Content Marketing is often explained with the short sentence “brands should act like publishers”. This is a terrible explanation. Why? Let me explain.

The explanation “brands / companies become publishers” isn’t wrong, but it ignores a fundamental aspect. If everybody who publishes does content marketing, it would mean that pretty much every blogger out there does so. But a blogger isn’t necessarily a Content Marketer. And you may get a whole lot of traffic with your published posts, it doesn’t mean you’ve got a successful marketing strategy.

What is wrong with “Brands acting like publishers?”

Just a few days ago I attended an event where both companies and publishers were introduced to a tool making it easier to create interactive content. During these few hours I observed a fundamental problem: “brands should act like media companies” has confused many businesses. While the goal of the publishers who were present were simply to maximize reach with this tool, marketing professionals from businesses trying to sell products with content marketing always had one single question written on their foreheads: how does that help me selling my stuff?

In this short post I want to make the point that NO, brands / companies should NOT act like media companies / publishers.

Traditionally the business model of media companies is based on two things:

  1. Having a defined target audience (or several) and publishing interesting content for these people.
  2. Reaching the most people possible to monetize this reach by demanding businesses to pay for ad placements.

Whether your business sells electronic components for industrial applications, T-shirts, cargo ships or Hamburgers, your goal is NOT to get some extra money for ad placements on your site.

Publishers dream of one thing: getting content to go viral. The more clicks and the more views, the more they can charge advertisers. That’s the business model. (If they’re lucky enough thay may get a little money from readers for their content, although this revenue source has been declining for decades.)

So what’s the secret to content marketing for brands?

The goal of your content shouldn’t be to “go viral” and being shared by people to whom your business cannot sell anything. There is no value in virality (except if your name is Coca-Cola and your goal is “branding”).

Your goal should be to create content for people who are likely to buy the products or services you sell. The key to a successful content marketing strategy is to:

  • Put your potential customers’ problems at the center of your strategy and create content around those pain points.
  • Create content that aligns with your strategic product marketing goals. Everything else is just a nice-to-have but, quite frankly, mostly a waste of ressources. (the direct goal shouldn’t be “sales”, you should go through other intermediate goals first…)

I think the most cited best-practices are confusing many people out there. Red Bull has become a media company (which happens to sell energy drinks). Coca Cola lives thanks to an unbeatable brand – basically every MarCom initiative is just branding at this point.

So don’t become a publisher or a media company, but DO publish content. Don’t publish for reach, publish for those who could become your customers, those who could recommend you to customers or those who already are a might buy again. However, don’t commit a crime against your content and keep the sales-pitch stuff out of there…

Don’t create Nontent (“Content That Fails to Connect or Convert“) and add it to this noisy world. Leave that to (bad) media companies.