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Opinion / Content Marketing

by Contagious Contributor

Livity's Callum McGeoch shares five questions every brand should ask itself before taking the leap into content marketing

You can't move for people talking about content marketing at the moment. At Livity we've been banging the drum for quality original content ever since first persuading Lambeth Council (in South London) to bundle all its youth messages into a single, sustained youth co-created entertainment title nearly twelve years ago. LIVE is now an international, multi-platform youth content brand and we've since consulted on, devised or delivered digital content strategies for Penguin Books, Channel 4, Barclays, Fabric, BAFTA, Dept of Health, Network Rail and many more.

But we also know that a long-term content strategy requires substantial investment and commitment, and is not the right answer for everyone. So if you're contemplating content and wondering whether to go for it or not, try asking yourself these five questions first...

1.    Why are you interested in it?

Be honest. Did you feel a bit left out when everyone at that conference was talking about their exciting new content strategies? Has the PR team not had much joy getting people to talk about your brand so you might as well have a crack at doing it yourself? Hoping it will save you a fortune in ad spend this year? Got a bit of under spend to play with? Looking for a flashy way to launch something? Need to double sales by Q3?

If it's any of the above then think of a better reason or walk away now. 

But if you've got mid to long term objectives to grow market share, change attitudes and behaviour, sustain and deepen brand awareness and affinity, develop an engaged community or open up innovative new digital sales channels then the sooner you can start producing entertaining, relevant, regular original digital content the better.
2. Do your stakeholders have balls of steel?  

Growing your own audience around content is a long game. Dipping your toes in to test the water is only going to return a false negative result. You've got to jump in with both feet and be prepared to wait a year or more before you start to feel the warm fuzzy return on your investment. Getting you board to greenlight your masterplan is just the first challenge. Keeping their faith in the strategy 3, 6, 9 months down the line will be even harder. Be sure they know what they're in for and have the nerve to see it through.
3. Can you get the whole company on side?

You're also going to need the confidence and support of as many other people as possible, both to help shape the strategy and implement it. To 'Think Like A Publisher' and start behaving like one too it won't just be cash, crew and kit you need, but a company-wide culture change as well.

Departments that have previously had little to do with each other will have to start talking daily and everyone needs to take the editorial mindset into their role and start reporting back from the frontline. They don't just need to know about it or support it, they need to really get it. 
4. Are you really interesting?

If your instinctive answer is 'Hell yeah!', then put yourself in your target audience's shoes for a moment, take a long hard look at yourself and ask the question again. If the answer is still the same, then congratulations you work in entertainment, fashion or sport. If your answer is a definite 'no' then chances are you're being a bit hard on yourself, and maybe not looking in the right places.

Try drawing a Venn diagram with all the topics that your target audience might conceivably choose to read about, watch, listen to, talk about or share on one side, and all the topics that your brand could be qualified to talk about or associate itself with (allow yourself to be fairly creative and tangential here), on the other. If the area of overlap is less than 10% then it might be best to stick to buying your way in front of other content publishers' audiences than killing yourself trying to earn your own. 
5. Do you have hidden talents?  

So you've made the decision, persuaded the board, secured the budget and are all set to push the start button. But before you post your Content Director job ad or start figuring out how to let go of all those media buyers, PRs and campaign managers that you're not going to need any more, take a good look at what talent you've already got close to home.

You know that guy Tom in research? No? Well anyway, he's been writing his hilarious gig review blog for years now. And Lucy in accounts' baking tips have got thousands of subscribers on youtube. Between them they know as much as about optimum blog post lengths, keywords, subscription drivers and the best upload time to catch ABC1 mums as anyone. 

An internal skills and interests audit will reveal these hidden gems, renew their enthusiasm for work and make every member of your organization feel like you are genuinely interested in them and make them interested in how they can evolve to support this new way of working. 

Callum McGeoch is Creative Director of youth specialist, multi-discipline engagement agency Livity and was previously Editor of Dazed & Confused and has written for Rolling Stone, NME, The Independent and The Times.   

@livityuk @callumity