F#*K Content Marketing, It’s About The Content Experience

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In this opinion piece, former GM and founder of Colloquial Australia for J.Walter Thompson and lecturer at Macleay College Zeina Khodr (pictured below) discusses why marketers need to think beyond ‘marketing’ their ‘content’.

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F#*K content marketing, it’s about the content experience.

This isn’t me making a statement – it was emblazoned on a stand in the expo hall, but it’s a statement that resonates.

In fact, I even Instagrammed it.

For the second year running, I made the long-haul to Cleveland to attend the 8th Content Marketing World 2018.

I’m amongst over 4,000 marketers in attendance and immersed in the content game, and it seems the conference has moved past its own name because I realise pretty quickly it’s no longer just about content marketing.

This content gig is getting harder to do, and harder to do right.

Over the last few days I’ve spent some time kicking the tyres of AI-driven content, sitting in on a hardcore AI masterclass learning how to use R and Python, wading through spreadsheets of social sentiments and navigating IBM Watson.

I know for sure what many of us have long felt creeping up – our creativity, no matter how brilliant, can only get us so far anymore.

We need to marry that with data and insights, and get ourselves sorted in these respects damn quickly if we want to keep up and cut through.

AI is still something that gives people the creeps, and marketers are still navigating ways around this.

Most are not prepared for how big a game changer this is going to be, and understand very little about the impact AI will have on their business as a whole, let alone their marketing.

This year, the newest addition to the conference program focused on tech, platforms and data.

In fact, you would have felt right at home if you were a data-scientist and probably a little out of your depth if you were a straight-up creative.

Conversational Marketing made its debut but is still in its early phases.

We’re rapidly moving from the era of ‘search’ to the era of ‘ask’.

Figuring out how to take your SEO-driven and optimized content and make it relevant for conversational marketing is still a far-off reality for most marketers.

But the rise of voice-assistants and the proliferation of voice, in general, will bring this to a head. Need to unlock an Alexa skill for your brand?

Emerging megatrends had a strong presence in the conference content and expo hall – it was all about AI (yes it’s a big category), Immersive Experience (AR) and digital platforms. Yet the biggest surprise was perhaps the slight reluctance of content creators and marketers to deep dive. Most of the breakout sessions had a smattering of attendees while long lines formed for the intro sessions. The sentiment was that this stuff is hard, complex and most are still wrapping their heads around it, and will likely need to get their digital peeps on board.

My fellow Aussie, Natalie Giddings from The Remarkables presented an excellent session on Influencer Marketing with standing room only. So yeah, marketers are still grappling with some of the fundamentals.

My feelings on this? You can’t expect your creatives (the marketers and content creators) to become experts on this stuff overnight.

They’re right to feel overwhelmed – it is new territory, complex and difficult. But you do have a duty to help them grapple with what the industry is facing and form tighter alignment between digital and creative teams to give them the insights that will help them navigate this new landscape.

If you don’t work to bring them up to speed, you do them a disservice and risk them being left behind as the industry moves on, and you will be unable to provide a service to your clients that is cutting-edge and forward thinking.

With proliferating customer touch-points, what marketers should most care about is consistency across all channels and the content experience their users have at every point along the brand journey.

Whether you’re an insurance company or an FMCG brand, creating and managing content is a team sport and no longer the realm of clever content creators and storytelling.

Having just written the Digital Content Writing course for Macleay College and in the early stages of mapping out a Masterclass for Content Marketers for the Australian Marketing Institute, I’ll be rethinking some of the materials but knowing the fundamentals don’t change.

You absolutely have to focus on the audience and make it meaningful, but you also need to push your ideas forward and explore, with confidence and credibility, the new technologies available to you if you want the delivery of your ideas to remain interesting, relevant and most critically create curiosity.

So yeah, F#*K content marketing.

And remember that the universal truth still remains – whatever bit of ‘content’ you’re ‘marketing’, focus on the content and audience experience and make it meaningful. Audience attention can’t be bought, it’s earned over time.

This is a long game.

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