Oct 27, 2011

Taking a content-centric approach to building relationships

Author Ninan Chacko is PR Newswire's CEO.

Marketing, today, is about driving closer, authentic, deep and meaningful relationships, on an individual level, between an enterprise and its constituents – customers, prospects, investors, business partners, key influencers, and more.

These constituents are far more informed; and as such, much smarter than ever before.  To that end, if an enterprise is unable to articulate its purpose, its ideals and values and how these impact the products & services it brings to market; if it is unable to offer something more than just its wares; and if it is only interested in being heard but not listening, the enterprise will never establish a true relationship with its constituents.

And without a relationship there is no basis for loyalty.

So how does an enterprise build this relationship?  By engaging its customers, its prospects, its investors and all other influencers in an interactive and iterative dialogue of which the foundation is content.

Content that tells stories, content that educates, content that informs an understanding of products & services, content that encourages participation, content that drives action – purchase, download, donate, view, share, and more – and content that builds community.

Today, enterprises are creating their own content – video, audio, multimedia, infographics, photography, etc. – and using technology platforms and content networks, such as those offered by PR Newswire, to deliver this content across multiple channels and to enable viral sharing of this content which helps shape a richer story that gets amplified over time.

The channels through which this conversation is happening are no longer limited to paid media, but rather a much broader, fragmented landscape of earned, owned, social and mobile media that complement paid media.

Importantly, each of these channels has different characteristics associated with it. As a simple example, Twitter has a message size constraint; it’s optimized for speed and for breaking information; whereas, a blog post allows a much greater amount of real estate to express a much richer and more nuanced version of a story and YouTube provides an entirely different, visual experience for the consumer.

So, content must be optimized for each particular channel – the style, the volume and the speed or the immediacy of that channel. That requires more than just a level of knowledge, individually, about these channels; it also requires a holistic, cross-media, integrated understanding of how to optimize and leverage all these varying channels to really make them work together, cohesively.

And when they work together – when quality content is delivered to the right target audience in the right formats that promote seamless consumption – it helps to coalesce interest across these fragmented mediums and drives response.

Content does not have to have a defined shelf life and should be republished, re-tweeted, mashed up, echoed, spur the creation of derivatives and as such drive continued conversation and engagement.  In fact, content that remains discoverable – a key role of owned media – grows in richness over time as more and more people engage with it.  This means the enterprise has to continue to monitor and engage to earn a continuing return from that initial content catalyst.

And lastly, the development of consistent performance metrics that measure the relevant indicators (click-throughs, registrations, downloads, etc.) of brand, reputation, demand and ultimately ROI, is key to the long term sustainability of such a content-centric approach.

Amplifying the content beyond the more obvious paid and owned media channels is a core insight.  Targeting and widely disseminating this content – via a trusted network such as PR Newswire’s – to the contextually-appropriate earned, social and mobile media publishers, gives your content even more credibility and will allow you to leverage many of the already established communities relevant to your content.

As my colleague Tony Uphoff at UBM Techweb puts it in a post titled Marketing as a Service, “Marketing as a one-way broadcast model, done in a series of campaigns simply doesn’t work anymore. Successful marketing today requires a content centric, conversational approach that engages and sustains a community of prospects, customers and vendors around mutual interest and the quality of the content exchange. In other words once a brand has engaged prospects and customers with a compelling story, this “community” needs to be sustained and nurtured. This shifts marketing from a project and campaign orientation to marketing as an ongoing service. The key is to be able to build, sustain and curate these communities and engage them on and off line.”

Author Ninan Chacko is PR Newswire’s CEO.

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