An interesting discussion has taken shape in the content marketing world, with many content folks beginning to weigh in on the delineation between the terms “content strategy” and “content marketing.” Many might be tempted to say the distinction is pretty obvious – the first is an overall plan and the second is a piece of that plan. But what makes this conversation compelling is that so many individuals and companies fail to see the distinction and consequently miss opportunities to optimize their content efforts – those efforts that get them in touch with their current and potential customers and allow them to communicate their vision, values, purpose and offerings to the wider world. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to pay attention to this discussion (as Robert Rose over at CMI pointed out recently in his article on the subject is that content marketing and content strategy require different skills sets. Because they require different skill sets, companies do themselves a disservice when they implement one thinking they’ve implemented both.
Content Marketing: Speaking to Your Audience
Content marketing is about the individual pieces of content you produce. A good content marketer creates compelling pieces – little masterpieces that are crafted to resonate with an audience and compel them toward some kind of action, whether that’s reading another blog post, requesting a demo, liking you on Facebook, etc. Content marketing is really about creating pieces that ‘speak’ to an audience. These pieces might be press releases, blog articles, eBooks, whitepapers, videos or even things like Tweets and status updates.
The good content marketer is a good storyteller. They communicate compelling messages in words, pictures or video that deepen relationships with an audience.
Content Strategy: The Full Picture
Where content marketing focuses on audience engagement, content strategy focuses on placing content pieces within a larger framework and aligning overall content development with business goals. If each content marketing piece were a room in a house, content strategy would be the blueprint to that house. In this way, you don’t want to just start throwing up walls; you might end up with 5 bedrooms only to realize you lack a bathroom or electrical outlets - perhaps an overextended metaphor, but you get the idea. Many agencies might offer ‘content strategy’ services, but in reality what they deliver is content marketing services. The distinction is vital. Whether a company employs an agency or consultants, it should look for specialists in both fields – both the content marketer that crafts the messages and the content strategist that provides a framework for all those messages.
Why Care About this Distinction
As marketers, many of us can say, of course content marketing and content strategy are intimately related. But how often are great content marketing pieces really planned out and executed in the context of a bigger content strategy picture? Do we just publish our 3 compelling blogs a week without thinking about how they fit into a content framework – one that is repeatable and replicable? Who is responsible for painting that bigger picture? Good content creators are not always good content strategists (though that’s not to say they can’t be) and it is helpful for companies to realize this when employing content professionals.
Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together
Content marketers tell compelling stories. Content strategists place those stories in a larger context to align with business goals and objectives, placing content marketing in a framework that makes sense. It’s like a puzzle; you only get the benefit of the full picture when you put the pieces together. And you’re only able to construct that puzzle because you know what the picture looks like that you’re working towards. If you’re embarking on a content marketing mission, get the most from your efforts by identifying a clear and comprehensive content strategy and then creating content marketing pieces to support that strategy.
(Article featured on Business 2 Community)
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