Do you like to write? Would you write just to write even if you never sold a copy of anything you produced? Maybe there is some vanity in it. You would love to see your name on your books. But writing because you love it and writing to earn a living are two different things. Stephen King once said that you should write for two audiences: yourself and strangers. Writing for oneself and writing effectively for others require separate approaches.
Modern armies make use of Information Operations, or IO for short. (Nothing in the Army is a “thing” unless it has an acronym.) The military had come to realize that information is power and just as important as bombs, tanks, and infantry. But what makes IO so important is that, among other things, it targets enemy decision makers, their decision-making processes, and their information systems.IO planners ask questions like “How does the enemy commander make his decisions? Who does he talk to? Who does he trust? What does he want? What does he fear?” In brief, they mold the content of the message to fit a precise audience in order to influence his behavior. To get him to do what they want him to do.
What, you may ask, does this allusion to warfare have to do with content marketing? Just transpose the term “enemy decision maker” with “customer” and you are very close to what content marketing is all about.
As a content marketer, you will write to influence a precisely defined clientele. You will work from a framework of knowing as much as you can about how that client makes his or her decisions. You’re not selling a product; you’re making your target reader better able to choose what he or she buys from your company by stimulating interest and building confidence in your organization.
Let’s take a moment to examine what content marketing isn’t. It’s not native advertising or product marketing. It doesn’t focus on branded content in the way traditional marketing does. Content marketing is not the junk you are bombarded with every day that fills your inbox. What makes it different from junk mail?
The answer is relevance and value. Your audience is selected because what your company sells is relevant to them. They’re preselected so that you are addressing only potential buyers to whom your product is already relevant. Your job is to show how your product provides value to that particular buyer.
You will work within the framework of a marketing strategy that identifies potential customers and industry influencers. You will create content for different audience segments and across various types of media. The strategy includes enhancing believability, reinforcing the message, and keeping the target audience. Marketing content serves to build trust between your company and the customer.
What knowledge and skills make a good content marketer? Some talent is definitely required. You should be creative, imaginative and interested in the industry you represent. You should be able to tell a good story. If you can write good fiction, you can write good fact.
You should be familiar with the common search engines and able to use the Microsoft Office suite of products. If you’re already a blogger, good for you. Knowledge of content marketing strategies will make you a better one.
What about taking a course in content marketing certification? In addition to instruction in how to write an effective copy, a course should school you in content marketing strategy and working within strategy guidelines. It should expose you to the various types of content you may be expected to produce, including user-generated content. It should provide some insight into the best ways to write content for the different media types. It would be very helpful if the course touches on areas you might not have considered, enlightening you to the challenges you will face. They are out there, but this is a field where talent trumps certification. Take the course for the information, not the diploma.
Finally, be sure to have fun. Content marketing isn’t just a job. And besides, fun makes for better writing.
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