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User Testing, Budget Shifts and Hiring Strategies: 3 Ideas to Hone Your Content Marketing

Aubrey Beck

Sitting here between sessions at the second day of Digiday’s Content Marketing Summit in Park City, Utah, and skimming over Content Marketing Institute’s list of 80 ideas to improve your content marketing. These three ideas stand out from a big picture content marketing and PR perspective:

1. Budget Shifts

Shift PR budgets to content marketing

Shift—used in this context—may come off as a bit unnerving to some PR folks. Which is why it might not be the most descriptive way to explain what is, at heart, a good concept here. A more accurate approach may be to label this a shifting in how we perceive the once siloed nature of public relations and marketing departments.

PR is still as necessary as ever, we’re just considering public relations from a content marketing perspective as it becomes more recognized that content marketing must include both creation and distribution.

Money that had traditionally been spent on conjuring up pitches and story ideas for journalists may now be better spent on investing in journalist-quality content producers who can arm your PR team with the quality of content they need to succeed in the distribution game.

Bottom line? PR and Content teams must work hand-in-hand to close the loop from content creation, distribution and reporting, to optimizing and back to creation.

Kissmetrics lays out a straightforward and well-thought-out position on why public relations and content marketing are (and should continue to be) married for the long haul. (Quote condensed.)

“PR is all about reaching out to the right people—creating and maintaining relationships with editors, journalists, and influencers. Content marketing is all about getting attention by telling awesome stories—content that helps or entertains your audience gets shared. Combine PR and content marketing and you’re putting ready-made stories into the hands of editors, journalists, and influencers who can give your content the powerful boost it needs to go viral.”

2. Hiring Strategies

Hire someone with editorial training and experience.

In November of 2015, Cisco laid off approximately 200 people working in traditional marketing and corporate communications roles. Then, in the next month, announced plans to hire 200 content marketers.

The company’s focus, more specifically, was to establish a voice via writers and editors with distinct voices and editorial experience.

Editorial experience goes beyond copy editing skills. It requires a deep understanding of your buyer personas and the types of content they choose to engage with. Not to mention an ability to ideate content strategy around measurable business goals.

Sam Siskind, Director of Operations for Salted Stone, says, “When we were looking to fill the Director of Content position here, a big focus was on finding someone who could work across disciplines. It’s how we ended up talking with and eventually hiring, Jason Feller. He comes from a traditional print newspaper background at the Washington Post working on the digital side. So he understands and practices both editorial integrity and digital marketing best practices.”

3. Persona Research

Find out how your audience spends their days and what keeps them up at night.

This piece of advice comes from Andrea Fryrear, Founder of
Fox Content, and drives straight to the heart of inbound marketing: extensive buyer persona research.

In the new buyer’s journey, we’re all on a (more-often-than-not mobile) choose your own digital adventure. We have multiple apps running at all times, peruse between Instagram and Facebook in our downtime, follow Twitter links to skim blog posts whose CTAs drive us to complete online forms where we access content we deem to be premium.

This journey is nuanced, complicated and interconnected. It’s anything but straightforward and uniform and requires a deep understanding of how, when and where your target audience is finding, seeking and consuming content. Not to mention, what type of content they prefer at different points and on different platforms.

Researching your buyer personas to the extent that you understand their browsing and digital habits as nearly second nature is essential for your team’s long term success. Whether you’re talking about producing content marketing that engages, or distributing that content in a way that drives engagement and eventually (hopefully) conversion.

This type of research moves beyond traditional question and answer style persona interviews and blends in aspects of user experience (UX) research and user testing. This work involves an investment of capital and human labor to uncover browsing habits, navigation turn-ons and offs, social media influencers who maintain a consistent touchpoint in the digital lives of your personas, and more.

By conducting user testing, Salted Stone succeeded in winning a HubSpot Impact award for Web Design for our work with Med School Tutors. The research into personas ensured that our design theories were on point and we were able to create a homepage experience and user flow that fit into the apprentice/master relationship Med School Tutors has with its audience.

The point here? Think thorough and then take it a few steps past that. Because that’s how well you need to understand the digital habits, preferences and triggers of the people you’re attempting to reach.

Twitter-stalk #DigidayDCMS for more content marketing goodness from the 2016 Digiday Content Marketing Summit.

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