Don’t Just Create Content—Provide Utility

The way things are looking content marketing is much more than just a trend. It's the future.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, said that according to CMI research, 90% of marketers surveyed are doing some form of content marketing, with social media (not including blogs) emerging as the most used tactic. New channels seem to be emerging every day. The study found that 25% of marketers were using Pinterest, a social network that wasn’t even being discussed this time last year. Considering that 54% of marketers surveyed plan on increasing content marketing budgets and just 2% are decreasing, it’s safe to say that the content marketing era is in full swing.

Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation and president of the digital marketing and communications agency Twist Image, said in his keynote speech at Content Marketing World on Sept. 5 that what makes content marketing so powerful is that brands no longer need a newspaper to get in front of audiences. Now all brands can have direct relationships, thanks to the Web. “The Internet and social platforms have brought the power of direct relationships to everyone, and it’s a massive shift of how consumers interact with brands in a direct way.”

But just because brands are now shifting from advertising to creating their own content doesn’t mean they’re all doing it effectively. In an interview with PR News, Joel says he has witnessed big changes in how businesses go about the business of connecting to people. We live in a world where Twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts are the "advertising" tools of the future for brands. What brands are saying through those platforms is fundamentally content, says Joel.

When it comes to content marketing, Joel says, the key is creating utility—not just re-purposing press releases and making them SEO friendly. You have to create utility.

That’s the challenge—how do you create real content that isn’t just slanted toward making your brand look good and actually create content that people will find useful and will share? To answer this question, Joel pointed out the following two brands as shining examples of companies doing it right:

  • Charmin: P&G toilet paper brand Charmin got behind the “Sit or Squat” app that helps users navigate from their current location to find bathrooms, changing tables, handicap access and other amenities. Users can add new content to the service and rate featured toilets. That’s right—a toilet paper brand found a way through content—albeit rich and complex content that was stored on Wikipedia servers—to connect with consumers in ways that were actually useful to them. Joel was so impressed with this app that he became a devoted Charmin customer.

  • Skullcandy: This Utah-based company makes headphones and earphones, specifically targeting the action sports crowd. In that context, the brand creates content that both has utility and caters to the lifestyle of that demographic. Skullcandy's app provides daily reports for smartphones that deliver geo-located information for surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders, including up-to-the-second details on weather and conditions. It was featured as a top 5 Free Sports app in iTunes.

While those two examples are both sophisticated and flashy apps, they provide—more importantly—creative, relevant and useful information. If enhanced content marketing is in your brand’s future, remember to create utility, not just a repackaged press release. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

  • Don Ranly

    So good to hear someone write about “useful” information. I have been doing “service journalism” seminars for 20 years or more. The opposite of useful is useless. See me at Don Ranly, Ph.D., Prof. Emeritus, Missouri School of Journalism