A university student in Wiesbaden, Germany, interviewed me for her thesis. Here are some of her questions and my answers:
  1. How would you define Content Marketing and its goals?

    Definition: Traditional marketing is “push marketing” or “broadcast marketing” where the information is broadcast at the audience. Content marketing in contrast is based on offering high-quality information which the audience, on its own, will share among themselves. Push marketing TELLS the audience what it should know. Content marketing answers the audience’s own questions from their point of view.

    Content marketing has several goals: cheaper distribution (the audience will distribute it for you) and higher credibility (by offering the best information).

  2. In this context, how would you describe valuable content? Could you name some examples, if possible in the context of Higher Education?

    It’s the audience, not the company, who determines if it is valuable. It answers their questions. It tells them what they want to know and what they should know.

    Stanford and Harvard’s MBA schools both use content marketing. For example, they’ve created digital magazines for free distribution. The articles are passed around by the audience. It increases brand recognition and brings visitors.

  3. What meaning does Content Marketing have in reference to the internet presence of Higher Education institutions?

    Higher education has a very strong advantage on the web over commercial organizations. Search engines give preference to universities because the information is non-commercial and unbiased. Universities are also staffed by professors who by their profession create information with the intent of informing (vs. the intent to increase sales). So content marketing fits into the strategy and goals of an education system.

  4. Which industries use Content Marketing?

    Education. It fits in their agenda to distribution. Marketing departments have spent the last 100 years in defining the message and broadcasting it at the audience. It is very difficult for them to move away from that.

  5. What are the most important fundamental aspects of a Content Marketing Strategy?

    Listen to the audience. This is very difficult for a commercial organization. The corporate team, especially upper management, develops an us-versus-them worldview  in which  “them” are competitors and the audience. Marketing is based on how to define the company against the competitors and how to change the audience to accept and repeat the company messaging. What the audience actually thinks is irrelevant because the company expects to change it.

    While writing my book, I realized content had to be audience-centric. You can use Web 2.0 social tools to see the audience’s conversations in Twitter, etc. In reviewing content marketing books by other authors, I noticed none of them talked about this. They were marketing people who use content marketing as a form of push marketing.

  6. How can you integrate effectively a Content Marketing Strategy into the existing online communication of a company (considering the positioning, goals, target group/audience, CI, brand management)?

    That’s very difficult to do. It’s like trying to get a team of Wall Street bankers to run a lesbian commune in California! It’s entirely different from everything in their attitude, training, metrics, bonus, goals, etc.

    Positioning, goals, etc.? The audience, not the company, defines that. There are plenty of examples where the audience rejects a company’s branding or branding isn’t successful. In general, the more a company tries to do branding, the more it moves away from its audience. Part of branding requires the company to clearly articulate its messaging, so it starts to see the audience as something to manipulate and change.

  7. What are the most important requirements and premises to apply Content Marketing consistently?

    A good editorial team to review and ensure quality. Otherwise, the content can be low quality.

  8. What are essential reasons for a company to implement a Content Marketing Strategy in their online communication?

    80% of digital advertising is ignored by the audience. Companies must find ways to effectively reach their audience. To do “yet more advertising” is increasingly expensive and less effective.

  9. How can you measure the success of Content Marketing? Which are the most important key performance indicators and which analytic tools would you recommend?

    This is a difficult problem. At a trivial level, you can track and measure the distribution and results. 50,000 downloads, 200 sales, $100,000 in revenues.

    But by its nature, content marketing is untrackable: you hand out a book and people pass it among themselves. There is no technical way to track that.

    For example, how many copies of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” are there? Everyone talks about the success of Apple iTunes as the leading place for the distribution of music. However, for every song sold on iTunes, a hundred copies are shared and copied by people among themselves (by email, memory sticks, etc.)  99% of music is shared without any tracking. The gray market is a vast space.

  10. How would you evaluate the cost-benefit situation of Content Marketing?

    The cost for distribution of content marketing is less than 10% of traditional marketing. Just create it, distribute a few digital copies to high-visibility influencers, and watch it be distributed for free. It bypasses advertising in Google, newspapers, etc. The benefit is greater because you get credibility by the audience.