A Content Marketing Debate

The Edge - U2 360 Tour
Image by Peter Hutchkins

The coupling of the words “content” and “marketing” creates a debate centering on the differences between publishing and selling.

By its very nature, marketing is a function of sales.

As such marketing communications activities, regardless of form — search, email, publicity (on behalf of a company), content creation, social, events, etc. — all represent activities to engage people in a sales process OR support brand reputation, which in turn, increases the likelihood of further sales, recruitment or investment later in time.

I can see why content purists, particularly those with a journalism background, flip their fricking lids at the very phrasing of “content marketing.” After all, they publish quality content.

It’s also easy to see why traditional marketers writhe at the description of a very general tactic as a strategy. Some folks criticize the Edge for writing hit songs with only three chords. In the end, I don’t begrudge the Edge his success with U2, so I won’t slight a successful content marketer either.

But these diverse professions and views don’t really disagree. Great marketing sells, and in that sense a synergy exists. Let me explain.

Great Content Acts Simply

Fausto Wolff - brazilian writer
Image by Christine Carriconde

They say great salespeople don’t sell.

Great salespeople simply provide useful information, value, and likable experiences, making a decision an easy and obvious choice to say yes or no. A good salesperson wants you happy, knowing that even if they don’t win a transaction, you’ll remember the overall experience as a positive one, and be more inclined to work with said salesperson or company later in time.

Similarly, great content informs and/or entertains on a subject.

If content serves stakeholders from a corporate editorial mission standpoint and offers fresh viewpoints, it should achieve its marketing goals, too. Meaning the content will help sell (unless your product suffers, which is a much larger issue).

Quality content informs or entertains, and builds value. It leaves a reader feeling educated about their decision, and understanding what the brand represents. What people are really getting angry about is shoddy content marketing quality, another debate in its own right.

Of course, content marketing likely contains or is on the same web page as a prominent call-to-action. At the same time, I don’t think heavy handed selling really works, online or offline, verbally or via content.

Really, this content marketing argument debates copy writing in its many forms. And in that sense, this is a very old conversation.

Content marketing puts a new name on an old discipline, making it more accessible to other professions (PR, social, interactive) without having to accept advertising’s baggage.

In ten years, I’m sure it will be called something else.

You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to. Now go write!

What do you think?