Content marketing.

You can either see it as a necessity or a gateway to a noisy, complex and confusing hell.

“CrEaTE MorE CONtenT”

Yeah, that’s what we need. And we wonder why content marketing fails – a rant for another time.

But seriously, we’re drowning in articles about content production, yet these never seem to focus on the ‘what next?’. You know, the stuff you do after the content has been created.

Content distribution.

Getting that piece out into the world to be admired and shared and not left to rot in the virtual landfill of the forgotten thought-leaders.

If we’re going to improve content marketing, let’s talk about content distribution.

The issue with content marketing

Telling a story. Creating something informative, or entertaining, revolves around creating material with substance.

Content marketing is about creating value. Being seen as an information resource, or an entertainment outlet, has its benefits when building an engaged audience. Dare I use the phrase – ‘relationship building.’ It’s part of the community concept.

The problem isn’t just the noise, but the disjointed nature of content marketing between its creation and distribution. It’s an end-to-end process. It should be treated as such.

Launching material into the sea of the digital abyss means it risks being lost forever. The way in which we approach distribution and the channels we use are critical for leveraging the odds in our favour.

Planning the paid, earned, and owned channels is one thing, changing how we get them to work together for the long-term, is another.

The geared content distribution model

When you hear the typical ‘CuSToMerS dOn’t wANt ads, they wANt coNTent’ spiel, when translated, it actually means we need better creative. This is exactly what every Creative has been saying for the last one hundred years…I know, shocker.

Paid. Owned. Earned.

These are the three main pillars of distribution.

And we need to tailor our material appropriately. Understanding the type of distribution channels available to us, can support us in shaping the content.

Quite simply, it’s different horses for different courses.

You’ve guessed it, these channels require a budget. But, they provide instant audiences for your material.

Paid distribution channels diagram
Paid distribution channels include Google Ads, Google Ad Display, web/app banners, paid insertion, sponsored content and email distribution lists (providing they’re GDPR/PECR compliant.)

These provide a quick and measurable way of getting your content immediately to the relevant audience. But, can be costly and require specified targeting. Not all content may be justified to use these channels, but whitepapers, brochures etc. would be an option. Moreover, link acquisition activity may result in hosting your content on a third-party site, newsletters etc. for a fee.

Earned media

The Digital PR’s Holy Grail. Through the art of newsjacking, outreach, and bribery, these channels enable further exposure of your content, because it provides value. Just like the dark art of PR from yesteryear, except this time, we want backlinks damn it. We’ve earned that coverage. Don’t go nofollowing us now.

Earned distribution channels diagram
Earned distribution channels include online discussion, PR outreach, bloggers, third-party newsletters, news coverage and social media sharing.

These may require proactive searches to find potential outlets, but the necessity of thinking of the needs of these third-party audiences, should and will, actively influence the content design.

Owned media

Does what it says on the tin. It’s the channels we own.

Owned distribution channels diagram
Owned distribution channels include social media, emails, newsletters and blogs

For most, social media is the first point of call. But, this is difficult if we don’t have a substantial following.

It becomes a form of validation when our audience organically interacts and shares our content. It means it has value.

Our audience and potential customers are actively coming to our outlets. Seeking the material we’re hosting. The difficulty is establishing this presence in the first instance. Everyone is doing the same.

This is where we zig to their zag. Changing the game.

Rather than seeing these as separate distribution pillars, we need to see them as coggs in a content promotional wheel.

Helping us to build momentum. Supporting the growth of our audiences and the community we wish to establish.

Content distribution model
Geared content distribution model: the paid allows us to kick start the process, while we focus on the earned, building momentum and recognition for our material so that people come to our owned channels.

Transforming the pillars into a gearing system, creates a long-term distribution strategy:

  • Paying for the content to be promoted helps to target relevant audiences and make it stand out on newsfeeds

  • The value people see in it, helps to push the message out further through engagement. Earning that additional coverage. Our audience starts to grow

  • Our presence expands. We can rely on our audience and not our financial budget. People actively seek our owned channels for the content

Once we have identified our outlet, the next step is to allow our chosen channel to influence our content marketing planning.

Improving your content marketing

Start with the distribution and work backwards to the creative.

The trick to improving our content marketing is to simply reverse engineer the process we have – work out the distribution channels first, then the content.

1. Define the purpose of our content

When planning your material, you need to have a clear idea of what the objectives are for your piece – what are you looking to achieve?

2. Adapt the content to our chosen outlet

We need to take into consideration the type of outlet that we are using and adapt the content to its native form. Artistic imagery works on Instagram, not PDFs.

Designing the content is just as critical as creating it.

3. Answer the question – ‘Why?’

We need to give the audience a reason. Justification for consuming our material. Put yourself in your audiences’ position – why would they watch/read/share this material?

Share your thoughts

How do you develop your content marketing material? Are there any outlets or tactics that you have engaged with and seen significant successes? Let me know in the comments below, send me a tweet @CJPanteny, or get in touch.

And if you liked this blog, don’t forget to share it on your socials and bask in its ranty goodness.

See you next time.

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