Putting the Who, What, Why, When and How into Authentic Content Marketing
Just as actor Emily Blunt told British Vogue in November 2016, "it took three hours of hair and make-up to get me looking this real", authenticity is no easy feat but it still continues to be the leading lady of many companies' marketing efforts.
Authenticity means real, genuine and of verifiable origin – all traits that are without a doubt at odds with the traditional perception of the role of marketing. It's a little contrived, and certainly cliché, but a lot of hugely successful global companies have in fact been 'keeping it real' for decades, drawing on their heritage, origin, mission and ethics to create compelling stories and household brand names – and it's still an incredibly relevant and important tactic today for reaching your target audience and increasing ROI.
While there's no secret ingredient to being 100% genuine, here are some things to think about to help you get that 'just rolled out of bed, un-done but done' look for your own marketing content:
1. Know Who You Are Speaking to
By identifying your target audience from the get-go, you're setting the foundation for an effective content strategy. Your 'target audience' is a specific group of people that you know are most receptive to your products, services or promotions – and the specificity of those groups can be based on things like age, location, income and more. Develop profiles and personas for each of your target sectors so that you know exactly who you are speaking to. Put yourself in your customers' shoes, identify their problems and needs, as well as common characteristics, interests and how your product or service will fit into or better their lives. Focusing your marketing efforts exclusively on your target audience is a much more cost-effective and efficient way to reach potential clients and generate business.
2. Don't Be Everywhere, Talking to Everyone
Once you know who you're talking to, it's easier to work out where to find them and how to reach them most effectively. Rather than broadcasting your message across every marketing channel, align your activities and interactions to where your target audience is living and breathing: be in the publications they are reading and in the right format; talk about the types of things they are interested in; and offer things they like to do. Use your presence on these platforms to help your customers solve their problems and/or educate them on your products or services. Now you're putting your money where your mouth is by not just saying you're authentic but by being authentic in your actions; ensuring you are staying true to your brand values while also being relevant, and real, to your best customers.
3. Remember Honesty is the Best Policy
Not only are today's consumers savvier than ever, they're not afraid to call out a phony. And it's easy to understand why: we're bombarded with advertisements and branded messages all the time, across every medium. Content marketing, on the other hand, is about selling the 'human' in your business to the people who buy from your business. By being authentic in the content that you're producing, you're more likely to cut through the marketing noise and provide real value to both you and your audience. For example, don't be afraid to invite your audience to be a part of your company's journey – let them see the behind the scenes on what you're working on; how you overcame a particular business challenge; or simply ask their opinion on how to solve a problem you've been struggling with for weeks. When people feel like they're being included, they're more likely to trust you, engage with you and advocate for your business.
4. Don't Be a Robot
Authenticity is about being relatable more than it's about being unique or original. The language of marketing is notorious for coming across as artificial or scripted, so tap into your customers' colloquialisms and talk with them rather than at them. Take the time to create original imagery that is yours to keep – not only will it help you to build an image bank, but it's an easier and more time-effective way of maintaining brand consistency. But while authentic imagery will always win over stock photos, it's difficult to build an in-house library that covers every occasion – and especially every unexpected opportunity. Seek out stock photography from lesser-known outlets [and don't be afraid to pay for the good stuff], curate content from brands that inspire or resonate with your company, and leverage user-generated content through a competition or branded hashtag.
5. Think Outside the Social Media Box
More is more, right? When it comes to content marketing, this may be true. While it's not uncommon to use a number of different marketing tactics in your campaign, content marketing is particularly effective when distribution channels are varied and diverse. Creating authentic, personalised content and using several different marketing mediums to push it through to your target audience helps consumers remember your brand, encourages them to engage more personally with your company, gives more substance to your products or services and helps people to understand how what you are offering is beneficial to them. Having a plan for how you're going to authentically communicate to your customers – from story ideas for outlets that they read and video concepts that will pull on their heart strings to compelling advertising copy that will encourage them to click-through to your landing page or a social competition that they'd participate in – introduces a positive feedback loop that benefits both your customer and your company.