Feb 11, 2016

A Guide to Gated Content Promotion: Tips and Tricks for Driving Downloads

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As brands everywhere wake up to gated content’s lead and demand generation benefits, “To gate or not to gate?” is a question more and more marketers are asking of their content strategy.Of course, gated content’s defining characteristic is also its biggest roadblock to success.

Even if you’re offering “free” information — in so much that your audience doesn’t have to pay money for it — you are requiring them to take action beyond clicking on a link. At minimum, the price for accessing gated content is an exchange of a person’s name, email address, and other contact information.

With more companies jumping on the gated content bandwagon, convincing audiences to fill out a form to download a white paper or listen to an on-demand webinar is becoming increasingly difficult.

As with any kind of content, you need a promotion plan that will bring your target audience to you and persuade them to take action.

In the white paper Why Content Marketing’s Really a Question of Marketing Your Content, we address marketers’ tendency to underestimate content promotion’s importance by providing tips for developing a multichannel distribution strategy.

When it comes to executing that strategy, though, one of the key things to remember is each piece of content you promote presents unique challenges which must be addressed.

The challenge for promoting blog posts, infographics and other ungated content is getting people to click a link in your social media post or press release. The content is then immediately accessible on the other side of that click.

Gated content, on the other hand, has a bigger barrier to acceptance. An interesting topic isn’t enough to persuade people to click over to your beautifully designed landing page, fill out your optimized lead generation form, and download your content.

You need to step up your promotion game and consider what makes your content so special that it’s worth your audience’s personal information. The following checklist of items will help enhance the marketing of your gated content.

But first, a quick note: While this article is primarily focused on the type of gated educational content B2B brands use, many of the tips can also be adjusted for gated B2C promotions.

Set the stage with high-quality ungated content.

You need to demonstrate to your audience that the content they’re trading information for is superior to similar content they can find elsewhere. Although you can’t hand them a white paper to review before they download, you can prove your brand’s worth by first producing high-quality ungated content.

If you create consistently interesting and informative content on your blog, press release, and social channels, your audience will expect the same level of investment in the premium content they download.

Offer substance that exceeds your audience’s expectations. 

While it’s important to deliver exceptional ungated content, you have to push yourself even harder with the content you gate.

If you want your audience to come back to you after reading what they download, the content you provide must offer something unique they can’t find anywhere else (including on your brand’s other channels).

Take a look at the ungated content you’ve already published, assess which ones were successful, and plan premium content that takes a deeper dive into those topics. Or offer up an interactive checklist or tool that’ll make your audience’s life easier. Or publish exclusive data and analysis about an industry issue.

Whatever you choose to create, it needs to have weight to it. Furthermore, your promotion must emphasize what aspects make it worth downloading.

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Don’t forget about format. 

Your content’s message is one piece of the conversion puzzle, but so is that content’s format. Some people prefer audio or visual formats, others would rather read an ebook.

Delivering your content in a variety of formats that your target audience prefers is the first step.

The next step is highlighting that content’s format when you promote it. Be specific in your tweet or blog post and mention whether the gated content you’re offering is a video or case study, an interactive buyer’s guide or white paper.

For the members of your audience who care about your content’s delivery method, knowing what they’re about to download could be the deciding factor.

Emphasize authority and authorship. 

Authority goes a long way when it comes to promoting any sort of educational content. If your brand is already an established thought leader in your field, the good news is you can use that reputation when promoting your content.

If you think your content needs a boost, interviewing an industry expert or partnering with another organization to co-author research can help distinguish it from other content competing for your audience’s attention.

At minimum, you need to make a case for your gated content’s authority when promoting it. And if the content’s author is worth highlighting, it can’t hurt to include a mention of who they are and why their expertise matters.

Package the promotion so it can stand alone if needed.

The ultimate goal to promoting your gated content is persuading someone to download it. However, when you’re promoting that content over distribution channels, you’ll need to create stand-alone assets your audience will want to share regardless of a form being attached to it.

When it comes to promoting PR Newswire’s gated content, we look at how we can repurpose a snippet of information from the full content into a separate piece of multimedia.

For instance, our social media manager Ryan Hansen will find a quote or stat from our gated content and feature it as the focal point of images he creates for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social platforms.

Our senior creative manager Jamie Heckler takes a similar approach when creating images for press releases, blog posts, and Pinterest.

She’ll review the gated content and look for information that won’t give away too much of the content’s substance. Bolded section headers that offer a top-level summary of the content, bulleted lists, and sidebars can all be easily turned into visuals like the graphic in this press release promoting a white paper.

And if you’re considering using SlideShare to promote gated content, she offers up two routes:

  1. Promote a single piece of gated content multiple times. This approach works especially well for promoting on-demand webinars. Review the slides from the original webinar, select a handful that offer an interesting preview of the rest of the webinar, and pepper in a few slides directing people to the full webinar. (Example: Crisis Communications Planning in the Social Media Age SlideShare)
  2. Promote multiple pieces of gated content united around a single theme. In this scenario, build a SlideShare deck around a broad theme that’s then broken down into a number of subtopics. When you get to the end of a subtopic’s section, direct your audience to related gated content. (Example: PR Trends for 2016 SlideShare)

Set clear expectations in your call to action.

This brings us to the last, but certainly not least, element of your gated content promotion: your call to action.

It’s not enough to just say “Click here to read.” without providing any context. Regardless of how you’re promoting the gated content, you need to clearly tie the content’s relevance to your promotion and offer it as a natural next step for your audience to take.

It’s also helpful — either through text or visual cues — to be upfront with your audience that they will be downloading something or providing information to access it.  It’s important to set expectations and avoid a bait and switch.

Finally, don’t let your efforts go to waste by neglecting to embed a trackable link in your call to action. It’s essential to understand which promotional channels are (and aren’t) driving qualified leads into your marketing pipeline.

Executing a thoughtful, multichannel promotion strategy can do a lot more than amplify your message and give your gated content the immediate boost it needs. Download Why Content Marketing’s Really a Question of Marketing Your Content to discover why press releases are an essential piece of the promotion puzzle and how to write and distribute releases that connect you with new audiences.

Author Amanda Hicken is PR Newswire’s senior manager of strategic content and managing editor of Beyond PR. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, marketing, Cleveland, and comic books.

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