“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … .” Were it written today, it could be about one of our favorite things: storytelling.
For generations, journalists have been among our society’s most important storytellers. Their recent struggles are well known, and 2011 was another miserable year. An estimated 3,775 newspaper journalists were laid off or took buyouts over the course of the year, up from the 2,970 downsized a year earlier. And those numbers don’t come close to the ones from the industry’s dark days of 2008-09, when more than 30,000 newsroom positions were eliminated.
The reason for this sharp decline, of course, is advertising. U.S. newspaper advertising sales struggled to reach $24 billion in 2011, less than half the total from 2005. Clearly, businesses are finding other ways to convey their marketing messages. One convert is a very familiar name.
Content Is the Real Thing
“… The Coca-Cola Company will evolve its approach to the creative agenda on its key brands,” begins a wonderfully creative video presentation by a top marketer at the soft-drink maker. “We will move from creative excellence to content excellence. … Through the stories we tell we will provoke conversations and earn a disproportionate share of popular culture.”
Coke says it is shifting its focus from one-way storytelling (advertising) to dynamic storytelling, which it defines as “the development of incremental elements of a brand idea that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels of conversation for the purposes of creating a unified and coordinated brand experience.” In other words: content marketing.
The Survey Says: Growth
Nine out of 10 organizations now are marketing with content, according to a 2011 survey by the Content Marketing Institute. More than 60 percent of those surveyed said they planned to increase their spending on content marketing in the next 12 months. And B2B marketers already are using an average of eight different content marketing tactics to achieve their goals.
The most popular tactic, the survey says, is articles, followed by social media, blogs, electronic newsletters, case studies, in-person events, videos and white papers. Some of those tactics are being employed much more often than just a year earlier, notably blogs, videos and white papers. The goals are familiar, led by brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation and customer retention.
As spending has increased, so has outsourcing. Some 62 percent of the respondents in the CMI survey said they planned to hire outside agencies to assist with at least some of their content marketing activities, and that’s up from 55 percent just a year earlier.
‘A Ruthless Editor’
The trick, of course, is finding outside help that really helps marketers move the needle. And for that to happen, the focus has to be on the creation of content that is accurate, fair and compelling.
As Coca-Cola’s presentation puts it, “The role of content excellence is to behave like a ruthless editor. Otherwise we’ll risk just creating noise.”
So to everyone who rejects creating noise and instead reaches for content excellence, here’s to a 2012 full of continued growth and success. It’s shaping up to be another banner year for new kinds of storytelling.