This time last year I put branded content on my list of PR trends to watch in 2010. This trend definitely found traction in 2010 – content spend was at 33 percent of marketing budgets, up 11% from 2008.

According to the Meltwater Future of Content report content marketing strategies are at the forefront of marketers’ minds as we move into 2011.

There is, however, a content competency gap between the recognized value of marketing content and the development of content strategies, says this report.

78 percent of marketers believe content is key to the success of their organizations, but less than half (49 percent) have a content strategy in place.

“Create magnetic content that will naturally attract consumers, rather than relying solely on the interruption model of advertising, which consumers are responding to less and less,” says Geoff Ramsay CEO of eMarketer. “Focus on content that entertains, amuses, informs, serves a function or satisfies a consumer need. It’s welcome instead of annoying or interruptive.”

That is pretty much a given, but how to do it seems to be elusive.  Closing this content competency gap will become a priority next year.

How do we figure out what kind of content will be seen as magnetic, innovative and welcome?  How can we know if our content will entertain, amuse, inform, serve a function or satisfy a consumer need?

Start by listening to your audience.  Not just for a day or a week.  Become a part of that community and really listen to what they talk about and how they talk about it.  You’ll soon understand what they need, what moves them  and what they share.

Armed with that information you can devise a content strategy that will resonate with your communities.

Not only will this kind of content stimulate social conversations and build relationships, it will also benefit your organic search results.  Google and Bing both say they are including social authority into their algorithms. If someone they consider to have high social authority tweets or retweets a link to your content, you get a boost in search ranking.

And PR people take note:  this applies to Google News search too. So produce excellent news content and get it out into the social web

Do you have a content strategy in place?

Do you have a plan for how you can listen and learn?

Do you know who to build relationships with in the social space to get the best amplification of your content?

2011 should be a very interesting year for PR. It looks as though some new positions might emerge- take a look at this post about the Corporate Content Miner.

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