Editors, so you want to get into content marketing...?
With the industry abuzz about content marketing, you might have heard these words -- a lot: Content marketing is very similar to traditional editorial. But what are the similarities and what are the differences? And is it a viable career path for those looking to branch out of journalism or simply pick up a side gig? ABM talked to three former editors now in content marketing -- Brendan Cournoyer of Brainshark, Rob Yoegel of Monetate and Sean Callahan of Bizo -- on how they got into the business, the ease of their transition and what types of writers they believe make the best content marketers.
Brendan Cournoyer, Content Marketing Manager at Brainshark
Former: Content marketing strategist and editor at OpenView Venture Partners; Associate site editor, SearchWinIT.com at TechTarget
I was recruited by a venture capital firm when I was an editor at a traditional online publishing company. I had not heard of content marketing before then. It struck me at the time that more traditional editorial publications were cutting back on editorial as far as how much they were investing in staff, skill and from a financial standpoint. They really seemed like they were focusing on other parts of the business, whereas vendors and businesses were investing heavily in content. The balance was sort of shifting. There seemed to be more of an opportunity [in content marketing] for people with a journalistic skillset: those who could write and create content for a specific audience, who have good editing skills and can produce things online.
You do a lot of the same things. Most reporters these days have their own beats. They speak on a very specific topic and cover it. It's the same thing for content marketing -- a business has their own products or services and it's geared towards very specific audiences. It's similar, but your goal is a little different. Journalistically, you're really looking to engage with people and inform, and once they read it that's where the job ends. Content marketing takes it to a different level where you are also trying to build better relationships so you can move it to the next level in the sales funnel.
[Editors] need to be comfortable with that side of the business. Certainly for many "old-school reporters" it might be a tougher transition to go from the normal art of journalism to something that's much more sales-oriented. Higher-level editors, who have the experience with working with budgets and editorial calendars, dealing with freelancers and working with the sales side, might be a better fit. If you're looking to work in-house, it's a good idea to have that editorial management experience. If you're looking to freelance, [companies are] just looking for someone with writing skills.
From my experience [the pay] is much better. There's no secret that in journalism it takes a lot of time before you can get in a comfortable living -- not everyone can get there. In a marketing profession, it's a different deal. Anything that's connected to the sales part of the business, companies are going to pay more money for because there's real ROI. Editorial businesses are cutting back. But businesses looking for content marketing people are investing because they want that skillset.
Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Director at Monetate
Former: VP of e-media at North American Publishing Company; Editor and publisher at PhillyTech Magazine
In 1999, I was editor and publisher of PhillyTech Magazine, which was published by The Philadelphia Inquirer. During that year, I was introduced to a lot of people in the technology community. Turn the clock 10 years, and Monetate, who is a Philly-area technology company, was looking for someone to run their content marketing program. Through a mutual friend, Blair Lyon, vp of marketing at Monetate, reached out to me. I learned about content marketing by working in the publishing industry for the last 10 years. I was vice president of e-media at North American Publishing Company (NAPCO), and we quickly realized we needed to work with our advertisers to help them create content.
A content marketer's job is to tell a story as most writers and editors strive to do. In that regard, there really is no difference. Good content will be consumed. You often hear "Content is king," and I say "Well no, great content is king." Anyone can create content, but who creates the best content?
[Content marketers] have to be very good writers, that's first and foremost. The second piece is that they have to understand that every piece of content that they create is ultimately designed to be written for a persona, and that persona exists somewhere in the buying cycle of the product or service that the company is trying to sell. Writers at publishing companies typically never cross the line in the sand that is sales and marketing; content marketers need to understand what that line is, need to help draw it and need to not be afraid to cross it.
The two other tools are search and social. I don't necessarily mean a website or Facebook, but an active dialogue with people who are consuming your content. That can mean persona development and making sure you know who the people are that you're trying to reach and their pain points, down to social networks, and comments and re-tweeting, engaging in dialogue. We certainly look at social as an important distribution channel. I have a personal goal in 2013 to drive more website traffic to Monetate.com through social than search. Because that means people are interested in our content, they are sharing our content and they are evangelizing for us.
Sean Callahan, Editor/Marketing Director at Bizo
Former: Executive editor at BtoB magazine (Crain Communications)
I've been a reporter and editor for about 20 years, but I started my adult work life as a copywriter for a b-to-b advertising agency. During my time at Crain, I covered the rise of content marketing and was intrigued. Among the many companies I covered was Bizo. I was impressed with the companyís business model of using data to help marketers target prospects online. When the opportunity came to join Bizo and help with the companyís content marketing, I jumped at the chance to get back into marketing.
Itís different in that there is a point of view in content marketing. Itís an inescapable fact that you are representing the companyís viewpoint in what you write and create. In working for a magazine, you have to maintain objectivity. But whatís similar in content marketing and traditional editorial is that credibility is still essential. You canít let your companyís point of view get in the way of the truth or get in the way of what content marketing is really about, which is giving customers and prospects useful information to do their jobs. At BtoB, I viewed that as my job: Much of what we covered was ďhow-toĒ content, designed to keep b-to-b CMOs up to date with the latest trends. Much of what we do at Bizo is similar in that respect -- giving b-to-b marketers information that will help them and their companies succeed.
Content marketing has been around a long time: Brochures, spec sheets, corporate videos are staples of content marketing. Whatís changed is that the Internet has allowed every company, no matter what its size, to be a publisher on their own website. Google made SEO essential to drive traffic to these websites, and itís a given that the best SEO strategy is great content. And now Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and so many other social media outlets (and donít forget email) give the content marketer so many avenues for alerting the audience to the availability of information that can help them do their jobs. But everybody has access to these outlets and these technologies. The company that tells the most compelling and authentic story wins.
By Elizabeth A. Reid