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Big Brands: Content Marketing isn’t a Campaign, It’s a Culture

6 Keys to Content Marketing for Big Brands

Every company is a media company.

It’s one of those catchy phrases that took off a few years ago, soon became cliché to the point it’s almost passé.

Almost passé.

The phrase seems old and tired to the early adopters.  But for the vast majority of marketers, especially in large organizations, content marketing is still a new concept, it’s still seeping into the culture.

Big ships turn slowly.

Four Brands that are Becoming Content Publishers

A few weeks ago I saw some referral traffic coming from Forbes in Google Analytics for a corporate blog.  When I traced the source, it stunned me to find my employer’s blog listed right alongside powerhouse consumer brands.

There was the LexisNexis Business of Law Blog, a company with a publication focused on developing content for a niche, vertical, B2B industry, right alongside Coca Cola, Dell and luxury retailer Barney’s New York.  

Specifically, contributor, Steve Olenski, wrote:

“Although best known for their legal research tools, LexisNexis is aggressively pursuing a quality content marketing strategy with their blog site. It features a free ebook and free webinars, as well as original, in-depth articles on all aspects of legal practice.”

That blog is published in support of a single software and technology division, among many divisions, for a giant company that is one piece of an enormous holdings company.  And yet for all of the marketing resources, staff and activities the global company produces – it’s that blog that stands out.

There really is something to the idea that every company is a media company.

content marketing culture

6 Keys to Content Marketing for Big Brands

This blog represents the third (and fourth blog) time I’ve contributed to building out a content marketing program for a business. Each time it’s gotten a little easier, the goal clearer and the means more accessible. No doubt my editorial sensitivity, driven by a PR background, and my long-standing and personal efforts to blog on the side, have been important.

Still there are obstacles in big brands that small businesses never encounter. Small businesses are more nimble, can react faster and require less consensus to move faster. It large organizations it’s much harder.  Turf battles, politics, resources, executive education – and a sheer morass of digital complexity – all coalesce to create an uphill battle.

Even so, in reflecting on what’s worked to date, there are a few keys that stand out:

1. Focus on building a community.

Whether the platform for a content marketing program is a website, a blog, or a newsletter (better still if you have all three – integrated) the top objective is to build a community. There is no higher imperative for content marketing than community – and that’s an aspect of marketing that ought to be second nature to PR professionals.

2. Deliver value, not sales pitches.  

It’s a paradox of digital marketing:  the less you try to sell people in content, the more you will sell.  At my last company, the CMO could definitely say, that people who engaged our content were 50% more like to make a purchase.  That statistic came from an implementation of marketing automation tool Eloqua.  Be a trusted advisor first, salesperson last and keep in mind there’s a whole slew of roles in-between.

3. Consistency is truly pivotal.

The single most valuable aspect of content marketing is being consistent.  Writing and developing content on a consistent basis is like exercising.  At first, you tire easily, you’re sore, and you don’t feel like working out.  However, if you find the willpower to keep going, you get stronger, you build endurance and you discover half the battle is just getting to the gym.  This sort of mental conditioning isn’t just for you, your team or your business, it’s also for your community because they quickly learn and gravitate to your publishing rhythm.

4. Perseverance.  

In a large organization, you will find resistance and friction around nearly every corner. There’s always a reason why you can’t, shouldn’t or won’t.  I’ve got a long tenure wearing a military uniform and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about navigating a massive organization, it’s that’s there’s always a way to get something good done. If they don’t let you in the front door, go through the side.

5. Base hits, not home runs.

Your content will not go viral and you shouldn’t try. Focus on delivering small victories to your community every day. A baseball team that consistently hits singles and doubles will win more often than the team that swings for the fences every time.  Content marketing is not a campaign – it is a culture.

6. Embrace imperfection.

Perfection is indeed the enemy of the good. You will make mistakes, you upset some people, and you will have days that plainly, suck. Embrace the suck, because it’s never going to be perfect.  More importantly, content marketing offers an opportunity for brands to experiment. It’s a chance to make mistakes – and learn how to improve from those mistakes.

* * *

The Business of Law Blog has been more than two years in the making – with contributors from around the company and some of those from the outside too. There’s no way we are even close to having achieved the full potential.

I’d even argue we’re a long way from playing on equal footing with the ranks of Coke or Dell. We do however, have a huge lead on peers in competition and furthermore, a mention in Forbes has proven electrifying internally.

There’s little difference between the tangible results that blog delivers before Forbes mentioned it and now. However, earning a mention has gone a long way toward re-invigorating internal support.  Any company that wants to be a media company has to make content marketing part of the culture.

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Photo credit:  Flickr, Leonardo Pallotta, (CC BY 2.0)

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