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Why Pragmatism Drives Content Success: A Q&A with Arik Hanson

Remember when Red Bull sent Felix Baumgartner to the edge of space and had him jump? So many brands would kill to generate as much buzz, engagement and word of mouth as Red Bull did.

The lead-up, event and aftermath was content marketing at its finest, but the truth is most of us don’t have the budget and resources of Red Bull. For the rest of us, a big content splash delivers a wave of results that dissipates quickly. Is that really the best approach?

Arik Hanson, the principal of ACH Communications, argues that most brands would benefit more from a less flashy approach that delivers consistent results.

Arik will present his ideas at next week’s webinar, but took some time to get our gears turning by answering a few of our content marketing questions.

Q: Many brands have found great success by making a big content splash. Why do you recommend a more pragmatic approach?

A: There’s nothing wrong with the big content splash–the “campaign” approach to content, if you will. However, a more pragmatic approach seems a bit more sustainable for most brands.

Think about it: Don’t most brands want an ONGOING relationship with their customers? Not one that is episodic in nature. If you want to facilitate a relationship with customers that goes beyond a product launch, you need to think about what content looks like in the long-term. Who’s going to produce it (in-house vs. agency vs. solo)? Who are your internal sources? How much do you really have to say?

Answering all these questions and more will help you begin to form a long-term content strategy that makes sense.

Q: Does taking a pragmatic approach mean that content runs the risk of being boring?

Make content as useful as a Swiss army knife.

Make content as useful as a Swiss army knife.

I think some brands get hung up on the idea of creating content that’s cute, clever and funny. That’s really hard to do well, which is why we see a lot of brands struggling in this area.

Instead, why not create content that’s useful? Content that solves real customer problems? It’s not really rocket science, but it’s also surprising we don’t see more brands taking this approach.

Q: Is it enough to just create a great piece of content or do brands need to do more?

There’s obviously much, much more. Creating content your customers will find useful is great, but you also need to think about how you’re going to distribute that content.

You also need to think about amplifying that content, since some social platforms are now leaning toward more of a pay-for-play system (a-hem, Facebook!).

And, you certainly need to think about measuring the effectiveness of that content and making sure those metrics get communicated to the content team so they’re informed on what’s working–and what isn’t–from a content point of view.

Q:  Brands have crowded social media. How can a content marketer drive awareness, engagement and leads with their posts, tweets, etc.?

Pragmatic Content Marketing - Crowd

Don’t be another sheep caught in the crowd.

I think many folks have gotten a bit caught up in this notion of creating content for content’s sake. I mean, how many times have we seen a brand wishing fans a “Happy Labor Day!” Is that really useful–or is it just filling the “content hole?”

I think brands just need to be a little more thoughtful, pragmatic and strategic when it comes to their content plan. A recent report noted that only 35 percent of B2B marketers had a content strategy written down. 1 in 3! And more than half of B2B marketers said creating compelling content was their biggest marketing challenge in the year ahead.

So, I think a big part of the issue is brands just need to sit down, do a bit of research, and create a content plan. Those simple steps would solve a lot of problems when it comes to driving awareness/engagement/leads via content.

Q: What are some tips for a brand that’s just starting to invest in content?

Don’t listen to people like me! 🙂 I mean, “thought leader”-types, more specifically. Thought leaders tend to speak in generalities and offer up vague suggestions. What you need are tips that work for YOU and YOUR brand/clients.

Start by identifying a mix of content your brand/client wants (sales, offers, promotions) and content your customers want. Really think about how you can help your customers in ways that don’t involve you selling your products and services–you might be surprised what you come up with.

Also: Don’t fall prey to chasing likes and RTs. Sure, social signals matter. They should be one metric in your dashboard. But, you should also be looking at metrics like “engaged time,” visitor loyalty, click-thru rates and, eventually, leads.

Q: What about brands that have had a content strategy in place for years?

When was the last time you conducted a content audit? Sit down with your team and audit your existing content. What’s working–and what isn’t?

Look at your data (Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc.)–what do the numbers tell you? When was the last time you looked at what your competitors were doing?

Use all that information to create a content audit, which should provide you with more than enough information to create a revised content strategy for the months/year ahead.

Want more of Arik’s content insights? Register for his free Vocus webinar now!

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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