Nobody would dispute that "content is king" in the 21st century. Marketers are scrambling to create, distribute, and repurpose content in ways that resonate with their audiences. Demand for original content has likely never been higher and continues to climb. That's good news for the agencies and freelancers who are positioned to provide quality content; their numbers are growing exponentially.
That can be both a good and a bad thing for the companies that need unique, high-quality content to feed consumer demand and stand out from the competition. Good, because content is definitely resonating with audiences-companies that can provide valuable information to their audiences can drive engagement and sales. But bad because creating that content can prove challenging. And despite the large and continually growing number of content providers in the market, separating the wheat from the chaff can also prove challenging. There are many options to consider:
- Should you create content internally or hire it out?
- If hiring out, will you work with an agency or an individual?
- If an agency, will you go large or small, boutique or specialized?
- Should you look for content providers within your industry or niche?
- How should you evaluate the ability of either an agency or an individual to meet your needs?
The first step, says Vicky Holdsworth, head of marketing and public relations for TheNewsMarket in London, an online source of video, audio, and images, is considering the purpose of your content. "This may seem like an obvious question, but so many brands come to us wanting to create content for the sake of creating content," she says. Instead, she suggests, marketers need to first consider who they are trying to influence and what results they're attempting to achieve.
Once the question of "what's the purpose of my content?" has been addressed, she says, marketers can move on to considering the best option for producing that content. A hybrid approach is generally best, Holdsworth believes.
"In our view, this is the best option as it combines internal brand knowledge with external expertise," says Holdsworth. "It's also the best way to tap into very niche expertise that agencies will be able to provide."
Some level of knowledge of your industry, product or service is key, agree content marketing experts. "Make sure the agency you're planning to work with has a good understanding of the industry and regulations you're operating in, either vertical-such as sports, tech, etc.-or B2B/B2C," says Holdsworth. Yes, that knowledge can be developed, but doing so can take time; in the content marketing world, time equals money.
That said, marketers should not be looking for a quick fix in terms of results, cautions Eric Murphy, content marketing manager with Relevance, a digital agency based in Indianapolis. "Content marketing is a long-term strategy. Any firm or individual promising immediate returns doesn't understand how it really works," he says.
Your specific needs will guide your selection process, Murphy points out. "Do you need a partner to perform research, build a strategy, create content, promote content, and track performance? If so, you may need a partner that can execute all of the above. However, if you already have research, a winning strategy and a PR/promotion/advertising team in place, you may just need a partner with specific content production capabilities."
When considering an outsourced option, Murphy says: "Make sure you perform proper due diligence by examining the websites of content marketing service providers. The language they use should match the language of your goals."
"A proven track record of success in a particular industry is a tell-tale sign of replicable performance. Make sure you look for case studies, examine results and ask prudent questions to qualify each service provider," Murphy advises.
When outsourcing content, says Holdsworth, size really doesn't matter. "Don't focus on the big names," she advises. "Focus on the process they've taken to achieve their clients' results."
We'd like to offer one final caution: when working with individual freelancers, ask about their editorial process. A big benefit of a firm is the team they can bring together to handle your content needs-including editing. Even the most expert writers are often challenged to see the errors in their own work; when it comes to content marketing, quality and accuracy are must-haves.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)