Why Singaporean businesses fail at content marketing

By Graeme Somerville-Ryan

Internationally, content marketing seems to be the new kid on the block. The cool new kid. And like all cool kids it's the talk of the town. Everyone wants to be seen with content marketing. Even people who don't do it, talk about it. Soon it will be given an equally cool name. I'm pushing for 'C-Mar,' but maybe I'm not cool enough to give out a universally accepted moniker.

Content marketing, crudely, is the placement of marketing and brand messages into the traditional press and 'new' media. It is 'intellectual' product placement designed to highlight individual or corporate thought-leadership, expertise, credibility, and brand capital.

Content marketing, done well, is a powerful marketing tool that leads to increased trust, respect, and the ability to command attention.

For Singaporean businesses, content marketing provides the means to push a brand across geographic boundaries and to leverage off the country’s reputation as a commercial centre of excellence.

However, Singaporean businesses need to ask themselves if they have the skills to undertake content marketing, and if they are prepared for the required investment.

Content marketing is not new. People have been trying to do content marketing since the birth of storytelling. The first content marketing agency opened just six months after Johannes Gutenberg invented the mechanical printing press (I might have made that up).

But what is new, and what has changed the game for content marketing, is the accessibility of the modern media. As little as 10 years ago, a large part of content marketing was 'media relations'...also known as 'taking journalists out for a glass of wine.' Media coverage may, or may not, have followed.

The online environment has changed publishing profoundly. Good luck finding a journalist; they are an ever diminishing breed. The few journalists and editors you can find are now so stretched for time that is has been rumoured many have stopped drinking.

And the one thing all the journalists and editors need? Good content. So, content marketing should be easy, right? Wrong. Good content marketing is harder than ever because there is so much material being produced by almost anyone with access to the internet. However, most people and organizations will fail at it, and here is why:

You have no strategy

Like any part of corporate marketing, a business needs to think carefully about what it wants to achieve from placing content. Many of the questions that should be asked are the same as for any marketing campaign.

Who does this need to reach? How do we reach the people we need to? What are we trying to say about our business and product? How do we influence the audience?

Without having answers to these questions you will fail.

You have no friends

Or you have the wrong friends. To succeed at content marketing you need to put more effort into your media relations efforts than ever.

Journalists now need ideas (lots of ideas), you need to understand they might use your ideas and not necessarily talk about how wonderful you are, and you need to respect editorial integrity. If you don't know what editorial integrity is, don't bother with content marketing.

Journalists still need a regular glass of wine.

You are not that interesting

I hate to say it but you and/or your company are probably not that interesting. There might be the odd highlight, but winning "North Westfalian widget maker of the year" is not really news. On a very (very) slow day you might get a small mention, but this is not marketing campaign material.

Professional services firms are notorious for writing case notes that even their professional peers find painful to read, and so even new events are not always 'newsworthy.'

Content marketing requires imagination, creative writing, and an ability to see story angles that can be sold to readers (and editors). This is not easy and not everyone can do this.

You want proof of Q1 ROIs

Perhaps the hardest aspect of content marketing to sell within an organization relates to the timeframes involved. Content marketing is a long term game. Its role is to slowly reinforce or change the views an audience has about an organisation, person, or product.

This takes time, a long time. Content marketing is not as effective for selling next month's give-away promotion or a quarterly product launch.

If you care about how the world perceives your company, then content marketing is for you. Consumers and clients will be loyal to a product or service they trust. The payback of a successful and sustained content marketing campaign (sometimes taking years) can be seen in long-term sales trends and even in crisis management scenarios.

Done properly, content marketing can be used to sell cars, tourist destinations, professional services, and entire industries. One of the most successful content marketing campaigns turned the forestry industry in New Zealand from 'tree murderers' into a sustainable and environmentally friendly contributor to the local economy.

The benefits of content marketing can be extraordinary.

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