There is a brilliant eBook that just came out of the UK entitled Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge. The folks at Velocity Partners point out that marketing firms around the world have jumped on the fast-moving content train, and by “jumped on” I mean just thrown the word “content” into everything they’re doing without actually changing anything. The result is that the waters are muddied with crap. Consequently, a lot of organizations will think they’re hiring someone to produce content but they’ll really just be buying the same old thing, and content marketing is likely headed for a big drop in quality.

And that could damage the breath of fresh air that is content marketing. Unlike most other marketing disciplines, content marketing acknowledges that the old AIDA (Attention – Interest – Desire – Action) marketing formula is way too simplistic in the Internet era because it doesn’t consider the many options customers now have and the much longer process of building connections with the audience.

But most marketing firms still focus on attention – we need to raise awareness. That simply won’t work anymore; you must go waaaay beyond simple attention and build a relationship with your customers and prospects.

And that means high-quality, audience-focused, value-delivering, shareable content.

That does not mean you can now call your TV ads content. It does not mean your news releases are now content. It does not mean your company’s Twitter feed now qualifies as content.

And yet plenty of vendors are going to tell you they create content, and you’ll hire them, and the needle won’t move. Because they’re doing it wrong, or they’re simply incapable of creating journalistically-viable content. At ScribeWise, we believe vehemently that the best content is created by people who have worked in newsrooms, who understand journalism, who understand how to take disparate facts and weave them into a story that the audience will find valuable.

Beware the Content Pretenders

And yet there are plenty of marketing firms suddenly saying they can fulfill your content needs.

SEO firms are trying to become content marketing shops… which is kinda laughable. Sure, they can hire writers, but most SEO agencies have built their business by learning how to trick search algorithms – the whole thing strikes me as a scam; so now they’re going to produce content that builds trust with the audience? Your entire existence is built on a foundation of tricking the audience. I suppose it’s possible that marketers will view them as plausible content creators, but I simply can’t see them ever having any credibility.

Social media firms might be able to become content creators, but they don’t have the capability to do so as they were initially constructed. And, honestly, there really isn’t too much big thinking going on in social media. Yes, there’s a certain expertise there when it comes to building an audience, but the whole exercise quickly becomes clerical.

As we define it, ad agency copywriters are not content creators.

As we define it, video production companies are not content creators.

As we define it, PR firms are not content creators.

PR firms come closest to being able to help their clients create high quality content, because they are at least involved in the journalistic equation; journalists would dispute that perhaps, but smart PR folks understand journalism – they know that journalism is a higher calling dedicated to uncovering the truth (there are plenty of journalists reporters who don’t know this, by the way). These smarter PR practitioners are not trying to trick reporters; they are building stories that resonate with reporters because the reporters understand that those stories deliver value to the audience. It doesn’t always work this way, but it’s a little more common than you might think.

All marketers are charged with building a story for their clients, a story that resonates with the audience. And the good ones excel at it, using their particular skill set to bring the story to life. Ad agencies tell great stories. However, they don’t have to be bothered with being factual – I don’t mean that in a negative way and I’m not calling them liars. They simply don’t have to get bogged down in detailing the facts of a product or brand and in fact time and artistic constraints often mean that they cannot detail those facts. That’s fine and can be very effective, but it isn’t necessarily ever going to build credibility with the audience. Awareness, yes. Credibility, no.

Quality, quality, quality

Content marketing, as we define it at ScribeWise, is the creation and delivery of journalistic content that provides reader value. That reader value reflects credibility upon the deliverer. That builds a connection between the content-producing brand and its audience. That connection leads to trust, and in this Internet age trust is mandatory before a sale takes place. Trust is needed in order for the potential customers to lower the wall they build in front of any transactional relationship because the Internet means your customers have more options than they’ve ever had. Where once you may have had a geographic monopoly, now your customers can find a firm that does the same thing you do and buy from them instead. If you don’t build trust with credible content you are ostensibly telling them to find someone else they can trust.