For more than a decade, I helped develop online advertising strategies for a publisher. Today, I’m sitting on the other side of the table, buying advertising to help drive website traffic, content downloads, and webinar registrations.
When I discuss our content marketing plans — and our budget — I make a point of letting all publishers know that my goal is to become a partner with them. And if you talk to anyone I’ve purchased advertising from, many of them have not only become good friends, but we’ve also helped each of our businesses grow in the process.
The ad placements are just one part of a three-legged media stool that combines paid, earned, and owned media. This convergence helped create a simple content marketing strategy that led us to start thinking about publishers in a whole new way while putting an end to interruptive advertising.
Not only do we work with publishers and buy display inventory on their websites and email newsletters to promote our eBooks, research, and other content resources, but publishers have become an integral part of our successful webinar program.
Last year, we produced 13 webinars — and various business-to-business publishers co-produced five of them. These events averaged 600 registrants with an attendance rate of 44 percent! We used some of the same publishers to promote the eight additional — and equally successful — webinars that we produced in-house.
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In addition to advertising buys and webinar initiatives, our paid media budget also includes Google AdSense, social media advertising, and other sponsorships. Here are some keys to being successful with using paid media to support your content marketing strategy, regardless of your budget size:
- Make sure someone on your team has media buying experience: Most journalists who you would consider for your content team won’t know a lick about online ad buying. Consider looking to someone else in marketing or throughout your entire organization who may have an interest — or, better yet, has purchased or sold media in the past. Having this skill set within your organization will allow you to maximize any ad spend and drive quality leads through the webinar registrations or paid placements for your content.
- While your content team likely has the experience to create great content, they should also know how to produce webinars. Understanding the different webinar platforms available — and how to plan, run, host, and take those webinars into post-production — is absolutely critical. With this core competency in place, you can then devote time to understanding the paid media landscape and work with the right publishers to promote your webinars and other content.
- Measure everything: Be as transparent as possible when showing publishers how they perform — you may even want to show them metrics that compare their results to their competitors. No one likes to lose, and they don’t either. Show them the number of total leads, qualified leads, opportunities, and business influenced and closed as a result of your investment with them.
The mantra “Everyone is a publisher” really can’t be debated anymore. Brands have established themselves as content creators with their own loyal readers, and successful content marketing programs now deliver engaging content — from blogs, videos, and infographics to case studies, podcasts, and the aforementioned webinars.
Tools like WordPress and Drupal are today’s printing presses, while social media has become the equivalent of the postal service in terms of delivering your brand message. My best suggestion regarding owning social media is a pretty simple one: Quite frankly, there’s no excuse to not use a social channel.
Case in point: Thanks to our Facebook presence, we caught the eye of a CEO who loved our content and messaged us for an immediate demo, which led to us closing a deal in near-record time.
Social media must serve as a key distribution channel for your content (think digital subscribers) that will help drive content marketing ROI. When done right, your followers and subscribers will trust you, and then evangelize and share your content with others.
While it’s a critical way to distribute content, social media should be helping your content marketing program in two other ways:
- Your social media presence must serve as a communication channel. Use social to inform key opinion leaders and influencers. Remember, it’s up to them, not you, to decide how they choose to consume your content and engage with your brand.
- Make social an extension of your business. While one person may be in charge of social, to really own this channel authors should be monitoring their own blog post comments, while participating in related threads on other websites should be democratized as well.
Media mentions are perhaps the most overlooked benefit of working with publishers. Besides generating prominent placements on some great websites (which can result in more inbound traffic and some nice “Google Juice”), earned media opportunities help your business stand out from competitors and stay top-of-mind to prospects and customers alike.
To get started with your earned media plan, make sure you integrate corporate communications into your content marketing program, especially if they are responsible for media relations. Give that person(s) or agency access to your editorial calendars and invite them to planning meetings, customer interviews, etc.
But remember: Journalists and editors have their own deadlines and schedules. You may have to move up or back publishing a new eBook, case study, or infographic to accommodate their demands. Making sure media relations is in the loop will help set both your content program and them up for success.
Here are two great examples of how earned media has helped our content marketing program:
- Almost a year ago, we landed an exclusive on Mashable for an infographic about Pinterest, requiring us to delay publishing the content piece on our own website. By agreeing to an embargo that prevented us and anyone else from publishing the infographic prior to Mashable, the accompanying blog post received more than 15,000 shares!
The exclusive placement not only caught the attention of tens of thousands of people, which led to more website traffic, but it attracted key influencers such as Jay Baer, who agreed to write a guest blog post for us.
- Now in its fourth release, the Ecommerce Quarterly (EQ) is an exclusive research report that has been referenced in dozens of trade and mainstream media properties, including CNBC, Forbes, TechCrunch, and others. While garnering a great deal of media attention, the EQ also has resulted in thousands of downloads, many of which quickly turned into qualified opportunities and new business.
An equally important win came within the past month, when a leading industry analyst agreed to cite some of the data that appears in the EQ, which should likely lead to more earned media attention.
Great content and successful partnerships are what drive a successful brand publishing initiative. Whether you’re coordinating ad placements with a website or looping internal partners in on upcoming webinars, great content is essential and these partnerships will help take your efforts to the next level.
Looking for more tips on leveraging business partnerships for content marketing success? Read Andrew Davis’ book, “Brandscaping.”
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