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Don’t Trust the “Me Toos” of Content Marketing

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Strategy
Image Credit: stockyimages/depositphotos

If you're looking for content marketing help, specialization is important. Don't trust an agency that's added content marketing services as an afterthought.

When you’re looking for a marketing agency, you’ve got no shortage of options to choose from. Many of them focus on branding—helping companies define their logos and messaging, conducting surveys, coming up with ads and other promotional strategies. Some focus on putting on events, or building websites, or managing your company’s social media profiles, or managing your pay-per-click ads. Many of them do a lot of these things quite well.

So when you ask them about content marketing, they’ll often say, “Yeah, we can do that too. No problem.”

That’s not the answer you want to hear.

When it comes to content marketing, the agency you work with should be telling you, “Yes. That is what we do.”

Here’s why specialization is so important.

Jacks-of-all-trades can’t hack content marketing.

Many marketing-focused activities are easy enough to pick up in a week or two. Brush up on your Google Analytics to start tracking your clients’ keywords, or play around with pay-per-click ad campaigns, and you’ll be able to sell your services as marketable skills within a few weeks. But content marketing requires an experienced storyteller who can focus around a brand’s needs. Writing is more difficult than it looks—if you want to create compelling branded content, you need someone with serious journalism skills, rather than a jack-of-all-trades marketer who isn’t as attuned to your audience’s content needs.

Companies that once sold SEO are rebranding it as content marketing—but it’s not the same thing at all.

Search-engine optimization was once a highly technical science, focused around getting the right keywords in all of your pieces and getting backlinks from as many other sites as possible to help your search terms rise to the top of the keyword rankings. The quality of the writing itself was nearly irrelevant to most SEO agencies. Once Google caught on to these methods, the SEO tricks stopped working effectively, and many of the agencies rebranded as content marketing agencies—even though developing high-quality, compelling branded content is about as far removed from the world of black-hat SEO as you can get. If you’re considering an agency that’s simply changed its “SEO” service page to a “content marketing” page, buyer beware.

You pay more for the same (or an inferior) product.

When big marketing agencies without dedicated in-house content marketing resources need help with a client project, what do they do? One of two things: They outsource their content work to a team like ours (many of our projects come in through larger agencies), or they scramble to find freelancers willing to work for the right numbers, even though they haven't vetted the writers in advance. While we've had some great experiences working with larger agencies and are always open to collaborations, it's not as good a deal from the client's perspective. You're paying the large agency's markup on our services, and there's a higher chance of miscommunication about end results when we're not able to work with the client as closely as we otherwise would. And if you've chosen the type of agency that turns to unvetted, cheap freelancers, the results can be nothing short of disastrous. In either case, you're generally better off working with a content marketing firm directly when it comes to content marketing deliverables, even if another firm helps with initial strategy and branding.

Good content marketing requires deep writing experience.

In my decade-plus of experience as a freelance writer for journalistic publications, I’ve worked with a lot of great, but tough, editors who’ve helped me develop the best possible stories for their publications. That time in the trenches has included countless hours developing captivating pitches in hopes of an assignment; interviewing sources and researching data for days to piece together a compelling and accurate story; and returning to a red-lined rough draft to answer lingering questions and fill in the gaps in my initial drafts. Those are all skills that I’ve taken with me to the content marketing side to help our clients develop compelling branded content.

At Eucalypt Media, we only hire writers with backgrounds working in journalism—while there are plenty of good marketing-focused writers around, content marketing requires different skill sets to traditional sales copy. When developing content marketing initiatives for brands, our central goal isn’t selling—it’s gaining an audience’s trust and respect.

So when it comes to choosing an agency to manage your company’s content marketing, it’s not a great idea to schedule a meeting with every big marketing agency in your region. Instead, look to a specialized team focusing solely on content marketing, whether they’re based within your local market or not. By finding a team that’s laser-focused on providing exactly what you need, instead of a “me too” agency, you’ll lay the groundwork for a powerful content marketing program to spotlight your brand.

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.

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