We are at a time in mass communication when companies no longer simply push out messages to consumers to earn their business. Instead, companies are turning to content strategy to plan the distribution of messages through print, digital, online, and social channels, leveraging content and tailoring it to fit different mediums.

At the 2014 Custom Content Conference, hosted by the Custom Content Council, guest speakers gave example after example of successful companies that utilize a content strategy and content marketing efforts — the process of distributing or amplifying a message to key audiences. One theme was consistent across the presentations: Content must be relevant or it will not be successful, no matter how well designed. At the conference, a three-step approach — very much in line with our content services here at Two Rivers Marketing — was laid out to help companies be successful in these endeavors.

Step 1: Understand your audience
In order for content to be relevant, companies must learn as much about their customers and prospects to make sure their messages are in tune with what their audiences want. Content must be designed to reach target audiences — sometimes in different age groups — if a company intends to be successful. For example, millennials, who are between ages 16 and 34, will respond differently to content than Generation Xers and baby boomers.

Smart content marketers gather information about their audiences through research to create “personas” — imaginary, representative versions of individual customers or prospects. A persona can be as simple as a one-page document that provides content marketers with an overview of an audience and its demographics, income, buying habits, etc. With some help from a graphic designer, personas can be more than words on paper, they can bring an audience to life for writers creating compelling content.

Step 2: Share your story
After developing a content strategy, the editorial plan must be fleshed out, meaning individuals with journalism and mass communications skills are still very much needed in this content era.

“Organizations need to be able to tell a story to share content marketing with consumers. They need to aim for one-to-one dialogue with their audience,” says Clare Hill, the managing director of the Content Marketing Association.

Why content marketing?
According to a report by the Content Marketing Association, the three most effective uses of content marketing for organizations are:
1. Long-term customer engagement
2. Building a brand
3. Customer acquisition

“There must be greater collaboration between marketing, social media, and public relations within organizations,” Hill says. “Content marketing crosses all departments and should be used to create more meaningful relationships with customers.”

Step 3: Distribute your content
After editorial is decided, the framework or distribution method can be decided. Depending on the audience and its communication preferences, content marketing may include a variety of mediums from traditional print to online and digital to social media.

A trend among content marketers is leveraging one communication form across multiple platforms. For example, a white paper can be turned into multiple smaller pieces of content:
• Blog posts
• Lists
• Infographics
• Tweets
• Podcasts
• Videos

Companies that embrace a content strategy and content marketing will communicate more effectively with their audiences than those who continue pushing out messages through traditional channels.

One thing is for sure in today’s marketing efforts: Content is king.

About Ryan Johnson

Ryan is a PR pro, with an earned accreditation in public relations. He’s a senior public relations supervisor who specializes in copywriting, media relations, and custom publishing. You can pick Ryan’s brain on custom content at ryanj@2rm.com.