Imagine you plan a huge Thanksgiving dinner. You want it to be perfect and an event everyone loves, so you decorate extensively, take an online course on how to carve a turkey into a sculpture of a cornucopia, hire a french pastry chef to create exquisite deserts, create a pre-dinner thematic re-enactment of the first Thanksgiving, and even hire John Riggins (Riggo, The Diesel), to provide commentary for the day’s football games.

The big day comes, everything has come out perfectly. You, the pastry chefs, the re-enactors, and Riggo line up and wait for the adoring guest to arrive.

Time passes.

No one comes.

More time passes.

Riggo is off playing Candy Crush on his phone.

The pastry chefs are playing drinking games with the re-enactors.

More time passes.

You go over to the invitations to make sure you posted the right day and time. And then it hits you as you stare down at fifty perfectly addressed pilgrim-themed, cranberry scented invites—in all the stress of making sure everything was perfect at the party, you forgot to send out the invitations.

The Two Phases of Content Marketing

While the story above might sound ridiculous (I mean Riggo would totally be playing Farmville, not Candy Crush…duh!), it’s exactly what many well-meaning business owners and content marketers do every day as they plan and execute their content marketing strategies.

They spend countless hours and endless brain power planning and developing amazing content—blog posts, visuals, white papers, case studies, even webinars.

And that’s great. But it’s only one part of successful content marketing. Because after you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

And that’s where content distribution comes in.

Content Distribution Completes the Content Marketing Circle

Content is the alpha and the omega.

It’s where you start and how you tell your story, and then it’s where you send prospective customers back to. But content distribution is what happens in-between. It’s how you complete the content circle.

Content distribution tactics can be bucketed into three categories:

  • Paid Media: This takes the form of lead generation tactics and email or mobile marketing (paid because someone gives you their email address or phone number in exchange for valuable content) as well as paid social media or sponsored content.
  • Shared Media: These are your social channels and communities who are part of them. They can also be social networks or communities that you don’t run, but your target audience hangs out on.
  • Earned Media: This is your media relations and influencer relations. This includes interviews and news about your company, as well as op-eds, bylined articles, and content you write for other publications, blogs, and websites.

All three of these allow you to get your content in front of the right people and pull them back to your content and website. And while using them together is extremely effective it’s important to remember you don’t have to be everywhere, you just have to be where you are.

Pick Your Weapon: Consistently

Whatever distribution channels you chose you need to make sure you send a consistent message and have a clear buyer’s journey.

So for example: Your social channels should reflect your website in both imagery (visual content and branding) and content (voice, personality, key messages). The transition from your website to your social channels and vice versa should be seamless.

Imagine if you were in a house and when you went from one room to the next the look, feel, temperature, and even smell of your surroundings drastically changed. It would be alarming and disorienting. You don’t want to do that to your prospect.

The same holds true for earned and paid media:

Pitching a story to the media or submitting a guest post to an influencer blog? Make sure if they go back to your website they find content and messaging that reinforces what you pitched and the fact you are an expert on the topic at hand.

Sending visitors back to your site through a paid ad? Send them to a place that fulfills the call to action on the ad AND make sure they receive consistent reinforcement elsewhere on the site of your expertise in the promoted area.

Sending an email to your database? Provide clear context for the links and calls to action that send them back to your owned properties. Where they land on your website should fulfill the promise you provide when you promote it in your email.

Consistency builds trust, and that trust combined with content that educates and informs will be what defines your from you competition.

Invite Your Guests The Right Way

So how do you chose the best content distribution platform for your organization?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does my ideal client like to communicate?
  • Do they like to use the social channels? If so, which ones? And how do they use each?
  • Do they prefer to email you when they have a problem?
  • Where do you have the strongest customer service platform?
  • Are they more interactive or passive?
  • What online platforms do they trust?
  • What blogs do they read?
  • What news sites do they most refer to?
  • Are their influencers in the space they respect?
  • When and where do they tend to interact with content?
  • Are they out in the field all day and spend a lot of time on mobile?
  • Do they read content while at work?
  • Do they commute by train or bus and read content while in transit?
  • Are they 9-5ers and interact most often early in the morning or late at night?
  • When are they on social media?

Your answers to these questions should give you a clear sense of how you should prioritize your content distribution efforts. From there you’ll want to track your key PR metrics weekly to see what’s working and what’s not working and adjust accordingly.

Just like you shouldn’t throw a party and not invite the guests (especially if Ray Lewis is there), you don’t want develop a content marketing plan without thinking about content distribution.