So what is content marketing, anyway?

A few months ago I was asked to write something substantive about content marketing with particular attention to an emerging form, the brand newsroom.

Both were subjects I was aware of but by no means expert. So it proved an interesting research project. Interviews with those who had the marketing expertise and first-hand experience proved invaluable. They included:

  • Clare Francis, editor-in-chief of Moneysupermarket
  • Stephen Waddington, President of the CIPR and Ketchum’s Digital and Social media Director
  • Tony Hallett, former publishing director at CBS Interactive and now managing director of Collective Content (with whom I work on other projects)
  • Will Sturgeon, Executive Director of GolinHarris; and
  • Neville Hobson, Consultant and co-presenter of the For Immediate Release podcast

The piece — with tips on building newsrooms and editorial teams —  is now available to download from MyNewsDesk. Meanwhile, here’s a taster from the opening:

When the lights went out at the Super Bowl on 3 February 2013, a metaphorical light bulb went on above the head of one of the editorial marketers working for Nabisco, makers of the Oreo cookie. And in that moment, real-time content marketing went mainstream…

In perhaps the smartest example of “news jacking” to date, the cookie company combined quality creative with a killer line of copy: “You can still dunk in the dark.”  The process was agile, delivered at speed and proved highly effective – it resulted in thousands of Twitter retweets and Facebook shares while, in a perfect confluence of owned and earned, the story was picked up by dozens of media outlets in the days that followed.

Two things are often forgotten in the retelling of the Oreo story. First, the company had also paid for a conventional, multi-million dollar advertising slot to run during American sport’s richest event [2], hinting at a future where guerrilla marketing and conventional advertising will coexist.

Second, the company’s rapid response was only made possible by months of planning. The Super Bowl exemplar was part of a 100-day project, a product of production and meticulous preparation, of governance already in place, sign-off processes agreed and editorial practices honed in advance.

For anyone interested in the future of publishing, content marketing (in its many guises) is an important development. There are questions to be asked, for example, about how to maintain clear divisions between ‘church’ and ‘state’ when content appears on a publication’s website; about the integrity and value of that content in its own right; and what impact it will have on traditional advertising, PR and marketing.

In other words, it’s a trend journalists and publishers should understand, not ignore.

You can download The rise of the brand newsroom from here.


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