Is Content Success all about Distribution?

FastCompany interviewed Rob Davis, Executive Director of Content Marketing Practice at OgilvyOne gaining some of his insight on interactive content in marketing.  Davis discussess three different questions:

  1. Where is your content headed?
  2. Where is your audience?
  3. How do you get the two of them aligned?

Distribution is the recipe for content success in the interactive space, and the element of this success centers around how we reach our audience and how we engage with them, according to Davis.  He states:

“In traditional media, we don’t have to think about distribution. If we’re making something for a TV network, then we’ll have a TV network that it’s going to be distributed on. If we’re writing for a newspaper, we have a newspaper that it’s going to be distributed on. It’s a different story in the interactive space; we have to think about where our content is headed, where our audience is, how we’re going to get the two aligned, and then use that to prop the engagement that we’re looking for”.

Davis first talks about how marketers regularly refer to media in the form of “paid, owned and then earned”.  His concept flips reverses this process into the form of “owned, earned and then paid”.  When content is created, one of the most important factors, according to Davis, is distributing the content on channels owned by the company.  An owned channel is defined as anywhere that you can publish a video or content without having to write a check specifically for that purpose. These places could be your website, YouTube channels, Twitter feed, or any other place in the social and digital space that allows you to have control over what’s published and what isn’t.

Davis believes that this is the base of distribution.  If you can master the art of owning that space and creating value and a personal brand, it’s going to help in search and online visibility and will give you the foundation of earned media.

Earned media is defined by Davis as the ways content can be distributed beyond the brand owner or distributor have placed it.  The people who will do this are the bloggers, Facebook and Twitter users or anyone else in the digital universe who will be interested in your content and share it.  This is a form of viral marketing that utilizes the digital space to promote yourself, your content and your brand. If you distribute your content properly and through the right channels, your audience becomes an active distributor of your content and your brand.

The “owned, earned and paid” theory of media distribution holds “paid” as being less, but it doesn’t mean that paid is less important or that we should spend any less time focusing on it.  It means that an owned and earned foundation is built and established first so that companies can make a better decisions on where to spend their advertising budget and how to use it more strategically.

A great example of this is search. Search can be approached in two separate ways: SEO or SEM.

In SEO (search engine optimisation), the relevance of the content to the audience is the most crucial aspect, and the ways content is created and distributed for an organic search will determine how high the content will appear in search.  In simple terms, SEO is a technique of presenting content in ways that will attract search engine crawlers to your website and have them rank it high in search results.

In SEM (search engine marketing i.e. paid search) part of the advertising budget is spent to ensure that content rises in search for keywords the company knows are necessary in order to reach their target audience.  These keywords will often be in high competition or in places where there’s a lot of video content on the topic.  In SEM, you usually agree upon a “pay-per-click” basis, which means companies pay every time the ad is clicked on, whether a purchase is made or not made.

The diagramme below from Creative Content Experts shows the differences in SEO and SEM and the different approaches required by each of them.  It says that SEO should come first so you can develop on-page content and identify keywords.  Then, SEM should come as you build links to your site from 3rd party websites.

 So what does this mean? Well, if something you are trying to promote or distribute is very specific, such as “Redmen’s Running Shoes”, SEO would be much more applicable, since there is not a lot of content on the web related to this topic.  If the topic is much less specific, such as “shoes”, SEM would be applicable and completely necessary.  It’s easier to create video in organic search for more specific topics and products because they are not as in high of demand as the broader categories.  In these more generalised areas, a portion of the advertising budget will need to be used in order to rise to the top in search.