While the importance of content continues to increase for marketers — 66 percent rank it among the top three marketing activities for their brands — there’s a growing disconnect between the content created and measuring the results that content drives.

If marketers are unable to appropriately measure the results of their efforts, how can we continue to justify marketing spend on content?

Cision prides itself on staying on top of both industry trends as well as sentiment among communications professionals. In the recently-released 2017 Global Comms Report: Challenges and Trends, we uncovered frustration among marketing professionals at the lack of tools to effectively measure content marketing.

Why Metrics Are so Important

For anyone who has ever tried to justify increasing marketing budgets, you understand the challenge of doing so without concrete evidence that the investment will pay off. Executives want to see results before they sign off on the proposed budget, and if marketers can’t deliver those results, they risk not getting approved for future marketing efforts.

The same goes for justifying existing marketing spend; if they can’t prove it’s working, it clearly isn’t, or at least that’s how execs might think. The report shows that 65 percent of marketers say tightening budgets is one of their top three challenges, so the question is: how can we better prove the value of content marketing?

The Measurement Deficit

While a few years ago, marketers were satisfied in measuring impressions and clicks on social media and from blog posts, we now need a better way to directly correlate content to bottom-line growth. This is the case in every type of content marketing tactic.

Take earned media, for example. When a reporter or blogger talks about our brand, what’s the real impact? Certainly, we can see how many people clicked on that article and came to our website, but what does that really tell us? What value did that media mention actually ascribe?

And in creating content for our own blogs and websites, how do we know which content has the biggest impact? Do clicks and shares of the article actually mean anything? Do they convince people to buy? Figuring out which content is most effective is a challenge for over half of the respondents to our study.

What do people do after they consume our content? Does it actually drive real-world behavior, or do consumers simply digest the content and move on? Where does brand recognition come into play? The fact that 58 percent of marketers don’t know what people do after they consume their brand’s content tells us that there is a serious deficit here. The fact that often there isn’t a linear path between the consumption of content and a purchase also makes it difficult to measure results.

Communication Challenges Around the World

It was interesting in the report to see that the concerns of marketers vary, depending on the country.

Here in the U.S., the overwhelming majority (70 percent) are challenged by an inability to measure the impact of content effectively. Canada and China, too, share this frustration.

In the UK, France and Germany, tightening budgets were the leading concern, while communications professionals in Sweden worry about how to better align communications with other marketing functions.

 What Comms Pros Want

The lack of measurement tools for content is something we can no longer ignore, and something that communications experts are becoming more vocal in demanding. Three out of four survey respondents feel the communications industry can do a better job of measuring and proving its impact on business objectives; 22 percent feel the industry doesn’t do a good job at all.

Without the right data and analytics, how can we attribute content and earned media to changes in the bottom line? How can we be expected to justify spending money on content — which we innately know is a successful marketing strategy — if we can’t point a finger to exactly how it’s making us more money?

This isn’t a problem that can be solved overnight, though there are already advances being made in the industry to solve this problem, as Cision recently announced new technological advances for tracking earned media.

Stay tuned to find out how we’ll solve this content conundrum.

2017 Global Comms Report.png

About Nick Bell

Nick Bell is the VP of Marketing Communications at Cision. With more than 20 years of technology marketing experience, Bell has held executive-level positions with marketing technology firms including Oracle Marketing Cloud, Eloqua and Adobe. Bell has a proven track record of developing award-winning and ROI-based marketing programs, media relations, and brand strategies. Bell holds a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @nbell94102.