L-R: Ken Wincko, Nicole Smith, Rebecca Lieb, Michael Praniloff

L-R: Ken Wincko, Nicole Smith, Rebecca Lieb, Michael Praniloff. Photo courtesy of Victoria Harres.

You’be got the budget, you’ve got the plan – but is your content plan built to last? Keys to developing sustainable content strategies was front and center in the panel entitled “Don’t Run Out of Gas! Fueling a Sustainable Content Strategy” at Content Marketing World today.

Tellingly, two primary themes emerged from the discussion – the need for rigorous measurement and the reality that content needs to be promoted to be effective.

Panelists included PR Newswire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ken Wincko, Dell Inc.’s TechPageOne.com Managing Editor, Nicole Smith (@NicoleSatDell), and Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst Rebecca Lieb (@Lieblink.) The discussion was moderated by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff) director of emerging media for PR Newswire.

Business benefits will fuel sustained investment

Building content strategies geared to deliver business benefit – and then measuring those results in a relevant way – is crucial to building a lasting program, the panelists agreed.

Rebecca Lieb (RL): Start with building an understanding of how content impacts broader benefits for the brand, including favorabilty, share of voice and improvements in customer care, customer service.

Nicole Smith (NS): Understand what you’re trying to achieve. A bucket full of KPis is a diffused way of assessing your ROI. Brands need to get specific about what they’re counting, and they need to be thinking about whether or not what they are measuring is relevant.

Break it down. What constitutes engagement? Increased comments? Really dig in and think about what’s relevant about your business.

Ken Wincko (KW): Think in term of what the specific challenges are for each your buyer personas along their buyers’ journeys?

How can brands get content to stand out in today’s fractured content environment?

The days of organic propagation of content are waning, Lieb noted, driven largely by the convergence of paid, earned and owned media. While the occasional great piece of content will go viral, marketers

The panel agreed that search engines play a crucial component in driving content success, and that the meshing of paid, earned and owned media into converged forms provides important visibility opportunities for content marketers.

KW: Targeted outreach is an important way to reach influencers – the journalists and bloggers who own key niches to build expert advocacy for your brand.

Get beyond vague engagement metrics

NS: Cares that people find the content useful, and that they come back. Comments are not as important. We’re looking for a correlation between an activity and a result we like. Reverse engineer it.

RL: Content marketers have to be careful to not resort to ad metrics. Publishers are trying to prove to advertisers that a lot of people are seeing their ads, and there’s not a lot of accountabilty beyond that. Content marketing is not advertising, and it has to be more accountable.

KW: Ultimately it’s connecting the dots between the interactions. Tracking that activity through marketing automation in a multichannel way reveals what’s working for buyers across all the touch points.

When it comes to budget, advertising gets the lion’s share. How can content marketing compete?

RL: The Altimiter Group research demonstrated that advertising is losing ground, because content is more measurable and more effective. Social channels only exist because there’s content in them. Email is a container for content. Sophisticated marketers are creating content, testing it in social and owned channels, and then investing expensive ad dollars into content that has been proven to strike s cord. Benefit: this also creates a unified brand voice.

The content cycle: content > owned > social > ad. Lather, rinse repeat.