach within the wider framework of integrated PR and Comms may present a challenge at first. But once you begin to really gain a firm grasp of all the pieces of this vibrant puzzle and how they can ultimately work together in the fast-changing – largely digital landscape – in which content lives and breathes today, you should soon be well on your way to ultimate success!
To find out more about Action’s content services, click here.