Editors new to content marketing too often see themselves in an adversarial relationship with the sales team. They’re used to (and justifiably proud of) maintaining the authenticity of the information they publish. Of course.
So when a request comes from the sales team to create content with client input, they bristle. They feel like they’ve been sold out. The craft is dead. I’ve been in meetings with senior editors at advertising-supported publications talking about page view targets and click-through rates to sponsored channels, and I’ve received cold stares and been told, “we don’t care about results.”
I didn’t really know what to say to that.
Of course sales and editorial need to work together. If you lose your audience, then you lose everything. But if the sales team can’t sell advertising to paying customers, the lights go out and we all go home.
Editorial has always been part marketing. William Randolph Hearst famously called newspaper content “the stuff between the ads.” The point was to get readers eyeballs on the page, so they would, even if only inadvertently, view the advertising messages from paid clients.
When it came to newspapers, you could measure circulation, but not how many people actually looked at the page that an advertisement was on and much less how many were influenced by that message in some way.
The web has changed all that. We know exactly how many people read a story, how long they spend on a page, where they came from to get there, and where they go next. We can count how many times they interact with content and share it. We can measure its reach. This has put the pressure on publications to deliver meaningful results to clients.
That shouldn’t be surprising because results matter. And the simple fact is that nobody clicks on banner ads anymore. We’ve all honed the ability to filter through annoying advertising messages to get to the stuff between the ads. The content we want to consume.
That’s where content marketing comes in, and why it is probably the only advertising that matters anymore. When done right, the editorial content, though created in conjunction with client goals, is genuinely interesting to the reader. It offers them valuable information or entertainment.
Which is why the editorial team needs to be a part of the sales process. They need to work with the client to find topics, angles, and formats that can reach audiences and engage them.
I’ve also been in meetings with sales reps telling me they’ve signed a deal for us to write a client-centric content piece gushing about their products or services. Okay. You’ve made your customer happy by promising them what they wanted to hear, but nobody will click on that. (And as I said before, the audience is never wrong.) It won’t deliver results. Results matter.
Bait and switch trickery where advertising is masked as editorial won’t work either. You can’t fool people into liking you or believing in you. You’ll only end up driving them away.
However, when a brand can offer something genuinely useful or entertaining to an audience, those readers will be left with a positive impression of that brand. It’s not the hard sell, it’s the beginnings of a relationship. When it does come time to paying for a product or a service, we’re going to look first to those brands that are top of mind, that we have a relationship with.
The biggest mistake in content marketing is skipping the conversation that needs to happen between content creators and clients. What results are you really after? It’s usually not just eyeballs. Who are you trying to reach, and what relationships are you trying to start with them? Let’s find a way to reach, surprise, and delight that audience.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.