The three “levels” of content marketing

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In my last blog post, I focused on the “earned” piece of the EOP (earned, owned, paid) public relations model, talking about the three reasons why earned media, or “media relations,” is still important.

And the truth is most people still “get” media relations. It is one of the foundations that PR is built on and what most people expect PR to be. Public relations people make people famous, they get stories placed in the paper, on TV, etc.

But when you start trying to explain the owned and paid pieces, that’s when things can get confusing. You’re adding in web, email, blogging, the social platforms, some level of advertising. You’re also trying to explain it at the same time that people are hearing phrases like native advertising and sponsored content. All that is a lot to understand and to try to differentiate.

Simply put, content marketing—or the owned and paid pieces of the EOP equation—is creating content you “own,” placing it on a platform you “own” (like a website, blog, email newsletter), and amplifying it in some way using advertising. Some people link to the content using social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and then use their advertising platforms to drive readers to the content. Others will use other platforms like Google or digital ads to drive the traffic.

But at the end of the day the goals are the same, to drive the right people to the right content at the right time.

In our EOP journey at The Hodges Partnership, we’ve boiled things down to three levels—or reasons or rationales—for companies, organizations or associations to use this powerful marketing tool.

Expertise and education

This is the first basic level and it should be the goal of any group. This is where you create content that explains your point of view. Once created, you drive people to it so they can learn more about you. This content is usually “housed” on a website and in the form of a blog or dynamic news center. The hope is, as you educate and continue the conversation over time, those readers will reach out to become partners, clients, etc.

Lead generation

This is that first level with lots of goodies added to it. As you educate and continue the conversation, the lead generation level adds in things like “offers” and “calls to action” to convince people to give you their contact information, at least an email address. Some of those offers might include subscriptions to special additional content, e-books, white papers, templates, etc.

Once you start building that email list you can begin separating the list into specific audiences and continue providing more specialized content. Ultimately you can hand off those contacts to your sales folks as true leads. There are platforms like HubSpot that can track those leads for you and see how many times they came back to your content and whether or not they are ready for a sales call. (If you’re looking to generate leads, we’re currently offering a free inbound marketing consultation.)

Content branding

Some folks also call this level “brand journalism.” This is where a brand, company or organization creates a higher level of content that provides value to readers and consumer. While that content is associated with the company’s brand, the company is not using it to sell a product, it is just using the content and the online platform to give the consumer/customer valuable, entertaining information.

In this case, the company is “credited” for providing great content and the seed is planted with the consumer for the future. The hope is that the consumer will be more inclined to associate him or herself with that company later on because of all the great information he or she received. A great example is Traveler, the online magazine from Marriott.

The advantages of content marketing are many, including control over content and lower advertising costs, but that is fodder for another post.

If you have any questions about content marketing please ask away in the comments below.

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Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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