Today I want to address a common misconception of content marketing in Germany: content marketing can also be done via paid media. In the end comes down to asking the question: what are the objectives of content marketing?
I’ve had numerous discussions with people from agencies and ex-colleagues about what content marketing actually is. The company I used to work for up until last month provides a (very useful) marketplace for advertisers to get in touch with publishers (bloggers and online magazines). They advertised the whole thing with Content Marketing (with blogs and magazines) in this country.
In their eyes, getting a product talked about in an editorial form was enough to label in “Content Marketing.” I’ve always fought it and I am reluctant to using this expression to describe what the company does. Here’s why.
Back to basics
The Content Marketing Institute gives us the most accurate definition of what Content Marketing actually is.
At the core of Content Marketing is of course: content in any form (text, video, images etc.). Once you’ve put effort into the creation of content, it has to be brought to your target audience i.e. those you want to attract and keep (turn them into subscribers and followers or fans). They are mostly potential clients, but not only. The ultimate objective is to “drive profitable customer action”, which means gaining the trust and loyalty of the audience through content (even several pieces of content) they value. It is an ongoing process instead of a one-shot promotion.
This content production is based upon a thorough analysis of the preoccupations of the people you want to attract, connect with (your buyer personas). You have to think like a publisher, not like a company trying to sell your product.
Owned, earned and paid media and content marketing
So now that we’ve had a look at what a content marketing strategy aims at achieving, I want to address the media typology 2.0: owned, earned and paid media.
- Owned Media are all the channels a brand has full control over: the company blog, website, social media accounts…
- Paid Media are channels the brand has no control over but wants to use in order to advertise, communicate an offering to a target audience. You have to pay for it in order to be able to use its reach.
- Earned Media is what most companies aim for when developing and executing a content strategy. You gain earned media when customers become the channel themselves and share your content, talk about it and recommend your products or services. No need to tell you that this is the most effective of the three!
The trust and engagement in paid media is at the lowest, many studies confirming that advertising on paid media is less and less effective. Owned and earned media produce higher engagement and higher trust, which is why the objective of businesses doing content marketing is to gain that influence through owned (thanks to valuable content) and earned media.
A CM strategy therefore includes becoming ones own publisher. Content Marketing can not exist without the ownership of the company’s own channel of content distribution (online or offline).
Is content distribution in paid media “content marketing”?
So, if you pay for a blog post / article which appears on a channel you don’t own, are you doing content marketing? I think it’s quite easy to answer, given what the above definition of CM and the new media typology states.
“[Content Marketing] focuses on owning media, not renting it.” – CMI
Of course, CM doesn’t exclude paid media in the approach. Advertising remains relevant because it allows companies to have a significant reach, often much more important than the one of their owned and earned media. But promoting your stuff on channels you don’t own, even in an editorial form, remains by advertising by definition. You can call it native advertising, sponsored content, advertorials (Advertising + Editorial)… But in itself, it’s definitely NOT Content Marketing.
However, as I mentioned, it can be part of a content marketing strategy. Especially for brands and businesses who are new on the market or just engaged in a content or inbound strategy. Whether it is to communicate the offer through display advertising, sponsored links (Adwords), sponsored blog posts, paid link building, video spots, paid media is still effective for promotion purposes.