A 12-Month Journey to Launching a Content Marketing Program

Content marketing is a popular term these days but one that still battles for legitimacy and funding in many marketing departments, even those of major brands. After speaking to many of my colleagues in the Asia Pacific teams, I’ve found that we have a few things in common when it comes to launching a content marketing program.

It’s usually an uphill battle to get a writer into the digital team, especially when they have traditionally been located in another team. If you do get access to funds to hire someone, usually the writer you can afford with your experimental funds is not the ideal fit, so you end up spending a lot of overhead time in editing and management. Hence, it’s nice when your many months of hard work pay off and your content marketing program starts to dovetail with your public relations (PR) strategy to deliver additional benefit and to grow your subscriber base further. Here is how it happened over the past 12 months.

The Funding Stage: It took about two months of research and socializing the idea of using content to generate visits. We used Google, Facebook, and other quantitative tools to get the numbers to create the business case for content. Fortunately, we had some benchmarks for cost per visit and conversion from our search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. Therefore, it was easier to make the case, showing how it’s relatively affordable and sustainable as a traffic source and as a way to target segments we struggled with reaching using other channels. When we presented the case for content we were challenged with questions from the product team such as how we would compete with other content out there when content was becoming a commodity in the careers and jobs space. Their concern was quite legitimate and as we saw major brands re-use the same memes and rehash the same topics over and over again, I have to admit we had moments of self-doubt.

The Experimental Stage: Over the remaining months, several of my team with different mindsets and approaches to content (a newly hired editor, two of our SEM team, and me) rolled up sleeves to brainstorm a content calendar that became our experimental crucible. About 95 percent of our content had average results and 5 percent of our content received more than 100,000 views each. We found it hard to repeat the viral content; it seemed to be a serendipitous occurrence each time. As expected we found that there was a fine balance between responding to what our audience wanted and the brand that we wanted to communicate – I have to admit that we occasionally upset internal stakeholders with what we published.

The Tipping Point: It started to really take off a few weeks ago when certain members of the media got hold of our content section and started to invite us onto the morning and evening news to comment on things like “Hot Summer Jobs” and “Part-Time Summer Jobs.” It had taken us eight months of work and we reached an estimated 600,000 people per piece of coverage in the target segment through mainstream media (not counting the readership on the site). In total, we got four major pieces of coverage.

While it has been a 12-month journey, I believe that there’s no greater lesson here than that content marketing requires you to test, test, test, and persist. The good news is that you just need to persist beyond what other companies in your industry will do and you can make headway in terms of share of voice as well as the conversions you are trying to drive on your site. You will eventually reach the tipping point. I believe with careful management of the media relationship I have no doubt that we can repeat the exposure on a regular basis. Our content marketing program is still in its infancy but I can only see it getting stronger over time as we begin to segment the audience better and write in a way that really resonates with them.

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