My 7 new favorite approaches to content marketing

Due to its ever-evolving nature, I find the world of content marketing and the processes behind it to be full of interesting new approaches and “aha” moments. It can be challenging just to keep up, so I thought I would share a couple of my favorites that we uncovered here at Hightail in the past year.

Projects need producers, and not just project managers – While some creative projects suffer from version control issues, sloppy mistakes and missed deadlines, Michelle Kinsman, an executive director of production and operations, shared during an Adweek webinar that projects have a better chance of being successful with the right person at the reigns. “A great producer makes the entire team better,” she said, adding that producers take pride in combining “art, science and magic in helping the team and the work shine.”

Not all content is appropriate for every channel – Noz Urbina, a content strategy consultant and expert,  explained during a webinar with the American Marketing Association that consumers today want relevant content across the devices and the channels that they are using, but that content isn’t always built for consumption on every device. He explained how adaptive content, “a content strategy technique designed to support meaningful, personalized interactions across all channels,” can help. With adaptive content, the deliverables are made of smaller content components that can be selected, filtered and presented in many different personalized or context-specific ways. Channel-specific components are added only if they add real value. According to Urbina, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences, which can be even more powerful when combined with contextual messaging tied to a particular time, place or situation.

How we think about creative collaboration needs to change – During a MarketingProfs webinar, Ron Tite, an award-winning advertising writer and creative director, offered up some best practices to go from war to peace in creative collaboration, including abandoning bias in favor of working toward a common goal, having a “parking lot” mentality to hold ideas to be evaluated later, providing the right tools for collaboration and having each other’s backs. He also said that the first rule of efficient collaboration is to find time by being more efficient at everything else we do—because there just aren’t going to be more hours in the day.

Content should be created in a “group hug,” not an assembly line – A typical flow for content often starts with a planner, then on to the writer, then the designer and then several other specialists who take a turn with it. But while that type of assembly-line approach works for things like toasters and leaf blowers (where you’re optimizing for speed and standardization), those silos can limit the creative possibilities for content. There’s a better way, which Doug Kessler, creative director, referred to as a “content group hug” during a Content Marketing Institute webinar: “If collaborating before the copy is built, they’re solving problems together. They’re combining skills to say: How can we best tell the story?” That kind of collaboration allows you to tap into multiple experts at the same time, empowers team members to challenge each other and makes for faster learning and pivoting—with the biggest benefit being that it leads to “much, much better content optimized for impact,” according to Kessler.

There are two parts to storytelling with video – During a ClickZ webinar, Kurtis Thomas, manager of video marketing at OpenText, pointed out that the word “storytelling” really has two parts so it’s important to consider that “a story is only as good as the way it’s told.” He added, “We’ve all watched movies or had conversations we just wished would end. We want to give these stories their due, but they’re just not clicking with us. We don’t want our video content to do this.” He added that it’s important to consider what people want or need to hear, instead of just having a “field of dreams” concept of “if you build it, they will come.” To do that, he suggests asking yourself three important questions: “Will someone find your content; will they find it useful, relevant or empowering; and will they remember it or will it inspire them to take action?”

It’s important to keep it fresh – During that same ClickZ webinar, Annie Granatstein, Head of WP BrandStudio, the branded content agency within The Washington Post, shared some best practices for creating video stories that matter. These included the need to “find that fresh, unique angle, very much in the same way that a journalist does—that thing that people haven’t heard before and that will really feel unique and eye-opening to them.”

Design thinking can help drive innovative marketing – During an American Marketing Association virtual conference, Melissa Rancourt, Academic Director, Global Executive Master’s in Strategic Design & Management at Parsons School of Design, shared some suggestions to help marketers use design thinking in the marketing world. She shared that sometimes marketers are handed a solution, rather than information about the problem they need to solve. She also recommends inviting “unusual suspects” to collaborate, especially for brainstorming sessions, because remaining siloed could mean missing out on some different perspectives and different approaches to solving that problem.

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